Saturday, January 30, 2010

Canada's Pro-Democracy Movement

Good summation of the Cons' latest attacks on 'democracy' over the last few months.

That they are getting away with it is, as a protester in the vid states, pretty much our own fault. Notable how little media attention was paid to Harper's interview with Business News Network two weeks ago in which he characterized Parliament as an impediment to business.

South of the "longest undefended border in the world", Chris Hedges uses political philosopher Sheldon Wolin's term “inverted totalitarianism” to describe how Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction :

"The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest."

Up here, our primary concern still seems to be keeping that border open for business, even at the risk of losing a toehold on our own struggles towards democracy.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Canada vs. Omar Khadr 2010

Shorter Supremes :
While it is true that the Canadian government violated the Canadian charter rights of a Canadian citizen when it sent Canadian agents to interrogate him in a foreign concentration camp and then turned the contents of that interview obtained under duress over to the owners of that concentration camp, and while it is true that same Canadian's charter rights continue to be violated every day that he is held there, unfortunately we don't do foreign policy here at the Supreme Court so we're hoping Steve will do the right thing all by himself.
(edited for clarity)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Haiti and the 'Devil's Curse'

with Peter Hallward, Anthony Fenton, and Danny Glover

"As thousands of tons of desperately needed food, water, and medical supplies piled up behind the airport fences-and thousands of corpses piled up outside them-Defense Secretary Robert Gates ruled out the possibility of using American aircraft to airdrop supplies: "An airdrop is simply going to lead to riots," he said. The military's first priority was to build a "structure for distribution" and "to provide security."

On Tuesday, a doctor at a field hospital within site of the runways complained that five to 10 patients were dying each day for lack of the most basic medical necessities. "We can look at the supplies sitting there," Alphonse Edward told Britain's Channel 4 News."


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lib MP links pie tossing to terrorism

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne says he believes the federal government should investigate whether the pieing of Fisheries Minister Gail Shea by a woman opposed to the seal hunt constitutes an act of terrorism.

I think Gerry should at least get a cupcake for that.

Gerry Byrne hails from Newfoundland Labrador where, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada:

"Approximately 1% of the total population of Newfoundland and Labrador derive income from sealing."

When last we heard from our FishMin Gail Shea, she was promoting BC's fish farms at a trade show in Norway, where their Minister of Fisheries is "a co-owner of a salmon farming company and former head of the Norwegian salmon farmers association". Over 90% of the open-pen fish farms in BC originate in Norway.

Asked about the connection between fish farming and the collapse of the Skeena and Fraser River salmon fisheries in December, Gail Shea, minister in charge of Fisheries and Oceans, said : "Nobody knows what’s happening in the marine environment."

I'm betting right now you want to replay that vid at least one more time.

We have had 5 pieings of politicians in Canada in the last decade, two of which were misses. Colby Cosh at Macleans says it's all fun and games till someone throws an acid pie, a particularly daft and rather desperate argument which depends on conflating tofu with acid. Or as one commenter over there points out : "it is stupid to say that pie throwing is serious because somebody could throw something WHICH IS NOT A PIE"

UPDATE : From Dammit Janet : Tofu Pie - It's the New Anthrax


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Prorogue This! Vancouver rally photos

(click photos to enlarge)
"Thousands", says Canwest. 25,000 nation-wide.
And look at all those handmade signs!
Very upbeat mood throughout, passing cars honking their support, people cheering us on out of office windows. Felt great to be out on the street with Canadians who give a damn.
Notable that of the speeches given at Victory Square, the loudest and most sustained applause greeted Fair Vote Canada Shoni Field's call for electoral reform
Many thanks to University of Alberta grad student Christopher White who started the whole thing rolling with just a page on facebook, now numbering over 213,000.
And to all those talking heads who assured us nightly on the evening news that Canadians could care less that a single MP who happens to be the PM dismissed parliament via a phone call to the GG - you helped more than you know.
All in all a great day for democracy in Canada.
Lolsy Update : Naturally some Con supporters are now requiring proof that the rallies along with their extensive media coverage are not just some kind of elaborate leftie hoax.
Steve must be so proud.

"No Prorogue!" Rally for Canada today

As I type this, a Canadian named Sarah is marching in a one-woman No Prorogue protest in Brunei, the day's first. Soon there will be others in Trafalger Square and The Hague, with New York, Dallas Texas, and San Francisco joining in later on.
63 rallies across Canada and their fb pages listed here
The Vancouver meet up is on Georgia St. with a march to Victory Square.
Boots on the streets, people, boots on the streets.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Canadian Olympic Committee vs. the heart patients

For the past six years, a heart disease group has been using this logo of a torch with a heart-shaped flame and the words "Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance - for life".
Naturally enough, the Canadian Olympic Committee are concerned that people might not be able to easily distinguish between a support group for congenital heart patients and the Olympics.
"Hi Everyone,
This is beyond belief. On this past Monday, we received a letter from our Patent and Trademark Attorneys advising us that The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) objected to our use of a torch and flame in our logo. We had applied to the Canadian trademark office to have our logo trademarked over a year ago. It was published and received no objections and therefore it was granted. The COC applied to have the "Objection period extended" as they failed to object during the legal time allowed and the Trademark office granted their wish.

This fight is going to cost us far more money than we have and therefore I am asking you if you would kindly donate to our Canadian Olympic Defence Fund.".
The COC lawyer's letter offers not to "proceed through to hearing and appeal, if necessary" as long as the CCHA agrees to certain conditions, including :
~CCHA agrees not to apply to register, register or use directly or indirectly its Combined Mark or a similar mark in association with the marketing, promotion, or sponsorship of sporting events or sporting goods
~CCHA agrees not to challenge, directly or indirectly the public authority status of the COC now or in the future
Well you can see the Olympic Committee's point. Just imagine thousands upon thousands of tourists trudging up the stairs to the CCHA's suite in Oakville Ontario only to discover that the congenital heart patient advocacy group has no luge, no ski hills, no skating rinks, nor even any of those peculiar hello kitty mascots. What an embarrassment for Canada that would be.
In other Owelympic logo mojo, the Vancouver Public Library has sent a list of Dos and Don'ts around to its branches :
"Do not have Pepsi or Dairy Queen sponsor your event," read guidelines sent to VPL branch heads and supervisory staff last fall. "Coke and McDonald's are the Olympic sponsors. If you are planning a kids' event and approaching sponsors, approach McDonald's and not another well-known fast-food outlet."
Ok but what about equipment used in the libraries? What if they happen to be the wrong brand?
"The same care must be taken for audio-visual equipment. The branch should try to get devices made by official sponsor Panasonic. Should staff only be able to find Sony equipment, the solution is simple.
"I would get some tape and put it over the 'Sony,' " [VPL manager of marketing and communications Jean]Kavanagh said. "Just a little piece of tape."
Own the Odium.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First KAIROS, then UNRWA ... and Frank steps in it.

Last month Jason Kenney explained his government's decision to cut off funds to the church aid group KAIROS thusly:
"Our government is working to dismantle the client relationship that existed between the government of Canada and organizations whose priority is seemingly to advocate for the legalization of banned terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as deny the Jewish people's right to a homeland."
Or, as Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda put it, "the program didn't meet CIDA's current priorities".

Naturally enough, the churches comprising KAIROS -the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops - did not much care for Kenney's insinuations.

This month Oda doesn't think the UN's Palestinian refugee agency meets CIDA's current priorities either :

Embassy Mag : Outcry erupts as Canada starts to move away from Palestinian refugee agency
"The government has quietly taken what many consider the first step to cutting ties with the UN agency responsible for supporting more than 4.67 million Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the Middle East."
While not cutting the actual amount of the aid, funding of UNRWA is being shifted away from its traditional core funding for food, clothing, health services, and schools - to food aid only.

"Jewish organizations have long alleged that UNRWA has been infiltrated by groups like Hamas" and "that funds given to the UN agency are being diverted to the group".

B'Nai Brith and the Canada-Israel Committee have both released statements applauding the government's decision, while pro-Israel websites and media have reported widely on the change. Mr. Dimant said his organization had been advocating in favour of moving away from UNRWA for a long time"

Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada and a member of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security at Public Safety Canada, is pleased the government has adopted his viewpoint:
"This is certainly a step in the right direction," he said. ... "I believe it's a very progressive step forward. ... I think that it is strange, to say the least, that there is a specific refugee agency just dedicated for the Palestinians and that all the millions of other refugees in the world are serviced in a different category."
Oh, good one, Frank.
I'm willing to bet you do not think it at all strange, to say the least, that there is a Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism and that all the millions of other people in distinct minorities in Canada are not serviced by their own pet privately-funded parliamentary coalition.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti : It's a security circus now

As more and more foreign troops pour into Haiti -

Star : Canada rides to the rescue in Haiti
2,000 more soldiers flooding into Haiti with navy ships to help with security, relief
- Doctors Without Borders report five of their planes, including one containing a field hospital, have been refused permission to land by the US controlled airport.

Dr. Evan Lyon at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince via Democracy Now:

"One thing that I think is really important for people to understand is that misinformation and rumors and, I think at the bottom of the issue, racism has slowed the recovery efforts of this hospital. Security issues over the last forty-eight hours have been our—quote “security issues” over the last forty-eight hours have been our leading concern. And there are no security issues.

I’ve been with my Haitian colleagues. I’m staying at a friend’s house in Port-au-Prince. We’re working for the Ministry of Public Health for the direction of this hospital as volunteers. But I’m living and moving with friends. We’ve been circulating throughout the city until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night, evacuating patients, moving materials. There’s no UN guards. There’s no US military presence. There’s no Haitian police presence. And there’s also no violence. There is no insecurity."

CBC, today :

"About 7,000 UN military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police are in Haiti. Ban said Monday he asked the UN Security Council to add 2,000 troops and 1,500 police.
About 180 tonnes of relief supplies arrived Saturday, but people on the street say none of it is reaching them.
Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders said: "There is little sign of significant aid distribution."
Why these poor people are not rioting after a full week of this I have no idea.

Update : From Ian Welsh via Pogge in comments :
"The longer “security” is used as a reason not to distribute food, water and medical supplies the more angry and desperate Haitians will become, and thus the worse the security situation will be. Troops which are not actually providing security for actual distribution of supplies, by taking up airlift capacity which could be used for relief, make the security situation worse rather than better."
And remember Airshow Mackay proudly sending off two Canadian destroyers to Haiti "loaded with supplies and relief" ? Well, they've arrived :
"HMCS Athabaskan brings little in terms of actual food and water, but is more equipped to provide support to existing agencies, to provide leadership in chaotic communities and to better assess their needs and priorities."
Jesus wept. Maybe they can reconnoiter the Haitians up some mud pies.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti - Five days later

updated below

The Haitian government has signed a memorandum of understanding formally transferring control of the Port-au-Prince airport to the US. From the Guardian :

"Flights seeking permission to land continuously circle the airport, which is small, damaged and with a single runway, rankling several governments and aid agencies. "There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti," Jarry Emmanuel, air logistics officer for the UN's World Food Programme, told the New York Times. "But most of those flights are for the United States military. Their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed. We have got to get those priorities in sync."

France ­protested when an emergency field hospital was turned back. The foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said the airport was not for the international community but "an annexe of Washington", according to France's ambassador to Haiti, Didier Le Bret.
Brazil was also indignant when three flights were not allowed to land.

The Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières complained about flights with medical staff and equipment which were re-directed to the neighbouring Dominican Republic."

Obstructing assistance from other countries, refusing to allow people to escape, and sending in the military ... and right about now I'm guessing you're remembering the US relief efforts following Katrina.

Toronto Sun : Canada to take lead building 'New Haiti'

On January 25th, given he has nothing else to do til the Owelympic photo event, Steve is hosting a Haiti 'reconstruction' conference in Montreal for leaders from 16 countries which make up the Group of Friends of Haiti . While you're at it, here's something you guys can reconstruct ...

"In 1995, the IMF forced Haiti to cut its rice tariff from 35% to 3%, leading to a massive increase in rice-dumping from the United States. As a 2008 Jubilee USA report notes, although the country had once been a net exporter of rice, "by 2005, three out of every four plates of rice eaten in Haiti came from the US."

During this period, USAID invested heavily in Haiti, but this charity came not in the form of grants to develop Haiti's agricultural infrastructure, but in direct food aid, furthering Haiti's dependence on foreign assistance while also funneling money back to US agribusiness."

Tuesday update. It's now been a week since the quake. It's probably safe to assume that more people will die from infection and going without food, water, or medical care for a week than died in the initial quake. Aid groups still being refused permission to land at the airport .... but wait! Headline in today's Star : Canada rides to the rescue in Haiti
2,000 more soldiers flooding into Haiti with navy ships to help with security, relief

CBC : "About 7,000 UN military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police are in Haiti. Ban said Monday he asked the UN Security Council to add 2,000 troops and 1,500 police.
About 180 tonnes of relief supplies arrived Saturday, but scores of people on the street say none of it is reaching them.

Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders said: "There is little sign of significant aid distribution."


A stick

On Tuesday NATO troops fired into a crowd of anti-NATO Afghan demonstrators in the Garmsir district of Helmand, killing either 7 or 13, and wounding others.

On Wednesday between 200 and 400 villagers came out to protest the previous day's killings and NATO fired on the demonstrators again, wounding another 5, after one civilian struck at NATO forces with a stick.

Reuters :

"A number of civilians in the crowd disregarded instructions, resulting in forces firing warning shots. Deliberative escalation of force procedures were followed, but one individual continued to ignore instructions, striking members of the combined force with a stick," the statement said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Todd Breasseale said both Afghan troops and the U.S. Marines subsequently fired on the crowd.

"People started behaving dangerously and unfortunately things like this happen."

A stick.

I am the pro rogue

Only in Canada ...

"Go searching for the last time a Westminster-style parliament was shut down to free its leaders from unwanted censure or scrutiny — and you'll end right back in Canada, where you started.

It turns out, no other English-speaking nation with a system of government like ours — not Britain, Australia or New Zealand — has ever had its parliament prorogued in modern times so that its ruling party could avoid an investigation, or a vote of confidence, by other elected legislators.

"The strength of the federal government — and the prime minister's own authority — must flow through Parliament. If Parliament is weak, and if the prime minister ignores its members and tries to rule without their consent, then his legal right to govern evaporates."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti : From manmade disaster to disaster capitalism

The Guardian :
"Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone. Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence ..."
... a historical sequence which saw Canada join France and the US in overthrowing the popular and democratically elected Aristide -twice - in favour of a brutal rightwing dictatorship more friendly to offshore sweatshops. The government we apparently preferred was formed by former Tonton Macoutes who subsequently murdered thousands of people. Sometimes we have called this "Responsibility to Protect".

And talk about holding the bully's coat, Canadian troops held the airport while US troops deported Aritide to Africa.

"Relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti's agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums. Although there are no reliable statistics, hundreds of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines. The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is itself no more "natural" or accidental than the extent of the injuries they have suffered.

The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate military purpose. Proposals to divert some of this "investment" towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked, in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the distribution of international "aid"."

On the day after the quake, the disaster capitalism vultures were already circling overhead ...
The Heritage Foundation :

"Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue. Congress should immediately begin work on a package of assistance, trade, and reconstruction efforts needed to put Haiti on its feet and open the way for deep and lasting democratic reforms.
In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."

. See also Rusty Idols and Thwap

Bill Quigley at Democracy Now : US Policy in Haiti Over Decades “Lays the Foundation for Why Impact of Natural Disaster Is So Severe”

Naomi Klein at Democracy Now : Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert: Stop Them Before They Shock Again

Max Blumenthal : How Washington's Plot Against Haiti Worsened the Earthquake Disaster

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Orange Alert! Orange Alert! now with shiny things!

"Vigilance is at a medium level. This is not 9/11, but the information we have
received is of concern and we need to have heightened vigilance," said Mr. Baird.

But the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day could be a "pilot project" for attacks on North America and represents the first time al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula has attempted to strike this part of the world, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said.

CTV, the G&M, the Star, and NaPo are all reporting on the Transport Canada "heightened alert" for Canadian airports this last weekend, a full two weeks after the Detroit underwear bomber told of 20 more guys in Yemen planning attacks on North America.
And apparently there's also the other terrorists ...
"But sources say Canadian intelligence also had credible information of other terrorists planning to come to Canada.
Federal authorities say the terrorists did not pose a direct threat to Canada. They were not planning to blow up a Canadian airliner, nor were they planning terrorist attacks at the Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, or some other target in Canada."
The terrorists want to use Canada as a jumping-off point to get into the U.S."
So we should be scared, but not too scared?

Robert Fife wastes no time getting to the point : The Canada-US border would be shut down immediately, he said - a disaster because 75% of our trade is with the US.

Then CTV, the Star, and the G&M all end their reports with :
In addition to the heightened security already in place, Transport Canada said it will install full-body scanners at major Canadian airports by the spring.
even though full-body scanners would not have stopped the underwear guy anyway.

Say, will we be buying the scanners promoted by former Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff, who now represents Rapiscan, "one of the leading manufacturers of whole-body-imaging machines"?

Security theatre plus expensive new shiny things.
Scanners might not be any good at detecting whatever device the next Detroit bomber is carrying; what they will do is keep our trucks rolling across the Detroit River.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Prorogue Democracy ... so far

~Recalibratin' Economic Action Plan Pt 2 but not making any changes
~Time out to go to burning stick festival*
~We got nearly everything we wanted passed anyway
~Busy busy busy back home on winter barbie circuit
~Everybody does it, albeit mostly in the 19th century
~Only "elites" and "chattering classes" will notice anyway
~Can't do what we like in stupid minority parliament

Last night we got two more :

Tom Flanagan, former mentor to Steve, on CBC :
"The government's talking points don't have much credibility. Everybody knows that Parliament was prorogued in order to shut down the Afghan inquiry, and the trouble is that the government doesn't want to explain why that was necessary. I personally think that was a highly defensible action but instead of having an adult defence of it the government comes up with these childish talking points so then you try to backfill with other stuff that doesn't make much sense either so it's a self-created problem."

And if you were starting to warm up to Tom a bit here, by "highly defensible", he explains it was the Libs' fault, long time ago, yadda, yadda, yadda, the NDP don't like "force" anyway and the Bloc are trying to break up the country... Just in case anyone was even thinking about some kind of new-fangled coalition.
Then on Business News Network tonight, Harper explained that markets don't much care for parliament either :
"The games begin when Parliament returns. The government can take time now to do the important work, to prepare the economic agenda ahead. That said, as soon as parliament comes back, we're in a minority parliament situation, the first thing that happens is a vote of confidence and there'll be votes of confidence and election speculation for every single week after that for the rest of the year. That's the kind of instability that I think markets are actually worried about."

Gosh, best get this man a majority for the sake of the markets then.
Ok, that's only nine reasons from the Cons so far. #10 should be along shortly. Any time now...
* burning stick festival™ - The Rev

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Keeping score on Facebook

When Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament started up on Facebook last week, supporters of last year's Canadians Against a Liberal/NDP Coalition Gov't were all very dissy about it : We got 127,000 members in less than a week - crowed BloggingTory Stephen Taylor - the largest Canadian FB group evah!

Of course now that CAPP membership has reached 140,000 150,000, they've gone all 'well fuck facebook then', and the National Post is plumping for the 163 Canadians Who Don't Care if Harper is Proroguing Parliament Give a Rat's Ass About It
As CC points out, the prorogue FB support group are of course the real competition to CAPP and not the anti-coalition group, but Susan Delacourt points out an important difference between anti-prorogue group and the anti-coalition group for us anyway (h/t Dammit Janet) :

"This new Facebook group is counting on people to educate themselves about parliamentary tradition, practice and principle. The old Facebook group was organized around the notion of 'never mind parliamentary rules about majority/minority and confidence, this thing is wrong.'

In other words, you have to understand basic rules of Parliament to understand why this prorogation is unusual; you had to ignore parliamentary rules to argue the coalition was wrong."

And right there Susan nails the basic difference between progressives and the ReformaTories.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Wiebo Ludwig

I don't claim to be any kind of authority on Wiebo Ludwig - for that you can read Andrew Nikiforuk's Saboteurs - but in all the considerable coverage of Ludwig's arrest today in connection with six cases of explosions on EnCana's gas pipelines, I notice the media's accompanying history of Ludwig makes no mention of the RCMP blowing up a well site last time they were building their case against him so here's a reminder.
Ludwig's war on Big Oil began with his belief that sour gas and industrial pollution was endangering the health of his family and livestock. This was confirmed for him when his grand-daughter was born dead. Unable to achieve satisfaction in the courts, Ludwig was convicted in 2001 on five charges related to vandalism of oil industry equipment and served two years of a 28-month sentence.
Ok, Operation Kabriole ...
The Mounties bombed an oil installation as part of a dirty tricks campaign in their investigation into sabotage in the Alberta's oil patch.
The revelation came at the bail hearing Thursday of two farmers who the Crown says have turned their complaints that oil industry pollution is making their families ill into acts of vandalism and mischief.
Dubbed "Operation Kabriole", the RCMP's intention was to help an informant
get closer to the two men police suspected were behind vandalism against the oil
and gas industry.

Wiebo Ludwig and Richard Boonstra were arrested and charged earlier this month.

"Operation Kabriole" was planned and executed with the direct involvement of a Calgary based oil and gas business. Alberta Energy Company has a big operation in the Peace River country.

The RCMP's original plan was to blow up one of AEC's trucks. The company convinced the police to change the operation even though AEC had already given its approval, offered up a truck to be bombed and said it would pay for any major damages. Company officials were having second thoughts.

According to the RCMP's own files, the head of AEC's northern operations met with the police to say his bosses were concerned that bombing a vehicle would cause 'undue stress and fear' for employees driving company trucks.
So the company offered an alternative, a shed covering one of its "out of service" well sites not far from the suspects' property.

The bomb was set off Oct. 14, one week before AEC hosted two tense and emotional town hall meetings. Worried residents who turned out, were told by an expert, who was flown in by AEC, that they were the victims of 'eco-terrorists'.
Tory MP Peter MacKay, the opposition's RCMP critic at the time :
"If, in fact, the RCMP engaged in this type of activity, regardless of their motives, and regardless of the public interest here, it would be potentially fatal to the Crown's case."
Except it wasn't.
This time Ludwig has been charged his lawyer says he will be charged with extortion.
"Every one commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done."
To do anything or cause anything to be done. That's pretty broad.
Maybe this time he wrote a letter.
Still, an RCMP fishing expedition is better than blowing up a shed.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Democracy and Parliament not sidestepped, only suspended

We would like to thank Con MP Brent Rathgeber for that lovely explanation of Steve's dismissal of parliament - first ignoring its will and then proroguing it - and move on to how the media props up that contempt by ignoring it.
With a little help from his friends ...
As pointed out by POGGE here and here, CBC and CTV/CanWest both blew their year-end interviews with Steve.
Mansbridge took a stab at getting some explanation from Steve on why he prorogued parliament but then allows Steve to blow him off with bafflegab about how Canadians don't care about it anyway. The question Mansbridge should have asked is why Steve is ignoring a parliamentary motion to hand over unredacted documents on the Afghan detainees and did he shut down parliament to avoid doing so?
At least Mansbridge gave it a shot. In their year end interview, the CTV/CanWest tagteam of John Ivison and David Akin don't even mention proroguing or detainees, never mind ignoring the will of parliament. They just skip the whole friggin thing. In fact their interview, which ran in the National Post, opens with this :
IVISON: "Prime Minister, it seems there is not going to be much for us to write about, unless there are Senate appointments in our near future."
Yup, year end review, not much goin' on here right now. What ever will we write about?
In his blog entry : Interviewing Harper: What to ask? Why not ask about prorogation? David Akin explains that Mansbidge already covered that issue - no, David, clearly he did not - and that they did not have much time to ask questions that could be rewritten up by their affiliate papers :
"[T]he goal for Canwest, at least, is to leave the interview with a story that the local editors of the Vancouver Sun, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and other Canwest papers would find interesting enough that they would make (valuable) space for in their papers."
Yet within that admittedly short 13 minutes there was apparently ample time for questions like this :
AKIN: Do (you) see yourself in a decade -- you may not be prime minister -- do you see a career for yourself after this? I don't sense you're the board of directors type but I don't know, maybe you are -- an academic? What do you want to do? Where are you in a decade?"
Steve in a decade? Who gives a rat's ass? We want to know where our parliament is right now.
Akin responds in comments at Pogge's.

Happily the conservative US UK mag The Economist, in two separate articles, goes straight to the heart of what the Canadian media to a truly frightening degree ignores :
Parliamentary scrutiny may be tedious, but democracies cannot afford to dispense with it

Never mind what his spin doctors say: Mr Harper’s move looks like naked self-interest.
His officials faced grilling by parliamentary committees over whether they misled the House of Commons in denying knowledge that detainees handed over to the local authorities by Canadian troops in Afghanistan were being tortured.

A legislature matters more than the luge
Mr Harper is a competent tactician with a ruthless streak. He bars most ministers from talking to the media; he has axed some independent watchdogs; he has binned campaign promises to make government more open and accountable. Now he is subjecting Parliament to prime-ministerial whim. He may be right that most Canadians care more about the luge than the legislature, but that is surely true only while their decent system of government is in good hands. They may soon conclude that it isn’t.

Canada without Parliament - Halted in mid-debate
Stephen Harper is counting on Canadians’ complacency as he rewrites the rules of his country’s politics to weaken legislative scrutiny.
The danger in allowing the prime minister to end discussion any time he chooses is that it makes Parliament accountable to him rather than the other way around.
It is now up to [the opposition] to show that Canada cannot afford a part-time Parliament that sits only at the prime minister’s pleasure.
One would hope it would also be a matter of some concern to the Fourth Estate.
CANADIANS AGAINST PROROGUING PARLIAMENT - 92,000 120,000 140,000 and counting ...
On Facebook .

80,200 85,800 90,000 100,000 120,000 140,000 150,000 175,000 200,000 members and counting ...

Meanwhile, Alberta Con MP Brent Rathgeber, who sits on both the Justice and Human Rights Committee and the Public Safety and National Security Committee, made this statement to his local paper yesterday about the proroguing of parliament (h/t Aaron Wherry via Scott):

"Democracy and Parliament are not being sidestepped — they are only being suspended.
We have received six emails and phone calls telling us it was a mistake. I don’t think it is a significant issue in the minds of Canadians.

Most Canadians don’t follow the day-to-day operations of Parliament at the best of times, but during the Olympics any attention they might have had will be quite rightly focused on what’s going on in Vancouver and Whistler."

Only six emails you say?

You can email Brent at
Telephone: (613) 996-4722
Fax: (613) 995-8880
Be sure to copy Steve on this - - in case he hasn't heard anything about it either.
I also liked the bit where he explains it's just as well that suspending democracy has shut down the Afghan detainee issue, lest foreign Olympics visitors hear about it :
"...that is not the kind of reputation of Canada that I think we want our international visitors to depart with."
Hey Brent, did Steve authorize this interview? Coz I'm thinking not.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Rick Mercer : 22 Days of Snow Days

Excerpted :

"It is ironic that while our parliament has been suspended we are a nation at war. On New Year's Eve we greeted the news that five Canadians were killed in a single day with sadness but not surprise. We are at war because ostensibly we are helping bring democracy to Afghanistan. How the mission is progressing is open for debate but this much is certain – at present there is a parliament in Afghanistan that it is very much open for business. Canada has no such institution.

In Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's government faces fierce opposition at every turn; many of his cabinet choices have been rejected in a secret ballot by the more than 200 parliamentarians that sit in the legislature. Simply closing parliament down and operating without their consent is not an option for Hamid Karzai; to do so would be blatantly undemocratic or at the very least downright Canadian. If Hamid Karzai suspended parliament on a whim we might be forced to ask why Canadians are dying to bring democracy to that country.

Stephen Harper doesn't have that problem. The Parliament of Canada has been suspended for no other reason than the prime minister simply can't be bothered with the relentless checks and balances that democracy affords us. He doesn't want to have to stand in the House of Commons and hear anyone question him on any subject. I don't blame him. Parliament is filled with jackals, opportunists and boors. The problem is, like it or not, they were elected.

I also don't blame the Prime Minister for wanting to keep his ministers out of the spotlight. This is a prime minister who could argue he is Canada's greenest PM simply because he's the only one who has gone out of his way to give potted plants key portfolios.

The problem is he is the one who appointed Cabinet and like it or not they are supposed to be accountable. A minister's job is not to hide in their riding; it is to be accountable in Ottawa – or at least that was the promise. This prime minister has gone from the promise of an open, accessible and accountable government to a government that is simply closed.

It is too bad that prorogation isn't something that our soldiers have in their arsenal. When faced with the order to head out on a foot patrol in the Panjwaii district of southern Afghanistan, to risk their lives to bring democracy to that place, wouldn't it be nice if they could simply prorogue and roll over and go back to sleep. Soldiers don't get that luxury. That is afforded only to the people who ultimately order them to walk down those dangerous dusty roads in the first place."

Thank you, Rick Mercer.
I would quibble with your "we are a nation at war" and that we are "helping bring democracy to Afghanistan" - but let those who use those words today to defend our rogue prime minister eat them now.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Viva Palestina 3 convoy due to enter Gaza today tomorrow

The third Viva Palestina convoy of 198 vehicles bearing humanitarian aid is due to enter Gaza today.
It was held up by Egypt, long the 2nd largest recipient of US military aid, who demanded that the convoy request permission to enter Gaza from Israel, the single largest recipient of US military aid til 2004 when Iraq took over the #1 spot.
According to AllGov, Israel has received $3 billion a year in US military aid since 1985, but "must spend 75% of its help from Washington on military hardware made in the USA."
War is a racket, as is its attending foreign aid.
Buy a T-shirt in support of the third 'Viva Palestina' convoy here.
Follow their progress here.
Monday Night Update :
Small ruckus at the border when Egypt permitted entry to the first 157 convoy members to arrive but not the 400 due tonight.
Sit-down strike from the 157 and now it looks as if the whole convoy will be permitted to enter tomorrow after all. We'll see.
Viva Palestina!
You would think that 528 people from 17 countries in a 150-vehicle convoy carrying hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies all the way across Europe to Gaza would rate at least one line somewhere in the North American media, wouldn't you? But you would be wrong.
Tuesday Noon Update : Currently there is a stand-off in El-Arish, Egypt, between the convoy and hundreds of Egyptian riot police armed with water cannons. While the convoy members have been granted permission to enter Gaza, 90 of the now 400 vehicles - the ones from the US - have been refused entry. Convoy digging in, refusing to abandon the vehicles.
Shit. This could get ugly.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Wish you were here too!

Via Impolitical, who suggests a companion pic of the opposition parties showing up on Jan 25th as originally scheduled to fill the opposition benches would make a very strong statement against the missing rogue PM. The Owelympix stamp is a nice touch, given that parliament is about to be temporarily replaced by photo ops with athletes.
"Last year ministers threatened to go over the head of the de facto head of state if Governor General Michaëlle Jean allowed a coalition of "Liberals, socialists and separatist" to use their Commons majority to topple his minority."
[That would be Baird here]
"This winter Harper is essentially making the argument that Parliament is getting in the way of his government governing."
Responding to news of the prorogation in his New Years letter, Michael Ignatieff writes :

"Canadians are rightly starting to wonder if Conservatives intend to shut down government whenever things don’t go their way.

I’ll be spending the first few months of the year reaching out, travelling from coast to coast, holding town-hall meetings, web forums and small gatherings to hear from Canadians first-hand ...

On March 26 to 28, 2010, some of Canada’s leading progressive thinkers and doers will gather in Montreal for a conference entitled Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge. They will be part of a national conversation about the Canada we want to be in 2017 when we celebrate our 150th birthday..."

Jebus chripes on a stick ...

Dear Iggy, Wish you were here too.

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