Sunday, December 29, 2013

The People Report

You know how you sometimes wonder how we might reorganize society if we were starting over again today from scratch? 

Imagine how public meetings to discuss it would go. Anyone recommending any variation on tinkle down economics or massive handouts to the rich as a solution to poverty would get laughed out of the room. Plutocracy? Corporations as citizens and citizens as consumers? Agribiz? Water as a subset of resource extraction? Skynet surveillance? Media monopolies? Organizing our public spaces around what is most convenient for cars? 
Yeah, we've tried those ideas already thanks - please don't waste our time at the mic.

I should admit here I'm not really a huge fan of the automobile and aside from that time someone gave me one - which served chiefly as a home away from home to various neighbourhood cats - I've never actually owned a car. This is not as inconvenient as it sounds, affording as it does ample opportunity to lecture drivers on the evils of car culture from the comfort of their passenger seat.

So today I'm noticing the local traffic report on the radio - which is of course actually the car report. A stall on the Lions Gate Bridge, poor road conditions somewhere, a three car pile-up on Highway One, and thanks for the traffic tip to Mike in Burnaby who wins a station mug or pencil or something from someone named Bambi in a helicopter. 

And it occurred to me that rather than all these updates on what cars are doing,  how about we put those resources into people reports instead? 
~ There's a guy sitting on the median at Hwy One and First Street looking pretty bummed - could someone please go see what he's crying about because I'm currently stuck up here in this stupid helicopter. 
~The homeless community in Abbotsford would like to thank all the volunteers who helped to clean up the manure the city spread on their camp in the park but report they are still short of tent pegs, warm socks, and canned goods. No more old mattresses please.
~ And this just in from Mike in Burnaby - Elderly alzheimer patient named Susan has escaped from her caregivers again. Probably wandering lost in the vicinity of Main and Broadway. Wearing a tan mac and fluffy blue slippers and carrying a knife. Someone please find her before the tasershow starts up.

Presently such rare additions to a traffic update report are added as "human interest" stories, a sort of subset of the presumably more important things that are interesting to cars. 
Possibly we have got this the wrong way round. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Eve in Holten, Netherlands

At 4:30pm on Christmas Eve, hundreds of Dutch schoolchildren set a candle before each of 1,394 burial plots marking the graves of Canadian soldiers who died liberating their town a few days before the end of the Second World War over 60 years ago. 

An unofficial remembrance ceremony marked every year by the people of Holten, Netherlands.

I reckon if Steve were to attend, he would likely spontaneously  burst into flames.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bruce Carson and the tarsands fox - streamlining the henhouse

Yesterday the Edmonton Journal reported :
More than 75 environment officers who watched over oil industry activities left the provincial environment department this fall, to take higher paying jobs with the new industry-funded Alberta Energy Regulator. Another 75-plus are expected to leave in the spring.
In mid-November, the department also began handing over to the regulator thousands of files on oil industry activity pertaining to the Public Lands Act, according to documents obtained by the Journal. 
This shift in staffing and the moving of years of files out of a government department to the new arm’s length regulator are key steps in the government’s plan, announced last spring, to create a more streamlined approval process for oil companies that wanted “one window” to get permits for new projects.
The article notes that the chair of the 100% industry-funded Alberta Energy Regulator, Gerard Protti, is "a founder of the oil industry lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers." He also spent 15 years as an executive officer of EnCana Corporation. 

Not mentioned in the article, or in Protti's bio at the AER, is that in 2011 Gerard Protti and disgraced Harper advisor/fraudster/fixer Bruce Carson were both vice-chairs of the oil industry lobby group EPIC, Energy Policy Institute of Canada, and produced a paper calling for exactly the "streamlined approval process for oil companies" that the new Alberta Energy Regulator is mandated to deliver.

"Streamline Canada's regulatory processes to end overlap, duplication, and delays which can negatively impact Canada's competitiveness and productivity. This could be accomplished by implementing a one-project, one-process review to end duplication in regulatory regimes within one level of government and between governments ..."
Also not mentioned is that as EPIC's representative, Protti registered as a federal lobbyist from July 2012 to April 2013 to lobby for :
"a philosophical energy strategy that is adopted politically and then motivates regulatory activity in terms of economic development, energy and the environment."
  • Canadian Coast Guard (CCG)
  • Environment Canada (EC)
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)
  • National Energy Board (NEB)
  • Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)
  • Prime Minister's Office (PMO)
  • Privy Council Office (PCO)

And voilĂ , in June 2013 the Alberta Energy Regulator is proclaimed with Protti as chair.


Friday, December 20, 2013

DILBIT : National Enbridge Board approves Northern Gateway

"In the unlikely event of a large oil spill ... we found that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread."
And just in case you aren't convinced of this by reading it just the once, the National Energy Enbridge Board repeats it three more times in their report.

But "in the unlikely event of a large oil spill ..." :
"Our final condition requires the company to maintain insurance and other financial resources totaling $950 million. The financial assurances would include $100 million in ready cash for immediate costs, $600 million in insurance or similar instruments, and $250 million in financial backstopping such as guarantees by equity partners."

And what did we learn from the 3.3 million litre $1-billion cleanup at the Enbridge dilbit spill in Kalamazoo three years ago?
                                                         It sinks.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Merry Banksy Christmas

Five years ago, BBC correspondent Aleem Maqbool walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem, retracing the route taken by Mary and Joseph by donkey as told in the Bible. 
For ten days he and his donkey successfully negotiated the queues, turnstiles and x-ray machines at some military checkpoints while being turned away at others despite his foreign passport and Israeli press credentials.

On the morning of December 22 on his trek, he talked to a New Yorker who had emigrated to the Jewish settlement of Shilo built on Palestinian land in the middle of the West Bank.

That evening he stayed with a Christian family in Bir Zeit. 
I was told that the family's former house and the land around it had been confiscated by the Israeli army as it was next to the checkpoint to the north of the village (which I had entered earlier). There had been no compensation, they said. 
Earlier this year, the younger son had been arrested by the army in a 3am raid on the house. His brother told me that he had been held without charge (something the Israeli authorities call "administrative detention") for six months before being released.
And so it goes ...

Fun fact : The 4,000 square meter Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre in Israel will be built an hour and a half's drive northnortheast of Nazareth. It was announced at the yearly Negev Gala in Toronto earlier this month. 
A week ago, in response to international protest, the Israeli government temporarily shelved plans to forcibly evict 40,000 Bedouins from their 'unrecognised' ancestral villages in the Negev and move them to government-designated 'towns'. Bedouin homes in the Negev are destroyed for not having the necessary Israeli permits.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Inside the Senate Committee on National Security

On Monday the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence heard from the watchdogs of both CSIS and CSEC - Chuck Strahl, Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), and CSEC Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe.

Here Plouffe is explaining to Senator Romeo Dallaire why Justice Mosley slapped down CSIS for outsourcing their spying to their Five Eyes partners (US, UK, NZ, and Australia) via CSEC. Plouffe :
"CSIS has a jurisdiction which is limited to Canada, whereas CSE's jurisdiction reaches abroad. So CSIS, in accomplishing its activities, believes it has need of assistance from allies abroad and in order to obtain this, CSIS has to go through CSE because CSE deals directly with allies. In Justice Mosley's decision, CSIS asked for assistance from CSE because both individuals in question were abroad. And what happened is unfortunately CSIS did not disclose to Justice Mosley that they sought assistance from Five Eyes. So it is legal for CSE to call on the Five Eyes, however in this case there was a warrant from the court that specified it be within Canada not abroad. Mosley said CSIS was lacking in candor and good faith." 
Plouffe added this has "complicated" CSEC's relationship with the NSA and other partners.
The impression you get from listening to Plouffe is that the Five Eyes partners share just about anything and everything, with the Canadian contact being CSEC.

CSIS watchdog Chuck Strahl addressed this as problem for the privacy of Canadians, saying "we must put legal caveats on CSIS/CSE-generated intel" shared with Five Eyes partners and third parties :
 "CSIS is concerned with erosion of control of intelligence given to CSEC and by extension to the Five Eyes community." 
"CSIS has developed information privacy protocols with only one Five Eyes partner."
While Strahl doesn't reveal which Five Eyes partner it is we do have a privacy protocol with, a 2009 Memo of Understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart does mention one between NSA and Canada. This was the Snowden-leaked doc which revealed an NSA agreement purporting to share raw unfiltered intelligence data with Israel, who is not a Five Eyes member, with the proviso that Israel weed out intel about Americans and other Five Eyes citizens .

Or as Strahl put it : "A Five Eyes partner may act independently on CSIS-originated info."

He said his office was limited to the oversight of CSIS and so his investigators were unable to follow threads that led into CSEC. Likewise Plouffe said his office could not stray into investigating CSIS. 
This was not, Strahl said, what O'Connor and Iacobucci had in mind when they each recommended a joint oversight, adding there is "no provision in current legislation, which is 30 years old, for parliamentary oversight", the only Five Eyes partner not to have any.
On Abdelrazik, Strahl said CSIS created an "exaggerated threat assessment" and "inappropriately disclosed classified information". 

The senators seemed far more concerned with what new measures had been put in place to prevent a "Snowden nightmare" in Canada than in the content his leaks revealed. They didn't ask a single question of Plouffe or Strahl about spying on the G20 in Canada and Brazil or allowing the NSA to build backdoors into internet encryption under our watch.
Not one.
For his part, Strahl said "Snowden has caused us to question how we work and that's good."

Asked what possessed him to come out of retirement last year to head up SIRC, Strahl laughed and said it was classified. 
I'll bet. SIRC has had an interim chair since the former SIRC chair and fraudster appointed by Harper, Dr. Arthur Porter, resigned in disgrace in 2011.
Dec 20 Update : Plouffe's explanation above - on Justice Mosley chastising CSEC/CSIS for outsourcing their spying on Canadians to Five Eyes partners - goes public :

CSIS asked foreign agencies to spy on Canadians, kept court in dark, judge says

Canada's spy agencies chastised for duping courts
Canada’s spy agencies have deliberately misled judges to expand their eavesdropping powers unlawfully
Update : Senate Committee transcript up.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Black shroud of secrecy" Walk of Shame

Yesterday, led by Harper's Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra, all seven Con MPs on the Ethics Committee voted to go in camera so the Canadian public wouldn't see them vote against conducting an investigation into what happened to those disappearing/reappearing emails of former PMO legal advisor Ben Perrin in the Senate scandal. 

This is the Ethics Committee, the Ethics Committee, and the Con members didn't want to be seen publicly covering up for the PMO.
With a majority on committee, their motion to hide out in what committee chair Pat Martin called "the black shroud of secrecy" passed 7-4

Chair Pat Martin
"I am struggling to see what possible justification, Mr. Calandra, you could have for asking this particular item of business to be moved in camera. The in-camera rule, as I understand it, is that it's to be used in cases of national security, invasion of privacy, commercial interests. It's not supposed to be the default position to save embarrassment to the government. 
[The public] have a right to know what their legislators are doing, and they have a right to know how their legislators are voting."
 Shame on all of those Cons above. 

A second black shroud of secrecy was revealed today by anonymous Hill whistleblower, Nanker Phelge - a lifetime Conflict of Interest, Loyalty, and Confidentiality Agreement gagging government staffers from ever disclosing what goes on in their ministry, even though their MPs are not similarly gagged.

Staffers must sign it in order to receive pay increases. At least one has refused so far : 

Self-muzzled Con MPs on the Ethics Committee at top, take note : This is what integrity looks like.

Perhaps we should drop them all a line reminding them about that :

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Leaks on Five Eyes spy network are fuelling ‘misinformation,’ CSEC chief says reads the G&M headline.

Actually it was the CSEC watchdog and not the CSEC chief who fretted 
to a senate committee today about CSEC info being made public, but you can see how the G&M headline writer could have confused the two. Lone CSEC watchdog commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe, appointed two months ago to ensure CSEC stays within the law, talked a lot more like a chief defending his outfit than an independent watchdog holding it to account.

Plouffe is worried about "sensational" docs leaked to the media being "taken out of context" and turned into "myths" and "misinformation", and sees it as his job to correct that.

One of the *myths* Plouffe will presumably soon be spysplaining for us is last night's CBC story bylined by Glenn Greenwald :

Snowden document shows Canada set up spy posts for NSA
Canada has set up covert spying posts around the world and conducted espionage against trading partners at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency in "approximately 20 high-priority countries."
"Co-operative efforts include the exchange of liaison officers and integrees," the document reveals, a reference to CSEC operatives working inside the NSA, and vice-versa.

It notes the NSA also supplies much of the computer hardware and software CSEC uses.
Other Snowden-leaked docs from Glenn Greenwald in need of Plouffe's corrective touch will include :
It was a puppet head trifecta today - the new CSEC *watchdog* defending NSA puppet CSEC to the PMO puppet Senate.

No mention as to whether CSEC got to join the NSA and GCHQ in infiltrating World of Warcraft and Second Life.

For much more in-depth CSEC coverage : Lux ex Umbra 

Friday, December 06, 2013

"A special committee that will have the right Senators on board"

Yesterday in the House, Stephen Harper publicly backed the Senate's decision not to hear testimony from Michael Runia, the Deloitte auditor who allegedly intervened in the audit into Mike Duffy’s expenses at the behest of ConFund Senator Irving Gerstein and the Prime Minister’s Office.

I doubt there's anyone left who imagines the Senate's decision on Wedneday was achieved independently of Steve's input and there's two excellent columns from Tim Harper and Murray Dobbin on that below.

But there's one email from Nigel Wright to PMO Manager of Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Rogers I haven't seen mentioned anywhere that really defines the PMO's control of the Senate. 
You will recall Rogers was the guy who got the call on Deloitte from Gerstein and reported "The Senator will call back once we have Deloitte locked in" and then correctly *predicted* their $500K audit on Duffy's residence would be a bust.

A few days after Nigel Wright's request to Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton in February that
"all unilateral action from that office cease before being cleared with me" 
and just before his remarks that 
"have to do this in a way that does not lead to the Chinese water torture of new facts in the public domain that the PM does not want..." 
is this blunt assumption of the PMO's right to have Senate committees appointed to do their bidding. Nigel Wright (page 26):
 "Patrick, we are going to need to manage the briefing of the Conservative Senators (including, hopefully Chair) of the Committee. If the Rules and Procedures committee doesn't have the right membership, then the Senate by motion should constitute a special committee that will have the right Senators on board."
So bearing that in mind ...

Tim Harper : Senate scandal: A cover-up in broad daylight
Conservatives circle the wagons to keep Michael Runia and Irving Gerstein silent, raising questions about how much damage the duo could do.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Rob Ford, heroin, blackmail, extortion, etc...

Is Rob Ford's new defence going to be that he can't remember doing heroin because he was in one of his crack stupors?

Because that might explain why allegedly
1) after Dixon Blood gang members tried to blackmail him with the crack video and he tried to buy it back for $5-grand and a car
(wiretap March 27),
2) after he had his *driver* Lisi buy back the phone they stole from him for 1.5kg in weed
(wiretap April 20), 

Rob Ford decided to party with the same gang members who tried to blackmail him - possibly resulting in even more incriminating vid and photos with which to blackmail him. 

We don't know what further Ford antics they may have recorded - yet - because the police search warrant is silent for the month from when Ford got his phone back to when stories about the crack vid were published in Gawker and the Toronto Star.

Notable that the info on the wiretaps the police have seen fit to make public so far doesn't reveal any actual recordings of Ford himself in these transactions, and by June 13 everyone else on the wiretaps had been arrested for guns and drugs. 

Sunday update : People holding guns to the head of a passed out Rob Ford?
Note Coyne's response.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Your daily Senate shenanigans

Today the Senate voted 51- 30 against having Deloitte partner Michael Runia testify about Senator Irving Gerstein's phone call to Runia amid PMO interference in Deloitte's audit into Senator Duffy.
BackgroundPMO Manager of Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Rogers on March 8, as per the RCMP ITO
"Senator Gerstein has just called. He agrees with our understanding of the situation and his Deloitte contact [Runia] agrees. The stage we 're at now is waiting for the Senator's contact to get the actual Deloitte auditor on the file to agree. The Senator will call back once we have Deloitte locked in."
All the Con senators voted against hearing from Runia because as one explained ... wait for it ... "it might interfere with an ongoing police investigation."

Con Senator Vern White, former Ottawa police chief : "The timing is wrong right now."

Ok, Senators, what is it the right time for then?

Senate plans to probe CBC operations
"The Senate is planning a comprehensive review of the CBC's role in Canadian society, examining how it has used billions of dollars in government subsidies received over the years.
With the Senate’s credibility on the line due to the ongoing spending scandal, Dawson explained that all senators had extra motivation to deliver a well-researched review."
Bonus Senate bs : Earlier today, Senator Gerstein, chair of the Senate banking committee, ruled "out of order" a request that he step down as chair of the Senate banking committee.
Thursday update : Harper rejects calls for Parliament to hear more from Duffy witnesses
"Stephen Harper says there’s no need to hear an explanation from a Deloitte auditor who allegedly intervened in an independent audit into Mike Duffy’s expenses at the behest of the Conservatives’ top fundraiser and the Prime Minister’s Office."
Senate scandal : A cover-up in broad daylight.

Monday, December 02, 2013

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