Monday, December 31, 2007

Privacy in Canada: How are we doing?

Well, the good news is that things could be much worse. But the bad news is that our privacy rights are slipping.

According to the 2007 Privacy International report, Canada's overall rating is summed up by the statement, "Some safeguards but weakened protection". (See the site for a map and summaries for the surveillance status of 46 other countries. Could be worse - we could be the US which received a black rating as an "Endemic surveillance society").

Here's their general breakdown on Canada's status:

CANADA

* Privacy not mentioned in Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but courts have recognised the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy
* Statutory rules at the federal level (public and private sectors) and provincial laws apply to sectors and governments
* Federal commission is widely recognised as lacking in powers such as order-marking powers, and ability to regulate trans-border data flows
* Variety of provincial privacy commissioners have made privacy-enhancing decisions and taken cases through the courts over the past year (particularly Ontario)
* Court orders required for interception and there is no reasonable alternative method of investigation
* Video surveillance is spreading despite guidelines from privacy commissioners
* Highly controversial no-fly list, lacking legal mandate
* Continues to threaten new policy on online surveillance
* Increased calls for biometric documents to cater for U.S. pressure, while plans are still unclear for biometric passports

We do have one of the highest ratings along with Greece and Romania according to the report's findings, but we obviously still have a lot of room for improvement and we definitely have to maintain the privacy rights that we do have while not allowing our provincial and federal governments to chip away at them as too many conservative governments would like to in the name of the GWOT which they like to claim is for our own good. Revamping the RCMP should also be aimed at protecting our rights considering the horrible way it handled the Maher Arar situation in its attempt to "cooperate" with US intelligence agencies.

From Privacy International's press release:

Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of "endemic surveillance societies."

"The general trend is that privacy is being extinguished in country after country," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "Even those countries where we expected ongoing strong privacy protection, like Germany and Canada, are sinking into the mire.

"I'm afraid that Canada has kind of lost the plot a plot a little bit this year and hence its move downwards," Davies told the Canadian Press in comments about Canada.

He cites the C-I-A's accessing the banking records of Canadians through the SWIFT banking information system, the Canadian no-fly list, and the Toronto Transit Commission's installation of security cameras as examples of the erosion of privacy rights.

He also decried the increasing number of programs involving the United States, which he said unfortunately has no federal privacy law.

"What's happening, is that Canadian information, sensitive information, is flowing across the border in increasing volumes," Davies said.

"Frankly, that's the sort of situation where government should put pressure on the U.S. government to protect that information legally," he said, "But it's not doing so."

The report came two days after Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart warned in a release that 2008 will be "another challenging one for privacy in Canada."

"Heightened national security concerns, the growing business appetite for personal information and technological advances are all potent - and growing - threats to privacy rights," Stoddart said.

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
- Benjamin Franklin

Related:

Canada's Privacy Commissioner

Tory database draws ire of privacy experts

PrivacyInfo.ca (comprehensive site with privacy news and info by law professor Michael Geist - definitely worth bookmarking)
 

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: Democracy

 
"The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

- Robert Maynard Hutchins

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why is Omar Khadr Still in Gitmo?

The answer to that question is painfully simple: Canada's government refuses to do anything to bring him home.

How can Canadians let that stand while these 2 news stories hit the wires today?

Ten Saudi Guantanamo inmates free:

Ten Guantanamo Bay detainees have been freed and returned home to Saudi Arabia, US and Saudi officials say.

The government in Riyadh will mitigate any risk posed by the former detainees with a programme to integrate them into civilian life, the Pentagon says.

Around 275 people remain at the detention centre in Cuba and the Pentagon says another 60 inmates are now eligible for transfer or release.

The US has returned dozens of Saudi former detainees over the past year.

And, Convicted Guantanamo detainee walks free from jail:

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The only Guantanamo Bay inmate convicted of terrorism offences, Australian David Hicks, was released from prison on Saturday morning after spending over six years behind bars, the majority in solitary confinement.

Hicks, 32, returned to Australia from the U.S. military prison on the island of Cuba in May after pleading guilty to terrorism charges. He left prison in his hometown of Adelaide in south Australia.

Wearing a green polo T-shirt and blue jeans, Hicks walked out of Adelaide's maximum security Yatala prison and was immediately driven away to a secret location in a blue sedan, escorted by police.

In a statement read by his lawyer, Hicks asked for privacy and said he would need time to readjust to society.

"I had hoped to be able to speak to the media but I am just not strong enough at the moment, it's as simple as that," Hicks said through his lawyer David McLeod.

Hicks also said he would need to get medical help for "the consequences of five and a half years at Guantanamo Bay".

He added that he would not speak to the media before March 30, 2008, as stipulated under terms of his release from Guantanamo Bay.

And yet, Omar Khadr continues to rot away in the Gitmo gulag while the Conservative government here asserts he is just too dangerous to bring back to Canada - a claim based on what? A conviction? No. Actual proof of his guilt? No. Hysteria, paranoia and fealty to the Bush administration? Absolutely.

Omar Khadr - imprisoned as a child soldier - the first child soldier facing war crimes charges - a fact that the US government has conveniently ignored when it comes to allowing an appropriate defence for the young man:

...when Khadr’s lawyers appear before military judge Peter Brownback, they will not be able to use the fact he was 15 at the time (and by most legal definitions, a child soldier) in his defence. Brownback has already said he will not allow the defence to raise matters of international law at trial.

For example, the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S. ratified in 2002, says that people under 18 who are enlisted or conscripted into armed conflict are not adults and therefore “are entitled to special protection.” But the protocol will not be allowed into evidence. Nor will Khadr’s lawyers be allowed to describe his upbringing in an al-Qaeda family.

Are we going to let the Bush administration get away with assuming that Omar Khadr is a "high value detainee" - that he possesses some vitally important information after all of these years about what al Qaeda is up to today? Does anyone really buy that besides those who have participated in his torture? And, since Bush has repeatedly said (quite half-heartedly and as a result of massive international pressure) that he wants to close Gitmo, where exactly would Khadr be housed if he was actually found guilty and sentenced? And why isn't he being allowed to mount an effective defence? What is Bushco afraid of? That it might actually lose the case?

The legal hoops Bushco has set up for Khadr's lawyers to jump through during this military tribunal process circus are stunning and an insult to international law and human rights. As more time goes by, this case looks more like a classic case of revenge and guilt by association rather than a search for justice. And there's no way Canadians can count on the Bush administration to move one inch to do anything in favour of Khadr but let's get one thing straight: the minority Conservative government in this country is supposed to work for us - not Bushco. Make more noise. Contact your MP. Bother the Foreign Affairs department. Do something.

There is absolutely no reason for Omar Khadr to spend one more day in Gitmo when other countries like Saudi Arabia, Australia, Yemen and the UK have repatriated their detainees.

What, exactly, are we waiting for?

Related:

Letter in support of repatriating Khadr from Lawyers Against the War

The Canadian Bar Association's call for Khadr's release

Harper gets heat from U.K. on Khadr; British legal experts take government to task for violating international laws protecting children

Khadr's lawyer ordered not to reveal witnesses for prosecution to his client

Military Judge Dashes Hopes that Guantánamo Detainees Have Rights as Prisoners of War
 

Jonas v Fisk: Diverging Views on Bhutto's Death

Did you know that Musharraf's declaration of martial law saved Bhutto's life and that the rounding up of lawyers and human rights activists was the right thing to do? That's what the National Post's George Jonas thinks.

The White House has clout, so Bhutto returned in a triumphal procession to Karachi in November. As anyone could have predicted, Islamist extremists pounced almost immediately, raining fire on Bhutto’s parade, killing and maiming hundreds. They were getting ready to kill and maim thousands more, when Musharraf imposed a state of emergency, suspended the constitution, deployed troops and locked up hordes of lawyers and journalists, claiming it was necessary to prevent a takeover by the militants of Islam.

Locking up journalists and lawyers comes naturally to strongman, but Musharraf’s concern about militants wasn’t unwarranted. At present, a democratic Pakistan is likely to be a brief prelude to the long, dark night of a Taliban-style tyranny. Bhutto, as it turned out, lived only as long as Musharraf’s emergency measures lasted. When he lifted them under renewed American pressure, she died.

The Independent's Robert Fisk commented today on the "childish coverage" of Bhutto's death and Jonas' simplistic screed is a prime example of that reality.

Not only does Jonas let Mush off the hook, he then goes on to blame liberals for this push towards democracy in other countries. I guess he's never read the neocon PNAC credo.

Pressuring Pakistan to act out America’s fascination with democracy is minimally naïve. So is forcing Musharraf, who perches precariously at the edge of a precipice, to audition for a speaking part in a psychodrama called “elections” that Western liberals believe is therapeutically efficacious against every conceivable malady in the body politic.

I didn't know George W Bush, the mouthpiece for the west's democracy crusade was a "Western liberal". Did you?

Jonas seems convinced that countries over there just aren't suited to a democratic style of government - that they're 'allergic' to it, as his metaphor goes. He's right only up to a point: democracy isn't a system that should be forced on any country, which you'd think the American empire would have learned by know. It does not then logically follow that countries that are currently undemocratic can't ever find a way to make the system work for them. "Childish coverage", indeed.

Stick to Fisk if you want a realistic view of what's going on in the world and in Pakistan at this moment. When it comes to who's really responsible for Bhutto's death, no matter which theory is used to explain it, Fisk nails it:

So let's run through this logic in the way that Inspector Ian Blair might have done in his policeman's notebook before he became the top cop in London.

Question: Who forced Benazir Bhutto to stay in London and tried to prevent her return to Pakistan? Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who ordered the arrest of thousands of Benazir's supporters this month? Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who placed Benazir under temporary house arrest this month? Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who declared martial law this month? Answer General Musharraf.

Question: who killed Benazir Bhutto?

Er. Yes. Well quite.

You see the problem? Yesterday, our television warriors informed us the PPP members shouting that Musharraf was a "murderer" were complaining he had not provided sufficient security for Benazir. Wrong. They were shouting this because they believe he killed her.

According to Jonas, if only Musharraf had kept Bhutto under house arrest in a state of martial law, she'd still be alive today. Only a fool would make Musharraf out to be a hero in this situation.
 

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bush Declares a Global War on Sunroofs

Pakistan's Interior minister is now claiming that Benazir Bhutto did not die from gunshot wounds. Instead, he says her death was the result of banging her head on the car's sunroof when she tried to duck back into the car after shots were fired. The fact that no autopsy was done seemed to bolster his revelation.

International reaction to this news so far can be summed up as 'Yeah. Right.'

Bush, always on the ball when it comes to rooting out terrorist elements and tactics, (bin Laden who?), immediately declared a Global War on Sunroofs (GWOS). And, with that, he went back to the never-ending job of clearing brush at his Crawford ranch - confident knowing that he had saved America and the world from evil sunroofs everywhere.

Do you know what your sunroof is really planning for you?

Related:

How did Pakistan's Bhutto die? (There have been 3 different explanations thus far.)
 

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto's Assassination: The US Political Sideshow

If there's one phrase that exemplifies US politics, it is this: crass opportunism.

While Bhutto's body wasn't even cold on Thursday, presidential candidates from both of the major parties stood over her corpse like vultures ready to feast on the recent kill; birds of prey who would use the reality of her death to pump up their own foreign policy credentials (as if they all actually have any) while making the case against their opponents whom they tried to push aside as they craved more blood and glory.

Crass opportunism at its absolute worst.

Need some examples?

Here's one - after predictably working 9/11 into his commentary on the news of Bhutto's assassination in the immediate aftermath earlier in the day, Giuliani (no doubt corrected by his handlers - certainly not by his conscience) had this to say on Larry King Live while Blitzer was filling in as the guest host.

We'll start off with this tidbit of cluelessness:

BLITZER: ...I want to bring in the Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani right now. He's the former mayor of New York.

Did you ever meet her, by the way, mayor, Benazir Bhutto, over the years?

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe so, Wolf. I know quite a bit about her, but I don't believe I've met her.

Either you met her or you didn't, Rudy. Yes or no. Sheesh.

BLITZER: John McCain was trying to make the point that you need a president of the United States with extensive national security and foreign policy experience. He said today: "My theme has been, throughout this campaign, that I am the one with the experience, the knowledge and the judgment. So perhaps it may serve to enhance those credentials, to make people understand that I've been to Pakistan, I know Musharraf, can pick up the phone and call him. I know Benazir Bhutto.

What do you say to that argument he's now making that the American people should trust him...

GIULIANI: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: ...to deal with national security?

GIULIANI: I would say that each of us has our own different kinds of experience. I've had foreign policy experience negotiating with governments when I was in the Justice Department. I was mayor of a city that required a significant amount of crisis management and problem solving, where foreign policy issues are something you had to be familiar with. And then over the last five or six years, I've been on 90 plus foreign trips in 34 or 35 different countries. So I believe I have a full range of experience.

But I don't think tonight is the night to be making a political point on my behalf or somebody else's behalf. Tonight is the night to offer our sympathy and support to the people of Pakistan, to the Bhutto family and to work internally in a very, very careful and measured way -- without a lot of political arguments being made on the outside -- to make sure that we help to achieve stability in Pakistan, get them back to that as quickly as possible, and then get them on a track to democracy, again, as quickly as we can, consistent with a stable Pakistan.

I think that, you know, getting it involved in a presidential campaign obviously -- it's -- questions should be asked about it, but you don't want to make too much of a political point out of this. This is a national security issue for them and it has implications for us, as well, since there's this challenge of Islamic terrorism that has us all kind of united here in understanding that we have to deal with it.

See how he snuck in his foreign policy experience along with a vague reference to 9/11 and then made the point that it shouldn't be the issue while her body is still warm, going on to highlight how it actually is an issue?

Crass opportunism.

And he certainly wasn't the only one. Both CNN and MSNBC were quick on the draw within hours of the news of the assassination to present coverage of the presidential candidates' reactions: Hillary's memories of her personal relationship with Bhutto, Obama's dry statement of standard condolences, Biden appearing on both channels saying 'I told you so' since he has been in the forefront pushing for tougher action on Musharraf.

Check out this headline (more crass opportunism) from the Washington Post: 'Clinton, Obama Seize on Killing'.

As if the Republicans acted any differently. Romney used the standard talking point with a mistake and a condemnation of guilt that he then immediately rescinded. Via MSNBC:

"This points out again the extraordinary reality of global violent radical jihadism. We don't know who is responsible for this attack but there is no question that the violence we see throughout the world is violence which is not limited to Iran, excuse me, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- but is more global in nature."

Iran? Whoops. Wrong warmongering point there, Mitt. Note how he blames it on GVRJ (global violent radical jihadism) and then admits he has no idea who killed her. That doesn't seem to matter though. Despite the fact that Musharraf had a lot to gain from Bhutto's death as well (and Bhutto held him responsible, regardless of who actually pulled the trigger*), it's the bogeyman "jihadists" who were immediately judged guilty as soon as the news was announced. The FBI and so-called Homeland Security Department were quick to say they received a claim of responsibility from al Qaeda - a very unreliable one though, but who cares, really? Right? And, of course, the thread running through all of the candidates' reactions was the supposition that only the US can save the world - once again.

Well let's get real here:

1. Bush has backed Musharraf to the tune of billions of dollars since 9/11 after which Richard Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the stone age if Mush didn't cooperate in the GWOT. And how has that worked out? Hint: He signed an agreement with the insurgents in Waziristan to take the pressure off of them so they could keep supplying fresh bodies for the Afghanistan war.

2. Bush and all of his preciously tough Republicans dropped the ball on Afghanistan after they dropped tons of bombs there to pursue his misadventure in Iraq. As a result, NATO has been left to clean up the mess. And how has that worked out? Hint: there isn't one week that goes by without NATO begging for more troops while the situation stagnates in the hands of the warlords and the corrupt Afghanistan government. Did I mention the countless number of civilians who have died as a result - not to mention the troops?

3. Bushco then came up with a secret deal with Bhutto to bring her back to Pakistan - setting her up as a sacrificial lamb.

4. Mush 'cooperates' by declaring martial law and rounding up all of the lawyers and human rights activists who he claimed were the real threat to so-called democracy in Pakistan.

Robin Wright in WaPo confirms what those of us who have been following Bhutto's return knew all along:

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism.

Condi - worst.US.secretary.of.state.ever. Her faint efforts at 'diplomacy' (in between her shoe-shopping trips and photo ops) have left a trail of murder and mayhem throughout Asia and the Middle East. No doubt, she will be given a Presidential Medal of Freedom for the heckuva job she's done on the neocons' behalf. Her modus operandi has simply been to let them all kill each other so they can sort things out later - somehow - while the US government swoops in for the spoils. That is the American Way™.

Meanwhile, cable news commentators were tripping all over each other on Thursday to proclaim that news of Bhutto's assassination will now make the GWOT the number one issue in the US election again. I doubt it. This event is just another blip on the American news scene that will soon be overshadowed by whatever the networks pick up on next. According to the most recent polls, Americans are more concerned about domestic issues now like the economy and health care and the Iraq war has dropped off as the main bone of contention in the country - mainly because the meme that the so-called surge is working has medicated the maddened masses. Conveniently calmed by the "there hasn't been another 9/11" mantra, terrorism against America has become a miserable memory (unless you're one of the many radical right pants-wetters like Michelle Malkin and her ilk who think Islamic terrorists are behind absolutely every bad thing that happens.)

Through all of the Bush years, it seems the American public has kept as much distance as possible from the fact that its country is involved in 2 major wars - only getting really upset when it seemed that military glory was not to be found in Iraq. There appears to be a limit on the amount of outrage that can be sustained by a people whose country has been completely fucked over by an administration that continually violates the constitution and breaks laws with impunity enabled by a congress - whether Republican or Democratic - that does absolutely nothing to punish the boy king and his dangerous, cunning jesters. That outrage died earlier this year. It shouldn't be allowed to RIP.

It is truly unfortunate that it's taken Bhutto's murder to once again shine a light on the situation in Afghanistan. But you certainly can't take it for granted that the US government will actually do anything about it - not those in power now or those who are running to lead the next government. Both parties are too busy balancing their interests (ie. warmongering lobbyists) with their political ambitions and fortunes. In the meantime, those who might actually provide a different plan of action are considered too 'fringe' to take seriously - the Ron Pauls (not that I'm endorsing his platform) and Dennis Kuciniches of the world. No. Just stick with the status quo. That, as well, is the American Way™.

Pakistan continues to exist in turmoil. Bush-backed Musharraf still rules with impunity. al Quaeda remains protected. bin Laden is a faint memory. More people will die in Afghanistan in an unwinnable war. But hey, why miss an opportunity to tout yourself as the next US superhero who can spread American-style democracy around the world?

Crass opportunism. It might win elections, but it doesn't win any peace - for anyone. It's all a very deadly, staged sideshow and it's not about 'democracy'. It's about power.

Related:

* Musharraf failed to protect me: Bhutto in e-mail

Justin Raimondo: Election '08: The Collapse of the 'Frontrunners'

The Nation: Another Death in Rawalpindi
 

Bhutto Assassinated

Benazir Bhutto, courted by the Bush administration to bring democracy back to Pakistan, was murdered this morning by a gunman who shot her twice and then blew himself up, killing 20 more people.

The Independent reports: "Suspicion for the blast fell on resurgent Islamic militants linked to al Qaida and the Taliban who hated Bhutto for her close ties to the US and her support for the war on terror."

No one has claimed responsibility at this point and the fate of the January elections is now up in the air.

Bhutto's return to Pakistan was not without controversy since she had left the country having been convicted of corruption charges (which were dropped by Musharraf this past October) only to return with the encouragement of Bushco to help deal with Musharraf's failures.

Related:

In September, Bhutto penned a piece that appeared on the Huffington Post site: "Why I'm Returning to Pakistan", selling herself as Pakistan's great hope for the future and ending with "I didn't choose this life. It chose me."

The Guardian offers a chronology of her political life.

Coverage from The Pak Tribune, The BBC and Pakistani Bloggers.

The WaPo has Bush's reaction (text and video).

The initial financial impact: U.S. stocks fall sharply, unsettled by Bhutto death; Dow falls more than 100 points amid thin trading, heightened geopolitical risk while Loonie up after oil rises following Bhutto killing in Pakistan.
 

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Obligatory Xmas Tunes

The fun -



The feline -



And the sobering -



All the best to all of you!

(And, next year, I will start the crochet projects in July.) (right, sure, uh huh)
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stuffmas Countdown

Yes, I'm still alive.

Busy (still) unpacking, getting organized (it never ends) and doing some top secret (tasteful, not tacky) crocheting and knitting projects for my 3 grandherbs - 12, almost 2 and 2 months.

Only one trip to the mall so far (thankfully) but I'm in no shape to fight the hordes of crazed shoppers anyway because of these (damn) sore hips I have right now (weather + fibromyalgia = agony). One of my avid readers, who has become a close friend, reminds me that last year at this time I could barely walk because of pain in my ankles. I did survive though, despite the Painapalooza last year and the crochet catastrophe and this year's baking extravaganza (such as it is) isn't scheduled until next week.

Stuffmas™: I'm a buddhist. I do all of this stuff for the grandherbs and others I care about. I did note, with some disgust (and probably because I was tired and cranky at the time), that when I did go to the mall there was an enormous amount of crap - cheap crap. Is that where the wise men (if there really were wise men) would have shopped? I.think.not. And it seems to get worse out there every year (or maybe I'm just old, tired and cranky now).

So, here's the deal: make something for someone for Stuffmas™ - even if you only have 5 minutes. Fight the commercialism and the crap. Be unique. Show some heart. Give something to someone you don't know. Find a place to help out. Anything to take xmas back from the tentacles of the major corporations and their craptacular offspring.

And, if you're one of the millions of people who think you can't afford a so-called 'decent' xmas, please read this. You can make the holiday much, much more than 'decent'. If you do it for others, that will be your gift to yourself.

Me? I'm just glad I can still manage to get these projects done, despite the pain and grumbling, and that my grandherbs will appreciate that granny catnip gave them something special. No matter how big or small, how much or how little, I know they'll smile when they open their gifts (of course, the little one may smile just because he has gas, but you never know).

Unfortunately, I won't be spending xmas with my daughter's family this year but there's a family in the house I'm living in so it can be my surrogate for the day. I may also volunteer somewhere if I'm feeling up to it. I worked with the homeless for years and wouldn't mind spending a few hours on xmas day serving food or doing something to make their lives a little brighter. They sure need it.

I'll try to get back on track with the actual political blogging sometime soon. Thanks to those who contacted me to find out how I'm doing. That's definitely appreciated.
 

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hostage Situation at Clinton NH Campaign Office

Brrreaking - WaPo reports:

A man claiming to have a bomb strapped to his body burst into Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign office in Rochester, N.H., today and took at least two volunteers hostage, New Hampshire television stations reported.

"There is an ongoing situation in our Rochester, NH office. We are in close contact with state and local authorities and are acting at their direction," the Clinton campaign said in a statement.

The campaign confirmed to Manchester's WMUR that two workers were taken hostage. The report quotes a witness who said a woman and her baby were released by the hostage-taker.

Via WMUR:

An armed man took hostages at the office on 28 North Main St. Friday afternoon, and officials with the campaign said that there were two workers taken hostage in the office, but police have not confirmed that those were the only two hostages in the building.

The two hostages were released at about 3 p.m.

Clinton, who is not in New Hampshire, canceled a National Democratic Committee meeting in Virginia.

Definitely a very tense situation.

More as updates come in...

Update:

MSNBC reports:

- the suspect is a white male in his 40s. (No doubt, the radical right is wishing he's Muslim because, according to them, only Muslims are terrorists.)
- the suspect wants to talk to Hillary.
- local law enforcement is familiar with the suspect who reportedly has a history of "erratic behaviour".
- negotiations continue.

4:08 ET: A police press conference is scheduled to occur within the next half hour.

Update::

The officer in charged said that they're still dealing with a "hostage situation" but wouldn't say how many hostages are still being held. Beyond that, he wouldn't release more information since the situation is ongoing.

MSNBC's coverage has been horrible. They've reported that a relative of the hostage taker who had said that the man was armed with road flares was his son, son-in-law and stepson without confirming his actual relationship. They also showed an interview with a local guy who claimed he knew the identity of the person, only to report at the top of this hour that his name is Leeland Eisenberg (sp?) (unconfirmed by authorities) - not the same name that was earlier broadcast as being Troy (?). They also said, after the police press conference in which it was announced that secret service members were on the scene, that the secret service wasn't involved. They really need to get their stories straight.

What seems to be the consensus between CNN and MSNBC is that this man has mental health issues and wanted to bring attention to the lack of services available but that's still a point of speculation as is what he's actually armed with.

For more local coverage, visit WDHD TV.

Update:

5:34 pm ET - Another female hostage has been released.

Update: 6:15 pm ET - The hostage situation is over. The last hostage, a male, was released and the suspect has been arrested
 

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Video: Romney Refuses to Call Waterboarding Torture

From Wednesday nite's Republican debate. Watch as John McCain's head almost explodes:



Now, as much as people would like to believe that McCain is the moral authority on all things torture-related since he was a torture victim during the Vietnam war, they should also remember that McCain favoured immunity for CIA agents do the torturing

September, 2006:

BLITZER: What about on the issue of torture, as it's called? Right now the U.S. military has specific guidelines, it's been made public. There seems to be a separate standard for civilians like those in the CIA. You're not happy about that.

MCCAIN: Well, the Geneva Conventions have a -- are generally for those in uniform and the treatment of "POWs." There is one provision that applies to people that are prisoners which is much lower than that of POW status, but still some rights are preserved. And what we are seeking is to make sure that the Geneva Conventions covering these circumstances are not changed, because if we amend the Geneva Conventions, then other nations will to their liking. And several letters, including that of General Colin Powell, could put American lives at risk.

Common Article 3, by the way, is what it's called. We will and want to give immunity, both criminal and civil immunity, to those in the CIA who are involved in this. And we would want to protect them in every way. The difference is, is whether you amend the Geneva Conventions or you do as we want to do, and that's to amend or change the War Crimes Act so that these situations are covered under the War Crimes Act, telling them what they can't do and also then giving them the immunity that they need.

McCain - just another Republican hypocrite.

Romney - just another Republican who wants to hide behind secrecy and American exceptionalism to justify torture.
 

Schreiber Testifies Today

Karlheinz Schreiber is on the hill and you can bet that more than a few Conservatives are very, very nervous but Schreiber's lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, has said his client won't have anything to say:

He's been promised access to his documents to prepare his testimony. But no papers were seen to be sent from his home in Ottawa Wednesday night to the detention centre.

Schreiber's lawyer Edward Greenspan told the Toronto Star this week that his client "will not speak" at the committee Thursday because he's not going to get a chance to properly prepare.

"Now, if they [MPs] think by some grandstanding political play they can make political hay out of that, fine," Greenspan was quoted in Wednesday's Star. "But they must understand he will not speak."

"What are they going to do if he refuses? Put him in jail?"

But Szabo said unlike in a court of law, the committee hearing rules don't allow Schreiber to refuse to answer questions.

"I believe he will. I believe he'll be there and everything's going to go as you would expect. But should that happen, hypothetically, that would be a matter that the House may cite him for contempt of Parliament."

According to some pundits however, the CW seems to be that Schreiber will testify at least partially about what he and Mulroney were up to while saving the big story for the upcoming public inquiry - if he's allowed to stay in Canada until it's in progress.

Earlier this week, on CBC's Politics with Don Newman, one Conservative MP said that the inquiry could go ahead without Schreiber - as if his testimony was inconsequential and unnecessary. I'm sure the Cons would like nothing better than to see things happen that way, giving Mulroney the spotlight to obfuscate whatever the truth might be. What's obvious though is that this scandal will definitely come back to haunt the Cons if they're seen as protecting the former PM, as they've already tried to do - and so it should. The party that bills itself as tough on crime with the ultimate moral authority as far as taking responsibility goes has already shown once again that it has double standards when one of its own has allegedly been involved in corruption and illegal activities.

You can watch the ethics committee hearing live on CPAC beginning at 11 am ET. CBC and CTV will also be airing the proceedings. Whatever happens, it's sure to be interesting. Grab your popcorn.

Related:

The Globe & Mail has more, including video of Schreiber's arrival on the hill today along with some background information.

CBC's The Fifth Estate aired the original story that brought these allegations to light through its recent interview with Schreiber and provides a detailed history of the events.
 

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm Ba-ack

Finally.

Had to get a wireless router and adapter and then pretend I knew what I was doing to set them up but I'm finally back online.

So much to catch up on. I discovered how much I rely on the internets to get the back story behind the news. Teevee soundbites just don't cut it and, since I don't subscribe to any newspapers or magazines, I really missed all of the information available online. No wonder a majority of the public is ignorant about what's really going on. There's nothing like access to in depth coverage. All hail the intertubes!

Of course, now that I am back online, it'll take me that much longer to unpack things here (gee - bummer). Have I mentioned that moving sucks? The cats and I are fed and watered and we occasionally have treats (like food) so it's all good.

Don't forget: Friday is Buy Nothing Day. Do your part and send a message.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Moving Again & Assorted Drivel

Moving Day: Thursday.

Not sure when I'll be back on the internets since we have to straighten out the router situation at the new place.

Oh, and it's not that I'm ignoring the Mulroney/Schreiber scandal. I've just been too busy to follow all of the details. Plus, washed-up assholish politicians like Mulroney should be put out to pasture somewhere never to be seen or heard from again. He makes my skin crawl - always has. So, it's just annoying having to deal with him being front and centre in the news again. But, of course, I hope he gets his ass handed to him on a plate and that Steve goes down with him. That would be sweet. A gal can dream...

I can't believe we have to live with this US election crap for another year. No wonder Americans are sick and tired of their politicians. Their electoral system sucks. Yes you're right: I don't have to pay attention to it. Just call me a rubber-necker at a messy car accident. It's repulsive and fascinating at the same time. Well, maybe "fascinating" is the wrong word. "Entertaining" might be more appropriate. Entertaining - like a really bad sitcom. Hmmm...well it gives me something more to write about. Ya. That's the ticket.

penlan sent me a link to this Global Incident Map site. It's got little flashing icons for suspicious events happening around the world. I suspect most of those are real events - not the faux crap that Bushco likes to trot out, especially before xmas. After 9/11 he told everybody to "go shopping" and ever since then he's been trying to scare the pants off everybody by publicizing you're all going to be killed in a shopping mall by al Qaeda stories. Which reminds me: Buy Nothing Day is on Nov 23rd this year. Take a day off from shopping. That way you get to outwit al Qaeda (ha!), Bush and WalMart. Sounds like a plan to me.

Speaking of so-called terror, terror, here's a story you might want to check out: Sensitive Guantánamo Bay Manual Leaked Through Wiki Site.

Here's another one: America and the world's executioners join efforts to block UN moves to end death penalty. (You just know that that one makes Steve drool. If only he wasn't Canadian. Sucks to be him.)

And, whoops.

Okay, that's it for now. Play nice, stay warm and wear a hat. See you soon.

Update:

I missed this bit of good news about Lt Ehren Watada last week. More about Watada here if you're not familiar with his story of refusing to serve in Iraq and subsequently being prosecuted for it. Score one for conscientious objectors.
 

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

FBI: Blackwater Killed 14 Iraqis 'Without Cause'

Via The NYT:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 — Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case.

The F.B.I. investigation into the shootings in Baghdad is still under way, but the findings, which indicate that the company’s employees recklessly used lethal force, are already under review by the Justice Department.

Huge news, right? Blackwater's going to get what's coming to it, you say?

Read the fine print:

Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek indictments, and some officials have expressed pessimism that adequate criminal laws exist to enable them to charge any Blackwater employee with criminal wrongdoing. Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. declined to discuss the matter.

And what kind of bullshit is this? The State Department covering up the crimes of Blackwater?

In addition, investigators did not have access to statements taken from Blackwater employees, who had given statements to State Department investigators on the condition that their statements would not be used in any criminal investigation like the one being conducted by the F.B.I.

As the article states, this will be the first big case that newly confirmed Michael (who wouldn't say that waterboarding is torture) Mukasey will have to deal with. I guess Blackwater's Eric Prince should be sending a gold-plated thank you card to J Paul Bremer for ensuring that US contractors can't be prosecuted under Iraqi law. And, considering how this misadministration operates, he'll have another one to send out once Mukasey comes up with some obscure Bushco-style reasoning that will let these murderers get away with their crimes in the US too.

Like Smedley Butler said: "War is a racket". And with the Bush administration, that racket resembles organized crime to an amazing degree. It's all about who you know - not what you do.
 

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Quote du Jour: 'Why don't you shut up?'

I just couldn't pass this one up:

Shut up, Spain's king tells Chavez

Spain's King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to "shut up" as the Ibero-American summit drew to a close in Santiago, Chile.

The outburst came after Mr Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a "fascist".

Mr Chavez then interrupted Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's calls for him to be more diplomatic, prompting the king's outburst.

Latin American, Portuguese, Spanish and Andorran leaders were meeting in Chile.

'Democratically elected'

Mr Chavez called Mr Aznar, a close ally of US President George W Bush, a fascist, adding "fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

Mr Zapatero said: "[Former Prime Minister] Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people."

Mr Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, despite his microphone being turned off. The king leaned forward and said: "Why don't you shut up?"

According to reports, the king used a familiar term normally used only for close acquaintances - or children.

Later, Mr Chavez responded to the king's rebuke.

According to the Associated Press news agency, he said: "I do not offend by telling the truth. The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner."

The theme of this year's 22-nation summit was "social cohesion".

Sunday Food for Thought: Remembrance Day

On this day of remembrance, the fact that the simple poppy is symbolic of those who have fought and died in wars on behalf of our country brings my mind to the absolute failure of US and NATO forces to control the poppy crop in Afghanistan, resulting in an economy totally fueled by war lords, drug money, corruption, terrorism, and fear that continues to put our soldiers there at risk - not to mention the Afghan people, of course.

And the question, as always, is: for what? To create an Afghanistan in the image of the United States - a sort of quasi-reenactment of the Genesis in the bible? The idea that the so-called godly figure in the world (or so many of its citizens perceive it to be) can replicate itself around the world without consequence is absurd. Even the God of the bible knew that the free will inherent in his/her creations would doom them to lives of turmoil. Thus, The Crusader (Bush) is reaping what he has sown.

But he's not the only person affected and that's where we, as citizens of a country involved in this reformation of Afghanistan need to take a long, hard look at what we are willing to sacrifice, how long we are willing to do so, how our actions affect the Afghans and ourselves and what we eventually expect as a result of our presence there to determine exactly how realistically our ideals meet the reality on the ground. And I think, as polls have shown, that the majority of Canadians have concluded that the idea that we are there in some sort of humanitarian role (which most would likely prefer) no longer rings true.

Along with reconstruction efforts marred by the continual instability, our forces have unfortunately been involved in killing innocent civilians, handing over POWs to US and Afghan authorities who have tortured or disappeared them, and our country has lost a portion of its 'good will' reputation as a result.

Again, for what?

And, as Pakistan becomes less stable with Musharraf now freeing Taliban militants who will no doubt go back and rejoin the fight in Afghanistan while Mush's military is busy rounding up non-threatening lawyers and civil rights advocates to replace the terrorists who had been jailed (not to mention the real possibility of Pakistan's nukes now falling into the wrong hands), what we should be seriously considering on this day of remembrance is just how many more of our soldiers we're willing to lose in an increasingly unwinnable war.

We always say that they're fighting for our freedom. That may have been true in past wars. In Afghanistan? I don't think so.

I am antiwar. That does not mean, however, that I have no regard for those who fight and die. In fact, because I prefer non-violent means to deal with conflicts, my concern for those on the battlefield is amplified. As with the illegal war in Iraq, the mantra about Afghanistan's fate has been that the only viable solution is political, not military.

Have we, as a nation, done everything we can to push for the political compromise to bring peace to Afghanistan or are we too busy practicing Bush's failed policy of 'clear and hold' ie. rooting out (killing) 'militants' and hoping they won't reemerge to grab power again?

Consider the poppies and you'll have your answer.

Bring our troops home. Just how many more do we have to mourn?

Related:

Via The Independent:

Staff at the British embassy in Kabul are wearing poppies in honour of the country's dead in Afghanistan, as well as the other conflicts in which British soldiers have fought over the past century. But Afghans do not understand the meaning of the symbol.

"Why do you have that paper flower pinned to your clothes?" the proprietor of a bookshop in Kabul asked a British customer yesterday. " I have seen the newscasters on BBC and Sky wearing them too. What is it for?" The explanation seemed to leave the bookseller even more confused – in Afghanistan, poppies have a very different significance...

Deaths Mark Grim Afghan, Iraq Milestones
Canada: Remembering the fallen
Bush says [he] will take Musharraf at his word
 

Friday, November 09, 2007

Canadian News Roundup

Busy getting ready to move next week but these stories caught my eye:

- Pigs do fly. Steve is going to investigate his bff Brian Mulroney. He didn't exactly have much of a choice though, did he? (h/t penlan)

- If elected, Dion vows to slash poverty rates. He'd better have a different plan than the last Liberal government or that's just another empty promise. (Have you seen those ridiculously immature ads being run to mock Dion? Did the election campaign start and I missed it or what? If the Conservatives think they have to run ads like that during the off-season, that shows they must be a tad scared of what might happen to them when the next election is really called. They're looking desperate, don't you think?)

- Speaking of ads, I don't know who produced this video clip in response to the immoral Conservatives refusing to seek clemency for Canadians on death row in countries that are democracies (and are they kidding thinking the US is anything resembling a democracy these days with its horrendous human and civil rights abuses and a boy king at the helm who relished his days executing people in Texas?), but kudos to whoever took the time to put the clip together. And speaking of the death penalty, if you missed Bill Moyers' Journal on Friday nite, watch the interview with Thomas Cahill online. It's definitely worth seeing.

- The Center for Constitutional Rights (please visit their site) has launched Maher Arar's appeal but they'll have to get past the "national security" hurdle that resulted in the case being dismissed in a lower court. On another front in this case:

NEW YORK - Gasps broke out in a U.S. federal appeals court Friday as a U.S. government lawyer spoke of Maher Arar's "unequivocal membership of al-Qaida."

One of the court's three sitting judges echoed the reaction of many in the public gallery, declaring the statement stunned him too.

Not only has a Canadian judicial inquiry cleared Arar of having any terrorism links, but U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admitted the U.S. government did not properly handle his case.

"It was kind of a shocking statement with which to start," Judge Robert Sack told Dennis Barghaan, one of three government attorneys opposing Arar's bid to see his lawsuit against the U.S. government reinstated.

Arar lawyer Maria Lahood hinted outside the courtroom the judge's reaction bodes well for Arar's case.

"To me, it was a sign the judge knew this was an innocent man," she said.

One can only guess what kind of bullshit "evidence" has been manufactured to back up that supposed al Qaeda link.

- New Khadr witness discovered. That could be a major development. In the meantime, our useless federal government is still leaving Omar Khadr to rot in Gitmo. If it had any concern for "Canada's standing in the world" (which it claims to when it defends continuing our presence in Afghanistan), it would actually try to help Khadr get out of legal limbo. In this case though, pigs won't be flying anytime soon.

- Looking for an old movie to rent this weekend? If you haven't seen it (and I'm sure some of you young whippersnappers out there haven't), check out In the Name of the Father. Caution: It will remind you of the Bush regime. Prepare to be infuriated.

If you live in Calgary, I'm looking for 3 (free) things: a wireless router for the new place, a dvd player (I've never owned one besides the one I have in this used laptop I recently got - really) and a flat panel monitor (any size) to replace my gargantuan 21" monitor that's as heavy as a teevee and which I'll either trade or give away. Drop me a line. My e-mail's up there on the left and the bonus, of course, is that you'd get to meet anonymous me in real life (oh how exciting!!). No stalkers please. My life is already interesting enough, thanks. (And yes, I belong to Freecycle™ and have posted wanted ads there and elsewhere).

I also found a local guy who's into recycling/refurbishing computer stuff that he then gives away to those in need. Just gave away my old 486 that I was using as a footstool. Glad someone can use it for its real purpose. I used it for years. (Yes, I'm still stuck in the 90s). If you want his number, let me know.

One last thing, my movers collect and donate things for Afghan/Pakistani refugees settling in the Calgary area. If you have something to donate, e-mail me and I'll forward your e-mail to them. I know someone did e-mail me the last time I mentioned them but I lost the e-mail. Sorry.
 

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pygmies Have Morals Too

In an insult to pygmies everywhere, Tom Lantos (D-Doesn't Like Pygmies) called two Yahoo! representatives (im)moral pygmies on the hill today:

WASHINGTON -- Yahoo Inc.'s chief executive and top lawyer on Tuesday defended their company's involvement in the jailing of a Chinese journalist. Irate lawmakers accused them of collaborating with an oppressive communist regime.

"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said angrily after hearing from the two men.

Pygmies seem to be a new target of politicians lately with Newt Gingrich recently calling the entire lot of Republican presidential candidates a "'pathetic' bunch of 'pygmies'."

These real pygmies could not be reached for comment:



Photo credit: Support the Pygmies
 

Monday, November 05, 2007

Video: Olbermann on Torture, Mukasey and Bush



From the transcript:

Water-boarding, he [Levin] said, is torture.

Legally, it is torture .

Practically, it is torture.

Ethically, it is torture .

And he wrote it down.

Wrote it down somewhere, where it could be contrasted with the words of this country's 43rd President: "The United States of America does not torture."

Made you into a liar, Mr. Bush.

Made you into, if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal.

Does anyone have the guts to pursue it? That is the question.

You can read the ABC News article about Daniel Levin's experience here.

Update:

The Senate Judiciary Committee today narrowly voted to approve the nomination of Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general despite the opposition of most of the panel's Democrats over his refusal to say whether an aggressive interrogation tactic constitutes illegal torture.

The committee's 11-8 vote sends Mukasey nomination to the full Senate, which is expected to confirm him in a floor vote to be held by next week.

link

Pakistan, the US, Afghanistan and Canada

The US/Pakistan relationship is truly fraught with irony as this statement by Bush Monday morning reveals:

WASHINGTON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush is urging Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to quickly return to civilian rule and release people detained under an emergency decree, the White House said on Monday.
[...]
"We cannot support emergency rule or the extreme measures taken during the emergency," Perino said. "Such actions are not in Pakistan's best interest and damage the progress Pakistan has made on its path to democracy."

"The president and his advisers ... right now are urging him to quickly return to civilian rule, to get back on the path of democracy, to restore the freedoms of the press as well as release detainees," she said. "The president continues to urge calm on all of the parties."

This, coming from an American administration that declared a "global war on terror" and was quick to grant itself extra-judicial powers to round up its own cadre of detainees following 9/11. Musharraf, after all, is just claiming the same situation in his country - that he imposed emergency rule to clamp down on militants - which is, of course, not the real reason. Realizing that his presidency was threatened by a supreme court that was due to rule that his win in the October election was moot, he did what he thought he could to hang onto his power just as Bush has used to GWOT excuse to shred the US constitution for years on end. There is no formal "emergency rule" in the US, but the power grab by Bush has virtually mirrored to a lesser extent what Musharraf has now put in place in Pakistan.

And what would happen if Bush actually did declare emergency rule in the United States? If an ongoing illegal war with thousands of US casualties and millions of dead and displaced Iraqis and the knowledge that his regime has been spying on Americans while condoning torture against suspected terrorists hasn't been enough to stop Bush in his tracks by the harshest legal measures possible; with an opposition party constantly whining about how they can't seize power back from the oval office and the Republicans while refusing to impeach their president; and with a population that's just on hold - waiting for Bush's term to simply end while hoping that will bring some relief or change - would anyone really rise up if Bush grabbed even more power? And really, just how much more can he grab since he gets away with virtually everything he wants to anyway?

But, back to Pakistan. This morning, Canada's defence minister Peter Mackay spoke about what seems to be his main concern for Canadian troops in Afghanistan - a possible flood of refugees from Pakistan who might then join the Taliban and al Qaeda. Tens of thousands of displaced Afghans have been returning for years. This is not a new development. What he failed to mention was the delicate military support relationship between the US/NATO and Pakistan ie. how the US has funneled billions of dollars to Pakistan's military in an attempt to keep militants at bay in the north while Pakistan has provided logistical help for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan (such as it is, since there is major support for the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan). That's the real threat to NATO's Afghanistan mission.

Meanwhile, Washington has very little choice as far as supporting Musharraf goes and, although Bush will bluster on with words of disappointment the international community expects to hear, his precious grip on the GWOT is tenuous:

A senior security official speaking to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, said, "Major surgeries are essential in cases like Lal Masjid [a militant mosque in Islamabad], but such extraordinary events need extraordinary powers. If the courts intervene in such matters, the security forces will stop working and nobody will be able to stop the march of the Taliban into the bigger cities of Pakistan."

The official continued, "This is a major crossroads in the 'war on terror' at which Washington will have to approve an all-powerful government, even at the cost of democracy. Otherwise it can say goodbye to Pakistan as a 'war on terror' ally as it [Pakistan] would simply not be able to get results."

Once again, Canadian troops will have to deal with the consequences of the disastrous decision Bush made to pull US troops out of Afghanistan to start his illegal war in Iraq and our Canadian Conservative minority government has just been handed another reason to continue Canada's mission past its currently expected exit date in 2009 - a move it's been trying to justify by any means possible despite opposition by a growing majority of Canadians.

Musharraf's decision will ripple through our country. What are we going to do about it? How much more are we going to sacrifice for Bush's mistakes?

Related:

Pakistani Bloggers aggregator
Video: Pakistani police use batons and tear gas against stone-throwing lawyers protesting over Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule
U.S. Is Likely to Continue Aid to Pakistan
Pakistan shakes off US shackles
A look at rights suspended in Pakistan
Musharraf defends emergency rule

Update: Bush holds a press conference and doesn't commit to doing anything:

Bush would not discuss what action he might take — for example, how much U.S. aid to Pakistan would be cut — if Musharraf ignores his request.

"It's a hypothetical," he said. "I certainly hope he does take my advice."

But the president made a point of praising Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror, and seemed resigned that, as a result, there is little concrete action he can take to influence Musharraf's behavior.

"All we can do is continue to work with the president ... to make abundantly clear the position of the United States," he said.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Quote du Jour: Condi on Pakistan

Pakistan police beat protesting lawyers

"The United States has never put all of its chips on Musharraf," Rice said, urging Pakistan to rejoin the road to democracy and warning that U.S. aid to its ally was under review.

Right.

Washington has given Islamabad around $10 billion over the last five years.

Flashback, 2002: Bush, Musharraf are Disturbingly Similar

Musharraf, 2006: "And I will never violate the constitution of Pakistan."

Sound familiar?
 

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Musharraf Declares Emergency Rule

In an effort to avoid giving up his military chief status, Pervez Musharraf has declared emergency rule. Bhutto, whom Britain and the US held up as the next great hope for Pakistan (despite the fact that she left the country embroiled in a corruption scandal a few years back and is waiting to see if those charges will be dropped) was out of the country visiting relatives in Dubai and has apparently flown back. ABC reports that she is "sitting in an airplane at Karachi's airport, waiting to see if she would be arrested or deported".

Musharraf has taken control of the media and phone lines have been cut in Islamabad.

As for the Supreme Court, which was to decide next week if Musharraf had actually been eligible to run in last month's elections while he remained chief of the army:

"Seven Supreme Court judges immediately came out against the emergency, which suspended the current constitution. Police blocked entry to the Supreme Court building and later took the chief justice and other judges away in a convoy, witnesses said.

And does this remind you of anyone?

A copy of the emergency order obtained by The Associated Press justified the declaration on the grounds that "some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive" and "weakening the government's resolve" to fight terrorism.

Sounds like echoes of Bush and Cheney to me. Ironically though, their so-called ally with nukes is now a loose cannon. That's what happens when you take the "unitary executive" theory to its limits - it turns into dictatorship. Fine example they've set, n'est-ce pas? (Although a part of me thinks they're both sitting back drooling secretly over Musharraf grabbing so much power while they still have to put up with a pesky, "obstructionist" congress and Supreme court decisions that they don't like in the US.)

More as this develops...

Related:

Pakistan Tribune coverage.
PakTribune News Wire Service
Pakistan Times
Pakistan Daily Times
Pakistani bloggers

This Pakistani blogger is providing continual updates including news of rumours that Musharraf is under house arrest.

UNCONFIRMED RUMOR: Some sources are now reporting the that Pres. Musharraf is under house arrest and that Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) General Ashfaq Kayani has taken control of the Army and thereby the country. This would explain why all announcements re: the state of emergency have simply stated that they were by order of the “Chief of Army Staff,” with Pres. Musharraf’s name ommitted. I repeat, this just a rumor. I have other sources who claim to have just spoken with Musharraf refuting the rumor. (Updated 11:15am US EST/8:15pm PST)

The Times of India nails Washington's weak response.

WASHINGTON: Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf's has defied the advice of his American benefactors in imposing martial law and Emergency, but Washington appears set to finesse the situation yet again because of what it sees as the overall US interest in the so-called war on terror.

The first sign that Washington is ready to wink at Musharraf's crackdown came when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stopped short of condemning the development and instead described it as "highly regrettable."

She told CNN that the United States does not support extra-constitutional measures [ha ha, ya right -catnip] and urged restraint on all sides and a "swift return to democracy."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Bush administration was "deeply disturbed" by the developments while offering words of support to the Pakistani people.

"The United States stands with the people of Pakistan in supporting a democratic process and in countering violent extremism," McCormack, who is accompanying Rice on her visit to Turkey, told AP . "We urge all parties to work together to complete the transition to democracy and civilian rule without violence or delay."

But the statements fell well short of the kind of condemnations Washington routinely issues against countries, excepting vassal states, that suppress democratic rights, indicating that the administration was already finessing Musharraf's crackdown.

There was no word from Rice or her underlings about the arrest of the chief justice and his associates or about the crackdown on the media.

read on...

 

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Flaherty's Mini-Budget

Poor People Suck.

Let's face it. It's time for Conservatives to be honest and come right out and say it. In fact, I think the Conservative party should just use that as their next campaign slogan.

And let me say this right off the bat too about Flaherty's neon green tie: Call the fashion police. there's been a violation. (And no, I don't care if some kid picked it out for him. It's still butt-ugly.)

Alrighty then, moving onto the business at hand - Flaherty gave what was supposed to be his "fall economic statement" today. What it turned out to be was a) a mini-budget and b) electioneering.

If you're too poor to pay income taxes (like me), here's your little gift: a 1% reduction in the GST on stuff you can't afford to buy in the first place but have to so you can survive. Big whoop.

If you're a big profitable corporation, you got a tax break too (albeit much, much more than the heathens - of course.)

If you're an average Joe or Jane, you got a mini-break. That'll get you a few extra apples at the grocery store.

If you're the Bloc or the NDP, you're voting against this nonsense when it's brought up in the Ways and Means committee this week.

If you're Stephane Dion of the Liberals, you're speaking against it (except for the corporate tax cuts) but you're not ready for an election because your party is wrapped up in internal scandals, so you're going to do a lot of bloviating about it but you'll still vote for it in the end.

If you're a voter, you won't be going to the polls for a federal election this year.

If you're the Conservatives, you just played another game of chicken with the Liberals and won.

If you want to look at the details, check out the Dept of Finance's site.

News related to the Poor People Suck Conservative philosophy: Alberta premier Stelmach vows to "eradicate homelessness" in 10 years. What could possibly be wrong with that, you ask?

1) Quick. Name one big city or Canadian province that's eradicated homelessness - especially one run governed by Conservatives. That's right - it's.not.gonna.happen.

2) 10 years? Like Liberal MLA Dave Taylor said in response to this announcement (paraphrasing): "We already know how to build houses. It shouldn't take 10 years to do that." And the kicker? This proposed "secretariat" won't even be formed til next spring and the government's not sure what powers it will have yet. That lost time counts against your "10 year" timeline, Eddie. I'll be doing the countdown (from whatever overpriced rental I'm living in because the waiting list for low-income housing in Calgary is always at least 2500+ people long and buying is absolutely out of the question.)

Let's get real here. My province and the feds have more than enough money to really help the poor. The fact is that they simply don't want to. They still believe in Reagan's trickle down economics. Apparently, none of them care that's there's been a drought down here in Povertyville for a helluva long time.
 

Who's the scariest?

According to a new poll, 37% of respondents think Hillary is the scariest presidential candidate - as far as Halloween costumes go.

Okay, I can see that.

But if they'd had Guiliani in drag as one of the choices, I'm pretty sure he would have won hands down.

Exhibit A:



Imagine opening your front door to that! AHHHHHH!!!
 

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: The Economy of Fear

It was just a quick news blurb on CNN this past Friday morning: following Thursday's announcement by the former head of Chevron's public policy committee, Condi Rice, of tougher US sanctions against Iran - the freezing of bank assets and the delegation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity, the price of oil had risen to a 30-something year high of $92/barrel.

There's no doubt that Rice is an intelligent woman but when you add manipulation and a staunch right-wing ideological bent to that equation, as we've seen for years now, the sum is dangerous. And while conservatives and Republicans say they won't raise your taxes, they always find a way to make you pay in the end. Rising oil prices = increased taxes for the government. Rising oil prices = increased transportation costs = higher food and goods prices. Rising oil prices = increased heating costs. Pretty simple. Taxed to death by stealth while the top wage earners and biggest corporations get the tax cuts and business booms for the military-industrial complex. An ever increasing debt - well, you get the picture. And while Bush claims that the economy is supposedly doing "great", the average Joe and Jane sure aren't feeling it. Quite the scam they have going.

Anyway, back to Condi. When she appeared before the House Foreign Affairs committee last week, they really should have handed out bibs for all of the drooling that went on about the fact that she was actually there. One starstruck/dumbstruck congressperson was quite amazed that, having seen her on his teevee a couple of days prior in another country, she was there - right in front of him! I guess he's never heard of "airplanes".

As one who hasn't put much stock in all of these news reports about how Condi is on the outs with Cheney over his warmongering against Iran - that she acts as some sort of balance to keep him from going over the edge - I listened carefully to her answer to one question: what did she think of his "escalating rhetoric". Now, being the diplomat she is (that's where her intelligence comes in very handy - she's a master of blathering on without saying much of anything, obviously in love with her ideas and the sound of her own voice), she craftily said nothing against Cheney. She did say, however, exactly what I've thought all along: that she believes in "diplomacy with teeth". In other words, she and Cheney play good cop/bad cop to get what they want and she serves as a glorified messenger girl - delivering Cheney's "teeth" with a faux smile wherever she goes. This is important: she's obviously very much on side with Cheney's plans for Iran.

The White House has obviously gotten the opposite message out in an attempt to pretend that Condi is doing what a US secretary of state is supposed to do ie. encouraging intelligent discourse as opposed to bombing the hell out of a country. They've carefully constructed the illusion that Condi has reformed since her Iraq/smoking gun/mushroom cloud talking point days. There's still smoke coming from her these days though: smoke and mirrors. The only thing that's changed is her job title.

Let's take a look at a bit of a reality check from the IAEA's Mohammed ElBaradei about what's going on in Iran. (Rice didn't mention the IAEA once in her testimony this past week that I recall. No need to wonder why.)

Via the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Sunday he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating rhetoric from the U.S. could bring disaster.

"We have information that there has been maybe some studies about possible weaponization," said Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads the International Atomic Energy Agency. "That's why we have said that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks."

"But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran this month of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program. She said there is no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the IAEA about its intentions.
[...]
ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran's alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said he would welcome seeing it.

"I'm very much concerned about confrontation, building confrontation, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and inspection," he said.

"My fear is that if we continue to escalate from both sides that we will end up into a precipice, we will end up into an abyss. As I said, the Middle East is in a total mess, to say the least. And we cannot add fuel to the fire," ElBaradei added.

Meanwhile, Condi makes the slide into that abyss - Bush's WW3 - sound like a Sunday afternoon picnic at grandma's. They're on top of it. No big deal. Enjoy the popcorn. As an added bonus, all of this abyss talk excites those folks who anxiously await the rapture ie. Bush's base. They're pretty disillusioned with him and his party right now since they didn't get Roe v Wade reversed or a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. They need something to make them get out to the polls in '08, as do the wealthy industrialists and the big guns in the oil patch.

Ordinary Americans have already been screwed over six ways from Sunday and, since they haven't started a revolution in the streets to take down the government yet (when both major parties are being absolutely useless), what's another war? I don't even know what "American values" are anymore. Sitting around and watching the tube while your country is being destroyed before your very eyes? That's all I can come up with. As for so-called concerned congresspeople, I can count those on less than ten toes and the Pelosi "impeachment is off the table" caucus is a disgrace to democracy - unless you believe that democratic principles consist of running away and hiding whenever the nasty Republicans call you "weak on terror".

It's been predicted that $100/barrel oil might be a psychological breaking point. Really? It inches ever closer to that mark with every threat Cheney/Rice/Bush make towards Iran and I'm not seeing any inkling of panic on the streets yet. I imagine, when that news blurb comes, the majority of Americans will just once again grit their teeth and put up with it. I guess that's what happens when you don't live in an open democracy anymore. You just give up. For a while, at least.

Related:

Target Iran part 1
Yet More Condi Rice Diplomacy
Condi Rice, Imperial Cheerleader
Iran Adapts to Economic Pressure - Oil Market Could Help It Weather U.S. Sanctions (ah...the irony)

Update: This is encouraging but what will the follow up look like? Thousands in US anti-war protests
 
 

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stelmach's Oil Royalties Compromise

Here's how the Conservative party/government operates in Alberta. They set up panels, committees and traveling road shows to pretend to care about the opinions of the voters peasants and then they go ahead and do what they planned to in the first place, despite the input.

So, it comes as no surprise that "Steady Eddie" Stelmach, who had set up his own panel to study royalty revenues from the oilpatch, announced today that, contrary to what his experts advised, he's going to ask for half a billion dollars less than what they recommended. Who cares if Albertans have been ripped off for years now?

Broken down, the government forecast additional royalties in 2010 to be as follows:

* $470 million more for natural gas -- about $270 million less than recommended by the expert panel;
* $460 million more on conventional oil -- about $4 million more than called for by the royalty report;
* $470 million more for oil sands -- nearly $200 million less than recommended by the panel.


The expected $1.4-billion increase in royalties would hike Alberta's total 2010 royalty take to about $8.6 billion from $7.2 billion.

The oil lobby had been extremely vocal and threatening prior to this announcement stating that various companies might "have" to pull out of the province. In other words, if they couldn't continue raking in the megabucks on the backs of all Albertans, they'd take their toys and go home - to the US, to China or wherever they came from in the first place. Let's face it, can anyone in their right mind in this financial climate with oil at $90/barrel and projected to be at $70/barrel in 2008 expect the rest of us to believe that they'd actually suffer if they had to fork over more royalties? Poor them.

In the meantime, because of the oil boom in Alberta, our cost of living has skyrocketed and the influx of people looking for and finding work here has overstretched our (already underfunded) infrastructure. So, who's really suffering here? It's definitely not the oil patch.

And, just as an added perspective of exactly what this government thinks about "governing" in this province, it doesn't get much clearer than this, does it?

Meanwhile, Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, who was at the premier's press conference in Calgary, declined to comment on the report. Taft said it was "undemocratic" to freeze the opposition out of the technical and media briefing, which didn't give his party advance time to review the plan.

"We need time to study it, and will get back as soon as we can."

Albertans who keep electing these Conservatives, especially after the mess Ralph Klein perpetrated on our province, really need to get their heads out of their ideological bubbles. They, along with the rest of us, have been complaining for decades about people issues like the state of our health care services (why do Albertans still pay health care premiums??), the cuts to education, the inattentiveness to the needs of the poor, the refusal to actually listen to anyone but the sound of their own voices, the backwards attitudes towards civil rights etc etc etc. Yet those Conservative voters just can't bring themselves to kick the useless, arrogant bums out of power.

I've often said that, rewriting another popular saying, 1000 monkeys in a room with calculators could manage Alberta's economy just as well as these Conservative governments do. And they might even do a better job of it - especially during times like this when oil money is flooding the province.

So, I don't have any tears to shed for these oil companies and the fact that Steady Eddie caved to their whining shows that he's just as spineless and beholden to that lobby as Klein was.

I'll post more analysis of today's announcement as it comes in. From what I've heard so far, those who expected Stelmach to follow the advice of his panel are disappointed.

Related:

CBC's roundup of Alberta oil royalties news, background and reactions (includes video of Stelmach's press conference)