Monday, November 30, 2009

Quote du Jour: How Low Can Steve Go?

Via The TO Star:

PORT OF SPAIN–Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a partisan shot at his opposition critics while touring the HMCS Quebec in Trinidad-Tobago Sunday.

The Canadian ship and navy officers are helping with security for the Commonwealth summit. Harper, in brief comments to the Canadians, was addressing allegations that Canadian civilian and military leaders ignored warnings of a risk of torture in Afghan prisons.

"Let me just say this: living as we do, in a time when some in the political arena do not hesitate before throwing the most serious of allegations at our men and women in uniform, based on the most flimsy of evidence, remember that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are proud of you and stand behind you, and I am proud of you, and I stand beside you."
What Jeff Jedras said.

And, let me just add: Peter MacKay is a Terminally Confused Man.

First there were no allegations. Then there were "credible" allegations so they changed the transfer agreement. Then Richard Colvin was lying because he said there were allegations. Then David Mulroney said there were no allegations (but he could not vouch 100% that Canadian soldiers did not, in fact, hand over detainees who were then abused). Then Peter MacKay said there were no allegations - credible or otherwise - but they changed the agreement apparently just for the hell of it.

2 questions remain:

1. Will there be a public inquiry?

2. Will MacKay lose his job?

The answer to both is: doubtful.

The Cons are running scared from an inquiry - looking as guilty as the cat that ate the canary. And MacKay, the Con who allowed Harper to take the lead when the old Reform and Progressive Conservative parties merged, isn't likely to go down easily. Steve owes him. That's why he's held the high-ranking government positions he's had since that mismatched marriage.

When this scandal came up a couple of years ago, then incompetent Defence minister Gordon O'Connor was turfed - having become a political liability once his inconsistencies and lies began to emerge. He was expendable. MacKay is following the same path of untruthfulness. But he is being heavily protected at every turn. If he does fall on his sword, the resulting ripples that would run through the party could cause a major mess for the Harperites. I could be wrong about the current state of the inside baseball. But that's the way I see it.

The Cons are struggling to contain this scandal and the opposition parties have to keep pushing as hard as they can. This cannot be one of those issues over which the Cons are given another pass - especially since the ICC has now injected itself into the affair.

The ICC's chief prosecutor, though, has no intention of waiting for Washington to submit to the court's authority. Luis Moreno Ocampo says he already has jurisdiction—at least with respect to Afghanistan.

Because Kabul in 2003 ratified the Rome Statute—the ICC's founding treaty—all soldiers on Afghan territory, even those from nontreaty countries, fall under the ICC's oversight, Mr. Ocampo told me. And the chief prosecutor says he is already conducting a "preliminary examination" into whether NATO troops, including American soldiers, fighting the Taliban may have to be put in the dock.

"We have to check if crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide have been committed in Afghanistan," Mr. Ocampo told me. "There are serious allegations against the Taliban and al Qaeda and serious allegations about warlords, even against some who are connected with members of the government." Taking up his inquiry of Allied soldiers, he added, "there are different reports about problems with bombings and there are also allegations about torture."
Wait a minute there: did he just impugn the might military? Quick. Someone alert Steve and his bully buddies so they can jump all over Mr Ocampo too.

And, if you need more proof of our western exceptionalist attitude, check out this bit by the author of that same WSJ article:

I asked the obvious follow-up. "If this is the 'new world,' why do you bother collecting information about NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan?" Why, in other words, when his task is to end the impunity for the worst war crimes, does he spend his limited resources on the most advanced democracies in the world—which operate under strict rules of engagement, have their own chain-of-command investigations and swift prosecution of criminals? Mr. Ocampo got slightly irritated.
No doubt. The arrogance of that reporter is astounding. But it's only symbolic of how we view ourselves and our conduct in these so-called wars of "necessity" despite the fact that we have failed miserably to be anything near accountable for the horrors we are responsible for.

How to hide torture: Obama-style

Oh Yes We Can!, so oh yes he did.

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has thrown out an appeals court ruling ordering the disclosure of photographs of detainees being abused by their U.S. captors.

In doing so Monday, the high court cited a recent change in federal law that allows the pictures to be withheld.

The justices issued a brief, and expected, order Monday directing the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to take another look at a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain the photos of detainee abuse. President Barack Obama at first didn't oppose the release, but he changed his mind, saying they could whip up anti-American sentiment overseas and endanger U.S. troops.

The administration appealed the matter to the Supreme Court, but also worked with Congress to give Defense Secretary Robert Gates the power to keep from the public all pictures of foreign detainees being abused.

Gates invoked his new authority in mid-November, saying widespread distribution of the pictures would endanger American soldiers.
Just substitute the names "Obama" and "Gates" with "Bush" and "Rumsfeld" and you'll see just how much has changed.

In case you weren't paying attention (and who could blame you with all of those shiny photo ops Obama and Michelle have been hiding behind), back in June the US senate passed a law [the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act] barring the release of those photos.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, had originally been part of the war funding supplemental bill passed Tuesday by the House.

But House Democrats stripped that part of the measure from the bill, and the senators proposed it as stand-alone legislation.

Earlier Wednesday, Graham said at a Judiciary Committee hearing that he had received assurance from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel "that the president will not let these photos see the light of day."
Yes, Obama sided with those progressive beacons of light: Lieberman, Graham and Emanuel using the same fearmongering tactics that the Bush administration was quite fond of. In October, the provision passed when it was included in a homeland security appropriations bill.

The photos have been at the center of a years-long lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Congress last month gave the Obama administration specific authority to prevent any release of the 44 photos. Afterward, Gates signed a certificate of authorization, or order, to prevent the photos' release, saying their disclosure would endanger U.S. troops serving abroad.

The order covers all photographs taken of people captured or detained in overseas military operations between September 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and January 22, 2009, shortly after President Obama took office.
Obama: Fear you can believe in! while hope is fading fast

Leaving the poor out in the cold - again...

Less than 1% of $1.9-billion social-housing fund spent so far

Less than 1 per cent of a $1.9-billion federal fund for social housing has actually been spent – more than a year after it was announced by the Harper government in the midst of the 2008 election campaign.


The figures released by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley show the three other funds are also moving slowly.

Only 4.6 per cent of a $1-billion fund to renovate existing social housing units has been spent, while 1.9 per cent of a $400-million fund for low-income seniors' housing is out the door. Only 0.1 per cent of a $75-million construction fund to house people with disabilities has been spent.

The percentages of money actually spent are dramatically lower than the 80- to 90-per-cent figures cited in government-funded Economic Action Plan ads that use terms like “already being implemented.”
Well, that last line is quite the dramatic understatement, isn't it?

These clowns are supposed to be held accountable by the Liberals and their useless report cards. But they know that, even if they get an F, the Libs are too scared to call an election.

So, who loses in the end - again? Certainly not all of those opposition MPs who have nice, cozy places to go home to.

Not to worry though, I'm sure Checky will be on his way soon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback: How to derail a committee

Frustrated about how things are going in the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan?

Let's take a trip down dirty tricks lane:

Opposition demands release of alleged Tory 'dirty tricks' manual

Last Updated: Friday, May 18, 2007 | 2:28 PM ET
CBC News

Opposition parties on Friday demanded the Conservative government make public a reported 200-page guidebook on how to create chaos in parliamentary committees.

MPs from all three opposition parties used question period to call on the government to table the alleged document, which was reported in the National Post.

The guidebook, reportedly handed out to selected Conservative MPs, offers advice on how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, obstruct debate and, if needed, storm out of committee meetings.

"Table this playbook so Canadians can see how petty, vindictive and undemocratic this government is," said NDP MP Libby Davies.

Bloc Québécois MP Monique Guay said the document shows a "flagrant lack of respect for government," alleging it was being "deliberately guided by the Prime Minister's Office."

"Table the manual of dirty tricks. It's a contempt for democracy akin to Richard Nixon," said Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, referring to the former American president forced out of office by the Watergate scandal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mulroney Contradicts MacKay

Ever since Peter MacKay has been under fire about allegations of torture in Afghanistan during the period of 2006-2007, he has repeatedly said in the house that the transfer agreement was changed once the government had credible evidence to back up those claims.

From November 25, 2009, Hansard:

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, when officials at Foreign Affairs and officials at the Department of National Defence were in possession of credible allegations, they acted. Going back two and a half years the action began. The action began to clean up the mess that we had inherited from the party opposite. The action began to rewrite the transfer arrangement, to arrange for more prison visits and to train officials inside the prison.

But, here's what David Mulroney said during his opening statement when he testified in front of the special committee today.

From the video (approximately 7 minutes in)

When I took up my responsibilities at Foreign Affairs in February, 2007, the department was already exploring ways of engaging in monitoring and tracking detainees. At the same time, we had an exchange of letters with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, an organization for which we are a major funder, in which the AIHRC agreed to notify Canada should it learn of any mistreatment of Canadian-transferred detainees. In mid-March, we began detailed work to create a detailed contingency plan, a standard operating procedure in the event of well-founded allegations of mistreatment. We did this not because of confirmed instances of real and substantial risk of torture or mistreatment of Canadian-transferred detainees but because it was clear that what we had in place at the time could and should be further reinforced.
One of these men is lying.

This So-called "War of Necessity"

With Obama reportedly set to announce an increase of US troop levels in Afghanistan by tens of thousands next week - for this "war of necessity", as he calls it - we need to be reminded that the public has been repeatedly told that if that war is a failure (and actually "winning" it has been questionable since Day One) NATO's credibility is on the line.

So, what is this really about? "Democracy promotion"? Been there - done that. Ended up with corrupted election results once again propping up Karzai and his corrupt government.

Improving human rights? Well, the Canadian government would like you to believe that that's what we're they for and they've proven that they'll lie about that - shortchanging humanitarian spending while boosting the military budget.

Defeating al Qaeda? According to General McChrystal, the architect of the proposed troop surge in Afghanistan, he does not "see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now".

And the Taliban? First of all, we need to be reminded of who they are since "the Taliban" is too often referred to as some monolithic, organized threat. We also need to admit that the Afghans blame poverty for [the] war, making corruption a very lucrative business for those with regional power aka those lumped together as "the Taliban" so we can have a conveniently-named enemy. We also need to question why it is that the US is using [extremely irresponsible and anti-Pakistani sovereignty] drone attacks in Pakistan to go after "the Taliban" there but feels it needs to put tens of thousands more boots on the ground in Afghanistan to achieve the same end. The answer surely can't be about concern for civilians being struck down in Afghanistan since scores of civilians have been wantonly killed by drones in Pakistan.

Obama stated this week that he intends to "finish the job" in Afghanistan - to "dismantle and destroy" al-Qaida terrorists and extremist allies. If that is truly his goal, he and the military will have to be there for decades no matter what his new strategy might entail.

"I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive," he said, speaking at a White House news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Recent polls show that his confidence is misplaced.

If the full expansion that U.S. military planners anticipate does happen, it would take up to two years to get all the additional U.S. forces into the landlocked country.

The United States is quietly pressing NATO and other allies to increase forces as well, with a goal of between 5,000 and 7,000 additional non-U.S. troops.
NATO countries involved in the war have been begging for years for more troops from the US in order to hang on to that NATO credibility.

In the meantime, due to the lack of proper oversight, the US doesn't even know how many contractors it has in country.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bipartisan, independent commission mandated by Congress, presented data at a hearing showing major discrepancies in different accounting methods used to determine the number of U.S. contractors.

A traditional manual count by the U.S. military's Central Command turned up nearly 74,000 U.S. Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan as of June 30 -- more than twice the number shown in another survey by the Pentagon.

"I kind of want to scream.... Why if it's so important, are we failing to do something so basic?" said Christopher Shays, a former Republican lawmaker and a co-chair of the bipartisan committee.

Gary Motsek, an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense, acknowledged in testimony that U.S. efforts to create a system to better count the number of contractors in Afghanistan had so far come up short.

"We failed," Motsek said, calling for better funding and regulations to require all U.S. agencies to report figures for contractors. "You should be concerned about the gap, because we are concerned about the gap."
Yet we're supposed to trust these guys to run a war?

Let's not fool ourselves. The fact that Obama is now the US commander-in-chief does not mean that this will suddenly morph into some new and better war. There are only limited war strategies to choose from. More troops does not necessarily equal mission accomplished. That was certainly the lesson from Vietnam. And if we're supposed to be comforted by the so-called success of the "clear, hold and build" strategy employed in Iraq, we have to ask why - if that was indeed a victory - the coalition of the shilling is still at war in that country.

The only honest answer we need to hear from Obama when he addresses his nation next week is that to the question of, "Why is the military still in Afghanistan?" And any answer that includes "national security concerns" must be forcefully challenged.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Hillier Time

General Rick Hillier, who has already told the press that he doesn't recall reading any reports about Afghan detainee torture from Richard Colvin, testifies at the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan this afternoon along with two of his military colleagues. (Watch online at CPAC.)

The denials by Harper et al continued today during QP even in the face of media reports that the Red Cross [was] told late about prisoner transfers and a revelation in Le Devoir that supports Colvin's testimony:

...the lead story in Le Devoir, “Torture: Ottawa should have acted sooner," which has a senior official reporting that the prisoner transfer issue finally appeared on Ottawa’s radar screen around Christmas 2006. By then, “it was increasingly apparent to everyone that there were big holes in the Protocol and that there was a real possibility that inmates were being abused.” While not criticizing the Army, which was doing "difficult work in a difficult environment" our source says that they "did not take this issue [of torture] seriously".
The Cons are betting the farm on Canadians lapping up every word of David Mulroney, who is hurriedly flying back from China this week to contradict Colvin's testimony when he appears before the committee on Thursday. Mulroney, without offering up any documentation, is more credible you see because Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay say he is. Case closed.

Except that it isn't. Not by a longshot.

During Hillier's opening statement, he said that he didn't receive any reports of torture in 2006. If that's true, why was it necessary to change the detainee transfer agreement? He even contradicted himself about who the detainees were. They weren't just "farmers", he maintained - then saying that, okay, maybe some of them were farmers but the military let them go. Or they were "farmers by day, Taliban by nite".

Between Harper and his various denialists, there are holes big enough to drive a truck through.


Colvin says he sent torture reports to minister's office


Canadians tend to believe Colvin: poll

A Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey released Wednesday suggests twice as many Canadians believe Colvin's testimony than believe, as the government states, that he lacks credibility.

The survey found 51 per cent of respondents believed Colvin's statement that prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers to Afghan authorities were likely abused and that the government knew of the problem.

Twenty-five per cent said they believed the Harper government's assertion that Colvin's claims are flimsy.

Colvin testimony on detainee torture 'ludicrous': Hillier

Feds bar whistleblower diplomat from handing over torture documents to MPs


Evan Solomon on CBC this afternoon reports that Colvin's lawyer said today that Colvin will give the documents he has to the committee - obviously risking the legal sanctions the Harper government has threatened him with.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Diane Finley Lies About Child Poverty Rates

Faced with opposition questions during QP today about the abhorrent fact that child poverty is still a major problem in Canada, minister for HR and Skills Development, Diane Finley, stated that the child poverty rate is half of what it was under the Liberals.


OTTAWA — Some 637,000 Canadian children are still living in low-income families, 20 years after Ed Broadbent and other federal politicians unanimously agreed to end child poverty, according to a new report.

The rate of child and family poverty has gone down only slightly over the past 20 years, to 9.5 per cent in 2007 from 11.9 per cent in 1989 — a "national disgrace, " the former NDP leader says.

The 2009 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada, released by the national awareness group Campaign 2000, says the most recent figure is 637,000 Canadian children who live in a family where a majority of money is spent on necessities such as food, clothing and shelter.

Despite what anti-poverty advocates call an unprecedented period of growth since 1998, Canada has failed to make advances to alleviate a problem which affects one in 10 children in this country.
It seems Ms Finley needs to develop her math skills.

The 'no-good bastards' of Nova Scotia


OTTAWA — If anyone ever stops Nova Scotia farmers from hiring migrant labourers to harvest their crops, they would destroy a lot of businesses because unemployed Nova Scotians don’t want those jobs, says Gerald Keddy, the Conservative MP for South Shore-St. Margarets.

"Nova Scotians won’t do it — all those no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk in Halifax that can’t get work," Mr. Keddy said Monday.
Queue the forced apology.

Torture: Layton Takes a Swipe at Ignatieff

From Monday's Question Period:

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to this whole question of torture, unlike other party leaders, we are not going to stand for denying of the evidence. We are not going to cover up the truth. We are not going to write books justifying torture in any way, shape or form. Nothing can justify torture and nothing can justify the full-scale denial mode that we see from the Conservatives right now.

Why will the government not do the right thing and launch a public inquiry, as we have called for, so that we will have all the facts on the table?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Torture in Afghanistan: The Coverup Continues

This is all very simple: if Peter MacKay wants to be believed when he says that no Afghan detainees handed over to Afghan authorities by the Canadian military were victims of torture, he needs to release all of the relevant documents to prove his assertion. As long as he refuses to do so, he and his Conservative government don't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

(And they certainly don't deserve to be cut any slack, no matter what Chantal Hebert thinks. Is anybody out there denying that this "mess" started with the Liberals? No. I didn't think so.)

Peter MacKay can't have it both ways - but he'll definitely keep trying. He and his Con buddies have spent days smearing Richard Colvin and insisting that he couldn't prove that there were any "credible" allegations of detainee abuse. Yet, here's what MacKay admitted today when his back was against the wall because of General Natynczyk's weekend revelations:

"Most recently the reason that the transfers stopped was that the Afghan officials were not living up to ... expectations," MacKay said during question period in the House of Commons.

He told Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff that the government acted as soon as "credible allegations came to our attention."
Meanwhile, Colvin is unable to properly defend himself.

As he stated during his opening statement last week:

In October 2007, I left Afghanistan and started a new job in Washington, D.C. In April 2009, I was subpoenaed by the Military Police Complaints Commission. In response, DFAIT, in collaboration with the Department of Justice, took three significant steps.

First, they’ve made it very difficult for me to access legal counsel. This ongoing problem has still not been resolved.

Second, DFAIT and the Department of Justice, again working together, blocked my access to my own reports from Afghanistan. I was told, “We will decide which of your reports you require.” I was given none of them.

Third, government lawyers have threatened me under section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act. This had the effect of placing me in an impossible position. If I refuse to co-operate with the MPCC subpoena, I could be jailed for up to six months, but I did co-operate under section 38 I could be jailed for up to five years.

When this warning was sent, DFAIT and the Department of Justice, again acting together, were still withholding approval for legal counsel, depriving me of legal advice and protections.
So, MacKay is free to strut and crow while Colvin remains under threat from a government that absolutely refuses to allow the man to back up his testimony with actual evidence.

This is democracy? This is Canada?

With General Hillier set to invoke the Alberto Gonzales "I don't recall" defense when he testifies this Wednesday, followed by an emergency damage control effort by David Mulroney who has requested to appear as well, the Cons will continue to dig in their obstructionist heels as they attempt to hide the truth.

The lingering question is why?

And the only obvious answer is that they can't afford to let that truth be known. And not for Canada's sake - as they continue to insist. This is all about politics. Human rights be damned.

Chris Matthews vs Bishop Thomas Tobin on Abortion

Chris Matthews, like a broken clock, can be right twice a day too.

Watch as he takes on Bishop Tobin, who Patrick Kennedy says barred him from taking communion due to his pro-choice stance.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quote du Jour: Free the Journalists!

Today's news from the Department of Hypocrisy is brought to you by:

"Our government does not tell journalists what to say, or attempt to intimidate those with whom it disagrees," he [Stephen Harper] said.

"Instead we believe strongly that Canadians' freedom is enhanced when journalists are free to pursue the truth, to shine light into dark corners, and to assist the process of holding governments accountable."

Shortly after making the speech and handing out awards, Harper was whisked through the black curtains behind the stage without taking media questions.

New governments tend to exercise tight control over their message, at least initially. In that respect Harper's no different.

But veteran Hill reporter Hugh Winsor says something is different under Harper.

"Other Prime Ministers have always accepted the press, but Harper's essentially said, 'Fuck you'," he explains.

Tom Flanagan, Harper's 2004 campaign manager and 2006 campaign editor general, says that Harper's fine without the Gallery.

"The Press Gallery is a bunch of self-important, preening prima donnas who think they're crucial because they're stationed in Ottawa and they've watched All the President's Men too many times."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quote du Jour: Man Without a Conscience

Hillier minimizes detainee abuse:

Mr. Hillier derisively compared the political uproar that surrounded Mr. Colvin's parliamentary testimony to people “howling at the moon” and said nobody ever raised torture concerns with him during the 2006-2007 period in question.

“I don't remember reading a single one of those cables [from Mr. Colvin] ... He doesn't stick out in my mind,” Mr. Hillier said of the diplomat's warnings and criticism.

“He appears to have covered an incredibly broad spectrum, much of which I'm not sure he's qualified to talk about.”

The former soldier rejected suggestions Canada was “complicit in any war crimes” – saying Ottawa had a responsible system in place. He also played down the fact Afghan prisoners got hurt in jails.

“Even in our own prisons [in Canada] somebody can get beaten up. We know that.”

- The Globe and Mail
At least he didn't call it "fraternity hazing".

But let's get real: the man is lying to cover his ass:

Retired general Rick Hillier, who led Canada's 2006 military foray into southern Afghanistan, joined the Conservatives in dismissing Mr. Colvin's story. He told a Toronto audience Thursday night that he can't recall ever coming across reports from the diplomat, who was a senior Foreign Affairs staffer in Afghanistan for 17 months.
From the Globe and Mail, April 2007:

The Harper government knew from its own officials that prisoners held by Afghan security forces faced the possibility of torture, abuse and extrajudicial killing, The Globe and Mail has learned.

But the government has eradicated every single reference to torture and abuse in prison from a heavily blacked-out version of a report prepared by Canadian diplomats in Kabul and released under an access to information request.

Initially, the government denied the existence of the report, responding in writing that "no such report on human-rights performance in other countries exists." After complaints to the Access to Information Commissioner, it released a heavily edited version this week.

Among the sentences blacked out by the Foreign Affairs Department in the report's summary is "Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common," according to full passages of the report obtained independently by The Globe.

The Foreign Affairs report, titled Afghanistan-2006; Good Governance, Democratic Development and Human Rights, was marked "CEO" for Canadian Eyes Only. It seems to remove any last vestige of doubt that the senior officials and ministers knew that torture and abuse were rife in Afghan jails.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peter MacKay is Lying About Detainee Abuse

Via the CBC:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay defended his government Thursday in the face of claims that detainees in Afghanistan were routinely abused by Afghan authorities after being handed over by Canadian soldiers.

"There has not been a single, solitary proven allegation of abuse involving a transferred Taliban prisoner by Canadian forces," MacKay said Thursday in the House of Commons.

His comments came a day after Richard Colvin, a former senior diplomat with Canada's Afghanistan mission, dropped a political bombshell on Parliament, alleging that suspects handed over by Canada to Afghan authorities were tortured, and that the government was at best indifferent and at worst tried to cover it up.
Flashback to May, 2007:

Federal opposition parties continued to hammer the Harper government yesterday over the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan after revelations that the Afghan police beat up a detainee given to them by the Canadian Forces.

Colonel Steven Noonan, a former task-force commander in Afghanistan, disclosed the incident in a Federal Court affidavit that forms part of the government's response to a legal challenge by Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association to stop all further detainee transfers.

Col. Noonan's sworn evidence was cited by the opposition in Question Period to demonstrate that the Conservative government was far from telling the truth when its members repeatedly denied that they had no specific examples that any detainee transferred by Canadian troops to Afghan authorities was later subject to abuse or torture.
The Canadian military responded by accusing Noonan of lying under oath and then they shut down the story based on "national security" concerns.

And if the Conservatives had any credibility whatsoever, they'd relish the chance to have a public inquiry considering that detainee abuse was also alleged to have occured under the previous Liberal government as well.

This, from the Globe and Mail in 2007:

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Afghans detained by Canadian soldiers and sent to Kandahar's notorious jails say they were beaten, whipped, starved, frozen, choked and subjected to electric shocks during interrogation.

In 30 face-to-face interviews with men recently captured in Kandahar province, a Globe and Mail investigation has uncovered a litany of gruesome stories and a clear pattern of abuse by the Afghan authorities who work closely with Canadian troops, despite Canada's assurances that the rights of detainees are protected.

Canadian forces regularly hold detainees for a few days of questioning at Kandahar Air Field, then give them to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's feared intelligence police. Over and over, detainees described how Canadians tied their hands with plastic straps, marking the start of nightmarish journeys through shadowy jails and blood-spattered interrogation rooms.
And it's no wonder that Hillier is denying allegations now being made by Colvin since Hillier and former Defence minister Gordon O'Connor allegedly committed war crimes.

This government cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Neither can the military.

It's long past the time for an independent public inquiry.


Wiki's Canadian Afghan detainee abuse scandal timeline.

Karzai's Second Chance

Via The Independent:

Karzai set to sacrifice lambs, not wolves

Afghanistan's beleaguered President Hamid Karzai makes his inauguration speech tomorrow [Thursday], acutely aware that his disgruntled international backers will be poring over it for signs that he intends to mend his ways. But while he may carry out a cull of ministers, diplomats are expecting them to be minor sacrificial lambs rather than the worst offenders.

Mr Karzai's two running mates are expected to be confirmed as his vice-presidents: Muhammed Qasim Fahim, accused of drug trafficking, and Abdul Karim Khalili, charged in a human rights report with alleged war crimes.


Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, who US President Barack Obama has declared should be investigated over the killings of thousands of Taliban prisoners, is unlikely to face any charges as he delivered a large portion of the Uzbek vote to Mr Karzai. Indeed, the former Northern Alliance commander, who once reportedly killed opponents by crushing them with his tanks, felt confident enough about his position to return from semi-exile in Turkey to congratulate the Afghan president on his victory.

Critics point out that Mr Karzai will be annointed president in the same week that a new report showed Afghanistan slipping down the corruption ranks to second from bottom.
Back in January, just days after Obama's inauguration, The Independent reported that Obama was ready to "cut Karzai adrift". That's obviously not going to happen any time soon. Obama decided to send 17,000 troops to Afghanistan last February "to help stabilize the situation there in preparation for new elections" - elections so fixed that Karzai's main challenger Abdullah Abdullah refused to eventually participate in the runoff.

Hillary Clinton, in Kabul for Karzai's inauguration, said that she's pleased with his promises:

"I was very pleased to hear today when President Karzai said that he hopes that within three years, the Afghan security forces will have the lead in important areas and within five years [the length of his second term] -- which is an ambitious goal, but he stated it -- the Afghan security forces would have the lead throughout the country."
Quite the pipe dream.

Meanwhile, according to a new Oxfam report:

Seventy per cent of Afghans surveyed see poverty and unemployment as the major cause of the conflict in their country, according to new research by international aid agency Oxfam and a group of Afghan organisations. Ordinary Afghans blame government weakness and corruption as the second most important factor behind the fighting, with the Taliban coming third, followed by interference by neighboring countries.

The survey of 704 Afghans from across the country reveals:

* one in six Afghans are currently considering leaving Afghanistan;
* one in five Afghans have been tortured since the wars began in 1979;
* three quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes since then.
While Obama takes his time to decide what to do about the war, American weariness grows - in the polls and within the military:

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — President Barack Obama drew repeated cheers and applause during a speech to U.S. troops here Thursday — except when he mentioned that some may deploy once again to a war zone.

Wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie, Obama spoke of service in Iraq and Afghanistan to about 1,500 servicemembers who stood 25-deep in a high-ceilinged warehouse draped with camouflage netting.

“You volunteered in a time of war, knowing that you could be sent into harm’s way,” the president said. “Many of you served in Iraq.”

The comment brought applause and affirmative shouts of “Hoo-ah!”

“Others among you served in Afghanistan.”

More applause and hoo-ahs.

“… Others among you will deploy yet again,” he said.

This time, barely three or four people in the crowd made sounds of approval, then quickly fell silent.
NATO has reportedly decided to delay talks about Afghanistan until Obama's plans are revealed.

'Liberation was just a big lie'
Outspoken Afghan MP says Canadian mission is a big waste of time

Karzai has vowed to launch anti-corruption investigations under pressure from Washington. But, Joya insists, Canada is wasting blood and treasure on keeping his government in power.

"Canada should pull its troops out now," she said in Toronto on Wednesday, where she was promoting her book A Woman Among Warlords, co-written with Canadian peace activist Derrick O'Keefe.

And, she says, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is considering a surge in troop levels to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban, should think again.

"The United States should go, too. As long as foreign troops are in the country we will be fighting two enemies instead of one."

Yes, she says, there is a risk of civil war, as happened when the Soviet Union gave up the fight against U.S.-backed Afghan Islamists 20 years ago. But it would still be better than "night raids, torture and aerial bombardment" that killed hundreds of Afghan civilians while the Taliban made steady gains.

"Liberation was just a big lie." Joya believes Afghans are now better prepared to battle the Taliban alone – if the warlords are disarmed, and the international community helps build a society that can push back against extremism.

It is a tall order, she admits. But "resistance has increased, and people are becoming more aware of democracy and human rights. They need humanitarian and educational support."

But not, she adds, at the point of a gun.

Canada spending millions on private security in Afghanistan

Ray McGovern: Afghan Lessons from the Iraq War

Amnesty International: Afghanistan Human Rights

Human Rights Watch: US: Reform Afghanistan Detention Policy

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote du Jour: Don't judge a book...

Sarah Palin:

The choice of photo for the cover of this week's Newsweek is unfortunate. When it comes to Sarah Palin, this "news" magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner's World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness - a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention - even if out of context.
Yes. I try hard not to judge books by their gender or color of skin too.

Good thing she had a ghostwriter for her book. Who knows what literary nightmares the public may have been exposed to had she written an entire book by herself?

As for the charge of sexism, it seems to me that Newsweek has been more than fair and balanced in its choice of cover photos. They can't show you posing with your big gun every single time they feature you, now can they, Sarah?

Sidebar: And the best part of the Oprah/Palin interview? Oprah's gold shoes, hands down. And I'm no fashionista... Ooops. Was that sexist??


Newsweek defends its choice for the cover photo.

And, this just in from the Department of Irony, Sarah Palin told Barbara Walters in a GMA interview that "political correctness" is going to "do in" America. And she calls the Newsweek cover "cheesy" and "a wee bit degrading".'s a picture of you that you posed for quite willingly. Mon dieu.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Steve - hard at work in Mumbai:

The National Post has the extended version with stiff-as-a-board Steve checking out the shapely wimmen-folk:


Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Natynczyk: Canadian Troops Are Coming Home in 2011

General Walt Natynczyk's message to the Canadian government is clear: Canada's troops in Afghanistan are coming home in 2011.

Amid speculation over a future role for Canadian forces in Kandahar, Canada's top commander says he will withdraw all of the country's soldiers from the region by 2011.

"The parliamentary motion directs that it will be the end of the military mission in July of 2011. I mean those are the words that are there," Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk told CBC News in an exclusive interview. "And for me it's pretty clear. What we do for the Canadian Forces are military missions."

CBC News had previously reported that Natynczyk ordered his commanders to start preparing military plans to pull out of Afghanistan and return thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars' worth of equipment to Canada.

The government has insisted Canada's military mission will end in 2011. But its ministers and staff — including Defence Minister Peter MacKay — have suggested Canadian soldiers could remain in Afghanistan beyond that deadline, though perhaps not in combat.
The Cons have tried to dress up our presence in Afghanistan in the cloak of peacekeeping and nation-building for years now in an attempt to justify a less than complete pull out. Canadians aren't buying it and don't trust this government to abide by parliament's wishes.

...the prime minister's spokesman Dimitri Soudas told CBC News last month that Canadian soldiers would remain in Afghanistan. He suggested a force much smaller than the 2,800-troop mission currently in Kandahar.

But Natynczyk said he couldn't see a role for any soldiers in Kandahar that would respect parliament's declaration.

"We provide protection, we provide security, we enable governance, we enable development, we enable training. But our function is security and protection. That's the military mission."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why Kucinich Voted "No"

Dennis Kucinich [D-MI] on the Ed Schultz Show, Monday (following George Miller [D-CA] who's also included in this segment).

The response by one so-called progressive American blogger: Bite me.

The health insurance bill that passed in the house on Saturday nite was a watered-down, corporate-sponsored farce that included an amendment meant to set back womens' rights 30 years.

Kucinich was right to vote against it. And so-called progressive bloggers who have a problem with a politician actually standing up for his constituents and voting on principle need to ask themselves where their loyalties really lie - with Big Insurance and Big Religion or with the greater good of America.

Why won't Obama rule out jail time?

Witness the following exchange between Jake Tapper and Obama and tell me that Americans can be sure they won't go to jail if they don't pay mandated health insurance premiums - because I'm not seeing any kind of reassurance whatsoever:

TAPPER: The -- under the House bill, those who can afford to buy insurance but don't -- can afford to do it but don't -- pay a fine. And if they refuse to pay a fine, there's a threat, as there is with lots of tax fines, there's a threat of jail time. And the Senate removed that provision in the Senate Finance Committee. Do you think it's appropriate to have a threat of jail time for those who refuse to buy insurance?

OBAMA: You know, what I think is appropriate is that in the same way that everybody has to get auto insurance and if you don't, you're subject to some penalty, that in this situation, if you have the ability to buy insurance, it's affordable and you choose not to do so, forcing you and me and everybody else to subsidize you, you know, there's a thousand dollar hidden tax that families all across America are -- are burdened by because of the fact that people don't have health insurance, you know, there's nothing wrong with a penalty.

Now, what those penalties are, I think they have to be high enough that people don't game the system. On the other hand, I think it's important for us not to be so punitive that people who are having a hard time suddenly find themselves worse off because of health care reform. And that's why there have been built in some hardship exemptions. There may be situations, relatively rare, where, even after the subsidies that are provided, it's still very hard for people to afford to get the health insurance that they need. And we should at this point and build in those -- those hardship exemptions.

But I -- but I think the general broad principle is simply that people who are paying for their health insurance aren't subsidizing folks who simply choose not to until they get sick and then suddenly they expect free health insurance. That's -- that's basic concept of responsibility that I think most Americans abide by.

TAPPER: But as the Senate puts its bill -- its final bill together and as a House and Senate prepare to vote on a -- on a -- after the conference committee, they should know, does the president think jail time is inappropriate...

OBAMA: Well, I'm -- I'm not sure that's the biggest question that they're asking right now...

TAPPER: No, but the question...

OBAMA: Well, the...


OBAMA: I think I put out the principle that penalties are appropriate for people who try to free ride the system and force others to pay for their health insurance.
Apparently, the word "no" is just too difficult to utter.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Stelmach Survives Leadership Review

No surprise here, although the number is higher than expected since rumours of his impending demise were rampant following the recent upsurge in poll numbers for the neocon-like Wildrose Alliance party.

Stelmach wins 77% support for leadership while the party faithful were confronted by some 700 protesters.


Photo credit (for Balloon Boy Stelmach): Gavin Young, Calgary Herald

Friday, November 06, 2009

Quote du Jour: Alberta's Clueless Energy Minister

From Thursday's Just Answer the Damn Question! Period:

Mr. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Geez, this is funny. Not every stakeholder is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars advertising on radio, on television, and in the newspaper. The minister dodged my question yesterday when he would not state in this Assembly how much this propaganda campaign is costing. To the minister: how many taxpayer dollars are you spending on advertising on this pro Bill 50 campaign? Simple enough for you?

Mr. Knight: Well, Mr. Speaker, again, I don’t know what constitutes advertising. Apparently, he’s an expert in the field. So if he would like to send me a letter that indicates which pieces of this stuff he considers to be information for consumers and which pieces he considers to be advertising, perhaps what we could do for him then – you know, he’s the expert on advertising. He told me that yesterday. That’s fine. If he’s the expert, let him tell me which pieces are advertising and which pieces are distributing information that Albertans want.
Related debauchery:

Alberta [Government] private plane tab $383K

Is it any wonder the Cons' poll numbers are taking a nose dive?

Will Steady Eddy survive his leadership review this weekend? Highly doubtful but Cons are known to stick with losers til the bitter end so stay tuned.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Shooting Rampage at Fort Hood, Texas

The latest from Lt General Bob Cone at Fort Hood:

12 dead
31 injured
3 gunmen ("soldiers") - 1 dead (see update - he's not dead), 2 in custody (see update below)

Cone said the shootings occurred in the "soldier readiness" area.

It was not immediately known whether the victims were all soldiers or civilians, but Cone said at least one of those killed was a civilian police officer and NBC affiliate KCEN-TV of Waco reported that at least four SWAT officers were among those wounded.
It's too early to know what the possible motive may have been.


CNN has named the slain gunman: "Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, according to a law enforcement source. The source believes he is 39 or 40 years old."

Video from the Associated Press:


The gunman was an army psychiatrist.

Hasan "was scheduled to be deployed and was upset about that," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) said on CNN after receiving a briefing from Army officials.

Two other soldiers were initially apprehended on suspicion of involvement in the attack, but they were later released after questioning, and another soldier was picked up as a suspect, military officials said.


Officials: 12 killed in Fort Hood shootings; suspect alive

(CNN) -- At least one soldier opened fire on a military processing center at Fort Hood in Texas on Thursday, killing 12 and wounding 31 others, officials at the Army base said.

The gunman, who officials initially said was killed, is wounded but alive, Lt. Gen. Bob Cone said.

Cone said that man is believed to be the only shooter.

Italy Convicts CIA Agents of Kidnapping and Rendition

Well, at least there's justice for 'extraordinary rendition' victims in one jurisdiction in this world.

In the case of Abu Omar who was snatched from the streets of Milan in 2003 and rendered to Egypt to be tortured (known as the 'Imam rapito affair' in Italy), Human Rights Watch weighs in:

(Milan) - An Italian court's conviction of 23 agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for kidnapping is an historic repudiation of the CIA's crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. The Milan court also found that two Italian officials illegally collaborated in CIA abuses.

The judge said he could not pronounce any verdict against five of the seven Italians on trial for the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian imam because they were protected by the state secrecy doctrine. Of the 26 Americans who were on trial, all of them in absentia, the court found that three were protected by diplomatic immunity guarantees.

Robert Seldon Lady, alleged to be the CIA station chief in Milan at the time of the kidnapping, received an eight-year sentence, the most serious penalty that the court handed down in the case. [See his 'I was only following orders' defense here. -catnip]

"The Milan court sent a powerful message: the CIA can't just abduct people off the streets. It's illegal, unacceptable, and unjustified," said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism program director at Human Rights Watch. "Both the Italian and US governments should now be on notice that justice authorities will not ignore crimes committed under the guise of fighting terrorism."


The verdicts today also stand in stark contrast to a disappointing decision issued on November 2 by a US federal appellate court in New York, which dismissed the suit brought by Canadian rendition victim Maher Arar. Arar was detained while in transit at John F. Kennedy airport in September 2002, then rendered by the CIA to Jordan and Syria, where he was brutally tortured for nearly a year.
Arar won't find justice in the United States - not when Obama has decided to continue the rendition program while providing legal cover for CIA agents who flagrantly break the law. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss... His administration may have walked away from the 'Global War on Terror" moniker of Bushco but it's obviously still very much in play.

And, if you followed the Niger/yellowcake forgery story closely, you'll remember this name:

The Italian defendants included Gen. Nicolò Pollari, the former head of SISMI, Italy's military intelligence service, who was forced to resign over Abu Omar's abduction and rendition, and Pollari's former deputy, Marco Mancini.
in 2005, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported, as translated by The American Prospect, that in the 2002 run up to the Iraq war, Pollari had a suspicious meeting with then deputy National Security adviser Stephen Hadley.

The paper goes on to note the significance of that date, highlighting the appearance of a little-noticed story in Panorama a weekly magazine owned by Italian Prime Minister and Bush ally Silvio Berlusconi, that was published three days after Pollari's meeting with Hadley. The magazine's September 12, 2002, issue claimed that Iraq's intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, had acquired 500 tons of uranium from Nigeria through a Jordanian intermediary. (While this September 2002 Panorama report mentioned Nigeria, the forgeries another Panorama reporter would be proferred less than a month later purportedly concerned Niger.)

The Sismi chief's previously undisclosed meeting with Hadley, who was promoted earlier this year to national security adviser, occurred one month before a murky series of events culminated in the U.S. government obtaining copies of the Niger forgeries.
Thick as thieves (and forgers and kidnappers and torturers and murderers) - the lot of them.

Crocodile tears from one of those found guilty:

EXCLUSIVE: Convicted CIA Spy Says "We Broke the Law"

One of the 23 Americans convicted today by an Italian court says the United States "broke the law" in the CIA kidnapping of a Muslim cleric Abu Omar in Milan in 2003.

"And we are paying for the mistakes right now, whoever authorized and approved this," said former CIA officer Sabrina deSousa in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson.

DeSousa says the U.S. "abandoned and betrayed" her and the others who were put on trial for the kidnapping. She was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.

Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), a member of the House Intelligence Committee told ABC News that the trial was a disaster for CIA officers like DeSousa on the frontline.

"I think these people have been put out there. They've been hung out to dry. They're taking the fall potentially for a decision that was made by their superiors in our agencies. It's the wrong place to go."
Just which part of kidnapping is illegal and is punishable under the law didn't DeSousa understand? The Nuremberg defense rears its ugly head once again. And exactly how is she "paying" for anything? She's free, obviously. No one rendered her to Italy to actually stand trial.

And having Hoekstra as your number one defender? What a joke. The minute he calls for prosecutions of Bush administration officials - those "superiors", let me know.


Scott Horton: Judgment in Milan

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

On Vaccinations, the Soviet Union, and Chickens

Don Braid writes in the Calgary Herald:

Only Alberta has been forced to close all vaccination clinics for four full days. It's still a mystery why our authorities decided to go for mass immunization rather than the more controlled approach adopted by most other provinces.

But there is a clue in Health Minister Ron Liepert's comment last week about avoiding "Soviet mode."

He was talking about his distaste for asking people to prove they're high risk in order to get a shot. But the minister soon got exactly what he dreads--a classic Soviet-mode breakdown.

The symptoms are familiar to anyone who spent time in the old Soviet Union.

First, you line up to get something the government controls by monopoly.

Everyone shuffles along in perfect communal equality --the healthy along with the sick, the pregnant, the very young and the very old.

Hours or days later you finally reach the front of the line, only to learn that somebody else got your chicken.

Then they close the line until some undisclosed date when distant central authorities can produce and deliver more chickens.

The swine flu lines went through all those stages last week. Toward the end, parts of Calgary looked like some dreary Moscow street corner in 1975.
As Liberal MLA Dave Taylor put it, Liepert is "sucking and blowing" at the same time.

Meanwhile, the chickens have not come home to roost yet since no one's been fired for the mishandling of this colossal mess.

The Alberta government is set to announce a revised plan for restarting its vaccination program this week after suspending it over the weekend.


Don Martin asks where those 6 million doses are.

MPs held an emergency H1N1 debate on Monday nite. I'd wager that people interested in medical drama tuned into House on the teevee instead.

Speaking of mass confusion:

Children from 6 months to 9 years old should still get two doses, about a month apart, Dr. Fauci said. But the first dose usually provides partial protection, meaning a child might still catch the flu but would be more likely to have a mild case.

The World Health Organization last week recommended one dose of vaccine for all children, but the United States is ignoring that advice. The organization’s primary goal is to make sure that the world’s vaccine supplies stretch as far as possible among the world’s children. It endorses vaccine-stretching adjuvants and favors one dose per child so more children can get one.

Federal health officials, by contrast, are trying to make sure that American children are fully protected first. They have also decided not to use adjuvants, even though they think they are safe, because anti-vaccine lobbyists have campaigned against them, calling them dangerous, and officials feared that some Americans would be scared away from being vaccinated.
One dose? Two doses? What's right for kids when it comes to H1N1 vaccine?


Alberta's Vaccinations Will Resume on Thursday, Nov 5

H1N1 High Risk Targeted Immunization

Due to the unexpected national shortage of the H1N1 vaccine, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health and Wellness announced plans to begin targeted immunization of Albertans at high risk.

* Starting on Thursday, November 5, children aged 6 months to under five years as of November 1st will be targeted. Proof of age (Health Care card, birth certificate or other valid identification) must be provided.
* On Friday, November 6, the program will expand to include pregnant women.

At this time, the vaccine will not be available to other Albertans. When more vaccine becomes available from the manufacturer, the targeted immunization program will be further expanded to include people under 65 with chronic health conditions. Details will be announced as more information becomes available on the vaccine supply.
Alrighty. Well, I still have lupus and I'm still high-risk with no available vaccination in sight. Great.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pick a Hill to Die On, Iggy

I find it amusing, that when the opposition party is in opposition, that the media are constantly pressing us to lay out our wares - constantly 'put your big ideas in front of the public'. The reality is the government has been elected to govern and we will come out with a platform when Canadians are ready to make their choice because we're into a general election. Mr Ignatieff has been very forthright in speeches on foreign policy, on energy and the environment and on a range of areas, including most recently issues affecting women - the general principles of which he's following. Now, the big bold ideas that you want to see, the brilliant strokes that the media are looking for - why would we lay those out? Why would we telegraph those to a government that has, in its unbelievably cynical, partisan way, taken everything that's said, twisted it out of context, perverted the meaning, perverted the message? Why would we do that in advance when we haven't got a level playing field to lay those out?

- Alfred Apps, President of the Liberal Party on CTV's Question Period responding to a question by Craig Oliver about the lack of a Liberal Party platform
Flashback: Ignatieff wants campaign platform by June [2009]

Newly confirmed Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff wants his party to have a campaign platform ready for June, but says that doesn't mean he's looking for a spring election.

"I've told my people I want a platform in June," he said at a news conference Sunday.

"And don't derive electoral timetables from that," he added. "You asked me a question, I'm giving you an answer. I'm not playing games with you."
It's clear that the Liberal party has become gun-shy after Stephane Dion was trounced last year by the Cons over his carbon tax plan.

What Mr Apps fails to grasp is that the release of a Liberal party platform is a necessity if he wants the public to distinguish between his party, the Cons and the NDP. This isn't about what's good for the media or the Harper government. His reason for the party withholding its platform simply makes him - and Iggy - look weak - especially since Ignatieff had promised a platform by a June deadline that has long come and gone. And if he'd been paying attention, Apps would know that Ignatieff's speeches, which he seems to think provide the public with a clear view of his policies, are about as popular as his sagging poll numbers. (19%? Even Dick Cheney has better numbers than that).

Apps may find it "amusing" but I doubt he'll be laughing when the Liberals lose yet another election thanks to the party disarray that has ensued since Ignatieff was crowned.