Thursday, April 29, 2010

Snow Day

It's crazy spring snow storm time in Alberta. The wind is finally starting to die down and the rain and snow have passed. Lost my internets connection Wednesday afternoon which almost forced me to actually do housework - almost. Lost power for a while off and on but everything seems to be up and running now.

Trying to catch up on a variety of happenings.

I did manage to watch Nazim Gillani's testimony on Wednesday. It looks like Rahim Jaffer has a lot more explaining to do - as do officials in seven government departments now (that we know of).

It looks like speaker Milliken's ruling about the release of the Afghan detainee documents is going to be a problem for all of the parties. Harper left the distinct impression the last couple of days that his government intends to play hardball in any way his lawyers can come up with. This should be interesting...

I've seen rumours of a possible attempt for a plea bargain with Omar Khadr (which was turned down) and now there are questions about him wearing "goggles"? Obama needs to stop this farce of a so-called trial of a child soldier and needs to place some serious pressure on Harper's government to have Khadr repatriated to this country. Enough is enough.

And, speaking of Obama, how's that decision to push for more offshore drilling working for you? (Halliburton's being sued too? Karma, bitches.)

And don't you Catholics have something more important to focus on than an art exhibit? You have the nerve to refer to "dignity"? Really?

Oh, look - yet another Taliban leader the US claimed to have killed has apparently come back to life. (Queue Monty Python "Bring out your dead" skit...)

April 30, 1975 - Saigon’s Fall, 35 Years Later

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Afghan Documents: The Speaker's Ruling

After providing an exhaustive review (45 minutes of background, precendents and rulings) of the case of whether Harper's government had breached parliamentary privilege by censoring and delaying the release of the documents related to questions about whether Afghan detainees handed over to Afghan officials have been tortured, speaker Milliken ruled against the government.

Milliken gave the government 2 weeks to come up with a compromise acceptable to the opposition on dealing with the handling of classified documents. If they can't, the speaker will intervene again and may accept a ruling of contempt of parliament - a very significant warning which could ultimately bring down this government.

He stated that it was not acceptable (and, paraphrasing, was basically insulting) to suggest that elected members of parliament should be seen as threatening national security by having access to those documents.

He also ruled that McKay's office did not intimidate possible witnesses by penning a letter, via the justice department, outlining their duties. However, he said that if a case is presented that shows that an actual witness did feel intimidated, he will consider it.

Regarding the government's excuse that handing former justice Iacobbuci the job of deciding which documents should be released, Milliken ruled that since that is a parallel process to the house and committee work, it cannot be construed as being an acceptable workaround to the motion the house passed in December to turn over all of the documents.

The government now has 3 choices. It can either comply with the ruling, appeal to the Supreme court or call a snap election via forcing a non-confidence motion.


Afghan detainee records order 'clear': Speaker
Tories have two weeks to release Afghan files

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jaffer - The Victim

Rahim Jaffer, appearing in front of the government operations committee this afternoon - choking back crocodile tears while proclaiming what a victim he is - claimed that he has never lobbied the government on behalf of his business, Green Power Generation Corporation [link to conveniently scrubbed web site], and, speaking about his arrest last fall said, "I have never partaken in any illegal substance" - nor does he endorse it. (Makes you wonder what that cocaine was doing in the car with him then, doesn't it?)

Harper and his cronies continue to insist that it's not really influence peddling if you don't end up getting any government money or contracts. They are, of course, wrong. And if they actually read what's on their own justice department web site, they'd know that.

The Criminal Code prohibits influence peddling not only by government officials but also by anyone who has or pretends to have influence with the government or with a Minister[28]. The application of this provision is limited to those who have, or pretend to have, a significant enough connection to government so that they can affect a government decision, such as the awarding of a contract[29]. The key factor is that the individual offering his or her influence does so in exchange for a benefit, either for himself or for some other person, as consideration for the exercise of influence. Anyone convicted of influence peddling is liable to imprisonment for up to five years[30]
Jaffer got his wrist slapped for using the Conservative party logo on his site long after he was no longer an MP - a tactic clearly meant to show that he had influence with the party. And he insists that any meetings he's had with government officials have been social in nature - "catching up with friends", he says. Sure...

It was also recently revealed that his wife, Helena Guergis, sent a letter to Simcoe county allegedly on behalf of her husband.

Liberal MP Mark Holland demanded to know what the government has done in response to the Star article revealing that Guergis sent a 2009 letter on her MP’s letterhead to senior Simcoe County officials promoting the waste technology products of Wright Tech Systems.

At the time, Jaffer and businessman Nazim Gillani were involved in a plan to take Wright Tech public in a $1 billion deal, the Star reported.

Guergis issued a statement on Friday denying any impropriety in the 2009 letter to Simcoe county officials and asserting that Jaffer had no business ties to Wright Tech.
Ethics complaints. Lobbying allegations.

Also appearing at the committee with Jaffer is his business partner, Patrick Glemaud, who's also under fire.

In question period, Liberal MP Frank Valeriote (Guelph) said that Jaffer’s business partner, Patrick Glemaud, met with a senior aide for minister of state for science and technology Gary Goodyear last fall, seeking federal funding for four projects.

Valeriote said that Glemaud, who is due to appear with Jaffer Wednesday, was working with an Ottawa-based firm called Sustainable Ventures Inc. that was hoping to tap funding from the Southern Ontario Development fund.

Goodyear said it was three projects and that none of them received funding, adding, “This government does not give funding to projects that do not qualify.”

In an e-mail, Anjali Varma, managing partner of Sustainable Ventures said that while they did attend a meeting with Glemaud and the minister’s staff, her company has not been engaged “in any matters” with Glemaud.

Glemaud also stated in committee that he's going to take "legal action" against Kevin Donovan of The Toronto Star.

May they all sue each other for years to come to keep this little story on the front pages.

More to come as the hearing continues...if there's anything worth noting.

Pat Martin (NDP): "You know what I really hate, Rahim? That you're making us all look really bad". "It's a little rich for you to be lecturing us today about raising ethical standards."


Watch online: CPAC

Live blogs:

The TO Star on Twitter.
The CBC: Kady O'Malley
The Globe and Mail: Jane Taber

Monday, April 19, 2010

On my mind...

Somebody needs to explain this to me: how can anyone on the left who calls themselves a "liberal", "progressive", "socialist" or even "independent" throw their support behind the leader of a country who kills people?

Continuing drone attacks in Pakistan - a sovereign country that the US has not declared war on.

Targeted assassinations of Americans abroad.

I've read all of the supposed justifications:

- Obama is smarter than the rest of you.
- He needs to prove he's tough on "terrorists" or the right-wing will eat him for dinner.
- His presidency has to succeed regardless of what he does because he's 1) a Democrat; 2) the first black president; 3) better than a mythical president Palin; 4) "good hearted".

On and on it goes.

But nothing - nothing - can convince me that excusing the American president by sidestepping ones' conscience for the sake of hyper-partisanship or any of the other myriad of rationalizations makes any rational sense to people who genuinely believe in human rights and justice - that they could lead one to dismiss these actions as minor concerns because he has a political agenda to be concerned about.

When you place politics above the law, you lose - every single time.

And when you give up your conscience for the sake of politics, in this case you condemn others to die without even a second thought.

Somebody needs to tell me how that's "progressive".

And, somebody needs to tell me where the opposition from the so-called left is about these unitary executive extra-judicial killings.

A Fine Mess

It's stuff the caliber of a CTV Movie of the Week. A "B" movie - the saga of Helena and Rahim. Shady business characters, "busty hookers", a former MP found with cocaine in his car, an abrasive tory cabinet minister turfed from her post and caucus allegedly based on revelations brought forward by a card-carrying Conservative private investigator with money problems who claims he never saw the political "snowball" coming because he was focused on snooping into the affairs of Nazim Gillani at the behest of investors who felt ripped off.

Intentional or not, that "snowball" continues to grow as Canadians look more suspiciously at the actions of Stephen Harper and his merry band of denialists who claim to stand for those much overused buzzwords: accountability, transparency, and justice - concepts right-wingers like to pretend they stand for in order to get elected. When the rubber actually meets the road though...well, we know how that story ends all too often.

And Steve, who is infamous for his need to control everything that emanates for his party ranks, seems to be content to have this whole sordid tale play out in the media. Allegations followed by retorts from Guergis through her lawyer. Allegations followed by retorts form Nazim Gillani. Allegations followed by retorts from PI Derrick Snowdy. Allegations followed by retorts for the PM and his toadies that the RCMP and the ethics commissioner are now on the case (even though the ethics commissioner has stated that she didn't get a formal request for an investigation and is learning what she can from the media).

Some political strategist in the PM's office is obviously gambling on the idea that the story will wear itself out and that, automagically somehow, it won't taint the party or the PM. Let's hope that person stays out of Vegas for their own sake.

This is the same strategery they've used to attempt to make the Afghan detainee scandal disappear too. And how's that working for them?

There'll be no proroguing this time, Cons.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The TO Sun Calls Guergis a "Dog"

Politics, Re-Spun has the cover photo (which I won't post here because I don't have the rights to it).

A right-wing rag calling one of their own a "dog". Nasty.

Of course, the fact that Conservatives think women are "dogs" isn't new. Norm Spector called Belinda Stronach a "bitch" back in 2006 in response to Peter McKay referring to her a a dog during Question Period.

Nothing like dehumanizing women to get them to fall in line, right guys?

And we're supposed to believe that you want equality for women why, exactly?

You can contact the TO Sun's editors here.

Friday, April 09, 2010

See you later, Helena

I think it's safe to say that we will soon be informed that airport tantrum queen Helena Guergis' stint as minister of state for the status of women has come to a much-anticipated end.

The Toronto Star has published a telling account of the nite her husband, Rahim Jaffer, was arrested for speeding, DUI and cocaine possession (charges he skated on with a slap on the wrist a few months later). It seems Mr Jaffer thinks he has a lot of influence with the tories to secure government grants for people like the rather nefarious character, Nazim Gillani - even though Jaffer is not a registered lobbyist.

Forced to remove the Conservative party logo from his site over these revelations, the PMO has also had to weigh in with a denial - a move that only moves Guergis' ministerial career closer to the abyss.

That denial, as are most things that come from the mouth of Dimitri Soudas, is laughable:

“Any accusation that the PMO has opened doors for Mr. Jaffer or his business associates is false and it is also absurd,” PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas said in an interview Thursday. “I can tell you that the doors to the Prime Minister’s Office are padlocked to anybody who wishes to peddle influence.”
Adding on to the pile-on, the Ottawa Citizen is raising questions about some of Guergis' election expenses. Add that to previous stories about her staffers sending off supportive letters to various newspapers and reports that virtually no one in the Conservative caucus is willing to defend her anymore and I'd say political death by a thousand newspaper cuts is a fait accompli.

The fat lady has sung, Helena.


Tory MPs snubbed Rahim Jaffer in row over petty cash, sources say
First a plea bargain, now a tax break for Rahim Jaffer
Liberals want Guergis's mortgage probed
Guergis Attacks Dead Student's Mother


Guergis resigns, now faces RCMP probe

"Last night my office became aware of serious allegations related to (Guergis)," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday, before adding he has referred the allegations to the RCMP and the federal ethics commissioner.
“Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has confirmed receipt of a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office about the conduct of the former Minister of State for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis,” her spokeswoman Jocelyne Brisebois wrote in an emailed statement Friday. “The Commissioner is currently reviewing the letter.”
She's being replaced by another tory loser - Rona Ambrose

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Is the pope too big to fail?

In a word - no.

So, why is that so many Catholics seem to believe that he should not be held accountable for the sexual molestation of children that he aided and abetted? And what is it about forgiveness that they don't get? That you can forgive someone and hold them legally responsible at the same time?

In true Catholic victimhood style, after trying unsuccessfully to blame the media for exposing the latest child abuse scandals, the pope's preacher - on Good Friday, no less - compared the criticisms of the pope to the horrors suffered by Holocaust victims. Just another attempt at guilt-inducing behaviour in order to justify its actions - a tactic the church is infamous for.

At a Good Friday service in St Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household compared criticism of the Church over abuse allegations to "the collective violence suffered by the Jews".

Fr Cantalamessa said he had been inspired by a letter from a Jewish friend who had been upset by the "attacks" against the Pope.

He then read part of the letter, in which his friend said he was following "with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful of the whole world".

"The use of stereotypes and the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," he quoted the letter as saying, as the Pope listened.
Note the insidiousness there: the priest invokes some anonymous Jewish friend. Ergo, it must be okay to compare what's happening to the pope to what's happened to Jews.

How anyone can compare free speech to "violent" attacks is beyond me - especially when the real violence was perpetrated by Catholic priests against helpless children.

And there is absolutely no doubt that the Catholic church hierarchy must be held collectively guilty for what has occurred because it established policies to shield child-molesting priests from prosecution.

This is not remotely similar to "anti-semitism". This is about holding the institution of the church responsible for its crimes. And I doubt anyone needs to be reminded of the history of the church's real anti-semitism to understand what an absolutely farcical comparison has been made by this priest.

One would think that the pope and his minions would be asking themselves What would Jesus do? at a time like this.

I don't think that answer would be to blame the media or to accuse the accusers of anti-semitism. It seems to me a little humility would be in order.

I left the Catholic church as a teenager decades ago during the womens' revolution when I realized that it treated women as second-class citizens - long before all of these sex-abuse scandals saw the light of day. My philosophy is atheist/buddhism now. I have no need for gods or god-figures. I don't worship anything or anybody. I have no use for "organized" religion and crimes justified by religious dogma. How any Catholic can continue to have faith in the institution of the Vatican - which is not supposed to be what the religion is about anyway - is beyond me.

I have a 'live and let live' attitude towards peoples' personal spiritual choices. That does not extend, however, to withholding criticism when the institution they attach themselves to is corrupt - especially when the practices it endorses (officially or unofficially through the tenets of its leaders) are intended to cause personal harm to other human beings. Tolerance ends where abuse begins. That's pretty simple.

This pope is not too big to fail. And he has failed - massively. The only question left is what the consequences will be. He needs to get himself out of the way - or someone needs to force him to do it - so the focus can be placed where it belongs: on the suffering and healing of the victims.


Stuff Catholics Have So Far Blamed for the Church's Pedophilia Scandal