Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Paging Jack Layton

After Jack Layton stood in the house during Question Period on Monday and asked for a meeting with Harper, which he actually agreed to, pundits called it 'grandstanding'. Those of us who thought there might be an actual opening for dialogue with that development (as slim a chance as that was) held out for what might happen on Tuesday. Then, Layton introduced his private member's bill, the ridiculously named Clean Air Accountability Act (which leaves the Kyoto Protocol in the dust) on Tuesday morning prior to his afternoon meeting with Harper and it became clear that Layton was indeed grandstanding after all.

So, it wasn't surprising when Layton came out of his meeting with Harper and declared that he was 'disappointed' and 'said he wasn't convinced the prime minister understood the urgency of the situation'. What did he expect from control-freak Steve? Maybe he thought that his cozying up with the Cons to drive the Liberals out of office the last time around might merit him a little favour. Who knows?

And now, to add insult to injury, he's being coy about whether he'll force a non-confidence motion during Opposition Day on Thursday because he didn't get his way. This opposition by temper tantrum is a dangerous strategy which he should have been able to figure out since he was the one who pushed this Conservative government into office. Apparently, Jack doesn't learn well from his mistakes.

With the polls showing the leaderless Liberals and the Conservatives neck and neck, there is no chance that either party will achieve a majority if an election is forced again so soon. And with the gridlock that has formed with this prime minister who thinks compromise is a 4 letter word, what possible good could come from re-electing them?

The NDP is a good party with good ideas and Layton is leaving his people flopping in the wind with his brand of so-called leadership. He should fire his political advisers if this is what they're selling him, because the more they take the NDP down this road, the more support they'll lose.

Senator Allen Camp Assault Caught On Tape

Or 'how not to handle a heckler'...

The San Franscisco Chronicle has more and identifies the heckler as Mike Stark of Calling All Wingnuts. Mike is also a frequent Daily Kos poster where I'm sure he'll be writing about this experience soon.

My Halloween Treat For You...

Here's my favourite poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W Service, as told by a man who certainly looks the part (although he could be some crazed serial killer for all I know). Enjoy.

Obligatory sure to scare the kids pumpkin face link.

Happy Halloween!

Analyze this, Spector

Norman 'I'm an analyst' Spector decided to weigh in on the MacKay/Stronach affair on Monday by calling Ms Stronach a 'bitch' and then refusing to apologize for it because he believes he's entitled to make such a proclamation based on what he reads in the newspapers about her private life.

Mr. Spector told radio listeners that Ms. Stronach's breakup with Mr. MacKay, as well as a role she is alleged to have had in the marital problems of former Toronto Maple Leaf Tie Domi, rendered her a bitch.

"I think she's a bitch. It's as simple as that," Mr. Spector said. "And I think that 90 per cent of men would probably say she's a bitch for the way she's broken up Tie Domi's home and the way she dumped Peter MacKay. She is a bitch."

Mr. Spector did not back down from the remarks in a telephone interview late yesterday.

"I think it's the perfect choice of word that the Oxford English Dictionary describes as 'malicious or treacherous,' " he said. "So I think as an analyst of politics, I chose the right word."

Now just a minute, Spector. You didn't provide an analysis of her politics, you attacked her personally based on what little you know about her personal relationships. But then, of course, he perhaps realized that little mistake and threw some politics into the mix before sticking his foot in his mouth again:

Mr. Spector noted that he has never been a member of the Conservative Party and that as chief of staff to Mr. Mulroney, he was seconded from the public service.

"I have no concerns about the Conservative Party, or the Liberal Party or any other party. I'm speaking as an analyst. And as an analyst, I think the behaviour she showed, particularly when she crossed the floor and that whole incident, qualifies as treacherous."

Mr. Spector also told the radio show that the issue about Mr. MacKay's remarks would not have remained in the public domain if it were not for the number of female reporters in the Ottawa Press Gallery.

"Half the Press Gallery now are women and women find this very offensive," he said.

Let's get real here. You called her a bitch because her floor crossing was 'treacherous'? We're all waiting for you to call David Emerson a bitch then too. Surely his actions were just as 'treacherous', weren't they Norman?

Regardless, it's clear from his comments about the press corps that Spector has a problem with women and that this isn't about politics at all. Stronach was right when she responded by saying that he has "issues". Calling a woman a female dog and then blaming the women in the press gallery for keeping the MacKay story alive when this would not even be a story if 1) MacKay hadn't said what he did and 2) MacKay had actually taken responsibility for it, is just a coward's way out. Deflecting attention from MacKay's actions by attacking the victim is quite a handy way to allow you to tell the world how you really feel about women, isn't it Norman?

This isn't about political analysis at all. It's about a man who couldn't pass up an opportunity to attack women. Period.

Monday, October 30, 2006

'Why not fight the terrorists in Canada?'

When the peasants are welcomed to submit questions to politicians, you just never know what you'll get. Here's one for Republican Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kranky in Kansas), for example:

Why not fight the terrorists in Canada? They have free health care for the injured and more oil, too. Since Bush got the terrorists to go to Iraq, he could easily get them to go to Canada. It’s much nicer and the fishing is the best. Our soldiers could come home every other weekend. I know all about war, if I would ever have gotten around to signing up for the draft, I would have probably went to Nam. But I watched a lot of it on TV. Mike

h/t Wonkette

Iraq's Foreign Minister: A Useful GOP Sockpuppet

Well, isn't this handy, coming just a week before the US elections?

Iraq asks troops to stay as U.S. death toll spikes

Pressure has mounted ahead of the November 7 congressional poll to extract U.S. troops from the bloody turmoil afflicting Iraq since Bush ordered the invasion three and a half years ago. But the Iraqi government, despite open friction with Washington this past week, said it wanted their U.N. mandate extended by a year.

Speaking shortly after a bomb killed 28 people in a Baghdad Shi'ite slum on a day that saw at least 70 Iraqis killed across the country, Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters: "The presence of the Multi-National Force is indispensable for the security and stability of Iraq and of the region at the moment."

Iraq has become central to the congressional election campaign and Bush is rallying his Republic supporters, defending his policy and accusing opposition Democrats of lacking a plan:

"The Democratic goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq," he told a rally in the state of Georgia. "This election is far from over."

Not that the Republicans would actually put pressure on the Iraqi government to support their endless stay the course strategy or anything because everybody knows they're above that kind of manipulation, right? And this little announcement certainly has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley is in Iraq right now twisting some arms and telling al-Maliki to shut up either, right? And, of course, it's just a coincidence that this public outcry from Iraq is coming at a time when polls are showing that the American people trust the Democrats more to handle the war there, right?

Naw...of course not...

The Speaker Rules on the MacKay Controversy

House of Commons speaker Peter Milliken has ruled on Ralph Goodale's point of personal privilege relating to the alleged actions/comments last week in which it is now widely accepted (via the release of audio tapes) that Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay in response to a question from the opposition about his dog pointed to Belinda Stronach's empty chair and said 'You already have her".

Milliken ruled, citing House precedents, that Goodale's assertion that such behaviour affects the integrity of MPs to be believed is a matter of debate rather than a matter of privilege. It is not the role of a speaker to decide on issues that are debatable. Thus, Milliken concluded, he now considers the matter closed.

I am currently transcribing his remarks, which I have taped, and will post them ASAP.

Update: Here's the transcript.

Speaker: I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Wednesday October 26th by the honourable member from Wascana concerning comments allegedly made by the homourable Minister of Foreign Affairs last Thursday October 19th, 2006.

I would like to thank the honourable member for raising this matter as well as the honourable government house leader for his response for it gives me the opportunity to clarify the very limited role that the speaker can play in situations of this sort. Let us review the events to date.

On October 19th the honourable member for Bourassa rose on a point of order to object to remarks he alleged were made by the honourable the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was supported by the honourable member for Ajax-Pickering and since I had not heard the remarks complained of, I undertook as I would usually do in such cases, to review the record and return to the house if necessary.

On October 20th, the honourable member for Newmarket-Aurora rose on a point of order and quoting standing order 18 sought an apology for offensive and disrespectful remarks allegedly made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs the previous day. The chair responded as follows and I quote myself here:

As I indicated yesterday when this matter was raised, the news of these statements is something that is new to me because I did not hear the comments or see any of the gestures that are alleged to have taken place.

My staff have carefully reviewed the audio tapes of question period and the written transcript of Hansard, which I myself have seen, and of course there is no reference to these words in either. So I am unable to confirm any of the suggestions that have been made. I know several members say that they heard these remarks.

However, in the circumstances, there is nothing further I can do at this time.

End of quote.

Now, the House leader of the offical opposition has risen on a question of privilege on this same matter and has provided the chair with affadavits signed by several honourable members stating that they heard the offending remarks. In the meantime of course, as the house knows, audio clips of the October 19th proceedings have been aired in the media. Indeed a transcript one such report has been sent to me by the member from Newmarket-Aurora. However, last Thursday when asked by the honourable leader of the official opposition to apologize, the honourable Minsiter of Foreign Affairs replied and I quote him, 'I made no such gesture. I made no derogatory or discriminatory remarks toward any member of the house.' End of quote.

The honourable member from Mississauga South argues that the chair might refer this matter to the standing committee on Proceedure and House affairs so that the committee can get at the truth in these competing claims. Even if I were so inclined, it is not for the chair to refer matters to a committee but for the house to take that decision. When a member has made a reamrk considered unparliamnetray or inappropriate, the speaker has asked the member to withdraw or rephrase the comment. Standing order 18 prohibits disrespectful or offensive language against a member of the house and as Marlowe and Montpetit states at page 522, 'a member will be required to withdraw offensive remarks toward another member.' End of quote. But, such action by the chair, that is requesting an apology or a withdrawal, is predicated on a common agreement about what actually took place either because the exchange appears in the official record or because both parties acknowledge that the exchange took place. The official record is not helpful and the speaker is faced with a dispute indeed a contradiction about what actually happened. Some honourable members insist they heard the offensive remarks. The honourable Minister denies making them.

In examing the precedents I find guidance in a ruling delivered on December 12th, 1991 by Mr Speaker Fraser at pages 2618 and 2619 of the debates he stated and I quote:

'The chair is faced with a dispute and is unable to resolve it. When the official records are not supportive of the allegations, I am convinced that it is not the duty of the chair to try and resolve it. As far as I am concerned from a procedrural point of view and in keeping with our conventions, the matter is closed.'

End of quote.

In the circumstances, I've listened very carefully to the arguments presented, notably by the honourable member for Wascana who contends that quote 'the privileges of members have been infringed by lingering untruth and the inability of the minister to be believed'. End of quote.

While I may agree with the honourable member that the circumstances surrounding the situation are most regrettable, it is not clear to me how prevent honourable members from accomplishing their work. And since I fail to see how the privileges of the house have been breached by this unfortunate situation, I cannot conclude that a prima facie breach of privilige has occured.

[The speaker then refers to two other precedents which conclude who cited Citation 113 of Beauchenes, 4th Edition, which states: 'A dispute arising between two members as to allegations of fact does not fulfill the conditions of parliamentary privilege'.]

In the case before the house now, the remarks may or may not have been said but it is not for the speaker to decide where the truth lies. I regret that the chair can offer no remedy to the house particularly because as it seems apparent that the situation does nothing to enhance the reputation of the house of commons and its members. Members on all sides of the house have commented on the erosion of mutual respect in the house and as was stated by the chief government whip on October 20th, it is encumbent upon all of us to work harder towards maintaining decorum in this chamber. I believe we would do well to recall the words of Mr speaker Fraser on December 11th, 1991 when he said: 'Few things can more embitter the mood of the house than a series of personal attacks. For in their wake, they leave a residue of animosity and unease'. End of quote.

I appeal therefore to all honourable members to be judicious in their language and to avoid personal attacks on other members so they do not bring themselves and this house into disrepute. And in this particular case, in keeping with my predecessors, Mr Lamoureaux, Jerome and Fraser, I must now consider the matter closed.

Note: For the official record, check Hansard once it's updated.

Armageddon-based Economics

The two most important issues for American voters in the runup to next week's elections are the Iraq war and the economy. What to do about the war and how the two party's platforms (or lack thereof) regarding the future of Iraq will impact all Americans weigh heavily on the minds of those voters and is being fiercely debated in the public square. The state of the economy, however, is not getting as much national attention as it should.

Bush, of course, is out at every opportunity warning Americans that the Democrats will raise their taxes - an assertion that resonates with people who only listen to soundbites but don't take the time to examine what the Bush administration's taxation policies have really been about.

Mr. Bush set the trap in 2001 — and in 2003, 2004 and 2006. In each of those years, he flogged for new tax cuts without requiring corresponding long-term changes in the existing rules for the alternative tax. It was well known that failure to update the alternative tax would create perverse interactions with the new tax cuts, causing filers’ tax bills to drop because of the cuts, only to shoot back up again from the alternative levy.

Mr. Bush said he would vanquish the problem through tax reform. Didn’t happen. Congress never wrestled with lasting solutions. The truth is, the president and lawmakers are paralyzed. To fix the alternative tax while keeping the Bush tax cuts on the books would result in the loss of some $800 billion in revenue over 10 years, blowing a hole in the federal budget and exposing how utterly unaffordable the tax cuts of the last five years really are.

This past week, the head of the Government Accountability Office also issued strong warnings about how the Republicans current policies will impact the American economy years down the road:

There's a good reason politicians don't like to talk about the nation's long-term fiscal prospects. The subject is short on political theatrics and long on complicated economics, scary graphs and very big numbers. It reveals serious problems and offers no easy solutions. Anybody who wanted to deal with it seriously would have to talk about raising taxes and cutting benefits, nasty nostrums that might doom any candidate who prescribed them.
Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That's almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today.

And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.

The common sense explanations of America's future outlook offered by the GAO are not difficult to understand, even by people whose eyes tend to glaze over when faced with talk of deficits, debt and unfunded liability. The message is clear: America cannot sustain its current economic path.

So, why isn't that reality getting through? Most citizens tend to take a very short view of their nation's economy - comforted by lowered gas prices, lower interest rates and promises of tax cuts. Kevin Phillips, author of the book American Theocracy offers his theory of Armageddon -based economics in a recent interview with CNN's Lou Dobbs:

Phillips is a former Republican strategist and the head of the GAO has no political bone to pick in doing his job as the country's top accountant so they certainly can't be written off as so-called Democratic shills or fearmongers. They're both in agreement about this fundamental reality: America's financial future is in serious jeopardy.

Whether the Democrats have been able to successfully articulate those warnings in their local efforts to regain congressional power is an open question since Bush and the GOP continue to hold up possible Democratic tax increases as the focal point with which to attack the party. What Bush won't tell them, of course, is that if a different approach to the economy is not undertaken soon, the future is indeed grim. But, as Phillips notes, why worry about the future if Armageddon is on the way?

Provoking Iran

Q.: President Bush, you've abandoned Afghanistan. You've turned Iraq into a nightmare without end. What's next?

Bush: I'm going to Disneyland Iran!

WMD intercept exercise set to begin in the Gulf

When you can't get your way, you just have to flex your military muscles.

That's the motto of this US administration.

War games designed to intercept ships carrying weapons of mass destruction will take place for the first time today in the Gulf opposite Iran.

The naval exercise – organised under the US’s 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative – will include Bahrain, one of the regional states and host to a US naval base.

Although the US says the move is not specifically aimed at Iran, the PSI exercise comes amid heightened concerns over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Bahrain’s participation is a first for an Arab country. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are sending observers. Australia, France, Italy, the UK, the US and Bahrain are providing vessels and other assets.

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, foreign ministry spokesman in Tehran, refused on Sunday to describe the exercise as a threat to Iran but called for security co-operation between the states of the region without the participation of foreign forces.
US officials suggest Gulf Arab states have a keen interest in closer security co-operation and that all, except Saudi Arabia, had “formally endorsed” PSI, motivated by concerns over Iran’s nuclear intentions.

Well of course Saudi Arabia won't participate. There's oil supremacy to think about, after all. And you know they'll get a free pass from Bushco for that reason alone. No, you won't hear Rumsfeld or Cheney coming out in public and saying that SA isn't helping in the so-called war on terrorism. That would seriously screw up their friendly meetings with the sheiks and we can't have that.

And no matter what Iran's foreign ministry says, this will no doubt be seen as a provocation that's sure to rattle Ahmadinejad. Meanwhile, Bush will crow on about diplomacy (which to him means that Iran must do as he says before he'll even talk to anyone there) and the saber rattling will continue. He'd better watch what he asks for by pushing Iran with this little 'war game' (which is basically a show of US testosterone on water) or he just might get it. The he'll run to the UN again and say 'See? They were mean to me. Do something!' - just like the spoiled little brat he is.

Oh - and in case you missed it - the US congress passed the nice-sounding 'Iran Freedom Act while you weren't paying attention.

The new law got virtually no coverage in the congressional rush to adjourn and amid the controversy surrounding e-mails between Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and teenage boys serving in the House page program. It has been overshadowed since by North Korea's explosion of a nuclear device and the world's debate about how to respond.

But if the confrontation over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program ends in war — initiated by this administration or the next — you can bet this law will be cited as proof that Congress was onboard all along.

Nothing to see here folks. Move along now...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

On Hope

Hope is overrated.

I remember (vaguely) reading a book about Buddhism a while ago, of the zen bent if I recall correctly, in which the author wrote about the futility of being hopeful. That, of course, went against everything I'd ever been taught about the belief in the somewhat magical sustaining powers of hope that existed to enable one to carry on beyond whatever crisis or catastrophe one faced in life. But, as a student of Buddhist philosophy, the concept made sense to me as well.

Buddhists believe that desire causes suffering. It's quite another thing to actually live without desires all of the time though. The act of desiring, of wanting, is one that usually brings a psychic pain because you are left feeling that what you have or are experiencing in this moment is not enough and the very point of zen is to be fully here now. It follows then that relying on hope that something will change or become reality sometime in the future can indeed bring suffering as well because it brings along with it a dissatisfaction of present circumstances.

So, what does this have to do with politics? Well, here we are just 10 days before the US election with millions hoping that the Democrats will take control of at least the house and perhaps the senate in order to bring at least some sanity back to Washington. And this time around brings back the sting of defeat from the 2004 election when I, along with so many others, hoped that the vast majority of the American people would be able to see with great clarity the lies of an administration that had so violated their rights, their faith and their trust. That hope was seriously misplaced and the depression that followed online among Democratic/Kerry supporters was crushing.

There was, no doubt, more than hope at work the last time around just as there is this time. People are working hard locally to help their candidates get elected. GOTV efforts are being ramped up. Phone calls are being made, letters are being sent and there is a very strong belief buffeted by encouraging poll numbers that things will change this time. But when all is said and done, people still hang onto their hope.

It probably sounds cruel to suggest that they just accept they only have this moment in which they can choose to do the best they can to affect a successful outcome and that that ought to be enough to bring a measure of calm and self-assuredness but the factor of unpredictability - those suspicious voting machines, those GOP dirty tricks, the awaited Republican October surprise - leaves them with the one thing that can't be taken away from them: hope. And so it goes, round and round.

Living in a state without hope, which is not the same as hopelessness as we generally understand it, ideally ensures that we do not suffer the pain of desire now but that we don't also suffer doubly down the road if our hope in whatever situation or outcome we invest it in turns out to be fruitless. It is actually more of a blessing because it requires one to take action now to move towards one's goals and to accept that regardless of what we do, the outcome is never assured anyway. (There is also a school of thought that preaches living without goals that is worthy of note, but let's not complicate the situation now any more than we have to since the idea of living without hope is probably a shock to many just as it was to me).

The idea of dispensing with our reliance on hope is uncomfortable, just as the idea of living without faith for those who are religious seems virtually impossible. But, for the more logically-minded like me, it makes practical sense and makes living each day an exercise of being grounded in reality ie. whatever is happening right now as opposed to relying on some future time to bring satisfaction. Living it on a consistent basis though is not always easy.

I thought I knew in 2004 that John Kerry would be elected. I had hoped it would be so. This time, I'm more of an observer who's decided not to feast on the empty calories of hope. If the Democrats win, I'll rejoice (even though I don't know how much of a difference they'll be able to make any time soon, but a change is as good as a rest, they say). If they fail to regain control of the house and/or senate, then here we'll all be again for the last two years of Bush's so-called presidency railing against the injustices and trying to put one foot in front of the other as he continues to lead America down an already dangerous and unsteady path aided by Republican guides who have no idea what they're doing besides hoping that at least one of them knows one end of a horse from the other. And so far, the only thing we know for sure is that they're most comfortable following the horse's ass who's running the country while hoping that the enormous amount of shit he's caused will be cleaned up by someone else sometime in the future.

Sunday Food For Thought

Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice.
- Harrison Ford

(photo of Lady Justice found at the New England School of Law site)

Write Your Own Caption

I love the smell of Steve in the morning...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Olbermann Eulogizes The Death of 'Stay the Course'

Priceless! And may it RIP.

Canadians Protest the Afghanistan War

Protesters all over Canada are out on the streets in force today to support our troops by demanding that they come home from Afghanistan.

Francisco Juarez, a demonstrator in Toronto, was fined by the Canadian army reserves and released earlier this year after he refused to train for the Afghan campaign.

"Today I'm here at the protest because I feel that in whatever way I can, I need to assist in engaging Canadians in a broader debate, the issues of why we're in Afghanistan and what the priorities are in Afghanistan for our Canadian forces."

We were denied that debate by a Conservative government aided by 12 Liberal MPs in the spring who voted to extend Canada's role in the NATO mission for 2 years without even examining what such a commitment would entail. That they would place Canada's troops in harm's way without a strenuous examination of the conditions on the ground speaks volumes about just how little concern they have not only for our troops, but for the people of Afghanistan. Even Defence Minister O'Connor has admitted that the war will not be won militarily. So what exactly are our troops dying for?

The answer you'll get from people who support the war is that Canadian soldiers are making Afghanistan safer in order to foster reconstruction. Let's look at how that's working out - keeping this statement in mind:

Guillaume Fournier, Afghanistan Country Manager for the Senlis Council, told CBC Radio One in September, "The biggest hindrance to reconstruction is the weekly bombing of civilians."

We certainly got a cruel reminder of how many civilians are dying when NATO claimed last week that only 12 civilians were killed in a recent bombing but the people of the town that was bombed estimated the number was much, much higher - in the dozens.

While Canadian officials try to convince the public that our soldiers are over there to help the Afghan people, the reality is quite different:

According to World Bank estimates, Afghanistan needs $27.5 billion to rebuild its shattered social and physical infrastructure. But according to Senlis, Afghanistan received only $7.3 billion between 2002 and 2006, while NATO military spending was $82.5 billion during that time.

A September 23 Canwest News Service article, entitled "Reconstruction in Baby Steps," described the reality of Canadian reconstruction efforts in Kandahar province. A Canadian military officer said that resources are lacking and reconstruction is still a "work in progress." "I don't have a squadron's worth of engineers here. I don't have troops that go out with equipment and build things and build bridges."

The September 26 Globe and Mail reports that an ambulance donated by Canada for use by the medical center in the Panjwaii agricultural district west of Kandahar city four months ago is instead being used by local police and government administrators. Two doctors in the medical center told the reporter they are not keen to work with NATO-organized medical clinics because of the deep resentment of the population towards the occupiers.

Similar failure surrounds the British presence, according to the September 9 Economist magazine. Citing one example, it wrote, "British troops in Helmand (a neighbouring province to Kandahar), who have $36 million to spend this year, have built the odd bridge and market stall..."

If the failure of "reconstruction" in Afghanistan is little known in Canada, one reason is the concerted efforts by authorities to hide it. An article by Geoffrey York in the June 3 Globe and Mail described the rules for journalists working in Afghanistan who choose to "embed" with Canadian forces.

"The restrictions warned sternly that I could be ejected from the military base if I spent 'an inordinate amount of time' covering non-military activity. The Department of National Defence doesn't want the embedded reporters to write much about refugees, schools, health care or electricity – all the basic realities of life for Afghans."

DND doesn't want reporters covering those realities because indicate a massive failure 5 years after the war began - a war which US forces are now fleeing from, leaving NATO troops to clean up their mess while they're over in Iraq making a nightmare of that country too.

Meanwhile, the political climate at home, even in the face of the majority of Canadians now withdrawing support for this mission, is not promising. PM Harper will stick to his NATO commitment. Ignatieff, who is the current frontrunner in the Liberal leadership race, voted for the NATO extension last spring and Layton's NDP, which supports bringing the troops home, doesn't have any hope of leading the government anytime soon.

We're stuck there now but it is vital that Canadians keep speaking out loudly and often because even if Ignatieff ends up leading the party, which could win the next election, he needs to be reminded that his is the minority opinion and that he would be making a huge mistake if he chooses to stick to his guns by keeping Canadians involved in that war. Ignatieff is the wrong person to lead the party, especially during these times, and this is one of the prime reasons for my opposition to his candidacy. That, along with his views on torture and lack of political experience ought to be enough for his rejection, yet there are still too many Liberals who think he's the second coming. If they're not mindful, he'll be the second coming all right - of Stephen Harper.

I extend my solidarity to those out on the streets today who are doing their civic duty. Their numbers, whatever they may turn out to be, must be multiplied manyfold to include Canadians who are not physcially with them but are there in spirit because they represent many of us who oppose the continued use of military force in Afghanistan. They speak for me.

Update: The National Post is running a story today about purported al Qaeda threats against Canada for its continued role in Afghanistan based on information from the US SITE Institute.

Dave Letterman and Bill O'Reilly

Friday, October 27, 2006

Michael J Fox Responds to Limbaugh's Lies

It's obvious by the statement Limbaugh gave Couric that he's still whining and that his so-called apology meant nothing when he claims that the Democrats use 'victims' to push their political agenda. What he seems to forget however is how his president has been standing on the bodies of the dead of 9/11 (literally) while pumping his propaganda of fear endlessly in order to justify gutting the contitutional rights of Americans, his endless, illegal Iraq war that has killed hundreds of thousands and his belief that torture works.

You can see the clip of Limbaugh in his studio mocking Fox here, as shown by Keith Olbermann:

Ironically, the attention that Limbaugh gave to the issue has had the effect of increasing support for stem cell research. Carpe diem, Michael.

The Smell of Desperation

When even vicious right-winger Michelle Malkin complains about Republican smear tactics (while, of course, never missing a chance to attack the left in the process), you know things must really stink.

Late Thursday nite, George 'macaca' Allen's campaign released quotes from books that his Democratic opponent Jim Webb has written in a pathetic last minute attempt to embarass Webb and take the focus off of pesky things like the Iraq war. Drudge posted the excerpts and the blogosphere erupted prompting a quick response from Webb in a radio interview on Friday in which he chastised the host for reading quotes that were inappropriate for daytime listening considering there might be children tuning in.

It doesn't end there, however. The Washington Post compiled a litany of similar smear tactics in its article 'The Year of Playing Dirtier'. 'Negative Ads Get Positively Surreal', the subtitle reads. Experts in political advertizing will tell you that candidates run negative ads because they work and every election brings the predictable decrying of the sleaze - yet it never ends and politicians wonder why the public doesn't believe they have any integrity.

Watching negative ads is like rubber-necking at a car accident. You want to look away but curiousity gets the better of you. And if you see something extremely disturbing, you wish later that you could get the image out of your head - but you can't.

We're fortunate here in Canada that we have a minimum of sleaze that attacks our senses during election campaigns. Often times, the political actions of candidates are disturbing enough without dragging in all kinds of personal attacks. The situation in the US however is so utterly disgusting that each election season leaves one wondering just how much lower they can go - and they never fail to show us.

O mischief, thou art swift to enter in the thoughts of desperate men!
-William Shakespeare

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Parliament Hill Hell

The Toronto Star characterizes the Tory filibustering that went on Thursday morning in the Environment committee as being 'bizarre'. Au contraire. It shouldn't come to a surprise to anybody who's familiar with how Conservatives, and more specifically this bunch led by Harper, operate when faced with opposition to any of their oh-so-brilliant policies. They shut them up - or try to at least - by any means they can come up with. So, having some obscure Saskatchewan Tory MP spout off procedural nonsense for two hours out of the fear of the words Kyoto Protocol isn't 'bizarre' at all. It's SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). Their so-called Clean Air act is so absolutely useless and laughable that it thankfully has no hope of being passed, but Dear Leader Harper will hear none of that.

It was quite a feisty day on the hill with the opposition leaders gathering for a news conference to take shots at Steve:

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the Tories are worse in government than the Liberals because they're not only arrogant, but incompetent as well.

"I would say they're paralyzing themselves," Duceppe told a news conference.

"(Stephen) Harper was telling us — Jack and I — at the time we were in opposition that the Liberals were arrogant in not speaking to us.

"He's doing worse than them. And since they have almost no experience in the House, they're worse than the Liberals in the procedures because they're acting like amateurs."

NDP Leader Jack Layton also blamed Harper.

"He has an arrogant and controlling attitude to his caucus, to the media, to the Canadian public, and also to the representatives (in opposition) of a majority of the Canadian people.

"This is why we're seeing a logjam in the House of Commons. There is no desire on the part of his government to work with other parties."

He suggested it's about time for an election to solve the deadlock.

Yeah, well maybe you two leaders should have thought of that before you decided to join forces with the Tories to call an election to defeat the previous Liberal government. You're having buyer's remorse now? Would you like some cheese with that whine?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused the opposition Thursday of being "anti-democratic" — even as the Liberals offered an olive branch by agreeing to pass more than half of Harper's proposed tough-on-crime bills.

Liberal Leader Bill Graham bridled at the accusation:

"If the prime minister wants to find the problem with his legislative agenda has he tried to take a look in his own mirror?," Graham told the House of Commons.

"Will the prime minister drop his pre-electoral posturing and start acting like a party and a prime minister that acts for all Canadians?"

You're kidding, right Bill? Why do you hate Canada, Bill?

The only party that's 'anti-democratic' in Ottawa Steve is yours. You don't allow your MPs to speak on behalf of their constituents. The only way you know to defend your policies is to attack the opposition (and no wonder, since your agenda is so bloody lame). You think you can strong arm Canadians into buying what you're selling, continually forgetting that only some 36% of my countrymen voted for you and you believe your word is gospel to be revered as if it's been handed down to you from on high. (Preston Manning is no longer God, Steve).

You have no idea what the word 'compromise' means. Your Treasury Board pit bull is so incompetent that he has to read newspaper quotes during Question Period to answer queries because he has no idea how to do anything other than inflate his own ego. Your Foreign Affairs minister is a lying, misogynist embarassment. Your female Heritage minister is only there to push the agenda of the so-called REAL women, who would rather set women's rights back 50 years than wake up and smell the new century. Your Environment minister is a joke. Your Public Works minister is the Invisible Man.

And on and on it goes...and then you wonder why you can't get anything done.

What a farce.

Don't get too comfortable at 24 Sussex Drive, Steve. It's just a pit stop.

No, The US Doesn't Torture Anyone

The Vice President of Torture admits the US has used waterboarding - of which he is a fan.

The Germans knew about US torture practices back in 2001.

Canada's intel watchdog says that CSIS used evidence gathered by the use of torture which most likely refers to the cases of Maher Arar and Abdullah Almalki, who were sent to Syria by the US to be tortured.

But no, the US doesn't torture anyone.

Got it?

Wilson Files a Complaint With US Over Corker Ad

As I noted here on Wednesday, when Foreign Affairs minister Peter Mackay was confronted with the insulting Republican National Committee's ad that was running in Tennessee, he chose to do absolutely nothing about it and instead blustered about improved relations between Canada and the US since the Tories have taken office. MacKay's do-nothing stance on the ad was trumped by Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to Washington, who has now filed a formal complaint.

That ad has now been pulled, not because of Wilson's complaint on behalf of the Conservatives - which was too little too late - but because it simply ran its course and it has now been replaced by another disgusting ad (par for the course for the GOP). At least this one doesn't mention Canada.

There's enough ignorance in the US about Canada (Google 'Talking to Americans") and we sure don't need to be seeing RNC ads adding to that fact. Someone should send RNC chair (and shameless weasle) Ken Mehlman the pictures of all of our soldiers who have died in Afghanistan so he and whichever 527 group that produced that ad can wake up and smell their allies' contributions. While they're at it, they should send copies to our so-called Foreign Affairs minister MacKay, who places cozying up to the Bush administration above Canada's interests.

Write Your Own Caption

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

See, this is how you make the alligator when you're doing shadow puppets...heh heh heh.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

MacKay Refuses to Denounce Republican Ad That Slams Our Troops

The Republican National Committee has produced a sleazy ad for its Tennessee candidate Bob Corker (that even he refused to endorse) which has been the cause of a tremendous amount of controversy in recent days, with allegations of racism on the RNC's part being the major focus. The ad also, however, slams Canada's military:

"Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy."

Right, it's not like we don't have Canadians fucking dying in Afghanistan or anything.

Asked if he would denounce this ad to the Americans and call for it to be pulled during Question Period on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs minister Peter MacKay had this to say:

Mr Speaker, I would suggest that the country has been greatly benefited by improved relations with the United States as well as other countries when it came to important and contentious trade [unintelligible] and other issues and I would ask the honourable member to perhaps cast his mind back to some of the attack ads that were run during the last election campaign by his party directed at people here in his own country before making these dispersions.

Shorter MacKay: I'm a proud Republican sockpuppet.

If he can't even stand up for Canada, what the hell is he doing as our Foreign Affairs minister? With this and the Stronach scandal, do we need any more proof that he should resign?

Rona Ambrose Caught Misrepresenting Lung Association Stance

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is so incredibly desparate to find anyone who might support her do-nothing Clean Air act that she's been caught cherry-picking sentences from the Canadian Lung Association's recent press release, using only quotes from the release that praise the act.

During Question Period on Wendnesday, John Godfrey (L-Don Valley West) claimed that Ambrose mispresented the real position of the Lung Association and asked for an apology, to which Ambrose responded:

Mr Speaker, I appreciate that the honourable member likes to pull things out of the Lung Association's press release but they did say in fact that they are in favour of the Clean Air Act to regulate indoor air because it's one of the largest health risks associated with lung cancer for non-smokers. They are concerned about some of the health impacts of climate change and we're working with them and many other organizations to address those issues.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

The Lung Association's press release is far from being a glowing endorsement of Ambrose's act. And, to add insult to injury, when Ambrose was asked to table the document (ie the entire press release) from which she drew her happy quotes, she continually said she would table her notes in a pathetic attempt to hide all of what the press release actually says. Can she be any more obvious in her attempt to smear the truth?

MacKay Denies Stronach Comment; Speaker Will Investigate

During Question Period on Wednesday, when Liberal MP Ralph Goodale confronted Foreign Affairs minister Peter MacKay about the degrading comment he made about MP Belinda Stronach last week (which you can clearly hear here), MacKay staunchly denied he ever said any such thing:

Goodale: Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker the Foreign minister is well aware of the offensive remark that has placed him in difficulty for the past six days. Last Thrusday, in reference to a comment about a dog, he pointed to the seat of another honourable member and said 'You already have her'. This being the minister's first opportunity to do so, will he simply withdraw that remark and offer this House an apology?

MacKay: Mr Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. Obviously I was travelling abroad with other members of this House of Commons on international obligations. I made no such gesture. I made no derogatory or discriminatory remark towards any member of this House Mr Speaker.

Goodale: Mr Speaker, that the offending remark was made is undeniable and it cannot be claimed that just because Hansard didn't catch it, it never happened. Members of this House witnessed it, audio tapes recorded it, the news media have repeatedly confirmed it. Every significant women's organization in this country have [sic] condemned it. The minister might want to look at an editorial in today's Montreal Gazette to assess the damage that he is doing. Would it not be wise to stop the denials, acknowledge this mistake, and avoid doing more harm to himself and this government?

The government House leader, Rob Nicholson, then rose to spout off the same old tired excuse that MPs should accept the Speaker's ruling of last week, which was met by many heckles and shouts and that was the last anyone heard from MacKay on the issue today during Question Period.

Following Question Period however, Goodale rose on a question of privilige, requesting that Speaker Milliken revisit what happened - offering signed affidavits of MPs who were present at the time along with the audio clip. He asked that it at least be referred to the House Proceedure committee. Not to get too technical as far as rules of order go, Milliken said he is prepared to review the matter since it came up this time as a matter of privilege (last week Stronach and another MP had raised a point of order, asking for an apology to which the Speaker responded that it should have been raised as a matter of privilige). Goodale argued that the incident affects the privilige of the minister and the members of the House to be believed and to maintain the integrity of their reputations as long as this issue remains unresolved. Therefore, it is in order for the Speaker to at least consider the matter again.

The opposition parties continue to call for an apology with the Liberals posting this statement from the president of the Ontario Liberal Women’s Commission, Michelle Simson, about a shameful editorial in the National Post this past week that added fuel to the fire:

Ms. Simson said that just as shocking as Mr. MacKay’s statement is the absurd defence of it by one of Canada’s leading national newspapers. In an editorial "Belinda & Puppygate" (October 21, 2006), the National Post states that the dog is the one who deserves an apology from Mr. MacKay. It goes on to say that Ms. Stronach is actually below a dog, and implies that all women should be flattered at the comparison because dogs are "celebrated animals in our society."

"And to further add insult to injury, their argument using animated, cartoon canines as examples of how endearing MacKay’s comment should be taken was the height of degradation," said Ms. Simson. "Using the Post’s inane logic, women everywhere should find it most flattering to be referred to as cows, as the cow is revered in many countries around the world.

"This is not simply artistic freedom – this borders on the spreading of hatred against women," said Ms. Simson. "The Post also owes all Canadian women an apology."

No doubt. Especially when they print sexist crap like this:

In fact, as far as we can tell, if anyone deserves an apology, it is the dogs. They are often referred to as "man's best friend," a testament to their proverbial loyalty. This is a quality in which Ms. Stronach has been found wanting, at least as a politician. She could learn a lot from the doggy set, even if it's her ex-boyfriend who's briefly in the doghouse.

Is it any surprise that so many people in our society still don't understand what discrimination against women is all about when a piece like that is printed in a national newspaper as an acceptable editorial in reaction to MacKay's disgusting behaviour?

This isn't a joke boys. This is what happens when women are seen as second class citizens and it's gone on long enough. I don't know if that is the editorial Goddale was referring to, but it is certainly an example of how viewing women as 'dogs' affects the psyche of those who would choose to abuse us.

This ain't over til it's over, no matter how much the Conservatives want to run away from what their Foreign Affairs minister said.

Spinning the Limbaugh v Fox Story

The story isn't that 'Michael J. Fox appears in ads touting Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate', as that National Post headline reads. It's that Rush Limbaugh attacked him for appearing in those ads. But the Post couldn't bring itself to write more than three lines at the end of its article exposing Limbaugh's cruelty to Fox.

Meanwhile, in another example of conservative spinning for Limbaugh's sake, Kathryn Lopez of The National Review writes:

Rush said what doctors and other experts were saying off the record on Monday when the news of the Michael J. Fox ads were fresh to the election buzzlines: That it looked like he must have laid off his medication to make sure viewers would have a worse-day kinda look at life with Parkinson’s. As Limbaugh has pointed out, Fox admitted he does such things (like when testifying before a congressional committee) in his memoir. I knew this because I watched the E True Hollywood Story on Fox (true story, alas).

Well, if Limbaugh, some off the record doctors and E True Hollywood Story say it, it must be true!

She then adds:

To make the point Rush made was not mean or heartless.

Who is she trying to kid? Rush makes millions off of being 'mean' and 'heartless'. That's who he is. It's what he does. And even when he offered a so-called apology, he just couldn't help taking one more swipe at Fox:

"Now people are telling me they have seen Michael J. Fox in interviews and he does appear the same way in the interviews as he does in this commercial," Limbaugh said later in his show Monday, according to a transcript posted on his Website.

"All right then, I stand corrected…so I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act."

"Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process, is shilling for a Democratic politician," he said.

'bigly, hugely' my ass.

The only thing big and huge about Limbaugh is his enormous ego which, even when he gets caught being such a despicable human being, can't even allow him to offer an honest apology to a suffering man who has every right to appear in any forum he chooses to push for a cure for his illness that so sadly affects millions of others.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One Canadian's Letter to General Rick Hillier

BC resident Neil Kitson, 'Appalled Citizen', has more than a few words for Canada's Chief of Defence staff about what's going on in Afghanistan.

Praying For an Edit

The same sex marriage issue is up for debate once again thanks to Harper who promised a free vote on it if he became Prime Minister. This, of course, means the appearance of busloads of religious people showing up on Parliament Hill saying prayers like this one in front of the cameras:

If you can part the Red Sea and deliver a million people and close it Lord, Lord you can change that bill.

Just in case you weren't paying attention, Mr Prayer Guy, that bill proposed by the Conservatives that you want God to change would actually restore the definition of marriage back to the traditional way - between a man and a woman. So what if God really does answer your prayer?

Like they say, be careful what you pray for...

Video: 'Iraq:The Real Story'

E&P's Greg Mitchell offers his thoughts and a recap (see his article if you're unable to watch the video) about this 8 minute piece:

It’s the most revealing little (eight-minute) video I’ve seen yet on our country’s preposterous position in Iraq.

Aptly, it is titled, "Iraq: The Real Story." It won’t turn your stomach, in fact, you may even chuckle in spots (like you might have done in reading much of “Catch-22”). But, hopefully, you will end up screaming at the computer screen.

That’s partly because it arrives at such a critical moment, with the death counts for both Americans and Iraqis soaring, and the debate over what to do about this catastrophe reaching a fever pitch, even before the election of a new Congress.

I didn't 'end up screaming' but I certainly shook my head at the absolute futility of the situation and the glaring examples it gave of how not to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. 'Preposterous' is right.

51% of Americans Want Bush Impeached

When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday, asked about the possibility of impeaching Bush if the Democrats took control, she responded that she thought it would be 'a waste of time' (video). Yet, a new Newsweek poll shows that 51% of Americans surveyed believe Bush should be impeached.

If the Democrats win, Rep John Conyers is in line to head the Judiciary committee and he has been compiling evidence against Bush for a very long time with the aim of impeaching this president. If Bush has indeed committed impeachable offenses, it is the congress' duty to initiate proceedings against him, whether Pelosi personally endorses it or not and now she is also placing herself squarely against what the majority of Americans believe is necessary to deal with the many wrongs this president has perpetrated in their names.

Olbermann's Special Comment : Advertizing Terrorism


You can read the transcript here.

The dictionary definition of the word “terrorize” is simple and not open to misinterpretation:

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.”

Note please, that the words “violence” and “death” are missing from that definition.

The key to terror, the key to terrorism, is not the act—but the fear of the act.

That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotaped statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them?

Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; The Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home.

Only the Republicans have a bigger bank roll.

You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee!

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.”

By this definition, the people who put these videos together—first the terrorists and then the administration—whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking—they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaida.

But the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

Oh, how the right-wingers are going to go nuts over that...

Good. Let them try and defend their president and their party's actions - or lack thereof. They have absolutely nothing left to offer anyone except those who choose to live in fear and desparation while hoping that the most incompetent president ever will actually save them.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Okay Canucks! Who's Mailing Hand Grenades?

And now, something from the Department of Eh?...

Stop mailing fake grenades, Canadians told

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Tired of having its offices evacuated due to false alarms, Canada's postal system said on Monday it will no longer transport replica and inert military explosives.

Canada Post said that fake and inoperative grenades and artillery shells have caused "numerous" evacuations of post offices in recent years, which have disrupted the flow of mail and scared employees.

"Continued exposure to these replica or inert munitions poses a real danger and desensitizes Canada Post and Canada Border Services Agency employees to instances where there may be a genuine explosive device," it said in a statement.

The statement did not say how many inert grenades and shells the post office has been handling.

Everybody knows how hard it is to make stamps stick to grenades anyway.

And the coup de grace of this news story?

Canada Post already prohibits the mailing of live grenades and other explosives, according to its Web site.


I'd better make a note of it.

Bush Quote of the Day

"I would hope that the OPEC nations understand that high prices of oil could wreck economies and if they wreck economies it means the purchasers will be fewer," Bush said in an interview with CNBC television.

The man is brilliant. Absolutely flipping brilliant. No doubt about that.

'Active-Duty Troops Launch Campaign to Press Congress to End U.S. Occupation of Iraq'

This is serious. And unprecedented.

For the first time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, active- duty members of the military are asking Members of Congress to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and bring American soldiers home.

Sixty-five active-duty members have sent Appeals for Redress to Members of Congress. Three of these people (including two who served in Iraq) and their attorney will speak about this on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 11 a.m. EDT.

Under the Military Whistle-Blower Protection Act (DOD directive 7050.6), active-duty military, National Guard and Reservists can file and send a protected communication to a Member of Congress regarding any subject without reprisal.

What: Three active-duty members of the military and their lawyer, a retired U.S. Marine Corps JAG, make comments and take questions from the media.

When: Wednesday, Oct. 25, 11 a.m. EDT


The Republican-controlled congress is sinking like a concrete block and this move by these members of the military will have GOP congresspeople with their backs up against the wall this close to the election. They'll be stuck between Iraq and a very hard place if they choose to ignore those military voices who represent those who are killed and wounded on a daily basis and stick with their unflinching president who refuses to listen to any criticism. Will they choose to support the troops, as they claim to, or will they prove that their only loyalty is to Bush - troops be damned?

On a broader note, I have to say that I'm quite surprised by the inability of the Republican election machine to actually move their agenda this time around. Rove seems AWOL and the GOP has had to play continual defence throughout this fall campaign. It seems the only hope the Republicans have of staying in power is through the use of those Diebold voting machines that have once again proven to be easy to hack into to change the results. Paper. Pens. Mark an X. What is so wrong what that simple system?

The American people have spoken continuously via polls that show that two-thirds of them are against the Iraq war. Will they take that sentiment to the ballot box with them or will they simply place their party loyalty (to the GOP) above the lives of their countrymen fighting in that war - again?

Duceppe Plans to Force an Election

It looks like it's time to pull out those old 'My Canada Includes Quebec' bumperstickers. BQ leader Gilles Duceppe has set a goal of realizing Quebec sovereignty by 2015.

He also said on Sunday that he wants to force an early federal election over Harper's flip-flopping on the fiscal imbalance issue. The fact that Danny Williams, Conservative premier of Nfld/Labrador, is also dissatisfied with Harper's approach is quite telling as well and shows that this issue goes well beyond Quebecois frustration.

Meanwhile, Duceppe said he is prepared to force an election early next year if Harper's government fails to deliver on its promise to correct the so-called fiscal imbalance in the next federal budget.

The sovereigntist leader wants Ottawa to provide at least $3.9 billion to Quebec this year to make up for what he says are funding shortfalls.

"I think the Bloc Quebecois is getting ready for a spring election no matter what. They don't expect the Harper government to meet the commitment or the demands laid out in a report about four, five years ago to settle the whole question of the so-called fiscal imbalance. That report called for $3.9 billion to Quebec in the next budget. Harper is not expected to meet that commitment," The Globe and Mail's Rheal Seguin told CTV's Canada AM.

"If that's the case, the Bloc over the weekend was getting ready for that election -- preparing, raising money, setting out its fundraising campaign as well as setting the stage for an election. They say they'll be ready for it as early as December."

Duceppe's threat came as a new poll suggested that support for the Conservatives in Quebec is quickly deteriorating.

A Decima survey released to The Canadian Press over the weekend reported that support for the Bloc was at 45 per cent of Quebec voters -- slightly higher than on election day.

We'll see how the other oppositions react to that prospect. The Liberals, of course, will have very little time to properly organize under their new leader who will (finally) be chosen in early December. Minority governments only last an average of 18 months and I had predicted that we might see an election as early as next summer considering that fact but it the Liberals may decide that that timetable isn't quite optimum. It might be more feasible from their perspective to wait until fall 2007.

As for the Quebec sovereignty issue, I still remember holding my breath the nite of the last referendum. My family is originally from Quebec (I was born out west) and that's where all of my long lost relatives, with roots back to 1634 in that province, still live so my Canada definitely does include Quebec. The talk of 2015 as a goal for separation whips up sentiments of wanting to hang onto la belle provence once again for dear life.

The challenges involved in dealing with the issues around the desire of so many to separate are not insurmountable, but they will not be met sufficiently by this Conservative government.

Bartlett Denies 'Stay the Course' Strategy Exists

"It's never been a stay the course strategy,"
- WH mouthpiece Dan Bartlett in a TV interview today

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, April is turning into the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people are comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half Americans now support it. What does that say to you and how do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy. Look, this is hard work. It's hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And, yet, we must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation's interest.
And my message today to those in Iraq is: We'll stay the course; we'll complete the job. My message to our troops is: We will stay the course and complete the job and you'll have what you need.

- Bush, April 2004

And, of course, that's only one of the zillion times that Bush has pushed his 'stay the course' strategery.

Can we come to any other conclusion but that the members of this administration are so obviously incapable of telling the truth that they lie as easily as they breath? Absolutely unbelievable.

Blair Sets an Iraq Timetable

Yes, there it is. The dirty word. The "t" word - "timetable". And Tony Blair's government is finally caving to massive public pressure to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Tony Blair will put pressure on the Iraqi government today to demonstrate that its security forces will be ready to take over from the British army in southern provinces within roughly a year.

Amid mounting international concern over escalating violence, Mr Blair is expected to use today's Downing Street talks with Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, to discuss plans for an exit strategy for British troops, with some ministers openly contemplating withdrawal inside a year.

In an attempt to demonstrate that the British army will not be bogged down in Iraq indefinitely, the defence secretary, Des Browne, said yesterday he expected that Iraq's security forces would have the capacity within a year to take over from British forces, a point also pushed home by the Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells. Mr Howells said: "I would have thought that certainly in a year or so there will be adequately trained Iraqi soldiers and security forces - policemen and women and so on - in order to do the job."

Heads were heard exploding across the pond in Washington at the news that Bush's poodle could not hang in long enough to prop up Bush's 'stay the course' death march in Iraq until he [Blair] leaves office next year. This will, of course, provide even more fodder for the GOP's political opponents and even those in their ranks who are finally speaking out against such a disastrous policy, to expose Bush as being incapable of any flexibility and in complete defiance of the reasoning of its closest ally to this point, Britain.

Expect the spin on Monday by Bush's press secretary Tony Snow to be along the lines of "but, we're constantly changing tactics" in a lame attempt to excuse an administration and party that has absolutely no exit strategy while pressuring al Maliki to fix everything for them which, at this time, seems to be a political impossibility without any fresh thinking added to the situation.

A story in Sunday's New York Times about the possibility of the Bush administration also considering a timetable with the same considerations as this revelation from the Brits was flatly denied by the White House, but that denial was not as cut and dried as it appears to be. There is no doubt that Bushco is placing tremendous pressure on al Maliki as well, but it is also more than likely that they have also set a timetable for him to make major changes in Iraq under the threat of US withdrawal.

If the situation in Iraq continues to get worse, which is inevitable, al Maliki will be made the fall guy while Bush and Blair wipe their hands of the entire experiment which has failed so miserably under their watch and that will set them both up for their arrogant stance of so-called plausible deniability of any responsibility for the horrors they created.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Monty Python & The Holy Grail - French Castle Scene

Some Sunday nite entertainment from one of my favourite movies...

Israel Admits Using Phosporus Bombs

During the Israel/Lebanon war, disturbing reports of burn injuries described by Lebanese doctors who were familiar with the scent and effects of white phosporus were seen on CNN and their suspicions were widely reported in the media. The Israeli government at the time, however, denied those claims. Perhaps in the face of the obvious physical evidence it has now admitted, albeit with some cautious caveats, that its military did in fact use phosporus bombs in Lebanon:

Cabinet minister Jacob Edery confirmed the bombs were dropped "against military targets in open ground".

Israel had previously said the weapons were used only to mark targets.

Phosphorus weapons cause chemical burns and the Red Cross and human rights groups say they should be treated as chemical weapons.

The Geneva Conventions ban the use of white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas.

By couching the admission in the cloak of language such as 'open ground', the Israeli government is being quite careful to ward off any accusations that it used phosporus against civilians, but the obvious injuries suffered by those civilians, including children, who appeared in Lebanese hospitals with the telltale signs of phosporus burns defies the Israeli government's denials.

Edery also pointed out that international law does not forbid the use of phosphorus and that "the IDF used this type of munitions according to the rules of international law."

Edery did not specify where and against what types of targets phosphorus munitions were used.
The International Red Cross is of the opinion that there should be a complete ban on phosphorus being used against human beings and the third protocol of the Geneva Convention on Conventional Weapons restricts the use of "incendiary weapons," with phosphorus considered to be one such weapon.

Israel and the United States are not signatories to the Third Protocol.

With all of the hugely destructive convential weapons available to the so-called 'great' military forces of Israel and the US, one has to wonder why they would continue to use a substance like white phosphorus that is so obviously devastating to civilian populations. Even if the IDF did not intend to hit the civilian population with those bombs, its decision to employ them ought to be highly troubling in and of itself just as the use of cluster bombs by the IDF and Hezbollah have left such ugly woundings, death and danger in their wake as they still litter the region, just waiting for a curious child's touch to set the next one off.

War is horrendous enough as it is without these types of munitions being employed by what are supposed to be 'civilized' countries that supposedly respect the rules of international and humanitarian law.

Sunday Food for Thought

America is like a student who is proud of having somehow survived without serious work, and likes to imagine that if he really put any effort into it he could achieve everything, but is unwilling to endanger so lovely a dream by making an actual commitment to anything.

Author Philip Slater wrote those words in his 1970 book The Pursuit of Loneliness; American Culture at the Breaking Point. It's quite ironic (or perhaps it isn't at all) that now, 36 years later, the current American president is the perfect example of that attitude.

Why Ignatieff Should Not Lead the Liberals

"But thinking about lesser evils is unavoidable. Sticking too firmly to the rule of law simply allows terrorists too much leeway to exploit our freedoms. Abandoning the rule of law altogether betrays our most valued institutions. To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. These are evils because each strays from national and international law and because they kill people or deprive them of freedom without due process. They can be justified only because they prevent the greater evil. The question is not whether we should be trafficking in lesser evils but whether we can keep lesser evils under the control of free institutions. If we can't, any victories we gain in the war on terror will be Pyrrhic ones."
On all fronts, keeping a war on terror under democratic scrutiny is critical to its operational success. A lesser-evil approach permits preventive detention, where subject to judicial review; coercive interrogation, where subject to executive control; pre-emptive strikes and assassination, where these serve publicly defensible strategic goals. But everything has to be subject to critical review by a free people: free debate, public discussion, Congressional review, in camera if need be, judicial review as a last resort.

Those are the words and beliefs of Michael Ignatieff as expressed in the New York Times Magazine, 2004. Reading that makes my blood boil and conjures up a fury, most especially because Ignatieff wrote those words as if he was an American using references to 'our' system, 'our' government, even though he was never an American citizen - just a Canadian professor teaching at Harvard. And that, particularly, infuriates me when I see too many Canadians supporting this man as the next possible leader of the Liberal party.

The doctrines of preventive detention, coercive interrogation, pre-emptive strikes and targeted assassinations are not liberal or Liberal values. Yet, too many Ignatieff supporters looking perhaps for an intellectual revival in the model of Pierre Trudeau have made the grave mistake of comparing this man, this faux liberal, to a former Prime Minister who truly was a great reformer, a man who gave life to a party that needed renewal, a man with a mix of powerful charisma and a sense of justice who, even beyond party lines, was extremely well-respected.

Ignatieff is not the second-coming and the type of so-called liberalism he espouses will only serve to make today's Liberal party the lesser of two conservative evils - the Harper neo-Conservatives would be counter-balanced by a center right Liberal party led by Ignatieff that would, once again, leave the NDP as the only authentic liberal party left in Canada. But, perhaps that is where today's Liberal party members, of which I am not one, feel most comfortable: stuck in the middle and willing to give up civil rights and justice as a compromise to seizing power once again. Those Liberals had better become quite familiar with the Ignatieff doctrine on how to win the so-called war on terror if they are to understand how this man led them away from their core liberal values at a time in the future when he is at the helm. They can't say they weren't warned.

During Saturday's debate, Ignatieff supproters booed and shouted down Bob Rae and Stephane Dion when they alluded to Ignatieff's past writings. So much for the principle of free speech.

Referring to a May 2004 New York Times article, Rae called on Ignatieff to explain how he can reconcile his support for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with his past writings.

"He said to combat evil you have to sometimes accept to do evil," Rae said to a loud chorus of boos and shouts of "NDP" from Ignatieff supporters. "Indefinite detention of suspects, coercive questioning, targeted assassinations and even preventative war. To me that has nothing to do with the Canadian Charter of Rights."

Ignatieff, however, denied he had ever supported torture or rendition, the practice of shipping prisoners to countries where they are likely to be tortured.

"Listen well to me my friend," he shot back. "My mother, whom you knew, was engaged to marry a man who was killed under torture in Buchenwald. So you can be very sure that as prime minister, as leader of the party, I am against torture. I am against all those measures. I am in favour of the absolute defence of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am against the rendition of Canadian citizens to other countries where they are tortured."

His actual position on torture is not that clear, as evidenced by his support of coercive interrogations and what he wrote in this article 'If Torture Works' in Prospect magazine, April 2006 where Ignatieff actually contradicts himself about the issue of coercive interrogation:

It is often said—and I argued so myself—that neither coercive interrogation nor torture is necessary, since entirely lawful interrogation can secure just as effective results.

He then goes on to defend torture because, according to Ignatieff, it apparently works:

But we are grasping at straws if we think this is the entire truth. As Posner and others have tartly pointed out, if torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be "waterboarding" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning—if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had "given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks." We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.

If they are right, then those who support an absolute ban on torture had better be honest enough to admit that moral prohibition comes at a price. It is possible, at least in theory, that subjecting interrogators to rules that outlaw torture and coercive interrogation, backed up by punishment if they go too far, will create an interrogation regime that allows some interrogation subjects to resist divulging information and prevents our intelligence services from timely access to information that may save lives.

These are the words of a man who believes torture works and whose only defence against it is this:

We cannot torture, in other words, because of who we are. This is the best I can do...

Frankly, if that's the best he can do, he doesn't deserve to lead the Liberal party and all of his boasting about the fact that he believes in human rights is based on very shaky ground indeed.

There is a danger that intellectuals face: the fact that they can intellectualize practically anything based on logic (at times subtley faulty yet still believable to an extent). What can be missing from such a mental experiment however is the emotional and spiritual depth of the human experience that produces a distance between the discussion of subjects like torture and the realities of the results of torture and so-called "coercive interrogation" methods themselves on the actual people who have endured them. It is of no benefit to bow to a thinker who is unable to make the connection to his own humanity.

Ignatieff uses his intellectualism to try to convince people that he really does believe in a ban on torture, while lamenting the loss of possible valuable information that he asserts can be gained from it. That is his stance. And he chooses to believe that it works in the face of massive evidence to the contrary while parroting Bushco statements that the torture of Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed actually produced useful results - a claim that has never been verified. One would think an intellectual, who prides himself in working for human rights, would at the very least question such a statement. But he can't because he really does believe torture can be useful. That, as far as I'm concerned, is a major flaw that cannot be overlooked, waved away or shouted down and booed by those who support Ignatieff's bid for the leadership. Nor should it be.

He is responsible for what he has written and what he believes and this man who wants to lead our country in the future must be answerable to all of us, much to the chagrin of those supporters of his at the debate on Saturday who would rather stifle debate than let it thrive in the open - where it rightly belongs.

We cannot allow our country to devolve into the political situation we now see in the United States: a far-right party (the Republicans) opposed by a lesser right party (the Democrats). Canada needs a balance between true liberals and true conservatives who are then able to meet somewhere in the middle in which they can compromise on decisions that work for all of us because that is the kind of democratic model that ensures that majority and minority rights are protected. That is a real reflection of our national character and we must be vigilant if we are to maintain what we cherish and value.

And that is why electing someone like Michael Ignatieff, who endorses pre-emptive war, whose character is lacking on the subject of torture, who believes in a military solution for Israeli/Palestinian relations, who openly sanctions targeted assassinations and who would rather live with the 'lesser of two evils' than rise above such a weak surrender to human rights to grab onto a mantle of the greater good which can be achieved by peaceful and humanitarian means - that is why his election as Liberal party leader would be a major step backwards for this country that we love so much. Why would any liberal or Liberal give such a man the power to run our country based on those beliefs?