Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hell in Gaza

It wasn't enough that the Israeli government had blocked humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territories again - just the latest in a long string of collective punishments that the phrase "crimes against humanity" can barely be uttered about out loud lest they are met with accusations of anti-Semitism from those who continue to support this ruthless behaviour despite years of mounting evidence proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the US-enabled Israeli hawks have absolutely no interest in anything resembling "peace".

No. That wasn't enough.

And, because there are Israeli elections coming up in February, what better way for a hawk to strut his or her stuff than by supporting a massacre of Palestinians (200+ dead and 700 reportedly injured at the time of this writing)?

Any reasonable person would condemn both sides - Israel and Hamas - for continuing the cycle of violence however we learned quite clearly when the Israeli government attacked Lebanon in 2006 that it is prone to massively disproportionate responses to threats and that it has the willingness and ability to create human suffering on a grand scale in one fell swoop. And these players - Olmert, Barak, Livni et al, the architects of that failed war - appear to believe that they can get away with it all again. And why not? It's not like the Winograd Commission report had any impact on the type of arrogant thinking that decimated Lebanon and that now destroys Gaza and the lives of an already tremendously oppressed people who were systematically weakened by a lack of food and other life essentials.

Those who followed the Israel/Lebanon war will recall that that attack had been planned months in advance, contrary to claims by the Israeli government that it was just a spur of the moment response to the kidnapping of some of its soldiers. So, it should be no surprise that, as Ha'aretz reports today, the attacks on Gaza are not about retaliating against Hamas for its recent shelling of Israeli territory.

Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.

The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.

And, once again, we are seeing just exactly how a warmongering Israeli administration views those it has already cast aside as less than as it continues to violate international laws while it pushes the ME to the brink of untold disaster.


In Damascus, Syria, Hamas' top leader, Khaled Mashaal, called on Palestinians to rekindle their fight against Israel. "This is the time for a third Intifada," he said.


IN PICTURES / The Gaza Strip under attack
Obama 'monitoring' Gaza strikes: spokesman
UN Ambassador Shalev defends IDF Gaza op in letter to Ban, UNSC head

To be in Gaza is to be trapped

What Israel hopes to achieve with the present military offensive – beyond influencing the coming Israeli elections – is not clear. For if a long-anticipated ground operation, leading to a partial reoccupation on the ground, is to follow these air strikes – as it did in the war in Lebanon in 2006 – it will have to achieve what neither Hamas nor its rival Fatah can: unifying Palestinian society once more against a common enemy, as Gaza was once united against Israeli settlements inside its boundaries.

If that is not the intention, it is hard to see what Israel's actions are meant to achieve in a community that cherishes its martyrs; where violent death is intended to reinforce social cohesion and unity.

For in the end what has happened in the past few hours is simply an expression of what has been going on for days and months and years: the death and fear that Gaza's gunmen and rocket teams and bombers have inflicted upon Israel have been returned 10, 20, 30 times over once again. And nothing will change in the arithmetic of it.

Not in Gaza. But perhaps in a wider Arab world, becoming more uncomfortable by the day about what is happening inside Gaza, something is changing. And Israel has supplied a rallying point. Something tangible and brutal that gives the critics of its actions in Gaza – who say it has a policy of collective punishment backed by disproportionate and excessive force – something to focus on.

Something to be ranked with Deir Yassin. With the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Something, at last, that Israel's foes can say looks like an atrocity.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad, Merry Xmas & Joyeux Noel to those celebrating the holiday.

I'm a buddhist so it's all just xmas (or Shortbread Cookie Day) to me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meet 'Senator' Mike Duffy et al

Welcome to this week's episode of The Liberals Made Me Do It! with your host, Stephen Harper.

Never one to actually take personal responsibility for his train wreck of a prime ministership, once again poor Steve is forced to take action that goes against a campaign promise and, worse, a Conservative party principle* by seemingly begrudgingly appointing 18 senators to prove to the Liberals that their prior appointments of "cronies"** were "undemocratic" (and to punish the opposition for not supporting his legislation).

Pay no attention to the fact that Steve had parliament prorogued to avoid a non-confidence vote that would definitely have turfed him from office and that he's now biding his time by grabbing as much political power as he possibly can. He's a victim, after all.

(Yes, I know. The Conservatives' so-called logic escapes me too.)

Among those appointed to seats in the upper house were former broadcaster Pamela Wallin, Olympian Nancy Greene Raine and CTV personality Mike Duffy.

Others named include:

* Former N.L. MP Fabian Manning.
* N.S. lawyer Fred Dickson.
* Stephen Greene, former deputy chief of staff to N.S. Premier Rodney MacDonald.
* N.S. businessman Michael L. MacDonald.
* Long-time New Brunswick MLA and cabinet minister Percy Mockler.
* N.B. lawyer John D. Wallace.
* National chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Patrick Brazeau.
* Former Quebec MP and teacher Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis.
* Director of Via Rail Canada Leo Housakos.
* Former Quebec MNA Michel Rivard.
* Nicole Eaton, member of the prominent Eaton family.
* Ontario businessman Irving Gerstein.
* Co-founder of the Corean Canadian Coactive (C3) society Yonah Martin.
* B.C. cabinet minister Richard Neufeld.
* Former Yukon MLA Hector Daniel Lang.

* Apparently, Conservatives do have principles. On paper, anyway.

** During a CBC interview reacting to the appointments, the minister for Democratic Reform apologist spokespuppet for this latest bullying, Steven Fletcher used the word "cronies" to describe past Liberal senate appointees. Whoops. Take a moment to think about that, Steven. If those unelected, partisan, Liberal senators are "cronies", what do you call this new crop of unelected, partisan, Conservative senators?

A 21st century legislature cannot remain dominated by appointees who may sit for decades, without a democratic mandate and with the ability to thwart the elected government.
- Stephen Harper, 2006

He also proclaimed during that speech: "The will of the majority in Parliament always prevails."

That Steve! What a kidder.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

At least one right-winger likes me...

This is a surprise. Michael Taube of the National Post has included my little blog in his roundup of the Top 10 Canadian "left-leaning" blogs.

He comments:

4) liberal catnip ( The blogger known as “catnip” writes a fair amount of political commentary on Canada and the U.S. She obviously spends time crafting her left-leaning blog posts, and to her credit, they are often very interesting.

Aww. Thank you. And welcome NP readers.

Congrats to the rest of you "left-leaning", radical, librul commies as well!

I guess this means I should write something "very interesting" again soon. But first, I have shortbread cookies to make - so stay tuned.

Oh - and thanks to penlan for letting me know about this.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Fun: Counting Ballots in Minnesota

"You don't know that there's not someone named Lizard People. You don't. You and I don't."


"You know. I have to admit that I've had somebody in front of me in court whose last name is People, spelled like that"

"First name, Lizard?"


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Poor Person's Guide to Gift Giving

I wrote this post back in 2004 as a response to a woman who was quite depressed about being poor at Christmas time while having a young son whom she wanted to provide at least some gifts for. Having faced that situation as a poor single parent when I raised my daughter, I felt I ought to share some creative ideas with her and anyone else out there who might need some help, inspiration and practical solutions.

So, here it is, in slightly edited form.

Why 'Christmas'?

I grew up Catholic, so Christmas is the holiday I'm most familiar with this time of year. I gave up Christianity as a teen and I am now a convert to Buddhism. However, I'll share my perspective as a child, a mother, and a grandmother on the difficulties so many of us experience dealing with the capitalistic pressures this time of year because the celebration of Christmas is the driving force behind this annual December madness. My appeal is to all of you to help me make this Christmas special for those who could use a positive boost and great ideas about gifts for the kids in their lives.

Why is Christmas important to me?

My beautiful daughter was born December 3, 1977. On December 23, I developed a viral infection and an extremely high fever. I was delirious and was hospitalized. I had already given up Christianity by that time but I did still celebrate "Xmas" with my family. I missed my first Xmas with my daughter. It was heartbreaking. I vowed then, no matter what, that we would always spend Christmas day together and that it would never be about presents - it would be about family.

And that's the way it has been - most years. Sometimes, life and misunderstandings got in the way. At times like those, you can spend the time with the "family" you create or have around you.

Meet my father: the alcoholic dentist... or: why traditions are vital

What do you think about when you remember Christmas as a child? I can recall perhaps 3 presents. One was an orange teddy bear that I so badly wanted in 1967. I still have him. I can't tell you how incredibly happy I was to find him under that ugly ass, silver tin-foil, 60's trendy tree we had. I also remember Baby Magic - a doll that came with a magnet that made her arms move up and down. Beyond that, one of my brothers, Mike the Hippie, used to buy me Beatles' 45s so he could listen to them too. So much for the importance of presents.

What I recall in far more vivid detail are the traditions.

Christmas went like this:

* hang around with family Christmas eve drinking egg nog and eating treats
* go to Midnight mass
* come home and pig out on buffet food
* go to bed around 5 am
* get up later and open presents
* play with stuff
* eat turkey dinner

My mother, who tried to be Martha Stewart even before Martha Stewart was Martha Stewart, put out a fabulous spread for our buffet. We always had tourtiere (we're French Canadian), mincemeat tarts, shortbread cookies, little fancy finger sandwiches, chocolates, wine, french bread, various cold cuts, more cookies, deviled eggs and on and on.

My father, the alcoholic dentist who disappeared when I was 12, spent most of his money on booze. So, our family of 6 kids had to grow up knowing what thrifty meant. We never asked for much and we never got much as far as presents went, but we knew our traditions and that's what we looked forward to. Christmas celebrations were predictable and that's what we counted on. That schedule and all that went with it were important. All parents know the importance of consistency (some of us learned that the hard way), so I encourage all of you to define and celebrate your own traditions. That's what today's kids will remember as adults.

On to the presents...

(I'm long-winded. Sue me.) Okay, now it's time for gift ideas. I raised my daughter as a single parent from the time she was 2 months old. Dealing with poverty became a condition I knew well. And now, being ill and unable to work, in the same financial boat, I rely on lessons learned from my younger days.


If you're poor, the first step is to admit it. No, really. Many people tend to think they're not that poor. 'Those charities serve people who are a lot more poor than I am, even though I have no money', you may think. Well, stop thinking that way. Charities exist to help people like you and me. Put your ego in the drawer and make some phone calls. Even if it's a week before Christmas, it's not too late. Do it for your child and yourself. You deserve help and that's what they're there for. As they say, check your local listings. Call now. One of my most memorable Christmases was when my daughter and I were sponsored by a car dealership as part of the local adopt-a-family campaign. We were overwhelmed by their gifts, huge amounts of food, a tree, lights, and decorations. I cried for a long time and she was overwhelmed by the generosity.

Practical ideas requiring no money

Use what you already have.

* coupon book: I made one for my daughter when she was around 8 or 9. It included coupons for days off chores, pizza (when I could afford it later), lots of hugs and kisses, etc. She loved it. No computer back then. I did it by hand.
* photo collage: I made one for my granddaughter a few years back. Cut old photos in fun shapes. Paste on some special paper. Write the kid's name on it and maybe add some pic captions. Voila! Instant tribute.
* scrapbook: Same as a photo collage idea but in book form
* collage: My daughter does this as a hobby year round. Cut out interesting pics from magazines and make a collage. Easy and very creative.
* write a book: No, I'm not kidding. By hand or with the aid of a computer and printer, along with free clip art, write a little story book for your child.
* easy bath beads: If you have epsom salts, just mix them up with food colouring, put them in a container, and there you go.
* play dough: I always made this as a child. Plenty of recipes online.
* puppets: Make a puppet show. Use old cardboard for the theater. Spice it up with colour. Make puppets from old material. Put on a show.
* "why I love you" book: Write about the most important things about your child, things you've done together, places you've gone, favourite pets etc.
* travel diary: I made one of these for my granddaughter when she went on a road trip. Write in sections for things seen ie. animals, people etc. Leave room so they can paste in mementos. Throw in some riddles and jokes. You get the idea.
* knit, sew or crochet something There are tons of ideas online that are quick and easy. Use your scraps.
* give a book: Project Gutenberg has free, downloadable books. Print one out and fancy it up with your own title page. (Just don't sell it!)
* be artistic: Draw, paint, doodle a picture for your child.
* comic book/strip: Create a comic strip with your child as one of the characters.
* joke book: There are so many joke sites online. Why not use them?
* jewel something: Use old, broken jewellery to spice up something like a boring picture frame.
* build something: Got boxes? Build a big castle or house. Paint it up.
* easy art: Download and print a pic you like and frame it.
* paper mache: Make a mask or a dish. The possibilities are endless.
* tea party: Set up a tea party with your fancy dishes on Christmas day.
* wrapping paper: Use the cartoon section of your newspaper. Brown bags and old material and pillowcases can be stamped with a potato cut with a design dipped in paint or even rubbed with ink from a pen. Old wallpaper works well too.
* tree: Check with your local tree lot to see if they have branches they're discarding. Make your own tree.
* decorations: Make a popcorn chain like we did in the old days. Cut out pics from old Christmas cards or online clip art, add string and hang. Challenge your kids to make the decorations.
* miscellaneous: join an online group like Freecycle. Last year I gave away some old coins to a mother who was putting together a collection for her son and I also got my tree through my local group. It's a great resource all year round.

Well, that's a start. Most importantly, give yourself as a gift. Do something out of character on Christmas day: dance, sing, have a pillow fight, be silly, make a snowman, stand on your head, run around outside, go out and enjoy the lights and decorations in the neighbourhood (my daughter still enjoys being the bad Xmas lights police). Be happy! Fake it if you have to. Be a kid again. Your kid will love you for it.

One Last Thing...

Teach your child to give. Let them experience the true joy and humility that comes with giving something to others. One year, I packed up old clothes and my daughter surrendered some old toys which we took to the Women's Shelter. That meant something to her (and me, of course). There's always someone in the world who is in need. Do what you can when you're able to and you'll always feel much better about yourself and your situation.

Feel free to share your ideas in the comments. You never know who you may help as a result.

Have a great holiday season! It is possible.

Monday, December 15, 2008


"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
- WaPo

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rae Out; Ignatieff In

Well, this is all rather sordid, isn't it? Bob Rae, as he explained to the press today, apparently had an overnite epiphany (minus a visit from the archangel Michael [last initial "I"]) and has decided to drop out of the Liberal leadership race thus handing a coronation as interim leader to Ignatieff.

Ignatieff was lying low on Tuesday and not available for public comment, but was expected to speak after the Liberal caucus meets on Wednesday.

On his website, however, he did express gratitude for Rae's decision, writing, "His decision today reflects his commitment to the unity of our party and our purpose in these challenging times."

Followed by, "I'm king of the world!"


Seriously, good luck Liberals. You're going to need it.

I've expressed my (negative) opinions of Ignatieff here repeatedly so I won't get into all of the reasons that I think he would be a terrible leader for your party - which he will end up being permanently (such as that type of permanence is) if no one else throws their hat into the leadership race by the end of February. Start polishing that crown and have it ready for May, by which time the idea of a Liberal/NDP coalition will be ancient history.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dion out; Ignatieff in?

So, it looks like Stephane Dion will resign as Liberal leader today and that he's expected to be replaced by Ignatieff in a caucus vote on Wednesday. Dominic Leblanc will reportedly withdraw from the race this afternoon to support Ignatieff. That leaves Bob Rae flapping in the wind.

I was struck by the lack of analysis on right-wing radio this morning about a new poll suggesting that the idea of a coalition led by Ignatieff isn't much more "palatable" than one led by Dion. The conclusion drawn that it doesn't matter who leads the coalition.

It does to me.

I supported the coalition with Dion at the helm. I would not support it with Ignatieff, so those poll numbers may be somewhat inaccurate. I have absolutely no use for Ignatieff and I believe that choosing him as party leader will be a huge mistake for a number of reasons - not the least of which is his lack of leadership experience. (And don't even try to spring the Obama argument on me. At least he served in his state senate for a number of years.)

And Ignatieff's neocon-like, interventionist military beliefs which some claim he has since changed his stripes about (not buying that, sorry) show that he is not a man to be trusted. He plays intellectual gymnastics on the issue of torture - so much so that he contradicts himself as he attempts to contort what he really believes.

In the end, I'm not a Liberal party supporter anymore so I wouldn't give a flying fig who they chose as their leader except for the fact that we now have an empowered dictatorial bully in charge of our country and the only salvation for those of us who are tired of his antics is to ignite growing popularity for the coalition or to remake the Liberal party into something that is more palatable. I don't see the latter happening with Ignatieff in charge. He was rejected the last time around and for good reason.

I have to laugh looking back now while hearing John Manley called for the rapid ouster of Dion on the weekend, considering what he said during the last Liberal leadership convention while everybody was waiting for the results i.e. that it was "inhumane" and "cruel" to make poor Iggy wait. History repeats itself. I wonder what kind of government job Ignatieff has in mind for Manley. I guess we'll find out.


I see that while I was writing this post, Dion has made it official and will step down 'effective as soon as successor is duly chosen';.

On Sunday, Mr. Ignatieff launched a bulldozer charge at the leadership, campaigning for the party's parliamentary caucus to elect him immediately as an interim replacement for Mr. Dion.

Mr. Ignatieff's organizers said they had the support of at least 55 of the party's 77 MPs, including Mr. Dion's most vocal supporter, suburban Toronto MP Bryon Wilfert, and MP Maurizio Bevilacqua, who chaired the 2006 leadership campaign of Mr. Ignatieff's major opponent, Bob Rae.

In addition, Mr. LeBlanc flew to Toronto Sunday night to meet with Mr. Ignatieff.

The plan calls for Mr. Dion's resignation followed by a vote that would likely install Mr. Ignatieff at the helm as interim leader. At a second-stage process — almost certainly the leadership convention currently scheduled for May — the party either would confirm him as leader or turn to his only other declared opponent, Mr. Rae.

The party's caucus executive met Sunday night and agreed to recommend the two-stage selection process to the national party executive, which is to decide the issue on Tuesday.

Should the Ignatieff plan prevail, the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition could well be scuttled. Mr. Ignatieff was never an avid supporter of the coalition and had turned against it by Saturday, according to party insiders.

There's what our future now looks like - stuck in the opposition for the duration while Harper cooks up new and even more insulting policy changes for the new year. What fun.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Run away! Run away!

As expected, Steve has done what all bullies do when it's time to face the music - run in the other direction. And the Governor General has co-signed his cowardice by agreeing to allow him to shut down parliament.

Con Treasury Board Prez Vic Toews takes his toy and goes home.

Let's play Spot the Contradiction:

He [Harper] added that he hoped the other parties would work with him. "Canadians expect us to get on with this."

Yes, let's "get on with this" - at the end of January after the Cons have had a longer opportunity to demonize the opposition through its nasty media blitz while the recession further damages our economy. Yup. Darn good idea.

In response, Dion said the coalition will continue to hang together and that it would take a "monumental change" in Steve for it to vote for the upcoming budget. I'll say. "Monumental" as in an extreme political/personality makeover (a la get your head out of your neocon ass). That's not going to happen, no matter how many sweater vests he wears between now and then. Beware the spouse who brings home flowers after they beat you up the nite before.

You can bet that the Cons will now do everything they can to paint themselves as victims while visions of powerplums dance in their heads this xmas season.

Twas weeks before Christmas, when all through the House
Not an MP was stirring, thanks to one louse.

I'm already going through Question Period withdrawal. Damn you, Stephen Harper!

Cheesecake. I need cheesecake...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Steve's Lyin' Eyes

Quietly concerned, wispy-voiced, passive aggressive Steve left Little Angry Steve at home and showed up on teevee screens and radio airwaves this evening to lie again to the Canadian public.

"The opposition does not have the democratic right to impose a coalition," he insisted.


"Instead of an immediate budget...," he said, as if there was an "immediate budget" to be had from his gang of loafers who only relented under pressure of being ousted to bump up their budget date from February or March, 2009 to the end of January. That's "immediate"?



No mention of proroguing (or perogies or prerogatives - this week brought to you by the letter "P" as represented by Steve's puffy eyes). No mention of what he plans to do (because he's still in denial?). No mention of anything new (again).

In response, I draw my inspiration from the wisest of the wise (all hail Monty Python) and fling it in Harper's general direction:

"So, you think you could out-clever us French folk with your silly knees-bent running about advancing behavior?! I wave my private parts at your aunties, you cheesy lot of second hand electric donkey-bottom biters."

Oh - remember when I asked for new and more bizarre material from the Harperites yesterday?



Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it...

The political apocalypse has arrived, brought to you by the four horsemen: Dion, Layton, Duceppe and Jean (if she decides to grant the coalition's wish.)

Harper played chicken one too many times and now he's finally being forced off the road into the depths of hellish obscurity - where he belongs. In the meantime, pundits and various Canadians are shocked - shocked, I tell ya - that parliament has come to this while the Cons are encouraging hordes of angry supporters to man the barricades of the neocon fort.

"I think a lot of political science students are going into their university classes today asking their professors: To become prime minister of this country don’t you have to win an election?" Heritage Minister James Moore said in an interview Tuesday with CBC News.

Well no, James. That's the point. Ask your leader. He knows all about that.

Am I the only Canadian who feels some peace about this situation? I'm not a fan of Dion, Layton or Duceppe but I certainly support what they're doing. Conservatives so desperately want me to be extremely scared about what's to come. This is simply the fundamentalist version of the religion of politics - preach fear to keep people in line. Call out the sinners (like the CBC and Justin Trudeau) and use fire and brimstone to warn them that they'll all burn for this.

Albertans are talking about separating again. (That old Harper firewall letter might come in handy. Maybe Steve can become the first PM of the Republic of Alberta?) The rhetoric flying around is absolutely insane - wingnuttery at its finest. There are hints (very small admissions) that Cons know that Harper screwed himself and the party with his actions last week but that is quickly shoved aside by ridiculous fearmongering about how Canada is about to spontaneously combust. It's quite the theatre and I find it all very entertaining, to be frank.

"This is the worst abuse of the democratic process I have ever seen in this country. Ever." - Dave Rutherford, QR77 radio

Oh my!

I'm sorry, Dave, but I find that kind of ranting hilarious. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. As for democracy, those of us who voted anybody but Conservative chose people to democratically represent us in situations like this. I know. That's not your kind of democracy because only the party you vote for counts, but that's reality, baby.

The latest news today is that Steve is planning to address the country. A mea culpa? Not a chance. More bullying? You betcha. Queue slightly contrite but passively aggressive Steve as he tries to remake himself into Braveheart or some such figure.

One of the arguments in favour of keeping these clowns the past couple of days has been the fact that they've backed down on the funding and strike issues. Do Canadians really want a government ready to flip-flop at the drop of a hat like that? I thought they were supposed to be standing up for their principles - or whatever it is that they call their belief in their right to strip rights away from everybody else. Their supporters apparently don't have a problem with that. Not their problem, after all.

The only serious concern I have at this point is the potential for the upcoming public protests against the coalition to turn into civil disobedience gone wrong because of the level of rage I'm hearing expressed. And with the Con party planning to blitz the media, stirring that brewing pot of resentment, there's the possibility that things could get out of control.

Other than that, all I have to say to Conservatives is this: deal with it. Climb down off of that holier than thou pulpit, stop pretending that you're the only people who care about the future of Canada and eat the crow you deserve. And please come up with some new material. As entertaining as all of this is, showing reruns of your incompetence on a daily basis can only keep me laughing for so long. New and more bizarre stuff, people - I know you have it in you. Bring it on.