Friday, February 29, 2008

Your government is being run by Christian Dominionists

Yeah. Thanks for taking the shroud off the agenda. Christian dominionist, Charles McVety, is taking full credit for a change in the Income Tax Act which allows the federal government to censor anything McVety finds doesn't meet his Christian zombie brigade agenda.
A well-known evangelical crusader is claiming credit for the federal government's move to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive content.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

This slimy piece of work is exactly what the Harper government is all about. In January 2006, just before election day, I wrote this about Harper and the coalition of Christian right-wing freaks that had gathered around him.
Harper gathers support, either through candidates or directly, from groups which will expect their social issues to receive priority on any Conservative government order paper. Vote Marriage Canada, The Promise Keepers, Focus On The Family Canada, R.E.A.L. Women of Canada, Canada Family Action Coalition and Campaign Life Coalition are some of the groups which support the Harper campaign by either promoting their candidate or openly supporting the Conservative Party of Canada platform. All of these groups are homophobic, most are anti-abortion and most pursue an extreme right-wing christian agenda. While some claim to be non-partisan, that suggestion is quickly dispatched with one look at their election literature. Many of these groups are Canadian branches of larger US bodies led by proselytizing christian extremists.


As much as Harper preaches "less government" he only means it in terms of taxation and delivery of programs. When it comes to social governance, a Conservative government would be in your face, in your bedroom and likely listening to your phone calls.

At the time several readers responded suggesting I was overstating the situation and being deliberately hyperbolic.

So, tell me which part of that prediction isn't now coming true?

After Harper's narrow minority victory in 2006, McVety was one of the first people invited to the Prime Minister's office. In September 2006, Marci McDonald wrote the cover story for The Walrus providing a glimpse of how ingrained the Christian dominionists had become in the Harper government. She too, was largely dismissed as exaggerating the problem even though we now knew what McVety was all about.

During the last election, as head of a handful of pro-family lobbies including the Defend Marriage Coalition, McVety emerged as a power to be reckoned with. He bought up the rights to unclaimed Liberal websites such as and stacked a handful of Conservative nomination contests in favour of evangelical candidates adamantly opposed to same-sex matrimony, a campaign he has vowed to repeat. As Harper navigates the tricky waters of minority rule—keeping the lid on any eruptions of rhetorical fervour from the rambunctious theo-cons in his caucus—it is noteworthy that he has continued to cultivate a man regarded as the lightning rod of the Christian right. Last spring, those around the prime minister drafted McVety to help sell the government’s contentious child-care policy, and on budget day he was the personal guest of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in the Commons’ vip gallery.
This latest move is intended to shut down Canadian film and television productions which don't pass the "Disney" test of McVety's living room. But worse, far worse, is the absolute fact that a rabid Christian dominionist has penetrated government and is now writing policy.

If you think McVety wasn't behind Bill C-484, think again. It's right on the front page of McVety's Family Action Coalition website.

McVety clearly has a strategy: Get the thin edge of various Christian dominionist wedges into government policy and when the time is right, drive them in as deep as possible. McVety wants a Christian evangelist theocracy and Harper is more than happy to lead it for him. Anything for power.

And while McVety is proudly taking credit for his attack on Canadian freedoms via the Income Tax Act, there is this whiny little line off his group's website:

(NOTE: Due to CFAC's political actions to support family, religious freedom and democracy, Revenue Canada will not allow us to issue charitable tax receipts.)
Take note of the attempt to portray themselves as "persecuted". If Harper ever gets a majority, you can expect that McVety's groups, hardly beacons of freedom and democracy, will find a way to further amend the Income Tax Act to make themselves tax-exempt.

This isn't just dangerous. This is very dangerous. Bill C-10 should never have gotten out of committee. It is up to the opposition, the majority in Parliament and on parliamentary committees, to be aware that Harper is serving the Christian dominionist agenda. It's time they get off their asses and stop the creep towards a theocracy.

No more playing hooky from committee meetings, no more missing votes. Read every line of every piece of proposed legislation and do the required research. Do otherwise and we'll be in the same condition as the train-wreck that rests against our southern border.

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver

Shall we dance?

Gentlemen, take cover. It’s Leap Day (Sadie Hawkins Day in some traditions). That’s the one day in every four years that I get to stop sitting anxiously by the phone (in my customarily appealing and dependent feminine way), waiting for you to call, and I call you instead. Today, you’re the ones dancing backwards, although we won’t make you wear high heels (unless you really want to). Whee.

Lessee. What should I invite you to do? Dance with me? Whisk me off to a Moroccan beach? Peel me a grape? Wash the kitchen floor? Muck out the cat boxes? Oh, all of those, and then one more thing.

Recognize the full humanity of women, which means accepting that women are perfectly capable of making reasonable decisions about their bodies and their lives without state (or imperial) paternalism, and that given the freedom to do so, they have overwhelmingly made the wisest choices, which are definitely not always the same choices – they are the choices of the women on the spot. The liberation and empowerment of women has historically always meant a leap in social health. Support it however you can. (Rule 1 of support: listen and follow; don’t lead.)

In Canada this week and next, a dishonest attempt to separate women from their pregnancies and to establish and privilege the personhood of the fetus over the full humanity of the mother is underway. You can read about it here and here. You can sign the petition against it here. You can write to Stéphane Dion to ask him to whip his caucus from a handy form here. And you can talk or write to your MP.

And then we’ll boogie, as soon as pogge gets his blues blogging up tonight. We love you guys very much, in spite of everything, under the circumstances, all things considered, and weather permitting.

Thanks to fern hill at Bread and Roses for the alert.

Great line of the day

Dana at Galloping Beaver writes about Harper's law and order obsession:
There are some who understand just how much the Harperites intend to legislate changes in the culture of the country.
Unfortunately none of them are sitting on the opposition benches.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Holy Crap

The Globe reports:
The widow of former B.C. MP Chuck Cadman says two Conservative Party officials offered her husband a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in May of 2005.

The offer, which was summarily rejected by the dying man, is outlined in a biography of Mr. Cadman by Vancouver journalist Tom Zytaruk that is to be released on March 14. A copy of the manuscript, including an introduction by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, has been obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is quoted in the book, Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, as confirming that a visit took place, and that officials were "legitimately" representing the Conservative Party. But he says any offer to Mr. Cadman was only to defray any losses he might suffer due to an election....

Dona Cadman, who is now running for the Conservatives [Why??? - CS] in the Vancouver-area riding of Surrey North, was not in the office at the time. But she says her husband was furious when he returned to their apartment. "Chuck was really insulted," she said in a telephone interview with The Globe Wednesday. "He was quite mad about it, thinking they could bribe him with that."

Mr. Cadman died less than two months after the vote.

Ms. Cadman, who has read and approved the manuscript for the book, said she has "no idea" where the money for the life insurance was supposed to come from. "They had the form there. Chuck just had to sign."

Ms. Cadman also said her husband never told her the names of the two officials. "He did know them but he said, no, he wouldn't say who they were. I imagine they were up there somewhere along the line."
I honestly don't know where to begin.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Shorter Brian Mulroney:
I'll do absolutely anything to clear my name...except tell anyone what actually happened.

The Mitt only "suspended" his campaign...

Right. Mitt Romney didn't really quit the campaign for the GOP nomination for president. He only suspended it... kinda sorta.

Oh, where does one begin? Let's do McCain.

It seems McCain has run afoul of campaign finance legislation. When his campaign was on the ropes during the summer of 2007, he opted into a publicly-funded financing system. Once he had developed enough traction and there were enough campaign donations coming in, he wanted out. The primary reason for that is that it limits the cost of his campaign to $60 million and imposes strict fund-raising limitations.

There's no problem with opting out... as long as the candidate didn't take any of the public money, or take a loan based on the guarantee of public money. But it appears McCain did take out a $4 million loan using the public-funding guarantee. Lindsay has details, here and here. The most delicious part of the whole thing is that McCain was one of the authors of campaign finance reform legislation and now finds himself unable to live with it.

He's spent about $46 million already. If the US Federal Election Commission nails McCain he will be running a relative pauper's campaign against privately-funded juggernauts and will not be able to spend money until September.

Not to mention the fact that McCain is now dealing with something of a scandal.

So back to Romney. As Jeff explains, McCain's nearest competitor, Mike Huckabee has a problem with the split personality of the Republican party and doesn't stand much of a chance taking the nomination away from McCain with his over 900 delegates. Ron Paul is deeply despised within his own party and the "also rans" are busy rotating on their thumbs.
... the only candidates still in the race challenging St. John are Mike Huckabee, whose refusal to state that taxes are a tool of Satan and refusal to state that women aren't tools of Satan makes him a less-than-attractive candidate; Ron Paul, who's so deeply unpopular among rank-and-file Republicans that he could well lose his seat in the House in next Tuesday's Texas primary; and Alan Keyes, who is Alan Keyes.
That leaves... Mitt! The ASPCA's dog delivery guru.
Josh Romney, one of former Gov. Mitt Romney's five sons, says it's "possible" his father may rejoin the race for the White House, as a vice presidential candidate or as the Republican Party's standard-bearer if the campaign of Sen. John McCain falters.
Josh, being none other than one of the five brothers Romney who rushed down to the recruiting office to find a new way to serve their country and "support the war"moped about trying to develop a new strategy for avoiding military service after their father pulled the plug on his campaign.

So, Romney now appears poised to pull the tarp off the Mittmobile, put his sons back into kevlar boxer shorts and wait for the Republican party to gore itself from the inside out.

Honest Mitt. We want you back. Political death-watch on your own party becomes you... and there's no telling how much laughter we would get from this guy.

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Texas Republicans have worked overtime to make it harder for key Democratic voting groups to vote and be represented fairly. The redistricting games they’ve played are infamous. And for the Prairie View A&M University precincts, they put the early-polling place more than seven miles from the school.

So what did the students in this video do? They shut down the highway as they marched seven miles to cast their votes on the first day of early voting.

Canadian recruitment offices swamped by volunteers

Mr Beast at Beastly Red gave me such a pure laugh this morning, an occurrence so rare lately that I just had to share: "Canada one step closer to North American domination."

Now, you probably read this story yesterday and felt on first reading, as I did, that familiar sense of despair at watching the corruption and collapse of democracy on this continent. The blustering control freaks who, inexplicably, still run the show, in spite of their impeccable record of failure on all fronts, have signed yet once again one of those cute little treaties (ok: administrative agreements) that never get passed in front of any body of the people’s elected representatives, not in the U.S. and not here. In Canada, they don’t even get announced to the people. The Americans at least allow one of their generals to blurt a bit in a press release, and so we learned, too late and through foreign sources (as usual), that
Canada and the U.S. have signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other's borders during an emergency, but some are questioning why the Harper government has kept silent on the deal.

Neither the Canadian government nor the Canadian Forces announced the new agreement, which was signed Feb. 14 in Texas.

The U.S. military's Northern Command, however, publicized the agreement with a statement outlining how its top officer, Gen. Gene Renuart, and Canadian Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, head of Canada Command, signed the plan, which allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.
Yes, I confess, for a moment there I had the ole DFH (CanDiv) knee-jerk reaction to that report. I mean, we’re just so used to thinking that it’s always going to work their way, that deep integration always means that they get richer and more powerful and we lower our standards and tug our forelocks (and there are reasons we think that). Not Mr Beast, though, and good for Mr Beast. He may have paid a little more attention than I did to the paranoia of far-right wingnuts in the U.S., who are seriously scared of us:
"Co-operative militaries on Home Soil!" notes one website. "The next time your town has a 'national emergency,' don't be surprised if Canadian soldiers respond. And remember - Canadian military aren't bound by posse comitatus."

Posse comitatus is a U.S. law that prohibits the use of federal troops from conducting law enforcement duties on domestic soil unless approved by Congress.
That’s us! Peeps: we’re not bound by posse comitatus! Maybe we’re not Blackwater, but we’re posse comitatus-free! Fear us. We come bearing ... single-payer universal health insurance? No wonder all right-thinking red-blooded Charlton Heston and Pat Boone clones are scared of this treaty (excuse me: administrative agreement). Canadian cooties – ew!

But back to Mr Beast (sorry: got a little carried away there), who was my inspiration. Mr Beast, clearly nourished by the milk of human kindness and the spirit of universal brotherhood, thinks of the task before us so much more positively and generously than had at first occurred to me:
If the US Government is in crisis it will be up to us to step in and help our fellow Americans to continue the west's fantastic way of life! We being the closest and arguably the best able to set things right (Remember 1812? We never forget), would without question jump to the defence of our southern brothers.
Of course we would. We will. Once Canadians grasp the true potential of this treaty (sorry: administrative agreement), everyone is gonna sign up. And they’ll love us. They don’t know that yet, but we know. They’ll love us. We’re nice guys. Everyone knows that.

Where do I sign? And when do we march?

Canada’s Condescending Government may deign to let us know sometime next week ... kind of, sort of, not so’s anyone would notice much:
it will be reported on in the Canadian Forces newspaper next week and that publication will be put on the Internet.
[NB: I don’t know WTH this means:
Scanlon said the actual agreement hasn't been released to the public as that requires approval from both nations. That decision has not yet been taken, he added.
But I think I can guarantee you it doesn’t mean full debate in Parliament.]

Never mind. On to Washington. We have a people to liberate. They’ll welcome us with open arms and flowers. They’ll love us. Trust me.

Cross-posted to POGGE.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The debate will drag on until it's over, General. It's not up to you.

Why is Rick Hillier commenting publicly on the parliamentary agenda?
Canada's top soldier urged Parliament to come to a quick decision on the country's role in Afghanistan, warning that lengthy debate may put soldiers increasingly at risk as the Taliban take advantage of the uncertainty. "We are, in the eyes of the Taliban, in a window of extreme vulnerability, and the longer we go without that clarity, with the issue in doubt, the more the Taliban will target us as a perceived weak link," Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier said Friday.
It's all very well and good to advise the political leaders of this country of that fact, in the confines of an office; it is another thing to be making public statements suggesting Parliament do anything at all. One is his job; the other is a step over the line.

Rick Hillier, Canadian citizen, has the right to an opinion like everyone else, however, he is a sworn servant of the Crown and when he speaks he does so from a privileged platform. As principle military advisor to the government, he is fully aware that when he stands and speaks, in full uniform, he attracts attention. For the Chief of Defence Staff to stand in public and make demands on Parliament is to suggest that the democracy he serves does not measure up to his personal standard.

Not everyone shares Hillier's opinion.

Some Canadians are not happy at all with the motion before Parliament and wish to see Canada's role in Afghanistan ended as soon as possible. They view, with some substantial support, the Afghanistan mission as a fiasco brought about by an inattentive and incompetent US presidential administration which has done more to exacerbate the problem in Afghanistan than they have to solve it. In short, they think it's a Bush administration problem in which our presence is aiding and abetting the ability of that administration to pursue other misguided and illegal adventures.

Others believe there should be no debate at all; that the government has the legal right to proceed without consulting Parliament and commit forces as they see fit. They might even have a valid conventional argument, even if it does demonstrate a turpitude which most would find unacceptable.

Still others believe that the question should be exhaustively debated. That Parliament examine this mission as closely as possible and consider the consequences of any decision taken. They do not want a quick decision; they want a considered decision.

Hillier's statement belies the fact that, until he has a new set of orders from the Canadian government, his subordinate general at Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command has a mission in Afghanistan that will expire in 2009. It is the government, not Parliament which has the authority to continue the mission. It is the government which has caused the delay in coming to a decision. It was an extended parliamentary break, ordered by the government and done purely for political reasons, which delayed addressing the question. It was the government which chose to engage in a political charade which produced a pre-ordained report.

Hillier, in choosing to suggest that Parliament is culpable in placing a haze over the Afghanistan mission, neatly avoided one particular issue. Even if Parliament carries the current government motion placed before it and the debate ends, there is still no decision.

Harper has stated that Canada will withdraw unless it receives a 1000 troop reinforcement from NATO and additional equipment is forthcoming. If the debate was settled tomorrow those caveats remain. Further, and Hillier knows this, those reinforcements need to come from a single country and have the same length of commitment as Canada in order to be effective. A cobbled together force from several countries will cause a gathering of national command elements which would reduce the actual number of available combat troops. The "1000" identified in the Manley report comes with no qualification: 1000 rifles is, as Hillier is aware, completely different from 1000 troops.

If any country does commit, the duration of that commitment is critical. Anything short of December 2011 means that Canada will be faced with the same problem sometime in the future.

Aside from the plethora of other reasons to question whether success in Afghanistan is even possible, Hillier, in pointing at Parliament, also failed to point out another weakness: NATO itself. ISAF is comprised of a fragmented array of forces with a range of instructions issued by their national governments. The nature of regional assignments by nation inside Afghanistan is the greatest military weakness, but it also reflects how much emphasis those nations put on the Afghanistan situation. Since their commitment seems to suggest they will maintain a presence down to the last Canadian soldier means it is up to us to critically examine the mission.

While Hillier makes noises about Parliament he conveniently did not mention that there are indications that the Canadian Forces are making new plans. Several separate intimations suggest that the CF is planning for an increase in Operational Mentor Liaison Teams (OMLT). About 150 Canadian Forces members are currently training the Afghan 1st Brigade, 205 Corps consisting of three small infantry battalions (kandaks). There are strong indications that Ottawa intends to increase this to two or possibly three OMLTs. So far, no one has said whether this is a change in focus or an increase in the number of people who will deploy in the future.

So, General Hillier can blame Parliament all he wants. Whether he likes it or not, that body answers to the Canadian public and we have the right to expect that questions before it will be debated properly and completely. As for the delays he seems to feel he has to whine about, he should more clearly define his target. The delays exist because the Harper government has been fumbling about trying to find itself. The delays exist because the Canadian public sees little more than a cloak of darkness cast over a costly mission and demands to know what the hell is going on.

That means the nature of the mission will be debated and defined by the elected representatives of the population and they should take whatever amount of time necessary to arrive at a reasonable compromise. General Hillier needs to be reminded that he serves the democracy; not the other way around.

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who

There's a new 'high-profile' report just been published by an unnamed and unelected group of 13 'academics and former diplomats' from 'both sides' who want Canada to turn the Arctic over to the United States.
Oops, sorry, not at all -- how could I be so paranoid?
They want Canada and the United States to "jointly manage Arctic waters".
Of course, us Canadians are just so paranoid. As Rob Huebert of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary describes it:
"The problem for the Canadian leader is: how do you actually start talking to the Americans without immediately having accusations that you're selling out on Canadian sovereignty?"
How indeed? Because, of course, that is exactly what you are doing, however glibly you might fling around phrases like "maximizing burden-sharing opportunities".
It sounds like the report features all the usual suspects:
The group has sent a list of nine recommendations to the two governments. They include a suggestion that the U.S. and Canada jointly develop rules on stopping ships in northern waters and on environmental, navigation and safety standards. They also call on the two countries to co-operate on immigration, search and rescue, and surveillance.
Immigration? Surveillance? How many people are crossing the North Pole illegally these days?
Oh, yeah. Them!

Cross-posted at CathiefromCanada.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The British spend the last of their army

Oh yeah. Kosovo. Everyone forgot about that little episode.
Britain's overstretched Armed Forces are to send as many as 1,000 troops to the Balkans in a move that will see the military's last remaining reserve unit deployed on operations. Britain's overstretched Armed Forces are to send as many as 1,000 troops to the Balkans in a move that will see the military's last remaining reserve unit deployed on operations. The deployment - part of Britain's commitment to the Nato-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) - takes place at a time of growing pressure on the military. It will mean that more than 14,000 British troops are on overseas operations, a figure last equalled at the end of the Iraq War in May 2003.
And with that, the British army and marines are spent. There is no regular reserve force available for any other contingency. If an emergency, requiring the British military to respond, occurs over the next few months something will break. Something will have to be dropped.
The Army is currently 3,800 men under strength, virtually every infantry battalion is undermanned and one in 14 serving soldiers is not fit for active service. In the next few weeks thousands of Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade will fly out to Helmand in southern Afghanistan for the start of a widely anticipated Taliban "spring offensive".
It's worse than that actually. Here I pointed out that the two Para battalions are understrength by about 100 men each. They are pulling 60 men (total) from the Territorial Army (part-time reservists) in an attempt to make up some of the manning deficit.

There's more, however, and it could be the thing that puts the British army into a flat spin.
Sources have also indicated that despite the troop shortages, the British Task Force in Helmand might need to be reinforced before the summer in order to hold on to the strategic town of Musa Qala, which was taken from the Taliban in December.
Who those reinforcements would be remains a question at this time. One thing is certain, if the British contingent in Helmand requires reinforcement and it has to come from the British military, it will be a unit which has just recently returned from deployment.

Then there are commitments which tend to fly under the radar and are leading to desperation moves.
The lack of available troops has also forced the MoD to call up two entire Territorial Army regiments to serve with the United Nations in Cyprus, to free troops for operations elsewhere.
Two entire TA regiments. Those are part-time reservists intended for home defence. Cyprus should cause a few Canadian ears to perk up. Canada had maintained an infantry battalion in Cyprus until it was withdrawn by the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney and left the British holding the bag.

The British had hoped to be fully air-mobile by the time 16 Air Assault Brigade arrive in Afghanistan in April. They too have been taking losses by having to move on the roads. That, however, appears to be unlikely.
Commanders had hoped that an extra fleet of Chinooks would have been available for operations but software problems have meant that the helicopters will not be ready for another year, it can also be disclosed.

The helicopter shortages will force troops to travel by road, making them vulnerable to attack from mines and improvised explosive devices.

So, you'd think that, given this horrendous tasking placed on its peacetime armed forces by the British government that they would be finding ways to get more money into the services.

No such luck.

A SENIOR defence official has warned that the armed forces are heading for a “train crash” because the government is starving them of funds for vital equipment.

In a confidential presentation to colleagues at a meeting in the Ministry of Defence to discuss budget cuts, he said defence spending had been so severely pruned that vitally needed equipment was simply unaffordable. He also warned that the government risked “mortgaging the future” of national defence.

The official, a senior defence equipment capability manager, resorted to black humour, portraying the Treasury as an axeman who has cut off the arms of his MoD victim and is saying: “Stop whingeing . . . at least you have got your legs.” The meeting, one of a series to try to work out how to pay for all the equipment the forces need to meet their commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, was also told that the Treasury has exaggerated the increase in the military budget.

This is underscored by two British coroners' inquests which found that a lack of adequate equipment was a significant factor in the deaths of three British servicemen, all of whom were killed in Afghanistan.The manning situation will only get worse. If the British MoD isn't able to provide sufficient equipment and the operational tempo of the British military remains at its present level, there will be a mass exodus of troops which will take years to correct.

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A nuclear arsenal run by drunks

All countries possessing nuclear weapons should be prepared to provide, at the very least, advice to others in that "club" on how to secure and prevent the unauthorized employment of nuclear warheads. This is particularly true where there is a threat that religious extremists stand a chance of coming into possession of a fully developed and deliverable nuclear arsenal.

So, one country has made the offer to assist a nuclear power in dealing with their lax nuclear security and questions the judgment of country which places the authority to deploy nuclear weapons in the hands of drunks.

Via FP, Pakistan offers this on the United States:
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, JANUARY 25--At a press conference in Islamabad today, Pakistani Brig. Gen. Atta M. Iqhman expressed concern about U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. Iqhman, who oversees the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear force, said that U.S. protocols for storing and handling nuclear weapons are inadequate. "In Pakistan, we store nuclear warheads separately from their delivery systems, and a nuclear warhead can only be activated if three separate officers agree," Iqhman said. "In the United States, almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons still sit atop missiles, on hair-trigger alert, and it only takes two launch-control officers to activate a nuclear weapon. The U.S. government has persistently ignored arms control experts around the world who have said they should at least de-alert their weapons."
Iqhman then offered to assist the United States with their nuclear handling protocols which received this response.
Pentagon officials said it is Washington's role to give, not receive, advice on nuclear weapons safety and surety issues.
Yes... we've noticed. In fact, we've noticed other events. So have the Pakistanis.
Iqhman pointed out that the August 29 event was not an isolated incident; there have been at least 24 accidents involving nuclear weapons on U.S. planes. He mentioned a 1966 incident in which four nuclear weapons fell to the ground when two planes collided over Spain, as well as a 1968 fire that caused a plane to crash in Greenland with four hydrogen bombs aboard. In 1980, a Titan II missile in Arkansas exploded during maintenance, sending a nuclear warhead flying 600 feet through the air. In a remark that visibly annoyed a U.S. official present at the briefing, Iqhman described the U.S. nuclear arsenal as "an accident waiting to happen."
Unfortunately, Iqhman, who was on a considerable role blew it part way through the press conference.
Jay Keuse of MSNBC News asked Iqhman if Pakistan was in any position to be lecturing other countries given Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan's record of selling nuclear technology to other countries. "All nuclear weapons states profess to oppose proliferation while helping select allies acquire nuclear weapons technology," Iqhman replied. "The United States helped Britain and France obtain the bomb; France helped the Israelis; and Russia helped China. And China," he added coyly, "is said by Western media sources to have helped Pakistan. So why can't Pakistan behave like everyone else?"
Hold it right there. Iqhman has a remarkably good case going here and simply drops it. I can answer that last question. Because you clearly know it's wrong and you reduce the legitimacy of your position by trying to make two "wrongs" equal a "right". Having just successfully argued that the US does it wrong, and a good deal of the world would agree with that position, Iqhman justifies the behaviour of A.Q. Khan (and by extension, the Pakistani nuclear weapons program) by suggesting that if the US did it, others are excused in proceeding down the same path. Iqham cannot have it both ways.

Iqham, however, found that his deputy, Colonel Bom Zhalot, had something to add. Apparently Iqham was less than pleased with Zhalot when he went into a rant.
"We also worry that the U.S. commander-in-chief has confessed to having been an alcoholic. Here in Pakistan, alcohol is 'haram,' so this isn't a problem for us. Studies have also found that one-fifth of U.S. military personnel are heavy drinkers. How many of those have responsibility for nuclear weapons?"

John G. Libb of the Washington Times asked if Americans were wrong to be concerned about Pakistan's nuclear stockpile given the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Colonel Zhalot replied: "Millions of Americans believe that these are the last days and that they will be raptured to heaven at the end of the world. You have a president who describes Jesus as his favorite philosopher, and one of the last remaining candidates in your presidential primaries is a preacher who doesn't believe in evolution. Many Pakistanis worry that the United States is being taken over by religious extremists who believe that a nuclear holocaust will just put the true believers on a fast track to heaven. We worry about a nutcase U.S. president destroying the world to save it."

You worry about it?! You mean he hasn't already started the process?

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver

How to think and talk clearly about the Taliban

I haven’t written Pakistan/Afghanistan updates for a while because I find so much of the public discussion frustrating, majorly misdirected by public officials and military leaders and very seldom corrected by the press.

The most serious problem with the way anyone’s mission has been framed has been the insistence on talking about Afghanistan as a discrete mission, containable and addressable entirely within itself, which it simply never has been. At least in the last year a few Canadian officials seem to have learned to choke out a few words about Pakistan, although it’s hard to know whether we are doing the smart diplomacy that is needed behind the scenes or just the old white-man’s-burden two-step of shifting the blame to a different group of, y’know, those people. But the Bush/Cheney--Musharraf love affair and the regional war – that’s for another post.

About al-Qaeda – what it is, how it operates, what its criminal aims are – I think we have few doubts about that network. (We should have figured out by now how to disassemble them from the top down – interesting that we haven’t heard much about that from our dear leaders, isn’t it?) It seems mistaken to me, however, to think and talk about something called “the Taliban” as if it were the same thing as al-Qaeda or a parallel thing, since it isn’t. I’m not all that keen on arguing that we should be fighting anywhere at any time, but there’s one thing I know for sure about fighting: if you’re going to fight, you have to fight smart, and if you’re misidentifying your opponent for purely rhetorical reasons or to make political points, then you are not fighting smart. Live through Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara lying to themselves about the Viet Nam war, and you never forget that lesson.

Western political and (some) military leaders keep dropping that label, “the Taliban,” into their public statements as a solid object, as a signifier that they expect will trigger knee-jerk reactions from us, and the mainstream press have mainly followed suit. But what do we actually know about the Taliban since 2001? What we knew then was that they were not al-Qaeda, although they had harboured al-Qaeda. They were a tyrannical theocratic political regime, their power-core no doubt intensely ideologically motivated but very small (and reportedly prepared until the last moment to negotiate with the U.S.). Their foot soldiers and followers were not the highly trained cadres of al-Qaeda; they were just ... Afghans, especially Pashtuns, going along to get along.

The power-core of the Taliban no doubt still seethe away in the border regions of Pakistan, perhaps more closely allied now with al-Qaeda than ever, although who knows? They are no doubt organizing the insurgency in the south, in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which is their home territory, but again, who are they organizing, and why is that working for them?

Michael Semple can speak clearly and usefully to that question. And I tell you, it makes my brain feel better to listen to someone like Michael Semple, who knows and cares what he’s talking about and can therefore give us straightforward, practical advice.

Semple is one of two UN-EU officials arrested by the Karzai government on Christmas Day 2007 and expelled from Afghanistan for reaching out to what the British government calls “lower-level Taliban,” an engagement that the UN-EU support. Informed sources seem to agree that Semple and Mervyn Patterson fell afoul of a jealous local warlord and probably of Karzai’s own backdoor dealings, probably also because Semple and Patterson’s diplomacy seemed to be having an effect, a good effect. Semple has lived and worked in Afghanistan/Pakistan since the mid-1980s: he is no greenhorn; he is no appeaser; and he is no coward.

Today in the Guardian Semple speaks to the kind of diplomacy that anyone who is genuinely concerned about Afghanistan should recognize as indispensable. Instead of the Taliban, he speaks of “Taliban-led insurgents,” which is closer to the truth, and then he explains where many of the actors in the insurgency in the south come from, how they ended up as part of the undifferentiated enemy that our ignorant prime minister and his blustering generals are trying to scare us with:

Describing the process of wooing Taliban-linked elements away from the insurgency, he cited the example of a leader in Helmand named Mullah Mamuk, whose regional enemies told western forces in 2001 that he was a terrorist, leading to his appearing on a most wanted poster.

"So naturally Mamuk goes to the Taliban to feel safe and takes those men he commands who are loyal to him with him, shows Taliban commanders the poster and says 'It looks like I am now with you,' Semple said.

"The authorities simply got the wrong guy and drove him into the Taliban's hands. Now he is currently fighting against the British in Helmand but in my opinion local leaders like Mamuk can be won back over again." Semple advocated creating a "network of patronage" to lure men like Mamuk away from the Taliban.

"It's worth remembering there are an awful lot of Mullah Mamuks out there who can easily switch sides away from the Taliban and that is why I firmly believe that with good management you could break two-thirds of the insurgents away from those irreconcilables," he said. He added that some of those arrested and taken to Guantánamo Bay during the early period of the US-led invasion had switched sides to the Karzai government.

"Take Haji Naeem Kochi, someone I have known for a very long time in Afghanistan. After 9/11 and the invasion he ended up doing time in Guantánamo Bay," Semple said.

"When he came back ... I met up with him. The first thing I asked him was did he learn any English and he replied: 'Yes, but all I learned was sit up and sit down from the American guards.' Yet despite doing time in Guantánamo he is now a member of the peace commission aimed at reconciling all Afghans."

I think there is an obvious reason that Canadians are not hearing this kind of informed common sense about Afghanistan from Stephen Harper or his ministers or his generals or his continentalist independent panel, or indeed from some opposition leaders. (Hi, Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff.) There is a regional war on and we don’t run it; we just dance to the tune. Day by day, it becomes less and less clear why any Canadian political or military leader would want to go on shuffling to that song led by the tone-deaf on the Potomac, but amazingly, they do.

For the sake of your ears and your mind, listen instead to someone with a true voice:

"There are many people who served with the Taliban regime who are now well-placed inside the Karzai regime or else are pillars of Afghan society. They are now living at peace with [it] even if they are critical of it, which is their right," he said. "Our mandate was to support the government's reconciliation process - that's what we were doing in Helmand before Christmas. There is no purely military solution to the current insurgency. There isn't a serious actor in Afghanistan who says the only way forward is to fight your way out."

Cross-posted to POGGE

Well, this is Dawg's Blawg, isn't it?

For all you Dawg-lovers, I just had to post this -- the Westminster Best in Show:
In the dog world, it was Rocky Balboa going the distance against Apollo Creed, Henry V triumphing at Agincourt, and the Giants beating the Patriots - all rolled into one.
When a beagle named Uno became the first of his breed to win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in its 132-year history, the normally genteel crowd went nuts.
"We have never had a reaction like this," said USA Network announcer David Frei, who's done wag-by-wag commentary on the show for 18 years, as the audience gave Uno a standing ovation.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Waiting for the Barbarians

Shorter Kate McMillan: I'm so bored with civilization.

(Cavafy's original here.)

Let's get one other thing straight here. McMillan's column is called "A modest proposal for curing a whiny nation," a reference, of course, to Jonathan Swift's famous satirical essay. Like far too many people who throw the phrase "modest proposal" around, McMillan completely misunderstands what Swift was up to.

Briefly, Swift was deeply distressed by the level of poverty in early 18th-century Ireland, which was caused, he believed, by bad economic policy. He had been proposing actual solutions to this problem for years, all of which had been rejected by the power elite, who saw poor Irish citizens simply as resources. Eventually, Swift got fed up and wrote his "modest proposal," taking on the character of one such member of the power elite, and taking their attitude to its logical conclusion: if we really see them as resources, why not eat them? In other words, Swift's essay is a reductio ad absurdum, meant to show the folly and viciousness of treating people without dignity.

Unfortunately, too many people (and McMillan's one of them) get this completely reversed. Instead of attempting to show how bad it is to treat people without dignity, she imagines how wicked cool it would be. Instead of attempting to alleviate suffering, she alleges that suffering would be good for us. Instead of trying to build up a more just and fair civilization, she pretends to ponder how awesome it would be for us if it all came crashing down. And instead of proposing real solutions to real problems, she's just complaining about people she doesn't like. She's not drawing a Swiftian reductio ad absurdum; she's just being absurd and counterfactual. There's no purpose here, no solution, and no actual satire -- and most of all, no problem being addressed, except the one swimming around in her own imagination.

She doesn't like do-not-call lists, so she fantasizes about people (not her, of course) dying? Now that's a sense of entitlement. What a whiner.
Cross-posted at The Vanity Press.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lapdogs and jawdroppers

From Crooks and Liars via I am TRex.

Also posted at CathiefromCanada.

Does this actually make any sense?

Excuse me, please, but as I heard the news today about how awful it was that Roger Clemens -- A MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHER -- might have lied -- LIED -- to a Congressional committee, I thought... first, why is anything that Roger Clemens does or says of any concern whatsoever to the US Congress, don't they have more important things to think about, and second, why would anyone get outraged about Clemens if they haven't been equally outraged about Bush and Cheney and Rice and Mulcasey and ...
oh, well, never mind. Forget I asked...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Releasing the inner Jack Bauer

It has become apparent that police aren't using Tasers instead of guns; they're using Tasers instead of yelling at people.
Naomi Klein writes about Toronto police buying 3,000 Tasers:
Few would argue with an officer's right to use an electroshock weapon when lives are in danger and the only alternative is a gun. Many Toronto police officers, particularly those on the Emergency Task Force, clearly use them with restraint.
Yet there is also plenty of evidence that some officers get hooked on shock. In Edmonton, in 2001, reports of taserings averaged less than once a week. Three years later, they were coming in daily. In another part of the country, a mother in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia called police when she and her 17-year-old daughter were having an argument. Three officers showed up and tasered the teen in her own bed. In a recent court ruling, the judge called these actions 'very disturbing and disconcerting.'
Control is the name of the game. Not officer safety.
But there's something deeper going on here, too. Something darker. By causing pain without physical contact, Tasers provide an unique way for the weak to control the strong and for the strong to bully the weak. By causing pain without wounds, the Taser appear defensive when they are actually aggressive. And for the first time, the Taser offers the average person the opportunity to release their inner Jack Bauer without apparent personal risk. They're coming soon to a neighbourhood near you:
It may well be possible to prevent shock-happy policing with tighter controls. Yet, despite repeated calls for stricter regulations for police, Taser International is racing to get its devices in the hands of civilians, marketing the product as not just safe but fun. In the United States the company has been aggressively pushing its line of C2 "personal protectors" — available in pink, leopard print, and in holsters with built-in MP3 players. (The weapon is nicknamed the "iTaser.") Tupperware-style taser parties are springing up in the suburbs of Arizona.
Taser International is a company whose executives present themselves as serious experts in public safety. Yet it has launched this foray into fashion at the very moment when the safety of its devices is being questioned on multiple fronts. Valentine's Day is coming and Taser's website is busily hawking the C2 in flaming red. "Love her? Protect her," goes the slogan.
This is what corporations do: whatever they can get away with to sell more product.
And next we'll hear about teenagers dying on the streets because they've been tased by their enemies . . . or by their friends.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Genocide Is Hilarious

In pretty much the vilest prank I've ever seen, Canada's Worst Blogger has decided that it would be really really funny to fake a Holocaust tattoo and fool someone with it. Robert has a rundown of events here, and Warren Kinsella, the intended butt of the joke, responds here. Personally, I'm just speechless.

Update: I see from SDA's commenters and elsewhere (no link, feh) that the point is supposed to be that Kinsella is some kind of sucker when it comes to the internet. Kinsella got a email from someone purporting to be a Holocaust survivor, and reprinted the picture of the tattoo without checking. This, allegedly, proves that Kinsella is careless with sources.

But here's the thing: put yourself in Kinsella's place for a moment. Suppose you got an email exactly like the one he got, with picture to go along with it:

Now, if you're not a sociopathic freak, probably the last thing that is going to occur to you is that somebody would be faking this just for the purpose of making you look bad. That's because (a) the Holocaust really happened and tattoos are a well-known symbol of it, and (b) neither the Holocaust nor death camp tattoos are usually considered a laughing matter. The default presumption on receiving an email like this would naturally be that it was sent in good faith, because to conduct a prank along these lines is so disgusting that it's just not what most people would ever think of doing. Kinsella's only fault here, as far as I can see, is that he was incapable of imagining the depravity that would induce somebody to pull a stunt this crass. How this is meant to reflect badly on him I have no idea.

Cross-posted at The Vanity Press.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

See y'all soon

On the eve of my trip to the Antipodes with the family, I am pleased to see that one of my support dawgs has already begun to stir things up. Others will be arriving any moment. I might even poke my own nose in from time to time if I can get access to the intertubes on my travels.

The photo above is Spirits Bay (Kapowairua), at the northern tip of New Zealand/Aotearoa, where my late partner will be put to rest.

Readers/commenters are welcome as always. I'm told there may be the occasional party here. Do enjoy yourselves--just don't break anything, and leave my wine cellar alone.

High summer, here we come. Back late on International Women's Day. Now, over to you, my fellow canines. Ka kite anō, e kurī mā. In the meantime--sic 'em!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Afghanistan until 2011? Fat chance.

The Harper Conservatives, having placed a motion before Parliament which would extend the Afghanistan mission in Kandahar, may well turn out to be a back-breaker for the Canadian Forces.

Keep in mind that the current mission is already an extension which was approved by Parliament on 17 May 2006. At that time, the mission in its current format was to end in February 2009. The crystal-ballers at NDHQ and the PMO had convinced themselves that three years would be sufficient time to stabilize the area.

Within weeks of that decision the landscape changed and, instead of being able to establish control, an insurgency in southern Afghanistan created a chaotic situation which required escalation and the inclusion of main battle tanks just to provide force protection for patrols. This winter, instead of the various elements of the insurgency withdrawing until the spring, they maintained enough pressure to suggest that things aren't improving in any significant way. In short, we're not winning in Afghanistan, partly because we have not been able to define what a "win" really is.

A great deal of the problem is Harper himself. This is not a man passionate about Afghanistan at all. The truth is, Harper's passion is himself and how he is portrayed and viewed by others. Afghanistan is merely a conduit for his pursuit of glory. Harper never speaks in real terms about what is being or should be accomplished in Afghanistan; he speaks in platitudes. If it wasn't Afghanistan it would be someplace else. His real interest is in having the Canadian Forces deployed on an expeditionary combat mission in an effort to portray Canada as something much tougher than the diplomatic honest broker which could bring factions together and not be accused of taking a side.

Harper wants to take a side and, despite his recent attempt to divorce himself from the Bill Kristol driven Bush administration, it is the romantic attraction he holds for his conservative American brethren which is motivating him. Harper is looking for personal validation from the conservative movement outside this country. If that movement was fighting armed penguins in Antarctica, Harper would have Canadian troops there claiming that they are attempting to improve life and spread Canadian values. His interest is in being seen as "tough" and being viewed by the US conservative movement as a full member of the "war club" expanding on what he views as a glorious history of Canadian warfare. From Hansard, January 29, 2003.
In my judgment Canada will eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass. The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade.

This is wrong. It is not fitting with the greatness of our history or with our standing as a nation. We need to be standing through tough times and taking tough decisions.

We in the Canadian Alliance will continue to take tough public positions and urge the necessary military preparations that make the avoidance of war possible. I can only urge and pray that our government will do the same.

Notwithstanding that not joining the Bush initiated war in Iraq was a tough decision in itself. But notice the language. To Harper the most important thing at stake was not the definition of the problem with Iraq, but our position in the parade.

When the Canadian government did not commit to Bush's coalition, particularly after Bush announced that the goal of any invasion was not compliance with UN weapons inspections but regime change, Harper went into full pout and vented in the Wall Street Journal. In that letter he engaged in blatant falsehoods to portray himself as tough, unwavering and willing to accept anything Bush fed him. Apart from opening his diatribe with the hyperbolic statement that Canada was skipping out on a world war, he once again made it clear what his real problem was.

Modern Canada was forged in large part by war -- not because it was easy but because it was right. In the great wars of the last century -- against authoritarianism, fascism, and communism -- Canada did not merely stand with the Americans, more often than not we led the way.
Again, it is the position in the parade which most concerns him. The location and raison d'etre were secondary. Harper was and still is interested in one thing: glory.

The motion to extend the Afghanistan mission to 2011 has the potential, if something doesn't change quickly, to turn into a disaster for the Canadian Forces.

Recently the Conservatives told NDHQ that the cost of the Afghanistan mission would have to come out of the existing defence budget. That has never been the way Canada dealt with combat missions in the past. Such operations have always been funded by cabinet as an exception to DND estimates. What that means is that whatever happens, and we have the past three years as an example, in order to adapt to any extraordinary requirements, normal operations and maintenance will suffer as funding is shifted to meet the requirements of the Afghanistan deployment.

Attrition in the combat arms occupations of the Canadian Forces, particularly the infantry, has always been high. Since Afghanistan however, the attrition rate to voluntary release has risen significantly. The stop-gap method employed by NDHQ has been to re-role recruits from the other services. When that was announced in October 2006, the immediate effect was to rob other elements of the Canadian Forces of vitally needed personnel. And that act too caused increased attrition.

Other units have gone through a roller coaster of personnel changes which affect their operational integrity. As an example, in 2006, the Health Services Support Unit, a detachment of medical personnel from 1 Field Ambulance returned from Afghanistan and the bulk of them proceeded straight to the release centre having opted for voluntary release. That kind of activity has an effect across the Canadian Forces which impacts the ability of other units to be able to perform. In recent months there has been a mad scramble to gather together medical personnel by robbing them from various commands which are already having difficulty finding enough people to keep ships at sea and clinics sufficiently manned.

The promise by former Minister of National Defence, Gordon O'Connor, that rotations for personnel to Afghanistan be limited to one deployment is now consigned to the trash heap. An extension of three more years will most certainly see infantry and armoured units making a second or third rotation. In fact, that is already happening as 2 PPCLI once again prepares for an upcoming deployment. Infantry companies, artillery detachments and field engineering sections are so badly understrength that over 550 of the 2500 troop task force will be made up of army reservists filling empty regular force positions.

Most people are probably unaware of the fact that a six-month rotation to Afghanistan involves a great deal more absence from family than the deployment itself. The training required to get troops ready for such a mission involves anywhere from a year to eighteen months of preparation, most of it in the field and away from garrison and home. As people move into 2nd and 3rd rotations, they can expect to find themselves in a constant train/roto/train pattern with little respite.

Something that seems to escape most people is 2010. The extension of the Afghanistan mission at it's current strength is going to further tax the Canadian Forces when the Vancouver Olympic commitment has to be executed. The Canadian Forces will have a huge security operation requiring large chunks of both regular combat arms personnel and special operations troops. That kind of contingency operation is difficult to mount and man at the best of times, but to do it with troops which have recently rotated out of Afghanistan will serve only to create greater levels of dissatisfaction as troops are pulled away from home and families.

There is a growing level of frustration among elements of the Canadian Forces which are not involved in the direct Afghanistan mission. Many complain that the entire focus of the Canadian Forces and the government is on that mission alone and comes at the expense of operations and training in other areas. The navy had to hold its ground against a defence headquarters which had shifted funds but expected the navy to continue with sovereignty patrols. When the navy pointed out that they had no money to support such normal operations the minister had to go to Treasury Board for additional emergency funding just to keep the navy running.

The Canadian Forces are under extreme pressure now. The continuation of the Afghanistan commitment into 2011 stands to cause a collapse of the CF and render them unable to respond to other unexpected contingencies. And the question still remains: What exactly are we out to accomplish? If the mission is simply Harper looking for a position in the parade, he may well find himself out there with a crippled armed forces of his own making.

Update: This article, surprisingly, from the National Post, is worth reading.

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver

Corporations vs. the nation-state

Exxon has just launched a direct assault on the sovereignty of Venezuela. It's a movie we've seen many times before, from Sanford Dole and the overthrow of Hawaiian autonomy, to the United Fruit Company and the overthrow of the democratic government of Guatemala in 1954, to more recent corporate-backed violence and subversion. But times have changed: what's good for Exxon, Metalclad, Ethyl Corporation and a host of other transnational corporations is not always decided by Marines or proxy wars. Finding complaisant courts is less costly, after all, and less bloody.

The weakening of the nation-state is by now a matter of historical record, as the unelected committees and tribunals of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, NAFTA, etc., have largely taken charge of international and domestic economies. Venezuela is one of several countries that has elected to fight back--the scoundrels!--moving to take over their own resources. Evo Morales' Bolivia comes to mind as well: one of the poorest countries in the world, sitting on some of the richest reserves of natural gas and oil, wants control of them.

What perhaps should not surprise me is the unswerving loyalty and support that certain conservatives and libertarians (the comments at Kate's place, as always, are instructive) give to the multinationals in the latter's desperate hours of need. Conservative philosophy wraps itself in values of individualism, autonomy and freedom, but when the gloves are off, the underpinnings of that value-system become apparent--it's all about the survival of the fittest, the conquest and exploitation of the weak by the strong. In fact, shorn of nuance, the ideology can be summed up in a single phrase: might makes right.

As Exxon positions itself for arbitration, claiming that it has now frozen $12 billion in Venezuelan assets around the world, it turns out that the greedy, polluting transnational giant might have overstated things a little. The Venezuelans have been left scratching their heads. Almost certainly the numbers are inflated by the corporate propaganda machine. But Exxon's naked assault on national autonomy is troubling, nonetheless, for anyone who takes quaint notions like sovereignty, democracy and accountability seriously.

On the other hand, it is refreshing in a way to be able to see in clear outline what corporate globalization is all about, minus the chatter, the fairy-tales about "development," the continual mystification, and the plain deceit that have accompanied this seemingly inexorable process.

It's about power, always has been. So, then--which side are you on?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Spreading false news [updated]

A few days ago, the Ottawa Citizen's Leonard Stern wrote a column about human rights commissions and free speech. In the midst of his piece, referring to the current complaints against Maclean's magazine and Ezra Levant, he stated:

That is the problem with human rights commissions. By overreaching, and elevating insults into human rights violations, they discredit legitimate efforts to identify speech that does cause real harm.

Yesterday, Canada's National Newspaper, the Globe & Mail, published an extraordinary self-serving editorial in support of Keith Martin's proposal to remove section 13(1) from the Canadian Human Rights Act. In the course of the argument, the editorialist makes this statement:

[The motion] arrives amid the gross overreaching of human-rights commissions in hearing two high-profile cases involving journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, both of which are best viewed as nuisance complaints.

Now, what "overreaching" are we talking about, exactly? What exactly have these Humans Rights Commissions done? So far, as their mandate requires, they have taken complaints from citizens against other citizens, and are presently determining whether or not these have the legitimacy to be heard. That (as I suspect the writers know full well) is all that's happened to date.

Having had enough of this "overreaching" meme, I emailed the following letter to the editor to the Globe & Mail yesterday:


There is more than enough misinformation about human-rights commissions and free speech flying around at the moment without your adding more of it. You speak of "the gross overreaching of human-rights commissions in hearing two high-profile cases involving journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant." It's nothing of the kind.

Complaints submitted to the bodies in question are being investigated as to their merits. That's a screening process, not a hearing. (For what it's worth, I predict that the complaints in question will be screened out. ) The "gross overreaching," it seems to me, is by the hysterics who want us to believe that freedom of speech is on the line.


Surprise, surprise, this wasn't published. Nor were any other letters making the same point. I don't buy into the fashionable right-wing paranoia about the "MSM," but it seems pretty clear to me that the media tend to go somewhat further than ethics permit when it comes to defending their interests. Judging from the peddling of blatant falsehoods like the above, I think we can expect the media disinformation campaign against Human Rights Commissions to continue, without inconvenient facts being allowed to get in the way. We can only hope that this tactic is too obvious to permit the manufacture of the consent they are seeking.

UPDATE: (February 8)

Mark Steyn corrects the record. As he points out, two of the three complaints against Maclean's magazine--before the BC Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission--have been screened in, and will be heard by a Tribunal. My comments stand about the case of Ezra Levant. Hence my comments also stand with respect to the two newspaper accounts I cited, which misleadingly state that Levant's case is being heard. No such decision has been forthcoming from the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal.

But clearly I was misinformed. What I find odd is that Steyn's winning card hasn't been played before, in all of the blogospheric wrangling that has been going on for months. Obviously I haven't been the only one in the outer darkness. But the facts that Steyn states are incontrovertible, and indeed have been known for some time.

Hence, mea maxima culpa. Maclean's, in my view, offered the students reasonable accommodation. Things should never have proceeded so far.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Beige threats: the taxi-driver conspiracy

By way of Canadian Cynic, through the swamps of Shaidle-land to the deranged former feminist Phyllis Chesler:

Are immigrant Muslim taxi drivers heroically selfless “family men” or are they soldiers in an advancing jihadic Army?

It's all downhill from there.

Just as well our licensing bodies are keeping these people from using their foreign PhDs and various other professional qualifications in Canada. The thought of the damage raging Muslim accountants, doctors, lawyers and engineers could wreak on Canadian society is truly hair-raising. Taxi-drivers? Maybe not so much.

Only frequent blogosphere commenter Ti-Guy could conclude the matter quite like this:

I think we need a scorecard (and maybe a Pantone colour chart) to properly assess the various beige threats we encounter once we leave the house.

H/t LuLu.

Pitbull neutered?

Perhaps my least favourite conservative politician after the racist Rob Anders is John Baird--a swaggering bully who first came to national prominence as an Ontario provincial Cabinet minister under the Mike Harris regime. As Minister of Community and Social Services, he publicly derided the poor, established snitch lines to spy on them, and wildly overstated "welfare fraud" by lumping in cases of administrative error. He was, in other words, a rising young star of conservative sado-politics.

In the Harper government, he has been true to form, becoming widely known as Harper's pitbull. Indeed, the resemblance is striking.

But now, it seems, the dogcatcher may have finally chased him down. According to
a front-page story in today's Ottawa Citizen, we learn that Baird, who is said to have stuck his muzzle well into the last Ottawa municipal election on behalf of his buddy Larry O'Brien (now Mayor), is under investigation by a House of Commons Committee for political interference.

Ontario provincial police have twice questioned Baird about a meeting with O'Brien that was alleged to have taken place at Hy's Steakhouse during the municipal campaign, where, inter alia, it has been claimed that the matter of a patronage appointment for unsuccessful mayoral candidate Terry Kilrea came up. O'Brien is now being prosecuted for bribery and influence-peddling. Baird is expected to be called to testify at that criminal trial.

Baird was the federal Treasury Board minister at the time of the Ottawa election. Of ten Treasury Board grants before him, only a grant for light rail was held up.
(The whole issue of light rail is well-canvassed here.) Then-mayor Bob Chiarelli, a man with close Liberal ties and a strong supporter of light rail, was doing poorly in the polls, and hoped that the approval of the grant would help him. After the hold-up, he went down in flames. Light rail was opposed by O'Brien, who led an Ottawa City Council vote to abandon it: Ottawa is now being sued by the contractor for hundreds of millions of dollars for breach of contract, and is likely to lose. Too bad we taxpayers couldn't have spent all that money on light rail.

The outcome of these things is never certain. But one can still dream, even in the third year of the Harper mandate. Forward with that investigation! It simply couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Amy Winehouse asks...

And so do I. It's a question all of us should put to the benighted bureaucrats at Wilfrid Laurier University who denied recognition to a student club that promotes scepticism and rational enquiry.

Here is part of what the Campus Clubs Department wrote to the group after nine months of dithering:

While the promotion of reason, science and freedom of inquiry are perfectly legitimate goals, what is most in question in regards to your club’s vision is the promotion of "a fulfilling life without religion and superstition".

Ezra, where the hell are you? Get over there pronto before they start burning witches.

First-year WLU students heading off to their mandatory Intelligent Design 101 class

H/t Canadian Cynic.

UPDATE: (February 4) Welcome to my visitors by way of Pharyngula. I'm a little embarrassed: I must apologize if I brought you over here under false pretences, although Amy's well worth listening to in her own right. Others, including PZ himself, have dealt with the issue at hand far more exhaustively. I merely joined the chorus, which is rapidly swelling. I would like to assure my foreign visitors, however, that the current goings-on at Bob Jones North are not typical of Canadian universities.

UPPERDATE: (February 5)

An enterprising reader of Pharyngula sent a note of protest to the WLU "Office of Student Diversity," a name which, in this context, sounds a mite Orwellian. I reprint the response, in full:

Thank you very much for your email.

With respect to all Campus Clubs (and our entire university community), we promote an very inclusive environment. We pride ourselves on a very student-centered university, and we pride ourselves on the uniqueness of our clubs.

If you recieved your information from the many blogs posts that are surfacing, than you are mis-informed. The Freethinkers Club has been temporarily denied club status based on certain wording within their application. As a university, we want to maintain that each club is inclusive of all members of the Laurier community before it is granted status as a Laurier Campus Club. After talking to the vice-president of the Freethinkers and members of the Student Union, both sides have agreed to rework the application and work together in the creation of this club.

I hope that answers your question.


Note, first of all, that the Office of Student Diversity is not the WLU Students Union. "Adam" is Adam Lawrence, the diversity coordinator, who can be contacted at His office is part of the university administration: he is a salaried employee of WLU.

Now, pay attention to this mendacious sentence: "As a university, we want to maintain that each club is inclusive of all members of the Laurier community before it is granted status as a Laurier Campus Club."

Does this mean that the Campus Crusade for Christ will now be open to Muslims, Jews and...Freethinkers? "Well, Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and those other people are sinners bound for the hot place, but hey! We're inclusive!"

The folks at Bob Jones North* ought to start observing the First Rule of Holes before they too end up toasting marshmallows with the heretics and infidels.

*A commenter thinks this sobriquet is unfair. He's no doubt right. Call it a measure of my irritation with the handling of this whole affair.