Sunday, October 31, 2010

Child abuse

Wound and torture a kid, threaten him with gang rape, cage him for nine years, and then go for another forty.

Some Austrian pedophile? Nope: American military officers dispensing American "justice."

Sick-making. But at least we'll have the pleasure of listening to
the kangaroos' heads explode and the brass buttons pop off their beribboned chests when they hear that Omar Khadr will be doing eight years instead.

Not that another day in jail could be morally justified under any known standards of justice. But this isn't about justice, of course: it's about revenge and bloody-mindedness by brass hats who would have had him shot at dawn if they'd had their druthers.

It is reported that government prosecutor Jeff Groharing told the "jury" that the world was watching. Indeed we have been. And I think we've seen quite enough.

UPDATE: (November 1) The Omar Khadr show trial.

UPPERDATE: Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps, weighs in. [H/t reader Briguyhfx]

UPPESTDATE: The plea agreement. As reader jkg notes, Khadr is enjoined (para. 2g) from pursuing litigation against his captors and interrogators. Does this include the CSIS agents who grilled him and handed their findings over to his prosecutors in flagrant violation of his constitutional rights
("any official")?

Not funny

From Washington, D.C., Dr. "Mad" Dawg reports:

A bitterly non-partisan crowd turned out in the US capital yesterday to mock the real world and the people who live in it. Carrying signs such as the one pictured above, each reportedly vetted by grammar Nazis Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, the participants, almost certainly fewer than the six billion claimed, listened to music by an Islamist convert and some "comedy" and then went home.

I wonder how these self-conscious boulevardiers of protest would have fared if a platoon of American soldiers who have seen gore in Iraq had parachuted down into their mincing ranks?

In better news, Andrew Breitbart is now settling in as a guest of ABC. He has an impressive record as an editor and producer of documentaries, as well as hosting a website for troubled writers. His commentary on the mid-term elections is bound to shed a ray of light on the proceedings, in which the Kenyan Hitler is about to get his comeuppance, and, if not, there are Second Amendment remedies.

Strange. I seem to recall that I once thought somewhat differently. But with my first glass of water on arrival, the scales fell from my eyes. What is wrong with these people, making fun of the political process and calling for "civil discourse?" Don't they realized there's a war on? That Islamofascism and the African in the White House are enslaving us? We're supposed to talk nicey-nice to liberal bigots who want to tear down churches, build mosques and kill our babies? Damn, that makes me mad!

I can't wait for tomorrow. I'm buying my first Uzi at the local 7/11, and a nice card for Kathy Shaidle.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mid-term elections: Tea Party thugs out in force

How the American Right does democracy--one kick, punch and false arrest at a time.

[H/t Sister Sage]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shariah just around the corner! Burqas! Stoning!

Kate McMillan has the goods.

(The fact that every Muslim boy gets the Mohammed moniker might just have something to do with this new name game, but mentioning that would spoil the narrative.)

[Didn't I just use that photo? My bad. --Ed.]

Time to breed

"Scientists say" that political views are part of our genetic inheritance.

Peter Schweizer will be pleased. He's another "expert," who has proven to his own satisfaction that conservatives are nicer folks than liberals, and are having a lot more babies.

Given that argument alone is clearly pointless, as are political campaigns and elections--you can't persuade DNA to change--there appears to be only one thing to do about it. Consider it our duty to the Party.

All the news that fits?

Norm Spector is moaning today about the "mainstream media" burying (but not, for the most part, excising) a piece of information about Omar Khadr's "trial," namely, that his statements before the Gitmo kangaroos are not sworn testimony and hence not subject to cross-examination.

Why this should matter one way or the other is beyond my comprehension. We've already had his coerced confession, and a plea deal is sealed no matter what the outcome of the sentencing phase (unless the "jury" opts to give him a better one, which is about as likely as Stephen Harper appearing as a last-minute character witness).

This seems more like another swipe at Khadr than serious media criticism. In any case, the ol' Spectorvision was apparently not working last Tuesday.

H/t to Eugene Forsey Liberal, via Alison, for this splendid catch. A passage went missing from Don Martin's coverage of Omar Khadr in the National Post's print edition:


While Khadr insisted he was acting unprovoked to clear his guilty conscience, it seems beyond a reasonable doubt that a kid who had withstood years of torture and the best interrogation techniques imaginable without confessing would suddenly blurt out the truth as his trial was about to begin. Let’s not forget, this is the same Omar Khadr who was coerced into fabricating the nonsense that he’d actually seen Ottawa resident Maher Arar at a Pakistan training camp.


Good for Martin: he tried. And at least the Post ran this column. The Khadr farce, it appears, was too much even for the grumpy old right-winger George Jonas to stomach.

David Chen acquitted

David Chen, the Toronto shopkeeper arrested for defending his store against a thief, has been acquitted. I hope he sues for malicious prosecution.

The most bizarre wrinkle of this abusive proceeding--which you and I paid for--is that the thief was given a reduced sentence in return for testifying against his victim.

Eugene McDermott, the Crown prosecutor, was the unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Don Valley East in 2006.

Police impunity

This has already been well-covered: in Canada, cops can assault and kill without consequences. Who knew?

So I merely note, in passing, that the SIU lapdogs have not yet issued their report on the death of Junior Alexander Manon, nearly six months ago. I wonder why not?

Dennis Edney : "Be your own leader"

Omar Khadr's Lawyer Dennis Edney Speech at FNC from Ezra Winton on Vimeo.


via Art Threat

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Librocon betrayal














Thanks to the sleazy Librocons, private member's Bill
C-300 went down to defeat this evening. Former human rights advocate and American ex-pat Michael Ignatieff arranged to be out of the House of Commons for the vote, and he took twelve disciples with him.

That was sufficient to kill the Bill: even if the four absent New Democrats (and I'd like an accounting here) had been present, the Bill would have lost 140-139. Liberal Whip Marcel Proulx is reported to have told Liberal members to stay away.

The Bill was meant to ensure that Canadian mining companies guilty of human rights or environmental abuses would be denied funding by Ottawa. CIBC and the mining industry cried bloody murder, of course, and their Librocon shills dutifully fell into line.

We can't have human rights and the environment getting in the way of corporate profits--don't the bleeding hearts realize that? Who cares if a bunch of Third World types are assaulted or killed for trying to form unions? Who cares if their countries are buried under toxic mine tailings? Not our problem, and there are no voters in that neck of the woods.

The Blue Wing of the Librocons had their talking-points ready:


Accusing the opposition of siding with “international special interest groups,” Stephen Harper’s team added: “During the thick of the global recession, overseas contracts kept the mining industry afloat. At a time when the economic recovery is still fragile, why does the Coalition want to make it harder for Canadian companies?”

Note the reference to a "Coalition." Harper's crew are blowing smoke, of course. The real Coalition--the de facto Librocon merger
of Blue and Red wings--has once again trampled on human rights and environmental protection, as they did when they ratified the free trade agreement between Canada and the genocidal narco-state of Colombia.

Make no mistake: there is now fresh blood on their hands.

UPDATE: (October 28) More on Iggy's congenital cowardice and lack of principle here. [H/t Chris Selley]

UPPERDATE: Some documentation on Canadian mining companies. [H/t reader briguyhfx]

More on the Evil Expert










...Dr. Michael Welner, who's had a bit of a go at Omar Khadr today. At this point I think I'll just leave the ambiguity intact.

Defence lawyers are expected to present their own mental-health experts and the cross-examination of Dr. Welner promises to be compelling.

Impeaching Dr. Welner for his reliance on the work of Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist who ran a failed de-radicalization program, will be central to that cross-examination.

Among the controversial Dr. Sennels’ more spectacular claims is that "massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1.400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool.’’ The Danish doctor also advocates paying Muslims to leave Western countries and claims that an Islamic upbringing fosters violence.

Dr. Welner claims he didn’t read Dr. Sennels' book "because it was in Danish and I don’t speak Danish,’’ but sought his opinion and read articles by and about him.

Dr. Sennels, in an open letter in July decrying Turkey's bid to join the European Union, claims the Koran is a criminal book.

"It is a criminal book that forces people to do criminal things! From September 11th 2001 (do you remember…?) to July 28th 2010 there have been 15,373 confirmed murders motivated by the Koran and the inhuman example of the Muslim prophet."


Nice bit of digging, there, Paul Koring.

And here's a more academic view of the use of "evil" as an analytical category.


[H/t]

New KAIROS revelations










Shorter Bev Oda, revised:

"KAIROS is a superb organization doing valuable work. I recommend that we not fund it."


[via Kady O'Malley]

Worth framing

The escape from Toronto begins.

Runaway state





















Stuck together with Krazy Glue: police, prosecutors, judges, prison guards--and the National Parole Board.

A cop rapes eight women, including a 15-year-old? Four years in jail. Considered a "moderate risk" to reoffend, he's turned loose on the community anyway.

No punishment for the killers of Robert Dziekanski. No punishment for a second killing by one of those RCMP officers--other than a three-month
suspension of his driver's licence.

A young activist challenges The System. He's arrested, and arrested again for taking part in a university panel discussion. Bail conditions are imposed by a justice of the peace: he is not permitted to express political opinions in public. Threats of punishment are made by jail officials if he refuses to accept the conditions.

Then a trumped-up complaint against him is lodged by two Crown attorneys, who claim that jotting down a licence plate number is a violation--sorry, two violations--of the Criminal Code. And there's no way this bogosity would have taken place without the approval of
Dalton McGuinty's Attorney General.

Funny how these different state roles all fit so snugly together.

The Iron Heel is crushing one citizen at a time, pour encourager les autres. Continued police impunity. The rule of law suspended whenever the state feels like it. The corporate media complicit by their silence. I mourn for a country that I no longer recognize.

It can happen here. In fact, it is happening, under our disbelieving eyes.

What should we do about it?


UPDATE: (October 28) More--more than you want to know--on police impunity here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Alex Hundert arrested--again [re-updated]


Is this just a test to see if the Canadian population has become sufficiently docile and compliant?

If so, it's working. No outraged crowds in the streets. Little or no media coverage.

Once, we stood for the rule of law. Now we cower as those sworn to uphold the law mock it, in spirit, word and deed.

First they came for the anarchists...


[H/t pogge]

UPDATE: (October 25) As anyone with wit suspected when this news first trickled out, the new charge is utterly bogus. Not one but two Crown attorneys claim that Hundert tried to intimidate them while he was in court last week. The poor babies were evidently so overcome with dread that it took them three days to have him charged.


I'd mouth that old cliché about bringing the system of justice into disrepute, except that there is no system of justice in Toronto at the moment--just the mailed fist of state power, exercised against a Canadian citizen in full view of the corporate media--who have, almost without exception, chosen to remain silent.

UPPERDATE: (October 26) Canada's scariest criminal mastermind™ sure did intimidate those quivering, sweating Crown attorneys--he wrote down one of their licence numbers.

Period.

And that translates into not one, but two, counts of "intimidation of a justice system participant by threat."

Anyone still want to venture the opinion that the few of us taking notice of all this are (to use the word of one sceptical commenter) "paranoid?"

As Henry Kissinger once said, "Even paranoids can have enemies." And in this case, my fellow Canadians, it's the folks sworn to uphold law and order who are the enemy.

My civil disobedience over the next few days: jotting down the licence numbers of cops and Crowns at the Elgin Street Courthouse. Maybe I'll even post them here.


[H/t reader Marky Mark]

Monday, October 25, 2010

The trial of Omar K

Put yourself in Omar Khadr's spot.

You have been told by your family that it is God's will that you fight in a foreign land. At the age of 10, your family takes you to live in Osama bin Laden's compound in Afghanistan. When you are 15, you are captured by US forces in a firefight.*

You are grievously wounded. The enemy doesn't consider you entitled to the protection of the Geneva Conventions. You are tortured and threatened with gang rape unless you confess to whatever it is they want you to confess to.

You spend almost a decade in a cage. You will not be tried by a regular court, but by members of the military. The first judge in your case is dismissed by the Pentagon--he made too many rulings favourable to you. He is replaced by a "judge" who had you tried and convicted before his serge-clad bottom ever touched the bench from which he now presides. The evidence against you is doctored? No matter. You were tortured into making self-incriminating statements? Not relevant.

You're facing life in prison, kid, and it'll be hard time every step of the way.

Your own country's government, meanwhile, has an apparent problem with dark-skinned Canadians, and is happy to let you rot in a foreign jail. There will be no winging your way back home on a taxpayer-funded private jet, no, sirree.

Then, suddenly, you're offered a "deal." Just confess to whatever it is they want you to confess to, and they'll make it a mere eight more years. And they'll even twist your government's arm to let you spend most of that in Canada.

Would you plead "guilty," regardless of whether you have done anything culpable? And tell your captors what they want to hear?

I would.

I'd swear that I'd murdered Archduke Ferdinand, JFK and Martin Luther King if it would get me out of the clutches of the Gitmo jailers and Col. Patrick Parrish's kangaroo court.

Says Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney: "There is no justice here. He either pleads guilty to avoid trial or he goes to trial and the trial is an unfair process."

Rock, Khadr, hard place. An admirable summing-up of this shameful travesty of justice.


_______________
*Thanks to reader Kev for correcting the timeline. And Holly Stick.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sex with ducks, redux

In which life imitates art. Or they imitate each other, or they're all one thing. (Was Pat Robertson mentored by Christine O'Donnell?)

More, coming soon to a theatre near you.

PS: Commenters using the well-known rhyming expression about this bird will be permanently banned.

[NSFW? Who knows anymore?]

Finally!













...a feminist category in the Canadian Blog Awards.

Consider this a shout-out to the successful lobbyists, somewhat less of one to the various contest organizers who had to be pushed and prodded, literally for years, to do the right thing.

Now get over there and vote.

He'll never be missed














Larry O'Brien is the Mayor of Ottawa for two more days. That's two days too many.

O'Brien is a vulgar, classless swaggerer, an uncultured nouveau riche who has demeaned his office for nearly four years.

We all know his track record--comparing homeless people to pigeons, making fantastic promises about city taxes, playing the alpha male with the bus drivers with catastrophic results, costing the ratepayers a fortune by scrapping light rail.

More recently, true to his boorish nature, he has revealed a schoolboy sexism that must be embarrassing even to some of his ditto-heads. His rival Jim Watson, who is just about to bury him alive, is a "little old lady" who "whine[s] like a little girl," says the doomed macho man. I guess we'll see just who's whining on Monday night.

I cannot express how much I'm look forward to the next few years without having to see O'Brien's vacuous, smirking mug in the local papers. Good riddance to bad rubbish, to coin a phrase: maybe we've finally found a use for those green bins after all.

Adbusters: one trope over the line

One of my favourite culture-jammers has published a photo-essay (no on-line link) that compares Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto--and it's not the first time that this comparison has been made.

I think the following letter, sent by email, makes my own feelings plain. I urge others, should they so desire, to send their own notes to Adbusters. Let's stay classy, folks. Not everything we oppose is reducible to Hitler.

The Editor,
Adbusters.

Dear Sir or Madam:


I am writing to let you know that your photo-essay on Gaza, in your November-December issue, does not sit well with me--to put it mildly.


I am non-Jewish. More importantly, I have defended the rights of Palestinians in my blog for several years. I am no supporter of the present government of Israel, as a quick perusal of the blog will indicate.


But you go too far comparing Gaza to a Nazi extermination staging point. That is grossly insensitive, and factually wrong.


Conditions in Gaza are deplorable. It is little more than an open-air prison, and until very recently even some basic necessities of life were prevented from passing into the area--building materials, for example, desperately needed to re-build homes after large residential areas were demolished during Operation Cast Lead. I hold no brief whatsoever for the behaviour of the state of Israel towards the people of Gaza.


But I am appalled that this is being mentioned in the same breath as the Final Solution. Get a grip. The Gazans are not being slated for mass extermination; no gas chambers or crematoria are in existence, or being built. The distinction is not a minor one, and I suspect that you know it.


I believe that such invidious comparisons are being made simply for polemical value, and as a kind of moral blackmail, throwing the Holocaust into the faces of Israeli Jews--some of whom are Holocaust survivors, and know the difference.


I don't think that it helps the cause of critics of the state of Israel to (effectively) equate Israel to the Third Reich. That adds nothing useful to the debate; rather, it falsifies it. It is simply hurtful, and arguably even hateful, serving no imaginable constructive purpose.


Your magazine does great work, and I have followed it for years. Frankly, you're much better than this. I urge you to publish an apology, and move back into the light.


Sincerely,



Comments welcome, as always.

UPDATE: (October 25) More slander from the Babblers. (And note what happens when I get defended.) I'd swear these caricatures are being planted by the far Right.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Canada-Jordan FTA - a licence for human trafficking

On Monday the International Trade Committee heard devastating evidence from two US witnesses warning that the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act will merely provide cover for human trafficking and primarily benefit only China and large multinationals like Walmart and Kmart.

Tim Waters, Political Director of United Steelworkers :
"The U.S.-Jordan trade deal immediately descended into the trafficking of tens of thousands of foreign workers to Jordanian factories."

A former champion of the US-Jordan FTA, Waters said he had believed it would benefit both US and Jordanian workers and help level the international playing field on tariffs. Instead, upon visiting Jordan, he found almost no Jordanians working in the factories there - over 90%, some 30,000+ workers, are all imported.

Factory owners from India, Sri Lanka, and China imprison 'guest' workers from Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines in compounds in Jordan where they are worked from 12 to 18 hours a day seven days a week in appalling conditions under constant threat of rape, beatings, and deportation.

Locked up after having their passports confiscated at the airport, these indentured labourers have no recourse to such laws as touted in the House by Lib Scott Brison, FTA pointman for the Cons once again, and echoed by Lib Martha Hall Findlay once again :
"following the precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan FTA ... the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination."

Moreover, said Waters, although human rights provisions embedded in the core of the US bill were ignored in Jordan despite the US wielding the big foreign aid stick, the similar but weaker Canadian safeguards stand to be even less enforceable as they are only part of a side agreement to Bill C-8.

Gosh, another dubious LibroCon labour rights side agreement - just like Brison's previous precious - the Canada-Colombia FTA.

continued ...

WikiLeaks

The Iraq files are out.

Remember these slap-happy guys? Seems this wasn't their first killing spree: previously they gunned down two insurgents who were attempting to surrender.


Torture? Mass killing of civilians? All there.

You gotta love this:

Condemning this fresh leak... the Pentagon said: "This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed. Our enemies will mine this information looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment."

Should have thought of that before you invaded, fellas, burning the Geneva Conventions as you advanced. It's all on you.

What's better than a speech by Steyn or Coulter?

A cancelled speech by Steyn or Coulter.

I hasten to add that I mean, from the
conservative agitprop perspective. For the record, I have no difficulty with either of them speaking, so long as they abide by Canadian law. But the coverage these characters get expands exponentially if they are "forced" to abort their missions.

Meanwhile, over at Jay Currie's, the hypocrisy of the Speech Warriors™ is once again exposed. When Coulter and Steyn are allegedly prevented from speaking, that's a free speech issue. When George Galloway and Zijad Delic are actually prevented from speaking, that somehow isn't. Just add the latter to the bulging file of
Speech Warrior™ "except fors."

(PS: Jay's claim that I am denying that the Great London Outrage has anything to do with free speech is, not to put too fine a point upon it, an utter falsehood. On its face, we indeed have here a matter of free speech. But follow the links in my first sentence and decide for yourselves if, perhaps, there's somewhat more to all this.)

NEC plus ultra?

Today's Globe & Mail brings us a story about billboard surveillance. Those pesky visual pollutants aren't just telling you to knock back a Dr. Pepper or wear GAP fashions anymore. They're watching you.

In fact they know you, these ads. And soon they'll want to know you better.


Created by the electronics company NEC, they use sophisticated facial-recognition technology to tailor the ad message based on the appearance of the passerby and the surrounding environment.

How long before the One Big Database™ will combine government and private knowledge of your every belief and desire, not to mention secrets you would prefer not be disclosed? "Buy another Toyota now, Jack Smith, or we'll tell your wife." And the best thing, from our masters' point of view, is that we can't answer back. We see (but soon these things will be multimedia, trust me), and if we know what's good for us, we'll obey. "Uncle Sam Wants You! Yeah, you, Bob Nelles!"

Tinfoil helmet stuff? Don't be so sure. Domino's Pizza is ahead of Uncle Sam in the line, but it wants you too:



To think that just last evening I was idly musing about birth-implanted GPS chips so that none of us would ever, ever get lost. O brave new world--talk to me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mandatory comments on Col. Williams














It appears, from the pages and pages of media coverage of the trial of Col.* Russell Williams, that everyone feels the need to talk. So do I, but not for long.

1. No one knows or is likely to know why Williams did what he did. Not even Williams. That is fundamentally horrifying and destabilizing in itself. Hence the frantic search for explanations, to shore up our belief--a necessary one, perhaps--in an orderly universe, a world of logic, of cause-and-effect.

2. When reading the endless media reports and commentary, I have been struck by the utter failure of language to meet the circumstances. The words used by the families involved to describe the impact of his deeds, as reported in today's Ottawa Citizen, leave me deeply unsatisfied:


Evil hate cowardly grief

Betrayal cruelty violation

Sheer agony shattered fear

Depression traumatized


And here is Williams, in his own words:

indescribably ashamed

I am sorry

despicable crimes


Has language ever been so inadequate? The two sides, if I can put it that way, were enacting a kind of public ritual, but in this instance it has been a fundamentally empty one.

The French philosopher George Steiner, in Language and Silence, wrote of the Holocaust:


The world of Auschwitz lies outside speech as it lies outside reason. To speak of the unspeakable is to risk the survivance of language as creator and bearer of humane, rational truth. Words that are saturated with lies or atrocity do not easily resume life.

To speak of the horror that we have glimpsed through the media over the past few days, then, is to minimize that horror, and to further weaken language itself.

3. There is nothing to be done but to let the rituals play out.
But a meaningful silence is our deepest and most authentic response.

___________
*Rank stripped on October 22.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Harper and public sector integrity

Christiane Ouimet, Canada's Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, has taken early retirement. Not a moment too soon, apparently: Sheila Fraser, the Auditor General, is in the midst of an investigation of her office.

Ouimet's job was to protect public service whistleblowers, and investigate complaints of wrongdoing. But she found no evidence of any wrongdoing whatsoever in any of the 170 complaints her office handled since Stephen Harper appointed her in 2007. It was all "nothing to see here, move along" from the get-go.

Guess who one of the complainants was? Sean Bruyea. Name ring a bell?

Ouimet was also, it seems, a rare pleasure to work for.
In one twelve-month period, 18 of her office's 22 employees left.

Maybe she'll find a new gig at Rights and Democracy. She
should fit right in.

The cult of the expert

It's a recurring meme in journalism: "experts say," meaning that established Truth is being forwarded to us from on high to frame some event or other. Those interested in philosophy will observe the unbroken line between Plato's philosopher-kings and these present day experts.

But this isn't going to be an anti-intellectual post, I promise. Experts are so called because they have studied and specialized in some discipline or sub-discipline. Much as we take a car to a mechanic rather than trying to fix the problem ourselves with a hammer, we do, rightly, defer to genuine expertise--unless you're the pre-Enlightenment Conservative government, of course, and simply reject math and science out of hand.

My interest here is in the aura that is granted to experts by the media. They are too-often turned into gurus, and some cheerfully accept the mantle. From their "area," they begin to branch out and speak with authority on almost anything. And the corporate media, lazy as they are, simply act as stenos for them.

The unintentionally funny David Harris comes to mind, a regular op-edder for the Ottawa Citizen. He was once a director of strategic planning at CSIS, a post that brings with it certain skill and knowledge requirements: but now he is a full-fledged conspiracy theorist who sees Islamist infiltration everywhere he turns. The recent election in Calgary probably made his head explode.

Then there's Tarek Fatah, dutifully trundled out as a "moderate Muslim" expert on Islamism--a "moderate" who believes, inter alia, that Little Mosque on the Prairie is an Islamist plot to lull Canadians. And Margaret Somerville, of course, whose quaint pronouncements on ethics have become more and more political (e.g., opposition to same-sex marriage): her "expert" views are guaranteed a space in our national media as well.

The latest player on the media stage is one Dr. Michael Welner, a "forensic psychiatrist" who is now giving interviews about Omar Khadr. Adding support to my earlier reference to Plato, Welner is described at the link as an "expert on evil."

Here is a priceless excerpt:


In search of goodness, I have sought out any input documenting righteous and selfless deeds of Omar Khadr from inside custody, in particular toward non-Muslims, and will speak to what I found in my testimony.

This is the language of a high priest, not a scientist, but for the media there is clearly very little difference.

And here's more oddness:


When one leaps to the conclusion about Omar Khadr's future because he is friendly, one might recall that Osama bin Laden has always been described as gentle, likable and charming.

The phrase "undistributed middle" springs to mind: A cat is an animal. A dog is an animal. Therefore a dog is a cat. Perhaps they don't teach logic in med schools.

Pogge makes the obvious points here. The freedom available to Khadr to do "righteous and selfless deeds" has been somewhat limited since he was 15. And were he to denounce al-Qaeda as the good doctor wanted--"There is no record of (Khadr's) publicly repudiating al-Qaida, as civilized Muslims should"--the Usual Suspects would lose no time in accusing Khadr of taqiyyah.

But more importantly, what incentive has Khadr had to renounce Islamism? He hasn't exactly been exposed to the sunny side of Western democracy, after all. Tortured, confined in a cage for nine years, and presently facing military drumhead justice, he has been given no reason to renounce the extremism of his family and his youth.

It will be interesting to learn what is contained in Welner's sealed brief. One hopes it might read more like 21st century science than religion, and, if not, that the media will express healthy scepticism instead of awe. But it would be right to feel some misgiving on that score: so far, after all, we have had only the faith-based certainty of latter-day scribes and pharisees.

UPDATE: Via commenter pogge, more on Welner. And more on evil.

Youtube - the good and the bad!

I have so much work on my desk I didn't know where to start, so I made an executive decision and took a quick look at what was happening on the climate front these days. I see that Jay has linked to an interesting video in youtube (no, I am not going to link to it since in my opinion it is so bad - you can see it over at Jay's). There are so many problems with it that it would be hard to begin. Things like flipping back and forth between the Antarctic ice cores and the Greenland ice cores depending on what they want to show; trying to pass off a rise in the Greenland ice core as the hockey stick when it isn't, trying to pass off Greenland ice core temps as global temps, a possible problem with their firn ice method, and a number of others. But what I found interesting is to look at the time on the data. I have reproduced the first graphic below (apologies for the poor quality, but that is what it is like on Youtube).
Note that it ends at 1900. We all know that temperatures have been going up recently so I was curious about what it would look like if we took global temperatures and extended the temperature line to show recent temperatures in the context of their graph (and yes, to cover myself I have had to make some assumptions to match up the different data sets). The result below is instructive.

If anyone is interested I can do it for the other graphs that are shown, but you get the idea. The change they say is so small so as to not be noticeable is actually quite significant if you look at all the data.


That was the bad side of Youtube, but there are good things to be found as well. Recently there was a debate that featured (along with others) Andy Dessler and Richard Lindzen. Richard is generally considered the most scientific literate skeptic and Andy is one of the more outspoken scientists involved in climate change (outspoken in a scientific sense). While it is almost 2 hours long, it is interesting. In layman's terms, I think that Dr. Dessler smoked Dr. Lindzen. If you see things differently let me know in comments.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel blames the victims

...of her country's shabby post-war history of racism.

"Multikulti" isn't working, she asserts. Time for the foreigners to assimilate, she says--learn German, adopt Christian values. Needless to say, the "yellow peril" types like Margaret Wente would like us to follow Germany's lead--regardless of where such thinking once took that country.

I'm no apologist for official multiculturalism. It's a bureaucratic approach that essentializes "culture" and builds as many walls as bridges. But the word has become right-wing code for "letting them furriners in." If integration is demanded, in any case, it might have been nice if Merkel's predecessors had thought of making it a little easier.


In the 1960s and 1970s, West Germany imported vast numbers of Gastarbeiter ("guest workers") to fill a labour shortage: by 1982 there were 4.7 million in the country, with Turkey providing the lion's share. Today there are seven million non-citizens living in the now-unified Germany. These workers assisted in creating the boom times for West Germany during those years.

Although they were supposed to be "temporary," German employers lobbied hard to extend their stays: they didn't want to have to bear the costs of re-training new Gastarbeiter. And so the numbers increased, and children were born to these long-term workers. But neither they nor their German-born children could acquire citizenship: until 2000, Germans were citizens by virtue of blood (jus sanguinis) rather than place of birth (jus soli), and for a non-German, becoming a citizen was and still is an arduous process.

John Berger, in A Seventh Man (1975), paints a dismal picture of life for Germany's "guests." (If you have time, read the extract at the link. Better still, read the whole thing.)

Some points:


Migrant workers do the most menial jobs. Their chances of promotion are exceedingly poor. When they work in gangs, it is arranged that they work together as foreigners. Equal working relationships to indigenous workers are kept to a minimum. The migrant workers have a different language, a different culture and different shortterm interests. They are immediately identifiable - not as individuals - but as a group (or as series of national groups). As a group they are at the bottom of every scale: wages, type of work, job security, housing, education, purchasing power. Thus indigenous workers see another group, less privileged than they are, who differ from them.

--

The presence of migrant workers, seen as intrinsically inferior and therefore occupying an inferior position in society, confirms the principle that a social hierarchy - of some kind or another - is justified and inevitable. The working class comes to accept the basic bourgeois claim that social inequality is finally an expression of natural inequality.

In other words, millions of workers were invited into West Germany and encouraged to stay. But they were not permitted to become citizens until very recently; they were segregated and ghettoized; they were looked down upon as "inferiors"; in short, they were deliberately cut out of the mainstream of German life. But they were useful, as noted--during boom times.

More recently, however, the tide has turned. The boom cycle has been replaced by austerity measures and cutbacks. German workers are now the new Gastarbeiter, seeking work outside their country.
The "guest workers," once tolerated because of the work that they did, are no longer welcome. They remain at the margins of German society, but there is less work for them to do, and many are on social assistance. So now they are seen as a burden, and a problem. Although many have lived in the country for years, they are still colloquially known as Ausländer, or "foreigners."

The call for assimilation by Merkel is, in this context, an act of gross political opportunism and hypocrisy. She is, apparently, trying to woo her party's right wing, and would like to remain Bundeskanzlerin. Playing to the ever-present xenophobes, she has chosen a target created by Germany over a period of more than fifty years: "foreigners," unintegrated because they were not permitted to integrate, are now being blamed for their lack of integration.

When in trouble, however, it's always helpful to look for a handy scapegoat. And it's not like certain German politicians haven't done it before.

On Cut-Rate Saints

I'm not sure which of our heavenly readership will be seeing the newly promoted St. André first, but please convey sincere congratulations from the Dawg, Alison, John, Marie Eve and myself. I have a great fondness for hagiography - saints are such a delightful anachronism- and my good buddy Stageleft has been heard to grumble that they're as close as Catholicism gets to a good, decent polytheism.

The newly-minted St. André may privately wonder, however, why some of the older Saints seem a bit- well, aloof.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ottawa Oblates threaten community

I'm referring to Ottawa East, where I live.

A stone's throw from my house
(although I have not physically tested this as yet) is a residence for the Oblates, a Catholic order. Behind them to the south is another residence (photograph), and a park, which they own: adjacent to them is St. Paul's University, which they run.

Besides offering a sometime haven for accused and convicted priestly pedophiles, the Oblates have of late shown nothing but contempt for the community in which they live. They are selling the property, but have steadfastly refused to meet with the Ottawa East Community Association to discuss our Community Development Plan (CDP), which City Council was to have voted on before the summer recess.

Rumours abound: one is that a subdivision called "One Thousand Doors" will replace the greenspace. Adding fuel to this rumour is the sudden announcement by the Oblates to the City of Ottawa that they are opposed to the CDP. They have refused as yet to provide details of their last-minute objections.

Now, after some delay because of wet conditions, these kindly folks have posted signs banning off-leash dogs on their land--following the eleventh annual "Fido Fundraiser," in which grateful dog-owners had ponied up once again for St. Paul's University in return for the privilege. Needless to say, the Oblates have refused to meet with the community association to mediate a solution, after delivering the news to association representatives on June 29.

As an indication of their arrogance, here is what the Oblates had to say on the matter:


Jacques L'Heureux, the administrator for the Oblate residence that owns the property, said, "If people want to talk then they can talk, but this is private property even if many of them think that they own the place."

Leblanc said residents were not informed of the decision because it was not negotiable.


Ah, Christian love. There goes the neighbourhood.

Monday field notes

A few random jottings during a pleasant sunny Monday in Ottawa:
Plenty to chew on there. As ever, readers' suggestions are always welcome.

ADDITION: What Teabaggers really think of press freedom.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Three (libertarian) amigos




















I'm not a libertarian, but I've discovered a sneaking fondness for some of them--the ones who reject neo-con Iron Heel approaches to problems, and want nothing to do with so-con statism, racism, homophobia and sexism.

I'll never buy the outmoded libertarian notion of the bounded, atomic subject, nor the libertarian fetishizing of private property. The fact that laissez-faire capitalism has its defenders in 2010 is, at least to me, proof of the longevity of myth. But what accompanies these ideological positions is a morality congruent in many places with the morality of the left.

These libertarians believe in the equality of human worth: they reject bigotry in all of its forms. They uphold the quaint notion that the police should be our servants, not our masters. They dislike censorship; even if their absolutism with respect to free speech places them in the Speech Warrior™ camp, they are far more consistent than their colleagues in their application of the principle.

In short, they are decent people, and that goes a long way with me. So I would like to alert my readers to a new site, The Volunteer, run by three friends who have bolted from a swamp called The Shotgun. (The latter has been on my blogroll only because of them.)

Please, then, welcome--and vigorously contest the ideas of--my friends Mike Brock, Terrence Watson and Peter Jaworski in their new redoubt. I wish them good traffic and good discussion.

Toronto the police state



Eight weeks after the G20.

Watch the whole thing. Wonder where our rights have gone, and how they vanished so quickly.

[H/t Mike Brock]

Officer Bubbles wants his dignity back



Constable Adam Josephs was not--not by a long shot--the worst of the G20 police officers who ran amok this summer in Toronto. He didn't, at least so far as we know, grope women prisoners or threaten them with rape. He didn't arrest a TTC worker for going to work in his TTC uniform, or loudly mock mental patients, or seize reporters and shoppers off the street, or beat anyone bloody. He didn't tear off a man's artificial leg and order him to hop to a nearby paddy wagon.

He is just a common-or-garden police bully, a person who proudly stated in his now-defunct Facebook page that he was a collector of "human garbage." During the G20 protests, he walked menacingly over to a young woman blowing bubbles in the direction of a colleague and threatened to arrest her if any of them landed on him. Unluckily for him, he was on videocam when he did so.

He was a jerk, but he made himself a figure of fun, acquiring a moniker that he has apparently been unable to shake. So he is suing YouTube, which, when you think about it, is rather like suing a mirror because you look ugly in it.

It's not the original video that has prompted his action, as it turns out--not really much to be done about that--but cartoons that appeared subsequently, which, it must be said, were fair satirical comment. Josephs, however, is not a man with a sense of humour:


In his statement of claim, Constable Josephs alleges the cartoons have subjected him to ridicule, and have resulted in threats against himself and his family. He also seeks to compel YouTube to reveal the identities of the person who created and posted the cartoon – identified by the moniker “ThePMOCanada” – and the identities of several people who posted comments in response.

On Friday, his lawyer said the lawsuit was in its preliminary stages and he was still in discussions with YouTube to resolve it.

“This level of ridicule goes beyond what is reasonable,” James Zibarras said. “The reason we brought the lawsuit is that people have the right to protect themselves against this kind of harassment.”

The animations in question depict a policeman identified as “A. Josephs” arresting various people – including Barack Obama and Santa Claus – and beating up a news photographer while funk music plays in the background.

Josephs' quarry, the person uploading the cartoons, has now taken down much of the material, although the mash-up above remains, at least for now.*

I can't help contrasting this self-important cop with the legendary Officer Obie in Alice's Restaurant. William J. Obanhein, too, was a little full of himself. He dug through a mountain of illegally dumped garbage--the non-human kind--to discover Arlo Guthrie's name on a piece of paper at the bottom of it. He then arrested Guthrie for littering, slapped cuffs on him, and threw him in a jail cell. As we know, Obie was subsequently lampooned in a popular song, but when it came time to make a movie of it, he stepped forward to play himself.

"If anyone is going to make a fool out of me, it might as well be me," he said.

That's disarming, and says a good deal about the character of the man. Just as Josephs' $1.2 million lawsuit says a lot about him.


[H/t Bene Diction]

_________________
*UPDATE: (October 20) The mash-up has now been removed (h/t Alison), but the cartoons are back (h/t Skinny Dipper), as my replacement vid indicates. For more Officer Bubbles cartoons, visit YouTube and check the sidebar.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Omar Khadr to cop a plea?

Between a rock and a hard place, he really has very little choice.

Khadr stated the obvious last July: "How can I ask for justice from a process that doesn’t have it?"

The presiding officer at his kangaroo-court "trial," Col. Patrick Parrish, has indicated shocking bias from the beginning, as I've observed before. There is no justice to be had when doctored evidence is blithely introduced by the prosecution with a wink and a nod from this "judge." Had Khadr been convicted, which was almost inevitable with the judicial cards stacked so obviously against him, he would, almost certainly, have been sentenced to life in prison.

Meanwhile, we know by now the attitude of the Harper government towards its brown-skinned citizens. There would be no assistance from that quarter. The government has fought strenuously against the very notion. Indeed, the plea deal is likely to put Stephen Harper in a very delicate position (although National Post correspondent John Iveson thinks the Tories might manage to eke out a win).

This shameful deal has nothing to do with justice, everything to do with politics and coercion. The bottom line? Khadr has had to cut his losses. The result is that a child soldier, tortured and then railroaded, will do even more time in prison. Another triumph of the American justice system--and Stephen Harper's politics of exclusion.

UPDATE: Guess who's standing up for Khadr's rights?