Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wente on Mallick

I could go on at length about the spiteful, envious column written by American import Margaret Wente about one of her betters today. I'd take a couple of impertinent and surprising sentences by stylist Heather Mallick over twenty of Wente's boring, pedestrian columns rehashing right-wing idées reçues anytime.

But Globe and Mail commenters have had their say, and they've said it all.
Go read.

Mohawk activist avoids jail...

...to spare Ontario's top cop some embarrassment?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dear MotherCorp

Do you seriously believe that your last-minute recantation and offering up of your daughter will save you from the fire?

The bitch is in heat again

Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again. --Bertold Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Brecht was writing about Hitler's defeat, and offered an always-timely warning--if only we would heed it.

Two extreme-right parties, one of which wants to repeal laws against the public use of Nazi symbols, have just captured one-third of the vote in Austria, Hitler's birthplace. What a surprise. That country has been a-crawl with unreconstructed Nazis since the end of World War Two. The history of Austria not only shows that "it can happen here," but, in certain benighted places on this earth, it just never stops happening.

Simon Wiesenthal estimated that about three-quarters of the guards in Hitler's extermination camps hailed from Austria. After the
Anschluss, mobs quickly took to the streets to hound, beat, rob and kill Jews. But after the war, Austria claimed to be a "victim" of Nazism, playing that line back to themselves and the world until some actually began to believe it.

Meanwhile, the Nazis were simply regrouping. The Freedom Party, a big winner in the elections just held, was created in 1956 by former Nazis such as Anton Reinthaller and Friedrich Peter. The 1960s saw the rise of Norbert Burger, and then the
"Borodajkewycz Affair," where students in the Freedom Party's youth wing took to the streets to defend this anti-Semitic professor. During the subsequent rioting, a former concentration camp inmate, Ernst Kirchweger, was beaten to death.

Many Austrians, in fact, just didn't get it. They held onto confiscated Jewish property until their fingernails bled. Kurt Waldheim's lies about his Nazi past were exposed--and he was subsequently elected president of Austria in 1986.

Austrians who have bravely spoken up against the country's Nazi past have been ostracized. Nobel prizewinner Elfriede Jelinek's plays were banned by the Austrian government in 1996 because she criticized the Nazi era in her country. To this day the Austrian army sends representatives to an annual rally to celebrate the Waffen SS. They were joined in the festivities this year by a delegation of American neo-Nazis.

Of course, today the codes have changed. "They're just against unrestricted immigration! They're worried about Islamism!" Elements of the conservative blogosphere adore these guys. Meanwhile we watch, transfixed and paralyzed, while Fourth Reich
worker bees construct their new hives, first in Italy and now in Austria. They love us for their freedoms.

No Majority for Harper--reason #417

Shorter Brian McGarry, Conservative candidate in Ottawa-Centre:
"Don't like the arts cuts? Have a baby, li'l lady."

[H/t Queer Thoughts and Kady O'Malley @7:41:42]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

And now ladies and germs,

... your special Harper appearance scripted for an exclusive audience.

There’s something entertaining about the limited range of Stephen Harper’s performances during the course of this election campaign. As October 14 looms nearer, it becomes quite apparent that a decision was made regarding which particular acts should be punched up in order to reach and reassure ambivalent voters.

Indeed the scripting, staging and styling of Stephen Harper was anticipated well ahead of the moment chosen to call the elections. For example Michelle Muntean has been on board for a while. Requests for information made to disclose who has been paying for her styling skills are deflected. L’idée du jour says she is paid through some undisclosed discretionary slush fund that every elected member of the House of Commons is allowed.

Famous blue sweater. Leading up to the drop of the writ for the elections, Harper was cleverly portrayed in political advertisements and in ‘candid shots’ as a home-spun, piano-playing, kitten-patting warm fuzzy guy. Many agreed with my impression that this incarnation was creepy and phony, yet some took exception to my description of the cringe factor.

The object of lust. In a truly bizarre move, Mashline, the online news/social media website owned by Conservative supporters, paid out a large sum of money to secure the rights to a Canadian version of "I have a crush on Obama". It was a weird marketing ruse for the former Reformers (they count the faux-doctor Charles McVety among their staunch supporters). After all, the girl who crooned this insipid little ditty was definitely not Harper’s wife.

Was it a lame attempt to convince women of Harper’s charms? Unlike brilliant YouTube creations that went viral upon their release – Culture en Péril, even in its 9 minute version got more hits – this gimmick quickly flopped out of sight.

Bad Con, Faux Con. At an overtly scripted event staged for the purpose of announcing the Conservatives' changes to the Young Offenders' Act, Harper appeared in a suit jacket & sweater vest combo. He was posed holding the hand of Theresa McCuaig who clutched a photo of her dead grandson, conveniently killed by young offenders (convenient that is, for the Cons' photo opportunity, not for Sylvain Leduc and those who mourn him).

The veneer of Harper’s smoothly orchestrated public appearances and sound bites cracked last week when he lashed out at the insubordinate and insurgent artists who continue to voice criticism of his policies. The nasty and real Stephen Harper – not the well-crafted façade – held forth about culture and those he labeled rich gala-goers. So unlike the ordinary working people”, he sneered. Not that Harper has anything in common with ordinary working people.

The nasty flip side of ‘Family Man’ emerged. Shortly after Harper exploded with bitter remarks, his generous and hard-working spouse Laureen put an end to her volunteer responsibilities as chair of the National Arts Centre Gala. No doubt her continued participation in the organization of a cultural event of the type held in contempt by her husband would seem to undermine his authority. His children were removed from field trips organized by their schools, since attending theatre or any cultural event would not be congruent with their father’s crude opinion of the arts.

Like any carefully constructed Con game, the purpose is to manipulate the outcome. Any detail that contradicts or detracts from the purposeful image must be removed. Absolute control over the audience is also a key element to the success of this strategy.

Watching the contrived transformations of Stephen Harper into divertissement that draws attention away from the real man behind the masks, but especially from the real issues of this election, is evocative of .... no, not old-style vaudeville or carnival tent shows, though that would be delicious irony. Harper’s calculated displays are similar to those found in old-fashioned National Geographic documentaries – the ones about predatory animals and the various guises they adopt to fool their prey.

Un grand merci to alison - your blogpost provided an important perspective.

Update: Go read Nothing could be further from the truth for an excoriating analysis of the commercial media's complicity in this Con game show.

Quotations from Peter Kent's CCD

Buckets has a twelfth question for Peter Kent. Now let's pluck a few more statements from the bubbling stew of extremism that is the "Canadian Coalition for Democracies," on whose Board the Conservative candidate for Thornhill sits:

  • Islam and the terrorism it promotes must be religated [sic] to the ash bin of history, much like what we had to do with National Socialism in Europe in the last century. --Naresh Raghubeer, CCD Executive Director [NB: This quote was subsequently taken down by CCD--presumably the mask slipped just a tad too far--but nothing disappears entirely on the Internet. --DD]

  • Just by looking around the world, who could be blamed for concluding that Islam is a savage, barbaric, primitive, cruel, despotic religion... --Alistair Gordon, CCD President*

  • Maoists, Muslims - small minds, big ideas, no humanity. Interesting how Canada kowtows both to the Muslim world and to Mao's China, while marginalizing those who should be our natural allies... -- Alastair Gordon, CCD President**

  • Louise Arbour - Islamist mouthpiece at the UN ... When you thought Canada's unprincipled foreign policy, based primarily on being anti-American, could not sink any lower, we have the idiotic statements of Canada's own Louise Arbour... -- Alastair Gordon, CCD President

  • There are all sorts of things that one cannot do on an airplane, including push-ups in the aisle and yoga. If these imams are so devout and pious, then it is their duty to avoid travel if it interferes with their piety. It is not the duty of the traveling public or airline operators to accomodate their rituals, especially when their own safety is at risk. --Alastair Gordon, CCD President [The imams in question were praying in the airport, not on a plane. --DD]

  • Well, it looks to me like Sid Ryan [the President of CUPE Ontario] just confirmed that CUPE's boycott of Israel is plain, old fashioned Jew-hatred, not unlike that of his socialist mentors, the National Socialist (Nazi) Party of Germany. --Alastair Gordon, CCD President
There you have it. The religion of Islam is "primitive" and "barbaric," and should disappear from the earth. Respected jurist Louise Arbour is an "Islamist mouthpiece." CUPE's Sid Ryan is a Nazi.

Thirteenth question: Does Kent, a member of CCD's Executive Committee, endorse these extremist statements by his fellow CCD executive members?

[H/t Canadian Observer]

*There seems to have been a little judicious housecleaning over at CCD Central. This quotation no longer appears at CCD, but is quoted here. Readers who are interested will be able to find a message numbered 8319.shtml with an indicated follow-up by Gordon that has been removed. The next message is 8321.shtml.

**Another message down the memory hole. This was once message 2429.shtml. Message 2428.shtml still exists, as does message 2430.shtml. Gordon's missing words are quoted here.

Media envy

Bloggers have attracted a bit of teeth-gnashing from some establishment pundits today.

The topic is the recent spate of candidate immolation that has been sparked in some cases by bloggers on the job.

The Ottawa Citizen's national editor, Andrew Potter, and a former speechwriter for Paul Martin, Scott Reid (not to be confused with the Tory MP of that name) are in a snit. Kady O'Malley, bless her, manages to avoid this kind of thing: "[W]hat are the three things you need to be a blogger? Your laptop. Your basement. And your virginity."

That's Scott Reid, setting a new benchmark for lameness.

And here's Potter:

What worries me, though, is that we're seeing the "democratization" of politics, in the most literal sense of the word: The people -- the great idiocratic mass of mouth-breathers out there frantically swiping the drool off their keyboards as they Google around for "dirt" -- are running the campaigns now. There aren't war rooms anymore, directed by parties with smart, educated, responsible adults in charge -- it's Hobbes' state of nature as imagined by Mike Judge.

Yup, democracy is too precious to squander on the people: that "idiocratic mass of mouth-breathers." Heaven forbid that the reign of mainstream journalists be threatened by the rabble. I like that notion of war rooms with "smart, educated, responsible adults in charge," too--the ones who gave us pooping puffins and insults to the family of a dead soldier.

O'Malley makes the glaringly obvious point, in fact, that the press has fallen behind this rabble in nailing down what she calls "candidate eruptions." But her next comment--that, unlike us, journalists need to worry about "boring, grownup stuff like contributory defamation liability, which is so non-Web 2.0"--is simply foolish and uninformed. One needs to ask where she's been lately: bloggers are all-too-aware of the sweep of our defamation laws, as some have found to their cost, and we observe precisely the same standards in this respect as the media hacks who miss so many good scoops.

In fact, speaking of standards, here's Reid piping up again:

I actually think it's A-OK for the media to maintain a few measly standards that separate them from the likes of 'chubbylover69' and the rest of the self-defined blogosphere press gallery. One of my pet peeves is the habit of mainstream media 'reporting' on bloggers who have posted rumours without source or sense of motivation.

Yeah, that must hurt, Scott--not only do the mainstream journalists miss some great stories, but some of the press--in particular the National Post--actually acknowledge the work we do. And that's not based upon rumour-mongering, but on hard facts and solid research that you folks are too lazy, too incompetent or too constrained by deadlines and groupthink to investigate for yourselves.

It wasn't the posting of "rumours without source or sense of motivation" (whatever that latter phrase means) that forced the removal of political candidates like Lesley Hughes: it was a few minutes of research and fact-checking that you were unable or unwilling to do. I never thought I'd say this, but Kate McMillan may be onto something with her "Not Waiting for the Asteroid" series. You folks are just too full of yourselves; you're the voice of an entrenched institution defending your decaying castle.

You've fallen down on the job time after time, and bloggers have had to fill the gap--whether it was police involvement in the Montebello riots, the phoney doctorate of Harper intimate Charles McVety, or the unsavoury comments, behaviour and connections of members of the current candidate pool.

I would suggest, instead of this unseemly moaning and stamping your feet, that we have a symbiotic relationship taking shape, whether we like it or not, and we should all make the best of it. Those who think that bloggers are actually going to replace the so-called "MSM" someday are dreaming in technicolour--the bulk of our material, after all, comes from the media. But not all of it does--nor the connections we are able to make, and the research we are able to do while newsprint waits for the presses and the electronic media processes, cans and delivers information at set times. Nor do we fuss about advertisers and owners, and craft (or spike) our stories accordingly.

And the other thing that rankles the groupthinkers no end, of course, is that we bloggers have a refreshing assortment of intelligent takes on current events, offering a wider variety by far than is what is spoonfed to us by a corporate, lockstep media that serves the status quo so very, very well.

I believe we can help each other in the public interest. But small-minded, petty whining by those who feel their privilege slipping away is not the way to go about it. Truce?

UPDATE: I am reminded that O'Malley and Potter both keep blogs themselves, over at Macleans. Slumming, guys? (H/t reader Ti-Guy)

UPPERDATE: The latest instance of the laziness and incompetence of the "professional" media may be found here. Notorious neo-Nazi warhorse Paul Fromm is introduced to the Global TV audience as--a "civil liberty [sic] advocate." Yes, yes, and Hitler was a "vegetarian," Mengele was a "physician," and David Duke is a "politician." (H/t Firebrand)

Ten questions for Peter Kent, CPC candidate for Thornhill

Dear Peter Kent:

Given your position on the Board of the far-right "Canadian Coalition for Democracies":

1) Do you support the CCD's lobbying for diplomatic and economic ties with the Indian state of Gujurat, where rioters, with government complicity, murdered, raped and dispossessed tens of thousands of Muslims, and where schoolchildren are taught to admire Adolf Hitler?

2) Did you endorse the CCD's position in favour of firing Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, for chairing a meeting that awarded an Order of Canada to Dr. Henry Morgentaler?

3) Do you believe, with the CCD, that "many" Members of Parliament are "apologists for terrorists who celebrate the killing and maiming of men, women, and children?"

4) If yes, who are these Parliamentarians?

5) Do you endorse the smearing of David Suzuki by your president, Alistair Gordon, and his irresponsible retailing of the anti-environmentalist lie that a DDT ban killed millions in sub-Saharan Africa?

As a member of the CCD Board, what role did you play in the attempted character assassination of Liberal MP Omar Alghabra in 2005--for which your organization later had to apologize and retract?

Do you believe, with your colleague David Harris, that Muslim terrorists have infiltrated the FBI and CIA, the State Department, the U.S. Muslim military chaplain corps, the White House, Homeland Security, the U.S. Air Force, Guantanamo, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons--and in Canada, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Quebec NDP?

8) Do you take the view, as your colleague Salim Mansour does, that Canada should walk out of the UN?

9) Do you believe that veiled Muslim women at the polls might be engaging in criminal acts including suicide bombing, as a CCD press release suggests? (Are you aware that the current provisions of the Canada Elections Act permit such women to vote without unveiling, so long as they are not relying on photo ID as proof of identity?)

10) Do you support the bombing of Iran, like your colleague David Harris?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Conservative candidate's unsavoury connection

In my typically even-handed way, I now turn to the Conservative candidate for Thornhill, Peter Kent, who happens to be a senior member of an outfit called the Canadian Coalition for Democracies.

What is the CCD?

It's a group that appears to enjoy fomenting anti-Muslim hysteria. The organization even sucked in that indefatigable anti-Muslim campaigner and promoter of campus snitch lines, Daniel Pipes. Pipes was forced to retract comments he made about Liberal MP Omar Alghabra, which had been based upon misinformation received from CCD. (Pipes refers in his screed to Ezra Levant's further smears of Alghabra, which I dealt with some time ago, and makes additional defamatory remarks that need not concern us here.)

CCD's legal counsel has been none other than David Harris, whose inflammatory anti-Muslim commentary is notorious in its own right, and who has recently been fussing out loud about "out-of-control immigration." Harris was in the news last year making some credulous public comments about a hilariously silly "bugged money" story emanating from the US Defence Security Service.

Here is part of CCD's statement of purpose:

At CCD, we believe that our foreign policy should reflect our respect for life and liberty. If we want peace, we must support beleaguered allies who share our Canadian values. Instead, many in our past governments have made it their career to condemn and criticize the United States and Israel, while being apologists for terrorists who celebrate the killing and maiming of men, women, and children. [emphasis mine --DD]

CCD does not name those "many" in previous Canadian governments who have "been apologists for terrorists." But this kind of shrill, defamatory, McCarthyite rhetoric is par for the course. Check out these CCD media topics for yourselves, and take particular note of the often hateful rhetoric in which they are couched.

Does Peter Kent's association with this extremist group merit some attention from bloggers and the media--and from Muslims in the Thornhill riding?

[Thx to Firebrand for the suggestion.]

UPDATE: Reader Buckets reminds us that CCD was one of the infamous "42 organizations" demanding the firing of Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin for chairing the committee that awarded the Order of Canada to Dr. Henry Morgentaler. Read all about that bogus complaint here.

UPPERDATE: A reader pointed me to this press release from CCD (David Harris, again), urging political and diplomatic relations with the Indian state of Gujurat. Why Gujurat? Could it have anything to do with the militant anti-Islamism of the government there--documented by Human Rights Watch?

A heavy hand in democratic space

Greg Morrow is running the DemocraticSpace election campaign blogathon, but he doesn't want things to get, well, political:

Subject: Keep the quality high

Some folks are becoming concerned that a number of our blog posts are starting to sound increasingly like partisan talking points. There is no shortage of places on the web to hear partisan attacks. Our readers expect critical analysis and insights into how the campaign is playing out nationally and locally. So let's keep the quality of analysis high! -GM

Which rather puts me in mind of Robert Thompson, a Social Credit leader in the 1960s, who accused the Prime Minister of the day, Lester B. Pearson, of "turning Parliament into a political arena."

Greg, although it may come as a rude shock to you, this campaign has something to do with politics. Kudos for your site and the work you are doing, but rein in the prissiness, m'kay?

Friday, September 26, 2008

"What are we going to do?"

The sheer agony in those six words: uttered by a senior McCain aide who witnessed Sarah Palin in action during a mock debate and a mock press conference.
It's hard not to empathize, if they went anything like this.

But heck, not to worry--John McCain has already won tonight's presidential debate.

[H/t Damian and LuLu]

Calling for NDP leadership

Do the right thing here, Jack.

[H/t Random Noise]

UPDATE: I dunno, you explain it. Things are getting downright surrealistic around here.

[H/t Commenter RP]

Flailing with whitewash

The voluminous report of the David Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry is now out. Justice Edward MacCallum blames--why, Milgaard's mother and his supporters.

Even with Milgaard's innocence now established beyond any doubt, and his receipt of a $10 million award for the 23 years of his life that he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit, the "justice" system still can't resist one last futile whitewashing attempt. The Milgaard family and supporters made "false and unfounded" allegations, he says. But the police and the courts merely made "misfortunate and regrettable mistakes." Milgaard's mother Joyce is in part to blame for "delays" in springing him, says the good Justice MacCallum, as though Milgaard would have been released anyway, and sooner, by the officials who put him away in the first place.

Unsurprisingly, the judge found that publicity, not process, got the review started that ultimately led to Milgaard's false conviction being overturned. But he's resentful about it, as though there would have been any "process" otherwise. "[M]uch of the information put forward by the Milgaards and reported in the media was inflammatory, inaccurate and misleading,” said the learned judge. If so, it got a job done that wouldn't otherwise have been undertaken.

MacCallum's clear intention was to exonerate justice officials of all blame in this affair, officials who, he says, were "unfairly hurt" by the successful release campaign. Joyce Milgaard had the nerve to "spend time pursuing leads that were without merit"--unlike, we assume, the police who railroaded Milgaard into prison in the first place. But perhaps the Milgaard family and allies were simply incompetent, he graciously concedes:
“The difficult task faced by Milgaard and his supporters was simply beyond their means and abilities,” said MacCallum.

The judge assures us that justice officials acted in "good faith" and were
“in compliance with the standards of the day.” Yet he admits that the jury in Milgaard's trial was allowed to hear inadmissible evidence, and the judge in the case acted like a bully, rebuking a witness for crying.

"The combination of legal error, and impatience probably contributed to the wrongful conviction," said MacCallum. Yet according to him it's Milgaard's supporters who are at fault, for going to bat with a will on behalf of a wrongfully convicted man whose best years went up in smoke, and whose family has suffered grievously as a result. The system, in the person of
Justice Edward MacCallum, just couldn't resist taking one last swipe at the victims of a gross miscarriage of justice. A complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council, anyone?

Newsflash: Non-whites caused WaMu failure!

...according to some slobbering yokel at the National Review, in any case, with a tip of the ol' fedora to notorious American racialist Steve Sailer.

Commentary from Glenn Greenwald here. Greenwald also takes a good poke at the bubbling racism that continues to dog the Obama candidacy.

UPDATE: (September 27) Krikorian klarifies. [h/t commenter Peter]

It's the economy, stupid: Republicans cauc it up

I sail by stubborn stars, let rocks take heed,
and should I sink . . . then sinking be my creed!

I've always enjoyed those lines by Kenneth Leslie, quoted in a book by Canadian poet Milton Acorn, I've Tasted My Blood. I like stubbornness, even obstinacy on occasion. "Damn the consequences, I'm doing what's right!" can be an admirable and honourable stance, not to mention a tactical display of determination that can sow fear and confusion among the enemy. ("He won't listen to reason! He won't compromise!")

But at some point this degenerates into sheer egoism and shallow ideological flailing. It is neither admirable nor honourable to allow oneself to be paralyzed by principle when the welfare of millions of ordinary people depends upon your next move. But that's just what Republican ideologues have been up to in Congress over the past day or so.

The proposed $700 billion bailout of a foundering economy is a rare exercise in pragmatism from a US President not known for it. Of course, this is not his own plan--he has an army of experts advising him--but his buy-in was crucial. Yes, this is state intervention, and yes, one can cynically argue as one Globe and Mail correspondent did today, that it's socialism for the rich and private enterprise for the poor. But it's hard to imagine
--one might have thought right across the political spectrum--a workable alternative.

CEOs who reign incompetently traditionally make their way to the nearest window of opportunity and exit with golden parachutes.
A top advisor to John McCain, Carly Fiorina, escaped with a paltry $42 million in 2005 as her company, Hewlett-Packard, was forced to lay off 20,000 employees. (McCain supported her in classic knee-jerk fashion, while confessing ignorance about her exit gift.)

Grab a stiff drink (I know it's early in the day) and check out some of the salaries and perks that the new ruling class is hauling in, regardless of performance. Crisis? What crisis?
The bail-out package, if it gets through Congress, may not and certainly should not include this kind of reward for incompetence, whether it's exit plunder or on-going stockholder-robbery.

McCain is not covering himself with glory, meanwhile. He trooped off to Washington to be the nation's saviour after "suspending" his campaign. But when the Republican caucus balked at the proposal, he decided--to take no stand at all! How...presidential.

As reported in the New York Times, Republicans don't want anything that smacks of "socialism." Heavens, no: at a time of crisis, you don't want your government to govern, after all--better they should just take their interventionist hands off the tiller and let the ship of state plough right into the shoals.

Of course, it might simply be crass politics at work, suggests the Globe and Mail:

Moderate Republicans and Democrats seemed to have agreed on a pact with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. But the hasty return to Washington of Mr. McCain, who said he was suspending his presidential campaign to help deal with the crisis, seems to have muddled the deal. Right-wing Republicans apparently rallied to block, or at least delay, the process, perhaps giving Mr. McCain a chance to broker a new agreement.

Not to mention to duck tonight's presidential debate, claiming that he's saving the country instead. The fate of that debate is certainly now in doubt. McCain has no problem bugging out of previous commitments, as we've seen recently. Never mind--if he doesn't show in Oxford, Mississippi this evening, you might be able to catch him on Letterman.

H/t Jerad Gallinger

UPDATE: The debate is on.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Cherniakian dilemma

After his recent outpouring of lies and smears about the NDP and its candidates, not to mention his implicit suggestion that uncritical support of the State of Israel should be a qualification to run in a Canadian election, Jason Cherniak may now have a little problem with one of his own.

Here's Lesley Hughes, running for the Liberals in Kildonan-St.Paul, on the 9/11 attacks:

German Intelligence (BND) claims to have warned the U.S. last June, the Israeli Mossad and Russian Intelligence in August. Israeli businesses, which had offices in the Towers, vacated the premises a week before the attacks, breaking their lease to do it. About 3000 Americans working there were not so lucky.

I await Cherniak's denunciation of the Liberal Party for running one of those Troofer anti-Semites he's been going on about.

Jason? Oh, Jason...?

Is that the crash of a glass house shattering--or the pleasant sound of a Liberal operative being torn in two by conflicting priorities?

[H/t commenter Barbara at Sean In Saskatchewan and The Black Rod.]

UPDATE: (September 26)

Hughes issues a classic non-apology apology:
"I find any interpretation of my journalism as anti-Semitic personally offensive and I heartily apologize for that perception."

Nice of her to apologize for my perception. And still no word from Cherniak--cat got his tongue?

UPPERDATE: Cherniak speaks! To paraphrase: "But-but-but....the NDP!"

UPPESTDATE: Hughes is bounced. Will Cherniak claim the credit?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Canada's political police

Anyone getting a little alarmed about Stephen Harper using the RCMP as his Praetorian Guard?

I don't put the blame totally on Harper or his Liberal predecessor Jean Chrétien either. The RCMP, long a law unto itself, an elite squad of Canadians whose members are permitted to kill with impunity, clearly fancies itself in this role.

What is happening to this country? Why isn't continued RCMP wrong-doing an election issue?

I wrote a Letter to the Editor for the Conservative Party

... and so can you!

Inspired by this woman's account, I zoomed over to the CPC website.
After reading 10 facts that I did not know about Stephen Harper, I had a short nap. When I woke up, I clicked on the 'Write a Letter to the Editor' link. I was taken to a page where I had to provide my postal code. I considered my options - making up or borrowing existing information so I opted for a combination of the two; I gave the code for a neighbourhood housing co-op.
Topic for Letter to Editor. The choices were health care, lower taxes, Arctic Sovereignty, Help for first-time homebuyers, Child care, Environment, Supporting self-employed mothers, Support for Seniors, Tackling Crime, Accountability, Cutting the excise tax on diesel.
Decisions, decisions. I selected 'Supporting self-employed mothers'.
Next page, I could click on The Globe and Mail or The National Post. I picked the Post. Then boxes, with Asterisks flagging information that HAD to be given. The set-up was interesting. The default province was Alberta. There were 5 boxes dedicated to information about the street: Number, Number Sfx, Name, Direction, Type. (Is that a Calgary idiosyncrasy?) I entered a fictitious name, then location info about the housing co-op. For Street Direction I provided 'One-Way'; for email address, another inspired bit of fiction.
I was ready to write my Letter to the Editor!
On the next page there was a box for the subject line, and the text, helpful hints and, MOST importantly, CPC platform points. I was crass. I copied most of the platform points with a few embellishments. This was my Letter to the Editor:
To whom it may concern,

Canadian women deserve the right to make the best choices for their families. No one should be forced to choose between starting a family and starting a business because of government policy. That's why Prime Minister Stephen Harper's announcement that Conservatives will give self-employed Canadians the opportunity to opt-in to maternity and parental employment insurance benefits is important and will keep women off welfare and in the house.

In 2007, more than 2.6 million people were self-employed in Canada and one third of them were women. Now these women will have the choice to pay into the EI program so that when they need to take the time to care for their newborns, they have financial support so they don't have to sue men for alimony.

This announcement is another example of how Conservatives will help our economy and our families.
Well, that sure was a LOT of fun. I hope that the housing co-op people aren't too cranky with the CPC flunky who calls their phone number to check up on Sergei Lafortune.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Good Con, Bad Con

Today's front page photo, Le Droit. Yesterday Harper spoke at a sparsely attended venue in Vanier Ontario for the purpose of announcing changes to the Young Offenders Act, with harsher penalties.

Angela Campbell, who specializes in children and the law at McGill University's law faculty, doubted Harper's proposal will curb youth crime. She called it a "hard-line, law-and-order approach that is very simplistic ,,,, People who believe that young people are committing more acts of violence will say 'that's a great idea.' However, the reality is that crime perpetrated by young people has actually diminished quite consistently in Quebec and across Canada."

There is no evidence that tougher penalties and naming teenage perpetrators has any dissuasive effect on their actions, Campbell said. Montreal lawyer René Binet said this approach is "more emotional than rational because there is no study that shows that tougher sentences lead to a lower crime rate."

Harper is posed with Theresa McCuaig and a picture of her dead grandson.

A Con-ning photo opportunity.

What's next? Gerry Ritz in a Ronald McDonald suit, cozying up to families holding pictures of their elderly parents or infants, killed by listeriosis?

Harper and his Conservatives are making public safety an issue in this election campaign. This may be their strategy for avoiding a debate on the hot-button topic of public health.

In today's Le Devoir, Brian Myles writes about punishment as a weapon of mass dissuasion. He points out that politicians (I would add, of the right-wing, so-con persuasion) are particularly fond of this solution.

Law-and-order statistics seem to indicate that in spite of screaming headlines and sensationalistic news coverage that offer little or no analysis, the increases in violent crimes committed by young offenders may not warrant the draconian measures advanced by the Conservatives.

It would appear this is more of the same-old same-old reactionary mise-en-scène for Harper and his gang-that-shoots-itself-in-the-foot, as a tactic to engineer a holy majority.

Update/September 24: Radio-Canada reports that the Québec Minister for Justice and Public Safety, Jacques Dupuis and Yves Francoeur, president of the police officers' union are opposed to the changes in the Young Offenders Act that were announced yesterday.

The $18.3 billion lie

Lawrence Martin asked querulously in the Globe & Mail yesterday why immigration isn't an issue in the current election campaign. He spent a good deal of time citing the former executive director of the Canadian Immigration Service, one James Bissett, who is predicting the usual doom and gloom that the rabid right associates with non-white "ethnic" immigration.

Martin gives Bissett a pass on a possible charge of racism because his son married a Black woman, and his daughter married a Cuban. But that's needlessly defensive, and immediately arouses suspicions even among those like myself who think that a good racism-free socio-economic debate on immigration is there to be had. Those marital choices were rather obviously not up to Bissett; and we have no information, of course, on the state of Bissett family relations today.

But in any case, here is Bissett himself:

Either our political leaders do not know that Canada is facing an immigration crisis or they care more about gaining a few more so-called "ethnic voters" than they do about telling the truth about immigration.

He is, to be sure, somewhat more guarded than this fellow. Or this one. But somehow the message is always the same, however encoded it might be. Immigration is being encouraged for crassly political reasons: to secure the existing [clears throat] "ethnic" vote and import some more Xs for political parties at election time. This is the end of Canada as we know it: nothing less than a crisis is looming.

Bissett is not above
argumentum ad verecundiam, citing loads of studies that purportedly prove this or that but providing no details or citations. The occasional straw man wanders into the room as well:

Our politicians justify their desire for more immigrants by raising the spectre of an aging population and tell us immigration is the only answer to this dilemma, and yet there is not a shred of truth to this argument. Immigration does not provide the answer to population aging and there is a multiplicity of studies done in Canada and elsewhere that proves this.

No one I know argues that immigration is "the only answer" to the problem of the ageing population. Indeed, immigration levels would have to rise astronomically if this were so. But immigration is one offset among many, and shouldn't be so misleadingly dismissed in an all-or-nothing manner.

Immigrants also lay waste to the environment:

We have already experienced the impact mass migration has had on the health, education, traffic, social services and crime rates of our three major urban centres. It may be that cutting the immigration flow in half would do more than any gas tax to help reduce our environmental pollution.

And then we have the obligatory reference to the Herbert Grubel paper written for the Fraser Institute:

[A] study published this year by professor Herbert Grubel of Simon Fraser University revealed that the 2.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1990 and 2002 received $18.3 billion more in government services and benefits in 2002 than they paid in taxes. As Prof. Grubel points out, this amount is more than the federal government spent on health care and twice what was spent on defence in the fiscal year of 2000/2001. Isn't it time our party leaders were made aware of this study?

Grubel's article is worth ploughing through. Not all of it is nonsense, although he has a rather evident ideological axe to grind, bemoaning multiculturalism, high minimum wages, over-regulation, social insurance and other Great Satans. Moreover, he makes too-easy comparisons between Canada and the US, citing American authorities on welfare dependency and then hedging with this kind of language (p.23):

It may well be that the more pervasive social welfare programs and an educational system financed differently in Canada will prevent the development of the conditions found by Borjas and Sueyoshi, but since there is no empirical evidence, this outcome is merely a possibility.


He does raise the credential issue, however, which has been rightly critiqued from all quarters:

The economic problems faced by recent immigrants with high levels of education have given rise to the stereotype of taxi drivers in Canada who are foreign-trained science graduates, PhDs, engineers, and lawyers. This stereotype is not far off the mark. Recently, the Consul General for India in Vancouver told me that the inability to find jobs commensurate with their formal education is one of the main complaints immigrants from India have voiced with him. Promises allegedly made by Canadian officials issuing immigrant visas to the highly educated simply are not being kept.

But I find the $18.3 billion dollar figure, the one that the anti-immigrant folks are waving around like a banner, a very odd measure of the alleged "failure" of liberal immigration policies.

Briefly stated, that amount is the difference between the costs of social services for immigrants and the taxes they pay--a kind of snapshot. On the face of it, this seems a rather odd emphasis for a conservative think-tank to take. Is the measure of a person's worth in the community reducible solely to the amount of taxes he or she pays? But the implication here, of course, is that immigrants are a net drain on society, a huge community of communities on the public dole.

But is this the case? Presumably, despite the higher unemployment rate among recent immigrants (12.7% as opposed to 7.4% of native-born Canadians), working immigrants build wealth in the community by participating in the labour force, by creating jobs of their own, and, in the role of consumers, through the multiplier effect of their spending. And this doesn't include the intangibles: cultural contributions, new ideas, and the countless acts of ordinary citizenship that immigrants offer.

What's more, although Grubel notes a slowing in the progress of immigrants towards wage parity with native-born Canadians, he doesn't mention their children, many of whom are part of that cohort of native-born Canadians about which he is so concerned. Indeed, whether immigrant children or children born here to immigrants, the new kids do well in school, well in college, and well afterwards.

Looked at this way, we can see how misleading that $18.3 billion figure really is. What it indicates is not the feeding of a chronic dependency, which is what those who quote it invariably maintain, but a rolling investment that pays dividends over time. Not only is the labour of immigrants and their participation in the economy as consumers left out of this figure, not to mention the positive externalities that immigrants contribute, but also the long-term benefits: the gradual rise in their own wage levels--an indicator of their integration into society and the economy--and the eventual productivity of their children.

Given the ease, however, with which antipathy to the Other can be whipped up by so-called "experts," former immigration officials and the Fraser boyz, and the journalists and ideologues who boil their poison down for popular consumption, I, for one, am pleased that we aren't having the immigration debate during this campaign. Not only do we avoid the inevitable ugliness--marginalized, certainly, since even the Conservative party welcomes more immigration, to the despair of the far right--but we'll have all the more time to get our heads around the Green Shift. : )

Monday, September 22, 2008

The tyranny of the majority ....

It's an interesting turn of phrase, is it not? It was said by Conservatives who were chafing and frothing with the injustice, nay, the inhumanity of being subjected to the rules of order of the House of Commons Ethics committee.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson .... told a rally in Ontario on Sunday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already made it clear he would not tolerate any more "obstruction"...
Meanwhile in Québec, former senator and now Conservative candidate Michael 'Teflon' Fortier is the point man for the attack against the Bloc Québecois. It seems that he is travelling across the province with a publicity van. These Conservative campaign advertisements attack not the raison d'être of the BQ party which is legitimate criticism, but the actual validity of casting a vote for Duceppe's party.
A caller to the Radio-Canada noon open-line program, Maisonneuve en direct, said bluntly:
"C'est grossier, ce que prétendent les Conservateurs. C'est comme si on avait pas le droit de voter pour le député ou le parti qu'on a choisi. Et ça vient de Monsieur Fortier, qui a été ministre sans jamais être élu."
Translation: This is crass, what the Conservatives claim. It suggests that a vote for the candidate of our choice is not legitimate. This from Mr Fortier who was a Minister without being elected.
In this opinion piece, the author castigates Fortier as a dangerous right-wing zealot and a promoter of hateful messages attacking the BQ and those who vote for the party. He announces his intention to file a complaint with Elections Canada.
Stephen Harper wants a majority and he will use whatever means necessary to achieve his goal.
Remember, back in August when Harper first tested the notion of calling an election, he claimed that he could no longer govern with the opposition holding the majority of seats? Under his leadership, senior CPC officials called riding workers who were suspicious of the 2006 'In-and-Out' scheme "a bunch of turds". One of those campaign volunteers was a police chief in a small Ontario town who smelled a rat and advised his candidate to turn down the offer.
Harper and his dirty-tricks gang have demonstrated that they can do tyranny very well, albeit on a small scale. All they require is a majority to really unleash their full potential.
A big Merci! to CC who started the thought process with his post. The political cartoon is from the Toronto Star.

Rational political commentary

Has blogger "Impolitical" lost it?

Yes, the NDP helped to bring down the rotten Paul Martin government. But since then it has voted against the Conservatives in countless House of Commons votes--unlike the Liberals, who abstained or voted with the government on 43 occasions.

Bob Rae is, and always has been, an aristocratic, silver-spoon hypocrite. It's sad to see that his ailment appears to be catching.

UPDATE: (September 23) Impolitical responds.

Just two points in reply: First, my original post was a response to Rae's snide "house that Jack built" nonsense, with which Impolitical was presumably in agreement. That's pretty brazen, given that it's been the Libs and not the NDP who have been propping up Harper for months, and that the last election was the Liberals' to lose. Blaming that loss on the NDP rather than on their own lack of appeal to the electorate is breathtakingly silly.

Secondly, it's Liberal hypocrisy alone that appears to be catching. I regret that I (inadvertently) appear to have accused Impolitical of being an aristocrat, and withdraw the suggestion.

One in the eye for the chickenhawks

Jeremy Hinzman has won a reprieve for now from his scheduled deportation.

This will come as disappointing news to the gung-ho contingent of Canadian bloggers and slavering journos who want US deserters in Canada hauled back to America for "the treatment." (Nice to see some red-blooded responses to Rosie the Hawk.) Somehow, wanting to avoid being part of this and this and this and, in general, this, is nothing short of contemptible in their eyes.

In their self-righteous rush to condemn, the mockery can go a little awry. "Go ahead and pretend that this is the Sixties, and that the Taliban are the Vietcong." Whoops, wrong country. Never mind, Terry.

Needless to say, of course, none of these keyboard warriors is in any hurry to see action. But they're willing to fight to the last drop of other people's blood for causes they believe in--like driving the Taliban out of Iraq.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Writhing with disgust

A few days ago CBC columnist Heather Mallick did a detailed piece on yet another death of a thousand cuts
(pace Gerry Ritz). She examined, in her inimitable way, the current Tory war against culture and its devastating fallout for Canadian artists, our cultural industries and our international presence.

The onslaught continues, and never mind Stephen Harper's mediocre piano-playing. (That was just aural mendacity for the rubes.) The latest target of the hairy-knuckled hordes is the Ottawa-based Canadian Screen Training Centre.

According to the Ottawa Citizen's Tony Lofaro:

The centre, founded in 1981, has been a leader in training people in film and video production, and its annual Summer Institute of Film and Television program has been a bona fide hit, offering practical filmmaking experience to thousands of people. Directors such as Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and a score of Canadian producers and directors have taught at the institute. One of its famous graduates is Denise Robert, producer of The Barbarian Invasions, the Canadian winner of 2003's Best Foreign Film Oscar.

Perhaps Denise Robert hit too close to home. The Centre has now been informed that a $205,000 annual grant from Canadian Heritage will be axed on April 1, 2009, giving fresh new meaning to April Fools' Day. That grant is minuscule, but it's 40% of the Centre's budget. Says executive director Max Berdowski:

What we do with the level of funding we have is really quite remarkable. But to try and have a 40-per-cent cut in our revenue and still try to do anything that is still of significance is just a non-starter for us.

He predicts that unless the shortfall can be made up, the Centre is likely to close its doors as early as 2010.

And here is Canadian Heritage mouthpiece Dominique Collin:

This is a new approach to managing public funds and allows the government to assess a wide and diversified range of programs as a group to ensure they attain strong results and remain relevant.

Where is George Orwell now that we need him?

Mallick sums up the whole affair better than ever I could:

The cuts are shameful and cheap. Worse than that, they are spiteful, a character trait that makes me writhe with disgust when I find it in myself. What a government.

Yup, I'm writhing too. The barbarians are well past the gate--they're running the government. A-writhe, then, fellow citizens, let's kick these vandals to the curb on October 14. Or else it's NASCAR races, game shows and accordions for all eternity.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


OK, enough is enough.

"Tories on cusp of majority with 40% support," shrieks CanWest. And then the fine print:

Stephen Harper's Conservatives have moved within reach of a majority, according to an Ipsos Reid poll, primarily because the party has found new strength in key election battlegrounds in Ontario and Quebec.

The Conservatives have surged to 40-per-cent support, up two points from a week before, according to the poll, commissioned by Canwest News Service and Global National.

Meanwhile, the Liberals have dipped two points to 27 per cent. The NDP jumped two points to 15 per cent and the Greens dropped one point to sit at 10 per cent nationally.

"It seems like this relentless march by the Tories. They're not really making huge strides, but ... obviously they're moving in the right direction," said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Reid Public Affairs. The poll, conducted by phone from Tuesday through Thursday, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. [emphases mine --DD]

For crying out loud. Conservatives "surge" in a "relentless march," Liberals "dip," and the NDP "jumps"--two whole points, well within the statistical margin of error. Whom on earth do the pollsters and media think they're kidding?

And then this:

Still, while the poll shows that Canadians are warming to the prospect of a Tory majority, 49 per cent still say they would be "dissatisfied" with such a result. Thirty-seven per cent would be satisfied, while 14 per cent had no opinion.

In other words, the folks who are going to vote Tory anyway would be "satisfied" with a Tory majority. (I think it's fair to assume a certain amount of overlap here.) What almost classically British understatement!

That's it for me. No more polls, which more and more are beginning to sound, in their interpretation if not their methodology, like a certain notorious MASSIVE one. La, La, La, La, Ipsos-Reid, I can't hear you!

And, as always, the real lede is buried deep under the cornfield. 40% of the voters will bring a party close to "majority" territory. Minority rule as usual. Ain't formal democracy grand?

Culture en péril

NOTE: I posted this yesterday and Blogger gobbled it up when I returned in edit mode to add tags. Just so that everyone knows I'm not pulling a Cherniak - it's the same text, including a préambule that warns of the return of my blogging colleague.

For all the Dr Dawg fans out there in the blogosphere: do not despair! He will be back soon, in fine argumentative form.

In the meanwhile, I do believe that I am getting the hang of this. A little context for the following production. A voice-over states that the Heritage programs in support of the arts that were cut have been replaced by a different funding structure. A musician enters the Committee room to explain his festival's request for support to travel to France. It is Michel Rivard, one of the founders of Beau Dommage. He starts to sing a beloved Félix Leclerc song about a seal who has left her love and her community to work in the US but he barely gets past the word phoque before the ideological impairments of the Committee members cause them to become hysterical.

For more background about how Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have savagely cut funding to many programs funding the arts, read Beijing York's excellent series of blogposts here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A prominent Liberal blogger--my two cents

Jason Cherniak, you dishonest little prick. Time for two apologies to decent folks.

First, for suggesting that those who are critical of Israel should not be allowed to run for any party. Well, that gets it all out in the open, doesn't it? You should apologize to every candidate in this election, and any future candidates, for daring to suggest that opposition to Israel should disqualify them from taking part in our Canadian political process. Who the hell do you think you are?

Secondly, for getting your facts hopelessly, ludicrously, stupidly wrong--and then refusing to apologize, and keeping your post up in lights.

Unless and until you do the right thing, you're a disgrace. An utter, contemptible disgrace. Political discourse is already taking a nose-dive in this country. The last thing we need is more gutter commentary from the likes of you.

Farewell, Marion

I was privileged to attend the funeral of Marion Dewar today, along with hundreds of other friends and admirers.

To be honest, I thought this was going to be somewhat of an ordeal. Marion was a devout Catholic. She attended morning Mass almost every day before she set off to work--as a Mayor, an activist, a public health nurse, whichever of her myriad hats she happened to be wearing (and she usually wore several at one time).

I am not a Catholic, and I have very little time for the Church. I was expecting endless liturgical clichés, delivered by rote, a lot of ceremony imposed with hierarchical authority, and then, at last, an exit into the fresh and sunny air. Instead, I found myself in the midst of a warm community.

Marion's pastor
officiated, Father Corbin Eddy, recently retired from the priesthood (but, of course, still a priest). He gave us a brilliantly crafted homily: I was frankly shocked into rapt attention. He began with a poem by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai:

The Place Where We Are Right

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

Be a mole; be a plough. Encourage those doubts and loves. This was Marion's life, questioning, learning, acting. Father Eddy said, with a twinkle in his eye, "Marion was a person who knew...left from wrong," and, speaking of the need for community involvement and service, paused for a moment, and looking at one of her sons, the current NDP candidate for Ottawa-Centre, said, "Run, Paul, run." He managed to work in a Latin lesson and a friendly comment or two about ex-Cardinal Ratzinger, but somehow it was all of a piece, with continual surprises and twists.

The appreciative congregation, of course, knew all of the antiphonal responses and the words to the hymns: on this occasion, it was the ease of a large family around the dinner-table, the commonplaces of conversation mixed with the words of sorrow and an empty chair. And for a short period I was part of that family, paying my respects to one of us now absent.

UPDATE: Father Eddy was gracious enough to comment here, and to note that I had managed to omit the third-last line from the Amichai poem--now inserted.