Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: the sleaze continues

Lawyers for RCMP officers Kwesi Millington and William Bentley were at it again today, trying to smear the character of their victim, Robert Dziekanski.

I caught a bit of it on video: two of his friends in Poland convincingly refuted all of their slurs. At least this time the lawyers disclosed just whom they were representing: someone might have explained to them since yesterday that keeping this from the witnesses looked a little sneaky--as indeed it was.

No, said Magda Czelwinska, Dziekanski was not a man of superhuman strength, and she had never smelled alcohol on his breath. She had never seen him agitated as he appeared to be in Vancouver. But as she put it, "[H]e was lost at the airport, he didn’t have cigarettes or water and he had quit smoking to surprise his mother."

Ryszard Krasinski, a former teacher, remembered his friend as one with whom he gardened, barbecued and played chess. They got together often for family occasions. Dziekanski had a deep knowledge of geography, he testified. During celebrations, as is the custom, they drank vodka, he said, but otherwise he had never seen Dziekanski drink often, or excessively.

Meanwhile the slightly creepy lawyer for Millington, Ravi Hira (and if you have seen the live feed, you will know just what I mean), is on a fishing expedition--he apparently wants access to Dziekanski's juvenile records, if you can believe it.

I must say I'm a little disheartened that inquiry chairman Thomas Braidwood is allowing so much latitude to the RCMP officers' lawyers to slime the man they killed. There seems a certain lack of even-handedness here. He was not nearly so generous last week, when he warned government lawyer Helen Roberts against raising a matter in Constable Millington's own past.

Sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, and if Dziekanski's life is to be made an open book, then everything about the Four Horsemen ought to be made public as well: their medical records, annual performance reviews, any possible history of alcoholism or drug abuse, relations with their neighbours and spouses, and so on. Surely their own characters are just as relevant as that of their victim--or even more so. But somehow only Dziekanski's past is considered to be of importance, as though what he might or might not have done when he was 17, or whether or not he ever visited Germany, had anything whatsoever to do with his death.

More tomorrow.

UPDATE: (April 1) Hearings were cancelled today. Tomorrow we shall hear from witnesses Robert Dylski and Aneta Czernel, by videolink from Poland.

Opposition parties unite on Abdelrazik

A press release today:

“Bring Abdelrazik Home”
Opposition Parties call for Government to End Kafkaesque Spiral for Canadian Stranded in Sudan: “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Compels It”
Ottawa, March 31, 2009 – Representatives from the three opposition parties joined together to call for the Canadian government to bring home its citizen, Abousfian Abdelrazik.
Mr. Cotler said: “Mr. Abdelrazik has spent nearly six years in Sudan and suffered torture while being wrongfully imprisoned on two occasions by Sudanese officials. Evidence has now come to light that Canada may even have played a role in his illegal detention.
“Both CSIS and the RCMP have cleared Mr. Abdelrazik. The government has disclosed no reason to suspect he constitutes a security threat. In these circumstances, international law expressly allows for Mr. Abdelrazik’s return to Canada, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms compels it. The government needs to bring Mr. Abdelrazik home.”
Abousfian Abdelrazik is a Sudanese Canadian who has not been permitted to leave Sudan since visiting his ailing mother in 2003. He was twice detained and released by Sudanese officials without being charged. He has spent the last 11 months living in the lobby of the Canadian embassy, as the government has denied him a passport to return to home.
The Canadian government recently promised Mr. Abdelrazik his necessary travel documents if he could secure a ticket home. Through the generosity of Canadians, a ticket for Mr. Abdelrazik was indeed bought for April 3. But with his travel date just days away, the government continues to deny Mr. Abdelrazik his passport.
Cotler added: “There is nothing in fact or in law to justify the denial of this citizen’s re-entry into Canada. Mr. Abdelrazik is caught in a Kafkaesque spiral in which the government offers no legitimate reason to deny him a passport, yet continues to do so. Like any Canadian, Mr. Abdelrazik has the right to come back home.”

But are the parties serious? Talk is cheap. I would be amazed if former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff--who has avoided, you will notice, all comment on the topic--is willing to take the Parliamentary measures required to repatriate Abdelrazik.

April 3--Abdelrazik's departure date--is three days away. He still doesn't have his travel documents. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, deliberately flouting the law, has made it effectively impossible for him to return to Canada.

Put up or shut up, Liberals. Are you willing to force the government's hand in the House of Commons with the appropriate motion? Or is this just more hot air?

Taliban v.2.0

This is what Canadian troops are dying to defend in Afghanistan.

Not that any of that should be a surprise by now.

The war is unwinnable, said Stephen Harper recently. At the time I applauded him for his honesty. Now I think he made a grave error. The war has already been won.

[H/t Montreal Simon]

Monday, March 30, 2009

George Galloway kept out

Why is anyone surprised? These days the Conservatives don't even let Canadian citizens enter the country!

The Braidwood Chronicles: mudslingers meet their match

The illustration here is of Canadian protesters rallying for Robert Dziekanski in November, 2007. At the same time, Polish citizens, learning of his death at the hands of four RCMP officers, were equally outraged, and some let the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw know it. One sent an email suggesting that the Vancouver authorities, in preparation for the 2010 Olympics, might want to stock up on "body bags and interpreters." Canadian diplomats and their families were urged to lie low for a while.

Some of those citizens, friends and neighbours of Dziekanski, are presently testifying before the Braidwood Inquiry by videolink. Readers will remember that the RCMP sent officers to Poland on a mission last April to dig up any dirt they could find on their victim, causing considerable offence in his home town.

Lawyers for two of the officers involved tried it again today, but they ran into one Iwona Kowaska, who simply wasn't having any. She had lived in the same apartment building as Dziekanski in his home town of Gliwice, and had known him socially for more than twenty years. She testified that he had never seen him drunk, contrary to RCMP and Crown innuendo about his alleged alcoholism. He was a normal, friendly man, eager to join his mother for a new life in Canada, but anxious about his upcoming trip: he hadn't slept for two days before he left.

The RCMP lawyers, who did not divulge to her whom they were representing, questioned her closely about his habits, disposition and medical record. In response to their suggestions that he was an alcoholic who was prone to violence she reacted with anger. She accused them of trying to blacken his name, and stated flatly that she would answer no more questions from them if they persisted. And when the lawyer for Constable Kwesi Millington attempted to bring up an alleged 23-year-old robbery conviction in Poland, he was called to order by the chairman, Thomas Braidwood.

Incidentally, there's a lengthy and very good run-down of the proceedings here, in Q & A format, by CBC reporter Curt Petrovich. (He can be asked more questions here, and, if you have the stomach for it, there is a daily live broadcast of the Braidwood Inquiry here.) This is what Petrovich has to say about the allegation that Dziekanski had a criminal conviction:

Q| If Mr. Dziekanski had no criminal record, how did he do a five year term in a Polish prison for robbery?

Peter O'Neil, CanWest Europe Correspondent, CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
GLIWICE, Poland - Robert Dziekanski dreamed of coming to B.C. to escape a troubled life in this gritty industrial city, including a tumultuous common-law relationship and a five-year jail term for robbery when he was a teenager, say two of his closest friends.

Is Peter O'Neil credible?

A| All I can tell you is that there is nothing in the RCMP's dossier to the effect that Robert Dziekanski spent any time in custody for any crime as you describe. Considering investigators went to Poland I would be surprised if a detail like a criminal record escaped their scrutiny in this matter. As I've said before Canadian immigration officials also verified Mr. Dziekanski's admissibility. While I am told anecdotally that he was involved in some event as a juvenile I have to wonder what difference that would make anyway. If what you read is true it happened 20 years before his death. The officers who approached him had zero information about who Mr. Dziekanski was let alone any background. And it wasn't until after some 30 hours of rather uneventful dealings with Mr Dziekanski that anyone reported a problem. [emphasis added]

But in spite of all the fetid water that has passed under the bridge by now, the cops, through their lawyers, are still trying to brazen it out, ever more desperately. As Petrovich says, even if there had been a conviction, the connection between it and his death at the hands of RCMP officers more than two decades later must, at least for any reasonable person, appear to be a tenuous one indeed.

As tenuous, in fact, as the connection between the officers' testimony at the Braidwood Inquiry and the Pritchard video.

Hizzoner does it again

As Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien stumbles and bumbles his way to what might prove to be his personal finish line--his criminal trial in May on charges of influence-peddling--he's now in the news again over an up-coming military trade show coming to our town on May 27.

Such death-and-destruction fairs are not supposed to happen on City of Ottawa premises. In 1989, after major opposition to a similar show culminated in a mass demonstration and 117 arrests, City Council voted to ban all such events in municipal facilities. But some legal sleight-of-hand was performed by a City of Ottawa lawyer to let the show go on.

It's taking place in Lansdowne Park, which was sold to the former regional government in 1999--a different jurisdiction in which the ban didn't apply. But the facility reverted to the City of Ottawa again when regional government was later abolished. You'd think it would once again come under the same policy that applies in the rest of Ottawa's current jurisdiction, but not according to the legal opinion sought and received by the Mayor.

I think we need a second opinion. But in any case, another issue has now come to light. It appears that the Mayor's own company, Calian, from which he still draws a hefty salary, will be exhibiting its wares at the show!

Conflict of interest? No way, huffs the Mayor.
But his gadfly critics at zeromeanszero.com nail O'Brien's pretence here (scroll down a bit).

Hey, don't blame me--I didn't vote for him. But these days, I bet, not too many folks are willing to say they did.

Oh, by the way--sign the petition.

A new way of counting

Pay equity in the federal public service having now been dispensed with, employment equity is in the news today. The notion that the PS should be broadly representative of the public whom it serves does not appear in practice to have yet sunk in. But this morning we learn of a bold new initiative by the Public Service Commission to improve the numbers. And I mean that literally.

Visible minorities in the federal public service are underrepresented in comparison to their labour force availability. In 2007-8, according to the Treasury Board's own figures, 9.2% of the PS workforce, and (by coincidence) 9.2% of new hires were visible minority individuals, below the labour force availability figure of 10.4%.

There's been a strong push in recent years to improve visible minority representation in public service ranks. The Senate, for example, released a report in 2007, Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service – Not There Yet, with some tough recommendations, including this one:

Recommendation 1 – The Committee recommends that as a next step towards strengthening leadership and enhancing management and executive accountability, the bonuses of deputy ministers be tied to performance assessments in terms of progress on diversity and employment equity goals.

And last year, deputy heads were ordered by Clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch to hire visible minority workers at an increased rate, beyond their labour force availability.

Now, as reported, the Public Service Commission of Canada has hit upon a possible solution:

[PSC head Maria] Barrados said the commission devised a new way of counting, which showed 17.3 per cent of all hires last year are visible minorities compared with earlier estimates of 9.5 per cent. [emphasis added]

But there is a problem:

To complicate matters, Treasury Board released, on the same day, its long-overdue employment equity reports showing visible minorities are still under-represented and their numbers are about half of those estimated by the commission.

Needless to say, John Gordon, President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is not amused. Neither is Igho Natufe, president of the National Council of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service, who calls the Commission's methodology "suspect and obscure." Stay tuned: this could get very interesting.

My letter to the "Honourable" Lawrence Cannon


Last Friday afternoon's news that yet another condition has been placed upon our fellow-citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik before he can return home to his family was frankly sick-making.

The latest condition is impossible to fulfil. How does a destitute man stuck in Khartoum begin to thread his way through the many layers of UN bureaucracy? In less than a week? Effectively, then, you have condemned a citizen, without trial, to a penalty that doesn't even exist in Canadian law--marooning.

"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" That was the question that Joseph Welch asked Senator Joe McCarthy when the latter was busy crucifying a young lawyer. You will recognize the context. I suggest, sir, that the same questions might appropriately be asked of you now.

What is abundantly obvious here, given the tender treatment that your government afforded Brenda Martin, is that this decision is motivated by an unwholesome mixture of Islamophobia and racial prejudice. How dare you treat a Canadian citizen in this fashion? Have you entirely abandoned the notion of the rule of law in Canada?

Your cat-and-mouse game with this man, in fact, is nothing short of sadistic. Be assured, sir, that I, and countless other Canadians who still remember what the word "Canadian" means, will be motivated by this shameful treatment of a fellow-citizen to ensure that your government will never, ever, achieve a Parliamentary majority.

You have underestimated us, Minister. Most Canadians are not positively swayed by your government's appeals to prejudice and hatred. We're better than that. And when the next election comes, you shall know it.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Now this is truly sick"

The comment is from The Nation, and it echoes my own feelings. The recent death of Natasha Richardson, who was injured on a ski slope in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, is now being shamelessly exploited by far-right cranks in the United States, blaming her death on "socialized medicine." Leading the assault is a doctor who wrote a broadside against "Canadacare," suggesting that the lack of a CT scanner might have played a role--without even bothering to find out that the local hospital that first treated Richardson had one.

Richardson's death was the result of a number of factors, including her own initial refusal of treatment. Would she have had a better chance of surviving in the US? Not likely, says this American doctor, who seems to know what he's talking about.

The one point at issue is Quebec's lack of a medivac system, meaning that Richardson had to be driven rather than flown to a specialized treatment centre. But not only might this have made no difference; it's a stretch to imagine that all American citizens in remote areas, rich or poor, would invariably get helicopter service to the nearest five-star hospital in an emergency.

In Canada, although there's obviously room for improvement, quality health care is available to everyone. In the US, you get only the treatment you can afford, and 50 million Americans don't even have health insurance. Fully half of all bankruptcies in the US are due to personal medical costs.

A number of Americans who have been observing the recent outbreak of self-interested righteousness anent Richardson's death have made some choice counter-comments of their own. Here's one (generally sound, although in fact two provinces--Ontario and BC--presently collect healthcare premiums). Here's another.

Canada is being inevitably caught up in a looming battle down south. The spectre of public health care is haunting corporate America at the moment. The folks who make big profits on the backs of the ill--insurance companies and greedy doctors--are fighting back. Their arsenal includes, as this shoddy episode indicates, an almost limitless collection of crude fictions and smears. And we can expect more of the same as the debate opens up in the US: our first-class, universally accessible healthcare system is their worst nightmare come true. Because it works.

UPDATE: (March 30) Reader "brat" tells us how the US healthcare system functions for those without means:

On US Health care:

My mom used to live in rural PA. In late December her colon ruptured, spewing air, fecal matter and infection into her abdomen. She was misdiagnosed, and then went without treatment for a week.

Finally, on January 5th she was routed to the local rural PA hospital, which had no gastroenterologist on staff or infectious disease specialist (in the 5 county system). She was then given a proper diagnosis, but was continued to be cared for by the local system (I suspect so they could keep the medicare $$$).

At one point she was put on a portable heart monitor because she was at - risk for a "heart event." Too bad it didn't have any batteries in it (this was not discovered until almost a day later).

Yes, she SHOULD have been transported to a facility with more sophisticated care. But she's elderly, female and living in rural PA and the local medical system wanted to cash in on Medicare. So, after 2 1/2 months of horrible care, I've been able to move her out. But I nearly had to stand on my head to make it happen.

The entire situation was a nightmare. The current US system of care is broken--and favors the well-off. My mom's situation was akin to "Sicko" meets "Deliverance" with a few moments of John Waters thrown in for good measure.

UPDATE: (March 30) Another account of the superior American system, by reader "Sophia":

I live in USA, having grown up in England. My dad was a patient at UCLA Medical Center in LA. He had comprehensive private health insurance, and this hospital is considered top-notch. He died there after 6 weeks of the most mediocre and mismanaged care in the hands of this institution and its doctors. It was a constant fight on my part with the health insurance company for each and every phase of his care, as most times they refused to cover the cost for even standard common-sense procedures. Worse was the apathy of the doctors, most of whom seemed more interested in their hefty paycheck than ensuring my dad received even minimal attention from them, which he did not. The so-called intensive care wards were filthy, ill-kept and chaotic.

In contrast to this nightmare I went through with my dad in USA, my brother had a serious illness in the UK, from which he also died, but not before receiving over a year of exemplary medical attention under the NHS, including weekly home visits by a Consultant specialist (that's the highest grade for a UK doctor) and an RN in the last 3 months of his life, and prescriptions delivered to his home as he could not get out of bed and had chosen to manage at home before ending his last week at a local Marie Curie hospice (completely free).

US healthcare for those who HAVE insurance is fifth-rate. My experience is proof that private health care panders to GREED AND PROFITS alone.

I have had my share of inept medical care in USA, coupled with a constant battle with insurance companies to cover procedures that were basic. I've ended up with thousands to pay out of my pocket, and I'm one of the lucky ones with my company covering of my health insurance premiums. Before that I was paying over $500 monthly myself for this US mediocrity.

The NHS operates on the premise that health care is a right, and that there needs to be a baseline emphasis on preventive medicine. The US private system relies on people being ill, and staying ill because its premise is INCOME above all else. I'm fed up hearing people defending the latter system.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Conservative government is evil

I dislike metaphysical categories, but the Conservatives have streaked to the finish line here.

Our fellow citizen, Abousfian Abdelrazik, who has complied with every new condition imposed by the Harper government to leave Sudan and come back to his country, and who now has a paid-up airplane ticket to come home to his family on April 3--after nearly six years--has now had yet another condition imposed: he must get himself off a UN no-fly list. In less than a week.

Would you know how to do that? In any case, the regulations around that list permit people on it to fly home to their country of citizenship.* And the government has previously claimed that it has been trying to have Abdelrazik's name removed from the list. And both the RCMP and CSIS have agreed that Abdelrazik has no connection to terrorism.

But the sado-politicians of the Harper government aren't letting up.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has now decreed that the destitute Abdelrazik must now thread his way through countless bureaucratic corridors to come back to his own country--a condition that Cannon knows full well cannot be fulfilled before his departure date, if at all.

What we are seeing here, folks--and there is simply no other way to put it--is a display of unvarnished racism from the top echelons of the Harper regime. If you're Brenda Martin, the coffers will be opened, and all the stops will be pulled out. If you're a brown Muslim, however, a different standard will be applied, and never mind that you're Canadian. Two colours; two classes of citizenship.

Don't be fooled by the tactical John Baird feint. The Conservative government with this latest move has demonstrated that it's racist to the core. Its sick little cat-and-mouse game with Abdelrazik, whose only crime, it appears, is to have a dark skin and worship the wrong God, is proof positive of that. You can almost see Cannon--and Harper, who pulls all the strings--licking their lips as they devise fresh conditions, new public excuses, more obstacles, to torment Abdelrazik further.

As noted, I have little time for metaphysical categories. But this latest move by the Conservative government is not merely wrong. It's evil.
There is simply no other word that suffices.

And no comment as yet from former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff.

UPDATE: (March 28) Alison offers some excellent analysis. A key point: just which list is involved here--a "UN no-fly list" or a US one? She reminds us that, despite official pronouncements, this has never been entirely clear. Are we sacrificing one of our own to placate the Americans?

UPDATE: (March 29) The indefatigable Alison reminds us that we should express ourselves on this matter to the Foreign Affairs Minister. Entirely justified moral indignation is appropriate, but we're Canadians, so let's do our best to be polite.

To contact Lawrence Cannon directly:

Telephone: (613) 992-5516
Fax: (613) 992-6802

UPDATE: (March 30) Amnesty International has now weighed in.
UN resolution 1390, Section 2b: With respect to persons on the list, member states are obligated to "[p]revent the entry into or the transit through their territories of these individuals, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall oblige any State to deny entry into or require the departure from its territories of its own nationals and this paragraph shall not apply where entry or transit is necessary for the fulfilment of a judicial process or the Committee determines on a case by case basis only that entry or transit is justified." [emphasis added]

It can't happen here

You listening, Bill Elliott?

[Lifted from Boris, who lifted it from Red Tory]


Canadian Soapbox has echoed my feelings so perfectly today that I thought I'd say a wrd r 2 abt Twitter myself.

Yesterday my stepdaughter asked me if I'd heard of this new thingie, and I admitted that I had, but that I didn't know much about it and
really didn't want to.

To tell you the truth, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Facebook has already managed to make me feel perpetually guilty and incompetent. Everybody's doing something, all the time, and yet finding more time to tell all the rest of us about it. They put up pictures, they send cyber-gifts, they write on my Wall, they ask me to join hundreds of groups, they invite me to parties in Dawson City and Kapuskasing and Alert and Delisle. (Well, maybe not Delisle.)

And I sit there like a lump, unresponsive, the cyber-party pooper of all time, the grump in the corner who never says anything. I'm no fun. But people wouldn't think of leaving me out, because my feelings might be hurt.

Dare I say that it's not merely my anti-social cybernature. I just can't figure it out. I don't know how to add networks or form groups or any of that. I just wait for messages and once in a while I scribble on somebody's Wall or confirm when someone wants to be my friend. Good grief.

Writing about living is part of living as is writing about writing about living. Suppose all we did in life was write about it. What is the "it," then? More text, I guess.
(Oh oh, I feel a recursion coming on.) Like the rat with his paw on the pleasure-centre stimulator, I could starve to death. Blogging is bad enough: it eats up my time like a saltwater crocodile. Now Twitter.

I think the cybergods invented this one to sport with us. "Twitter," indeed. Is that what we've come to: what Martin Heidegger called "chatter," as opposed to authentic utterance?
Not conversation, God forbid, but twittering, in a companionable, comfortable, meaningless way--serving as each other's elevator music? And then the ironically minatory heading on the Twitter page: "What are you doing?" Indeed.

I shall have to learn text-speak, which reminds me in a way of archy, the cockroach with the soul of a poet, creation of the immortal Don Marquis. archy typed by jumping and landing on typewriter keys with his head--bloggers know what I'm getting at here--but he couldn't move the shift key to make capital letters.

boss the other day
i heard an
ant conversing
with a flea
small talk i said
and went away
from there

Well, quite. No mere twittering for him.

But wotthehell. If you want to tweet, I'm at DrDawg on Twitter. Yeah, I'm with it, as we used to say back in the day. Or down with that. Whatever. (What do folks say now? Give me a tweet.) Just don't expect to hear back unless I have nothing better to do. Which might just turn out to be more often than I'd wish, alas. I tend to look for excuses for putting things off anyway, and thanks to the Internet new ones flood in every week. archy:
"procrastination is the/art of keeping/up with yesterday." Damn, I wish I had time for that.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: the Fourth Horseman returns to duty

Corporal Benjamin Robinson's sorry three days of flailing falsehoods
at the Braidwood Inquiry concluded yesterday, completing the testimony from all four officers involved in the Robert Dziekanski death. Today a paramedic, Allan Maciak, whose first aid training actually allows him to tell the difference between bruising and cyanosis, testified that police told him Robert Dziekanski had been Tasered once. Or three times. But who's counting?

No matter. Poor Robert Dziekanski was dead when he arrived.

Meanwhile, the RCMP has had the obscene effrontery, the barefaced arrogance that has become its chief characteristic as it continues to morph from icon to pariah, to ease restrictions on Taser use, permitting officers to deliver multiple jolts and doing away with the preliminary warning that was, until last month, official policy. Given that Dziekanski was repeatedly shocked without warning in the Fall of 2007, I wonder if the RCMP brass imagines that this policy change is retroactive?

At this point, nothing would surprise me.

[H/t Boris at Galloping Beaver]

Cowardly Broadcasting Corporation yanks report [updated]

A source has directed me to this page over at Wikileaks.

Readers will know that some controversy erupted recently about the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association and its support of a series of dirty tricks on campus: takeovers and astroturf front groups (including the Star Trek Club, Star Wars Appreciation, Games and Leisure, and the Friedrich Nietzsche club at Carleton University).

CBC radio's Evan Dyer prepared an extensive report on this activity. As Wikileaks reports:

After running a few times on CBC Radio One's early morning news cycle on March 20, 2009, the story was abruptly pulled. Thus, this tape has been released to Wikileaks, given the concern that this story was pulled or censored from within the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The censored news broadcast may be downloaded here.

Yup, I'm still a defender of CBC radio, even under the malign captaincy of Richard Stursberg, but this sort of thing must stop. It's a bad strategy in any case: pandering to the right on the Mallick affair didn't exactly work out budget-wise, did it?

UPDATE (and apology): (March 26) Evan Dyer puts the quietus on this one, and has posted a comment at Wikileaks as well. I'm embarrassed, if relieved: CBC Radio is all the radio I've got. But apologies to everyone--particularly to the CBC and of course to Evan himself--for being rather too quick to jump on this occasion. I shall have to take Wikileaks cum grano salis from now on, and I should have done so from the start.

When Conservatives are in the news...

...why do I hear the sound of banjos?

[H/t Impolitical]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: none so blind

...as one who will not see the obvious.

From today's Toronto Star coverage, offered without comment because any comment would be superfluous:

According to Robinson, he said to the Dziekanski, a Polish speaker: "Calm down, put your hands on the counter."

Replied Don Rosenbloom, lawyer for the Polish republic: "You know that was meaningless in terms of a man without English?"

"Yes," replied Robinson.

Robinson insisted he pointed at the counter. Under questioning from Rosenbloom, he insisted he went through an elaborate series of hand movements, beginning with a palms-up sign for "stop", then little wave motions to indicate "calm down" and, finally, the finger point to the counter.

He used the "stop" signal to halt Dziekanski from moving toward his luggage in the secure arrivals area of Vancouver International Airport. Dziekanski had just been instructed by another officer on the scene, Const. Kwesi Millington, to get his passport, which turned out to be in his luggage.

But Robinson countered that order.

Other lawyers have often said Dziekanski was confused by conflicting RCMP commands.

Once again, Robinson admitted that, contrary to earlier statements to police, Dziekanski did not appear to be agitated before he moved to the counter and picked up a stapler.

Robinson had told police: "He was in an agitated state... angry... pissed off... he was just wired up."

"Relatively," he said today, when challenged that, in reality, Dziekanski was "calm".

Iggy's doublethink

There are a couple of recent TV commercials that have piqued my curiosity recently. One, for a popular burger joint, ends, "It's not fast food--it's Wendy's." The other, for a power drink (and don't get me started on the cultural significance of those), decries all other power drinks and then says of the one being sold, "It's not a drink--more like a sip."

Now, this isn't quite, "It's not torture, it's enhanced interrogation," but something rather different. After all, we can mull and mess with definitions of torture; but we can't do the same thing for fast food and liquids. Nor is it the same thing that Michael Ignatieff did last week, when he argued forcefully that George Galloway should at once be admitted to Canada for free speech reasons and kept out for security reasons. That's just trying to please everyone. In the commercials before us, however, there is neither nuance of definition nor an attempt to be all things to all people: in each case the voice is telling us that something that obviously is, is not.

How does the consuming public react to these odd statements? I suspect, given the long run that each has had, that they are reassured. They can order and scarf down a burger in five minutes without purchasing "fast food." And they can down a stimulant without having a "power drink." People tend to think in categories, and those categories become endowed with ontological significance. In other words, people unconsciously come to imagine that they exist in some objective sense.

The Liberals, of course, are no strangers to haggling over definitions (opposition to the Free Trade Agreement, for example, meant signing the deal with some editorial changes), or being so vague and noncommittal that citizens on all sides of an issue can find their positions affirmed in Liberal pronouncements. But tthis latest rhetorical device seems to be a new addition--at least, I haven't run across such a clear example of it before.

When Ignatieff defends his party's capitulation on the issuing of a $3 billion blank cheque to the Conservative government, while simultaneously stating indignantly that it isn't a blank cheque at all, he is engaging in nothing less than a species of Orwellian doublethink--and he wants us to as well. As reported:

“I want to make Parliament work but I don't write blank cheques. That's not what my voters sent me to Parliament to do,” [Ignatieff] said less than three hours before Liberals approved the fund.

Heh. That's not a blank cheque--it's a signed one where someone else fills in the amount.

Better get used to this. It's not a blink--more like a flip. It's not a fast one--it's Ignatieff's. Stay tuned for a lot more of the same, and I hope this observation doesn't get my accreditation to the Liberal Convention, which just arrived today, revoked.

[H/t Mentarch]

The costs of provocation

[From top: Nazis in Chicago, Illinois in 1977; Ulster Protestants parade in Northern Ireland; "Ultra-nationalist" extremists march through Umm El-Fahm, Israel, yesterday]

There are times when the dark side bursts through, in groups as well as individuals, and "free expression" becomes simply an excuse to wound the feelings of others. Whether such demonstrations of hatred should be proscribed is, as we know, a hotly-debated question today.

Deliberate incitement to riot is against the law in most countries, including the ones indicated here. And lesser provocations can still come under the ban. Many years ago in the UK, I witnessed a number of gay liberation protesters rounded up by police as they demonstrated somewhat provocatively against a religious rally: they were charged with "insulting behaviour." Similar provisions in other venues are not unknown. Yet, when it comes to some types of organized political provocation, these strictures seem to disappear into thin air. Instead, the vast resources of the state are deployed in their support.

In 1977, some Nazi lowlifes (excuse the tautology) decided to organize a march through Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago where a number of elderly Holocaust survivors were living. The American Civil Liberties Union lost a lot of its membership defending this one, and rightly so. Nobody, especially not those who made it out of the death camps, should have to tolerate swastika flags flying proudly in their neighbourhoods. The march went ahead elsewhere, but the swastika flags and emblems were banned, a decision that was upheld by the US Supreme Court, First Amendment or no First Amendment.

Protestant marches in Northern Ireland continue every July 12, commemorating the victory of William of Orange against Catholic forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. These days, given the peace-building process, the marches have been scaled back, but until recently they made their way deliberately through Catholic neighbourhoods, tribal songs and wardrums at full pitch. The purpose has been to remind Northern Irish Catholics that they are a defeated people, in case they'd forgotten.

Yesterday a group of Israeli Jewish extremists led by former members of the now-outlawed Kach Party (a fascist and terrorist organization whose ranks once included the Butcher of Hebron, Baruch Goldstein) marched through an Israeli town called Umm al-Fahm, under heavy police protection. Most of the residents of this town are Arab-Israelis: the purpose of the march was simply to teach them who's boss, and to begin the process, in leader Baruch Marzel's words, of rooting out "the hostile seed".

The term for this sort of thing is "triumphalism," and the aims are always the same: deliberate offence, humiliation, power-tripping.

As noted, the issue of freedom of expression is at the core of this. The state--American, Ulster, Israeli--has thrown tremendous amounts of money into making the provocations possible: massive police protection being the obvious one. The malice behind all three events is palpably obvious: their offensive nature is equally obvious. Why should such things be permitted--ultimately at the taxpayer's expense?

Possibly we have here a debate that differs from the usual one. Freedom of expression is all very well, but, as many of the current crop of Speech Warriors™ are the first to maintain in other contexts, that doesn't mean that other folks should have to pay the freight. The logical conclusion, it seems to me, is that all of these marches should be permitted to proceed--but without state support. No massive police presence. No special measures taken to abet the provocation at our cost. Let 'em go in naked, as it were.

And suddenly the whole question becomes almost hypothetical. Comments?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: "You're assuming he was screaming in pain"

Veteran Toronto Star correpondent Linda Diebel has been doing
some liveblogging of the on-going Robinson shenanigans, following on her article today. I liked her opening paragraph for the latter:

Four Mounties at the Vancouver airport wearing bulletproof vests and armed with guns, metal batons and, in one case, a Taser, felt threatened by a confused Polish immigrant with a stapler in his hand, the supervising Mountie today told a public inquiry about the death of Robert Dziekanski.

Diebel got to her blogpost hed before I had a chance: "I failed to articulate well," this from Cpl. Benjamin Robinson after being trapped in so many falsehoods that a disconcerted Thomas Braidwood at one point referred to the bereaved mother's lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj (a former RCMP officer), as "Mr. Dziekanski."

And then this:

The morning's low point? Had to be when Kosteckyj was asking Robinson about Dziekanski's symptoms once on the ground. He'd already established Robinson's first aid certification had expired and was asking about breathing sounds. In his first report to the RCMP, Robinson said they sounded like "snoring."

He tried to explain today, then stopped.

"You're smiling, sir!" snapped Kosteckyj, asking Robinson if he found something funny.

"No," came the reply.

No further explanation was offered.

This is not a man, to put it charitably, of broad observational powers. When Dziekanski went down, shocked again and again, his agonized screams so unbearable that it's all I can do to review the video, this is what Robinson had to say to Kosteckyj: "You're assuming he was screaming in pain." His five-years-out-of-date first aid training didn't permit Robinson to distinguish between snoring and Cheyne-Stokes respiration; and when Dziekanski turned blue he thought it was "bruising."

Meanwhile Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun, Colby Cosh of the National Post and Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail have really said all that needs to be said about Commissioner Elliot's smarmy little plea the other day.

Walk in the shoes of the RCMP? As Mulgrew and Mason acidly suggest, why doesn't Elliott try to walk in the shoes of Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, instead?

Because she's right there in the audience with us, in that wider inquiry room called Canada, listening every day to the never-ending stream of lies and deflections, and forced to watch first-hand the smug ignorance and the appalling indifference of the RCMP officers who killed her son. And as the last moments of his life are replayed over and over and over, we have no choice but to be there with her; and no choice but to try to imagine what Mason calls her "unknowable pain."

Artery-clogging irony

...from the fellow who recently called me a "terrorist-supporter supporter." (If I wore a truss, would that make it a "terrorist-supporter supporter supporter?")

Anyway (with the addition of suitable links):

WITHOUT REPEATING SOME OF THE viler comments over on a Lefty Blog, or KinsellaIsGod.com, note that never do the leftward commenters ever deal with substance, details, ideological differences, or serious issues. Is that it? All you got is mock, bile, glee, smear? What is this, Grade 2?


[I]t’s simplistic tribal-think. Tribes mean dehumanization. Tribes mean a breakdown in common agreement about what we’re doing, and how to get along. Tribes mean us versus them.


From the looks of it, some Can-Progs are like people who pick semi-healed scabs for the pain of it, or who love provocative TV or radio-shows so they can get upset and
yell back.* Don’t like Ezra, or Kathy, or Binky, or Steyn? Ignore them. After all, you’ve got most of Western Civilization leaning leftwards already.. do you really insist on silencing and shutting up every possible outlet and voice that dares disagree with all-holy progressivism?


The convenient ‘other’; the outside, the unbeliever, the black sheep, the scapegoat, the sin-eater. The not-us of evil. Sounds like pretty old-fashioned nastiness there, despite the usual high-minded smug tone of the Can-Prog bloggers. For teh Can-Progs, conservatives appear to be nothing less or other than sub-human bearers of cooties** and evil. And here I thought people was people, walk a mile in their shoes, and all that.


[H/t, alas]
"This is just the voice of an ordinary Canadian yelling back at the radio - 'You don't speak for me.'"

"I think dirty hippy emails might have cooties and I don't want to get any more than I have to."

You can run...

...but you can't hide. Suddenly the Internet becomes a little more transparent.

Rock on, Richard Warman!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: "Hit him again, hit him again"

I confess I found it difficult to understand why the Braidwood Inquiry was adjourned for two weeks, right after the fantastic testimony of three of the four RCMP officers involved in the Dziekanski killing. Why not get the guy in charge, Corporal Benjamin "Monty" Robinson, on the stand right away, after the amazing hat-trick of flubbing and deceit to we we were all privy for several painful days? Were the folks in charge waiting for him to get his driver's licence back?

But no harm done, as it turns out. Just as his three underlings, with more than a year to do it, couldn't construct anything more convincing that what they brought forward, as though the video of their bad behaviour could simply be wished away, so, too, Robinson--the man who can be heard in the video shouting "Hit him again, hit him again" and whose knee ended up on the supine Dziekanski's neck-- kept up the pretence.

Robinson testified that Dziekanski
was Tasered a second time before he fell to the floor, before admitting that the video did not bear him out, and claimed that Dziekanski, brandishing a stapler and raising his voice, "was advancing forward" towards the four officers before being Tasered.

Do you believe him, or your own lying eyes? (@3:51.)

Only one element of contradiction has emerged so far: Robinson stated that he had given the order to fire the Taser at the very start, whereas Constable Kwesi Millington testified earlier that he had fired the first two times without an order to do so. Now both men come off looking rather noble, each trying to take the fall for the other--if fall there be.

Then we move abruptly into the darkest of black comedy: Robinson testified that Dziekanski held a stapler in his fist and was discharging staples. Would the officers have switched to firearms had he been shooting elastic bands or paper airplanes?

Robinson's testimony continues. Updates later today.

UPDATE: Good grief, there's no end to this.

[Commission counsel Art] Vertlieb showed sections of the Pritchard video several times, asking Robinson to indicate the exact point where he is shown trying to calm Dzieskansi and where the Polish man is shown stepping forward, or lunging for his luggage. However, it couldn't be found.

Robinson replied it was impossible to see because of the angle and the distortion created when Pritchard shot through glass into the arrivals lounge.

Angle and distortion can obviously affect the clarity of one's view. But they don't make hands at waist level appear as though they are in the air, "brandishing" a stapler. They don't make people leaning against a counter move forward. They don't create a raised voice. They don't make someone who has (according to testimony) not yet fallen to the floor appear as though he is writhing on it.

I suspect I'm not the only one who resents having his intelligence insulted in this way. Kindergarten kids trying to lie their way out of trouble could hardly do worse than this feckless bunch of barefaced prevaricators.

The killing of dissent, Ch. 375

Canada's New Government™ rules a new Canada: the ideologues are in charge, and no deviations from the line are to be permitted.

A mere symptom: far-right NaPo columnist Lorne Gunter gets a free spot on the editorial page of the Ottawa Citizen
this morning to unleash what has to be the most ludicrous and incompetent attack on the CBC ever published outside the wackier bidonvilles of the blogosphere.

"The CBC," says this evidently delusional fellow, "will never be able to exorcize its left-wing missionary zeal -- for global warming, for Islam, for big government, Barack Obama, multiculturalism, public health care, human rights commissions and so on." Remove its funds and pull down its buildings, he says. (He doesn't tell us whether the people inside will be permitted to evacuate first, but given the eliminationist bent of some conservatives these days, it's a question worth raising.)

One must assume, from the list above, that Gunter's own positions run contrary, which of course is the crux of all this. Bias, after all, is just another word for "those who disagree with me." A word or two, then, about Gunter's own abundantly evident biases before returning to the main point.

On climate change he's frequently overstepped the bounds, recently getting his facts so egregiously wrong that he's had to apologize (last paragraph). The "for Islam" bears more than a passing mention, though, because he reveals more by that, perhaps, than he'd intended.

What does he mean by "for Islam," and why is it an example of "left-wing missionary zeal?" None of my political allies, at least to my knowledge, keeps a Koran in a secret drawer and hauls out the old prayer mat five times a day when no one's looking. I couldn't figure out the Qibla in my house if my life depended on it (well, not true, thanks to the miracle of the Internet).

"For Islam?" Gunter lets the mask slip there. Because the CBC does not, of course, proselytize for any religion. It does, from time to time, talk about Muslims--the people--in a less-than-unsympathetic light. Tapestry might even have, on occasion, tried to bring us a better understanding of a religion that extends possibly some distance beyond "slavery and rape."

But Gunter is merely expressing here grunting xenophobia that we find in the various dank corners of the aforementioned blogosphere, and in places like Hérouxville, not to mention amongst some of the more unevolved residents of Stephen Harper's own home town.

One could pick apart his other examples of alleged "left-wing missionary zeal" for some time, but just a couple of points. Barack Obama, as I think even his most enthusiastic supporters would concede at this point, is hardly a "leftist," at least if we take his positions on Afghanistan, gay rights, executive privilege and a horde of other issues of the day seriously.

I haven't heard anything on the CBC recently extolling the virtues of big government either, although I'll give Gunter public health care and a couple of the other scary things he mentions. Not that the CBC actually pushes these positions, of course--it simply provides a venue where we can hear them. There aren't many of those left.

Lest anyone consider this post an uncritical defence of the CBC, perish the thought. I'd be prepared to give up CBC-TV in a heartbeat if we could use the funds to improve CBC radio. Under the dreadful administratorship of Richard Stursberg, crappy labour relations, bad "renewal" decisions, the misguided attempt, through dumbing-down, to capture the yout' constituency, and really, really bad afternoon programming have become the rule. The days of Max Ferguson, Peter Gzowski, "Fireside Al" and James M. Minifie are over. The throttling of the CBC began under Brian Mulroney, and has continued apace since then: appalling stewardship has merely exacerbated the process of piece-by-piece demolition.

And yet the noble body yet breathes. CBC radio has allowed us to keep in touch, to continue to build the relatively benign "imaginary community" that is Canada. On CBC--and nowhere else in radioland--we hear genuinely informed and thoughtful comment, the Massey Lectures, Ideas, and (contra Gunter) many different points of view. I wouldn't trade As It Happens for any other evening radio news programme, and it's not because I hear only my own point of view reflected back to me.

But that's really the key, here, isn't it? Because, while many of the folks I know would be bored out of their minds hearing only the opinions with which they agree, conservatives appear to be made of different stuff. For far too many of them, opposition is literally anathema--a curse. They boil up in frenzy, lashing out in all directions, sometimes even killing when their pat little idées reçues are challenged.

While "balance" and "bias" will always be hot-button terms, they have been maliciously deployed of late to screen out, shut down and demonize alternative points of view. And this climate of increasing intolerance is not confined to newspaper columnists by any means. Witness the recent disgraceful pile-on against pro-Palestinian university students by assorted politicians, commentators, university presidents and lobby groups; or Jason Kenney's recent targeting of Muslim associations; or the exclusion from our country of the (admittedly unpleasant) George Galloway.

The aim, of course, is to root out any dissent from conservative ideology. And the embattled CBC, as noted, is about the last place one can actually hear in-depth commentary that challenges the conservative doctrine. As noted, though, conservatives don't like being challenged, and given that they are in power, propped up by former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff, the night is fast descending. Gunter's column is but a symptom of what we are now facing: an all-out attack, on many fronts, against dissent in Canada.

So will it be the Massey Lectures, classical music and the clash of various points of view on As It Happens--or wall-to-wall Lowell Green? I think we all know what Lorne Gunter's preference would be. What's yours?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Braidwood Chronicles: the Commish speaks

William "Bubbles"* Elliott, the Commissioner of the RCMP, warms us up for the second act of the Braidwood Inquiry, set to resume tomorrow.

People just don't understand, he said today from the relative safety of Kandahar. Our officers are under pressure. They react when they feel threatened. Walk a mile in their shoes.

And here's the money-quote:

"The whole notion of looking at a video in slow motion or frame by frame is completely contrary to how a real human being perceives things when they are in the midst of a situation."

In other words, don't believe your lying eyes. Because they'll deliver quite a different tale from the single story--erroneous in all of its particulars--that the three officers who have testified so far
wrote in their notebooks and swore under oath.

Four heavily-armed and flak-jacketed officers felt "threatened" by a fellow with an open stapler who hadn't "brandished" it, and who did not approach the officers screaming, and....We are asked to believe that in real time all three experienced identical hallucinations, brought on, no doubt, by "pressure."

To hear the Commissioner tell it, these guys don't need Tasers--they need fainting-couches. More tomorrow.

*His nick in law school.

Stalking the bourgeoisie

Ah...this makes me positively nostalgic. Next stop the Winter Palace? :)

The ugly face of neo-McCarthyism

Listen very carefully to this unofficial spokesperson for the Harper government, during a frankly unequal contest between himself and British MP George Galloway.

Meir Weinstein, aka Meir Halevi, is a former representative of the banned Kach party of Israel, a man who refused to condemn the mass murder of Palestinians at prayer by Baruch Goldstein, the leader of the Canadian branch of the Jewish Defence League, an organization cited by the FBI in 2001 as a "right wing terrorist group."

He now speaks for Canada.

There's something of the comic-opera incompetent about Weinstein. But don't be fooled. He has the ear of the Canadian government, and (to use what appears to be his favourite phrase) he seems to be acting as Jason Kenney's "proxy agent."

In any case, his gang of thugs will be investigating Canadian anti-war and church groups:

"We will be looking into these organizations in Canada that have invited him [Galloway], their links to terror groups as well."

And if Galloway attempts to be heard in Canada "by other means" (presumably electronic)?

"[I]f he uses those other means, we will see to it that the Canadian government will be monitoring every individual and organization that will have anything to do with it ..."

NB: Not the Jewish Defence League--the Canadian government. Coming soon to a wiretap near you?

[big h/t: POGGE]

Saturday, March 21, 2009