Monday, August 31, 2009

Dim and dimmer

Yesterday we were regaled, if that's the right word, by a sometime writer for the National Post who presented us with a column on the Omar Khadr affair. His argument, in a paraphrase, was this: "It's worrying, perhaps, that Khadr has been held without trial for seven years, but the guilty bastard hasn't shown any remorse for the crimes of which he's been accused, and the media are treating him like a victim."

I had a few words to say about that, but will admit that I
almost felt sorry for him as a richly deserved thrashing was duly administered by sundry commenters here, from both left and right.. Notions of the rule of law, innocence until proof of guilt and so on were lobbed like missiles. But, like the hapless bricklayer in Gerard Hoffnung's immortal account, who suffered one injury after another until it all became too much, he "must have lost his presence of mind."

For today the "Raphael Alexander" entity speaks again.

Do not let his jejune style, his lack of anything remotely approaching logic, his deliberate misreadings, his small army of strawmen, put you off. If you want to better understand Stephen Harper's core supporters--the red-on-Fridays folk who hang around media comboxes spewing visceral dislike of people who aren't like themselves--it's a must-read. Think of it as a clinical exhibit, like the automatic writing of schizophrenics.

"Alexander" begins by asking why the Nuremburg Trials were so efficient in rendering verdicts and punishing the guilty, while today it is so difficult to "bring to justice those people responsible for acts of terrorism against the innocent." In the next breath he provides the obvious answer to his own question:

By the very clandestine nature of terrorism and guerrilla conflict, the enemy is a shadow whose motives aren’t known until the suicide bomber pulls his detonation device next to a group of women and children. The enemy does not wear uniforms to identify themselves as equals in a hostile war, which would grant them all of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. The enemy does not leave forensic evidence of his misdeeds if he survives, and there are no witnesses to give testimony afterwards.

Well, no wonder that "enemies of our state" are sitting in Gitmo. "It should not be," says "Alexander." What about all that due process stuff, habeus corpus, human rights and so on?

We get a sense of what's coming next, as, in a simply magnificent Freudian slip, he declares: "We uphold the highest principle in law: guilty until proven innocent."

Indeed he does.

Given the glaring absence of a trial, how do we know these folks are guilty? Well, there's been a filtration process. In his words (I don't dare re-phrase in case someone thinks I'm twisting his meaning) the US, in the wake of 9/11,

apprehended thousands of suspects whom they believed could be enemies of the state. They interrogated them thoroughly. Tortured them. From the first few years of interrogation, they had narrowed down those people who were very likely terrorists, and those who had been mere pawns in the game.

Nothing like a few bouts of torture to separate the sheep from the goats. Just ask Maher Arar. In any case, after applying this reliable selection method, once called the trial by ordeal, we have precipitated out the present inmates of what he concedes is a gulag.

"But what choice did the United States have?" he weeps. "[W]hat choice did any of us have?"

The questions, however, are purely rhetorical. They are not meant to be answered other than with a nod of complicity. So we made a few mistakes--"what were the alternatives?"

Well, he's certainly not about to entertain any. Linking to my place, he falls back on his trusted weaponry of name-calling and lies:

The pseudo-left does not have an answer for that. He [sic] only knows that we must leave Afghanistan, and everything will be better for it. The pseudo-left even believes that perhaps supporting the Taliban might bring about the desired result of withdrawal:

“If the Taliban can kill enough of the foreign troops involved there and if that would force the governments of these troops to withdraw, then for that purpose one could support the Taliban.”

Speaking personally, I'm not particularly interested in what a Blogging Tory thinks is the "real" Left or otherwise. I assume that "real" leftists are those who agree with him, in which case, speaking as a leftist, I would have to say that they wouldn't be real leftists at all. But let us leave this semantic quagmire, and move on to his lies, which are of somewhat more consequence.

First, we do "have an answer for that," namely, the rule of law. If we want to prove that we're no better than terrorists, by all means let us cast such flimsy concepts aside. But if we're trying to uphold the banner of something better, then we are bound to apply the same standards of evidence, the same notions of habeus corpus and speedy trials and the right to a vigorous and thorough defence, to all. It is not the Left that favours Agamben's "states of exception," but the far Right.

The second lie is an alibi: it is intended to reinforce the foolish charge by the Islamopanicked that anything less than war, counter-terrorism, emergency measures, and the suspension of human rights amounts, not only to capitulation, but to active complicity with the murderous mediaeval fanatics who have gained a beachhead amongst oppressed populations around the world.

So let's have the other half of the quote:

If the Taliban can kill enough of the foreign troops involved there and if that would force the governments of these troops to withdraw, then for that purpose one could support the Taliban. One could wave their colors and wear their t-shirts and cheer the news of more blown up people. [emphasis added]

The writer is expressing disgust, as anyone who reads her entire five-paragraph comment can readily see, with the various rationales on all sides for killing people.

But "Raphael Alexander," fresh from this little bit of perfidy, goes on without a blush to talk about the "moral bankruptcy of the left," citing, unsurprisingly, his mentor Terry Glavin.

Then he offers this fresh bit of deceit:

These same people want the United States to set free men whom the government has seen fit to detain for seven years. But what motives do they have for this? Is it because they believe in the fundamental western liberal principles of habeus corpus? Or is it more likely that their long-standing hatred for the foreign policy of the United States has marred their sense of right and wrong? Is it really likely that the U.S. government would detain people at a great economic cost to themselves, innocent people, simply because they want to be vindictive? Simply because it pleasures them to strip away the freedom of men from the Middle East?

I'll let readers such as our conservative regular, Peter, wrestle with the straw men inhabiting that thicket of tendentiousness. "Alexander," of course, is quick to answer his own dishonest questions:

Such childish naivete can be deadly. Those men who remain locked away are certainly very dangerous. Even some long-detained enemy combatants who have been set free by the United States, returned to their occupations of violence, and killed and maimed more people. Some people see Guantanamo Bay as a test of our own moral codes as applied to our laws. If we do not free men who have been charged with no crime, what kind of people are we? In a simple black and white world, it would be easy to condemn our actions. But we know that most of these people, if not all of them, cannot be convicted in a court of law. In the simplistic world of the pseudo-left, it is more important to protect the freedom of such individuals than to concern themselves about the blood of the innocent spilled from their release. [emphasis added]

In a stunning reversal of tradition, the "pseudo-left" now supports the rule of law and today's hard-line conservatives are pleased to do without. The prisoners must be guilty, even if they "cannot be convicted." It took a hell of a lot of interrogation and torture to winnow the suspects down to a manageable few, and damned if we should just send 'em home after all that effort. Nuh-uh.

So whom do we protect? Those people accused of grave crimes, for which we have no evidence? Or those who may be the future victims of the dangerous people we release into this world?

For someone who objects to the alleged black and white thinking of the "pseudo-left," "Alexander
" doesn't give us much room to move here. If he would stop conflating "accused" with "guilty," however, it might well be possible to see his false dichotomy for what it is. But he goes on, and this is where we get, at last, to the nub of the argument:

Omar Khadr, the Canadian accused of killing an American soldier, may or may not be a future threat. But determining his guilt or innocence from an incident that occurred in smoke-filled firefight may never be possible. In time of war, we sometimes have to believe that the government will make the proper decisions on who they can safely release and who they cannot.

There you have it. The Left, insisting upon procedure and the rule of law. The hard Right, defending cruel and arbitrary actions by the state against individuals. It's through the looking-glass we go, folks, full-tilt boogie, in one godawful tangle of apes and angels and their age-old prey.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Your Sunday burning stupid

The "Raphael Alexander" entity speaks:

Seven years in prison without trial is certainly a lengthy incarceration without due process, and I am concerned that we may never get to see Omar Khadr’s day in court. Having said that, this is still a man 22 years of age who, if released in the next few years, would still have his entire life to make amends with his fellow Canadian citizens, to whom he has brought shame and embarrassment. [emphasis added]

Seven years without trial--and still guilty.

But it gets better:

This once-aspiring terrorist has been practically transformed by the media into some kind of victim, his treasonous collaboration glossed over, his youth constantly dredged up in defence of his apparent lack of moral compass. Not once have we heard of young Omar expressing a shred of remorse for his crimes, alleged or otherwise. [emphasis added]

Perhaps we could be happy for now with alleged remorse?

Harper's Conservatives: how to run a townhall meeting

1. Stack the rostrum with big business shills;

2. Use private security goons to accost students (who were not, as predicted, permitted to speak);

3) Threaten an NDP Member of Parliament.

That's how Heritage Minister James Moore and Industry Minister Tony Clement like to keep things under control.

But always remember: Human Rights Commissions are the real enemies of freedom in this country.

Tell you what, Ezra, old bean: I'll take my "North Korean" CHRC over your Conservative Sicherheit any day of the week.

[H/t BCL]

Sunday self-indulgence

Alright, alright, I know it's bad form to go after other bloggers instead of fearlessly analyzing the latest news and weather reports and dissecting the commercials. It's lazy, it's a clear sign that one has run out of real ideas, it's petty, and no one gives a damn anyway. It's why we aren't taken more seriously by the "MSM"--unless they're helping themselves to our stuff, that is, and mocking us the while.

But every now and then the pressure builds intolerably.

Here is what some of the folks on the starboard side of the 'sphere are up to these days:
  • Spitting on Ted Kennedy's grave.

  • Resuscitating Nazi doctrines of racial supremacy.

  • Praising a maverick far-right mayor in the UK--but (maybe) failing to read far enough down:

    A non-practising Anglican, he says he is attracted by certain tenets of Buddhism and believes the Taliban could teach us a thing or two about family values. [emphasis added]
  • Being more than a little self-indulgent themselves, as in this characteristically maniacal scribbling about Barack Obama.

  • Convicting Omar Khadr without trial (this from a lawyer, but due process is for white people, I guess).
But you know what? You folks are rank amateurs, pathetic second-raters, miserable excuses for wingnuts. You're not trying hard enough, and even if you were, I doubt you've got the stuff.

Listen up, you lot. Here's how it's done:

Talking to Taitz was like watching a James Bond movie, only I couldn't follow the plot. I just knew that Obama was going to show up in the climactic scene, stroking the white cat on his lap and cackling in Swahili.

Pikers. Match the Orly oeuvre and you just might impress me someday. Until then, to be blunt, you're just so many farts in a windstorm.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Good luck, Darcey

...from your sometime friend, sometime enemy, sometime political sparring partner.

Darcey has led a hardscrabble life, and the scrabbling has become that much worse during the recession. You can read about his current situation at his place.

Just a few quick words. With Darcey, what you see is always what you get. No BS, no polite facade, he says what's on his mind, and if you don't like it, tough. I usually didn't like what he had to say, sometimes intensely disliked it, in fact, although on occasion he surprised me. But I always felt that I could give the man my back, and in private conversation he made it clear that he trusted me as well.

It's odd, male friendship. It can persist even at daggers drawn. He was one of the first to offer me his heartfelt compassion when my late partner became ill. I was a Friend of the Broom until he gave me the heave a year or so ago because he disapproved of one of my friends. So we publicly nattered and yammered at each other for a while, both of us enjoying it immensely, I suspect, and had the occasional b/c chat about more personal matters.

Each of us, it seems, could separate our ideas from who we were, not that I'm sure precisely what that means. Darcey stands up, whatever the odds, and sometimes those odds have been staggering, and for his standing up, if not always what he stands up for, he has my respect and my good wishes for the future.

PS: Whoever's minding the store now, can you keep up those wicked Friday blues tracks? You, uh, owe it to Darcey. :)

Bush-era interrogation techniques defended

[H/t Dymaxion World]

Your Saturday apophenia

An imbecile writes:

This is a snapshot snapped in Denmark earlier this summer when I was en route to interviewing Kurt Westergaard. It is a close-up on a young woman of Middle Eastern appearance on a Danish train, who kindly consented to be photographed wearing what appears to be an Islamic sword of some kind.

Inflammatory and tasteless, I'd say.

[emphases added]

The author is attempting to make a wider point, comparing the "inflammatory and tasteless" Mohammed cartoons with alleged representations (such as the Saudi Arabian flag) of Islamist supremacy.

Since the young woman's dress doesn't exactly seem to follow the burqa/niqab/hijab fashion stylings of today's Islamista, I thought I'd check further into the sword-as-pendant motif to uncover the sinister in the scimitar, as it were. And, what do you know:

For sale: one "Poison Apple Arabic Sword Necklace," engraved with the words "Poison Apple NYC." Yikes! From the very site of 9/11 comes this onomastic mockery of the "Big Apple," inscribed on a traditional Islamic jihadist weapon, no less. Talk about inflammatory and tasteless!

And here's the offensive piece of jewelery in context, at the treasonously-named Poison Apple website.
Ignore the clearly diversionary unicorns and owls.

Then these: "pirate" swords, eh? Makes you think of Mogadishu right off the bat, doesn't it, even if something a little more up-to-date seems called for? Just who is this Marty Bobroskie anyway? Seems to spend a lot of time in Okinawa. Wasn't Japan at war with the US sometime back?

The humorist James Thurber had this stuff taped. Here, written during the McCarthy period, is a fable for our time:

Not so very long ago there was a very fine gander. He was strong and smooth and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children. One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing remarked, "There is a very proper gander." An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost. "They said something about propaganda," she said. "I have always suspected that," said the rooster, and he went around the barnyard next day telling everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more than likely a hawk in gander's clothing. A small brown hen remembered a time when at a great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest. "They were up to no good," she said. A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything. "He said to hell with the flag, too," said the duck. A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great deal like a bomb. Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander's house. He was strutting in his front yard, singing to his children and his wife. "There he is!" everybody cried. "Hawk-lover! Unbeliever! Flag-hater! Bomb-thrower!" So they set upon him and drove him out of the country.

Apophenia is the psychopathology of seeing meaningful patterns in unconnected, random data. The need to discern patterns is an evolutionary mechanism that saves lives: in a universe of particulars, there can be no lessons learned, no "once burned, twice shy." But the faculty of judgment normally prevents us from falling into mere free- association mode: the latter is the stuff of paranoia and conspiracy theories. Those afflicted are always connecting the dots, but in our infinite universe of dots they end up drawing any pictures they want, pictures that merely give shape and content to their own fearful obsessions.

Not being an apopheniac myself, the next time I meet an attractive woman who looks very much like someone from the Middle East wearing a pendant that looks a great deal like a scimitar, and she lets me take her photograph, I'll probably offer to buy her a coffee. Isn't that the Canadian way?


UPDATE: (September 26) Oh, good grief.

Friday, August 28, 2009



I am ZeroMeansZero

Come and get me, you dirty rats.

[H/t Miss Vicky]

And my old friend Michael D. reminds me...

Poll-vaulting [updated]

My Liberal buddy Scott Tribe is gleeful about today's EKOS poll, which confirms the Decima poll earlier this week and makes the August 24 Ipsos-Reid poll look more and more like an outlier.

Bottom line: the two parties are statistically neck-and-neck, although the Tories lead slightly in today's poll results.

Scott wants me to write a "retraction" of my earlier post on the matter, but for the life of me I can't see anything in what I wrote there that needs retracting.

Fact: the new Leader bounce is long gone, if it ever existed. Ignatieff stands for everything and nothing: he's a political cipher.

Fact: the Tories have shaken the confidence of a lot of Canadians this summer with their high-profile foreign affairs shenanigans, so some support in the penumbra might well be expected to have bled to the Liberals by default.

Fact: to be merely at a dead heat with the tawdry Tories after three awful years is clear evidence of failure. It most assuredly is nothing to crow about.

Fact: EI reform is not a key voter issue.

Fact: the prospects of a Fall election are fading very, very quickly. In fact I'm going to go out on a limb here--won't happen.

UPDATE: (August 28) Scott, you there? Impolitical? I'm having another Eric Cartman moment. :)

Friday juxtaposition

Heh. That Kate McMillan, she really did start something.

Item: Who left pigs at Premier's door?

Item: Harper Appoints Nine to the Senate.

Shameless: Foreign Affairs and the Harper government

Two items of more than passing interest to those following the Harper government's creation of a tiered citizenship system:

Suaad Hagi Mohamud, recently allowed to return home after being marooned in Kenya, appeared before an emergency meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this week--and was immediately subjected to a disgraceful attack by Conservative MPs Peter Goldring and Brian Jean. Regarding the public disclosure of official reports on her treatment that have not even been written, they demanded that she waive her privacy rights on the spot. Their grubby little innuendo is obvious--they were hinting that she has something to hide.

Abdihakim Mohamed will be grudgingly permitted to come home after more than three years of mistreatment at the hands of Foreign Affairs officials. Will he get a passport? Um, well, no. He'll get only a one-way travel document:

Passport Canada still questions Mohamed's identity, which is why it will only issue emergency documents.

"Where has Abdi gone if it's not Abdi?" said Issa of her son, who she says has been living with family in constant fear of Kenyan police and in need of treatment.

Issa's ordeal began in 2006, two years after she took her son to Somalia to be with his grandmother at the request of a doctor who said it would be good for Mohamed to be in the company of family. When Issa returned to Canada, she says she accidentally had Mohamed's passport in her purse and border officials in Toronto confiscated it.

When Mohamed's grandmother got sick in 2006, Issa decided to bring him home. She applied for a new passport for Mohamed, but was denied. She then went to Nairobi to seek a passport with her son.

"I told them I am his mother. They told me I was not his mother," she said.

Issa has supplied several affidavits from friends and family attesting to Mohamed's identity. [emphasis added]

What a sordid, sorry, genuinely creepy bunch. I fear for that kitten.

Conservative stand-up guys

[H/t Warren Kinsella]

Asbestos: better late than never, Iggy

At last, at long last, the Liberal leader-in-waiting has apparently taken a stand on something. Waffling on the issue for months, he is, at least this week, opposed to exporting asbestos:

I know how important asbestos is to the region around Thetford Mines and I’m aware of the hardship involved, but the science is telling us that its is dangerous and we have to follow the science. I don’t think we should be exporting dangerous substances.

I've blogged about his flips and his flops on the issue before. One day (March 28 this year) he was forthrightly opposed to exports; four days later (April 1) he was merely in favour of informing foreign countries on the receiving end of this toxic material of the health risks involved. On May 3, when I asked him the question directly, he uttered a series of disjointed talking points from which anyone on any side of the issue could take heart.

At that time, too, he stated that science should drive the issue. But he also claimed that there was "substantial disagreement" in the scientific community about the dangers of chrysotile asbestos, reminding me of the denialists who assert that there is "substantial disagreement" about global warming. He also seemed unaware that, thanks to an Access to Information request, a long-suppressed Health Canada report on the dangers of chrysotile had been released weeks earlier by the Harper government, following deliberate misrepresentations about its contents.

(Once again, incidentally, that report has vanished into the official memory hole. It is no longer available on-line from Health Canada--in fact it doesn't even come up on a search of the site. But the Internet being what it is, the report and its summary may be viewed here.)

Asbestos, of course, is pure poison. The unvarnished truth is that exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of it every year to the Third World, where health and safety standards and enforcement are lax, kills people. At stake here at home are a handful of part-time jobs in Quebec and some votes for which the Conservatives continue to troll. Not really a difficult moral choice to make, and it's backed by hard science, the Canadian Medical Association, even a couple of breakaway Tories--yet even on that, Iggy has taken his sweet time deciding where to stand.

But the Liberal calculus has always been based upon power rather than principle. Evidently the backroomers have completed their various sondages and discovered that, on balance, all factors considered, at this point in time, weather permitting, opposing asbestos exports will not cause over-all harm to the party's prospects in an election. And now that the numbers have been crunched, principle may be safely invoked and a public stand recorded.

Long-time human rights activist Kathleen Ruff thinks this is "very gutsy" of Ignatieff. I respectfully disagree.

The leader-in-waiting has, in fact, taken a not-so-risky position on a proven carcinogen--while backing off on a Fall election, as I and many others had predicted. But is this his final word?

[H/t a certain blogger :)]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Because facts have a left-wing bias

...the mouth-breathing Right has to make stuff up:

"Mutton Headed Conspiracy Theorist"

Speaking of whacky, three cheers for Terry Glavin for putting Saskatchewan's own Dr. Dawg Mengele in his place. And no, I will not link to mutton head's blog, but you can follow Glavin's link.

Great piece at The Torch, too.

"Mengele" was an especially nice touch.

  • I didn't write the piece in question;

  • My co-blogger, who did, had her tongue securely in her cheek;

  • The post preceded the attacks in Kandahar to which Terry was referring;

  • I don't live in Saskatchewan.
But do keep playing. As for Glavin, I'll make allowances for his agitated state of mind as the Afghanisnam quagmire deepens. I must say I liked him better in the old days.

Liberals to oppose consular assistance legislation?

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar is drafting a bill that would make government and responsible ministers accountable when Canadian citizens like Suaad Hagi Mohamud are mistreated by Canadian officials abroad or by foreign governments. The proposed legislation would guarantee consular services to these citizens, rather than leaving it up to government to pick and choose whom they will help and whom they will abandon to their fate.

But the Liberals, headed by former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff, just aren't all that keen.

"It's already the law," Mohamud's MP Joe Volpe claims. "If (the government has) broken the first law, what's to prevent them from breaking the second law?"

Where has Volpe been--off on Planet X
all summer with his Leader? It is not "already the law." There is no law in place that forces the government to offer help to Canadians in a jam overseas. While a recent federal court decision (in the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik) has chipped away at the notion of Royal Prerogative invoked by Lawrence Cannon, that dealt narrowly with the issuance of a passport.

What happened to Mohamud and Abdihakim Mohamed goes well beyond that. Foreign Affairs officials toyed with them, and, in Mohamed's case, is still doing so after more than three years. Not only were they unhelpful--they took proactive measures to cause them harm.

What Dewar is calling for is already the law in Germany and in the US: there is a legal obligation on the part of those states to come to the aid of their citizens abroad. Not in Canada.
Obviously there should be: but the Liberals, addicted as they have always been to power and its perks, appear set to oppose Dewar's bill. They don't want their own hands tied if they form a government someday.

The cynicism in Volpe's statement is telling, but not surprising. There will almost certainly be more Abdelraziks, more Mohamuds and Mohameds, as ministers continue to wield arbitrary power and consular officials do likewise. But this time the Liberals, not the Conservatives, will be to blame.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Double-teaming the Injuns

Once again, mining giant Platinex is descending upon the people of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in northern Ontario.

The last time this corporate rapist ventured onto KI land, protesters learned anew what white man's justice is all about. Six non-violent protesters were jailed.
And these aboriginals are being sued by Platinex for $10 billion (yes, you read that right) for daring to defend their traditional territory.

Opposing big mining interests, in fact, has its consequences in the province of Ontario. As I noted back in March, 2008, no nonsense from Native people will be tolerated by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty. It's prison if you dare to protest, as First Nations people opposed to uranium mining in southern Ontario discovered last year. (The judge handing down the draconian sentences was a certain Judge Douglas Cunningham. Name ring a bell?)

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug leaders also faced judicial assault. As I noted at the time:

Justice Patrick Smith sent six band members to jail, including Chief Donny Morris and Deputy Chief Jack MacKay. Two others, Enus McKay and Evelyn Quequish, were given suspended sentences after they agreed to stop protesting.

The judge cited [Justice Cunningham's] decision as a precedent for the jail terms, and stated that he could not impose fines in any case because the defendants would be unable to pay them. One member "purged his contempt" by agreeing to stop protesting. Indian land is now safe for Platinex Inc. to commence its drilling operations.

The short message is this: if you are Native, forget about protesting peacefully in Ontario. Miners can come on to your land with impunity, and dig it up at their whim. You have no recourse. If you stand up, white judges will lock you down. The justice system stands with the mining companies, and the McGuinty government, including the feckless Aboriginal Affairs minister Michael Bryant, stands with the justice system.

This time Platinex is bringing along the Fifth Cavalry Ontario Provincial Police as backup. Premier McGuinty is about to give them redskins what-fer, by golly.

Stay tuned. This won't be pretty.

[H/t Cam Holmstrom]

Even more compassionate conservatism

It’s good that he’s dead (if he’s dead). It’s a damned shame it didn’t involve him going through a wood chipper feet first. Slowly.

...from the site that brought you Pancake Day.

Suaad Hagi Mohamud: how dare she?

Sue the government of Canada, that is. The Usual Suspects, as a casual reading of the litter-boxes provided by on-line media indicates, are all in a lather. $2.5 million? What a greedy little immigrant. She should be "grateful that we let her back into our country."

Well, let's see.

Brian Mulroney, a millionaire many times over, sued the government of Canada for $37 million. Conrad Black, when he was a wealthy man, sued a cartoonist for $2.1 million in 2004 because his feelings were hurt. In fact he was known for that sort of thing.

There was no outrage from the Usual Suspects (great fans of Lard Black by the way). There never is when rich white guys like Mulroney and Black grab for the brass ring. But when a dark-skinned citizen is falsely accused by Canadian officials, imprisoned in a foreign pest-hole and refused entry to her own country for months, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs being aware of her ordeal two weeks after it began, she's just supposed to suck it up.

No way. You go, Suaad. You go, Abousfian. You go, Abdihakim, if the silky-smooth creeps at Foreign Affairs ever let you return.

Lawsuits are really the only weapons at their disposal. The victims of this unaccountable, above-the-law government haven't as yet received so much as an apology from the miscreants responsible. Just maybe the big bucks involved will put a brake on this kind of government malfeasance. Taxpayers, after all, don't like having to pay for the willful negligence or the active malice of the people they elect.

As for you naysayers: I wonder what tune y'all would be singing if Suaad Hagi Mohamud were named Jane Smith?
Just asking.

More compassionate conservatism

Kudos to Cameron Holmstrom for exposing yet another Kontemptible Kanadian Konservative to the odium he rightly deserves.

The people of Kenora are poorly served by Con MP Greg Rickford, who ridiculed the desperate cry by residents of Attawapiskat First Nation for a school for their kids and attacked the local NDP MP, Charlie Angus, for making such a fuss about it. After all, it's just Indians.

To Rickford, educating Aboriginal youth is a zero-sum game: if Attawapiskat gets a school, some other community will suffer. He was thoughtful enough to forward his revolting little screed--for which you and I paid, incidentally--to the residents of Attawapiskat, just to rub their faces in it.

I see that both CC and I have picked up the juxtaposition habit. So long as there's tax money to lavish upon private Christian academies like Newman Theological College, the argument that there are no funds to build schools for Native kids in their communities is not only thin, but bordering on the fraudulent.

Sometimes these people do a better job of showing what they're made of than any progressive opponent possibly could.
Greg Rickford: yet another conservative boil on the body politic. High time, methinks, for a good political lancing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Abdihakim Mohamed: Slip. Cup. Lip.

Foreign Affairs never gets tired, it seems, of playing cat and mouse with brown Canadians abroad:

An Ottawa mother's hope of quickly getting a passport for her autistic son so he can come home from Kenya were dashed after an inconclusive meeting with consular officials Monday.

Abdihakim Mohamed, 25, was scheduled to have a meeting at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi when it was abruptly switched to a location off Canadian territory.

"I was expecting everything to be finished. Now they say something else. I don't understand," said Anab Issa, who works as a cleaner at Carleton University and has been fighting for her son's return to Ottawa for three years.

That officials would play these games under the full glare of a media spotlight speaks volumes about DFAIT's corporate culture--and the attitude of the disgraced Minister in charge, where, last we heard, the buck stops.

UPDATE: (August 27) Still dicking around. More here. Another month to get him back. A one-way emergency document but no passport. "Doubts" remain. These people are simply beyond shameless.

Chickensh*t RCMP bylaw officers

When I first came across this story at Robert Jago's place, I thought I was reading something cribbed from The Onion.

The City of Surrey and RCMP lined a Whalley social service building with chicken dung to keep homeless and vagrants away, The Leader has learned.

On Aug. 14, witnesses saw City of Surrey staff pull up to the Front Room Drop In Centre in the 10600-block of 135A Street and line the building with putrid poultry manure. The desired effect was to create a smell so repugnant that it would repel vagrants who were hanging out around the building.


One local on 135 Street said on Saturday that there were at least two visits by city trucks dumping the manure in the area. There is also evidence of the same substance on the base of large trees in the park west of the Surrey Food Bank on 135 Street.

Coun. Barinder Rasode said the manure plan was hatched by the Mounties.

"Our understanding is the RCMP initiated it," said Rasode, who was "deeply troubled" by the strategy.

An e-mail to the mayor from Deputy City Manager Dan Bottrill says that "Surrey RCMP initiated this in order to dissuade individuals from loitering against the buildings bordering the lot."

Rasode insists elected officials did not know about the initiative.

I got nothin'.

UPDATE: RCMP absolved:

[Acting Mayor] Rasode said councillors and senior civic managers had no inkling the chicken dung strategy was going to be trotted out by its own staff. Early on, the deed was mistakenly linked to the RCMP. “I'm very glad to point you back to the city on this one,” a relieved RCMP officer told an inquiring reporter.


Just because

And why do some show no mercy
While others are painfully shy?
Tell me doctor, can you quantify?
He just wants to know the reason
The reason why

Tiered citizenship

Stephen Harper is going to the Supreme Court to put the boots once again to an off-white Canadian.

Can anyone now doubt that the Conservatives have managed in a mere three years to institute a tiered, colour-coded notion of citizenship in this country? And by "Conservatives," I mean both our present government and its party base. If anyone doubts me on the latter, a good throat-gagging read of the comments collected by the major on-line media on the Suaad Hagi Mohamud case alone should put any lingering doubts to rest.

There is one level of citizenship for, say, a Brenda Martin. But there is quite another for Abousfian Abdelrazik, still unable lawfully
to find a job in his own country, or to receive any kind of social assistance. Or for Suaad Hagi Mohamud, Abdihakim Mohamed...

Or Omar Khadr.

Courts, the media and the public have managed so far to turn back some of the zealous excesses of this government to persecute, harass and maroon our duskier citizens. The Khadr campaign will play out with, I suspect, similar results. There is yet a core of common decency built into our lifeways and even some of our institutions that has thwarted, so far, the sketchier aspects of this government's agenda.

But those aspects keep erupting. The very notion of "Canadian" has been brought into question by the Harper administration. There are evidently degrees of citizenship
now. Born here, born white, you're at the top. But a recent immigrant of a darker hue? Or someone born right here, but of insufficient pallor?

The government will go to court to defend the proposition that it owes you no assistance abroad. You can be bundled off to other countries to be tortured.

You can be cooped up in an embassy, forbidden to return to your own country by a minister of the Crown. You can be called an "impostor" after a "conclusive" investigation by consular officials, and that same minister will wonder aloud why you haven't tried harder to prove that you're Canadian.

Arab-Canadians are targeted as "terrorists," and punished for exercising their freedom of speech. (Speech Warriors™, for the most part far-right conservatives, applaud.) First Nations Canadians are mocked or snubbed by the minister allegedly responsible for Indian Affairs, while Canada, tellingly, remains one of three nations in the world that have refused to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

And a former child soldier, very likely innocent of the charges against him, remains in the Gitmo hellhole where he was first brought seven years ago and interrogated with the active collaboration of our secret police, who simply ignored his human rights according to a recent scorching report.

Our Prime Minister and his government are battling tooth and nail to keep him there.

Shamefully, all of this is happening by default. There is no concerted political opposition to any of it. Former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff is lying low, as usual. The NDP, along with the BQ, dipped its own toe in populist waters awhile back by supporting electoral legislation that would discriminate against Muslims. Since then, it's been a lot quieter than it should have been, with the honourable exception of the Abdelrazik affair in which foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar distinguished himself.

Hence we are left with an odd coalition indeed: the courts, ordinary citizens, and a handful of dogged journalists and editorial writers, to defend what shouldn't need defending in 2009, especially against our own government. That coalition, when roused, has been effective. But upholding human rights in Canada seems to be more a matter of chance and pressure than rule of law.

Perhaps more Canadians should be raising this at election time. Until then, the rights supposedly guaranteed by our Charter are a bit of a crapshoot, depending upon publicity, public discontent, lawyers
working pro bono and judges doing the right thing.

So far our fight has been successful
, one brown Canadian at a time. But why should we have to fight at all?

UPDATE: And a very nice catch by Alison. Go. Read.

Monday, August 24, 2009

That'll Do.

Jason Kenney's Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration enforced a deportation order, quite possibly in a frenzy to prove to critics excoriating Harper's government for a number of incidents where brown-skinned citizens were stranded outside Canada that Conservative ministers are NOT acting on the basis of systemic and implicit racist policies and/or incompetence.

Hours before her legally blind, 69-year-old mother was deported to Poland last night, Aldona Pindiur was in tears, begging for help. "She's old, she can't see ... Who will look after her in Poland? All the family is here," Pindiur said in halting English. "Can you help her stay with me? Please help."

But there was no help, no last-minute reprieve: Stefania Magdziak was put on a plane to her native Poland last night, days after she lost her appeal to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds after a failed refugee claim.

Pindiur and her brother, Miroslaw Magdziak, came to Canada almost 15 years ago. They applied to stay as landed immigrants and were accepted. Their mother came for a visit in 1998 and never went back.

An unscrupulous immigration consultant advised the family to file a claim for refugee status so that she could stay, Miroslaw said. The application was rejected and a few weeks ago, her plea to stay in Canada with her family was also denied.


Will Harper say to Kenney: "That'll do, Pig"?

Peter Van Loan got in on the action too.

In an e-mailed statement, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, who is responsible for the Canada Border Services Agency and had the power to halt the deportation, said he could not comment on specific cases, but added the CBSA enforces the law and court decisions.

"The removal of inadmissible individuals is key to maintaining the integrity of the immigration program and to ensuring fairness for those who live in this country lawfully."

Yet another nail in the coffin of Conservative "Family Values". That will do indeed.

Red Tory first blogged about this.


Good grief.

Stand. Heat. Kitchen.

[H/t Red Tory]

An Invisible Man reaps his reward

Former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff has been missing in action all summer. Either his handlers have been hoping that the Tories would slowly self-destruct, or he was simply proving to be
pas sortable.

I would have to go with the latter. As leader, Ignatieff has proven to be little short of a disaster. Trying to get unequivocal statements from him on the issues (e.g., asbestos) has been like trying to nail jelly to a wall. In classic Liberal fashion, but without the bald-faced panache of a Jean Chrétien, he responds to direct questions by throwing out several disconnected and contradictory statements, hoping to please everyone on all sides of an issue.

Worse, as a natural-born patrician, it has quickly become apparent that he utterly lacks the common touch. Living outside the country for decades, returning only to receive the mantle of kingship from a desperate, rudderless party, he is seen by many as lacking in the visceral day-to-day sense of being a Canadian, working and living in this land. That might or might not be unfair. But what is his response? He writes a book about it.

And the issue that was shaping up to be his call-an-election point of honour was--EI reform. As I've noted before, working Canadians in a recession are desperately worried about holding onto their jobs, rather than looking for an increased dole once they're laid off. EI is an issue that couldn't conceivably capture the imagination of the electorate. Unless one is unemployed, there's no there there.

Yet, during his uninspiring acceptance speech at the Liberal convention in Vancouver, Ignatieff touched on a theme that might have sprouted wings. He spoke of a politics of unity as opposed to a politics of division: his language was dated ("two solitudes," forsooth), but his welcome notion of inclusion, versus Harper's perennial, angry us-vs-them divisiveness, would have been balm for an electorate weary of that nasty and fundamentally unproductive game.

He flubbed it.

Over the past few months we have watched the darker side of the Tory agenda emerge: the horrendous victimization of citizens like Abousfian Abdelrazik and Suaad Hagi Mohamud have been not only tolerated but actively defended at the highest levels of government. Arab-Canadians have been targeted; Roma refugees fleeing persecution in the Czech Republic have been barred; Mexicans wishing to visit Canada have been humiliated.

For an old human rights hand like Ignatieff this should have been manna from heaven: an opportunity for him to speak from the heart from familiar terrain in which he once distinguished himself as a scholarly and humane observer. It was a chance to renew and deepen his call for inclusiveness, with concrete examples rather than high-flown, empty rhetoric. An occasion to share a personal vision of Canada that would resonate with all but Stephen Harper's shrinking red-meat base.


MPs Dan McTeague and Irwin Cotler did their best to take up the slack. But these things call for leadership. Canadians needed to hear from the man who would be Prime Minister, they needed a vision, dammit, and an expression of deeply-felt anger at just how far the Conservative government has fallen short of it.

But taking a stand on anything might offend some possible voters. And it's particularly difficult to talk out of both sides of your mouth on human rights issues. As the Tory casualty list lengthened, waffling and weasel-wording were simply not an option. Only one alternative remained.


And now a new poll has been taken, and the Tories, who could have been eviscerated for their invention of tiered citizenship, their targeting of minorities, their racist exclusion policies, are riding a wave of popularity--by default. 39% support they have, putting them close to what, under our ridiculous first-past-the-post system, is known as "majority government territory." The Liberals are at 28%, approaching the Dion nadir. 49% of Canadians believe that the Liberals are not ready to run the country.

Ipsos-Reid pollster Darrell Bricker puts the matter squarely:

You don't want to peak too soon, but you have to peak at some point. We've seen how the peek-a-boo strategy works. If you're not there, you're not there.

Bobbing and weaving, admittedly, are important political skills. But at some point you have to land a punch. And up to now, the Liberals' man hasn't even forced the reigning champeen to break a sweat.

Fall election? Not Pygmalion likely.

UPDATE: My indefatigable Liberal buddy Scott Tribe points out that another poll (Harris-Decima) shows the Libs and Cons neck-and-neck. Let's wait for the EKOS poll on Thursday. But in the meantime, if being merely as popular as the Conservatives is now considered to be a Liberal triumph of sorts, then we can see just how far the despair in their ranks has penetrated.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday dining room tables

A few pieces of furniture if you're really in the mood for dismal conversation today:
  • A feminist delivers a most unladylike smackdown to an objectionable dining room table employed by CanWest.

  • Environmentalists should never meet, according to this dining room table. Or they should take up long-distance swimming. Because every time they attend international conferences, they are causing global warming. Ergo, they are hypocrites. (Or liars, because everyone knows there is no global warming. Fact. Or if there is, we have nothing to do with it. Fact.)

  • A thick slab of a dining room table mocks Suaad Hagi Mohamud. She is joined by a crudely-constructed kitchen table in the comments.

  • The ghost of a dining room table is summoned up by another dining room table to discuss socialized med'cine. Anything worse than having a conversation with a dining room table? Try listening in when they're talking amongst themselves.

  • The faux-outrage of this dining room table is something to behold. Art-form or self-parody? You decide.

  • A politically jaded dining room table uncovers the issue of the month.
[The reference, in case anyone has been in a sensory deprivation tank for the past few days. Kudos to CC for the prompt.]

Die, meme!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Milk of human kindness

Mine has all run out.

None for you.

And none for you.

Photo Op

As always with the PM and his Con-job ministers, it's all about political OPportunity, OPtics and OPerations.
After touring homes in Vaughan that suffered severe structural damage during Thursday's storm, Canada's Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said doling out financial aid is not a political decision but rather the result of a "complex mathematical formula."

Could one of the factors in that "complex mathematical formula" be the demographic profile of Vaughn and other neighbourhoods affected by Thursday's violent storm in Milton, Newmarket and Durham?

Specifically, how to calculate whether federal financial assistance doled out will cancel out a public perception that the Public Safety Minister and his colleagues are mostly indifferent to the rights and the plight of brown-skinned Canadian citizens left stranded outside Canada?

Accountability and transparency... as envisioned by Harper Conservatives.

"Canadians are not safe under this minister"

That would be Lawrence Cannon, in the words of Montreal Gazette writer Janet Bagnall.

Indeed. But I would go further: Canadians, at least the darker-hued ones of the Muslim persuasion, are not safe under this government.

I was alarmed when it looked as though the vice-consul in Nairobi, Liliane Khadour, was going to take the fall for consular bungling and ministerial malevolence--and that may still happen after the ministers involved get through carrying out "investigations" of their own shops. So too do I worry that Cannon might fall on his sword for Harper and his Cabinet colleagues. That wouldn't be right.

Yet we can see the alibis already taking their ghostly shape. Stephen Harper somehow wasn't briefed. He found out about the Suaad Hagi Mohamud mess only last week, and is making suitably portentous noises. Khadour has been recalled.

But Cannon knew all about this less than two weeks after Mohamud first ran into trouble at the Nairobi airport. Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety, was aware of it no later than mid-July. (And was the ubiquitous Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, blithely oblivious to all this?) Hence Cabinet demotions may be in the works, even if the "investigations" prove "conclusively" that nobody did anything wrong, and leave the ministers conducting them high and dry.

The universe will unfold as it should, in time for a possible Fall election.

Meanwhile, has anyone noticed the change in media focus, in which the names "Brenda Martin" and "William Sampson" are now uttered in the same breath as "Abousfian Abdelrazik," "Suaad Hagi Mohamud" and "Abdihakim Mohamed?" So that the pattern we are invited to discern is one of indifference and incompetence, perhaps, but certainly not racism?

Sorry, not buying it. There is a sense of desperate spin here. Yes, there was government inaction--under the Liberals--in the matter of William Sampson, who suffered grievously for it. Yes, Brenda Martin sat in a Mexican jail for a couple of years, although Harper eventually flew her home on a chartered jet. But in each case the government could at worst be accused of not doing enough.

In the case of the brown-skinned Canadians in the roster, however, the government and its officials consciously threw obstacle after obstacle in their way.

Public campaigns have been required, media outrage, court orders, an army of lawyers, not only to force the government to do the right thing but to stop them from doing the wrong one. William Sampson was not called an "impostor" after a "conclusive" investigation. Brenda Martin was not denied entry to Canada based upon a bogus exercise of royal prerogative. Neither of them was bundled off to Syria for a few bouts of torture.

What is needed is anything but a couple of internal alibi-spinning "investigations" whose results may never be released. It's not only the misbehaviour of low-level munchkins that needs an airing, but also ministerial and departmental malfeasance. In fact the whole Augean stable of government ineptitude, active malice and systemic discrimination needs to be swept clean from top to bottom and thoroughly disinfected.
Nothing less than a full public inquiry will do that.

But don't hold your breath. The revelations from such an inquiry would likely prove not merely embarrassing, but fatal. Still chasing a majority,
the Harper government is not about to embrace the opportunity to dig its own mass grave. Perhaps Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff--wherever he is--might yet be persuaded to wield the shovels.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Afghanistan cynics

"Raphael Alexander" is waking up to an uncomfortable truth about Afghanistan. It's stubbornly refusing to mirror the values our troops are allegedly dying to uphold. Women were largely disenfranchised in the election just held. Women, thanks to the once and possibly future president Hamid Karzai, can now be legally starved by their husbands if they refuse to have sex with them.

The latter is too much even for the Flea.

To Raphael's moment of conscience the hawkish Mark Collins responds, with, I must observe, the admirable honesty of a Realpolitiker:

If only the same media attention were paid to any number of other Muslim countries. How odd that the media focus so much on those that, ultimately for national security reasons, Western countries are fighting in.

For Example:

Gays flee Iraq as Shia death squads find a new target

Let’s find a perfect country to fight a war in support of. [emphasis added]

Meanwhile a leftist article has incited the scorn and wrath of the hawks, and, it is hoped, might do something similar for most thinking progressives:

[I]f we, as avowed anti-imperialists, intend to wait around for a resistance movement that agrees with us on every issue, including the need to fight the oppression of women, gays, racial and religious minorities, etc., we'll be waiting a long time. The Taliban is the resistance in Afghanistan and we must support it, critically, but unreservedly.

I rather liked "critically, but unreservedly." But setting aside the obvious foolishness, readers will readily note a creepy resemblance between the two screeds.

No, I'm not talking "moral equivalence,"
although arguments could be made: I'm talking cynical equivalence. There's no room here for the critic or the sceptic, for values or morals, for humanity, in such models of geopolitics.

I never thought I'd see the day when I quoted anti-Castro poet Heberto Padilla, but as I grow older his corrosive scepticism is starting to make sense. These are his "Instructions on how to enter a new society," but they seem to apply just as
easily here:

One: be an optimist.

Two: be discreet, correct, obedient.

(Do well at sports—all of them.)

And, most of all, move

like all the other members:

one step forward, and

one (or two) steps back:

but never stop cheering.

Fall in, soldiers, politicians, media, bloggers, apologists, cheerleaders. Choose your black or white, and then keep your eyes straight ahead. Make all of the necessary excuses, to others and to yourselves--if it doesn't cleanse the soul, at least it will dull the conscience. Slaughter their metaphors, crush their abstractions, bomb their ideologies, conduct a house-to-house search for their values, and take no prisoners.

Ignore the bodies.

And never stop cheering.