Friday, April 30, 2010

If we can't trust Parliament...

...with national security materials, why should we trust this guy?

Let the Harper stonewalling continue. Support our troops!

Omar Khadr's kangaroo judge

As Omar Khadr's "trial" is nearly underway (pre-"trial" hearings are going on at the moment), his judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, is once again in the news.

Khadr is blind in one eye and has shrapnel in both. He has been suffering grievously of late, but no qualified medical assistance has been available to him in Gitmo. Parrish casually dismissed defence objections to his having to wear goggles while being transported to the court in a windowless van, and threatened to run the proceedings in Khadr's absence. Yesterday afternoon, Khadr was in court, in obvious physical pain.

Nearly two years ago, the previous judge in the case, Col. Peter Brownback, who had had the effrontery to allow some defence motions, was summarily removed from the case and replaced by the more pliable Parrish. During a previous incarnation of the military commission in 2008, the latter demonstrated his partiality to the prosecution by suppressing photographs that appear to exonerate Khadr.

Why would he do that? "Because," as defence lawyer Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler said at the time, "they show he's innocent."

The current railroading of Omar Khadr will continue unhindered by notions of due process and natural justice. Whether he is in pain or not, the machine will grind on, the results virtually guaranteed with fabricated evidence and a uniformed 'roo presiding.

And the Harper government, which has already rejected clear signals from the Obama administration that it would be open to a repatriation deal,
will no doubt sit back, basking in its recent Supreme Court victory, and applaud as this miserable travesty unfolds.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Violence and the Other

Mildly NSFW, M.I.A.'s new video graphically depicts the violence of state power unleashed against the Other. The clip was directed by Romain Gavras, son of Costa-Gavras. (Clearly a chip off the old block. Bravo!) Contrary to some reports, YouTube didn't yank it--they simply buried it.

"Kick a Ginger Day" was an obvious influence; there are more than a few echoes of Punishment Park in the clip as well. And the new racist legislation in Arizona makes it timely.

How fundamentally easy--and arbitrary--genocide is, really. It's just the last step in a series of steps--the logical consequence of defining whole groups of people as at once inferior and threatening. Skin colour, language, religion: some easily-recognized marker will always be found, and the mobs unleashed under the benign gaze of the state, or with active state involvement.

Even a South Park satirical cartoon had disastrous real-life consequences. In Arizona, the sadistic thug Joe Arpaio is salivating as he plans yet another round-up of Hispanics. Illegal immigrants or not, it never matters to that ageing fascist. He may run for governor of the state, and some observers give him a good shot at winning.

In Canada
our values are already being sorely tested. Today it's Muslim-baiting under the guise of "free speech," no-niqab legislation, singling out citizens for grotesque government mistreatment. Tomorrow...?

Israel's enablers

If, and as long as between the Jordan and the sea, there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic. If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don’t, it is an apartheid state. --Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak

We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities… We developed two judicial systems: one — progressive, liberal in Israel. The other — cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. --former Attorney-General of Israel Michael Ben-Yair

Canadian journalist Jeet Heer opens a discussion of Israel and her enablers in today's National Post, of all places. A strong supporter of the two-state solution (a sovereign Palestine coexisting with a sovereign Israel), Heer takes issue with those who have encouraged--and continue to encourage-- Israel in its cruel and reckless treatment of the Palestinians.

The nub of his case:

Israel is the [Ernest] Hemingway of nations. Like the great writer, Israel is admired by many for its courage and fighting prowess and indulgently allowed to go on pursuing those elements of its behaviour that can only end in disaster. And just as Hemingway had his bar-room buddies who cheered on his alcoholism, Israel has its enablers, foreigners who encourage the Jewish state to follow the self-destructive path of keeping the Palestinians permanently immiserated.

His article is well worth a read--and a healthy discussion afterwards.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Milliken ruling: now what?

While talking heads opine, progressives express profound relief, and some (although by no means all) right-wing commentators howl and prevaricate, perhaps we should now look ahead a couple of weeks.

But first: what did the Speaker of the House actually rule, just to correct the little spinning tops out there?

Here's the transcript.

In a nutshell, of course, the Speaker upheld the supremacy of Parliament. The right of Parliament to compel the production of documents is, he said, by law and tradition, absolute:

It is the view of the Chair that accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would in fact jeopardize the very separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts. Furthermore, it risks diminishing the inherent privileges of the House and its Members, which have been earned and must be safeguarded.

As has been noted earlier, the procedural authorities are categorical in repeatedly asserting the powers of the House in ordering the production of documents. No exceptions are made for any category of Government documents, even those related to national security. Therefore, the Chair must conclude that it is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question. Bearing in mind that the fundamental role of Parliament is to hold the Government to account, as the servant of the House, and the protector of its privileges, I cannot agree with the Government’s interpretation that ordering these documents transgresses the separation of powers, and interferes with the spheres of activity of the executive branch. [emphases added].


It's with respect to the next part of his ruling--dealing with what he calls "accommodation and trust"--that confusion and misconstrual have already set in.

The Speaker did not rule that the parties must agree on a mechanism or procedure in the next two weeks that balances the government's expressed concern over national security against the ancient right of Parliament to hold its Executive accountable. The latter, as he noted, is absolute, and Parliament need make no concessions at all if it doesn't choose to. Rather, Milliken expressed the fervent desire that they might do so:

[I]s it possible for the two sides, working together in the best interest of the Canadians they serve, to devise a means where both their concerns are met?

Surely that is not too much to hope for.

And he went on to note that Parliament has had "an unbroken record of some 140 years of collaboration and accommodation in cases of this kind."

If the parties do not agree, he will be back in a fortnight to deal with the privilege issue once again--and he left no doubt whatsoever about the manner in which he would address it.

Too many people talked off the top of their heads immediately after the Speaker had ruled. Jack Layton spoke of swearing Opposition members into the Privy Council to protect confidentiality and security, but Liberal Senator Colin Kenny rightly pointed out that this would be a grave error. The effect of such a measure would simply be to extend the government's veil of secrecy. Opposition members wouldn't even be able to discuss the contents of the documents in their own caucuses, let alone make the public aware of anything they might contain.

More worrying were the comments of political science professor emeritus Ned Franks, an acknowledged expert on Parliament who taught both Peter Milliken and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson when they were students at Queen's. One contradicts Franks at one's peril, so let me put my difficulties with his initial comments in the form of questions. (His op-ed piece in today's Globe & Mail is somewhat toned down.)

Franks put forth several scenarios if the parties could not come to any agreement. One was a reference of the matter by the government to the Supreme Court of Canada. But how can Parliamentary supremacy, a doctrine to which the SCC has deferred in countless judgements, suddenly become a matter for the courts to shape and constrain?

Given its reluctance to interfere with the executive in Khadr, on what basis would the SCC assume the right to interfere with the legislature? (In his op-ed today, Franks himself says it's likely the court would simply toss the matter back.)

But even if this were simply a play for more time, on what authority could Stephen Harper remove the matter from the House, which is now well seized of it, and refer it to the Supreme Court?

Franks also suggested that, if the parties were intransigent, the Speaker might, depending on the circumstances, find the Opposition in contempt, rather than the government. That's not in his op-ed, and I think for good reason. Given that the Opposition parties comprise a majority in the House, isn't it a little odd to contemplate Parliament, in effect, being found in contempt of itself?

Even more worrying (or comical, if you have a dark sense of humour) is what Franks thinks might happen if no deal were to be reached and the House were to find "the appropriate ministers" in contempt. He envisages their confinement in a hotel, from whence Harper quickly springs them by--proroguing Parliament!

So, since we're all blue-skying today, let me make my own predictions.

First, at less than 30% in the polls, Harper isn't likely to make this a matter of confidence, forcing a dissolution of Parliament and then facing the electorate. For all his government's dubious rhetoric about supporting our troops, that matter would be completely overshadowed by his bizarre mistreatment of Parliament.

Readers will recall that Harper's second prorogation, which the pundits assured us was far too abstract a matter to be of any interest to ordinary Canadians, quickly became both widely grasped and strongly opposed by the public. I'm not certain that most Canadians were aware of quite what was at stake when the Speaker ruled, but the hustings would be a great school for raising civic awareness. Harper would pay a considerable price if he were to force an election.

Secondly, Harper will not allow the matter to proceed to the contempt stage. That way utter disaster lies, for him and for his party. If Canadians aren't too clear as yet on the concept of responsible government, they know very well what the imprisonment of ministers of the Crown means,
and whether it's in the Chateau Laurier or Millhaven is immaterial. As for prorogation, the phrase "three strikes and you're out" quickly comes to mind.

Thirdly, as noted, I cannot see upon what authority Harper could pluck this matter from Parliament and put everything on hold until such time as a reference to the SCC is dealt with. The Opposition wouldn't stand for that obvious delaying tactic, which, in the current context, would seem to be a further breach of Parliamentary privilege.

Finally, then, I think it highly likely that the parties will reach an agreement in the next few days. It is certainly in the interests of both the Liberals and the Conservatives to do so, given their current standings in the polls.

But much depends upon what is contained in the documents. Given what has leaked out already, it seems highly likely that the government has gone to the wall to keep the material confidential, not in the interests of national security, but of its own. We're at end-game, no mistake, and the best course of action for the government at this point is to hand the papers over, agree to suitable arrangements to maintain secrecy where genuine national security issues exist--if they do--and, when new revelations emerge as they assuredly will, try to brazen it out, or deflect. (Adscam!)

Yesterday was, not to put too fine a point on it, a terrible day for the Conservatives. The Prime Minister wasn't even in the House for the ruling: he knew what was coming, and photos of uncontrollable, white-faced anger would not be helpful to his cause. The tipping-point has, at long last, been reached. No matter which of the various scenarios actually unfolds, most of us would agree, I suspect, that this will not end well for Stephen Harper and the government he leads.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Harper government: cooperate or else

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, has spoken. Responsible government--the fundamental structure of our democracy--has been upheld.

The government of Stephen Harper has been given two weeks to work out a mechanism with the Opposition parties to disclose the Afghan detainee documents as requested. Otherwise, a final ruling on privilege--which is not likely, given the tenor of the Speaker's address, to favour the government--will be delivered.

More shortly.

UPDATE: Check out Kady O'Malley's liveblog. She will have the transcript of the ruling up at some point.

UPPERDATE: Maclean's magazine's Anton Wherry has posted the transcript. [H/t reader Holly Stick]

Given the frantic spin that government spokespeople are already placing on this ruling, the following excerpt is salient:

As has been noted earlier, the procedural authorities are categorical in repeatedly asserting the powers of the House in ordering the production of documents. No exceptions are made for any category of Government documents, even those related to national security. Therefore, the Chair must conclude that it is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question. Bearing in mind that the fundamental role of Parliament is to hold the Government to account, as the servant of the House, and the protector of its privileges, I cannot agree with the Government’s interpretation that ordering these documents transgresses the separation of powers, and interferes with the spheres of activity of the executive branch. [emphases added]

UPPESTDATE: And here's Liberal MP Derek Lee, an acknowledged expert on the powers of Parliament to "send for persons, papers and records."

One Brown Woman.

Yesterday Dr Dawg had a short post about Sayon Camara's plight.

Today a Federal Court judge heard her lawyer's appeal and granted an emergency stay of deportation until she gives birth.

The news item also provides some insight into the minds of Jason Kenney, Lawrence Cannon, Vic Toews and the people who follow their direction.

It was alleged by immigration investigators that the marriage between Camara and her husband Abdoul Sow was a "sham". In which case, thousands of couples living in the Atlantic provinces would be shocked to discover which criteria was used to establish this determination of authenticity.
Sow and Camara said they fell in love and married in 2008. The same year, Sow lost his job and went to Alberta for nine months to look for work while Camara stayed in Montreal. The couple said Sow's absence has led immigration officials to believe their marriage is fraudulent.
What could one call this small victory?

A start.

More also at Radio Canada, here.

Stand up for our brother!

His name is Abousfian Abdelrazik.

He is a Canadian citizen. After six years of enforced exile, he now lives in Montreal. The photo, worth a thousand words, depicts his arrival last summer.

Abousfian remains on the infamous "1267 list," a UN no-fly list. He is unable to learn why, or to confront his accusers. Contrary to the guarantees of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is illegal under our United Nations Act for anyone to employ him, or to give him food, shelter or clothing. He is not permitted to have a bank account. His life savings, a bequest for his deceased wife, have been frozen by the federal government.

The fact that Abousfian is still alive means that the law is being continually broken.

We need more law-breakers.

Tomorrow evening, there is to be a telethon to "bust the sanctions" against our fellow-citizen. Between 7 and 9pm EDT, call in to 877.737.4070 and make a pledge. You might also feel moved to pass along a message of "solidarity and encouragement," which will be broadcast live at the "Sanctions-Busting Telethon and Spaghetti Dinner event" in Montreal.

You can tune in to to watch the telethon broadcast live, or listen to live updates on CKUT 90.3 FM.

As I said in an earlier post on this subject, but it bears repeating:

Surely I do not have to quote the always timely Pastor Niemöller. But at this point it is abundantly clear that we, the ordinary citizens of this country, have a civic duty to stand up, not only for Abousfian Abdelrazik, but for the values that make us all Canadian.

Mind-control: all the rage

As I observed yesterday, the move by the American Psychiatric Association to expand diagnoses of childhood "disorders," driven by institutional power and Big Pharma profit-taking, is attracting notice. CanWest health reporter Sharon Kirkey's second article on the psychiatrization of our children appears today.

Under the relaxed criteria set out in the fourth edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, it seems that too many kids were being misdiagnosed with various "disorders."
The chair of the committee that drafted that edition, Dr. Allen Frances, ruefully notes now that diagnoses of bipolar disorder alone increased forty-fold in the US after the release of DSM-IV in 1994. Children no longer had to act manic to be bipolar, and persistent irritability could be taken as a form of clinical depression, and expensive drugs dispensed.

Well, what to do, what to do. Rather than pull back and stop this institutionalized child abuse, the APA is now proposing to create a Big New Disease: "Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria." That would provide a "diagnostic home" for all the kids misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder--and likely a raft of new patients as well.

Here are the criteria for "TDD":

A. The disorder is characterized by severe recurrent temper outbursts in response to common stressors.

1. The temper outbursts are manifest verbally and/or behaviorally, such as in the form of verbal rages, or physical aggression towards people or property.

2. The reaction is grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation or provocation.

3. The responses are inconsistent with developmental level.

B. Frequency: The temper outbursts occur, on average, three or more times per week.

C. Mood between temper outbursts:

1. Nearly every day, the mood between temper outbursts is persistently negative (irritable, angry, and/or sad).

2. The negative mood is observable by others (e.g., parents, teachers, peers).

D. Duration: Criteria A-C have been present for at least 12 months. Throughout that time, the person has never been without the symptoms of Criteria A-C for more than 3 months at a time.

E. The temper outbursts and/or negative mood are present in at least two settings (at home, at school, or with peers) and must be severe in at least in one setting.

Additional criteria are set out to distinguish this new "disorder" from others already in the book.

Pay close attention to these criteria, particularly if you have children in school. Meltdowns may now be recorded by the school nurse as possible "TDD." The medical-institutional gaze will now fall upon your child. And it doesn't matter if this happens during a few difficult weeks. Note criterion D: your kid can be without the symptoms for up to three months at a time.

The dangers here are so obvious that they shouldn't have to be explained. But articulate critics are already emerging. As Kirkey reports:

The fear is that TDD could open the door to the diagnosis of any child with a bad temper, that it risks pathologizing a normal part of a child's development and could lead to wider prescribing of antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizers to children, including preschoolers barely out of training pants.

"It's an extremely significant move, and it's a very alarming one," says Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behaviour Became a Sickness.

"What it implies is that anyone cycling through emotions that are a part of normal human development could be susceptible to a psychiatric diagnosis that they're going to be saddled with for the rest of their lives."

Infants and children have meltdowns, regularly and routinely, Lane says.

"It's a healthy expression of frustration. It's a very serious move to contemplate that as a bona fide mental illness, which is what they're very seriously proposing."

And Dr. Frances explains the problems in some depth, calling "TDD" a "makeshift proposal, with considerable risks."

The definition was created largely ad hoc with no systematic testing ( research program) of the performance characteristics of the items to determine how they would play if in wide general use. It is loosely written and in fact contains no exclusion for use in adults (which I assume is an oversight).

Why is such a makeshift solution being given any serious consideration? The work group freely admits that the scientific rationale is completely inadequate. Their proposal rests exclusively on two real and pressing clinical needs: 1) to reduce the over diagnosis and over treatment of bipolar disorder; and, 2) to do something to help the considerable suffering that these temper outbursts cause the children themselves, their parents and teachers, and society at large.[emphasis added]

The solution to "over diagnosis," in other words, is--to invent another diagnosis. But as Frances notes:

The biggest problem with the proposal is that it is not nearly restrictive enough. While trying to rescue kids who are now misdiagnosed as bipolar, it will undoubtedly open the door to the misdiagnosis of normal kids who happen to be temperamental or in difficult family circumstances.
First off, there is enormous variability in what are considered appropriate expressions of temper across kids, across developmental periods, across families, and across subcultures. The definition of "severe" will likely vary greatly depending on the tolerance of the clinician, family, school, and peer group. The "stressors" that trigger the episodes may be minimal in some cases, remarkably provoking of readily understandable temper reactions in others. Family fights that are based in interpersonal problems will be translated into individual psychopathology. Finally, in the heat of battle, it will be forgotten that kids often do outgrow a developmentally or situationally triggered temperamental period in their lives.
[I]n the real world many diagnoses are made by primary care clinicians who have limited expertise in psychiatry, little time with each patient, are dealing with harried family members who want a quick solution to a pressing problem, and are influenced by drug company salespeople. My experience tells me that this makeshift diagnosis may well become very popular and will spread to normal kids who would do a lot better without treatment.

Which brings us to the risks of treatment for this prematurely concocted diagnosis. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that this will often consist of atypical antipsychotic drugs because these are heavily marketed and may be helpful in reducing some forms of explosive temper outbursts....Their use in kids who are having disturbing (but essentially "normal") developmental or situational storms or are irritable for other reasons (e.g. substance use, ADD) would be disastrous-but it will happen and probably often.
[emphases added]

Let's be clear: there are some children who,
as Dr. Frances notes, are quite literally out of control, causing suffering to themselves and others. I have received one email describing such a case, and Kirkey provides another example in her article today.

But like the old adage about hard cases making bad law, extreme disturbance is here giving rise to a set of criteria that can fit a whole lot of ordinary people, and they will inevitably be applied by unqualified school officials and health care professionals. Worse, they just dope the kids up these days, treating symptoms rather than causes.

I'm not one of those who thinks, like R.D. Laing did back in the '60's, that schizophrenia is a grand adventure: I don't believe that there's no such thing as mental illness. But that word "illness" needs to be severely circumscribed, not expanded, and talk-therapy administered in preference to routinely prescribing Ritalin and other chemicals, which are too often used to drug our kids into obedient passivity.

We should be also aware that much of what is considered "illness" is culturally constructed. As proof, homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the APA until it was deleted from the DSM in 1973--not that long ago, historically speaking.

Big Pharma and the medical-institutional gaze are a lethal combination. It would appear that they, not the children, are the ones genuinely out of control.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brown women

A message from Stephen Harper:

Go back where you came from, and die.

Or, if you already live there, die anyway.

[H/t CathiefromCanada]

"We don't want to open the abortion debate"

Got news for you, Dimitri. You already have.

The Cons won't get back over the 30% mark with sleazy moves like that.

But maybe, if Michael Ignatieff doesn't flip-flop on this one, the Liberals will.

Canada's Rage Boy

[H/t Blues Clair]

New World Disorder

Some time back I remarked on a new childhood "affliction" to be dealt with by the judicious use of drugs and psychiatrists: "Oppositional Defiant Disorder." If you had four or more of the following as a child, you were ODD, and I guess I was, too:

1. often loses temper [check]
2. often argues with adults [check]
3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules [check]
4. often deliberately annoys people [check]
5. often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
6. is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
7. is often angry and resentful
8. is often spiteful or vindictive

To qualify as ODD, those "disturbances" must cause "clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning." But of course that can mean almost anything. Talking back. Fighting back. Asking a lot of questions. Standing up for yourself in a hostile environment.

In those days teachers and jocks simply bullied you into submission. Now it's all white coats and Ritalin.

Creativity? Lateral thinking? Oddball hypotheses? Questioning authority? For goodness sake, tell your kids to leave it at home, for their own good. That's what the Internet is for.

In any case, it looks as though I was onto something. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is going through another update. The first version of the DSM, published in 1952, listed 128 disorders (including homosexuality, delisted in 1973). DSM-IV, appearing in 1994, listed 357--almost three times the original number. And DSM-5, scheduled for publication in 2013, may swell the list even more.

Dr. Allen Frances chaired the committee that wrote DSM-IV. He has, to put it mildly, had a change of heart, after having had more than a quarter-century to observe the human tragedies that resulted:

Frances says [DSM-IV] unintentionally contributed to vast and sudden increases in the diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and childhood bipolar disorder (manic depression), after it made changes in those definitions.

Rates of bipolar disorder alone jumped 40-fold in the U.S. after the definition was broadened to suggest that children don't have to experience the typical manic symptoms seen in adults to be diagnosed bipolar -- and that depression in kids can be a persistent irritable mood.

"Most of this was not our fault," says Frances.

Rather, he blames "a runaway fad led by thought leaders and pushed by drug companies and advocacy groups."

Were Michel Foucault alive, he would understand only too well this massive proliferation of diseases invented by the very people who then proceed to "treat" them. Big Pharma* is in there like a dirty shirt as well. It's all about power, expanding taxonomies of "mental illness," and with them more discipline and control.

Remember the scandal when the former USSR put political dissidents in mental wards, after diagnosing them with "sluggish schizophrenia?" Well, it's still happening over there, but the categories are now DSM-compliant:

On March 23, [2006] police and emergency medical personnel stormed Marina Trutko's home, breaking down her apartment door and quickly subduing her with an injection of haloperidol, a powerful tranquilizer. One policeman put her 78-year-old mother, Valentina, in a storage closet while Trutko, 42, was carried out to a waiting ambulance. It took her to the nearby Psychiatric Hospital No. 14.

The former nuclear scientist, a vocal activist and public defender for several years in this city 70 miles north of Moscow, spent the next six weeks undergoing a daily regimen of injections and drugs to treat what was diagnosed as a "paranoid personality disorder."

"She is also very rude," psychiatrists noted in her case file.
[emphases added]

Can't happen here?

One of the most controversial proposals [in the new draft DMV] calls for the establishment of a new condition called "psychosis risk syndrome." The goal is to identify young people at risk of developing a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, and intervene early.
[emphasis added]


"You and I might say, 'Well, there are a lot of adolescents who are just kind of funny, and have funny ideas, and they don't communicate well.' About half my students are like this," says Edward Shorter, professor of the history of medicine and of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and author of A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac.

"The DSM-5 says, 'Ah, no. These people probably have a precursor of schizophrenia, so we'll treat them prophylactically with powerful antipsychotic drugs in the hope of forestalling the eruption of serious illness that we know to be almost inevitable'."

No doubt the whitecoats will see this post as an instance of adult "temper dysregulation disorder with dysphoria," and my daily blogging as a "behavioural addiction." It's in the book.

Tomorrow, the Ottawa Citizen will explore that notion of "temper dysregulation disorder." Just to warn readers, I expect the article will get me pig-biting mad, and I'm liable to blog about it.

*[A]ntidepressants, tranquillizers and other psychoactive drugs have become the second most-prescribed drug class in the country, second only to cardiovasculars, according to prescription drug tracking firm IMS Health Canada.

Across Canada, pharmacies last year dispensed 61.2 million prescriptions for psychotherapeutics, worth nearly $2.4 billion.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wheels Within Wheels

As I read Paul Wells' piece in Macleans about Guergis, Bernier and Harper this morning, something clicked.

Bernier has been in the news recently, for a number of reasons: his 'opinon letter' (sic) about greenhouse gases, his declarations about Québec to target audiences and, in a less flattering light, his possible knowledge of events in Afghanistan while he was minister of Foreign Affairs.

By the way, our John Cross wrote a splendid rebuttal to Bernier's pretentious perorations about climate change.

It would be interesting to know who is supporting Bernier's reincarnation as a maverick Tory. Harper is undoubtly trying to uncover that information, particularly as a news item in the NP offers the following: ...

Le Devoir reported that Mr. Bernier has taken to "flaying" Quebec as he travels the country. One columnist has suggested Mr. Bernier should buy a one-way ticket to Alberta. Jean-François Lisée, an influential sovereigntist commentator, delivered the ultimate insult, writing that Mr. Bernier has taken over the late Pierre Trudeau's role as "the Quebecer who speaks badly of Quebec."

Is Bernier being used as misdirection, to divert Harper's attention away from a nascent leadership putsch in the PCP? That would be a devilishly clever tactic. Harper's Achilles heel - the man's irrational vanity - suffered a direct hit when Julie Couillard's book "My Story" spilled the beans about her ex-lover's contempt for the PM.

Do you remember this?

... she added that Mr. Bernier once entertained thoughts of replacing Mr. Harper as the leader of the Conservative Party. Mr. Bernier allegedly sought support in Conservative circles, feeling that he would benefit from the fact that Mr. Harper is anglophone and would need to be replaced by a francophone.

But she also said that Mr. Bernier frequently criticized Mr. Harper's eating habits and the fact that he often drank Pepsi in meetings. The comments were likely made before Mr. Harper went on a diet, but Mr. Bernier apparently made fun of the Prime Minister's belly.

Could Stephen Harper be conned, in the same manner the National Arts Centre audience was played last October?

There are wheels within wheels in the byzantine inner sanctum of the Conservative party.

Sunday vexation: Panda Cloud Antivirus

Steer clear. Take it from me and don't believe the hype.

I downloaded this rubbishy product onto a notebook this morning. It failed to display anything on my desktop: I found it in my program file and tried to open it. "Error message 11."

So I tried to deinstall it. I was informed--in Spanish!--that an "error" had occurred that would not permit deinstallation.

I opened a Panda account and tried to post a message to the Support Forum. "Could not complete this action."

Now I have 64 megs of pure cruft sitting in various places on my hard drive.

Have any readers had similar experiences?

UPDATE: Support from readers came thick and fast. I have now successfully deinstalled PCAV and installed Avast. Many thanks, all!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Prom Night in Igloolik

Why the word "culture" leaves me cold. (I use it, but the term for me is always implicitly under erasure.)

Assimilation? By whom?


"We'll have less crime. We'll have lower taxes. We'll have safer neighborhoods. We'll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We'll have smaller classrooms."

And all you need is unrestricted police power to stop and search anyone who looks like an "illegal alien." And the introduction of a South African-style passbook regime.

"It's going to change our lives," said Emilio Almodovar, a 13-year-old American citizen from Phoenix. "We can't walk to school any more. We can't be in the streets anymore without the pigs thinking we're illegal immigrants."

One can understand his angry concern. Arizona, after all, is the home of this guy.

And here in Canada, the Usual Suspects are...well, see for yourselves.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Colbert report

Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien's chief of staff, Brent Colbert, was all fussed up about Earth Day yesterday.

Why? Because it takes place on V. I. Lenin's birthday--or, for the social-democratic traditionalists, Menshevik leader Alexander Kerensky's? Because its alleged founder (he wasn't) is currently in jail for murder?

None of the above. Here's the Tweet:

Before you wish me a happy earthday they better have studied the shameful past of this ideology eugenics, forced starvation

Naturally a reporter got curious and asked the learned Colbert to explain. Which he did, sort of, in a free-associating kind of way:

"Some of the people who promoted and first started the notion of Earth Day and whatnot go back and follow a history of support for eugenics, support for forced starvation and population control, through government rationing, things like that," Colbert said.

Well, like who?

Asked to name a person or group that is a present-day Earth Day supporter and eugenicist, Colbert said he could not think of one "off the top of my head."

But he enlarged, if that's the right word:

However, he said there was a shared intellectual history between the Earth Day movement and the ideas of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who died in 1966, four years before the first Earth Day.

"She was a eugenicist, believed that the weak and feeble-minded should be bred out of society because they were a drain on the resources of the planet. So there's all that kind of stuff," Colbert said.

He also said that early Earth Day celebrants drew upon the ideas of Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford University professor whose 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted mass starvation as a result of human overpopulation.

"Some of the people (were) talking about the fact that the planet was unsustainable and we'd have to take action to limit populations if we wanted to protect it and whatnot," Colbert said.

Pressed on the point, Colbert insisted there is

still a connection between Earth Day and eugenics. "There are still people that are doing research in terms of the issue of the overpopulation of the planet and things like that and it seems to coalesce around some of the things with Earth Day."

Mayor O'Brien was off planting a tree somewhere. Luckily, he didn't confuse it with his aide-de-camp.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

McGuinty's puling cowardice

I had a fair bit to say about the Premier of Ontario's snivelling volte-face on sex ed after he had received instruction from the Church of Pedophilia, Harper's fake doctor and just enough Muslims to add diversity to the slobbering mix--but Lindsay Stewart was there before me.

Go. Read.

Happy Earth Day!

...and no doubt the Usual Suspects are out pouring oil into duck-ponds or something.

Hey, I was close!

Alain Préfontaine and conflict of interest

Alain Préfontaine is the lead government lawyer who told the Military Police Complaints Commission inquiring into the Afghan detainee scandal to go pound sand this past Tuesday.

The CBC is now reporting that
Préfontaine may be in a conflict of interest.* He vigorously cross-examined witness Richard Colvin last week in his inimitable abrasive style, but he once claimed Colvin as his own client on the same matter. And thereby hangs a tale.

Last July 28, a letter was sent under
Préfontaine's signature to 29 witnesses who had been called to appear at pre-hearing interviews. In effect, he warned them to keep their mouths shut. Colvin, one of those witnesses, retained private counsel, Lori Bokenfohr; the rest got the message, and declined to appear.

Bokenfohr wrote a blistering letter to Pr
éfontaine on October 13, a week after hearings during which, according to Bokenfohr, Prefontaine had misled the Commission. She didn't mince words:

Your statements last week to the Commissioner regarding the reasons other Government servants have declined to cooperate belie the content of your earlier correspondence to such individuals. From our perspective the willingness of Crown servants to cooperate with the Commission has been a matter over which you exerted early and profound influence. This is in contrast to the submissions you made last week, wherein you advised the Commissioner that witnesses and subjects were simply exercising individual human rights in declining to cooperate. We are in fact concerned that your submissions on this issue may have had the effect of misleading the Commissioner.

Bokenfohr's letter should be read in its entirety. Préfontaine gave every indication to the Commission that the 28 out of 29 witnesses who refused to appear did so of their own volition. But Bokenfohr had a copy of his July 28 letter, couched in language that was clearly meant to scare them off. Then the witnesses were apparently misdirected by Préfontaine, and a conflict of interest ignored:

You closed the letter by “strongly” suggesting that witnesses and subjects obtain legal advice before deciding whether to be interviewed, and you directed them to named Department of Justice lawyers. You did not, as required by Law Society rules, advise that the Department of Justice was precluded by conflict of interest from simultaneously representing Canada, witnesses, and subjects, nor did you recommend Crown servants seek the advice of independent legal counsel.

The latter might have been a good idea, as indicated earlier in her letter:

We expect that [Préfontaine's] description of the pre-hearing interviews would unnerve even the most cooperative Government employee, and it is thus hardly surprising that only one witness – my client has agreed to navigate the minefield you describe. He is in a position to do so only through access to legal advice provided by non-Government legal counsel. One must question whether other Government servants would be similarly willing to cooperate if they had the benefit of independent legal counsel. With independent legal advice, other Government servants might also overcome – as Mr. Colvin did – the chilling effect of your July 28 letter. If other witnesses had agreed to cooperate, my client would not now be uncomfortably alone among witnesses.

It is no wonder that Préfontaine, before the Commission the very next day, objected strongly to the introduction of Bokenfohr's letter into evidence. But he did so on the basis of solicitor-client privilege!

Was Colvin his client? Read the October 14 transcript and judge for yourself.

Préfontaine argued two things: first, his July 28 letter had been sent to all 29 witnesses, so that disclosure of excerpts in Bokenfohr's letter allegedly violated the solicitor-client privilege of the other 28. But--and this is the crux of the matter raised in the CBC report--he also claimed that, as a "putative witness," Colvin himself was effectively represented by him before Bokenfohr had been retained.

In his own words:

So the letter is privileged because obviously it was a communication between a lawyer, myself, and the persons who were either at that time already my clients because they had formally retained me or were about to be because they are entitled to legal representation at public expense and usually through the Department of Justice. [153-4]

And I will say that the only reason her client became privy to that was at the time that the letter was sent to him, although he hadn't formally retained me and eventually decided to retain Mme. Bokenfohr instead, he was in the class of putative clients.
THE CHAIR: I must say I've never heard the term "putative clients" before.[157]

[Colvin] was part of the class of persons who were entitled to legal representation. In accordance with the Treasury Board policy, legal representation is normally provided by the Department of Justice, and therefore, at that point, he was a putative client. Putative means that, until he confirmed it, we were in a client-solicitor-like relation because, if he was to get legal advice at public expense, it would have been through the team that I have the privilege of leading. [166]

In the course of events, Préfontaine's letter of July 28 and Bokenfohr's of October 13 ended up in the record earlier this month (see pp.142-43) after the government withdrew its objection to the filing of the Bokenfohr letter. Perhaps this was because it had already appeared on Wikileaks by October 15 (search on "Bokenfohr": the actual entry is no longer up), so the cat had been well out of the bag since early last Fall. And, if it were to be placed into evidence, with its excerpts from Préfontaine's July 28 letter, it makes sense that the latter would also be filed.

As noted by Bokenfors, "the Department of Justice [is] precluded by conflict of interest from simultaneously representing Canada, witnesses, and subjects," but that is precisely what the department has been attempting to do. Hence it did not appear to pose a problem for Préfontaine to represent Colvin at one point (whether "putatively" or not) and cross-examine him furiously on behalf of the government later--but other legal authorities may well not be of the same opinion.

Meanwhile, documents essential to the pursuit of the inquiry have been choked off by the Harper government, to the point that the inquiry itself is threatened.

UPDATE: Commenter Holly Stick says she liked my earlier picture better. Given the thuggish behaviour of the person in question, I reproduce it here:

[Big h/t to reader Holly Stick]

*As reported:

Préfontaine, the senior counsel and director general in the Department of Justice, cross-examined Colvin last week as Colvin testified at the Military Police Complaints Commission. Their exchanges were sometimes rough and acrimonious.

Last October, before the same commission, Préfontaine told the commission he represented Colvin. He argued that as a government employee, Colvin was his "putative client" and that he represented him, and that they were engaged in a solicitor-client relationship.

According to the rules that govern Ontario lawyers, a lawyer who has acted for a client is not supposed to act against the same person in the same case.

James Morton, former president of the Ontario Bar Association, said: "You cannot take a position adversarial to your client in the same matter that you represented your client."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Colombia: Liberal moral imbecility

Liberal Scott Brison is pushing his favourite dictator once again--Álvaro Uribe Vélez, president of the narco-state known as Colombia. With Liberal support, the Harper Conservatives will obtain parliamentary approval for a free trade agreement with a country that practises genocide against its native population, accounts for 70% of all the murders of trade unionists in the world (with multinational corporate complicity), and has displaced literally millions of poor Colombians to make way for wealthy developers.

That would be bad enough. But the revolting Brison has the face to take a swipe at the NDP, accusing it of purveying "mischief and misinformation" and calling it "hypocritical" for not being as vocal in its criticisms of the Venezuelan regime of Hugo Chávez.

Were Chávez and his government to commit genocide, murder labour activists, turn millions of people into internal refugees and block judicial investigation into paramilitary atrocities, as Brison's hero Uribe has done, this would, of course, be more than likely to happen. But until then, it's a bone-stupid, false moral equivalence--an alibi, in fact, to cover the bloody tracks of the Liberals and their Conservative allies as they proceed to give cover to one of the most murderous and lawless regimes on the planet.

And Blogger Alison at Creekside has already explained why.

Rights and Democracy: the movie

Well, 14 videos, anyway. An enterprising reader has assembled, for those with staying power, the full R&D hearings before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Here's Suzanne Trépanier, the widow of former R&D president Rémy Beauregard, giving the Committee the lowdown on the treatment of her late husband by the Gang of Seven:

Maple leaf putsch?

Tomorrow or next week, the Speaker of the House of Commons will issue perhaps the most important ruling in Canadian history: he will effectively uphold or demolish responsible government at a stroke.

Our system of governance is based upon one powerful premise: that Parliament, not government, is supreme. Canadians go to the polls to elect Members of Parliament, not a government, and not a Prime Minister. The Executive has, since the founding of our country, been accountable to the legislature.

All this could literally change overnight.

Should Speaker Peter Milliken rule against the Opposition parties that have each raised a question of privilege over the open defiance of Parliament by the Harper government, our system of government will be effectively overthrown. The Executive--that is, the Prime Minister and his appointed Cabinet--will be responsible to no higher authority than itself between elections: it will be able to govern virtually by decree.

This is no longer about Afghan detainee documents. It's about democracy, however limited it might be, from Magna Carta to the present day.

People across the political spectrum ought to be breaking into a sweat right about now. The new order, if Milliken rules in favour of the government, will combine the very worst of the Westminster and presidential systems: an unelected chief magistrate, untrammeled by constitutional checks and balances, who already chooses his Cabinet and the Supreme Court judiciary as well. And how Canadian this would be--no blood in the streets, no mass arrests, no executions, just a ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

In this eventuality the odious Steven Fletcher, Minister for Democratic Renewal, may have to be reassigned. And I trust that even my more conservative readers would no longer object to my description of Canada's New Government™ as the "Harper regime."

Stay tuned. As one constitutional lawyer put it, this is huge.

UPDATE: (April 24) Either great minds think alike, or the Ottawa Citizen's Dan Gardner is a Dawg's Blawg fan.

Impunity: the RCMP and a tale of two mothers

First it was Sofia Cisowski, mother of Robert Dziekanski, killed by four RCMP officers in the Vancouver Airport: after suing, she got an out-of-court settlement and a public sort-of apology from RCMP brass.

Now Linda Bush, the mother of Ian Bush, a young man shot dead under suspicious circumstances
by RCMP Constable Paul Koester, has abandoned her lawsuit against the Mounties.

Suspicious circumstances? Yup.

The officer was not charged but a coroner’s inquest into the death raised many troubling questions about the event.

The officer’s description of what happened in the final seconds leading up to the shot, seemed anatomically impossible. The police officer said he was lying face down on a sofa with the 190-pound Mr. Bush on top of him and yet somehow he reached around with one of his hands and shot the young logger directly in the back of the head.

Const. Koester refused to demonstrate how that was possible.

An independent blood spatter expert called in by a lawyer for the Bush family said blood evidence at the scene suggested it was Const. Koester who was on top of the victim, not the other way around.

It was also revealed at the inquest that the constable destroyed his notes from the evening in the immediate days after the incident. When he was interviewed by investigators three months later, they supplied him with their questions in advance. [emphases added]

Reading between the lines, Linda Bush was running out of money for legal bills, and, like Cisowski, wanted closure. I hope she gets it.

And, at this point, the five RCMP officers involved are still on-duty and walking among us. Maintiens le Droit.

Shutting down Israel criticism, Chaper 325

Conservative Globe & Mail commentator Marcus Gee leads the charge this time, calling for the banning of "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" from the 2010 Toronto Pride parade. This, of course, wouldn't be censorship:

The question is whether a parade dedicated to promoting gay rights is obligated to welcome a group that is pushing a completely different agenda – one that happens to deeply offend many people both in the parade and on the sidelines. If it is, then Pride could soon become a very different event, with contingents from every group with an axe to grind and a pink triangle to slap on its placards.

Toronto Pride itself has been under considerable pressure since last year's march, and may succumb to it:

Pride now seems to recognize the danger. Organizers have revised their procedures to make sure that march applicants get a closer look and that marchers can be held legally accountable for any violence that might stem from their actions. After warning that city funding could be withdrawn from the event if it doesn't meet Toronto’s anti-discrimination and human rights policies, city officials say that "there are now mechanisms in place that allow Pride Toronto to keep the focus of the parade on the celebration of the history, courage, diversity and future of the LGBT communities." [emphases added]

Take note of the sleazy manner in which Gee approaches his topic. There is no evidence--indeed, no accusation that I can find--that QAIA has ever provoked violence or engaged in violent acts itself. Moreover, whether one agrees with QAIA's position on the Middle East or not, it's a stretch to suggest that it is advocates discrimination or is opposed to human rights: those are the very things, after all, that it is explicitly rejecting in its demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinians.

But enough about Gee's yellow journalism. He does raise an interesting point earlier when he refers to "a completely different agenda." The implication is that QAIA has nothing whatsoever to do with GBLT; that for QAIA queerness is simply an alibi to cover the "real" purpose of the group.

I find that startlingly presumptuous.

Alan Sears writes in today's Globe:

The fight for queer freedom has always developed in relation to other struggles. It is not an accident that the activist movement that emerged out of the 1969 Stonewall riot in New York City was called the Gay Liberation Front in solidarity with the National Liberation Front fighting the Americans in Vietnam.

In fact the movement very early on expressed solidarity with women's liberation. If that alliance has not been without its bumps in the road (the slogan "same struggle, same fight" created some friction back when GLBT was simply G), there has been strong reciprocal support over the years. And as the analysis of power and privilege deepened, those movements soon came to embrace others, engaged in battles of their own against interconnected forms of exploitation and oppression: racism, globalization, war, imperialism.

Indeed, "making the links" has been part of the organized labour "agenda" for some time. Within our own ranks are members fighting on many fronts, and it seems natural enough now (although I can remember what an uphill climb it was) for labour to build solidarity by adopting these battles as its own.

Gee and others would prefer that each of these movements retain a pristine, unalloyed purity, that links not be made, much less alliances and coalitions that strengthen all of the partners. But that has not been the history of any effective social movement. QAIA's support adds international energy to Palestinians fighting their own battles for sexual and gender diversity.

Moreover, unless one adopts the essentialism of identity politics, we need to recognize that individuals are more than "GBLT" or "female" or "male" or "Palestinian": they can well be all of these things, and much more. In this sense, external linkages reflect the complex reality of an individual personality.

In fact Gee effectively undermines his own case when he quotes "city officials" as saying that a Pride parade should be a "
celebration of the history, courage, diversity and future of the LGBT communities." The word "celebration' must be tempered somewhat, because the job is far from done. But indeed the parade should do all of this: and we are seeing precisely that history, courage and diversity in the emergence of QAIA.

*It certainly looks that way. [H/t Kateland in the comments]