Thursday, September 30, 2010

Globe-al porridge [updated]

The Globe & Mail has screened out its last remaining dissident columnist, Rick Salutin. Everything from now on will be various shades of Jeffrey Simpson.

Congratulations, Grey Lady. Porridge for breakfast, lunch and supper.

UPDATE: Needless to say, the Usual Suspects are ecstatic. Why not write to John Stackhouse to let him know what you think of the purge? (It's not as though the aforementioned nutcases read the Globe anyway. Too many big words.)

UPPERDATE: (September 30) Salutin's last words, h/t reader sassy.

UPPESTDATE: An excellent article about the steady decline of the corporate media here.

AND STILL UPPER: Tabitha Southey has now been given the boot as well (h/t reader Shiner). Could her sin have been her forthright reporting about the recent G-20 police riot in Toronto, which she witnessed firsthand? Her account of cops amusing themselves by mocking mental patients, and threatening her with arrest for taking pictures, couldn't have made the Chief Magistrate very happy.

Too much truth to power for the Globe? Or just a coincidence? You decide.

Eggs and veggies: IOKIYAC

Once again, it's time to juxtapose:

Ezra Levant, in his usual high dudgeon, blamed the cancellation of Ann Coulter's planned Ottawa speech on Facebook:

The protesters had bigger plans than mere heckling. Just look at their venomous Facebook page dedicated to disrupting the event: Vanessa Alexandra Peterson wrote "I wonder what the security would be like. I want to throw rotten veggies and eggs at her evil Barbie mask." Saif Latif wrote "somebody needs to throw a pie at her during her speech like they did at the University of Arizona," to which Guillaume Pelegrin replied "I hope someone will get arrested." More than 500 people on that group whipped each other up into a hateful frenzy, publicly spelling out their fantasies.

Now George Galloway is coming to Canada to speak, and here's what's being said on the blogsite of Ezra's staunch footsoldier, the Singed Minge:

Louise – (2:58 AM)
Ummm. If denial of entry was contemplated the last time due to his financial support for a terrorist organization, what makes this time any different?

If he gets in this time, have your raw eggs and rotten tomatoes ready to go.

Blazing Cat Fur – (6:34 AM)
Should be an interesting day Louise.

No word as yet from Ezra, as the Usual Suspects whip each other up into a hateful frenzy, publicly spelling out their fantasies. But I'm sure he'll be along anytime now.

Ottawa mayoralty race: Lyin' O'Brien?

"Lawn signs? We don't need no steenkin' lawn signs!"

UPDATE: Could reader Craig be right--that these are recycled from O'Brien's first campaign? Note the word "elect" rather than "re-elect." Given the letters to the Ottawa Citizen on the subject, though, one might have expected such a clarification, were it available. (Craig also saw a solitary "Doucet" sign--reports of any others would be welcome. Fair's fair.)

Its a strange world we live in

It is indeed a bizarro world we seem to live in these days when those opposing the science of climate change hail the new Royal Society document Climate Change a Summary of the Science as a victory for their side. It appears to start with an article from The Times and then was picked up by the usual suspects.

The Times article has disappeared behind a paywall but the little description on its front page says Britain’s leading scientific institution admits there is greater uncertainty over future temperature rises than previously thought.

I am not sure where they get this from, from reading between the lines it appears there may be an earlier statement from the Royal Society where they didn't put in enough words like probably or with a high probability. If so the language may be a little clearer in the new one.

But it is very obvious if you read the document that the Royal Society acknowledges the work of the IPCC is accurate and thorough. It acknowledges that the IPCC is the most comprehensive source of climate science and its uncertainties.

It talks about the strengths and weaknesses of climate models and concludes that From such simulations, one can derive the characteristics of climate likely to occur in future decades, including mean temperature and temperature extremes.

Recently, one of the new cries has been that climate models can't simulate clouds well. That is a valid observation and as the Royal Society report says Climate models indicate that the overall climate sensitivity (for a hypothetical doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere) is likely to lie in the range 2oC to 4.5oC; this range is mainly due to the difficulties in simulating the overall effect of the response of clouds to climate change mentioned earlier.

Lots of good stuff in the report. I encourage anyone interested in the science to give it a read. Scientists doing science - perhaps we can seem more of this instead of the ridiculous probaganda attacks we have seen recently.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shorter Globe & Mail

"How dare a judge throw out laws that violate the Charter of Rights? What bloody arrogance!"

From the editorialist's critique of a judgement that took more than a year to write,
this is worth framing:

Who is she to weigh all the potential harms at stake and decide matters, on either side? Who says she can do a better job than Parliament?

Separation of powers? Checks and balances? Who needs 'em? Leave everything to the supreme subtlety of parliamentarians who craft these unconstitutional laws in the first place. And this government, in particular, does subtlety so well.

UPDATE: (September 30) Here's the judgement, with h/t to reader Terrence, who also notes that the National Post supported the decision.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Galloway story: in which everybody wins and loses

George Galloway's case against the federal government for barring him from entry to Canada has been lost on a technicality. He was never actually barred, as it happens, simply told that he would be if he showed his face at the border. In the words of Mr. Justice Richard Mosely:

I agree with the respondents that as a matter of law this application must be dismissed. As a result of the respondents’ actions, Mr. Galloway may have been found to be inadmissible to Canada had he actually presented himself for examination to an officer at an airport or a border crossing. That did not happen. A preliminary assessment prepared by the Canada Border Services Agency(CBSA), at the request of the respondents’ political staff, concluded that Mr. Galloway was inadmissible. The steps taken by the respondents’ departments to implement that assessment were never completed. Mr. Galloway made the decision not to attempt to enter Canada because he might be detained. Thus, the respondents’ intentions and actions did not result in a reviewable decision to exclude him.

The distinction in law is clear enough, although for most of us it's a distinction without a difference: how many of us would pay for a flight to China after being warned by the government that we would be refused entry upon landing?

Never mind. I wept few tears at the time, and I'm not about to start now. Besides, in this gaseous competition of world-class windbags, Galloway is well-matched, it seems, by Jason Kenney and his young ward Alykhan Velshi.

The full judgement may be read here. If you like to read clearly-written jurisprudence, grab a coffee and prepare to be entertained.

Justice Mosely, not to put too fine a point upon it, is less than impressed by the clownish performance of the government on this file, referring almost at the beginning of his judgement to its

flawed and overreaching interpretation of the standards under Canadian law for labelling someone as engaging in terrorism or being a member of a terrorist organization. The Court is under no illusions about the character of the organization in question, Hamas. But the evidence considered by the respondents falls far short of providing reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Galloway is a member of that organization.

It only gets better from there.

The record contains statements which counsel for the respondents fairly characterized in argument as “unwise”. Taken into consideration with the haste with which officials reached the conclusion that Mr. Galloway was inadmissible and took steps to have him barred before the assessment of his admissibility was completed, these statements could have supported findings of bias and bad faith against the respondents. It is clear that the efforts to keep Mr. Galloway out of the country had more to do with antipathy to his political views than with any real concern that he had engaged in terrorism or was a member of a terrorist organization. No consideration appears to have been given to the interests of those Canadians who wished to hear Mr. Galloway speak or the values of freedom of expression and association enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [emphases added]

What say you, Speech-Warrior-in-Chief?

Velshi himself gets a finger-wagging:

While one might hope that a ministerial aide would exercise greater restraint in purporting to speak on behalf of the government, his comments to the press amount to little more than posturing.

Finally, had the matter proven to be judicially reviewable, Justice Mosely leaves no doubt as to the outcome:

Had Galloway actually been found inadmissible by a visa officer relying on the preliminary assessment and the alerts sent to the border points, I would have had little difficulty in concluding that the officer’s discretion had been fettered by the process followed in this case and that the emails and statements to the press raised a reasonable apprehension of bias. [emphasis added]

So who wins? The government successfully defended itself in a court of law. Galloway was raised from relative obscurity to the subject of a continuing national news story. His followers found themselves with a cause célèbre; his enemies fumed and exulted by turns, two of their chief pleasures in life.

And who loses? Well, Galloway lost his lawsuit. His supporters lost their chance to dance in the streets. His enemies are angry. And the Harper government, in the person this time of the virginal Jason Kenney and his infandous assistant, looks once again like the collection of horses' asses that it is.

Bravo. And I'm all out of popcorn.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Simpsons vs. the Alberta oil sands

Check it out. (Edited with the blessing of Fort Chip Mikisew Cree Chief George Poitras.)

UPDATE: Readers have pointed out that George Poitras is a former chief of the
Mikisew Cree. Please check this out for an update. My apologies.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

When Muslim Bashers Get Bored...

Swedish police say a man detained after Canadian authorities were told he was carrying explosives on a Pakistan International Airlines jet has been released in Stockholm, where his flight from Toronto to Karachi was diverted Saturday.

The RCMP now say they're investigating whether the incident was a "terrorism hoax."
No explosives were found on the man or on the plane.

The tip was "called in by a woman in Canada," police spokesman Stefan Radman said. The anonymous woman caller called twice Friday to say a man on the flight had explosives.

Crossposted from Stageleft.

The mind of a Blogging Tory

A Canadian man, falsely accused of being a suicide bomber, has been released by the Swedish authorities without charge, and police are now looking into a probable hoax.

But human breeding champion and Blogging Tories moderator Craig "torture is a conservative value" Smith, aka "ferrethouse," has drawn some conclusions, aided by not a little free association. Our fellow citizen, you see, was of Pakistani origin, and the Ferret is here to "preserve Judeo-Christian values in Canadian society." I trust we no longer need our secret decoder rings to figure out that kind of thing.

As Canadian Cynic used to say: "Stephen Taylor must be so proud."

[H/t CC-in-exile]

Saturday, September 25, 2010


A distinguished former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Paul Heinbecker, lets Stephen Harper have it.

Security Council seat? We don't deserve one.

"Unless he makes some significant adjustments...when Prime Minister Harper leaves office, Canada will still be on the international sidelines, largely alone."

Go read.

Combating Terrorism Act passes 2nd reading [bumped]

On the same day the nation was preoccupied with the national Lib/Con competition for votes to preserve/kill the long gun registry, the Libs and Cons combined forces to slip the Combating Terrorism Act through second reading in the House - 220 votes to 84 in a classic Lib/Con vs NDP/Bloc split -just ten minutes before the long gun vote.

The Libs and Cons may disagree on whether it is either useful or an egregious invasion of privacy and civil liberties that Canadians should have to spend a few minutes registering a long gun online, but when it comes to locking Canadians up for 12 months without a warrant or compelling them to appear before a court based on some anonymous tip, they're both just fine with that.

The right to remain silent, the right not to be jailed without charge, the right to know what the charges are against you - pfft!

In reintroducing Bill C-17 for the third time on Monday to reinstate provisions from the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson emphasized a fabulous new feature:
"The key here is that the person required to attend an investigative hearing is treated as a witness, not someone who is accused of a crime."
True, as long as your definition of "witness" includes being arrested if you don't comply and being detained for up to 72 hours if you do.
But what if you are also suspected of being likely to commit a terrorist crime some time in the future. Over to you, Mr. Nicholson :
"a judge can order the person's detention for up to 12 months."
There's a five year sunset clause again and every 12 months the Attorney General and the Public Safety Minister - that would be Nicholson himself and Vic lock-'em-up Toews respectively - must "provide their opinions, supported by reasons, as to whether the operations of these provisions should be extended."

On Monday Liberal critic for Public Safety & National Security Mark Holland made some noises about balancing national security with individual liberty and noted :
"the government has completely ignored most of the key recommendations that came from Justice O'Connor [re Maher Arar], which were supported by Justice Iacobucci and were repeated by the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy"
but then two days later, he voted for it along with the rest of the Libs.

There were hours and hours of speeches in the House this Monday and Tuesday :
Lib Marlene Jennings said right off the bat on Monday that the Libs would be voting for C-17 to proceed to committee.
NDP Joe Comartin noted "there is no crime related to terrorism not already included in the Criminal Code."
Bloc Maria Mourani : Arar. CSIS supports info gained via torture. Why would we give them even more secret powers?
NDP Wayne Marston worried we were slipperysloping into 12thC pre-Magna Carta sensibilities.
Con Colin Carrie was the first to accuse "the coalition" of being "soft on terror".
Bloc Serge Ménard noted that under the War Measures Act "almost all candidates who ran against Mayor Drapeau [in the Montreal elections] were incarcerated. A law which goes so far as to incarcerate political opponents has already been used once in our history," he said.
NDP Don Davies brought up the "preventative arrest of 1,100 Canadians arrested at G20 for simply walking in the street" and asked why a government so against turning people into criminals for refusing to answer the long form census was at the same time happy to lock people up for refusing to answer questions based merely on suspicion?
Lib Derek Lee said Canadians already don't have the legal right to remain silent. (He's wrong about that.)
NDP Bill Siksay noted that security certificates were intended to expedite deportation of non-citizens yet they have been used instead to jail people for up to eight years without a trial. Slippery slope.

As I said - hours and hours of debate.
By Wednesday Libby Davies wondered aloud in the House why there were hundreds of articles in newspapers across the country dealing with the gun registry but no mention of the debate on the Combating Terrorism Act.
Good question, Libby.

Here's another. After much initial huffing about how absolutely vital this bill is in the fight against 'terrorists', and with the Libs onside since June 2009, the Cons have allowed it to languish in limbo for a whole 15 months. Now suddenly it's back on their agenda again as the first government order tabled on the return of the House this week. Why is that?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Toronto elections: how a smear is done the "lock and load" folks at the Toronto Sun. And by the increasingly disreputable Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who's getting as bad as Frank Dimant these days.*

They're gunning for Ward 27 front-runner Kristyn Wong-Tam. Apparently she had the temerity to offer a little assistance to Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, back when various people were misusing their influence to have the group banned from the annual Pride Parade in Toronto. (They were ultimately unsuccessful, after some wavering on the Pride Parade organizers' part, and they're apparently still licking their wounds.)

Clearly, according to the Sun and to Farber, this is a disqualifying issue. Check out this ripe and smelly little bit of neo-McCarthyism (with my emphases bolded). First, a little dash of homophobia, referencing "the political ties of lesbian art gallery owner..." Note that heterosexual candidates don't have the word "straight" attached to their names.

Then this:

According to information obtained by the Toronto Sun, Wong-Tam, a self-professed community advocate, is not just affiliated with the controversial fringe group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA).

But from June 14, 2009 when it was created until less than a month ago, Wong-Tam was the registered owner of the group’s website.

Paperwork obtained on the website shows that the “independent” candidate listed her home address in the registration but gave the contact number as her Coldwell Banker real estate office on Yonge St.

Observe, first of all, the slimy use of language: "self-professed," and the word "independent" in shudder-quotes. Columnist Sue-Ann Levy is obviously a seasoned polemicist character assassin. Her clear suggestion is that Wong-Tam deserves to be defeated because she supports a group that opposes Israel's oppressive policies in the West Bank.

Her opponents in the council race, of course, have lost no time jumping on the neo-McCarthyist bandwagon:

"You have to be open and transparent about who you are," said [Simon] Wookey, 38, the only candidate to "out" Wong-Tam’s ties as a QuAIA founder at a recent all-candidates debates.

"For me it’s about integrity and transparency," adds Ken Chan, 35. "People have to ask themselves if this is the kind of person they want to lead the ward."

So now, in addition to another little flick or two of homophobia, support for Palestinians has become defined as a negative character issue. And here's more of this dirty little smear:

Wong-Tam also admitted that she’s been endorsed by the labour council and CUPE, noting she’s pleased considering she’s a private sector businessperson who’s never been a union member.

"Admitted?" As though such support is something better left concealed from the eyes of decent folks?

"I can effectively build bridges with the arts, business, labour, environmental and non-profit sectors," Wong-Tam added, her response sounding like the typical socialist pap.

Heaven knows we should be burning bridges, not building them. The politics of division is all that the miserable Levy and her equally miserable newspaper can grasp--us versus them. Lock and load.

It seems, in fact, that the agile Levy has been phoning around to get something going here:

Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he thinks it's important for citizens in her ward to "understand exactly" who [sic] exactly she supports.

"A member of a group that has called the Jewish community racist might not be the best person to represent a diverse community like Toronto Centre-Rosedale," he said. "We need a person who doesn’t jump on an extremist bandwagon."

Good grief. A citation would be nice: in the absence of one, we don't know if the latter actually called the Toronto Jewish community (which includes members of QuAIA) any such thing.
And as for Wong-Tam's alleged membership in QuAIA, she hasn't, at least to my knowledge, been summoned to appear before our latter-day version of HUAC to say yea or nay. But so what if she is?

In any case, only Farber and his ilk could claim that supporting the Palestinian cockroaches in a bottle by opposing their continued suffering under military occupation constitutes "extremism."

Mayoralty candidate Sarah Thomson, who’s contributed to Wong-Tam’s campaign, said she was not aware of Wong-Tom’s strong ties with QuAIA.

"Wow," she said.

"Wow," forsooth.

And note the phrase "strong ties," slipped in so adroitly. Seems, somehow, even worse than "member," doesn't it?

Just a little more Israel Derangement Syndrome, brought to you courtesy of a newspaper that has called for the mass murder of Tamil refugees. Charming.

*UPDATE: (September 25) I see that I've been a little unfair to Bernie Farber by comparing him to B'nai Brith's indefatigable Frank Dimant. Reader Cyril Blanchette draws my attention to this, which makes my suggestion, together with my Dimant link, unintentionally self-contradictory.

Worth framing

From my pal CC, at an undisclosed location, who likes to juxtapose:

"How unpopular do you have to be to get less attendees at the UN General Assembly than Kathy Shaidle gets standing on a milk case in London?"

Israel Derangement Syndrome

The phrase is bandied about to describe those of us critical of "the only Western democracy in the Middle East," when we aren't being falsely accused of outright "anti-Semitism." But shouldn't we turn that around?

The other day an article appeared that made the case for not giving Canada--under its current leadership--a seat on the UN Security Council. It briefly surveyed our international record under Stephen Harper, and it makes for grim reading:
  • Indigenous rights. Canada remains one of only three countries in the world that has refused to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Check.

  • Global warming. An on-going pattern of obstruction of international efforts to deal with this, notably at Copenhagen. Check.

  • Omar Khadr. Canada is the only Western country that has left one of its own citizens to his fate at the hands of the Gitmo interrogators. Check.

  • Foreign aid. Highlighted by the slashing of funds to international aid agencies for narrow ideological reasons. Check.

  • Haiti. Funds misdirected towards police and prisons instead of feeding the people and helping them rebuild. Check.
At this point, Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett was nodding in some agreement, and she re-Tweeted a reference to the article with the word "Interesting." And then the proverbial ordure encountered the spinning blades of the pro-Israel lobby.

It seems that Bennett had not read the article through to the end. A further reason to be critical of our international performance, said the author, Derrick O'Keefe, and this time I quote rather than paraphrase, was:
  • The Middle East. Canada under Stephen Harper has been called “Israel’s best friend,” even as that state has grown ever more aggressive in violating international law to maintain its occupation and collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Fittingly, Israeli PM Netanyahu was visiting Ottawa in May when Israeli forces massacred nine members of an international aid flotilla seeking to break the siege of Gaza. The Harper government took the lead in enforcing the siege, backed Israel’s brutal military assault on Gaza, and has taken steps towards criminalizing and suppressing criticism of the state of Israel.
To which, once again, I would add the word "Check." Our uncritical support of Israel--our blatant double standard in this respect at home and abroad--is nothing short of an embarrassment.

But Bennett came under some pressure, it seems, and she freaked out, as we Summer of Love types would put it. The tone of what she has to say is particularly unsettling. There's more than a whiff, here, of the self-abasing confessions offered by the victims at Stalin's show trials. Here, judge for yourselves:

I was shocked to be tweeted back asking if I supported the anti-israel [sic] rhetoric in the article. I went back to the article and was upset to realize that the article I had read on my berry had truncated and that I hadn’t read the last paragraphs before I retweeted the article. This is a serious lesson for me. I am thankful how quickly the error was pointed out to me and that I was able to reply that in no way did I support the anti-Israel message. As I hadn’t really agreed with the premise of the article I had used the word 'interesting' on purpose. But I now realize that as an MP if I cite an article it can be interpreted as 'promoting' it or worse yet that I agree with every word. In the future I promise to be more careful and to make clearer my support or lack of support for the opinions being put forth in the 'link'. Mea culpa. It has also been pointed out to me that I should be wary of certain publications, authors as an initial screen. I will do better in the future. I learn a great deal using social media tools… The information, the frank feedback are all part of a learning culture and a 'democracy between elections' in which citizens and their elected representatives can interact in real time. I take this responsibility seriously. I apologize for today’s error.

Good grief, has it come to this?

In other news, we are still awaiting the final report of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, due, like the forensic auditors' report at Rights and Democracy, this past Spring. Should be, ah, "interesting."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rights and Democracy: Pull the other one, Gérard

The new head of Rights and Democracy, Gérard Latulippe, on why the much-ballyhooed "forensic audit" of his agency still isn't public:

Interviewer: I want to touch on the Deloitte forensic audit, which I believe was announced in February and expected to be delivered three weeks later. Then I understand you said it would be made public in June. Then in July, you said it wouldn't be available until the end of the summer. Now I understand that you received the report at the end of August, but instead of making it public, you were sending it for a legal opinion. Then it was going to go to the Board on Oct. 25. Is this still the plan?

Gérard Latulippe: I don't want to address all those issues related to the administration downfalls or the administration issues that the organization did have. Because there was the Deloitte report, we did some studies. I mean we are in the process of evaluating a lot of administrative processes here and this is extensive. At one point I will be able to discuss that. But I'm not ready to do that.

There's bafflegab and then there's bafflegab. We have here an artist in that medium.

Come on, M. Latulippe. What are you hiding?

And speaking of barbarism...

Iran is in the news again.

Back in 2008, I noted that an Iranian-Canadian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, had disappeared in Iran after he went back to the old country for a visit. The government had jailed him, as it turns out, on the usual trumped-up charges.

Now, two years later, the thugs who run the place have apparently decided to kill him.

That's what they do in that neck of the woods. It's their solution to every problem. Just kill a few people and everything will be right in the morning.

Let the Iranian Embassy know what you think. Ignore the tone of this post and try to stay polite. Maybe the government will exchange him for a healthy ransom instead.

UPDATE: (September 23) More--a lot more--from Jim Elve. Go read.

Populist barbarism

Alvaro Vargas Llosa has a good piece in the
Globe & Mail this morning on the French government's new ethnic cleansing initiative--the rounding up and deporting of Roma. Whether Nicolas Sarkozy is comfortable with the comparison or not, this hideous bit of racism unfolding before our eyes reminds one vividly of the Vichy government's assiduous Jew-hunting only a few decades back.

Without falling into the trap of moral equivalence, it must be said that the motives, if not the consequences, are exactly the same in each case--a racist notion of "purification" that isn't, perhaps, surprising to find in a country that has a Ministry of National Identity and not long ago sponsored a public debate on the subject of "Frenchness." In a certain sense, in fact, the consequences are almost incidental: the same ill-will can result in mass murder here, in mass deportations there, in a refusal to serve someone in a restaurant over there.
Grosso modo, means and opportunity are all that really differ.

Vargas Llosa rightly calls Sarkozy's round-up "populist barbarism," and the phrase got me thinking about populism and what it means. This definition works, up to a point: "an ideology which pits a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous 'others' who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice."*

But I would argue that, as accurate as this is, it misses something fundamental. Populism, right, left or in-between, is lazy politics. It's the politics of "now." Populism runs on appetite, not reason; it advocates quick fixes, not strategic goal-setting. It favours reflexes, not reflection; instinct, not thought.

It's reptile brain politics, in other words. It's a destructive, divisive, sometimes murderous politics that tends to flare and die when it runs full-tilt boogie into the real world. No more taxes! Thousand-year Reich! Lock and load! There's no analysis to be found: it's all slogans, geared towards the promise of instant gratification. And it's always against "other" people. There is no such thing as inclusive populism, by definition.

The politicians who exploit this form of human weakness are of two kinds: the WYSIWYG guys like Rob Ford and Randy Hillier who really are as dumb as they sound, and the smart cookies who
, with consummate skill, exploit and shape the inchoate anger of the "I'm not going to take it anymore" crowd. Hence the bizarre spectacle of anti-politician politicians, and of governments allegedly dedicated to dismantling government.

It's all a ruse, of course, but it works. Governments will persist, and anti-politician politicians remain politicians. But the latter have utterly abandoned a key responsibility of leadership: to inform. Instead of leading, they follow, and they look for shortcuts in the brain of the body politic so they can arouse rather than explain.

"A hungry mob is an angry mob," said the wise Bob Marley. And an angry mob is the very essence of populism. The trick for populist politicians is to keep the people feeling hungry in all sorts of ways--and blame it on someone else. Give tax cuts to the rich (so they'll keep supporting your campaigns) but frame it as an attack on big government and its allegedly spendthrift ways, using your money. "We can't afford Obamacare," sneer the Teabaggers, even if half the bankruptcies in the US have been caused by medical bills.

Scapegoating is always key to this sort of thing. In France, it's the Roma. In Canada, it's currently the Tamil refugees. Muslims, of course, have been fair game for some time, as was the so-called "yellow peril" several decades ago. Homogenize the ethnic or religious group of the month, ascribe evil to it, and turn the baying yokels loose. No matter whether it's a necktie party or an election, you're almost certain to reap your reward.

The insidious thing about this cynical feeding of brute appetites is that it escalates if allowed to continue. The longer you're kept hungry, the more frantic you become. Ten years ago, who would have imagined that the French government would start rounding up racial "undesirables" as it once
did in its dark past? Or that a popular Canadian newspaper would urge that Tamil refugee ships be sunk at sea with its inhabitants on board? Further back, who could have dreamed that the civilized Germans would unleash an uncultured, deadly, racist monstrosity on themselves and on the world?

Can't happen here? Of course it can, under the right circumstances. Obviously we're nowhere close to that at the moment. But the steady cheapening of Canadian political culture, its reduction to
glib "us vs. them" talking-points, dulls and blunts our better natures. It makes increasing numbers afraid and distrustful, and even hateful. That's fertile ground--and eager conservatives are even now turning the sod.
*[Albertazzi, D. and Duncan McDonnell. Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy p.3. New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan.]

Wednesday dogs


[H/t Marie Ève]

A stormy place

Atlantic storms are nothing new for Newfoundland and Labrador, but Igor left a punch. The CBC station near where my inlaws live said their equipment showed a gust of 145 km/hr. I understand that there are few injuries and I hope that is the case but my thoughts are with the people who suffered damage.

A little known fact is that the largest natural disaster in Canada in terms of lives lost was a hurricane that hit Newfoundland in 1775 and killed an estimated 4,000 people at sea (Navy and fishermen). To be clear, this hurricane says nothing about global warming, but with storms expected to intensify under warming conditions we could see more of these in the future.

Sent to me fresh this morning, here are some pictures from near where my inlaws live.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Defamation and the Speech Warriors™ [updated]

Defamation? IOKIYAC.

No link here. But the rubes are lining up to circulate a libel by a fellow who is no slouch at suing or threatening to sue when He Himself is criticized. He even threatened to sue the ol' Dawg once: the Speechies were thrilled. (A balanced account of that matter appears here.)

Go figure.

This latest eruption will help George Soros' case, of course, but these decorticated wingnuts are beyond caring or thinking: instinctive lashing out is all that remains to them, even if they often end up lashing each other.

To repeat myself: conservatism isn't a politics. It's a diagnosis.

UPDATE: (September 21) The Free Dominion site is having problems today. Keep trying!

UPPERDATE: There has been a development. From the Toronto law offices of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP to the idiot who re-posted the libel:

Mess. Bull. Horn.

[H/t reader Brian]

UPPESTDATE: (September 22). Hee, hee, hee! I'm trying not to enjoy this, honest.

[H/t reader Holly Stick]

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil

Once again, the Usual Suspects are bumping elbows with...well, other Usual Suspects.
"Nazi-schmazi! We're all just immigration critics."

Yeah. Right.

Toronto elites poised to apologize to the rest of Canada

(DawgNews, Ottawa, September 20.) Toronto's fabled elites are planning to offer an historic apology this October to ordinary people living outside the city.

"We had no idea we'd been causing such hard feelings," said longtime Rosedale resident DuShawn Latrelle, who describes himself as a "funky lawyer."

"We're just plain folks when you strip away our salaries and monster homes," he said. "And to prove it, we're voting Rob Ford."

"The benighted have a right to their voice," said chef Dinesh Razpur, whose micro-cuisine draws scores of hungry elitists every evening to his upscale resto-bar, Clouds. He quoted former US Senator Roman Hruska on Nixon's doomed nomination of G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court:

"Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos."

"Those words," said Razpur, "should be branded on every elitist's soul, as they now are on mine. I'm so ashamed...."

"This is a democracy, after all,"
says Miriam Latte of the trendy Beaches area. "We liberals do have to put up with other people. It's time we showed a little tolerance." Affirming her strong support for Ford, she said, "We need to be pro-active on this, and get ahead of the curve."

Reacting to the suggestion that her support for the colourful mayoralty candidate is simply a case of inverse snobbery, Latte was indignant. "We've been untrue to our ideals, and that's all there is to it," she snapped.

There is no indication, however, that the long-scorned non-elites are in any mood to accept the apology
at this point. "Too little, too late," said popular right-wing commentator Kate McShaidle. "Those people have a lot to answer for, and for once I'm not referring to Muslims."

"I'll believe in this so-called conversion when Progressive Bloggers endorses Rob Ford," said Thérèse Defarge, an outspoken Western conservative, referring to a little-known left-wing blogroll. "Until then, as far as I'm concerned, they're a bunch of aristocrats in disguise."

The reaction of the PMO was, however, somewhat more diplomatic in tone. "This is an excellent first step towards redemption," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "My religion demands that we forgive our enemies." He went on to remind the chastened elites that there may well be a federal election sometime in the next year: "That will be a further test of their sincerity," he said. "But I must say I'm rather optimistic at this point."

Opposition leaders Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton, both from Toronto, promised today to support the Ford cause.

"This thing is like a tidal wave," said Layton. "We really have no choice but to go with the flow." Ignatieff, attending the installation of a statue in Phillips Square, went further. "If I were Prime Minister," he said, "I'd appoint this man to the Senate forthwith."

Life sentence for Betty K?

Something has gone terribly wrong here.

Betty Krawczyk was 65 years old when she went to jail for Clayoquot Sound. It was her first time ever in prison.

She went to jail again at age 78 for standing in front of bulldozers in 2006 to protest the building of the Sea-to-Sky Highway through the Eagleridge Bluffs in West Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics.

"There will be no logging here today," she said.

That time a court injunction also specified that she stay away from the bluffs. She didn't stay away and back to prison she went for another 10 months, this time for disobeying the court.

Somehow, instead of receiving the Order of Canada for her courage, Betty is now up to eight prison sentences - eight! - without this environmental hero and grandmother of eight having ever harmed a single person or piece of logging or construction equipment.
She shows up, she stands up for her beliefs, she gets arrested.

Her real crime in the eyes of the courts is that she challenges the legitimacy of the judicial system to criminalize dissent, to punish protesting :
"I won’t do community service should that be part of my sentence. I have done community service all of my life and I have done it for love. I refuse to have community service imposed on me as a punishment. And I won’t pay a fine or allow anyone else to pay a fine for me. I won’t accept any part of electronic monitoring as I would consider that an enforced internalization of a guilt I don’t feel and don’t accept and I refuse to internalize this court’s opinion of me by policing myself."
Back to jail for Betty K.

After serving out her last sentence in full, Betty appealed it on the grounds that the squelching of protest inconvenient to corporations and governments is an illegitimate use of the legal system.
The Attorney General's response to her appeal has been to cite a case ruling for chronic offenders, recommending that the court re-sentence her under the rules of "accumulated convictions", and lock her up for life:
"When an accused has been convicted of a serious crime in itself calling for a substantial sentence and when he suffers from some mental or personalty disorder rendering him a danger to the community but not subjecting him to confinement in a mental institution and when it is uncertain when, if ever, the accused will be cured of his affliction, in my opinion the appropriate sentence is one of life."
"A serious crime"? "A mental or personality disorder"? "A danger to the community"?
"Life" ? For an appeal to a sentence she has already served?

Good God.

Shame on you, Michael Brundrett of the Attorney General's Office.

It was extraordinary enough that a provincial government now happy to take credit for having "saved" Clayoquot Sound was willing to imprison for two and a half years a person prominently responsible for having forced them to save it. It is beyond heinous that they should now attempt to rebrand her fight for social justice and responsible environmental practices some sort of "mental disorder" worthy of a life sentence.

Betty's appeal will be heard this Wednesday Sept 22nd at 10am at the Court House, 800 Smithe St., Vancouver. She is asking for your support at a rally at 9:30am on the back steps of the Court House at Howe and Robson just before the hearing.

Please come. If you can't, write or email a letter to your local paper, your MLA.
Anything will do - the important thing is to let them know you are watching.

Betty, now 82, is willing to go to prison for her beliefs; please take a few moments to write a letter to stand up for yours.

Thank you.

Update : Orwell's Bastard has an idea.

Dr.Dawg adds: The BC Attorney General's office is taking a leaf from a very old Soviet playbook.

UPDATE: (September 23) Some further developments, including a retreat by the Crown.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Freedom of speech: Canada, 2010

Read it and weep. You can be arrested in Canada now for joining a panel discussion at a university.

Seven officers made the arrest. Your money and mine, to serve and protect.

[H/t pogge]

Today is a good day

But I really should get up earlier.

It seems that the Sun is already setting.

UPDATE: Heh. And again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Herr Ratzinger

The Pope, during his excursion into Britain, today equated atheism and Nazism. This, as the journalists say, has caused a stir. Richard Dawkins is fit to be tied, as well he might be.

But according to the Church, it's all been overblown and misinterpreted: the Pope, says a spokesperson, knows "rather well what the Nazi ideology is about."


Ethical oil

What, a right-wing lawyer from Calgary shilling for the oil sands? Say it isn't so! But since Ezra Levant has introduced the notion of ethics into the discussion, let's take a closer look. Is it ethical to cause massive, life-threatening pollution? You decide.

How do you like your fish, Ezra? If I were you, I'd eat well upstream of oil sands development in the Athabasca River area. Unfortunately, however, the locals around
Fort Chipewyan don't have that luxury.

I wrote about Fort Chipewyan almost three years ago. The topic then was not fish, but people--dying of rare cancers in unusual numbers. The local physician who blew the whistle on this was subsequently threatened
with having his medical licence revoked by the Alberta government's Health and Wellness department and Health Canada.

The government persecution of Dr. John O'Connor went on for years, but he was ultimately exonerated of such foolish charges as "causing a mistrust of government" (where would that leave Levant?) and then exonerated again when a final bogus charge of causing "undue alarm" was dropped late last year. O'Connor was in fact vindicated in his original findings by an Alberta Cancer Board study in 2009 that confirmed higher-than-average incidences of cancer in the area.

The mutant fish seem to be a bigger issue in the media than are the people of Fort Chipewyan, who are mostly First Nations. But if that's what it takes to get a federal review of Alberta's flawed pollution monitoring system, then so be it.

"Ethical oil?" An oxymoron. And I'll take a pass on the fish, thanks.

UPDATE: Here's Ezra in meltdown mode on the oil sands issue, swearing and namecalling and generally carrying on like a lout. But on another subject, he's become uncharacteristically tongue-tied.

ADDENDUM: (September 21) Here is the 2009 investigative report
on Dr. John O'Connor by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. An Alberta government official suggested to me in an email that it is different in content from the account of it to which I linked.

Indeed, the report does fall somewhat short of an "exoneration," as widely reported. In addition, Alberta Health and Wellness was never a complainant. Finally, all four charges against him were actually dealt with in 2009, in this report. Two were dismissed; two were upheld, but the College made it clear that it did not believe that any penalty should be imposed.

I find that the issues of email communication and Dr. O'Connor's alleged blocking of access to patient files, as referenced in the report, appear murkier than the College seems willing to admit.
But Rashomon rides again. Read the report and judge for yourselves.

The main issue, in any case, should not be lost. Dr. O'Connor has received fair and due credit for raising the alarm. An Alberta Cancer Board study in 2009, as noted above, revealed abnormally high rates of cancer in Fort Chip. And another study, looking at the pollution of the area more generally, has concluded that oil sands development is flooding the Athabaska River and its tributaries with carcinogens. Whatever Dr. O'Connor's errors along the way, he has been vindicated: and "ethical oil" remains an oxymoron.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What do Dwight Shroot, Boba Fett

...Snuffaluffagus and Homer Simpson have in common now?

Ach! The
Schadenfreude! It burns!

(September 16) A surfeit of Schadenfreude! It seems that George Soros didn't like being called a Nazi collaborator in a recent column in the Toronto Sun authored by the foamy Ezra Levant. Soros is suing (@0.42), and he has very deep pockets.

Putting out the PayPal begging bowl won't help you this time, Ezra. Mess with the bull and you get the horn, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving individual. Next up at bat: Maher Arar?

[H/t to commenters TH and Shiner]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From my clammy pudgy hands...

Photoshop inspired by Steve Harpo : "From my clammy pudgy hands"
(h/t Antonia Z)
Here's Steve's former communications director Kory Teneycke on CBC's Power and Politics, Sept 3, 2010 (Time mark : 6:50), comparing the Avaaz petition against a must-carry licence for Teneycke's Fox News North to a 'hypothetical' case of the NRA meddling in Canadian politics :
"We're having a debate on gun control right now in Canada on the long gun registry, a very hot debate. What if the NRA came into Canada with petitions and advertising campaigns, trying to influence Canadian policy and Canadian decisions? People would be outraged. People. would. be. outraged."
OK, Kory, let's go with that.
From the NRA website : Standing Guard by Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive VP :

"If all goes well in the Canadian parliament, Dominion gun owners will be freed from 14 years of living under the crushing weight of a bureaucratic, scandal-ridden, wasteful, invasive, $2 billion, error-ridden and inarguably worthless long gun registry."
"The NRA of America supports and endorses the work done by the CILA [Canadian Institute for Legislative Action] and strongly encourages all Canadian firearms owners to become CILA supporting members."

Tony Bernardo, head of CILA :
"We have been working hand in hand with the NRA regarding international issues for the past three and a half fact, the NRA was instrumental in the formation of CILA…the NRA provides CILA with tremendous amounts of logistic support."
Foreign Policy, July 2006 :
In December, an NRA official was scheduled to offer a "legislative training workshop" at the annual meeting of CILA's parent organization."How do we protect our rights?" went the promo for the event. "By being more politically active and effective at the grassroots [level]. And who better to show us how than the most powerful lobby group in the world, the National Rifle Association and their Institute for Legislative Action."
CBC, today : NRA involved in long gun registry debate
Bernardo, a frequent guest on NRA chat shows updating U.S. gun owners on the fight to kill the Canadian registry, said the NRA was instrumental in helping him set up his Canadian lobby group, CILA, the lobbying arm of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA), and a mirror group of the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA's lobbying arm.
The CSSA's communications director, Brant Scott, was previously an aide to Con MP Garry Breitkreuz, featured here on the NRA website. Breitkreuz is chair of the Public Safety and National Security Committee.
Back to the CBC :

Michael Bryant, formerly Ontario's attorney general, said the NRA has been agitating in Canadian political backrooms for years.Canadians need to know the role the NRA has played in the gun registry debate, Bryant said.

"For a lot of people in Canada, if they knew that the NRA was part of the effort to get rid of the gun registry, they would think more about their views," he said."And they would think, 'well, wait a minute, I thought this was about, you know, wasting taxpayer dollars. The NRA's involved? Really? That makes me very uncomfortable' "

So. "Uncomfortable" or "outraged"? Your call, Kory.
G&M tonight : Tories deny NRA 'conspiracy theory'
Yep, I'll bet you're really really sorry now you reminded us of the NRA's reach into Canada, what with the Cons' precious, the long gun registry vote, coming up on Sept 21st and all.
h/t Dammit Janet

Monday, September 13, 2010


Ian Davey is taking it right and left for his terse remarks about the
Sun chain, those folks coming soon to a TV near you:

I’ll just say that it was once said about the Toronto Sun that it’s a newspaper for people who can’t read, so I think that probably applies to the whole chain.

Obviously that one provided an opening the size of a barn door for the barbarians to come thundering through, with the "lock and load" folks, of course, leading the charge. But they also faltered:

This smug little Toronto elitist just called you an illiterate — you, and the 20% of the Canadian public, hundreds of thousands of you, who are loyal readers of Sun Media’s chain of newspapers.

We can fault Davey for being marvellously impolitic, of course, as well as inaccurate--obviously Sun readers can read. Accuracy, however, has never been the Sun's strong suit either, as a quick check on the numbers just quoted serves to illustrate.

But the other, more serious, slip on the Sun's part was to quantify those who are aligned with the "shoot the Tamils" crowd. 20% of the population? That sounds about right.

Davey's remark reminded me of one attributed to the American free speech crusader Zachariah Chafee: "I note that I have been attended by the Luce publications. You know the ones I mean; the one for those who cannot read and the other for those who cannot think." He was referring, of course, to Life and Time, respectively. If Davey had said that the Sun i
s "a newspaper for people who can’t think," he'd have been telling nothing but the sober truth.

The Sun
specializes in vulgar, uninformed comment intended to inflame prejudice and damp down reflection. And there's a constituency for that. Davey didn't express himself well, but that's precisely what he was getting at, and--let me go out on a limb here--it's what a lot of us believe, even if we sometimes forbear to say it out loud.

Being peaceable Canadians, we don't want the Viking war party to notice us over here in the corner. But as we watch them eagerly rip and tear, we have a right to our own thoughts. We, the other 80% of the country, aren't "elitists." We're just people, with varying political philosophies and levels of education, who don't feel like joining the mental equivalent of a baying lynch mob, egged on by "just plain folks"--like Pierre Karl Péladeau. We know elitism when we see it.

Back to that mob, which Davey, in damage-control mode, says he didn't mean. 20% may be a bit of an underestimate, but there are people who don't like thinking too hard, who prefer visceral reactions instead, who choose to see the world through a fog of right-wing clich
és, and who just happen to form Stephen Harper's red-meat base. The latter knows what he's doing when he makes "Harvard-educated" an epithet, when he subjects knowledge to crude ideological filtration, when he makes prisons and warplanes a priority instead of education, health, science and the arts.

The most enthusiastic anti-elitists, in fact, are cultured millionaires with enormous reserves of cultural, political and material capital. They can make good money off their gullible, less-fortunate followers, conditioned to shuffle like zombies wherever they are led.
Hence the Sun chain, breaking everything down into easily-digestible nuggets of fear and intolerance--filling, as the old solecism goes, a much-needed gap.

Spare Davey a tear. He said, if clumsily, what a hell of a lot of us know to be perfectly true.