Friday, October 31, 2014

Was Nathan Cirillo A Hero?



As I noted on this blog previously, it is always a tragedy when a young person loses his or her life, whether to accident, disease, or mayhem. The lost potential is incalculable. Like me, however, I suspect many found the mythologizing of Nathan Cirillo's murder, his passage on the Highway of Heroes, and what amounted to a state funeral, attended by an array of dignitaries, including the Prime Minister, a little much. And as a cynical observer of the political landscape, I cannot escape the notion that all of the ceremony will prove to be of great benefit to the Harper regime's propaganda machine and its ongoing efforts to reduce our civil liberties.

This morning, a friend of mine alerted me to a piece by the Hamilton Spectator's Andrew Dreschel. It is a frank and honest assessment of this past week's spectacle. It is also brave, as I suspect it will earn him a barrage of hate mail.

While in no way detracting from the loss of this young man, Dreschel offers an unsentimental assessment of what happened:
The 24-year-old Hamilton reservist was murdered in cold blood by a homeless crack addict with terrorist notions while he was ceremonially guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Cirillo's death was tragic and senseless, but in no way was it heroic.
Dreschel then goes on to talk about what constitutes heroism: those who display remarkable courage,
by performing brave deeds and daring feats — risking or sacrificing your life to save others, valiantly defending a position, boldly destroying the enemy.
But Cirillo never got the chance to show the stuff of which he was made:
He died unprepared and unarmed, the unlucky victim of a seemingly deranged killer who was himself gunned down after storming Parliament.
All of the subsequent coverage gave this tragedy a life of its own, culminating in what the writer describes as secular canonization.

Dreschel ends on this note:
Through no action of his own, the accidental victim had become an accidental hero. But sadly, like all accident victims, he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Unsentimental and accurate, the column raises some disturbing issues that we should all be honest enough and brave enough to confront. Of course, it is right to feel grief and empathy in tragic situations; obviously it is part of what makes us human. But we should also be keenly aware that those very human responses can work to our detriment if they are not leavened by the knowledge that those in positions of trust with far darker motives may try to exploit them to their own advantage.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Dystopian Present And Future



Those of us who consider ourselves progressive bloggers are well-aware of the dystopian nature of the world we live in. It is a world where black is often white, white is black, and deceit abounds. The perpetrators of environmental degradation and climate change offer us commercials showing pristine landscapes to ponder; the moneyed elite tell us that their success is our future success, and those who wage war tell us of their commitment to peace.

Sadly, Canada is not exempt from this madness. Now that the Harper regime has seized the narrative following the attacks in Quebec and Ottawa, almost immediately labelling them as acts of terrorism, it is wasting no time in pursuing measures that will diminish, not protect, all of us.

Consider this:
A 30-year-old assault-rifle collector from Pakistan has been arrested on allegations that he is a terrorist threat to Canada. The Ontario resident is in jail, charged under immigration laws that would allow him to be deported, just one year after he avoided prison on different charges.
The accused, Muhammad Aqeeq Ansari, a Karachi-born software designer who has lived in Ontario for several years, was arrested on Oct. 27. Last year, as part of a plea bargain for illegal storage of legally-acquired firearms, he surrendered them. There was no suggestion of terrorism at that time.

Now, however,
federal officials allege Mr. Ansari has ties to terrorists in Pakistan, that he had amassed “a small arsenal” of guns; and that he has expressed extreme opinions on Twitter.
What were those opinions?
On a Twitter account that has not been updated since the day of Mr. Ansari’s arrest, @aqeeqansari appeared to suggest at least one of last week’s attackers was framed.

“#MartinRouleau … Seems like the cops shot the guy and placed the knife,” the account says, referring to one the suspected terrorists.
Those who know Ansari have a more benign view of him, describing
him to The Globe as a firearms enthusiast and a strict Muslim. But they doubt he is capable of violence. “I think he was just a shooting hobbyist who didn’t follow the regulations,” said Ed Burlew, who represented Mr. Ansari in the criminal case.

Despite that benign assessment, he is now facing deportation. And despite what some would describe as a gross overreaction by authorities, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is
urging Parliament to make it easier for police to get search warrants and to seek restrictions on the movements of suspects in terrorism investigations.
Equally worrisome comes a report that the regime is looking at ways of suppressing freedom of expression on the Internet, a fool's errand if there ever was one, but a measure that could have many second-guessing themselves lest they run afoul of the authorities for 'wrong thinking.'

'Justice' Minister Peter MacKay (a constant reminder that a mind is a terrible thing to waste) is now seeking measures that
could include tools to allow for the removal of websites or Internet posts that support the “proliferation of terrorism” in Canada.
His desire is to interdict materials that, as he puts it, contribute to the poisoning of young minds.

Being either benighted or disingenuous, MacKay says,
Such measures risk infringing on free speech but Mr. MacKay said he believes it’s possible to set “an objective standard” with which to judge what constitutes promoting terrorism.
And there, of course, is the crux of the matter. What is terrorism to a government might very well be considered fair comment to others. In a Canada where a man is facing deportation in part because he questions a police report on Twitter. the dangers to all of us should be readily apparent.






...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

As a Canadian, You Can't Help But Feel Proud Here

Let's hope this kind of integrity and decency is enough to combat the fears that the Harper regime is trying to stoke after last week's tragic events.

A Response To Russell Brand



Yesterday, I posted a video of Russell Brand excoriating the absence of any real choice when it comes to the vision offered by various political parties. His argument is that they are all essentially cut from the same cloth.

A theme close to The Mound of Sound's heart, he offered the following comments:
Thanks for posting that, Lorne. I watched it three times and was struck by why so many of us fail to see these views as obvious. Why are we not turning on this system that has so ruthlessly turned on us? Here's something to try. Russell Brand's delivery can come across as inflammatory or brash but, reduced to writing, it's actually a lot more sedate.

We have to come to grips with the fundamental truth that government that suppresses the public interest in favour of private interests is a form of government that is, at best, a degraded illiberal democracy or, at worst, fascist.

Young people especially need to discover that they're coming up in an era of neoliberalism in which free market capitalism is too often permitted to flout public interest. It's both a chronic and progressive disease that will become increasingly problematic for them in the decades to come.

When the free trade era was ushered in, I fretted over the surrender of national sovereignty to free markets. I hoped I was wrong. I wasn't. Naomi Klein illustrates this in her new book citing examples where trade regimes have been used to crush attempts to deal with climate change.

I got into a brief but nasty pissing contest with Montreal Simon a couple of years back when I criticized him for constantly, obsessively attacking Harper when we also need to focus on something within our power to achieve, the reformation of our own political movements. I'm convinced the Liberals are truly in the bag and, despite his latter-day pretensions toward progressivism, I suspect Mulcair isn't that far off either.

The thing is, we cannot hope to recover our sovereignty that has been yielded for the benefit of so few and the expense of so many without standing our political parties back on their feet. I haven't a clue how that would ever happen.

I replied:
As soon as I saw the video, Mound, I thought of you, as Brand addresses a theme that I know concerns you greatly. I find myself thinking about it more especially of late, with the reflexive (Pavlovian?) response of nation-wide patriotism on display after the gunning down of Nathan Cirillo. As I have said on this blog before, it is surely tragic when a young person loses his or her life, but I worry a great deal about all of the trappings of state that have ensued from his demise. The attendance at his funeral of Harper, for example, to me doesn't so much indicate respect as it does a willingness to manipulate the population through the construction of a narrative about a soldier who fell protecting our freedoms. This does not augur well for the future of our civil liberties, and I have little faith that either Mulcair or Trudeau will get in the way of the juggernaut.

A Word to The Wise

Given our current sensitivity to alleged domestic terrorism, it might be wise to avoid this kind of freedom of expression on your next flight:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Russell Brand's Latest

This one is for my friend The Mound of Sound who, I think, would agree with the sentiments expressed. One thing you can say about Russell Brand - whether or not you agree with everything he says, he always gives us something to think about.


As Canadians, We Should All Be Deeply Ashamed Of Our government

This report, which places Canada dead last among industrialized nations in a new climate change performance index, should make us all deeply ashamed.
"Canada still shows no intention on moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries," says the report released by Germanwatch, a sustainable development advocacy group.

Another Reason Not To Subscribe To The Globe and Mail



As I noted recently, we are currently receiving a free three-month subscription to the Globe, one that we will not be renewing. My last post on the subject dealt with one of the reasons. Here is another.

In its 'wisdom,' and despite widespread evidence to the contrary, Canada's self-proclaimed 'newspaper of record' insists, in its Monday editorial, that the Harper regime is not muzzling scientists.

As with so many other efforts by The Globe to extol Dear Leader, the piece starts off deceptively, seeming to suggest there is a basis for concern:
The Conservative government only undermines itself by restricting the ability of federally employed scientists to communicate freely with the public and the media. It feeds suspicion, suggesting that Canada has something to hide, for example, on such controversial matters as the oil sands – wrongly or rightly.
So far, so good. Then:
Last week, the Union of Concerned Scientists, an American organization, and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada sent Prime Minister Stephen Harper an open letter strongly recommending that Canada no longer insist that government scientists get the permission of a media relations officer before they speak to journalists. Fifteen thousand or so researchers are said to be affected by such rules. There were 800 signatories – Canadian government researchers themselves did not sign it.
Hmmm. Even better. Has the self-titled 'newspaper of record' finally seen the light?
The PIPSC rhetorically exaggerates when it repeatedly says that government scientists are “muzzled.” But in November, 2007, the Conservatives did lay down a rule that any media interview with Environment Canada scientists would be “co-ordinated” by communications staff.

And then we get to the 'exculpatory' heart of the matter, at least what passes as exculpatory in Globeworld:
David Tarasick of Environment Canada and others wrote a paper in 2011, which appeared in one of the world’s most respected scientific journals, Nature, saying there had been an extraordinary loss in the ozone layer over the Arctic. Nobody in government got in the way of its publication, so it cannot be said that Dr. Tarasick was silenced. This was not a case of Galileo, the motion of the heavenly bodies and the Inquisition.
The paper then reveals what the 'real' problem is.
Nonetheless, “media relations” did get in the way of direct, effective engagement with reporters who might have been able to translate scientific language into news stories adapted for the general public.
So you see, it is just a bureaucratic problem that has created a 'bottleneck.'
It is one thing for cabinet ministers and MPs to work with communication staffs in order to keep the government’s messages consistent and coherent, in accordance with cabinet solidarity. It is quite another to insist that thousands of researchers communicate through legions of flacks. That inevitably creates bottlenecks.
So, the message from the Globe, obviously labouring under the delusion that it still has real influence on public thinking, is simple: Nothing to see here. Move along. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Telescope vision is one thing. Patent dishonesty is quite another.

The paper is right about something, however. When it comes to The Globe and Mail, there really is nothing to see there.

Monday, October 27, 2014

In Which Pastor Pat Discusses 'Safe' Investments

God love Pastor Pat Robertson. Few others can:

Too Good To Resist



H/t Don Gravelle

The Harperian Concept Of Justice

I don't especially feel like writing today, so I offer you this from Walt Heinzie:



Tragedy Must Bring Out The Best In All Of Us



That is the sentiment expressed by Craig Wellington of Brampton in this fine lead letter from this morning's Star:

Let’s tone down the hate rhetoric. A tragedy occurred Wednesday and a good man, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo lost his life. Let us use that as a catalyst to illuminate the best, not the worst of us.

Much of the U.S. media and political pundits have shamelessly exploited this tragedy to use as a launchpad for a stream of bigoted, vicious, rhetoric based on innuendo to feed an ongoing narrative of hate. Their apparent delight at this tragedy is disturbing.

CNN and FoxNews have filled their round-the-clock coverage with conjecture and inflammatory innuendo. Bill Maher continued his tireless “us against the Muslims” crusade by tweeting: “Turns out the attacker was Islamic — what are the odds, huh?” Sadly, this type of knee-jerk bigotry, posing as considered, intellectual punditry is far too common. And the public is increasingly unable to discern the difference between considered journalism (disappearing faster than the northern white rhino) and reckless conjecture.

In April of this year, Ft. Hood Army Base in the U.S. was attacked by an armed gunman and multiple servicemen lost their lives. What religion was the shooter? In the mass shooting at Sandy Hook school in which 20 children and six teachers lost their lives, what religion was the shooter? When congressman Gabby Gifford was shot, what religion was the shooter? What about the shooter who fired an assault weapon in a U.S. movie theatre in 2012, killing over 20 people? Timothy McVeigh?

Armed gunmen attacked Capitol Hill in 1998 (killing two police officers) and 2008. What religion were they? What religion was the man who shot Ronald Reagan? Some 84 U.S. policemen have been killed in the line of duty thus far this year. What was the religion of the perpetrators? We don’t know. It wasn’t relevant. The only thing we do know, is they werent Muslim, because if they were, it would have been the headline.

Canada has recently agreed to join the U.S. in a war in the Middle East, a region now rife with sectarian conflict. There is blame all around for that. It’s no coincidence that the epicentre, Iraq, is the country in which the U.S., under the pretense of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, removed Saddam Hussein (a former ally of the U.S. who was armed and funded by them) who was keeping these sectarian forces in check.

Years later, with over 500,000 Iraqis and thousands of U.S. servicemen killed, the area is far more of a global threat than it ever was under Saddam. That has nothing to do with a religion. That’s a convenient excuse and criminal obfuscation.

At the time of the Iraq invasion, Canada refused the U.S.’s call to join them because we did not think it was wise and did not believe the allegations of WMDs and the link to 9/11. Now after the poop has hit the fan, Canada is being asked to help the U.S. clean up their mess. But we are there and not turning back now.

There are potential ramifications to Canada’s joining this war, for Canadian citizens. When England and Germany were at war, both nations anticipated rightly that their heads of state would be assassination targets for agents or sympathizers of the other. That evil is a consequence of war. You send bombs to kill people, some of them are likely to respond.

The Canadian Harper Prime Minister has been asked numerous times in the house to outline the extent of what we have committed to, the duration, the objective of the mission, and the implications in terms of security for Canadians. He has refused to do so.

Clearly there are consequences in terms of our security, especially for Canadians traveling to certain regions, and clearly for our government officials. Wednesday’s incident outlines that not enough steps have been taken to ensure such protection is in place. That needs to change and the Prime Minister needs to have an honest dialogue with Canadians.
But what cannot change is that Canadians cannot devolve from the tolerant, socially progressive nation to a segregated society rife with paranoia, bigotry, finger pointing and hatred as is fast becoming the U.S.’s brand.

Let us honour our fallen soldier by honouring what he served and fought for — a free, open and tolerant society. #Canada

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Something's Not Right, Mr. Harper"

While Mr. Harper would have us all believe he is working to make Canada safe from terrorism, there is a far more insidious problem that he is choosing to ignore. Watch as 12-year-old Tori Metcalf rebukes the Prime Minister for his negligence:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

We Could All Be Joseph K.



"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."
- The opening sentence of Franz Kafka's The Trial

Having read The Trial many years ago, I remember being initially struck by the patent absurdity of the novel's premise, that a man could be under arrest, allowed to move about with certain restrictions, and yet never learn the nature of the charges against him. The story does not end well for Josepsh K.

After reading it, of course, I realized that it was a metaphor for the totalitarian state, a state in which the innocent are swept up by the state after a murky process by which they are identified as enemies of the country.

Without wishing to be melodramatic, we are clearly moving closer to that state.

After the events of last week, tragedies that at this point appear to have been perpetrated by mentally disturbed individuals and not organized terrorism, the Harper regime seems to be edging closer towards measures that would allow for a much wider definition of 'preventative arrests,' already toughened up last year, as well as a shielding of the identities of those who accuse others of being terrorists, neither of which would likely have prevented the deaths of two Canadian soldiers. Limits to freedom of speech, as noted yesterday, are also being considered.

Today, The Globe and Mail reports:
Measures now under consideration include changing the so-called threshold for preventative arrests and more closely tracking and monitoring people who may pose a threat, such as requiring them to check in with an officer regularly even without any charges against them. Being looked at, too, is potential legislation that would make it a crime to support terrorists’ acts online, says a senior government source.

Perhaps most ominously, a measure that brings us closer to the nightmare world of Joseph K., is the fact that
legislation giving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) the ability to better hide the identities of its informants (italics mine)...is to be tabled in the House of Commons as early as Monday or Tuesday, according to a senior government source.

Warns security expert Wesley Wark:
“Let’s be sure we know everything that was done and everything that was missed before we come up with fixes.”

Mr. Wark said that he “would be very cautious about deciding that the real fix is in extending legal powers or the real fix is in let’s go and use those preventive arrest measures … I would hesitate to advocate for that until we know what really went wrong.”

Secret trials, anonymous accusers, mass surveillance: strange ways indeed to protect our sacred democracy.

I'll leave the final word to Star letter-writer Brigitte Nowak of Toronto:
The authorities have not yet stated whether the attack in Ottawa was made by one of the 90 or so “radicalized” persons under surveillance by authorities, but already, there are calls for “increased security.”

Average Canadians are already being videotaped wherever they go, subjected to demeaning scrutiny before accessing public buildings, airplanes, etc. Any more security, reduced freedom, additional surveillance, and the “jihadists,” bent on changing our way of life, will have won.

Friday, October 24, 2014

And Thus It Begins

One of the misgivings I expressed in yesterday's post seems to be a little closer to reality today.

The National Post headline reads:

Conservatives mulling legislation making it illegal to condone terrorist acts online.

Says John Ivison,
The Conservatives are understood to be considering new legislation that would make it an offence to condone terrorist acts online.

There is frustration in government, and among law enforcement agencies, that the authorities can’t detain or arrest people who express sympathy for atrocities committed overseas and who may pose a threat to public safety, one Conservative MP said. “Do we need new offences? If so which?”

Sources suggest the government is likely to bring in new hate speech legislation that would make it illegal to claim terrorist acts are justified online.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Thursday that Canada’s law and policing powers need to be strengthened in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest. He said work is already under way to provide law enforcement agencies with “additional tools” and that work will now be expedited.

Hopefully, even the naive and guileless will want to ask themselves, after reading the article, if it is wise to let government decide what constitutes unacceptable speech?

I assume no further comment on my part is needed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some Much-Needed Perspective



Although this will probably get lost in the jingoistic rhetoric sure to follow yesterday's tragedy, this story from the Vancouver Sun is well-worth reading:
"His behaviour was not normal," said David Ali, vice-president of the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, adding Zehaf-Bibeau used to trip the mosque's fire alarms by trying to enter through the wrong doors. "We try to be open to everyone. But people on drugs don't behave normally."

A Very Impressive Lady

Every time I hear Elizabeth May speak, I am struck by the balance and wisdom of her words. A very impressive lady, she clearly has real leadership qualities:

Something We Should All Keep In Mind



H/t Michael Nabert

Thursday Morning


H/t Toronto Star

The events of yesterday were undeniably tragic. A young man, Nathan Cirillo, died. As I noticed on a Facebook posting by my cousin's wife, Nathan was a friend of their son with whom he played organized hockey. Six degrees of separation and all that, I guess.

Nonetheless, I have to confess that when I heard the news on CBC radio, my first thoughts were twofold: how these events could work to Harper's electoral advantage (I could immediately envisage the attack ads juxtaposing Harper's "strong leadership and stand against terrorism" against Trudeau's talk about searching for the "root causes" of terrorism), and how this could very well provide a pretext for further erosion of our civil liberties. Like frightened mice, many people aid and abet anyone or anything to ensure the comforting illusion of security.

Fortunately, I found a measure of balance in two Star columnists this morning, Martin Regg Cohn and Thomas Walkom.

Cohn's words bring some much-needed perspective to terrorism:
For terrorists, killing people is merely a means to an end. By far the bigger objective for terrorists is to terrorize — not just their immediate victims, but an entire population.

A soldier lost his life Wednesday. And parliamentarians lost their innocence.

But the nation must not lose its nerve.

Public shootouts or bombings are carefully choreographed publicity stunts that require audience participation to succeed: If the public gives in to fear, and the state succumbs to hysteria, then the shootings or bombings have hit their mark. If the audience tunes out the sickening violence, the tragic melodrama is reduced to pointlessness.
And he quickly gets to what, for me, is the heart of the matter:
The risk is that we will overreact with security clampdowns and lockdowns that are difficult to roll back when the threat subsides.

Terrorists will never be an existential threat — our Parliament and our parliamentarians are too deeply rooted to crumble in the face of a few bullets or bombs. The greater risk is that we will hunker down with over-the-top security precautions that pose a more insidious menace to our open society.

Thomas Walkom, while acknowledging that events such as yesterday's have a very unsettling effect, reminds us that Canada is not exactly in virgin territory here:
In 1966, a Toronto man blew himself up in a washroom just outside the Commons chamber. He had been preparing to take out the entire government front bench with dynamite. But it exploded too early.

Other legislatures have had their share of trouble, most notably Quebec’s national assembly, which was attacked in 1984 by a disgruntled Canadian Forces corporal.

He shot and killed three as well as wounding another 13 before giving himself up.

In 1988, another man was shot after he opened fire with a rifle in the Alberta Legislature building.
And no one who is of a certain age can ever forget the FLQ crisis of 1970 which led to Pierre Trudeau imposing The War Measures Act, which effectively suspended civil liberties across the country, a measure that was widely embraced at the time.

Walkom ends his piece on an appropriately ominous note:
We seem headed for another of those moments of panic. The fact that the gunman attacked Parliament has, understandably, spooked the MPs who pass our laws.

It has also spooked the media and, I suspect, much of the country.

The government wants to give its security agencies more power over citizens. The government wants to rally public support for its war in Iraq.

On both counts, this attack can only help it along.
If we are not very careful and vigilant, the real threat will come, not from terrorist attacks, but from our putative political leaders.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Breaking News: Shooting In Parliament

Reactions To Michael Harris' Book On Harper



Star readers weigh in with their usual perspicacity as they reflect on the message of Michael Harris' new book, Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover, discussed previously in this blog:

Is there a despot in the House? Insight Oct. 19

As journalist Michael Harris’ book points out, Canada has already undergone a sea change under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s secretive, dominant rule. Soon the attack ads will try to convince us that we would be mad to trust anyone other than Harper’s steady hand at the tiller.

That he is leading us straight over a waterfall, especially in areas like climate change and biological sciences denial (think of the need for research in non-petroleum areas such as water pollution or the collapse of bee colonies) doesn’t concern us nearly enough.

Nor did Harper ever ask us if we wanted a 100-fold increase across the country in hazard fuel shipments, or, for that matter, American-style gun control. He just patiently escalated the former and whittled away at the latter.

The twin tragedies of Lac-Meganic and Moncton will be as much a part of his legacy as his accidental tightfistedness with expenditure. I say accidental, because he was intending to blow the wad on 65 F-35s and indenture us to American arms maker, Lockheed Martin.

Could it be that the Republican-style fear tactics used by these Tories will scare us off for voting for progressives at both the national and municipal level?

Ron Charach, Toronto

This book brings to mind the story: if a frog is placed in boiling water it will immediately jump out; but if it is placed in cool water and the heat slowly raised, the frog will sit there and die as it cooks.

This book brings to our attention that we Canadians are that frog and that the temperature of the water is rising. It is time to jump.

David Kister, Toronto

The Harper government’s narrow political agenda acts like a deaf, dumb and blind juggernaut ruthlessly wielding its power as if we Canadians and our democratic parliamentary system of governance are simply obstacles to be overcome.

Under Mr. Harper’s leadership we have witnessed the relentless erosion of our democracy, of our civil rights, our cherished reputation for fair and open elections, our influence as leaders on the world stage and most insidious of all, our belief in ourselves as citizens and the efficacy of civil participation.

His aggressive brand of partisanship ominously appears to have no bounds, nor his willingness to constrain or silence those not in agreement with his policies or initiatives. At risk are the institutions and values that are the very heart of who we are as a nation.

We cannot be side-tracked by our political differences or our disgust with politicians behaving badly or even fear of reprisal. Our silence is the Harper government’s greatest ally.

June Osborne, Camrose, Alta.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

UPDATED: Another Group Shames Harper


It is to be hoped that the closer we move to next year's election, more and more Canadians will be wagging their fingers at Stephen Harper for his various acts of destruction in this country. For now, let's enjoy the fact that this group is doing it for us:
An organization known for its efforts to improve scientific integrity within the U.S. government is taking aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper over policies and funding cuts that it says are detrimental to Canadian public science.

In an open letter released Tuesday, the Union of Concerned Scientists urged Mr. Harper to lift a communications protocol that prevents federal researchers from speaking with journalists without approval from Ottawa. The letter also refers to barriers that it says inhibit collaboration with colleagues in the broader scientific community.
The letter, signed by over 800 academic researchers working outside of Canada,
was released jointly with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents more than 15,000 scientists employed within a range of government departments and agencies. It includes a reference to a PIPSC survey, conducted in 2013, which found that 90 per cent of more than 4,000 of the federal scientists who responded felt they could not speak freely about their work.
Dennis Hansell, chairman of the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami and one of the signatories, said:
“As a global scientist I need Canadians to be involved so I can get my work done too. If there’s any threat to that, that’s a problem,” said Dr. Hansell, who is in the midst of proposing a project in the Arctic that would require the co-ordination of U.S., German and Canadian research teams.
Much of the world seems aware of the autocracy and fear that exists in Canada. Let's hope that sufficient numbers of Canadian voters will soon become similarly enlightened.

UPDATE: Of course the Harper regime, used to such international disparagement, said black is white:
In a statement responding to the letter, Scott French, a spokesman for Ed Holder, minister of state for science and technology, said the government has made "record investments in science, technology and innovation."

With regard to the freedom of federal scientists to communicate, French said, "While ministers are the primary spokespersons for government departments; scientists have, and are readily available to share their research with Canadians," he said. He added that federal departments and agencies produce over 4,000 science publications per year, including 700 peer-reviewed articles last year alone.
As usual, everyone else is wrong, and the Harper regime leads the world in all that is sacred and holy.

Harper Regime Deservedly Mocked and Disdained In House

I often marvel at the ability of the Prime Minister and his minions to keep a straight face as they baldly lie to all of us. At least those lies came in for some much deserved mockery yesterday in the House of Commons:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another Reminder Of The Regime Under Which We Chafe



I hope none of us forgets this, just one small part of the Harper programme to promote ignorance, stifle informed discussion, and ravage the environment.

Let The Sun Shine



Like the vampires of fiction who cling to the darkness as they carry out their nefarious, life-depleting ravages on human prey, the Harper regime best operates in the dark, away from the light of public scrutiny as it continues to suck the vitality out of our democracy. (Sorry for the lurid metaphor, but it does seem to be dramatically apt.) While it is a topic I have written about many times on this blog, I am sure I'm in good company when I say that only by bringing as many of these deeds into the light do we stand a chance of Canadians rejecting this perversion of government.

To that end, I would like to bring to your attention the following email I received from Democracy Watch, one of several NGO's that work tirelessly to promote the principles of open and accessible government as a way of promoting democratic principles and participation. After reading the missive, I hope you will consider signing the letter it talks about. The link is contained within the following text:



Since 2012, the federal Conservative government has been claiming to have an open government plan. In fact, every independent report has shown more excessive secrecy in the federal government than any time since the so-called Access to Information law passed in 1983.

The law is so weak it really should be called the “Guide to Keeping Government Information Secret” law.

Right now Conservative Cabinet minister Tony Clement is proposing a plan to the international Open Government Partnership that will only make already public information a bit more easily accessible.

This will do nothing to end secrecy that encourages waste, abuses and corruption – the law needs to be strengthened to require more transparency, with stronger enforcement and penalties for anyone who keeps information secret that the public has a right to know!

Please click here to send your letter now calling on the federal Conservatives, and governments across Canada, to make key changes to laws to open up government and make it more accountable to you.

Minister Clement and the Conservatives are only taking comments on their proposed plan for a very limited time – please send your message by next Monday, October 20th.

And please Share this with everyone you know – see more details set out below.

And please help keep this campaign going until these key changes to open up government are won. To donate now, please click here.

All together we can make difference!

Thank you very much for your support,

Duff, Tyler, Brad and Josephine
and all the volunteers across Canada who make Democracy Watch’s successful campaigns possible

Just A Reminder About The Regime Under Which We Chafe



In case you missed the story of yet another Harper-led CRA threat against charities that object to the regime's policies of environmental despoliation, you can read about it here, here, or here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Updated: Michael Harris' New Book



Veteran journalist and current national affairs columnist for iPolitics, Michael Harris, has just had his new book on Stephen Harper published. While the 500-page tome, entitled Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover, may offer nothing startlingly new to those of us who follow national politics closely, it serves as both a useful reminder of the democratic depredations Harper is responsible for, as well as an alert to those who are so disengaged as to regard him as a benign presence on the political landscape. While few of the latter will likely read the book, I suggest it would be a useful exercise to email the link to this Star article about the book to friends and associates who might fall into that category.

Some pretty impressive people offer solid testimony against the kind of 'regime change' that has been instituted under the Harper cabal. One of them is Farley Mowat who, in the last months of his life, said this to Harris:
“Stephen Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada”.

“We took Parliament for granted, but, like the environment, it turns out that it is an incredibly delicate and fragile structure. Harper has smothered MPs and is destroying Parliament.”
Jim Coyle, the article's writer, points out that Michael Harris has always been drawn to stories of injustice and abuse of power. It is precisely what he found in researching Harper's reign:
“A lot of the things that (Harper) was doing struck me as not only unjust but unjustifiable.

“In doing the research I found I was not the only person who thought so, and people a lot smarter and more involved in the system understood the nature of the threat that he presents.”
Says former Commons Speaker Peter Milliken:
“Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. Harper can’t go much further without making the institution dysfunctional. He is trying to control every aspect of House business. In fact, it will have to be returned to its former state by someone if we are to have a democracy.”
Powerful and damning words from a respected parliamentarian.

Another devastating indictment comes from veteran diplomat Paul Heinbecker, a former ambassador to Germany:
“Canada’s diplomacy is hugely different under Harper”. “It is a reversal of our history.

“We have become outliers. We are seen as more American than the Americans, more Israeli than Likud. Given what our foreign policy has become, I would not have joined the service today if I were a young man.”
Former information commissioner Robert Marleau joins in on the condemnation of Harper's contempt for anyone or anything that disagrees with him:
[W]hen his government was found in contempt (of Parliament), Harper treated it like a minor, partisan irritation. Parliament is now a minor process obstacle.

“Canadians are sleepwalking through dramatic social, economic and political changes surreptitiously being implemented by a government abusing omnibus bills and stifling public and parliamentary debate”.

“Mr. Harper has not played within the rules. Having attained absolute power, he has absolutely abused that power to the maximum.”

All and all, Harris' insights appear to be ones that we have an obligation to share with less-informed and less-engaged Canadians.

UPDATE: Lawrence Martin weighs in on how he thinks the Harris book will cause some indigestion for Harper.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

With An Eye To The Future



It is to state the obvious that all progressives long for the day that the Harper regime is ousted from office. What is not so obvious, however, is what shape our country will take once that happens.

There are those who place their faith in Justin Trudeau. Others look with hope to Thomas Mulcair. And then there are others who see little to cheer about in the leadership or politics of either.

The other day The Mound of Sound, who falls into the latter category, wrote a post on leadership, concluding with the following observation:
The thin gruel served up today is a bowl filled with petty technocrats that come in varying flavours of authoritarianism. It's a bland and self-serving offering, devoid of vision, courage and commitment.
I fear he is all too correct in his assessment, one that is intimated by Thomas Walkon in today's Star. Entitled Stephen Harper’s legacy fated to endure, Walkom offers the proposition that it is far from certain that the dramatic changes Harper has made during his tenure will be undone by a government led by either the NDP or the Liberals:
True, both the Liberals and the NDP expressed outrage when Canada Post announced its plans [to cut home delivery] last December.

True also that, after a rancorous debate in the Commons, both voted against these plans.

The New Democrats sponsored a cross-Canada petition to oppose the cuts. Alexandre Boulerice, the party’s critic for Canada Post, continues to raise occasional questions in the Commons.

But Canada Post is plowing ahead with plans to eliminate home delivery for almost 1.3 million households by the time of next year’s election.

And neither Mulcair nor Trudeau is promising to reverse that decision if the Conservatives are defeated.
On Harper's tax cuts:
They won’t touch them.

Mulcair would raise corporate taxes. However, he says an NDP government would not reverse any of the personal income tax cuts Harper has introduced.

Trudeau says his Liberals wouldn’t reverse any tax cuts at all — personal or corporate.

Both parties slammed Harper for cutting the GST. Yet, if elected, neither would raise it back to its previous level.
Walkom point out the further damage Harper could do before he is tossed from the political arena:
Harper may be able to torpedo his rivals’ pre-election spending plans simply by giving away, in the form of tax cuts, all of Ottawa’s expected multi-billion dollar surplus.

The result? Even if Harper loses the next election, much of his legacy seems fated to remain.
Such is the timidity of today's political 'leadership' that I fear both the Mound's assessment and Walkom's predictions are all too accurate.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Dangers Are Only Too Apparent And Predictable



I was taking a bit of a break from blogging today when this came up, a sobering object lesson in the environmental disasters that we flirt with on the West Coast:
A 135-metre container ship laden with bunker and diesel fuel is adrift off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria is reporting.

The Russian container ship Simushir is about 25 kilometres off Tasu Sound, according to the centre.
The Council of Haida Nations has issued an emergency alert in case the ship makes landfall, in part because the ship is reportedly carrying 500 tonnes of bunker fuel and 60 tonnes of diesel.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We All have To Stand Against This Blatant Reign Of Intimidation And Tyranny




Although I have written many posts on this topic, each new incident once again evokes in me a visceral reponse bordering upon hatred for this government. The Harper regime is back at it again, using the CRA to intimidate people who are critical of its policies or in any way impede the flow of oil progress.

This time, the victims are birdwatchers, yes, that's right, birdwatchers - The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists.

CBC reports the following:
The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities.

Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group's website.

The stern missive says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."
It appears that the Harper-directed CRA has accomplished its goal, at least in part, inasmuch as officials of the group, whose revenues amount to a mere $16,000 per annum, are refusing comment, less they attract even more wrath.

But not everyone has succumbed to intimidation:
Longtime member Roger Suffling is speaking up, saying the issue is about democratic freedom and not about arcane tax rules.

Effectively, they've put a gag on us," he said in an interview, noting that the letter arrived just after the club had written directly to two federal cabinet ministers to complain about government-approved chemicals that damage bee colonies.

"You can piece together the timing," said Suffling, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. "The two things are very concurrent."
The other 'sin' of this group, it would appear, is the fact that it
has also had a guest speaker to talk about the oilsands, and has publicly defended the Endangered Species Act from being watered down.
Of course, the usual suspects, who I do not believe for a minute, deny any political direction or purpose:
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq's office ... denies there's any link, saying the agency operates independently.

Canada Revenue Agency officials say they do not target any one charitable sector, and are choosing groups impartially, without input from the minister's office.

The decision to launch an audit is also not based on any group’s position on the political spectrum, charities directorate chief Cathy Hawara has said.
Those denials might work with gullible children, but not thinking adults.

I grow weary of the totalitarian tactics of this regime. I hope my fellow Canadian feel the same.

The Folly of Harper's Economic Emphasis



While no reasonable person would suggest that Canada should immediately turn its back on it resources, the folly of self-described economist Stephen Harper is the undue weighting his regime has placed on that sector for fiscal health. Other countries have been looking toward the day when our dependence on fossil fuels will be diminished and are therefore diversifying, and a strong case can be made for the economic benefits of renewable and other green energy projects. However, our Prime Minister has continued in a full-court press as if the Alberta tarsands were the only game in town.

The folly of that approach now becomes evident with the precipitous decline in oil prices, largely due to a slowdown in growth worldwide that, ironically, may very well be the key to curbing climate change. However, even if this a temporary blip, the warning should be heeded.

An analysis by Don Pitt makes for some sobering reading:
About a year ago, I read a report forecasting this would happen. It wasn't exactly top secret, and hardly from a subversive group. Titled, The future of oil: Yesterday's fuel, it was published in the right-of-centre Economist magazine.

The Economist article suggests that this is not going to be just a blip but more of a sea change, as global oil demand plunges permanently. The article quotes a study by Citibank saying that oil use is already falling in rich countries. Most oil is burned to propel vehicles, and increasing fuel efficiency, including conversion to electric and hybrids, means we are using less for that.

It rejects the argument that growth in places like China will push oil use ever higher, saying emerging economies will see the advantage of leap-frogging to new technology and won't pass through the first world's gas-guzzling phase. In the year since that report, an explosion of solar in India, and an analysis by Lazard saying renewables had become as cheap as fossil fuels, only made the case stronger.

The implication for job losses in Canada goes well beyond employment in the oil patch.
“Canada’s economy is now very oil dominated,” economists Rory Johnston and Patricia Mohr at Scotiabank said a few months ago as the Northern Gateway project was being approved by Ottawa.

Businesses based across Canada that feed into the sector, like railroads, engineering firms, construction companies and equipment makers will also be sideswiped if the decline leads energy producers to pull back production. Twenty-five cents of every dollar invested in new business plans goes toward oil and gas projects, Scotia estimates.

If exports and investment in the energy sector take hits, experts suggest the broader economy will feel the chill and begin to slow.
It would be nice to think that these hints of things to come would have an impact on the monomania that the Harper regime is seized of. Unfortunately, past ideological performance suggests nothing will change under the current administration.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rick's Latest Rant

In his latest, Rick Mercer turns his acerbic wit on the theft of copyright being engineered by the Harper regime to facilitate its campaign of attack ads.

On Encouraging Political Participation



The other day I wrote a post on John Cruickshank's TED Talk about the low level of political participation among young citizens. His thesis was that as a society, we are losing our news-reading and news-watching habits thanks to the myriad options offered by our current technologies. Asserting that news reading is a skill, the devolution of that skill has affected our ability to think critically and be civically engaged.

A well-considered letter to The Star, however, argues that without structural changes in our political system, measures to encourage participation will be ineffectual:
Re: What's the big threat to democracy? Distraction, Insight Oct. 11

I read the dissertation by John Cruickshank on the threats to our democracy. Unfortunately, the analysis and subsequent conclusions are flawed.

The real threats to our democracy come not only from a disengaged younger electorate (understandable given the hardships they face relative to older generations in income, housing and equality of opportunity), but rather from a perversion of the existing democratic institutions by our current plutocracy.

Political parties have “gamed” the system to their advantage. Our current body politic is often about demagogues using power seized through campaigns of fear or misinformation to obtain power; with little recourse for voters if perverse and discriminatory policies ensue.

The newly elected representative quickly finds out that they are merely trained seals, told what to say and when, with little chance to have their views fairly considered on important matters.

To just encourage people to vote no matter what is not the answer. I would proffer that an uninformed voter is more dangerous to our electoral system than one who is informed but chooses not to participate. It could be argued that the uninformed who choose to exercise their right to vote are willing participants to the demagoguery that is pervasive.
Merely asking relatively uninformed citizens to go out and vote once every four years in the current antiquated system is not the answer. The answers will begin once we seriously consider measures to not only encourage civic engagement, but with an accompanying corollary of institutional reform.

This will include some type of proportional representation to better reflect the views of all voters, greater use of plebiscites, allowing recall votes, and having party leaders chosen by their caucus to make them more accountable to the members, rather the reverse. The guise of greater voter turnout will not lead us there.

However, if a major political party were to propose such visionary reforms, then we might experience a sea change in civic involvement.

David Dos Santos, Mississauga

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Has Olive Garden Lost Its Way?

Although we didn't eat at The Olive Garden this year when we visited our son in Edmonton, last year we did. It was quite disappointing, a far cry from years ago when we had the restaurant chain in Ontario. The following video perhaps explains why:

The Globe And Mail: Same Old, Same Old



We are currently receiving a three-month free subscription to The Globe and Mail, a paper I supported for many years until it returned to its largely right-wing nature after vanquishing its putative competition, The National Post, and jettisoning many of its finer writers. At least getting it free for this period allows me unimpeded access to the front section of my paper of choice, The Toronto Star, since my wife very generously reads the Globe at the breakfast table.

When the free subscription period ends, I shall not continue with the Globe, as my wife and I are clearly not part of its intended audience. I was reminded of that fact this morning as I read what was essentially a two-part editorial on tarsands oil.

Part 1, entitled Canadian oil scores a well-deserved win overseas, begins on a note of triumph:
It’s encouraging that Canada was able to exert “immense” pressure (in the words of a European Commission official) so as to moderate the terms of a proposed EU fuel quality directive that would have discriminated against Canadian exports of bitumen from the oil sands. Canadian persistence has been admirable, and no doubt the successful Canada-EU trade negotiations helped.
The piece then appears to dampen its enthusiasm by broaching the subject of those pesky carbon emissions, but the basis of the paper's concern quickly becomes evident:
Even so, Jim Prentice, the Premier of Alberta, is right to warn that, though this is “positive news for Alberta, and for all of Canada,” this country cannot afford to appear to be a reluctant foot-dragger on the environmental front.

For example, the stalling of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is a result of immense pressure from the environmental movement, which harms Canada’s legitimate economic interests. (italics mine)

Which leads us to Part 11, Carbon policy: lagging on the home front. Intially, it appears to be offering a counterbalance to Part 1, faulting the Harper government for its sluggish pace and vague policies on reducing carbon emissions:
The government’s plans for limiting carbon emissions are vague and incomplete. Even at that, the work is lagging behind schedule. There is no clear path forward. And much of whatever progress Canada has made on these matters has been accomplished by the provincial governments, not Ottawa.
However, it emerges very clearly that it is the optics of this delay, not the ongoing environmental and climate degradation, that is The Globe's true concern:
Such silence and delay give Canada and Canadian oil a bad name, not least in the U.S. They amount to damaging weapons in the hands of the American opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would benefit both Canada and the U.S.
So it is clear that nothing has changed at The Globe since I cancelled my subscription. The self-named newspaper of record continues to see the world through the bifurcated lens of business imperatives and those who oppose or challenge those interests; the paper clearly continues to subscribe to the notion that anything wrong with our version of capitalism can be fixed with a little tinkering around the edges and some effective spin.

I'll take The Star's social agenda and citizens lens over that any and every day of the week.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fighting The Darkness



Knowledge is power, and withholding knowledge is crippling.

So states scientist Sarah Otto, in an op-ed piece in today's Star. Sadly, when we apply that truth to the Canadian reality, it becomes apparent that all of us are confined to metaphorical wheelchairs.

Referring to a report released last week by Evidence for Democracy, Otto laments the sad state of ignorance fostered by our repressive federal overlords:
Overall, we earned only a 55-per-cent grade, on average, for the openness of communication policies for federal scientists here in Canada. Compare that with the U.S., where the average grade using the same methods was 74 per cent in 2013.
A few specific examples, only the tip of the iceberg according to Otto, attest to our government's contempt for openness:
- Scott Dalimore, a geoscientist at Natural Resources Canada, was prevented from doing media interviews about his research on a 13,000-year-old flood.

- Kristi Miller, a scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was prevented from publicly discussing work she published on salmon.

- David Tarasick, an environmental scientist at Environment Canada, was prevented from speaking publicly about his research on the ozone layer.
And this statistic should be quite sobering to all citizens:
A recent survey was conducted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing scientists in 40 federal departments. It found 90 per cent of scientists felt that they cannot speak freely to the media about the work they do.
Otto, who was asked by government scientists to speak up for them, learned some other facts about their muzzling that should outrage all Canadians:
I have been told, in confidence, about important results being held up from publication in scientific journals, waiting for approval, about missed opportunities to inform the public about research, and about cases where scientists were asked not to publish, chillingly because “we want the public to forget” about this issue.
While she ends her article with some specific suggestions to remediate this deplorable state of affairs, longtime observers will conclude there really is only one viable fix, the opportunity for which comes next year when, I hope, sufficient numbers of informed Canadians go to the polls to cast judgement on the current cabal.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why So Much Ignorance In This Age Of Technology?

I have always thought it ironic that in this age of interconnectedness, when we have almost unlimited sources of information at our disposal, so many of us are abysmally ignorant of the things that should matter. The level of civic disengagement in North America, for example, has facilitated the devolution of so many of our democratic institutions into mere channels of undue influence for the minority, ensuring that the needs of the many are subjugated to the wants of the few. Inaction on climate change, the ongoing degradation of ecosystems, the ever-widening disparity of incomes and the erosion of social programs are but the more egregious examples of this decline.

John Cruickshank, the publisher of the Toronto Star, attributes this phenomenon to 'distraction.' In his paper, he writes about a recent Toronto Ted Talk (not yet available on the Ted site) in which he examined the problem through the lens of young people who, both in Canada and the United States, have a voter participation rate of about 40%. However, he points out that the lack of voter participation is merely the most obvious manifestation of the level of engagement:
Voting’s just the marker. More critical are civic interests, habits and knowledge: The debates in the lunchroom about taxes and spending or public meetings over a new airport or a mega-quarry. The less visible indicators of democracy’s vitality.

It’s no coincidence youth voting is so similar in the U.S. and Canada. It’s not a question of national culture. And don’t blame “the kids today.” It’s a decades-long shift. It spans generations and geography.

And it appears to be driven by the devices and content that now dominate and consume our waking lives — our smartphones and tablets, our laptops and PCs and, at least for a little while longer, our TV screens.
All of these devices, while potentially quite useful, also have a tremendous power to distract. How many times, for example, will you be at the computer when the email signal rings and you switch immediately to it? Or how about a link or a popup in an article that takes you far away from your intended purpose? (I'll just take a minute to watch that footage of George Clooney going to his Venice wedding. Oh yeah, now what was I just doing?)

All of which is to say that news has a far more tenuous grip on us than in days of yore. For Cruickshank, it becomes a simple equation:
No news habit. No engagement.
Those who have learned to pursue the news become politically active.

The drift away from substance actually began, he says, with the proliferation of cable channels that, for the less-than-committed consumer of news, offered a welcome alternative. Much Music, MTV, etc. had an allure that the nightly news didn't.
As soon as alternatives emerged, more and more younger people failed to learn news skills and habits.

They were looking for distraction, not information about the world.

But even if this population only reluctantly followed the news, their political behaviour was just like that of the most committed news junkies. They voted: 80 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls in the Canadian federal election of 1958 — the year the CBC television signal first went coast to coast.
Canadian citizens aged 65 and older were still voting at the 80-per-cent level in the federal election of 2011. But the participation rate of each successive age group Boomers, X’ers and Millennials were lower by a greater and greater margin.

Mirroring their increasing failure to develop news skills.
Cruickshank has some specific suggestions on how to reverse this terrible trend, which I will leave you to discover by reading his article.

You may also find these two brief videos about his Ted Talk of interest:



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Something We Are Not Supposed To Think About In The War On ISIS



The Guardian reports the following:

Australian Super Hornets pulled out of an air strike on an Islamic State target in Iraq when the risk of killing civilians became too high, defence officials have revealed.

RAAF aircraft have carried out three missions in Iraq since joining the battle against Isis but have not fired on any targets, it was confirmed in a briefing given by the chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, the chief of joint operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and the officer commanding No 82 wing, Group Captain Micka Gray.

Johnston said an Australian combat “package” of F/A-18F Super Hornets had tracked a target on the first night of the missions, with plans to fire on it, but the risk of collateral damage was too high.

“They had identified a target which it was tracking, that particular target moved into an urban area where the risks of conducting a strike on that target increased to a point where it exceeded our expectations of the collateral damage so it discontinued the attack at that point,” he said.

This is clearly something that Harper Inc. et alia want us to pay no attention to.

Something To Be Thankful For This Weekend



The National Energy Board inspires little confidence in many of us, often appearing less an independent regulator of the energy industry and more an extension of the Harper regime's tarsands' agenda.

It is therefore both a surprise and a delight to read that they are actually showing a bit of backbone when it comes to Enbridge's Plan 9 line reversal to bring tarsands crude to the East for refining:
The National Energy Board has slammed the brakes on Enbridge Inc.’s plan to start shipping western oil to Montreal this fall through its reversed Line 9 pipeline, saying the company failed to install shut-off valves around some major waterways.

In a sharply worded letter to Enbridge this week, NEB secretary Sheri Young said the board is not convinced the company has met the safety conditions which the regulator set when it approved the plan to reverse the pipeline’s direction of flow last March, and that Enbridge cannot begin shipping crude until it addresses those concerns.

Infamous for the Michigan spill four years ago that saw 3.3 million litres of diluted bitumen go into the Kalamazoo River, a spill whose repercussions are still being felt, Enbridge has proven itself less than a sterling protector of the public good, and appears to have learned little from the disaster, as evidenced by the Line 9 concerns:
At issue is the company’s approach to safety when the pipeline crosses “major water crossings.” Once it designated a river or stream as a major water crossing, Enbridge was required to install valves on both banks so the flow of crude could be quickly shut off in the event of a pipeline break.

The regulator said Enbridge had failed to provide clear justification for why it designated some streams as major water crossings but not others. It must now go back to identify which waterways involve major crossings, based on whether a spill would pose significant risk to the public or the environment.
And here is a sobering statistic:
Currently, only six of the 104 major water crossings it has identified have valves within a kilometre of the banks on both sides, the regulator noted.
Adam Scott, project manager with Toronto-based Environmental Defence, appears to have taken an accurate measure of the company's integrity:
“They clearly just figured they could get this thing rubber-stamped, and push through without actually improving the safety of the pipeline. So we’re happy to see the NEB has said no.”

Mr. Scott said it appears from the NEB letter that Enbridge will be required to reopen construction on the line to install valves at all the major water crossings that it identifies.

A small victory in the overall scheme of things, perhaps, but one sufficiently sweet to savor.

Some Critical Thinking About The War Against ISIS



Contrary to what governments want their citizens to do, that is precisely what the following Star letter-writers are engaging in as they ask the right questions and point out what should be obvious about the war on ISIS terrorism:

Chantal Hébert overlooked the sanest voice in Parliament when she analyzed the stands of the three main parties on the war against Islamic State. She accused Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau of electioneering rather than clear thinking. Too bad she didn’t mention Elizabeth May’s brilliant speech on the issue. While agreeing with Harper that Canadians support the need to address the evils of terrorism, she reminds us that recent history has shown that wars have only made matters worse; that we need to sign the arms trade treaty in order to keep the weapons out of the hands of terrorists; and we need to figure out what leads these young men to such acts of extremism. She also points out that a decision about going to war needs much more than a single day of debate in the House of Commons.

Katy Austin, Elmvale

The Conservatives’ fundamental argument to justify the use of CF-18 war planes against the Islamic State in Iraq is a moral argument. ‎Their claim is that Canada will demonstrate and build national character through air attacks against the militants. They argue we have a duty to ourselves above all others to strike Islamic State since our action will be morally right.

But is national character ‎really the main test to use when making a decision about bombing Iraq? Is it not better to test the decision against strategic security questions such as: Is it really our fight and not the fight of regional powers? Why did previous massive military interventions in Iraq and other places fail to end the threat? Why expect a different outcome this time? Why aren’t the militaries of Saudi Arabia or Egypt deployed instead since both these regional states are amply supplied with American war planes by the U.S.?

Brad Butler, Etobicoke

In view of the beheading of innocent American and British nationals and the many brutal atrocities committed by Islamic State, it is difficult to remain passive and uninvolved. There is a natural and visceral desire to punish or destroy — as an act of revenge or to teach them a lesson. So bombs away!

But is this the best and most logical reaction? The answer is clearly No!

History has many examples to show that bombing will not provide a beneficial long-term result. While bombing will slow or momentarily halt an Islamic State advance in Iraq, it will not provide a victory over that foe. Nor will it have a beneficial result in Syria. Well-trained and motivated boots-on-the-ground (primarily Iraqi and Kurdish boots) are needed to thwart the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq. Reaching out to moderate Sunnis is also needed. Syria is another complicated matter and a no-win situation.

Harper has committed our soldiers to this battle for three reasons: in order to satisfy a U.S. request, to appease his political base and to inflate his image as a decisive leader. None of those reasons is sufficient to get involved in a combat role with CF-18s and support personnel. Iraq has requested support with training, weapons and humanitarian assistance. That should have been Canada’s response.

Bombing will have a strategic impact for the Islamic State similar to the Sept. 11 attacks for the U.S. — namely to motivate, recruit and engage a sleeping element. Perhaps that was the underlying reason for the beheadings. If so, Islamic State has won this stage. Is this a sign of its future success?

Dennis Choptiany, Markham

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Flirting With Fascism"

That is the lacerating assessment offered by CTV's Don Martin as he editorializes about the impending theft of copyrighted material engineered (and originally intended to be hidden) by the Harper regime in their next omnibus bill. Documents leaked to the media have made the public aware of this nefarious scheme, which would allow political parties to use any news footage, public commentary, etc. that they choose in political attack ads.



Clearly, and unsurprisingly, there is no depth to which this cabal won't sink to hang on to power.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rick Mercer Assesses Andrew Scheer's Job Performance

Unsurprisingly, the House Speaker gets a failing grade.

My two favourite lines:

“Show me one person who believes he’s done a good job on the decorum front. 308 meth addicts on the dance floor have better manners.”

"We [should] replace the Speaker with a bag of flour with a smiley face drawn on the front with a sharpie.”




The Harper Regime: 90 Pound Weaklings When It Comes To Heavy Lifting



As I indicated in yesterday's post, the Harper Conservatives seem very selective in 'standing up for the vulnerable'; they just don't seem to have what it takes to do the real heavy lifting that is required in our troubled world, preferring instead to utter bellicose rhetoric and put our young men and women in harm's way battling an enemy that defies traditional methods of combat.

Globe reader Andrew van Velzen of Toronto offers his view of their performance thus far:
Stephen Harper badly wants to be a player – a contender, if you will – on the world stage (On Balance, Harper Is Right – editorial, Oct. 8). But Canada’s symbolic military contribution to the air assault on Islamic State targets won’t do it.

Canada has lost a huge amount of credibility on foreign affairs under Mr. Harper’s tutelage. Just look at the climate change file (Tories Behind On Climate Targets – Oct. 8). If Mr. Harper wants the world to notice him, how about committing Canada to working diligently for a political solution to the Syrian civil war, even if it means talking with Iran and Bashar al-Assad? Better yet, let’s settle thousands of Syrian refugees in Canada. That would be a concrete and positive step.

Maybe then the world would begin to show Mr. Harper some of the respect he so craves.
And speaking of protecting the vulnerable, National Post letter writer John Shaw of Newmarket makes this point:
The arrogant idea that Canada can bomb people in Iraq into a more peaceful existence is being widely promoted. The reality is that there are now more innocent civilians being killed and even more bad guys than before the last Gulf War. ISIS has skillfully manipulated politicians, such as Stephen Harper, to act exactly as they wish — and war is exactly what these groups thrive on.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pay No Attention To This Video

Please regard this only as a rare anomaly of nature, totally unrelated to the propaganda about climate change being promulgated by enemies of your goverment.
- The Harper Regime.

Who Do You Trust?

My money is on environment watchdog Julie Gelfand. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq's parliamentary assistant, Colin Carrie? Not so much:



H/t Press Progress

The Curious Case Of Conservative Compassion



Some would say that the Harper regime's justification for its decision to commit militarily to the fight against ISIS was patriotic and stirring:

Said John Baird:
“My Canada heeds the call’’.... “My Canada protects the vulnerable. My Canada does not leave all the heavy lifting to others.’’
Said Mr. Harper:
“If Canada wants to keep its voice in the world — and we should since so many of our challenges are global’’ ... “being a free rider means you are not taken seriously.’’
Also from Mr. Harper:
“Our government has a duty to protect Canadians and to shoulder our burden in efforts to combat threats such as ISIL. We must do our part.”
Such compassion, such commitment to the world that exists beyond Canada, such a stirring reminder of the duty to protect .... such utter and complete nonsense.

Actions, and in many cases, inactions, speak far louder than lofty rhetoric. Perhaps it is only the particular brand of conservatism practised by the Harper regime, but these clarion calls to duty and compassion expressed above seem more honoured in the breach than in the observance when this government's sorry record is scrutinized.

Consider the following inconvenient truths about our current regime:

Canada's cut to foreign aid was the biggest of all countries in 2013. According to One Campaign’s 2014 Data Report, as reported in The Star,
In 2013, Canada’s aid spending sunk to 0.27 of GNI — below the international average of .29, according to the One Report, which does not include debt relief in its calculations.
This leads Stephen Brown, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa, to conclude
“We have a moral imperative for bombing, but not so much for helping the poor”.
Now hot to protect the vulnerable, one wonders where the Harper regime's philanthropic impulses were in its refusal
to sponsor any more than 200 Syrian refugees, though the UN’s refugee agency asked us to take at least 10,000 refugees.
Or, as Haroon Siddiqui recently pointed out,
He has also refused to allow a mere 100 children from Gaza, victims of Israeli bombings, to be brought to Canada for desperately needed medical treatment and rehabilitation. His sympathies are selective, mostly ideologically and politically driven.

Of the government's refusal to provide proper health care to refugees, I will not even speak.

Or consider how trying to track and help our domestic vulnerable has been hobbled by government's decision to cancel the mandatory long- form census:
It took David Hulchanski five years to create the most sophisticated tool to track urban poverty ever devised. The work was painstaking. The result was startling and worrisome.

It took Tony Clement five minutes — if that — to destroy Hulchanski’s mapping device.
Without the reliable data provided by the long-form census data, his methodology, which was on the verge of being used across the country, was useless.

How about the regime's abject failure to protect the environment and help combat climate change, as outlined by The Globe and discussed in this blog yesterday?

And the muzzling of our scientists, virtually forbidden to share their worrisome research on the environment and climate change lest it hamper the imperative of economic development via such Harper-favoured projects as the Alberta tarsands, has been well-documented.

The list goes on and on, of course, but I believe the pattern is abundantly clear in these few examples. The latest war cries on the basis of patriotism and compassion for the vulnerable, certain to appeal to its base, is simply more evidence of the egregious hypocrisy of the Harper Conservatives that has only gotten worse the longer it has stayed in power.