Thursday, August 31, 2017

No Matter What His Motivation Might Have Been, This Is Just Wrong

ATLANTAA white Cobb County police lieutenant has been moved to administrative duty for telling a white woman during a traffic stop, “Remember, we only shoot Black people.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Strong Evidence Of Trump's Racism

The CBC's Neil Macdonald has written a searing assessment of Donald Trump that leaves little doubt that the Americans elected a racist president. His starting pint is an interview conducted by the NYT of one Derek Black, a former white supremacist nurtured since childhood by a family that embraced racism; his father started that shrine to hatred known as Stormfront.
... the arc of the interview was that eventually Derek Black went off to college out of state and found himself contending with educated people who would systematically shred the studies and pseudo-science Black cited in support of his beliefs that, for example, there are IQ differences between races.

In short, Black himself received a humiliating education, decided white supremacy was a fringe movement for ignorant, angry people and publicly abandoned it. In return, his family basically disowned him.
After the terrible events of Charlottesville, Black expected a full-throated denunciation by all politicians, despite the fact that the 'protesters' had used code words well-known in racist circles, such as "protecting our history and culture."
That Donald Trump did not immediately denounce the marchers (though he read a boilerplate repudiation from a teleprompter on Monday), said Black, was "weird" and was taken as somewhat of a victory by his racist former fellow travellers, some of whom had shouted "Hail Trump" at the rally.

Then came Trump's news conference on Tuesday, Aug. 15, when he said that some of the marchers in the white nationalist rally were "very fine people" and focused on criticizing the counter-protesters and those who wanted to take down the statue of Lee.

Ask yourself this: how in heaven's name do "fine people" find themselves among torch-waving men shouting about non-white minorities and "blood and soil?" (Look up the provenance of that slogan). And why would a fine person not bolt at the first chant of "Jews will not replace us?"

Trump then said: "You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name [Emancipation Park]."

Now. Look at those last three words: "to another name." Donald Trump, president of the United States, not only thought there were fine people among the white supremacist marchers, he refused to say "Emancipation Park."
The consequence of this abysmal failure of national leadership was far-reaching:
Derek Black, listening in a coffee shop, said Trump's words "took my breath away."

The president had, in his view, validated the white supremacist messaging strategy in a stroke.

What they heard, he said, was "Donald Trump thinks we're fine." All the people who just needed a little extra nudge, to be told their son would be denied university because of affirmative action, or that an immigrant would take their jobs, had just been nudged.

Black called it the most important moment in the history of the modern white nationalist movement. David Duke and other white supremacists rejoiced. They've crawled out from under their rocks and are basking in their president's complicity.
To fight an evil, one must first be able to name it. Trump's conscious choice not to denounce racism in any credible way, along with his pardon of convicted racist Joe Arpaio, leaves little doubt that a racist is now occupying the White House.

I Remain Transfixed

Until relatively recently, I did not think I would live so long as to see this climate-change future.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sixty-two Years Ago Today

On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till was murdered in a horrific racist crime that reverberated throughout the world.
In April of this year, Jazz Night in America recorded Wadada Leo Smith performing a portion of his original composition "Emmett Till: Defiant, Fearless" while canoeing down the Little Tallahatchie River in Glendora, Miss.

Here is the 360˚ VR video of that composition:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Part 11 - Echoes Of History: 1955 And 2017

In Part 1, I discussed the murder of Emmett Till, the exoneration of his murderers, and the tactics used by the racists of 1955 Mississippi to try to discredit both the NAACP and the entire trial. Efforts went so far as to suggest Till had not been murdered at all but was in fact living in Detroit, part of an elaborate scheme by the NAACP to embarrass the South and discredit its traditions.

Fast forwarding 2017, it is apparent that not much has changed in the racist camp, now known as 'White Nationalists'or the'alt.right', euphemisms that do little to obscure what they really are. Following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that became abundantly clear.

There was, of course, the now infamous press conference by Donald Trump which seemed to use the time-honoured, disingenous and quite cowardly tactic of arguing for a moral equivalency between the swastika-bearing white supremacists and the many who showed up to oppose them.
"What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right,' do they have any semblance of guilt?" Trump asked. "What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do."

He added: "You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now."
From the never subtle or nuanced Trump, it was an obvious and rather pathetic display of his leanings. Other efforts can sometimes be more subtle. And that subtlety often comes in the form of presenting the racists as victims of intolerance and 'liberal' hypocrisy rather than as perpetrators of hatred. Consider, for example, two of the aggrieved memes circulating widely on the Internet:

Of course, racist strategy goes far beyond such memes. In the Charlottesville violence, the torch-bearing supremacists presented themselves as full-throated Americans marching in favour of free speech and the preservation of historical monuments, yet their real motives are clear to most. As Patrick Sisson recently wrote:
“The Charlottesville protesters revealed what we know to be true about these monuments: They are monuments to white supremacy, and the threat that we’ll tear them down is a threat to their ideology and movement.”
Those not certain of this need only to listen to the chants of Charlottesville 'protesters.'

Casting doubt on the veracity of events is also a time-honoured racist tactic. As noted in Part 1, there were dark hints that the NAACP had engineered the 'killing' of Emmett Till as a tactic to advance their cause. That very same approach was recently used by Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka who, in answering why his leader did not make any comments about the August mosque bombing in Minnesota, discussed Trump's need to have all the information about the bombing (a restraint he has never practised in attacks initiated by Muslims) before offering a public statement to ascertain it wasn't a "fake hate crime."
"We've had a series of crimes committed, alleged hate crimes, by right wing individuals in the last six months that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left," he said.
In Till's day, there were efforts to present the NAACP as a communist-infiltrated organization whose purpose was to upend American society. Efforts are also underway today to conflate those involved in clashes with the supremacists as hypocrites and violent thugs:

Then there was the shocking, disgusting Twitter post by Jason Kessler, the far-right activist who organized the Charlottesville march, to denigrate and slander the 32-year-old woman killed by a hate monger during the demonstration:
“Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist,” the post said. “Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.”
Or consider the smear campaign uncovered by the BBC:
Far-right activists are using fake Twitter accounts and images of battered women to smear anti-fascist groups in the US, an online investigation has revealed.

The online campaign is using fake Antifa (an umbrella term for anti-fascist protestors) Twitter accounts to claim anti-fascists promote physically abusing women who support US President Donald Trump or white supremacy.

One image shows the slogan "53% of white women voted for Trump, 53% of white women should look like this", above a photograph of a woman with a bruised and cut face and an anti-fascist symbol.

The woman pictured is actually British actress Anna Friel and the photograph was taken for a Women's Aid anti-domestic violence campaign in 2007.

How about this one, another picture promoted on a false Twitter account:

This is the kind of post that could go on almost ad infinitum with examples of racist strategies. Rather than prolong it, I will recommend that you check out two articles that are quite instructive: Michael Coren's recent article, Lessons on how to confront fascists, and How I Became Fake News, Brennan Gilmore's account of what happened to him after he posted his video of the car heading toward and killing Heather Heyer.

But I will close now with the hope that people will be more critical in their thinking and not let their biases blind them to such basic tasks as checking the bona fides of news sites, especially those that abound on the Internet, go to multiple legitimate sources of information, not fall down the rabbit hole of mindless conspiracy theories and, most importantly, use the brains they were born with to constantly assess and reassess the best approximations of the truth we can have in this life.

Oh, and just one more thing. Lest we feel smug and think racism and discrimination are things that afflict only our southern neighbour, this disquieting video from Manitoba should be a source of shame for all Canadians:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

UPDATED: A Glimpse Of The Religiously Insane


UPDATE: Unless you can stand more of Paula White's sanctimonious and unhinged hypocrisy, I suggest you start the following at the 3:40 mark to savor Roland Martin's relentless take down of her and her fellow crazed evangelicals:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Echoes Of History: 1955 and 2017

From this tragedy large, diverse groups of people organized a movement that grew to transform a nation, not sufficiently but certainly meaningfully. What matters most is what we have and what we will do with what we do know. We must look at the facts squarely ... The bloody and unjust arc of our history will not bend upward if we merely pretend that history did not happen here.
- Timothy B. Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till

As a species, we are terrible students of history. Although its tools have become much more refined over the years, its lessons seem all too frequently lost on many, either because we prefer comforting illusions or we see them through narrow ideological lenses. Refusing to confront ugly truths ensures their longevity.

One of the most emotionally difficult books I have read in a long time is The Blood of Emmett Till. This excerpt from a NYT review sums up the murder of Till, the 14-year-old black lad from Chicago who, in the summer of 1955, was visiting relatives in Mississippi:
On a Wednesday evening in August, Till allegedly flirted with and grabbed the hand of Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who worked as the cashier at a local market. According to recovered court transcripts released by the F.B.I. in 2007, he let out a “wolf whistle” as she exited the store to get a gun from her car. Bryant later informed her husband and his half brother, who proceeded to uphold a grim tradition: Till was abducted, beaten, shot in the head and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. A 74-pound gin fan was tied to his neck with barbed wire, with the hope that he would never be found.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, his murderers were, in the Southern tradition of the time, found not guilty. Despite the absence of justice, Till's mother, an indefatigable woman, changed the course of civil rights history by insisting that the horribly mutilated body of her son rest in an open coffin, of which photographs were published in prominent magazines, while an estimated 240,000 filed by his casket.

The purpose of this post, however, is not to revisit the horrific details explored in the book that go well beyond the murder of a young teen. Rather, it is to draw parallels between the language and justifications of the racists of Till's time with those of the contemporary white supremacist movement. While over 60 years separate the two eras, the echoes of history are evident for all who care to look.

The most obvious parallel evolves around efforts to discredit the veracity of events. Examples of this 'strategy' abound in the book:
The editor of the Picayune Item snarled that a "prejudiced communistic inspired NAACP" could not "not blacken the name of the great sovereign state of Mississippi, regardless of their claims of Negro Haters, lynching, or whatever [emphasis mine].
Sherriff Strider, a racist who was friends with the accused, sought to constantly undermine the evidence and question whether or not the body was, in fact, that of Till's, telling reporters the following:
"The body we took from the river looked more like that of a grown man instead of a young boy. It was also more decomposed than it should have been after that short a stay in the water."
Soon after, Strider told reporters, "This whole thing looks like a deal made up by the NAACP."

During the trial, Strider was happy to share his racist view with reporters, disguised as questioning the evidence:
"It just seems to me that the evidence is getting slimmer and slimmer. I'm chasing down some evidence now that the killing might have been planned and plotted by the NAACP."
Of course, there was no such evidence. Just as there was no evidence to support a convenient claim that Till had been spirited out of Mississippi and was now living in Detroit, again part of the larger effort to cast doubt on the evidence and the integrity of the NAACP.

Why the attacks on the NAACP? Besides trying to sow doubts about the murder, it was part of a pattern of extreme resistance to school integration and voting rights that Hodding Carter wrote about in The Saturday Evening Post:
Whites considered the NAACP "the fountainhead of all evil and woe," and the factual nature of most of the NAACP's bills of particulars ... doesn't help make its accusations any more acceptable. "The hatred that is concentrated upon the NAACP surpasses in its intensity any emotional reaction that I have witnessed in my southern lifetime." This reflected the NAACP's demands for voting rights and school integration as much as it did their protests over the Till case.
Any fair-minded person who reads The Blood of Emmett Till cannot emerge from the experience without a deep sense of outrage over the horrible injustices meted out to Black people over the years, as well as a profound admiration for those extraordinary souls who, countless times, braved both physical and economic reprisal in their long battle to be treated exactly as they were: American citizens demanding their full rights.

And the battle continues today. In Part 11 of this post, I will look at the tactics employed by white supremacists today, tactics that eerily echo those of a much earlier time as the racists among us seek to turn back the clock and once more subjugate those they deem their inferiors.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Deciphering White Supremacists

The New York Times provides a very useful glossary of the terms favoured by white supremacists these days. Be sure to check it out. As well, the following video breaks down the symbols brandished by these hate-mongers, symbols that were much in evidence last week in Charlottesville.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Very, Very Timely Message

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a timely and very powerful message for Donald Trump and his racist supporters:

If you go to the YouTube page where this video is posted, you will see by the many vile comments that his message needs to be spread widely.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Will This Saudi 'Explanation' Give Freeland And Trudeau The Cover They Desperately Seek?

As I recently wrote, I am very doubtful that the Trudeau government will rescind its $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, damning evidence of the Saudi deployment of the weaponry against their own people notwithstanding. It is my suspicion that both Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland hope that their sanctimonious expressions of concern prompted by this evidence will be sufficient for the Canadian people.

Now Saudi Arabia has admitted using the armoured vehicles in their Eastern Province, but guess what? They claim it is to fight terrorism.
The Saudi Arabian government is defending the recent deployment of Canadian-made armoured vehicles against residents of the kingdom’s Eastern Province, saying security forces found it necessary to use “military equipment” to fight terrorists who threatened the safety of its population.
Interestingly, the vehicles have been unleashed in al-Qatif, which is predominantly Shia, a sect that finds no favour in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. And while it is true that tensions abound in the area, the Saudis are not keen to talk about any of the reasons.

Consider the following event from June of this year:
A Saudi soldier has been killed and two others wounded when an explosive device went off during a patrol in the kingdom's restive Qatif province, the interior ministry said.

In a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said that the blast occurred late Sunday evening in the Masoura district in the village of Awamiya.

It described the explosion as a "terrorist incident".
What led to this 'terrorist incident'?
The oil-rich eastern province of Qatif is mostly Shia, a minority in the Sunni-majority kingdom.

The SPA has reported an increase in clashes between Shia fighters and security forces in Masoura in recent weeks after the Saudi government sent in workers to demolish a 400-year-old walled neighbourhood there.

UN rights experts have urged the Saudi government to halt the demolition, saying the planned commercial zone threatened the town's historical and cultural heritage and could result in the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residences.
Nothing to see here, claim the Saudis:
“The terrorist groups in Awamiyah are equipped with military equipment and they are attacking civilians in the area,” the embassy said in a statement.

Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that tracks military exports, said the Saudi explanation for what took place merits skepticism.

“The Saudi government’s depiction of military operations in civilian areas as being part of its war on terrorism has become routine, and increasingly suspect,” he said.

“The fact is that there are too many red flags. A country consistently found to be among the very worst human-rights violators on the planet is now categorically denying any human-rights violations in the siege of Awamiyah. The Canadian public needs to know how much credence Ottawa gives to this claim and whether it is consistent with its own findings.”

Ali Adubisi, director of the Berlin-based European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights, said the Saudi government criminalizes any form of dissent. Many civilians were targeted and killed in Awamiyah, he said, while the government is saying it’s fighting armed men. “Portraying themselves as the protectors of civilians in Awamiyah is a mockery.”

Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week that residents in Awamiyah told them Saudi security forces fired into populated areas from Al-Masora, killing residents, occupying a public school, closing clinics and pharmacies and preventing essential services such as ambulances from reaching the area. The group called for an investigation into whether Saudi authorities “used excessive force in Awamiyah.”
There has been long-standing evidence of the almost genocidal hatred the Sunnis have for the Shia. For Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland to cherry-pick the evidence and stand behind the deal would not only be indefensible, but also yet another indication of an amoral government with contempt for principles and human rights.

For Your Consideration

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UPDATED: No, Mr. Trump, There Aren't Two Sides

Although issues of justice and equity have concerned me throughout most of my life, as I move through my final decades I find matters becoming more, not less, pressing. Clearly, history is not on an upward trajectory, and as the saying goes, we can rest when we are dead.

Like most, I suppose, I can only bear witness to the suffering that injustice, prejudice and hatred impose and, when opportunities and venues materialize, speak out and write about them and personally intervene if witnessing untoward acts. We all have a deep moral and social obligation not to turn away from but to confront evil in its many forms. Silences gives consent.

One of the most accessible venues for speaking out is a blog, although I am under no illusions about the efficacy of such methodology. However, if it serves to convey information that a reader might not otherwise have, I feel it at least accomplishes something, however little that might be in the larger scheme of things.

In that spirit I offer a clip from NBC News that includes an excerpt from a Vice News documentary exposing what went on behind the scenes in Charlottesville last weekend; it is a clip that puts to the lie everything the diseased leader of the 'free world', Donald Trump, had to say yesterday about some of the fine people who were marching with the white supremacists there. After watching the clip, you can follow this link to Mother Jones, where you can view the entire 22-minutes of the piece.

UPDATE: There is nothing more pathetic than a whining Nazi. Watch below as Christopher Cantwell, the white bare-shirt supremacist who so proudly extolled violence in the Vice clip, now sings a different turn:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

This Is Chilling

Make no mistake. If you are against Trump, you are an enemy of the state.
The US government is seeking to unmask every person who visited an anti-Trump website in what privacy advocates say is an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” for political dissidents.

The warrant appears to be an escalation of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) campaign against anti-Trump activities, including the harsh prosecution of inauguration day protesters.

On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. The warrant covers the people who own and operate the site, but also seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited it, as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used.

The website,, was used to coordinate protests and civil disobedience on 20 January, when Trump was inaugurated.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been advising DreamHost, characterized the warrant as “unconstitutional” and “a fishing expedition”.

“I can’t conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible to justify millions of user logs,” senior staff attorney Mark Rumold told the Guardian.

Logs of IP addresses don’t uniquely identify users, but they link back to specific physical addresses if no digital tools are used to mask it.

“What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests or seeing what was going on at the protests and that’s the troubling aspect. It’s a short step after you have the list to connect the IP address to someone’s identity,” he said.
If none of this disturbs and appalls you, your autopsy is likely pending.

They Never Disappoint Me

'They' would be Star readers who write letters to the editor. The following demonstrate that, like many others, they have taken the full measure of Donald Trump and found him manifestly wanting.
Re: Trump slow to respond to violence in Virginia, Aug. 13

U.S. President Donald Trump’s response to the rioting is hypocritical and hard to stomach. Calling out racist organizations who supported his political campaign and who responded to his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims and many more is a blatant corruption of the facts. Trump himself has incited Americans to hatred, and now violence.

Canada needs to be vigilant about the spread of hate propaganda and the recruitment of youth who feel disenfranchised and are looking for scapegoats. Haven’t the wars of the 20th century taught the world the consequences?

Diane Sullivan, Toronto

What a strange reality it is to come from the 1950s, when the U.S. still imposed racial segregation in schools, buses, washroom facilities, concerts, restaurants, stores and an endless list of public services.

We would see the Ku Klux Klan on television covering their faces like the cowards they were. And now I see their successors, the same group of disenfranchised, mindless hordes that used to show up at public lynchings and hangings for entertainment.

The biggest shock to me is how many of us don’t learn from history. That hate is taught in the first place is enough to sicken even the hardest heart.

These are strange times, brought on by a man who is sick in his heart and mind. He is a harbinger of what may come if we don’t keep those who would embrace hate and intolerance in check. These people look upon him as entertainment because they’re bored with the status quo. They have a longing, a hope for an alternate reality beyond what they have created with their miserable apathy and bland mediocrity.

What a strange reality it is to witness the most powerful man in the world stand aloof and seemingly indifferent to the things taking place on his watch that assault our sensibilities.

Donald Trump is not fit to hold the office of The President of The United States.

Jay Paul Baldwin, Mississauga

Athough Donald Trump’s failure to call out white supremacists in Charlottesville is reprehensible, it provides one more reason why the nation should ignore him and look for leadership elsewhere.

Hopefully, he will become largely irrelevant, a large boulder in a river, impeding but not stopping the water’s flow. Unable to lead and addicted to self-aggrandizement, he is already being sidelined — even by some in his own cabinet.

Shakespeare said, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” In the case of Trump, it’s the American public that is getting more than a little uneasy.

Geoff Rytell, Toronto

Monday, August 14, 2017

UPDATED: A Timely Message

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland continues to treat the Canadian public as children, revealing nothing as to what our country's goals are in the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations. The only peek behind the curtain she is allowing is that they are striving for
provisions to strengthen protections for labour and the environment [and] language that sets out ambitions around gender equality...
While those may be laudable goals, notably absent is the promise to do anything about the horribly flawed Chapter 11 Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that The Council of Canadians reminds us
grant private investors from one country the right to sue the government of another country if it introduces new laws, regulations or practices – be they environmental, health or human rights – that cause corporations’ investments to lose money.
Those provisions
- Protect foreign investors, but no one else. Domestic corporations, civil society, unions or governments do not have the same rights to challenge government decisions.
- Cost $4 million on average to defend a case. Chapter 11 cases are heard by three arbitrators, an elite group of investment lawyers who only look at investment issues, behind closed doors.
- Create a public “chill” that may dissuade governments from enacting policy. An in-depth study showed that policymakers will delay or shelve decisions because of the threat of potential ISDS lawsuits.
Canada has faced 38 Chapter 11 ISDS lawsuits – the most amongst the three NAFTA countries. At the moment, Canada faces ISDS lawsuits claiming $2.6 billion in damages. Canada is the most sued country in the developed world because of NAFTA. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, two-thirds of the ISDS lawsuits against Canada are over environmental policies.
Now would seem to be a good time to be reminded of how anti-democratic those provisions are, and how all of Freelands talk about improved environmental standards is just that - talk.

UPDATE: According to CTV News, Freeland has announced that Canada wants improvements to Chapter 11:
Specifically, Freeland referred to Chapter 11 -- which involves companies suing governments. She said she wants reforms so that "governments have an unassailable right to regulate in the public interest." This is not to be confused with Chapter 19, which regulates disputes between companies over dumping, in cases like softwood lumber, and which the U.S. administration might seek to eliminate.
I am heartened to hear this, but will withhold any celebration, as it may only be a motherhood statement that will disappear early in the negotiations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Unfit For Office

I am not writing as much these days, preferring to read, learn and reflect. Perhaps serendipitously, I am currently half-way through a book entitled The Blood of Emmet Till, a wrenching examination of the murder of a 14-year-old black lad visiting Mississippi in the summer of 1955, an event that galvanized the civil rights movement. His murderers were found not guilty due to the systemic racism of the South, a racism that clearly is alive and well today if the the horrible events in Charlotteville, Virgina are any indication.

One thing is certain, however, despite the cant of the white supremacists who are now playing the victim card: their lord and mentor, Donald Trump, is manifestly unfit for office:

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Outrage Grows

I suspect that, if they had their druthers, both Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her boss, Justin Trudeau, would much prefer that we trust their administration to always do the right thing and just go on enjoying the always-too-short days of summer. But the electorate can be fickle, even unpredictable, engaging in issues that always threaten to tatter to shreds the carefully-woven cloak of compassion and morality their 'leaders' dress in public with.

In other words, the immoral and disastrous Saudi arms deal is showing no signs of going away.

Now a new player has entered the mix, determined that the deal which so egregiously violates both national and international standards, is ended. Daniel Turp, a Montreal law school professor, says
he's ready to go all the way to the nation's top court to stop the sale of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
... Daniel Turp says he's ready to go all the way to the nation's top court to stop the sale of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

“I am ready to go to the Supreme Court of Canada because the issue at stake — the issue of the sale of weapons — is so fundamental, it’s worth it," Turp told National Observer. "(The government) is not done hearing about us and our fight."
The law would appear to be on Turp's side:
Saudi Arabia is widely denounced as one of the world's worst abusers of human rights and has been censured by the European Union and a number of western countries. Saudi Arabia's embassy in Ottawa didn't immediately respond to a request from National Observer for comment.

​Canadian export controls prohibit the sale of arms to countries with a "persistent record of serious violations" of their own citizens' human rights. Yet the Trudeau government issued export permits in 2015 for the sale of General Dynamics armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a $15-billion deal that had been approved by the previous Conservative government.
September 5 is the deadline Turp has given to Freeland:
“We gave her this deadline which seems reasonable and we understood the minister wants to investigate (the matter)...but I hope it’s not just (for the government) to stall and to (claim) again that there’s no reasonable risk that Canadian armoured vehicles are being used (in Saudi Arabia),” he said.
Canadians are fortunate indeed to have a fellow citizen willing to stand in for the rest of us in the pursuit of legal and moral conduct, especially when the government they elected seems to have veered down a very, very mercenary and unprincipled path.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

UPDATED: On Cheap Talk And Photo-Ops

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.
-George Orwell

Regarding the misuse by the Saudis of armoured vehicles Canada sold them, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says all the right words. She says
... she’s “deeply concerned” about recent videos that appear to show Canadian-made armoured vehicles being used by Saudi Arabia in a crackdown against its own citizens.

.... she has instructed her officials to “urgently” investigate the matter

She said the investigation must be done energetically but also “very carefully”.
And, for good measure, Freeland reassures us that she and her government
are absolutely committed to the defence of human rights and we condemn all violations of human rights,”.
All fine words, to be sure, but talk is cheap, and, as Orwell was fond of pointing out, can be used to defend the indefensible.

Notably absent in the Foreign Affairs Minster's rhetoric is what Canada plans to do about the situation, once it is verified, beyond this rather anodyne statement:
“[W]e will respond accordingly.”
Now, some may take me to task for intimating that except for some expressions of outrage, her Trudeau government will do nothing once the abuse has been verified. The reason I rush to judgement is that the Harper government that brokered the deal, and the Trudeau government that gave its stamp of approval to it, knew the deal with the devil they were getting into.

A piece recently written by Shannon Gormely sets such facts out in stark relief:
Representatives of not one but two Canadian governments – a previous Conservative government that in its steadfast avarice struck a $15-billion arms deal with the devil, and a current Liberal government that in its flippant cynicism signed off on it – are, with great conviction, taking turns promising and demanding the most rigorous of investigations into the alleged war criminal they have each aided and abetted.

They speak of Saudi Arabia, which apparently paused its targeting of schools, hospitals, marketplaces and weddings in Yemen to reload with some made-in-Canada ammo in its own Eastern Province. If video footage is to be believed, Canada, through yet another weapons deal (beyond that $15-billion one), has facilitated a multiple homicide by handing the murder weapons to a killer.
Gormley suggests that with full knowledge of the Saudi proclivity for using weapons against their own people, both the Conservative and Liberal governments should have followed one ironclad and very moral rule:
Don’t sell weapons to murderers.

It doesn’t matter if the murderer offers you a lot of money – lives are worth more than money. It doesn’t matter if the murderer could perhaps find another willing seller – better not, overall, to race to the bottom when the bottom is a mass grave. It doesn’t even matter if the murderer may, in theory, decide to use a weapon to defend your friends after using it to murder innocent people, or if they aren’t as bad as other murderers, or if they ask for the murder weapon really, really nicely. Don’t sell weapons to murderers.
Politicians' talk is cheap, and Trudeau's distracting propensity for peddling sunny selfies cannot conceal an ugly and indisputable fact:
The Liberals and Conservatives allowed Canadian companies to sell weapons to a murderer, and whether or not there is already blood on their hands, there is shame of the highest order.

UPDATE: From the pants-on-fire-department:
... rules call for restrictions on arms exports to countries with a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Shipments are supposed to be blocked unless there is “no reasonable risk” the buyer could turn arms against its own population.

A Canadian arms-export researcher, Ken Epps, says the Saudi arms sales reveal the contradictions with the department of Global Affairs, which is supposed to promote business with other countries but also police military and defence shipments.

Also, Mr. Epps said what’s unfolding now in Saudi Arabia exposes how Ottawa has long failed to meet the test set out in arms-control guidelines: The government is supposed to have “demonstrated there is no reasonable risk” that military goods may be used against the local population before it signs export permits.

In the case of the $15-billion deal, the Liberal government never met this threshold, said Mr. Epps, with Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group. It merely stated it was not aware of any abuse of citizens with Canadian-made goods.

“It appears that the Canadian government isn’t even using its own standards.”
You can read the full story here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Would You Be Willing To Sacrifice?

Ed Finn has a blog entry at that I highly recommend. His thesis can roughly be summarized in this excerpt:
The glue that holds any society together is faith in its governments, courts, churches, unions and non-profits -- faith that these organizations, no matter how flawed, will always be committed to serving their basic needs, to protecting them from the worst effects of poverty, unemployment, and sickness.

That glue comes unstuck when governments put private interests ahead of the public interest; when corporations put the uncontrolled pursuit of profits ahead of the well-being of workers and their communities; when unions are stripped of much of their capacity to help their members.

No wonder, then, that so many people have concluded that they can no longer depend collectively on these institutions -- that they are now on their own as individuals, each locked in a struggle for survival, with little or no help from any quarter.
The disastrous result, Finn suggests, is that we increasingly adopt a very selfish outlook on life, moving, if you will forgive a bit of hyperbole, into a stark survival-of-the-fittest lifestyle, a reversion to an almost Hobbesian state of nature.

There can really be no doubt that Western governments, including our 'new' one under Justin Trudeau, are neoliberal in nature. And the kinds of selfishness those governments foster are, without any hyperbole, facilitating the destruction of our world. The notion of sacrificing anything in service of the collective good is being steadily eroded, replaced by a widespread self-indulgence that has been transformed into a virtue.

My immediate concern here is the ever-accelerating rate of climate change, the greatest peril our planet has ever faced. While acknowledging that there are still some very good people today, I cannot escape the notion that the majority would obdurately refuse to make even the smallest sacrifice or lifestyle change that could, if done in sufficient numbers, slow down that rate. And quite significantly, our governments, beyond some paltry carbon taxes, are requiring nothing from us. That vacuum in leadership, in turn, gives licence to the very self-indulgent lifestyles that neoliberalism demands.

The kinds of sacrifices I am talking about are small ones we all could take: not idling our car while waiting for our spouse in the grocery store; combining errands to reduce GHG emissions; walking to the store instead of driving; eating one less meal of beef or pork per week; turning the air-conditioning temperature up one degree and heating temperature down one degree; buying energy-efficient products upon replacement; buying energy-efficient cars; air-drying clothes instead of using the dryer, etc.

All of the above require conscious choices, but none of them is onerous. I shall leave you with some video that highlights the peril we face, as well as this question: What small sacrifices are you willing to make or have made to reduce your carbon footprint?

If you go to approximately the five-minute mark on the following Global National newscast, you will see the impact climate change is having on Vancouver:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Are There Cracks In The Liberal Fortress?

Justin Trudeau and his band of sunny men and women have had, up to this point at least, a pretty easy ride with the Canadian electorate. After years of darkness under the Harper regime, the liberating promise of an open government bent upon truly representing citizens had an allure and cachet too strong to resist. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly apparent that the swap we made at the last election was more cosmetic than substantive, as I have observed many times in this blog.

No fortress is truly impermeable, and cracks are beginning to form in the Liberal one, thanks to some solid journalism and critical thinking. The latest breach in the walls comes via a story on the CBC website.
The Prime Minister's Office received a flood of emails opposing the government's bill to implement new pre-clearance measures at Canadian airports and other departure points following a CBC News story on concerns about the powers the bill grants to U.S. border agents, documents show.

It's been eight months since the U.S. Congress passed its version of a law to implement the latest cross-border agreement with Canada.

The U.S. law authorizes its Customs and Border Protection officials to set up pre-clearance locations at more Canadian locations, allowing Canadian travellers to bypass immigration and customs procedures on arrival at their U.S. destination.
Despite the convenience such a law would seem to promise, there is also something quite disquieting about the Canadian version that was passed by the House but is being held up by the Senate, and Canadians are making known their displeasure:
CBC News has obtained a trove of public communications, mostly emails, sent over a 10-day period following the a CBC News story on controversial aspects of C-23, particularly the new powers it would grant to U.S. border agents working on Canadian soil.
Most of the letter writers express concern about parts of the bill that grant new powers to U.S. border agents working in Canada. Those include the right to bear arms and, most controversially, the discretionary power to detain Canadians for further questioning if the U.S. agent is unhappy with their answers.

Until now, Canadians passing through U.S. Customs pre-clearance in a Canadian airport have had the right to simply withdraw their request to enter the U.S. if the encounter goes badly, and leave the pre-clearance area.

Section 31 of Canada's legislation takes away that right.

Government insiders say the volume of mail received was "unprecedented" and took officials at Public Safety by surprise.
And it is not just the usual suspects who are expressing their discontent:
The documents show the negative feedback included many missives from people who described themselves as Liberal supporters.

"I have been a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, but you lose my support if you pass this bill," wrote one person from Burlington, Ont., on Feb. 12.

The same morning, a Coquitlam, B.C., resident warned that after reading about the bill, they now "regretted any financial or political support I've ever given the federal Liberal Party in the past, and have resolved, until I see this one modified to prevent detentions of Canadians or permanent residents, never to support your party again."

"I have voted Liberal all my life but will do evering (sic) to bring this government down if this bill is passed or any version of it," wrote another.
You can read some of the specific comments made about the bill by clicking on the first link above, but the one of the strongest objections seems to be that the bill entails an infringement upon our rights as Canadian citizens "by allowing a U.S. authority to detain Canadians while on Canadian soil."

Mr. Trudeau has said that we live in a post-national age. Clearly, there are many Canadians who refuse to accept his facile assessment.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Fast-Approaching Abyss

While North American politicians give us either sunny platitudes or outright denials, the reality of the climate-change abyss we are quickly approaching should now be becoming apparent to even the most benighted among us:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UPDATED: Will It Be All Talk And No Action?

There will always be those who see Justin Trudeau only through the public image he has so assiduously cultivated. Others, however, refuse to suspend their critical faculties despite the Prime Minister's fine hair, sunny rhetoric and public earnestness. They demand that his 'sunny ways' be met with the kinds of actions a leader with character and integrity takes in difficult situations.

The latest test for Mr. Trudeau comes with the apparent proof that Saudi Arabia is using the Canadian-made armoured vehicles we sold them against their own citizens.
For the first time, video footage and photos have surfaced on social media allegedly showing the Islamic kingdom using Canadian weaponized equipment against Saudi civilians – a development that spurred calls Friday for the Liberal government to halt defence exports to the oil-rich nation.
The Canadian government is now investigating, but it is a move I take little reassurance in, given that allegations of misuse of the vehicles have been around for quite some time.

I am reproducing the editorial in today's Hamilton Spectator, as it addresses the implications of this issue well:
When Justin Trudeau's Liberals were elected, they inherited an odious legacy: a 2014 deal to sell armed military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The deal, worth $15 billion, rankled many because it meant Canada would become a major arms supplier to a regime that has a record of brutalizing its own citizens in the name of quelling dissent.

Trudeau acknowledged he didn't like the deal, but he felt compelled to honour it for the sake of preserving Canada's reputation as a reliable business partner. That didn't satisfy the most strident critics, but many people could at least see the logic in his rationale.

However, all through that controversy, there was a hard stop. Reasonable people, and the government, could tolerate the deal-with-the-devil provided we could be guaranteed the Saudis wouldn't turn the armed might against their own citizens.

Now, credible media reports from the region claim Saudi Arabia has deployed Canadian combat hardware against civilians. There are photographs showing a vehicle that looks exactly like the Canadian product, called an 'Armoured Gurkha.' Military experts, including a retired and anonymous Canadian general, have verified the claim.

The company that makes the Gurkha says it can't comment. The government is aware and investigating. The Globe and Mail reported a statement from the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland which says: "If it is found that Canadian exports have been used to commit serious violations of human rights, the minister will take action." It also says: "The end use and end user of exports, as well as regional stability and human rights, are essential considerations in the authorization of permits for the export of military goods from Canada."

If these reports are true, the worst fears of peace advocates and others critical of such deals will be realized. Canada will again be supplying lethal military equipment to be used against civilians.

Those advocates, as well as opposition parties, are already calling on the government to halt further exports. Obviously, the government won't act on media reports alone, so if a moratorium is necessary it won't happen overnight. But it shouldn't take months, either. And the government had better not rag the puck on this. If the reports are true, the government needs to stop further shipments, kill the deal and tell Canadians in no uncertain terms it has done so and will not support new deals that carry the same risk.

Justin Trudeau was elected on wave of optimism and idealism that looks naïve in hindsight. Trudeau can restore some bruised credibility by doing the right thing in this case. We may not be able to stop tyrannical foreign governments from slaughtering their own people, but we don't have to supply the bullets.

Howard Elliott
Photo-ops are fine, but it is time that Mr. Trudeau start acting with resolve and integrity in this urgent matter.

UPDATE: Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler says,
... Saudi Arabia’s apparent deployment of Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens demonstrates why Canada should end all arms sales to the Islamic kingdom.

“I am not saying we shouldn’t be trading with Saudi Arabia. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be engaging with Saudi Arabia. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be selling any more arms to Saudi Arabia”.
You can read the full story here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Parsing Conservative Lies

Recently, newly-selected Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer wrote a column condemning the compensation awarded to Omar Khadr for the violation of his rights as a Canadian citizen. Not only did his piece send a message to his base that the animus so regularly cultivated by the party's former overlord, Stephen Harper, is alive and well, but it also attested to the Tory tendency to fabricate and conflate 'facts.'

Fortunately, ever-sharp Toronto Star readers are giving him no quarter:
Re: Justin Trudeau had a choice on Khadr settlement, Opinion, July 26

In answer to federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s emotionally overwrought attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to make a payment to Omar Khadr in respect of the heinous behaviour of several Canadian governments responsible for his illegal incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, I can find agreement with one statement: “Principles are worth fighting for.”

Principles set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to all Canadians. That is indeed a principle worth fighting for.

Sadly, Mr. Scheer and his like-minded followers believe they have a right to apply those Charter rights selectively. This emotional response is the same as that exhibited by the government of the day’s delegitimization/incarceration of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, and the denial of entry to Jewish refugees prior to the war, to name just two examples of demonizing, hate-mongering behaviour of Canadian governments.

Nevertheless, there are many Canadians, I believe a majority, who reject that past behaviour and agree with the current government’s payment to Mr. Khadr.

Indeed, the former Conservative government led by Stephen Harper approved a similar payment to Maher Arar. I do not recall Mr. Scheer sanctioning interviews to discredit the Harper government with U.S. news outlets or writing columns to the Star to evoke hatred against Maher or Harper.

That he engages in this behaviour now reveals his need to mimic the political rants so disgraceful south of the border. It demonstrates that he will make self-serving political decisions that benefit only some Canadians, but not all. Who is next to lose their Charter rights? Be careful, it could be you.

Liz Iwata, Pickering

Andrew Scheer says the Supreme Court ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights were violated and that the Conservatives recognized and accepted that finding.

His inconvenient truth is that the Supreme Court issued its finding in January 2010, and Khadr was repatriated in September 2012. It appears to have taken the Conservatives 2-1/2 years to accept the finding. Khadr then spent a further 2-1/2 years in prison before being finally released on bail in May 2015, after the government failed in a last-ditch attempt to deny bail.

Yes, the settlement was a Liberal decision. But the actions of the Conservative government were a large part of the decision.

Cheryl Adams, Toronto

Although Andrew Scheer has some counterpoints to the Omar Khadr debate worth discussing, he unfortunately leaves out one pressing detail to his entire argument: Khadr was a child soldier and his rights as a Canadian were violated, period.

No matter how much the Conservative Party spins this debate, it’s a strong and valid point that will always rise to the surface.

Bobby Leeson, Brampton