Monday, May 31, 2010

Our banks are better....

So says Stephen Harper and his so-called finance minister, Jim Flaherty.

Better than what?

Canadian banks were a constrained bunch of animals which, had they gotten past the finance minister known as Paul Martin, would have created three Canadian mega-banks and would have failed as spectacularly as any of the fallen in the US they lusted to become.
Banking and government sources both say Martin did his utmost to be diplomatic. He did not want to appear to have made up his mind, given that the federal competition bureau would not deliver its report on the mergers for almost two weeks, but he also wanted to prepare the banker for bad news. Like everything else arising from this year’s ill-fated bank mergers, however, this meeting between two of the most powerful figures in Canadian finance went off the rails fairly fast. For weeks, Cleghorn’s fuse had been growing shorter as his frustration mounted over Canadians’ inability to understand the bankers’ point of view. In response to Martin’s evasiveness, something apparently snapped. Cleghorn asked straight out whether the Royal’s merger with the Bank of Montreal, and the Toronto Dominion Bank’s copycat arrangement with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, were going to be allowed to proceed. "No," Martin said simply. Cleghorn, according to both banking and federal government sources, said something along the lines of "No, but . . . ?" or "Unless what?" Martin repeated his first answer. "No."


In one swoop, the finance minister made it clear that government, not business, will decide what shape the country’s banking sector is allowed to take in the years ahead.
Oh, and didn't the banks make it obvious how goddamned furious they were.

But, what Martin had done was to ensure that a single bank failure would not be enough to lay waste to the Canadian economy. The Milton Friedman formula had no place in Canada. Martin was certain that one day, perhaps after he was gone, Canadians would thank him for his stand.

Then came Harper.

Harper handed the reins over to the banks. Luckily he was constrained. There wasn't enough time for the banks to rebuild their old merger deals and Harper, with a minority government, didn't have a lengthy enough forecast lifespan to guarantee the banks enough time to root themselves in a three bank national model. In short, the actuarial tables on Harper's government didn't give the banks enough insurance to prevent a future government from turning any ideas they had back to their former state.

It's a sure bet that had Harper won a majority in his first tenuous arrival in government, Canadians would have been screwed nine ways to Sunday and the effect of the toxic dealings of banks around the world in general would have affected Canada ten times worse than it did.

And then, the meltdown of the century. Banks around the world had been ripped off by the greedy behaviour of those larger than them. That trickled down, credit was cut off and people everywhere started losing their jobs.

Now we are pelted with a constant harangue of Harper telling everyone, including the world, that he commands the world's most stable banking system, and that the Canadian government never bailed out Canadian banks.

Harper and his sock puppets are blatant liars.

Canada did bail out its banks. The difference between the way Canada did it and the methods of any other capitalist democracy is that Canada did it "off book". In other words, it was never a federal budget item. Instead, the charge went against certain Crown Corporations as liabilities.

Sneaky? Yup. Dishonest? Absolutely.

Read this for more.

And you get down on bended knee and thank Paul Martin for saving this country from a certain and long-lasting deep depression.

Bonus! Reginald Stackhouse is having similar thoughts. Looking back at the failure in the mid-1980s of the Northland bank and the Canadian Commercial Bank he makes this point:
... another example of corporations being capitalistic on their way up, but socialistic on their way down. If they could be smug about individual responsibility in good times, they were not too proud to become welfare cases in hard times.

Time's up Harper


We want the final written agreement as to how you, leader of the government, plan to meet the superior demands of Parliament.

Or was POGGE 100 percent correct once again?

Unless you believe that the voters, those people who elected more members from other parties other than the Conservatives, have no right to be heard.

How would you like an election call just before your precious little G8/G20 event?

Think Canadians don't want another election? Who cares? As long as your ass hurts after its over.

Getting unprepared for the next Exxon Valdez

In the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, the federal government created six regional advisory panels of volunteer experts to :
  • advise on an adequate level of oil spill preparedness and response in each region; and

  • to promote public awareness and understanding of issues and measures with respect to preparedness.
"Their mandate is significant," reads the Transport Canada webpage, because :

"they are able to make recommendations on the full range of policy issues affecting regional preparedness and response, and may request information from Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard or response organizations on equipment placement, plans, resources, costs, training, exercises, or reviews undertaken of response operations, in pursuit of their mandate to advise and report on the adequacy of preparedness in the region."

Unless of course Transport Canada says they can't.

Over at the Tyee, Mitchell Anderson tells us the Pacific Regional Advisory Council on Oil Spill Response is being gutted:

  • Of the seven member panel, five new members replaced last year had to sign a "Letter of Expectation" limiting their meetings to only two half days per year "unless pre-approved by the Regional Transport Canada Office."

  • Their travel budget is restricted to attending those two half day meetings. So much for a mandate for research and "promoting public awareness"

  • They have been denied access to drafts of changes to marine oil safety regulations on spill response preparedness because Minister Baird regards them as too "confidential" ... but not apparently too confidential to share with an industry based group.

New RAC member Stafford Reid has "20 years of experience in marine vessel risk assessment and spill response preparedness. He served for 17 years as an emergency planning specialist for the B.C. government." Reid asks The Tyee's Anderson :

"how the government or industry can hope to have public buy-in on new oil spill regulations when the review process is not even open to the committee of experts who are charged under federal law with advising the minister, let alone coastal communities or First Nations."

Anderson : "What is puzzling is why, at the very moment that tanker traffic is poised to increase on the B.C. coast, Transport Canada has seemingly weakened Pacific RAC's ability to monitor the shaping of key regulations, advise decision makers all the way to the top, and communicate with a worried public haunted by images of the Gulf oil catastrophe."

No, Mr. Anderson, sadly it really isn't all that puzzling. They'd just get in the way.

Enbridge seeks nod for Pacific oil gateway

Enbridge has asked Canadian regulators for permission to build its controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta's oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

The C$5.5 billion (US$5.2 billion) project would move up to 525,000 barrels a day of oil from Alberta to the port of Kitimat, British Columbia, giving Asia direct access to Canada's vast oil sands via tankers. The line would also be used to import condensate.
Enbridge has said it wants the Northern Gateway line in operation by 2016."

Here there be weasels . . .

HARPER'S MAGAZINE has a chilling article, "Silencing the Lawyers", by Scott Horton. Of Gitmo:

What happened to the 600–800 Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders for whom the prison was originally conceived? We now have a pretty good idea. In the late fall of 2001, military operations in Afghanistan were successful, and Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership figures had fled to two last redoubts—the city of Kunduz in the northeast, and the Tora Bora region along the Pakistani frontier. But for reasons known only to him, Vice President Dick Cheney ordered a halt to the bombardment of Kunduz and opened an air corridor to allow the Pakistani military to airlift the Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders out of Kunduz. The maneuver was ridiculed by one U.S. military official present at the time as “Operation Evil Airlift.” The United States quickly moved to fill Gitmo with nobodies. With that fact now becoming painfully apparent, you’d think that Congress would be calling for an investigation into how original plans for Gitmo were botched—specifically how the Al Qaeda and Taliban figures for whom it was built evaded capture in the face of one of the most powerful military forces ever fielded in Afghanistan. That could well be one of the most significant “lessons learned” of the war.

Here, there be weasels.

Corrupt, dirty and on the take...

“The conduct exhibited by Mr. Mulroney in accepting cash-stuffed envelopes from Mr. Schreiber on three separate occasions, failing to record the fact of the cash payments, failing to deposit the cash into a bank or other financial institution, and failing to disclose the fact of the cash payments when given the opportunity to do so goes a long way, in my view, to supporting my position that the financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney were inappropriate.”

Commissioner Jeffrey Oliphant

Commission of Inquiry into Certain Allegations
respecting Business and Financial Dealings
Between Karlheinz Schreiber and
the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney

Commissioner Oliphant added a few pointed words: (My emphasis)

“I am driven to conclude that it is virtually impossible that Mr. Mulroney committed the same significant error in judgment on three separate occasions. It seems to me that, given Mr. Mulroney’s education, background, experience, and business acumen, his every instinct would have been, and should have been, to document the transaction in some manner,” he said.

Mr. Oliphant went on to say: “I therefore conclude that the reason Mr. Schreiber made the payments in cash and Mr. Mulroney accepted them in cash was that they both wanted to conceal the fact that cash transactions had occurred between them,” Mr. Oliphant said.

Corrupt, dirty and on the take.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Army in the streets

Shorter Toews:

"The only thing preventing us from deploying armed troops in the streets of Toronto is what the Liberals might say."
Remember this when pondering what a Conservative majority would do when faced with public protests and marches against it.

War Measures Act?

Law prof James Morton asks an interesting question on the G20 summit in Toronto:

There doesn't appear to be a lawful authority to close Toronto to the public or to demand ID outside of the War Measures Act. Am I missing something or should we be expecting a proclamation?
Well, aside from it actually being the Emergencies Act since 1988, one does wonder.

Canadian commander in Afghanistan fired.

For allegedly engaging in an inappropriate intimate relationship with a member of his staff while on duty in Afghanistan.

Hmmm. Same guy who forget to switch his weapon to "safe" when boarding a helicopter and ended up with a "negligent discharge", a court martial and a $3,500 fine.

I have yet to get to the good part. Wait for it....

Michael Yon is laying claim to the "kill".

The interesting part is that Yon's claim might just be true. BruceR explains and, if you wish to connect some dots, shows that Yon has been grinding a personal axe for some time.

The requested backgrounder is in the comments section to this post.

Dead Seas

A BP executive says a relief well is the "end point" of efforts to stop the Gulf oil spill — which suggests there's little chance of plugging the leak until the new well is completed in August.
There are toxic plumes of oil floating around undersea like clouds of poison gas. There are massive slicks on the surface. There are hurricanes coming that will churn that up even further.

By August, we'll be dealing with dead ocean and poisoned coasts for thousands of miles. It's probably safe to say that the scale of this eco-disaster is beyond our capacity effectively mitigate. This cannot be put right.

A second leak?

Matt Simmons seems to think so, believing that the riser leak doesn't account for the observed oil plumes. (h/t Neil H)

Others have speculated that BP's early attempts at siphoning oil instead of shutting it down were motivated by a desire to salvage the well for profit reasons.

Anytime there's a crisis like this, critics of the official responses come out of the woodwork. Given we're now passing the 40 day mark and the oil is still gushing, perhaps it's time to listen to them.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why the guy who wrote this song is better than Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper never had to be evacuated from his house because it was hit by a V1 flying bomb.

The difference between co-author Keith Richards and Stephen Harper is that Harper will, without hesitation, tell you all about flying bombs hitting houses.

Experiential learning

New York Times.
In the beginning of May, a few weeks after the rig explosion, the Pew Research Center asked 994 Americans about the oil spill: 55 percent saw it as a major environmental disaster, and 37 percent as a serious problem. But at that time, at least, 51 percent also believed that efforts to prevent the spill from spreading would be successful. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil later, federal officials last week released a new estimate of the spill — 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day — establishing it as the largest in American history. As Richard Feynman, the physicist, once observed, “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” Sometimes ingenuity may not help us.

Indeed, think of all the planes grounded for nearly a week in northern Europe last month, as a volcano poured ash in the atmosphere. There was no technological fix, and many passengers couldn’t believe it. Said Mr. Kohut, of Pew Research, “The reaction was: ‘Fix this. Fix this. This is outrageous.’ ”

The BP Spill is an example of what Thomas Homer-Dixon termed the ingenuity gap. Modernity sells us the myth that we can solve any problem we have or create with technology. Informed by our social pathology promoting our dominion over nature and our perpetual techno-fetishism, we attempt to negotiate with the Earth in exchange for the eco-credit the allows us to reproduce that society. Deforestation? OK, we'll leave some standing, and replant a few more. Chemical plant? We'll draw up a few rules that'll let the plant operate on the condition that we let them say they're bad the kill a village. Nuclear power? Sure, just promise to bury the waste where no one lives and have a switch that lets you turn it off. Massifs of oil, under great pressure, beneath 20 000 feet of seawater and mud? Make sure you put the little yellow metal box on top of the hole.

Ultimately, this mindset and all that flows from it has let us build our civilisation on toxins. We are the only one in history to do this. And now we're paying for it.


Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patters of the world in its becoming. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
- from The Road (Cormac McCarthy:286-287)

Inoperable and malignant

So the top-kill/junk-shot operation failed. Before that, the tried an insertion pipe and, before that, we saw the failures of greater and lesser coffer dams. The next attempt will try to shear off the damaged pipe/riser contraption and install a capping valve. Should that fail, what then?

Yo! Opposition parties! This is what an election issue looks like

Security for the billion-dollar boondoggle is being managed by ex-CSIS director Ward Elcock, who also just spent another billion on the Vancouver Olympics security.

Asked why the London G20 expenses clocked in at $30-million last year by comparison, Alcock answered, "Bookkeeping."

I wonder if we could possibly get some of that.

Britain opts for an increase in junk mail... and there is a job opening at Canada Post

Things that fly under the radar. Canada's highest paid bureaucrat is quitting at Canada Post and going for an even higher paying job at... The Royal Mail.
Royal Mail has named Moya Greene as its new chief executive, the first female to be appointed to the role.

Ms Greene, who is currently chief executive of Canada Post, will take up the position at the beginning of July.

Hmmm.... there was probably no need to highlight gender, but that seems to excite the BBC.

Moya Greene, as the highest paid public sector employee in Canada, was constantly at loggerheads with the unions at Canada Post. The unions accused her of signing off on a collective agreement and then promptly making a concerted effort to tear it up.

And if you think Greene was being somewhat over-compensated in her native land, wait until you see what the Brits are going to pay her. (Emphasis mine)

It it understood that she will be on a basic salary of just under £500,000 ($720,000).

The Treasury says that sort of remuneration needs its approval as is above the £142,000 cap the government has placed on public sector salaries.

Anything higher than that needs the permission of the chief secretary to the Treasury, David Laws.

The Royal Mail's position is believed to be that it is a commercial organisation, and therefore does not need the say-so of the government.

The Treasury, when contacted by the BBC, would not say if permission had been either sought, or granted.

This is sounding like a familiar old story.

Royal Mail workers might want to brace themselves. Things could get a little testy in the coming months. In the meantime, UK posties should get used to heavier mail bags and residents will need larger recycle bins.

And since Britain's "new government" is finding expensive Canadians so damned attractive, how about they take Celine Dion, Bryan Adams and David Hahn while their at it.

Now.... who is Harper going to reward with this plum position at Canada Post? If you don't think this new and sudden vacancy is important, you haven't been paying attention.

"No one takes Ethics Committee summons seriously"

"At the end of the day, [Ethics Committee Chair]Paul Szabo and this kangaroo court have no credibility and no one takes their summons seriously."

So said Con MP Pierre Poilievre in August two years ago when he was only an associate member of the Ethics Committee.
Since becoming fully-fledged, and also Parliamentary Secretary to Steve, his job there is apparently to pipe up "Point of order" every few minutes like some demented Energizer bunny until the Chair finally cuts his mike.

Lib Wayne Easter's spirited response to John Baird's surprise appearance before the Ethics Committee on Tuesday in place of Dimitri Soudas has already been well covered. Soudas cancelled only minutes before the committee convened, in keeping with Steve's new rules forbidding ministerial staffers from appearing before committees.

Chair Paul Szabo at first let Baird speak, setting off an hour of angry opposition motions to dismiss the usurper, interspersed with Poilievre's points! of! order! By contrast, the Con committee members dutifully bent over their brand new talking points on "ministerial responsibility for their staffers", carefully read aloud with heads bowed down when it was their turn to speak.
Eventually Szabo broke a tie vote over whether or not to let Baird stay and booted him out.

Well sure. After all, as Minister of Transport, Baird is not Soudas' boss and would not be able to answer any of the questions the committee was intending to ask Soudas, despite Baird's sinister hand waving about something he called "collective responsibility".

And as Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac of the Bloc pointed out, the last time a minister appeared before the committee on behalf of one of their staffers - that would be Christian Paradis, Minister of Asbestos - his idea of "ministerial responsibility" was to just blame the staffer.

Carole Freeman of the Bloc brought up committees' right to subpoena witnesses :
"[Soudas] is an ordinary citizen and should be treated as such. A house leader does not have the power to change existing rules simply by standing up in the House and making a statement."

But then there was another tie vote that I haven't seen discussed.

What to do about the many named bureaucrats already scheduled to appear in the few weeks remaining before the committee last meets on June 22? And what to do if their ministers wanted to show up in their staffers' place?

Chair Szabo asked for a motion to give him authority to summon the witnesses already scheduled to appear ... if necessary ... even if it meant allowing those witnesses' ministers to come as substitutes in their stead.

A pretty weak motion but as he explained, they were waiting on an expected future ruling by the Speaker on such witness substitutions. And he was only asking for either the scheduled witness or his/her minister to appear if that's what was offered.

OK so it was an astoundingly weak motion to exercise parliamentary committees' right to summon witnesses, but you know what? That vote was tied up 5 to 5 - the Cons vs everyone else - and only passed because the Chair broke it by voting in favour.

Pierre Poilievre suggested what he called "a friendly amendment" to solve the impasse over the next scheduled witness :
"just replace the name of the political staffer in question with the name of the Minister."

Your moment of hideous irony : The work currently before the committee is looking into "allegations of systematic political interference by ministers' offices to block, delay, or obstruct the release of information to the public regarding the operation of government departments".

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Savary Island mystery...

First... you get into The Gazetteer's Friday BC Rail post.

Then you get into the comments section of that post. You notice a smell. Then you realize that the smell is not the Savary Island septic tanks - it's coming from Belleville Street in Victoria.

Getting our money's worth

I mentioned in an earlier post that for the amount of money being spent on the G8/G20 meetings just for security, the government could build a money wall around the main venue for the G8 summit.

I ran a few more numbers. $1.1 billion dollars would allow the government to pay 150,000 security officers $100 per hour for the entire 72 hours and still have $20 million left to buy crullers and large double-doubles from Tim Horton's for the massive security detail.

It would take a better mathematician than I am to figure out the all the numbers, but I'm also confident that for $1.1 billion they could hold both conferences in a giant hollow sphere made of 18 carat gold floating off shore in Lake Ontario. $1.1 billion dollars would buy you nearly 36,000 kilograms of 18k gold. Maybe we could just have Stephen Harper and his Cabinet covered in gold leaf -- that would be sure to impress the visiting dignitaries!

This money is getting spent somewhere, and I suspect that a lot of it is going for fat "consulting fees" and no-bid contracts to Conservative Party of Canada backers. I expect the eventual auditor's report will have more pages discussing pork than the annual report of the Canadian Hog Farmers Association.

Leave your suggestions on how the money could be spent in the comments.

Crossposted from the Woodshed

NB: This is the 5,000th post on The Galloping Beaver - yay us!

"the cowardly Communications Director..."

It isn't there when you click it, but see the first search result (wiki):

Vive la revolution de sirop d'erable!

The latest edition of the Maple Syrup Revolution - in which Canadian Cynic's Lindsay Stewart returns to discuss copyright, lying Conservative Party of Canada MPs, the Harper government's fear of open government and the insane amount of money being spent on security for the G8 and G20 summits -- is ready for your listening pleasure.

Just for fun, I ran some numbers and the 1.1 billion dollars the Canadian government is spending on security for the G8 and G20 summits would build a wall of $10 bills about 3 meters high, 10 centimeters thick and 767 meters long--probably long enough to surround the Deerhurst resort--with enough left over to buy everyone within 100 km of Huntsville, Ontario, a beer.

So BP,

...what just exploded down there in the deep? And why haven't you mentioned it?

I like what this guy (remember him?) has to say about things:
The government should immediately freeze BP's assets and start to charge the corporation -- say $100 million -- each day the oil flows. The money could be held in a fund that U.S. government draws on to take care of the people along the Gulf Coast and pay the states for doing the cleanup.

Next, BP and the government bureaucrats who broke a law and put the public at risk need to go to jail.

An oil company just took out a coastline and big piece of sea, and very likely destroyed the social and economic viability of millions of people and communities dependent on that resource. Fishing towns will soon be ghost towns. Tourist beaches are now closed. If that oil company were a state, you'd have coalitions built, sanctions imposed, and loud denunciations in capitals around the world. When and if BP manages stop the spill , shut them down and regulate the hell out of the rest of the others. Take the hit in oil prices - it'll leave us better off in the long run.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jason, Jason, Jason... you bloody liar...

Single combat! That's an offer!!!

It doesn't get better than that.

This is NOT a duel. This is a challenge between us warriors. We will use our skills at combat.

The best part is, we represent everything our side has to offer. You represent bigotry and I represent... everything that isn't you.

The winner tells the other guy's army to go away. And they will do that because the loser is a piece of dead hamburger. (Funny how that works.)

So, Jason, naval cutlasses on a swinging bridge. Unless, of course you would like to do something more difficult. No problem. I'm up for it, sport. I am, after all, a warrior and a veteran. I do battle with great reluctance.

But dispatching you, sonny, would be something I would consider a duty as a citizen.

And consider the alternative: If you win, you get to be as Hitlerarian as you want to be.

How cool is that?

I don't intend to lose. Just so you know.

Of course, we can point out that you, and Dimitri, are both rank cowards.

Conservatives are not right in the head

The Conservatives have really outdone themselves this week. I don't know where to start, whether with Baird showing up instead of Soudas, but claiming to be representing the Prime Minister, Jason Kenney lying his fat fucking face off in on the national news about committee appearances, or the whole general undermining of the Speaker's ruling on the Afghan document scandal.

I look at these little grown men of high office behaving in ways that would earn children a severe dose of parental discipline and can't help but wonder if they go home at night and hide in shame from their spouses and kids. Normal, decent people don't behave like that, nor do they tolerate that sort thing in others. Bosses lose employees and get their coffee spiked with urine. Coworkers are shunned, and subordinates are fired. In the army, smarmy liars and cowards such as these are very lucky to just be ostracised within their unit. Sometimes they wake up in the MIR; in war time, they don't.

These Harper Conservatives are not right in the head. Liars and cowards are cursed and shunned by every society in existence and we make laws against them because they undermine social cohesiveness and trust. We use terms like fraud, theft, graft, corruption to describe their crimes.

This isn't about economic or social policies. It's not about the environment or international relations, or electoral reform, or even Afghanistan. The biggest issue with the Conservatives has to do with their character. You can have informed and rational discourse around technical things like trade or pollution and military interventions, but you can't do those things with shameless liars and cowards who really have no interest in the substance of any matter save what serves their political survival. Like meth addicts, nothing they say can ever be trusted. Not agreements with other parties, not their own legislation, not their own ideologies. Anything they agree to is riddled with escape routes and is valid only as long as it serves their immediate tactical purpose. And when that fails, they'll call you names, smash your fine china, kick your cat, and scream they never promised anything.

You wouldn't work for them, with them, or employ them. You wouldn't tolerate their behaviour in children or other adults. I doubt even Conservatives supporters would in their day to day lives. When did it become OK to elect them?

Jason Kenney, PC MP LIAR

via Stageleft and CC.

Send it viral.

Meanwhile, under the security blanket . . .

Billion dollar theatres

$1100 million gets you a year of Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan (annualised over 2001-2011). That's how much it costs to support the combat operations of ~2500 Canadian troops in war-addled Khandahar province, population 913 000.

$1100 million gets you nearly a week of US operations in the entirety of Iraq, with a population of ~25 million. That's a week's funding for 112 000 troops occupying an entire country with a still-active insurgency on the other side of the world.

$1100 million and counting covers 3 days of security for 20 people in one of the a priori safest and cleanest cities on the planet.

We might interpret this several ways. One, it confirms that Conservatives are pants pissing cowards and martial fetishists (funny how these two things seem to go hand in hand avec Cons). Or following the Con logic here, it might also reveal the true cost of security in low risk enviroments, causing one to wonder just what the hell we're doing funding various wars with even less.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Questions are a burden to others, answers are a burden to oneself

For years, we've known that Stephen Harper is a control freak who insists that every utterance of everyone speaking for the government be vetted through the PMO, but methinks he has now gone a bit too far
 First, it was gagging backbenchers so that the ignorant, knuckledragging rednecks let's be kind and say the "less sophisticated, less media-savy" among his Reform Alliance colleagues didn't start ranting about racial minorities and commies under the bed "get off message" and embarass  the "New Government of Canada." Then, after he realized he a had a few of these loose cannons in the Cabinet, ministers were told to zip it, that anything that had to be said would be said by the PMO. After all the press were hostile and prone to asking "gotcha" questions and-- let's face it-- your average Parliament Hill journalist engaging a Reform-Tory Cabinet Minister in a battle of wits is pretty much attacking an unarmed target.
Having shut out the press to the degree possible, Harper then decided that even Parliamentary committees should be served a nice big mug of STFU, and the party put out a manual for Conservative members that explained how to block committee business, even completely shut things down by being obstructionist arseholes if things weren't going their way. When that didn't work well enough to keep 
a committee from demanding information about the way Afghan detainees were being dealt with and whether Canadian troops could face accusations of war crimes for the negligent way their superiors had decided to organize things, Harper shut down Parliament and hoped the whole thing would blow over.
It didn't.
Next he tried the classic American conservative argument -- that everything was a matter of national security and  tippy-top secret to protect our wonderful troops and if you wanted to violate that sacred trust and find out what the elected government had ordered the troops to do on the nation's behalf,  well clearly you were a troop-hating pinko bastard who hated freedom -- Wolverines!!!
Then the Speaker of the House stuck a pin in that particular trial balloon.
Now, Harper has decided that ministerial aides and other senior staff answer to no one but the PMO and the Minister and couldn't possibly be called upon to answer questions by Parliamentary committees. The spin he is trying to put on this is both hilarious and ironically true. The justification for this notion that just because they draw a government salary, civil servants shouldn't ever have to explain their actions to Parliament is that the Ministers are ultimately responsible for what is done in their ministry. This is true -- and just you wait and see how responsible some of these schmucks are going to be held if their underlings are ever made to testify under oath about the crap that goes on at the behest of their bosses.

So if Dmitiri Soudas is able enough to command a handsome taxpayer-funded salary as the director of communications for the Prime Minister of Canada, he can damn well answer a few questions about his job from the House of Commons Ethics Committee. Parliament is supreme and if it summons him, he better show up, otherwise he will be guilty of Contempt of Parliament. And if Michael Ignatieff , Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton won't  go to the mat on this, then they won't go to the mat on anything and we might just as well let Harper appoint himself dictator-for-life and be done with it.

Also, what Dave said -- that goes double for me.

crossposted from the Woodshed

A resident of the glass house...

Tries to tell us all about "moral disorder".

If I might add to Alison's very succinct post, there is no individual serving in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church who can point at any other person's behaviour or actions and pass any form or moral judgement on them.

An organization which shelters known pedophiles, rapists and child-abusers, and which operates in a manner approximating a racketeering mob has no moral foundation from which to speak about the behaviour of others.


In short, Cardinal, piss off. Your opinion isn't worth the powder to blow it to Hell.

Dear Cardinal Ouellet

We already had the debate.

Your side lost.

So you can just run along now ...

Baird Droppings . . .

Easter the Cleaner vs. the not-Soudas

Now go read Impolitical.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just so we're clear here...

Dimitri Soudas

is a coward.

He is a chickenshit, cowering piece of quivering liver. He cries for his mother when things don't go his way.

He is a conservative.

He let's other people fight his battles.

We have put the defence and the security of this country in the hands of the likes of him. Isn't that reassuring?

Look what a piece of cowardly crap your vote got you.

Want a piece of me Dimitri? No problem, you cowardly turd. Single combat. Look it up.

Some Conservative ideas have merit...

Consider... just for a moment, that I am in that decision-making moment where I have to decide whether to empty the last three rounds of my mag on something I'm not sure is a target.


What if it's a non-combatant innocent?

The Harperites have saved me from that!! I love it! Look at me, I am legal!!!! Harper has saved me!

The minister will answer.

What do I do?

Squeeze, baby, squeeze. And then change mags, because Harper and his hillbillies have the answer.

This war is so much easier now.

I love the idea of being able to dump EVERYTHING on the minister.

Have fun fuckwads, because if it were me, (and it has been), I would abuse this one to the hilt.

Boom school epic fail

Nicked from CC, who nicked it from Mind of Dan:

My tuppence: that poorly laid boom might be a result the fact that BP and the US government had to mobilise just about every available boat to contain the spill. It's understandable that shrimp boat crews are not trained in boom laying because their business is shrimp, not sticking holes in the Earth's crust 1600 metres under water to pump out high pressure poisoness goo. I suspect it's also likely that the the powers that be may have wanted to lay as much boom as possible as fast as possible, a scenario which reeks of a panicked, ad hoc effort attempting to pass for decisive competence.

Had there been some proficient, methodical appreciation of the containment effort, perhaps the deployment of boom training teams to train the civilian boat crews in proper boom technique, they might have saved some coastline and oyster beds. Then again, the scale of this problem could simply be too great.

A lesson here may be to include a mandate that oil companies train and pay local boat operators a retainer (and their business insurance) in case they fuck up again.

I suppose we should be grateful nobody's said "heckofa job" yet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A significant anniversary in Canadian Naval history

While this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy as a national institution in this country, today, 24 May, marks the 60th 70th anniversary of an event which changed the RCN and gave that service a permanent set of legs.

In the spring of 1940 Hitler's Germany began the now famous blitzkrieg through the Ardennes and into Flanders, invading the low countries of Europe. Belgium, The Netherlands and France were overrun and Allied forces, including the British Expeditionary Force were either defeated or being driven towards the sea. The British Isles were under a very real threat of invasion by the apparently unstoppable German forces.

On 23 May, 1940, Britain sent out a plea to Canada to send all available RCN destroyers to aid in the defence of Britain. No one had ever asked Canada for such assistance before and given that Canada only possessed seven such ships, it was a tall and potentially expensive order.

HMC ships Ottawa and Assiniboine were in refit and unavailable. HMCS Fraser was conducting operations in the Caribbean (considered "Home Waters") and was operating at a furious tempo. That left the destroyers HMC ships St. Laurent, Restigouche, Saguenay and Skeena available.

The cabinet of Mackenzie King approved the overseas deployment of four destroyers. Fraser would be released from the Caribbean and sent directly to Britain. Restigouche, St. Laurent and Skeena would be dispatched from Halifax. HMCS Saguenay would remain in Canadian waters as the sole defender of the Canadian gate.

The next day, HMC ships Restigouche, St. Laurent and Skeena departed Halifax on the first ever long range deployment of a Canadian naval force in response to an emergency. A fear existed in both Canadian Naval Headquarters and among the government that the situation was so desperate that those ships might never return.

And some didn't.

The deployment, however, changed Canada's navy forever. No longer a local defence force and a home waters navy, the RCN was asked to find her legs. However small, and regardless of what the future might hold, the Royal Canadian Navy was now a blue-water force and would remain so to this day.


HMCS Fraser - Lost in a collision with HMS Calcutta 25 June 1940

HMCS Skeena - Lost in a storm of Reykjavik, Iceland 25 October 1944

HMC ships Restigouche and St. Laurent served throughout the 2nd World War with distinction and honour. They were decommissioned in October of 1945 and eventually scrapped.

Correction: Clearly I have spent too much time behind that ugly green scope. Apparently, I lost a decade. It is the 70th anniversary of Canada's first naval overseas deployment; not the 60th. Thanks to CC for pointing it out.

At the going down of the sun...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Trooper Larry John Zuidema Rudd, The Royal Canadian Dragoons.

Killed due to enemy action.

Audax et Celer

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stevie . . .

Once again

The Harper Regime has no interest in cooperating with Parliament. On anything.

Also, what Chrystal said:
To Iggy & Layton, neither of whom "want an election" (the Canadians that I know DO): How are you going to work your next climb-down? Without enabling more damage to our democracy?

Sewing sailors 1896

And more from the Shorpy archive.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oil Traps and Burning Questions

Obama on oil.

As Mr. Obama put in on March 31, “Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable homegrown energy.”

OK, so once again, how do states intend to maintain economic growth, job production and business competition in the face of increasing oil scarcity, and the social, political, and economic upheavals that scenario holds?

Times change . . .

Bizarro. Marvellous.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm off to see the Izzard

the wonderful Izzard of .. not Oz, but Yemen apparently.

I'm dressed to kill, dahling. With a tray.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

what don't we know about the Afghan detainees and when didn't we know it?

The latest edition of the Maple Syrup Revolution, in which Boris and the Rev.Paperboy discuss the Afghan detainee issue, is ready now for your listening endurance forebearance pleasure.

The graphic depiction of Milton Friedman's failure

You can sit there and believe that, according to Miltie, BP is going to have to go to the wall for their abysmal disregard for anything but the piles of dollars they could accumulate....


You could read what the flyingrodent has to say.

Yeah. Me too.

RailGate - Game On!

NaPo : B.C. devalued rail in order to sell, court hears
"The B.C. government concocted a conspiracy to devalue a provincially owned railway in order to justify its sale, jurors at a political corruption trial heard yesterday."
Defence lawyer Kevin Mc-Cullough also made the startling suggestion that "the fix was in" to sell B.C. Rail to Canadian National Rail Co. and to spurn other bidders. He made the remarks as he cross-examined Crown witness Martyn Brown, who is chief of staff to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell.
Campbell's chief of staff characterized the suggestion as "absurd", but luckily RossK at the Gazetteer has a very long memory.

Bloomberg : CNR’s Purchase of BC Rail Was Rigged, Lawyer Alleges

Canadian National Railway Co.’s C$1 billion ($956 million) acquisition of government-owned BC Rail Ltd. in 2003 was rigged from the start, with British Columbia’s premier intent on handing over the operation to a former fundraiser, a lawyer said today at a trial.
“The fix was in for CNR to get the assets from the beginning,” said Kevin McCullough, a lawyer representing Bob Virk, who is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for information about the sale while working as assistant to the province’s transportation minister.
Virk, and David Basi, a former aide to British Columbia’s finance minister, are charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes for passing on secret information to one of the bidders for BC Rail in exchange for cash and favors.
Basi’s cousin, Aneal Basi, a former government communications officer, was charged with money laundering."

After six years of waiting for this to get to trial, you might need a wee refresher.

Meanwhile RossK fisks recent Canadian noosemedia coverage.

Post title rudely pillaged from RossK.

An explanation . . .

It is a slow day in the small Minnesota town of Marshall, and streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody is living on credit. 

A rich tourist visiting the area drives through town, stops at the motel, and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs to pick one for the night. 

As soon as he walks upstairs, the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. 

The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer. 

The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill to his supplier, the Farmer's Co-op. 

The guy at the Farmer's Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute. 

The prostitute, who has also been facing hard times, has had to offer her "services" on credit. She rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner. 

The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything. 

At that moment, the traveler comes down the stairs, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, picks up the $100 bill, and leaves town. 

No one produced anything. No one earned anything...However, the whole town is now out of debt and now looks to the future with a lot more optimism. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a Stimulus package works. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stephen Harper was a "professional student"

Harper was hatched sometime in 1959. He finally finished a degree in 1993. The arithmetic is simple to anyone who can add or subtract....

Harper was still a student at age 34.

According to the box of doughnuts and double-double crowd at Stephen Taylor's fatuous moron corral that would make Harper one of those them thar "perfeshinal stoodnts".

And the vacuous were forced back to the rear of the drive-thru.

Russian incursions...

Heh. Don't tell "Airshow" or "Red Dawn" - it'll give them the vapours.

A Russian Federation aircraft will conduct an aerial observation mission over Canada under the authority of the Treaty on Open Skies on May 18-20, 2010.

A Tupolev TU-154M aircraft, which arrived at 8 Wing Trenton yesterday, will be accorded its legal right of unimpeded observation overflight of Canadian territory, in fulfillment of Canada’s obligations as a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies. Using an array of onboard imagery systems, the aircraft can observe and verify objects of interest, such as military installations, industrial complexes, population centres, and transportation facilities.

The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force on January 1, 2002, promotes increased confidence and transparency amongst the 34 nations that are party to the Treaty. Canada has conducted a number of observation flights over other States Parties, including the Russian Federation, Belarus, Croatia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Uh, Liberals (and...Conservatives)...

This might explain your non-majority polling numbers.

Leadership remains a challenge for the Liberal Party, as Mr. Ignatieff’s favourability remains virtually unchanged from March. Today, 26% have a favourable view of Mr. Ignatieff, while twice that number (52%) hold an unfavourable view. In March, this split was 26%-51%.

• Roughly the same amount of people holds an unfavourable view of the Prime Minister. In total, 51% said their view of Mr. Harper was unfavourable; however 42% have a favourable view of the Prime Minister, sixteen points higher than the number who feel the same about Mr. Ignatieff. In March, 41% had a favourable view of the Prime Minister, while 49% had an unfavourable one.

• Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Layton both have net positive ratings, while Ms. May has a net negative rating. In total 46% hold a favourable view of NDP leader Jack Layton, while 36% hold an unfavourable view. More than half (52%) of those in Quebec hold a favourable view of M. Duceppe, while 32% hold an unfavourable view of the BQ leader. Nationally, 28% have a favourable opinion of Green Party leaderElizabeth May, while 32% hold an unfavourable view.
Just sayin'.

Toxic things

These are bottlenose dolphins swimming through globules of crude from the Deepwater Horizon. More here.

I'm again reminded of the way an Aboriginal elder I met described oil as a substance toxic to life that was meant to remain buried deep, describing it as part of the Earth's processes, but never to be withdrawn and used by people. Now look at us, carving up northern Alberta, poisoning farmland, impoverishing millions in places like Nigeria, war, killing seas and coastlines, and wrecking the stability of our climate in our attempt to keep industrial civilisation and our fetish for widgets careening along their ever-widening superhighway.

A hundred years ago we barely knew what to do with the stuff. Another hundred, and we'll either grow religions around the memory of it or be thankful that we have no more of it to use.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thank you, Scott....

The last time Harper was exposed to a genuine question, it ended with the words: “…fries with that?

I think that sums it up nicely.

At the going down of the Sun...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Colonel Geoff Parker, The Royal Canadian Regiment, Land Forces Central Area HQ.

Killed due to enemy action.

Pro Patria

Talibannosaurus Rex

JIHAD JUST GOT JURASSIC! io9 has a post by Cyriaque Lamar that's a delight: "The Most Politically Incorrect Fake SciFi B-Movie Poster Ever". The CG Society held a contest, "The B-Movie CG Challenge". Cyriaque notes: 

Dan Evans' poster for Talibannosaurus Rex was too mind-blowing for both CG Society's B-Movie contest and reality. Look at that happy raptor driving the jeep!

Dan Evans has his own site, My Art Shame: Confessions of a Games Industry Sin-Slave, where he states, "I work in the videogames industry where I am regularly forced to commit sins against creativity, decency and good taste. Then I go home and commit some more."

Jihad just got Jurassic — ya gotta love it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Read "Far and Wide" lately?


Here's a reason to read every new post.

Happy International Day Against Homophobia

This has been known about for a few years now but here, courtesy of Rabble, is a reminder of the speech that Darrell Reid, former president of Focus On The Family Canada and now Harper's deputy chief of staff, gave in Singapore at a 2003 Focus On The Family seminar. Speaking as a historian, Darrell warned about the correlation between protection of gay rights and the rise of Hiltler and the Nazi party in the 30's :
... in a way I'm ashamed and sorry to be standing before you as a Canadian and telling you this, but my reason for doing so that perhaps our present will never be your future.

There's a very narrow definition of religious rights (in Canada) ... our legal people, our media, our academic elite don't care what you believe (against same sex rights), they just don't want you to talk about it to anybody or act upon it. Now I'm a historian ... the best parallel that I can think of historically is in Germany in the 1930s, as the rise of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler came to power. You see, Adolf Hitler and his friends didn't care what you believed, you only became dangerous when you talked to somebody else about it, or you acted on it. I believe the same rational is taking place (in Canada.)"

Happy International Day Against Homophobia, Darrel. Here ya go. Try not to eat it all at once this time.

And a very special Happy International Day Against Homophobia greeting to Ratso ,who four days ago "condemned gay marriage and abortion as 'among the most insidious and dangerous challenges' to society."

High Velocity

DEFENCETECH has a report, "Killer Drone Builder General Atomics Builds Killer Electromagnetic Rail Cannon", by Greg Grant, that is worthy of your attention, with a, pardon the expression, killer video that shows what this piece of ordnance, built by General Atomics, who make the Predator, can do. 

The company has been working for a number of years with the Office of Naval Research on a 200 nautical mile gun system. In a parallel effort, they’ve been developing a smaller, pulse-power technology demonstrator, called the “Blitzer,” for ship defense against anti-ship cruise missiles and small boat swarms.

It's a "short-range" weapon, with just an 80-mile/140 km reach. The projectile exits the "muzzle" at over 10,000 feet per second, or just over 3 km/sec. That's quick. Apparently, the railgun will be capable of 1 round per second, if they can supply enough electrical power, which should not be difficult for Nimitz and Aegis-class vessels. Might be just the thing for dealing with those Iranian Silkworms, as it takes a round less than 7 seconds to reach out to the horizon.

The only other gun that matched this range was "The Paris Gun", from WW1, which took all day to fire 20 rounds.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tea Party: tantrum?

THE ATLANTIC has a fine article on the Tea Party, by Michael Kinsley, "My Country, Tis of Me", which takes a look at what makes it tick, and doesn't like it: "There’s nothing patriotic about the Tea Party Patriots."

The right-wing populist Tea Party movement has politicians of both parties spooked. Democrats fear it will bring so many Republicans to the boil, and then to the voting booth, that they will lose control of Congress. Republicans fear the movement will frighten away moderates and leave their party an unelectable, ideologically extreme rump. The press, both alarmed and delighted by this political force that sprang from nowhere, is eager to prove its lack of elitism and left-wing bias by treating the Tea Party activists with respect. Journalists also sincerely appreciate having something new to write or talk about. It is in their interest to keep this story going.

Some people think that what unites the Tea Party Patriots is simple racism. I doubt that. But the Tea Party movement is not the solution to what ails America. It is an illustration of what ails America. Not because it is right-wing or because it is sometimes susceptible to crazed conspiracy theories, and not because of racism, but because of the movement’s self-indulgent premise that none of our challenges and difficulties are our own fault.

“Personal responsibility” has been a great conservative theme in recent decades, in response to the growth of the welfare state. It is a common theme among TPPs—even in response to health-care reform, as if losing your job and then getting cancer is something you shouldn’t have allowed to happen to yourself. But these days, conservatives far outdo liberals in excusing citizens from personal responsibility. To the TPPs, all of our problems are the fault of the government, and the government is a great “other,” a hideous monster over which we have no control. It spends our money and runs up vast deficits for mysterious reasons all its own. At bottom, this is a suspicion not of government but of democracy. After all, who elected this monster?

Worth the read. 

Papers please!

a very very short podcast, in which the Rev.Paperboy and the Not Ready For Real Life Players address Arizona's new Juan Crow law.

Friday, May 14, 2010


THE BOSTON GLOBE has some astounding pictures of the volcano in Iceland. Check them out.

At the going down of the sun ...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Private Kevin Thomas McKay
1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry
Killed due to enemy action.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mediawatch - Bartending the Inquisition

The Ottawa Citizen recently ran an item under "News" entitled "End the Inquisition" in which the author equated the parliamentary committee on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan with Senator Joe McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunt.

"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?", quotes the author, while condemning "wild accusations of torture and nothing in the way of proof" :
"... the public hears only from the accusers. Some of Canada's most distinguished citizens have been called war criminals."
It's really all about getting out of Afghanistan, he says, and "putting maximum pressure on the government to ensure there is no backtracking on the decision that Canada leave next summer -- and leave Afghans to their fate.":
"Prevailing opinion to the contrary, there is a strong argument that Canada's responsibility for detainees ends when they are handed over and that the onus is on Afghanistan, not Canada, to keep track of them and deal with them pursuant to Afghan law. "
The author wraps up by invoking Eisenhower :

"When he was elected president in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower was the great hope for those who wanted to see an end to the human wreckage McCarthy caused.
But Eisenhower would not intervene. "I just will not, I refuse, to get into the gutter with that guy." It was a noble sentiment he later regretted.

Would that good people in our own time not wait too much longer to intervene."

The Ottawa Citizen then provides a short bio on the author :
"Paul Chapin is a former director general for international security at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He is an adjunct professor in the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University and a director of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute."

Dear Ottawa Citizen : Rather more relevant would have been the information that as director general of the Department of Foreign Affairs international security bureau from 2003 to the fall of 2006, Paul Chapin was once a proud author of the original 2005 detainee agreement, in his own words : "happy to take ownership". And, as noted in his CDAI bio : "Mr. Chapin developed the strategy to shift the centre of gravity of Canada’s peace operations in Afghanistan from Kabul to Kandahar."

PS I'm bothering you with last weekend's CanWest histrionics here because said "news" item is featured today on the front page of Jack's Newswatch, was mentioned twice by Peter MacKay in the House yesterday, and is currently being approvingly parsed by various, uh, milblogs.

Edited to add last link to Wherry, who was already on this earlier today.

Like I said...

This is the Harper Regime.

With only 24 hours left to reach a deal among the four federal parties, Bloc Quebecois House leader Pierre Paquette said the Conservative government proposed some new conditions.

"The government put other conditions on the table," Paquette told reporters following a morning negotiating session. "Their position is not the same . . . so we are far from a solution."

They aren't interested in cooperating.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Movement on the tree line

When a politician, especially one like Harper, tries to inculcate himself/herself into the culture of the military the inevitable response is... We do your bidding, but you are not and never have been one of us. We're better than you.

And it doesn't take much to prove that truth.

A huge majority of serving members of the military despise politicians - of all stripes. And they hate groupies.

Harper is a groupy. And a groupy only wants in on the party. No groupy is willing to do the grunt work it takes get there. The frat boys in the PMO have stepped in a minefield and they can figure out why the pros won't show them how to get out.

That's why this comment by our own Boris, a former member of the CF, deserves to be out front.
You may be placing too much mistrust in the military brass. They have several interests which separate them from the Harpercrats. Their war is being directed by a government that finds itself in significant hot water over it's handling of the conflict, and is actively attempting to hide from teh public and parliament over it. If that government is willing to throw Parliament under the bus to protect itself, no institution is safe from big black Con Firestones, including the military.

Also, the CF and its uniformed leadership have a long term interest in institutional coherence and stability that goes beyond Afghanistan and Stephen Harper. Under Hillier the frame alignment between the CF and the Cons got pretty incestuous. Now that scandal and coverup is the order of the day from Ottawa, it's in the CF's (under new leadership) interest to get as far from the Harperites as it can.
Never run into the forest. Watch the tree line.

Oh right. We're not a milblog.