Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Torture? No problem. It covers so much.

Pogge is on this, but I can't resist.

Geoffrey O'Brian, a CSIS lawyer appeared before the Public Safety Committee today and blew the cover of CSIS right off.
Geoffrey O'Brian, a CSIS lawyer and advisor on operations and legislation, under questioning by the public safety committee, admitted there is no absolute ban on using intelligence that may have been obtained from countries with questionable human rights records on torture.
No... there isn't. In fact, one hasn't really murdered anybody unless one actually, you know, personally killed that person.

Oh! Am I wrong?! Imagine that! You can be accused of the same crime if you are an accessory before, during or after the fact.
He said it would be extremely rare but in a circumstance as grave as the 9/11 attacks or the Air India bombing, the executive branch has a "duty" to protect the security of its citizens, even if such information can "never" be used in a court proceeding.
Whoa, whoa, whoa!!! What the fuck is O'Brian trying to produce here? He drags out the 9/11 "Cheney" card and a home grown cluster-fuck as examples of instances we would use torture to prevent?!

Better idea. Try the truth.

Nobody had to torture anybody to prevent 9/11. All the information, including warnings, were right there for anybody who wanted to pay attention.

Why did it happen?

All those serious people ignored every single warning, right up to the Commander-in-Chief, who, I might add, was given details as to how it would happen.

Air India? Well, now that we know the truth, finally, it appears there was a little problem with coordination and the sharing of intelligence already in the hands of the RCMP and CSIS. Again, the entire event could have been prevented if it wasn't for the fact that CSIS was one of the parties involved and contributed to a performance that would make the Keystone Kops look like the British Special Air Service when held up against the inept behaviour of Canadian intelligence services.

And now, O'Brian wants to run down to the other end-zone. Even though the information was there, in their possession, the easy way to deal with any future threat is to gain it through torture... maybe. No suggestion that if they actually did their jobs in a diligent and competent manner that the results would actually have been much, much different.

A deal I'm willing to make with Mr. O'Brian: I will guarantee the Canada Revenue Agency that I can find at least $10,000 of earnings which Mr. O'Brian did not report on his tax return. Even if every single tax return he ever filed is completely honest, I will have O'Brian admitting to being a complete tax cheat by the time I've tossed three of his fingernails into the garbage bin.

I have nothing at all to do with the Canada Revenue Agency, but I'm sure they'll thank me for the information... without regard as to how I got it.

I wonder how O'Brian feels taking on the mantle of Alberto Gonzales?

Sure looks like a saw blade

DAN FUNDERBURGH is a very talented artist. Stumbled on his site, and this caught my eye. An Islamic Holy Saw? If the Catholic church adopted it, maybe it would be the Holy See Saw?

Running on empty ...

On Sunday the Obama administration asked GM CEO Rick Wagoner to resign as part of its restructuring of the auto industry.

"Under Wagoner's leadership, GM lost tens of billions of dollars, took billions in taxpayer-financed aid, and cut tens of thousands of jobs, including announced plans to cut 47,000 employees by the end of 2009."

Wagoner leaves with a $20 million retirement package.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I hate it when it snows on the Split Crow*

I'm pretty busy instructing some of tomorrow's great mariners in the finer points of meteorology. During the weather forecasting period we did the usual swoop through the Atlantic. The presence of a second Nor'Easter rolling up from the New England coast in less than five days brought tears to their eyes.

Yes, we know you're used to it and we know you're made of the kind of stuff that shrugs it off, but honestly, who needs it?

Keep that "Down Home" smile... soon it will be Spring in the Maritimes. This is for you:

Oh sure... why not? When the winter sports on Argyll and Granville Streets start to get boring....

* This may qualify as my favourite pub in the whole world.

Alberta Energy bullshit

The Hudson Bay Company's Suncor's Syncrude's Alberta Energy's description of their Aboriginal relations mandate:

The Aboriginal Relations business unit addresses the impact of Aboriginal issues on the business of the Department.

This activity includes legal, land claim and Crown lessee issues, as well as promoting good industry relationships with Aboriginal communities and encouraging positive involvement of Aboriginal people in the resource economy.
Shorter AE biz unit: We're in charge of fucking the savages out of their resources and land. Now go see Stageleft. Make sure you're sitting down. 500 years of the same shit.

Monday reading

Released today From the UK Sustainable Development Commission:

Prosperity without Growth? - The transition to a sustainable economy

The conventional formula for achieving prosperity relies on the pursuit of economic growth.
Higher incomes will increase wellbeing and lead to prosperity for all, in this view.
This report challenges that formula. It questions whether economic growth is still
a legitimate goal for rich countries like the UK, in the context of the huge disparities in
income and wellbeing that persist across the globe and the constraints of living within finite
environmental limits. It explores whether the benefits of continued economic growth still
outweigh the costs and scrutinises the assumption that growth is essential for prosperity.

In short, it asks: is it possible to have prosperity without growth?

I haven't had a chance yet to read more than the summary, but it is interesting this comes on the eve of the G20 summit in London. Perhaps more, it is a report from a legitimate government watchdog agency that directly challenges the growth paradigm in today's terms. This conversation is absolutely necessary at the political level if we want half a hope of a future.

More from Climate and Capitalism.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

He went to Washington for... that?

Honestly, Harper needs to reassess his strategy. The bullshit he feeds to the Timmy's crowd isn't going to work when he's talking to one of the bloodthirsty Sunday talking-heads in the "Village".

Harper's interview with Chris Wallace should be chalked up as a disaster. Wallace tossed him relative softballs and Harper responded by painting a picture of someone who had been misquoted, taken out of context and generally misinterpreted.

In short, he was unprepared, inept and lacked confidence. It was so bad that he had to remind Wallace that he was a conservative. Twice.
I'm — as a conservative, I tend to oppose raising taxes at the best of times. But we have not got the structural budgetary deficit that exists in the United States. It obviously limits the administration's options.
But I — I would say this as a conservative, if I — if I can be frank. It's great to say, "Let's have less regulation in principle and less intervention in the marketplace," but where has that led us, Chris, in many countries?
Hmmm... What Wallace saw, along with all the knuckle-dragging FOX viewers, was someone who isn't willing to just do what American conservatives do - to ignore the will of the population and just do what makes the conservative base happy.

Makes Harper a wannabe in Wallace's book.

When's the last time an American politician, appearing on the American conservative media foghorn, had to remind the interviewer that he is a conservative?


the newspaper is dead, long live the newspaper!

The industry I work in is dying, but it is also poised to take a massive leap forward. Paradigms are shifting and technology is dragging the newspaper industry into the future kicking and screaming, and leaving a trail of bodies in its wake. The last few months have seen the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Philadelphia Daily News and papers like the San Francisco Chronicle and Atlanta Constitution-Journal are losing a million dollars a week. Tribune Co. publishers of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December. In financial terms, many newspapers simply are literally not worth the paper they are printed on and need to find a new model, whether it is advertising supported internet publishing or paid subscription via some off-web device such as the Amazon Kindle.
I don't think newspapers will become extinct anytime soon, but the print editions may become something of a luxury. Some will survive in their present printed form for years to come, others will sink or swim on the tide of the internet and others may well end up going the Kindle/itunes paid subscription route. Others will fall by the wayside and be replaced by a new species of online journal, something part blog, part online forum, part viewer-driven local tv news station. Think of a cross between the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, You Tube and a news-junkie chat group.
Whatever happens, the journalism trade isn't likely to go away anytime soon. Someone has to do the primary legwork and interviewing and write that snappy pyramid lede for all the "citizen-journalists" in the blogosphere to disparage. I don't mean to say that bloggers don't do any original reporting, many do. But not on a daily basis and not within a central organizing framework that ensure the things that need to get covered have people assigned to them. Newsgathering organizations are as old as civilization, whether they've been wandering traders exchanging commercial gossip, military spies, wandering tinkers and minstrels or what have you.
Blogs tend to work from secondary sources, sifting through all the online media to find the information they want, cutting and pasting in raw data gathered by governments, universities, think tanks and NGOs and linking to published journalism. Which is great as far as it goes --there is a lot of information out there to be distilled down to the point where the signal-to-noise ratio is bearable and the information digestible and newspapers, along with television and radio and magazines have traditionally served that role with radio getting the info out first, followed by television giving the visuals, newspapers supplying the detailed information and news magazines trying to put things in perspective and show how the puzzle pieces fit -- obviously there is overlap and all four have also leaned heavily on news analysis and opinion to fill the empty spaces and try to tell their customers what it all means. Blogs can do all that but it is a hell of a lot of work for a single person or a even a small group. They may individually or as a group have the various types of expertise to write knowledgeably about all current events in their sphere of interest and a blog, as some newspapers and magazines are finally figuring out, can provide more immediate coverage than print.
But it is a full time job. Someone has to go and sit through the town planning meetings, the press conferences, the board of directors meetings. Some one has to scan the police blotter, the committee minutes, the legislature's agenda. Someone has to go door to door canvassing for witnesses, someone has to call all the Smith's in the phone book to find the right guy, someone has to go do the work. So the world will still need trained journalists and investigative reporters, camera jockeys and assignment editors. It just needs to find a way to let them keep eating and living indoors.
The old Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times" has settled around the news industry like a noose. In many ways this is a very exciting time to be in the news industry because everything is going to change in the decade or so. As the new paradigms shake out and separate the Pyjamas Medias from the Talking Points Memos, the yoyos and dilettantes from the pros, there will be blood on the floor, empires worth millions of dollars will fall overnight and a lot of people are going to be losing their jobs - not just journalists, but studio technicians, printers, truck drivers and paper mill workers.
In the words of Chairman Mao: "There is chaos under heaven, and the situation is excellent."
Over in comments at the Woodshed, RossK (speaking of bloggers who do excellent newsgathering and analysis, have a look at all his stuff on the BC railgate scandal) asks how these interesting times will affect individual journalists:
How do you see the individual journo getting through the interesting times...do folks like Josh Marshall actually pay enough that somebody can actually make a living at it?
to which I reply:
From what i understand TPM has a fairly small staff but i think they all make middle five figures - about what you'd make on a midsize daily paper in Canada.

Individual journalists are going to be scrabbling hard over the next twenty years to find steady jobs that pay until things settle back down. Part of the problem is celebrity journalists/columnists. For what the New York Times pays David Brooks or Maureen Dowd to go to cocktail parties and spout nonsense in their columns, they could pay ten real reporters you've never heard of to cover real news that happens outside the beltway and Manhattan.
There is some weird perception that journalists make a lot of money - some marquee names do, especially in television - but most of the rank and file folks doing the actual work in the field are making less than teachers and cops and nurses make. When I worked in community papers in Canada, the most I ever made was about $550 a week - before taxes - and that was as the editor-in-chief. Most of my friends at smaller daily papers in places like Kingston, Belleville and Owen Sound weren't making much more. That was ten years ago, but I bet the wages aren't a whole lot better now.
On the plus side, I did get to work 60 hour weeks and had to maintain a car to keep my job on milage payments that almost paid for the gas used.
Oddly, I don't miss the small town newspaper business, but at least I was on the side of the angels back then.

Crossposted from the Woodshed.

Species new to science discovered in Peru

Yeah, I know. So, who cares about Peru.

But the scientist who discovered it has just had the experience of a lifetime.
This recently bathed rodent is among four unexpected species likely new to science that were found high in the Peruvian Andes, scientists with the nonprofit Conservation International announced Thursday.

Expeditions between 2005 and 2008 in Peru's Cordillera Blanca, or White Range, also uncovered two new species of beetle and a rare wetlands plant.

The newfound mouse is a member of the Akodon genus, which includes many South American field mice.

A new mammal species. So... either it sneaked into the so-called "Ark" or it evolved, or it stayed where it was the whole time.

Grade 5 composition; Grade 10 social studies

Over at Creekside, Alison provides information most people had received via the public education system by the time they were 15. If they had stayed in school.

I have one more item to add.

No matter how one views the George Galloway controversy, if one is going to frame a petition, or in this case, a counter petition, one should be certain that the opening does not contain a heinous error in the salutation. (For those who were absent that day in grade 5, that would be the person or persons directly addressed.)

Jason Kenney is not The Right Honourable. Officially, as a Canadian minister of the Crown (and not the prime minister), the correct honorific is "The Honourable". Kenney is not entitled to the socially superior reference. That's basic secondary school stuff.

Notwithstanding, there are many other things we could call Jason Kenney with complete accuracy.

MOTS (More of the Same) . . . .

Somehow, this is not too surprising, is it?

Per CBS News and others:

Gates: No Change Soon On `Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
Gates Doesn't Expect Any Change Soon On `don't Ask, Don't Tell' Military Policy On Gays

WASHINGTON, Mar. 29, 2009

Don't expect any change soon to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy about gays in the military.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says both he and President Barack Obama have "a lot on our plates right now." As Gates puts it, "let's push that one down the road a little bit."

The White House has said Obama has begun consulting with Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on how to lift the ban. Gates says that dialogue has not really progressed very far at this point in the administration.

The Pentagon policy was put in place after President Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gay service members in 1993.

The policy refers to the military practice of not asking recruits their sexual orientation. In turn, service members are banned from saying they are gay or bisexual, engaging in homosexual activity or trying to marry a member of the same sex.

The more things "Change We Can (wait to) Believe In" . . . .

H/T "drf"

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

"A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay."
"The officials named in the case include the most senior legal minds in the Bush administration. They are: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney's chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon's general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who were both senior justice department legal advisers.
If Garzón ... issued arrest warrants against the six, it would mean they would risk detention and extradition if they travelled outside the US. It would also present President Barack Obama with a serious dilemma. He would have either to open proceedings against the accused or tackle an extradition request from Spain.
The 1984 UN Convention against Torture, signed and ratified by the US, requires states to investigate allegations of torture committed on their territory or by their nationals, or extradite them to stand trial elsewhere."
This may have a better chance than going directly after Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld.
It's a start.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lawrence "Rocky IV" Cannon

This is getting rediculous:
Canada "will not be bullied" by Russia when it comes to staking claim over the Arctic, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Friday.

His remarks in Montreal came the same day as Russia said it would amass an army dedicated to protecting its interests in the Arctic.

Pretty soon we'll have a squadron. A quack squadron of Harper's Heroes.

Maybe it's just member envy. Because, over here in the 21st century where it is widely accepted that the Soviet Union is no more and the Cold War is over, former foes are doing strangely agreeable things:
"We will have two presidential statements - on Russian-U.S. relations generally, but also on START. The texts are shaping up nicely and should become the starting point for our future work," Sergei Prikhodko told journalists prior to the two leaders first-ever meeting on April 1 on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
While back to the future here in Canada, I keep thinking of old Bruce Willis movies.

Harper to teach FOX News a lesson

A week after Greg Gutfeld and his panel of brainless wonders yukked it up over the idea that Canada actually has an army, pissing off so many people in the Great White North that even Canadian Defence Minister and neocon lickspittle Peter McKay condemned FOX News. But not to worry, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has now entered the fray. He's going to be in Washington on Sunday and New York on Monday - not to meet with U.S. officials - but to do media interviews. Including one with FOX News host Chris "His father must be so embarrassed" Wallace.

Somehow I doubt the interview will begin the way it should, with Wallace presenting Gutfeld's head on a silver platter. Way to stand up for Canadians, Steverino.

It will be Harper's second interview with both Fox and CNN in a month. He has not granted an interview to The Canadian Press, Canada's national news service, since December 2007.
It's all about being accountable to Canadians, isn't it Steverino, you dead-eyed, baby-munching, presidential wannabe.

Crossposted from the Woodshed. 

Canada has moved the goalposts on Abdelrazik once again

Montreal man in Sudan has to get off blacklist before he can fly :

"Abousfian Abdelrazik was initially told he could obtain travel documents, such as an emergency passport, in order to return to Canada – as long as he had a plane ticket.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon now says the 47-year-old must get his name off a UN terrorist blacklist before he can come home.

His comments come little more than a week after a group of 170 Canadians pooled their money to purchase a plane ticket. They did so knowing they could be charged under Canadian law for contributing financially to someone who is on a UN terror list."

A UN terrorist blacklist, you say, Mr. Cannon?

Canada feared U.S. backlash over man trapped in Sudan

"Senior government of Canada officials should be mindful of the potential reaction of our U.S. counterparts to Abdelrazik's return to Canada as he is on the U.S. no-fly list," intelligence officials say in documents in the possession of The Globe and Mail.

"Continued co-operation between Canada and the U.S. in the matters of security is essential. We will need to continue to work closely on issues related to the Security of North America, including the case of Mr. Abdelrazik," the document says.

The Abdelrazik documents - prepared by senior intelligence and security officials in Transport Canada, the unit that creates and maintains Canada's own version of the terrorist "no-fly" list - make clear that it was the U.S. list that kept Mr. Abdelrazik from returning to Canada when he was released from prison three years ago. "

OK. So really it's about the US list. And the Canadian government's position is that sacrificing a Canadian citizen and the sovereignty of Canada is just the price of keeping those trucks flowing back and forth across the border without tripping over any accompanying U.S. frowny faces.

How's that working out for us?

U.S. Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano said this week :

"a recent northern border review by her department highlighted ongoing U.S. worries about how Canada conducts risk assessments of people entering the country and "very real" differences in immigration and visa policy.
"That of course is a security concern," she said."

Christopher Sands, a Canada-U.S. border expert at the Hudson Institute, called Napolitano's comments "arresting" and said they show Washington is not yet convinced that Canada has done enough on security around who enters the country.

"She said, there's a security risk there," said Sands. "They have looked and seen differences between what the U.S. does, and what Canada does, and seen it as a source of concern."
As has been noted here before, Sands, whom the Montreal Gazette fails to note is also on the North American Competitiveness Council and co-author of Negotiating North America : The Security and Prosperity Partnership, put it more succinctly back in November :

"In exchange for continued visa-free access to the United States, American officials are pressuring the federal government to supply them with more information on Canadians.
Not only about (routine) individuals but also about people that you may be looking at for reasons, but there's no indictment and there's no charge."

"Homeland security is the gatekeeper with its finger on the jugular affecting your ability to move back and forth across the border, the market access upon which the Canadian economy depends."

They've made their deal, I'd say.

Dr. Dawg has it about right.

Chris wrote to his MP asking what assurances he has that as an international traveller the government will protect him. You can do the same.
To contact Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon directly :
Telephone: (613) 992-5516
Fax: (613) 992-6802
EMail: CannoL@parl.gc.ca .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Goodbye Judy. I hope this is "Hello"

I didn't know.

It's what comes from living under my own personal rock.

As I was driving to work this morning, an act which is unique to me as a daily thing in its own right, I had come to await the voice of Judy Maddren on CBC's World Report.

Driving to work every day is still a little surreal to me. I used to come home 14 weeks later. That's another story for another time.

This morning though, I was angry. Not from the knob who believed that tailgaiting me would make me move faster, but from the announcement that Judy Maddren was issuing her final report.

Believe me, I was ready to lay blame. I thought it was a part of the now very public CBC slashing of programming. I wanted to lay a beating on anyone who had precipitated the loss I would experience.

Then I had a meeting late in the day which accentuated the fact that nothing is as it seems. To say it was bizarre would be a complete understatement. Again, the stuff of another posting, but it made me look up what was really happening with World Report.

I discovered Judy Maddren is leaving CBC of her own volition... to move forward on her own path.

So, Judy, I really hope that we have the chance to hear that voice again. Soon.

Very soon.

George Galloway runs afoul of the Canada-Israel "border"

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, has stated repeatedly that the banning of George Galloway from Canada is not his responsibility.
Well of course it isn't.
It's the responsibility of the Canadian Border Services Agency under Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan.

Say, how's that Canada-Israel "homeland security" border coming along?

"On November 17-26, a delegation from the Ministry of Public Security visited the United States and Canada on an official visit. The visit was within the framework of the joint work team with the American Department of Homeland Security on Science and Technology.

In March 2008 a Declaration of Intent was signed between the Israeli Ministry of Public Security and the Canadian Ministry of Public Safety in order to promote mutual interests in the fields of the battle against organized crime, human trafficking, terrorist financing, managing crisis situations, border security, crime prevention and other aspects of homeland security.

The first work meetings of the two sides were held on November 24-26 in Ottawa, Canada, with the aim at forming a framework for the implementation of the agreement signed between the two countries.

The meetings were attended by the Deputy Director General of the Ministry, the Chief Scientist, representatives of the Israel Police and the Israel Prison Service, a representative of the Counter Terrorism Division in the Office of the Israeli Prime Minister, and representatives of the Canadian Ministry of Public Safety, the Canadian Police and Canadian Prison Service.

The meetings focused on the following fields:

  • Security of strategic facilities
  • Border control
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Correction facilities and services
  • Crime and delinquency
  • Science and technology – including law enforcement and counter terrorism

During the meetings the two parties surveyed their primary activities in their fields and examined potential projects of mutual interest. The meetings concluded by deciding on primary principles of the operational and technological cooperation between the two countries in the above fields. "

Public Safety Canada :
Declaration of Intent Between the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Canada and the Ministry of Public Security of the Government of the State of Israel :

To establish a Management Committee that would:
Be comprised of the Deputy Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Canada, and the Director General of Public Security for the Government of the State of Israel;
Meet annually and as needed to develop and approve a program of work, consistent with the scope and objectives of this Declaration, for that upcoming year;

To achieve the following objectives:
Build on their shared commitment to facilitate and enhance cooperation to protect their respective countries’ population, assets and interests from common threats;

Integrate and coordinate of the identification, prioritization, and implementation of cooperative efforts between themselves in the area of public safety;

I'm guessing somewhere amongst all that "shared commitment" and "enhanced cooperation", George Galloway fell under the heading of "aspects of homeland security : projects of mutual interest" and "common threats" at a CBSA "program of work".
Harper is seen above on Thursday "urging all Canadians to confront what he calls a 'rising tide of anti-Semitism' around the world" :
Harper, who was joined by Conservative MP Peter Kent, who represents the area, urged all Canadians to "confront" anti-Semitism as a "moral evil."
Speaking of "moral evil", Harper has previously joined George Bush in publicly attempting to blur the lines between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.
Presumably he's referring in his speech Thursday to people like this or this or this or this .

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Nicked from Red Tory:

On the one hand, in Texas of all places, we have a police chief embarrassed and ashamed at the authoritarian high muppetry of one of his officers, and acting very quickly and publicly to remove that officer from duty. Here, on the other hand, we have the assorted liars, weasels, killers, and sadists of the RCMP.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The CIA and Torture

SLATE has a very disturbing article by Darius Rejali, "Ice Water and Sweatboxes", the long and sadistic history behind the CIA's torture techniques. Think of it as "Gestapo Lite" (check out this link, about a very, very brave man, known as "The White Rabbit").

In the 20th century, there were two main traditions of clean torture—the kind that doesn't leave marks, as modern torturers prefer. The first is French modern, a combination of water- and electro-torture. The second is Anglo-Saxon modern, a classic list of sleep deprivation, positional and restraint tortures, extremes of temperature, noise, and beatings. 

All the techniques in the accounts of torture by the International Committee of the Red Cross, as reported Monday, collected from 14 detainees held in CIA custody, fit a long historical pattern of Anglo-Saxon modern. The ICRC report apparently includes details of CIA practices unknown until now, details that point to practices with names, histories, and political influences. In torture, hell is always in the details.

RCMP : Getting away with murder

Exhibit A
In June 2008, in response to public outrage over Robert Dziekanski's death at YVR in 2007, the House of Commons public safety and national security committee threatened the RCMP with a complete ban on TASER™ use if "clear restrictions" were not put on officers discharging stun guns multiple times by December.
Eight months later, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott told the committee that the force had already introduced a revised Taser policy back in June 2008 to address that very concern :
"We have taken steps to restrict its use."
At the time, many of us wondered why Elliott had waited a whole eight months to signal compliance with a policy already implemented.
Last night CBC reported that, contrary to what he led the public safety committee to believe, Elliott had actually relaxed the 2005 restrictions on multiple zappings, removing the following rule from the RCMP operational manual on conducted energy weapons :
3. 1. 3. Multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW may be hazardous to a subject.
Unless situational factors dictate otherwise (see IM/IM), do not cycle the CEW repeatedly, nor more than 15-20 seconds at a time against a subject.
Also deleted was the requirement to warn subjects before the TASER™ was used on them.
h/t Boris

Cpl. Gregg Gillis, the RCMP's national use-of-force co-ordinator, cited two studies to explain the new position - one was funded by Taser Int., while the other did not address the effect of multiple TASER™ use on the heart at all.
Three of the officers involved in Dziekanski's death were trained by Gillis three months before but were unable to recall the policy. When questioned, Millington, who deployed the TASER™ on Dziekanski five times for a total of 31 seconds over one minute, said he would have to check the manual first to answer why there was a policy on multiple use.

Obviously if even their own manual does not prohibit it, individual RCMP officers cannot be held responsible - or charged or sued - for deaths by multiple TASER™.
Further, if another confused and frustrated immigrant walks through the Canadian Border Services Agency administered area of YVR tonight where the observation cameras apparently don't work and even when they do the tapes get erased, Elliott's new rules dictate the same response and outcome that Dziekanski received.

In response to CBC's request for an interview, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott wrote: "Unfortunately I am not available to be interviewed."

Exhibit B
It is very unlikely that the Criminal Justice Branch of BC will change its decision to prosecute the RCMP officers who killed Robert Dziekanski - even following their appalling performance at the Braidwood Inquiry - because of the following criteria :
1) It must be determined that their prosecution would be in the public's best interest
2) There must be a substantial likelihood of conviction
That the Crown had already seen the Pritchard video and apparently did not consider it to substantially contradict the officers' statements tells us a good deal about their criteria.

Exhibit C
When the investigating officers from the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) interviewed the four officers about Dziekanski's death, they failed to warn them first of their rights under the Charter that anything they said could be held in evidence against them or that they had a right to have their lawyers present. Consequently all of that now utterly debunked original testimony - Dziekanski running at them screaming and brandishing a stapler and needing to be wrestled to the ground following multiple TASER™ use or the CBSA room being too crowded - is now considered contaminated for use in the courts.

And even if the IHIT team had warned the officers, what they say in testimony at a public inquiry like Braidwood's cannot be used directly in evidence against them at any other proceeding. Plus the Braidwood Inquiry does not have any jurisdiction over the RCMP and cannot compel them to hold hearings or investigations.

The RCMP is a paramilitary organisation that from Elliott on down through the ranks ceased being accountable to the public quite some time ago.
What can you do? Here's one facebook petition nearing 10,000 members.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The French are pissed-off, too

AP – Continental employees of the Clairoix tire plant, northern France, burn tires

YAHOO NEWS HAS A PIECE FROM AP NEWS, by Emma Vandore. Apparently, French workers burnt tires, and held a 3M manager hostage because they're angry about bonuses, too.

PARIS – French workers burned tires, marched on the presidential palace and held a manager of U.S. manufacturer 3M hostage Wednesday as anger mounted over job cuts and executive bonuses.

The euro 3.2 million ($4.3 million) exit bonus paid to the former head of Valeo SA, an auto parts maker that received state aid, has fueled outrage in France. Controversy also grew Wednesday over bonuses at brokerage company Cheuvreux, a unit of a French bank that got state handouts.

"The risks of repercussions of ill-feeling from employees and from a political backlash are real if execs continue to be compensated at pre-crisis levels," said Cubillas Ding, a senior analyst at financial research firm Celent. "Bonus and pay cuts are now seen as the politically correct thing to do."

Rising public outrage at employers has led to kidnappings, marches and strikes in France, a country with a long tradition of labor unrest.

RCMP sadism


In response to national anger at the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver airport, the RCMP was urged to curb multiple Taser use by its officers — but instead deleted an existing restriction from its stun-gun policy.

CBC News has learned that on Feb. 3, 2009, two sentences were erased from the main document that guides officers' actions — the first limiting Taser usage to one shot and no more than 20 seconds at a time, and the second requiring officers to warn suspects before deploying a stun gun.


The RCMP's policy change comes at a time when new independent research has emerged suggesting that chance of death from stun guns rises with each exposure, contrary to claims by the largest stun-gun manufacturer and police forces using the devices.

"It is a linear relationship: the more you are exposed — if you double the exposure, you double the risk of death," Pierre Savard, a biomedical engineer at Montreal's École Polytechnique who specializes in effects of electricity on the heart, told CBC News.

Savard studied statistics on more than 300 Taser-related deaths compiled by Amnesty International and results from 3,200 RCMP Taser deployments amassed by CBC/Radio-Canada and the Canadian Press.

That electrical current, says Savard, increases the heart rate and can directly affect the cardiac rhythm. "There are plausible mechanisms that can relate the Taser itself to death," said Savard.


Broken force.

There is a constituency out there that will never comprehend this answer

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Anonymous? Who cares...

Calling Rex Murphy!! Help us Rex!

Dammit! Rex, we need some of your answers.

Explain this.

Do a program on this. For Gawd's sake, don't let any scientists talk.
The Red River hasn't risen yet in Winnipeg but there is already water everywhere, covering the streets and filling basements.

City of Winnipeg officials have fielded 2,500 calls in the past 10 days from residents concerned about water in basements and yards.

Bruce McPhail, manager of street maintenance, said Monday that this spring has been one of the worst in recent memory for basement flooding.

"I see that as a combination of wet weather that we got in early February — the freezing rain and the significant moisture — then the very cold temperatures that we got over the winter," he said. "I think that's resulted in a lot of the issues that we've got out there now. And that's certainly been a challenge for the city to try and address."

The problem is many street drains are clogged by ice, so with nowhere to go, the melting snow and rainwater is backing up, creating huge puddles across roadways and yards. The ground is already so saturated with moisture, it cannot absorb much more.

Oh. This is turning ugy. And after it snowed in Vancouver this year.

Welcome to ongoing "water events", Rex. And since you clearly don't even understand what actually causes snow, perhaps you'll develop enough brilliance to realize that anything you have to say about climate change or stability comes from ignorance.

Not your grandad's attic

Miniatur Wunderland via the BBC:

RCMP death skilz

RCMP member (That man is no corporal.) Benjamin Montgomery Robinson,

on Tuesday told the B.C. inquiry into Dziekanski's death that he took the man's pulse and checked his breathing before firefighters arrived at Vancouver airport.

But Robinson said his first-aid training had expired in 2002, and he hadn't yet completed recertification.

Still, he took responsibility for checking Dziekanski's condition before firefighters arrived after Dziekanski was jolted five times by a Taser stun gun in October 2007.

How many fucking times a year do these walking sociopaths have to qualify with their firearms? How many times must they qualify in first aid? I'd bet Mr. Robinson has more than enough range time.

In the army, troops must rigorously qualify in weapons, fitness, and first aid to a comprehensive NATO-wide standard. This is not an option, and as I remember, occurred once a year and was not usually a problem because one's skills were continually honed by regular ongoing training and operations. One needed to be fit enough to both safely and effectively use weapons as well as treat enemy and friendly alike suffering from their effects. Maintaining these qualifications with exceptional skill was a matter not only of pride, but of life and death.

The RCMP death cult apparently stops at weapons.

Enemy wounded - the Taleban - get better treatment than unarmed victims of the RCMP.

Take away their tunics, take away the "Royal" and the crown that goes with it, and immediately fire any member who has failed to maintain their first aid qualification because they clearly aren't interested in saving lives as much as they are learning how to take them. If this means half the RCMP get turfed, so be it. Let the remainder earn back their titles.

The Trickle-Down Legacy, cont'd

THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE NEW YORKER is worthy of your attention, for an article, "Hellhole" by Atul Gawande, who looks at the problem of solitary confinement in US prisons, and asks, "The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?" While solitary has always been in use, its modern growth is a Reagan by-product.  The next time you hear Stevie ranting about sending everybody to prison for ever, consider Atul's take on crime and punishment.

In the past thirty years, the United States has quadrupled its incarceration rate but not its prison space. Work and education programs have been cancelled, out of a belief that the pursuit of rehabilitation is pointless. The result has been unprecedented overcrowding, along with unprecedented idleness—a nice formula for violence.

Remove a few prisoners to solitary confinement, and the violence doesn’t change. So you remove some more, and still nothing happens. Before long, you find yourself in the position we are in today. The United States now has five per cent of the world’s population, twenty-five per cent of its prisoners, and probably the vast majority of prisoners who are in long-term solitary confinement.

Classic Insults

STEVIE'S KNUCKLE-DRAGGERS are a source of much parliamentary perturbation. They're rude, they're crude, in a crowd, distressingly loud. A witless bunch, indeed. Compare with these gems; some of them we've heard before, but that's OK, as great wit never gets dull. My personal fave is the quip by Mae West.

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison," and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

A member of Parliament to Disraeli:
"Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease." "That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" - Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas
"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." - Abraham Lincoln
"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain
"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde
"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.
"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop
"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright
"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb
"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others." - Samuel Johnson
"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." - Paul Keating
"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." - Jack E. Leonard
"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." - Robert Redford
"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." - Thomas Brackett Reed

In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork " - Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts.. . for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx

Apology not accepted

Not that I want to drag this out, because there are more important things to discuss, but...
Do they think they can repeatedly talk this kind of smack about Canada and then just say "oh sorry, just kidding" when they are finally called on it? Really?
Well, I don't think so. What exactly did we "misunderstand" about this festival of dumbassery? Was it actually a scripted outtake from a Rick Mercer "Talking to Americans" special? Greg Gutfeld and the rest of the crew of ignorant jingoistic taints at Fox can kiss my Red-and-white-but-never-blue-maple-syrup-and-hockey-loving ass. Thank god most Americans are smarter than these smirking arses. Fox News is blight on the airwaves and should never have been given a licence in Canada. I vote we cut off the oil for a few months, starting yesterday. Sorry to the rest of America, but if you have a problem with the spike in gas and heating oil prices, take it up with Fox News.

"Isn't this the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country? They have no army!"
-alleged funnyman Greg Gutfeld

Yeah, cause that worked out so well for you guys the last time, Greg.

Bonus funny: One of douche bags involved, Doug Benson, was actually scheduled to perform his comedic stylings in Edmonton from April 2 to April 5, but the gig has been cancelled. I guess the club was afraid some of these guys might have misunderstood his humourous take on their activities. Too bad, I'd certainly have paid top dollar to have seen that. No more BC bud for you, Dougie, you're eyes are red enough.

crossposted from the Woodshed

Life in the technological fast lane

I haven't owned a car in a decade. Living in Tokyo, I don't really need one. Public transportation and taxis get me everywhere I need to go in the city with a minimum of fuss and expense. Back in Canada, I nearly lived in my car, putting 20-30,000 kilometers a year on the succession of old jalopies I owned. Living out in the countryside or in the suburbs in Canada, a car was an absolute necessity and given the totally inadequate nature of public transit even in the largest cities, having a car even in an urban setting was mighty useful. And expensive ("gas is how much a liter this week?"). And stressful ("traffic is backed up how far?"). And dirty and smelly and noisy and all the other things that go with a gasoline powered vehicle. Traffic in Tokyo is insane and the air is already nearly unbreathable anyways, so as long as I'm here, I don't want a car.
I write about a lot of pretty nasty things on this blog - politics, hypocrisy, war, pestilence, corruption, stupidity and petty meaness and ignorance (and that's just Canadian Prime Minister's office) -- so its really nice to mention something positive for a change.

MDI is a French company that is going to save the world if people give them half a chance. They have created a radical new reimagining of the automobile industry, based on building small local plants that manufacture cars for a local market. Imagine a car built right at the dealership. Their labour-intensive plant design allows for an environmentally-friendly car to be built every half hour at a very, very reasonable cost - meaning lots of steady, decent-paying jobs building non-polluting products where they will be sold. No more having to head to the big city for a factory job. No more stinking industrial hellscapes. No need to ship vehicles thousands of miles to market. Hopefully, their cars will be available in Europe and the US this year.
Oh, and did I mention the cars run on compressed air? No need to waste food crops on biofuels, no need to mess with superflammable hydrogen or propane, no need for gasoline. There is a hybrid model that will run on anything from gasoline to alcohol and give you about 80 km per liter of fuel intended for highway driving, but for city driving, you just hook them up to an air compressor and you can go about 100 km before you need a refill. The bodies are mostly fiberglass, so they never rust. Hook that ordinary air compressor up to a neighbourhood windmill and you might never pay to run your car again. And the basic model sells for between $7000 and $12,000.

They may never replace the gasoline-engine roadster for long-distance highway driving, but think what it would do for air quality if you replaced every taxi, delivery vehicle, commuter car and bus in a city like Tokyo or Los Angeles or Mexico City with something that has zero emissions. Think how much money could be saved in fuel costs. And the loudest thing in them is probably the car stereo.

cross-posted from the Woodshed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hey Paul Krugman . . . .

we need you now:

Turn those speakers up, as the tune is actually quite catchy . . . .


(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

"If it matters, measure it"

Apparently this is the motto of Fraser Institute. Draw your own conclusions. (Their office parties must be interesting.)

They're having an essay contest:
Following the Institute’s motto “If it matters, measure it,” we seek to measure topics that matter. We want your ideas on an economic or public policy issue that is of consequence to the residents of a country, region, or city and that could potentially shape their future in a positive way. These should be related to the impact of markets on individuals, or the impact of government interventions on the welfare of individuals.

Entries can be in one of two formats: An essay of 500-600 words, or a one minute video essay uploaded online.
Cute. On the impact of markets and government on individuals? HA! Is the Fraser Insitute questioning its relevance of late? Or are the hacks just plum fresh out of ideas and are casting a wide net to see if someone, (dear god, anyone!) out there can write something that justifies their worldview? At 500 words, they must be desperate. This could be fun.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I once was thrown off a US conservative discussion forum for suggesting that if the wingnuts wished the US to continue its military interventionist foreign policy, they must also accept that its enemies would sometimes strike back and kill large numbers of American civilians. I think this was around the time of the London and Madrid bombings, and they were all busy calling the Spanish cowards for wanting to leave their magic neocon adventure in Asia. How many Americans were they willing to sacrifice to support their politics? It's a brutal way to frame something like that to that crowd, and I can't say I was surprised at my ejection, but in a purely economic calculation, there are particularly unpleasant risks to being involved in any sort action that harms other people.

If you harm the lives and livelihoods of [innocent] people, you're also giving those people a sort of licence to harm yours. Whether your cause is just is subjective and irrelevant to the operation of the equation.

So when looking at the threats faced by execs around their bonuses, I wonder if they factored in these risks when it struck them as a good idea to get obscenely wealthy at the expense of others. I doubt they even thought about it. Or, if they did, maybe they couched it in some grand psuedo-philisophical bullshit about individualism and markets or something. Whatever the case, there are risks and costs.

I would prefer to see some sort of legitimate legal means for punishing decimating the parasite class. Maybe more because I think mob rule is a very bad direction to head, than out of any sort of pacifist tendencies. But I'm not convinced this will happen, or even if it does, that it will be enough to prevent people from doing what they do.

Uh oh! There goes that world stage again... and MacKay's not on it

Shattering news... if you're Peter MacKay. Devastating news if you're Harper.
The US is prepared to back Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to be the next secretary general of Nato, US and alliance sources say.
And that would be an "official" leak. A leak which found its way to a desk somewhere at 101 Colonel By Drive in Ottawa with a message: Back away sonny. This is our turf.
Other contenders for the position include Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, former British Defence Secretary Des Browne, former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy and Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
At least the Brits had the saavy to put MacKay at the end of the list of "also ran" candidates.

Examine a few realities here:

1. The Europeans will never surrender the convention of "The US commands NATO forces and a European civilian commands NATO". There's a good reason for this. NATO's original purpose was to operate on western European soil and face east, preventing any attempted Soviet incursion across what was, at one time, a very dangerous border.

2. The position of NATO secretary-general is selected without much in the way of public input. It is something of a power play among the Europeans. The US would be offside if they opposed the European choice. Any opposition by Canada to the European choice would be promptly and completely ignored.

3. Nothing happens in a vacuum. That name of contenders is not "official" but each one had to be put forward by someone, including that of MacKay. Normally, the names of individuals to be considered are quietly laid before the Dean and Permanent Representatives of the North Atlantic Council. Typically, each member-state of NATO submits the name and resume of a person they would like to see fill the role. The final decision requires unanimity.

That means that MacKay's name didn't pop out of thin air. Nor did the publicity of his being "in contention" for the position. Someone had to submit it.

I'm putting my money on Harper's office.

This morning MacKay came out with a statement which confirms his name certainly was laying about the NAC table and that he had been told to make it clear to everyone that he doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of ever becoming the Chair of the North Atlantic Council.
Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay appeared on Sunday to call off his rumored bid for the NATO leadership, ceding crucial US support for the job to Denmark's prime minister.

"I have a tremendous amount of work to do with the Canadian Forces," MacKay was quoted by Canadian media as telling reporters in Brussels, adding he was "very focused on my country."

MacKay's candidacy was reportedly supported by US Vice President Joe Biden as a reward for Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan.

However, on Saturday, an alliance diplomat said the United States would support Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to succeed Dutch diplomat Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as NATO's top civilian official.

Yes, and the only thing missing was the tears, but I suspect those happened in private. Bad news for MacKay attempting to secure a job outside Canada for which his only qualification is an over-blown ego but worse news for Harper on at least three counts.

First would be the fact that Harper really believes that being involved in an expeditionary military mission gained him a personal position of influence among the NATO partners, and that beating the same war drum as his personal hero, George W. Bush, placed him in a position of some supremacy over the Europeans. The all-important World Stage. What Harper had not factored in, (and he may well be so dogmatic as to not recognize it) was that by the time he came along and started echoing Bush's demands, (providing a North American voice of solidarity), Bush had virtually no traction with the Europeans. Bush had already lied to the alliance putting it into an untenable situation in Afghanistan and anything he had to say was viewed as the rantings of a man impossible to trust. Harper singing the same tune was dismissed as that of a Bush sycophant. Canada may have been punching above its weight in military terms in Afghanistan but it was failing, shoulder to shoulder with the Bush administration, on any significant diplomatic and development initiatives.

Secondly, Harper had counted on his "We're your best friend" approach with the Obama administration to produce some results which would support his personal agenda. It might have been heartening to hear that Vice-President Joe Biden supported MacKay's bid, but if anyone thought that was anything but lip-service they're suffering from delusions. The Obama administration is busy trying to rebuild bridges burnt in the last eight years with the Europeans. Imposing a radical change in convention on the Europeans now would serve only to anger them. Biden's support was always intended as a temporary "feel good" statement. In reality, the US would support the majority position of the North Atlantic Council in an attempt to maintain unanimity and regain some of the amity lost during the Bush years. It probably didn't help that Harper trashed the Obama administration in what was supposed to be a private speech. Of course it was just politics as usual for Harper, but to Biden, it would have been no less than a demonstration of typical conservative behaviour - and Harper as someone not to be trusted.

Third, and probably the most devastating thing for Harper, is that Peter MacKay is staying at home, in country, in government, in cabinet. Getting MacKay a job in Brussels had more to do with getting him out of the country and out of arms reach of the throttle handles of the Conservative Party than anything else.

Harper has a problem. He is rapidly approaching his Best Before Date, both with the Canadian public and within his own party. The facade of moderate conservative which gained him only slim minority governments in two successive elections is starting to fall away and we're starting to see the old Harper - a bitter, nasty individual, out to attack any and all who do not share his Reform Party views.

The faux alliance-building Harper has finally given way to his roots: that of an Alberta Reformer with little interest in a confederated Canada.

While one of his goals was the total destruction of the Liberal Party of Canada, he is now having a difficult time with the fact that his last budget and the consititutional fiasco that preceded it demonstrated that he is literally owned by his political enemies. In the name of his own survival he surrendered his own agenda and ideology to the members opposite. I'm quite sure there was a scene in his office which would have rivalled the performance by Sessue Hayakawa after his character released British Colonel Nicholson from brutal confinement in order to get a bridge built.

And there would have been the realization that he would not do to the Liberal Party that which he had accomplished with the Progressive Conservatives - destruction.

Now, aware of the rumbling in his own party, he has released his Reform Party dogs. Jason Kenney is running amok and the Reformers are becoming more vocal. Harper knows his days are probably numbered and that means ensuring that the DNA of the Conservative Party remains his. The marriage of the Reform/Alliance with the Progressive Conservatives was never equal. It was an assimilation of the PCs. To Harper and his Reformers, the thought of one of the former PCs rising to the leadership of the party is repugnant. They are still too close to the political centre.

Thus, getting MacKay out of town with a plum job was essential. As Harper becomes more vulnerable the contenders for his job will start to pull out their knives. The last person Harper wants running for the leadership of the Conservatives is MacKay, the man who once led the Progressive Conservatives and who delivered the PCs into the hands of the Reformers. The last thing Harper and his cronies want is the only political cadre which gave his extremists enough respectability and camouflage to get elected to power, in control of the Reform dream.

YouTube link to the appropriate scene of Bridge On The River Kwai provided by deBeauxOs.