Census Cons

/ Wednesday, July 28, 2010 /
Well, another beautiful day here in Canada's happiest city. I've got a few friends and acquaintances who are going to argue with this unlikely assertion but I have to admit I like the idea - why would the people at Lonely Planet make such a thing up? There must be some truth to it. Montreal, by the by, was second worldwide to a place that resembles what most us imagine paradise to look like, Vanuatu. So next to paradise, Montreal is the second best place to be.

Yesterday in Ottawa Industry Minister Tony Clement testified on behalf of the Tory government to stubbornly try and justify their doing away with the long form census in spite of all those lined up against the government's position -- including many of their own allies. The Globe and Mail called it a masterful defence of a false fact.

Their concern like many others who disagree with the Tory position is that: We won’t know any more, for sure, how many same-sex couples live among us, how many people are coping with physical or mental difficulties, how well people are speaking English or French, where people came from, how many Indians and other aboriginals there are, who has moved from where to where, who works at what and how much we get paid, who’s paying child support, how the housing stock is fairing, and much more.

Maclean's Magazine blogger Scott Feschuk described Tony Clement as sounding, like a wet-lipped halfwit. Which is fairly generous considering the content of what he argued yesterday. Here's some of that tasty fear-mongering: “I cannot support the opposition's belief that Canadians not wishing to answer these questions are criminals,” Mr. Clement said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “It is truly regrettable that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois will not take a reasonable approach to addressing personal privacy rights of Canadians in the pursuit of invasive data.”

While his performance has been roundly panned, he sounded like Aristotle in comparison with Stockwell Day, who ominously asked if it’s right that the government can ask your neighbour “whether she is a Jew or not? Don’t you find that one even a little bit chilling?” Yikes!

Munir Sheikh's testimony disputed the idea that he supported the government scrapping the mandatory long-form census and the fact that it was being reported that he did was what caused him to resign. No statistician would have made such a recommendation, said Dr. Sheikh, who struggled with his emotions as he addressed the committee. “It really cast doubt on the integrity of the agency,” he said. “And I, as the head of that agency, cannot survive in that job.”

As troubling as all this is over at Rabble.ca Linda McQuaig notes that in many ways this is an attack on the poor, a way to further marginalize them. Sam Boshra, a former analyst for Statistics Canada, puts it this way: "If this results in the poor and unemployed being undercounted, the government could justify reallocating resources away from programs targeting these disadvantaged groups."

It also lends support to the Fraser Institute's disturbing idea of redefining poverty in Canada: The Fraser Institute favours a measure based on minimal subsistence. Under this approach, children are considered not to live in poverty as long as they have food and shelter, even if they lack things most Canadians consider basic -- like books, toys, school supplies.

Using the Fraser poverty calculation, vast swaths of Canada's poor simply disappear, reclassified as middle class -- even as children fall behind at school because their parents can't pay for field trips or calculators. Sounds unconscionable doesn't it? Is this the vision we want for Canada?

Our neighbors to the south have allowed right-wing think tanks to dominate the public discourse and define the terms of the various arguments that are taking place and it has led them to a kind of divisiveness I would never have thought possible. It has been one of the prime drivers in helping to shrink the middle-class, to propagandize and misinform and get people to vote against their own best interests. We cannot allow it to happen here.

Julian Assange In Conversation

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I was getting ready to blog and looking around for Julian Assange's bio when I came upon a TED video talk he had just a few short days before the release of the 92,000 plus reports on the Afghanistan war. Very interesting and yet another reason to love the intertubes.

Ruby Chewsday

/ Tuesday, July 27, 2010 /
I'm clearly running out of ideas for titles. Still, any excuse to post a Rolling Stones tune works for me:

It's very much as if parliament never went on vacation here in Canada. The Tories are still attacking and doing their best to smear Iggy who is having none of it. He seems to have a learned a thing or two in the past year. The Conservatives sent out a missive declaring Liberal, Jennifer Pollock’s comment on Twitter to be a smear of the entire Calgary Police force.

The Tories memo blathers on with the same kind of talking points they have employed since Iggy was made leader of the Liberal Party, “His failure to condemn this reckless policy baiting is unacceptable. Liberals are soft on crime. Mr. Ignatieff and his team are “not in it for our police officers. Not in it for Canadians. Only in it for themselves. Mr. Ignatieff, who is on a summer tour of the country, “does not stand up to embarrassing candidates.” 

It's trite and didn't seem to bother the opposition a whit. They noted first, that Jennifer Pollock was ‘re-tweeting’ a resident's comment to make to case for the proper resourcing of Calgary's finest – it is budget time in Calgary. And then fired back a shot across the bow of their own, “So, nice try to change the channel from all the bad news the Conservatives are creating (census scandal, $16 billion dollars sole-source contract, employment equity debacle, etc.), but this is not it.” The Liberal official says it’s a bit rich to be accused of “smearing by the master smearers.”

There's been fallout in Canada over the leaked military records from Afghanistan. They suggest that the four Canadians, reported killed fighting the Taliban in a major offensive called Operation Medusa, were in fact slain by a U.S. friendly fire. The Harper government, who initially refused to comment on the 92,000 leaked U.S. and NATO documents posted on the Internet by WikiLeaks denied on Monday that the deaths had been caused by a US military mistake.

“At all times the Canadian Forces have been open and forthright with the families of our fallen soldiers and the Canadian public about the circumstances relating to death in Afghanistan,” said Jay Paxton, an aide to Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Rick Hillier, Canada's former top soldier questions the WikiLeaks account of what happened that day, explaining that first accounts on the battlefield were rarely accurate -- which is essentially what the WikiLeaks report is. Jack Layton was a little more skeptical of the government's account noting, Harper's Conservative government has already shown an unwillingness to disclose information about Afghan detainee transfers despite allegations the detainees faced torture at the hands of Afghan officials. "I think there's a lot of concern about transparency and openness with this government..."

For better or worse, the Globe and Mail agrees that the Afghanistan war needs more transparency and of the leaked documents concludes, ...the WikiLeaks documents are improving our understanding of a long and difficult war. If governments were more forthcoming about the true nature of the Afghanistan mission, with all its flaws and in all of its complexity, the public would have less need for them.

Annie Leonard - "The Story Of Bottled Water"

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Getting ready to blog here and wanted to post something that might be thought provoking and of use in the meantime. Have a look at Annie Leonard's, The Story of Bottled Water:

Monday, Monday

/ Monday, July 26, 2010 /
Monday's are as good to me as any other day. For my radio show it usually means I have way more stories than I'm able to get to in 2 hours which is strangely kind of of fun.

So of course the controversy over the census is still ongoing and the Conservatives continue to keep digging which is okay with me. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says ask Canadians to fill out a long census form for the good of the country and they'll rush to grab their blue or black ballpoint pens - he failed to mention all the fairies and elves that assist in this magical effort but you can assume they're part of the equation.  

Mr. Flaherty, who has been on vacation, said he has yet to hear from business leaders on the issue - but we can assume that he hasn't been anywhere near a computer or teh Google search engine. The list of those who oppose the Conservatives' census plan is long, easy to find on-line and includes provincial and municipal governments, social scientists, religious groups, medical researchers, economists, minority-rights advocates and some business groups. The list includes the country's former chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, who quit last week over the government's decision to make the long form census optional.

In a story I didn't get to on my radio show today, Omar Khadr has once again been failed by the Canadian courts and our PM. From The Calgary Herald: Any chance the Canadian government would come to Omar Khadr’s rescue before he stands trial for murder next month in Guantanamo Bay seems to have been washed away with a court ruling. The Federal Court of Appeals has stayed an order requiring the Harper government to quickly come up with ways to help the young Canadian terror suspect.
Lawyer Nathan Whitling said, “It’s going to be an unfair trial. It’s going to be based in large part on statements derived from coercion and torture. It’s a system that would clearly be illegal if Omar happened to be a U.S. citizen.” Good going Stephen! Remember he'd do as much for any of you out there.
In a bit of good environmental news, the rules for Arctic shipping regulations have been strengthened and you can tell it's likely a good idea as the new rules promptly drew fire from BIMCO, the Denmark-based Baltic and International Maritime Council, as a "drastic" response to increased Arctic ship traffic and a potential threat to the long-standing "right to innocent passage" on the world's oceans.

What Have The Unions Ever Done For Us?

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Here's something funny to ponder while I get ready to post the day's links. Hope it's all going your way - and you know, you could drop me a note every once in a while.

"If We Capitulate To Superstion Or Greed Or Stupidity..."

/ Sunday, July 25, 2010 /
This is a longer version of the Carl Sagan video I posted some weeks ago. It's thoughtful and insightful and a good example of what his series, Cosmos, was like. The person who put this together threw in a few modern day reminders of where we find ourselves now - strange times indeed. His was a sane and rational voice that cut through the superstitions and nonsense to present the layman with easy to understand science about the universe and our place in it. As a kid I loved watching and reading Mr. Sagan and that hasn't changed. All these years later if he were alive he'd be aghast at the backwards steps we've taken as a species but not surprised. He speculates on that very topic at the close of the video with the words in the heading, "If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity..." There are very few days I feel that we haven't.

Conservatives Facing More Heat Over Census Decision

/ Saturday, July 24, 2010 /
It seems to me the Canada's Conservative Party has done all it can to stay in the news in what should be the off-season, politically speaking. Parliament took its summer break four short weeks It has not done them credit. The $1 billion spent on security for the G8 and G20 summits which were essentially pro-forma - meaning the deals had been struck in advance so the entire show was about photo-ops mostly. Canadians are going to remember that..

I wish they'd remember the omnibus budget bill C-9 that was shoved down Canadian's throats but we'll take what we can get at this point. We're impressed on one level that Stephen Harper can make Michael Ignatieff look so great. Don't mistake that for a backhanded compliment - I like Mr. Ignatieff but have had more than a few doubts about his being a politician.

He seems to be learning though. His tour to talk and listen to Canadians will pay dividends I believe as he learns to better communicate his message. I listened to an interview on CBC 1 in Montreal (abysmal questioning) on Friday and he handled himself with aplomb in spite of the amateurish interviewer. It augers well for the fall session I hope.

So, back to Harper staying in the news. The census flap is turning out to be far worse than he could have expected. I mean all he wanted to do was throw his base a bone... right? Of course it was at the expense of the rest of Canada and unfortunately for Stephen someone stood up to let Canadians know.Munir Sheikh resigned because he knows the importance in the value of Statistics Canada as an institution.

Census surveys form the basis of much of Statistics Canada’s other analyses, including vital labour force measures such as the unemployment rate. It drives everything from corporate fundraising drives in Toronto to the deployment of B.C. lunch programs for school kids; and from the layout of suburban subdivisions to the prescriptions of think tanks of every ideological bent.

Restaurants use information from the long form to help determine where to locate and how to target their marketing. Census information turns out to be an unexpectedly effective fundraising tool.

Census data such as mother tongue and family income also allows provincial education officials to target resources for services such as B.C.'s breakfast programs for schoolchildren and English-as-a-second language instruction in Ontario cities with large numbers of newcomers. In Penticton, B.C., two elementary schools receive extra funds for a hot-lunch program thanks to census tract data that reveals which neighbourhoods have relatively high concentrations of poor families.

Here's a list of organizations who are against the scrapping of the long form census:

Canadian Jewish Congress

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Canadian Medical Association Journal

Registered Nurses of Ontario

Canadian Conference of the Arts

Canada West Foundation

Canadian Nurses Association

Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Council on Social Development

United Way Canada

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada

Canadian Marketing Association

Marketing Research and Intelligence Association

Manitoba Bureau of Statistics

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Association of Municipalities of Ontario

Canadian Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities

Societe franco-manitobaine

Association francophone des municipalites du Nouveau-Brunswick

Canadian Institute of Planners

Canadian Association for Business Economics

Canadian Association of University Teachers

Institute for Research on Public Policy

Quebec Community Groups Network

Atlantic Provinces Economic Council

New Brunswick Association of Social Workers

C.D. Howe Institute

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Statistical Society of Canada

Canadian Economics Association

Canadian Association of Public Data Users

Information and Communications Technology Council


Environics Analytics

The best thing from the perspective of someone who wants to see anyone other than Harper in the PM's office is that he's too much of an ideologue to back down or change his mind and it'll cost him.

The Cons Census Is In

/ Friday, July 23, 2010 /
As the calls grow for Statistics Canada to be made into an arms-length agency, perhaps similar to the Office of the Auditor-General, or just independent the Tories are busily scrambling to defend their decision to scrap the long-form census calling opposition to their ideas support for tyranny. Most agree, they've made a huge mistake, a voluntary census is no substitute for a mandatory one and they should find some way to walk this decision back. The thing  about ideologues is that never happens. They will stick to their guns and blame others for the whatever problems beset them for having the nerve to disagree.

Then there's Harper’s decision to stay away from a major international AIDS conference that draws heads of state. Julio Montaner, the outgoing president of the International AIDS Society who is also a Canadian, saved his parting shot for the government of Canada, issuing a sharp rebuke.

“I must recognize Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the chair of this year’s G8 and G20 meetings and his health minister, Leona Aglukkaq, for demonstrating, once again, their incredible ability to take credit where none is due,” Dr. Montaner told the conference Friday.

“I am ashamed to say that the Government of Canada has punched well below its weight in funding universal access and supporting those affected by HIV and AIDS in Canada and around the world.” It's another example of Harper's uncaring attitude towards Canada's reputation and standing in the world. There hasn't been a moment in the past year where I haven't been ashamed he was Canada's PM.

Unsafe Chemicals

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It's Friday and I'd like to somehow both catch-up to all the stories I couldn't get to and provide a public service. Really! So here's a whole list of chemicals in everyday products you have to learn to avoid, and they're in everything from lipstick to toothpaste to pizza boxes. Go to, Not a Guinea Pig, for a more complete list of things you should keep away from. To top it off, Annie Leonard, of The Story of Stuff, fame giving a primer on the toxic products we purchase and bring into our homes:

Oh Stats Canada...

/ Thursday, July 22, 2010 /
We damned well better "stand on guard," or the Tories will just continue down this road of screwing Canadians and destroying fine institutions like Statistics Canada. Every kind of industry, labour, academic and charitable organization had sent petitions, letters and press releases saying the same thing, backed by a truckloads of statisticians and economists, said in effect that a voluntary survey would effectively gut the census. By his resignation Munir Sheikh strongly echoed those opinions.

John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail believes the Tories should reverse course on this - I don't believe they will. On the plus side, they have provided the opposition with an easy target and a reminder during the summer months that the Tories are first last and always ideologically driven in a way that does not reflect the majority of Canadians.

In other news, Iggy continues his bus tour and it takes him to former PM Jean Chretien's hometown of Shawinigan, Quebec. I do believe they'll make a politician out of Iggy yet - necessity is a mother!

Standing Up!

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Munir Sheikh head of Statistics Canada decided to stand up to Stephen Harper's pandering to the right wing of his party and has resigned over the government's plan to scrap the mandatory long-form census, saying the replacement they propose for this will not work. The Globe and Mail editorial on the surprise resignation begins: The folly of the federal government's decision to change the census has been exposed, and at a steep price. The resignation of Munir Sheikh, Canada's chief statistician and the head of Statistics Canada, represents the loss of a respected public servant, and a further blow to the credibility of a venerable agency.

Industry Minister Tony Clement who has been accused of misrepresenting census impact and the advice he has been receiving from the internationally respected agency said he acknowledges Mr. Sheikh's resignation "with regret." Mr. Clement has said Statscan officials reassured him the agency can manage the 2011 census effectively without forcing some people to fill out the longer version of the form. But, according to a source close to the story who asked not to be identified, that’s not what Mr. Clement has been told. Clearly Mr. Clement has not been "misrepresenting," he has been deliberately lying and Mr. Sheikh's resignation makes that perfectly clear.

Oh, and Canada's Provincial Premiers don't think any of this is a great idea either.

We've asked this question before about the Prime Minister, is he an ideologue or just an asshole? And the answer is always the same: He's an assalogue! Or a sanctihole if you prefer. Either way he's not the Prime Minister of all Canadians, only the 30% or so who voted for him - the rest of us apparently can all go hang!

Wednesday War Blogging

/ Wednesday, July 21, 2010 /
This is a sad place to start: Another Canadian soldier has given his life for the mission in Afghanistan. Sapper Brian Collier, was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan Tuesday He was killed while on a foot patrol in the village of Nakhonay, in the eastern part of Panjwaii District by an improvised explosive device (IED). Collier who was just 24, was born in Toronto and raised in Bradford, Ont. He was a member of the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment based at CFB Edmonton and was serving in Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.

Of the soldiers service Harper said "The bravery and remarkable commitment of Canadians like Sapper Collier are bringing safety and stability to the people of Afghanistan." There's neither safety nor stability in Afghanistan but what else can Harper say?

The international conference that was held Tuesday in Afghanistan with Western leaders, quietly decided 2014 as the war’s unofficial end date. In the Globe and Mail this was reported as, a move that could now mark Canada’s intended 2011 withdrawal as premature. Maybe they like war - someone sure does.

James Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan during the Bush administration and one of the diplomats responsible for installing Mr. Karzai as President after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 said, “They’ve rather subtly shifted the goal posts from 2011 to 2014. I think you’ll see a steady downplaying of 2011 on all fronts as it doesn’t turn out to be the turning point many people thought.”

The Guardian reports, General David Petraeus, the new US commander in the country, is less committed to a speedy transfer of power and a Nato official said the change reflected Petraeus's wish to slow the pace of the transfer of power.
Looks like kicking the can down the road on the path to endless war to me.

Aaaaand... We're Back! Harper Still a Wanker

/ Monday, July 19, 2010 /
Sorry to abandon my post for the weekend but it had to be done. My sanity and well-being were at stake. I've done my best to recruit a writer or two but to no avail. It's hard to blame anyone either -"Would you like to chronicle bad new for very little money and hardly any recognition?"

That might change in the not so distant future but for now that is an apt description of the gig. Mostly I do this in tandem with my radio show. The links I post here are the Canadian stories I'm talking about on weekday mornings and the environmental and American political stories I log and blog over at the sister site. Isn't it endearing when I share loads of personal information?

Okay, so the JFL Comedy festival just ended this past weekend in Montreal and it seem our PM has angered Cheech and Chong. Here's what Tommy had to say about our PM the ideologue: “I would tell Stephen Harper to let go of George Bush’s butt. Your head’s too far up there. Get your head out of his butt. He’s gone. George is gone. He’s history, Stephen.” Cheech and Chong are mad at our PM - it doesn't get worse than that!

While we're on the subject off just how big a wanker Stephen Harper is, let's look  at the census flap. apparently right-wingers go crazy when there's accurate information to base your political decisions on - just like south of the border reality is not their purview. So Harper panders - shocking! Of course by shocking I mean just more of the same from our PM.

Canadians aren't all that keen on how he wants to spend more of our money either - but then when you got into the PM's office with less than 30% of the national vote how hard do you have to work at pleasing voters? He certainly feels free enough to ignore the court's rulings on Omar Khadr. The linked article concludes and I agree, The vindictiveness and mean-spiritedness of the Harper government is a real threat to the supremacy of the rule of law and the inherent goodness of the Canadian people.

The Globe reporter John Ibbitson is not sure what the Liberals and Iggy hope to accomplish with the bus tour dubbed the Liberal Express, but it seems pretty strait forward to me: they're trying to remake him into a politician. By getting him out on the hustings so he can hear what people have to say and so he'll learn what he can say to move people. According to the latest Environics poll, there's only three points separating Iggy and Harper and if Canadians get fed up enough with the Harper right wing agenda being shoved down their throats at every turn Iggy may soon start to look pretty good as an alternative. There's also the prospect of an economic slowdown on the horizon and that would effectively end every last argument Harper could make for the Conservatives.
In good environmental news from British Columbia, a team of loggers and biologists works to undo the damage of decades of industrial-scale logging on Clayoquot Sound. In troubling news from Manitoba, provincial officials are on high alert for zebra mussels, one of the many nuisance species that invaded the Great Lakes and have recently found a home in the Red River in North Dakota. Their arrival spells big trouble for the natural ecosystem, not to mention the havoc they can cause to water pipes, hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure.

Unsexy War

/ Friday, July 16, 2010 /
There was supposed to be a post yesterday on the Canadian troops handing over Kandahar city to the US Forces. You have to wonder how the Afghans feel about it though.  Apparently it's all part of a major reorganization of NATO's forces in southern Afghanistan, due to the influx of thousands of fresh U.S. troops into Kandahar. After the worst month for NATO fatalities in the nine year history of the war, Lt.-Col. Craig Dalton of the Canadian Forces told a news conference in Orwellian speak that, "This rising tide of security will set the conditions for the Afghans to defeat the insurgency."

Good luck with that!

Here's a report on an an attack this week on a major Afghan police base in Kandahar that killed nine — including three American soldiers that suggests an increasing sophistication in Taliban attacks - all part of a pretty bad week for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

As my radio show guest William Ray suggested would be the case last week, armed militias of the type used to fight the insurgency in Iraq are to be introduced to Afghanistan as part of the new strategy of General David Petraeus to counter the tide of Taliban attacks.

CBC has an excellent news report and video on Canadian soldiers and the caution they must exercise as they fight for the hearts and minds of the Afghans.

Peter McKay is in a spending mood - funny that he would wait until Parliament was on a summer break to do all this spending. Afraid of the scrutiny perhaps? Anyhow, $2.6 billion for some boats and $16 billion for some planes (sole sourced - or no competing bids). Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail thinks the fighter jets don't fit Canada's current needs.

Iggy's Eventful Summer

/ Wednesday, July 14, 2010 /
It's too facile to suggest that Iggy's summer publicity tour is make or break for him as a leader of the Liberal Party. It's not a stretch however to suggest that it will be his actions and the policies he chooses to fight for over the next 3 or 4 months that will decide his fate. He had many opportunities in the most recent session of Parliament to take a stand and see if the Canadian people would stand with him but he chose not to.

He played coy by disagreeing and criticizing Stephen Harper's legislative choices but always with a watchful eye towards his standing in the polls. Based on that he chose to let Stephen Harper have his way - in everything and never risked bringing the government down with a non-confidence vote. In fact the only threaten that was done was by Harper. Most recently when the Senate attempted to split up a bill that even the Globe and Mail calls "overstuffed" and others have suggested is undemocratic.

So he's off on a bus tour and has to take whatever nonsense is thrown at him - including stuff about Bill C-36 of all  things. Of all the nasty s***-bearing bills Harper jammed down the gullet of Canadians the one relating to homeopathic medicines has no interest for me. Go read what PZ Meyers over at Pharyngula thinks of homeopathy. And in the meantime word is the Tories are going to start their bullcrap about Iggy having the nerve to teach in other countries. It's pathetic on their parts and, let's hope, patently see-through. Fear and lies seems to be the only cards they're interested in playing.

Bums In The Seats

/ Tuesday, July 13, 2010 /
Have to admit when I saw the above expression used in a Globe article all I could see was the possibility of jokes - so many possibilities, so many bums! Especially in the Canadian Senate. Especially now that Stephen packed it chock full of conservative wankers... but I'm splitting hairs. A wanker's a wanker no matter how privileged or lazy or uncaring or conservative. Those seats by the way, did you know that senators are paid more than $130,000 a year to fill them? Sometimes that's just too much to ask of them though.

Even though it involved an attempt to excise from the omnibus budget parts pertaining to the sale of the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the privatization of the foreign arm of Canada Post, and the restructuring of environmental assessment (which gives the government the right unilaterally decide that some federal projects don't need environmental assessments before they proceed), it wasn't important enough for some Liberal Senators to show up for.

These are measures the Conservative government could not have pushed through the House of Commons as stand-alone items, but the vacations and travel plans of a handful of Senators proved to be far more important than their duties to the Canadian people. Those missing Senators by the way were Tommy Banks, Sharon Carstairs, Pierre De Bané, Francis Fox, Serge Joyal, David Smith and Nick Sibbeston.

A Day's Found Stuff

/ Monday, July 12, 2010 /
Kind of in-between worlds today and so I'm late to the table. There continues to be all kinds of fall-out from the G20. More evidence of police brutishness was found over at Scott's Dia Tribes.

"This isn't Canada!" Good grief! Who the hell does that cop think pays his salary?

From over at Rabble.ca a story by Peter Marmorek that laments, "My Canada was a Free Country." You decide for yourself if it's hyperbole - I think there are valid points raised that all Canadians, at the very least those who witnessed the fiasco that we paid more than $1 billion dollars for, should be asking.

The Tories refuse to accept the Federal Court's ruling on Omar Khadr's right's being continuously violated. This is criminal! Canadian Newspapers aren't helping either.

There's all kinds of stuff on the environment and BP at the sister site.

Catching Up Part the Second

/ Sunday, July 11, 2010 /
In case you missed it, Naomi Klein's op-ed in the Globe and Mail about the G20 and how we all got stuck with the bill - not the $1 billion for security, that's a given - for the crisis that the bankers created and are wholly to blame for.

Amy Goodman over at Rabble.ca reporting on how the media and scientists are being shut out from examining and covering the ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf and how the lack of transparency may lead to more disasters.

Richard Fadden has a defender, a former member of CSIS (of course he's completely unbiased), and he doe it with the requisite amount of fear mongering: ...it’s time that Canadians understood the substance of Mr. Fadden’s statements – and that is that foreign intelligence agencies are trying to gain control of Canadian politicians. I wouldn't buy a bridge from either of these two professional liars.

Speaking of fear-mongering, Stephen Harper does some of his own at the Calgary Stampede and Iggy responds... kind of. That's what the Stampede is all about, right? Harper does have some bragging rights as far as the recent job creation numbers go - down from 8.1% to 7.9%. Here's hoping the Afghan detainee issue does not go away for Mr. Harper - Canadians need to understand what happened there and the government's complicity.

It's not all going Stephen's way, last week the senate managed to carve up his massive omnibus budget bill a bit leaving us all with some hope for whiff of democracy. The Tories were so angry they were threatening a fall election (It would have to be the 1st time in history that a government whose popularity rested at 31% rushed to go to the polls). It's all about getting bums in the seats in the Senate - sounds redundant, doesn't it?

Jean Charest sells out his green creds to Paul Desmarais, Jr  and the Power Corp.

Quick Roundup

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Never got back yesterday and I even manage to feel a little guilty about it... well not terribly, but just enough to remind me I was raised Catholic. So this'll just be links until I'm all caught up here, at the radio station and for tomorrow's show.

The heat wave in the east has abated somewhat although the long-range forecast for this week includes lots more heat so no putting away those fans yet. A study by Stanford University climate scientists says that exceptionally long heat waves could become the norm in the near future. As the mercury rises outdoors, it's a fitting time to consider the effects of summertime droughts and global warming on ecosystems.

It's also the right time to look at sunscreens and two studies that are creating confusion for Canadians on the subject: one from the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the other from the Canadian Dermatology Association - this CBC report tries to sort it out.

In an absolute must-read, Andrew Nikiforuk of The Mark, explores Canada's descent into a petro-statehood brought to you by the not so good people of Canada's Conservatives and the Alberta government. Sticking with the black gooey stuff, it turns out that in spite of the ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf and promises of greater oversight, Doug Sanders reports on an explosion of drilling off the coast of Canada's Arctic in the narrow strait  between Greenland and Baffin Island.

Happily, it looks like there will be an independent review of the jack-booted police tactics that were employed at the G20 in Toronto. Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty has an idea - "Let's never do this again!" In Toronto on Satuurday there was a protest calling for accountability. I rarely get to say this, "Yay Toronto!"

On Thursday's radio show we took a look back at Canada'a Somalia Inquiry, and what that was all about as it's long since down the memory hole. The relevance was to the recent stalling and obfuscations by the Tories on the Afghan detainee issue - here's a terrific CBC primer on Somalia and all that took place (for the shortened version, skip ahead to clip 12).

Lazy Saturday Blogging

/ Saturday, July 10, 2010 /
Will try to post a couple of things as the day goes along - have to get a bike ride in or go mad. Wanted to have something new and brilliant for passers-by to look at. This is not new but it's brilliant! I found it at one of my new favourite blogs Pharyngula. So listen to Carl Sagan and enjoy a breath of sanity and perspective.

Unsexy War Blogging

/ Thursday, July 8, 2010 /
This is how I characterize the Canadian war effort in Afghanistan - Unsexy! In spite of costs in blood and treasure no one seems to really want to pay much attention to what's going on over on the other side of the world in our names. It's a bit different in the U.S. where they have two wars going on that the media does its' level best to avoid covering - except when something crazy happens like the head of the NATO command forces gets loose lipped on a case of Bud Light Lime and disses everybody up and down the chain of command.

Joe Biden's recent trip (his 5th) was to Iraq to try and help negotiate a power-sharing deal between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who is struggling to keep his job after his party lost the March 7 election, and his chief challenger, former premier Ayad Allawi. It has largely been unsuccessful.

Despite his lack of success in arranging such a deal he still managed to express confidence that the Iraqis are “absolutely” ready to take over full responsibility for securing their country as the U.S. proceeds with a planned drawdown of combat forces. As things currently stand in Iraq, twirling towards freedom best describes it - there is still violence, every single day. About 4,400 American service members have given their lives in Iraq. Tens possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. Today there is a report of bombings targeting Shia pilgrims in Iraq killing 5. Yesterday 64 were killed and 215 wounded in a string of attacks across Iraq...

In the NPR article linked above, journalist Lourdes Garcia-Navarro asks the 64 billion dollar question - Is Iraq a safer country now than it was three years ago? Undoubtedly. He says answering his own question and then continues, ...if you walk out the palace doors, and onto the hot dusty streets like I and many of my colleagues do everyday, you'll meet Iraqis who are worried about what comes next. Many of them ask me, "What was it all for?" As I leave Iraq this time, I have trouble giving them an answer.

He's not alone.

Not Entirely Unsexy Afghan War Blogginng

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Rachel helps put the current state of affairs in Afghanistan in some perspective. I'm one of those who has a hard time envisioning what success there will look like and yet she manages to make me feel some optimism.

About the only major issue Rachel doesn't delve into here is the one about Afghan corruption. So intractable a problem that in an attempt to deal with it the US has reduced aid to Afghanistan by $4 billion over concerns it's undermining their efforts. There's a report that corruption has doubled since 2007 - something that report author Lorenzo Delesgues says, "...reduces the legitimacy of the state, it gives more legitimacy to the Taliban."

Wicked Hot Wednesday

/ Wednesday, July 7, 2010 /
I'm one of those who loves the heat and doesn't even mind when the temperatures soar into the mid-30's and beyond. My only complaint in the city would be when it comes without wind because then we get ground level ozone and smog alerts and you can't really do anything outside. I find it hard not to giggle when public health officials issue press releases telling people to stay cool. Good thing someone thought of that, otherwise there's no telling how I'd behave in this weather - drink plenty of liquids folks!

I'm happy to be proved wrong as in this case as it looks like there may actually be an independent inquiry into the police brutality that occurred at the Toronto G20 protest. Good thing too as there are reports of the police behaving shamefully like ripping off the prosthetic leg of a protester telling him it could be used as a weapon. Read this primer to get an idea of what exactly your right's are under such circumstances. Can't let them take away our right to protest bad policy peacefully.

The Taser people don't understand why Braidwood made his conclusion without, what they say is, any evidence to support it (other than the video of Dziekanski being tasered and dying!) and they claim Braidwood failed to take into account all of the studies and material they provided. Unbelievable - and it's not like he's the first to die as a result of being tasered. Anything we can do to get these things out of the hands of Canadian police officers is a good idea.

Canada's Natural Resources Minister is looking down the barrel of an ethics probe. That's what you get for having dealings with Jaffer.

As a result of flooding out west financial aid for Prairie farmers will be a key issue when Canada's agriculture ministers get together in Saskatoon this week.

Those Craaazy Believers In Global Warming!

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I was reading a post over at Climate Progress about vanishing sea ice in the Arctic, and how in June it was at its' lowest extent and had gone through the fastest rate of decline in the satellite record and was thinking, "What does it matter?" The deniers will either claim it's not happening, or it's a one-off, or it's all part of some master plan to sandbag us all and they'll be loud enough and strident enough to continue to prevent real action from being taken. "Who the hell would these idiots listen to?" was the question that came to mind. Other than Jeebus, I mean.

Then I got lucky. I found a video with former Army Chief of Staff, General Gordon Sulllivan, discussing national security and climate change. Turns out he was once a skeptic but having looked at all the data, he changed his mind and he wasn't alone. The military leaders who agree with him are many and include Rear Admiral David Titley, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, James Woolsey former director of the CIA and former undersecretary of the US Navy, General Ron Keyes former Commander Air Combat Command, Wesley Clark former Supreme Allied commander of NATO, General Chuck Wald USAF and former Deputy Commander US European Command, and General Anthony Zinni former Chief US Central Command. These are not the kinds of people that are prone to being alarmists nor did they rise to the very top of the conservative military chain of command by being free-thinkers who rely on their intuition. They are the kinds of people who, when making decisions, had to rely on facts to guide their actions. If you watch you'll see they are all worried about wars for water, wars for oil, mass migrations and food insecurity all as a direct result of climate change. See for yourself... and be alarmed.

HT: A Few Things Ill Considered

Not Easy Being Green

/ Tuesday, July 6, 2010 /
Any excuse to play a Kermit the Frog song will do. Sadly Canada's Senate has decided to ignore the vote taken by Parliament on Bill C-311 which passed by a vote of 149-136 and requires the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

NDP MP Bruce Hyer who drafted the bill says he has been told by Conservatives that the government has decreed that the bill cannot be passed into law. Mr. Hyer said it would be disappointing and “undemocratic” if the Conservatives killed the bill for what he called ‘ideological” reasons. But what else is there to be expected from the Tories?

Happily for Montreal's trendy Plateau district, they have a mayor, Luc Ferrandez, with the courage to stand up and fight for the right to make the urban environment he governs a greener and more welcome place for it's inhabitants and less so for automobiles. Even though he is being beset by attacks from all manner of interests he has, so far, stuck to his principles - “There is an inalienable right to have peace in the city. You have the right to raise kids here, you have the right to live here,” he says.

Canada's head of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Richard Fadden, gave an interview to the CBC wherein he alleged that the Chinese government was infiltrating Canadian political bodies and that this influence extends to municipal and political bureaucrats and politicians and even a couple of unnamed cabinet ministers. So on Monday he was asked to testify, back up the allegations and name names. he says he will do so but only behind closed doors.

There was some good news for Omar Khadr on Monday as the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the government has seven days to come up with a list of remedies to its breach of Mr. Khadr’s constitutional rights. I can't stress this enough, Stephen Harper would do the same to protect any of us as he has for the 15 year old boy who was snatched off the Afghan battlefield and charged with killing an American soldier. That is nothing.

Canada's Silly Season Still Missing

/ Monday, July 5, 2010 /
Post Canada Day weekend, summer is well under way and the arrival of the silly season is nowhere in sight - unless you think McGuinty calling himself a liberal or the suspension of Canadian civil rights constitutes a laugh riot.

Ben Powless, writing for Rabble.ca talks about his illegal detention along with 899 other protesters and describes scenes that remind me of long ago protests behind the iron curtain. How else would you characterize the following:

The snatch-and-grabs began. Protestors were picked off seemingly at random, preference given to those who spoke on the megaphone. Media were told to leave the area or face arrest, with the exception of Jesse Rosenfeld, a writer for the UK's The Guardian, who was assaulted and arrested because his Alternative Media Centre pass was not recognized. There was a complete sense of confusion, near panic. No explanation was offered, and it was only after about 20 people had been dragged away that the police let us know we were being arrested for "breach of the peace," and could avoid being aggressively detained by lining up in front of them with our hands on our heads. At no point was any indication made of ways to disperse or desist from breaching whatever peace existed.

From the same publication a report on the police brutality that was inflicted upon the protesters and bystanders - the article makes the point that ...broken bones, cracked heads and eyes filled with pepper spray - have yet to feature prominently in any mainstream media.

Over at the Globe and Mail, Adam Radwanski writes about the so-called five-metre rule and why it matters - the choice of governments, through both their actions and inactions, to give police gratuitous leeway in securing these kinds of international summits. All in all a shameful episode in Canadian history that will no doubt go down the memory hole in short order unless an unbiased investigation of police tactics is conducted - and that doesn't seem likely.

Some actual good news, as the National Energy Board is considering forcing oil companies to drill a secondary relief well in any deep water Arctic exploration project, which is a sign of sanity considering the current state of the Gulf of Mexico and the ongoing spill. Sadly they are not considering extending those rules to drilling off of Canada's east coast.

There is a report that Canada is poised to become a leader in forest conservation - read the entire article. It is filled with weasel words and propaganda noting the fact that Canada's boreal forest covers about 5.8 million square kilometres and ...agreements under consideration would allow highly restricted development on about half the land and no resource exploitation at all on the other half. That's roughly 3 million square kilometers that will see exploitation - we are supposed to feel good about this because they are only raping half the available forests.

Lastly, the Federal Court has given the government seven days to come up with a list of remedies to its breach of Omar Khadr's constitutional rights. The court ruled that the Canadian citizen now jailed at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is entitled to “procedural fairness and natural justice.”

Climate Change - Not Controversial

/ Sunday, July 4, 2010 /
Stephen Harper said he did not make climate change a priority at the recent G8 and G20 summits because it was a controversial issue. That is a bald-faced lie. It may be controversial to him and his climate science denying corporate pals but to the rest of the scientific world it is accepted science.

A recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences, involving 1,372 climate scientists, most considered top researchers in their field, shows that 97 percent agree that global warming is occurring and is being driven mainly by human activity - emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The only controversy has been created by organized campaigns of disinformation by those in the fossil fuel industries and given the weight of equivalency in the various media. The disagreements come from astroturf organizations, those in the thrall of corporate interests like the American Enterprise Institute (an Exxon-Mobil funded think-tank), Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Foundation for research on economics and the environment. All have been involved in "spinning" the "climategate" story or are at the forefront of the anti-global warming debate. You can also include the US Chamber of Commerce in that list. In truth the climate science skeptics are few and lack expertise according to a study led by Stanford researchers.

Which leads me to a post over at Joe Romm's blog, Climate Progress. Today, Joe wants Americans to celebrate Interdependence Day and he makes a couple of important observations. Taking from the Declaration of Independence, he highlights the self-evident, unalienable rights that the Founding Fathers say all are endowed with, ...life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that with those words the Founding Fathers were pointing out that ...we are all in this together, that we are interdependent, that we have a moral duty to protect these unalienable rights for all humans. He's right, yet we are doing very little that acknowledges that relationship with one another or to change the current course we are on so that mankind may continue to prosper... or pursue happiness!

Interdependence extends not to just with those in the U.S., or all of us here on the same continent but worldwide. Otherwise we are headed for 9°F planetary warming by the end of the century, 850+ppm of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, and massive species loss, all of which will change life as we know it irrevocably and condemn future generations to live in conditions that resemble those in kitschy, dystopian, science- fiction movies. Seriously.

That interdependence also extends to various eco-systems which are interconnected and equally at risk. For example, rising CO2 concentrations are leading to increasingly acidic oceans and there's a report today that the deteriorating health of the oceans may be irreversible. The report, in Science magazine, doesn't break a lot of new ground, but it brings together dozens of studies that collectively paint a dismal picture of deteriorating ocean health. Put it all together and it paints an alarming picture.

Abdicating Responsibility

/ Friday, July 2, 2010 /
Hello there! Hope your Canada Day celebrations were great and it all went your way. Hope you spent it with family, ate great food and enjoyed summer weather.

Just stopped in to post about the shameful behaviour of Ontario's Premier, Dalton McGuinty. For those of you not following the story about how the security situation at the G-20 in Toronto devolved into such a mess, let's recap: For a couple of days preceding the summit everyone was under the impression that the province of Ontario – through a temporary regulation affecting the Public Works Protection Act – had given police the power to conduct searches and demand identification within five metres of the security fence erected for last weekend’s G-20 summit. people were under that impression because police acted as if that was the case.

The legislation was cited in the arrest of two activists last Thursday, neither of whom had tried to enter the zone. There is video evidence of officers citing the so-called five-metre rule as they demanded that one of those activists, stop filming video well outside the fence.

Chief Blair, told a reporter on Tuesday that he was willing to allow the public to continue to think that those police powers existed where they really didn’t, because he was “trying to keep the criminals out.” Chief Blair clearly has a lot to answer for, but it was McGuinty and the Liberals who put this mess in motion, and did not put an end to it when they had the chance. Instead, Dalton McGuinty has washed his hands of the police mistreatment allegations.

Seems to be a cowardly act by someone who was only too happy to suspend the civil rights of Canadians for reasons that seem to have nothing to do with peace, order and good government. Sounds a lot like "shut-up, do what we tell you or we'll throw your sorry ass in the clink!" All the weekend before a holiday that celebrates our country and our democracy. We hope the citizens of Ontario are keeping score.

The pictures make us wonder, were these guys separated at birth?

Now For Some Canada Day Fun!

/ Thursday, July 1, 2010 /
Going out to enjoy myself and wanted to leave something happy and cheerful for anyone who stopped by on the holiday. Happy Birthday Canada ! Bonne Fête Canada!

Happy Canada Day!

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I am not a flag waver by nature. In fact I feel pretty certain about stating that flag waving and nationalism throughout history has to led to terrible acts. In George Orwell's essay Notes on Nationalism he points to the narrow scope of the nationalist's point of view, A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist — that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating — but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade.

This kind of nationalism is not only limited in its' purview it is ultimately useless. The quality of our short lives and our own country's success is not irrevocably tied to the endless rise and fall of the fortune's of other nations. In the global economy the economic ties we commit ourselves to can and do have severe affects and consequences, especially if we do not take safeguards against the vagaries of the various markets, but in the end we are responsible for our own happiness and successes. It is about what we can accomplish together, pulling in the same direction, with the resources that we have at our disposal - and as Canadians we have an enormous amount of resources.

Peace, order and good government, are simple and decent things to aspire to and amount to a sound and simple philosophy for governing. In the best tradition of Canadian politics this clause marks a compromise that charts a middle path between a centralized state and a federation. The peace, order and good government clause, in section 91 of the BNA Act, allowed the federal government far-reaching powers to override the provincial powers when an issue or event threatened the country.

It's good that historically our successes have come without the attendant jingoism that we see from our global neighbors but of late Canadians have let a kind of chauvinism creep into the national identity and that's not necessarily a good thing. Humility is a far more endearing and useful national character trait. It's the kind of thing that will keep Canadians looking forward to finding ways to improve on what we do with all that we have - and there's lots we can improve on. After all, there's nothing to be gained from being smug about our riches and good fortune, this is just a day to celebrate it. Enjoy!



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