Thursday, December 31, 2009


At the core of the Conservative thought process is the notion of voter apathy. Decisions are made with an almost dismissive view, there is no fear of true consequence because we are dealing with a short attention span, passive electorate. This latest prorogue move REEKS of arrogance, and yet it remains to be seen whether the Conservatives are correct. Clearly, the calculation has been made that the government can weather any short term criticism, the issue will fade to irrelevance, nobody really cares.

When Tom Flanagan was asked about proroguing a couple weeks ago, he described it as a "win/win" for the government. There was no downside, there was a smugness that denoted people governing with impunity. Obviously, as the Conservatives debated this decision, they recognized the potential pitfalls. The optics of avoiding accountability, trashing their own legislation they once trumpeted as essential, MP's sitting idle, unilateral arrogance, none of its flattering. Despite this potential, the Conservatives moved forward, because history has shown there really is little accountability. Canadians are completely and utterly disengaged, this issue, like supposedly "important" affronts before, will simply fade into oblivion. It's not like this is the first brazen move by this government, and given their current standing, one can justify their apathy theory as current law.

This prorogue is the great test. If there is no recourse, then the Conservative view of Canadians is cemented, and really its success only perpetuates the future reality. There is no real rationale to prorogue Parliament, the Conservative justifications bordering on insult. There are many fundamental reasons why this prorogue should bring fury, it speaks to a host of intellectual democratic considerations. This decision should matter, and yet a learned calculation suggests it probably won't. It's actually a sad statement on how Harper has fundamentally altered our political landscape, the new "norm" represents a new low.

Harper is acting like a KING. Harper has trashed every single tenet that his old movement supposedly stood for, he has become the antithesis. This move represents the height of arrogance, it stomps all over our democracy, it should give Canadians pause. Maybe this time.....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What About "Credibility" Nik?

A new Nanos poll seems to conclude that, to date, the torture issue isn't hurting the Conservatives. A picture of confusion on the issue, and a propensity to believe the military. None of that is surprising, but I must quibble with the Nanos conclusion. If you look at the results, there is actually a significant difference between the principle parties on the "credibility" front, and I'm surprised this findings goes unnoticed.

When voters are asked to rate the credibility of the parties on the torture question, one numbers stands out. The Conservatives score 43.3% "low credibility", only 18.6% "high credibility". When you contrast that with the Liberals, you see a noticeable gap, Libs 31.1% low, 17.8%. This means that far more people don't see the government as credible, relative to the Liberals, or other opposition parties for that matter. If it's basically a wash, as the Nanos thesis presents, you wouldn't see this sort of sizeable difference, basically all parties should be in line. The fact they're not is noteworthy, and provides an underlying concern for the government. Last time I checked, if people don't think you're credible on an issue, you have a potential problem.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And What Of This Poor Bastard Mr. Hawn?

"The Christmas and Holiday Season is a time to spend with family, friends and loved ones". The words of a wise man, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn, explaining why the government members of the Afghan Committee wouldn't be attending today's meetings. I concur, a special time, nobody should be holed up in Ottawa (even the ever perky and delightful Rosie Barton was downright whiny today about her assignment) conducting meetings. Go home, be with your family, celebrate the blessed time, yes, yes Mr. Hawn, torture issues can wait.

With the festive spirit in mind, I expect a scathing letter from Mr. Hawn in the coming hours. Word of a poor Conservative staffer, forced to stay away from "family, friends and loved ones", so he can tape an event with a room full of lefties. Here is the young staffer, exiting the den of taliban sympathizers(imagine), missing cider, hugs from mom, his three legged dog Pierre:

Just remember Mr. Hawn, when you return to Ottawa next summer, that tape you are watching was the by-product of a Christmas gone wrong for one young man. Get home, little poor PMO staffer, get home.

Overwhelming Rejection Of Conservatives

A very one sided finding, with overwhelming "disapproval" of the government's position on climate change. Maybe more alarming, the poll was commissioned by Canwest, which has done its best over the past few weeks to run cover for the Conservatives. Dreadful numbers for the Conservatives, approval stuck in the TEENS:
The survey, conducted last week by the Innovative Research Group for Canwest News Service, found that a total of 60 per cent of respondents were familiar with Canada's position at the conference and that 49 per cent disapproved of the government's approach...

But only 19 per cent of respondents in the poll said they approved of the government's position.

49-19%, disapproval/approval amongst those that expressed an opinion. Extrapolated out with the same margins means 72% disapprove, only 28% approve. It's these type of numbers that explain why pollsters like Gregg see this issue as a real achilles heel for the government. The Conservatives can't even manage BASE support, which means their rivals could capitalize on the large remaining pool.

On the question of voter intention:
The new survey also found that 43 per cent of Canadians said they would be less likely to vote for the Conservatives because of the government's position, while 13 per cent said it would make them more likely to vote for the party.

Over 3 to 1 say our embarrassing performance on this file makes them less likely to vote Conservative. Where this could come into play, if another party, namely the Liberals, is able to successfully marry the future economy to the environment. Then, you address voters chief concern, while taking advantage of another issue which still ranks in the top three amongst voters.

It's somewhat positive to see Canadians aren't buying these nonsensical arguments from the Conservatives, it's just excuses, not conviction. Wear it well, it's entirely deserved and warranted.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"National Security" Me This

Andrew Coyne takes a break from playing serial contrarian, to pen an excellent piece on what's at stake over this Afghan detainee question. I'd like to highlight one portion, which shows a redacted passage, compared to full disclosure:
“We then photographed the individual prior to handing him over, to ensure that if the ANP did assault him, as has happened in the past, we would have a visual record of his condition.” (Emphasis added.) In the version released to the MPCC, the same document reads: “We then photographed the individual prior to handing him over [redacted].”

I would love for someone to explain how this editing took place, under the guise of "national security"? From about all I can discern, the only reason this portion was censored, it clearly shows a history of abuse, it's POLITICALLY damaging to the government. Somebody is trying to coverup past knowledge of abuse, there's no other plausible explanation. And, someone, somewhere, has documentation of what "happened in the past".

Sunday, December 20, 2009

He's Seen A Thing Or Two

You never know what will show up on You Tube:

Help Me Understand

I keep hearing all these pundits tell me that the Afghan detainee issue doesn't resonate beyond Ottawa and the political class. Assuming that is true, why do the VERY SAME people cite the Afghan detainee issue as a primary positive reason for Harper to prorogue? So nobody cares, but proroguing would help Harper avoid the persistent problem that nobody cares about. Harper is able to nullify a damaging issue, that doesn't have the capacity to do him any harm. Hmmm. You're to smart for me Tom Flanagan, and all your pundit "class" friends, because I can't grasp the logic.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


An unmitigated failure. A non-binding agreement, with voluntarily contributions, means there is no agreement, there is no target, there is nothing except pretty words that give politicians something to latch onto, as though significant. About the only "success" one could point towards, the trillion dollar fund to help developing countries deal with international inaction. It all congeals into a global submission, more dealing with the after effects, than managing the source.

The news is worse for Canada. Not only did we fail to actively engage in Copenhagen, but we've gone a step further, ceding our national sovereignty, as well as fostering national disunity. In the absence of a national plan, this vacuum has been filled by provinces, creating a disjointed, friction filled environment that threatens to harm the federation. Premiers can snipe back and forth, but the responsibility for disccord rests with the federal Conservatives, who have failed to provide the most basic leadership, who have laid the foundation for fractured federalism. The situation stands to worsen, with our new policy of waiting for Washington, while we do essentially nothing. I suspect certain regions will plow ahead unilaterally, which means the chasm becomes that much more pronounced, as the years march on.

Step back and think about what Harper is saying. Canada will sit on the sidelines and wait for Washington to tell us our policy. Astounding. Maybe more amazing, the Conservatives seem to think that is entirely acceptable and "shrewd". Canada has no international role, it is merely a mirror of American policy, a policy nobody knows what form it will take or WHEN it will be delivered. At the earliest, it's a couple more years of nothingness, it's a complete unknown. Conservatives love to wave the flag, they strangely seize patriotism as their sole domain, yet they will now remain utterly silent in the face of this glaring contradiction.

Harper was right to point out that our abscence from the table in Copenhagen was over-stated, we had "strategic partners" protecting our interests. There was no need for him to negotiate, because we have nothing to offer, the Americans speak for Canada- it's that simple, admitted and actually said with bravado.

Internally, Harper is endorsing further erosion on the federalism front. Externally, he is ceding our national standing, as a way to neutralize an issue he's never wanted to deal with. Harper is essentially undermining Canada at home and abroad. The legacy this position will leave, could possibly be a historical watershed, it's not just about the environment, this inaction has secondary ramifications.

The world did squat, but somehow Canada managed to do worse. Quite a feat.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Leading The World

After snagging an impressive ten Fossil Of The Day awards, Canada has managed to attain the prestigious "Colossal Fossil" designation in Copenhagen. Canada wins Fossil of the Year, for the second year in a row.:
Naming Canada as “Colossal Fossil” at the boldest, most audacious Fossil Award ceremony to date, tuxedo-clad Ben Wikler of said:

“Fossil of the Year goes to CANADA, for bringing a totally unacceptable position into Copenhagen and refusing to strengthen it one bit. Canada’s 2020 target is among the worst in the industrialized world, and leaked cabinet documents revealed that the governments is contemplating a cap-and-trade plan so weak that it would put even that target out of reach.

“Canada has made zero progress here on financing, offering nothing for the short term or the long term beyond vague platitudes. And in last night’s high-level segment, Canada’s environment minister gave a speech so lame that it didn’t include a single target, number or reference to the science.

“Canada’s performance here in Copenhagen builds on two years of delay, obstruction and total inaction. This government thinks there’s a choice between environment and economy, and for them, tar sands beats climate every time. Canada’s emissions are headed nowhere but up. For all this and more, we name Canada the Colossal Fossil.”

Maybe more impressive, Canada has built on last year's tally. We shared first place with George Bush, which was a marked improvement in its own right. This year however, we're the clear leader, we have no peer, the Harper government cementing itself as the worst environmental government in Canadian history(quite a feat, considering others apparently did "absolutely nothing"- less than nothing, defying mathematics too, congrats!!)

In all seriousness, this performance in Copenhagen, represents a watershed moment for Canada, our international standing NEVER lower. By all accounts, Canada was "polite" behind the scenes, but offered nothing of substance, a non-factor throughout. Harper in hiding, nobody attending the Prentice speech, Obama not even bothering, the public embarrassment, a complete and telling picture of a BIT PLAYER, USELESS to the proceedings.

Canada has ceded any influence at the United Nations, on a host of issues. Canada has mangled international relations. Canada hasn't shown LEADERSHIP on any issue, Harper has reduced us to an afterthought. The Harper agenda here, try and get out alive, with the least possible political fallout.

It is so entirely disappointing, witnessing my country voluntarily reducing itself to the margins. We are doing lasting damage, our role as active participant is tarnished, we appear a FARCE, don't kid yourself apologists.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'd Probably Prorogue Too

What a read. Political interference, willful negligence, unexplainable delay, secrecy, attempts to kill the paper trail, basically a buffet of disturbing facts. Some of what Colvin says is objectively startling, I've highlighted a few areas that caught my eye:
"Instead, embassy staffers were told that they should not report information, however accurate, that conflicted with the government’s public messaging."

Again, the spectre is raised that there was a concerted effort to stifle any information that undermined the desired political presentation of the government. This statement reinforces what we've heard earlier this week from the likes of Jim Travers. I would submit, it is this particular line of inquiry that raises this discussion to "scandal" terrority.

Colvin provides examples, active censoring:
For example, Ambassador Lalani instructed that we not report that the security situation was deteriorating. This followed an embassy report to Ottawa in which we noted that the Afghan Minister of Defence judged security to be getting worse ‐‐ a view shared by our allies, and corroborated by violence trends and other metrics. Nevertheless, Mr. Mulroney sent instructions via Ambassador Lalani that we should either not mention the security situation at all, or to assert that it was getting better. The ambassador accordingly sent a report in which he said security was improving.

In September 2007, an embassy staffer, in response to a written request from DFAIT’s Afghanistan Taskforce to contribute to a security assessment by one of our NATO allies, sent a report that security in Kandahar had got worse and was likely to further deteriorate. Mr. Mulroney severely rebuked the officer in writing.

Specific instance of Mulroney and others managing the information to prevent any admissions which didn't support the government spin. The significance of the above can't be overstated. Keeping the timeline in mind, our elected representatives were sold a dishonest picture of the situation in Afghanistan. It is fair to wonder how these revelations would have impacted the Manley report and/or the extension debate. Our representatives were only privy to what was deemed acceptable, while counter information was WILLFULLY suppressed.

We also learn, that language was sanitized to eliminate any potential problems. This was done in concert with a "tightened" circle of information, as less people were allowed to see reports from the field:
After the embassy sent out its annual 2006 human‐rights report for Afghanistan, which repeatedly used the word “torture,” Mr. Mulroney told us in person that we should be “very careful” about what we put in future reports. In the context, we interpreted this as an attempt to discourage us from sing the word “torture” in future such reports.

The inference is clear. This sanitization and self censoring comes with a push to eliminate any paper trail on this file. The request for phone calls only, can only be read as a deliberate attempt to lessen the chance of "discovery". Officials were actively trying to bury any information that conflicted with the propaganda:
Her message to me was that I should use the phone instead of writing.

Colvin refers to this as an "intervention". We also see the move from censoring and message control, to downright deletion from the record:
in the April 30 message (KBGR‐0267) that the embassy sent to Ottawa, what Ambassador Lalani deleted was the most important information in the report, directly related to our detainee concerns, and from a highly credible source. I was so surprised by this decision that I filed the draft as well as he final, approved report.

In the approved version of the report, Ambassador Lalani reduced the distribution list from roughly 5 to about five addressees. Short distribution lists became the norm for messages on detainees.

A web of secrecy:
The result was to concentrate information in the hands of a very small number of officials. Any onward distribution was strictly at their discretion. The change also eliminated any record of who had actually seen a iven report, beyond the five initial recipients.

..."The NDS tortures people, that’s what they do, and if we don’t want our detainees tortured, we shouldn’t give them to the NDS.” (The NDS, or National Directorate of Security, is Afghanistan’s intelligence service.) The response from the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) note taker was to stop writing and put down her pen.

Colvin also reinforces the allegations that the Canadian government intervened to keep the Governor of Kandahar in his post, despite rampant knowledge of torture and other abuses:
The PRT, and subsequently the embassy in Kabul, recommended both in writing and orally that he be replaced. However, senior Canadian officers intervened twice to keep him in place..

This despite the Afghan government being "receptive" to his removal.

Colvin also takes issue with the Generals claim of ignorance. He lays out considerable evidence to support the notion that everybody in the international community was well aware. Colvin uses the most careful language:
"It is implausible that they would not have known how Afghans treat their prisoners."

As you follow the dates closely, you see that when the government was finally forced to develop a new detainee policy, in the face of controversy, it still didn't act with any urgency:
Even after the new MOU was signed, Ottawa for the first five months did not send a dedicated DFAIT monitor to conduct the monitoring. Monitoring in Kandahar was implemented by a rotating pool of officers, some on very short deployments. As a result, Canadian detainees in NDS custody in Kandahar remained at risk of torture. When a dedicated monitor was finally sent out in late October 2007, he quickly found conclusive evidence of continued torture. This finally triggered a Canadian decision to stop transfers.

Interesting, that when the government finally acted, the first visit found conclusive evidence and this demanded a stop of transfers. This means, that after the government crafted a new transfer agreement, it did nothing for five months. This fact, despite acknowledging the torture concern with the new arrangement. The argument that the government offers, hiding behind this new agreement, evaporates, when we learn that no implementation took place, people remained at risk. Colvin actually details what he found during this period, relating to four detainees. Colvin's team uncovered credible evidence of torture, some horrifying detail. On the "not credible" front:
embassy monitoring team included the head of the consular section, who had been trained in recognizing signs of torture

Trained? And, his conclusion was what?

There's more, but the whole rebuttal presents a devastating case against this government, their actions and inaction. How anyone can argue against an inquiry now requires leave of your senses, or partisan koolaid so strong, as to render the brain useless.


I'm not sure the Conservatives have thought this one out. First off, the incredibly poor optics of Con MP's AWOL from Committee- reduced to arguing that Christmas parties in their cozy ridings are more important than torture- does them no favors on the "hiding" front. Secondly, in their haste to obstruct, the Conservatives failed to look at the calendar, because now they've given Richard Colvin a free pass today (assuming Con MP's don't suddenly show up, as they realize their lack of foresight). The meeting today is set to be a "softball" affair, as opposition MP's allow Colvin to rebut all the attacks, without the Con spin coloring the water. As a matter of fact, it might just be one of the more constructive and substantive sessions to date:
Colvin will address the claims, both in testimony and in public statements, made by three cabinet ministers, three generals and former top civil servants involved in overseeing the mission in Afghanistan. The source said the statements include: "nobody told us there was a problem"; the claim that as soon as the government was informed they fixed the problems; and that there were no credible allegations of the torture of Afghan detainees until late 2007.

We'll have to see how this plays out, but if I were the Conservatives, I wouldn't be to comfortable allowing Colvin to have the stage to himself. Great strategy, you look like your hiding AND you allow you chief foe a free reign.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Canadians React To "Climate Gate" With Collective Yawn

The latest Angus Reid poll, shows that the so called "climate gate" issue is having no impact, apart from the pre-disposed, ejaculating knuckle dragger crowd:
A majority of Canadians (56%) believe global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities. One-in-five (21%) think global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by natural changes, while 17 per cent state that global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven.

For contrast, an identical poll in July found the exact same results.

Further proof that conservatives are GENERALLY uniquely small minded and ignorant, and I mean that with the sincerest conviction, based on years of careful observation:
While more than 60 per cent of respondents who support the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Bloc Québécois or the Green Party believe global warming is a fact and is caused by man made emissions, only 39 per cent of Conservative Party voters agree.

An embarrassing testament to the mentality of the Conservative base.

On this massive scandal that is rocking the entire climate world, nobody cares. A full 57% of voters aren't even following the story, those that are aren't altering their views.

Canadians put their faith in scientists, a full 73% believe what they say. By comparison, 16% believe what the federal government thinks.

Climate gate, fodder for the denier crowd, but not resonating in the least with mainstream society.

Dispense With The Niceties

They've got their talking points, but it would be nice if the passive acceptance of Conservative arguments, as though legitimate fodder, was finally challenged. The latest release, which reveals the Conservative HOAX on climate change, deserves some pointed conclusions:
The Conservative government has considered abandoning some of the greenhouse gas reduction goals set out in its 2007 green plan...

The draft proposal suggests Canada should set new targets that would be lower than what was originally proposed by the Conservatives.

For example, the proposal suggests that the oil and gas industry would have to cut 15 megatonnes of emissions, rather than 48 megatonnes under its Turning the Corner plan.

It also says projected growth in greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands in northern Alberta will be 165 per cent by 2020 and proposes to cut that growth — not emissions — by 10 per cent.

Stephen Harper doesn't believe in global warming, and it's about high time he's pressed on his true opinion. Instead of debating the spin for cover, a little common sense tells the true story. A couple of weeks ago, longtime Conservative activist and a man with Harper's ear, Rick Anderson made a startling admission. When pressed about the debate over global warming, he argued that you didn't have to believe in it. Anderson said there is an economic component, doubters can look to increased efficiency as a reason to get behind this bogus claim of global warming. In a nutshell, the Conservative argument to placate their DENIER base and still appear to do something on the climate change file. If you actually look at the way the Conservatives have approached this issue, the above link a great example, you see that what Anderson suggests is THE approach.

The 2007 Turning The Corner plan was an unmitigated JOKE, that nobody took seriously. The fact that this government was openly discussing a decidedly weaker regime (if that is even possible), just prior to Copenhagen, speaks volumes about this shell game the Conservatives are playing. Harper simply DOESN'T believe in global warming, simply interested in putting something forth to take the heat off, but endorsing things so weak that they're useless. In essence, it's a HOAX and the question then becomes- will we be duped?

Instead of sitting around the little roundtables, and arguing whether the government's arguments have validity, maybe we could delve a little deeper than a birdbath for a change. We are being presented with a fraud. Proceed with that knowledge in mind, and dispense with the niceties. Repeat after me STEPHEN HARPER DOESN'T BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING. Period.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Angus Reid: Conservative Lead Cut In Half

The lastest Angus Reid poll shows a pretty sizeable change over three weeks, as a 15% Con lead is reduced to 7%. Angus Reid mirrors others, with a gradual erosion in Conservative support, but it also provides a different dynamic, Liberal support up considerably. The national numbers (Nov 14-16 in brackets):
Cons 36% (38%)
Libs 29% (23%)
NDP 16% (17%)
Greens 6% (10%)

Still a healthy lead, but more of the fragile 2006 minority range, rather than the majority findings we've seen since September. Part of this I attribute to a return to normalcy, part of it recent events.

Regional breakdowns:
In a trend that was consistent throughout the year, a majority of decided voters in Alberta (55%) and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (54%) voice support for the Tories. In British Columbia, the governing party remains on top (42%), with the NDP (26%) barely ahead of the Liberals (23%).

In Ontario, 41 per cent of decided voters would vote for the Conservatives, but the Liberals (34%) have narrowed the gap from 14 points in mid-November to seven points this time around. In Quebec, the Bloc is steady at the top (42%) but the Liberals (25%) are now leading the Tories (17%)

Still leading in Ontario, but the gap is noticeably changed.

Again, in both the HST provinces, no evidence whatsoever that the federal NDP is capitalizing with their stance, numbers static.

Another piece of evidence, that speaks to recent problems for the Conservatives. Harper's approval/disapproval numbers show a 7 point swing on the negative side (5% more disapprove, 2% less approve). Ignatieff's numbers are still bad, but he gains, relative to the bottom.

Some of the other polls have shown a similar gentle fall over time, for the Conservatives. However, this is the first one that shows the Liberals with any momentum, so that is clearly a positive.

Defending "Climate Gate"

One of the more amusing things about the climate change deniers, the way they seize on marginal developments with fanatical zeal, while simultaneously and CONVENIENTLY ignoring swaths and swaths of legitimate information. It's actually pathetic in one sense, the selective hearing and the manipulations to support a pre-determined bias, rather than an objective view of the facts at hand. As a matter of fact, the reaction of the denial camp to these emails, highlights why these emails probably exist in the first place. I'm here to defend "climate gate", and send out a heartfelt yawn to all the knuckledraggers who've found their holy grail.

At this very moment, there is a legal request being made to have NASA publicly release all of their climate related data. Fair enough on one level, if the theory is correct, the science will speak to it. Scientists should never be afraid of critical inquiry or dissent, that's actually part of the model that cements theories. But, here's the rub on the legal demand- it's EXXON that is making the request. If you look over the past few years, you'll find much of the counter global warming arguments have some tie to vested self interests. On top of that, the denial "industry" and their rabid followers SCOUR the global for any counter opinion, and then ELEVATE said dissent, so much so that it warps the discussion. One paper is waved in the face of global warming supporters, you'll see it everywhere, and yet hundreds of others that disagree are basically given equal billing. Never a fair argument, but because of the vested interest pushing, the attempt to confuse and undermine is underway.

I have news for people (or maybe not), we are at WAR on global warming. The scientific community is under siege by a small rogue subset, and their input is having an impact. I've actually heard commercials on a Hamilton radio station, telling people that global warming is a hoax, they need to educate themselves and resist the propaganda. Shocking that this crap gets aired, but really a testament to what we're up against- a CO-ORDINATED attempt to muddy the scientific waters and erode public support.

In one sense, you can't defend some aspects of this "climate gate" story. Any suppression of evidence is offensive, it's simply wrong and can't be tolerated. But, as far as the sentiment of the scientists goes, I completely and utterly understand the mentality. These scientists are a symptom of the war at play, a realization that people are trying to undermine scientific inquiry. If I knew that certain geologists, with big oil ties, where demanding this and that, I'd resist too, because their MOTIVES aren't pure, it's not the normal honest scrutiny, it's really people that want to bastardize information to support their own self interest. Can't say I blame the lack of openness, considering how this debate has evolved.

This story is a PERFECT example of this entire debate. How many times have you heard the "sun spot" argument from the denial camp? The more sophisticated will site this rogue study or that, and it becomes a sheltered bay to avoid all the other information bombarding the validity. I guarantee you, that the link above will never be acknowledged or cited by a denialist. It will be ignored, and people will cling to the DEBUNKED theory, because they refuse to cease. The denialist camp isn't interested in scientific inquiry, or open discussion, they only want to hear what satisfies their pre-determined point of view, or in the larger sense, JUNK that validates their toxic ways. About all you can criticize this small group of "climate gate" scientists, is for acting in a similar manner to THEIR ACCUSERS. So, get off the soapbox anti-intellectuals, you're actually pointing to behavior you endorse EVERY WAKING HOUR, OF EVERY DAY. This is your modus operandi. You could give these emailers pointers.

I'm all for scientific debate, and I think there is plenty of room for revision, as we learn more about a complicated circumstance. It isn't about suppression, it's a question of motive and BALANCE. If people want to debate, with the TOTALITY of the information available, have at it. If people want to ignore 97% of the data, and focus on 3%, as though a formidable empirical counter, I say tell them to pound salt when they ask for co-operation, because it's clearly a one way consideration. We're at war with a concoction of industry interests, politically motivated pushback, simpletons who lack the basic intellectual capacity, cranks and agitators. However, do not compromise the science, or ignore evidence, don't do what denialists routinely do.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Plot Thickens

In what could be one of the more startling development to date, I just heard James Travers say that there is some pushback on the "redaction" front. Travers didn't name names, but he said public servants were upset that some information had been blacked out, NOT for national security reasons, but because it was embarrassing POLITICALLY for the government. If proven true, this could well be radioactive for the Conservatives.

The above seems entirely reasonable, and I would submit the government's own behavior supports the notion. It is entirely maddening, trying to figure just how the government thinks hiding information, going to the insane lengths of defying Parliament, will play out positively for their side. However, it does make sense if the government has concern that full disclosure now would show a coverup did take place, all their rationale evaporating in the face of naked political self interest. If the dynamic Travers suggests does in fact exist, this issue moves to full blown scandal and that reaches the "kitchen table".

Stay tuned...


Here we GO:
As recent media reports have confirmed, a comparison of redacted and unredacted versions of the same document have shown that the Conservative government censored information that contradicted their claim to be ignorant of abuse and torture rather than out of concern for national security.

“Here we had two versions of the same document written by an unidentified sergeant – but the version redacted by the Conservatives scrubbed out the critical piece of information that Afghan National Police were known to have assaulted detainees ‘in the past,’” said Mr. Dosanjh.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wow, That's A First

Valour, honor, heroic contributions aside, one thing Rick Hillier loves is the sound of his own voice (I call it Lou Mackenzie syndrome). Hillier is the most opinionated military leader in recent times, which makes his "not following" bull today all the more striking:
Hillier mum on abuse

Rick Hillier, formerly Canada’s top soldier, isn’t commenting about the recent revelations that Canadian-captured prisoners transferred to Afghan authorities were later tortured.

"I haven’t followed it," Mr. Hillier said Friday in Halifax.

"I’m really not even in the mood or the ability to comment upon it, at this point, because I have not followed it in detail."

Really? You mean you haven't followed revelations that show torture actually did occur under your watch, when you were in command? I suppose that could be true, but once again a dash of common sense would suggest you've followed these "revelations". All of sudden a bit camera shy? That's a first.

The fact that Hillier has nothing to say is quite a contrast from his chest thumping routine of a few weeks ago. This new disposition is further evidence that things haven't transpired as first hoped for the "circle the wagons" crowd. It's so unflattering, you've actually turned Hillier into a recluse. Who knew.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spin Vs Substance

The common assumption, two parties will spin facts and figures, in the same way, for their own benefit. Because of the spin factor, many substantive claims are dismissed within the noise of point/counter-point. People naturally assume that when one party claims the ceiling, the other the bottom, chances are the non-partisan truth lies somewhere in the middle. In fairness, this is a learned response.

I have to give the Liberals kudos for their presentation on the stimulus funding issue. As far as I can tell, all of the "partisan" releases, facts and figures, that the Liberals have presented, have found independent validation. By contrast, the Conservative counters look like sheer propaganda, nobody able to replicate their wild claims of success. On this issue, it would appear the Liberals are letting the numbers lead them, rather than manipulating the data, to put forth the worst possible indictment of the government.

A few weeks ago, Kennedy and other Liberals argued that only 12% of the stimulus money had been delivered, a terrific chasm compared to the almost complete allocation the government argued. Well, after dumping off boxes of information to Kevin Page, in the most inmature of manners, he has completed his analysis of the stimulus spending. One caution, Page still doesn't have all the information he wants from the government(notice a trend??), but he concludes the following:
In the report, Page says that as far as he can tell, as of the end of September, only $512 million of the government's $4-billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund has been actually handed over.

That's about 12.8 per cent of the total -remarkably close to the 12 per cent estimated by Liberal critics who were quickly dismissed as misinformed by the federal Tories.

"This shows a very minimal accomplishment. It's fair evidence of a failed job creation program," said Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy.

The numbers are even lower when measuring completed work. The stimulus program had spawned work worth about $245.5 million as of the end of September, the report says.

In other words, just four per cent of the federal, provincial and municipal money that has been announced has actually created economic activity

Actually amazing in this day and age, when you think about it, the Liberals have consistently put out objective truth, without any padding or partisan consideration. I suppose, with such a dreadful performance, one doesn't have to exaggerate. But, the fact that every one of the Liberal assertions over time have found outside verification is something that should be applauded, it denotes a certain credibility.

Once again blowhard Baird has been shown to be just that, while the people he attacks are shown to live in the factual world.

How People With Something To Hide Act

Goodness. Defying the will of Parliament, and in so doing offering the most flimsy of rationale, it all reads like a government desperate to HIDE information. I suppose the political argument, in going to the courts the government has a long reprieve (I'm sure we'll see every request for delay and obstruction imaginable). However, by presenting a long legal fight, the government willingly leaves the impression that there is more to this story, than they are willing to divulge. These optics hardly work in the government favor, because without all information on the table, the opposition is free to speculate and a cloud hangs over the Conservatives. In other words, the Conservatives might be able to delay release with this tactic, but they will lose the public relations battle. The appearance of HIDING, a lack of transparency, is never a net positive.

The government arguments for not releasing uncensored documents, borders on the absurd:
"We are not going to make information available just readily, about friend and foe alike, about specific items, about a security operation that could imperil our own troops and could imperil the citizens," Day said.

Information about when and how Canadian officials visit particular prisons, for instance, "would be of great value to the insurgents, and to the terrorists," said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

An affront to common sense. We are not talking about current operations or procedures, we are asking for outdated information, revolving around a process the government now brags, has been replaced by an entirely different regime. Explain to me how it benefits the "terrorists", if they knew what we did in 2006? Poppycock.

I particularly love this "imperiling our troops" nonsense, as the Conservatives try to put themselves up as the noble buffer protecting our brave men and women. The "security operation" Day mentions no longer exists, or else we are still engaged in the same process that had everybody so "alarmed". You can't have it both ways. You can't argue about all the strides you made, and in the same breathe offer up ancient news as though of crucial importance TODAY. Frankly, the government argument is embarrassing and shallow. It's even more amusing, when you consider that military brass has also recommended full disclosure. So, generals endorse a release which could undermine the whole mission, and cost people their lives? Exactly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"No Evidence That There Is Any Access Blocked To The Prisons"

The above quote, from the Prime Minster on April 25/07. I found an old video of among others, Stephen Harper, denying what now appears to be a "mistruth":

An interesting view, on many levels. Note the same defence lines, the indignant denials.

I've highlighted some comments from Harper and O'Connor:
Gordon O'Connor April 25

"Our people have been in CONSTANT contact with the Human Rights Commission, and they have asked them if there are any problems"

Stephen Harper April 25

"No evidence that there is any access blocked to the prisons" 3:34

"baseless accusations" 4:13

"made allegations that we could not get access, that nobody could get access to the prisons in Afghanistan, that's FALSE, rather than repeat it, he should withdraw it" 5:39

"this allegation that there is no access to Afghan prisons, turns out to be completely false" 7:31

Harper chastizes the opposition for their "baseless accusations" that there was limited access to the prisons in which detainees were held. Harper goes so far as to characterize any claim of denied access as FALSE, and he demands that opposition withdraw any suggestion.

Here is a Toronto Star article from last week, that deals with this same time period:
Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) had little or no access to the Kandahar detention facility run by Afghanistan's intelligence service...

As a result, the commission is unable to monitor the condition of the detainees, as per their agreements with the Canadians, Dutch and others," a commissioner of the Afghan monitoring agency told Colvin.

AIHRC was so alarmed at its lack of access that officials complained to President Hamid Karzai a week and a half earlier.

Astounding. The Prime Minister tells Parliament that no access was denied, even mentions the Human Rights Commission, and yet, we now know that the SAME AIHRC was simultaneously expressing ALARM at having NO ACCESS, effectively shut out of the Kandahar prison. The situation was so bad, the AIHRC complained to the Afghan PRESIDENT. O'Connor tells us that the government was in "constant contact" with the AIHRC, but claim no knowledge of any access problems. According to the timeline, and the facts at hand, this is complete BULLSHIT. It is fair to ask- did the Prime Minister knowingly mislead Parliament?

Maybe more offensive, you see the same tactics employed in 2007, such zeal and self righteous indignation, even though we know now that the only thing that was "baseless", the cheap RHETORIC coming from the government benches.

I believe the AIHRC complaints, echoed by Colvin, classify as the "evidence" Harper insisted didn't exist. In fact, Harper waved the AIHRC in front of any accusers, to counter claims, even though they were providing the "evidence", they were actually the ONLY source available (Harper volunteers the agency which actually contradicts his claim). I believe the Prime Minister has been caught in a "mis-speak" if you will ;)

Nobody Buying

The latest EKOS poll, shows some erosion in Conservative support. It also reinforces other findings, namely that pretty much nobody is buying the Conservative detainee retort, as well as massive rejection of their secrecy and lack of transparency.

First, the detainee findings, then the horse race numbers, which provide a note of caution for the Liberals. Rarely to you find such one sided opinion, but when it comes to government knowledge of possible torture, it's close to unanimity:
Do you think that the government of Canada was aware at the time that there was a strong possibility that some of the prisoners being handed off would be tortured?

YES 83%
NO 16%

Even Conservatives say yes, by more than a margin of two to one. When your own supporters so thoroughly reject your spin, it means you have a sizable problem. The nonsensical argument that MacKay and company have put forth, is being taken as just that- their no knowledge or credible report defence simply doesn't pass the most basic of smell tests. Maybe more concerning, the government has effectively boxed themselves in with this argument, so they are stuck with trying to counter common sense.

In terms of government satisfaction on this file, Canadians don't approve of their handling:
To date, how satisfied are you with the federal government's level of transparency and disclosure regarding the alleged torture of prisoners that were handed off to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces?

Dissatisfied 41.4%
Satisfied 24.1%
Neither 34.5%

Another bad number for the government. EKOS asks this question on a scale of 1-7, which explains the large neither component, representing a 4. I would categorize that subset as hardly supportive of the government position. The government strategy of obstruction and delay isn't doing them any favors, it suggests they have something to hide.

In terms of how this underlying weakness is translating to the horserace numbers, EKOS sees "trouble brewing" for the Conservatives, so it will be interesting in the usual voter lag effect comes into play. EKOS does find Conservative support falling, and it is noteworthy that all their gains after the September election showdown have disappeared:
35.6% CPC
26.5% LPC
16.7% NDP
11.3% Green
9.9% BQ

EKOS is now releasing in two week chunks, which represent a huge sample size (4000). They've broken it down on a week to week basis (2000 MOE 2.1), to show if there are any trends within the release. The Conservatives actually scored 35.9% in the first week, down to 35.3% the last, further evidence of a slight downward trend.

NDP support is up, although the last week shows 16% support, so there is no trend to speak of. Of note, still no evidence of a federal NDP surge in Ontario and British Columbia, despite the HST maelstorm. It will be interesting to see if provincial decisions spill over to the federal scene, to the NDP's benefit. I know many naturally assume it will, but I'm not so sure, given the perceptions of the messenger. Something to keep an eye on.

As for the Liberals, while there is some optimism in this poll, I would submit that our problems are mitigating the damage to the Conservatives. In other words, if we were a more attractive option at the moment, then voters would be more inclined to leave the Conservatives. As it stands now, we see a quirky dynamic, wherein Conservative support is slowly falling, without any uptick whatsoever for the Liberals. The voters that are leaving the Con fold, are going elsewhere. In the poll, the Greens score an impressive 11.8% in the last week, the Bloc up to 10.7%. I see a hesitation towards the Liberals, the Conservative missteps offset by our own issues, which is why the government numbers are still in healthy minority terrority. However, there is a real weakness developing, so this translates to opportunity, if Liberals can get some momentum.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Graphs You Won't See At Stephen Taylor's Blog

Faced with the LOOMING embarrassment on the world stage, Stephen Taylor tries hard to deflect criticism, in the most predictable of ways. The problem is, in his ZEAL, Taylor has pointed to a TELLING reference, which actually highlights just how ABYSMAL, the Conservative record on the environmnent.

I agree, the Liberals did a very poor job on the environment, you'll get no quibble here. Taylor attempts to neuter criticism, by pointing to the Liberal record, using the Fossil Awards, with a neat little graph. Did you know that from 1999-2005, Canada received the 2nd most Fossil Awards, ONE HALF that of the Americans under George Bush? Tsk, tsk, tsk. We stand united Stephen, in our disdain for this dreadful record. What then, does it say about the current Conservative government, that they managed to PULL AHEAD of the Americans, effectively DOUBLING the shoddy legacy of those DIRTY Liberals? The Liberals were a distant second, the Conservatives TOP THE WORLD. Here is a graph, from the last round of climate talks at Bali, under the Conservative government:

Canada leads the world. So, the more people like Taylor HIGHLIGHT the Liberal record, the more they demonstrate just how much WORSE their own. Jean Chretien was a disgrace, but we make him look like Henry David Thoreau, relative to our performance. You guys did absolutlely nothing, but we've somehow managed to do much, much worse (is that physically possible?) You guys were second only to the historical laggard George Bush, but we kicked his ass. Take that.

Shhhhhhh!!!! You're not helping :)

Just take your lumps, they're well deserved.


Quite simply, today's revelations on the torture question, offer the most succinct indictment of this government, as well as a glaring testament to their unseemly nature. The Chronicle Herald piece has it all, a willful attempt to manage a KNOWN problem, essentially lying to an international agency, as well as putting propaganda before policy. In a few paragraphs, the essence of the Harper government is revealed.

A point on simple common sense. You don't go the lengths this government did to "manage" the message on the torture question, if you weren't aware that a problem existed. In fact, this government went so far as to co-ordinate talking points between departments, which clearly speaks to their full KNOWLEDGE. Any other suggestion is laughable, the issue was on the radar, and steps were taken to mitigate any potential fallout:
Nov. 20, 2006, Foreign Affairs officials drafted talking points meant to assure officials of the humanitarian agency.

"Canada is reflecting on how to engage more pro-actively with Afghan and international authorities on the issue of treatment of detainees, including asking the Government of Afghanistan for permission to visit the prisons, discussing with Afghan authorities the process and procedures for handling and treating detainees from transfer to arrival at final detention facility, and talking to the (Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission)," say the talking points.

The document also warned officials to prepare "an interdepartmental approach" for dealing with "the potential scenario where allegations of mistreatment or torture are substantiated."

The government, in REACTION to the Red Cross concerns, formulates these talking points to address any concerns or issues. A clear attempt to appease, rather than a genuine response to torture concerns. This shocking "misplaced priority" scenario, fully documented:
Despite those assurances, officials in Ottawa placed the notion of formally monitoring prisoners at the bottom of a "Strategic (Macro) Level Engagement" plan produced near the end of February 2007.

No. 1 on the eight-point plan for officials was to "Prepare standard key messages (ie. importance of adhering to obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law regarding the treatment of detainees.)"

Point No. 8 in the plan was to "consider supplementing the existing arrangement" in such a way to include the "guarantee of access for Canadian authorities to individuals transferred by the (Canadian Forces)."

The emphasis is on SPIN, while actually dealing with the detainee problem appears as an afterthought. The Red Cross is mislead into thinking the government is focused on action, when they are really consumed with COVERING THEIR ASSES. The question then becomes, how many Afghans were tortured during this period when the government was distracted with co-ordinating propaganda? Is the 15 month delay between awareness and action a result of putting party fortunes above INTERNATIONAL LAW concerns? Only when revelations did become public, the spin no longer effective, did the government finally act, on what they apparently knew all along.

This government prepared a messaging campaign, because they feared damaging revelations were a distinct possibility. How could they react in this manner, if they didn't have CREDIBLE information on abuse? You don't go into damage control mode, if damage doesn't exist. There is no way for apologists to reconcile this logic chasm.

Anyone paying attention knows that this government always puts messaging and control center stage, no matter the issue. It's not about getting it right, it's about finding the right talking point. The truth is a casualty, political survival the main consideration. Where this particular issue rises to a different level, the pre-occupation with self interest effectively put lives at risk, so irresponsible and offensive, Canadians should be rightly ashamed and profoundly embarrassed.

The way this torture issue was handled is a national disgrace.

Monday, December 07, 2009

"Anywhere But Copenhagen"

Quite a few entries for the Liberals photoshop contest. A few I liked:


Peter MacKay is either a speaker of mistruth or a complete incompetent of biblical proportions. MacKay was so unequivocal in his blanket denial, which in and of itself was problematic from the onset. Today's story in the G and M isn't surprising, in fact I've been waiting for it. See, when your argument is basically reduced to an admission of frequent "mistreatment" throughout the theater, with the lone exception being your jurisdiction, you're just asking to be exposed as a fraud. In MacKay's defence, he has been constantly cornered into a forever narrowing box, sensible retorts almost impossible, apart from admitting the obvious.

If MacKay holds to his "no knowledge" defence, then it should be followed up with a frantic "how the hell didn't you?":
Proof of detainee abuse exists, despite MacKay's denials

Sworn testimony by senior Canadian officers and rare uncensored documentary evidence contradict Defence Minister Peter MacKay's repeated assertions that no proof exists of even a single case of a Canadian-transferred detainee abused by Afghan security forces.

The rescue incident dates from June of 2006, during the period when ministers and senior officers now insist they were completely unaware of repeated warnings of the risks of abuse and torture being filed by diplomat Richard Colvin.

I agree with Scott, as I argued previously, that it's time for the opposition to demand a resignation. Too often, that demand is made, and because of it the validity of the request gets lost in the partisan noise. However, in this instance, MacKay is clearly stonewalling any attempt to get to the bottom of this torture issue, or he has no business being a Minister of any kind, simply not fit to hold high office. IF, there was all this information available about detainee transfers, and it never made to MacKay's desk, then we need an inquiry for this matter alone, to address the glaring holes in government operation. It is almost scandalous, that this information never made to the Minister in question, given that we know key foreign diplomats, the Red Cross, the Commission in charge of the transfers which you relied on, the Afghan Prime Minister, our allies, etc, were all taking this issue quite seriously, concerns were RAMPANT. Why wasn't the military sharing this information with the government? Why were staff in MacKay's office withholding this information, should they not come forth and explain their behavior?

Canada may be guilty of war crimes. In this account out today, we clearly see that soldiers on the ground were entirely aware of their international requirements, they understood the parameters and protocols. MacKay himself has admitted that torture concerns are serious, and the government's eventually reforms, in the face of public disclosure, speak to the gravity. It is simply indefensible to claim ignorance, but I suppose the alternative of misleading is worse.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Minister Of Misinformation

Have you noticed the trend? Peter MacKay makes a public claim, only later be undermined by the facts at hand. In reality, I can't point to one solitary INITIAL claim MacKay has made on the torture issue, that has survived the slightest inspection. The latest example, which goes to the heart of MacKay's defence, his claim that no political interference exists, any decisions on redaction or secrecy are those of "arms length" officials, acting in the nations interest. MacKay even frames it all as a noble exercise, rather than a COVER UP. MacKay "scoffed" at any suggestion of political direction, absolving any responsibility for withholding scads of information.

Maybe MacKay needs to have a chat with his communications staff, because the latest revision is a self inflicted wound:
In testimony before the Commons defence committee on Thursday, Mr. MacKay scoffed at the idea that there could be political interference in the censorship of the documents, as opposition critics suggest.

But his department said in an email Friday that the minister’s office is DIRECTING THE LAWYERS in charge of blacking out documents.

"Instructions are given to Department of Justice counsel by the responsible minister and their officials," said an email from Josee Houde, a communications adviser at the Department of National Defence. "In this case, the responsible ministers and their officials are from the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade."

Opposition, pointing out the obvious:
The Defence Department’s email is an acknowledgment that political direction was given to those holding the black markers, says NDP MP Jack Harris.

"That certainly contradicts the minister," he said.

Mr. MacKay told the committee that the redactions are done to protect national security, in keeping with federal legislation.

Liberal MP Ujall Dosanjh said the Defence Department has acknowledged that it was acting on instructions from the political level.

"That is a far cry from what the minister pretended was the case before the committee," he said. "He said it’s all done at arm’s length.

I recall MacKay telling us all that the Department of Justice was independently deciding what information should be made available. Completely and utterly untrue, according to this advisor, in fact "instructions" are given to the Department of Justice by the "responsible Minister" and his officials. This means that this claim of arms length contemplation doesn't exist, there is a direct channel between vested interests and redaction. The next question becomes, what were these "instructions"?? It's a pretty flimsy argument to say you don't decide what is redacted, when you've dictated the parameters. It's a cute way to avoid direct fingerprints, even though you've provided the road map.

Judging by the excessive black marker routine and lack of co-operation- referred to as "seemingly Kafkaesque" by the complaints commission- it would appear that the direction was such to render any meaningful disclosure useless. Nobody should be comfortable with this latest omission, because it completely refutes this notion of independent decision making, it suggests a puppet master working the shadows. Imagine the credibility of a process, where military brass and government officials are laying out the parameters for disclosure, and essentially telling lawyers they can only operate in areas deemed acceptable by said people. Those with self interest had a hand in what was released, there is no other conclusion. And, once again, another one of Peter MacKay's counter arguments resembles SWISS CHEESE.

Friday, December 04, 2009

HST Poll

A new poll for Ontario, which shows a dramatically different horserace, and overwhelming rejection of the HST. A NANOS poll last month indicated erosion in Liberal support (37% Lib 35% PC, 17% NDP, Green 10%). The latest Angus Reid poll brings unprecedented numbers for the McGuinty Liberals, pegged a full 14% behind the PC's:
PC 41%
Libs 27%
NDP 20%
Greens 11%

That's some serious seismic change. Of note, this poll was primarily a survey on HST opinion, so the overwhelming rejection questions may have spilt over to the horserace findings. What is apparent, the PC's are gaining at the Lib expense, while the NDP remain relatively static, slight uptick, but unremarkable given the large Liberal retreat. Again, I make the point that the NDP may not be suited to make a TAX argument(one could argue the federal incarnation even less), given people's perceptions. That said, there are warning signs in these numbers to be sure. We'll see if any of it really resonates on the federal scene.

On the HST question, it's all bad for the proponent side:
-76% are very or moderately familiar with the HST

-75% oppose the establishment of the HST in Ontario

-83% believe the HST will make goods and services more expensive

-70% say their opinion of the McGuinty government has worsened over the HST

Rarely do you see such one sided numbers. I'd question the "familiarity" finding, because it's a complicated proposition, all people are really reacting to is the word TAX.

Clearly, some worrying trends for the Liberals.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Nefarious- "Evil, Wicked, Sinful"

Peter MacKay's choice of word, to deflect criticism that vital information is being withheld from the Parliamentary Committee:
"most importantly to protect Canadian citizens, soldiers and civilians who are working in missions like in Afghanistan where they could be put in harm’s way, their lives could be literally be at risk if certain information is made public for a nefarious purpose."

Our elected officials, looking into allegations of torture and international illegalities, is equated to a "evil, wicked" endeavour. I don't have words.


A few comments from another story today. People will remember, that at the time of the first media accounts of systematic torture of detainees, the primary government defence was to rely on the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to placate. The government used this Commission for cover, and yet just prior to the time the Conservatives were offering the AIHRC as monitoring screen, that group was "so alarmed at its lack of access that officials complained to President Hamid Karzai".

One, how can the Prime Minister and Defence Minister claim a lack of credible concern, when the agency they cite had brought their concerns to the HIGHEST officials in Afghanistan. Isn't there a logical disconnect, to know that Karzai was getting first hand complaints and Foreign Affairs officials weren't passing on information to the Minister.

Here's the KICKER. Remember that MacKay argued that while there was knowledge of torture generally in Afghanistan, there was no evidence of any allegations within the Canadian sphere? This defied common sense on the most basal level, the argument was basically "torture everywhere, except where we were". Now we learn that MacKay might have been technically correct. It appears there were no credible accounts from Afghan prisoners from the Canadian sector, because NOBODY had access to those facilities, NOBODY had a CLUE what was going on:
the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) had little or no access to the Kandahar detention facility run by Afghanistan's intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security. NATO forces, including Canada, usually hand over their prisoners to the NDS.

"As a result, the commission is unable to monitor the condition of the detainees, as per their agreements with the Canadians, Dutch and others," a commissioner of the Afghan monitoring agency told Colvin.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

MacKay's House Of Cards

Peter MacKay is either completely and utterly incompetent, which puts his fitness as a Minister into question, or he's purposely misleading Canadians about what he knew and when on the torture question. Either way I see calls for his resignation in the near future. Reading the latest investigative piece by the Canadian Press, we get further insight into others raising the same concerns as Colvin, connecting the dots right to MacKay's DOORSTEP. We also learn of frustration, that the Canadian military "won't return the calls" of the most respected international human rights organization. The whole mess congeals to paint a picture of indifference, willful ignorance and culpability. It really is an amazing read:
The International Red Cross met twice with senior Canadian officials in Kandahar to deliver veiled but insistent warnings about torture in Afghan jails a year before Canada acted to protect detainees... undermine the federal government's claims that diplomat Richard Colvin was a lone voice raising vague concerns about torture....

But the new memos show that the insistent concerns were specific to Canada's military mission in Afghanistan and made directly to senior Canadian officials, not transmitted through a single diplomat.

Two further high-level Red Cross meetings about torture took place in Ottawa and Geneva around the same time with Canadian officials.

...Three high-ranking generals, including former general Rick Hillier, described his allegations last week as "ludicrous."

But the new memos show that Colvin's concerns were in fact shared by a respected humanitarian agency that pushed the diplomatic envelope to get the ear of Canadian officials. The International Red Cross by convention is allowed to raise specific concerns about torture only with the national government of a country.

...That meeting spawned a second more detailed discussion at Kandahar Airfield on June 2.

...The Kandahar meeting was followed by a more high-level meeting on June 12, 2006, in Ottawa involving the international agency's delegation head for the U.S. and Canada as well as the agency's legal adviser from Washington.

A series of meetings with Canadian officials, culminating in a "high level meeting" in Ottawa, and yet MacKay clings to the lack of credible information, Colvin a lone wolf. Foreign Affairs now admits to meetings on the torture question, in OTTAWA, and yet we're to believe that MacKay was "never briefed". Oh, for the love of god, you're either a gigantic dolt or a bald faced liar. It was so bad, that the relationship with the Red Cross became strained, and they relayed to Colvin their aprehension to share information because of "CANADIAN political pressure". The only pressure that would matter to the Red Cross would be from the HIGHEST of office.

Another vein that went directly to Foreign Affairs, today's confirmation that all of Colvin's correspondence, did in fact make to the MacKay's office. SO, you have high level diplomatic meetings on two continents, continually warnings to the military as well as consistent correspondance coming from the field into your office, and MacKay was unaware, only vague acknowledgement of problems in the theatre, nothing specific to Canada. Speechless.

We need a public inquiry.

Photoshop The Fossil

Kudos to the Liberals for this "bit of fun", at Harper's expense of COURSE:

On the negative side, good luck getting that image of Pierre out of your head :)

Smoking Gun?

I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but the just released Colvin documents are pretty informative. Take page 40 below as an example, a testament to transparency and a desire to get the facts on the table:

A good read for sure. It's all there in black and.

On "Muzzling"

Requests to delete relevant material, gleamed from a "credible" source. Managing the information given, narrowing who can see the reports. The more we learn, the more we can understand Colvin's frustration that eventually led to his Committee appearance. Sounds like "muzzling" from here:
Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan asked a diplomat to erase two bluntly worded sections from an April, 2007, report on how Ottawa's delays in notifying the Red Cross of prisoner transfers to Afghan authorities left these detainees vulnerable to abuse.

The Globe and Mail has learned that Arif Lalani asked for the edits from Richard Colvin, a diplomat at the centre of an unfolding controversy over whether Canada turned a blind eye when handing prisoners to Afghanistan's torture-prone authorities.

This editing took place in April, 2007, only days after a Globe investigation revealed disturbing allegations of abuse and torture among prisoners transferred by Canadians to Afghan detention - stories that kicked off a stormy debate in Ottawa.

In one of the sections he was requested to delete, Mr. Colvin remarked on a pattern observed by the Red Cross: that abuse took place almost immediately after prisoners were transferred to the Afghans - timing that meant Canada's tardiness made it very hard for the human-rights monitor to guard against torture.

"[A Red Cross official], who had read The Globe and Mail's reporting, said that the allegations of abuse made by those Afghans interviewed by [reporter] Graeme Smith fit a common pattern," Mr. Colvin wrote in text that was cut out....

he Globe and Mail has also learned that Mr. Lalani also asked Mr. Colvin to dramatically scale back the number of people in Foreign Affairs who would be e-mailed this same late April report on detainees - chopping the recipient list to about five from more than 70.

"Richard, please go with my distr[ibution list] - Arif," Mr. Lalani wrote on a printout of the draft e-mail, a heavily censored copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail. The edited and final version of this report was e-mailed from Kabul on April 30, 2007.

Here is the reaction from foreign affairs to justify deleting:
"Reporting is expected to be factual, objective, collaborative and subject to rigorous assessment. Mr. Lalani applied these same standards during his time as ambassador in Kabul."

If you buy this argument, then you have to conclude that the most well respected international human rights organization, THE RED CROSS, doesn't pass the credibility sniff test. That's the justification, which is beyond lame.

Colvin begins to report on torture concerns, and suddenly he is asked to trim his email list, to a small group approved by the ambassador. This revision, IN AND OF ITSELF, denotes CONCERN and an attempt to manage his reports. If there is nothing of concern, nothing substantive, you don't make this request to revise. This is behavior akin to people that want to muzzle information.

Limiting access to who can see Colvin's findings, and on top of that, DELETING material which challenges the detainee transfer arrangement. So, a reduced(once 70, now 5) number of people are allowed to receive the reports, and the Ambassador will delete what those select people actually see. That suggests a concerted effort to SUPPRESS what Colvin was reporting. Why?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

HST Decision

A few thoughts on the Liberal decision to support the HST legislation. Obviously, the federal Liberals are in a cramped position, although not as precarious as some would suggest.

Today's decision comes as no surprise, and frankly it was the right one. The federal opposition Liberals don't decide what elected provincial governments do, within their own jurisdictions. Had the federal Liberals decided to oppose, I'd question the federalism framework, clearly overstepping their bounds. At the heart of the issue, is the question of respecting the provincial desire, really apart from a debate on the merits of harmonization. People are free to interject their own agendas onto this decision, and that is where the "problematic" component lies. But, really that perspective is a political consideration, separate from the respective jurisdictional considerations. It's hard to fault the Liberal decision on a philosophical level, unless of course you endorse the incoherent message that Ottawa is right to thwart legally available requests from the provinces.

Voters have remedies available to express their outrage over the HST, and that anger should be directed towards those that brought forward the legislation. I'm not sure I buy the "guilt by association" wishful thinking, that places blame on secondary, after the fact, sources, who really are respecting the provincial will. There is a risk to the federal Liberals, but to date this is nothing more than speculation. I note that while the Ontario Liberals have stumbled in the polls, the NDP haven't advanced at all, voters have moved elsewhere. I notice the B.C Liberals falling flat, mostly because they hid this policy during the last election. I notice no corresponding UPTICK in federal NDP support for both Ontario and British Columbia. This fact suggests a separation, that this clearly provincial matter isn't spilling over to the federal scene. I know, I know, you just wait now, but really it's all speculation, so talk of "damage" is just that.

I'm not convinced that the federal NDP enjoys the credibility to really make gains on the HST issue. The only evidence seems to be retaining a seat in a quirky by-election, with dreadful turnout. Pretty much a whatever from here, or at best something I wouldn't dare draw any predictive conclusion from. Others will, but consider the sources. I think there's a real political opportunism component at play here, and the NDP as champions on the taxation issue, one has to wonder how much it resonates beyond the already sympathetic. This isn't to say a risk doesn't exist for the Liberals here, but it really does remain to be seen.

I'm glad the Liberals took an early stand here, instead of coming out on the fence, until the final decision had to be made. Effectively, the Liberals have taken the air out of debate, this will pass, so Ottawa will focus on other matters. Again, that doesn't mean the firm decision allows the HST to disappear, because others will ensure it doesn't, but only that it was the path of least resistance.

Respecting the will of the provinces. The horror.


BCL is in key.