Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Year End Feelings

This goes out to Mr. Harper and 2009 in general.

If you are easily offended by swearing, don't start the vid.

It's not new of course, but it sums things up rather well.


Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


And to those who do not celebrate, may your holidays bring you joy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Take the Time to Look at Facts

If there is one thing this government is good at, it's spin. They are masters at changing the channel, making what is appear as if it is not, and vilifying people for the sake of saving their own skin.

With Colvin's letter today, we gain yet more information that clearly points to the government's transgressions and their response tells us they are trying to make this issue go away.

In his letter, Colvin highlights six reports sent to Ottawa in 2006, including one he said noted that "torture is rife" in Afghan jails.

"The report used the word 'torture' repeatedly," Colvin wrote.
Colvin writes that during a meeting in March 2007 with 12 to 15 officials in Ottawa, he informed them that the Afghan intelligence service "tortures people, that's what they do, and if we don't want our detainees tortured, we shouldn't give them to the [Afghans]."


There is much to read in the letter and I will confess that my day has not allowed me to read it in depth. So I will only provide an impression of what I saw transpire today.

Colvin rebutted, with force, everything that the government and some in the military have thrown at him. It was the right thing to do and tells me just how committed this man is to seeing the truth come to light and his commitment to Canada's reputation.

Because that's what this is all about isn't it? Our good reputation in the world and the passing on of our values? Well, to hear the Conservatives speak on the subject, they seem to think that if you are seen as a mighty fighting force, the rest of our mandate be damned. Laurie Hawn once again tonight (re-run tape I think) thought the whole thing about a prisoner being beaten with a shoe was a big joke. It was basically, who cares?

I honestly believe at the core of all of this is that mentality. The whole 'scumbag' rationale had to permeate and likely was embraced with ardour by O'Connor and the rest of caucus and frankly, it sickens me to write that.

So, tomorrow I will comb the document and hopefully have more to put down than impressions.

One last thing. Last night, Laurie Hawn was on two political shows. On both shows he claimed that he had contacted Lib MP Bryon Wilfert and offered to have a tele-conference instead of a meeting in Ottawa. Today I heard Wilfert say that he was never e-mailed on this. In fact, the chair of the committee, (a Conservative) actually sent out notice that the meeting would convene.

In as much as I think the media is doing a good job at keeping this story current, I think they are missing those kind of details. Details that clearly show the government lying. Not comfortable to deal with I'm sure, but necessary for Canadians to know.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Disdain


If ever a photo summed up what is clearly Harper's attitude toward this country, our parliament and other institutions, this would be it, right down to his expression.
Today, the government simply decided not to show up at the Afghanistan Special Committee. How's that for respecting the will of Parliament and the will of the Committee?
This behaviour has no place in a democracy, but I guess we also know what the Harper government thinks of that quaint notion don't we.
Another example is what we learned at Copenhagen today. You know of course how Prentice and Harper and others all quote, ad nauseam, the hard targets of 20% by 2020. Well, surprise, surprise. They didn't really mean it.
If you believe in this country, you should be outraged at how it/we are being treated.
That is, without respect and in fact disdain.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Nation Slumbers, As Democracy Dies



When Stephen Harper was first elected, I knew the nation and our institutions were in peril.

I wasn't alone of course, but for some reason, the known was never, or rarely spoken of. By that I mean in the media. I have yet to understand why, to be honest. Harper has of course been masterful at disguising his intents, mostly by doing something reprehensible, immediately followed by something rather benign and mainstream.

For whatever reason, the focus has been on the latter. The people who report these things are far from naive and are certainly bright, but they are maybe too cynical and focused on the "game" of politics rather than it's impact, thereby, not really believing that anyone would actually be doing what Harper set out to do.

I'm not talking about reversing abortion rulings or rescinding gay marriage. Those kinds of issues are the hot potatoes that everyone throws out there to prove that he does or doesn't have an agenda. With apologies, those issues are tiny and easily reversed in the grand scheme. Harper's sights were always set much higher than that.

Today, I watched part of Question Period. I did so with mixed emotion to be honest, because what I've believed for some time was coming out and for that I was grateful, but at the same time I was very disturbed and sad to know that it's taken so long.

Here's an interview with Peter Tinsley, the former chair of the MPCC, (Military Police Complaints Commission).

Former, not because he is not prepared to continue, but former because he was getting in the way of the government. Like many before him who were either fired or didn't have their contracts renewed, the Harper government is shutting down the very instruments that Stephen Harper assured Canada would keep him in check. I can't find that video, but if any of you have it, I'd love a link.

You remember that right? He was about to become PM and assured the country that they were safe from any "hidden agenda", because our system had checks and balances. He smirked as he said that and I knew then and there, he had figured out how to game the system, so to speak.

Why didn't the media expose this? I don't think there was any nefarious reason there, I just don't think that a critical eye is always cast. Mine is hyper-critical of course and I don't expect those who bring us the news to share my view. I really believe they didn't see this coming. Outside of the right wing columnists, who were jumping for joy, I'm not certain many studied the man and understood where he really wanted to take the country.

Well, I think many of them, including columnists, are a bit more critical, (as in critical thinking) today and for that I am grateful.

For the record, in addition to Tinsley, Harper has silenced and harassed, Linda Keen, a staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency, Elections Canada, (more than one in that department), and the Commissioner over-seeing the RCMP enquiry.

The only body able to keep him in check at the moment, is the judiciary, yet even they are challenged at every turn.

His disregard for parliament should disgust anyone who cares about our system.

That this is coming out now, over the holiday's, shouldn't put anyone off. Yes, it will not be paid close attention to outside of we wonks, but it will be in the papers, on news casts and on political shows. It's not going to die and the flames will be fanned when the country gets back to work. Count on it.

I'm known for saying, Where is my Canada?. Obviously, that can be taken as a highly partisan comment. Usually though, that is not my intent. What I mean is, this is a country built on values. Not left or right values, but values that evolve in our concept of respecting human rights, abiding by the law, respecting our system of government and abiding by our Charter of Rights and our Constitution.

Harper isn't actually vested in any of those ideals or institutions and any serious study of the man would tell you that.

Here is hoping that many are finally getting it and stepping forward.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Issue?

One of the first stories I read this morning was this one. Hillier Mum on Abuse.

Apologies, but when I read the following, I'm afraid I laughed out loud:

"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? He's not following a story that could heavily impact on his legacy?

There are a few things to consider here. Immediately following Hillier's testimony, the government, MacKay specifically, went on at length to not only to buy every word of what Hillier said, but to frame everything in terms like, 'decorated war hero' etc., and while I don't question that, it must be noted that often in the same breath he was discrediting Colvin and painting quite a different picture of his character.

It struck me then that Hillier has a hell of a lot to lose if things were not done properly. You'll remember that both he and Gauthier never really answered many of the questions but preferred rather to emphasize their specific duties and how hard it was on the ground.

Both were either directly dismissive of Colvin or inferred that he was in no position to know or understand the realities of the situation in Afghanistan.

To me, that in fact bolstered Colvin's description of these two men in terms of how they were difficult to deal with and did not put much stock in civilian observations.

That Hillier is now saying that he isn't following any of this is ludicrous. His successor came out this week and contradicted not only government claims, but military. Do you seriously believe that Hillier isn't intimately aware of that?

Could it be that he is so arrogant he believes that he'll simply be taken at his word, (previous testimony)? Or could it be that he knows this government has his back because of course that means protecting their own?

I don't know what it means to be honest, but I can say I don't buy it for a second.

This issue is obviously not going away given the vote in the House of Commons last week. I know the government intends to ignore it, as they ignore everything our democracy compels them to do, but I'm certain that no one in the opposition is going to let this go and it could get ugly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ignatieff to Wente: Not True!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I have little tolerance for misinformation and outright falsehoods seen in either media reports or uttered by the government. Further, I become even more frustrated when something untrue is said of the Liberal party and the party does not respond.

So, it was nice to see a letter to the editor penned by Ignatieff and directed at Margaret Wente, who, imo, wrote the most inappropriate screed on the gun registry and more specifically on the Montreal Massacre.

Buried in her column was this:

The gun registry has been written off as useless – by the Liberals.

As a columnist, she is entitled to her opinion, but as the saying goes she is not entitled to her own facts.

Apparently, the Liberal party is no longer going to sit back and allow such distortions to just sit out there. Perhaps the addition of Donolo has prompted this shift and if that is the case, then I say well done.

Here's what Ignatieff had to say:

Gun registry not ‘useless’

Margaret Wente’s claim that the Liberal Party has “written off” the gun registry “as useless” (Montreal Massacre Death Cult - Dec. 8) is incorrect. Liberals have always been strong supporters of effective gun control and we believe in the importance maintaining a registry that includes all guns. It is a vital part of protecting public and police officer safety, used by police 9,000 times a day and supported by Canada’s Chiefs of Police.

As the Day of Remembrance for the tragedy at l’École Polytechnique reminds us, gun control is also essential to preventing violence against women. Far from Canada’s gun registry being useless, there has been a decline in all types of gun deaths since the registry was brought into force, and it’s been used to refuse or revoke over 16,000 gun licences. For all of this, the registry costs less in a year than the Conservative government has spent on partisan advertising in the past few months alone.

Working alongside police and women’s groups, the Liberal Party is fully committed to maintaining the gun registry and ensuring Canada has smart, effective gun control.

Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Tedium is the Message

It is an odd mentality that insists on repeating lie upon lie, when those lies have been called out and disproved. Yet, we seem to be have a government that does just that. On issues large and small, they have spent more time defending the indefensible than they have doing practically anything else.

They have no Climate Change plan, yet they continue to insist that they do. The Speaker ruled that a 10 per center sent out insinuating that the Liberals were Anti Semitic, was out of line, not factual and impugned a member's character impeding his ability to perform his duties. That went to committee today, but the government side continued to push the falsehoods in the brochure and completely ignored evidence that completely discredited their argument. Poilievre to be precise.

In Question Period, the government refuses to answer important questions and day after day repeats nonsensical responses. It's tedious and dangerous, imo.

Of course the big topic at the moment, is the Afghanistan detainee issue. It is clear that MacKay has been all over the board in his replies and his denials are becoming more strident and over the top. Baird, well, he doesn't even answer logically, more concerned with smearing whomever happens to be in his way than anything else.

The government's behaviour has not gone unnoticed.

Today we have diplomats speaking out to decry their treatment of Richard Colvin and his testimony. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how unusual it is for diplomats to speak out. Their statement is extremely important, as it speaks to trust, the public trust and the ability of the public service to speak truth to power.

It will come as no surprise that I think the Conservatives have no problem at all in undermining the public service. This obviously is dangerous for our democracy and one reason that I have suggested that Harper himself was dangerous for the country.

Additionally, the NDP came out today to ask for MacKay's resignation. I agree with this, but have no idea whether or not the Liberals will call for the same. Taking that move to it's logical conclusion though, if MacKay knew, and everything points to the fact that he did, then it stands to reason that Harper did too. This conclusion feels even more plausible when you consider the vigorous defence they are mounting, flawed as it is being based on falsehoods.

And then finally today, we learn that the government was more concerned with creating their spin and honing their talking points than they were in actually implementing a transfer agreement.

Federal officials assured the Red Cross in 2006 that Canada would take an active role in monitoring the fate of Afghan prisoners — but for critical months behind the scenes did little more than manage the political spin, secret memos show.

The records, examined on a confidential basis by The Canadian Press, show the Harper government placed a greater emphasis on drafting "key messages" to the public and preparing "approaches" for embarrassing disclosures than on dealing with the human rights of prisoners.

...... 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)."


Anyone who watches this government is not surprised by this. This has been their M.O. since they took power. They are amateur hour when it comes to matters of importance, but they are masters at spinning the message.

The reputation of this country is worsening by day. From Copenhagen to the Afghan issue, the Conservatives are being exposed for who they are.

While I continue to be perplexed as to why it has taken so long, I am glad to see more and more of the inner workings of this government being revealed.

They treat all of this as a game of strategy and seem not to have a moral compass when it comes to knowing and doing what is right.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Fiction Posing as Fact



The other day it was noted that Christie Blatchford had her facts wrong. She drew conclusions that fit her narrative, but she had her facts wrong.

This morning, we are treated to some more fiction from yet another opinion writer, who couches his narrative in what seems to be fact, except it isn't.

Glenn Pearson, MP from London, who is probably the most respected MP in the House is mentioned in the story. He read it this morning and was quick to rebut Persichilli's assertions.

Here is his post:

I woke up early this morning to a shock. In the news, I read a headline claiming that MPs were planning Michael Ignatieff’s early retirement. And then I read my own name mentioned as one of those who took part in a planned meeting at the Chateau Laurier to discuss how to move the Liberal leader out of the way. The piece, by Angelo Persichilli, claims that Bob Rae called a special meeting of Liberal MPs following a retirement party for Liberal senator Jerry Grafstein to discuss moving Mr. Ignatieff on. I have no idea how Mr. Perichilli came to such a conclusion.

For the record, let me state that Carolyn Bennett, Bob Rae, Ruby Dhalla and I did meet on the night mentioned. This often happens in the evenings following parliamentary sessions as politicians and senators seek to wind down following hectic days. On the night Perichilli mentions for example, other MPs and senators were in the lounge, though not at our table. Someone was singing at the piano, the place was packed and noisy. The only part of this meeting that was planned was between Ms. Bennett and myself. She has been to Sudan with my wife and I as a part of two special teams we took in the last couple of years and has made significant contributions regarding public health, rural clinics and need to build better infrastructure for health in that troubled country. We had agreed to meet to discuss my upcoming trip to the region in a few weeks’ time. Mr. Rae and Ms. Dhalla were not part of that invite.

Partway through the discussion, Mr. Rae did appear in the lounge but had no idea we were there. It was me that waved to him to see if he wanted to join us. About 15 minutes after that, Ms. Dhalla walked in and she was welcomed to join us as well. Talk of Sudan ended as we spoke of some of the speeches and persons present at the Grafstein dinner. As always on such occasions, things got around to politics. Angelo Persichilli claims in his piece that I stated Mr. Ignatieff was losing the trust of the party. This is profoundly untrue. I did comment that he maintained the loyalty of caucus but that Mr. Rae was a trusted performer in the House. I also stated that with Mr. Ignatieff traveling the country more, it would be good to see Bob take on more responsibility for helping us as the official opposition to hold the government to account in the House, especially during Question Period.

Where Mr. Persichilli got the idea that a discussion was held to seek the removal of Mr. Goodale from his responsibility in the House I have no idea. Not once – nada – was this discussed. In fact, we think we’ve done better in the House lately and that Ralph Goodale has been an important part of elevating that performance. And for Persichilli to claim that it wasn’t an isolated meeting is totally unfounded. It was isolated and the only planning was between Ms. Bennett and myself re: Sudan.

I have never met Angelo Persichilli, nor do I know what he looks like. But I do occasionally hold discussions with a few journalists, some who are friends. If they received such information, they would clarify our positions before writing the story. Angelo Persichilli didn’t provide that opportunity and got his story wrong. It’s just the way everything has been going in Ottawa these days, as people rush to the lowest common denominator. I have sought to keep a low profile during these last three years, in large part because of situations like this. Mr. Perichilli has it wrong and he has done proper politics a great disfavour. Our discussion about Mr. Ignatieff did cover his trouble in the polls and how we trust he’ll do better, but the rest of the talk was about how we could help him in the House and how we could take on more of the load. Mr. Rae, Ignatieff’s competitor for past leadership bouts, called no such meeting and I feel the sorriest for him because he neither led the discussion (no one did) and he affirmed that Michael Ignatieff has the loyalty of caucus and that was a good thing.

It’s hard for some of us to try to move politics to a higher level in Ottawa, but with journalism like this it’s almost impossible. At least check it out with us to make sure you have your story straight. I’ve been as honest as I can be in Ottawa and, Mr. Perichilli, you’ve got this one wrong. And Michael, I’m sorry this happened at all. We’re all fully there behind you and saddened by the pain this must cause.

Carolyn Bennett also rejected the story this morning.

This pseudo-journalism, (opinion told in such a way as to twist or distort facts) is helpful to no one, not the least of which is the electorate. It feeds cynicism and that is bad for democracy.

Blatchford and Persichilli are hardly retiring when it comes to their political leaning and that is fair enough, but distorting the truth has become far too common place and we deserve more than this. Had he written, 'X MP's were spotted at Y lounge and in my opinion, here is what they might have been discussing'...fine. Obviously no opinion writer would do that but you get my drift.

Thanks to Glen Pearson for setting the record straight.

Friday, December 04, 2009

(Un)Truth and Consequences


Last Saturday, I commented on Christie Blatchford's opinion piece in the Globe and Mail.

My beef wasn't that she shouldn't be allowed to express her opinion, but rather the manner in which the piece was presented, that is, as if it was the definitive view of the situation in Afghanistan.

I argued at the time that she approached the piece with an outcome in mind and made the pieces fit to suit her viewpoint.

Well, today we have have a correction, put out by the Globe and Mail. (What? You didn't see it buried in the print edition?)

CORRECTION - published Dec. 4, 2009

Comments released to a parliamentary committee this week about Afghanistan's Kandahar prison that the facility seemed "to be in reasonably good condition" and that inmates got "enough food" were misattributed to Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin. In fact, the comments were made by an unknown third party and quoted by Mr. Colvin in an e-mail. Mr. Colvin made several trips, not one, outside the military base in Kandahar. Incorrect information appeared in a column Nov. 28.

Now, these corrections may not seem like much, but consider her original assertion on one of these issues.

As context for Mr. Colvin's tour in Afghanistan, it should be noted that he arrived at Kandahar Air Field on April 28, 2006, and went several days later to the Provincial Reconstruction Team headquarters on the outskirts of town, where he spent about seven weeks – leaving the compound, as comfortable and safe a place as there is in that country, only once for a few hours.

That was his “outside the wire” tour, which means that in his information gathering, he would have relied heavily upon phone interviews with Afghans, contacts with the ICRC and other non-governmental agencies, and any journalists, local or foreign, he may have met at the PRT.

Mr. Colvin then headed off for a month's leave in July, spending the remainder of his time in Afghanistan at the Canadian embassy in Kabul, finally heading home in October of 2007.

By the kindest reckoning, he would have spent a grand total of a half-day outside the wire in Kandahar.


The condescending tone aside, she jumped to a conclusion to back-fill her assertions. In addition to misunderstanding Colvin's job description, (I presume intentionally because she does have access to this info), she was determined to completely undermine his credibility with that statement.

This type of misinformation has become far too prevalent and tragically, it inserts itself into the broader dialogue. I noted how many times the Conservatives quoted Blatch this week. That then seeps out of the House of Commons and ends up on panel discussions, etc., yet this is all nothing more than her personal conjecture.

It's time for more people to be held to account. Yes, opinion writing is interesting, but it must be clearly identified as such. In my view, the Globe relied on Christie's background and gave her the space to put out a story that should never have appeared in that format.

Lest you doubt the symbiotic relationship that I suggest exists, take a peek here.