Monday, June 30, 2008

Truly through the looking glass at Gitmo

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit has declared, in a case involving one of the 17 "Uighur" Chinese detainees - that were sought to be placed in Canada - that the evidence provided by the government to support its claim of enemy combatant status is absurd:
In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that allegations against an ethnic Chinese man held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims, according to the decision released Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its allegations against a detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.

The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a Lewis Carroll character: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”

“This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true,” said the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The unanimous panel overturned as invalid a Pentagon determination that a detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, a member of the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority in western China, was properly held as an enemy combatant.

The panel included one of the court’s most conservative members, the chief judge, David B. Sentelle.
The nature of the evidence the U.S. government was using to detain Parhat was exposed by the court:
Pentagon officials have claimed that Mr. Parhat and 16 other Uighurs at Guantánamo were “affiliated” with the East Turkistan group and that it, in turn, was “associated” with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The men were captured after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The court said the classified evidence supporting those claims included assertions that events “reportedly” occurred and that the connections were “said to” exist, without providing information about the source of such information.

“Those bare facts,” the decision said, “cannot sustain the determination that Parhat is an enemy combatant.”
What an absolute joke the Americans are making of the rule of law. These prisoners were taken in order to gain Chinese favour in 2002 when the U.S. sought Chinese support for the Afghan conflict and with a view to Iraq being next up. The legal basis for their continued detention has been quickly exposed as a sham once it finally reached the light of day, after six years.

Latest Harper government position on the Canadian sitting in Guantanamo Bay, June 18th:
"Mr. Speaker, I have said it before and I will keep repeating it, Mr. Khadr faces very serious charges. Any questions regarding whether Canada plans to ask for Mr. Khadr's release are premature and speculative at this time, as the appeal and legal process is still ongoing."
Yes, it is an ongoing joke...

Friday, June 27, 2008

"At Issue" in the house

Jeez, it's just like Chantal and the gang are here around my desk...

Yes, I'm joining in here on the end of session political judgments prompted by this post and this entry.

Best Moment:

No surprise to readers here, the revelations from "Amateur Hour on the Rideau," aka the Bernier implosion courtesy of Madame Couillard and their many escapades together. Harper's judgment finally became a topic of much deserved scrutiny in the wake of this mess, something that should have come under the bright lights much sooner than this. What a way to end the session, guys. Couldn't have dreamt it up better myself...:)

Worst Moment:

The late night firing of Linda Keen. Shamefully executed. The Harper government fired an uber-competent regulator overseeing a file that should be beyond partisan antics. Symbolic of their dealings with the public service and always prevalent instinct for their own political preservation above all else. A key moment crystallizing the dark side of the Harper government.

Most Overrated Politician:

There are so many, how to choose just one? OK, let's not. Here are 3.

Harpie. Um, have you been reading my blog? See most entries on any given day.

Thomas Mulcair. The vibe I get from this guy is like no other. With the greatest of respect, every time I listen to him speak the level of vitriol emanating out of him is typically set on high and I find myself offended. He's a very knowledgeable fella' and all but the edges are very rough.

Junior MacKay. I have no doubt he's a hard worker. But never has an original thing to say. And sometimes has retarded things to say.

Most Underrated:

Serge Menard. One of the best in a committee examining a witness. We need more people with such skills. Has gravitas. People listen intently in Question Period when he speaks. Too bad he's with the Bloc.

And a big shout out to all my Dipper friends with this one...it's Stephane Dion, the man you love to hate and feel is worse than Stephen Harper. Expectations? Very low. Recipe for political success...when it counts? Yep.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"...the Commissioner was not impartial"

A case study in doing the right thing courtesy of Jean Chretien and his loyalists: "Chretien wins Federal Court battle to set aside Gomery findings." This judgment on the bias of Justice John Gomery in his conduct of the sponsorship hearings is remarkable. Can there be an indictment of a commissioner of a public inquiry stronger than this?

Kinsella's doing dances in the end zone today...the Chretienites deserve full credit for seeing this through and clarifying for posterity's sake the record with respect to the conduct of this inquiry. The judgment is well worth a read.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A "true nationalist" of which country?

What is the PM doing by calling himself a "true nationalist" in Quebec on St. Jean Baptiste day anyway? Harper made these remarks sur l'occasion de la Fete Nationale hier au Quebec:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper painted himself as a Quebec nationalist on Tuesday as he took part in annual Fete Nationale celebrations.

He used festivities marking the provincial holiday to boast of his government's record in recognizing Quebec's place in Canada. "The true nationalists don't shy away from reality, they want to improve it," he told supporters at barbecue south of Montreal.

"True nationalists don't want to destroy, they want to build. We (the Conservatives) are the true nationalists." (emphasis added)
Now that sounds like opportunistic and out of place Conservative politicking on the day of the Quebec national holiday. And it's not even just run of the mill politicking. Would he utter that sentence, stating that the Conservatives are the "true nationalists" in Ottawa on Canada Day? That they are the party that wants to build Canada? See what I mean? It would be decried as an inappropriate attempt to portray his party as the patriotic one and by implication all others as not. The above statement skates very close to an uncomfortable line, reaching for this "true nationalist" badge. It's clearly an outright appeal to Quebec sovereignists and soft nationalists. I've never been a fan of those who play footsie like this in Quebec. It typically ends up burning everyone playing in the end. It's a questionable judgment on Harper's part to be doing so in such a blatant manner.

So just what kind of country is Harper building then, for Quebecers and the rest of us? The enthusiastic war nation of Canada? The environmental pariah Canada? A very Republican Canada?

A reader passed along this article yesterday which seemed to me a fine reminder of what style of governing and priorities Harper's brought to Canada. It's a report on the visit of Frank Luntz with Conservatives in the summer of 2006, Luntz the Republican spin doctor extraordinaire who travels among the highest echelons of Republican circles in the U.S. and who dispensed a great deal of advice then which has been followed quite neatly. The roadmap Luntz set out then for his willing Conservative listeners:
During his speech, titled "Massaging the Conservative Message for Voters," Mr. Luntz drew a communications roadmap to bring the Conservatives to a majority government -- a roadmap that Mr. Harper's government already appears to be following in several respects.

Focus on accountability and tax relief, said Mr. Luntz. Images and pictures are important. Tap into national symbols such as hockey.

"If there is some way to link hockey to what you all do, I would try to do it."

One of the reasons the Progressive Conservative government was decimated in 1993 was because they had strayed from important Conservative principles such as lower taxes, said Mr. Luntz who watched the election results come in that year from Mr. Manning's suite.

"You tax more (than the U.S) and you have to change that, you regulate more and you have to change that. But you are going to control the government longer than we are."
It's perhaps one of the most striking themes we've seen from the Conservatives, the U.S. driven tax obsession that has permeated Conservative talking points since they've been elected. They believe that the U.S. mindset that is fundamentally opposed to the levels of taxation that we've historically had in Canada is the operative one that should prevail in Canada. I've never been convinced that Canadians are on the same par as American voters in this regard and have found the tax message from the Conservatives to be a bit alien in that regard. Sure there's an appetite for lower taxes, but there's also an appetite to maintain valuable government services. Canadians like that balance. This is principally why the Harris Tories were booted out in Ontario and McGuinty, who raised taxes after promising not to do so was re-elected, for example. He had good reason to do so - debt - and the voters supported it. And perhaps the initial favourable results from the green shift polling is confirming once again, albeit at a very early stage, that the U.S. anti-tax rhetoric does not play here.

How does the "true nationalist" party that seeks "to build" embrace at the same time an American anti-tax ideology with the goal of choking the federal government? How does that square?

Luntz's directive to "tap into national symbols such as hockey" has been played out over and over in the Harper government playbook. They've variously tapped into other national symbols as well to stir up political support: the military, the north, the North Star. And they did it in respect of the Quebec nation motion as well. Harper's "true nationalist" remarks yesterday were in the same vein and clearly over the top.

And Harper may be a "true nationalist,"all right, but just not of this country...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

There is no "i" in team, Harpie

Harpie exercises cabinet leadership:
The shuffle, scheduled for 11 a.m. ET, is expected to be small, involving few ministers and leaving major portfolios such as finance and industry untouched.
...
Some Tories speculate that Harper may still conduct a more sweeping shakeup of his cabinet in the fall, in preparation for a possible election. But one senior Tory pooh-poohed that suggestion.

"Harper's not about team," the insider said.

"He doesn't want strong people ... sitting at the cabinet table. Why would he shuffle the cards? He's got people doing his bidding now."
Do I detect a pattern here? Senior Tory is not too pleased with the leader's modus operandi here. A few ministers are glaringly in need of a move, but nope, Harpie's not about team. And arguably not doing the right thing for his party in terms of curing those errors, notably Flaherty in Finance. Cue the anonymous criticism. Recall late last week, Don Martin putting out the word on Stockwell Day as a successor to Harper and today we read such remarks...the rumblings in Conservative leadership land, when they happen, are to be noted.

Call me a troublemaker or call me a citizen who simply reads the news reports...:)

"Good and hard"

Travers has a good one today: "PM confuses bullying and leadership." Picking up on the vulgarity of the PM last week and explaining how it encapsulates what this Conservative government is all about.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

McCain to Harper: ask and Khadr will be repatriated

As reported in the Star, yesterday there was quite a significant development in the Khadr case. The Republican presidential nominee signalled that he would return Khadr if the Canadian government asked for his repatriation. That McCain comment effectively pulls the rug out from under the Harper government's sycophantic position in backing the Bush administration. If McCain is taking this position, at a public press conference in Ottawa, then he's signalling that it could actually happen - now - if that's what our government requests. Here's McCain from yesterday:
Senator John McCain says he would favour returning Toronto-born Omar Khadr to Canada from Guantanamo Bay if Prime Minister Stephen Harper requested it.
...
At a press conference after his Ottawa speech yesterday, McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said there have been "ongoing discussions" between Canada and the U.S over the handling of Khadr's case.

Commenting on the possible return of Khadr to Canada, McCain said, "I hope that we could comply with whatever is agreed to by the Canadian government. And then, I think, is the time to move forward with addressing that issue."
The Harper p.r. people immediately responded to this damning bit of exposure from their supposed steadfast friends in the Republican party:
A Harper government spokesperson said later yesterday that McCain was referring only to the regular discussions between consular officials about a Canadian detained abroad.
Right. Got to tamp out any possible suggestion that the Americans might actually be looking to get Khadr back to Canada. Way to stand up for a Canadian citizen there, Harpies. Must preserve your political posturing at all costs.

All other western nations have gotten their citizens out of the Gitmo gulag. Even the very conservative McCain is apparently shaking his head wondering what's going on with Canada not having done so.

What is the Harper government's point in sticking with a policy that the U.S. is about to abandon as of January 2009? Especially when given this massive opening from the highest profile Republican in the United States at this moment? Is any Harperite getting it through their thick skulls that their Gitmo chest pounding is puzzling even to the likes of McCain?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our stately, dignified PM in action

The character of the PM shining brightly and in full view today. Bringing a whole new level of debate to Canadian politics:
"(The carbon tax plan) is like the national energy program in the sense that the national energy program was designed to screw the West and really damage the energy sector - and this will do those things," Harper told a small crowd in Saskatoon.

"This is different in that this will actually screw everybody across the country."
This is really telling stuff. Harper is like a cornered snake right now, hissing and lashing out. There's something very unsettling in his early reaction to the carbon tax debate. He's emotional and very hostile. And needless to say, this kind of base rhetoric is unacceptable, first off, for a PM to be uttering. The plan "screws everybody?" Come on, get your mouth out of the gutter please, Mr. Harper. We're an educated, civilized nation. Act like it.

Secondly, this is irresponsible wedge politics at its worst. Harper is shamelessly invoking the national energy program, the height of divisive strategy in the west. He's prepared to inflame the west and further division in the country for the sake of his political fortunes. Is that the kind of political leadership we want in this country?

This is going to be very interesting.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No fresh meat for now

Harpie likes his cabinet just as it is.
"I believe that most of our ministers are just beginning to hit their stride in their portfolios," Harper said at a news conference in Huntsville, Ont., on Thursday.

"I don't believe this would be the time for major changes to cabinet. . . . I see no need for a comprehensive overhaul now."

Harper did say he'll have to make a minor change "in due course" to deal with the resignation of his foreign affairs minister, Maxime Bernier. That came after Bernier left classified documents at the home of his former girlfriend, Julie Couillard.
So let's see. Most of Harpie's team are "hitting their stride" just about now and it sounds as if he's leaving them all in place, other than around the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Meaning Guergis is likely going to remain among the casualties given her connection to the Foreign Affairs scene.

Otherwise, Harpie's comments apparently mean that Flaherty is still hitting his stride...Baird hitting his just in time to cartoonishly mock the Liberal plan, Lunn, Ritz, Toews...yes, I can see Harpie's logic, being the brilliant strategist that he is. Let them stride away, they're doing wonders for Conservative fortunes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another instance of Conservative doublespeak

The Vic Toews incident yesterday where he called Louise Arbour a "disgrace"in the House of Commons highlights the problem of Conservatives' speaking out of both sides of their collective mouths. While Toews utters such an insult about a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, for pete's sake, Harper's spokesman says this:
Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said: "The government hasn't always agreed with all the positions she (Arbour) has taken. Nevertheless we've clearly praised what an accomplished career she's had."
Further, at virtually the same time Toews was shouting that Arbour was a "disgrace" in the House, David Emerson was stating this:
"We congratulate the work of Louise Arbour and we very strongly support the work of the United Nations in their pursuit of the protection of human rights and we'll continue to do so," Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said in response to Hall Findlay's question.
So which is it you doublespeaking hypocritical Conservatives? Is this former judge of the Supreme Court of Canada a disgrace? Or is she to be congratulated for her distinguished career? If it's the latter, and that is indeed what Harper's spokesman said, then Toews should properly apologize for his crass remark.

The same situation occurred last week with the official residential schools apology while on the same day Pierre Poilievre expressed a contemptuous position on the issue of payments to residential school survivors and the power structures on reserves. Poilievre ended up having to apologize.

Will Vic Toews do the same today?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conservative hatorade watch: today's winner, Vic Toews

Way to impress the women of Canada, Conservatives.

Toews owes the eminent Louise Arbour an apology for this classless yahoo behaviour:
One of Stephen Harper's senior cabinet members called Louise Arbour "a disgrace" on the floor of the House of Commons Tuesday.

Vic Toews, a Manitoba Conservative MP and the President of the Treasury Board, yelled "she's a disgrace" during Question Period as a Liberal MP, Martha Hall Findlay, was calling on the government to acknowledge Arbour's work as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Arbour is to retire from that position later this month. During her question, Hall Findlay alleged that the government had ordered diplomatic staff abroad not to talk about Arbour's work.
...
After Question Period had concluded, Hall Findlay asked Toews to withdraw his remark. He did not, telling the House, "the comments that Louise Arbour has made in respect of the state of Israel and the people of Israel are, in fact, a disgrace and I stand by those words."

Hall Findlay condemned Toews.

"It's a completely personal attack," Hall Findlay said after Question Period. "I think it's appalling. She is a highly respected person for all of the work she's done in human rights. She is one of the most successful, most impressive women this country's ever produced and this is just shameful the behaviour she's getting from her own country."
Toews was referring to comments Arbour made during the Lebanon-Israel conflict in 2006 on the need to protect civilians and which are reported in the above link.

Is Vic Toews leaving government? Can't be soon enough...

The Khadr subcommittee weighs in

Some relatively heartening news on the Khadr front in the sense that Parliament is now on record in the form of the subcommittee report on Khadr's continued detention at Guantanamo Bay. The opposition has called for Khadr's repatriation and the Conservatives oppose it. Now for history's sake, the record is officially clear.

Notably, the Conservative line hews to the Bush global war on terror philosophy:

The dissenting opinion also provides more insight on the government's deep opposition to bringing Mr. Khadr home – Conservative members usually respond to questions about the detained Canadian with one or more of a handful of pre-approved talking points.

Mr. Khadr could become a litmus test on Canada's commitment to impeding global terrorism and the results of our actions today could result in consequences that are not in the long-term interest of the country,” the dissenting opinion states.

In the face of the numerous rulings that have exposed the problems with Guantanamo's legal proceedings, to maintain such general platitudes is wildly out of step with those realities. Khadr is a former fifteen year old child soldier, he's hardly the case upon which the government should rest the nation's global outlook on how to address terrorist threats. And it's funny how all other western nations have reached exactly the opposite conclusion to that of the Conservatives.

Khadr's case is proceeding, tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Justice 5, Brutality 4"

That has got to be one of the best titles of an editorial in recent memory. It speaks to the frightening split on the U.S. Supreme Court. They're but one judge away from the Brutality faction becoming 5. As the Times puts it in their powerful editorial:
There is an enormous gulf between the substance and tone of the majority opinion, with its rich appreciation of the liberties that the founders wrote into the Constitution, and the what-is-all-the-fuss-about dissent. It is sobering to think that habeas hangs by a single vote in the Supreme Court of the United States — a reminder that the composition of the court could depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential election. The ruling is a major victory for civil liberties — but a timely reminder of how fragile they are.
Dan Froomkin today also has an enlightening juxtaposition of a key passage from the judgment against the thug Bush's comments yesterday:
In yesterday's landmark Supreme Court decision that President Bush cannot deny prisoners at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court, there's a key passage about protecting people from despotism.

The passage comes as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is relating the history and origins of the great writ of habeas corpus. Kennedy quotes from Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 84, which in turn quotes English jurist William Blackstone: "[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments, have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious Blackstone . . . are well worthy of recital: 'To bereave a man of life. . . or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.'"

And here, from a press availability with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi yesterday, is Bush's response to the ruling: "[W]e'll abide by the Court's decision. That doesn't mean I have to agree with it. It's a deeply divided Court, and I strongly agree with those who dissented, and their dissent was based upon their serious concerns about U.S. national security.

"Congress and the administration worked very carefully on a piece of legislation that set the appropriate procedures in place as to how to deal with the detainees.

"And we'll study this opinion, and we'll do so with this in mind, to determine whether or not additional legislation might be appropriate, so that we can safely say, or truly say to the American people: We're doing everything we can to protect you."
What contemptible arrogance and ego that immediately rejects the considered opinion of the Supreme Court that has thoroughly indicted the premise of Gitmo. Eugene Robinson calls out this obsession with national security as a justification for the gutting of hundreds of years of legal protections:
it's still hard for me to believe that arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and torture continue to be debated, as if there were pros and cons. The Supreme Court has now made clear that while justice and honor may be mere inconveniences for Bush, they remain essential components of our national identity.

"The nation will live to regret what the court has done today," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a dissent, warning that the ruling "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

Everyone hopes he's wrong, of course. But if the only thing that mattered were security, why would we bother to have an independent judiciary? Why would there be any constitutional or legal guarantees of due process for anyone?
Now the challenge is to make the ruling effective in the face of continued tyranny from Bush.

Movement on the Khadr file?

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling yesterday that has further embarrassed this Conservative government who has continued to bow to George W. Bush's Gitmo process, there's a possible sign that the Conservatives are flinching:
"Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai deflected questions about the U.S. court decision, saying the government would 'not comment on the judicial process of another country.'

But Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, did stray from the government's previous media lines to raise the issue of international legal standards and human rights.

'The government of Canada strongly believes that the fight against terrorism must be carried out in compliance with international law including the established standard of human rights and due process,' he said.

Some believe the comment was significant and could signal the government is reviewing the legality of Khadr's imprisonment.

'I'm not sure that statement is not opening the door to a future argument that says, in review of the (international) conventions, that we find he can in fact come home and we could take care of him,' Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire told the Toronto Star."
While Obhrai's statement is laughable given the government's failure to do anything to date in the face of prior rulings undermining Gitmo, they should be encouraged to review their policy. It's beyond the time that this repatriation effort should have been launched.

And in purely political terms, I'm sure it's become plenty uncomfortable to be hanging out there on that lonely limb with W. This Supreme Court ruling was a p.r. smack down of the highest order. They're on the wrong side of history and the law. The big problem, however, is that they may have waited too long given Khadr's trial being imminent. Not clear whether, politically, W and the gang would give up Khadr at this point.

And by the way, here's a thought...maybe Deepak should be Foreign Affairs Minister...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

But but but...the Liberals...

Deepak Obhrai, clueless:
In an exchange in question period yesterday, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai blamed the Liberals for his government's hands-off approach to the Khadr case.

"Mr. Khadr has been in jail since 2002 when (the Liberal) party was in power, and that is the policy that we are following which was brought forward by that party," Obhrai said.

He said the Liberals should ask their own leader, who was in cabinet at the time, "why they did not raise those questions at that time."
Where have you been, Deepak? Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary on this file recently? Like say, serious violations of natural justice and the former chief prosecutor there last year telling the world that the trials were all politicized? Hmmm? Make any difference?
A steady leak of documents in the case since February has raised questions about Khadr's culpability and the fairness of Guantanamo's war crimes courts. Last month, the military judge in the case abruptly retired, prompting cries of political interference.
The difference between you Conservatives and the Liberals is that the Liberals have changed their initial reluctance to call for his repatriation. They know they were wrong. The entire western world has acted on that recognition, except for the Republican supporting Conservative government.

See what happens when they deviate from their talking points? And for that matter, when we don't have a full time Foreign Affairs Minister?

We don't call them the Clouseau Conservatives for nothing...:)

Holy clusterf*$# Batman! It's another one of those impressive young Conservatives in action: "Tory attack ads may never air at gas pumps." Is Ryan Sparrow trying to give us a laugh attack or what? Heh...:) Read up and enjoy the massive backfire in action:
The Harper Conservatives' plan to run anti-Liberal attack ads on mini-television screens at gas pumps in Southern Ontario is backfiring because the company that was to place them is refusing.

The 15-second ads, featuring an animated blob of grease criticizing a yet-to-be released plan by the Dion Liberals to put a tax on carbon, were to begin running Tuesday until July 7.

Conservative Party spokesman Ryan Sparrow said the company, the Fuelcast Network, refused to take the ads Monday morning.

The Tories had been trying to get in touch with the company for an explanation, said Mr. Sparrow, who was going around Ottawa Monday showing reporters the party's contract with the company, signed on June 5.

The contract clearly identifies the client as the “Conservative Party.”

“We have a binding contract,” Mr. Sparrow said. “The Conservative Party and we fully expect them to honour the contract.”
But, but, but, but...binding contract...must honour...doh! Fuelcast, the company that the Conservatives "contracted with" to run the ads is now saying it "reserves the right to not play an ad with a political message." The Conservative braintrust must have missed the appropriate clause. These outlets are likely highly aware of the fine line they walk with their tv screens being positioned in such an intrusive spot in the first place.

Also interesting, the gas companies running away from any association whatsoever with this claptrap:
A Petro-Canada official contacted Liberal environment critic David McGuinty early Monday morning after seeing his comments condemning the campaign in which he wondered what gas outlet would risk running such partisan ads.

Mr. McGuinty said that the Petro-Canada official wanted to “assure” him that his company does not have monitors at its pumps and will not participate in the ad campaign.
Now that's a gas station I can get behind...:)

Was this entire campaign all a ruse to distract from Bernier and Cadman and Elections Canada, and so on, and so on, and so on, as the "Conservative official" quoted in Taber's piece suggests? If that were true (and Sparrow's waving around of the contract like a chicken with his head cut off just might have that air to it), then we're dealing with a whole other level of behaviour here...

(h/t Stormy Days of March, Far and Wide)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Destruction of evidence at Gitmo

Further to this post at pogge today on the latest Gitmo travesties, we hear about another violation of due process today involving the destruction of evidence by Khadr interrogators. Apparently at Gitmo, it's Standard Operating procedure for interrogators to interrogate and then destroy their notes lest they be called into court to have their evidence questioned. Making the job of the defence to cross-examine such evidence all the more difficult. For it no longer exists. Khadr's lawyer has requested such written evidence and has been told, guess what, there's none.

The report:
Guantanamo Bay interrogators were directed to destroy handwritten notes in an attempt to minimize the chances they could have their actions questioned in court, states a newly released document that could derail the case of Canadian Omar Khadr.

The document confirms for the first time that the Pentagon had a policy that required original notes to be systematically destroyed – something detainee defence lawyers argue undermines their ability to challenge the government's evidence.

This is particularly true in Khadr's case where it appears prosecutors will rely heavily on Khadr's alleged confessions.

The directive for interrogators is known as a SOP or standard operating procedure, and was released late last week to Khadr's defence lawyers by the prosecution.

"This mission has legal and political issues that may lead to interrogators being called to testify, keeping the number of documents with interrogation information to a minimum can minimize certain legal issues," the policy states, according to an affidavit released to the media Sunday by Khadr's military lawyer, Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler.

"If handwritten notes were destroyed in accordance with the SOP, the government intentionally deprived Omar's lawyers of key evidence with which to challenge the reliability of his statements," Kuebler wrote in an email.

Furthermore, if the U.S. government is proven to have destroyed evidence in bad faith, the war crimes law under which Khadr is charged requires that the case can be thrown out.
(emphasis added)
In the wake of the Pentagon having "retired" a judge who was recently threatening to halt the case given prosecution stonewalling on the production of evidence, this news contributes to the perception that they did in fact get rid of Judge Brownback in order to avoid the consequences of such illegal procedures.

Meanwhile, back in Canada, under the spineless Conservatives, we'll no doubt hear more about how it's still "premature" to weigh in on such violations of procedural fairness. Yet the Gitmo trials have been shown to contravene basic principles of fairness and serve the propaganda interests of the U.S. government. It's long past time for Mr. Harper to show leadership. The absurdity of our government's stance is being illuminated bit by bit as these revelations continue.

(Globe report, here.)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Doh!

The Clouseau Conservatives in action at the grassroots level: "RCMP called to Tory nomination meeting in Kamloops."

Heh...:)

Call it a wash? No thanks

Rex Murphy's piece in the Globe today is more of the irksome line of thinking that says, essentially, the sponsorship scandal occurred, therefore, all "scandal," for lack of a better word, following it is just clumped under some amorphous "more of the same" label. And the talking heads tell us, the public is just so tired of it all. They all do it, let's just call it all a wash.

No, thank you very much.

Such a notion is a recipe for the endless excusing of Conservative misconduct. Perhaps the opposition, in Mr. Murphy's view, should just shut up and ignore the high profile Conservative affronts to national security (Bernier-Couillard), to elections law (in-and-out) and rules against parliamentary vote-buying (Cadman)? What's the possible rationale for doing so? Why does Mr. Harper, who has brought new lows to Canadian politics, deserve such enabling?

It harkens back to the George W. Bush campaign of 2000, when he famously declared that he wasn't going to play "gotcha" politics over allegations concerning his own scandalous behaviour in his past, in the personal and business spheres. The inoculation soon washed over the media as they willingly succumbed to the scandal fatigue from the Clintons in the 90's - which had been largely driven by a rabid Republican attack machine. Bush reaped all the political benefit. Look how well that inoculation's gone for America.

There's a similar thread to Murphy's piece today that should be rejected outright. Parliamentary exhaustion is not an excuse for ignoring Conservative wrongdoing.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Nobody's fighting over Harpie's Wikipedia entry...

Jim Prentice's Wikipedia bio locked 'due to vandalism' says Wikipedia. Prentice's enamoured foot soldiers are apparently trying to build up their guy on the down low in his Wikipedia entry. Writing things to the effect of "I heart Jim" and so on. Maybe one of them was the Globe's Lawrence Martin...heh...:) The big, earth-shaking news from CTV:
A skirmish has been raging for days over the online Wikipedia biography of Industry Minister Jim Prentice, with anonymous government workers airbrushing out controversial details or buffing Prentice's image, while others just as quickly revised the revisions.

So intense was the battle that Prentice's biography was locked Thursday by Wikipedia administrators "due to vandalism."

Literally hundreds of changes had been made to Prentice's biography over the past week, with many originating from IP addresses that were traced to Industry Canada computers at the department's Queen Street address in downtown Ottawa.

"Even though someone from within Industry Canada thought they were making these changes anonymously - and they are, in the sense of not knowing the precise individual - it was not very difficult to trace back the fact these changes were coming from within the department," Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa, said Thursday in an interview.

Prentice's office was not immediately available for comment.
Can't see this type of attention sitting well with Harpie...after all, what ever must these foot soldiers be up to, anyway, in polishing up Prentice's online c.v., hmmm?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Jim Flaherty flailing

Can you smell the desperation? They've got a full-blown storm on their hands, again, due to the absurd posturing Flaherty's done in respect of the province of Ontario. So the GM truck plant's implosion, next door to Flaherty's riding, is causing some creative accounting suddenly in Ottawa:
Mr. Flaherty said last night he is prepared to release to GM a portion of the $250-million Automotive Innovation Fund to produce a third car. The research and development fund was unveiled in this year's budget to help auto companies build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"The money is available," Mr. Flaherty told reporters. "The key is to work with the union, work with the company to see what's necessary in terms of technological innovation."

He said he has spoken to executives at GM about dipping into the fund, which could be an incentive to build a new model and create jobs at the plant near his riding of Whitby.

However, the news came as a surprise to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who has been calling on Ottawa to help out the auto sector. "We look forward to seeing the details," a provincial government official said last night.
Make sure you use that word "innovation" in there, Jim, to match the name of the fund set up for an entirely different purpose. You know, the fund that is going to be used at this sensitive moment, principally to save your seat and undermine the very purpose for which the fund was established in the first place.

Last minute scrambling to fight the terrible optics in play here in Ontario. Looks good on Diamond Jim.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Revolting sycophants

And I mean "revolting" purely in the rebellious sense, of course...:)

L. Ian Macdonald in the Gazette today: "Bernier affair raises doubts about Harper's competence."
The deeper and more enduring problem for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is that it raises questions about his own judgment, and the core attribute of the competence of his government.
MacDonald trots out a bit of what we've seen thus far. He questions the wisdom of the European trip last week while the Bernier affair imploded and backhandedly points out the weakness of the PM's front bench. He contributes to a growing concern, further raising the issue of the supposed Harper competence on the economy given the decline in GDP growth for Canada in this year's first quarter.

For what it's worth, there it is.

"Some sort of charge and trial down there"

Conservatives reacted predictably to the Foreign Affairs officials' reports on their visits with Khadr:
"Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East), parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, said the new information was 'all premature, speculative. The process is going on.'

Art Hanger, the Conservative chair of the justice committee, said as long as Khadr remains 'under some sort of charge and trial down there, that's the way it's going to be as far as I can see.'

Hanger dismissed the officials' summary of favourable comments by Khadr's U.S. military guards.

'What kind of comments are those? Nothing official has come forward. So some prison guards might have said that? He's locked up. We don't know what the real story is until we get some official reports, I would think.'"
"Premature," Obhrai said. Hey, there's that word again...see Lunn post earlier today. When they don't know what to do with a piece of information, stall. And Hanger, well, let's let his remarks speak for themselves. No need to parse those.

Yep, the Conservative inaction is a veritable international embarrassment, still.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Khadr's a "good kid"

A raft of positive "report card" like information being released to the media last night on Omar Khadr's good citizenry while at Gitmo. The information comes from reports written by Foreign Affairs personnel who visited Khadr there in March and April. Here's a bit of the report and Khadr's lawyer's comments on what it means:
Omar Khadr's American guards at Guantanamo Bay describe the Canadian terror suspect as "salvageable," "non-radicalized" and a "good kid," according to internal reports written by Canadian government officials who've visited him at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

One also signals Khadr, 21, has begun to distance himself from his family, which many Canadians consider synonymous with terrorism because of their expressions of support for - and past involvement with - al-Qaida.

"Omar barely broached the subject of his family, beyond sharing with me a few memories, such as learning to ride a bike with his uncle in Ottawa," writes Suneeta Millington, a legal officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs, who met with Khadr in Guantanamo on March 12 and 14.
...
"These reports are about as close as you can get to a direct recommendation by Canadian officials for Prime Minister Stephen Harper call on the U.S. authorities to return Omar to Canada," said U.S. navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, Khadr's assigned military lawyer.

"We know the Canadian government is concerned about which way Omar might turn if he returns, but here we have not only Canadian officials saying he's changed as he's matured, but the U.S. guards who see him every day."
Darn honest Foreign Affairs officials...

Monday, June 02, 2008

The kids are all right

Even the kids get it: "Kids for Khadr: high schoolers protest for release of Canadian terror suspect."
A group of high school students chanted slogans, sang songs and waved angry placards in front of the U.S. consulate Monday as they urged U.S. officials to send terror suspect Omar Khadr back across the border to face justice in Canada.

The group of about 40 students from St. Mary's Secondary School in Cobourg, Ont., an hour's drive east of Toronto, is arguing that Khadr, 21, was a child soldier when he was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan six years ago.

They want him freed from the controversial military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he has been in custody since July 2002, charged in the death of an American soldier.

The students spent several hours across from the consulate in downtown Toronto, talking to passersby about Khadr's case and collecting signatures on a petition. Most occupied themselves playing musical instruments, waving banners, chanting and singing.

"Don't let torture go unchallenged," one placard read. "Guantanamo is America's gulag," read another.
High schoolers standing up for the rule of law...this is the kind of stuff that does a heart good. And of course, puts the Harper government to shame.
"There's a lot of apathy and young people get criticized for not being part of the political system," O'Dwyer said. "This is a way for young people to be part of the political system. I really hope politicians listen to what they have to say."

He called it "embarrassing as a Canadian" to see a child captured and held in prison for years.
And guess who the kids' MP is? Conservative Rick "Lock-em-up" Norlock, also Brenda Martin's MP. Norlock is still ridiculously spewing the Conservative line on the farce that is Gitmo:

While he has met with the students and respects their efforts, Norlock said the charges against Khadr are "very serious" and must be dealt with within the confines of the judicial system, even if it takes years of delays.

"I have faith in western democracy," Norlock said. "In the end, the right thing will be done."

Well that's a charming and naive passive sentiment. Faith in the Bush administration's special show trials? Come on, Norlock. Where have you been? Judges being paraded in and out by the Bush administration depending on their rulings, politically motivated prosecutions, Gitmo's got it all. It is hardly a beacon for western democratic rule of law traditions. But hardly a surprising position from Norlock given his track record.

Good for the kids. They know better.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The bizarro world of American politics

Maureen Dowd encapsulates the upshot of what Scott McClellan discloses about Bush in his new book:
" It turns out that our president is a one-man refutation of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller “Blink,” about the value of trusting your gut.

Every gut instinct he had was wildly off the mark and hideously damaging to all concerned.

It seems that if you trust your gut without ever feeding your gut any facts or news or contrary opinions, if you keep your gut on a steady diet of grandiosity, ignorance, sycophants, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, those snap decisions can be ruinous."
Heh...:) She does have a way with words on such things.

Other big news of the day, on the McClellan front, the lies and the lying liars who told them are being outed. Or should we rather say, confirmed. Today on Meet the Press:



Meanwhile, in Bush's America, Rove continues to be a much sought out and no doubt highly paid media commentator, partisan rabble rouser and unpunished partisan thug. He's been rewarded quite handsomely for his White House activities. And he's neck deep in the mix for the 2008 race, gearing up to trounce Obama.

It is a phenomenal thing to behold.

The Americans want...what?

A New York Times editorial today writing of envy of the British Question Period. Giving some consideration to the idea given mutterings by John McCain. And essentially longing for it to be brought to America. Um, folks, you might want to look see up here and see what the Harper government is doing to decimate the tradition and provide lessons in having one designated flunkie saying nothing, 20-30 times a day. We have nothing on the British sessions where substance does largely rule the day. Here's the Times:
After years of watching President Bush ignore Congress, at best, or disdain it, at worst, there is relief in listening to the British prime minister face questions in Parliament. As seen on C-Span, these events feature literate parries and thrusts, complete sentences, artful arguments, all to a chorus of noisy yeas and brays.

Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee for president, has now promised that if elected, he will bring this hallowed British tradition to America.

This is a daring idea. The public might learn a great deal about its leaders both in the White House and in Congress. Of course, an American question time horrifies some politicians. Some argue that America is different. Congress is not a parliament. Some even contend that the president is elected to lead everybody, not just his or her party — a quaint notion to anyone who has paid attention in the last seven years. Mainly, the politically experienced say the idea is a death wish.
...
Both sides would have to agree that the goal is exchanging information, openly. That would mean minimal preening, no long-winded questions or answers, and a dose of spontaneity. If that could happen, it would be a boon for democracy, not to mention for YouTube.
In an ideal world, yes, civil, substantive debate is a boon to democracy. But anyone looking at the rank partisanship in the U.S. - and here - can see where they'd be heading in implementing such sessions. Careful what you wish for, the Harper Question Period is an utter embarrassment.

About freaking time

The Globe smartly lets their columnists join the debate in Canada instead of keeping them walled off and excluded from most of the thinking in the blogosphere as a result. Why should their people be relegated to the back seat at times like this when, for example, during the past week we just witnessed columnists such as Don Martin and Jim Travers seeing significant attention? It's baffling that the Globe would keep their scribes in a terminally MIA position while the competition roars.

They did the right thing, finally.

More grist for the blogosphere...:)