Showing posts from January, 2008

Justice Department justifies contracting out torture.

This is an interesting take on the submission of the DOJ at the Iacobucci Inquiry recently. It is from the Lawyer's Weekly. There have been several critical articles on the submission but this is the first I noticed that makes the point that it would justify contracting out of torture. Perhaps Alberto Gonzales has been acting as a legal advisor to the DOJ on this matter!

COMMENTARY: Justice department justifies contracting out of torture
By Reem BahdiFebruary 01 2008
Muayyed Nurredin, Abdullah Almalki and Ahmad El Maati are all Canadian citizens. However, they have been constructed as non-citizens who have effectively been told that they should not expect the full benefit or protection of Canada’s prohibition on torture. Their constructed non-citizen status was recently highlighted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) before the Iacobucci Inquiry.
Appointed to chair an “Internal Inquiry,” retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci has been tasked with determining whether Canadian off…

Karzai doubts more troops would help Afghan security situation.

This is from wiredispatch. Here we have everyone scrambling to find more troops to send to Afghanistan while the country's leader doubts more troops will help the security situation. The U.S. is already sending about 3,000 more troops. Karzai would not miss us if we brought our troops home and the US won't miss us because NATO troops are not well trained in counter-insurgency anyway!

Karzai doubts more troops would help Afghan security situation
dpadpa - International News Service in English
Jan 30, 2008 03:37 EST
Berlin (dpa) - President Hamid Karzai has expressed doubt whether the deployment of more foreign troops to Afghanistan will improve the security situation, in an interview published in a German newspaper Wednesday.
"I am not sure whether deploying more troops would be the right answer," Karzai told Die Welt.
Concentrating on the training camps and refuges where the terrorist groups had fled was more important, Karzai said.
"Afghanistan is not a (terrorist) re…

Ian White to Head Up Canadian Wheat Board

This is from a Queensland source. It is not the board that decides whether to keep or ditch its monopoly. The government of course wants to ditch the monopoly. White at least seems to have a lot of experience and this article says nothing unfavorable about him. White has been head honcho while various regulatory changes were taking place at Queensland sugar so he has experience in such situations. This makes him a good choice for Harper. However, White will also not buck any removal of single desk selling unlike the former head of the board. White's experience is just icing on the cake.

QSL’s Ian White to head up Canadian Wheat Board Thursday, 31 January 2008 Queensland Sugar Limited chief executive officer, Ian White, has resigned to take up a new position heading up the Canadian Wheat Board - one of the world's largest grain exporters.
The Canadian Government announced the appointment of Mr White today.
Mr White is best known for his active role in the Australian grain industr…

Free speech in Afghanistan

This is from the Independent. This is the free and democratic Afghanistan that Canadians are dying for. Earlier a convert from Islam to Christianity had to be spirited away to avoid the death penalty. A female legislator was kicked out of the legislatuere for criticising her fellow legislators. If this rule were followed in Canada no one would be in the house.

Sentenced to death: Afghan who dared to read about women's rights

, 31 January 2008
A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country's rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after "liberation" and under the democratic rule of the West's ally Hamid Karzai.
The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a …

New York Philharmonic to play in North Korea

Mehta says he doesn't think of politics but they will play the Star-Spangled Banner? Is that usually on the program of a classical concert? Even Gershwin's American in Paris is a very American work but at least it is a recognised concert piece.

N Korea concert to be aired on TV

The orchestra was recently conducted by Gustavo DudamelThe New York Philharmonic's historic concert in North Korea is to be screened on television.
The first US cultural event in the reclusive country's capital, Pyongyang, will be screened by US, South Korean, and European broadcasters.
The 26 February concert will feature the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and a programme of works including Gershwin's An American In Paris.
It is unclear whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il will attend.
Details of the TV broadcast have yet to be finalised.
Orchestra president Zarin Mehta said it would show how "music can unite".
"We only play great music," he added when asked …

We need to spray this in the House of Commons before Question Period.

This is from the Manila Tribune. To create the spirit of non-partisanship and good spirits this is exactly what we need ,the proper environment in the House.
Perhaps some enterprising entrepreneur can market this to all our politicians. However, we would still need to hold our noses when we vote.

Spritz your way to happiness
By Maripet L. Poso, Staff Writer
Throw out those Zoloft and Prozac; there’s a new antidepressant in town!
And you don’t need a doctor’s prescription for this one; you don’t even need to worry about side effects as the only proven aftermath is smelling nice and feeling good. And here’s the catch! Product can be consumed without any moderation whatsoever and at any time you want!
We’re talking about smiley perfume, a happiness-triggering slash the very first antidepressant perfume that’s become a cult scent in some parts of Europe and is starting to invade the Philippines.
“When we launched smiley in 2005, it was such an instant hit,” said Juan Cuadrado, are…

U.S. at odds with NATO over troops for Afghanistan

This is from Reuters. The U.S. is in a rather difficult position. They used NATO to spread out the pain of trying to build a compliant Afghanistan subject to US plans--albeit shared by junior partners Britain, Canada, etc. Karzai is not always an obedient puppet although he realizes his dependency on the U.S. and NATO. Karzai wan't co-operative warlords rather than those who will be gung ho for the war against the Taliban. The UK in particular has attempted to make deals independently of the government.
Harper can say that the new troops the U.S. is already committing to the south consitute over a thousand and they will have the necessary extra helicopters as well. Surely the Canadian taxpayer can foot the bill for some new equipment etc. to help out our buddy Bush. The conditions for staying in Kandahar for a longer period can be easily met even without further NATO troops beyond those sent by the U.S.

U.S. at odds with NATO over troops for Afghanistan

Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:12pm E…

Conservatives to introduce legislation re Wheat Board barley marketing.

This is from I doubt that anyone will want to provoke an election on the issue of the Wheat Board having a monopoly on marketing barley! The Bloc Quebecois could support the Conservatives since the issue has no bearing at all really on Quebec since the Wheat Board governs marketing only in the west. However the Bloc seems anxious for an election so maybe they would not side with the government. This would be embarassing for the Liberals except that nothing embarasses them any more. They would sit on their hands or vote with the government. Canadians don't yet want an election. Translation: Our polls aren't good enough yet.

Feds to introduce legislation ending wheat board's monopoly
Mia Rabson , Winnipeg Free PressPublished: Tuesday, January 29, 2008
OTTAWA - The federal Agriculture Minister will introduce legislation as early as next month to end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on prairie barley sales.
But because it's a minority government, turning M…

'We have a plan" Stelmach

Golly not very inspiring. Shouldn't he be plagiarizing Martin Luther King and claim that he has a dream--Alberta Dreaming? A plan has echoes of the Soviet Five Year Plan not very sexy for an Alberta Conservative leader.
Nevertheless the plan seems to involve the usual goodies before an election and there is the usual bleating of the opposition sheep about the horrible expensiveness of it all.

Wednesday » January 30 » 2008

'We have a plan': Stelmach
Premier answers critics with capital strategy, Suncor royalty deal

Tony Seskus, with files from Dina O'Meara, Calgary Herald and Canwest News Service
Calgary Herald
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
With a provincial election campaign expected to kick off next week, Premier Ed Stelmach took aim Tuesday at two major criticisms levelled at his government: a lack of long-term planning and contentious energy royalties.
Accused of having "no plan" and of "tearing up" agreements with the oilpatch, the rookie premier rolle…

Call off the election, Stelmach: Political Expert

As the final parts of this article show, even though a lot of Stelmachian programs may not be popular the populace still is 2 to 1 for Stelmach over the Liberal leader. Maybe the conservative masses of Alberta will hold their noses and vote Conservative in spite of the enticing odor of the Wild Roses or whatever they call themselves now.

Call off the election,Stelmach

Don Braid
Calgary Herald
Friday, January 25, 2008
University of Calgary political expert David Taras has some free advice for the Stelmach government: "Call off the election."
The findings in a Herald poll are so dreadful the Conservatives risk disaster, according to Taras.
"This government only has 32 per cent. These are terrible numbers. Just awful."
"So at a certain point, as you're heading toward the cliff, you need to ask yourself (if) you really want to jump."
It will be fascinating to see if Premier Ed Stelmach's brain trust, easily spooked at any time, is rethinking the plan for an el…

Keen: Reactor risk higher than acceptable.

This is from CTV. It is truly amazing that marketer of the isotopes MDS Nordion merits not a mention in this whole issue. Nordion was suffering because it had no isotopes to market but the whole discussion is framed so that this matter does not even come up. It is the health of Canadians not the health of MDS Nordion that is the issue.
The real culprits in this matter are AECL and the Harper government. AECL is a crown corporation which has been screwing up big time for a long time but nothing is done to correct this by the government. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission seemed to be doing its job in regulating AECL. The government soon fixed that!

Reactor risk higher than acceptable, Keen says
Updated Tue. Jan. 29 2008 1:41 PM ET News Staff
The former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) said Tuesday that the safety risk at the Chalk River nuclear reactor was 1,000 times higher than acceptable international standards prior to its temporary shutdown late la…

Farmers: Ottawa wants to dismantle Wheat Board

This is hardly news. In fact if farmers bothered to read the federal Conservative party platform it included a pledge to end the Wheat Board's monopoly or single desk selling. The plebiscite the Conservatives held was misleading but there also seems to be a general misunderstanding to the effect that the Wheat Board could survive without a monopoly and that caused a lot of farmers to vote for a dual marketing structure for marketing barley. Perhaps the same three choice questionnaire will be used when there is a plebiscite re wheat.

Ottawa wants to dismantle Wheat Board: farmers
Updated Tue. Jan. 29 2008 11:22 AM ET
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA -- Some western farmers are arguing that the federal government wants to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board and turn control of agriculture over to big business.
They say it's the start of a slope that could see the government do away with marketing boards, medicare and the CBC.
Farm representatives are in Ottawa protesting a closed-door meeting…

Rae: Time to reassess goals of Afghan mission.

The goals of the Afghan mission are rarely discussed in any event. The goals are made in the US and our role is to share some of the burdens for those goals along with other NATO countries. Of course Rae would remove any reference to that relationship in any of his speeches. Just as he suggested the Conservatives were remiss in allowing a handbook to be published that made reference to the U.S. and Israel with respect to torture. He would have been sure that such passages were removed. Maybe we are fortunate Stockwell Day and not Bob Rae saw those secret papers re Arar that the US provided to show why Arar should be on the no-fly list. Stockwell Day at least had enough integrity not to be cowed into submisssion. Who knows what Rae might have said?
Anyway discussion of the goals of the Afghan mission will be framed in such a way that the underlying goals will not get discussed at all.
The morality and legality of our intervention starting with the Operation Enduring Freedom will not b…

Stelmach: Canada's economy depends on Alberta oil.

It seems that underlying issues are not discussed in most articles about the Oilsands. The environmental issue is front and center and the economic importance of the oil sands project for Alberta and Canada. Nothing is said about the US economy. The oil sands project is regarded as in effect a source for US oil supplies and part of a US plan to ensure its own energy supplies.

The US wants Oil Sands production to increase five fold:

U.S. urges 'fivefold expansion' in Alberta oilsands production
Last Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2007 6:31 AM ET
CBC News

Also, 99 per cent of our oil exports are to the U.S.:

Over 99% of Canadian oil exports are sent to the United States, making Canada, not Saudi Arabia, the United States' largest supplier of oil.[9]

So the relationship of Oil Sands production to US energy needs is just left out of the story. Our relationship to the US is also left out when our role in Afghanistan is discussed.

Canada's economy depends on Alberta oil: Stelmach

Former NDP minister named chair of Investment Saskatchewan!

This is from the CBC. MacKinnon is not a fan of universal healthcare but does
want co-pays and targetted health care funding. It seems that if a minister is right wing enough it is possible to fit nicely as a minister either in the NDP or a Sask. Party government. It is not that surprising that Wall could easily find a former NDP minister whose philosophy fits in with his own reactionary views. Janice MacKinnon is a perfect fit. Her views on the NDP drug plan are well known. This is from
NDP drug plan misuse of health dollars: MacKinnon
Pamela Cowan, Saskatchewan News Network, James Wood, The StarPhoenix, Saskatchewan News Network; The StarPhoenix; Regina Leader-PostPublished: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
REGINA -- Former NDP finance minister Janice MacKinnon says a new NDP drug plan for rich and poor alike isn't a financially sound way to spend health dollars.
"If you're going to provide everybody, including rich people, with prescription drugs for $15, why woul…

Harper failing to lead Afghan mission: Ignatieff

Harper needn't worry about Ignatieff's or Manley's criticism either. The smirky-faced hot air balloon, who along with Rae talks for the Liberals instead of Dion, simply cribs from the Manley report as Manley cribbed from himself. Ignatieff is of course famous for supporting the Iraq war until it didn't work out well. Anyway unless polls improve or Harper comes up with some radical proposal on Afghanistan such as sending thousands more troops in combat roles Harper can count on support from the Liberals on the matter. At their most oppositional they will sit on their hands and abstain.

Harper failing to lead Afghan mission: Ignatieff
Updated Sun. Jan. 27 2008 3:42 PM ET News Staff
Recent gaffes surrounding the military transfer of Afghan detainees shows how badly the Harper government is mishandling the Afghanistan war, Deputy Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says.
"The very least you can say is that Canada's soldiers deserve better civilian leadership than t…

Detained Canadian aid worker freed by North Korea.

It seems that sometimes government officials can do good work behind the scenes. Harper didn't make an issue of this case and that may very well have helped facilitate developments out of the media limelight.

Detained Canadian aid worker freed by North Korea
Updated Mon. Jan. 28 2008 6:26 AM ET
The Canadian Press
TORONTO -- A humanitarian aid worker from Edmonton who was detained in North Korea for nearly three months is free.
A spokesman for Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Helena Guergis told The Canadian Press Monday that Je Yell Kim was deported to China on Saturday.
Jeffrey Kroeker said Kim was met at the Chinese border by Canadian consular officials who were working to reunite him with his family.
Kroeker also thanked North Korean authorities for allowing Canadian consular officials to visit Kim on two separate occasions.
Jess Dutton, a counsellor at Canada's embassy in Seoul, told The Associated Press that Kim has been reunited with his family, but declined to comment on …

Provincial muddle on emissions

There will be considerable pressure by business to have a uniform North American Standard. Higher standards for a particular province or even Canada may soon become a thing of the past. There will be pressure for a low uniform standard throughout the NAFTA trading area. Some areas such as Quebec may be able to resist to some extent.

Provincial muddle on emissions - Canada - Provincial muddle on emissions
As leaders focus on climate change, they are warned `policy chaos' could scare off investors
January 28, 2008 Petti Fongin VancouverRob Fergusonin TorontoRobert Benzie
Alberta will be the odd province out as premiers meet in Vancouver today to attempt to build a consensus on climate change and emission reductions.
Last week, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach presented Alberta's strategy to curb greenhouse gas emissions, calling for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions of 14 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050. That target is well short of those of other provinces and even sh…

Support for withdrawal from Afghanistan declines, but divisions remain.

This is from In spite of the headline the report has not caused any change in the numbers in favor or opposed to the mission as the article also notes. The poll questions themselves are a bit weird and almost bound to skew the answers in favor of the report. There are three grades of "goodness" that you can choose from but only one grade of "badness". Perhaps "fair" is meant to be a negative grading but it connotes to me passing but not by much.

Sunday » January 27 » 2008

Support for withdrawal from Afghanistan declines, but divisions remain

Juliet O'Neill
Canwest News Service
Saturday, January 26, 2008
OTTAWA -- The portion of Canadians who want Canadian troops to withdraw from Afghanistan has dropped seven points to 37 per cent in the aftermath of John Manley's report recommending a conditional extension of the military mission in Kandahar, says an Ipsos Reid poll released Friday.
The portion willing to extend the mission if the role shifts…

Lunn spurns demands for independent look at crisis at AECL.

This is from the Victoria Times.
There is little likelihood of Lunn calling an inquiry since it might very well put his own behavior before the spotlight. Keen will be giving testimony on Tuesday before a Commons Committee. As far as I can see the Liberals are correct in saying that she did nothing wrong except for not doing what the Conservatives wanted done.

Sunday » January 27 » 2008

Lunn spurns demands for independent look at crisis
Political foes seek answers to firing of nuclear watchdog, handling of reactor

Cindy E. Harnett
Times Colonist
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn rejects calls for an independent review of a crisis that forced Parliament to restart a nuclear reactor and the federal government to fire its nuclear watchdog.
"There's absolutely no need for a review and there will not be one," the Saanich-Gulf Islands MP said in an interview.
Every document was tabled and every aspect of the crisis was explained before Parliament and b…

Saskatchewan Liberals may boycott by-election

Defenders of Dion point out that the Liberal party constitution makes it quite legal for Dion to appoint a candidate. It never seems to dawn on defenders that this is quite undemocratic. Surely, the provision should be used only in cases where there is no functioning local riding association that could have a democratic nomination process.
If the local constituency party members want Joan Beatty then she would win that nomination through the normal democratic process. Instead of going that route as David Orchard was doing Beatty was thrust upon the constituency from on high. This shows the elite, top-down structure of the Liberal party.

Saskatchewan Liberals may boycott by-election
The Canadian Press
January 26, 2008 at 10:42 PM EST
CHRISTOPHER LAKE, Sask. — Boycott the by-election, or vote for another party.
That's what members of a northern Saskatchewan riding association talked about at a meeting Saturday.
They are angry that Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion appointed a candidate in the r…

Karzai blames UK for return of Taliban

This is from the CBC. It seems that Karzai is quite angry at the UK for talking to the Taliban without consulting the central govt. apparently. Karzai also supported a local warlord and the UK and the US both suggested he get rid of him plus his security detail. I expect the result was that the warlord joined forces with the insurgency and indeed the security situation probably did get worse.
Criticisms such as this will not help create domestic support for the Afghan mission in the UK. If only Karzai would criticise the Canadian mission now it would probably do a great deal more good to create more public support to bring the troops home.
The US has criticised NATO partners for not being well trained in counter-insurgency---in contrast no doubt to the sterling performance of US troops!-
but there was an immediate footnote that of course Canadians were not meant to be included. Maybe it was the Monaco contingent!

Karzai blames Britain for return of Taliban
Last Updated: Friday, January 25,…

70 Sask. civil servants being dismissed.

This is from the CBC. This is Sask. Party Xmas time when faithful hacks and workers are rewarded with plums by Brad Wall. To be fair often party workers spend countless unpaid hours working for their respective parties so there is some justice that they should be rewarded when as a result their party gets into power. However, there is no tenure granted as the outgoing 70 NDP workers have discovered.

70 Sask. civil servants being dismissed, minister says
Last Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2008 3:53 PM CT
CBC News
The Saskatchewan Party government is handing out more pink slips, the latest firings since it came to power last year.
The minister responsible for the government transition, deputy premier Ken Krawetz, said earlier this month that hundreds of people may lose their jobs because of the change in government.
On Wednesday, however, Krawetz said the number would be around 70, including eight deputy ministers dismissed last year.
The positions of the people being dismissed Thursday and …

Alberta green plan puts PM 'on the spot'.

This is from the Globe and Mail. It is really doubtful that this plan will cause many tears from the Harper crew. Harper is after all trying his hardest to catch up with and surpass the Liberal record of doing little or nothing about reducing emissions while himself emitting a lot of hot air about his environmental good deeds. That the critics are wrong is shown by the fact that John Baird the federal environment minister welcomed the plan!

The plan is so weak that even industry spokespeople support it.

Alberta green plan puts PM 'on the spot'
Stelmach lowballs Harper's emissions reduction targets
January 25, 2008
OTTAWA, CALGARY -- Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is at odds with the federal government and on a collision course with other premiers after the release yesterday of his long-anticipated climate-change plan.
On the eve of an expected election call, Mr. Stelmach promised that his province will freeze greenhouse gas emissions by 2…