Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel not winning many new supporters

Warren Goldstein writes this at HuffPo:
"Let's get this straight. Israel is enforcing a blockade against Gaza that is in blatant defiance of international law.

A flotilla of activists attempts to break the blockade and supply humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And Israeli commandos in international waters board some of the ships, in order to take them over, and have the nerve to complain when they are attacked?"

I think that sums it up in such a way that the "they attacked us first" defense by Israel is irrelevant, even if it were true. And that's a big IF. I don't know about you, but if I saw commandos armed with automatic weapons, rapelling from a helicopter yelling "hut-hut-hut" or whatever the equivalent is in Israeli, I don't think I'd go after them with a stick.

Meanwhile, here in Toronto, not a peep from the MSM on today's protest against the attack. You have to read about it in the Winnipeg Free Press, or at

CBC Radio One seemed to be all Nentanyahu all the time today, as every time I tuned in on there he was giving his speech and actually saying the soldiers came in peace. Again, if I saw a bunch of heavily armed commandos rapelling down from a helicopter, peaceful intent would not be my first, my second, or even my last impression.

But let's give the last word to Chaim Weizman, the first president of Israel who wrote in 1947:

"There must not be one law for the Jew and another for the Arabs....In saying this, I do not assume that there are tendencies toward inequalirty or discrimination. It is merely a timely warning which is particularly necessary because we shall have a very large Arab minority. I am certain that the world will judge the Jewish State by what it will do with the Arabs, just as the Jewish people at large will be judged by what we do or fail to do in this state where we have been given such a wonderful opportunity after thousands of years of wandering and suffering."
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Israel attacks aid convoy - up to 19 dead


It's said that in politics timing is everything. Stephen Harper's cozy reception of Israeli PM Netanyahu while Israel's military was attacking a humanitarian aid convoy bound for Gaza can hardly be considered good timing. Up to 19 people are reported dead after the attack, which occurred in international waters, and Netanyahu has cancelled his upcoming meeting with Barack Obama.

So much for the pro-Israel love-fest at Sussex Drive.

The US has long been a staunch supporter of Israel, but not even they are quite so blindly onside as the Harper regime, or the Christian fundies who long for Armageddon in the middle east. Turkey, one of Israel's only allies in the region has pulled its ambassador in protest, and numerous demonstrations are taking place around the world, including one at the Israeli consulate at noon today in Toronto (thanks to blogger laura k for the info). The UN has also scheduled an emergency session.

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called the flotilla an "armada of hate and violence" that launched a "premeditated and outrageous provocation." Humanitarian aid now equals hate? Wow, good luck selling that one.

Some additional links
Q&A on the blockade - The Financial Times
Israel needs to have national inquiry into attack - Ha'aretz
Israel walked into PR trap - Globes Online (Israeli business journal)
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Understanding Conservative sign language

"Look at me. I said. Look. At. Me."
"No, no, no, nothing to see here..."
"Moi? You dare to question moi?"
"Grrrrr! Arf! Arf! Grrrrr!"
"Mr. Speaker, There is absolutely no truth to the baseless rumours that I have a very small penis!"
"I'm Stockwell Day and I am a religious nut case."
"But, but... adscam."
"Golly. Math is hard."
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Alan Li rejects appointment as Pride Toronto's grand marshal

Pride Toronto's choice for grand marshal of the 2010 Pride Parade has refused his appointment, citing the organization's censorship of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA).

Dr Alan Li says he was flattered to be chosen, but "after serious reflection" he decided to decline the title.


“I have been actively involved in many social justice movements locally and internationally for more than thirty years,” says Dr. Li, a co-founder of Gay Asians Toronto, Asian Community AIDS Services, the multicultural Coalition Against Homophobia, and the first openly gay president of the Chinese Canadian National Council. “I thus remember very clearly our community’s battles against censorship that attempted to invalidate our concerns, minimize our struggles and silence our voices.”

The complete text of Dr. Li's letter is available at QuAIA.

ADDENDUM: Who is Martin Gladstone? by Tim McCaskell
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Separated at birth? part 4

Left: Yoda / Right: Oda

One is well known for fractured sentences, the other is a Jedi master.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda

"La Canada ap-wee fermement les effords du cloo-yay pour la comun-o-tay internationelle pour root- rah- ro- riff- sorry, pour - I'll slow down - pour ronc, reconstruire l'Afghanistan." Oda
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Open Letter to Pride Toronto from founders of Pride in 1981

May 27, 2010

As founding members of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, and people involved in organizing the first Pride event in Toronto at the end of June in 1981, we stand totally opposed to the decision of the current Toronto Pride Committee to ban the use of “Israeli Apartheid” at Toronto Pride events. This banning of political speech is clearly an attempt to ban the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) and queer Palestine Solidarity supporters from the parade and from participation in a major event in our communities. This sets a very dangerous precedent for the exclusion of certain political perspectives within our movements and communities from Pride events. We call on the Pride committee to immediately rescind this banning and to instead encourage QuAIA’s participation in the pride parade.


We remind people of the political roots of Pride in the Stonewall rebellion against police repression in 1969 and that the Pride march in 1981 in Toronto grew out of our community resistance to the massive bath raids of that year. On the Pride march in 1981 about a thousand of us stopped in protest in front of 52 Division Police Station (which played a major part in the raids) and our resistance to the bath raids was rooted in solidarity with other communities (including the Black and South Asian communities) also facing police repression. Two of the initiating groups for Pride in 1981 — Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE) and Lesbians Against the Right (LAR) — organized Pride as part of more general organizing against the moral conservative right-wing. This included not only its anti-queer but also its anti-feminist, racist and anti-working class agendas.

We also remember in the 1980s that lesbian and gay activists around the world, including in Toronto in the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee, took up the struggle not only for lesbian and gay rights in South Africa but linked this to our opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white supremacy in South Africa. This global queer solidarity helps to account for how it was that constitutional protection for lesbians and gay men was first established in the new post-apartheid South Africa.

Solidarity with all struggles against oppression has been a crucial part of the history of Pride. To break this solidarity as the Pride Committee has now done not only refuses to recognize how queer people always live our lives in relation to race, class, gender, ability and other forms of oppression but also breaks our connections with the struggles of important allies who have assisted us in making the important gains that we have won.


Katherine Arnup, founding member of the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Lesbians Against the Right and Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Hugh English, one of the first organizers of Toronto Pride, a former member of GLARE, and a queer in solidarity with struggles against oppression around the world.

Amy Gottlieb, member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Gary Kinsman, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, member of the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee.

Ian Lumsden, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee and member of Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Michael Riordon, co-host (with Lorna Weir) of the first Toronto Lesbian & Gay Pride Day, 1981; founding member of Bridges (between gay/lesbian & Latin American liberation movements); author of the forthcoming book, Our Way to Fight, on peace activists in Israel and Palestine.

Lorna Weir, co-host (with Michael Riordon) of the first Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, founding member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Brian Woods, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, and founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Separated at birth? part 3

Left: agressive jerk Jason Kenney
Right: agressive jerk Ralph Kramden
Sadly, only one is fictional.
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G20 - Toronto cops bring da noize!


We were working secretly
For the military.
Our experiment in sound,
Was nearly ready to begin.
We only know in theory
What we are doing:
Music made for pleasure,
Music made to thrill.
It was music we were making here until

They told us
All they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone
From a distance.
So we go ahead,
And the meters are over in the red.
It's a mistake in the making.
- Kate Bush Experiment No. IV

The Toronto G20 Summit is becoming more obscene by the day. In additional to its staggering billion dollar price tag (and counting). The Star reports that Toronto police have purchased 4 Long Range Accoustic Devices or LRADs to deploy against protesters at the summit next month, and beyond.

The "sound cannons" emit painful blasts of high-frequency sound that can cause permanent hearing loss, and while they can be focused in a narrow beam on specific targets, does anyone really believe there won't be an "unfortunate incident" in which innocent bystanders are affected?

University of Toronto adjunct professor Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer who has participated in several trials involving Taser deployments, anything that can stun people or crowds should be considered dangerous. “Tasers were introduced and said to be totally benign but have now generally been recognized as dangerous weapons,” he said. “To start using experimental weapons on people is really outrageous in my view.” (TORONTO STAR)


This is why I'm opposed to hosting the G8, G20 or any other event that causes over 10,000 paranoid security forces to descend on this, or any other city. With agents provocateurs attempting to provoke violence as is the norm, we can expect arrests, beatings, tear gas, tasers and now sound canons.

Oh, and a roundup of the homeless.

To get a little taste of what's in store here's a video from last year's G20 in Pittsburg. Don't forget to turn your speakers up to the max.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Liberal Party opposition FAIL

I sent an email to my Liberal MP before the last election (requesting a lawn sign). So obviously he has my email address and a pretty good indication that I voted Lib in that election. But I have yet to receive one single communication, or request for a donation from his office or the party. Funny, because I am bombarded daily with phone calls from various charities requesting money. I thought the Liberals needed money to compete with Harper's massive war chest. I guess they're so focused on avoiding an election they're not even fundraising.

Meanwhile, the LPC continues to aid and abet the Harpocrat assault on democracy by continuing the same old strategy they pursued under Dion, ie having just enough absent members for votes on confidence issues. They're trying to have their cake and eat it too, setting up a sort of plausible deniability. The old "we never supported this bill" cop-out.

Guess what guys? That's not cake you're eating.

The Budget implementation bill (C-9) is currently moving through the house and senate. It's packed with tag-along provisions that should rightly be tabled as separate bills, to be debated and voted on by Parliament individually. If passed the Budget will
- allow enviro minister to grant exemptions on environmental assessments
- grant the right to sell Atomic Energy Canada without parliamentary approval
- remove $57 billion worth of contributions from the Employment Insurance Fund
- begin the privatization of Canada Post
There's more but those are the most contentious issues.

The NDP tried last month to give the House finance committee the power to split the bill, but the attempt fell short in a 133-128 vote.

Linda Duncan, the NDP's environment critic, tried to split off the environmental assessment provision in the bill into separate legislation, yet she didn't even win the support of her own party.

Lowell Murray, the Progressive Conservative senator, wants to split the bill in the Senate. "This is really beyond the pale. The opposition has a job to do and they shouldn't be intimidated by the government. It's very sad. Where can people look now?" he said.

Where indeed.
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Death in the city

On Sept 2, 2009, former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death after a fatal confrontation with cyclist Darcy Sheppard on Bloor St in Toronto. Yesterday those charges were dropped.

Let's look at the defense:

- Sheppard had previous confrontations with other drivers
- Sheppard was drunk and was grabbing onto the car
- Bryant's wife was in the car
- all Bryant wanted was to lose the guy and not get into it

Okay - with you so far, sounds like what any of us would feel -- but that's when things went horribly wrong.

Now, he could have pulled over, gotten out, and bulled buddy away from the car while his wife called the cops. I'm sure that when the ex-Attorney General calls, the cops respond with all due haste. But for some reason Bryant rejected (or never thought of) that idea in favour of something one can only assume he saw in a movie. Oh yeah, he's gonna speed up and knock the fucker loose! With that thought Bryant blasts across 2 lanes of traffic and over the opposite curb, literally driving Sheppard into a mailbox and then a tree.

In the movies being sideswiped into numerous immovable objects only makes you madder.

In the real world it kills you.

At the very least, for his total lapse in judgement, Michael Bryant should face a fine, automatic suspension of his drivers licence and mandatory enrollment in an anger-management program.

But because the cyclist was drunk and poor, while Bryant is rich and connected, he walks away scott free. And that, my friends, is bullshit.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Breathtaking CONtempt


Dimtri Soudas
was due to testify before a HoC committee today. He hinted smugly on CTV's Question Period on Sunday that he would not be appearing before the committee, citing a new policy that Ministers are accountable to Parliament, not staffers. Yeah, they're accountable, except when they're not.

So today in place of Soudas, Conservative attack dog John Baird showed up, with a hastily handwritten sign. Problem is, Soudas is not Baird's staffer -- he's Harper's. I suppose Harper, a man who carefully controls all aspects of his personal appearance, was uncomfortable with the fact that a properly printed sign would not have been ready in time, so he took a pass.


Baird, instead of answering the committee's questions, began talking about why staffers should not have to appear. From today's G&M:

Jay Hill, the government house leader had this to say:
"The tyranny of the opposition majority has turned its attention to the men and women who make up our political staff. Men and women who did not sign up to be tried by a committee – to be humiliated and intimidated by members of Parliament.”
Ralph Goodale, the Liberal house leader countered:
“It is another Conservative government policy about secrecy, about preventing accountability, about stifling transparency about muzzling all of the assistants who work for the Prime Minister and various ministers in the cabinet to prohibit their attendance at Parliamentary committees to give evidence or answer questions.

The arrogance and the hypocrisy of this position are breathtaking.”

Looks like the Harpercrats have added a few new chapters to their dirty tricks manual.
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Toronto Gay Pride vs QuAIA Update

Well, it's official. The Pride Toronto committee confirmed today in a news conference that the words "Israeli Apartheid" would be banned from all Pride events.

About 100 protesters gathered outside Pride Toronto's offices for the announcement, chanting "Resign! Resign! and demanding the committee reverse the decision to impose censorship on Toronto gay pride events - the first time in its 30-year history that such a measure has been imposed.

Pride Toronto's official press release is here.

QuAIA's response is here.

The Facebook group Pride Coalition for Free Speech is here.
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Separated at birth? part 2

Left: Dr Zira from Planet of the Apes
Right: Rona Ambrose from Planet of the CRAP

Yeah, I'm bored.
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Toronto Gay Pride vs Queers Against Israeli Apartheid - the plot thickens

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." -- Voltaire.


What would happen to Toronto's Gay Pride festival if there were no government grants or corporate sponsorships?

Well, I guess there'd be no Molson's beer garden or TD logo's. And I imagine a lot of people would still party on like they have been doing ever since the first gay pride march in 1981. But the most important difference would be that there would far less government and corporate interference, and tactics like withholding funding as a means to bully the community into self-censorship would have no leverage.

This morning's webcrawl turned up a very interesting article at Muzzlewatch, the blog of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Cecille Surasky, in an article called The Israel Lobby's smear campaign and Toronto Gay Pride writes:

What’s remarkable about Toronto isn’t that some oppose QuAIA’s presence in the parade–in the classic tradition of LGBT parades, which are by their very nature acts of political resistance, QuAIA’s message is challenging and it’s meant to be. What’s amazing is that their opponents– who object to the term “apartheid” despite its almost commonplace usage by many Israelis–have resorted to openly duplicitous and unethical means for literally banishing the group and harming the parade to achieve their aims.
Actually, it makes perfect sense. You can’t ban a group for using the word ‘apartheid’, so you have to fabricate evidence to suggest the group is a hate group. And that’s exactly what’s happening to QuAIA, which, surprise surprise, includes a lot of self-loving anti-occupation Jews.

She goes on to detail the attempt to pinkwash Israel, portraying it as a gay Mecca -- oops, strike that -- a gay haven amid a sea of homophobic Arab states. This is part of a Brand Israel project which has identified gays as mostly liberal (hmm…wonder why?) who tend to support human rights for all -- even Palestinians.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the chill is on and it has now become impossible to offer any critique of Israel's policies without being branded an anti-semite. Being Jewish oneself makes no difference, as you are simply "self-hating", like Naom Chomsky who was recently barred from entering Israel.

Toronto's Naomi Klein was also falsely accused by a group called the Reut Institute of opposing Israel's right to exist. The Reut Institute is an Israeli think tank which recently published a report on "hubs of delegitimization" in which it

"attempted to equate tactics of non-violent resistance… to force Israel to comply with international law — with a military campaign to destroy the state of Israel.
Most worrying, the report explicitly urged Israeli intelligence agencies like Mossad to take unspecified action against peace activists using entirely legal methods: 'Neither changing policy nor improving public relations will suffice…Faced with a potentially existential threat, Israel must treat it as such by focusing its intelligence agencies on this challenge; allocating appropriate resources; developing new knowledge; designing a strategy, executing it.' The think tank also called on the Israeli government to 'sabotage network catalysts' — defined as key players in the 'delegitimization network'.

The Reut report identified several cities with active Palestinian solidarity communities as 'hubs' in this supposed network, one hub being my own city of Toronto.."
Full article is here.

But back to Pride Toronto. Over at an article by Andrew Brett from 2009 says
"In Tuesday's edition of the Jewish Tribune, the political newspaper of B'nai Brith, pro-Israel lobbyists declared their intention to threaten government and corporate sponsorship of the annual Toronto Pride Festival unless the organization banned pro-Palestinian marchers from the parade."
That was last year and the attempt was unsuccessful. But, if at first you don't succeed, etc.

This year, they have added the help of city councillor Kyle Ray and Susan Levy of the Toronto Sun, both openly gay, plus mayoral candidates Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford, both openly homophobic to craft a threat to withdraw city funding for Pride Toronto. We know the federal government has already withdrawn their funding.

B'nai Brith accuses QuAIA of "highjacking the gay agenda". Since when do they get to define the gay agenda?

Kyle Ray accuses QuIAI of politicizing Pride. Oh come now Kyle, the Pride Parade has been political since its inception.

Martin Gladstone has said the presence of QuAIA makes some people "uncomfortable". Well, if we're going to remove everything from the parade that makes some people uncomfortable, I guess we'll have to ban nipple rings, nudity, drag queens and really, when you get right down to it - all those queers!
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Accountable? Did someone say accountable?


The Conservatives have now said they will ban staffers from testifying before parliamentary committees, such as the one investigating allegations of Afghan detainee torture. First of all, I don't think that's their choice. Can't the committee call whoever they want? Of course they can, so this is really just another delaying tactic. The HarperCons sure are determined to block this hearing any way they can.

The announcement was made by Harper's communications director Dimitri Soudas, who joked “Ministers are the ones who are accountable and answer to Parliament.” Good one Dimitri!

This must be a brand-new policy. It obviously wasn't in force:

In 2008 when Stephen Harper's speech on Iraq was found to have been plagiarized. Result: "over-zealous" staffer Owen Lippert took full responsibility and resigned.

In 2009 when Lisa Raitt left documents marked SECRET at the Ottawa bureau of CTV. Result: under-zealous staffer Jasmine MacDonnell fired.

In 2010 when Garry Breitkreuz issued a press release calling Canadian police chiefs "a cult" and suggesting Liberals beat up on their party leader for supporting the long gun registry. Result: staffer Brant Scott quit or was fired. Nobody really knows where he scored on the Zeal-o-meter.

I really only have one further comment on this story for now, actually a question. Why is the government making this press release on Sunday? Aren't they all supposed to be in church?
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gay Pride Toronto bans Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Gay Pride Toronto's board of directors has banned the phrase "Israeli apartheid" from all Pride events, caving to pressure from Toronto city council, un-named corporate sponsors and the increasingly right-wing B'nai Brith, effectively shutting out the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

Homophobic mayoral candidate Giogio Mammoliti put forward a motion at city council, to be voted on June 14 that would kill Pride's funding if they didn't ban the group's participation. More here. Citing the need to keep Gay Pride from promoting a political agenda (huh?) Pride's executive director Tracey Sandlands said "no group or person is banned from participating" they just can't use certain words together on the same banner, namely Israel and apartheid, because that apparently incites hate.

Pride Toronto’s discrimination policy is the same one mandated by the City of Toronto for all organizations it funds, which “prohibits discrimination and harassment and protects the right to be free of hate activity.” Interesting that Mammoliti himself was the subject of an Ontario Human Rights Commission complaint alleging that he had promoted "hatred, discrimination and physical threats against the gay community."

This follows the cancellation of funding from the federal government, which many believe is ideological in nature, and also speaks to the right wing agenda of equating any criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. By that logic, Israel itself is filled with anti-semitic Jews, including its own Defence Minister Ehud Barak who told an Israeli conference "If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don't, it is an apartheid state."

But in Canada no such examination is allowed. In 2009 Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, called for disciplinary action against the parade's grand marshall El-Farouk Khaki, a founder of the national support group Salaam: Queer Muslim Community, because he spoke to a QuAIA event on the weekend. That's their call?

Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, commended the push to “deny funding to Pride unless it is willing to comply with the City’s anti-discrimination guidelines,” in a press release issued Apr 28.

To equate any criticism of Israel with anti-semitism is the latest right-wing bullshit, and ultimately serves only to trivialize real anti-semitism. It's is possible support the existence of Israel while deploring certain of its actions. Things do not always reduce to simple black and white terms. "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists" said George Bush on the eve of his illegal invasion of Iraq. Not to mention, Palestinians and indeed all Arabs are semitic peoples.

To pretend that the decision to ban Queers Against Israel Apartheid because they don't want to promote a political agenda is both disingenuous and revisionist on the part of Pride Toronto. The annual expression of gay pride is itself political, and numerous political groups have marched in Toronto's parade over the years.

A self-identified pair of queer women commenting at the National Post said it best:
"We find the suggestion that Toronto Pride is banning groups that are advancing a political agenda to be contrary to the very spirit of pride day, and it is disheartening to hear the executive director of Pride Toronto making statements that don't seem to understand the political background of this event. While we understand your concerns about maintaining sponsorship dollars, we strongly feel that Pride must remain a political celebration that includes many different points of view."

Elle Flanders, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, said the group sought to express a political opinion at an event with a long political history.

“They’re trying to compare it to hate speech, and I find it deeply offensive, as somebody who’s been fighting human rights battles for a really long time, to hear that criticism of the state of Israel is somehow hate speech. No way,” said Flanders.

Flanders, one of many Jewish members of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, added that she considered herself as a “big Jew-lover. And my Judaism taught me to stand up for what is right. This has nothing to do with anything other than criticism of Israel … Political difference need not be censored.”

More here, here and here.
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Preston Manning: the re-branding continues

Hey Presto - are you for real? I know, I know, you REALLY wanna be an "elder statesman" now, but asking what is the answer to "our unruly Question Period" simply says to me that you have zero grasp of the concept of irony. Either that or you're a big fat liar. I ask you - who is it that turned not just QP but the entire HoC and all its committees into a nasty partisan slug-fest? Look no further than your own party.

"When 52 Reform Party members were elected to the House of Commons in 1993, we sought, from the position of the third party, to make the Question Period more civil and productive."

Oops, excuse me, I just spewed coffee all over my keyboard - I'll be with you in a sec.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, you were bemoaning that lack of civility in QP, when it was the CPC that WROTE THE BOOK on political wrangling. Back in 2007 we learned of a manual issued by the CPC's -- a how-to guide on disruption. It's a 200-page binder filled with strategies from ways to grind committees to a halt, interrupt unfavourable witnesses, then walk out on or suspend committees once they became "disruptive". This story first broke in 2007 but the techniques are still being used, particularly with with regard to the Afghan detainee issue.

Some of highlights of Disruption for Dummies include:

- That the Conservative party helps pick committee witnesses. The chairman "should ensure that witnesses suggested by the Conservative Party of Canada are favourable to the government and ministry," the document warns.

- The chairmen should also seek to "include witnesses from Conservative ridings across Canada" and make sure their local MPs take the place of a member at the committee when a constituent appears, to show they listen and care.

- The chairmen should "meet with witnesses so as to review testimony and assist in question preparation."

- Procedural notes tell the chairmen to always recognize a Conservative member just before a motion is put to a vote "and let them speak as long as they wish" --a manoeuvre used to kick-start a filibuster as a stall tactic.

- Chairmen are told to notify all affected ministries prior to a motion being voted upon. "Communicate concerns with the Prime Minister's Office, House leader or whip," the document insists. "Try to anticipate the response of the press and how party could be portrayed."

- The guide says a "disruptive" committee should be adjourned by the chairman on short notice. "Such authority is solely in the discretion of the chair. No debate, no appeal possible." By failing to appoint the vice-chair to run the meeting, the adjournment will last until the chair is ready to reconvene the committee.

Then CPC whip Jay Hill had this to say "I hope we can come back and restore civility. The whole thing is getting absurd and ridiculous."

Sound familiar? It should. It's the same line of BS you're trotting out now.

If you really think Question Period needs to become "more civil, production and newsworthy" there's a simple answer: take your rabid Conservative attack dogs back to that Alberta tailings pond you crawled out of.
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BP = Bloody Polluters

Oil has begun to come ashore in Louisiana and it's clear that BP's estimate of 5,000 barrels per day was ridiculously low, especially now that live video has been obtained of the leak. by Rep. Edward J. Markey, (D-Mass) and posted by the congressional Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

The tube that was stuck down the broken well shaft is now collecting approximately that amount now, and it's obvious from the video that it's only a fraction of oil gushing out. Scientists analyzing the video estimate the actual leak is more like 70,000 barrels per day, much of it still underwater.

This is shaping up to be the worst environmental disaster on record - equivalent to one Exxon Valdez every four days.

Louisiana's coastal marshes are a haven for migratory birds and marine life -- or at least they were. Billy Nungesser, head of Plaquemines Parish visited the site yesterday and he was sickened by what he saw. "Twenty-four miles of Plaquemines Parish is destroyed. Everything in it is dead," he said. "There is no life in that marsh. You won't clean it up."

Richard Steiner, a retired University of Alaska at Fairbanks marine-conservation professor, agrees that much of the surrounding area will remain toxic.

"The oil hits the cane stalk and just seeps straight down to the roots," he says. In the coming days, the cane and surrounding grass is expected to turn dark brown, and effectively die. Says Nungesser: "We'll never pick this oil out of the marsh. There's not a fish, turtle, not a bug, that will survive."

As feared, the slick has now entered the Loop Current and is heading for Florida's beaches and fragile coral reefs. It's possible that it could travel up the east coast and into the Gulf Stream, spreading damage far beyond the Gulf of Mexico.

And what is BP doing about it? Lying about the extent of the spill and trying to keep journalists away from the area.

"I think now we're beginning to understand that we cannot trust BP," said U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey. "BP has lost all credibility … It's clear that they have been hiding the actual consequences of this spill."
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The trouble with Iggy


The Conservatives should be in a meltdown. Prorogation of Parliament, stonewalling on the Afghan detainee issue, attacks on women's groups, gays, and the Guergis Jaffer affair cumulatively should be having some effect on their support, no? Yet the latest poll results showing the Liberals at just 21% begs the question: what's wrong with Michael Ignatieff that he can't translate this into political gain?

I met Mr Ignatieff at a candidate's meet and greet during the last election. The first thing that struck me is that he's a very tall man, I'd say about 6'4". The other was how well he worked the room, stopping and chatting with everyone there. I confess this was a bit of a surprise to me, and points out a certain pre-conceived notion I had about him that he's not really a politician. That can be a liability, or in these days of cynicism over politics, it could be turned to a strength. But no one seems able to capitalize on this, least of all the man himself.

His reputation as an intellectual leads to further assumptions that he is cold and rational, but when it was my turn to speak to him I found this not to be the case. My question touched on something that he seemed to be genuinely passionate about, the need for the Liberal Party to reclaim the center, and to stop allowing the CPC to frame them as lefties. That's not going too well, as any read through the comments on the G&M website will prove. Like it or not, the debate has become polarized, with the CPC on the right, and the Liberals on the left. I wonder if this insistence on taking the center path might not be responsible for the perception that the Liberals stand for nothing and everything. Or perhaps it's more than mere perceptions. Perhaps this is why the party is so devoid of any clear platform. They appear to be running scared, waiting to react, but not too much lest they force an election, to Conservative action. Everyone should know by now that if you want to be the one framing the issues, you have to be first and you have to be loudest.

Ignatieff is the second Liberal party leader in a row who has been saddled with the label of intellectual. This plays into many people's inherent dislike of those they consider to be smarter than they are. It certainly plays well with both hard and soft conservatives, who distrust the "intellectual elite" who they fear hold them in contempt.

And yet Harper is not dissimilar. He's an "egghead" and has been all his life. He's that dweeby guy in highschool who joins the Chess Club and the Bible Club. He actually appeared on uber-geeky Canadian quiz show Reach for the Top. He has never had a "real" job for any period of time.

The difference is that Harper has managed to re-brand himself. He has hidden his giant ego and famously short temper under a speaking manner that is even and calm. He has hidden his intellectualism under cover of blue sweaters, Tim Horton's, hockey dad persona and tough-talking champion of Canada on the world stage.

Ignatieff meanwhile has not attempted any sort of re-branding. The many years he spent in England and the US could be put to some sort of advantage, encapsulated as "I know our two greatest allies from the inside. I have insights that we as a country can use". Instead, it seems that he fears to open the issue and the possible accusations that he is a "parachute" candidate -- a guy who came home after 30 something years away, expecting to be given the top job in the land. It's all about framing.

There are voters who follow politics closely. Then, there is the vast majority that doesn't. For most, an overall impression of the leader of the party is the deciding factor. I know from my own experience that this is the case. I had little grasp of the real issues. when I hit the age of majority. At the time the US was in an election campaign: Kennedy vs Nixon. I was "for" Kennedy because he was young and good-looking while Nixon was old, kinda greasy-looking and seemed even then to be hiding something.

Yes Virginia, it IS a popularity contest. I also remember being really jealous that the US had Kennedy while we were stuck with a bunch of boring old men. No wonder Trudeau swept in by a landslide. He was our Kennedy.

My theory, and I'm sure it's not new, is that when people choose the leader of a country, they are choosing their country's avatar. Just as we pick online avatars that are heroic idealized versions of ourselves, so too do we select the leaders of our country. We want someone who will represent Canada favourably on the world stage, who won't embarrass us, or appear weak. Ergo Stephane Dion was doomed from the get-go. We also want someone who is like us, without the flaws. Like us, not way smarter than us. Thus the repeated failures of intellectuals to gain traction in the public sphere: Adelai Stevenson, John Kerry, Stephane Dion.

Harper shed his intellectual image. Ignatieff must do the same or he'll never get anywhere in politics. I suggest he start with recognizing what country he's in now -- perhaps some photo ops canoeing in the wilderness a la Trudeau. I also suggest he take a public, visible interest in hockey. I suggest he set up meetings with women's groups. I suggest he appeal to the more reasonable mainstream churches of this country, and together they should deplore the "end of days" evangelical movement, and show it for what it is: that they've given up on saving our planet and are just waiting for their VIP trip to heaven.

Get on the ball Mr Ignatieff or your reign will be short indeed.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Greenpeace environmental victory!

Finally some good news on the environmental front. From the Greenpeace website:

Greenpeace today joined eight other environmental groups and forest companies in the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) to announce the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, an historic pact that will lead to large-scale protection of wilderness areas in Canada’s Boreal Forest, protection of threatened woodland caribou and significantly higher environmental standards for forest management. More.
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Quebec takes a stand on abortion


Today the Quebec legislature voted unanimously (109 - 0) on a resolution calling for Stephen Harper to respect free choice and access to abortion, to end its ambiguity on the issue and to stop cutting funding to women's groups who favour abortion.

This after Cardinal Marc Ouellet stated that abortion is a moral crime.

“There is a spin, saying the cardinal would like to re-criminalize [abortion] and this is not what he said,” said Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre. “He's not calling for re-criminalization. He was talking [about] a moral thing, this is a moral issue. He was not bringing this to the judicial level.”

Oh, really? And yet on May 13 Ouellet had this to say:
“We support this stance of the government not to finance abortion in countries of the Third World, But we would like some more courage, some more courage to do something more in Canada.“

That sounds like a call to the government to act.

Canada currently has no abortion law after a Supreme Court ruling struck it down in 1988 as being incompatible with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The status quo has been working and Canadians believed this divisive issue had been settled. Mr. Harper brought the topic up with his maternal health initiative, all the while claiming he didn't want to reopen the debate here. Again I ask - really? These words from Mr Harper ring particularly false when he has systemmatically cut funding to women's groups and family planning advocacy and information organizations.

I'm not looking forward to having the abortion debate again as it's sure to get nasty. Having a child is a huge commitment, and the decision should be that of each individual woman. No one else has the same stake, and certainly not a bunch of supposedly celibate priests or woman-hating zealots of any stripe.

Again, thanks to Marci McDonald for outlining in her book The Armageddon Factor, how Harper is courting the religious right. In spelling this out clearly, it allows us to see that the rights and freedoms we have enjoyed in this country are by no means untouchable.

Kudos to the Quebec Legislature for taking such a firm stand. I guess Harper has written off that province as a source of votes, eschewing the Mulroney strategy for that of George W. Bush and pandering to a vocal minority.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The rebranding of Preston Manning and David Frum

Is this a new conservative strategy? In the same week the G&M featured articles claiming that two right-wing ideologues have changed their spots. Somehow I'm not convinced.

According to the Globe, Manning is now a "proselytizer of science". Wow - who knew?

Four days later Frum was the subject of an incomprehensible puff-piece by Rick Salutin in which he advances the thesis that Frum is now left of the CBC. Yeah, and I'm now the president of WTF????

Manning, you'll recall was the founder of the Reform Party and coined the term "western alienation". He's also deeply religious and led a young Stephen Harper to the Alliance church in Calgary. The Alliance church is about as far right as they come on this side of the border, and is one of those that believes in creationism and the imminent end of the world. What is it about large oil deposits that produces religious fanatics?

Frum, the son of the late CBC broadcaster and Mulroney groupie Barbara Frum went to the US and became a speechwriter for George W. Bush. He's widely credited with coining the term "axis of evil", but recently suffered a fall from grace after he made the mistake of criticizing Sarah Palin's nomination as McCain's running mate in the 2008 US Presidential election as well as criticizing Republican anti-healthcare tactics in the wake of that election. Now he's back here like all failed American wannabe's. Cough - Ignatieff - cough.

It's interesting that not so long ago, there was an attempt to rehabilitate Mulroney as well. He was certainly ready to play the role of elder statesman, but that hit the skids when a certain Karl-Heinz Schreiber came out of the woodwork. Awww...
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't wait! Get yer Faytene Kryskow Barbie doll NOW!

Calling all true believers. Get your gen-u-wine Faytene Kryskow Barbie doll before the rapture comes and sucks them all up to heaven. Act now! The end of the world is nigh!
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Separated at birth?

Left: Trailer Park Boy Bubbles
Right: Professional name-caller Ezra Levant
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Armageddon Factor - Holy CRAP!

Thanks to Marci McDonald for blowing the lid off Harper's not so hidden agenda. It has only really been hidden thanks to the unwillingness of the media to look behind the curtain. Odd that a bunch of religious zealots who don't believe in evolution have a strategy of evolution by stealth.

The Armageddon Factor details the creeping influence of a number of far right-wing religious factions within the Harper government, like nutbar Faytene Kryskow. Presumably, having somewhat alienated fiscal conservatives with his $39.4 billion and counting deficit, he is now putting his energy into courting the religious right. You know, if I were Prime Minister, I'd be putting my time and energy into governing the country… but that's just me.

Some of the highlights (or lowlights) of the book can be found in the 2 interviews Marci gave to the CBC, on The Current and coverage on the National.

As soon as the story broke, the CRAP party scrambled into spin cycle. Step 1 was to accuse the CBC of engaging in a "faith war" as part of an "ongoing campaign against the Conservative Party" according to a memo to supporters.

Faith war?? How paranoid ARE these people? And do we get to have book burnings too?

"Perhaps Canada's tax-funded broadcaster needs a lesson in freedom of religion. Under the Charter of Rights, neither religious affiliation or lack of religious affiliation is grounds to deny participation in the democratic life of the country" says the memo.

Oh really?

Perhaps it's Canada's tax-funded Conservative Reform Alliance Party that needs the lesson.
Cuts to women's groups
Cuts to KAIROS
De-funding Toronto's gay pride parade
Cuts to science
Firings nuclear safety head Linda Keen for doing her job

Harper, the so-called "master strategist" doesn't seem to have a single original idea for how to run a country. Having ripped his mode of constantly being on the attack from the Karl Rove playbook, he is now attempting to copy the vitriolic religious divide that has made the US all but ungovernable.

Step 2 was to get the compliant part of the media, you know, the part that's not the "liberal elite", to expound in print and online. A sampling:

Paul Wells of Macleans magazine has trotted out the old "it can't happen here" argument that McDonald describes so well in the book itself. That's right, move along folks, nothing to see here.

Charles Lewis at the National Post accuses McDonald of the very intolerance she derides, creating a "we versus them" situation where "anyone who strays outside the narrow realm of proper Canadian debate is an enemy". This is simply a variation on the CRAP memo that says faith groups are being attacked in the book, when what is really being done is that they are being outed.

And that's bad because we are not supposed to know what they're up to. Remember this is supposed to be evolution by stealth.

Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald calls it "shrill nonsense". Shades of the 1970s, when anything of a feminist nature was "shrill" or "brittle" or even "hysterical". Oh wait, she mentions hysteria in the very first sentence of the article. Good work Naomi - make sure you cover all the bases. Oh yeah, it also "reveal[s] her own biases -- the well-worn ones with which leftists unthinkingly fall into lockstep." Honey, I have news for you - lockstep is for fascists. Kinda like born-again nut-case Faytene Kryskow, who marvels at the ability of the Hitler Youth to mobilize and thinks it's a great model for the religious right. That's right folks, they're taking lessons from the Hitler Youth.

The "Tory" blogoshere is full of the usual BS. Marci McDonald is anti-Israel, a bigot, and oh yeah - did we mention anti-Israel? The reaction rather proves her point I think.
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