Thursday, April 29, 2010

Secrecy - the first refuge of incompetents

What is Stephen Harper covering up when he cites National Security and the security of the "troops" as reasons for not disclosing relevant information regarding transfer and subsequent torture of Afghan detainees?

Now, if that's not enough to make a person lose their last meal...

Scott Horton, referring to the subpoena of a NY Times reporter and author who disclosed CIA incompetents (and incompetence) in dealing with Iran refers to a the report of the Commission on Government Security, the Committee on Government Operations of the [U.S.] House of Representatives, 1960 Report and the place of secrecy in a democracy:
"Secrecy—the first refuge of incompetents—must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society, for a fully informed public is the basis of self-government. Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognize that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people."
 Horton goes on to say that
"... But mistakes that are kept secret are more likely to be repeated, and those who commit them are more likely to advance to positions in which they can do more costly damage. ...[T]he public’s security was in this case plainly served by disclosure, and the prosecution that is apparently being mounted is another gallant defense of the government’s right to keep its inept conduct secret not from foreign enemies but from the American public. Such steps make us dumber, weaker, and less safe."
Same goes here. Incompetents in high places is not a recipe for success.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bring it on

Neil Kitson, doctor, educator and anti-war activist is keeping an eye on Canada's freaking government and its activities in Afghanistan.

Neil's blog, Canadians in Afghanistan gives you an idea what this guy is all about.

Re the Harper government's refusal to hand over papers on detainee abuse in Afghanistan, here's a quote from an article posted on Antiwar.com today, Canada’s ‘Whole Freaking Government’ Approach in Afghanistan
"One of the reasons for the flagrant obstruction of justice by the current government in Ottawa might be that if the truth comes out in Canada, the truth will also come out about NATO, a lot of famous people might end up on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or even better, Qu├ębec Superior Court, which conducted a successful investigation and prosecution regarding war crimes in Rwanda (R.C. Munyaneza, 2009 QCCS 2201) using the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act of 2000 [.pdf] and subsequent case law, and the world might never be the same."

Bring it on.
Dr. Kitson, I second that emotion. (Thanks, Smokey.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Whoo-hoo! Milliken rules!

Tories have two weeks to release Afghan files
"Speaker rules government's refusal to hand over uncensored documents on Afghan detainees violates privileges of House of Commons."
Apparently Stephen Harper wasn't in the House when the ruling came down.

Surprise, surprise.

Sliding towards dictatorship

It looks like Duncan Cameron doesn't think Peter Milliken, speaker of the house, will rule against the Harper regime. It will more likely be a slap on the wrist and presto! the basis of our government has changed.

Parliamentary supremacy and the Speaker's corner
by Duncan Cameron at rabble.ca
"Most people expect Speaker Peter Milliken, a Liberal, to sidestep the issue of parliamentary supremacy; he may issue a rebuke to the Harper government, but acknowledge the legitimacy of cabinet ministers making their own secrecy determinations."
I'd love to see him rule that the Harperite stance is illegitimate, but I fear he won't. But will they get away with this?
"The Conservatives have breached international law by handing over of Afghan detainees to be tortured, and should be prosecuted under the Geneva Convention, irrespective of the Speaker's ruling. We do not need additional proof or "secret" documents in order to arrive at that conclusion. But we do need to face the issue of disregard for parliament raised by the Harper government on a daily basis, irrespective of any crimes it has committed."
And what of the whistleblower Richard Colvin, one the people supposedly given "real protection" by Harper and his Accountability Act?
"Richard Colvin is the Canadian diplomat who raised the issue of torture inside the government. He was called to testify before a parliamentary committee on what he knew, and when he knew it. While making his testimony, on orders of the Conservatives, he was denied access to his own emails.

A public servant called as a witness before a parliamentary committee and unable to access his own work while testifying? Even George Orwell did not imagine tyranny being that imaginative. Every Conservative MP deserves to be defeated in the next election."

So, "real protection" consists of piling on Colvin as soon as he opens his mouth, virtually calling him a liar, misrepresenting his work, and then taking cover behind a pile of redacted documents as high as the Berlin Wall?

I feel a major depression coming on...again.

Last bastion of Bushism

Harper is trying to put a human face on his regime by pretending to be concerned about maternal and child health in developing countries. He even put it forward as as the theme of the upcoming G8 meeting.

At first it didn't include family planning and contraception.

Then it did.

But now, it does not include funding for safe abortion services. No, no way, nohow. Abortion is legal and funded here (for the time being, anyway). But other countries? Not for Harper and his base.

From the Globe and Mail:

Ottawa refuses to fund abortion in G8 plan
"The question of whether family planning would be part of the G8 maternal-health initiative is deemed important by most experts because many of the estimated 500,000 childbirth deaths in developing countries each year are caused by complications from women becoming pregnant too young and too often in quick succession.

The inclusion of safe abortion services, where they are legal, is also promoted by many experts, because so many deaths are caused by complications from botched abortions."
...[F]unding family planning but not abortions will be impractical in the real world, said Katherine McDonald, executive director of Action Canada for Population and Development. To cut off abortion funding, Canada must cut off all funding for any family-planning program that provides abortions.

“If Canada follows that model, it’s a replica of the Bush-era global gag law. If they don’t, how will we know that none of the money is used for abortion?” she said.
 Bush-era global gag law. We're looking better and better here.

Arrogant bastions.

George Galloway hearing postponed

George Galloway, MP (Respect), is contesting his being banned from entering Canada on the grounds that he is a supporter of terrorism and a danger to the country.

His hearing was supposed to take place yesterday, but due to an injury sustained by one of his lawyers, the hearing has been postponed until tomorrow. (She fell down the stairs and possibly broke her foot. I've done that. I thumped around for two weeks like Long John Silver.)

Just a reminder of it all from a year ago (April 1, 2009) on Democracy Now, when Amy Goodman spoke to him after he had to do his scheduled talks by video link to Canadians.

GEORGE GALLOWAY:"It’s not as good as being there in person. But it just shows that it was a foolish move politically, as well as quite a dangerous one. It’s a creeping problem, I think, in Canada, that their government is the last bastion of dead-end Bushism in not only North America, maybe in the world."

....AMY GOODMAN: Finally, George Galloway, President Bush did get into Canada, despite a Canadian group, the Lawyers Against the War, calling for his arrest or deportation. The Canadian government ignored their request, though they did deny you entry.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Yes, and on the grounds that I was a national security risk, which will have come as a surprise to the Homeland Security Department here and to the Speaker of the House of Commons, with whom I’ve sat with for twenty-three years. Yes, I mean—

AMY GOODMAN: We have twenty seconds.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: George Bush, dangerous killer, here’s a million-dollar fee, come and speak. George Galloway, antiwar leader, don’t bother turning up.

AMY GOODMAN: George Galloway, that does it for today’s broadcast, British lawmaker, British MP, banned from entering Canada. He’s addressing the Canadian people through video link every night from here in New York.
"..the last bastion of dead-end Bushism in not only North America, maybe in the world."

Thanks, Stevie. I'm so proud.

Your tax dollars at work

This morning, the National Post announced that Blackwater trained Canadian troops.

Yes, Canadian taxpayers enriched the degenerate and probably criminal Prince and his mercenary company.

But, this is news?

I don't think so.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Charles the First moment

Next week, the Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken, will rule on whether Stephen Harper was in contempt of parliament when he refused to hand over unredacted papers to the parliamentary committee investigating allegations of torture of Afghan prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities.

From The Hill Times:

House Speaker to rule on historic confrontation between PM, opposition parties

"House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken will rule this week on the historic confrontation between the opposition parties and the government over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal to hand over secret information about potential detainee torture in Afghanistan, sources say. "

Attorney General Nicholson maintains that it is his right to refuse access for national security reasons. Others maintain that the power of governance is in the hands of the elected members of parliament, most of whom are not members of the minority Conservative Party now in power.

I hate to think what may actually be in those papers if they are trying so hard to cover them up. The truth will out, I'm sure. Harper just hopes he can stall long enough that the whole thing will just go away.

"Liberal MP Derek Lee (Scarborough-Rouge River, Ont.) launched the Commons legal attack against the government nearly two months ago, after Prime Minister Harper suspended Parliament for a month to delay the government's reaction to a Dec. 10 opposition motion ordering production of the uncensored documents...'[I]t is only among the uninformed and the negligently ignorant that the power to send for persons, papers and records would appear unclear,' Mr. Lee told the Commons in his rebuttal to Mr. Nicholson. 'Those powers and authorities are all part of Canada's Constitution. How desperately embarrassing it is that the attorney general of Canada could stand in this place and say these things.'"

The uninformed and negligently ignorant. That's what we're stuck with at the moment.

The Globe and Mail on April 21 quoted Errol Mendes, University of Ottawa law professor and constitutional expert, on the importance of Peter Milliken's decision.

“It’s huge,” said Errol Mendes...[C]enturies of precedent dictate that Parliament is supreme in holding the government to account, he observed.

“If the Speaker rules against the opposition motions, it would not be too hyperbolic to say we have changed our system of governance,” he maintained. “The executive would no longer be accountable to the House of Commons.”

But then again, Stephen Harper never wanted to "first among equals" or to share power with anybody. He doesn't even have a deputy prime minister. I suppose that would be as alien to him as the idea of a deputy dictator.

In 2006, Shortly after Stephen Harper was elected as PM, D.L. McCracken brought together this trio of quotes by and about Stephen Harper.

"Three ads in particular stand out - Stephen Harper is quoted in the first ad as saying, "America, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world"; from an article in the Washington Post in late 2005, "Canada may elect the most pro-American leader in the western world. Harper is pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto and socially conservative. Bush's new best friend is the poster boy for his ideal foreign leader. A Harper victory will put a smile on George W. Bush's face."; and finally this little gem, "Canada is content to become a second-tier socialist country boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status. You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it". "

It must be working. I don't recognize Canada. I'm a stranger in a strange land. What we need at all these hearings and inquiries is a Fair Witness.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tell me, dear, did the earth move for you?

I think Rush Limbaugh may have found his spiritual soulmate in Iran.

Cleric: Promiscuous women cause earthquakes


A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

Makes more sense than Rush's health care bill accusation...just.

Maybe the Iranian cleric was being a bit subjective. TMI maybe?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Several minutes of insanity with Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh thinks that some god vented his spleen in Iceland because Obama passed some version of health care in the U.S.

Of course.

Makes sense to me.

Is there any link between the institution of European and Canadian universal health care and eruptions in the U.S.? I'm not even going to waste my time checking that out.

Limbaugh loses his last marble

...[c]onservative icon Limbaugh said the surprising strength and timing of the eruption suggests a God displeased with the passage of health care reform.

"You know, a couple of days after the health care bill had been signed into law Obama ran around all over the country saying, 'Hey, you know, I’m looking around. The earth hadn’t opened up. There’s no Armageddon out there. The birds are still chirping.' I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied," he said on his radio show Friday.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Twenty minutes of sanity with Andrew Bacevich

Why isn't anyone listening to this guy?
"...I'm sure this sounds too simplistic. It would be way too simplistic for people in Washington. But if you want to get out of a war, you get out of a war."
Andrew Bacevich talking to Bill Moyers on April 9, 2010.