Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Not much hope for change

As so often, the term 'terrorism' has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak... The destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan -- with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed... these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorising them was the purpose...

Those with power determine what is legal and illegal... For the weak to resist is illegal by definition... The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can... Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims... 

Israeli elections are coming up and, as usual, these elections are accompanied by war... You cannot be prime minister of Israel without enough Arab blood on your hands... The democratically elected Hamas government was targeted for destruction from the day it won the elections in 2006. The world told the Palestinians that they cannot have democracy, as if the goal was to radicalise them further and as if that would not have a consequence...

A Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project and Israeli settlements, land expropriation and separation barriers have long since made a two-state solution impossible. There can be only one state in historic Palestine. In coming decades, Israelis will be confronted with two options. Will they peacefully transition towards an equal society, where Palestinians are given the same rights, à la post-apartheid South Africa? Or will they continue to view democracy as a threat?

A failed American administration departs, the promise of a Palestinian state a lie, more Palestinians are murdered. A new president comes to power, but the people of the Middle East have too much bitter experience of US administrations to have any hope for change. As the world prepares to celebrate a new year, now long before it is once again made to feel the pain of those whose oppression it either ignores or supports?
Image source here.

'Like the OIF went crazy': How to help

Video: Nowhere to run for those trapped in Gaza

Email message from Mahmoud AbuKhaled, 
forwarded by a friend: 
We are fine so far,even things are very bad,7 from family,relatives been killed and some been wounded,What can I Tel you,
Things are very bad,when things started at 11:30 I went to help people who been wounded,I have arrived up on request of the local radio station when the call for help ,I have arrive to El Jouaist,Arfat police city, after 7 mins after the attack ,It was my 1st shock,when I have seen bodies more than 60 bodies where laying on the ground with no direct injury on their bodies only blood from eyes,ears,noes,few holes and mouth , on faces and bodies,where noon of us can help I have checked many men ,where they been expired ,I have at the area which is not far away from the 1st location, where things been different ,it was different story bodies been torn into pieces ,hands ,feet,legs are a parts this was about 15 bodies some of the where alive so I have started 1st aid like some dressing,tornqit  due to many of them had amputations and so.but finally due the  the F16,and helicopters was still on I have went with one of ambulance to Shafia hospital , things was over their worse,we have started to work but it was so difficult due to the shortage of the medicals supplies,I have seen many,many bodies belive me it was like you have mix bodies all over together, we do not know which leg from whom,or which hand for whom,head fro whom.
So we have put died bodies  over each other and rape it with blankets,some bodies we have asked other to evcutated them to other hall if you have seen on TV.
Belive me the emergency room was full of bodies of men,women kids of different ages,hospital was unable to handle such large numbers,so the have open the medical part of the hospital  even with this we face a lots of difficulties again power problems ,dressing, medicals supplies,Beds...etc.all of us where full of blood all of our hands, cloths,I have used double gloves. We have used the Dr .tables ,reception desk like beds,land,I have started some IV push,injections,dressing,it was about more 5 hours like this,At that moment I have discover the bodies of 4 of our family  and relative ,it was shock for me to see 2 are brothers is killed they are working  at police as horse trainers,and another one who was in very bad condition transfer to ICU ,Who passed away after while ,around 17:30 I went home,to see my kids they where in very bad psychotically state due to the shelling all over the areas.Abed Al Kaream was in very bad condition,even he had difficulty of specking and he was attached me as soon as I was into till now,me or his mother,and he could not sleep for the last 48 hrs.I have left home to go the freonals  to bary killed ,it was like you go to the asymtrey with one body and when you finish you find that another killed ,so it was like for more 2 days,shelling was like the OIF went crazy, they attacked every things,Mosques,houses,ground play,offices,associations,foundations,market ,killing about 380 most of them kids women,civilian ,1800 wounded 200 are in very bad conditions and they may pass away at any time.

If you can help by sending money, here are options:
3. Send a cheque for $10 to The Religious Society of Friends, Peterborough, c/0 Margaret Slavin, 206 Perry Street, Peterborough, ON K9J 2J2, Canada, with 'Mahmoud's house' written in the memo line.

Our finest young men are attacking Gaza now. Good boys from good homes are doing bad things... Our excellent pilots are effectively bullies now. As in training flights, they bomb undisturbed, facing neither an air force nor defense system... These are not sadistic Border Police officers beating up Arabs in the alleys of Nablus and the center of Hebron, or cruel undercover soldiers who shoot their targets point-blank in cold blood. These, as we have said, are our finest young men... Is it really the case that our pilots return safely to base, or are they in fact returning to them as callous, cruel and blind people?

Gaza: 'It is not a war. It is murder'

Robert Fisk, in The Independent: How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians:... that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza. That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it -- Askalaan in Arabic -- were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza... 

Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea... The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn't worry the world.

Well, the world should worry now. Crammed into the most overpopulated few square miles in the whole world are a dispossessed people who have been living in refuse and sewage and, for the past six months, in hunger and darkness... Gaza was always an insurrectionary place... Gaza is not going to be tamed now.

Chris Hedges, at Truthdig: Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, said Israel is engaged in a 'war to the bitter end' against Hamas in Gaza. A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units,  no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.

The UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing in Gaza as 'a crime against humanity.' Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as 'a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law...

'It is an unfolding catastrophe that each day poses Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive,' Falk has said of the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza... 'It is macabre. I don't know of anything that exactly fits this situation. People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest analog in modern times.' ...

The use of terror and hunger to break a hostile population is one of the oldest forms of warfare... Those who orchestrate such sieges do not grasp the terrible rage born of long humiliation, indiscriminate violence and abuse. A father or a mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A boy whose ill grandmother dies while detained at an Israeli checkpoint does not forget. A family that loses a child in an airstrike does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse and the murder of family members do not forget.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What two-state solution?

Israel: Dismantle the settlements. Return to the 1967 'Green Line' borders.

Editorial, The Daily Star, Lebanon:

'...For the Israelis, once they have exercised this latest spasm of gratuitous bloodletting, there will be yet another opportunity to accept the oft-proved impossibility of a military solution. The Palestinian people will not be battered into submission, no amount of air strikes will make the core issues in the moribund peace process go away, and all of the same difficult decisions will still be waiting when the dust settles. All of the broad outlines and even some of the nitty-gritty details of a durable peace have been known for years, and a very generous offer -- unanimously endorsed by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- has been on the table since 2002.'
* * *
But Israel's right wing doesn't want a solution, or a peace process. They want the Palestinians to 'go away,' by whatever means necessary. They have refused to define Israel's borders, a necessary step in resolution, because they want even more land, they want 'Eretz Israel,' and they'll start wars to gain, and keep, power. 
Image source here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

War crimes in a Festival of Darkness

Juan Cole, 
Informed Comment: 
Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.

Since the second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.

No mention of course about the fact that Israel -- with international support -- chose to disregard the democratic will of the Palestinian people when they elected a Hamas-led government in 2006. No mention that the siege on Gaza has been condemned by the UN as collective punishment that 'constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.'

Before Hamas assumed power, Gaza was notoriously lawless. Under Hamas' governance, law and order -- even with such civil niceties as traffic control -- have been established. But because Israel has been 'pelted' -- yes, that's the apt term that's used in the Israeli press -- by Quassam rocket fire ever since Israel broke the truce on November 5, Israel is now engaged in Operation Cast Lead which is systematically destroying Hamas' security structure in the name of preventing rocket fire. Oh, and never mind that most of the rockets were being launched by members of Islamic Jihad.

Just so that we can be sure that in the dwindling days of his tenure, Ehud Olmert is not being impulsive (no rerun of the 2006 war on Lebanon -- that's a relief!) Haaretz provides a highly informative description of the operation that was being planned even before Israel and Hamas entered an Egyptian-brokered 'truce.' In front of all their critics who cried out that a truce would simply give Hamas time to rearm, Olmert and Barak can now grin with satisfaction, knowing that the truce was a ruse that Israel could use while it gathered intelligence in preparation for its next war.
Image source here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Old Glory's Dark Side

Experiments conducted by Markus Kemmelmeier, at the University of Nevada, show that gazing upon the red, white and blue does very little to stoke feelings of patriotism. But it does make people more individualistic, more materialistic, and -- perhaps most troublingly -- more nationalistic. 

Researchers tend to define patriotism as love of one's country; nationalism, on the other hand, tends to measure feelings of superiority... The paper also notes that 'nationalism has been implicated in aggression, oppression, and warfare.'

'The flag not only prompted participants to think about their own country as superior to and dominant in the world, but also induced a mode of hierarchical thinking...' The flag makes people think that some people and some countries are better than others, a mode of thinking, he said, that makes people 'feel more entitled to express prejudice.'

Glenn Greenwald: If ostensible self-protective motives are now considered mitigating factors in the commission of war crimes -- or worse, if they justify immunity from prosecution -- then there is virtually no such thing any longer as a 'war crime' that merits punishment... But advocates of this view -- 'Oh, American officials only did it to protect us from "The Terrorists" -- can't or won't follow their premise to this logical conclusion because their oh-so-sophisticated and empathetic understanding that political leaders act with complex motives only extends to their own leaders, to Americans.

I wrote that this excuse-making for the Bush torture regime 'isn't really anything more than standard American exceptionalism -- more accurately: blinding American narcissism -- masquerading as a difficult moral struggle.' But that almost gives it too much credit. Really, this is nothing more than stunted adolescence. The definitive adolescent mindset it pure self-centeredness personified; it demands infinite understanding of and sympathy with one's own predicament and choices, and offers none for anyone else's. That's all this is: Americans had good reasons to torture and therefore it shouldn't be punished; others who do it (the ones with foreign, unpronounceable names) have no good reasons and should be treated as criminals...

The reason leaders torture is irrelevant. It's one of those few absolute taboos, and it's almost as immoral to seek to dilute that taboo by offering motive-based mitigations as it is to engage in it in the first place.
Image source here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008


For my mother

October 22, 1915 - December 20, 2003
Thank you.

For Winter Solstice


And I think over again
my small adventures
when with a shore wind
I drifted out in my kayak
and thought myself in danger.

My fears,
those small ones
that I thought so big,
for all the vital things
I had to get to and to reach.

And yet, there is only one great thing,
the only thing:
to live to see
in huts and on journeys
the great day that dawns,
and the light that fills the world.

-- from the Kitlinguiharmiut (Copper Inuit), NW Territories
Recorded and translated by Knud Rasmussen in 
The Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-1924

I'm gone.

Image sources here, here, and here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

They just don't care

Are Power and Compassion
Mutually Exclusive?

APS: Psychologist Gerben A. van Kleef (University of Amsterdam) and his colleagues from University of California, Berkeley, examined how power influences emotional reactions to the suffering of others... The results, reported in the December issue of Psychological Science... reveal that individuals with a higher sense of power experienced less compassion and distress when confronted with another's suffering, compared to low-power individuals. In addition,... high power participants showed more autonomic emotion regulation, which buffered against their partner's distress.

Analysis of the participants' final surveys (where they rated their thoughts about their partners) revealed that high-power individuals reported a weaker desire to get to know and establish a friendship with their partner... Powerful people were not motivated to establish a relationship with distressed individuals. This idea is supported by the fact that the distressed participants reported less of a social connection with high-power partners compared to low-power partners. The authors suggest that powerful people's tendency to show less compassion and distress towards others reinforces their social power.

These results do not just apply to how powerful people react to strangers; the authors note that this study 'suggests that high-power individuals may suffer in interpersonal relationships because of their diminished capacity for compassion and empathy. The many benefits enjoyed by people with power may not translate to the interpersonal realm.'
Image source here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness

Economists appraise Bhutan's 
happiness model

Thimphu, Bhutan -- In the thick of a global financial crisis, many economists have come to this Himalayan kingdom to study a unique economic policy called Gross National Happiness, based on Buddhist principles. When considering economic development, policymakers here take into account respect for all living things, nature, community participation and the need for balance between work, sleep and reflection or meditation.

'Happiness is very serious business,' Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley said. 'The dogma of limitless productivity and growth in a finite world is unsustainable and unfair for future generations.' ...

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, evolved over centuries in Bhutan but was launched formally in 1972... The former king shifted focus of development from productivity to human well being in four areas: sustainable economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the environment, and good governance. Since then, government policy in Bhutan has been guided by GNH principles in a succession of five-year plans...

GNH guidelines are being adopted in Brazil, India and Haiti. But the most extensive programs are occurring in Canada, Australia, the United States and France... The Bhutanese government is devising a GNH index that is expected to be ready as early as the end of the year based on 72 standards.
Image source here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'I was still holding my grandson's hand --

-- the rest of him was gone'

'We were walking, I was holding my grandson's hand, then there was a loud noise and everything went white. When I opened my eyes, everybody was screaming. I was lying metres from where I had been, I was still holding my grandson's hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere."...

As the situation deteriorates across the country, the killing of civilians is seen as a final affront in a litany of mistakes by the foreign forces in Afghanistan... The routine denials and hands-off attitude are contributing to a growing sense among Afghans that their lives are cheap in the eyes of the foreigners... 'We know they don't intend to kill the civilians but we don't believe they care enough not to,' said Ahmad Zia, a jeweller in Kabul's busy bazaar. 'If it continues we will see a lot more people joining the fight against the foreigners. It's inevitable.' ...

Mullah Zubiallah Akhond, a Taliban commander in Oruzgan province, says the attacks are sending recruits his way daily... 'When an American vehicle is blown up every day on the main road in Wardak, the order is not coming from the Taliban leadership. It is the people themselves who have turned against the foreigners.' ...

Shukira Barakzai, a female MP: 'These feeling stem from the actions and military operations of the foreign troops. The anti-western sentiment is directly because of the military actions, the civilian casualties, and the lack of respect by foreign troops for Afghan culture.'

Image source here.

Total defeat for US in Iraq

Patrick Cockburn: On 27 November the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favour of a security agreement with the US under which its 150,000 troops will withdraw from Iraqi cities, towns and villages by 30 June next year and from all of Iraq by 31 December 2011. The Iraqi government will take over military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of American power in Iraq, In a few weeks' time. Private security companies will lose legal immunity. US military operations will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. No US military bases will remain after the last American troops leave in 2011 and in the interim the US military is banned from carrying out attacks on other countries from within Iraq.

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional. America's bid to act as the world's only superpower and to establish quasi-colonial control of Iraq, an attempt that began with the invasion of 2003, has ended in failure...

Even Iran, which had denounced the first drafts of the SOFA, fearing that any agreement would enshrine a permanent US presence in Iraq, now says that it will officially back the new security pact: ... a sure sign that America's main rival in the Middle East sees the accord as marking the end of the occupation and the end of any notion of Iraq being used as a launching-pad for military assaults on its neighbours.

Astonishingly, this momentous agreement was greeted with little surprise or interest outside Iraq... America's troops will depart, leaving behind a ruined country.

Image source here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

'We shall be one people'

'Our young men will marry your daughters, and henceforth we shall be one people.' 
-- Champlain's prophecy to the Montagnais, 1633

David Hackett Fischer: In the year 2001, the Canadian Census reported that 292,310 people in Canada identified themselves as Métis, and there are many more in the United States. These self-identified Métis have founded associations in every Canadian province and five American states. And yet they are only a fraction of North Americans who have both Indian and European ancestors. Demographers have reckoned that more than 750,000 Canadians are descended from Métis. Even those estimates do not come close to the full extent of intermixing. In 1970, a Canadian biologist reckoned that 40 percent of Canadian families had both Indians and Europeans in their family trees, which would yield eight million people of mixed ancestry in 1970, and twelve million in 2005. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

'Some despise our peacekeeping tradition'

How many Canadians will die for nothing in Afghanistan?
Peter G. Prontzos: The 101 Canadians who have been killed in Afghanistan believed they were serving our country, and for that they deserve our respect and gratitude... But there is an awful truth that we tend to avoid, a truth that must be proclaimed if we are to end the killing on all sides of this bloody conflict. The truth is that those 101 brave Canadians died for nothing... More accurately, they died for a series of lies.

One lie is that Canada is there to help the 'democratic' Hamid Karzai. But the fact is that his government was installed by the Bush regime, and that it is both incompetent and riddled with corruption from the drug trade. A related lie is that this is a war for women's rights...

Another lie is that it is possible to win a victory over the various tribes and political factions fighting the occupiers. British and American military officials are finally admitting that they are losing ground, and the bloodshed will only increase as the war drags on.

The biggest lie of all is that Canadians are being killed in the fight against terrorism. The Taliban did not attack the United States on September 11, and it is not the only group fighting against the US-led occupation. Moreover, even the US Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Bush's invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have led to more anti-Americanism and more terrorism, not less. Every time innocent civilians are killed or a wedding party is bombed, more people take up arms against the US-backed forces, or support those who do.

In reality, Canadians are dying in Afghanistan in order to please the Bush regime by aiding its attempt to dominate the Middle East for its own geostrategic purposes, especially that of controlling the oil in the region.

In addition, there are some in the Canadian military who despise our peacekeeping tradition and would rather that we adopted the mindless war-fighting mentality of the American military.

Preventing warriors

Daily Mail (UK): The Papua New Guinea jungle has given up one of its darkest secrets -- the systematic slaughter of every male baby born in two villages to prevent future tribal clashes. By virtually wiping out the 'male stock', tribal women hope they can avoid deadly wars between the villages in the future. 'Babies grow into men and men turn into warriors,' said Rona Luke, a village wife who is attending a special 'peace and reconciliation' meeting in the mountain village of Goroka.

'It's because of the terrible fights that have brought death and destruction to our villages for the past 20 years that all the womenfolk have agreed to have all new-born male babies killed,' said Mrs Luke. 'The women have had enough of men engaging in tribal conflicts and bringing misery to them.' ... Mrs Luke said that the village women agreed that if they stopped producing males, allowing only female babies to survive, their tribe's stock of boys would go down and there would be no men in future to fight.

A resident of Abibu village, Mrs Luke said she did not know how many male babies were killed by being smothered, but it had happened to all males over a 10-year period -- and she suggested it was still happening... Mrs Kipiyona Belas from the rival Amosa village [said] that getting food for their families was difficult because husbands were fighting other tribes... Often the men did not come back... Tribal fighting in the region of Gimi, in the country's Eastern Highlands, has been going on since 1986.
Image source here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Capitalist Fools

Joseph E. Stiglitz, in Vanity Fair: 
The truth is, most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, 'I have found a flaw.' Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, 'In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.' 'Absolutely, precisely,' Greenspan said. The embrace by America -- and much of the rest of the world -- of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.
Image source here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another possibility: the PM's on drugs

Benzodiazepines are useful in treating anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures, and muscle spasms... Another use is to counteract anxiety-related symptoms upon initial use of SSRIs and other antidepressants, or as an adjunctive treatment...

Paradoxical reactions: Severe behavioral changes resulting from benzodiazepines have been reported including mania, schizophrenia, anger, impulsivity, and hypomania. Individuals with borderline personality disorder appear to have a greater risk of experiencing severe behavioral or psychiatric disturbances... Paradoxical rage reactions are thought to be due to partial deterioration from consciousness, generating automatic behaviors, fixation amnesia, and aggressiveness from inhibition.
Image source here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The man is sick: He must go

R.K. Finch: The truth behind the making of our great leader, our genius in office, our strategic master, is the story of a megalomaniac with malignant narcissism, a grudge-bearing nerd... an immature and conscienceless man who is using this country to prove a theory, allowing him to simultaneously indulge his megalomania while holding fast to his grudges. There is no story like this, history reminds us, that results in someone who wishes to do good things for this world.

Robert Benzie, Toronto Star: 'He just can't help himself.' So says one of Stephen Harper's long-time acquaintances, wryly noting the Prime Minister has few friends... Another insider agrees 'there's no question the Prime Minister rules by fear... So when people stop fighting back, that's a most dangerous, dangerous day.' 'He truly is politically brilliant, but he's also pathologically partisan. So he just can't help himself. It's a deadly combination,' says an insider... An acquaintance agrees Harper's partisan blinders are self-destructive. 'He can't help himself -- he just can't help himself.' Liberal MP Ken Dryden echoed that sentiment... 'He cannot stop himself.' ...

Kelly McParland, National Post: It's this lack of trust he's generated that has really poisoned the water on Parliament Hill. You can hear it in the voices of many MPs and pundits -- they just can't stand the guy. They think he's dishonest, that he's demeaning the art of politics, diminishing the stature of Parliament. They take themselves seriously... understand the rules, and know when he's crossing the line. They don't think he even knows where the line is.

Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail: Mr. Harper's decisions showed a secretive, ferociously partisan leader, centralizing everything in his own hands... When his worst instincts are on the loose, there are inadequate checks in the system, and few people willing or able to curb those instincts... The way Mr. Harper acted, and the advantage he tried to gain, will be remembered now by all those who feared what he might do with a majority government.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

For all the dead and damaged: Out. Now.

Doug Saunders: 
'The Afghanistan war should be over'

'Only 20 per cent of insurgents who form the core of the Taliban are fighting the idological war,' Ali Jalali told the Indian media recently. 'The rest are aggrieved tribes who have been mistreated by some government official or drug trafficker or some foreign intelligence operators or by the transnational al-Qaeda terrorists. It also consists of unemployed youth and criminal groups. All these are alliances of convenience. They are fighting for different reasons.' ...

'The Afghan rebellion remains mostly a homegrown affair.' Mr. Gopal wrote last month. 'Foreign fighters -- especially al-Qaeda -- have little ideological influence on most of the insurgency, and most Afghans keep their distance from such outsiders. Al-Qaeda's vision of global jihad doesn't resonate in the rugged highlands and windswept deserts of southern Afghanistan.' ...

To the extent that al-Qaeda and its supporters remain active in Afghanistan, how much is that because of and not in spite of our military presence there? Richard Barrett, the man who runs the UN agency that monitors al-Qaeda's activities, warned recently that the presence of large numbers of foreign troops is mainly serving to bolster the terrorist group...

If so, we have a stark conclusion: Al-Qaeda is gone, and not likely to return. To the extent that it is still around, it's because we're attracting it. If both those statements are true, then no matter how ugly it looks, the war's over.

Image source here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

For the women: then, before, and since

December 6, Vancouver

Low sun all day
horizontal light bright on white birch bark
gray corduroy hide of leafless maples
big red maple leaf coast guard flag half mast
on this day to remember murdered women
over the path bald eagles perch in their nest tree
scores of crows pick mussels from low tide pilings
fishing boat comes in towing seagulls behind it
across the base of a fading rainbow
windows shining gold because of the
low sun all day

Friday, December 5, 2008

Meanwhile, back on the burning planet

Four harsh truths 
about climate change

Gwynne Dyer: About two years ago, I realized that militaries in various countries were starting to do climate-change scenarios in-house -- scenarios that started with the scientific predictions about rising temperatures, falling crop yields, and other physical effects...

The scenarios predicted failed states proliferating because governments couldn't feed their people; waves of climate change refugees washing up against the borders of more fortunate countries; and even wars between countries that share rivers. 

So I started interviewing everybody I could get access to, not only senior military people but scientists, diplomats, and politicians. About 70 interviews, a dozen countries, and 18 months later, I have reached four conclusions...

1. The scientists are really scared. Their observations over the past two or three years suggest that everything is happening a lot faster than climate models predicted...

2. The generals are right. Food is the key issue, and the world food supply is already very tight...

3. There is a point of no return after which warming becomes unstoppable -- and we are probably going to sail right through it...

4. There is a way through this crisis, but it isn't easy and there is no guarantee of success. As the Irishman said to the lost traveller: 'If that's where you want to go, sir, I wouldn't start from here.'
Image source here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Harper 'close to inciting mob rule'

Jean's decision sets 'very dangerous' precedent
A constitutional expert says he's worried the Governor General's decision to suspend Parliament sets a 'very dangerous' precedent that allow future prime ministers to use the same manoeuvre to avert their own government's demise. 'This is a major constitutional precedent and that worries me more than anything else,' said Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa and editor in chief of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. 'Any time that the prime minister wants to evade the confidence of the House now he can use this precedent to do so.'

Dennis Pilon, a political scientist from the University of Victoria, said in a letter to CBC that he is 'deeply worried' about the country heading into a 'potentially violent situation.' 'I do not mean to be alarmist in suggesting that we may be heading for violence. But the actions of this prime minister are coming dangerously close to inciting mob rule.'... 
He says Harper has ramped up the heat by insinuating his opponents are attacking Canada's democracy and risking national unity for their own gain.

He can run, but he can't hide

Pro-coalition rally on Parliament Hill after suspension of Parliament
Image thanks to
Dawg's Blawg

Conservative MP Michael Chong, in the final moments of debate in the House of Commons: Mr. Speaker, my question is, what would Robert Baldwin and Louis Hippolyte La Fontaine, two fathers of responsible government in Canada, two citizens, one francophone, one anglophone, who reached across the aisle to forge a consensus, two people who, out of the rebellions of the Upper and Lower Canada in the 19th century, argued that violence was not the solution but, rather, a redefined role for the legislative branch of government, one that would see the legislative branch as central to the political life of a nation, have said about the events that are transpiring in this House and outside of this House this week?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

'They make it up. They lie'

Ed Broadbent: I've never seen the leader of a Conservative party, certainly not Bob Stanfield, certainly not Joe Clark, lie -- I choose the word deliberately -- the way Mr. Harper has... I'm concerned I have a prime minister who lies to the people of Canada and knows it. It's one thing to exaggerate, it's another to deliberately tell falsehoods... They make it up. They lie. They pay people to destroy things. 

Quebec bashing: Harper reverts to his roots

James Laxer: At the height of his career, Stephen Harper dreamed of a decentralized Canadian federation in which government played a smaller role, with the market making the basic decisions in society. Such a Canada would fold naturally into an ever closer socio-economic, maybe even political, union with the United States. Recognizing Quebec as a nation made sense within that weltanschauung... At the end of his time at the helm of government, as future biographers will note, Stephen Harper has gone back to the ideology of the old Reform Party... How can Conservatives concerned with the long-term future of their party even contemplate allowing this man to remain their leader?

Quote of the day

Andrew Coyne: Should Stephen Harper wear this? Of course. It was his decision, and his error. Some have attributed this to hubris. I think it is rather timidity. It is of a piece with the whole strategy the party has pursued over the past several years. Rather than openly advocate a particular course of action -- rather than clearly articulate a distinctive philosophy of government and a program of government that flows from it, they have relied on trickery, surprises, tactical manoeuvres -- and sometimes on sheer thuggery. They don't have the confidence that they can win the arguments on their merits, that they can beat their opponents, as it were, on the ice. So instead they try to lick 'em in the alley.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The 62% Majority

Elected with the support of only 38% of Canadians, Stephen Harper has chosen to act as though he has 100% of the power. Instead of working with other parties to tackle the current economic crisis, Harper has opted for total inaction and political tricks. 

A 62% majority of Canadians didn't vote for Stephen Harper. Their elected representatives hold a majority of the seats in Parliament. That majority of members, elected by a majority of voters, has now declared that Harper no longer has our confidence or trust.

If you're ready for change, then you're part of the 62% majority.

The PM who thought he was a king

The Harperites Are Misrepresenting 
Our System of Government

James Laxer:  In Canada, we do not directly elect our prime minister. The prime minister is an elected member of the House of Commons... The Governor General asks the leader of the political party that commands the support of the majority of the House to form a government. In the case of a minority parliament, the critical issue is which party or combination of parties can command the support of the majority in the House.

Yesterday, when the leaders of the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc, whose parties hold the majority of seats in the House announced their intention to defeat the Harper government and replace it with a Liberal-NDP coalition with the support of the Bloc, they were playing out their roles within the system of responsible government.

The Conservatives are appearing on news shows, talk shows and are organizing rallies putting out the word that what is happening in Ottawa is an attempted 'coup.' At the centre of this inane claim is the proposition that Canadians just re-elected Stephen Harper as prime minister and that he has a mandate to govern.

The Canadian prime minister is not a quasi-king in the manner of the American president. He or she rises or falls depending on the votes of the majority in the House of Commons. That is what is going on here. What is coming to an end is the rule of a prime minister who thought he was a king. What is coming is a government that actually represents the views of the majority of the members of the House, and for that matter the majority of voters in the recent election.
Image: Chris Wattle/Reuters; source here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Libs on the Bloc*

Text of the accord here (.pdf).

*h/t Drake in the comments thread: 

Rallies for coalition

Where: Parliament Hill
When: December 4, noon
More info: 613.560.5457 and online here.
Rallies also planned for: Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, St. John's, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton

Another opportunity to email your MP here.