Archive for April, 2010

Hide the children! Lock the doors!

April 30, 2010

Juxtaposition of the day:

From here:

Parliament, power grids, and nuclear facilities were the intended targets in an attack that Fahim Ahmad hoped Canada would never recover from, the Crown said as it laid out its case against three men arrested almost four years ago…

The Crown intends to call up to 11 witnesses, most of whom will be police officers, and play for the jury about 70 wiretap conversations.

In one of those, Ahmad is heard saying the kind of attack he was planning has “never been done before,” Jaffe said.

“They’re probably expecting what happened in London or something,” Ahmad said, referring to co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks in July 2005 in London’s subway system that killed 52 people and injured nearly 800.

“Our thing is much, much greater on the scale. You do it once and you make sure they never recover again.”

Aaaaand from here:

The portrait of an “utterly disorganized” camp, surfaced as defence lawyer Michael Moon cross-examined police agent Mubin Shaikh, who infiltrated the alleged homegrown terror cell in late 2005.

Court was told that when members of the group attended a December 2005 camp in Washago, Ont., some were terrified a fictional pack of wolves was stalking them, two men cut themselves chopping wood and one nearly lit himself ablaze while pouring fuel onto the campfire.

“These guys were lucky to get out of Washago alive,” Moon suggested to Shaikh, who is testifying at the trial of Fahim Ahmad, Steven Chand and Asad Ansari, members of the so-called Toronto 18, which was busted up by police on June 2, 2006.

Mmmmm-hmmmmm…

And of course, back in 2oo6

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called U.S. President George W. Bush to thank him for the U.S. co-operation in thwarting the alleged plot, projecting the message that Canada is not a “haven” for Islamic extremists.

Bravo, Steve. Well played, good sir, well played indeed.

Jesus wept.

April 29, 2010

I know religious fundamentalists lie.  Everyone in their right mind knows this.  They have to lie in order to manhandle the world they see into the shape of myths so ancient and ignorant that they predate our realization the earth is not flat.

But there’s a small part of me – the part that believes human nature is basically good – that wants to believe they are not lying on purpose.  I want to believe they are the hapless victims of an incredible but sincere cognitive affliction preventing them from accepting things that are obviously true, like evolution, and forcing them to accept as fact things that are obviously untrue, like the preposterous story of Noah and his floating menagerie.

Then this:

“A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers say wooden remains they have discovered on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey are the remains of Noah’s Ark. “

OK.  Surely they found a few old logs lying about and due to their tragic cognitive disabilities jumped to an honest but mistaken conclusion?

But no.

“In the late summer of 2008 ten Kurdish workers hired by Parasut, the guide used by the Chinese… planted large wood beams taken from an old structure in the Black Sea area at the Mt. Ararat site… During the summer of 2009 more wood was planted inside a cave at the site. The Chinese team went in the late summer of 2009 … and was shown the cave with the wood and made their film. As I said, I have the photos of the inside of the so-called Ark (that show cobwebs in the corners of rafters – something just not possible in these conditions) and our Kurdish partner in Dogubabyazit (the village at the foot of Mt. Ararat) has all of the facts about the location, the men who planted the wood, and even the truck that transported it.”

Adam and Eve?  Word of God.  Noah’s ark?  Word of God.  Jesus walking on water?  Word of God.  Thou shalt not bear false witness?  Just a suggestion.

Amusing bit from the Star article:

Ararat has drawn a steady stream of explorers for decades. Many of them have “discovered” the ark.

“I don’t know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn’t find it,” said archeologist Paul Zimansky recently told National Geographic.

Afghan detainee torture documents?

April 28, 2010

We can’t produce them because they are of such an extremely sensitive nature that disclosing them in confidence to elected representatives with a legitimate mandate to establish POW policy would jeopardize our whole mission in Afghanistan.  Besides, we’ve made no effort whatsoever to catalogue these extremely sensitive documents or store them in an orderly and secure fashion.

Anybody else smell bullshit?

Brits tremble at the thought of a “Canadian-style parliament”

April 28, 2010

From Canwest:

“The parliamentary culture and media commentary (in Canada) continues to be more about an ongoing battle to ‘win’ a coveted majority rather than a focus on achieving stable governance and policy — an experience that may soon be replicated” in Britain, wrote researcher Anne White, a former director at the Toronto Board of Trade.”

I wouldn’t worry if I were them.  Stephen Harper and his posse are a rather unique phenomenon.  Recall, if you will, the Christmas Harper spent nostalgically gazing at multiple pictures of himself.  David Cameron may be a jerk, but is he a pathological narcissist psychologically incapable of coping with anything less than a complete grasp on the crown?

No, David Cameron may be a buffoon but he’s not a child.  I’m sure he understands the necessity for non-partisan cooperation in a government with a weak mandate.  He may wish things were otherwise, but I doubt the governance of Britain is going to grind to a complete halt.

Another pair of asinine visa fiascos brought to you by Jason Kenney

April 27, 2010

Self-described “Catholic Zionist” MP Jason Kenney – the Conservative MP who banned UK Member of Parliament George Galloway from entering Canada because of his open acknowledgment of Israel’s war crimes – is in the news this week for two more appalling decisions.

To wit:

Camara Sow begged Immigration Minister Jason Kenney Monday to step in and allow her to stay in Canada until her baby is born.

“I want the minister to help me to stay here, beside my husband,” an emotional Camara Sow said. “I’m sick, I’m pregnant and I’m afraid that at my age, I may lose my baby.”

Sow is 24 weeks pregnant, has Type 2 diabetes and had a miscarriage last year.

Staff at Kenney’s office said the file is in the hands of the Canada Border Services Agency. A spokesman for CBSA said people are only deported once all their legal avenues have been exhausted.

And:

For years, the Nova Scotia Gambia Association has sent Canadian nurses, students and other volunteers overseas to teach HIV-awareness and other health education programs to people in the small West African countries of Gambia and Sierra Leone.

This year, the non-profit group decided to bring eight of its Gambian staff to Canada, to attend the group’s 25th anniversary celebrations in Halifax, and to talk to students in local schools about life in Africa.

A Halifax church and a handful of schools across Nova Scotia raised $23,000 to pay the costs of bringing the Gambians to Canada. But plans for the trip were cancelled this week when Kenney rejected visitor visa applications for the group.

Is it just me or is the Immigration Minister starting to seem like a bit of a soulless obstructionist?

Was I the only one begrudgingly moved to moist-eyed feelings of warm, fuzzy patriotism during that Tim Horton’s ad they played during the Olympics?  The one where the African immigrant meets his family at the airport after what appears to be a lengthy separation, bringing them all brand new parkas and dragging them out into the snow, their eyes wide with wonder – or perhaps horror?  Didn’t Jason Kenney see that ad?  Wasn’t he moved?  Didn’t that ad scream “This is Canada’s heart and soul on display!” to him as it did to me?

The good news for Sayon Camara is that the Federal Court has stayed her deportation order, no thanks to Jason Kenney and his above-referenced “staff”, or the “spokesperson” for the CBSA who must be either ignorant, a liar or a simpleton in light of his / her / its quote.

Potentially good news for the Nova Scotia Ghambia Association is that Nova Scotia Liberal MLA Andrew Younger passed a resolution, supported by all three parties, to formally request that Kenney reconsider his decision.  Whether Kenney will consider the province’s request in good faith or continue to be a stinking pig-headed racist remains to be seen.

I’m a little disturbed by some of the comments on these stories.  Here’s an example that pretty much sums them all up:

“I can’t believe we trunned someone down. I though we let everyone and their dog into the country. Time we started kicken a few out..”

I note that nearly illiterate Canadian right-wing-nuts, unlike their American counterparts, still know the difference between “their”, “they’re” and “there”.  But apart from this subtle distinction I feel like I’m pretty much looking at a tea partier in a parka with a double double in its hand.

These are the people Kenney is appealing to with his increasingly “tough talk” on making it even more difficult than it already is to come to Canada, and to stay in once you’re in.  Are there enough of these slack-jawed yokels to saddle us with yet another incompetent Conservative government in the next election?  I hope not.

To Mr. Kenney and his supporters:  Step outside.  Look around.  Do you think we might have a teensy bit of extra room in Canada for Camara and her baby?  If it’s too dark outside to see, try this picture instead:

And Jason, how about you stay late at the office and see who it is comes to empty out your wastebasket, clean your toilets and wipe all those greasy bacon double cheeseburger fingerprints off your desk.  I’m willing to bet the following.  1: it’s an immigrant,  2: it’s not a white immigrant, and 3: You don’t want to do it yourself and you’d rather your kids didn’t do it either.

Wise up.  You can’t have a growth-based economy in a country where women have access to birth control if that country is hostile to immigration.  We depend on immigrants to grow our population, and consequently our economy.  If you can’t grasp this basic fact, you are not qualified for the job.

Vancouver’s ludicrously engorged housing bubble…

April 26, 2010

… is subjected to some rather amusing parody here:

Take the Crack Shack or Mansion challenge!

“We aim to discover what 1 million dollars will buy you in Vancouver, Canada, and whether your Mansion be distinguishable from a crack shack.  Instructions: Select “Crack Shack” or “Million Dollar Mansion” for each option.”

My score: 8 out of 16.  I did better on the the beta version, but they’d left in clues like realty signs in the yard and all the certified crack shacks were either much nicer or much more decrepit than the average Vancouver house.

The “recovery” of Vancouver’s housing market has been reported in the evening news by giddy sounding homeowners who can’t conceal their excitement despite acknowledging that it is now nearly impossible for first time buyers to enter the market.  There’s only so long these folks can get by on selling their houses to each other though – eventually there will be so many empty “mansions” on the market that Vancouver’s housing crisis will resolve itself:  there won’t be enough police around to evacuate all the squatters.

Meanwhile, Gordon Campbell’s government is raising taxes and implementing massive cuts to social housing, education, social assistance and arts and culture to help pay his bill for hosting the Olympics.

My advice to him:  Stop.  Just stop. You are doing everything ass-backwards.  By placing public projects such as social housing at the forefront of the public agenda you can exert a gentle downward pressure on the property market, ameliorate Vancouver’s rampant homelessness (lowering the cost of crime as a direct consequence) and increase your tax base (by increasing our disposable income) in one go.  On top of that, you would be providing a solid foundation for maintaining civic stability when the bubble bursts, as it inevitably will.

By building public policy around your increasingly irrational faith in infinite economic growth you are measurably decreasing the quality of life of the 99% of us who are not multi-millionaires.

Canada stands alone against Indigenous Rights

April 22, 2010

That seems to be the way the wind is blowing.  Originally only New Zealand, Canada, the US and Australia voted against the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (while 11 countries abstained).

New Zealand and Australia have now signed the declaration (which is not legally binding), and the Obama administration has promised to undertake a review of their opposition.

So, here we are. All alone. The only country in the world that stands resolutely against rights for indigenous people.

Of particular interest  are the following articles:

Article 8

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

(Whoops, there goes the Indian Act).

Article 26

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 28

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.

2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.

With Vancouver’s ramshackle old bungalows currently hitting the market for a million bucks a pop while King George’s Royal Proclamation of 1763 renders the entire province of BC basically illegal, I suppose the government is worried about the cost of this particular article.  But why?  After all, the declaration is not legally binding.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, “the Canadian government said in a speech by the governor general last month that it would take steps to endorse the U.N. declaration “in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s constitution and laws.””

Would that be laws like the Indian Act, which sweeps indigenous people onto government-sanctioned rural ghettos and instructs them exactly how to run their own business? Or laws like the Canadian Constitution, which reaffirms the Royal Proclamation of 1763?  Hmmm… I think I see a problem.

Thanks to Radio New Zealand (via the Aboriginal News Group) for the tip-off.

George Galloway: Windbag or Terrorist?

April 21, 2010

My favourite English MP has fallen victim to the Harper government’s habit of suppressing public discourse that does not promote their agenda.  According to Alykhan Velshi, Director of Communications for Conservative MP Jason Kenney (Calgary SE), providing material support for Palestinians who are still struggling under the Israeli embargo imposed in 2007 after their election of Hamas, makes you  a “terrorist”.  “Terrorists” are of course inadmissible to Canada, even (perhaps especially) when they are sitting British MPs who are consistent, unrepentant, passionate and media-savvy peace activists.

Sounds reasonable enough – after all, Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular are terrorists.  Every god-fearing neo-con knows that.  Bringing material comfort to struggling Palestinians is therefore an act of terrorism.  This is Velshi’s logic, and since the PM’s office gave the thumbs up to this appalling decision in writing we can safely assume it is our Prime Minister’s logic as well.

Velshi is a disciple of the American free market propaganda mill the American Enterprise Institute and the pro-Israeli Foundation for Defense of Democracies and, as is clear from emails to immigration officials, harbours a rather hysterical personal loathing of Galloway, not for his material support of Hamas, but for his political views.

Velshi personally kicks off the banning process by claiming to have received a “media call” questioning why “we’re letting in [Galloway] even though he’s called for money to go to a banned terrorist entity in Canada (Hamas)”.  He follows up by claiming he can back up this assertion by sending a link to a news article.  (He doesn’t).

Credit for the original “media call” has been taken by the paranoid, militant lunatics of the Jewish Defense League – a group which is referred to in a Department of Homeland Security resource as a “terrorist organization” for numerous ideologically inspired acts of violence and assassination plots since its inception.  The JDL claims to have sent a letter to Kenney’s office requesting that Galloway be banned.

The email exchange between Kenney’s office and Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been graciously leaked and is available for viewing at rabble.ca.  Put very simply, events appear to have unfolded as follows:

1. A Jewish special interest group of questionable integrity learns that a prominent critic of Israel’s conduct in Palestine is booked to speak in Canada and requests that a Conservative MP intervene to ensure Galloway be refused admission.

2. The Communications Director for Jason Kenney writes to the public servants in charge of immigration requesting that Galloway be banned.

3. The public servants appease the MP’s office by digging up a provision that can be used to justify the ban for reasons other Galloway’s criticism of Israel – here the accusation of “terrorism” comes into play.

4. The immigration officials proceed with the ban while Kenney’s representative panics about the possibility Galloway might be allowed in by a careless border guard, and flails about trying to identify which crossing he will use.

5. The Canadian Immigration office in the UK is advised of the ban and writes a very alarmed and thorough email warning of the irregularity of the banning and the likelihood of widespread press coverage and damaged relations between Canada and the UK.

6. An officer of the Prime Minister’s Office is brought into the loop and affirms they do not have a problem with the ban or its consequences.

And let us not forget the icing on the cake, so characteristic of the Conservative Party:

7: Jason Kenney denies that any of the above ever occurred, despite the widespread publication of evidence to the contrary.

So, in sum, it appears that suppressing criticism of Israel within Canada is more important to Harper and his cronies than our diplomatic relations with the UK or our international credibility as a country that affirms the right to freedom of speech and association.

Galloway’s challenge of the decision will be heard in the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto on April 26th.  According to rabble.ca, “the hearing is open to the public and is due to begin at 9:30 AM.  There will be a rally preceding the hearing, starting at 8:30 a.m., and solidarity rallies at federal court buildings in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton and elsewhere.” Click here for more information.

I’ll leave you with some classic Galloway windbaggery:

And if you’re in Calgary SE and believe Canada’s immigration officials are not paid to do the bidding of marginalized, extremist, violent Jewish special interest groups, please stop voting for this guy:

New Caledonian crows are smart.

April 21, 2010

Really smart.  Smarter than quite a few people I can think of.  From the BBC:

…the University of Auckland team set seven wild crows, which had temporarily been captured and placed in an aviary, a complicated problem.

The birds were presented with some out-of reach food; a long tool, which could be used to extract the food, but which was also out of reach, tucked behind the bars of a box; and a short tool, which could be used to extract the long tool, but which was attached to the end of a dangling piece of string tied to the crow’s perch.

Professor Russell Gray, from the University of Auckland, explained: “The crows needed to understand they needed the short tool on the piece of string to get the long tool, and then use the long tool to get the food.”

Now watch Sam the Crow on his first go after spending less than two minutes examining his predicament:

Kind of creepy, really.  Clearly we are mistaken in thinking ourselves fantastically clever among the beasts of the earth.  If these things had our thumbs, our pathological narcissism, our maniacal nature-dominating compulsions, and our peculiar belief that infinite exponential population growth is both plausible and desirable, we’d surely have no choice but to become their devoted pets within a few crow generations.

Happy 4/20, Canada

April 21, 2010

Pot advocates puff en masse to protest against drug laws

Radio comment of the day:  “I walked past Robson Street and got a huge craving for Nachos.”