Thursday, October 31, 2013

A question for Toronto

I have a question for the 380,000 people in Toronto who thought two years ago that Rob Ford would be a good mayor.  What possessed you to think that he was ever going to be anything but a loud-mouthed schnook?
What's that you say?  You thought he would rise to the occasion?  Based on what evidence?
Now Toronto is saying mea culpa mea culpa mea culpa mea culpa, along with "I told you so"
But its too late -- Ford won't resign, he doesn't have the capacity to do the right thing.
He'll just stay on and on, ineffective, bumbling around, drunk, coked-up, a national and international embarrassment.
Toronto Star columnist Royson James writes:
Rob Ford is our creation — all of us.
That includes media who coddled him and refused to follow his discreditable conduct with any vigour; and media who scoffed at Star reporters who reported what they had seen. As the Star reporter Robyn Doolittle said, “Journalism was on trial.”
What she didn’t say, but no doubt believes, is journalism was on trial and too many journalists testified in favour of the bad guys and against the public interest.
Too many city councillors looked the other way when it was clear the mayor had some kind of substance abuse problem.
Too many council colleagues joined forces with the mayor when they knew the proper thing to do was to shun him and insist he get help before sitting in his camp. They did so because of the intoxicating effects of power. They wanted to be players.
Too many citizens, hoping to save a few tax dollars, were willing to forgive the mayor of any and all indiscretions. They didn’t want to hear about the train wreck of his personal life. They were willing to sell out the city for a few dollars of perceived city hall “gravy.”
Through it all, Mayor Ford exercised poor judgment, showed no familiarity with the truth, blustered and prevaricated and did everything to disguise his true nature.
And we let him get away with it, despite evidence to the contrary.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ain't we havin' some fun now

Two cheques: Duffy says Conservative lawyer covered his $13,500 legal expenses:
Duffy tabled a document with the Senate that shows Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative party lawyer, signed off on a payment of $13,560 to Duffy's legal representative last April 3.. . . "That's right. One cheque from Nigel Wright? No, ladies and gentlemen, there were two cheques — at least two cheques."
An audible gasp went up from the gathered senators.
But wait, there's more:
He had said he suspected that the money to cover the cheque had come from the Conservative party—”the base’s money … to make this all go away.” He had said that Mr. Wright had objected to some action of Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Senate at the time.
“But there is more,” he said.
He said his discussion with the Prime Minister and Mr. Wright on February 13 was not a casual encounter, but an arranged meeting. He repeated that Mr. Harper had told him the Senate’s rules were “inexplicable to our base.”
“Wait,” Mr. Duffy said. “There is even more.”
He recalled how he had said he took out a loan from the Royal Bank of Canada to cover the repayment of his expenses.
“That line about RBC was part of a script written for me and emailed to me by the PMO,” he declared.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Integrity is more than fear of looking bad

Finding myself agreeing with Andrew Coyne is an odd position to be in, and makes me doubt myself.
But anyway, I do find this part of his column interesting:
At the heart of it remains Wright’s mysterious decision to cut Duffy a cheque from his personal account: still unexplained, still inexplicable, and not only because of its apparent illegality.... Why risk so much for so seemingly little?... Somehow a number of people around the prime minister absorbed the idea that it was okay to break the law to make an embarrassing political problem go away. That’s deeply troubling, whatever he told them, or they him. 
And Tasha Kheiriddin also connects some of the dots:
And when the issue of integrity is at stake, they won’t hesitate to sacrifice one of their own. ... Maxime Bernier resigned from cabinet in disgrace in 2008 after leaving NATO documents at the home of his ex-girlfriend, who had been linked to organized-crime figures. ...Helena Guergis was turfed in 2010 on unspecified allegations regarding her conduct, fueled by news reports that her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer, had consorted with con men and “busty hookers.” Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was hauled before a commission of inquiry in 2008 over his relationship with fraudster Karl-Heinz Schreiber.
Why did the Conservative government pick on these cases, while others [Bev Oda, Tony Clement] resulted in no penalties? Because while those matters involved errors in judgment, the Bernier/Guergis/Mulroney matters touched on seedy elements that some, at the time, alleged might involve criminal activity.
The Conservative base does not approve of seedy. No matter the guilt or innocence of those accused, the mere association with persons of ill repute is enough to tarnish their reputation.
. . . A threat to the party’s reputation in this area had to be neutralized — in this case (the story goes) by allegedly ordering Mr. Duffy to pay back money that the Senator originally was told he didn’t owe.
If the Harper Cons are actually so focused on how things look that they will do anything to avoid an appearance of dishonesty, then they are doomed.
Honesty is not based on a fear that someone is looking. Integrity is not something that can be achieved by purchase or persuasion. The Harper Cons cannot build an honourable government on a foundation of sand.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Harper told Duffy to do the right thing

In spite of all the tut-tutting in the press about how Harper is now directly involved in the Duffy scandal, what we've seen so far isn't going to stick.
Today's story is about Duffy telling the Senate that Harper ordered him to pay back the money.
Well, basically, what's wrong with that?
Duffy SHOULD have paid back the money willingly.
I don't care why Duffy ever thought it was perfectly OK for him to claim expenses for living in his own home -- anybody with a working brain should have known that wasn't acceptable.
To hear him tell it, Duffy thought it was honourable to resist what Harper wanted him to do.
I said I didn’t believe I’d broken the rules and that to repay would be an admission of guilt. Canadians know me as an honest guy. To pay back money I didn’t owe would destroy my reputation.
Yes, Duffy actually said that.  In February. To continue:
The PMO piled on the pressure. Some honourable senators called me in P.E.I. One senator in particular left several particularly nasty and menacing messages: Do what the prime minister wants. Do it for the PM and for the good of the party. I continued to resist. Finally, the message from the PMO became: Do what we want or else.
And what was the “else”? He said the Conservative majority on the steering committee of the Board of Internal Economy, Sen. Tkachuk and Sen. Stewart Olsen, would issue a press release declaring me unqualified to sit in the Senate. However, if you do what we want, the prime minister will publicly confirm that you’re entitled to sit as a senator from P.E.I. and you won’t lose your seat. Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen are ready to make that press release now. I said: They don’t have the power to do that. He said: Agree to what we want right now or else.
I made one last effort. I said: I don’t believe I owe anything, and besides which, I don’t have $90,000. Don’t worry, Nigel said, I’ll write the cheque. Let the lawyers handle the details; you just follow the plan and we’ll keep Carolyn Stewart Olsen and David Tkachuk at bay.
So Duffy was muscled and maneuvered into paying back the money.
If Harper had told Duffy just to keep the money and let the PMO cover it up, then that would have been malfeasance on Harper's part.
Instead, Harper told Duffy to pay it back. I can't see that Canadians will think there is a scandal in Harper doing that.

UPDATE:  Some good comments that questioned my dismissive tone -- while I still believe if the story stops here there will not be long-term repercussions on Harper, I also agree that there seems to have been a massive cover-up in the Prime Minister's Office about this (no emails, continued attempts to hide things, etc) which leads to the conclusion there is more going on here than just Harper telling Duffy to pay back the money.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Is anybody actually in favour of fracking?

So the meme was building yesterday was about what a huge mistake it was for the #elsipogtog protesters to have seized media cars and equipment and thus turned the media against them.
But what will keep everyone on the same side here  is this -- Aboriginal or white, urban or rural, media or protester, absolutely NOBODY wants fracking except the companies and governments that think they can make money doing it.
As the sign says, no fracking way.

Demonstrators rally against shale gas exploration in Halifax on Friday, Oct.18, 2013. The effort was in support of protesters, some of whom included members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, who rallied against SWN Resources and its possible plans to proceed with shale gas development in eastern New Brunswick. The director of Global New Brunswick says protesters seized one of the outlet’s vehicles and cameras on Oct. 19, 2013. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

And the anti-media meme is gone now:

Friday, October 18, 2013

As it happened on Thursday morning

A Twitter pic of the #Elsipogtog protest:
Embedded image permalink

And here are photos by Media Coop reporter Miles Howe:
War Chief Seven Bernard wasunarmed, outmanned and off the path of SWN's injunction. Was any of this necessary? [Photo: Miles Howe]

Grappling with a young Warrior. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Elsipogtog youth runs in fear as RCMP descend into madness. [Photo: Miles Howe]

Far from the Mi'kmaq's last stand. District War Chief Jason Augustine faces down the barrels of 20 pistols. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Howe, who was arrested at the protest, writes an astounding account of what happened Thursday morning in New Brunswick:
...In the far field, creeping towards the Warrior encampment - which was comprised of one trailer and about ten tents - were at least 35 more police officers. Many of these wore tactical blue and had pistols drawn. At least three officers were wearing full camouflage and had sniper rifles pointed at the amassing group. The Warriors, for their part, numbered about 15.
Through a police loudspeaker towards the highway 11 off-ramp, an officer began reading the injunction against the blocking of SWN's seismic equipment. This was all before dawn.
Still in the pre-dawn dark, about seven molotov cocktails flew out of the woods opposite the police line stationed in the ditch. I cannot verify who threw these cocktails. They were – if it matters - lobbed ineffectively at the line of police and merely splashed small lines of fire across the road. A lawn chair caught fire from one cocktail. Two camouflaged officers then pumped three rounds of rubber bullet shotgun blasts into the woods.
...About ten minutes later, with tensions now becoming highly escalated between the encroaching line of police in the field adjacent to the encampment and the Warriors now on a public dirt road, two officers approached Seven Bernard, chief of the Warrior Society. They attempted to serve Bernard with SWN's contentious injunction. Dozens of guns from all angles were pointed at all of us.
...I could hear the RCMP surrounding us speaking about someone having a gun. I did not see any Warrior carrying a firearm. I can say with certainty, however, that no live round was ever fired by the Warrior side. If, as the RCMP are now claiming, a single shot was discharged, it was not from this altercation.
...Mi'kmaq Warrior Suzanne Patles, in a last-ditch attempt to defuse a situation now spiralling into a screaming match with police guns pointing in every direction, ran into the middle of the field screaming: “We were given this tobacco last night!”
Now crying, in her hand she held a plug of tobacco, provided to her by RCMP negotiators wrapped in red cloth as a traditional token of peace the night before.
Skirmishes then broke out in every direction. From the highway side, District War Chief Jason Augustine was being chased by numerous police. In front of me, everywhere really, Warriors were being taken down by numerous RCMP officers in various clothes. Rubber bullet shots were fired by the RCMP, and both Jim Pictou and Aaron Francis both claim that they were hit – in the back and leg respectively.
I continued to try photographing what had quickly become a chaotic scene until one officer in camouflage and assault rifle pointed at me, saying: “He's with them. Take him out!”
I was taken to the ground and arrested.
...I say in no uncertain terms that it is miraculous that no one was seriously injured yesterday, indeed killed. The RCMP arrived with pistols drawn, dogs snapping, assault rifles trained on various targets, and busloads of RCMP waiting from across the province and beyond.
As an Ottawa Citizen op-ed points out:
The Mi’kmaq people of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, including the Elsipogtog First Nation, have never signed a treaty relinquishing authority to the land on which the Route 134 blockade stands today, or that on which SWN Resources is conducting exploratory testing. . . .  SWN Resources’ exploration permits aren’t legitimate. Nor was the court injunction criminalizing the blockade, and the police action was ridiculously illegitimate, not to mention unjust, unreasonable in its heavy-handedness, and terribly bad public relations for the RCMP.
Aboriginal people in Canada will remember this week after Thanksgiving, 2013.
First they hear a Throne Speech that insults them -- read what Doug Cuthand at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix writes:
To say the speech from the throne was shallow and unfocused would be generous. From a First Nations' point of view, it was an insult.
Very little of substance was directed toward First Nations. There were several oblique stabs at aboriginal issues, but the speech opened with the same old self-congratulatory settler racism that, for many, represents Canada's foundation.
Then 200 RCMP stage this needlessly provocative attempt to disperse a group of anti-fracking protesters in middle-of-nowhereville, New Brunswick.
And today, as support for the Mi’kmaq rises across the nation, we're seeing the usual inflammatory and ridiculous stories about how the protestors were supposedly "armed to the teeth"  -- yeah, with three rifles and three hunting knives -- and the Harper PMO is rapidly deploying their cheerleaders in the media to promote the same message used against Theresa Spence's hunger strike last winter -- that they're all just a bunch of lazy undeserving welfare bums who waste millions of dollars of Canada's money.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

This is very bad and its going to get worse

Embedded image permalink

The Mi'kmaw protest against hydro-fracking in New Brunswick has been going on for months. So why was it this morning that RCMP moved in?
Rabble says:
It is more than coincidental timing -- it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General's Speech from the Throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya's visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi'kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper's aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi'kmaw.
The Rabble article also describes what happened this morning:
Media reports 200 RCMP officers were dispatched, some of them from the riot squad, armed with shields, assault rifles, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and snipers. Some of the RCMP, in full camo, hid in the woods, while the others formed a large barricade on the highway blocking any movement by protesters.
The Chief and Council were arrested, as well as numerous other protesters all while scrambling cell phone signals, cutting live video feeds and blocking media access to the site. Reports of RCMP pointing their assault rifles at elders and snipers aiming their scopes at children led to the burning of several RCMP cruisers.
Here's another photo from an earlier Krystalline Kraus article, also in Rabble:

Activist Communique: UPDATED: Emergency rallies in support of the Mi'kmaq and Elsipogtog First Nations

And more photos:

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Of the 11 photos in a Toronto Star photo gallery, seven of them were of the burning cars.  The media just LOVE burning cars, don't they.

No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up

So Emily Yoffe wrote an article warning young women that if they get falling-down drunk at a party they are risking being raped.
In one awful high-profile case after another—the U.S. Naval Academy; Steubenville, Ohio; now the allegations in Maryville, Mo.—we read about a young woman, sometimes only a girl, who goes to a party and ends up being raped. As soon as the school year begins, so do reports of female students sexually assaulted by their male classmates. A common denominator in these cases is alcohol, often copious amounts, enough to render the young woman incapacitated. But a misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young women that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves in potential peril...
Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue.
She is, of course, absolutely correct.
But apparently some people went bonkers at the implication that its a woman's own fault if she gets raped when she is drunk.
While others said, No, that's not what Yoffe meant at all.
There's an interesting divide in this conversation — it seems that the older people are, the more they “get” what Yoffe was trying to say.
I’m not sure myself whether Yoffe is right or wrong, but I’m older myself, and I totally get her point.
Maybe its just that us older types have reached a certain level of cynicism or maturity or whatever you want to call it.
Simply put, we stop believing that society will change to what we want it to be.   We lose our courage or our capacity for outrage or just our energy to keep fighting the good fight, and we stop trying to change our "rape culture" into a feminist culture.  We accept society as it is and just try to deal.
So from the younger perspective, the Jezebel readers, Yoffe is enabling rape culture and all its horrible and demeaning attitudes toward women. From the older perspective — dare I call it, the Nancy perspective? — not getting shitfaced drunk is just a common sense precaution.
We don’t tug on superman’s cape, we don’t spit into the wind, we don’t pull the mask off the old lone ranger and we don’t mess around with Jim.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why should the world trust the US government?

Three weeks of utterly pointless stupidity are over
But right after Christmas, it might all start up again.  Republicans haven't learned a thing, and the media are still trying to blame "both sides".
The recent imbroglio is estimated to have cost $4.7 billion to the economy.  As Ross Douthat says
It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.
How long will the dollar remain as the world's reserve currency, if this is the way they're going to act?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gallows humor

As the United States teeters on the cliff of debt limit default, for no reason other than that a bunch of stupid Republicans can't lead and don't follow and won't get out of anyone's way, the only thing to do is collect the witticisms of the blogosphere and laugh, gentlemen, laugh.

Open Letter

And here's something that isn't funny at all -- Reuter's Felix Salmon says the default threat is already harming the US economy
The US government, in one form or another, is a counterparty to every single financial player in the world. Its payments have to be certain, or else the whole house of cards risks collapsing — starting with the multi-trillion-dollar interest-rate derivatives market, and moving rapidly from there.
And here’s the problem: we’re already well past the point at which that certainty has been called into question. Fidelity, for instance, has no US debt coming due in October or early November, and neither does Reich & Tang . . . While debt default is undoubtedly the worst of all possible worlds, then, the bonkers level of Washington dysfunction on display right now is nearly as bad. Every day that goes past is a day where trust and faith in the US government is evaporating — and once it has evaporated, it will never return.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The heart of darkness

The Globe and Mail has five stories about the terrible, awful, no good, very bad few hours on Friday when Rogers phones weren't working:
“It came at such a horrible time for me. I needed to pick up my younger sister, and when I went to go get her I didn’t know when to go. So I called and texted and it didn’t work, so I left early and I had to waste an extra 20 minutes to get her home. She was freaking out because she couldn’t contact me, call or text. She was blaming her phone and she was scared, worried and upset. Then when I told her it was the system, she kind of calmed down.”
The horror! The horror!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Sports maps

Slate has published a map of sports in the United States:
Click on the map to see the interactive version.

And now a Deadspin commenter has published a Canadian version:
Canada map
It missed curling, but at least it shows our Riders!

Sunday, October 06, 2013


Idle No More is idle no more.
Tomorrow is a day of action around the world, using the hashtag #Oct7Proclaim.
October 7, 1763, marked the signing of the British Royal Proclamation, an historic document that legally mandated Canada to recognize Indigenous land rights. 250 years later, on October 7, 2013... Idle No More calls on all peoples to raise (y)our voices and take action in support of: -- Our Land -- Our Water -- Our Bodies -- Our Stories -- Our Future -- Indigenous Sovereignty! Oct 7 is also the day that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya, will begin an official visit to Canada to examine the human rights situation of the indigenous peoples of the country. Proclaim the importance of Indigenous Sovereignty! Stand up and be heard this October 7, 2013!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Bada boom bada bing

Day by day, as more and more gets reported, Toronto is realizing it may have elected Tony Soprano as mayor.
The latest is the arrest of Ford's friend Alexander Lisi on various trafficking and criminal offences. In spite of the attempt to portray him as only an "occasional driver" of the mayor, it sounds like it was a little closer relationship than that:
... she often saw the mayor park his black Escalade in front of Lisi’s home on Madill Street in Etobicoke and make a quick phone call. Lisi would then come out of the house and lean in to the driver’s side window for a few minutes.
“There’s a side door on the Lisi residence and Lisi comes out, walks across, leans in and back he goes,” Peck, 75, told the Star.
“I’m out a lot walking on the street so you see a lot. You know, how often do you see one of these trucks, these Escalades? I hate to tell you, you can’t miss Rob Ford. The truck and him go hand-in-hand.”....
The Toronto Star also reports Rob Ford's reaction:
At a press conference at a gas station near his home later in the day, the mayor expressed surprise that Lisi had been arrested and charged with marijuana trafficking.
“He’s a good guy,” Ford said. “I don’t throw my friends under the bus.”
This was followed by brother Doug Ford throwing Lisi under the bus.
“I have no comment. I’ve never met this person. I don’t know him, never talked to him in my life, so I can’t comment.”
The story also reports:
Lisi has a lengthy record of interaction with police, including convictions for threatening and assaulting women. He has acted as an occasional driver and security guard for the mayor, showing up the morning the crack video scandal broke and shadowing the mayor as reporters sought comment.
He also drove the mayor to and from the Garrison Ball, an event where Ford was asked to leave because he appeared impaired.
And who holds a press conference at a gas station?