G20 Aftermath Shakes Canadian Democracy: Public Inquiry NOW.

(Originally posted at Comments From Left Field)

At this past weekend’s G20 Summit, Toronto the Good was transformed into Toronto the Garrisoned.

Almost from the moment the summit began, 25,000 mostly-peaceful protesters faced a riot gear clad phalanx of security forces19,000 police officers in total, almost 20 times the number of Canadian troops currently serving in Kandahar. Yet it was a small  group of agitators determined to make a statement through senseless violence who (in concert with officials eager to delegitimize peaceful assembly and popular dissent) got to drive the media narrative.

Initially.

Then Sunday’s massive security overreach washed away talk of Saturday’s anarchic orgy in a digital wave of damning, as-it-happened social media coverage, culminating in a rainy, 5 hour “kettling” of over 300 people at Queen and Spadina after a peaceful march turned into a tense standoff. Many of the detained were bystanders who had either joined out of curiosity or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. “It’s not Canadian”, said CP24 host Stephen Ledrew, after innumerable images of cold, drenched Torontonians penned in by riot police had been broadcast, not knowing why they were being held, nor when they would be released.

Some were so desperate for resolution they actually begged to be arrested.

And that’s not to mention numerous clashes between trigger-happy, heavy-handed security officials and members of the news media, many of whom ended up being asked to leave protest areas, detained and, in some particularly disturbing instances, brazenly assaulted in a disgusting circumvention of our grand tradition of a vibrant free press.

By now we’ve all seen now-ubiquitous footage of obsidian-adorned “anarchists” hurling bricks and torching cop cars. Light the flame and the moths will swarm (and, apparently, loot). So why the hell did the brain trust in the PMO decide that the best way to showcase the GTA on a global scale was to hold a big, capitalist photo-op in the downtown core of a major, world-class metropolis, an event almost certain to attract scores of provocateurs?

It was an inexplicable decision that was, to quote Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank, “bewilderingly stupid”.

TVO’s Steve Paikin and Sun Media columnist Greg Weston have said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s secret late-night legislation that granted G20 security forces sweeping detention powers is as bad or worse than the infamous War Measures Act — and resulted in more arrests than the October Crisis (at least 900 at last report). Clearly, a public inquiry (or inquiries) is only way to resolve still-lingering questions about the G20: why Toronto was picked as host site, how the estimated $1B in costs was actually spent and, most ominously, just what exactly was contained in provincial legislation granting extra-judicial powers to smirking security officials (that so-called ‘five metre rule’? Bunk.) Reports from detainees of misogynistic, homophobic and racist treatment by law enforcement officials should also be thoroughly addressed and charges laid if allegations of police misconduct can be corroborated.

If our elected leaders can waste almost one and a half billion bucks of taxpayer coin on an international photo-op and a fake lake they can pony up some quid to determine why their precious G20 summit resulted in a monumental clusterfuck.

(Photo:  Jonas Naimark, Flickr)

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Prorogation, Disengagement and Cutting the Democratic Deficit in Canada

by matttbastard

With thousands of Canadians reportedly hitting the streets this past weekend to express their disapproval of Stephen Harper’s latest arrogant bird-flip to Parliamentary democracy, it seems apparrent that our political elites are out of touch with the people whose interests they profess to represent. A new report, to be released today, offers empirical evidence in support of the painfully obvious:

“…Canadians are jaundiced about the state of democracy here.”

Tonda MacCharles:

The report, to be released Wednesday by the Institute of Wellbeing, says Canada is experiencing “a huge democratic deficit, with trust in Canadian government and public institutions on a steep decline.”

“The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide, and growing,” said the institute’s Lynne Slotek.

“At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque.”

Yet despite this cavernous divide separating institutional political activity and ordinary citizens, Canadians haven’t given up on democratic engagement — they just have to participate via alternative avenues:

Slotek said in an interview the public’s obvious dissatisfaction with that decision “is an affirmation of what our report says – that people are interested in politics, they want to find ways to participate, and if they can’t, they’ll look at other activities such as signing petitions, Facebook or the Internet.”

The report says while voter turnout has declined from a high of 69.6 per cent in the 1993 federal election to the historic low of about 59 per cent in 2008, it does not mean Canadians are uninterested in politics. Hard data on “voter interest” in the 2008 election isn’t yet available, but the group looked at other indicators over 10 years, she said.

It says the volunteer rate for “formal political activities, such as participating in law, advocacy and political groups” has been low – around 2 per cent – over the years, but the volunteer rate for “informal ones, such as, protesting, signing petitions and boycotting, has been relatively high.” The report cites a 2002 study that found 54.6 per cent of Canadians said they participated in one political activity, either “traditional or non-traditional.”

Part of the intent behind Harper’s cynical prorogation scheme was to take advantage of a disorganized, feckless opposition and lay the groundwork for a post-Olympic spring election victory, perhaps even a majority government (or, at the very least, a Conservative Senate). But with poll numbers tanking and protests mounting, it would appear that Harper and his too-clever-by-half cronies in the PMO neglected to consider a very important constituency: the people of Canada, who, regardless of partisan affiliation, are finally fed up with having once again been taken for granted by an out-of-touch government that has reasserted its entitled sense of invincibility and naked contempt for accountability one too many times.

As one protester put it this past Saturday, Stephen Harper is “abusing the power that the people of Canada have bestowed upon him.”

It’s beyond time for the people to take that power back.

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Keeping Things in Perspective

by matttbastard

Remember: Torture (and Afghanistan in toto) isn’t about ‘us’, it’s about ‘them’:

“What disturbs me most – this story is all about Canada and Canada’s moral authority on the international stage and about which minister will have to resign. And sooner or later Canada will leave and it’s over.

I would just remind people that for Afghans it is not over. And for the Afghans who have worked closely with the Canadians up to this point, what do you think is going to happen to them when you’re gone?

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On Analogy and Imperial Ambition

by matttbastard

What was that about Afghanistan not being even remotely analogous to Vietnam?

Andrew Bacevich:

Implementing the McChrystal plan will perpetuate the longstanding fundamentals of US national security policy: maintaining a global military presence, configuring US forces for global power projection, and employing those forces to intervene on a global basis. The McChrystal plan modestly updates these fundamentals to account for the lessons of 9/11 and Iraq, cultural awareness and sensitivity nudging aside advanced technology as the signature of American military power, for example. Yet at its core, the McChrystal plan aims to avert change. Its purpose – despite 9/11 and despite the failures of Iraq – is to preserve the status quo.

[…]

If the president assents to McChrystal’s request, he will void his promise of change at least so far as national security policy is concerned. The Afghanistan war will continue until the end of his first term and probably beyond. It will consume hundreds of billions of dollars. It will result in hundreds or perhaps thousands more American combat deaths – costs that the hawks are loath to acknowledge.

Bah — costs, shmosts. Remember, kids: Failure is not an option; No end but victory; Clap harder, etc. Positive reinforcement is like the platinum card of force projection — and one can always refinance the mounting debt if the interest proves too great.

Glennzilla (h/t):

Obama deserves some credit for at least refusing to capitulate immediately to the military’s demands without taking time to consider alternative options.  Russ Feingold just wrote another Op-Ed arguing for a withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan, but that option is not even part of the Washington debate.  The only issue is whether to escalate and, if so, by how much.  The Washington Post today reported that as part of Obama’s March order for 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, “the White House has also authorized — and the Pentagon is deploying — at least 13,000 troops beyond that number.”  With Democrats like Feinstein controlling the U.S. Senate, is it any wonder that our status as a perpetual war nation appears to continue indefinitely?

Ah well, if we can’t actually be granted meaningful Change in the direction of US foreign policy, at least we can vicariously cling to the imperial hopes and dreams of those who profit from the expansionist state.

Yes, we can.

Oh, and for us Canucks, the prospect of US forces committing to a protracted, NATO-lead COIN campaign in Afghanistan combined with soaring Tory poll numbers would appear to put Harper’s long-promised 2011 exit date for Canadian combat troops in serious question.

Ok, I guess there are some differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam — at least Canada knew enough to stay out of that tar pit.

Related: First Van Jones, now Joe Biden?! Seriously, Arianna Huffington (or her ghost-writer, natch) desperately needs to get over the notion that being out of power somehow magically imparts one greater influence (and PONIES!)

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Don’t call it a comeback (well, OK, if you must…)

by matttbastard

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna put forth a sorry Nikki Finke-style excuse for my lack of productivity this summer. All responsibility for low creative yield is entirely mine and mine alone (FYI, the dog ate my motivation). Ok, so Twitter shares at least part of the blame — though if you follow me there (and if you don’t, well, why the hell not??) you’ll see that I’ve merely shifted platforms when it comes to deliverin’ teh linky goodness, snarky invective and one-line squibs.

Still, for the past 3 (!) years, this site has been my primary base of operations. And though I’ve begun to focus more on feature writing (for cash — hell, at this point, will write for potato chips and soda pop, though booze is preferred) the blog format — this parasitic, freewheeling burst medium that still gets little-to-no respect from more formalistic practioners of the journalistic arts — is my first love.

And, damn it all, I miss it.

Therefore, in the coming weeks, yours truly will be returning to regular daily (yes, daily) blogging, both here at bastard.logic and my other haunt, Comments From Left Field. Am sure some of you are pleased by this bit of news, others gravely disappointed — while the vast majority are, in all likelihood, entirely indifferent. It is this last group with whom I intend to make the biggest impact; would rather that you love — or loathe — me than not give a toss.

Anyway, forgive the brief foray into self-indulgence; on with the show.

PS: Buy a t-shirt — help support Canada’s left-wing fringe (ie, women — buh?!)

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Wafergate II? Not So Much (Or, Manufacturing Outrage Will Not Stimulate The Economy)

by matttbastard

Regular readers know that I rarely pay much attention to the more wing-nutty residents of the blogosphere, much less the Canuckosphere. I leave that to stout-hearted compatriots with stronger constitutions for regular bullshit consumption than yours truly.  Still, occasionally something from the outer fringe will catch my attention that immediately triggers my ‘dude, WTF?!’ nerve.

In this instance, the flying monkeys are circling over Teresa Wright.

I know, at this point most of you are asking: Who’s Teresa Wright? Well, dear readers, Wright is a reporter with the  Charlottetown Guardian who wrote about a recent speech given by Conservative Senator (and, formerly, CTV’s longtime top Tory sycophant) Mike Duffy.

Ok, with me so far?

Good.

Anyway, the headline to Wright’s piece:

Duffy’s speech hints at looming federal election.’

Pretty innocuous, right?

Well, for whatever reason, Duffy decided to break out Grandma’s pearls, clutch away,  and, in an interview with talk radio blowhard/columnist Michael Harris, stir up a teapot tempest over what Duffy contends is a gross mischaracterization of the speech:

I gave a speech  yesterday to the Rotary Club of Charlottetown, in  which I never used the word  election, and frankly, never mentioned the Prime  Minister, I gave a very dry,  because as you know, Rotary is a  non-political body, I gave a very dry report  card on the more than 200 million additional dollars this government has poured  into Prince Edward Island.

[…]

I was never asked  about an election. I never used the word election. I never mentioned the Prime  Minister by name in my speech or by his office. And yet the headline comes out  this morning, Duffy refuses to dampen speculation of an election and sings the  praises of the Prime Minister in a speech laden with rhetoric.

[…]

I didn’t mention  the Prime Minister. I didn’t ever use the word
election or make any reference to  it because I didn’t want to hurt the neutral ears of the Rotarians, who do so  much great work. And I thought, don’t drag that dirty political thing in  here.

Those poor, delicate, Rotarians–why, the mere mention of anything as jejune as *gasp* politics might cause their pacemakers to short out! Kee-rist. The faux-grievance and feigned innocence is so thick that ol’ Iron Ass himself,  Dick Nixon, must be enjoying an appreciative, jowly cackle from the bowels of Hell.

But wait — it gets even better:

[T]he newspaper reporter never  asked me about an election or about anything else related to the Prime Minister.  She had no, repeat, no questions, so, at least not of the national scene. She  asked something about a local community college. But that was it. And then I  wake up this morning and here they’ve got me singing the praises, great  rhetoric. Well, let me tell you, as much as I like to think that every speech is  a good one, they’ve obviously never heard me when I’ve gotten going as we have.  And so, they put it, all this great rhetoric. I was reading a grocery list of,  of projects for the island. So anyway, this whole thing is manufactured. And I  was thinking so much about you today as I read the paper and the brilliant  column you wrote in last week’s Sun about wafergate in New Brunswick, where the  editors made it up. It had nothing to do with what the reporter said. And so,  I’m saying to myself, my God, this is like the virus or something. It’s creeping  across provincial borders. Now all of a sudden the Charlottetown paper can’t  just report the news. They’ve got to make it up.

[…]

I saw [Wright] yesterday. And, well, in fact I was at an event this  morning. And by the time it was finished and I went over, she had jumped in her  car and fled. So, I didn’t get a chance. But you know, never get in a fight with  people who buy ink by the, by the barrel. I mean, it’s another example. Here it  is in the quiet summertime and everybody’s bound and determined to try and  create something.

So, Duffy disingenuously blows the ‘Wafergate‘ dogwhistle as a means to deflect legitimate speculation generated by what anyone with any sense (even the hothouse flowers of the Charlottetown Rotary Club) could reasonably interpret as a fairly partisan speech that, indeed, does nothing to stem election speculation (who exactly is “we”, Duff?)

Yeah, there’s definitely something that’s been manufactured here, and it ain’t a headline.

That’s right, kiddies: cue the slack-beaked vultures of the far-right, hungry as always to gorge on ‘liberal’ media carrion, as they swoop down with typically measured reserve and sharp insight (snerk):

  • This is not new…too many examples to mention. However they are now being exposed. The game has gone on too long. The snakes can no longer hide in the grass. The serious journalists are starting to do some real journalism. I so appreciate Duffy being free to talk about the ‘old club’….especially the part about Toronto..”the thought control center”.
  • Maritimers have the energy of an old sloth and will believe all the crap that is fed them by these lying urinalists,because they are to [sic] lazy from years of Alberta’s transfers and welfare to seek out the truth. They hate the Conservatives because like the old proverb goes, “you always bite the hand that feeds you”, and the Conservatives to these folks, represent Alberta, where most of the good hard working ones from these parts, have long moved to. For years the slimey liberals stole from the west and handed it out to these ungrateful people, here is the result.
  • The MSM with its socialist statist legions are now running into reality. This is the response to the dike blowing. Trying to paper over the cracks in the artificail [sic] Universe the entitled elitists created in defiance of the Human condition. Including all known laws of physics. The dogma crafted so painstakingly turns out to be a steaming pile of lies.  The world they imagined is collapsing from bowing to fairy tales, while natural Law comes back like a lion with issues. To rend the tale barrers[sic].  In the world of the MSM all must be the same in ideas as well politics. Every Women I meet always told me if you wash all the cloths together you get a grey. The brilliance goes away. So with us they want a collective of hive minds not individuals to speak down to. People with reality based ideas scare the MSM.

Yes, am sure the socialist-statists at CanWest, TorStar and CTVGlobemedia are positively quaking in their wingtips at the sudden imposition of such cold, hard reality (as always, irony is a leftist plot).

Kady O’Malley bends the laws of physics as only a lion(ess) with issues can:

There’s nothing remotely wrong with a senator delivering a partisan speech, notwithstanding the response it incites in certain PEI Liberals. That said, there is also nothing wrong with the Guardian having described it as such, no matter how vociferously the senator in question might dispute that interpretation. What is, frankly, ridiculous is to suggest that this is in any way similar to what may or may not have gone on behind the scenes at the Telegraph Journal, which, as far as ITQ can see, is a rather shameless attempt to feed the “biased media” meme that launched a thousand Finley-penned fundraising letters — not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that, either.

Apples, oranges — hey, it’s all fruit right?

Low. Hanging. Fruit.

Look, it seems obvious to anyone with half a brain (ie, those who don’t hang out in comments at SDA) that the leading luminaries of the partisan Canuckistanian right graduated with honours from the Humpty Dumpty School of Fallacious Argumentation (in this instance, showing off their degrees in false dichotomy). Yes, it may come as a surprise to the residents of KKKate’s bizzaro world, but some of us deluded consumers of MSM ‘bias’ (BIAS!!!1) actually demand something slightly more convincing than boisterous online agit-prop or half-baked assertions based on disingenuous denials from someone who, as a former journalist, knows what bullshit smells like. That Duffy now gleefully shovels it (and the base rewards him and his Conservative cronies with fauxtrage and hefty cheques) proves that Prime Minister Stephen Harper knew what he was doing when he called The Duff up to the big leagues.

The fact remains that the primary goal of these erstwhile right-wing media critics isn’t to improve the reporting of professional journalists. Rather, it’s to silence and, ultimately, destroy them — by any means necessary. In other words, the end game isn’t to garner a retraction or correct the record; they simply want another MSM head on a pike to (temporarily) satiate their collective blood lust (while the Conservative Party of Canada reaps the subsequent financial windfall).

But hey, if Duff wants to play footsie with a crowd that thinks his constituents “have the energy of an old sloth” and are “lazy from years of Alberta’s transfers and welfare” more power to him. It’s not like he has any actual accountability to the “ungrateful” people of Prince Edward Island, what being an unelected Senator and all (hey, remember when the Harpercons wanted to reform the ‘undemocratic’ Senate? Good times.)

See, that’s the difference between the so-called ‘liberal media’ and the knuckle-dragging, junior-league propagandists of the wingnutosphere: accountability. Sure, sometimes it takes some poking, but if Teresa Wright and her editors believe an error was made, they will duly issue a correction. Imagine that.

Oh, wait, I forgot: ethics are a Liberal plot, too — likely imported from overseas by that brie-scarfing Ignatieff interloper (just visiting!)

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Read This Now: Liberal Follies

by matttbastard

Thomas Walkom asks a question that’s been on the lips of many Canadians as Iggy and Steve thumb-wrestle over the reins of Parliament: “Who are these ludicrous Liberals? And what exactly is it that they want?”

They say they’d handle the recession differently. But they rarely say how. And when points of difference do emerge – such as the handling of employment insurance – they invariably backtrack.

For the Liberals, the time is never right. They come up with endless excuses for never forcing an election on the minority Harper government: They don’t have enough money; they don’t have enough candidates; their leader is too new; the polls are inauspicious; the weather is too warm; the weather is too cold

In the spring, they say wait until fall. In the fall, they say wait until spring.

When Stéphane Dion was their leader, they blamed him for everything. But at least Dion, with his plan to replace income with carbon taxes, gave some hint as to what he might do if elected.

By contrast, current Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is terminally vague. On the big economic questions, he attacks the government without saying what he’d do differently.

Ignatieff presents this as an asset, arguing that the point of being in opposition is to oppose. But in the context of the worst recession since the 1930s, his failure to articulate a clear alternative simply leaves the rest of us confused.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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Unions Fight Back Against Anti-Worker Legislation (While Parliament Dithers)

by matttbastard

Another federal union has challenged provisions in the wicked-awesome Harpercon budget that “[take] away collective bargaining in the public service and pay equity as a human right for federal workers”–a budget that, it should be noted, passed with (probationary!) support from Iggy and the Tory-lites (who haven’t exactly been hawk-like in their fiscal vigilance since).

As pogge (h/t) observes:

We seem to be moving closer to the American system despite ourselves. Bad legislation sails through without sufficient opposition and the real fight happens in the courts.

Yep. Democracy in Canada is dying from the inside out.  There is no meaningful opposition in Parliament, much less leadership from the government–there’s Blue and Blue Light.

'Imported.' That just about says it all, huh?

Drink up and drown, kiddies.

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61K Canadian Jobs Shed In March

by matttbastard

wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Another month, another round of massive job losses in Canada:

Canada is shedding jobs at a rate not seen since the deep recession of the early 1980s, as March saw another 61,300 workers join the ballooning ranks of the unemployed.

The loss brought Canada’s official unemployment rate to eight per cent, the worst in seven years.

Statistics Canada noted that since the peak in October, employment has fallen each month for a total of 357,000, representing 2.1 per cent of the work force. That is the most since 1982.

[…]

Economists had been expecting another poor jobs report with about 55,000 jobs lost.

But the reality was slightly worse, and much worse if the 18,200 jobs increase in part-time work were taken out.

Rising part-time work at a time of falling employment is usually an indicator that Canadians are settling for whatever jobs they can find. Among full-time workers, the contraction in employment was another outsized 79,500 in March.

So.  As Uncle Steve and the Harpercons sadly continue to lose their shit, the Canadian job market keeps hemorrhaging. And, waiting in the wings, we have Iggy and the Torie-lites, ready to save us all by doing, er, pretty much the same bullshit Harper and Co. have been doing, only with less asshattery, sweatervests and painfully-forced smiles.

We are so fucked.

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Stephen Harper on Canada’s Economy: Catch the Wave!

by matttbastard

Uncle Steve is looking onward and upward:

Faced with complaints he wasn’t doing enough to soothe a nervous nation, Harper offered a detailed, if unemotional, dissertation on the economy.

“For Canada, this crisis does offer opportunity,” Harper told more than 400 people at a joint gathering of the Brampton and Mississauga boards of trade.

“Ultimately, it is an opportunity to position ourselves so that when the economic recovery comes, we’re among the first to catch the wave.”

The Prime Minister said that the government, though projecting a budget deficit for the next few years, is in the best financial shape of all G7 governments.

Harper noted that while Canada’s economy shrank at a 3.4 per cent annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2008, it was half the decline experienced by the United States and Europe, and only a quarter of the devastating drop in Japan.

He said Canada’s stable banking system, low debt, low inflation rate and skilled workforce puts the country in a position of “significant comparative strength” to ride out the downturn.

“I say to you, as business people, as community builders, as citizens, if there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty, it is now,” Harper said to applause.

Alas, the facts (yeah, those pesky things) belie Harper’s feigned deadpan optimism:

The parliamentary budget officer says the Canadian economy is doing even worse than published figures would suggest.

Kevin Page says in a new assessment of the economy that last quarter’s 3.4 per cent contraction in gross domestic product doesn’t begin to reflect how far Canada’s performance has fallen.

He says an even better indicator is gross domestic income, which measures Canadians’ purchasing power, and that shows a plunge of 15.3 per cent in the fourth quarter over the previous three months.

Oh, and about that 3.4 per cent figure so heartily humped by the PM?

The report says even the often-cited GDP figures which finds the U.S. economy shrinking by 6.2 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to Canada’s 3.4 per cent are misleading.

Those are annualized figures, Page notes, adding that compared to a year ago, Canada’s GDP is down 0.7 per cent and the U.S. by 0.8 per cent, almost identical records.

Yeah.

Almost identical.

Don’t opportunistically and immodestly grab your surfboards just yet, kids — the wave of economic recovery is likely to crash long before it crests.

Related: Michael Ignatieff: The Harvey Dent of Canadian politics.

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