Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

The black clad activists have a lot to answer for – they provide the cover for the provocateurs and they are totally responsible for the media frenzy about the damage to a few shops. Perhaps next time the real social activists should swarm these people and stop them if the police refuse. They are the enemies of social change – we should treat all of them as agents provocateurs and plan to deal with them accordingly. In the process we might catch a few more cops in the act. - Murray Dobbin

A lot of reactionary letter writers to our nations newspapers are making similar suggestions - from the perspective that all the peaceful protesters deserved everything they got from the police for not stopping the Black Bloc vandals among them.

In fact there are lots of photos from the weekend of peaceful demonstrators, remonstrating, attempting to restrain and in the process being threatened by these black clad so-called 'anarchists' but that's hardly the point.

It's interesting how the the Black Bloc folks are so scary and violent and dangerous that they require a massive police over-reaction, tactical armor, sci fi sonic weaponry and the suspension of basic human rights for the police to deal with them, but pacifist demonstrators are irresponsible and culpable for not tackling these ogres themselves.

Of course, attack a Black Bloc anarchist and you might be charged with assaulting a police officer...

Chief Blair MUST be fired

Does it even need to be said? Can there really be any doubt that a proven serial liar with a smirking contempt for the civil rights of those he is tasked to serve and protect cannot continue in any position of authority?

Toronto Police staged a display of weaponry to demonstrate “the extent of the criminal conspiracy” among hard-line G20 protesters, but several of the items had nothing to do with the summit.

Facing criticism for their tactics, police invited journalists on Tuesday to view a range of weapons, from a machete and baseball bat to bear spray and crowbars.

Chief Bill Blair, who told reporters the items were evidence of the protesters’ intent, singled out arrows covered in sports socks, which he said were designed to be dipped in a flammable liquid and set ablaze.

However, the arrows belong to Brian Barrett, a 25-year-old landscaper who was heading to a role-playing fantasy game when he was stopped at Union Station on Saturday morning. Police took his jousting gear but let Mr. Barrett go, saying it was a case of bad timing.

In addition to the arrows – which Mr. Barrett made safe for live-action role playing by cutting off the pointy ends and attaching a bit of pool noodle covered in socks – police displayed his metal body armour, foam shields and several clubs made of plastic tubing covered with foam and fabric.

Police also displayed a crossbow and chainsaw seized in an incident on Friday that they said had no ties to the summit. When asked, Chief Blair acknowledged they were unrelated, but said “everything else” had been confiscated from demonstrators.
In other words, he told a blatant, deliberate lie and only admited it when he was called on it. Of course it wasn't the first time.

The rule seemed straight forward when the news broke last Friday that the Ontario government made a regulatory change to a little-known act in secret.

Come within five metres of the summit security fence and you'd better have some identification. If you didn't you risked arrest.

The temporary regulation, which was passed in secret June 2, did decree that all streets and sidewalks inside the fence were a public work until 11:59 p.m. Monday. Under the Ontario Public Works Protection Act, that allowed police to search people trying to enter that area.

But there was no power to search people coming with five metres of the fence, said ministry spokeswoman Laura Blondeau.

"The area designated by the regulation as a public work does not extend outside the boundary of the fence," Blondeau said.

Asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry's clarification, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, "No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out."
Well that certainly excuses deliberately lying about a massive change to the cherished civil liberties of all Canadians, doesn't it?

Perhaps most enraging, Blair thinks all of this is quite funny, appearing at a Pride Toronto reception, he made jokes:

Blair said to the room, "So how was your weekend?"
Filmmaker Malcolm Ingram replied, "I was detained."
"Well my weekend was better than yours I guess, my friend," said Blair to nervous laughter.
He delivered a canned speech extolling the great relationship the Toronto Police has with Toronto's gay and lesbian communities.
Here's the context of Blair's little 'joke', the appalling conditions of the wire cages innocent protestors were left in and the despicable abuse aimed specifically at gay detainees:
Unsanitary and unsafe living conditions
Many of the floors of the cages were covered with dirt and the residue from green paintballs used to identify suspects in crowds. Vomit was also on the floor and no cleaning of the cages took place.
Police intimidation of released detainees
With many of the detainees released and standing across the street from the detention centre, getting food and water from community volunteers while waiting for friends, police stood menacingly across the road. Almost all the detainees were frightened by the police presence and feared an attack. The police used the headlights of rental Dodge Caravans to light up the crowd, citing a need to "keep them visible."
Non-stop light exposure/loss of natural light rhythm/sensory deprivation
Detainees emerged with a broken day/night cycle, being deprived of all connection to the outside world or any other time-based events (ie. set eating times). While in their cages, detainees were subject to constant light.
Exposure to extreme cold
Detainees complained of the air conditioning in the building being very high. Many of them said that they were frozen and asked for blankets, a request which was always refused. Due to having only a single layer of shirt and sleeping on concrete floors, the cages were extremely cold.
Sexual harassment of women and Queer people
We heard many first-hand accounts of cat-calls and crude sexual comments directed at women from police officers at the centre. Some women faced inappropriate sexual contact (including one girl who was forced to endure a police officer covering her body with detainee number stickers in order to touch her), and rough handling from police officers. Openly Queer boys were told to "straighten up," and there was at least one completely nude strip search preformed on a young woman with no reasonable explanation. It is unclear whether the strip searches that took place were consistently conducted by members of the same gender. It is also unclear as to whether any Transpeople, if detained, were put in cells of a gender of their own determination or in cells of a police gender assignment.
Respected journalists have made shocking allegations that amount to criminal sexual assault by police officers. This cannot, must not be swept under the rug. As has been pointed out, the Liberal provincial government of Dalton Mcguinty is by no means blameless in these shameful abuses, but Chief Blair is personally responsible for the actions of his officers and the culture of his force that made them believe they could behave in this fashion.

He has to go.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ahem

Hat tip to @emilydawnlove

And another little blast from the past:
”It’s not the responsibility of the Official Opposition to support the entire program of the government. Two-thirds of Canadians did not vote for this government. The Liberal party can’t expect to walk in and simply propose its own program that only one-third of Canadians supported and expect that everybody’s going to vote for it.”
Stephen Harper - Oct. 5, 2004.

Quote of the Day

If you're about to embark on an G20 austerity program that will attack social/health programs for the poor the hardest, you're going to need to get those people acclimatized to not having any rights first. - Alison, paraphrasing Paul Wells

Monday, June 28, 2010

Black Bloc with a Badge?



A brutal armed thug in black and a lot of angry thuggish officers very upset that so many people were pointing cameras at them.

It's not paranoia if Canadian cops have been unambiguously caught disguised and promoting violence at demonstrations in the past.

UPDATE: A different angle:

To Serve and Protect

They break the banks, we pay the tab

Naomi Klein bottom lines it:
My city feels like a crime scene and the criminals are all melting into the night, fleeing the scene. No, I’m not talking about the kids in black who smashed windows and burned cop cars on Saturday.
I’m talking about the heads of state who, on Sunday night, smashed social safety nets and burned good jobs in the middle of a recession. Faced with the effects of a crisis created by the world’s wealthiest and most privileged strata, they decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable people in their countries with the bill.
How else can we interpret the G20’s final communiqué, which includes not even a measly tax on banks or financial transactions, yet instructs governments to slash their deficits in half by 2013. This is a huge and shocking cut, and we should be very clear who will pay the price: students who will see their public educations further deteriorate as their fees go up; pensioners who will lose hard-earned benefits; public-sector workers whose jobs will be eliminated. And the list goes on. These types of cuts have already begun in many G20 countries including Canada, and they are about to get a lot worse.
They are happening for a simple reason. When the G20 met in London in 2009, at the height of the financial crisis, the leaders failed to band together to regulate the financial sector so that this type of crisis would never happen again. All we got was empty rhetoric, and an agreement to put trillions of dollars in public monies on the table to shore up the banks around the world. Meanwhile the U.S. government did little to keep people in their homes and jobs, so in addition to hemorrhaging public money to save the banks, the tax base collapsed, creating an entirely predictable debt and deficit crisis.
At this weekend’s summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper convinced his fellow leaders that it simply wouldn’t be fair to punish those banks that behaved well and did not create the crisis (despite the fact that Canada’s highly protected banks are consistently profitable and could easily absorb a tax). Yet somehow these leaders had no such concerns about fairness when they decided to punish blameless individuals for a crisis created by derivative traders and absentee regulators.
The elites have used a giant crisis created by their own hubris and incompetence to stage one of the largest heists of public funds ever even attempted. Socialism is a wonderful thing... when its the risks taken by financial elites that are getting socialized.

UPDATE: Off the hook.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Recipe for a Double Dip Recession

Both Krugman and Stiglitz rage at moronic austerity programs using examples that don't apply to justify contracting spending before the economy has fully recovered.

Fiscal stimulus is out of fashion now. World leaders embarked on that strategy – injecting money to re-energise the economy – after the banking crash three years ago. It was widely perceived not to have worked because the money governments pumped into the banks was not passed on to ailing businesses or individuals in trouble with their mortgages.

"The problem was that, in the US, the stimulus wasn't big enough," he says. "Too much of it was in tax cuts. And when they gave money to the banks they gave it to the wrong banks and, as a result, credit has not been restored – we can expect a couple of million or more homes to be repossessed this year than last year – and the economy has not been restarted." Instead of producing a consensus that the government should have done more, it has created disillusion that the government can do anything, Stiglitz says.

The result is that, following the attacks by the financial markets on Greece and then Spain, everybody is now in a mood of retrenchment. "It's not just pre-Keynesian, it's Hooverite," he says. By which he means governments are not just refusing to stimulate, they are making cuts, as Herbert Hoover did in the US in 1929 – when he turned the Wall Street Crash into the Great Depression. "Hoover had this idea that, whenever you go into recession, deficits grow, so he decided to go for cuts – which is what the foolish financial markets that got us into this trouble in the first place now want."

It has become the new received wisdom throughout Europe. But it is the classic error made by those who confuse a household's economics with those of a national economy.

"If you have a household that can't pay its debts, you tell it to cut back on spending to free up the cash to pay the debts. But in a national economy, if you cut back on your spending, then economic activity goes down, nobody invests, the amount of tax you take goes down, the amount you pay out in unemployment benefits goes up – and you don't have enough money to pay your debts.

"The old story is still true: you cut expenditures and the economy goes down. We have lots of experiments which show this, thanks to Herbert Hoover and the IMF," he adds. The IMF imposed that mistaken policy in Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina and hosts of other developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s. "So we know what will happen: economies will get weaker, investment will get stymied and it's a downward vicious spiral. How far down we don't know – it could be a Japanese malaise. Japan did an experiment just like this in 1997; just as it was recovering, it raised VAT and went into another recession."

Krugman blames the flight from the uncomfortable and counter-intuitive conclusions of macro-economics. The mean-spirited and small minded are still convinced there is some kind of demonstration of good values in attacking the poor and giving the rich tax cuts.

Like social conservatives who oppose sex education and birth control despite how effective they are at reducing STDs and unplanned pregnancies because they're afraid condoning them means condoning immoral sexual behavior, economic conservatives oppose social spending no matter how effective its been repeatedly shown at shortening recessionary economies because they believe condoning it would mean condoning immoral economic behavior.

We are risking plunging the whole economy back into recession, even depression rather than having our political leaders risk being seen to be soft on welfare mothers.

UPDATE: Krugman: We may be entering a long depression.

O, Canada


Sing it proud. Sing it right in their faces.

Penned in like Animals

A peaceful crowd given no order to disperse and then suddenly the corner of Queen and Spadina looks like a South American stadium after the military has taken over and started rounding up the troublemakers.

Hundreds arrested and the whole world is watching. Black Bloc just another way to say agent provocateurs? Establishment journalists who's inclination would be to side with the police, roughed up and thrown into Gitmo style wire cages. Do you get it now guys?

UPDATE: Following the playbook:
“They threw rocks.” That’s the line police use after tear-gassing or beating protesters most times, Archer says. Urine and human feces are variations on the theme. But it’s always the protesters who triggered the violence. A popular police tactic is called “kettling.” Officers on bike or horses herd protesters into an enclosed space, so they can’t leave without trying to break through the police line. Take the bait; you provoke a beating or arrest. (emphasis added.) And of course, there are the famous agent provocateurs, outted publicly two years ago in Montebello. Police officers dressed up like militant protesters to protect the peaceful crowd, they say; Archer says it’s to instigate trouble.

In Montebello, one of the three cops dressed in black was holding a rock.

“It’s the same lies every single protest,” she says. “It’s justification by law enforcement for their violent actions. This is a propaganda war.”

Justifying their powers and budget

"Rewind to just before the riot happened, thousands of us marched in a very briskly moving group until we hit the intersection of Spadina and Queen. Folks from the labour movement tried in vain to encourage the march to move back up towards queens park, but the mood was clear. Many thousands of protesters were interested in being closer to the summit and letting the police know that we couldn't be intimidated.

"But nothing official was planned. Labour walked back up the street leaving thousands to mill about in the confusion of what to do next. And in that confusion, several hundred people changed their clothes and took off together running down queen street while thousands of riot cops picked their noses. In full police view, they let a mob destroy banks and trash Yonge street.

"And while riot cops had shields AND bikes and thousands of dollars in body armor to protect them from the remaining peaceful protesters, somehow they were so scared of us that they abandoned police cars."

The police spokesperson told Metro Morning today that they waited until later when it was safer to make arrests but that cannot be true. I was there and like David I believe the cops could have arrested the Black Bloc right at the beginning of the action but they abandoned their police cars and allowed them to burn, not even calling the fire department until the media had lots of time to photograph them. They had a water cannon but they didn't even use a fire extinguisher. Why?

A comment released to a media outlet last night from official police spokesperson tells some of the story, " We have never tried to curtail people's rights to lawfully protest. All you have to do is turn on the TV and see what's happening now. Police cars are getting torched, buildings are being vandalized, people are getting beat up and the so-called "intimidating" police presence is essential to restoring order. That is the reality on the ground."

Police playing politics, justifying the expense and responding to the critiques building all week about excessive and arbitrary police powers. A politicized police force is unacceptable in a democratic society. There are serious questions that must be answered and they have not been satisfactory answered.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Coalition Costs

Cameron and Clegg risk double dip recession by catering to the markets with austerity measures that are aimed directly at the poorest citizens of Britain.

In the process, the Lib Dems lose half their voters and ensure that the next Labour government will be coming sooner rather than later.

Coalition with the Conservatives has revealed the essential conservative nature of so called 'Liberal' parties and their affinity to top down class warfare. They've been coasting on identity politics issues for years, super cautious incrementalism in service to tactics, but the Liberal and Neo-Liberal traditions haven't been economically progressive for years.

Lessons to remember.

Frontline Reporting

Twitter meets good old fashioned roll up your sleeves and jump into it reporting in the streets of Toronto today. A TVOntario reporter witnesses some brutal police behavior and brings it to his readers almost instantly:

@spaikin: so the police just started arresting people. i stress, this was a peaceful, middle class, diverse crowd. no anarchists

@spaikin:i saw police brutality tonight. it was unnecessary. they asked me to leave the site or they would arrest me. i told them i was dong my job.

@spaikin: literally more than 100 officers with guns pointing at the crowd. rubber bullets and smoke bombs ready to be fired. rubber bullets fired

@spaikin: police on one side screamed at the crowd to leave one way. then police on the other side said leave the other way. there was no way out.

@spaikin: the demonstration on the esplanade was peaceful. it was like an old sit in. no one was aggressive. and yet riot squad officers moved in.

@spaikin: i can appreciate that the police were on edge today, after seeing four or five of their cruisers burned. but why such overreaction tonight?

...

@spaikin: the journalist identified himself as working for "the guardian." he talked too much and pissed the police off. two officers held him....


@spaikin : a third punched him in the stomach. totally unnecessary. the man collapsed. then the third officer drove his elbow into the man's back.'

@spaikin:no cameras recorded the assault. and it was an assault.'

@spaikin: :the officer who escorted me away from the demo said, "yeah, that shouldn't have happened." he is correct. there was no cause for it.
UPDATE: More

UPDATE 2: Jesse Rosenfeld, asthmatic, with only one kidney and recently subjected to a savage police beating is still missing.

The Noose Tightens

G-20 security forces are using WWII era law to extend their 'Papers, please.' mandate to outside the security zone.

Since when do Canadians have to submit to police scrutiny for strolling down the street in broad daylight? We don’t do “Papers, please.” The Charter of Rights and the age-old common law affirm our right to go peacefully about our business without having to identify ourselves to the police, much less submit to searches.

Except in Toronto at the 2010 Group of 20 summit this weekend.

As the Star reported on Friday, York University graduate student and environmental activist Dave Vasey got into potentially serious trouble when he and a friend were exploring the outside perimeter of the chain-link fence that encloses the summit site. Police stopped Vasey and demanded that he identify himself. When he balked they arrested him and held him for hours in a wire cage.

This is outrageous. If it doesn’t infringe his Charter right to “peaceful assembly,” it crowds it needlessly. No one on the outside of the security zone should face such harassment. There aren’t even any signs warning people that they are in a controlled area. But they are, as Vasey discovered to his shock.

Blame Premier Dalton McGuinty, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act. This obscure piece of WWII-era legislation exposes people to a $500 fine and/or two months in jail if they are “attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto” and fail to provide their name and address to a police officer or guard, or submit to a search.

Three weeks ago under the auspices of this act, the McGuinty cabinet quietly passed a regulation at Blair’s request that declares the summit zone and the area five metres beyond to be a “public work.” There was no legislative debate or even a public announcement.

Meanwhile the only major real security breach came from an out of town officer deciding to sample the local amenities and try one of those high class Toronto street hookers he'd heard so much about:
In the other incident, confirmed by security sources but not confirmed by the ISU, an out-of-town officer allegedly hired a street prostitute to accompany him to his hotel room and fell asleep following their encounter. Taking advantage of her situation, she left with some of his luggage, which included his police gear. Police officers tracked her down and recovered the items. She apparently was unaware of what she had, looking for property for financial gain and not security material. It is also not known what information was stored on the computers.
These are the clowns with the power to decide what level of civil rights you have in Toronto right now, depending in some cases on what side of the street you're standing on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Proud of Pride

Pride Toronto has reversed themselves. Good for them.

Pride Toronto’s board has reversed its decision to ban the phrase “Queers against Israeli apartheid” from this year’s events, opening the door to the participation of the controversial group the ban targeted.

The decision came on the heels of a sizeable public outcry in which more than 20 prominent community honorees give back their Pride accolades in protest over “censorship.”

In lieu of the ban, Pride will now require each participant to read, sign and abide by the City of Toronto’s Declaration of a Non-Discrimination Policy.

When asked if Pride was backtracking, executive director Tracey Sandilands said she viewed the decision as a constructive step forward.

“We have reached the understanding that it is not our job to implement the city’s policies onto our participants,” she said, adding that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid will be able to participate in Pride events so long as they sign and abide by the city’s policy.

“I think this has been an incredible victory,” said QuAIA member Elle Flanders. “I believe in this community and I’m glad to see that Pride has put its faith back in the community.”

Fellow QuAIA member Tim McCaskell said his group would be “more than happy” to sign the non-discrimination policy.

“We’ve never had any problems with the city policy and we haven’t done anything to contravene city policy,” he said.

As Montreal Simon points out, it will then be fascinating to see if anyone tries to have Queers Against Israeli Apartheid charged with violating the policy they sign - and therefore have to make the case in a court of law that the word 'Apartheid' is a discriminatory slur rather than a legitimate example of protected free speech, justifiable on the facts alone.

It's interesting that the climbdown seems to have already begun; one of the prime figures behind the pressure brought against the Parade has indicated "...we don't want to involve ourselves in a confrontation with the gay community."

Or they don't think the attempt to de-legitimize the Apartheid comparison would pass a judicial smell test and they don't want a damaging legal precedent. They'd rather just continue darkly smearing Israel's critics with the discriminatory slurs of antisemitism and bigotry without ever having to defend the accusations.

Even a Stopped Clock...

...is right twice a day. Last week Kelly McParland had one of his twice per decade displays of sanity, perception and willingness to see the truth when its right in front of his face.

I’m going to be kicked out of the Unquestioning Tory Lapdog Club for pointing this out, but has anyone else noticed that the famous Paul Martin campaign ad, the one he was so heavily ridiculed over, is looking a lot less ridiculous?

The ad warned that, if elected, Stephen Harper could seek to impose his will on Canadian urbanites through force of arms:

Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada.

The ad never ran, victim, of the mockery that overwhelmed the Liberal campaign, and Mr. Martin had to do the media rounds apologizing, defending and trying to duck responsibility.

So dial in June, 2010...

He proceeds to rattle off some of the long list of military, paramilitary and special forces wielding multi-million dollar arsenals of military and tactical gear and weapons all massing in downtown Toronto. He almost seems to show some discomfort at the massive security state apparatus Harper brought to the city's streets.

But I think his membership in that club he mentioned is probably safe. Mark the day on your calendars, June 18th, the day Kelly McParland wrote a column that wasn't crude attack, moronic simplification or sycophantic neoconservative babble.

Don't expect it to happen again for a while.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Marketing

This blog, on occasion, stands appalled at some grotesque display of a new marketing atrocity, infuriating manipulation, baffling surrealism or sheer rage inducing hatefulness. The horror of advertising isn't just how spiritually and psychologically toxic so much of it is, but that we're all soaking in it.

Those who make a living studying all the ways humans can be manipulated into wanting, or fearing or hating or loving must themselves, ultimately feel nothing but contempt.

As illustrated by the popular new trend in advertising: threatening, beating up, or otherwise attacking ...their customers.


It's not like this is tough sub-text to deconstruct. These are messages right up there on the surface. The producers of all the crap we consume have come to hate us.

We're fickle. We're demanding. We don't show appropriate brand loyalty or respect for their intellectual property rights. We push our politicians to regulate the behavior of our corporate masters and even resort to the shameful and distressingly effective practice of suing for corporate malfeasance as if everyone had equal recourse to the law or something.

They've come to just fucking loathe us and can't even hide it anymore.

Those in advertising and marketing are on the front lines of the war against your brain.

They're winning.

The more things change...

"We're in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication that there's some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries,"

"The individual becomes in a position to make decisions that affect the country or the province or a municipality. All of a sudden, decisions aren't taken on the basis of the public good but on the basis of another country's preoccupations." -Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2010

Flashback:
"The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department." - Joe McCarthy, 1950

And what a coincidence, just before the G20 another government official offering dark, yet non-specific warnings of vague security threats. The climb-down has begun but the damage is already done.

UPDATE THURSDAY: Gary Mason makes the same connection I made yesterday.

A Sneering Tribute

The stench of unexamined privilege and elite condescension has always hung over our great paper of record like week old fish, but I have trouble imagining how the sneering, unbelievably pompous 'tribute' to Michaëlle Jean in today's Globe and Mail could be any more dismissively contemptuous.

The announcement that Michaëlle Jean, the Governor-General, will take up duties as an UNESCO special envoy for Haiti in September, represents the near-end of an imperfect tenure.

The UNESCO role is well suited to the strengths Ms. Jean has brought to the role of Queen’s representative. Her charisma, spontaneity and skill at, in her own words, “people-to-people diplomacy” will be put to good use in a cause that is important to Canada and the international community. But her departure will also allow the appointment of a truly meritorious individual as the new Governor-General, someone with the intellectual rigour required of that office.

The UNESCO job, while limited by the relative ineffectiveness of that UN entity, is well tailored to Ms. Jean, and is probably a wiser use of her talents than, say, an appointment as Canadian ambassador to Haiti.

...

It was, however, an unusual appointment. Ms. Jean was a television journalist, with a limited profile and few obvious distinctions, when elevated to viceregal office. She was not – then – a distinguished Canadian, and this perceived lack of accomplishment hampered her effectiveness.
Despite efforts to mask it, such as the Harper government’s generous role in the UNESCO appointment, relations were sometimes strained. This was plain for all to see when Ms. Jean was publicly rebuked by Mr. Harper for having referred to herself as Canada’s “head of state,” at an UNESCO meeting, as it happens. That role is fulfilled by the Queen. For all her populist appeal, Ms. Jean did not command the respect among the political elites that the office requires. And despite its symbolic importance, the position does call for more than a national bauble. The Governor-General wields important constitutional powers.

This was most at evidence during the 2008 crisis over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s request for prorogation when it became clear his government would lose a confidence vote in the House of Commons. Some constitutional experts believe the Governor-General had a responsibility to exercise the reserve powers of the Crown and refuse the Prime Minister’s advice to prorogue. Others argue that the Governor-General should do as little as possible to interfere with politics, and Ms. Jean made the correct decision to accede to Mr. Harper’s request.

Canadians should welcome Ms. Jean’s appointment as UNESCO special envoy, and thank her for her service. Mr. Harper should aim higher than his predecessor in advising the Queen on her successor.

No, you didn't imagine it, they referred to the Governor General as a 'bauble', pretty and decorative but ultimately nothing more.

This is old boy's club contemptuous dismissal of a breathtaking scope and blatancy.

The Language of Exclusion

First: Demonize political opposition.

Next: Criminalize protest.

Finally: Use the language of criminalization not just for protesters but any political opposition.
Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore delivered a keynote address at a conference sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce's IP Council today and according to media reports warned against "radical extremists" seeking to oppose Bill C-32. It should be obvious to virtually everyone that labeling those that seek reforms to a copyright bill as "radical extremists" is an embarrassing slander that should be promptly retracted. While there are undoubtedly some that oppose the bill altogether (just as there are some that want tougher reforms including three strikes), characterizing those concerned with a copyright bill in this manner is wholly inappropriate for a cabinet minister.
It is for one in this government, a government that is steadily normalizing language that delegitimizes any opposition to its actions and dehumanizes its opponents.

This is eliminationism 101 and the time to start getting worried is now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Alberta Government Scientific Slander

An Alberta Government scientist upholds the fine traditions of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko:

Alberta researcher Peter Lee couldn’t believe his ears as a senior provincial government scientist publicly accused him and a colleague of deliberately manipulating and even lying about data in a critical report on the oil sands.

“To put it bluntly, I was gob-smacked,” said Mr. Lee, of Edmonton-based Global Forest Watch Canada. “I was actually speechless. It was quite shocking.”

Now, under threat of a lawsuit, the government scientist has apologized, retracted the statements and coughed up $1,000 to cover legal fees.

...

“It was completely over the line of what is considered scientific criticism,” Dr. Timoney said. “… This sort of thing was not science. It’s just defamation.”

They asked Dr. McEachern for clarification, but in the meantime, his presentation was published on the website of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, as well as the sites of two other industry groups. This spring, CAPP unveiled a massive public-relations campaign to defend Alberta’s energy sector. (Premier Ed Stelmach has said the government is trying to improve its communications around the oil sands.)

When Dr. McEachern didn’t respond, according to the researchers, they turned to lawyers and threatened to sue, dispatching a letter last month that also went to Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner. They accused Dr. McEachern of making “false and defamatory statements” through his stated or implied comments, which suggested their figures amounted to a “lie” and that they “chose to remove data” from their study.

A lawsuit could be avoided, the letter said, if Dr. McEachern provided a letter “unequivocally retracting and apologizing,” the slides were removed from CAPP’s website and elsewhere, legal expenses were paid and Dr. McEachern refrained from repeating the allegations.

Dr. Timoney and Mr. Lee received a letter of apology on June 11 – the deadline set by their lawyers – and it was released by Greenpeace and the Pembina Institute on Monday.

“The statements in my presentation … were false and I regret very much that I made these statements. I unequivocally retract them,” Dr. McEachern wrote.

"Later, when he regained consciousness..."

Just to get in the proper state of mind for the upcoming G-20 festivities in Toronto.
This was from a protest in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina over the death of a 15 year old boy at the hands of the police. To be clear, the post title is for humorous effect, I'm sure the nice officers wished the young man with the incontinence problem a good day and waved him on his way...

The Trade-off

It's messy and ugly and cynical but it will also improve the lives of the Palestinians living in Gaza. This is Realpolitik at it's most frustratingly pragmatic.
The contours of the response to the Gaza flotilla fiasco are now coming into sharper public view: the Israeli government will significantly ease the blockade of Gaza in exchange for American support for a whitewash of the investigation of the flotilla incident. As I've said many times on Twitter, this is a good deal. No investigation was ever going to produce anything of any particular value, but easing the blockade of Gaza could have significant positive effects for the people of Gaza, the prospects of Palestinian reconciliation, the peace process, and American credibility in the region. None of those will happen on their own, of course. And nobody is likely to be fully satisfied with the new measures. I've been quite critical of how the Obama team has handled the Israeli-Palestinian track, and particularly the Gaza situation -- and if they had moved strongly to resolve the Gaza blockade a year ago, the issue wouldn't have been there now to exploit. But now, I think they deserve some real credit for nudging Israel towards finally making a move which could over time open up some real new possibilities for progress.
It brings measurable improvements to the lives of the citizens of Gaza in return for a careful averting of the eyes from the bloody, body strewn decks of the Mavi Marama, much as the price of getting a wind down of the worst excesses of the War on Terror appears to have been a careful avoidance of any legal consequences for the architects of the torture chambers and dungeons of the Bush regime.

At what point to we calmly and pragmatically make the purely practical decision to just wipe out the concept of the rule of law at all?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Glenn beck ruined the metaphor...

...but the frog sitting in the water as it slowly heats to boiling point sure applies.

Imagine a country where Parliament is padlocked twice in 13 months to frustrate the democratic will of the elected majority. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that slyly relaxes environmental regulations even as its neighbour reels from a catastrophic oil leak blamed on slack controls. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that boasts about prudent financial management while blowing through a $13-billion surplus on the way to a $47-billion deficit. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where a political operative puts fork-tongued words in a top general’s mouth. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that refuses to fund the same safe abortions to poor women abroad as it provides at home. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where the national police commissioner skews a federal election and is never forced to explain. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that writes a covert manual on sabotaging Commons committees. That country is now this country.

It goes on, and so do we, hand in hand into our country's sunset.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Quote of the Day

So, yes, Dems take lots of oil money too. But while Dems have one night stands with the oil industry or relationships, with Republicans like Barton it's a committed and loving relationship. Even when it's not even helpful. - Josh Marshall

Friday, June 18, 2010

"You ain't got no pancake mix!"

The only reasonable response to tea-baggers, fanatics and assorted haters:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Provocative Plea

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 17, 2010) - The President of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) stands by his call for assurance that police and other private security personnel contracted to provide security during the G20 summit will not use agents-provocateurs during the G20 protests planned for next week, including the labour-led rally and march on June 26.

"These concerns are far from 'groundless,' as suggested by Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack," said Sid Ryan, President of the OFL. "The fact is there have been numerous documented cases of police infiltration of demonstrations at protests around the world, including Canada."

"We are planning a peaceful, family-friendly demonstration. Our job would be much easier if we knew that we won't be dealing with agents-provocateurs as we saw during the Montebello protest against the Security and Prosperity Partnership," said Ryan. "We call on the Prime Minister of Canada to assure us that such tactics will not be used during the G20."

"I am very concerned that there could be political pressure from the federal Conservative government to use police to provoke a situation that will lead to arrests—purely to justify the enormous security costs of the G20 Summit," said Ryan. "And frankly, that should be a concern for the police union as well."

Flashback: Montebello 2007

Flashback Quebec 2009: Quebec civil rights activist uses access to information request to see internal Sûreté documents directly referring to 'provocateurs'.

Quote of the Day

Joe Barton was plain stupid to apologize to BP. His masters would have forgiven a little attack, to maintain his cover. - Roger Ebert

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'Lynch Mob'

Peace flotilla member (in the orange life jacket) viciously 'lynching' an Israeli paratrooper... or possibly providing him with medical care...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Comment policy

I wanted to keep commenting open and easy, alas the comment spammers - mostly in Chinese oddly enough - have made that impossible. Almost anything but libel, calls for criminal action or repetitive and unimaginative abuse will get though, it just may take awhile depending on whether I'm online or not.

Support Libby Davies

The Israel right or wrong crowd are in full gotcha mode, screaming for Libby Davies' head on a platter.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on NDP MP Libby Davies to resign as her party's deputy leader after she suggested Israel has been occupying territory since the country came into existence.

"Mr. Speaker, this is a fundamental denial of Israel's right to exist," Harper said in the House of Commons on Tuesday. "It repeats the kind of comments that were made by Helen Thomas on which she was forced to resign and the member of the NDP who said those should be forced to resign as well."

Thomas was the veteran White House correspondent who resigned after saying Jews in Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go back to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else."

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae also denounced Davies' comments.

"To deny the state of Israel's right to exist and to propose an international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against a legitimate member of the world community for over 60 years is to reveal a level of hostility and ignorance that is truly breathtaking," Rae said in a written statement.

In a media scrum later, Rae argued that Davies' comments were not simply a slip of the tongue and called for her to step down as deputy leader.

Earlier this month, Davies was interviewed at a rally in Vancouver and asked if she believes the occupation in Israel began in 1948 or 1967. After hesitating, she answered:

"Forty-eight. I mean, it's the longest occupation in the world. But I mean, I'm not going to argue numbers. It's too long, right?" She went on to say, "I mean, this is the longest occupation in the world. People are suffering. I've been to the West Bank in Gaza twice so I've seen for myself what's going on."

The state of Israel was established in 1948.

In the video, Davies is also asked if she supports the international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel (known as the BDS movement).

"I haven't even actually gone that far. You gotta understand, I'm probably the strongest supporter in Parliament. There is virtually no information in the political arena or understanding about the BDS movement. People are actually afraid to speak out on this issue.… Elected people who are sympathetic are actually afraid to speak out," Davies answers.

Later in the video, Davies says she personally supports the BDS movement, adding, however, that she's not "someone who's there" but is instead a Canadian politician demanding the Canadian government speak out more on the issues.

The interview was posted on YouTube.

Since her comments were made public, Davies has posted on her website a letter she sent to the editor of The Ottawa Citizen.

"My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error," she wrote. "I apologize for this and regret any confusion it has caused. I have always supported a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have never questioned Israel's right to exist and the Palestinians' right to a viable state."

Sorry for the length of the quoted material - I just thought it was worth demonstrating that its only finally at paragraph 15 that the story mentions that Libby Davies apologized for saying 1948 when she meant 1967, that she doesn't question Israel's right to exist and that she supports a two state solution.

For that matter, as Murray Dobbin writes, ask an Arab villager driven out of his home in 1948 if he thinks his land is occupied. Ask an Arab Israeli whose family have lived in the same house in Jerusalem for decades...until they were forcibly evicted last summer to give their home to a Jewish family.

Many historians in and out of Israel consider it a settled issue that Israel engaged in large scale ethnic cleansing in 1948, complete with massacres - there's actually a whole academic movement based around it in Israel scholarship.

All or nothing, black or white, support Israel unreservedly and uncritically and condemn anyone who criticizes her or you hate Israel and deny it's right to exist. These are false choices. Libby Davies should not be sacrificed to these deliberate, simplistic Manichean distortions.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Not fitting into their creepy rescue fantasies

Will white, right wing males who get all broody and weird over anti-Islamist women show the same concern for brave Muslim women fighting for justice like Malala Joya or Hanin Zoaby?

Hanin Zoaby, an attractive, modernist, non-observant Muslim woman who wears western clothing and goes out in public with her head uncovered is a female politician fighting for the rights of her minority group in her country against fierce opposition. She has been vilified, slandered and physically attacked in the legislature. Legislators from the majority ethnic group (Many of whom have openly called for ethnic cleansing) have started proceedings to strip her of her parliamentary privileges for the crime of criticizing the state, and along with other members of her ethnic group, of her citizenship entirely.

She seems like the perfect candidate for the sweaty rescue fantasies of anti-Islam polemicists like Eric Steyn or Christopher Hitchens. You might expect lots of rapturous coverage and fierce attacks on those not offering her their full support.

Except Joya is a feminist leftist who opposes the West's involvement in propping up warlords in her native Afghanistan and Zoaby is an Israeli Arab MK advocating for the rights of Palestinians inside Israel and in the occupied territories. She was on the peace flotilla and is credited for the command of Hebrew and the Knesset ID that made the Israeli paratroopers attend to the medical needs of the brutalized passengers sooner than they might have otherwise.

I'm sure Mark Steyn will be showing the same concern for these brave Muslim women fighting oppression as he does for those who he thinks help further his anti-Islam message.

Any time now.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Your Country


your country raised you
your country fed you
And just like any other country
It will break you
On front line send you
Tax the hell out of you
And just like any other country
It will lock you up you!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Hunt for Wikileaks

The Pentagon caught the soldier who leaked the Collateral Murder video to Wikileaks and government officials are now terrified that he also gave them thousands of diplomatic cables.
American officials are searching for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks in an attempt to pressure him not to publish thousands of confidential and potentially hugely embarrassing diplomatic cables that offer unfiltered assessments of Middle East governments and leaders.
The Daily Beast, a US news reporting and opinion website, reported that Pentagon investigators are trying to track down Julian Assange – an Australian citizen who moves frequently between countries – after the arrest of a US soldier last week who is alleged to have given the whistleblower website a classified video of American troops killing civilians in Baghdad.
The soldier, Bradley Manning, also claimed to have given WikiLeaks 260,000 pages of confidential diplomatic cables and intelligence assessments.
The US authorities fear their release could "do serious damage to national security", said the Daily Beast, which is published by Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and New Yorker magazines.

If you haven't seen The New Yorker's fascinating profile of Assange yet, here it is.

Manning became disenchanted with the military after they ignored evidence that a group of imprisoned Iraqis were good government activists exposing corruption not terrorists. Wikileaks denies that he gave them the diplomatic cables that the US government is panicking about but that hasn't allayed their fear.

'Unfiltered assessments of Middle East governments and leaders' sounds absolutely fascinating and possibly a game changer for perceptions of America's cynical realpolitik approach to dictators, thugs, torturers and assorted despots.

I'll be haunting Wikileaks for updates for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kory Teneycke wants to be Canada's Roger Ailes

You can't blame the Canadian Right for looking wistfully at the sheer ideological domination their fellow travellers enjoy in the American media, not least due to the zeitgeist deforming presence of Fox News. After last week's sudden departure of Kory Teneycke from his newly minted commentary job at CBC the other shoe has now dropped.

The former chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is spearheading a bid by Quebecor Inc. to set up a Fox News-style TV station in Canada with an unabashedly right-of-centre perspective.
Quebecor has filed an application with the CRTC, Canada's broadcast regulator, to operate an English-language news channel. The application has not yet been made public but a source says an announcement on the venture is “imminent.”
Kory Teneycke served as director of communications to Mr. Harper in 2008 and 2009 and this week was appointed vice-president of business development at Quebecor Media Inc.
He's been working since last summer on contract for Quebecor, investigating the feasibility of creating a more unconventional news outlet that speaks to conservative-minded Canadians.
The venture appears to be driven by the potential for profit rather than a desire to advance big-C Conservative fortunes in Canada.
It’s an attempt to mine what Mr. Teneycke believes is a largely untapped market for more right-of-centre TV offerings in Canada, acquaintances and people familiar with the plans say. Sources say Mr. Tenecyke pitched the proposal to Quebecor last year and has been trying to prove the business case for the station ever since.
Mirroring the format of both Fox TV and MSNBC in the U.S., the envisioned Canadian station would offer straightforward reporting but also conservative-minded opinion shows – a mix of programming that would be clearly separated rather than blended.
Ezra Levant, a conservative author and activist, is being seriously considered as a host for one of the new station's anchor opinion shows, sources say. Mr. Levant and Mr. Tenecyke have worked together as far back as the 1996 Winds of Change conference, a precursor to the unite-the-right movement that merged the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties.
Levant has had a lower profile of late since his gig as a columnist at the Calgary Sun was terminated after he shamelessly used the tragic death of a child in a grotesque display of anti-Muslim racial pandering. Along with the almost simultaneous death of his rag the Western Standard and the tottering death throes of the National Post and the whole CanWest empire, make work jobs programs are the priority of the season for the professional right wing in Canada.

But it would be a mistake to dismiss this as a harmless vanity project and welfare scheme for the barely employable Canadian professional conservative class, Fox News has provided stellar service to the forces of reaction in the US by systematically and comprehensively dumbing down their audience to a pack of easily led rage junkies. Studies have shown conclusively that viewers of comedy programs the Daily Show and Colbert Report are much better informed than Fox News Viewers.

Conservatives support dumbing down and adding ideological bias to the news for the same reason they always slash education funding - the smarter and better informed the public is the worse right wing political parties do.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Quote of the day

"When your heart is hardened against the corpses of children buried in rubble, it is hardened too much. And the job of a real friend is to point this out, not to enable it."

-Andrew Sullivan

The rest of the piece is a thoughtful consideration of issues of justice, history and morality attendant on the establishment of the state of Israel.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rise of the Theocrats

Alarmist? Shrill? An extreme interpretation of a cultural movement and its plans?

You could make any of those arguments about Chris Hedges impassioned treatise on the dangers of the religious right, The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger. What we shouldn't do is ignore him.
Tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, have begun to dismantle the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They are creating a theocratic state based on “biblical law,” and shutting out all those they define as the enemy. This movement, veering closer and closer to traditional fascism, seeks to force a recalcitrant world to submit before an imperial America. It champions the eradication of social deviants, beginning with homosexuals, and moving on to immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims and those they dismiss as “nominal Christians”—meaning Christians who do not embrace their perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible. Those who defy the mass movement are condemned as posing a threat to the health and hygiene of the country and the family. All will be purged.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”
-Sinclair Lewis, 1935

Monday, June 07, 2010

Settlement

Before the U.S. election one of the popular pieces of race-baiting and scare mongering on the right was the idea that President Obama would support the Reparations movement seeking compensation for all African Americans for the crime of slavery.

Not so far, but a new settlement offered by the Obama Justice Department after decades of stonewalling by the government (including both Bushes and the Clinton administration) does something very close to that for Native Americans. As per this article from The Atlantic which is excellent right up to a rather patronizing last paragraph.
The government's chief nemesis has been Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, the accountant-turned-banker who in 1987 started Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank on a reservation. With a very small team of attorneys led by a Washington banking specialist, Dennis Gingold, her suit has inspired 3,600 court filings and 80 published decisions. Not even the antirust action against Microsoft was as heavily litigated by the government.

The historic resistance melded with an unsympathetic appeals court often overruling the dispute's two trial judges. It ordered removal of Lamberth, now the district court's chief judge, due to harsh language toward the government. Last year, it threw out a ruling by District Judge James Robertson, Lamberth's successor, that the Indians were owed $476 million, a pittance compared to the reduced, $48 billion they were seeking by then. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both urged settlement during the 2008 campaign.

A resolute Judge Robertson then hauled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and plaintiffs into his chambers last year. He made clear to one and all that, in light of the latest appeals court ruling, both sides had the choice between spending maybe another 10 years in court or trying to finally settle. The initial atmosphere was not necessarily conducive to harmony. Career government employees in the Interior, Justice and Treasury departments felt burned after years of being belittled by both the plaintiffs and Judge Lamberth. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs had minimal trust in the government. But political appointees in the Obama administration, including Salazar and Attorney General Eric Holder, took their cue from President Obama's own support of a settlement. Dozens of meetings ensued, with the many prickly issues including how far back in time one would go to try to determine who should benefit.

Ultimately, Judge Robertson prodded what, given all the legal setbacks, is an impressive $3.4 billion deal announced in December. Ironically, before the recent congressional recess, the House approved the deal and Robertson announced his retirement, meaning District Judge Thomas Hogan becomes the third, and hopefully final, arbiter in the case. He would oversee a so-called "fairness hearing" in which objections can be raised.
$3.4 billion could make fundamental changes to the lives of First Nation Americans. I've been as frustrated with how slow and incrementalist Obama has been as anyone, but this is a huge thing that will probably get very little notice. And all it took was a President to indicate he wanted a fair solution to stop the Justice Department from waging a war of legal attrition and come to a resolution.

Are We Not Brothers?

Gaza Flotilla activist Ken O'Keefe is a former US Marine, Gulf War vet, and now Irish and Palestinian citizen. He describes his treatment at Israeli hands here:

While in Israeli custody I, along with everyone else was subjected to endless abuse and flagrant acts of disrespect. Women and elderly were physically and mentally assaulted. Access to food and water and toilets was denied. Dogs were used against us, we ourselves were treated like dogs. We were exposed to direct sun in stress positions while hand cuffed to the point of losing circulation of blood in our hands. We were lied to incessantly, in fact I am awed at the routineness and comfort in their ability to lie, it is remarkable really. We were abused in just about every way imaginable and I myself was beaten and choked to the point of blacking out… and I was beaten again while in my cell.
In all this what I saw more than anything else were cowards… and yet I also see my brothers. Because no matter how vile and wrong the Israeli agents and government are, they are still my brothers and sisters and for now I only have pity for them. Because they are relinquishing the most precious thing a human being has, their humanity.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Unfuckingbelievable

The students at Miller Valley Elementary in Prescott Arizona were given the chance to vote on their schools new mural and picked one featuring their own faces. The school is a diverse one with African Americans, Latinos and white children attending.

Since the painting began the artists, including children helping with the painting have been subjected to a campaign of drive by racists howling abuse over the non-white faces going up on the wall. The mural was condemned by local talk radio host and city councilman Steve Blair who spear-headed a campaign to take down the mural as it was clearly pro-Obama propaganda that was trying to 'create controversy.'

For portraying some of the non-white kids who actually go to the school.

Read the reader comments on the local Prescott paper's articles about the scandal. Most of the citizens express shame that this has even become an issue. Some stand up for Blair, arguing basically, that its bad enough some people insist on choosing the dark skinned lifestyle without rubbing everybody else's nose in it.

Most discouragingly of all, the school administrators responded to the controversy by asking the artists to lighten the children's faces.

UPDATE: A Happy Ending.

UPDATE 2: Roger Ebert's brilliant, enormously touching take.
That brings me back around to the story of the school mural. I began up above by imagining I was a student in Prescott, Arizona, with my face being painted over. That was easy for me. What I cannot imagine is what it would be like to be one of those people driving past in their cars day after day and screaming hateful things out of the window. How do you get to that place in your life? Were you raised as a racist, or become one on your own? Yes, there was racism involved as my mother let the driver wait outside in the car, but my mother had not evolved past that point at that time. The hard-won social struggles of the 1960s and before have fundamentally altered the feelings most of us breathe, and we have evolved, and that is how America will survive. We are all in this together.

Seeing Both Sides

This blog and many others have been harshly critical of Israel of late. Expect this to continue.

But to those who argue Israel is unfairly singled out and Hamas is not criticized enough, let me be clear:

Hamas is a deeply unpleasant, extremist organization. Religious fanatics with ugly rhetoric, ugly behaviour and ugly allies. Their tactics have been criminal and counter-productive to the interests of the Palestinian people, which is very clearly shown by how much pressure has come to bear on Israel over the last few years from more peaceful tactics. Sanctions, criticism, divestment campaigns and international condemnation. More sympathy has been generated for the Palestinians from one obstructed blockade run than missiles and suicide bombs ever could. On both tactical and moral grounds the Palestinian struggle benefits from non-violent resistance.

Hamas should release Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held prisoner these last four years. They should do so immediately despite the - entirely valid - argument that Israel should also release many of it's Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners some held just as incommunicado and without charge. Those criticizing Israel and advocating for the Palestinians should join the chorus calling for this young man's release on both humanitarian and strategic grounds.
Doing so would return a young man to his family and his nation and remove a major rhetorical arrow in Israel's rhetorical arsenal.

Context is important and the context is that Hamas is very much the creation of Israel itself in a past short-sighted strategy of promoting religious groups that Israel thought would be less of a threat than secular groups like the PLO. The context is that the argument that Hamas is forever beyond the pale, can never be dealt with, never compromised with, never even acknowledged as any kind of legitimate representative of the Palestinian people are an exact repeat of the same arguments made about Fatah - which is now promoted as the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people.

Hamas leaders have made ugly eliminationist statements about Jews and refused to recognize the State of Israel. Israeli leaders have made ugly eliminationist statements about the Palestinians and all Arabs and refused to acknowledge the right of an independent Palestinian state to exist. Both sides have said and done exceedingly ugly things.

One side has all the power, the other has none.

Israel's defenders trot out the 'only real democracy in the Middle East' line repeatedly. The price of claiming that your nation has higher standards than your neighbours is that you are held to higher standards than your neighbours. That's the way it works.

The leaders of both sides are appalling, the citizens underneath them are the ones who suffer.

Look Good in Leather

Cody Chesnutt struts

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Seductive appeal of Victimhood

Greenwald pours out a barn-burner on the subject and Anshel Pfeffer explores it as well in Haaretz.
Thus, nuclear-armed Israel is bullied and victimized by starving Gazans with stones. The Israel Navy is threatened by a flotilla filled with wheelchairs and medicine. And the greatest superpower the Earth has ever known faces a grave and existential threat from a handful of religious fanatics hiding in caves.

Execution on the High Seas

ISTANBUL — One of the nine people killed in an Israeli commando raid on a flotilla of ships heading for Gaza this week was a United States citizen of Turkish descent, officials in Turkey and Washington said Thursday.
...
The Cihan news agency reported that Mr. Dogan had one bullet in the chest and four bullets fired into his head from close range.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Forbidden Items

Lots of apologists asking why, if the flotilla activists really cared about getting their humanitarian supplies to the citizens of Gaza, they didn't they just politely hand them to the Israeli authorities to pass on to the Palestinians. This graphic sourced from Andrew Sullivan reveals why the activists could have serious doubts about whether those supplies would in fact reach who they were intended for:Among the banned items: construction equipment - concrete or even wood is banned for a population still living in the rubble of Operation Cast Lead, canned or dried fruit, fishing rods and poultry are forbidden to a population the UN says faces severe food insecurity. Like prisoners in a totalitarian regime, they are also denied newspapers - don't want the prisoners being disturbed by news from the outside world.

How exactly does denying a population the right to have musical instruments stop rocket attacks? The answer of course, is it has nothing to do with security and is just mean spirited collective punishment for a population that voted in a way that displeased Israel.

Collective punishment is forbidden by international law.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

If you hate Israel...

...and you pray for its destruction, you should:
  • Support the blockade of Gaza and the methods used to sustain it unreservedly and uncritically.
  • Support Netanyahu and his far right coalition of Likudniks, racist supporters of ethnic cleansing and petty grafters.
  • Denounce anyone offering even the mildest criticism as antisemites.
  • Describe those who attack foreign flagged vessels in international waters as victims when those on those vessels resist.
  • Oppose any compromise on settlements, Jerusalem or water rights.
  • Support and sustain the current government of Israel and any tactics it uses to maintain the current status quo.
If your goal is the isolation, abandonment and ultimate destruction of the state of Israel, these tactics will drastically accelerate your goals.

UPDATE: See M J Rosenberg

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