Friday, June 30, 2006

The Tories Strike Back!

Thrown off their political stride by the unfolding web of scandal know as Donationgate, the Canadian Conservative Party lashed out tonight, asking Canada's federal tax collector to investigate the Liberal party:

Mike Donison, the Conservative party's executive director, claimed in a letter to the Canada Revenue Agency that Liberal convention goers receive "significant personal benefits -- for meals, drink, entertainment and the like ....''

"We would therefore ask you to investigate the legitimacy of tax receipting practices by the Liberal Party of Canada.''

The Tories also defended their claim that since "time immemorial'' delegate fees have only been considered donations when a convention turns a profit.

Except that in this case "time immemorial" extends back not even three years:

...former officials from both the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance, the parties that created the Conservative party, said the common practice they followed was to disclose convention fees paid by their members as political donations.

"I'm absolutely positive we always gave out political receipts, minus the amount paid for meals, but everything else was always treated as a political donation,'' said Bruck Easton, former president of the Progressive Conservative party who later ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal.

"That was quite frankly an important part of getting people to our convention.''

His account is backed by financial records submitted to Elections Canada.

Now, Stephen Harper probably does not read my blog, but I am sure some of his top advisers do, and my advice to them would be: tell your glorious Leader to heed us Liberals on this issue. Put $1.7 million into a trust fund and await the results of the Election Canada investigation. When it finds you guilty, pay the money back and fire a bunch of people. That will staunch the bleeding.

After all, you people have been threatening a snap election for months now, every time the House of Commons didn't bow to your slightest whim. While the Libs, Dippers and PQ have been trying to replenish their coffers, you've been arrogantly flashing the CPC's wads of cash in their face, and acting out like the parliamentary equivalent of a teenage hoodlum.

But who knew it was dirty money you were waving?

Well, we do now, and I think I speak for Canadians everywhere when I say you should back down and show a little humility!

Harper: We Are Not Crooks!

A quick Donationgate update.

Everything is hunky-dory in Tory-land, says PM Stephen Harper, for the CPC "...followed all political financing rules when collecting fees for Conservative conventions."

Harper was at an event to the promote the lowering of the GST (article doesn't say where), but apparently the press wanted to talk scandal. Interestingly enough, Harper's aides were still trying to keep reporters away from their Glorious Leader:

Harper's staff had initially attempted to bar reporters from asking the prime minister questions, saying the area where his car was parked behind a convenience store was private property.

Death to Chad Kroeger!

I wouldn't normally support Capital Punishment for a drunk driving charge, but if it can stop Nickelback from making another album, then I say hang 'em high.

Or, if that seems too un-Canadian, maybe we can send Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger to the U.S. (in a package deal with Celine). We can tell them he's a "gift", the way the Irish invented bag-pipes and then gave them to the Scots as "a sign of respect". The Irish have been laughing about that one for centuries.

The best story about Nickelback is how they chose their name. One of the guitar players used to work at a Tim Horten's, and the most popular menu items at the time added-up to $1.45. Customers would give him $1.50 and he would always have to ask: "Do you want your nickel back?"

Anyway. Busy day for BigCityLib. This may be it.

Keep at 'em on Donationgate, people.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tory Scandal Goes Nuclear!

A whole 70 articles on Google, including Bloomberg, CTV, MacLeans, and on and on. I've gone giddy with righteous outrage! I've got the Liberal smirk going so hard it hurts!


First Tory Scandal!

Everybody has been writing about this today, but Somena Media seems to have the real good dope. Bottom line:

Not only did CPoC members know that their party's convention registration fee was a donation to the party, they explicitly state it was a fundraiser, they organized a way to also have their personal expenses (their extra personal expenses of travel, logding, meals etc.) also become political donations.

Someone in Toryland is in a wee spot of shit.

(And you could use a spell-checker, Somena)

Dis-Amalgamating Toronto

A good article in this week's NOW Magazine on attempts to decentralize Toronto's political power structure. Good to see that TO's old warrior (ex-mayor) John Sewell is still out there raising shit. The man is a six-foot pain in the ass but there is no question he loves his city:

"I wish you good luck with having a speaker clean up council. It hasn't done much for Parliament," [Sewell] said. "What you could really do to address the problem is restructure the megacity."

His words echoed those of many at city meetings on the matter this year who have called for decentralization of city power to community councils or neighborhood assemblies, and, not always in so many words, a de facto reversal of amalgamation.

"The main problem of the megacity is scale," said Sewell. "The council is too big. The geographic area covered is too big. The budget is too large to be managed. The only reasonable thing to do is to restructure the megacity itself into smaller units of government."

Some good material on the role of "community councils" in the no longer new megacity. These are the "smaller units of government" Sewell is talking about, and it is good to see that people are still pushing to see their powers and numbers increased.

Bottom line: if anybody comes to your city and tells you to "amalgamate", so as to "increase the efficiency" of local government, club them to death with a shovel and dump the body. Toronto essentially missed the late-90's boom trying to dig out from all the problems this nonsensical idea caused us.

Harper Stiffs Charest

With Jean Charest's fortunes looking up, the timing of the CPC's flip-flop on the fiscal imbalance is extremely unfortunate. Specifically, after promising the sun and moon to Quebec and other have-not Provinces, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has now changed his tune:

"It's not the responsibility of the federal government to tax Canadians in order to fund provincial programs that provinces choose to conduct," he told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

"That's their jurisdiction."

In other words, if the provinces think they need more money, they can raise their own damn taxes, thanks very much! Not surprisingly, Quebec Premier Jean Charest is not impressed:

"When Mr. Harper said, 'I'm going to fix the fiscal imbalance,' he never said, 'I'm going to fix it by asking the provinces to increase taxes,'" Charest said.

"And when he said, 'I'm going to reduce the GST,' he never said, 'I want the provincial governments to come in and take up the extra percent[age point].'"

There will be two more or less immediate results of this back-down.

The good news is, Harper has thrown away his majority, or at least will have to find a way to it through a route other than La belle Province. Quebecers did not give the CPC the seats they did because they saw this overweight, charisma-free, far right economist from Alberta and fell in love. No, those ridings were purchased with monies promised from the fiscal imbalance. Now Harper has come to town for St. Jean Baptiste Day, eaten a bunch of barbecue hot-dogs, and left without paying!

The bad news, as noted briefly above, is that the latest polls out of Quebec have shown Charest's Liberals ahead of or at least within shouting distance of their PQ opponents, and this gives the opposition yet another cudgel to pummel the provincial government with: can anyone say "betrayal"?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

How Will GST Cut Effect Inflation?

A partial answer to the question I raised in my last post.

According to Stats-Canada's Consumer Price Index:

Since the price changes measured by the CPI take into account the value of the consumption taxes paid by Canadians, this 1% decrease will have an impact on the CPI.

A rough estimation of the impact of this reduction on the level of the CPI suggests a decrease in the order of 0.6%. This estimation is based on the assumption that the entire amount of the decrease will be transferred to consumers and that the industrial structure that underlies the way that prices are determined will remain the same.

Since some products, such as many foods sold in supermarkets, are exempt from GST, the resulting decrease will necessarily be less than 1%.

Note that the 0.6% decrease assumes that the entire amount of the cut will be passed on to consumers. Therefore, a divergence from this number in the actual figures for July and August will be a good indicator of how much got intercepted by middle men (who, IMHO, are its real intended target).

Note also that the May figures were released on June 20th, so by the end of August the verdict should be in.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

List of Things Not Affected by GST Cut (in TO)

From The Star, a list of those items not likely to see a price decrease because of the 1% GST cut, because:

They're all products that are sold at a GST-included price, rather than having the federal sales tax added at the cash register.

Parking meters
taxi fares (maybe)
vending machine items
new homes (maybe)
ice rink rentals (maybe)
golf green fees (maybe)
skating lessons (maybe)
beer prices (...which will be largely unaffected because an increase in the federal excise tax will wipe out the decrease in GST)

As the article points out, small change but for the case of new homes. There might also be no reduction on sales commissions, but the article doesn't mention them explicitly, and in any case that is fairly small change as well.

My Favorite factoid from the story is this:

Some big-ticket items, like cars, have been selling at the reduced tax rate for more than a month to keep customers from delaying purchases past July 1.

I wonder if there is any actual concrete evidence of decreases in the sale price of new cars. And when will this turn up in the statistics, if real?

Rush Limbaugh Can't Get it Up!

Of course everyone this morning is writing about this story, in which talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh was caught at Palm Beach International Airport with a big fat bottle of Viagra tablets and no prescription, but who but BigCityLib can put the story into its broader political context?

For it was only a few days ago that I suggested on this very blog that elements of the Conservative Moral Agenda were driven by the transference and refetishification of sexual drives made unfufillable by reflex malfunctions down in the old torpedo room.

And here is the evidence, albeit making its appearance in one of the Canadian movements American Spiritual Forefathers!

CNN does not tell the rest of the story, by the way, which is that airport officials, when they discovered Mr. Limbaugh's bottle of little blue enablers, ordered him to drop his pants to see what the problem was. And it isn't exactly a fact that he was "released", either. Mr. Limbaugh simply walked away while airport staff were doubled over with laughter.

Such stories bode ill for Canada. Oh Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, and Vic Toews! Must the whole nation suffer from your erectile disfunction?

Global Warming Comes to Markham and Steeles

Saturday morning, I was hanging around the parking lot of the Canlan Ice Complex on Markham Road, near Steeles Avenue (in TO), waiting for the wife to finish her skating class, and I noticed a gray bird forcibly depriving a robin of its worm. The bird was about the same size as the robin, but longer and thinner, and with a lengthy tail bordered by white feathers. Furthermore, when the beast flew off with its stolen worm, I noticed a prominent white bar running across the underside of the wings.

As this was something I hadn't seen before, I spent a half hour watching the little beast, and discovered that a pair of them were working on a nest in a stand of trees between the ice-rink and Markham Road.

When I drove away on Saturday morning, I had no idea what species I had been watching. My best guess was a Shrike, or maybe a Grey Jay, but nothing really matched up with what I was seeing in my Peterson's guide, so the mystery remained.

...until Monday when I stumbled across this article in the TO Star:

They evoke Spanish moss and magnolias — their crazy, copycat arias providing a signature song of the south.

The mockingbird, after all, is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

So what were these three plump young Dixie chicks doing stuffed into a nest near Eglinton Ave. W. and Black Creek Dr. in west Toronto last week?

Now, the article only showed a picture of the three chicks, but here are a couple of pictures of adults from the web. The first shows the wing-pattern, and the white tail-feathers:

The next one is a close-up:

So, bingo! I had been watching a pair of nesting Mockingbirds, or Mimus polyglottos!

Now, why have these animals have been advancing North from their traditional range? Answer: warming [] being pegged as a prime suspect.

"Absolutely," Royal Ontario Museum ornithologist Mark Peck says of the climate-change theory.

"And there has been some modelling to that effect, which talks about birds moving northward and what we expect to find."

The idea is this. As the planet warms, Southern birds will move North. Meanwhile, Northern Birds move further North, and Arctic birds will get squeezed and die out.

So when people ask you for empirical evidence for Global Warming, it's easy to show them, because it is absolutely everywhere, in the way the animals in the fields and trees in your own town or city have changed over the years.

For example, in the GTA, it isn't just how Mockingbirds have come North, its the way Jays and Crows have almost disappeared since the arrival of West Nile Fever (and the local Cardinal population seems to have exploded to fill the ecological niche that has been vacated).

Of course, I think GW skeptics have moved on, by scientific necessity, from denying the bare facts of the matter, to at least trying to account for them, usually via theories which have already been discredited (like blaming Global Warming on Solar Variation).

But that is the subject of another post.

As for my little grey buddies up on Markham, I'm gone for a couple of weeks and then I'll take my new digicam up there and see if I can't get a few pictures.

Unwelcome visitors though they are, they are quite striking, and have a very pretty song.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Scenes From the Life of BigCityLib: a Digital Tone Poem

Okay, so I've got the digital camera going and figured out how to download photos from the camera to the PC. I thought I would play around with it and try to work a few shots into my latest post.

Sorry, no nudy pics for the time being, even though I have recently discovered that, on this blog, nudy pics are apparently "what the people want". Who knew that the readers of BigCityLib Strikes Back were the most Unruly, Insensitive variety of Liberal going? The party must truly be doomed if our kind is allowed to hold sway over it.

In any case, here are the results of half a weekend of wandering around with a new digicam. As you can clearly see, having a nice camera does not make you a Photographer:

This is one of the many bars where BigCityLib goes to do his thinking. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal the name of the bar, or photograph any of my "friends", who frequent the bar. They are the kind of men who cannot have their faces show up on film, if you get what I'm saying; it might mean another trip back to Mexico for them, and hiding out in some bug-infested cave in a mountain-side for a week until everything blows over.

Let's just say that when, like BigCityLib, you deal in a contraband substance, like The Truth, it is sometimes necessary to deal in other contraband substances, even more Illegal than The Truth. They're how you finance The Truth, see?

Which reminds me: I hope Pedro scrounges up that hash he says he can get his hands on. I'm going out West on vacation in two weeks, and the whole concept of finding enough vasoline that I can grease-up a half-ounce bag of weed (which you can always get in good old TO, thank God) and jam it up my ass before the flight is getting kind of old. Last time I tried something like that, I risked 15 to 20 years hard time for a bag of sub-standard, stinky home-grown that turned out to be primarily stalk. Everybody in Tuscon had a good laugh at my expense, and wouldn't smoke the stuff anyway, after they found out how it had "arrived" in town.

All I want this time is a little cube of black, something that I can stick in the toe of my sneaker. Otherwise I might have to holiday au naturelle, which would suck.


On an entirely different subject, and as you probably noticed from earlier posts, BigCityLib is an animal lover, except that BigCityLib loves the kind of animals that most people recoil from. Garbage eaters, to be precise: Raccoons, Rats, Seagulls, Pigeons, Coyotes, Foxes. Anything that can set up shop next to city full of humans, and get by on their leavings. Those animals are what I call a bunch of tough mothers!

Here is a picture of me and some of my homeys in the parking lot outside a Loblaws:

Now, another reason I admire the Seagull and The Rat and the Raven is that, let's face it, after Global Warming kicks in, these are the sort of animals that will be our competition. On the other hand, Dolphins, those cute little Bush-Babys, Koala Bears...they're all pretty much going to be fucked! In the future, your kids will be eating the flesh of giant cockroaches, and being hunted by giant, radioactive, talking rats!

Go see Al Gore's new movie if you don't believe me!

So my theory is, you might as well try and get on their good side before The Final Confrontation, know what I mean? In case we lose and become their slaves.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Iraq Insurgents Say No Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's much ballyhooed peace plan:

BAGHDAD, June 25, 2006 (UPI) -- Iraq's prime minister plans to offer up a peace plan aimed at ending the insurgency but most Sunni insurgent groups say it doesn't meet their concerns.

Nouri al-Maliki is set to unveil a 28-point plan that will offer amnesty for prisoners and provide a place for insurgents in the political process if they disarm and end the campaign of violence, The Sunday Times reports.

It also calls for U.N. watchdogs to implement a withdrawal of foreign troops.

This plan has received alot of attention in both the MSM and the Blogosphere, but it looks as though there is less to it than meets the eye. For one thing, there is no date set on the withdrawal of foreign troops and, as Juan Cole and Aljazeera have already pointed out, the "amnesty" for militants is very tenuous:

The amnesty is not extended to anyone who has "shed Iraqi blood," and the Bush administration made al-Maliki back off the idea of granting amnesty to guerrillas who had killed US troops.

But if the point of the amnesty is to bring the guerrilla leadership in from the cold, this amnesty is useless. What Sunni Arab guerrillas worth their salt have killed no Iraqis and no US troops? As for the rest, why would Sunnis who had not killed anyone need to be amnestied? And wouldn't they be rather pitiful guerrillas?

There's more stuff on Informed Comment is especially interesting.

BigCityLib Buys a Digital Camera

In advance of next's week's trip out West, to visit Ma and Pa Liberal and my little brother, Left Coast Hipster, I broke down and bought a Canon Powershot SD630. In the past, I've come back from vacation with reams of film that never seem to get developed, so I thought I would try a different approach this time.

I also want to be able to add original photographic content here (on this blog, I mean).

And so $900 later...

...the taking pictures stuff I've figured out, but I am having trouble downloading them to the computer. The camera connects, and it comes up asking you which software you want to use ("Camera Control"), but when I click on that everything just hangs. No software loads.

Anyone have an idea what's going on? The PC itself is a Dell about two years old, hardly top of the line, but you would think something like this wouldn't be a problem.

In any case, probably won't be writing much else today.



Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tory Support stagnant, New Poll Suggests

An Exclusive poll done by SES for the Institute for Research on Public Policy (fourth news item from top) shows party support almost exactly where it was held about four months ago when the election was held:

The road to that majority leads
through Quebec. In our ballot question
[...] the national percentages of party support
were: Conservatives 38, Liberals 28,
NDP 19, Bloc Québécois 9, Green Party

The Tories are still holding up well in Quebec:

In a regional breakout in Quebec,
the Bloc was at 37, the Conservatives
at 35, the Liberals at 19 and the NDP at
13. Liberal support in Quebec is largely
clustered in their anglophone-allophone
stronghold on the island of Montreal.

Outside the Montreal region, a battleground of 50 seats, the
Liberals are, for the moment at least,
out of what has become a two-party contest...

Much more on the importance of various issues to Canadians. Not surprisingly, health-care tops the list. More surprisingly, the Accountability Act plays well in Quebec, but nobody in the ROC thinks it will make much difference one way or another.

Friday, June 23, 2006

GOP Candidate For Arizona Governer Wants Labor Camps for Mexicans

Don't have much energy to write tonight, but it is as bad as it sounds.

CGI Asteroid Strikes the Earth

For those who like science, or carnage, this YouTube clip shows the results of a Japan-sized asteroid striking the Earth. The audio is in Japanese. But its pretty easy to figure out what's going on.

Raising the Age of Consent: Can You Still Nail Your French Teacher?

I wasn't going to write about the new Tory sexual consent bill because it's such small-bore stuff, the kind of legislation you pass when you can't pass anything more important, just so you can say you've got something done. But then it occurred to me that, had such a law been in effect in the late 1970s, it might have done immense damage to the sexual maturation process in many of the lads I attended high-school with back on the old Left Coast.

Specifically, the new act states that:

The bill includes a so-called near-age exemption of five years, which means that a 14-year-old could still have a sexual partner aged up to 19, and a 15-year-old could have a partner up to 20 years old.

The aim is to avoid criminalizing sexual experimentation by teens with their peers, but provide a way to prosecute older adults who target youngsters.

Now, back at my old school, Spencer Jr. High, we had a French teacher called Louise LeClaire (pictured above), or Ms. LeClaire when she was in class. The boys had any number of nick-names for her, of which the most polite was probably "torpedo tits". The name was accurate, too, for Ms. LeClaire's chest was truly Epic. When she was teaching the grade 10 girl's gym class (her other specialty was P.E.) at the same time as the boys were out, no rugby got played, and no other useful training got done. Fifty boys would just gawk in awe as she led her students through their stretching exercises, and those girls knew that nobody was staring at what they were packing.

I don't know how old Ms. LeClaire was. She taught at Spencer Junior for all three years that I attended, and some people from Dunsmuir Senior remembered her later on when I moved there, so she was definitely more than 20 years old.

And there were a number of rumors concerning Ms. LeClaire (which I could never confirm, but have no reason to disbelieve). One was that, if you were a special favorite, she would make you stay late after French class. She would take you behind her teacher's desk, go down on her knees, and let the straps of her dress slide from her shoulders. Then she would take your thing from your pants and tit-fuck you until you passed out.

Another rumor was that she would hide in the boy's locker-room after hours, and catch the last boy coming in from track practice. They'd find her in the showers wearing nothing but a beret. She'd make them soap her down, then kneel on the tiles and grit her teeth heroically as the chosen boy drilled her up the ass. Needless to say, I spent many evenings hanging around the locker-room in my track gear, as though I had recently been engaged in some kind of physical activity. However, I never encountered Ms. Leclaire, though the basketball team caught me one afternoon as they came off the court and I passed a whole night stuffed in a locker.

As I say, I have no reason to disbelieve the stories I've heard, but the point is, even if it didn't happen, it would have been great if it had. I can't see any fifteen year old boy that would want to criminalize such behavior, nor any sane adult. In fact, teenage boys dream about this kind of thing every day of every school year all over the U.S. and Canada. You might even argue that such an encounter would have been a terrific foundation stone upon which a teen could build a healthy sexual self-image.
But the Conservatives don't understand this, because they hate and fear Sex. And they hate and fear Sex because, I would suggest, they don't get any sex. I mean, we all know about Bubba down there in The WhiteHouse, and we know that Trudeau was still swinging like a master into his 70s. But Conservative politicians just don't cut it. If you look at Joe Clark, or Stephen Harper or Justice Minister Vic Toews (pictured above left with boy-toy in full S&M regalia), it is hard to imagine how they could possibly get it up without using crutches and spray-starch.

In any case, this is BigCityLib signing off from BigCityLib Strikes Back, the only blog where you can get boobies with your political analysis.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Harper: I Groveled Before the American Empire and All I Got was this Shi**y Softwood Lumber Deal!

Not even that, apparently, because the CanWest news service has unearthed a letter from the U.S. government to the American lumber lobby demonstrating that Bush administration officials see the deal as a tool to hobble their Canadian counterparts:

Critics of the framework agreement said the letter backs up their view that Canada, by signing the deal, is giving up its numerous legal victories before North American Free Trade Agreement panels that have concluded that Canadian forest management practices don't harm the American industry.

Meanwhile, provincial governments and Canadian are beginning to treat the accord as they would a bad smell.

So, the Tories one substantive policy achievement, flawed as it was, goes down the gutter. No deal, no Tory majority. Haste makes waste, Mr. Harper. Haste makes waste.

Kinsella Slaps Liberal Nervous Nellies

Great Post at Kinsella's Blog this morning, on why the Liberal Party shall survive, endure, and etc. The money quote, in my opinion, is:

The Martin period was an aberration - but, ultimately, seasonal and arguably necessary. Like cicadas, Liberals turn every twenty years or so to political disasters (eg. Turner, Martin), get reminded why out-of-touch, out-of-work business executives make lousy leaders, and then get back to finding real Liberals. It'll happen in another twenty years, just you watch. In the interim, they'll be okay.

So do all of these nice words mean this former Chretien aide hankers for the rough-and-tumble of federal politics again? Let's put it this way: a lot of former Liberals will remain former Liberals until the Martinite thugs are exiled to Serbia or, ideally, Mars.

And that, at the end, is why Stephen Harper is probably most optimistic: the Martinite elements in the Liberal Party, whose names are interchangeable with 'losing,' are still around. They haven't learned their lesson, yet. Until they do, Stephen Harper is pretty safe. It's not a permanent condition, but it'll sure feel like that for a lot of Liberals for the next while. "

And of course today's chief heir to this losing legacy is Michael Ignatieff, who has somehow managed to convince a good portion of the Libs that the way back to power is to embrace the same policies (groveling before the American Empire) that caused people to reject the Tories for so many years (and caused so many people to have issues with Martin's leadership).

Meanwhile, while selling out the soul of the Liberal Party, Iggy plans to combat Stephen Harper by "intervening in" and "deconstructing" the Tory "narrative". And I don't know why this kind of nonsense is playing so well to liberal bloggers. I can only assume that many of them are snot-nosed, pimple-face punks who flunked out of English in the 1990's and get some kind of hard-on when they hear big words.

But believe me, that crap don't play in Mushaboo, or anywhere outside the salons of academe.

Listen to Kinsella. Find yourself a real Liberal.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

PQ "Closed its Eyes" to Adscam

...but no charges will likely be filed, because the illegal contributions they received were made more than five years ago and can't be prosecuted under provincial electoral laws. So says retired judge Jean Moisan, who also notes that there is no proof the Quebec Liberal party (or Jean Charest) knew of the $8,325 in "disguised contributions" made to them by GroupAction president Jean Brault.

Might cool the PQ's jets on this issue a bit. The Dippers and CPC will surely keep banging away at it. I imagine they'e jealous because they got squat from the whole deal.

Armitage on Iraq and Afghanistan

Richard Armitage served as Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2004, resigning on November 16th, 2004, a day after Secretary of State Colin Powell announced his own resignation. As one of Powell's men, Armitage was about the closest thing to a "moderate" and a "realist" within the Bush administration circa the beginning of Gulf War II. Hence his current views on the Iraq situation provide a chance to get beyond the Bush Administration spin. Not surprisingly (the man is a Realist) his views tend towards pessimism. From The Australian:

THE level of violence in some areas of Iraq is worsening dramatically and US
forces may soon be asked to leave by the Iraqi Government.


"The British used to make a big deal of walking around in their berets in
the south," he said. "Now they won't even go to the latrines without their
helmets. The south has got much rougher, it's mainly Shia on Shia violence."

Should the U.S. withdraw from the area, the best situation to be hoped for would be that:

...Iraq would become a loose federation - although the term federation
would not be used because it upsets neighbouring Turkey - with a weak central

"The difficulty then will be to stop them (the Iraqis) causing violence
for their neighbours," Mr Armitage said.

This was because almost all of Iraq's neighbours had restive Shia
minorities and the governments of both Iraq and Iran would come under pressure
to intervene on their behalf.

The problem I have with even this rather gloomy analysis is that I cannot imagine a significant American troop withdrawal that does not see Maliki and the rest of his government ending their political careers swinging from a lamp-post. The Iraqi army has been infiltrated by insurgents and/or is in the control of militias who owe little or no allegiance to the Central government. Furthermore, U.S. attempts this year to hand over the fight to homegrown forces has generally proven a failure, and U.S. casualties have troughed and peaked as duties have been transferred to Iraqi troops, then taken back when these troops have not performed up to expectations (either in fighting the insurgents or preventing sectarian violence).

So any significant American troop withdrawal is likely to result, not in a "loose federation", but with a bloody collapse of the Central government, then three mini-states (Kurdish in the North, Sunni in the Center, and Shia in the South) fighting it out for oil and other resources, exchanging waves of refugees through successive bouts of ethnic cleansing. At this point, both Iran and Turkey might see fit send their own troops in to carve up what's left of the pie.

My own suspicion is that the Bush administration will attempt a "phantom withdrawal" in the run-up to the November mid-term elections, do enough so that it appears to the folks at home that "victory is at hand", and then send more troops back in when the voting is done.

Not that the grim situation is an argument against a real withdrawal. Whether the U.S. pulls out in 2006, 2016, or 2060, the result is very likely to be the same. The Iraqis will need to have their civil war before they can get past it. However, such a move will almost certainly result in the collapse of the current Iraqi government, and would be admission of failure on the part of the Bush administration so, most likely, we will see things chug along in the current hideous fashion until 2008, when Bush palms this problem off on his successor. If the Democrats take over one or both houses of Congress in November, mind you, something might happen a little more swiftly.

But the End will be the same in either case.

Mr. Armitage is equally gloomy in his assessment of Afghanistan:

"Five years after the overthrow of the Taliban, the ordinary people don't see
much change in their lives."

Several factors were driving the renewed violence in Afghanistan including
drugs which provided money for numerous warlords.

"At the same time, some in Pakistan may believe that the Taliban may come
back. The Talibs also see us handing over to NATO and they see some NATO
countries as weaker than us."

Some of the talk that you hear about the current Taliban offensive in the South--that we are beating them on the battlefield and that most of the casualties have been on their side--is irrelevant. If coalition troops are able to slaughter larger concentrations of fighters, this means that the Taliban are confident enough about their numbers and commitment that they are willing to risk larger numbers of fighters.

Note: I am not entirely in control of the "block quote" function on Blogger. Mr. Armitage was not speaking in free-verse.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bear Repellant Triggers Security Alert, Evacuation. But Were the Bears Muslim?

According to The Star:

Hundreds of employees spilled out onto the sidewalk today after three floors
of an office tower in downtown Toronto were evacuated.

The exodus at Scotiabank was triggered after a golf promotional package, containing a sample of bear repellant spray, was delivered to the 16th floor of complex at 44 King St. West.

The package was opened and a small amount of bear repellant was accidentally released, setting off a security alert, said Joe Konecny, a spokesperson for Scotiabank.

The spray can of repellent was sealed in an air tight container and the offices ventilated.


Midday traffic ground to a halt as a one-block section of the busy street in the heart of the financial district from Yonge to Bay Sts. was sealed off for almost two hours.

Street cars were backed up for blocks.

I didn't know that bears golfed, and of course there's no word in the Star piece about whether the golfing bears were Muslim or not. Too concerned with goddamned political correctness to care about The Truth, I guess!

Religion of Peace MY ASS!

We'll just have to wait for the Blogging Tories to sort this one out for us.

Poll Gives Tory Childcare Plans a Big Thumbs-Down

From the Globe:

OTTAWA --Most Canadians favor Liberal over Conservative plans for dealing with what they say is a serious lack of affordable child care, suggests a new poll commissioned by a child-care advocacy group.

Fifty per cent of respondents preferred a national, accessible early learning system as promised by the former government, says the Environics Research survey.

That compares with 35 per cent who favored the $1,200-a-year family allowance proposed by the Conservatives for each child under age six.

Although the poll was commissioned by the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, the results seem pretty unambiguous, and in any case the wording of the poll question is given in the story, so you can make up your own mind. Most important point:

Support for a national child-care system was high across Canada, in urban and rural areas and among families with a stay-at-home parent, said Derek Leebosh, senior associate with Environics.

In other words, there is no urban/rural split for the Tories to exploit on this issue, which is telling given that their family allowance proposal was directly marketed as a sop to their rural, religious base.

Somebody has written that the Conservative daycare plan is an example of trying to distract the populace with a shiny object. Nice to see Canadians aren't falling for it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Chomsky on Iran

In this op-ed piece in The Guardian, Noam argues that a negotiated settlement with Iran is the only sane answer to the current stand-off.

He makes a number of telling points, and gives a quick summary of the United States' changing position vis-a-vis Iran's pursuit of nuclear power as that country moved from being a U.S. ally to a member of the Axis of Evil.

Personally, I suspect Iran will get the bomb, and the U.S. will simply back off in the same way they did with Pakistan and North Korea.

McGuinty Breaks Another Environmental Promise

From The Star:

The Ontario government has quietly reneged on a national commitment to reduce the level of mercury in air pollution, the Toronto Star has learned.

Sources say the Liberal government's recent decision to break a 2003 cornerstone campaign promise and keep open the province's pollution-spewing coal-fired generating plants well past 2009 is behind the policy U-turn.

I have to admit this one disappoints me. Although the McGuinty Government has done some good on the Environmental front (Green Belt Legislation, for example), they made too many promises that were pie-in-the-sky and unkeepable, and these are catching up with them one-by-one.

Doesn't seem to be costing them in the polls, but sad nevertheless.

Update, 11:41 AM: Turns out the dude at Accidental Deliberations has written on the same topic this morning:

For now the end result is expected to be only a delay in the announcement, but Ontario's decision to back away from what was to have been a national commitment will do nothing but offer political cover for other governments who in turn repudiate either the mercury-emissions goal or other agreed environmental standards. And with the most powerful Lib government left in the country refusing to live up to even its existing environmental commitments, it'll be all the tougher for the federal party to plausibly claim interest in the environment as one of its core values, rather than a convenient campaign plank to be ignored after election time.

Which is, unfortunately, quite true.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Canadians Not Alone in Questioning Afghanistan Mission

From Simon Jenkins in the U.K. Times. Several interesting quotes:

The operation, coming after four such failed endeavors, is a show not of force but of face. When the troops return to the security of Kabul they will leave behind a few hundred corpses, some destroyed villages, a thousand new Taliban recruits and tens of thousands of angered and disillusioned Afghans. There is nothing new under the Afghan sun.


Nobody in London or Kabul can offer a clear mission statement for the 3,300 soldiers garrisoning it, only implausible remarks about "establishing the preconditions for nation building".

And an interesting fact: over 80% of the country is no longer under the control of the central government:

Kabul is now a statelet crammed with the cosmopolitan staff of massed United Nations development agencies and 800 NGOs, many withdrawn from an unsafe hinterland.

And a last interesting fact, not from this piece but from a report (summarized here) released a week or so ago: the Taliban are garnering popular support in the South and elsewhere by positioning themselves as protectors of the opium farmers. They are in fact about to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the local population in these areas. The report (by the Senlis Council) suggests that the best way to counter Taliban efforts is to lay off the opium farmers and, by implication, let Heroin flow freely into the West again.

Some choice.

Again, the Americans want out of Afghanistan, and want to palm this disaster off on their allies, including Canada. I am tired of listening to
Harper and Ignatieff blithering on about "fulfilling our obligations" and staying the course when "the going gets tough". We and the other allies have been played for suckers by a corrupt U.S administrationon. It is time to acknowledge as much and steer our foreign policy accordingly.

Tory Abortion Bill Back

After his private Member's Bill C-291,

...which would amend the Criminal Code to make injuring or killing an unborn child while committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother a separate crime under law, carrying equivalent penalties to causing injury or death to the mother

...was voted down at the committee level for “clearly” violating the Constitution including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Conservative MP Leon Benoit has said the bill will be back in a modified form.

It's a Private Members' bill, so almost certainly doomed. However, its nice to know that some Tories are still working to make the "secret agenda" not-so secret.

Meanwhile, in other news, ex-Canadian Alliance MP Larry Spencer, who was ousted from the party over comments on homosexuality, has been named interim National President of the Christian Heritage Party, a pro-life, pro-family federal party founded on Christian principles. And, yes, they still want to repeal the metric system.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Harper on Hockey Night in Canada

He's apparently writing a Conservative History of Hockey. Apparently it was invented by Milton Friedman, in Alberta!

Hold me Mamma, now that's f**king scary!

Kennedy Not Referenced Once this CTV article on the debate in Moncton. Interesting, for a supposed front-runner he is garnering very little mention. As someone who has missed both debates, I must ask: is he that unimpressive/content-free as a TV performer?

Toronto and Calgary Will Keep Proceeds from GST Cut

Both Calgary and Toronto will not be passing on the Federal GST cut to their citizens in the form of lower program charges and etc.. The reasons given are slightly different, but both cities claim that the administrative costs are too onerous to make it worthwhile. From the TO Star:

To reduce the GST, the city would have to change billing systems, websites and printed publications to reflect the new, slightly lower fees, staff reported.

Also in both cases, the city promises to use any cash windfall to offset fee hikes next year.

We shall see.

If Toronto and Calgary decide that it is too expensive to pass the tax cut on, I suspect many smaller jurisdictions will discover the same thing and follow suit.

You know, they say that the Colorado River no longer flows to the sea, because American farmers keep pinching water along the way. I suspect we will see very much the same thing with our GST cut. There won't be much left by the time it reaches the consumer.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ontario Government Will Buy Disputed Land in Caledonia

About time they did this.

Gerard Kennedy Takes a Stab at Policy

The knock so far against Liberal Leadership Candidate Gerard Kennedy is that he "speaks passionately upon the topic of nothing", as I think one columnist put it. Today Kennedy has taken a step towards countering this type of criticism by releasing a few concrete details of his environmental policy:

OTTAWA (AP) - Canada should impose a tax on gas-guzzling SUVs and cut the GST on hybrid vehicles to help meet its Kyoto commitments, says Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy.

Kennedy said Thursday that those two measures would yield a "much more practical" reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than the carbon tax floated by leadership front-runner Michael Ignatieff.

A direct political jab at Iggy, but fairly solid, pragmatic stuff as well. Kennedy takes pains to point out that these kinds of environmental initiative ought to be more palatable to Albertans:

He said [Iggy's proposed] carbon tax would unfairly penalize oil-rich Alberta, incense the energy industry and be counterproductive.

"We need the oil sector on side. Eight per cent of our increase in greenhouse gases came from the oil sands," Kennedy told The Canadian Press.

"We need to be working with them and what we don't want to do is cause a huge flight of capital and damage our resource industry that has been part of Canada's economic power."

Iggy set himself up for that. A well placed shot by Mr. Kennedy.

A Couple of Science Duds

From AftenPosten, Norway's National paper:

A professor at the Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo has issued an editorial apology for what he called "exaggerated explosive force" linked to reports of the recent meteorite strike in Norway.

There's a picture of the resultant crater with the article, as well as in my earlier post on the topic. Nowhere near 15 kilotons.

And from Nat. Geog.:

A war of words continues to rage over the alleged discovery of an ancient pyramid in Bosnia.
Bosnian-American pyramid buff Semir "Sam" Osmanagic claims a four-sided hill in the town of Visoko is Europe's first known pyramid, larger than any ever built in Egypt.

But in the latest salvo in this battle, the president of the European Association of Archaeologists said on Friday that he had visited the 700-foot (213-meter) hill and saw no evidence that it was human-made.

Speaking at a press conference in Sarajevo, Anthony Harding told reporters the pyramid-shaped hill was a natural phenomenon.

Looks like Osmanagic is basically plowing through the ruins of some bona fide ancient Illyrian ruins to get at a non-existent pyramid buried underneath them.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

CIty of Toronto Act Update

It turns out I made an error in my recent post on the City of Toronto Act. It turns out that the Toronto now has, and Ontario municipalities in general soon will get, the ability to add a municipal component to the Land Transfer Tax. This is important because the LTT is a tax paid on the transfer of title from seller to buyer when a property is sold. Its based on a percentage of the sale price, so for a typical home (in TO) might amount to several thousands of dollars. Because of the sums involved, it is the one fund raising change in the new legislation that can potentially bring in more than just chicken-feed.

Which is good insofar as it allows the city to function independently from the Province. Note that it is an option that may never get utilized. My understanding is that one of the reasons it will eventually be extended to all Ontario municipalities is so that people will not be driven out of TO to the surrounding 905 suburbs by increased housing costs, because the 905 communities will presumably hike the tax as well. But that doesn't have to happen, and the various players in the GTA will still be able to compete for people and businesses through their tax policies, as they have always done.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

BigCityLib Saw The Future in Langford B.C.

A BCer in Toronto put me onto this Globe story:

Local councils in Britain have been given a list of uncool music selections that will disperse obnoxious teenagers. The central Local Government Association (LGA) calls for the councils to launch "pilot projects for the Manilow method," referring to experiments in Sydney, Australia, where strains of Copacabana and Mandy were piped into a car park to disperse congregations of young hoodlums. The 20 selections suggested by the LGA include such songs as: Release Me (Engelbert Humperdinck), Achy Breaky Heart (Billy Ray Cyrus); Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen (Neil Sedaka); Bridge Over Troubled Water (Gene Pitney); (They Long to Be) Close to You (The Carpenters); Uptown Girl (Billy Joel). However, some local officials "fear that the songs on the Manilow method list could inadvertently become cool and even enjoyed by the young people they are supposed to deter," says The Independent on Sunday.

Ironically, BCer does not realize that this particular "punk dispersal" tactic, which is now commonly employed throughout the U.S. and Canada, was invented in British Columbia in the early 1980s. In fact, it was invented by the Petro-Canada Station at the corner of Millstream and Goldstream Road in Langford, British Columbia, and a much younger version of your own BigCityLib was one of the very first punks they were trying to drive away. Now if you look at this Google Earth image, the Petro Canada station would have been (because I thinks its been torn down) on the top left corner of the intersection at the bottom of the picture, facing the street running more or less vertically (Millstream Road). It served as a meeting place for the local teenagers. You'd gas up your car there (if you owned one) and find out where all the bush parties were happening. Or you'd sit on the curb and drink slushies and wait for kids with cars to show up.

Moving left thourgh the picture, and across to the other side of the intersection (Goldstream Avenue), you will see a number of buildings. I think the little square one was the arcade where we would buy dime bags of weed for about $10, or buy joints for $2 apiece. The police came by twice a night, and the local dealers would fly out the back door and make a dash for the wood around the railway tracks (not visible in this picture).

In any case, I guess around the summer of 1980/81 the station began piping classical music out into the parking lot. And the weird thing is, I don't recall its being much of a deterrent. Langford teens didn't get up to much, criminally speaking, beyond a few DUIs and possession charges. We were, for the most part, a bunch of long-haired, jean-clad, semi-rural rocker kids. The drugs of choice, other than weed, were little magic mushrooms you could pick from under cow patties in the field behind Belmont Highschool. So if anything the music they used might have turned a few people onto Beethoven that would otherwise have spent their lives thinking Pink Floyd was the height of the art form.

On the other hand, if they had played Manilow, that might have got the kids running. I know for a fact that Copacabana has been responsible for any number of bad acid trips.

It was only later that I discovered that Langford's teenage population was the first in the world to have this tactic employed upon them (from The Globe and Mail, oddly enough). As I say, I'm not sure if it worked. I think we all just grew up, bought cars, and stopped buying weed off the street. And the younger kids, my brother's age, simply gravitated to the new Mall across from Belmont High, which was a better place to hang out anyway because it was under a roof).

Anyway, today's story brings back a lot of old memories.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Two Cheers For The New City of Toronto Act

In which the Province of Ontario gives the city government more autonomy from the provincial level, including the ability to raise taxes on alcohol served at bars and restaurants, as well as on movie and concert tickets. This is good news, and a couple of points are in order:

1) Financially speaking, the new act is small change (One estimate I heard today was that the new powers would allow the city to raise another $50 million if vigorously exercised). The biggest prizes, a portion of the provincial sales tax and a municipal gas tax, got pulled off the table by the Province a long time ago, and the third really significant item, a municipal land-transfer tax over and above the provincial tax, seems to have dropped out of the document in the last couple of weeks. Hence the lack of one cheer.

Nevertheless, it will still get Toronto out from under the Provincial thumb a little bit.

2) As several news sources have reported, the same kinds of changes are likely coming for other Ontario municipalities, for The City of Toronto Act will serve as the template for the new Ontario Municipal Act.

These are small steps but all to the good. Currently, municipalities in Ontario are the "creatures of the Province", and can be pushed around whenever you have an anti-Urban government in power like the Mike Harris Conservatives. As The Star reports, the law"...will end provincial micromanaging of everything from putting a speed bump on a road to setting bar hours."

Politically, this should cinch Mayor Miller's bid for a second term. It should also help McGuinty in Toronto and some of the other Ontario cities. He has has fulfilled a promise (maybe his first!) to right some of the wrongs done to the urban areas under Mike Harris, and with the new Municipal Act there is more to come.

I also notice some good stuff coming out of Toronto City Council aimed at "fixing" the Tories disastrous amalgamation of Metro Toronto into The Megacity. I'll try to write on them over the course of the next couple of days.

No Cell Could Hold Him! Rove Will Not be Charged!

If you haven't heard about this already, CNN is reported that Karl Rove will not be charged, according to his lawyer Robert Luskin.

Somebody at Truthout will be made very unhappy by this news.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Harper Dubs 'Em Guilty

He was doing alright too, until his address to the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, where he said that:

The 17 men who allegedly planned to bomb targets in southern Ontario are symbols of hatred seeking to tear apart Canada's "diverse and democratic society," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

"Let us never forget that such people today, as in the past, may make use of the symbols of a culture or a faith, but they speak for neither," Mr. Harper told the chamber's annual awards ceremony on Saturday night. "They represent nothing but hatred."

Can we all just try to remember that these guys have not been tried yet, certainly have not been found guilty of anything, and as such are symbols of nothing? It's one thing for a bunch of hacks, who need to crap out a few hundred words for their next column, to speculate irresponsibly. It is another thing entirely for the Prime Minister to make statements that will be reported across the nation and may, therefore, render a fair trial for these guys impossible. We do want to put the correct people in jail for the correct crimes, right? Not just any Muslim will do, right?

Keep it in your pants, Stephen.

Media Paid for Harper's Afghanistan Trip

Gas, on-board catering, handling and other miscellaneous expenses, like magazines and newspapers, brought the tab for Stephen Harper's Afghanistan photo-op to $191,534. But don't worry, the tax-payer was spared, for each of the "journalists" on-board paid $10,700 for the privilege of making our PM look leader-like in front of, apparently, an almost empty Kandahar Base.

A bit like paying somebody to rob you.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Guantanamo Suicides a 'PR Move'

...say top U.S. officials. Presumably the last PR move they'll ever make.

Alberta MP: End Culture of Defeat by Shipping Newfies to the Oilfields

From Fort McMurray Today:

Comments made by Fort McMurray-Athabasca MP Brian Jean at a committee meeting in Ottawa on Thursday have sparked outrage among members of the Atlantic Liberal caucus.“What are we doing to send (unemployed Atlantic Canadians), either temporarily or permanently across the country ... to get them into northern Alberta to keep the economy going?” Jean asked at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.“I think some sort of transportation strategy to make it available for the people that are unemployed in the rest of Canada should be looked at.”

The Libs did have a relocation program at one time, and I remember it kicked up some real local bigotry when the Feds planned to settle a bunch of Maritimers in the wrong part of Ontario (maybe around Hamilton?). You'd have thought the poor guys were cannibals or something.

Apparently, the program was cancelled. Anyone know why?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

More on Norway Space Rock

From the Norwegian Paper Aftenposten, a picture of the impact site of that big meteorite that hit a mountain in Norway. Text is in Norwegian, but the picture is reproduced here:

Nothing in the picture to provide scale, but the original report, which put the impact at around 15 kilotons, sounds a wee bit exaggerated.

Still no Harper Majority!l

So says Allen Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel, whose latest indicates that:

The events of the week do not appear to have given Mr. Harper's party a bounce in the polls. The [Strategic Counsel] poll found that 36 per cent of Canadians would vote Conservative if an election were held today, the same number who voted Tory in the January election. The Liberals, by contrast, are down three points to 27 per cent, while the NDP is up one point to 19 per cent.

(Note: the last Strategic Counsel poll had the Tories at 35%)

Other poll results include:

Canadians are also more supportive of the [Afghanistan] mission, with 48 per cent saying they back sending the troops, compared with 44 per cent who oppose the move. Support now outweighs opposition by four percentage points, compared with earlier this month when opposition outweighed support by 14 points.

Mr. Gregg says the figures show that Canadians are not prepared to use the threat of terrorism as an excuse to get out of Afghanistan. Interestingly, support for the mission has increased the most in the province of Quebec, where 39 per cent support the move, up from 27 per cent last month.

And also:

When asked what they believe are the best measures to fight the war on terrorism, most prefer deportations or jail time for offenders rather than infiltrating the Muslim community with agents or restricting immigration from Muslim countries.

...which makes me proud to be a Canadian (although frankly you probably do need "agents" who can pass for Muslim if you want to root out extremist cells within the community).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Big Rock Hits Norway!!

In fact slams into the side of a mountain with a force equivalent of the Hiroshima bomb. I'll try and find a shot of that mountain.

Aren't scientists supposed to be watching for shit like this?

Canadian Terror Week Picks and Pans

A week down the road from our first little episode of alleged home-grown terror, and its time to rate some of the main players. So here is BigCityLib's personal list of Picks and Pans:

Stephen Harper--Pick: Displayed an almost "Canadian" common sense. No demagoguery, good message: "Don't overreact. Stay calm". Kept his head, in other words (tee hee). But is the whole thing a right wing conspiracy to sacrifice innocent Muslims and get in good with George W. Bush? Stay tuned.

Bill Graham--Pan: The interim Lib leader was stupid enough to link the home-grown terror threat to our mission in Afghanistan. Apparently, if we pulled out, more Asian kids from Mississauga would decide they needed to behead the PM. Retire this guy. Not even the Tories have been talking so dumb.

Christie Blatchford--BIG FAT DOUBLE PAN: For writing a series of columns that veered from raw shrieks of panicked bigotry ("Ignoring the Elephant in The Room") to unsubtantiated bullshit. Who are her sources anyway? Is she nailing some guy from CSIS? I would link, but her articles are behind the Globe's infamous firewall.

David Miller and the people of Toronto--Pick: For remaining as cool and sexxxy as only you can be! (Other than those jerks out in Etobicoke who did this) What a Mayor! What a town! Stay blase, brothers and sisters.

Andrew Coyne--Pick: For keeping it in his pants in columns like this. Even the contributors on his right wing blog have come around towards moderation on the issue. He truly hosts a better class of wingnut.

The rest of the Right Wing Blogosphere--Pan: For being racists pigs and frightened little sucky wads at the same time. Torontonians can surely remain calm; the kids at SmallDeadAnimals and Blogging Tories are terrified enough for all of us! An extra Pan for spelling and style. How many ways can you mis-spell Muslim? Send me an email, Kate, and I'll send your people a dictionary and a thesaurus.

CSIS/Police--Undecided: If you guys bagged some real terrorists, BigCityLib will buy you a year's free donuts! If this is a cock-up, like Operation Thread or that bust last week in London, but on a massively larger scale, then I'll buy you all gold watches because you're fucking retiring early, assholes!

The "Terrorists"--Pan: Either would-be murderers or a pack of really dumb teenage boys (and some weird older guy) doing the muslim equivalent of "blacking up" and acting muther-fukin' badddasssed, complete with combat fatigues and shitty rap poetry. I would hope the latter is the case, obviously. Prison can be hard on kids their age, especially if they're in any way good looking. They'll have to either learn how to fight or to dance, if you know what I mean. Some advice, terrorist kids: if all else fails you can always "marry" the convict with the most cigarettes. (On second thought, half a Pick for comedy value. Trust Canada to host the worlds funniest terrorists. This could be a tv show, like The Trailer Park Boys but with bombs and beheadings. Beheadings! Ain't that a hoot? I can't get over it!)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Terror "Mastermind" Not Charged with Recruiting?

Among some other more obvious points from Now Magazine's cautionary piece "Terror in the Details" comes this interesting tidbit:

Qayyum Abdul Jamal, the eldest of those charged and the suspect portrayed in media reports as the force behind the alleged radicalization of the young suspects, wasn't actually charged with recruiting for the purpose of a terrorist activity.

I would love to know the import of this little fact.

Bob Rae Lays it on the Table

Demanding a pullout in 2007 may not be a feasible option at this point, given that we are already halfway through 2006, but I think Bob Rae does the Liberal Party a useful service by laying out the choice for the other leadership candidates: do we organize an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan in accordance with our own national interests ASAP, or do we drive around Kandahar getting shot at for the next god knows how many years until the Americans tell us to go home?

Specifically, Mr. Rae says:

While [Mr. Rae] supports the current mission, he believes that when the combat component expires in 2007, it should not be renewed, and that we have made our contribution with respect to combat," said spokesman Alex Swann.

He added that Mr. Rae believes Canada should focus its military, aid and diplomatic resources on reconstruction and rebuilding Afghanistan.

We should ensure we understand whether any such efforts affect our ability to contribute to resolving other troubling situations, such as in Darfur," Mr. Swann said.

Now, this is the National Post we are talking about, so they are eager to play up the "Liberals Divided" angle:

The issue is already evolving into a defining one for the party. Some Liberals say their leadership choice is now limited to Mr. Ignatieff or Scott Brison, the only two candidates who voted to extend the current mission, while a number of caucus members have said privately they cannot now vote for Mr. Ignatieff, the perceived front-runner.

And it is true that the Liberals are divided on the issue: into a very large group, broadly representative of Canada as a whole, and a much smaller group that stands on the Right of the party and feels that the way back into power is to offer the nation Conservative Lite. In fact, the 67/24 split vote in Parliament on the extension of the mission, with Bill Graham and Iggy and Scott Brison et. al. in the minority helping to prop up the Harper government, probably over-states the amount support within the party's rank and file. Certainly, Michael Ignatieff is out of step with his Toronto constituents.

And Libs should remember, this minority is from the same wing of the party that gave us Turner and Martin--a parade of losers in other words. The party should choose somebody who is willing to buck U.S pressure and bring the soldiers home, and tell these people to get back in line.

(In fact, after the disaster that was the Paul Martin government, this bunch should be offering to wait tables and sweep floors at the leadership convention)

Two Cheers for the Death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Good riddance to that nasty, ugly bastard. Good riddance to the 7 aides that went down with him in an air-raid. Because with some of his lieutenants out of the way the group al-Zarqawi led, "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia", should have some difficulty in the short term reconstituting its leadership structure. However, as Juan Cole (and most MSM commenters have already noted this morning:

Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.

In fact, given the controversial nature of Zarqawi's tactics among his fellow terrorists, his death may actually work in their favor in the longer term: they lose a problem and gain a Martyr (as has already been argued here).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Cdn. Soldiers Kidnapped in Afghanistan?

Several Canadian news outlets, like CTV, have picked up on an Al Jazeera story (not yet on their website) to the effect that several Canadian soldiers have been kidnapped from the Kandahar area by Taliban forces. The Canadian military is currently doing a headcount to confirm/deny the story. It will probably take some time to complete, given the dispersed nature of our people in the area.

The Taliban lie and Al Jazeera will often report their lies as truth. Our military spokespeople think this is the case in the current instance. Let's hope really, really hard they're right.

1:15 pm update: According to CBC, Al Jazeera is backing off a bit and claiming the story was given to it "second hand".

Update: As of the morning of June 8, all Canadian troops have been accounted for. That the story had proven false was evident last evening. However, Blogger was down for "unscheduled maintenance".

Terrorist Coffee Klatch

The best story on our home-grown terrorists this morning comes from the WSJ. My favorite quote:

According to counterterrorism and law-enforcement agents, all of the contacts between Mr. Tsouli, and the Atlanta and Toronto cells were only about ideas. 'In fact the only resources they could offer each other was advice. There was no money, no training camps. They were just comparing ideas, not operating as an organization. It was more like a terrorist coffee klatch,' one counterterrorism agent said.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bill Graham, Pinhead

From the Nat. Post:

Liberal Leader Bill Graham, meanwhile, said Canada must continue its military role in Afghanistan or risk more terrorist threats at home.


''I'm afraid that if we don't succeed, the threats will get bigger. The success of our forces in Afghanistan are more and more important, as shown by what we happened this weekend.''

Can someone in the Liberal Party not apply the hook to this idiot?

Citing an alleged terror plot here in Canada as a reason to support the continuation of our mission in Afghanistan is absolutely ridiculous. For one thing, how is fighting a ground war in Asia supposed to discourage homegrown terrorism? I mean, we've been at it about four years now and, Look!, (alleged) homegrown terrorists right here in TO! So how has our presence helped in that regard? If we pulled out of Afghanistan, this would, what, inspire more attacks?

Liberals shouldn't be spouting Tory propaganda.

Monday, June 05, 2006

London Terror Investigation Gone Down Crapper?

From The Guardian. Last week London police busted in on brothers Abul Koyair, 20, and Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23. Mr. Kahar was shot (it is unclear by who), and both men arrested on terror-related charges. The police were apparently looking for a "chemical bomb", possibly worked into the form of a vest for detonation by a suicide bomber.

However, a source close to the investigation is now claiming that "...the chemical weapons sought in the raid on a house in Forest Gate in east London "might be elsewhere or never existed"."

Another source from within Scotland Yard also expressed doubt:

"If the intelligence was wrong, we possibly have egg on our faces,"another anonymous Scotland Yard source said in the Daily Telegraph.

"We have wasted a lot of time, put a lot of people out, one man has been shot and two have been arrested."

The lesson for Canadians here ought to be obvious, especially since the London bust and the Canadian arrests on Friday night have been rumored to be linked in some way. Specifically: don't panic, don't prejudge. Sometimes there is less to these "investigations" than there appears to be. And for gawdsakes don't go apeshit like Christie Blatchford in her ghastly G&M column of this morning. (which I can't link to cuz its behind the password protection. Try googling "elephant" "room" "Blatchford" "Globe")

Canadian Terrorists on Flight from London?

From CKNW (a talk radio station in Vancouver):

RICHMOND/CKNW(AM980) - Air Canada says it may have been young people acting up on a flight from London, England to Vancouver, but passengers onboard the flight say otherwise.There were some tense moments as the Air Canada plane sat on the tarmac of London's Heathrow Airport.

Vancouver passenger, Ivan Bulic says British police boarded the plane and told them to stay in their seats, while five males were dragged off the plane, "When police came onboard, heavily-armed police with bullet-proof vests and dogs, and two busloads of police surrounded the aircraft, people were obvioulsy wondering what was going on."

There was a second story on this in the Vancouver Sun behind their entry screen, but otherwise I have heard nothing about it. Just nerves on the part of the police or something real?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

59% Oppose Extension of Afghanistan Mission; 59% Support Kyoto Accord

The Afghanistan figure is nationwide, according to The TO Star and Decima Research:

Support was weakest by far in Quebec, where 31 per cent were in favor of extending the mission while 64 per cent were opposed. Backing for the move was strongest in Alberta, where respondents favored the extension by a 55-40 margin.


As for Kyoto, 59 per cent nationally said the accord is important for Canada and the country should not withdraw from the treaty. Thirty-one per cent said it doesn't matter if Ottawa sticks to the deal, as long as there is an alternative plan in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Quebecers backed Kyoto by 66 per cent to 27, while Albertans opted for an alternative approach by 50 to 41.

Obviously we've got a bunch of war-mongering, science-hating ignoramuses out in Alberta. I think its time we quit appeasing these people and demanded that they step up to their role as Canadians.

Two Indians Among Terror Suspects

From the Telegraph Calcutta:

Several Canadians believed to be of Indian origin are among 17 people rounded up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Greater Toronto last night in the biggest anti-terrorism investigation in Canada since an Air-India aircraft was bombed by Khalistanis in 1985.

The list of those arrested, released in Toronto today by the authorities, names Steven Vikash Chand as among those detained during raid, which also led to the seizure of bomb-making material, computer hard drives and camouflage uniforms.

Chand, 25, a resident of Toronto, converted to Islam and has an alias, Abdul Shakur. Another detainee, Asad Ansari, 21, of Mississauga in the Greater Toronto area, is also believed to be of Indian origin.

There are some more Indian-sounding names on the list of 12 detainees released today, but it could not be verified immediately whether they originally came from elsewhere in the sub-continent.

The paper goes on to note that:

If it is finally determined that there are Indo-Canadians among those arrested last night, it will be a rare instance of people of Indian origin being involved in any international terrorism plot since September 11, 2001.

They sound a bit embarrassed.

Update, June 6th: The Hindustan Times is now claiming no connection between the various suspects as India itself, outside of a few "Indian sounding" names.

Etobicoke Mosque Vandalized

I guess we'll be seeing more of this:

Damage is estimated at more than $15,000 after three-dozen windows and glass doors were smashed overnight at one of Toronto’s biggest mosques.


Farouk said he feared the latest vandalism may have been backlash after the weekend arrests of 12 men and five youths, many of them Muslims, suspected of planning terrorist attacks in the Greater Toronto area.

Terror Cell? Thomas Walkon is a Bit Skeptical

He writes:

There may indeed have been a terrorist conspiracy that involved what the RCMP assistant commissioner Mike McDonell yesterday referred to as "training areas," where militants tramped about in big boots, cooked on outdoor barbecues, built bombs and used a wooden door for target practice.

That's the implication from the evidence shown to reporters yesterday: five pairs of boots in camouflage drab, six flashlights, one set of walkie-talkies, one voltmeter, one knife, eight D-cell batteries, a cellphone, a circuit board, a computer hard drive, one barbecue grill, one set of tongs suitable for turning hot dogs, a wooden door with 21 marks on it and a 9-mm handgun.

Or it is possible that the only thing that these bits of evidence prove is that a group of young men went somewhere where they tramped around in big boots, cooked on barbecues, played soldier and generally acted like jerks — which young men are occasionally wont to do.
The three tonnes of ammonium nitrate allegedly purchased was, as McDonell said, three times the amount used in the Oklahoma terror bombing of 1995.

But, as he also said, farmers routinely buy three tonnes of ammonium nitrate "every day." They use it for fertilizer, not bombs.

On this last point I have to disagree with Walkom. While most of the "evidence" presented can only be tenuously connected to potential terrorist acts, the "three tonnes of fertilizer" seems pretty damning, at least at first site. As many have pointed out, these guys weren't farmers, and I can't think of another reason they would need so much of the stuff other than to build some pretty big bombs.

Walkom also mentions:

... the infamous 2003 Project Thread fiasco, in which RCMP and immigration officials accused 23 Muslims of terrorism only to acknowledge later that at most the men were guilty of minor immigration fraud.

In short, everyone should keep their powder dry on this one. Or at least wait to hear the other side of the story (the defendents lawyers have not issued a statement yet).

TO Smoking Ban Kicks In

...And the first couple of days have gone pretty smoothly. Of course the weather has cooperated for the most part, being patio friendly.

Local bar owners may complain, but for every smoker they lose they'll probably get back one person like me. There were a couple of places I used to frequent, but stopped when they put in a smoking room. So many smokers would cram the place that the smell leaked out and took over the whole establishment. You could look in through the windows they had installed and watch these shadowy figures moving around within billowing clouds of gray smoke. A bit like the Beerquarium from The Simpsons.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Proposed Elections Act: Over-sold?

A couple of days ago now, Cerberus posted an extremely interesting analysis re. the Conservative amendments to the Canada Elections Act, in which he concluded that these amendments were being pretty shamelessly over-sold to the Canadian public.

Specifically, the amendments are supposed to put Canada on a fixed Federal election schedule, where Federal elections occur every four years and the next one (barring the current minority government falling due to a defeat in Parliament) would be on October 19th, 2009.

What Cerberus did was simply ponder the implications of the first words in the new document:

56.1 (1) Nothing in this section affects the powers of the Governor General, including the power to dissolve Parliament at the Governor General's discretion.

...and realize how much leeway in the calling of elections is still given to the sitting government.

After some to-ing and fro-ing on the Cerberus comments page, and after reading through the six page list of amendments, I am inclined to agree with C's assessment. FWIW, this is what I draw from the proposed revision to the Elections Act:

1) The revised Act will not let a government that is down in the polls extend its term into a fifth year, a la Mulroney's gang and Bob Rae's hapless Ontario Dippers.

2) The revised act will continue to allow a government up in the polls to pull the plug on a parliamentary section and call a snap election, a la Chretien in 2003.

Now, on this latter point, a number of people at Cerberus argued that once the bill is passed the government in power will be "morally obliged" to serve out a full four years, though the wording of the document still allows them to approach the GG and dissolve parliament. How could Harper pass such a bill and then drop the writ? Wouldn't the electorate punish him under such circumstances? And what kind of GG would go along with his request?

But this is just to say that the obligation belongs to the political context in which the legislation is passed, and is not encoded in the document itself. For one thing, political context can change overnight. Just ask Paul Martin. For another, as time passes the memory of the kind of shenaningans that inspired the passage of the amendments will fade (usually, Chretien and 2000 are invoked here). So succeeding governments will likely come to feel less and less obliged to follow the "spirit" rather than the "letter" of the law.

Is this just a case of there being just half a loaf? Even less than half, actually. A government that unilaterally extends its term into a fifth year is generally doomed. I know of no cases (though there may be a few I'm missing) where the ruling party has rebounded in its fifth year to win re-election.

On the other hand, calling a snap election certainly worked for Chretien...

Now, The Libs don't do themselves any favors by straight-out opposing the current amendments. They just look like part of the "old gang" that wants to do pretty much as it pleases when in power. But they might get out in front of the issue by coming down in favor of something stronger, something that more definitively binds the governments hands, or at least closes the loophole of greatest concern, which is the ability under the new amendments to call a snap election when things are going well.

GTA Terror Cell Busted?

From The Star:

A group of Canadian teenagers and young men in their 20s, accused by police of being members of a suspected homegrown terrorist cell, will appear in court this morning to face accusations that they plotted to attack Canadian targets, the Toronto Star has learned.

Kudos to the cops if true. But as the article points out, there are legitimate grounds for skepticism here:

Then there was Project Thread, a 2003 joint immigration-RCMP case touted as the dismantling of an Al Qaeda cell, but ending in a routine immigration case that sent Pakistani students home branded terrorists.

If I remember correctly, this was the case where one of the Pakistani students was taking flying lessons out of Buttonville(?) and flying rather close to the Darlington nuclear facility. Turned out that everyone taking lessons out of that airport flew past the facility.

Friday, June 02, 2006

U.S. Troops Cleared in Ishaqi

ABC News is reporting that military officials have completed their investigation and concluded that U.S. forces followed the rules of engagement in Ishaqi in March. While they did indeed kill the 11 civilians noted, there is no evidence of a "massacre".

I am inclined to accept this, as it jibes with Juan Cole's argument that the "long-range bullet wounds may indicate that they [U.S. troops] went in, guns blazing, before they realized who they were killing." While I do not trust the MSM on such things, I do trust Mr. Cole.

The troops were supposed to be after, and apparently apprehended, a suspected al-Qaeda suspect. The rest were "collateral damage".

Ishaqi "Massacre" Update

Juan Cole suggests that the March 15th deaths in Ishaqi, Iraq, were not the result of a deliberate massacre of civilians. As reported here, U.S. forces were after an al-Qaeda supporter alleged to be visiting town, and instead shot up a house full of (apparent) innocents:

...the long-range bullet wounds may indicate that they [U.S. troops] went in, guns blazing, before they realized who they were killing. At Haditha, it appears that Marines were just taking revenge on civilians for the killing that morning of one of their own. What is scarey at Ishaqi, if the story is borne out, is the cover-up.

Equalization "Compromise": Yeah, Whatever

According to the Globe, Ottawa's long-awaited report on revamping the equalization program will recommend a cap be put on potential payouts to recipient provinces. The report's recommendations appear to be an effort at compromise, intended both to enrich the program and to ensure that Ontario and Alberta are treated fairly...

Yeah, whatever. Let's break this one down politically into small, easily digested pieces.

Tories are revisiting the equalization formula, addressing the "fiscal imbalance", because they see that the path to a majority government goes through Quebec. Hence they are looking to shovel money in the direction of Quebec. However, there are only two official "have" provinces in Canada that are in a position to provide that money, and one of them is the Tory stronghold of Alberta, where they threaten to leave Confederation whenever someone even looks funny at their huge piles of Petro $s. So, the mission is to payoff Quebec while keeping hands off Alberta's pile.

That leaves Ontario.

So if you see this guy hanging around your provincial capital over the next couple of months, he's our Premier and he's looking out for Ontario's interests. Be careful, he's more dangerous than he looks.