Categories for Musings

“A portrait of depravity”


From the New York Times lead editorial this morning:

The world has long known that the United States government illegally detained and tortured prisoners after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and lied about it to Congress and the world. But the summary of a report released Tuesday of the Senate investigation of these operations, even after being sanitized by the Central Intelligence Agency itself, is a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach.

Largely left unaddressed in the news coverage, this morning, is this question: were the so-called “black sites” – about which George W. Bush refused to be briefed, and on which the Canadian government remains reliantthe places where ISIS/ISIL was created? Did they give rise to the very thing they purportedly were seeking to prevent?

Like New York Democrat Jerrold said: “Torture fails to make us safe. But it certainly makes us less free.”

In Tuesday’s Sun: they’re disgusting, but they’re working

Political truths aren’t obscure.  Most of the time, they’re right out in the open, for all to see.

Turn on your TV – or your radio, or your PC – and you will see one of the principal reasons why Stephen Harper is competitive, again.  Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, your tax dollars are being deployed to broadcast the Conservative Party’s ubiquitous “Economic Action Plan” ads.

There’s no accounting for what the latest spate of ads cost, naturally.  But, to date, it is known that more than $100 million in public funds have been blown on the Action Plan’s five-year bacchanal of partisan self-promotion.

The ads do not reference the Conservative Party’s name, Tories will say.  But the ads also do not reference anything that is real, either.  The latest spate promote a family-focused tax package that hasn’t even passed Parliament yet. And when you see them, you know that tagging them with a chirpy “vote Conservative” closing line would be almost redundant.

To make matters appreciably worse, the Economic Action Plan ads are not the only such abuse. Lately, untold fortunes have been spent on a series of Health Canada anti-marijuana ads.  “The science is clear. Marijuana use equals health risks,” the ads proclaim, because none of us apparently already knew that regularly inhaling any kind of smoke is inadvisable.  All that is missing from the Health Canada agitprop is another kind of tagline: “Don’t vote for Justin Trudeau, because he wants to make it easier for your kids to get drugs.”

Some will say that they are not affected by such advertising.  But the undeniable truth is this: big ad campaigns work. That’s why corporations and governments do them – because, if done well, they reliably move public opinion.

Thus, the other truth, referenced off the top: Stephen Harper, whose political obituary has been written many times since Justin Trudeau became Liberal leader, is decidedly not dead.  And, therefore, the people who are paid to track such things have observed diminutive – but significant – shifts in public opinion.   Stephen Harper, once a political goner, is back in the hunt.

That Ipsos poll released in the middle of last week, for example:  it showed the Conservatives and the Liberals tied, nationally.  As with other polls, the Ipsos survey – conducted over three weeks, and involving more than 8,000 Canadians – found that the Liberals have been slipping, somewhat, and the Conservatives have been edging up, somewhat.

A Nanos poll released on the same day, meanwhile, proclaimed that Stephen Harper has achieved a twelve-month high on the key question of who Canadians prefer as Prime Minister. Nanos found that 33 per cent selected Harper, while  29 and 20 per cent favoured Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair, respectively. Three months ago, on the same question, Trudeau had been ahead of Harper by six points.

There are other reasons that explain why Harper is doing well, of course.

His decision to deploy our Armed Forces in the international effort against ISIS is very popular with Canadians.  The NDP and the Liberals have been preoccupied with two unseemly Parliament Hill sexual harassment cases for weeks, with no end in sight.  The Canadian economy is heading into a “broadening recovery,” said the Bank of Canada’s governor, coincidentally on the very same day Ipsos and Nanos released their polling.

When examining political cause-and-effect, it is never just one thing that accounts for big shifts in political fortunes.  It’s a lot of things.

But, in Canada, if there is a single factor that accounts for the spring in Stephen Harper’s step, it is the repellent and revolting orgy of pro-Conservative advertising, funded by us, the taxpayers.

And it is all right there in the open, for all to see.

Fourteen reasons

…why we still need effective gun safety laws.

  1. Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  2. Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  3. Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  4. Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  5. Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  6. Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  7. Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
  8. Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  9. Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  10. Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  11. Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  12. Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  13. Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering studentBarbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student
  14. Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

You will be hearing about this catastrophic error for years to come

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that it will be used to legitimize attacks on the credibility of women who have been sexually assaulted, for years to come.

What a disaster.

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

Will Dana
Managing Editor”

In Friday’s Sun: Wall’s wilful whoppers

There’s a reason why Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall is consistently ranked as one of the country’s most-popular Premiers.

He knows how to communicate. And he aggressively represents his constituents. He does his job, in effect.

That doesn’t mean he is doing the right thing all the time, however. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Saskatchewan’s interests are identical to the national interest. Or, for that matter, the collective interests of Ontario and Quebec.

Wall, who knows his way around a scrum, is lately in high dudgeon. He is angry – or he is pretending to be – at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard over the Energy East pipeline.

Speaking to the media a few days ago, Wall said he was “surprised,” “concerned” and “very concerned” about what Wynne and Couillard have said about the $12 billion project, which would carry millions of barrels in Alberta and Saskatchewan crude to refineries in Eastern Canada.

What have Wynne and Couillard said that has whipped up Wall’s wrath? The following:

· Ontario and Quebec have said they’d like to see the pipeline follow environmental best-practices.

· They want some consultation with aboriginal people, over whose land the pipeline will traverse.

· They’d like to see effective emergency response, in case something goes wrong.

· They want some kind of benefit for folks in Ontario and Quebec, and particularly natural gas consumers.

· And…that’s it.

Shocking. Reads like a ransom note, doesn’t it? What’s next? Nationalizing the petroleum industry?

Not quite. Wynne and Couillard are raising eminently-sensible questions about the Energy East pipeline. That’s their job, after all.

That hasn’t stopped Wall from attempting to pick a fight with Ontario and Quebec, however. He has said that Wynne and Couillard are imposing “conditions” – even though they’re not, because they can’t. (Approval for the pipeline falls squarely within federal jurisdiction.)

There is a proud and time-tested tradition, of course, of Canada’s Eastern and the Western parts screaming bloody murder about the arrogance and dominance of the Central part. It results in votes, and sometimes it attracts federal largesse. Sometimes, it’s even right.

In this case, it is not. What Brad Wall is doing is disingenuous, and he knows it.

Take, for instance, Wall’s bunkum about how Western oil is being held to a higher standard than, say, Middle Eastern oil. Wynne and Couillard seem “almost ashamed the country has oil,” Wall huffed.

“Interests in Central Canada” – presumably Wall means the duly-elected representatives of two-thirds of Canada’s population – have “never” raised concerns about imports of “oil from Venezuela, Algeria or Iraq,” Saskatchewan’s Premier claims.

Wall isn’t directly stating that Ontario is getting all of its oil from ISIS enclaves in Iraq, but he probably wouldn’t be upset if Ontario voters were left with that impression.

The reality is that crude oil imports to Canada from afar have significantly decreased. In the first eight months of 2014, in fact, imports from overseas dropped – and less-expensive North American sources now represent about half of all crude oil imports into Canada.

And, when one considers that Ontario ultimately gets 99.7 per cent – that is, just shy of 100 per cent – of its oil from Western Canada, Wall is indulging in the sort of sophistry that assists no one. As the Government of Saskatchewan itself admits on one of its shiny web sites: the amount of Saskatchewan oil that is “shipped to Ontario” is, um, “substantial.” No kidding.

Premier Wall, you are aggressively representing your province’s interests. Fine. You are doing your job. Fine.

But reflect on Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s approach – he was this week in Ontario to meet with Premier Wynne, and he moved the Energy East pipeline towards approval without indulging in histrionics and petty regionalism.

That’s the best way to represent the people who elected you, Premier Wall: you know, by building the country up, not tearing it down.