Monday, November 30, 2009

Connect The Dots

I wonder if this is why Harper is trying to shut the lid on torture investigations? If the folks back home start to realize that torture isn't a historical curiosity, perhaps they won't want to wait until 2011 to get the Hell out of Dodge.
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The Other Smear Sister Heard From

Rosie Dimano:
I am dubious, however, of a diplomat relying on journalists and embassy compound chatter for information and using that, in part, as a basis for copy-all email memos. Further, those emails – on the evidence of passages published to this point – do not support the degree of alarm that Colvin has retroactively claimed. Nor does there appear to be, in any of that voluminous correspondence, an eyes-on grasp of the chaos on the ground in Kandahar in 2006 and 2007, when Taliban units engaged in traditional combat – standing and fighting, as they did during Operation Medusa – with Canadian troops taking into custody an unexpectedly huge number of prisoners.

What were they to do with them?

Nobody has answered that question. And few, I suggest – beyond those with an agenda that has nothing to do with protecting detainees from abuse – give a damn about Afghans, whether in chains or under Taliban tyranny. (emphasis mine)
Got that? Anyone who ask questions about torture hates Afghans and wants the Taliban to win. You can't get any plainer than that. The Conservatives must be really, really worried, to go all out like this.

Oh and to answer her question, that is something the politicians and military brass should have thought of before they sent our forces into action. Otherwise, it is kind of like looking for the life jackets after the ship has sunk. I mean, in a war you are going to capture people. Aren't our leaders paid to think about what is to be done with them?
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The Last Refuge Of A Sociopath

Shorter Harper: Dearest men and women in uniform. If you remember nothing else from your time in uniform, remember this. Only the Republican Party Conservative Party loves you and understands you. Conservatives and the military are two parts of one organic unit, like the brain and arm of a single body. So, even though no one in the opposition parties has even hinted you were involved with torture, they have accused us of turning a blind eye. And in accusing us, they are accusing you. It is that simple. So remember. Conservatives. Body. Love. Opposition. Traitors. Hate.

H/t to Impolitical.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

What Else Is New?

Greg Weston in today's column, on the Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission's attempts to wrestle documents about torture from the Harperites:
In fact, in the 18 months since the commission launched a public inquiry into the Afghan detainee issue, the government has yet to provide a single page of evidence of any kind. It hasn't been for a lack of trying on the part of the commission.

As the commission's chief lawyer recently said: "Despite numerous document requests and despite continuous assurances the documents would be produced ... the commission has not been provided with a single new document."

Instead, federal lawyers have devoted their efforts -- and no doubt staggering amounts of taxpayers' money -- to binding the commission in legal knots, intimidating witnesses, denying requests for documents and generally ensuring the inquiry goes nowhere. (emphasis mine)
As I have said before, this government has no spending limit on lawyers and lawsuits. None. Being able to go to court on the taxpayer's dime seems to be Stephen Harper's favorite perk as PM. H/t to the Jurist.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today's "No Shit Sherlock" Moment

The government-friendly witnesses, appearing before the committee studying Afghanistan, had access to all of Colvin's evidence and were coached by government of Canada lawyers. No wonder Petey was smirking.
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Christie Blatchford Reads Emails

From Richard Colvin. She admits that she has redacted copies (which seem to be better than our elected officials have. I wonder how that happened?), but that doesn't stop her from coming to the conclusion that Colvin needs to explain himself. You see, Colvin apparently insulted Christie's buds. I am not sure where he did this, but maybe when she wrote this: "In condemning with the same brush highly professional Canadian soldiers, and to complain that they were complicit in breaches of the law of armed conflict and knowingly buried his reports, it is Mr. Colvin who has some explaining left to do.", she was staring longingly at a picture of Rick Hillier. I presume it is Rick Hillier she is talking about because who else would have allegedly "buried his reports". However, Rick Hillier, she might be surprised to learn, is not the army and the army is not Rick Hillier. As far as I know Colvin made absolutely no claims that Canadian soldiers tortured people. That he did suggest that the higher ups in the military should have known that people were getting tortured is another matter, one that they need to explain, not Mr. Colvin.

Update: The Dawg is on her trail. Woof. As he says, there is evidence that Christie is presenting partial evidence as if it was the complete package.

Kady asks some interesting questions too.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

PM Rejects Bloc Support.

Prime Minister Harper told a gathering reporters that, "On this anniversary of the attempted coup, by the Liberals, the socialists, and separatist Bloc Quebecois, I reject the support of the Bloc on the HST motion, to be introduced next week. It is offensive to the principle of democracy that my government should be forced to accept their votes of support. I demand that Mr. Ignatieff immediately declare that he too will support the motion. Otherwise, we will have no choice, but to declare that the coup is back on and I will go the Mme Jean to convince her to adjourn the house until after December 21, 2012. As you all know, many in my caucus expect the world to end that day, so I guess it will be a rather long break. But, I take democracy very seriously and I just cannot stand having Gilles Duceppe voting with me."
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What A Star-Spangled Day That Will Be!

The Queen is coming on July 1st. I am sure President Harper will pull out all the stops to make it a memorable visit.
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What Wells Said

Wells is getting tired of the way the sports beat Ottawa beat is being covered these days. To be fair to Mr. Wells, he and I have been on the same wavelength on this issue for some time.

Instant Update:The scary thing is, it was exactly one year ago that he and I were lamenting the state of politics in this country and things are no better and are, quite possibly, worse.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

I Have No Idea

In a just world, it would be Peter MacKay's political epitaph. In the Harper government however, it is just business as usual.

Update: I tried to see if what fallout would be, from that disgraceful performance, but as you can see, there isn't much play about this in the media.

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It May Not Be A Fib

But when Peter Van Loan says that a change to the law governing the eligability of Canadians held in foreign jails for transfers to Canada, has nothing to do with Omar Khadr, the bullshit detector in my brain goes to defcon 1 (thanks to James for helping me with my defcons in the comments :) ).
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Guess Where This Is Headed?

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised the committee will get "all legally-available" documents, Colvin's lawyer said the Justice Department has clamped down on him.

Lori Bokenfohr said government lawyers have told Colvin they do not accept an opinion that testimony - both written and oral - before Parliament is exempt from national security provisions of the Canada Evidence Act.
This government does not accept any interpretation of any law, other than its own, until forced to by the Supreme Court. I expect this will be no different. Oh well, the Harperites have absolutely no qualms about spending tax dollars on lawyers. None whatsoever.
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Dear NDP

Why bother with Ujjal Dosanjh and Mike Harcourt's message of "pragmatism" as the cardinal virtue of politics? Why go with half measures? If you really want to observe the glories of "getting with it" in action, just turn your eyes to the south and behold the splendor that is the modern Democratic party. Better still, if you insist that "getting with it" is the new watchword in Canadian socialist politics, why not just follow Ujjal and move yourselves into the Liberal caucus? There is no party in the world better than the Liberals when it comes to "getting with it".
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Next Line Of Defence

Now that it is almost certain that emails were directed to Peter MacKay's office by Richard Colvin, the question is, how does he respond? My guess is he will use the tried and true "I can't be expected to read every email sent to me by an employee. After all there are hundreds of embassies and consulates all sending me emails, every day." Really, it's the only semi-plausible excuse for ignoring Colvin he has left. I suspect it won't fly very well, but it does work as an adjunct to the "Bucket Defence".
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We All Knew This Was Coming

“If you have the law on your side, you argue the law. If you have the truth on your side, you argue the truth. If you have neither, bang on the table with your fist, loudly and with as much conviction as possible.”
And if that doesn't work, make cheap appeals to jingoism.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Question Of The Day

If the Conservatives fail in their attempt to manipulate the witness order of the Special Committee on the Mission in Afghanistan, will they shut the committee down with their infamous manual?

Update: Kady suggests an even more likely scenario. You have to hand it to the Conservatives. They may not be able to run a two seat shitter, but they sure know how to throw sand in the gears of democracy.

Update 2: So begins Operation Chaos.

Update 3:
Does anyone know who is paying for Mr. Mulroney's flight back to Canada? Is he coming as a private citizen or as a representative of the government of Canada?
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Pointing Out The Obvious

Robert Silver in the Globe:
What makes this fact interesting (at least to me) is that while the Liberals are at an all time low in popular support in the polls (and no - none of this should be taken as a statement that all is good in Liberal poll land), the NDP have really not been the beneficiaries at all of our swoon. In fact, 15.9 per cent would be Jack Layton's second worst result as leader. Even the polls from last week that had the NDP at 19 per cent would only be a 1 per cent gain over the 2008 election which given the current state of the Grits, is hardly reason for NDP celebration.
This tells me two things. First, most people who used to vote Liberal, are not looking for a left-wing party to vote for as an alternative. Two, those people have not been paying close attention to what has been going on, since the NDP is becoming more centrist, every day.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Early Morning Reading

When I read this headline: Diplomat's accusation prisoners tortured dismissed as 'hearsay' I read 'hearsay' as 'heresy'. That is how this government really works. It is a faith-based government. Anyone who disputes the doctrines of the faith (Harper is infallible, for example) is a heretic and must be destroyed.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Headline Says It All

Layton Betrays The Faithful. The NDP is up in the polls right now and all they had to do is become a party like all the rest. Helping to gut gun control means I can never trust Layton, nor his party again. Layton and his followers might be taking comfort from the polls but in the back of their minds, I hope the words of Jesus keep them awake at night.

 36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36, King James Version)
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Um, That Is Rather Hard To Believe

The Conservatives are using the old "functionaries at a low level" defense in the torture scandal. Gordon O'Connor said yesterday:
“Reports like this may have occurred and gone through the system and people at lower levels may have decided there’s no credibility to different reports,”
That does not even sound remotely credible to me. If an official from your own embassy is telling you that you are handing over prisoners to be tortured, human nature being what it is, you would pass it up the line, if only to cover your own ass. No way would a low level functionary bury this, because it is a career buster if it is discovered that you did so. Human beings cover their own asses. Twas always thus. The more the Conservatives talk about this, the less believable they are.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

We Are Fucked Citizens

It is now officially anti-Semitic to question the methods of war, used by the government of Israel. However, you can still talk about hockey, if you wish, as long as you conclude every paragraph with the sentence "Only conservatives love hockey." That is all.
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Why Should Anyone Be Surprised

That, in a country in which only last fall,a large proportion of its population was convinced that a coup was in progress and that they had directly elected a prime minister, is now seized with the idea that gun control for farmers should be scrapped? Given enough money, propaganda and appeals to tribal loyalty, I am convinced that large groups of people can be convinced of pretty much anything.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Conservatives Are Bad Governors

Exhibit A: The 407. Conservatives exist to shift public goods into private hands. It wasn't always this way, but since they turned off their brains and learned to love Thatcherism, it is their only function and goal.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shorter Norman Spector

Because Barack Obama says that a military tribunal is a kind of like a fair trial, the Supreme Court should fold its tent, bow and say, "Thanks, Mr. President".
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Cherry Picking "Justice"

Fair trials for some, kangaroo courts for others, including Omar Khadr. The only criteria seems to be "Where can we get convictions?" I can hardly wait to read American "progressives" defending this pile of shit.
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Leave It To Dalton

To take what is actually a good idea (raising money for military families in need) and turning it into a PR fiasco of near e-health proportions. The man is turning into our own reverse Midas.

Update: One good thing, it did point me in the direction of the Canadian Forces Assistance Fund. That such a fund is necessary is kind of a shock and a national disgrace, but at least it is something.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Federal Elections Back In The Hands Of The PM

I just flipped to the new citizen's handbook, Discover Canada. I found this little gem under "Federal Elections":
Under legislation passed by Parliament, federal elections must be held on the third Monday in October every four years following the most recent general election. The Prime Minister may ask the Governor General to call an earlier election.(emphasis mine)
The original intent of the electoral law was to take the power of calling snap elections out of the hands of the PM. Stephen Harper said so himself in 2006:
"Fixed dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar. They level the playing field for all parties,"....

"Hopefully, in the next election, we can run on our record and we won't need the manipulation of the electoral calendar."(Toronto Star, September 4 2008 A16)
Last fall, Harper used "parliamentary disfunction" as his excuse to break the spirit of his fixed-election date law. Now, the government is telling new citizens that even that pretense is unnecessary. Stephen Harper, it seems, can call an election any time he wants one. We have come full circle.

Update: I like Robert's take on the document as a whole.
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Something I Am Pondering

How much of the support for scrapping the long gun registry, while maintaining the handgun registry, is based on the idea that long guns are "our guns" (good,white, Anglo Saxon, Christians); while handguns are "their guns" (name your racial and/or religious minority)? I ask this because I keep reading this same phrase, in some iteration or another in every article:
In particular, he said, they've likely been influenced by vocal critics who contend the registry is a billion-dollar waste that targets law-abiding hunters and farmers rather than gun-toting criminals.
The question is has "law-abiding hunters and farmers" become short hand for "old stock white folks", while "gun-toting criminals" has come to mean "those other scary folks from foreign places"? I am getting the vibe that it has. Am I wrong?
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day 2009

This is a truly beautiful poem, so beautiful it is quite easy to forget that its author did not survive the war. Today is a day for remembering that while there is beauty in all things, war is ultimately about death and loss.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Take On The By-Elections

Harper won two more rural seats and so two more votes against the long gun registry and for money transfers from the cities to the country (Yippee). The Tories are still going nowhere fast in the cities, but who gives a shit about them? They are milch cows, nothing more. The big story, as far as I am concerned is voter turnout. It was low, historically low. We are headed to an era of governments elected with double minorities -- of participation and share. Unless something good happens and soon, we will be lying to ourselves if we call Canada a democracy.
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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Shooting Yourself In The Head

To fix a broken arm. Thomas Walkom's column is a depressing read today. In it, he outlines how governments are going to use deficits as hammers to break their unions and cut their workers' pay and benefits. In other words, they are fighting the recession and its loss of economic demand from the private sector, by intentionally depressing the spending power of their own workers. If the economy is a drowning man, the governments are throwing it an anvil. Do you suppose a public sector worker, upon hearing his wages are going to be cut, is going to go out and buy a new car? Not on your life, he is going to hunker down and save. This will further depress the demand for cars and other goods and services and create a death spiral of more cuts in the private sector followed by calls for more cuts in the public sector.

I can see how pitting private and public sector workers at each other's throats makes good politics. Driving a wedge between the private and public sector working class keeps the focus off of the poor performance of the government and the ruling class (and has a side benefit of keeping people from thinking too much about bankers' bonuses and just how we got into this mess in the first place). But, gutting public sector wages, as an economic policy, during an economic downturn, it makes no sense at all.
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Friday, November 06, 2009

If Pogge Can Do It

So, can I. Son House singing Death Letter Blues.

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So Much For Policy

Let's get back to the real business of Ottawa: Celebrity gossip and funny stories about clowns. They keep us distracted and laughing because if they don't, the screaming will start. And it will never stop.
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A Set Up For A Joke I Must Resist

Ladies and gentlemen, Candice Hoeppner:
MP Candice Hoeppner, the Conservative MP who sponsored a private members' bill calling for a repeal of the gun registry, said in an interview that the registry should be scrapped because it is does not ensure officer safety and is "not reliable."

"Do you know the long gun registry has actually been breached over 300 times, by computer hackers," Hoeppner said.

Asked to verify the claim, RCMP Sgt. Greg Cox responded in an earlier email that Hoeppner's number is wrong.

"The RCMP Canadian Firearms Program's national registry database has never been breached by hackers. The RCMP does not know where this information has come from."
I won't add anything more, but you all may feel free to speculate from which bodily orifice, Ms. Hoeppner pulled "this information".

As a side note. With intellectual firepower like Ms. Hoeppner's pulling for the gutting of the long gun registry, is it any wonder the NDP and Liberals are quaking with fear?
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Peter Van Loan, Dissembler

Peter Van Loan on the gun registry report:
"What you're going to see (Friday) in this report produced by the national firearms centre ... is that the statistics I just gave you were not included. Whoever put it together didn't put in there the information that only 2.4 per cent of those 3.5 million queries (to the registry) were actually related to information about a long-gun registration number or about a serial number of a gun. (emphasis mine)
Got that? Only 2.4 percent. Or as it is expressed in a way that is not designed to make it sound insignificant, 84,000 inquiries were about long gun matters. If only one inquiry out of 1000 of that number, saved a cop's life, that means there are 84 cops walking around today because of the registry. That sounds like a good deal to me. Someone should ask Mr. Van Loan about whether or not he agrees. Not that he will answer, of course.
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Today's Must Read

John Ibbitson. He speaks the truth, friends. Our political system is totally skewed toward rural Canada. We live in a potemkin democracy, ruled over by a rural rump. Is there no politician in Canada with enough guts to overthrow the status quo and give us a fair electoral system? I wish I could say yes, but the evidence is most definitely pointed in the opposite direction.
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Inquiring Minds Want To Know

How many of these urban/suburban Conservative members do you suppose asked their constituents' opinions about the long gun registry? If you live in their riding, did they ever contact you over the issue? I live in Peter Braid's riding and he did not hold any meetings that I am aware of, to canvas support for killing the registry in Kitchener/Waterloo.

Anders, Rob
Baird, John
Braid, Peter
Brown, Lois
Bruinooge, Rod
Chong, Michael D.
Dechert, Bob
Goodyear, Gary
Hawn, Laurie
Holder, Ed
Obhrai, Deepak
Saxton, Andrew
Wallace, Mike
Wong, Alice
Woodworth, Stephen
Young, Terence H.
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

On This Issue I'm From Missouri

Believing that the Liberals and NDP will find the backbone to halt the death of the long gun registry in committee, after publicly endorsing the bill in the full House, seems to me to be building castles in the air. I will believe it when I see it. Also, I would suggest trying to snatch some dignity from that craven display last night, is somewhat pathetic and will be portrayed as such by your political opponents.
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As Night Follows Day

The Bloc is going after the NDP on the gun vote. I don't blame them one bit.
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Barn Door, Horse

Commenter RockFish makes a good point at Far and Wide:
Rural opposition MPs were not only following the wishes of a large portion of their voters, but were also under seige by the CONs campaign to smear them as 'anti-rights' and 'anti-rural' representatives. It was a smear and a threat that worked, obviously. We know how forceful, whether used loudly or by stealth, the gun lobby and gun groups can be.

Now turn that on its head. Should not Liberals (and NdPers and Blocees) use that same tactic and deluge urban ridings where CONs have a seat, and hit at this diverging message -- a vast number of women, social and church groups, etc., have all had their voices nullified. Despite the opinion of the Police Chiefs of Canada, despite Canada's falling murder rate, despite the fact that since the legislation there has been few Montreal massacres in Canada, while the US continues to see those tragedies repeated, the CON MPs chose to ignore their constituents' wishes. They chose to support the gun lobby.

I think turn-about is fair play.
I think RockFish is right. Sadly, neither the Liberals nor the NDP chose to stand against the Conservatives. They could have chosen to fight. They chose capitulation.
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Who Is Affected By The Death Of The Gun Registry

People like Elaine Lumley. NDP members take note of her opinion about the party. I think it is universal aside from the members of hunting clubs of Canada.

Update: Jennie points out in the comments that I should say long gun registry. I thought it was clear from the context, but if you are confused, I mean long gun registry.
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It's Official

Urban Canada means nothing to our politicians. We are vassals to our rural masters and mere wallets to be plucked for the benefit of the hinterlands. No more pretense. No more lying to ourselves. We live in an upside down state where the minority rules the majority. No federalist party is willing to challenge the crazy system that allows the rural parts of our country to have a disproportionate power in our politics. Canada is finished. The loons have won. As for the NDP, they can go fuck themselves.
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Word Games. Courtesy Of Jack Layton

Tonda MacCharles reports today in the Star:
After a heavy lobbying effort, including a Tory-backed radio ad campaign targeting vulnerable opposition ridings, the bill's sponsor, MP Candice Hoeppner (Portage-Lisgar), says she is confident at least eight NDP and Liberal MPs will vote to get rid of the law that requires rifles and shotguns to be registered. That's because Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton, who personally pledged to vote against the bill, will allow their MPs to vote freely on the issue, citing their respective parties' "tradition" of free votes on private members' business (emphasis mine).
It's too bad for Bev Desjarlais that the same sex marriage free vote was on a government bill, rather than on a private member's bill, isn't it? Playing word games doesn't make this betrayal of urban voters any less odious, Jack. I call bullshit on you.
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hey, Nathan Cullen, Dennis Bevington, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, and Carol Hughes

We in the cities want to know why you are stabbing us in the back? This is a deal breaker for me. If any NDP member votes for this bill, and is not expelled from caucus, then I'm afraid it's over between us. Don't ask me for money and don't expect my vote. Your party will be dead to me. You might as well go join up with the Liberals.
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Temporary Workers Are Permanent? What A Surprise

As those three or four people who read this screed regularly know, thirty years ago, almost, I wrote my master's thesis about labour migration in western Europe. I studied the guest worker programmes, as they were constituted, in France and Germany. My conclusion was not earth shattering, that the policy of using guest workers was wrong headed in that it assumed that temporary workers would go home when the economy turned bad. It turned out that the guest workers wanted to stay even in bad times, because home was in even worse shape. So, they went underground, settled, and even sent for their families. In the process they created a black market in labour and a twilight zone for their illegal immigrant children. Really, the whole system was a mess, with illegal workers stretching back generations, being exploited by employers and resented by the general population. I recommended in my conclusion that the Europeans look at the North American model for immigration. I was so naive. Little did I realize that the Canadian government would look to the European model for inspiration -- with predictable results.
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