Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Jason Cherniak's anti-Semitism

In the comments section of my previous post cuddly ex-blogger Jason Cherniak wrongly claims that the political cartoon I posted is anti-Semitic. His argument is premised on the blood libel, an ancient anti-Semitic canard in which local Jews would be falsely accused of the ritual murder of Christians (usually children) in order to use human blood for the baking of matzos or as part of a religious ceremony. The blood libel was patently absurd since there is an abhorrence of blood in the Jewish religion - the reason for instance why in order to make meat kosher a butcher has to use salt to purge every last drop of blood from it. Thus the suggestion that Jews would actually use blood as part of a recipe for unleavened bread and consume it is literally anathema to actual Jewish dietary laws. Worse, these false claims were often pretexts to pogroms or other violent and often murderous attacks on Jews.

Ok, so now you know what blood libel is. Below is the cartoon in question:



Jason Cherniak responds to this cartoon by saying "What a picture. Glad to know that the blood libel still lives strong in your warped mind."

The cartoon is an artist's comment on Israeli military aggression against the people of Gaza. I posted it in response to the current air bombardment which has claimed over 370 lives. This brutality is being inflicted after a year and a half long blockade of the Gaza Strip. There are no religious connotations, whatsoever, in the cartoon, not even a Star of David. The soldiers are not depicted as having any of the stereotypically Jewish features one would see in anti-Semitic cartoons. If it weren't for the words "Israeli occupiers" and "Gaza" the soldiers could be Russian, British, French, American or any other attacking army in the world. There is no suggestion of religious ritual, no Jewish religious garments be they kippot or prayer shawls or tzitzi'ot. No matzot, no menorahs, nothing, in other words, to suggest that what is being depicted is a ritualized religious murder or anything that would be the basis of a blood libel.

Depicting an army or military leader as butchers or dripping with blood is a standard image in any political cartoonists library. Change the labels and this could be a cartoon criticizing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or Czechoslovakia, the American invasion of Iraq or Cambodia, the Chinese attack on Tiananmen Square or, indeed, it could be a critical depiction of Hamas:



Cherniak and I had the following exchange by email:

Firebrand: You're kidding me. The editorial cartoon isn't even remotely anti-Semitic.

But yes, as a Jew the memory of the blood libel does live strongly in my mind - my family fled Russian pogroms and ended up in Romania which was one of the most anti-Semitic nations in Europe between the wars (before the rise of Nazi Germany) so yes Jason, I know what the blood libel is and this isn't it.

Please don't debase the concept of anti-Semitism by applying it so casually to legitimate criticism of Israel.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Jason Cherniak:
Being Jewish doesn’t allow you to ignore basic facts. You posted a picture of Jewish butchers with Palestinian blood on their knives. Do you really not see how that is similar to suggesting that Jews drink the blood of children?

FB: The soldiers are not identifiably Jewish - there are no stereotypical signifiers nor any use of Jewish symbolism such as the magen david.

Implying that soldiers engaging in a massacre (such as the killing of over 370 people) are butchers is a standard device when criticising any military operation. The soldiers in the cartoon could be Russians, Americans, French.

You are suggesting that a massacre carried out by Israelis should be treated differently than one carried out by any other military. I, for one, do not think Israel should be treated differently.

By casually throwing out accusations of antisemitism you are denuding the concept and making it easier for actual anti-semites to get away with it.

I can see why the Liberals don't want you to blog on their behalf and why partisans of other parties were sorry to see you go. You're an embarrassment to whatever side you argue for and as a Jew I find you as embarrassing as Liberals must have.

Please resume your policy of being 'off politics'.

JC:
It was my choice to stop blogging. Nobody asked me to, smartass.

As for the picture, did you miss the word "Israeli" on their clothing? What are you smoking?


FB: the point is there is no stereotypical or symbolic invocation of Judaism.

as you should know the blood libel was the false accusation that Jews kidnapped and killed non-Jewish children and killed them for ritualistic reasons to use their blood to make matzah or for some religious ritual.

There is no such connotation in the cartoon.

You are distorting and reducing the blood libel to argue that any reference to blood is antisemitic and completely disregarding the fact that references to blood and butchery are de riguer in artistic criticisms of military conflict. How do you suggest that an artist criticise the Gaza invasion without reference to blood, murder and death.

All you've shown is that you are unable to refute Barghouti's essay and prefer instead to avoid the subject by engaging in slander.

As for your blog - it may have been for a decision but I know for a fact that senior Liberals have thought it an embarrassment for years.

The 911 blowback that ended up in Dion being embarrassed and having to axe his own candidate was just the last straw. That "own goal" of yours will be with you for a long time

JC: Butcher's knives are used in kitchens where people make food for humans, goddmanit. Use your head.

Again, lol on the blog thing. You're a fool.


FB: again - it's standard to use that analogy when criticising military action. As for the blog - fine if I'm wrong restart it and see what... sorry phone trouble. if i'm wrong restart it and see what happens to
your 'career' in the Liberal party.

and if i'm wrong about your motives for ignoring the article to attack the cartoon then go ahead and refute Barghouti

JC: It's pretty clear I'm not going to convince you, so I'm not going to bother

FB: Considering that you have been unable to refute one argument I've made regarding what blood libel is or what war criticism is I'm not surprised. i have a cartoon somewhere of Brezhnev as butcher in regards to the soviet invasion of afghanistan. doubtless that's antisemitic too?

btw, do you mind if I publish this correspondence?

JC: Only if it is unedited.


Unfortunately, it's become more common for pro-Israel polemicists to deliberately conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in an attempt to delegitimize said criticism and defame the critics. This tactic can only give comfort to actual anti-Semites as by overextending the concept of anti-Semitism these polemicists are effectively making the concept of anti-Semtism meaningless and making it easier for actual bigots and racists to practice their craft.

As British philosopher Brian Klug, a founding member of the group Independent Jewish Voices, wrote in his seminal essay, The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism "when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing--the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance."

In response to an essay by the American Jewish Committee accusing Jewish critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic, the New York Times interviewed British historian Tony Judt, one of the essay's targets. According to the Times: "The link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is newly created,' [Tony Judt] said, adding that he fears 'the two will have become so conflated in the minds of the world' that references to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust will come to be seen as 'just a political defense of Israeli policy.'"

It is important to be clear about what anti-Semtism is and what it is not. When the Jason Cherniaks of the world refuse to make the distinction because it is convenient to use anti-Semitism as a pretext to dismiss all and any criticism of the Israeli government then they demean the memory of those who have died or suffered under the heel of anti-Semitism over the centuries and give comfort to Jew-haters everywhere. To the extent that Israeli politicians encourage this deliberate conflation of anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, they put themselves in opposition to the interests of the Jewish people throughout the world by sacrificing their safety and security in the interests of short term polemical gain.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has risen to 360 and Cherniak would have you believe that this can't be referred to as butchery or bloodletting.
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Horror in Gaza


The Israeli government's brutal air bombardment of Gaza has claimed over 300 lives at last count and caused thousands of injuries. This is the worst carnage in Gaza or the West Bank since the 1967 war and it is a completely disproportionate response to the homemade Qassam rockets fired from Gaza which have claimed 20 lives in 8 years.

Of course, even one life on either side is too many but the Israeli response is literally overkill and ignores the fact that the resent Qassam rocket attacks are themselves a response to Israel's year and a half long blockade on Gaza which was largely maintained throughout the recent 6 month ceasefire in violation of an agreement.

Israel's attack will not remove Hamas from power and is unlikely to halt the Qassam rockets; it will only strengthen Hamas' hold on Gaza- indeed Robert Fisk argues that Hamas wanted Israel to attack just for that purpose. Livni and Barak must know this. Rather, this military campaign occuring as it does in the midsts of an Israeli election campaign is a calculated attempt by the lagging Kadima-Labour coalition to boost it's standing in public opinion. The most recent polls show that if the election had been held on December 25th, Kadima and Labour would have lost 11 seats between them while Likud would have more than doubled its seat total to become the largest party in the Knesset and the best placed to form a government. While Livni and Barak are suspending their electoral campaigns due to the war they are in fact continuing to fight the election with F-16s as a game changer with the expectation that every hundred or so Palestinian lives lost will gain them a few seats in a horrific game of blood for votes.

Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative and a leading activist based in the West Bank has written an incisive analysis of the current conflict:



Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood

The Israeli campaign of 'death from above' began around 11 am, on Saturday morning, the 27th of December, and stretched straight through the night into this morning. The massacre continues Sunday as I write these words.

The bloodiest single day in Palestine since the War of 1967 is far from over following on Israel's promised that this is 'only the beginning' of their campaign of state terror. At least 290 people have been murdered thus far, but the body count continues to rise at a dramatic pace as more mutilated bodies are pulled from the rubble, previous victims succumb to their wounds and new casualties are created by the minute.

What has and is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full-swing, churning out lies by the minute.

Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created.

1. Israelis have claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

While Israel has indeed removed the settlements from the tiny coastal Strip, they have in no way ended the occupation. They remained in control of the borders, the airspace and the waterways of Gaza, and have carried out frequent raids and targeted assassinations since the disengagement.

Furthermore, since 2006 Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on the Strip. For over two years, Gazans have lived on the edge of starvation and without the most basic necessities of human life, such as cooking or heating oil and basic medications. This siege has already caused a humanitarian catastrophe which has only been exacerbated by the dramatic increase in Israeli military aggression.

2. Israel claims that Hamas violated the cease-fire and pulled out of it unilaterally.

Hamas indeed respected their side of the ceasefire, except on those occasions early on when Israel carried out major offensives in the West Bank. In the last two months, the ceasefire broke down with Israelis killing several Palestinians and resulting in the response of Hamas. In other words, Hamas has not carried out an unprovoked attack throughout the period of the cease-fire.

Israel, however, did not live up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. Rather than the average of 450 trucks per day being allowed across the border, on the best days, only eighty have been allowed in - with the border remaining hermetically sealed 70% of the time. Throughout the supposed 'cease-fire' Gazans have been forced to live like animals, with a total of 262 dying due to the inaccessibility of proper medical care.

Now after hundreds dead and counting, it is Israel who refuses to re-enter talks over a cease-fire. They are not intent on securing peace as they claim; it is more and more clear that they are seeking regime change - whatever the cost.

3. Israel claims to be pursuing peace with 'peaceful Palestinians'.

Before the on-going massacre in the Gaza Strip, and throughout the entirety of the Annapolis Peace Process, Israel has continued and even intensified its occupation of the West Bank. In 2008, settlement expansion increased by a factor of 38, a further 4,950 Palestinians were arrested - mostly from the West Bank, and checkpoints rose from 521 to 699.

Furthermore, since the onset of the peace talks, Israel has killed 546 Palestinians, among them 76 children. These gruesome statistics are set to rise dramatically now, but previous Israeli transgressions should not be forgotten amidst this most recent horror.

Only this morning, Israel shot and killed a young peaceful protester in the West Bank village of Nihlin, and has injured dozens more over the last few hours. It is certain that they will continue to employ deadly force at non-violent demonstrations and we expect a sizable body count in the West Bank as a result. If Israel is in fact pursuing peace with 'good Palestinians', who are they talking about?

4. Israel is acting in self-defense.

It is difficult to claim self defense in a confrontation which they themselves have sparked, but they are doing it anyway. Self-defense is reactionary, while the actions of Israel over the last two days have been clearly premeditated. Not only did the Israeli press widely report the ongoing public relations campaign being undertaken by Israel to prepare Israeli and international public opinion for the attack, but Israel has also reportedly tried to convince the Palestinians that an attack was not coming by briefly opening crossings and reporting future meetings on the topic. They did so to insure that casualties would be maximized and that the citizens of Gaza would be unprepared for their impending slaughter.

It is also misleading to claim self-defense in a conflict with such an overwhelming asymmetry of power. Israel is the largest military force in the region, and the fifth largest in the world. Furthermore, they are the fourth largest exporter of arms and have a military industrial complex rivaling that of the United States. In other words, Israel has always had a comprehensive monopoly over the use of force, and much like its super power ally, Israel uses war as an advertising showcase of its many instruments of death.

5. Israel claims to have struck military targets only.

Even while image after image of dead and mutilated women and children flash across our televisions, Israel brazenly claims that their munitions expertly struck only military installations. We know this to be false as many other civilian sites have been hit by airstrikes including a hospital and mosque.

In the most densely populated area on the planet, tons upon tons of explosives have been dropped. The first estimates of injured are in the thousands. Israel will claim that these are merely 'collateral damage' or accidental deaths. The sheer ridiculousness and inhumanity of such a claim should sicken the world community.

6. Israel claims that it is attacking Hamas and not the Palestinian people.

First and foremost, missiles do not differentiate people by their political affiliation; they simply kill everyone in their path. Israel knows this, and so do Palestinians. What Israel also knows, but is not saying public ally, is how much their recent actions will actually strengthen Hamas - whose message of resistance and revenge is being echoed by the angry and grieving.

The targets of the strike, police and not Hamas militants, give us some clue as to Israel's mistaken intention. They are hoping to create anarchy in the Strip by removing the pillar of law and order.

7. Israel claims that Palestinians are the source of violence.


Let us be clear and unequivocal. The occupation of Palestine since the War of 1967 has been and remains the root of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence can be ended with the occupation and the granting of Palestine's national and human rights. Hamas does not control the West Bank and yet we remain occupied, our rights violated and our children killed.

With these myths understood, let us ponder the real reasons behind these airstrikes; what we find may be even more disgusting than the act itself.

The leaders Israel are holding press conferences, dressed in black, with sleeves rolled up.

'It's time to fight', they say, 'but it won't be easy.'

To prove just how hard it is, Livni, Olmert and Barak did not even wear make-up to the press conference, and Barak has ended his [election] campaign to focus on the Gaza campaign. What heroes...what leaders...

We all know the truth: the suspension of the electioneering is exactly that - electioneering.

Like John McCain's suspension of his presidential campaign to return to Washington to 'deal with' the financial crisis, this act is little more than a publicity stunt.

The candidates have to appear 'tough enough to lead', and there is seemingly no better way of doing that than bathing in Palestinian blood.

'Look at me,' Livni says in her black suit and unkempt hair, 'I am a warrior. I am strong enough to pull the trigger. Don't you feel more confident about voting for me, now that you know I am as ruthless as Bibi Netanyahu?'

I do not know which is more disturbing, her and Barak, or the constituency they are trying to please.

In the end, this will in no way improve the security of the average Israeli; in fact it can be expected to get much worse in the coming days as the massacre could presumably provoke a new generation of suicide bombers.

It will not undermine Hamas either, and it will not result in the three fools, Barak, Livni and Olmert, looking 'tough'. Their misguided political venture will likely blow up in their faces as did the brutally similar 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

In closing, there is another reason - beyond the internal politics of Israel - why this attack has been allowed to occur: the complicity and silence of the international community.

Israel cannot and would not act against the will of its economic allies in Europe or its military allies in the US. Israel may be pulling the trigger ending hundreds, perhaps even thousands of lives this week, but it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance of Palestinian suffering which allows this to occur.

'The evil only exists because the good remain silent'

From Occupied Palestine. . .

-- Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi




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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Mike Duffy gets his reward


CTV's coverage of the recent parliamentary crisis was unbelievably one-sided and egregiously partisan. Mike Duffy was particularly subjective - one broadcast of Mike Duffy Live I watched on December 3rd consisted of interviews with Tories who opposed the coalition and the two Grits interviewed, Stephen LeDrew and a former Toronto MP were also opposed to the coalition while Duffy himself couldn't contain his own opposition using questionable and loaded words like "coup" to describe the arrangement, referring to it as the "separatist coalition" and repeating as fact the Tory talking point that the BQ was a coalition partner. An objective broadcast would have included an equal number of pro and anti-coalition talking heads but evidently Mike couldn't find a single coalition supporter to talk to. And what sort of interviews did he conduct? Watch this chat with Premier Brad Wall in which Duffy rolls his eyes when he first refers to the "event" of the coalition. Rather than challenging Wall (which is what one would expect in an interview, even if you're just playing Devil's Advocate) Duffy agrees with him throughout and adds to his objections calling the coalition at 3:38 claiming that the NDP is agreeing to be in bed with separatists.


Personally, I'm glad Duffy was appointed not because he will add anything to Parliament but because it will get him off the air.
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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Questions for 9/11 Truthers

One of the byproducts of the internet is the increased proliferation of conspiracy theories. If antisemitism is the socialism of fools, as Bebel said, then conspiracy theories are the dialectics of morons. Conspiricism diverts people from serious critical analysis of the structure and practice of society and away from conclusions that can lead to useful action for social change and substitutes it for a belief in mysterious figures shrouded in shadows and fog. At best, it is disempowering - at worst it re-enforces the ruling class by setting up scapegoats that can be sacrificed in their stead - Jews, for instance.

While conspiricism is a symptom of a society that distrusts its leaders and disbelieves what it is being told from on high it is a skepticism that is devoid of the rigours of logic, fact-finding and evidence testing using instead magic thinking, supposition and wild logical leaps.

The latest example of this malady is the 9/11 Truth Movement. Now, I've been a critic of the War on Terror since it began and there are a number of cogent criticisms that can be made of it - that the US and other Western governments have exploited 9/11 and Al-Qaeda in order to justify not only a war against Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 or 7/7 attacks; and that western countries, the US, UK and Canada in particular, have used the War on Terror as a pretext to vastly expand the national security state and curtail the rights of citizens and, in particular, non-citizen residents. However, that is quite different from arguing that 9/11 was an "inside job" planned by either the US or Israel (as the more antisemitic of the 9/11 troothers imply).

counterknowledge.com is a new website devoted to challenging and debunking conspiracy theorists and quackery of various stripes. Here are their 15 questions for the 9/11 truth movement:

Let’s take your thesis (that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the Bush administration, and covered up by a coalition of US government agencies, allied powers, big business and the media) as read. The following questions point to logical and factual gaps within that thesis. It is now up to you to answer these questions and explain why your theories are still valid. For your answers to be credible, they need to be detailed and based on verifiable evidence. No suppositions, no speculation, no unsupported assertions, just the facts. Stop “asking questions”, and provide answers. These fifteen initial questions will do for starters.

(1) On 9th September 2001 Ahmed Shah Massoud, the most effective military commander of the anti-Taliban coalition (the Northern Alliance, or NA) was killed by two Arab suicide bombers posing as journalists. The assassination of Massoud had taken months to plan, and the latter had received the bogus request for an ‘interview’ in May 2001 (See Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, pp.574-576; Jason Burke, Al Qaeda, p.197; Daniel Byman, Deadly Connections, p.210. Two days before 9/11, Al Qaeda killed the Taliban’s main enemy, who had also played a pivotal role in keeping the NA factions together, and who would have been the obvious figure to liase with if the Americans had decided to effect regime change in Afghanistan. If Al Qaeda were not responsible for 9/11, then why was Ahmed Shah Massoud’s assassination so well co-ordinated with the attacks on New York and Washington?

(2) Conversely, prior to 9/11, the US government had minimal contacts with Massoud and other Northern Alliance figures, much to the latter’s frustration (See Coll, passim). If 9/11 was a “false flag” operation intended to justify a pre-determined plan to invade Afghanistan, then why didn’t the CIA and other US government agencies do more to facilitate ties with the NA?

(3) Just before 9/11, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and other key Al Qaeda personnel left their quarters in Kandahar to hide in Tora Bora (Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, pp.356-358). Why did bin Laden and al-Zawahiri suddenly leave their known locations and go to ground, if they were not anticipating imminent military action by the USA?

(4) In the days following 9/11, the Bush administration asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a plan to invade Afghanistan. The JCS had to admit that they had no contingency plan for such an invasion, and in the weeks preceding Operation Enduring Freedom the CIA and the Department of Defense were obliged to improvise a plan of attack against the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies (Benjamin Lambeth, Air Power Against Terror; Bob Woodward, Bush At War). If 9/11 had been an inside job, and if there was a long-standing intention by Bush and his advisors to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban, then why did they have to scrabble around for a workable plan? Why was one not prepared beforehand?

(5) We are being asked by the truthers to believe that the 19 hijackers were “patsies”, or non-existent. If that was the case, and if the intention of the real plotters in the US government was to justify military interventions to overthrow hostile regimes in the Middle East, why were 15 out of the 19 ‘bogus’ Al Qaeda terrorists given Saudi nationality? The other four hijackers consisted of an Egyptian, a Lebanese and two citizens of the UAE. We are being asked to believe that the conspirators behind 9/11 decided that they would make the hijackers citizens of allies of the USA, not enemies. Why were they not given Iraqi, Iranian or Syrian identity? Why were they not given forged links with terrorist groups (such as the Abu Nidal Organisation, the PLFP-GC or Hizbollah) with closer links to Tehran, Damascus and above all Baghdad? If we are supposed to believe that the Israelis had a hand in 9/11, then why were none of the patsies Palestinians linked to Fatah or Hamas? What kind of conspirator sets up a plot to frame an innocent party without forging the evidence to implicate the latter?

(6) Following on from this point, if the identities and the nationalities of the hijackers were faked, then why did the Saudi, Egyptian, Lebanese and UAE governments accept that citizens from their own countries were involved? What incentive did Saudi Arabia have for accepting that 15 of its own people had committed mass murder on US soil? Why would the Saudis co-operate in a plot which would blacken their country’s name, benefit Israeli interests in the Middle East, provide the pretext for the overthrow of one fundamentalist Sunni regime in Afghanistan, and contribute to the destruction of a Sunni Arab dictatorship in Iraq long seen by the Saudi royal family as a bulwark against Iran?

(7) Afghanistan is a landlocked country (truthers may need to be reminded of this fact), and any invasion is logistically impossible without the support of its neighbours. Prior to 9/11, Pakistan was a staunch ally of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan (see Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, passim). The former Soviet Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan backed the NA, but were also wary of antagonising their former imperial master, Russia. Pre-September 2001 these states would not have contemplated admitting any US or Western military presence on their soil. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the USA’s invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, it took the Americans considerable effort to persuade him to permit the US and NATO forces to use bases on Uzbek and Tajik territory as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. It also took time and considerable pressure to force General Pervez Musharraf to abandon the Taliban - despite resistance from the military and ISI. Given the geo-political realities of Central Asia in mid-2001, there were no guarantees of any host nation support for any attack on Afghanistan. Assuming againt that 9/11 was an inside job, how could the US government realistically presume that the Russians and Pakistanis would actually permit the USA to effect regime change against the Taliban?

(8) Assuming that claims of Mossad complicity in 9/11 (”dancing Israelis”, etc.) are correct, can the truthers suggest a feasible motive for the Israeli government conniving in an act of mass murder on US soil? Since 1967, the mainstay of Israel’s security and survival has been its alignment with the USA, and the military assistance it has received as a result. This relationship is based on a bipartisan political consensus (both the Republican and Democratic parties are predominantly pro-Israeli) and considerable public support in the USA. Why engage in a “false flag” attack against the civilian population of an ally, when you have so little to gain and so much to lose if your responsibility is ever disclosed?

(9) Following on from this, assuming that the “five dancing Israelis” story isn’t a complete fabrication, what kind of secret service recruits undercover agents who compromise themselves by acting so ostentatiously in public? And if the five arrested Israelis were part of a conspiracy organised with the US government, then why did the FBI hold them in custody for over two months, instead of releasing them on the quiet a matter of hours and days after their apprehension?

(10) If the WTC towers in New York City were destroyed by controlled demolitions rigged by US government agencies, then why were the fake terrorist attacks used to cover up these controlled demolitions so insanely convoluted? Why concoct a scenario involving the hijacking of planes which are then crashed into tower blocks (involving complicated planning involving remote controlled flights timed with explosives detonated in the towers, which allow plenty of opportunities for gliches and technical errors)? Why not use a more simple means, such as a truck bomb?

(11) Assuming that Niaz Naik’s account of his alleged meeting with retired US officials in July 2001 is true, then where were the 17,000 Russian troops who were supposedly ready to invade Afghanistan when it came to the commencement of military operations in October 2001? And if the main motive behind the invasion was to build a natural gas pipe-line which would be under US control, then why was no attempt ever made to build one once the Taliban were overthrown?

(12) We are being asked by the conspiracy theorists to assume that NORAD was stood down on the morning of 11th September 2001 so as to enable the success of the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. NORAD is a combined command, not a purely American one - it has a binational staff drawn from the US military and the Canadian Forces (CF). We are either supposed to believe that the CF personnel assigned to NORAD were too stupid to notice anything amiss in their headquarters - and query it - or that the Canadian government and the CF were complicit in 9/11. Which of these scenarios is true?

(13) If Al Qaeda were set-up for the 11th September attacks, then why have its leaders and spokesmen repeatedly affirmed their responsibility for - and pride in - these attacks (see here, here, here and here for examples)? Why are we supposed to believe that repeated video pronouncements by bin Laden and Zawahiri are fake, while just one written statement allegedly from bin Laden denying responsibility - which was handed by courier to al-Jazeera without any confirmation of its origins - was genuine?

(14) If the hijacking and crashing of four passenger planes was engineered by the US government, then why did UA93 crash into an empty field in Pennsylvania? Why not crash it into a target which would add to the death toll on 9/11, and further inflame US public attitudes and popular demands for revenge against the supposed perpetrators?

(15) Finally, if the US government is institutionally ruthless enough to organise the massacre of thousands of its own citizens in a series of “false flag” attacks, then why is it too squeamish to arrange for the deaths of the supposed “truth-seekers” (David Griffin, Kevin Barrett, Steven Jones, Richard Gage, the Loose Change team, Alex Jones, etc.) who have exposed their complicity in one of the most heinous crimes a government can commit against its own people? Why are these people still alive and well, and in a position to publicise their “theories” on radio, television, in print and online?

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Monday, 8 December 2008

The Second Death of Stephane Dion and the paradox of Canadian politics today



Almost a week after delivering an address to the nation that looked like something hostage takers release to prove their victim is still alive, Stephane Dion has resigned as leader of the Liberal Party. Dion thus becomes the first party leader in living memory to resign from the same position twice in one year.


The Liberals are current wrangling over how to expedite its leadership election process so that the party will have a new chief in place by the time that Parliament resumes on January 26th. It now appears that with Dion having been unceremoniously pushed under a bus, Michael Ignatieff will be crowned Liberal leader by caucus on Wednesday with the blessing of Liberal Party riding presidents - party members will be allowed to send their post hoc congratulations sometime next year when, in the best traditions of Stalinist Russia, a party convention will be held to "affirm" the Great Man's leadership. This illigitmate process is being undertaken in order to confer onto the Liberal Party a leader who has more legitimacy than the electorally deficient Dion.


But you can't have party unanimity without a few victims - just ask Stalin's victims. In this case, the murder victim will not be Kirov but Bob Rae's political ambitions along with the "Coalition" that would have brought down Stephen Harper had it not been for the last minute deus ex machina intervention of the monarchy in the form of the Governor General who, like the professor presented with a forged sick note by a bad student desperately seeking a postponement of an exam he's otherwise doomed to fail, gave Harper an extra six weeks to cram. It remains to be seen whether in that time Harper will learn the difference between governing with a majority and governing with a minority. Ignatieff has clearly signalled that if the Tories make concessions - and this means adopted the Coalition's program (weak as it is) the Liberals will likely support the budget.


Few people noticed the election night split-screen interview CTV News did with Rae and Ignatieff. In both his victory speech and in the interview Rae anticipated the broad strokes of the current parliamentary crisis and stated that with a minority parliament Stephen Harper is not necessarily going to be able to stay in government as his Throne Speech needs to gain the consent of the Opposition in order to pass. Rae was intimating that if the Tory Throne Speech was defeated the Liberals would have the opportunity to form a government. Ignatieff haughtily dismissed this scenario as "political science fiction" - the look on Rae's face was priceless. A mere six weeks later, what Iggy had dismissed as fantasy threatened to become reality (over a Fiscal Statement rather than the Throne Speech) and Ignatieff reluctantly signed on and then went into hiding. On Sunday, Ignatieff all but declared his opposition to the coalition idea and went on CBC Sunday to paraphrase William Lyon Mackenzie King by saying "a coalition if necessary but not necessarily a coalition" and explaining that he saw the coalition as a tool to get concessions from the Tories and little else.


Bob Rae, conversely, has been selling the coalition as if it's the Second Coming. After spending an election campaign as the Stephane Dion's designated hitter against the NDP - bashing Layton and his social democratic party at every opportunity - and after years of denigrated his former party as not worthy of support, Rae now posits himself, unconvincingly, as the NDP's best friend in the Liberal Party trumpeting a Liberal-NDP coalition as good for the Liberals and good for the country (good for everyone but the NDP, it seems). How the NDP could be beneath contempt in Rae's eyes on October 13th but potential cabinet colleagues on December 1st remains unexplained. But the ironies don't end there for it is the dire threat posed to the Tories by the coalition that has made it a necessity for the Liberals to expedite their leadership election - an act which will not only sunder aside Bob Rae's leadership ambitions in order to crown Michael Ignatieff as leader. In other words, in order to be prepared for the possibility that the Coalition might bring down Harper and be asked to form a government the Liberals are pushing aside the pro-coalition candidate in favour of the candidate who sees the coalition as expendable.


And people say Canadian politics is boring.
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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Stephen Harper: The new Nixon?

According to CTV News, a Conservative "member" somehow received the dial in number and access code for an NDP caucus meeting on Saturday. The "shocking" fact that Jack Layton talked to the BQ ahead of time is being spun to ridiculous lengths by the Tories and the Conservative Television Network (CTV). So who is this Conservative member? Did he or she inform Harper ahead of time before he or she listened in on and taped the meeting? Did Harper approve of this conduct?
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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Stephen Harper: The Joe Clark of our times



Yesterday, Stephen Harper said the following:


While we have been working on the economy the opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it...The opposition has every right to defeat the government, but Stephane Dion does not have the right to take power without an election. Canada's government should be decided by Canadians, not backroom deals.

The Prime Minister is, of course, showing a profound ignorance of how parliamentary democracy works. The government is formed by whoever is able to obtain the confidence of a majority of democratic representatives elected to the House of Commons. At present, it appears that Harper does not have that confidence and that will be determined whenever there is a vote of confidence. If it can be determined that someone else does have the confidence of the House to form a government than the Governor General is obliged to allow that person to try to form a government and meet the House of Commons and test it.
Stephen Harper speaks as if Canadians chose him and his party as the government on October 14th. They did not. Canadians chose 308 Members of Parliament and the composition of the government is determinded by those 308 representatives (hence the term "representative democracy). It is what a majority of those 308 MPs decide that is crucial.

Harper also speaks as if the democratic will of the people is that he be in power. This is despite the fact that his party only recieved 37% of the vote while the Liberals and NDP received 44% of the vote. He has forgotten that he leads only a minority government and it is this bit of political amnesia that has created the current crisis.

Like Joe Clark he tried to govern as if he had a majority. Like Joe Clark he ignored the need to receive the support of at least some Opposition MPs. Like Joe Clark he assumed that because the leader of the Liberal Party had resigned and because that party is in the middle of a leadership contest there is no way they would vote to topple his minority government. Like Joe Clark, Stephen Harper thinks he's a brilliant political tactician and is cleverer than everyone else. Like Joe Clark, he's not.

Unlike Joe Clark, Stephen Harper is a hypocrite since, when the situation was reversed, Harper had no problem with the notition that following a defeat on a motion of confidence the Official Opposition could attempt to form a government if they obtained the support of the House:

As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government’s program. We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority. Your attention to this matter is appreciated.
From a letter to then-Governor General Adrienne Clarkson signed by all three opposition leaders: Gilles Duceppe, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper(September 9, 2004)
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Monday, 24 November 2008

They're all Keynesians now



After years of proclaiming the death of Keynesianism and the triumph of Friedmanomics it's fascinating to see how the market collapse has turned the most diehard opponents of government intervention in the economy and pump-priming turn into born again disciples of old John Maynard Keynes.

This is what Stephen Harper had to say this weekend:

“Let us remember what led to the Great Depression. It was not caused by a stock market crash. That was only the beginning,” he said. Governments of the time made a number of serious mistakes, including attempting to balance the books at all costs, he said, raising taxes and cutting spending at a time when a fiscal stimulus was “absolutely essential.”


Cutting spending is bad? Balancing budgets is a mistake during an economic downturn? Who knew? John Maynard Keynes did. Meanwhile, it appears that John Kenneth Galbraith, the great but long ignored Keynesian economist, is back in fashion with his seminal 1955 book The Great Crash: 1929 leaping off the shelves as people turn away from neo-classical economics. (So too rentals of the Depression-era classic, The Grapes of Wrath).

James Ga
lbraith, the son of JKG, points out that only a dozen of America's 15,000 economists predicted the current crisis. What does this mean for the "science" of economics? According to Galbraith: "It's an enormous blot on the reputation of the profession. There are thousands of economists. Most of them teach. And most of them teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless."


Back in 1994, when almost all economists were enthralled by Alan Greenspan along with the media and politicians, James Galbraith had the following to say of America's worship of the Federal Reserve and its chairman:

This is the Wizard of Oz theory, in which we pull away the curtain only to find an old man with a wrinkled face playing with lights and loud speakers.


As for Galbraith's prescription for the current crisis:
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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Milliken wins

Peter Milliken was able to pull a rabbit out of his Speaker's robes and was re-elected yesterday though it took him five ballots. I was partly right, at least, since I thought that if Milliken faced a Tory on the last ballot he would win. I still think if he had faced another Opposition MP at the end he would have lost but what I overestimated was Tory craftiness since I thought enough Tory MPs would vote for Comartin for tactical reasons - reasoning that he'd be better placed to beat Milliken than one of their own. What seems to have happened though is that most of the 143 Tory MPs voted for one of their fellow Tories - so much so that Scheer and Tweed both received more votes than Comartin on the fourth ballot knocking him off and on the fifth ballot the Opposition MPs consolidated behind Milliken to keep a Tory out of the Speaker's Chair.
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Monday, 17 November 2008

Speaker's chair: Can Comartin beat Milliken?

The first order of business when the House of Commons meets tomorrow will be the election of a new Speaker.

Liberal MP Peter Milliken has sat in the Speaker's Chair for 7 years and is running again in hopes of breaking Lucien Lamoureaux's all time record of 8 years.

Three Tory MPs are also standing for the position as is NDP MP Joe Comartin (though more MPs may end up being on the ballot).

My prediction is that if Joe Comartin and Peter Milliken are on the final ballot then Comartin will win. This is for two reasons:

1) Milliken, though experienced, is perceived as a weak Speaker and has been blamed, in part, for the lack of decorum in the House in recent years.

2) The Tories are convinced that if Milliken is defeated he'll resign from the House of Commons before the next election opening up his Kingston seat which the Tories think they can win in a by-election.

With the opposition parties holding the majority of seats there's no desire by them to place a government MP in the Speaker's chair though Milliken himself managed to keep his position in the 2004 Liberal led minority parliament. This was largely because he was a known quantity in a then unfamiliar minority situation, was seen as suitably neutral and because with a razor's edge seat count keeping a Liberal in the Speaker's chair and thus denying him a vote in normal circumstances was seen as advantageous by the opposition parties.

The seat count in the current parliament does not lend itself to close votes so having one extra vote either way is less of an issue therefore there's no need for the opposition to tolerate a government MP as Speaker. Therefore, I don't see any of the three Tory candidates for the Speakership prevailing on the final ballot.

The only question is can Comartin make it on the final ballot or will one of the three Tory candidates outpoll him and knock him off before the final show. With three Tories in the running (at least) the Tory vote will be split making it easier for Comartin to see them off. This will particularly be the case if Comartin wins BQ support which is possible given Comartin's Franco-Ontarian roots and the fact that he is arguably more fluent in French than Milliken.

Moreover, the Tories are convinced that if Milliken loses the Speakership he'll quit Parliament and are also convinced that they can win his Kingston seat in a by-election so they are especially motivated to beat Milliken even if it means supporting an NDPer. Some of the more tactically minded Tories such as Tony Clement, John Baird and possibly Stephen Harper himself have probably already realized that Comartin has a better chance of beating Milliken then one of their fellow Tory MPs and will probably vote for Comartin from the outset and convince enough of their colleagues to do the same in order to ensure a Comartin-Milliken finale which Comartin will win and Milliken will be the first incumbent to lose a secret ballot for the Speakership since John Bosley lost the very first such election in 1986.
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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Rae's misstep

Bob Rae's decision to boycott today's Ontario's Liberal leadership debate is a serious tactical error which will only serve to alienate Ontario riding presidents - many of whom are already uneasy about the prospects of being led by a former NDP Premier.

Rae is right, of course, that the leadership forum should be a public event, open to the media and he was right to challenge Michael Ignatieff to agree to make the debate an open event and to rake him over the coals when he refused. However, by actually walking out Rae has gone beyond simply differentiating himself from his rival and has insulted the party officials he needs to win onside if he's to prevent what looks increasingly like an inevitable Ignatieff first ballot victory.

Even worse - by openly feuding with Ignatieff just days after all the contenders promised to bury the hatchet for the sake of public unity - Rae looks like a prima donna. Liberals are still sore from the self-inflicted wounds of the Chretien-Martin rivalry that almost destroyed the party so, while it is inevitable that Rae and Ignatieff will come to blows during the leadership campaign neither can be seen as the one who threw the first punch and neither can be seen as willing to put their own ambitions above the interests of the party. By bickering with Ignatieff as well as publicly embarrassing the Ontario Liberal executive Rae has crossed not one line in the sand but two and worse, he leaves the impression of someone who is dissing his party in order to pan to the hated media.

Advantage Iggy.
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Saturday, 8 November 2008

How Rush Limbaugh helped elect Barack Obama

Conservative radio buffoon Rush Limbaugh thinks of himself as an ace strategist and so he thought he was being extremely clever back in March when he launched "Operation Chaos" an effort to undermine frontrunner Barack Obama's chances in the fall election by prolonging the Democratic primary season and forcing Obama to deplete his resources early. Rushbo, accordingly, urged his conservative Republican listeners to take advantage of open primaries in many thats that allow non-Democrats to participate and vote for Hilary Clinton in order to drag the race out as long as possible. Brilliant eh? And how mischievous!

Unfortunately the Limbaugh his plan was too clever by half and has backfired.

DNC chair Howard Dean has talked about the importance of a "50 state strategy" for the past four years and Obama embraced the idea but it was the prolonged primary season that allowed Obama to implement it by virtue of necessity as the never ending race forced him to recruit ground organizers and campaign in red states that are usually flyover states for the Dems such as North Carolina and Indiana. When the fall campaign came around, polls showed Obama competitive in states that the Democrats had long written off as a result of his spring campaigning and allowed him to use ground organizations left over from the primary season in order to keeps those states competitive forcing McCain to campaign in states which should have been sure things for him. Moreover, Obama won North Carolina and Indiana and thereby assured himself the presidency thanks, in no small part, to Rush Limbaugh's efforts.
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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Liberal leadership prospects narrow

John Manley announced today that he will not be a candidate for the Liberal leadership, surprising many pundits. The non-candidacies of Manley and former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna means that the support of the powerful Business Liberal faction of the Liberal Party will coalesce behind Michael Ignatieff. This sets the scene for a showdown with Bob Rae at next year's leadership convention with Rae arguing that the Liberals should lead a "unite the left" movement and Ignatieff calling for the Liberals to move "back" to the centre. Both these arguments are deeply flawed.

Bob Rae sees himself as a Canadian Obama but he's really the Great White North's answer to Joe Lieberman. He is, with good cause, viewed by New Democrats as a traitor for obvious reasons and a fraud who squandered the miraculous opportunity given the Ontario NDP in 1990 to permanently reshape politics in that province and the country thanks to his abandonment of public auto insurance and his betrayal of labour through the social contract. Rae can no more "unite the left" under his banner than Sarah Palin can unite feminists under hers. While Rae's ego and arrogance leads him to believe that NDP and Green voters would flock to him because of the force of his personality he is, in fact, not only loathed by NDP activists who would balk at any formal co-operation between the NDP and Rae's Liberals but he is deeply mistrusted by progressives, unionists and conscientious working class voters even if they are not NDP partisans. For the Liberals "uniting the left" may make sense as a strategy (though it makes no sense for the left to put their faith in the Liberals), Rae is just about the last person who can bring that concept to fruition.

Meanwhile, Ignatieff and other Business Liberals have argued since October 14th that the reason the Liberal Party lost the election is that they have strayed too far from the "centre" (meaning the centre-right). This is a fallacious argument based on the false premise that the Liberals moved to the left under Dion. In fact, Dion's prescriptions for the country were very much in the centre-right tradition of the Chretien-Martin years. The "carbon tax" which would have shifted taxation from progressive income and corporate taxes to a regressive consumption tax is an eco-capitalist, centre-right, prescription to the environmental crisis that sees the market mechanisms as the solution to global warming and has been embraced by centre right leaders such as BC's Gordon Campbell. Carbon tax aside, Dion has argued that the Harper government has not gone far enough to implement corporate tax cuts saying “A low corporate tax rate is not a right-wing policy or a left-wing policy. It is a sound policy” and, at least before the global economic crisis, he opposed any expansion of government's role in the economy and was open to the idea of private-public partnerships and other incursions by the private sector into public services. The Dion led Liberals showed no interest in tax fairness, in combatting corporate globalization, reversing cuts to EI or any other widespread restoration of social programs to their pre-Chretien state.

The Liberal Party's electoral success has always been based on running from the left - or more accurately fooling Canadians into thinking that a Liberal government would govern from the left while privately assuring corporate interests that promises such as the Chretien era pledges to scrap the GST, scrap NAFTA, implement a national housing strategy or child care would not be implemented in the end. "Campaign from the left and govern from the right" is the formula that has allowed the Liberals to win support from working class and lower and middle income stratas as well as from a healthy section of the business community. The proposition by business Liberals that the party lost the election because they were too left wing is based not on facts but is simply an attempt to rally opposition within the party against the more progressive wing of the party.
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Wondering who won the war of 1812?


A new monument to the War of 1812 designed by author Douglas Coupland and unveiled in Toronto makes it quite clear who won - and who lost - the conflict.
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Monday, 27 October 2008

National Post at 10

The National Post is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Ironically, the paper espouses a brutal free market philosophy yet has failed to have even a single profitable year and tuus, under the rules of the brutal free market, should have been folded years ago. However, because of its value as a propaganda vehicle its owners have allowed it to continue. Unfortunately, the market is a selfish lover and Canwest has been rewarded for its fealty with plunging stock values - Canwest is all but a penny stock at this point - so the Post's future is an open question. The Post has been an interesting combination of good writing and poor journalism.

I rarely peruse an issue without finding at least one howler. Not too long ago, one of the Post's scribes attributed the "I knew Jack Kennedy. You're no Jack Kennedy" line to "You're no, Ronald Reagan" and had Lloyd Bentsen delivering it to Bob Dole instead of Dan Quayle.

Most memorable of the Post's gaffes is fake front page story "IRAN EYES BADGES FOR JEWS" (May 19, 2006) which reported, wrongly, that Iran's parliament was debating legislation that would force Jews to wear Nazi-style yellow badges. And then there've been the front page polls - countless of them - conducted by the questionable Compass polling firm and designed to push a political agenda rather than actually report public opinion. I recall one that I actually did concerning tax credits for private schools. Unethically, the "money shot" question was preceded with numerous leading questions designed to make private schools (which the survey called "independent schools") appear in a preferable light to public schools (which the survey called "government run schools").

Ah the Post, Canada's answer to Fox News.
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Saturday, 4 October 2008

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Owen Lippert, Harper's plagiarist, is an intellectual property expert

I wish I could take credit for finding this but considering the circumstances maybe I could pretend that I did:

Competitive strategies for the protection of intellectual property

by Owen Lippert (and others)

More:

Copyright ©1999 by The Fraser Institute. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief passages quoted in critical articles and reviews.

The authors of this book have worked independently and opinions expressed by them are, therefore, their own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members or the trustees of The Fraser Institute.

Printed in Canada.

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Main entry under title:
Competitive Strategies for the Protection of Intellectual Property

Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-88975-200-1

1. Intellectual property (International law). 2. Intellectual
property--Economic aspects. I. Lippert, Owen. II. Fraser
Institute (Vancouver, B.C.)

K1401.C663 1999 341.7'58 C99-911278-3

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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Neo-nazi Paul Fromm a "Civil Liberty Advocate" says Global TV


Global Ontario's Friday News Hour featured a special report on Facebook hate sites which interviewed various individuals on both sides of the issue. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. The problem is that reporter Shirlee Engel (shengel@globaltv.com) decided to interview Paul Fromm describing him only has a "Civil Liberty" (sic) advocate. When there are numerous qualified civil libertarians and civil liberties groups out there, such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association why in the world would Global not only decide upon Fromm, a far right activist who was fired from his job as a teacher for his neo-nazi links and is widely thought to be a neo-Nazi himself? And if that's bad enough why describe him as a "civil liberty" advocate with no reference to his far right views? Fromm has links to the Ku Klux Klan, opposes immigration, human rights legislation, is a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens - a white supremacist group based in American South and made up of unreconstructed opponents of the civil rights movement in the US and proponents of segregation, he supported not only the apartheid-era white minority rule government in South Africa but the white minority rule Rhodesian Front. Calling Paul Fromm a civil rights advocate is like calling the Ronald Reagan a Communist.

Global's "Special Report" on hate on Facebook begins about 10 minutes into the newscast and Fromm's appearance is at 11:26. To see it for yourself go to http://www.globaltv.com/globaltv/ontario/video/index.html click "News Hour" and then click September 26.
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Thursday, 25 September 2008

Cherniak and 9/11 "truthers"

Jason Cherniak and his hangers-on have played fast and loose with the facts in order to insinuate that there are prominent NDPers who advocate wing-nut 9/11 conspiracy theories. How unfortunate that it turns out the first major party to boast a bona fide 9/11 "truther" is none other than the Liberal Party thanks to Liberal candidate Lesley Hughes who claims that Israel is behind the attacks.

German Intelligence (BND) claims to have warned the U.S. last June, the Israeli Mossad and Russian Intelligence in August. Israeli businesses, which had offices in the Towers, vacated the premises a week before the attacks, breaking their lease to do it. About 3000 Americans working there were not so lucky.

Thanks to Dawg's Blawg for doing what Cherniak only dreamed of doing - finding a major party candidate who is also a 911 truther.

Update: The Liberals have dropped Hughes as a candidate. Congratulations to Jason Cherniak for scoring on his own net. Had it not been for his logically tenuous accusations against the NDP various bloggers would not have been motivated to dig in Jason's backyard.
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Monday, 22 September 2008

Theo's hope: Chris Reid

Financial manager Theo Caldwell, who moonlights as a conservative columnist for both the National Post and the Toronto Sun, recently talked up Chris Reid, the Tory candidate who had to resign this past weekend when his wingnut views became public.

Theo's point was that even though Tory candidates in Toronto had no hope of winning they can still play an effective role because
...it can be liberating for these locals to know that they can speak their minds without endangering their Commons seat. Such candidates can be the most effective in exposing key members of the Opposition.
He went on to say:

Consider former NDP Ontario premier Bob Rae, now the Liberal MP for Toronto-Centre. There are myriad reasons why Rae deserves a public talking-to from a Conservative opponent, but Sir John A. Macdonald himself could not unseat this once and future socialist.

If Rae is soundly defeated in debates or pushed into making intemperate remarks that gain national attention, however, that could prevent him from becoming prime minister and doing the same damage to Canada that he did to this province.

If Conservative candidate Chris Reid can accomplish this, even in defeat, he will have served his country well.

Hm. So how did that work out I wonder? Reid certainly did feel liberated enough to speak his mind on gays, women, guns and bus decapitation but "exposing key members of the Opposition" or tricking Bob Rae into making "intemperate remarks"? Um, not so much. But perhaps that's what Reid was up to - making remarks that were so outrageous and beyond the pale in an attempt to provoke Bob Rae into saying something even more intermperate? Probably not but I'd hate to think Theo's trust in Chris Reid was so badly misplaced.
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Saturday, 20 September 2008

Jason Cherniak gets it wrong

Jason Cherniak is a well known Liberal blogger cum pitbull. In a blogosphere of partisans Cherniak is a sectarian extraordinaire who never fails to rush to judgement in the absence of facts if he can score a few partisan posts. Recently, he has smeared a political activist named Stacy Douglas who was a provincial NDP candidate in Scarborough Agincourt in the 2003 provincial election and planned to be a federal candidate when it looked like there would be an election in 2007.

On Friday, Cherniak made a post on his blog titled NDP fired candidate who was anti-Israel which claimed in no uncertain terms that Ms Douglas was "fired" by the NDP for comments she made in support of Palestinian rights. He repeats the claim, using the phrase "getting rid of Dougls" instead of "fired" in a subsequent post. Cherniak's evidence? Well, she was the candidate at one point and is no longer and she wrote a letter to Jack Layton in March complaining about the party's decision not to back the Durban II conference on racism. In the absence of any actual factual evidence (such as a statement or news item) stating why Douglas no longer is the candidate, Cherniak assumed, in the absence of any facts, that Douglas must have been dropped as a result of the letter. After all, correlation must mean causation ergo a letter written in March and someone not being a candidate six months latter means the two events must be connected. So concludes the steel trap mind of Jason Cherniak and hey, if his finely tuned legal intellect makes a supposition it's not just an ordinary suppostion it's as good as a fact; hence Jason's assertion that his blind speculation must be true.

The problem is it isn't.

My grade 6 teacher used to say that when you assume you make an ass of u and me. In this case, Cherniak has only made an ass of himself. The fact is that Ms Douglas is not a candidate because she is in England this year pursuing her academic studies. Had there been an election in 2007 or early 2008 she would have been a candidate. Had there been an election, as scheduled, in the fall of 2009 after her year abroad was over, she also may have been a candidate but as the Prime Minister decided to break the spirit of his own law and call a snap election Ms Douglas cannot be a candidate because she is not in the country.

So here is the upshot of this. Because of Cherniak's combination of intellectual arrogance (if I thinks it it must be so) lack of due diligence (if I thinks it's a fact there's no need to verify it) and general sloppiness he's now defamed a once and possibly future poltical candidate with the claim that she was fired by her party for her criticisms of Israel, a claim which in this day and age also implies the existence of anti-Semitism.

It's one thing to criticize other political parties based on their actual deeds or misdeeds or on their policies but to engage in this sort of smear because of intellectual laziness is not acceptable. I say intellectual laziness because Cherniak is a law school graduate and should have at least a passing familiarity with the methods of critical thinking and debate. If this is an example of Cherniak's analytical mind at work then I think he's going to have a very serious problem practicing law, particularly when it comes to arguing cases in court. If he was deliberately disregarding logic and due diligence in order to score cheap points than shame on him but moreover shame on anyone who takes his blog seriously. The reason the BBC was a force to be reckoned with during World War II's propaganda wars was because they had a reputation for being factual and credible. Once you become known to invent facts for propaganda reasons you're finished and if Cherniak does not take responsibility for his mistake and apologize then I think he's finished as a serious commentator.
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Monday, 15 September 2008

An exchange with Bob Rae's campaign manager

Shortly after I made my earlier blogpost on Bob Rae's shunning of St. James Town, the Liberal MP's campaign manager posted a public message to me below one of Bob Rae's Facebook notes where I had posted a link to this very blog. Here are his comments and my response.

Blake Webb writes:

I am Bob's campaign manager, and am happy to discuss your concerns.

Bob did attend an all candidates debate in St. James Town less then 6 months ago during the by-election, one of eight in total.

With a compressed campaign period - it is impossible for us to commit to another 8 debates. We have been in touch many community organizations who have agreed to work together to host joint debates throughout the riding (the St. James Town Safety Committee being one of them).

Feel free to contact me at our campaign office - 416-922-0401. Would be happy to talk to you further about it.

Regards

Blake Webb


My response:

Hi Blake,

You should probably talk to the St. James Town people rather than me. However, let me ask you this; if you are expecting all candidates meetings to be consolidated does this mean you are expecting either the Rosedale neighbourhood association to pack up their meeting and head down to St. James Town or the Cabbagetown people to pack up and do the same? No. My understanding is that you want St. James Town voters to go to someone else's neighbourhood despite the fact that St. James Town is by far the most populous neighbourhood of the three. Toronto Centre has 84,000 voters. Over 20,000 people live in St. James Town. The math is compelling.

Now ask yourself, why is the Bob Rae campaign prioritizing wealthier but less populous neighbourhoods over St. James Town? I think you'll find the answer in my blog post. That's probably also a pretty good reason why folks in SJT shouldn't be voting for Bob Rae. If they are also rans behind more prosperous neighbourhoods in Bob's book then they should give him the same lack of consideration.

As for you claim that it is impossible for Bob to commit to 8 debates because of a "compressed campaign period" I think the problem is more that Bob is spending much of the time campaigning in other ridings. That's his choice but I don't think it gives him a licence to complain or to favour wealthy neighbourhoods in his riding over poor ones.


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Bob Rae shunning the poor?

I've heard from several different sources today that Liberal MP Bob Rae is trying to give the brush off to an all-candidates meeting planned for St. Jamestown on October 8th. Rae says his schedule is too busy and his people are trying to get the St. Jamestown planning committee to go to all candidates meetings planned in upper middle class Cabbagetown or upper class Rosedale instead!

I guess I can see Bob's point. After all, the issues facing the poor and working poor living in substandard bedbug and cockroach infested housing in St. Jamestown are so much like those of the superrich in Rosedale or the white collar professionals of Cabbagetown.

St. Jamestown, with over 20,000 residents, is the most densely populated neighbourhood in Canada yet Rae obviously thinks better off neighbourhoods are more important. If signs in past elections are any indication, there is a stronger Liberal vote in St. Jamestown than in either of its neighbouring communities but they just aren't Bob's preferred class of voter.

Perhaps Rae doesn't want to explain why the Liberals never got around to implementing the housing strategy they promised in the Red Book in 1993? Perhaps he has nothing to offer working poor people in the way of fixing the EI system that Paul Martin broke, or restoring the federal transfers to provincial social programs that the Liberals cut? Rae certainly can't talk about childcare now that the Dion Liberals have abandoned the child care plan that was offered last election in favour of expanding Stephen Harper's child care rebate - which they mocked last time - and which will do nothing to actually provide quality, inexpensive, public and non-profit care.

In his recent screed against the NDP Bob complains that the NDP campaign in this past spring's by-election consisted of "class warfare and character assassination. Corporations bad, wealth creation bad, rich guys vs poor guys, "working families" vs what? Lazy families?"

The real problem is not that the NDP is preaching "class warfare" (if only) but that Bob Rae doesn't want to talk about class issues and would rather pretend they don't exist. Let the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Let Canada languish with an unacceptable rate of child poverty. Let our affordable housing stock decay and public housing shrink. Sure, Rae's riding of Toronto Centre may have one of the largest populations of urban poor in Canada - but don't expect him to talk to them.

Rae doesn't have a class analysis now and he didn't have one when he claimed to be a New Democrat. Now he's showing that he has no class either.
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Sunday, 14 September 2008

Election 2008

We're a week into the campaign and so far the Liberals are running an anemic effort despite the fact that Stephane Dion pledged that the party would be election ready more than a year ago. Some polls suggest the Liberals and NDP could be in a fight for second place, though this is more because of Liberal weakness than anything else as the NDP has not broken through the 20% popular vote barrier - something the party only managed to do once in federal electoral history - in 1988 when the Broadbent led party won 43 seats with 20.38% of the vote.

So far though the NDP has run a stronger campaign than the Liberals and the media is starting to take notice. The NDP ads are crisp, visually interesting and take direct aim at the Tories and are designed to position the party as the real alternative to the Tories.

The NDP are bucking a decade or so of Ontario and federal party conventional wisdom which dictated that the party should focus its efforts on the Liberals. This attempt at "triangulation" was too clever by half and actually had the effect of alienating left leaning Liberal voters. The NDP's fear has been that if they attack the Tories they will only drive their own voters to the Liberals and encourage strategic voting. However, progressive voters are first and foremost anti-Conservative and it has been pure folly for a party to try to win the progressive vote by ignoring the real enemy.
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