Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good News! Gordon Lightfoot Lives!

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, I had a tribute post up here when I heard that a great Canadian, Gordon Lightfoot, had died. It was all over Twitter and was in some big news outlets, too. I ain't kiddin' when I say I had tears runnin' down my face when I posted that RIP tribute but now The news is that it wasn't true. Glad to hear it.

In case anybody thinks I published on the basis of rumour only, here's what I saw in the Calgary Herald.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Harper's Haiti Trip - Please, MSM, Don't Go. Don't Take Photos

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, Pryminister Harper is off to Haiti today. The official announcements say he's going there to assess the relief effort. Over at Steve V's Far and Wide, there's a lot of skepticism and at least one commenter who says Harper's visit will bolster troop morale.

Surprise visits to troops deployed in faraway locales is a trademark of tinpot heroes like Dick Cheney. I wonder where Harper got the idea he could bolster the troops -- and maybe his sagging poll numbers -- by paying a surprise visit?

Two years ago, Haitians were rioting for food and eating dirt patties to fill their empty bellies.

The food shortage was spurred by high commodities prices which the World Bank attributed mainly to biofuels. Canada was riding high on a crest of grain prices and federal and provincial "environmental" policies mandated 5% - 10% ethanol content for motor fuel. Harper and McGuinty denied the effect of their policies on world markets while thousands starved.

Today, the situation is compounded by the quake. Desperate reports from those on the ground are revealing a situation where food and water are stockpiled and people are starving.

They don't need Stephen Harper or Angelina Jolie or John Travolta scrambling for self-serving photo-ops. Harper can manage things just as well from Ottawa or Vancouver. If the troops need bolstering, he can do it via video link.

What are Harper's qualifications regarding the delivery of disaster relief? Do his medical qualifications go beyond his expertise in nuclear medicine? Where was he when they were eating dirt?

Haiti is headed for more grief. Their planting season begins in March and by all accounts, they need seeds, fertilizer, agricultural equipment and expertise to avert yet another round of starvation and desperation. Yet, little of this type of aid is reaching Haiti.

The first reports of Harper's trip said he would be sleeping inside the Canadian embassy and reporters should be prepared to sleep in tents outside the building. After a bit of negative reaction to the photo op started cropping up, the PMO quickly came out with new details. Harper will be flying in on an aid transport plane (read: white horse) and sleeping aboard a Canadian battleship anchored offshore.

Just how high does Haiti really rank in Harper's priorities? We have more troops serving as security detail for the Olympics than we have serving in Afghanistan. We have more than twice as many in Afghanistan as we have in Haiti.

If only our pandering news media would simply refuse to send anyone to cover this obvious play for approval. If only...


(Most of this post was originally written as a comment at Far and Wide.)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Bombshell! Forces Downplaying Canadian Afghan War Casualties

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, there's an old saying that the first casualty of war is the truth. Sadly, that adage is proving to be accurate with regard to the Canadian Forces' release of information on casualties in the Afghanistan conflict. The Hill Times is reporting this morning that the number of returning troops on disability is up to ten times higher than what has been reported by the Canadian Forces.
More than 6,000 Canadian Forces members and discharged veterans who are receiving physical or psychiatric disability benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada have either served in Afghanistan or have a disability that has been related to their service in Afghanistan, the department says.
The Forces have been telling us that the number wounded in Afghanistan is 529. 529 wounded Canadians would be bad enough but when the real number is more than 6000, the figure quoted by the Canadian Forces is an all-out assault on the truth.

A few weeks ago, I posted up an audio blog where I sang a song by Tom Paxton that decried the psychological toll we exact upon our young people when we send them off to war. Today, when I read the Hill Times article, the poignancy of that song came back to haunt me again.

It's bad enough when we are forced into a war and must fight for our way of life and our very survival. In Afghanistan, we are fighting to support a fraudulently elected Hamid Karzai and his gang of warlords, opium merchants, bribe-takers and torturers. We've sacrificed the lives of 139 Canadians to an unworthy cause with unworthy allies.

Now, we find out that the wounded number far more than we were led to believe.

When I was a boy in the 1950's my WWII veteran dad would sometimes point out one of what he referred to as the "walking wounded". We'd see them on the street, often wearing a ragged military uniform and holding out a cup, begging for a handout from those for whom they sacrificed their sanity. My grandfather was a WWI Vimy vet. His name for the walking wounded was "shell shocked."

Today, we have a new name for the same problem. We call it "post traumatic stress disorder" or PTSD. When a loved one is killed in action it is a tragedy with a certain amount of closure, honour and solemn dignity. When a loved one sacrifices his or her sanity and mental well-being it is an ongoing, festering sore that rips apart families and continues to take physical, mental and financial tolls on the individuals, their families and society, in general.

The very least we should be able to expect is a truthful accounting of the numbers of troops who are suffering as a result of this misguided mission. We all bear the costs... and the shame.


(h/t to zippyFX on Twitter)

Friday, February 05, 2010

It's All About Torture. Don't Let Anyone Forget.

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, Steve over at Far and Wide has a post about the polls and how bad ol' King Steve is doin' an' is the trend gonna continue. I left a bigass comment there an' I'm saving' energy by recycling that comment here.

We all saw the pundits come out wrong, wrong, wrong on the expected reaction to prorogation. Now, I've heard a few of 'em say that once the HOC resumes sitting, the prorogation issue will fall off the map. Maybe it'll be another swing and miss for the pundidiots. Maybe not.

If the prorogation outrage and backlash is to survive, we will need to show exactly how much work went down the tubes. How long will it take to get the legislative agenda back to where it was before the December break? How long before committees are reconstituted and back to where they were pre-prorogue?

If, as a small number believe, the budget triggers an election, how much work will be lost and, importantly, who will take the blame?

My own advice on this is that the public needs to be kept acutely aware that ducking the Afghan detainee issue was the primary reason Harper rolled the dice... and crapped out. So far, so good on that with the committee sitting.

The committee, however, is getting too bogged down in questions of privilege and protocol vis-a-vis the unreleased documents. The facts as reported by NGO spokespersons are that the current agreement is failing to do what it was intended to do. While they play cat and mouse with the document issue, detainees are not being monitored as required on paper and they ARE being tortured... now.

I think many voters see the power play over documents as politics -- parliamentary procedural wrangling done more for partisan gain than for truth-gathering. We know the truth. We've always known it. Detainees we hand over to the Afghans are abused. That fact can be clearly illustrated without the gamesmanship.

Despite some of the callous and uninformed comments I read in MSM comment threads, I truly believe most Canadians are repulsed by torture and are ashamed of any suggestion that our country was complicit in detainee abuse. If they are made to see that we are STILL complicit in ongoing abuse, we will achieve something. That "something" that we must be striving for is a cessation of torture by our allies -- Afghan or American.

Though we can show that abuse continues and we can demand it cease, the reality is that we have little power over such matters. Secret detention centres and denial of monitoring rights precludes our ability to wash our hands.

What to do? Either we quit handing over detainees altogether or we quit Afghanistan altogether.

Ignatieff made some encouraging comments a few days ago regarding the legitimacy of our support for the fraudulently elected Karzai and his gang of warlords, opium merchants and torturers. This theme will resonate; especially, when coupled with the message that the current transfer agreement is failing to prevent torture.

Human decency will prevail.


Monday, February 01, 2010

JimBobby Sings Again: "Do the Prorogation"

Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, last night when Ma an' I was out walkin' the dogs, I made up some new lyrics to an old tune. Little Eva was the original, I think. The Beach Boys done it, too. I reckon they're better singers than ol' JB but their lyrics is kinda outta date. I made a little video an' posted it up on You Tube. Here it is:

Here's the words in case somebody wants to do it with a half-decent singer an' maybe a little back-up instrumentation.

Do the Prorogation

Stephen Harper's doin' a crazy dance now,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...
He thought no one was lookin' so he took a big chance now,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...

He's got a Governor General who's his partner in crime,
She let him get away with it a second time,
So come on, come on, do the prorogation with Steve...

Never mind the hypocrisy,
When you attack our democracy...
Well he's really got the knack,
Woah woah...

Lettin' Afghans torture Afghans now that was his intention,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...
He doesn't give a crap about Geneva Conventions,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...

He's lookin' warm and fuzzy in his sweater vest,
Lockin' out the opposition and liberal press,
So come on, come on, do the prorogation with Steve...

Oh yeah...
Do the prorogation...
Kill your legislation...
Yay, yay, yay, yeah...

He's got the people riled up across the nation,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...
By givin' his MP's an extended vacation,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...

He thought his little trick would be easy to do,
An apathetic public is so easy to screw,
So come on, come on, do the prorogation with Steve...

Never mind the hypocrisy,
When you attack our democracy...
Well he's really got the knack,
Woah woah...

Stephen Harper's doin a crazy dance now,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...
He thought no one was lookin' so he took a big chance now,
Come on Stevie, do the prorogation...

Shut down the committees. They can start up later,
Who needs the House of Commons when we've got a dictator,
So come on, come on, do the prorogation with Steve...
Come on, come on, do the prorogation with Steve...