After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What was Harper thinking turning a question about conflict of interest into an ethnic slur/insult?!?

I was watching QP this afternoon as I always do when I am home when it is on. Now, as others have noted there appears to be another scandal blooming for the Harper CPC involving improper political interference, this time in contracting issues. as Impolitical has written about here, here, and here, with the third post being on the same point I am raising here. So PM Harper takes questions on this and then without any reason or need to do so he makes mention of the fact that the two men involved here are of Greek ethnicity. Exactly how is their ethnicity relevant to the issue as to whether improper use of influence occurred on behalf of one of the men involved with the aid of the other who works for PMO? The finishing touch of claiming the opposition was calling it a conspiracy theory right after raising the ethnicity in the same statement just makes that raising of the ethnicity that much worse, as if there is somehow this perception out there that Greek people get together and have conspiracies because they are Greek, and not because they may have common interests say politically (which is of course true as they are both strong CPC supporters/members) or economically but because of their ethnicity. This is extremely offensive, uncalled for, and quite honestly utterly baffling to me as to why Harper would go there.

I don't like Harper, never have never will and have made no secret of it. I acknowledge his skills (indeed, if I didn't think he had strengths why would I oppose him so strongly, I wouldn't because I wouldn't perceive him as capable of much threat and therefore not needing the expenditure in effort/energy, so dislike does not equate contempt for his political skills) as well as being critical as to how he uses them and to what ends/purposes. This though I find utterly inexplicable on his behalf and one of the single clumsiest verbal stupidities I have ever heard him make (which is no small list in my books) and slimes an ethnic group for no apparent reason except maybe to try and imply that the Opposition parties in asking about this are somehow racist against Greek Canadians because the two men are Greek and that their Greekness is why the Opposition is asking these questions. If that was what he was trying to do (and it is the only explanation I can think of and it is a weak one IMHO) to deflect questions on this issue it was a total failure. If anything he has drawn increased attention to this question of conflict of interest and political influence meddling by the Harper PMO it also makes the PM look so afraid of this that he went to the ethnic slur in a desperate attempt to distract because he has no better response.

I really think Harper now owes an apology to Greek Canadians for dragging ethnicity into something where ethnicity played no role whatsoever aside from the two men involved sharing it. This was a really offensive thing for Harper to have done, and it appears entirely gratuitous at that.

**UPDATE** 01:42 am Jan 31 08

Well, it looks like I am not the only one to come to such a conclusion, KNB of Liberal Arts and Minds did as well and she does a good job in her post here of getting to the heart of what mindset is being protected let alone what possible/potential wrongdoing that caused such a outrageous tactic to be used. As I said in my comment responding to her post at her site this is a sad day in Canadian poltiics when a PM used ethnic-baiting (which is race-baiting by another more polite and less emotionally charged name after all) where no trace of ethniticy was involved in the matter or could even be reasonably believed to be perceived in in any way in the matter. It takes a lot these days for Harper to really surprise and underwhelm me with how low he can and will go to advance his narrow partisan aims and to protect himself from any whiff of impropriety (let alone scandal).

You see the Grewal fraud and subsequent cover-up (here is a link to a one year anniversary retrospective post I did on the Grewal fraud) of whoever in the CPC made the edits let alone what Harper knew about them and when he knew them showed a level of dishonesty I had not thought him capable of and this slur shows a level of willingness to exploit the absolute worst in human nature (especially in a nation as widely multicultural/diverse as ours). Prior to that I had him pegged as an ideologue and one I strongly disagreed but an honest one and a person living to the standards he set for himself as much as I disagreed with those standards/principles, Grewal proved to me otherwise. This is on a par with that for me in terms of just how offensive to the intelligence of Canadians it is as well as just how offensive it is in general to civil human beings whatever their nationality/ancestry and political affiliations. Not exactly what most Canadians think of when they think of what being Canadian is all about, as we are a nation that takes pride in and even makes fun of our reputation abroad as well as our own self-image for civility and courtesy as a nation and people. Whatever else, Harper betrayed that core Canadian concept with this slur, and I hope that does not go unnoticed by Canadians.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Keen Testimony, first blush reactions

Well, I think I now understand what the CPC government is trying to do, and I think it will fail. They are trying to get Keen to read into the controlling Act additional responsibilities that over the Act's seven year history and reviews throughout that period were never once considered to be a part of the Act. They are focusing on the "health of individuals" wording being not explicitly stating it is only regarding those in and around operating nuclear reactors and saying that because it did not explicitly limit (as opposed to implicitly limit which any fair/objective reading of the language makes quite clear otherwise this ambiguity would have been raised prior to when a government needed the regulator to see it this way to protect them in a highly sensitive and politically charged issue) the term health of individuals to mean the health of those directly affected by proximity to an operating reactor or storage facility of nuclear materials that she had the ability to read into the Act these additional powers. Now, some might argue that she should have done exactly that because the health of Canadians is important, and that has been the CPC argument to date, the problem with it is that it is nothing but garbage.

It is not appropriate for any regulator to read new powers into their purview except by the most limited and direct outgrowth of the Act controlling that regulator. In regards to the CNSC there was never any aspect of it that considered placing responsibility for medical health needs of Canadians beyond that of those in proximity to nuclear materials, so to read into the Act the way the CPC government wanted to have Keen do was entirely beyond the scope of her original responsibilities and indeed given the quasi-judicial nature of the regulator for her to do so would be an egregious example of gross judicial activism, something I am used to hearing the CPC decry, not insist upon (but then in this case the insistence was because they needed the CNSC to do so to give the government political protection which shows just how little they are truly concerned about judicial activism despite all of the rhetoric we have ever heard from them about it) . Indeed, as Keen noted in here testimony and I noted in this post the fact that the government felt it had to add specifically this additional power/responsibility after the HoC override of Dec 10 2007 can and should be read as an implicit agreement by the government that the CNSC did NOT have those powers when the government claimed it did during the period prior to the Dec 10 Parliamentary override.

Indeed, one of the first complaints about Keen I heard from the government was about how "rigid" she was being in interpreting her responsibilities and powers. Well, in someone that is charged with nuclear safety that kind of rigidity is a good thing, not a bad thing despite the CPC attempt to spin it so, and I noted that also in another earlier post noted in the link in this sentence (editing troubles, hence the awkward phrasing here). Keen also made a point that people need to keep this "rigidity" in mind being a good thing when she pointed out quite accurately that with nuclear reactors and safety the appropriate comparison is to the level of safety concerns involved in a space shuttle, as both are incredibly complex and extremely dangerous systems with great destructive potential if a misstep/mistake in enforcing the strictest safety regulatory framework. Yet this government appears to find the idea of a regulator with such serious responsibilities to be too rigid in interpreting/reading additional meaning into the controlling Act is a bad thing.

However, to make matters worse on this the government was doing this while it (CNSC) was "seized" with the specific issue, and for the Minister to intervene in the manner he did was on a par with a justice minister calling a judge hearing a specific case to offer suggestions/give orders on how that judge should rule. That is something in our system of law and government that is considered a major no-no, and normally a firing offence. Keep in mind the prior examples of ministers being fired if they hadn't resigned first for inappropriate contact between a minister and a judge, I believe that was something that tripped up Jean Charest back in his early days in the Mulroney government. The actions of the government and Lunn in particular goes well beyond the pale and to be honest I cannot think of another case of such blatant inappropriate interference by a minister to such a body. Indeed, according to the Accountability Act (another point Keen made explicitly in her testimony including citing the specific element of that Act involved here) Harper brought in Lunn's conduct was inappropriate and should have been sacked for doing so, not praised by the PM as going above and beyond the call of duty, as I noted at the time here.

Bottom line, it is very obvious why the government did not want Linda Keen to testify, her facts were on point, her presentation crisp, clear and highly professional, and her logic/reasoning impossible to refute unless one is a CPC partisan more concerned with protecting this government than in actually dealing with the facts/reality. It was never the responsibility of the CNSC to worry about supply issues, it was inappropriate for Lunn to even involve himself in the manner he did in terms of trying to instruct the CNSC on what to do next let alone to grasp the powers they wanted her to read into the Act despite their being no reasonable groundwork for her to do so, and when she quite properly refused to do so was scapegoated in the HoC as a Liberal appointee with the clear implication that she was acting out of partisan reasons first instead of following the requirements of her job. So once she testified it would have been clear to any Canadian watching that she did nothing wrong and it was the government that acted inappropriately throughout this matter especially in terms of her firing, which I must say given what we now know is almost certainly going to cost the taxpayers a fair bit in a wrongful termination suit and possibly given the actions of this government also sued for slander/defamation of character (I may not have the precise legal term right here but I am certain it gets the point I am making across).

I think this government has stuck its hand in a buzz saw for the way they treated Linda Keen, and that this is going to haunt this government for a long time to come, especially since Keen's interpretation of her powers is agreed with by independent experts from all I have seen and the government's interpretation is unique and indefensible when it claims Keen had the power/authority to consider isotope supply based on the the wording of health of individuals in a nuclear regulatory safety act when nothing in that Act gives any indication that the concerns regarding health go beyond the health of those in and around nuclear reactors/materials. Basically at every turn this government failed to act in a competent manner, and when it started to catch up with them with the isotope shortage they panicked and looked for someone to fix it for them even if it was not legal for that person to do that for them and when that person refused made that person the scapegoat for everything. The problem for the CPC is that the scapegoat Linda Keen is not taking it lying down and has the credentials and background to effectively rebut the government's actions to scapegoat her and indeed makes it that much more obvious to the average Canadian of just how badly and incompetently the CPC government has handled nuclear safety and specifically the Chalk River situation from beginning to end. This government chose to place its partisan political interests ahead of nuclear safety and the independence of the regulator, and even by my standards of just how extensively how partisan I believe this government to be even I would not have thought they would go this far if I had had this situation described to me say three months ago, and I am not exactly a fan of this government to begin with.

Depending on what else shows up I may update this post later or write an additional one, but for right now this is what I took away from watching her testimony before the Commons committee.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Did the military override civilian authority and if so why and what does it say about CPC detainee policy?

Updated twice since original post, first mid Friday afternoon (Jan 25 08), second Saturday afternoon (Jan 26 08).

Man, I hate it when my computer crashes just when I finish a long detailed post and am about to publish it, I had a nicely written commentary about the latest developments in the ongoing Afghan detainee scandal all proofed and linked when it died, so this time I am going to keep it fairly short so as to hope this one will publish before such happens again.

It appears that the Harper government has managed to exceed the level of corruption (remember, my corruption concerns with the Harper CPC have always been in terms of abuse of power/position than in terms of theft of taxpayer dollars, which of the two types I find the former to be far more dangerous than the latter to a democratic society/system of government) and incompetence I had thought them capable of with this. I went first to the Galloping Beaver where I read this excellent post by Dave dealing with what Sandra Buckler, PM Harper's media controller/coordinator had to say on this. I then went to Impolitical where I found this article with this link telling us that this government did not know about the stoppage of transfers, indeed that it appeared the government was not happy about that change. So I went to the Globe and Mail to find this there.

In the end of my readings so far (I took a couple of days off of Canadian news because I had a mild cardiac event Monday night and thought I should stay away from things that overly enraged/excited me, which these days the government has a depressingly frequent tendency of doing to me) there are several aspects to the detainee issue that I find of great concern. However, I am focusing only on one aspect in this post, that being the stoppage of prisoner transfers, who ordered it and what this means when considering what the government has been saying about this since last November. For it is here that I see something truly worrisome (to put it mildly).

We have essentially two scenarios/situations here. One, the government has been knowingly lying to the Canadian people both in and out of Parliament since last November regarding the continued transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities despite the concerns about potential Geneva violations, which is bad enough. This would indicate a willingness to lie to the public on an issue as serious as this, and an issue which to discuss does *NOT* compromise operational security as Dave at the Galloping Beaver makes quite clear in his writings on this topic. Traditionally we follow the Geneva Conventions when it comes to the taking and keeping of prisoners, and one of the first things that includes is notification of the other side through a third party who we have in our custody, so the argument the CPC likes to use about what it tells the enemy about our operations is patent nonsense. As to how they are treated being kept secret, the only way that makes sense is if you have reason to think that the treatment will enrage/inflame the situation, which if the Geneva Conventions are being followed properly is ludicrous. This would be bad enough if this is what has been going on, especially given that one of the favourite responses to this issue from this government to questioners (especially in the HoC) is to brand them as being more concerned for the well being of Taliban terrorists than of our soldiers, a fancy way of saying either you are with us completely or you are automatically/inherently with the terrorists, which is truly disgusting as an attack line as well as preventing any meaningful examination of the topic at hand, which is no doubt part of the reasoning why the Harper CPC uses this inflammatory rhetoric/approach.

However, it is the second of the two possibilities that really bothers me. Under that scenario we have the military acting unilaterally to override government policy on detainee transfers without telling the government that they have done so. Now, the only reason that would make sense is if the commanders on the ground felt that government policy on this issue was exposing their troops to significant/serious risks of violating the Geneva Conventions and down the road being charged for it, essentially that the current orders were de facto illegal orders *AND* that the commanders did not trust the sitting government to not override that change if they became aware of it. Stop and think for a moment about what that scenario would be showing. It would show a government more concerned with political coverage than policy. It would show really bad oversight ability by this government. It would show that this government is indifferent to being in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and is indifferent about putting our troops in a position where they could face such charges down the road, all so as to look like they are being "tough on terrorism and terrorists unlike the Opposition parties". Most troubling of all though it would show that the military does not trust this government to make legal policy that protects the soldiers in the field and that they felt it necessary to override the usual protocol of civilian authority calling the shots in military policy, something I cannot recall seeing happen in our society before (I could be wrong about that, is anyone thinks they know of another example of the military reversing and hiding the reversal of policy in a combat theatre I will add it as an update to this post).

So either way this government is showing itself to be unfit for office, either it knew and lied despite the inevitability that the lie would be exposed about the halting of the detainees (which makes little sense since that would have defused the negative reaction in the public and denied the Opposition parties a significant political hammer) or they did not know despite their oversight responsibilities (which on an issue which has been as hot as this one over the past year one would have thought any sane government would have kept a close watch over if only out of self preservation instincts) that the military changed the policy (likely because they feared that the government's policy would result in potential Geneva and even war crimes trials for Canadian soldiers down the road if they did not stop these transfers). That the military would feel the need to have to hide this from the government indicates they didn't trust the government to go along with this decision, which in turn indicates an appalling lack of judgment by the government in placing its political needs ahead of the honour, reputation, and expertise of those in uniform when it comes to such basics as the treatment of prisoners according to the law of this country. When the military overrides civilian authority you have a very serious problem indeed in a democracy, and that is why I hope the government has been knowingly lying all along rather than this second possibility, yet going by what is in the public domain to date the second appears to be more probable.

This is also not the first time this government has tried to blame the military for actions it was responsible for, just remember the flap over media coverage of the repatriation ceremonies of our dead soldiers from Afghanistan a few months after they came to power. I documented this in two post at Saundrie here and here. You would think this government would have learned better by now, but that is one of the hallmarks of this government, it doesn't learn because it already believes it knows all the right answers regardless of what anyone else may think no matter what their qualifications/expertises. This is a very bad situation indeed, even by the standard of failure and hyperpoliticization of the CPC government. More and more it looks like in foreign policy and especially where our troops are concerned this government is exactly like GWB's. They use the military as a political prop/tool for partisan purposes, provide minimal to no support resourcewise, and try to hide the costs of the war/conflict from the domestic audience/public while calling anyone with any questions let alone criticisms of government military policy as anti-patriotic/terrorist sympathizers, etc. That kind of jingoism is not a hallmark of Canadian society, although it is of American, and that this government and especially this PM clearly practices such speaks volumes as to where he comes from in this, and it is not rooted in anything remotely resembling Canadian rooted/based thinking.

I have been avoiding blogging about the detainee issue because it is something that truly offends me beyond the ability to keep my anger/rage under control when I write about it. It was in no small part why I stopped here last year. However, I cannot continue to not document this issue here anymore, especially not now when such serious an issue as the military overriding civilian authority to protect the troops from legal repercussions appears to have happened. That is something I would never have expected to see in this country, and the anger and shame I feel at the government that has placed us in apparent violation of Geneva Convention protocols cannot be easily put into words. For a party and government that shouts about how it and only it respects and values our military their behaviour since coming to power has been putting the lie to that assertion and then some. If anything this Harper CPC government disrespects and holds in contempt the military more than any prior government than I have seen in my lifetime except of course for the political partisan ways they can use them as props and as a weapon to try to hurt their political opposition, that appears to be the only value the Harper CPC sees in our military. Shameful doesn't even begin to cover it IMHO.


As of 2:05pm EST The Globe and Mail is reporting that Sandra Buckler is backing off her original comment about the government not being informed, however when asked to clarify if that meant then the government did have knowledge of the halt of transfer she refused to say. Here is the link to the article for all to read and evaluate for themselves. I would be giving credit to Jimbobby because he raised it in comments except that I had returned to Saundrie to add this update when I found his comment. Still though I didn't want him thinking I was slighting him so I thought I should mention that too. Thank you for the consideration JB even though I had already found the article, it is still much appreciated.


This article in the G&M (h/t to Impolitical) now makes it impossible to believe that this government had no idea about the stop of transfer of detainees from right after the military changed its policy. Impolitical in this post underscores exactly why that is, and I agree with Impolitical's reasoning here completely. Both are well worth the read IMHO. This explains how the appearance of the military keeping a government as well known for micromanagement as this one out of the loop on this policy change was able to go unchallenged for several hours in the national media as well as making it difficult to impossible to believe the government was not lying about this back when it was sliming the Opposition for being more concerned with the well being of Taliban/terrorists than they were about our soldiers in and out of the House of Commons last November. I think this government has pushed the military and civil service just about as far as it is going to be willing to take it, as Impolitical notes this means we should start seeing more and more leaks of what this government has been doing all it can to bury, and it will be its own fault (not that they will see it that way of course, no they will blame it all on the liberal media conspiracy against Conservatives and the Liberal civil service out to get them it won't be because the CPC did anything wrong, nosiree not at all) that this is happening to them.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Minister Lunn just proved Keen's point regarding her authority to consider isotope availability over safe reactor operations

Via Impolitical we find this article from the Globe and Mail in which Lunn says he is going specify in writing for the next CNSC head that they must ensure the production of sufficient medical isotopes and that it will explicitly state that the regulator is responsible for ensuring the supply of isotopes. The fact that Lunn must do this instead of simply showing where in the current regulations and controlling legislation this authority/requirement already exists (where he could strengthen that authority or make it more explicit) as he and his government have repeatedly claimed was the case and why Keen was not doing her job and deserved to be fired from heading the CNSC underscores the point I have been making all along, that the controlling legislation as it currently stands does not provide the regulator with the authority nor the responsibility to take isotope production/availability into consideration when making decisions about nuclear safety, despite all this government has tried to claim.

In other words Keen was right about her responsibilities and the authorities she had to consider and Lunn and his government were wrong, pure and simple, otherwise why need to write it in now? Of course the Harper/CPC defenders will say this government is just making sure/spelling it out for the next head because the current authority is too nebulous or some such (while of course not citing the specific part of the current legislation/regulations to back that assertion up with) but anyone with any capacity for logic/reason and a preference for facts over political rhetoric and spin will see that for the sham that it is.

As to the idea itself, this is very bad policy. You do not make a safety regulator also responsible for production quotas, it inherently places the regulator in conflict between safety concerns which are supposed to be their paramount responsibility (hence being called a safety regulator...duh) and making sure there is enough supply. Take as an example the regulator being forced to choose between operating a reactor she knows is leaking a slight amount of radiation exposing those that work closely where the isotopes are being made, not enough to be lethal but enough to cause sterility at the same time that reactor is the only one able to make enough of isotope "x" that is needed and cannot be stockpiled because of a short half-life that is essential to a cancer treatment that keeps people alive. Do you shut the reactor down to deal with the radiation leak even though it will severely limit if not shut down altogether the isotope supply or do you allow the radiation to keep hitting the workers because it is not fatal just sterility inducing? That is the kind of idiotic balancing concerns this notion carries inherently within it, and why it is bad policy let alone bad law. Mind you, I am not sure Lunn can actually do this without changing the legislation via an Act of Parliament (aka getting a majority vote from the HoC to do so), it will be interesting to see whether this government tries to claim such inherent authority yet again, I suspect they will as it has been a repeating pattern with them to date.

This is to continue keeping the focus on Keen and the regulator as opposed to AECL and the failure of Minister Lunn to properly oversee AECL in the first place, and it is to be seen to be "doing something", even though the something it is doing is incredibly moronic. Yet again we see that this government does everything with a political consideration topping the concerns/considerations, which is inherently unhealthy for a democracy, just look at GWB's America and what he has reduced that once shining nation of the rule of law to, that is where this kind of government will take us. Worse, not only does this government emulate the GOP/Bush43 way of operating, they care more about the opinions of the American conservatives than they do those of the vast majority of this nation. Just look at how they reacted to the civil service (foreign affairs branch) considering America as a torture nation in those documents Amnesty International got out of the government in a lawsuit. This is only acknowledging the simple reality of the post 9/11/01 America and yet this government freaks out when that becomes public knowledge because this government cares more for the opinion of the Americans than it does any voice in this country (aside from the voters whom they will nobly lie to as the last election and the subsequent actions of this government make painfully clear to all but the most blinded by partisanship minds) not already in agreement with them.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Keen Lament: How Harper is putting his ideological and/or partisan needs ahead of nuclear safety, the CPC "hidden agenda" warned about in action.

A little over two years ago we were just about to enter an election campaign. At the time I was arguing that it would be less dangerous/destructive for Canada to re-elect the clearly tired, stale, and arguably corrupt Liberals to government than to provide Harper's CPC with a government, even a minority government, because of his "hidden agenda" to make over the Canadian government into something more in line with his vision of what it should be, and I based those fears on the consistent views he had publicly held from the late 80s until 2005 when he finally realized that those views were keeping him from attaining power. For this I was ridiculed and mocked by both the left and right, the right because I attacked their leader, the left because they argued only someone benefiting from corruption as a Liberal could possibly think that the Libs were safer/better than the CPC (or NDP, as for some reason a few of these critics actually thought the NDP could become the next government or at least the Official Opposition and would be able to keep Harper in check, well I would argue that the NDP has not been able to do much of anything to keep Harper in check and arguably have helped him more than harmed him by their incessant desire to replace the Libs and therefore continually equate the Libs and CPC as equally bad choice despite the clear differences between them) . My responses were rooted in my belief that as bad as theft of taxpayer dollars to the tune of a few tens of millions of dollars are that I would much prefer that to rampant abuse of power and manipulation of the judicial and civil service elements of our government to place them in the service of an ideological driven party (let alone one driven by the same ideological underpinnings as the GOP/movement conservatives in the USA), in this case the Harper CPC. Well, here we are two years later and what have we seen in that time I would argue shows the hidden agenda fear was grounded in substance and that it is being implemented as much as possible in the circumstances Harper's minority government allows him to manage.

As KNB noted in this post of hers here we have seen this pattern appear several times in two years where this government wants to do something that is opposed by independent arms-length bodies answerable not to a government but to Parliament as a whole (which in a minority situation is a very important distinction, in a majority government one can simply pass whatever legislation through Parliament one wants without having to worry about what anyone else might say/think/do (so long as it remains compliant with the Charter of course, at least while our Supreme Court is kept free of this hyperpartisanizing of the government by Harper that is), but in a minority government situation the government must be able to count on enough opposition MPs agreeing so as to have the needed majority to pass legislation to override the independent body's decision or more broadly their mandate) they simply do what they want by firing without good cause and/or ignoring what the independent regulator says while claiming that their own unique legal interpretation is all that matters/counts since obviously any government functionary daring to disagree with them is doing so only out of some partisan basis instead of on any real/valid grounds. We have seen this done to the Canadian Wheat Board, the Elections Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, TWO Chief Electoral Officers, the Environmental Commissioner (within the AG's department overall if I recall correctly) and now the nuclear safety regulator Linda Keen. This in two years come next week as a minority government with one of the weakest minority governments in history. I would suggest that this underscores exactly why this government can never be trusted with majority power and indeed is far too dangerous to have even in a minority situation. Keep in mind it was Harper in the closing week of the last election campaign that said people shouldn't worry about a Harper CPC government since the Liberal judiciary, bureaucracy, and Senate would be there to keep him in check. Well, given the way he is clearly abusing the bureaucracy and ignoring the role of independent bodies when they get in his way I would say that check is being systematically removed by Harper precisely because what he wants to do is not consistent with our prior legal practices, our laws as they currently are written (How can one claim to be all for law and order when you run a government that tosses it by the wayside whenever it gets in your way from how much you can advertise in an election to overriding the nuclear safety regulator for doing her job as the law required of her?) and certainly would not gain enough support in the HoC let alone the electorate if he did so openly (in other words since he hasn't the votes to change the legislation he will simply redefine/ignore it altogether).

Keep in mind this government has also redesigned the way judicial appointments are vetted. Prior to Harper the commissions doing so were made up of seven people, four of whom were NOT selected by government but by other bodies with appropriate expertise. Then Harper decides to add a police representative (which btw I find incredibly insane, judges should not have to worry about what a cop thinks of their qualifications, the cops enforce the laws, not interpret or create them, indeed often it is the judges that tell the police when they have crossed the line creating a certain amount of antipathy from police towards judges) to make it an 8 member body AND made the judicial council's representative the permanent chair thereby negating that body's vote unless a tie happens, which when there are seven people voting normally tends not to happen as a rule. So in the end the government appointees went from having a minority position in the screening process to having a majority control and that one of the three remaining non-governmental member bodies had its vote de facto stripped from them in the vetting process. This went under the radar screen of many people because it didn't seem like a big deal to them, but when you start rebalancing such powers towards the government instead of towards the citizenry then you have to wonder why they think they need that much power in the first place and what it is they wish to do with it.

This is where Harper's history as a member of the Calgary School of political thought has to be taken into consideration, as well as the heavy influence Leo Strauss has within that school, especially the part about how only the elite are qualified to have any say in how a nation is governed which is why it is acceptable to commit the "noble lie" to the great unwashed masses about what you will do to gain the power so you can exercise it on behalf of the elite, exactly what we saw with the accountable transparent, honest, and ethical government Harper's CPC was trumpeting they would be in the last election, indeed since the CPC was birthed in that act of dishonesty, treachery and betrayal. As the past two years have shown we have had anything but. Indeed, Harper showed his true colours on this in the very first day he was sworn to power by making the head of Public Works his unelected Quebec bagman first a Senator (something he swore only to do to represent Provinces that do not elect any CPC members, something clearly not the case for Quebec) and then makes him the Minister of Public Works, which is historically also known as the department of pork and patronage. Public Works was where the Sponsorship scandal was run out of, so that this should have been a department receiving increased transparency and accountability if that truly was a goal of the Harper CPC government. However, that was not what we got.

Now we come to the case regarding Linda Keen, a civil servant who until Harper branded her a Liberal partisan by insinuation/implication in the House of Commons had no record of acting in a partisan manner let alone was considered so by anyone, even those like Mr. Burns former Chairman of the AECL Board with whom she was in conflict with. Indeed, she appeared to be someone that took her responsibilities very seriously and if anything was a bit rigid in terms of interpreting her mandate, which I would argue in someone charged with nuclear safety protocols is a very good thing indeed. You don't want someone that is slapdash in their methods or casual about their responsibilities in such a serious position as overseeing nuclear safety, that should be blatantly obvious to anyone with two functioning neurons firing. Her job was, as previously covered here and elsewhere was to follow the nuclear safety regulations as defined by controlling legislation. Nowhere in that legislation does it make placing any other concerns/considerations than safe operations of nuclear reactors a part of her job, despite the claims of some that the section talking about the health of Canadians means exactly that. I would argue that the context makes it clear that the health being referred to is the health of those working in and living around the reactor and nothing more. To claim that goes to talking about the health concerns of Canadians needing radioactive isotopes unsupported by any clarification/precedent showing such seems more than a little dubious to me, which is why I find the government's argument here to be incredibly flimsy to nonexistent. Also, why hasn't the Harper government been able to cite the specific elements within the controlling legislation(s) to show she had such power to consider isotope needs versus reactor safety and that Lunn had the power/authority to do as he did unless they are not there? After all, if the government could cite the relevent authorities within the legislation it would cut off at the knees any Opposition criticism on this issue, so one would think they would have looked hard to find them to use and their absence indicating they do not exist (or that this government is so incapable/incompetent it couldn't find them after weeks of looking, not exactly a useful defence) despite the claims that they do by this government.

However, one cannot deny that this government went out of its way to claim that the lives and health of thousands of Canadians were in direct jeopardy if this reactor was not turned on immediately and that Keen was not doing her job when she refused to place that concern ahead of the "no risk" (in actuality small but not nonexistent risk) to restarting the reactor immediately while it was still not in compliance with safety regulations. What they failed to do though was provide the specific evidence that this was true, that there was a real shortage, that there were no other suppliers that could be tapped while the repairs were going on (Indeed, this is feeling just like the tax leakage defence for the broken promise on taxing Income Trusts made Oct 31 2006 and the blacked out documents which are to date the only evidence the CPC has released to support this position that matters were so serious and in danger that they had no choice but to act). I find that a very serious concern indeed, because if this government was only mildly overstating this then they were being incredibly irresponsible, and if they were making it up altogether then I would argue this would make them entirely unfit to be a government period. For all the wailing I heard from the CPC about how lives were at risk the hard evidence to support it was never provided, and therefore one is forced to ask whether this was a fiction to begin with? Others have raised serious questions as to the reality of this claim, and I must say I find their arguments far more compelling and actually backed up than I do the claim by the government regarding the imminent risk to Canadian lives.

Even if it were not a fiction though it would still not be enough cause to claim Keen was incompetent in the performance of her duties (and claiming she wasn't showing sufficient leadership skills is in my books a backhanded way of claiming incompetence without using the word IMHO) and therefore needed to be fired from her position. Why? Because it was never her job/place to consider/place the risks to Canadians health due to isotope shortage ahead of any safety concerns/issues regarding the operation of a nuclear reactor, no that belongs to the government and Parliament as a whole, which they exercised last December which was not contrary to CPC claims a vote of non-confidence in the regulator. Personally, I was opposed to the idea of the regulator being overrode in this manner because of the dangerous precedent it set (especially when I had not seen evidence to support that the danger to Canadian lives was so grave via the isotope shortage despite all the verbiage coming from the government about it) because those charged with nuclear safety should never have any other considerations to worry about. This should be a no-brainer concept for people to get, that you never want to place anything ahead of safety where nuclear reactors are concerned because of how serious any mistake with a nuclear reactor can be and how long the impacts from such a mistake can haunt both the physical region and the people exposed, which can be literally generations to eons depending on what happens and which radioactive material contaminants end up being involved.

What truly shows that this government is acting in a political manner instead of sound policy manner on this was the firing of Keen just before she was due to testify to a Commons committee on her actions and that of the government. What is really strange about this (aside of course from the late night nature of it the night before that hearing) though is that she was fired from the Presidency because of her lack of fitness for the job yet she is kept on the Commission itself as a board member, which looks like trying to eat your cake and have it by the government (she wasn't fired for cause, she was merely demoted, or so the spin goes). It also makes it look like they were hoping she would not testify after the firing on advice of legal counsel because she would be looking into filing a wrongful termination/firing lawsuit (which the government knew since she stated she would if fired in her letter responding to Lunn's Dec 27 2007 letter) and most lawyers tend to tell clients to go silent once such a process is initiated, which is hardly a secret or something this government would not have known. So to protect Lunn's clear incompetence on the nuclear file Harper is willing to expose the taxpayers to what could be a hundreds of thousand to millions of dollars wrongful termination lawsuit, is that what most Canadians would consider responsible good government being open, accountable and transparent? I hardly think so. Indeed I suspect if I were to go back two years in time and argue that Harper would fire the head of the CNSC because she refused to violate her job requirements because the government told her to do so without amending the appropriate legislation I would have been told this was nothing more than a fantasy and empty fear mongering, that no government would act in such a manner over something as serious as nuclear safety. Well here we are two years later and now we know better don't we.

I warned two years ago that the Harper government would place its own needs ahead of the needs of Canadians, that they would ignore the rule of law (which for those of you too ignorant to understand means more than just criminal law, it means all laws created by legislation and judicial rulings, something many do not seem to grasp) whenever it got in the way of their partisan desires and lust of power, and that they would cover up any scandal which threatened to negatively harm them no matter how obvious their fault/culpability/responsibility was as they did with the Grewal recordings fraud. I wonder how many of those on the left and in the center that thought I was "off my meds" about how dangerous this government would be from two years ago now wish they had given my arguments a bit more consideration instead of just brushing them off as being merely partisan nonsense and empty rhetoric. I don't wonder that of my critics from the right because they too often have shown themselves to be just like their leader, placing partisan interests ahead of reality/fact/truth. What the actions of the Harper government show about themselves and what they would be like if ever given majority power should scare the hell out of every sane Canadian voter and particularly those progressive voters that want to preserve the system of government that we have (and this means much more than the elected officials, I am talking about the across the board governmental structures including things like independent regulators to protect society ahead of partisan/profit motivations and other agencies set up to help those that need it) and make it clear that whatever else the Harper government must be defeated, even if that means supporting those you would otherwise not. Personally, I am hoping for a large national ABC movement within the electorate, because if we do not show that as a collective society that we refuse to accept this kind of revolutionary revision of our way of life (because Harper is no less dangerous to the future of this nation being one based in reality, facts, and science as the GWB Presidency was for the American institutions) we will lose it altogether. Just look at how badly damaged those structures are from FEMA to health to energy to environment to the basic rule of law where even torture and habeus corpus have become subordinate to political considerations, even to the point that they dominate over scientific realities. Is that what we want for this country? It is clearly what Harper wants, at least so long as it is his side in control, somehow I suspect that were they the opposition to a government acting in this way they would be howling about the dictatorial tyranny going down the road towards banana republic/fascist state, they certainly did so with the Liberals for far less than what we have seen from this CPC government.

We are living in very serious times right now, and the future shape/direction of our nation is at stake, indeed I would argue our future in terms of continuing to be a nation may well be at stake. If a weak minority government will act as arrogantly and outside of the normal operating procedures, precedents, and traditions of our country's Parliament as this one has it is only reasonable to expect they would be just that much more so if they held majority power. Given that we have seen this CPC place its own unique interpretations to elections law, Wheat Board Act, Access to Information Act, and now nuclear safety legislation it is far from unreasonable to worry about what else they may decide to place their interpretations above what the legislation/law and precedents regarding it have to say, and I find the idea of any political party placing itself above the law inherently a threat to any democracy's long term future. I opposed Harper and his CPC creation so extensively and with such intensity precisely because I feared this kind of abuse of power and willingness to place themselves above the law and the will of the people. It is why I am a Harper foe while not being a partisan of any other political party (despite the repeated claims by my critics to the contrary), it is because I place things like the rule of law, democratic process, and proper oversight of what any government does with it's power ahead of any mere partisan interests/concerns I might have, but then I happen to believe that the fundamental principles upon which this country is founded on and has been governed by matter far more than whether "my" side (whenever I have one, most of the time I am not aligned to any one party) wins or loses in any given election. What we have here is something horrible and dangerous and must be stopped.

You could say this post is a Keen lament for where this CPC government is trying to take us against our will via deception and misrepresentation since when they were open about these goals they were never able to get even close to a minority government position. There is a reason why I believe that paying attention to politics is only slightly less important than paying attention to whether you are breathing, whether we want to accept it or not everything politicos do will eventually ripple down towards our lives and if we do not pay attention from the outset then we deserve ever nasty thing that ends up happening to us. Democracy, especially representative democracy requires an electorate willing to make the effort to be politically aware and informed, this government goes out of its way to prevent the electorate from being informed by facts, no what they want the electorate to be informed by is their spin unchallenged by facts since the facts generally undercut their political ideologically rooted spin. Not a healthy thing for any democracy, and certainly not the tradition of how we have governed ourselves in this country historically.

Mulitple sources/bloggers were involved in the creation of this post, these bloggers are:

In The House and Senate
Liberal Arts and minds
The Galloping Beaver
Kady O'Malley's blog at Macleans
Politics 'n' Poetry
Jimbobby Sez
More Notes from Underground

So if you wish to read up more on these issues please browse through their respective blogs, they are well worth the time. I am doing it this way since this post was written without me thinking to source which points were to each link while writing, and since I am having some trouble with blogger at the moment I decided to go this route this time. Sorry about any problems that causes for anyone, this will not be becoming a standard thing from me. Again, my apologies to all readers and especially the bloggers whose fine work I was using in this post.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why did Kenny deserve more time than both opposition MPs on QP today regarding Chalk River?

I tend to tape QP because I am watching Meet The Press on NBC during the first half and At Issue on CBC. So after I finish watching the shows I watch live Sunday Morning (usually I watch both live and taped on Sunday Chris Matthews, ABC This Week, Fox News Sunday, Reliable Sources, Face the Nation, Meet The Press, and QP, I do so more to see how things are being covered and portrayed for those whose primary info source is TV and not online/paper than to find out new things from the shows although that does happen from time to time) I watch my recordings of the rest, which makes QP the last on the list. I just got finished watching the tape, and I was infuriated to watch the segment with Craig Oliver on Chalk River. He had on Paul Dewar, Jason Kenny, and Omar Alghabra to discuss the ongoing Chalk River scandal/controversy. He opened with Kenny getting the first word in, and he closed with Kenny getting the final word. Indeed, the last word he gave Kenny allowed Kenny to argue that if Harper had not been so bold/decisive/masterful in his action that if it had been up to Dion there still wouldn't be isotopes being made as of this day. Why do I make note of this seeing as that is typical CPC spin? Simple, because when the Liberal MP argued in his first comment that the actions taken by Harper and the CPC placed safety of Canadians at risk/in danger he went back to Kenny saying he had to give Kenny a chance to respond to that argument. So why does he allow Kenny to slime Dion and the Libs here without also providing rebuttal? Of course it will be claimed that because this was at the end there wasn't the time left, but that comes to my main complaint, the fact that Kenny got more time to speak than both Opposition MPs COMBINED!

I did this in a very simple manner. What I did was reset the counter (which on my VCR shows time running and not an arbitrary counter) when each person was starting to speak and clear it after each was done for the next speaker and I wrote it down. I only started the count when the MP started to speak and finished speaking, I left out the time of the questioner and questions. When I was finished I was left with the following tally:

Liberal MP: 73 sec, 45 sec for a total of 118 seconds, or 1 minute 58 seconds.
NDP MP: 70sec, 54sec for a total of 124 seconds, or 2 minutes 4 seconds.
CPC MP: 82 sec, 98sec, 30sec, 68sec for a total of 278 sec, or 4 minutes 38 seconds.

Total time for Opposition MPs equals 242 seconds, or 4 minutes and 2 seconds to the CPC MP's 278 seconds or 4 minutes 38 seconds. By this count Kenny got 36 seconds speaking time more than the combined Opposition MPs. Now, I was careful in how I did this, and since there was next to no talking over each other or interruptions it was fairly easy to get clear/clean numbers for each person. So, can anyone explain to me why the member of the government, who by definition has the loudest megaphone and ability to be heard by the citizenry via the platform of being the government deserves the majority of the time on QP? Especially given that this is dealing with a serious issue like Chalk River. Why this really irked me was because all Kenny did with his time was smear Linda Keen repeatedly with the *LIE* that she was acting irresponsibly by placing the lives of Canadians at risk because of an isotope shortage AND claiming that the Parliamentary vote to override her decision means she has lost the confidence of Parliament, which is grossly misleading at best. She was required to follow the regulations and legislation that Parliament passed in regards to her position to oversee nuclear safety regulation of nuclear reactors, and that is ALL her job is supposed to consider. She is *NOT* supposed to allow any other considerations than safety of the operation of the nuclear reactors to enter her determinations, PERIOD. This is all easy to confirm for oneself is one bothers to do the homework and read the controlling legislation and have a basic working understanding of how our government structure actually works (as opposed to the repeated delusions of the Harper CPC in taking unique interpretations as they have so far with the elections act, the Act which controls the Canadian Wheat Board, etc), which one would have hoped a member of the cabinet like Kenny would have an understanding of already, especially after being the government for just under two full years now.

So all Kenny does is lie about Keen's responsibilities, claims the Parliamentary session which overrode her decision was a vote of no confidence in her (instead of recognizing that only Parliament could make such a decision to override the governing safety rules, for the head of the CNSC to do so would have been improper and arguably illegal for her to do) , and then closes with a hosanna to the greatness of Harper and that if it had been the Dion Libs in charge this isotope shortage (which btw there are conflicting accounts as to how serious it actually was, as well as the reality that it was the place/responsibility of AECL, MDS-Nordion, and the Ministers of Natural Resources and Health to to ensure that there was no shortage and not Linda Keen's or the CNSC) would still be ongoing to this day without any of these blatantly false arguments and smears being challenged by the supposedly non-partisan more interested in facts than spin political journalist Craig Oliver(sorry, a general we have to deal with the reality we have now kind of comment from Oliver is not enough in my books). How exactly does this sort of propaganda being fed uncritically via CTV's QP help inform the average voter/citizen watching who may not have the time to spend to look in depth into all of this? What does it say about the willingness to give the government MP more time than both his Opposition critics on this issue? What does it say about the unwillingness to make sure politicians, especially those in government are not deceiving the journalist and by extension the audience by Craig Oliver (a senior CTV political journalist, not exactly a small fish in this pond) on such an important issue, especially when the lies coming from the government were as blatant as this case had?

Look, I am not saying that this one example shows/proves CTV and or Oliver specifically are playing favourites, or a part of some media conspiracy to aid the CPC. To take one data point and try to make that argument is inherently dishonest. What I am saying though is that there are some serious problems with a political journalist that allows a government representative over half the total speaking time for all the MPs to repeatedly lie unchallenged on the basic facts, to make partisan smears against the opposition, and to give both the opening and closing spot to that government MP. This may be a one time thing, I don't know, as I normally don't time how long each person speaks for. I only did so in this case because of how egregious the lying by Kenny was and how Oliver allowed it to go unchallenged (which btw speaks either to his own ignorance of the basic facts or it speaks to his unwillingness to raise them against the CPC MP I do not know which or whether it was a little of both) and that it seemed like he got a lot more time than his opponents to do so with on what is quite probably the most serious scandal to hit this CPC government since it came to power. Which when one considers/factors in just how much of the original CPC claims last December by Lunn (the minister responsible for the file) regarding what he knew and when he knew it have been shown to be totally false, that he knew weeks to months prior to the shutdown let alone shortage beginning that this was coming and did nothing, when one factors in that PM Harper slandered the regulator in the HoC when this broke as a partisan operative out to embarrass his government instead of acting in good faith (and then in year end interviews says she was not acting partisanly effectively contradicting himself from earlier), and finally one factors in the Dec 27 07 letter Lunn sends to Keen telling her she has ten days to convince him why she shouldn't be fired for her actions regarding Chalk River which was entirely inappropriate and arguably illegal for a minister to do with the head of an independent regulator AND that this somehow was leaked to the press which is what triggered Keen's public response seems quite questionable judgment by Oliver and CTV's QP staff at best in my view, and may be indicative of something worse than bad judgment, that being a bias for the CPC by the reporter and possibly the network which some have already claimed is the case.

Me, I don't know, but when I see things like this it does make it appear to me like those that have taken to calling CTV Conservative TV may have a point, especially when one factors in just how much the other politics show on CTV also appears to have a bias for the CPC and against the Liberals, the Mike Duffy Show. Indeed, that show became so blatant in its coverage I had to stop watching it some months back because I couldn't take watching the supposedly non-partisan political "journalist" Duffy applying two standards, one for the CPC and another for everyone else especially the Liberals. When I watch political journalists I do not want to be able to tell how they are inclined to vote, which is one of the main reasons I love Don Newman so much. I can't tell how he would vote, whereas listening to the gushing man crush over Harper's decisiveness I have gotten from Duffy (reminds me very much of Chris Matthews and his man-crushs for GOPers at times) makes it hard for me to believe he votes anything other than Con. I expect political opinionists to have opinions and partisanship, that is one thing. Political reporters though should not be showing such regardless of how they feel personally, because when it becomes acceptable for the reporters to show their biases openly it is impossible to believe that the work product is not going to be significantly tainted by it and end up being not fact based first but politically correct (as in correct for whichever political partisanship one holds) instead, which is not healthy for a democratic society. After all, if one cannot get the facts how does one make an informed decision, and many voters have to rely on political journalists to find out and report the facts because they do not have the time and/or resources to do so in their own lives.

I do not normally go after media for bad coverage or perceived partisanship as a rule, I leave that to others who are more inclined and better suited to that sort of critique. I only did this one because of the nature of the issue involved, the blatant deceptions being treated uncritically by the journalist coming from the government representative, as well as the disproportionate time given to the government representative to do so with. This issue with Chalk River is very important, not just on its own but also in what it shows about how this government operates behind the scenes from suppressing AG reports that would not be favourable for them in the public view, ignoring the rules regarding independent agencies not being interfered with by government on specific issues/cases (Wheat Board was another major example of this) and how they are willing to use the suffering of Canadians as a political partisan tool to attack their main opposition the Liberals at any turn, even when it has no basis in fact (which I should point out includes the generally overlooked fact that Keen was last reconfirmed in her position in 2006 by the Harper government which one could argue turned her into a Conservative appointee at that point, something most CPCers appear not to realize when they slime her as a Liberal partisan/operative of some kind) and the suffering is actually a direct cause of the incompetence of the minister in charge and therefore of the elected government itself. You cannot be a sitting government and claim all the credit for anything which goes right but is never to blame whenever anything goes wrong on your watch. This includes things which started prior to your time in power btw, especially once you have been in power long enough to have taken action to correct matters if you actually felt it needed doing, which is certainly the case regarding the Chalk River isotopes issue.

I am a big believer in the old expression about being entitled to one's own opinion but not one's own facts, yet this CPC government operates by routinely claiming their own facts and that anyone claiming otherwise are the ones lying to everyone. Which only underscores why it is so important to have a political media in this country willing to call out *ALL* politicians and governments when they mislead, distort the facts, let alone just outright blatant lying. They are also supposed to be skeptical of what those in power claim are the facts whoever that government may be since it is a long established fact that all governments regardless of political persuasion will minimize that which makes them look bad and maximize that which will make them look good. Remember, the original definition of "spin" is presenting the *facts* in as best a light as possible to your advantage and the worst possible light where your opponents are concerned. These days though spin has become to mean saying whatever you think you can get away with regardless of factual accuracy to place you and yours in the best possible light and those you oppose in the worst possible light. This is inherently unhealthy and needs to be opposed wherever one finds it in media, especially in political media.

More and more it becomes obvious that we are seeing a deliberate and systemic incorporation of the lessons the GOP taught the Harper CPC in how to lie and bafflegab the media to their advantage. I had hoped that our media would be more resistant to these methods being used, and to be fair to an extent they are doing so, but even with that qualifier things are clearly becoming worse in this respect, as I would argue the example of the Chalk River debate on today's QP illustrates. Remember though, I am not accusing CTV of a conspiracy or of this being their intent, I do not have anywhere near the data I would need to make that argument. I am simply using this example from today to show what I fear and what we all need to be wary of regardless of our political affiliations, at least those of us that place our civic motto ahead of partisan preference/bias. Good government is not something one can expect from those that routinely mislead, obfuscate, and outright brazenly lie, something Harper's CPC has shown is its normal operating practice, and the more journalists allow them to get away with it without challenging factual accuracy the greater the disservice done to the public/citizenry. Remember people, the media play an important civic role in open societies/democracies, and that duty is to examine the actions and claims of those elected to govern and to do so in a manner which places factual accuracy above all other concerns/considerations. When that is lost then the media go from being an asset in helping keep a society open and free into a negative which can help a society fall from being an open/democratic one. This is the path we must not follow our American brethren down, so when we see things as egregious as I saw on QP today we have to note it for what it was, exceptionally bad journalism and arguably providing advantage to those that are playing fast and loose with the facts on an issue as serious as nuclear safety. There are not too many issues I can think of that are more serious than nuclear safety, so when a government will lie so blatantly on that what won't it lie about to the public? Not to mention needing a media that will call out a government that plays so fast and loose with the basic facts on an issue as serious as this one is, which was not CTV's Question Period, at least not today it wasn't.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Harper's right, Lunn went Above and beyond, not of the call of duty but of the law however.

Ever since that day last December when I was sitting at home watching Question Period and saw Harper get up and claim that the head of the CNSC was a Liberal partisan operative out to embarrass his government in a coordinated plot with the Official Opposition leader I have been watching the Chalk River situation quite carefully. Indeed, I remember shouting back at the TV at Harper saying you had better have hard evidence to back that up with otherwise you are asking for a world of hurt. You see, as a child of the Cold War things like nuclear issues tend to attract my attention, they always have. This was why for example I knew Bush was lying at Camp David on Sept 7 2002 when he and Blair cited a report from the IAEA about Sadddam being possibly as close as six months to a working weapon when no such report existed (which took three weeks for the American media to even notice) and it was the fact he was lying about nuclear weapons that sent me into such hard opposition to the Iraq war from the outset. I make no claims of expertise in nuclear science, just what a lay person can pick up if they have any basic interest in hard sciences which I do, although my primary areas of interest is in quantum physics, astrophysics, and a bit of particle physics. So that provides for allowing at least the basic understanding of how nuclear reactors and weapons work and the risks they have attached to them.

So I know it is important with reactors to have a multiple redundancy system in place, that one cannot simply rely on a single back-up process but that multiple redundancies are the order of the day, because the destructive impact of a mistake is so extreme in both the damage it can do AND the length of time it can leave the contamination in its wake. Which is why the guarantee about how safe the reactor at Chalk River provided by Harper last month was obviously political spin and not sound science. Indeed, for Harper to guarantee no earthquake would hit that reactor while it was non-compliant was something I found breathtaking it its arrogance and hubris, even by Harper's standard set by his prior examples. That the risk might be low, low enough to take the chance for a limited period of time is one thing, to claim no risk whatsoever though is something else entirely. Yet Harper did not do this, did he?

There are several blogs that have done excellent work at covering this issue, Impolitical and The House and The Senate and Politics 'n 'Poetry in particular deserve special commendations for the various aspects they have dealt with in the last five weeks. I would recommend them for anyone wishing to examine in greater detail exactly what has been going on here. As for me, the aspect that I currently wish to address is from yesterday's Harper defence of Minister Lunn's actions and his claim that the regulator is the one acting inappropriately here. This is not only a bogus claim, it is a very dangerous one as well. As Dave at the Galloping Beaver notes in this post and 900ft Jesus notes in her post at The House and The Senate Dangerous precedents - Dangerous Patterns the CNSC is by the legislation controlling it passed by Parliament a quasi-judicial body at arms length from the government of the day. Which means that unlike say the head of a crown corporation the minister that has jurisdiction over the area that body operates in does not have the authority to arbitrarily fire the head of without any further cause than political embarrassment. No, in these cases one can only be fired for specific cause as laid out in the legislation and her employment contract. What Lunn tried to do in his Dec 27 2007 letter to Keen was entirely inappropriate, out of line, and quite likely illegal as well.

I have been reading the G&M comments sections on the various nuclear stories the past couple of days (which took awhile given the numbers they were generating) and there are a couple of themes showing from the defenders of Harper/Lunn in this. The first one is that she/Keen is Lunn's subordinate, and any subordinate that does not do as her boss requires should be fired. The problem with that is as I just noted in the prior paragraph is that she is not a direct subordinate of his, she heads an independent body answerable only to Parliament as a whole and not the Minister. The Minister can give general direction/guidelines, but is specifically not supposed to involve themselves on specific issues and rulings by the regulator, and what Lunn was doing with trying to make her break the law she is duty bound to uphold was exactly that kind of specific interference the independent nature of this body was set up to prevent/avoid. One does not want certain regulators, such as those charged with nuclear safety in a position where they have to place pleasing political masters ahead of enforcing regulations that may make things difficult for a government, especially if they are noted by the public. It is to prevent political interference that Keen is not answerable to the Minister, and the Minister and especially the Prime Minister after being the government for almost exactly 2 full years now have no excuse for not knowing and understanding this It is to prevent political partisan concerns from overriding safety that we set up such independent regulators, and for a government to interfere like this is bad enough, that we are seeing this behaviour from a minority government is truly appalling in what it reveals about the arrogance, the misconceptions, and the dictatorial nature of that government. Either they did not understand this (which is not credible) or they didn't care believing that their interests and concerns supersedes all other considerations, including the rule of law. It is not the first time we have seen the CPC take a unique interpretation of the law to suit themselves, just look at their Convention fundraising scandal, their ad scandal from the last election pumping cash in inappropriately and then to add salt to the wound tried to get taxpayers to pay them back for it. That they would do this with nuclear safety issues takes that kind of arrogant I am above the law mentality to a much darker place.

The other excuse is one I am surprised to be seeing, even from this government and its defenders, given how easily it is shown to be utter nonsense. They are using the pain and suffering of real Canadians to deflect from the harsh reality that this shortage was entirely the responsibility of the Minister of Natural Resources not doing his job. This other meme I am seeing these defenders using though is one that is so idiotic I am surprised they are trying it. They are arguing that Keen deserves to be fired for placing Canadian lives at risk for lack of isotopes;. The thing is though it is not a part of her mandate and her legally binding duties to be concerned with such things, no that belongs to AECL, MDS-Nordion, the Ministers of health and Natural Resources. Her job is to enforce the safety protocols for nuclear reactors as mandated by the controlling legislation passed by Parliament, and the only way to override that is via another Act of Parliament, period. Not by the Minister asking/telling her to do so, not by an Order in Council, but by Parliament changing the legislation and/or passing overriding legislation, as was eventually done. To try and claim that she was the one placing the lives of Canadians at risk because she refused to break the law is a particularly offensive and odious attack approach, even by the standards of this Harper CPC which I might add includes reading and acting on the AG report instead of sitting on it as Lunn (and possibly Harper) did, which includes immediate notification of his cabinet colleague the Minister of Health once he is aware of shortages about to happen which he did not do, instead he waited at least several days (using the most generous reading of the timeline known to date) in doing anything regarding AECL (which IS something he has direct authority over unlike the NCSC) and for setting up (in this case reactivating the means for alternate supply as was already in place and used in the past) alternate supplies for the needed isotopes. They are trying to argue that Keen placed partisan interests to make the CPC government look bad by placing all these Canadian lives at risk because she refused to make it easy for the government to keep this quiet by simply restarting the reactor despite the fact it was not in legal compliance with legally required safety measures. She is being made the scapegoat, which is really sick given how obvious it is to any objective person looking at this issue that she did exactly as her job required of her, that it was the government that failed to act in a timely (or for that matter legal) manner to prevent this situation from happening, and that the only people that have acted inappropriately here are Lunn and Harper.

If anyone wants to argue about whether Lunn should be able to fire such a regulator, ask yourself this: Would you have thought it a good idea if the government could hide any AG report it didn't like and fire the AG if she did not do exactly what the government wanted even if it was contradicted by her mandate as defined by law/legislation? If your answer is anything other than a loud shouted NO you are either a liar, or worse, an idiot. There is a reason we have such positions within our governing structures, it is to prevent abuse of power and abuse of the citizenry (which includes their safety) by any sitting government, in other words a check and/or balance to protect us from those that would abuse their power in their own narrow interests, say to prevent a government from looking bad and/or incompetent to increase its electoral viability by simply hiding it and covering it up. It was good enough for the CPC when it was the Liberals being held to account by the independent AG, so why isn't it good enough when it comes to nuclear safety issues, hmmm?

I suspect I will be adding to this post and/or making new ones on this issue, this is hardly a complete overview of all the nuances in this issue, but to do that properly is going to take a bit more time than I have at the moment. The bottom line is though yet again we see the Harper CPC placing itself and its interests above the law, and for anyone that cares about principled government (whatever one's political preferences that should be something that is even more important than what party/leader currently is the government) that should be intolerable. I have said many times that one of my core reasons for opposing Harper and his CPC is because I fear they are corrupt when it comes to the use and abuse of power, and this issue with the nuclear regulator provides an excellent example of this in action. I would much rather have competent government that skims of tax dollars but does not otherwise place itself above the law than this sort of insanity we have been seeing from Harper from the Elections Commission, the Ethics Commissioner, the Canadian Wheat Board stupidity/deception to now this with the authority charged with enforcing Canada's nuclear safety regime. This is a government that refuses to accept the limitations the law places on their power, especially when in a minority government situation, and that should be of grave concern to anyone that claims they value democracy over any one political party/preference. That we see so many of the same voices defending Harper on this that also agree with Harper whenever Harper goes on his unelected Senate being oh so undemocratic and bad for Canada kick speaks volumes to their commitment to the principle of democracy being subordinate to their commitment to their party/leader first. This is a very serious issue and this government must be held accountable, and Lunn must be forced out of his job, he has clearly shown himself incompetent and willing to lie and hide things not just from the public but even from his colleagues in Cabinet and possibly even the PM himself. Not exactly something one should want in a Cabinet Minister, especially one responsible for such a serious file as Canada's nuclear industry and safety.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A new year and hopefully a return to blogging here and why I stopped

I've been debating about writing this post for some time now to explain why I stopped blogging here last year. This has been a hard decision for me, since it means I have to be a bit more personal than I tend to prefer, but I feel I owe it to the people that still check by here from time to time to see whether I have started back up or not. As I have stated before here and elsewhere I am not the most comfortable blogging at my own site to begin with, I tend to prefer to join in already active conversations at other blogs, but while that is a contributing factor it is not what actually is the primary driver for this decision. No, that was how the Harper government dealt with the mistreatment and possible Geneva Convention violations by the Canadian Armed Forces in the transferal of prisoners to local authority.

To understand why this is something that triggered such a strong reaction from me it necessitates pointing to family and personal history, something I try to avoid because it makes working out identity that much easier (mind you, if I were still single I would still be blogging under my own name as I once did, but given my wife's concern about possible political zealots making it personal she asked me to stop, and because she has been someone with a seriously traumatic history from early childhood including but not limited to multiple rapes by multiple parties I can appreciate why, not to mention what I might do to someone that tried to hurt me through her, I am normally a very easygoing peaceful sort but underneath it I have a truly nasty temper, indeed it was all I could do to keep from committing some serious violence towards her last sexual assaulter since that happened while she and I were engaged) but to understand why my feelings were so strong makes it necessary this time. You see, my father wore the uniform as a reservist, both my grandfathers were military doctors in WWII, my great grandfathers fought in WWI as did many great uncles, several of whom ended up career military. So there is a strong military tradition /history within my family.

When I was in my teens I was in sea cadets and was planning on going into the reserves at the very minimum (it was questionable whether I could get into the reg forces, at the time they were having sharp cutbacks, Mulroney's doing/era in recruiting). I remember standing in cold rain more than once for Remembrance Day in parade and formation to show my appreciation for those that died in uniform to fight one of the greatest evils of modern human history, the Nazis. I recall being very proud of our history of honouring international conventions and not losing sight of the humanity of those we fought against and in how well we treated our prisoners even/especially when that was not being extended both ways. It spokes volumes about what kind of a society we were and are and it was something I took great pride in. I also had another relative who worked at the top levels of the intelligence community from the mid 30s through mid 60s, indeed that relative was the most important and formative one in my life, so I understood that the world is not black or white despite our preference for such absolutes (good/evil anyone?) while appreciating our moral authority/credibility in these areas.

When I came of age though I tore apart the ligaments in one of my legs, making any further chance of military service reserve or reg force something I had to give up on, but that did not cause me to lose any of my feelings about such service. No, anything but in fact, which I might add is one of the reasons why I occasionally get a bit snarky with those that claim anyone not a Conservative disrespects/loathes/hates all things military by claiming it specifically of me or even by claiming that liberals/lefties are anti-military by nature. I looked at that though as the usual partisan rhetoric of the zealot follower, something not unheard of in politics, especially in political parties with a strong ideological foundation/nature and treated it accordingly. To see it though from the top levels of a party/government though is something else again.

I was furious when it became impossible to accept that there was not at least the clear appearance (let alone reality) of violation of Geneva Convention protocols by our soldiers as a direct result of government policy and this government instead of dealing with it squarely did all it could to not only run away from it but slimed any and all those raising this issue as somehow Taliban supporting anti-Canadian military traitors (yes this is being blunt about it, but boiled down that is what was being said no matter how one might want to dress it up as) wanting to hurt the war effort and the soldiers. This infuriated me beyond my ability to articulate (no small feat) because it is wanting to protect our soldiers that motivated so many of these questions and concerns, because if policy places the average soldier in a position where they have to either obey orders with the risk of potential/possible Geneva charges down the road or refuse orders in a combat zone with the inevitable courts martial process (which btw for those that do not understand this does NOT have the innocent until proven guilty standard underlying it, far from it) and the fear of being seen by fellow soldiers as a barracks lawyer more concerned with covering his own tail than his brothers in arms the odds are good the soldier will stay quiet and obey orders unless they when they refuse the order can be highly confident they can prove it was an unlawful order at a courts martial, not a minor consideration and a very difficult threshold to reach.

This was a tipping point for me in terms of my anger and shame regarding the current government. Never in my life have I felt ashamed to be a Canadian nor ashamed of a Canadian government regardless of party until this Harper CPC government came to power. The level of anger it has created in me as well as the level of absolute disgust and fear because of the underhanded way they are perverting how our government actually is designed/intended to work became more than I could restrain. Now, I could have allowed this blog to become filled with anger filled rants (which despite the opinion of some of my critics I would argue is not the hallmark of my writings here), but that is not my style. I also get tired of repeating myself after a while and lets face it this government's main problems almost require such because they keep pulling the same kind of crap over and over again. So I decided to take a break for a while and just stick to commenting at other blogs, especially since I had Red Tory's blog to enjoy really good and substantive conversations at. That blog though is gone, driven out in no small amount by the angry hateful bile produced by the Harper defenders/supporters that started to swarm his comment threads to derail any possible serious conversation. They treated RT with incredible disrespect and contempt and spewed nonstop insults at him. In the end it became more than he could deal with to the point it was negatively affecting his health so he stopped, and one of the best voices in the Canadian political blogosphere was silenced.

It is because of that silencing that I am going to try and resume blogging here again, even though I have my own health issues to be concerned with. That also impacts my ability to blog, as did my father breaking his leg early November and the need for my aid for the first six weeks or so. I am going to try to post at least every other day, even if it is a short comment, but since I have tried to promise that in the past I do not expect anyone to take that too seriously given my history here. I will say this much though, if/when an election is called I will be much more prolific then, but that is a relatively short period of time as opposed to maintaining month after month year after year. My views on Harper and his style of politics and the dangers they represent to this country have not changed/weakened, but even the most stalwart fighter gets tired from time to time and last yer just got to be too much for me, especially after the detainee issue.

Well, with any luck this will work out better this year than last, and I apologize to all those that were saddened that I went dark for so long. I wish I could given you more than I have, but I really have limits in how much I can manage, otherwise I wouldn't be on long term disability. *sigh* Well, we all do what we can as best we can with the resources available to us, hopefully this year is better for me in that regard than last year was. Keep in mind dealing with propaganda and right wingnut nonsense is a draining experience to begin with, so only having limited reserves/resources energywise really impacts on ability to sustain an effort no matter how smart/clever a person is.

Well, we shall see how this year goes here at Saundrie, hopefully much better than last year.