Friday, November 30, 2007

The Schreiber testimony: You know, it's not just about this "pasta nonsense"

Karlheinz Schreiber appeared before the Commons Ethics committee on Thursday to testify about his dealings with Former PM Brian Mulroney (full video here). I was too weak to resist...I parked myself in front of Newsworld and watched the whole damn thing. And I took notes, Luddite long-hand style!

Ok, world's smallest violin--I haz it. My husband and I have been reduced to sharing one measly computer lately, so I haven't had an opportunity to post my notes from the Schreiber hearing until now. This is NOT a transcript, but I feel that it's important to archive them here for future reference...even if it's just my own ;) Let me be honest with you, though: if you're looking for true live-blogging, replete with witty running commentary, look no further than Kady O'Malley's blog at Maclean's. She haz it. The National Post's Shane Dingman also did a damn fine job of blogging the hearing.

You can find my notes at my not-so-live-blog "Foul Deeds," in five parts:
  • Part I: Going on their "willy nilly way"--the ghost of Eddy Greenspan
  • Part II: Deferred admission--does anybody here know teh rulez?
  • Part III: And for 500K, he'll even wax your tank!
  • Part IV: Wherein the CPC suddenly discovers its passion for bilingualism
  • Part V: The "Neverending Story," or "Why don't we just ask the 5th Estate guys what happened?"
Some passing thoughts on the hearings: Cripes in shitty napkins, doesn't anyone on that damn committee know the rules? While the members get props for keeping their pencils to themselves this time, I'm just blown away by how many times members had to be corrected (point of order v. point of debate) and by the frequent need to consult with the Clerks.

Oh, and hey: did you know Schreiber used to be a judge?! Me neither. At first I just figured he was joking...maybe he meant "Judge" in the "Reinhold" sense of the term. Heh.

Cons were desperate to paint this hearing as a waste of time and tried to create some serious distance between their CRAP party and that of the former PM. They also tried to put off the hearing until 7PM Thursday, ostensibly to allow Schreiber time to find his documents, but could tell they just didn't wannu be there (or have journamalists present!).

Schreiber's cagey, but we knew that, eh? Show them a bit of leg on Thursday and...

Stay Tuned.

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Postcards from the Toronto Vigil in memory of Robert Dziekanski

On October 14, 2007, Robert Dziekanski was killed by RCMP officers in Vancouver International Airport. On November 24, 2007 hundreds of people gathered in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, to honour Robert's memory and to demand an end to the use of TASER(TM) guns. I decided to attend the Toronto vigil with a group of friends--lovely people from Bread & Roses.

As our BnR coterie gathered together on the snowy, muddy lawn at Queen's Park, Aga Magdolen, one of the organizers of the vigil read from a postcard that the late Dziekanski sent to his mother last year:

"People become good by doing good; it is rare that a person is good by nature alone.
Goodness does not exist so one can make use of it. Goodness does not flow from a place of weakness but one of power."

"Ludzie staja sie dobrzy poprzez praktykowanie dobroci, rzadko sie zdarza czlowiek dobry z natury. Dobroc istnieje wcale nie po to by z niej korzystac. Dobroc nie moze wyplywac ze slabosci tylko z potegi." Gliwice, 26/07/2006

--from the postcard that Robert sent to his mother, Zofia Cisowski, July 26, 2006
Organizers of the vigil: Mike Mlynarczyk (left), Aga Magdolen (centre), and Wojtek Smiegowski (right)

After observing a moment of silence, the organizers invited a series of speakers:
  1. Former Ontario Premier Bob Rae
  2. Alan Borovoy - General Counsel - Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  3. Andy Buxton--Representative from Amnesty International
  4. Peggy Nash - NDP MP for High Park
  5. Borys Wrzesnewskyj – Liberal MP for Etobicoke Centre
  6. Louiza Szacon-an excellent student representative (UWO); she gave the most passionate speech of the afternoon!
  7. ? (my sincere apologies, but I missed the name of the elegant woman in the beige coat & black wrap)
  8. Cheri DiNovo - NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park
  9. Mike Wallace--Conservative MP for Burlington; the only one to elicit audible Booooo!s (for parroting Stockboy one time too many)
  10. Wladyslaw Lizon – President - Canadian Polish Congress
And you know what? As angry and sad as we felt...the crowd never lost focus on why we were all there. There were no "Legalize Pot!" or "Free X, Y, or Z" signs. No white guys with dreadlocks, walkin' around on stilts (not that I have any problems with those things/people).

Nope. Saturday was a day for Robert, and what his death meant to us as Canadians. Peaceful reflection and excellent signs, most demanding answers and action:

Text of the multi-coloured sign (lower pic): "I was hungry; you didn't feed me. I was thirsty; you didn't quench me. I was confused; you murdered me." This powerful sign was singled out by Cheri DiNovo, MPP for Parkdale/High Park.

Debra at April Reign has also blogged about Saturday's vigil, where she brings the Big Picture into sharp focus:
As was stated at the rally this is no longer just about 4 officers, or TASER™’s this is about a culture and climate of political change which has allowed and encouraged the police to see the general public as an enemy to be subdued.
Finally, if I had one "postcard" from Saturday's vigil that I would be honoured to send Robert's mother, it would be this one:

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Poland will be watching

A Polish TV documentary crew will be including the November 24th Vancouver rally in their doc about Dziekanski's death:
"(We've come) to show what happened. To tell the story, but at the very same time, to portray the reaction of Canadians themselves," said Marcin Wojcik with TVN, a national broadcaster in Poland.

In Poland, there is no ill will towards Canada but rather questions about the country's policing system, said Wojcik.

"Nobody is connecting the story with Canada itself," he said.

The TVN crew members plan to stay in Canada for the next 10 days and say they've been promised co-operation from many of the agencies involved in the incident.
If you are in the Vancouver area tomorrow, please stand up and be counted. Poland will be watching--and as my friend skdadl said, they know from rallies! (below: Solidarity leader Lech Walesa speaks at a Fiat factory in Bielsko-Biala, Feb 1981. Photo credit: Gérard Rancinan/Sygma/Corbis)
...but, then again, so do Vancouverites, seen here at the Nov 17 vigil at YVR airport (photo credit: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun):
In addition to Vancouver, there are Nov 24 rallies planned for Victoria and Toronto. I will be attending the vigil in T.O. If there are other rallies or vigils in the works, please let us know with your blog or, if you like, feel free to leave a comment on my little site. Most importantly...

Let the rest of the world know that Canadians will not tolerate State Executions in our name.

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Mean Season

There is a definite chill in the air these days. Something feels very wrong.

Like many Canadians, I went to bed last night with the image of a State Execution running through my brain. Anguished, bloodcurdling screams...

They say it took 25 seconds from the moment the officers arrived, till the moment they tased him.

Like many Canadians, I spent last week worrying about Canada's reversal on the UN Declaration against the death penalty. And everywhere I turned, there were Conservatives sneering and taunting: even our Environment Minister, John Baird:

"You won't stand up for Canadians, but you'll stand up for murderers"

And, like many Canadians, I've been slowly--too slowly--bubbling and retching with shame over our complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees. February... April... July... August... October... November...

"We do expect these kinds of allegations from the Taliban...It is their standard operating procedure to engage in these kinds of accusations."

I can't cope feeling alone, inside my head with all of this rattling cruelty. I can't fix the rotten, vengeful souls who practise it in ALL of our names.

I can only speak its foul name. Demand justice for Robert Dziekanski. Demand an end to State Executions. Demand an end to Torture.

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mukasey comes up for air

On Tuesday, November 6, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 to recommend confirmation of Michael Mukasey (Pres. Bush's nominee for Attorney General). skdadl (POGGE) and I have been following this process very closely on the BnR message board. I've finally managed to compile our notes from Tuesday's session and 'enhance' them with several links to relevant documents and testimony at my not-so-live blogging site: Foul Deeds Will Rise

While Majority leader Sen. Harry Reid and Majority Whip, Sen. Dick Durbin are both vehemently opposed to his confirmation, there is only the slimmest of chances that he will be filibustered. Mukasey will almost certainly become the next Attorney General of the US. This, despite his unwillingness to characterize waterboarding as torture.

And yet, there is no question: waterboarding was designed to torture, as sure as any mock execution technique. The military knows this: In a bizarre feat of reverse-engineering, Former Navy SEAL Malcolm Nance was tasked with studying such time tested torture techniques for his "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape" (SERE) training program:
Once at SERE and tasked to rewrite the Navy SERE program for the first time since the Vietnam War, we incorporated interrogation and torture techniques from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia into the curriculum. In the process, I studied hundreds of classified written reports, dozens of personal memoirs of American captives from the French-Indian Wars and the American Revolution to the Argentinean ‘Dirty War’ and Bosnia. There were endless hours of videotaped debriefings from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War POWs and interrogators.
Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.
The full details of the hearing can be found over here, but I wanted to leave you with some important statements from the new conscience of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sheldon Whitehouse, the freshman Democratic Senator from Rhode Island (You gotta leave on an up note---even when the post is about f'g torture!):
America for centuries has been called a “shining city on a hill.” We are a lamp to other nations. A great Senator said “America is not a land, it’s a promise.”

Torture breaks that promise; extinguishes that lamp; darkens that city.

[...] There are practical concerns over whether torture actually works, whether it is sound, professional interrogation practice. I am not an expert, but experts seem to say it is not.

But the more important question is the one I asked earlier – whence cometh our strength as a nation?

Our strength comes from the fact that we stand for something.

Our strength comes from the aspirations of millions around the globe who want to be like us, who want their country to be like ours.

Our strength comes when we embody the hopes and dreams of mankind.

[...] What path will we follow? Will we continue America’s constant steady path toward the light?

Will we trust in our ideals? Will we recognize the strength that comes when men and women rise in villages and hamlets and barrios around the world and say, that is what I want my country to be like; that is the world I choose, and turn their faces toward our light.

Or, if I may borrow from Churchill, will we head down “the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet”? Will we join that gloomy historical line leading from the Inquisition, through the prisons of tyrant regimes, through gulags and dark cells, and through Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers? Will that be the path we choose?
Photo: Poster of a 1556 woodcut, "The Water Torture." The woodcut depicts "a prostrate man having his nose pinched and water poured down his throat (during the Spanish Inquisition)." The poster was displayed during a Nov. 1st Washington D.C. seminar hosted by human rights organizations called "Waterboarding and Other Forms of Torture." Credit: Melina Mara, Washington Post.

Read on, MacDuff!