Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Links

I'm back after taking the weekend off from blogging here at NMPCanada. There's a bit of burnout from a week's worth of radio, research and blogging but mostly there's the repetitiveness of the narratives: Harper's an ideologue, Iggy stands up for nothing and our rights as citizens are being slowly but steadily eroded. Perhaps these narratives explain why the polls have essentially been stuck in place for the past two years. There's not that much difference between recent NANOS and the EKOS polls although the former has Harper ahead by 5 points and the latter has them in a statistical tie. Give or take 5 points for the two leading Canadian political parties, this is how it has been with neither party being able to generate any real momentum since 2008.

 Harper, as most already know, has decided to extend the Afghan mission by 3 years without taking this decision to Parliament for discussion or for a vote in spite of the fact that there has been little if any real progress in all these years of the NATO occupation of Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence services are reportedly saying off the record that no one expects Afghanistan to ever become a fully functioning state. And yet the Tories argument is that if Canada leaves now all our efforts will have all been for nought?

In doing this unilaterally, PM Harper is strangely providing cover for the Liberals who are onside with the extension of the Afghanistan mission. Unsurprisingly, the NDP would like it put to a vote so that Canadians can see for themselves that there is not much difference in policy between Canada's two most prominent political parties. It's a way of showing voters that they are the choice for Canadian who count themselves as progressives. There is also a practical matter at stake in having the debate in Parliament as the NDP supports the option of supporting transitional justice, aid, development and governance in Afghanistan as an exit strategy, which Paul Dewar (NDP foreign affairs critic) says would cost about $500-million over three years. As opposed to the Harper plan which calls for 1,000 troops stay in Afghanistan it could cost Canada $3-billion over four years, according to estimates by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

There's evidence aplenty that for Harper ideology is far more important than any issue. Gerald Caplan does a terrific job of shining a light on this governments handling of veterans issues and the people who stand up for them -- but he's the exception as far as media coverage is concerned. The treatment of Pat Stogran and Sean Bruyea should provide fodder for a national scandals but between the poor job the press does of covering these issues and our collective complacency, there is no outcry. So Stogran gets dumped for doing his job as Veteran's Ombudsman capably and Bruyea has a slew of bureaucrats rifle through his personal files searching for something to discredit him because he had the temerity to call the Harper government on its' bullshit.

 There's no outcry from the Liberals on this or any other issue that Liberal leaders in the past have stood up and fought for, which to me explains why Mr. Ignatieff can garner no momentum in the weekly polls in spite of having an unpopular Tory PM to run against.

For example he could rail against erosion of our rights' under this Conservative government. Go read this speech given by Naomi Klein at the telethon held to raise funds and cover the legal costs of G20 protesters in Toronto. In many ways what took place in late June is emblematic of the contempt our government now holds anyone who protests their policies in. It also is illustrative of how far our governments will go to silence dissent. Make no mistake, that's what those mass arrests in Toronto were all about. They were not about keeping the peace.

 For those who either don't know or don't recall, Naomi recounts,
...large parts of Toronto were engulfed in a sprawling security zone as an atmosphere of hysteria gripped our city. Residents were subject to arbitrary searches as they went to and from work, discovering that they were in a bizarre rights-free zone. Peaceful protesters were attacked with rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray. At Queen's Park Riot police plowed into groups of people sitting on the grass flailing their batons and kicking protesters to the ground.

In all, over 1,100 people were arrested -- the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Roughly 800 of them were jailed.

From them we have heard many reports of beatings (including beatings of people in handcuffs). Of racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs and threats, of people being screamed at for speaking in languages other than English. Of strip searches of women by male officers, of groping by police, sexual solicitation, rape threats. We also heard about the shocking detention conditions: people crammed into cells, unable to lie down. Medicines were denied, as was the right to counsel.
All of this should be shocking to read but sadly it barely breaks through cacophony of the MSM 24/7 news cycles that treats all stories equally whether they be about drunken celebrities or public policy. We need to demand more from both our politicians and the media. That axiom about nations getting the governments they deserve is likely to hold just as true about the media. If we do not hold them accountable it is not likely that they will change what they do any time soon.

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