Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bill Maher on Larry King Live

Currently there are only three clips or the first twenty-five minutes available on Youtube of Bill Maher on Larry King last night. After Bill gets it wrong on General Stanley McChrystal (McChrystal's controversial remarks in the Rolling Stone interview weren't off the record, Bill) and discusses Afghanistan and the oil leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it's essentially Larry just reminiscing (as he announced his retirement at the start) and his celebrity friends calling in to wish him well.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The shame of Lara Logan

By Geoffrey Dunn:

There was a troubling interview on CNN's "Reliable Sources" program this weekend--reported widely, including here on the Huffington Post--in which CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan ripped Michael Hastings and his revelatory investigative piece in Rolling Stone that outed General Stanley McChrystal for insubordination and disloyalty--and which eventually cost McChrystal his job.

Logan actually cast doubt on Hastings's claim that his interviews with McChrystal and his team were all "on-the-record."

Wow. Please note the chilling distinction that Logan is making. She was not questioning whether or not Hastings' reporting was accurate, but whether he had permission to quote McChrystal and his posse for public attribution.

CNN's Howard Kurtz queried Logan if there is an "unspoken agreement that you're not going to embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter?"

"Absolutely," she said. "Yes... there is an element of trust."

What Logan is saying--in the shameful code of embedded journalism--is that she and her former colleagues in Afghanistan have been systemically engaged in a journalistic cover-up in their reporting on the longest war in U.S. history, one in which more than 30,000 human lives have been lost, including more than 1,000 Americans and an untold number of Afghani civilians.

Logan gave her pronouncement a faux moral gravitas by referencing an "element of trust." What about the greater "element of trust" between the journalists and those of us who rely on their reporting? Apparently, that element has little currency with Logan.

Logan also asserted that Hastings--"if you believe him--says that there were no ground rules laid out. And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me." The "ground rules," as Andrew Sullivan assessed, are the quid pro quo of trading access for journalistic protection.

And then Logan said something that would be downright laughable if it weren't so reflective of a thoroughly corrupt mindset. "To be fair to the military," she said--apparently oblivious to the dirty little secret she was about to reveal-- "if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back."

She gave the game away with that one. "Balance"--as opposed to honesty or accuracy or a critical outlook--is the sine qua non of what passes for journalism today.

They will let you back.

Fortunately, not all of the mainstream media bought into Logan's defensive posturing. Frank Rich in the New York Times rightly noted that:

That would, of course, include Logan.

Moreover, what of Logan's troubling conflict of interest in her capacity at CBS? She is now married to Joseph Burkett, described variously as "defense contractor" and "war contractor in Iraq." No red flags there? Let's get real.

In fact, Logan produced a piece for 60 Minutes last year that served as a shill for Air Force drones being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. As FAIR reported, Logan's segment failed to note that David Kilcullen--a former adviser to General David Petraeus-- had recently testified before House Armed Services Committee that "the drone attacks take too many civilian lives."

She fed us the military's position--hook, line and sinker.

They will let you back.

She fed us the military's position--hook, line and sinker.

They will let you back.

As Glenn Greenwald noted in Salon, Logan and Hastings represent the two competing poles of contemporary journalism:

[T]hose who view their role as exposing the relevant secrets of the powerful (Hastings) and those who view their role as protecting those secrets and serving the interests of those officials (Logan). Amazingly, Logan sounds like the most devoted member of McChyrstal's P.R. staff or even his family...

Logan's cheap parting-shot that "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has" should leave one's blood cold. Logan's manifest political--and moral--biases have now been hung out on the closeline for the world to see. Stanley McChrysal was an arrogant, wreckless, and bigoted rogue warrior. He brought shame upon his country, was disloyal to his Commander-in-Chief, and most significantly, was overseeing a failed military effort in Afghanistan. Michael Hastings, on the other hand, has shed light on not only McChrystal's failed and corrupt command, but on the fundamental assumptions of American military policy in south-central Asia.

The latter is something that Lara Logan has never done. Indeed, she was--and will remain--part of the journalistic cover-up.

They will let you back.

Matt Taibbi puts flakey Lara Logan in her place

Ugh, Lara Logan. Probably one of the worst foreign correspondents in the history of journalism. I think it's an absolute embarrassment that she occasionally reports for 60 Minutes, considering that her brand of journalism is anything but investigative journalism. Logan is essentially a hack who does fluff pieces for the US military. And she's married to a US Defence Department contractor. Anyways, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi laid the proverbial smack down on Logan for attacking another Rolling Stone reporter, Michael Hastings, who did his job properly (unlike Logan): Hastings authored the very recent explosive story in Rolling Stone magazine regarding the recently retired General Stanley McChrystal. From the Huffington Post:

Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi unleashed on CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan in a post titled, "Lara Logan, You Suck" Monday.

"Lara Logan, come on down! You're the next guest on Hysterical Backstabbing Jealous Hackfest 2010!" his post began.

Taibbi was responding to Logan's appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, during which she trashed Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings for violating an "unspoken agreement" and publishing anecdotes in his article on General McChrystal that she feels were meant to be off-the-record. Logan also maligned Hastings' methods of gaining McChrystal's trust in order to facilitate their interview.


Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn't mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan. Here's CBS's chief foreign correspondent saying out loud on TV that when the man running a war that's killing thousands of young men and women every year steps on his own dick in front of a journalist, that journalist is supposed to eat the story so as not to embarrass the flag. And the part that really gets me is Logan bitching about how Hastings was dishonest to use human warmth and charm to build up enough of a rapport with his sources that they felt comfortable running their mouths off in front of him....

If I'm hearing Logan correctly, what Hastings is supposed to have done in that situation is interrupt these drunken assholes and say, "Excuse me, fellas, I know we're all having fun and all, but you're saying things that may not be in your best interest! As a reporter, it is my duty to inform you that you may end up looking like insubordinate douche bags in front of two million Rolling Stone readers if you don't shut your mouths this very instant!" I mean, where did Logan go to journalism school - the Burson-Marsteller agency?

Taibbi didn't limit his critique to just Logan — he connected her comments to a larger pattern among mainstream journalists, whether they cover wars in Afghanistan or presidential campaigns in the US, who he says prioritize access over fact-finding and truth-seeking:

Most of these reporters just want to be inside the ropeline so badly, they want to be able to say they had that beer with Hillary Clinton in a bowling alley in Scranton or whatever, that it colors their whole worldview. God forbid some important person think you're not playing for the right team!

Meanwhile, the people who don't have the resources to find out the truth and get it out in front of the public's eyes, your readers/viewers, you're supposed to be working for them -- and they're not getting your help.

Read Matt's entire critique here.

Protesters provoking the police, acting like idiots

One of the comments posted on youtube regarding this clip:

"I thought all these people we suppose to be protesting about serious issues with government and industry, and yet these idiots are just going on harassing the police. They seem more entertained by doing this than actually protesting the issues they talk about so much on their blogs."

Supreme Court refuses to hear Maher Arar's case

By Maher Arar:

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States of America refused to hear my case. This eliminates any remaining hope for me of obtaining justice through the U.S. judicial system against US officials who sent me to Syria to be tortured.

Let me emphasize the fact that my case is not an isolated one. My case is unique in the sense that I was the only person who was rendered from US soil. But hundreds of other human beings have been rendered by the CIA and handed over to brutal regimes. No one knows how many of these people have died under torture or completely disappeared. Those of us who were lucky "survived" and were released, but now live with psychological and physical scars.

In times of turmoil and crisis, such as the ones we have been living since 9/11, the judicial system is supposed to do exactly the opposite of what it has done: it is supposed to stand up to the executive branch and make sure the constitution is respected. Unfortunately, the judicial system has abandoned its sacred role of ensuring that no one is above the law. In doing so it has given the executive branch the green light to continue abusing people's basic human rights. As a result of this willful blindness, it has put the world's peace and order in danger.

A lot of people had high hopes when Obama took his oath to uphold the Constitution. It later became clear that his administration was no better than that of his predecessor. Here we are, 18 months after he took office, and Guantánamo is still open, renditions are still being carried out and illegal assassinations by drone planes have increased tenfold. This latter tactic has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians so far. One can only wonder what is next in the so-called "war on terror."

What is the solution to this state of lawlessness that the world is experiencing today? In my opinion, the judicial system can, and should, exercise its full powers. American Judges should learn lessons from their Italian counterparts, who did not listen to their political masters when it came to laying charges against the CIA officers who illegally kidnapped an Egyptian cleric on Italian soil and rendered him to torture in Egypt.

The RCMP, the Canadian federal police force, has launched a criminal investigation into my case. They have been collecting evidence with the view to charge those Syrian and American officials who were responsible for my torture. Whether charges will be brought against these officials will be something I and other human rights advocates will be watching very closely.

History has taught us that civilizations prosper when they make sure that justice prevails. Those civilizations that forgot this important lesson saw their might vanish in the eyes of people. I have no choice but to agree with Benjamin Franklin, who once wrote, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Chicago gun chaos and the Supreme Court ruling

From the Huffington Post:

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a challenge to Chicago's 28-year-old handgun ban, which ultimately signals the end of the ban on handguns in Chicago and Oak Park. As gun rights were extended throughout the country by SCOTUS, Chicago was recovering from another violent weekend that left at least 29 shot and three dead.

Even with the gun ban in place, shootings in Chicago have been rampant. Last weekend, at least 52 were shot and ten killed in just three days, and this weekend the gunfire continued. According to CBS, shots were fired into a group of about 30 people Sunday night--likely a crowd gathering in Uptown after the Gay Pride Parade. Two men were wounded in the incident, at least one suffered serious injuries.

CBS reports that another rash of shootings occurred between 10:45 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday, where at least 13 people were shot and one person was killed. Most of the incidents took place on the Northwest and Southwest sides.

From midnight to 6 a.m. on Saturday, another 13 people were shot--two fatally, the station reports.

When the Supreme Court ruled Monday (read the entire decision here), they did take these violent weekends into account. From the Supreme Court decision:

Chicago Police Department statistics, we are told, reveal that the City's handgun murder rate has actually increased since the ban was enacted and that Chicago residents now face one of the highest murder rates in the country and rates of other violent crimes that exceed the average in comparable cities.

Monday's decision did not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, ordering a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall.

The court did, however, explain that the decision does allow states to continue regulating handgun use, writing that the decision "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values."

Mayor Daley, expecting the Supreme Court to rule the way it did today, told the Associated Press last week that he had no intention of going down without a fight.

"We're not going to roll over," Daley told the AP, adding that he plans to put in place all sorts of restrictions to make it tougher to buy guns and easier for police to know who has them.

"Just like they did in Washington, D.C., the city of Chicago is going to try to make it as difficult and discouraging as humanly possible to keep people from having guns in their homes for personal protection," Dave Workman, spokesman for the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation said.

Chicago Reader reporter Mick Dumke wrote Monday that Daley and his allies in the City Council could "act as soon as this Wednesday with legislation designed to curtail handgun access, potentially including regulations on licensing and sales as well as training requirements."

Read about the man who challenged the legality of the city's handgun ban, Otis McDonald, here.


Vice President Joe Biden was caught again in another verbal gaffe this past weekend.

Biden's latest remark occured during a visit to Wisconsin where he was campaigning for Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. Biden was at Kopp's Frozen Custard for something to eat when the store's manager casually suggested that the Obama administration lower taxes. Biden responded by saying "why don't you say something nice instead of being a smartass all the time?"

Biden's comment was made in jest during the peak of a colourful exchange filmed by local station WISN 12. The store manager said that Biden later whispered that he was kidding, and that Biden was "very nice."

Biden previously made another memorable open-mic gaffe this year when he told President Obama that the passage of health care reform was "a big fucking deal" -- on live television.

Robert Byrd: former klansman who backed Obama

From the Huffington Post:

One of Robert Byrd's last notable acts in a career that spanned longer than any other in Congress was his decision to endorse then Senator Barack Obama in the Democratic primary.

The West Virginia Democrat was already in bad health though it would be a full two years before he would pass away. Ostensibly, there was little to gain from offering his political support to either candidate. His state's primary had already taken place four days prior and the result had been an overwhelming victory for Hillary Clinton.

But Byrd's endorsement was imbued with a powerful symbolism that transcended electoral math. He was once in the Klu Klux Klan (and not in an insignificant capacity). He helped filibuster the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He was publicly embarrassed, as recently as 2001, for using the term "White N---er" during an interview with Fox News.

For all of this, he spent much of his life expressing contrition. Appropriating money for memorials to civil rights icons was a start. But backing the first black presidential candidate with a legitimate chance at victory was a far more profound act.

The two created an anachronistic pairing. But Obama's aides understood how a Byrd endorsement could help complete the moral arc of his candidacy as well as the senator's career. And they worked hard to ensure that voters understood its importance as well.

"We were going through a rough patch and his endorsement -- and the strength of it -- helped stabilize the political situation of the moment, creating a strong permission structure for others to commit to us at a crucial time," recalled David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager.

"Senator Byrd's endorsement carried a degree of moral credibility as well as political credibility that was powerful," said Anita Dunn, Obama's communications director and a former Byrd aide herself. " Byrd's moral stature within the Democratic Party following the Iraq war resolution was extraordinary. His political credibility -- as a former leader coming from a state where the endorsement could only hurt him and as a 'wise elder' of the party -- was substantial. And of course the symbolism of RCB casting his lot with a message about hope and unity seemed to parallel the journey the nation had taken to get to that moment."

Below the surface there was some skepticism among staff members about the idea of Obama hitching a reformed KKK member to his campaign's bandwagon. But the president was, above all, a politician. And as one former campaign aide noted, at the time Obama was "being painted as someone who couldn't win white votes and wasn't born in this country." Byrd eased those concerns.

What is left relatively unknown is the personal relationship the two shared -- if they shared one at all. Obama never campaigned with Byrd. He was in poor health, hardly fit to hit the trail. And with West Virginia a non-starter on the general election landscape, there was no focus on the state. The two did overlap in the United States Senate. But they held diametrically differing views of the body. Byrd was an institutionalist, who seemed to revel in the lethargic nature of congressional process (he fought a line-item veto, denounced presidential war powers, and ridiculed the notion of White House czars).

Obama was of a different generation. He viewed the institution as too antiquated for the modern demands of governance, understanding that if he wanted to truly affect legislation a trip down Pennsylvania Avenue was in order.

That said, Obama was well aware of how compelling it was to work alongside someone who, just a few decades earlier, had vigorously fought the very notion that an African-American should share the same rights as his white colleagues. In his book "Audacity of Hope", he wrote -- with wonder more than reverence -- of his first meeting with Byrd:

Listening to Senator Byrd I felt with full force all the essential contradictions of me in this new place, with its marble busts, its arcane traditions, its memories and its ghosts. I pondered the fact that, according to his own autobiography, Senator Byrd had received his first taste of leadership in his early twenties, as a member of the Raleigh County Ku Klux Klan, an association that he had long disavowed, an error he attributed -- no doubt correctly -- to the time and place in which he'd been raised, but which continued to surface as an issue throughout his career. I thought about how he had joined other giants of the Senate, like J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and Richard Russell of Georgia, in Southern resistance to civil rights legislation. I wondered if this would matter to the liberals who now lionized Senator Byrd for his principled opposition to the Iraq War resolution -- the crowd, the heirs of the political counterculture the senator had spent much of his career disdaining.

I wondered if it should matter. Senator Byrd's life -- like most of ours -- has been the struggle of warring impulses, a twining of darkness and light. And in that sense I realized that he really was a proper emblem for the Senate, whose rules and design reflect the grand compromise of America's founding: the bargain between Northern states and Southern states, the Senate's role as a guardian against the passions of the moment, a defender of minority rights and state sovereignty, but also a tool to protect the wealthy from the rabble, and assure slaveholders of noninterference with their peculiar institution. Stamped into the very fiber of the Senate, within its genetic code, was the same contest between power and principle that characterized America as a whole, a lasting expression of that great debate among a few brilliant, flawed men that had concluded with the creation of a form of government unique in its genius--yet blind to the whip and the chain

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The media ignored 25,000 peaceful protesters

What the media ignored: 25,000 peacefully demonstrate against G20 policies and the Harper government in Toronto. Unlike what you have likely seen on CBC or CTV, this is what the majority of activists were doing on Saturday in Toronto.

Paikin: An Awful Night for Democracy in Toronto


Posted on: 27 June 2010 by Steve Paikin

I have reported from war zones in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Lebanon, and Israel.

But last night's confrontation between peaceful demonstrators and riot squad police was the scariest situation I've ever been in, in almost 30 years of reporting.

It's all chronicled in my tweets from last night.

And with thanks to Geoff Gillstrom, a concerned citizen with a very good camera whom I befriended yesterday, here are some of the images from an unforgettable day in Ontario's capital city


2010 G20 Protests from dkitts777 on Flickr

Innocent family's home raided by police, guns out

From CBC News:

A Toronto veterinarian says police conducting a raid on anti-G20 protesters stormed into his home early Saturday, confronted him at gunpoint and handcuffed him — only to release him when they realized he had not been involved in any protest activity.

Dr. John Booth said the raid occurred at around 4 a.m. Saturday at his family's apartment in a three-storey house at 143 Westminster Ave. near Roncesvalles Avenue.

Booth, 30, lives with his wife, Dr. Hannah Booth, 31, and his six-month-old son in the top two floors of the house.

"I thought it was a bad dream. Basically I woke up, and there were four police officers in my room," Booth told CBC News.

"It was one of the very few nights I forgot to lock the front door and, lo and behold, they gained access and did not ring the doorbell, did not knock.

"One of them has his gun drawn and [it] is pointed at me, which is obviously an extremely unsettling way to wake up."

Booth said police questioned him and he gave them his identification. They said they had warrants to search his home and arrest him.

Booth also said the officers informed him he was going to be charged with conspiracy to commit mischief and then handcuffed him.

Police never produced the warrants they spoke of, Booth said. They also spoke to Hannah Booth and woke up the couple's baby in the nursery, he added.

Booth declined to give the name of his son, saying he didn't want to get him involved.

Raid on downstairs apartment

Police had apprehended a number of anti-G20 protesters who were staying in another apartment on the ground floor of the house. Booth said he was taken to the lawn outside the home and made to wait there with several other handcuffed males.

While the officers waited for a police vehicle to take some of those on the lawn to a police station, Booth pleaded his case with the officers.

He said both he and his wife, who is also a veterinarian, were professionals who had no involvement with any criminal activity and that officers had no right to arrest him.

"That seemed to hit home. They conferred with their superior and then they took me back and said, 'We apologize,'" Booth said.

Booth said he believed police were looking for someone named Peter.

The G20 Integrated Security Unit confirmed later it had conducted legal raids on two homes in Toronto and had arrested four people, one of whom was a 24-year-old named Peter Hopperton.

It could not confirm the addresses of the accused, nor the time of the raids.

Jillian Van Acker of the ISU, which includes members of the RCMP, Toronto police, Peel Regional Police and the Canadian Forces, said she had no information about the incident involving Booth.

"They shouldn't have ever been in my house if they'd done their due diligence to actually figure out who was on site," Booth said.

Booth said in email after the interview that the officers he dealt with were Toronto police, "as far as I could tell."

'Abuse of power'

Booth said he's concerned about what he says was an overreach of police power in the lead-up to the G20 summit.

"I was listening to CBC Radio yesterday and they're talking about...all the money going towards security [for the G20 summit] and the ultimate irony is that this is taxpayer dollars going to 'keep us safe,' and me the innocent bystander gets caught up in the middle of his over-policing and [this] abuse of power that occurred as a result."

The Booths have filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a provincial police watchdog.

When asked if he and his wife will file a lawsuit, Booth said they aren't interested in compensation.

"We would pursue that if it seems as though that's the best means for accountability. Because that's what we're really after here — we just want them to 'fess up' and say, 'Look, we screwed up royally and we're sorry.'"

Booth works as a veterinarian at the Richview Animal Hospital in western Toronto. His wife, Hannah, is on maternity leave and recently took a position on the board of directors at the Toronto Humane Society.

Canadian journalist arrested, reportedly beaten

From the Ottawa Sun:

Toronto - Jesse Rosenfeld, a Canadian journalist working for Britain's Guardian newspaper, was arrested during the G20 protests Saturday night and beaten by police, according to his friends, family and onlookers.

"We don't know much," Rosenfeld's friend, Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, told QMI Agency.

"He was hauled off at about 11 p.m. ... Nobody has heard from him since."

Chaleff-Freudenthaler said Rosenfeld, 26, managed to call his girlfriend to let her know he was being arrested. His parents went to the Eastern Avenue G20 holding facility at about 1 a.m., but police there were unable to confirm whether he was in custody.

Steve Paikin, the Gemini-nominated TV Ontario reporter who witnessed the arrest, told QMI Agency Sunday that police have since told Rosenfeld's parents that he is no longer in custody and they don't know where he is.

He said Rosenfeld has one kidney and is asthmatic.

Paikin posted updates to Twitter Saturday night, alerting his followers to Rosenfeld's arrest and alleged mistreatment.

"[T]he journalist identified himself as working for 'the guardian.' he talked too much and pissed the police off. two officers held him," Paikin tweeted Saturday night.

"[A] third punched him in the stomach. totally unnecessary. the man collapsed. then the third officer drove his elbow into the man's back," he tweeted soon after.

According to Chaleff-Freudenthaler, Rosenfeld faced delays and red-tape in getting official media accreditation. Instead, his friend said he had an alternative media pass, normally reserved for bloggers and members of non-governmental organizations.

Chaleff-Freudenthaler is worried about his friend.

"There's no telling what else is happening considering what happened in full view of another journalist," he said. "I'm holding out hope that he is being treated fairly. What else can a friend hope for?"

He said Rosenfeld was a highly ethical person who would want people to focus on the bigger issues, not his personal wellbeing.

"Jesse's view of the world is that it's not really about him,"

Chaleff-Freudenthaler said. "He would want people to know that this happened to a journalist, and it's no way for a democracy to treat its media."

A spokeswoman for the Integrated Security Unit said they do not have information on specific arrests

Steve Paikin's messages from Twitter:

“they repeated they would arrest me if i didn't leave. as i was escorted away from the demonstration, i saw two officers hold a journalist.”

“the journalist identified himself as working for "the guardian." he talked too much and pissed the police off. two officers held him....”

“a third punched him in the stomach. totally unnecessary. the man collapsed. then the third officer drove his elbow into the man's back.”

“the officer who escorted me away from the demo said, "yeah, that shouldn't have happened." he is correct. there was no cause for it.”

“the demonstration on the esplanade was peaceful. it was like an old sit in. no one was aggressive. and yet riot squad officers moved in.”

Four alleged G20 violence ringleaders in court

From the Toronto Star:

Four alleged G20 violence ringleaders appear in court

Year-long undercover investigation infiltrated anarchist planning meetings, police allege

Fires were still burning in Toronto Saturday afternoon as Crown attorneys laid out their case against four alleged ringleaders of the violence.

Amanda Hiscocks, Leah Henderson, Alex Hundert and Peter Hopperton appeared before a justice of the peace and had their bail hearing put over till Monday at the request of a prosecutor who said he was overwhelmed by the volume of evidence collected by numerous police forces in a year-long undercover investigation.

Crown attorney Vincent Paris said a plan for violence had been put into place over a series of meetings leading up to the G20 Summit, “action which is what’s happening now.”

The four, allegedly executives in the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance, were arrested Friday morning and charged with conspiracy to commit indictable mischief. They are among 15 alleged co-conspirators.

Paris said that their arrest was the culmination of a large-scale investigation, which is still ongoing, involving two undercover agents.

The investigation began in April 2009.

It was conducted by a joint intelligence group that included the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, as well as the Toronto, Peel, Waterloo, Ottawa, Guelph and Barrie police services.

The undercover officers infiltrated criminal extremist groups in Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Toronto and forged relationships with several people whose ideological beliefs and backgrounds pose a direct threat to large-scale public events, including the G20 and the Vancouver Olympics, according to the allegations They planned to “use the cover of a lawful protest to break off and do this kind of criminal activity,” Paris said.

The list of contemplated targets included Metro Hall, City Hall, Goldman Sachs, The Bay, as well as the U.S., Russian and Indian consulates.

“We are a little overwhelmed by the information,” Paris said. “The information is coming in fast.”

The alleged conspirators discussed using golf balls, body armour, fireworks and flares, Paris said.

But defence lawyer Brydie Bethell said the Crown had no specific evidence related to her clients.

“There is nothing wrong under the Constitution with participating and planning peaceful protest.”

She said there was little to link her clients to “the situation ongoing downtown.”

Meanwhile, a visual artist charged in the G20 security investigation of her common law spouse was released on $25,000 bail.

On Saturday afternoon Kristen Peterson, 37, was released on condition she live with her parents in their Glencairn Ave. home.

Looking relaxed in green jail issue sweats, Peterson smiled at her father and mother, John and Maureen Peterson, who were sitting in court.

She is barred from communicating with her spouse and co-accused, Byron Sonne, 37, a computer expert charged with several G20-related offences.

She is also barred from accessing any website controlled by Sonne and is barred from altering their joint financial accounts.

Peterson is charged with possession of an explosive device and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

She had no comment as she left court with her parents.

Sonne appeared separately from her.

Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, he looked haggard as his lawyer asked that his case be put over until June 30.

He is charged with intimidation of justice system participants, mischief, possession of explosives and weapons dangerous.

Sonne was arrested Wednesday as a result of a police search conducted at the couple's home in Forest Hill.

Emomotimi Azorbo, a deaf man who says he was watching a protest Thursday night when he was arrested and held overnight without access to counsel and an interpreter, was released Saturday on bail.

Azorbo, 30, was arrested at the intersection of College and Yonge Sts. after he did not heed police commands to stay off the road, his friends say.

“The police should have been prepared for this,” said Dean Walker of the Ontario Association of the Deaf.

Sunday morning: boarding up Queen Street

Toronto Star video: Stores and businesses which escaped the wrath of Anarchist jackasses during yesterday's protests hired contractors who boarded up windows on Queen Street West, who are expecting more rioting on the second and final day of the G20 Summit.

Black-clad Anarchist neanderthals ruin everything

Associated Press footage: A small group of Anarchist thugs, dressed in black, hijacked peaceful protests yesterday who smashed windows with bats and hammers and wreaked havoc in the downtown core of Toronto.

Where the peaceful protests began

Toronto Star video: Peaceful demonstrators began their protest march at Queen's Park (Ontario legislature) yesterday and were not deterred by the grey skies.

More from Queen and John

Toronto Star video: Protestors at the intersection of Queen and John eventually became more vocal yesterday when they were stopped by police in riot gear.

Demonstrators stopped at Queen and John

Toronto Star video: Demonstrators were stopped in their tracks by riot police at Queen and John Street in downtown Toronto yesterday.

Anarchist criminals

Police cruisers were smashed and set on fire and shop windows were smashed by a group of violent protesters dressed in black yesterday in the streets of Toronto. Peaceful, law-abiding protests had dominated throughout Saturday afternoon prior to the commencement of the G20 Summit, but a small minority of Anarchist criminals spoiled it for them and for those who call Toronto home, who literally practiced what they preach and showed absolute contempt for our laws, society and city.

Police clad in riot gear used shields and clubs to stop another small group of demonstrators who wanted to reach the security fence surrounding the city's downtown core, or the perimeter of the G20 Summit site, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Some of these demonstrators hurled bottles at police, who eventually responded with tear gas.

Toronto Mayor David Miller stepped up and spoke out against the violent demonstrators on CP24, saying "This isn't our Toronto and my response is anger. Every Torontonian should be outraged by this."

The protesters in black clothing also smashed windows at police headquarters.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shameful: McGuinty and Ontario's police state law

This is absolutely despicable. Prior to the G20 Summit this weekend, the McGuinty government secretly passed a temporary regulation which granted the Metropolitan Toronto Police to arrest anyone near the G20 perimeter fence (which surrounds a major portion of the downtown core) who refuse to identify themselves, or submit to a police search. We also didn't learn of this Stalinist law until yesterday morning. From the Toronto Star:

The province has secretly passed an unprecedented regulation that empowers police to arrest anyone near the G20 security zone who refuses to identify themselves or agree to a police search.

A 31-year-old man has already been arrested under the new regulation, which was quietly passed by the provincial cabinet on June 2.

The regulation was made under Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act and was not debated in the Legislature. According to a provincial spokesperson, the cabinet action came in response to an “extraordinary request” by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who wanted additional policing powers shortly after learning the G20 was coming to Toronto.

The regulation kicked in Monday and will expire June 28, the day after the summit ends. While the new regulation appeared without notice on the province’s e-Laws online database last week, it won’t be officially published in The Ontario Gazette until July 3 — one week after the regulation expires

“It’s just unbelievable you would have this kind of abuse of power where the cabinet can create this offence without having it debated in the Legislature,” said Howard Morton, the lawyer representing Dave Vasey, who was arrested Thursday under the sweeping new police powers.

“It was just done surreptitiously, like a mushroom growing under a rock at night.”

According to the new regulation, “guards” appointed under the act can arrest anyone who, in specific areas, comes within five metres of the security zone.

Within those areas, police can demand identification from anyone coming within five metres of the fence perimeter and search them. If they refuse, they face arrest. Anyone convicted under the regulation could also face up to two months in jail or a $500 maximum fine.

“It reminds me a little bit of the War Measures Act,” said lawyer Nathalie Des Rosiers of the new regulation. Des Rosiers is a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has been working to monitor arrests during the summit. “This is highly unusual to have this declaration done by order-in-council without many people knowing about it.”

Des Rosiers learned of the regulation Thursday afternoon, shortly after Vasey was arrested while standing near the security fence.

Vasey said he was exploring the G20 security perimeter with a friend when they were stopped by police and asked for identification. Vasey says he had also been searched by police the night before.

Dave Vasey appears to be the first person to be arrested under a new law allowing police to pick up people refusing to identify themselves near the G20 security zone.

According to Vasey’s lawyer, neither he nor his colleagues at the law union were aware of this draconian new regulation. Des Rosiers said the CCLA and protesters have met with summit officials on several occasions and the regulation was never mentioned.

“They don’t even have signs up saying you can’t be within five metres or you’re subject to the following,” Morton said. “If they really wanted to keep the peace, they would have announced the regulation.”

According to Laura Blondeau, an aide to Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci, the regulation “ensures that police have the legal authority” they need for such a massive security zone.

“They really wanted to ensure they could provide a certain level of security,” Blondeau said Thursday. “The regulation does not include private residences or businesses. It’s for certain streets and sidewalks in the security perimeter.”

Blondeau said “rightly or wrongly,” the new regulation can be compared with airport security.

“You don’t have to get on that plane if you don’t want to be searched and wanded,” she said, adding that Bartolucci carefully weighed public safety and civil liberty concerns before agreeing to the one-time amendment.

“It was an extraordinary request. This is just for Toronto, just for the G20,” she said. “Given the environment that the police were expecting, they needed to be prepared.”

Blondeau emphasized the law only affects those trying to enter the security zone and applies solely to police officers, not to private security guards contracted for the summit.

If someone declines to comply it empowers the police to turn them away — or face being searched.

According to government lawyers, the regulation was passed by cabinet using what is known as a “covering” order-in-council.

“The authority for the regulation is contained in the PWPA (Public Works Protection Act). The PWPA authorizes the designation by cabinet of places as ‘public works,’” the lawyers said.

The Public Works Protection Act was created in 1990 and defines a “public work” as everything from a railway to a bridge or a provincial building. The act says any other building, place or work can also be “designated a public work by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.”

Morton said he’s unaware of any precedents to such a regulation being passed in Ontario and questions if it is even constitutional.

Des Rosiers said the regulation runs contrary to the Charter of Rights because it prohibits people from generally circulating on public land.

The G20 security fence has been a magnet for passersby and protesters alike, with many people approaching to take pictures or just quench their curiosity.

For Des Rosiers, she is especially worried because most people, including protesters, will operate under the assumption they have a right to refuse handing over identification to police.

“Protesters would have been told that the law of the land is that you don’t have to talk to police officers if you don’t want to,” she said. “This changes things because even if you attempt to approach, it gives the power to the guard to demand identification.

“It’s a significant intrusion on people’s rights.”

Canadian Press video:

Some of the reactions of the sheeple on the street are unbelievable.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Marcus Gee smacks down Rob Ford's dumb ideas

From the Globe and Mail:

Go to any Rob Ford event, and you can count on the Etobicoke councillor to tout his favourite election promise. If he were elected mayor, he would cut the number of city councillors in half, from 44 to 22. In a campaign platform that is short on detail and thick with anger, it is one of the few solid planks. But does it make sense?

To people fed up with city politics, the pledge has a superficial appeal. If councillors are all clowns and wastrels – and goodness knows some of them fit the bill – the city would be better off with fewer of them. “Why do we need 44 councillors?” Mr. Ford asks. With half as many, “you’re going to get better councillors, save millions of dollars.”

Mr. Ford likes to point out that Toronto gets by just fine with 22 federal MPs, 22 provincial MPPs and 22 school trustees. But people don’t call their member of parliament about the garbage truck that comes late or the noisy bar on the corner. City councillors field those calls. With half as many it would be twice as hard to reach them for help.

How does that fit with Mr. Ford’s quest to make city hall deliver better “customer service” to residents? How could councillors pay more attention to individual constituents if instead of representing more than 50,000 of them, they represented over 100,000? The millions in savings forecast by Mr. Ford by halving the council would surely be offset by the extra staff each councillor would need to handle the higher demand.

Mr. Ford always boasts that he goes the extra mile for his own constituents, returning their calls of complaint, visiting their homes and helping them cut through city hall red tape. With half as many councillors, being a hands-on, in-touch Rob Ford would get much harder. Instead of complaining to councillors, people would have to go to bureaucrats for help – not exactly the result Mr. Ford is seeking.

Whether city hall can even function with 22 councillors is doubtful. Apart from attending city council and committee meetings, the average councillor sits on various agencies and community groups. Some of these, like the Art Gallery of Ontario, are required by statute to have a councillor on their board. With 22 of them instead of 44, how do you keep those committees and boards working?

To give an idea of how booked up the more active councillors are, the commitments of Trinity-Spadina Councillor Adam Vaughan include (among others) sitting on the police services board, the planning and growth management committee, the affordable housing committee, the civic appointments committee, Toronto Artscape and the AGO board, not to mention nine business improvement areas and one arena board.

At 44 councillors, Toronto already has considerably fewer civic politicians than it once did. Under the old Metropolitan Toronto system, the city had 107. That fell to 57 when the provincial government amalgamated six Metro municipalities to create the new City of Toronto in 1998, then fell again to 44 for the 2000 election.

Deputy mayor Joe Pantalone, Mr. Ford’s rival in the mayoral race, notes that the 905 region around Toronto has 208 municipal politicians, with a population about the same as the city’s. Montreal, with fewer voters than Toronto, has 64 members on its city council.

Mr. Ford, a populist through and through, is playing to a sense that city government is fat and lazy. Everyone wants a leaner, more responsive administration. But slashing the number of politicians whom voters elect to represent their interests at city hall is the wrong way to do it.

Stephen Hawking in Waterloo

Canadian Press video: Legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking appeared this Sunday at Waterloo's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Hawkings, who was appointed a distinguied research chair at Perimeter, discussed his life and work, and also addressed the current groundbreaking study
of string theory and related aspects such as alternate realities, parallel universes and other dimensions.

Charges in Ottawa bank firebombing

Canadian Press video: Three suspects have been charged in May's firebombing of a Royal Bank branch in Ottawa. Speculation had arisen after the incident that similar acts would result during this weekend's G20 Summit in Toronto.

Yes, it was a minor earthquake

Canadian Press video: Much of Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States was hit by a minor 5.0 earthquake yesterday. Perhaps people in California and Japan are laughing at us as minor quakes generally don't make such big news. I remember a previous minor quake in the late 90s which didn't result in a media panic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama: McChrystal showed "poor judgment"

Associated Press video: President Obama said General McChrystal's comments regarding his civilian superiors in a Rolling Stone interview diplayed "poor judgment." But Obama will wait until be meets with McChrystal in person today before deciding if he should fire McChrystal.

Jamaican drug lord arrested

Associated Press video: Gang leader and drug lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who in May evaded violent confrontations with Jamaican police in his slum stronghold, was finally arrested yesterday by police outside Kingston, Jamaica.

More trouble for Rob Ford

Some more shocking news as Toronto City Councillor Rob Ford's campaign team is distancing itself from absurd views and comments made by Mark Towhey, the campaign's policy director. On his blog, Coffee with Mark Towhey, the Ford campaign team policy director mused that the City of Toronto should scrap the TTC and give billions back to tax payers, which would then force people to buy and drive more cars, take taxis or ride their bikes. Back in February (why is this coming to light now?) Towhey wrote on his blog: "Well, life's tough. instead of being the only three people on a 60 passenger bus, perhaps these people will have to introduce themselves, get to know their neighbours and share a taxi." Right, Mark. Let's scrap the largest, most appreciated and greatest transit service in the country, so people will have to introduce themselves, get to know their neighbours and share a taxi. Perhaps the hundreds of thousands, make that millions of people who rely on the TTC daily to commute across the city to get to work could instead get off their lazy asses and jog. According to Towhey's logic, the TTC is not "profitable" as a public service, so therefore it's essentially useless. What's even more laughable is that the Ford campaign is attempting to distance themselves from Towhey, as right-wing cranks gravitate towards right-wing cranks. From the Toronto Star:

Rob Ford's campaign is divorcing itself from comments about the TTC made on a blog by the candidate's policy advisor Mark Towhey, a self-described, " international management consultant specializing in issues, risk and crisis leadership and a frequent political commentator."

Made at the height of the TTC's recent customer service debacle, Towhey's remarks amount to "a scorched earth policy piece," according to transit blogger Steve Munro.

But Ford's communications manager Adrienne Batra says Towhey's blog, Coffee with Mark Towhey, is completely separate from the campaign.

"Yes, he is an advisor, he’s our director of policy," she confirmed. "However those are his personal opinions. We work with Councillor Ford and the things he is committed to and, at this point, our position has been pretty clear – we are looking at making TTC an essential service."

The lead item on Towhey's blog Tuesday, however, is about his work on the Ford campaign and his opinions of the candidate, including a picture of Ford walking alongside his policy advisor and sign-carrying supporters.

Towhey's blog entry on the subject of transit suggests the city simply stop funding the TTC and give the billions it spends back to taxpayers.

This, he expects, will drive people back into their cars, onto bikes or into cabs and ultimately, motivate the private sector to take up transit delivery.

"Many bus routes, how ever (sic), would be abandoned. They're not profitable. Such is life," concedes Towhey. "The TTC should have dumped these routes long ago."

And what about the people who need that service?

"Well, life's tough. instead of being the only three people on a 60 passenger bus, perhaps these people will have to introduce themselves, get to know their neighbours and share a taxi," he writes.

Towhey Consulting Group bills itself as specialists in risk and crisis management for clients such as McCain, CIBC, the Ontario and Canadian governments.

But Towhey doesn't reserve all his choice words for transit. He's got some opinions on the press too. He's got some thoughts on the media and the masses too:

"Increasingly, there are three things I dislike about our modern mainstream news media. First, is the growing penchant to create scandal where none exists. Second, is the ubiquitous assumption that audiences are stupid. Third, is the mounting evidence that maybe we are," he wrote the same month.

Shocking: judge has investments in oil industry

From the Associated Press:

New Orlean — The Louisiana judge who struck down the Obama administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has reported extensive investments in the oil and gas industry, according to financial disclosure reports. He’s also a new member of a secret national security court.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan, reported owning less than $15,000 in stock in 2008 in Transocean Ltd., the company that owned the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Feldman overturned the ban Tuesday, saying the government simply assumed that because one rig exploded, the others pose an imminent danger, too.

The White House promised an immediate appeal. The Interior Department had imposed the moratorium last month in the wake of the BP disaster, halting approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and suspending drilling on 33 exploratory wells.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement late Tuesday that within the next few days he would issue a new order imposing a moratorium that eliminates any doubt it is needed and appropriate.

BP’s new point man for the oil spill wouldn’t say Wednesday if the company would resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked about it Wednesday on NBC’s Today show, BP managing director Bob Dudley said they will “step back” from the issue while they investigate the rig explosion.

Also Wednesday, BP said Dudley has been appointed to head the new Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, which is in charge of cleaning up the oil spill.

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore rigs argued that the moratorium was arbitrarily imposed after the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and blew out a well 5,000 feet underwater. It has spewed anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons of oil.

Feldman’s 2008 financial disclosure report—the most recent available—also showed investments in Ocean Energy, a Houston-based company, as well as Quicksilver Resources, Prospect Energy, Peabody Energy, Halliburton, Pengrowth Energy Trust, Atlas Energy Resources, Parker Drilling and others. Halliburton was also involved in the doomed Deepwater Horizon project.

Feldman did not respond to requests for comment and to clarify whether he still holds some or all of these investments.

He’s one of many federal judges across the Gulf Coast region with money in oil and gas. Several have disqualified themselves from hearing spill-related lawsuits and others have sold their holdings so they can preside over some of the 200-plus cases.

Although Feldman ruled in favor of oil interests Tuesday, one expert said his reasoning appeared sound because the six-month ban was overly broad.

“There’s been some concern that he is biased toward the industry, but I don’t see it in this opinion,” said Tim Howard, a Northeastern University law professor who also represents businesses and people claiming economic losses in several spill-related lawsuits. “They overreacted and just shut an industry down, rather than focusing on where the problems are.”

That was what Feldman essentially said in his ruling, writing that the blanket moratorium “seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.”

Josh Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, said the ruling should be rescinded if Feldman still has investments in companies that could benefit.

“If Judge Feldman has any investments in oil and gas operators in the Gulf, it represents a flagrant conflict of interest,” Reichert said.

Feldman’s ruling prohibits federal officials from enforcing the moratorium until a trial is held. He wrote: “If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing.”

At least two major oil companies, Shell and Marathon, said they would wait to see how the appeals play out before resuming drilling.

The lawsuit was filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La. CEO Todd Hornbeck said after the ruling that he is looking forward to getting back to work. “It’s the right thing for not only the industry but the country,” he said.

Earlier in the day, executives at a major oil conference in London warned that the moratorium would cripple world energy supplies. Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean, called it unnecessary and an overreaction.

“There are things the administration could implement today that would allow the industry to go back to work tomorrow without an arbitrary six-month time limit,” Newman said.

BP stock dropped 81 cents Tuesday, or 2.7 percent, to $29.52, near a 14-year low for the company in U.S. trading. The stocks of other companies associated with the spill remained low despite Feldman’s ruling.

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said he would discuss BP and the oil spill in a meeting Saturday with President Barack Obama. Cameron’s spokesman Steve Field told reporters Wednesday the men will discuss the beleaguered energy company during a meeting during the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada.

Feldman is a native of St. Louis and former Army captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps who was appointed in May to a seven-year term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to court records.

The court meets secretly to consider government requests for wiretaps in national security cases, such as those involving foreign terrorist groups.

A graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans with bachelor’s and law degrees, Feldman frequently jokes with lawyers before his court about his friendship with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his strict interpretation of the Constitution as written more than 200 years ago.

Feldman has handled several cases stemming from Hurricane Katrina, among them a lawsuit against the city of New Orleans filed by a retired teacher who sued over his beating by police officers in the French Quarter. The case was settled. Feldman also presided over the first trial in a wave of insurance litigation spawned by the storm.

In August, he will sentence Wayne Read, a former movie studio CEO who pleaded guilty to selling $1.9 million in nonexistent state film tax credits to current and former members of the New Orleans Saints, including head coach Sean Payton and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Drew Brees.

Computer security expert charged

From the Toronto Star:

Yellow police tape cordoned off a manicured garden outside a Forest Hill home Wednesday morning where a man had been arrested on G20-related charges.

Byron Sonne, 37, was taken into custody after police converged Tuesday afternoon on the house on Elderwood Dr., in the Bathurst St. and Eglinton Ave. area.

Police have set up a command post in the below-ground garage at the two-storey stucco house in the heart of Forest Hill.

More officers filled the backyard behind a solarium and enclosed by a hedge. Pink, orange and yellow flowers flanked a Japanese maple and a big, old maple tree filled in the well-tended front garden.

BMWs, Jaguars and other luxury cars sat in the driveways of neighbouring homes.

“It’s strange. These are very affluent people,” said a man who did not want to give his name, but said he also lived on Elderwood. “This is one of the richest areas.”

The man said he had never seen or spoke with anyone at the house.

No injuries were reported in the arrest, and police said they would not be releasing any further details.

Halvdan Solutions, a computer security company, is registered with Byron Sonne as the sole owner at the same address on Elderwood Dr., which is also the home address of visual artist Kristen Peterson.

Telephone numbers for Halvdan and Peterson are identical, with the same voice message from “Kris and Byron.”

Sonne is a “very well respected” specialist in detecting computer vulnerabilities who belongs to the Toronto Area Security Klatch, fellow member Robert Beggs told the Star.

“He’s an independent researcher,” said Beggs, describing the technical, rarified world of vulnerability specialists as part computer geek, part performance artist. “They are the makers. They experiment with different things. They find the underlying metaholes across the Internet,” he said. “They’re the prima donnas of the computer security world.”

Sonne, he said, has “great technical expertise, is well-known and has a very good reputation.”

Sonne is also a licensed private investigator, said Beggs.

According to Sonne’s LinkedIn web profile, his goal is, “To be continually exposed to interesting things and cool people. Sounds trite, but it’s absolutely true.” His experience summary: “I make order out of chaos.”

Before starting Halvdan, Sonne was a senior systems specialist at Webkinz. His jobs before that, with nCircle Network Security and FSC Internet Corp. put him in two top companies in the field, Beggs said.

Sonne was charged with intimidation of a justice system participant by threat, intimidation of justice system participant by watch and beset, mischief interfere with property, attempt mischief, possession of explosive for unlawful purpose and weapons dangerous.

He was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

Toronto man arrested for explosives

From CBC News:

A Toronto man has been charged with explosives and weapons offences in what police are calling a G20-related arrest.

Police searched a house just after noon on Tuesday at 58 Elderwood Dr., in Toronto's Forest Hill neighbourhood.

Byron Sonne, 37, was charged with:

• Intimidation of a justice system participant by threat.

• Intimidation of a justice system participant by watch and beset.

• Mischief.

• Attempted mischief.

• Possession of explosives for an unlawful purpose.

• Possession of dangerous weapons.

Police have revealed few details about the case.

The house remained cordoned off on Wednesday and a number of specialty police squads, including the emergency task force and the bomb squad, have been working at the house.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pantalone campaign launch and fundraising dinner

Over 600 community leaders and Toronto City Councillors supported Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone at his campaign launch and fundraising dinner at the Montecassino Place Banquet Hall on March 24.

General McChrystal's interview and fallout

General Stanley McChrystal, the man currently in charge of US military operations in Afghanistan, has been summoned to the White House for a standing meeting tomorrow in the wake of his controversial interview with Rolling Stone, in which he trashed the Obama Administration. McChrystal publically apologized for the remarks made in the interview, in which he said he used "poor judgment". White House Press Secrectary Robert Gibbs said that "the magnitude and greatness of the mistake here are profound", but refused to say whether McChrystal's job was safe. Gibbs did say that President Obama acknowledged McChrystal's apology, and that McChrystal deserved a chance to explain himself. Meanwhile, Time magazine's Joe Klein said on CNN that a reliable source informed him that McChrystal has offered his resignation.

McChrystal's remarks:

McChrystal's first meeting with Obama:

According to sources familiar with the meeting, "McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass.

• McChrystal's first one-on-one meeting with Obama:

It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

• McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond "I never know what's going to pop out until I'm up there, that's the problem," he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

"Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says with a laugh. "Who's that?"

"Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"

• private, Team McCharystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama's top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985."

• McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," says a member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He's a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can't just have someone yanking on Shit."

• McChrystal weighs in on Eikenberry after The New York Times reported several leaked cables from Eikenberry indicated that the ambassador was worried about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan:

"I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before," says McChrystal, who adds that he felt "betrayed" by the leak. "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.'"

• "He's been locked up in his palace the past year," laments one of the general's top advisers. At times, Karzai himself has actively undermined McChrystal's desire to put him in charge. During a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Karzai met three U.S. soldiers who had been wounded in Uruzgan province. "General," he called out to McChrystal, "I didn't even know we were fighting in Uruzgan!"

• The Secretary of State is the only member of Obama's staff to get good reviews from McChrystal's people:

"Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs."

• The biggest military operation of the year -- a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja -- continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a "bleeding ulcer."

• McChrystal's staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. ... They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.

Up to a million may need aid: UN

Associated Press video: Kyrgyzstan’s interim president said Friday that 2,000 people may have died in the ethnic clashes that have rocked the country's south.

400,000 flee terror: UN

Associated Press video: Humanitarian aid agencies have been gearing up to set up camps and get supplies to ethnic Uzbeks who've fled violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. They also face the challenge to get supplies into the Kyrgyz city of Osh.

18 year-old had a heart attack?

On Wednesday, May 5, 18 year-old Alexander Manon collapsed and died near the York University campus after a brief chase by police. At 6:30 pm, Toronto police stopped a car on Founders Road at Steeles Avenue West. Manon got out of the car and fled on foot and after being chased by the police, he collapsed. The driver of the car told the media that the police "beat him up, he was on the floor, he wasn’t resisting. Two officers on him, punching him in the face, one kicking him in the ribs…and then five more come and jump on him…he is not that big for seven cops to be on him like that."

Meanwhile, an internal police union memo written yesterday by Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack, said that an autopsy on Manon found "no anatomical reasons for the death of the 18-year-old" and that "for more than three weeks, the SIU has known that at the autopsy the pathologist found no broken bones and no anatomical reasons for the death of the 18-year-old, with the coroner’s office exploring ‘other causes.’". (The SIU that McCormack refers to this the Special Investigations Unit, a civilian oversight agency). The director of the SIU, Ian Scott, emailed the Toronto Star Monday evening and said "members of a police force are under a statutory duty not to disclose info about an ongoing case." McCormack's justification for writing the memo and disclosing the information was "that the information wasn’t forthcoming and this was starting — if you look on the Internet and the media — rumours around his death that were starting to erode relationships between the community and the police".

Sorry Mike, but 18 year-olds don't normally suffer from heart attacks. If Manon suffered from a heart condition or lived off of nothing but McDonalds, that would certainly seem plausible. But Manon's family isn't buying it either. According to the Manon family attorney, Selwyn Pieters, when the family viewed Alexander's body at the morgue, they claimed to see signs of abuse. Pieters said that "there was blood all over. He had a neck brace on. His eyes were black and blue. The issue of a heart attack is fiction. It seems that he died from physical force. He was a healthy young person."

The SIU has recently come under fire from Andre Marin, the Ontario Ombudsman (who oversees and investigates public complaints about the provinicial government, including more than 500 provincial government ministries, agencies, corporations, tribunals, boards and commissions). While the SIU was under investigation Marin said it is "a toothless tiger and muzzled watchdog" who conduct investigations with a police bias. Marin previously said that the SIU "has not only become complacent about ensuring that police officials follow the rules, it has bought into the fallacious argument that SIU investigations aren't like other criminal cases and it is acceptable to treat police witnesses differently from civilians."

Hat's off to a Conservative

From the Globe and Mail's Letters to the editor:

In the case of the Conservatives, party HQ keeps 90 per cent of the money it receives, sharing only 10 per cent with the riding in which the donor resides. This, together with the vote subsidy and a core belief that any local candidate without “star quality” can influence the vote by only 5 per cent, ensures local party supporters’ wishes are marginalized. So it’s not surprising most Liberal and Conservative candidates are chosen by acclamation, rather than through open nomination contests. A better approach to “improve democracy” would be to amend the Elections Act to require all parties to hold nomination contests as a precondition of running candidates.

Peter Jack, past president, Mississauga South Electoral District Association, Federal Conservative Party

Thank you Peter for being practical, pragmatic and practical. The Elections Act should be amended so all political parties are required to have transparent nomination races prior to supporting any candidate.

G20 protests begin

Toronto Star video: A very brief clip of a protest yesterday on Sherbourne Street, led by the Guelph based anti-poverty group Sense of Security, who were protesting the upcoming G20 summit in Toronto.

Conservatives recruit Aussie to stop electoral reform

It's amazing how desperate and what lengths Conservatives in England and Canada will go to get in the way of democratic renewal and reform, and specifically electoral reform. Conservatives are well aware that the antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system, which was designed for two-party systems in the 19th century, is an undemocratic winner-take-all system in which a party who captures approximately 40% of the vote can then win 60% of the seats in parliament. Anyways, a small group including two Conservative MPs, Bernard Jenkin and George Eustice, and James Frayne, the Taxpayers' Alliance former campaign director, have recruited right-wing Australian pollster Lynton Crosby to launch a campaign against electoral reform in Great Britain. The Conservatives want an antiquated and undemocratic electoral system (first-past-the-post) to remain in place in order for the Conservative Party to continue to win false majority governments and rule as a de facto dictatorship, as that's what majority governments elected with less than 50% of the electorate are: de facto dictatorships. From the Guardian:

The Australian pollster Lynton Crosby is working with a group of experienced Tory activists to draw up a campaign to block any change to the voting system when the issue is put to a referendum.

A referendum was demanded by the Liberal Democrats as a condition of their joining a Tory-led coalition and is expected next May. A no vote would be a serious blow to Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, and could lead to calls for him to pull out of the coalition.

A small group of Tory activists involved in two referendum campaigns — against the Euro and a regional assembly in the north-east — are meeting to draw up messages arguing for a no vote to any change in the voting system. The group is looking to raise £100,000 to set up a campaign office and to fund focus groups.

The campaign team includes two Tory MPs, Bernard Jenkin and George Eustice, as well as James Frayne, former campaign director of the Taxpayers' Alliance, who directed the no campaign against a regional assembly in the north-east, a referendum won by 78% to 22% in 2004, a resounding defeat for then deputy prime minister, John Prescott.

Frayne is skilled at running effective populist messages, and most polls show uncertainty on the issue.

There have been suggestions that Boris Johnson, the London mayor, might become a frontline figure. But his office said he had become agnostic about voting reform. Crosby advised Johnson for his mayoral election campaign and was a key figure in the 2005 Tory election team led by Michael Howard.

Frayne said: "The lessons of the recent referendum campaigns on the euro and the regional assembly are clear. The most important things are getting the message right through extensive opinion research and creating a structure which can make the right decisions quickly. Anything that gets in the way of this must be avoided.

"For this reason, while the campaign will inevitably make use of politicians, it can't be led by them because they end up worrying about things like internal party politics. Psychologically it's crucial the campaign leaders remember the organisation closes the day after the referendum.

"We are starting to create the campaign now, developing the message and raising money to put the campaign infrastructure in place. We are keen to get moving now so we can take the yes campaign head on as quickly as possible."

Frayne is concerned figures such as Johnson will hold back on attacking the yes campaign for fear a no-holds-barred campaign might fracture the coalition and damage relations between Clegg and David Cameron. The prime minister and the deputy prime minister will have to navigate a referendum campaign in which the two men are arguing from different positions.

Cameron has said he will express his view, but not be front and centre of the no campaign. The campaign is looking at messages that avoid abstract debates about the virtues of voting systems, and wants to focus on the impact they could have, appealing to a perception that the alternative vote system would lead to more coalitions, and that coalitions are less responsive to voters and therefore more likely to raise income tax.

The campaign may also warn that AV could turn the Lib Dems into the permanent kingmakers of politics, and Clegg will see AV as the first step to a fully proportional system that will undermine the link between the constituency and the MP.

Most Lib Dems believe it is best to press on with the referendum soon, before the coalition has become unpopular. They will have the support of Labour, but there are likely to be splits inside the party. The most likely date is May next year, coinciding with local elections.