"Time To Get The Christ Out Of Christmas"

Stephen Colbert delivered another satirical tongue-lashing, this time to Republicans and conservatives coping with the cognitive dissonance of reconciling their faith in a Christ whose deeds they renounce by their own.

"It hurts me to say this folks, but if Jesus really is a liberal, it's time to get the Christ out of Christmas [...] It is time to take Baby Jesus out of the manger. Replace Him with something that's easier to swallow: How about a honey baked ham?

"Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don't want to do it."


Wikileaks Supporters Determined To Turn Public Against Them

In a series of Denial of Service attacks, ostensibly in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the hacker community intends to target some of the most popular and important e-commerce sites.

Already attacked: MasterCard, amazon.com, PayPal, visa.com.

The attacks are intended as a retaliation for these sites interfering with hosting of or donations to WikiLeaks. They seem to me the surest way to galvanize opposition to WikiLeaks, and frame its activities as public mischief rather than public service.

Like Fareed Zakaria, I am impressed by the quality of the American diplomatic cables, and the alignment of their content with the public rhetoric of the State Department. However, while the US may not have been compromised directly, its relationships with other states--whose public and private foreign policy bear little resemblance--are at risk.


Bill C-49: The Sword of Damocles

At a press conference held in Delta outside the "illegal migrant vessel, the Ocean Lady," the vessel that brought 76 migrants to our shores in 2009, Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, laid out his government's proposal to deter similar migrant arrivals in the future. Alongside him were Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, and Stockwell Day, the former Public Safety Minister and current President of the Treasury Board and the Regional Minister for British Columbia.

The Bill, titled the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act, appeals in some ways, but is troubling in others. For one thing, it intends to deal with illegal migration and abuses of Canada's system for dealing with refugee claims, not its immigration system. Perhaps most troubling is the state of uncertainty that legitimate refugees must endure. According to Mr Kenney:
"If the IRB and its Refugee Protection Division determine that [a migrant] has a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin, they will receive a temporary resident visa in Canada for a period of five years. At the end of that five-year period, the Minister can apply to review the conditions in their country which gave rise to the asylum claim. And if the IRB determines that the country conditions have changed fundamentally, and they could then return safely to the country of origin, then they would be subject to removal."
In other words, a migrant may be found to have a legitimate asylum claim by the IRB, and after five years in this country is still subject to removal based a Minister-initiated regarding the country of origin.

Are we interested in providing asylum to refugees only until the trouble blows over, or are we interested in allowing refugees to build a new future for themselves and their families, free from the threat of arbitrary removal to their country of origin? If we have determined on one occasion that there is a significant risk of persecution, is it fair to return such refugees against their will to that same country?

Justin Trudeau, Liberal critic for Citizenship and Immigration, had this to say:
"As is usual when the Conservative government brings in a response, it's two things, it's increased sentences and sweeping discretionary powers for the Minister [...] They've tried to blur the distinction between immigrants and refugees. I mean, refugees are not queue jumpers, there is a process for refugees, there is not a queue. In blending refugees and immigrants, we're walking down a dangerous path."
Trudeau is right. The Bill calls for denying appeals regarding decisions of the Refugee Protection Division to uphold termination of refugee protection by the Minister:
"(2) Despite subsection (1), no appeal may be made in respect of the following:
(c) a decision of the Refugee Protection Division allowing or rejecting an application by the Minister for a determination that refugee protection has ceased; or
(d) a decision of the Refugee Protection Division allowing or rejecting an application by the Minister to vacate a decision to allow a claim for refugee protection."
We have an international obligation, enshrined in agreements like the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to provide safe harbour to migrants fleeing persecution. The Conservatives misguidedly villify the refugees and not the smugglers. The migrants are detained on arrival for up to a year. They are guilty until proven innocent. And the welcome we deign to provide can be rescinded five years later even if the refugee has done nothing to contribute to the reversal.

In fact, according to the Convention, I don't think Canada is permitted to do what this Bill proposes. We agreed that "The Contracting States shall not expel a refugee lawfully in their territory save on grounds of national security or public order." A change in the conditions of the country of origin has no bearing.

I don't want Canada's willingness to harbour refugees to be abused. I understand that concern. It's my tax dollars that are paying for the detention of these migrants too, and I don't want them squandered. I don't want to be duped. But our refugee claims processing needs to be properly resourced so we promptly identify claimants, assess their claim, return them if their claim is found to be without merit, and embrace them otherwise. If enough claimants are promptly turned away, the $50,000 stake they post to their smugglers is a longshot bet future migrants are unlikely to make.


Dude, You Have No Quran

I can't get enough of this autotune of Jacob Isom explaining how he foiled an attempted Quran burning in an Amarillo park. It was pretty easy, really. Jake snuck up behind him and took his Quran because he said something about burning a Quran. Then he was like, "Dude, you have no Quran."

have no Quran...have no Quran...


Harper: All Parliamentarians Have a Role

Harper was interviewed today on BNN by Kim Parlee. In response to Parlee's question, "Is this the time to suspend Parliament?" Harper replied:

SH: All Parliamentarians have a role. What the government is doing is taking the time to refresh its agenda [...] An agenda for the economic recovery [...] All of our members are out consulting with Canadians, and we invite members of the opposition to do the same and give us their input.

Really? My MP, Ron Cannan, has not issued a media advisory that he will be conducting any consultations on the economy. In fact, he hasn't issued a media advisory since September 2009. His calendar is wide open. After checking out the websites of other Conservative MPs in alphabetical order, Abbott, Albonczy, Aglukkaq, Albrecht, Allen, Allison, Ambrose, and finding no sign of pending consultations, I'm not sure who these members intend to consult, how they intend to notify them, or when they intend to do so. I think Allison's calendar is particularly telling:

While the House is prorogued, and the Parliamentary committees are disbanded, and no consultations are scheduled by the Conservative MPs, exactly what is the role of these Parliamentarians?

KP: Canada is seen as reliable, stable, even a financial haven right now. Even the Economist [...] has taken issue with you suspending parliament. Is there a risk that Canada's reputation and being stable is at risk because of this move?

SH: No, there's zero risk. Canada is and will remain the most, I think we're the most longest [sic] uninterrupted constitutional system in the world. Look I think that the uh, the games begin when Parliament returns, and the Government can take our time now to do the important work to prepare the economic agenda ahead. That said, as soon as Parliament comes back, we're in a minority Parliament situation, the first thing that happens is a vote of confidence, and there'll be votes of confidence and election speculation for every single week after that for the rest of the year. That's the kind of instability that markets are actually worried about.

Actually, the prorogation of Parliament sparked election speculation. There are several Hill insiders who suggest that's the case, that Harper has done the math and may be retooling, not for the economy, but for another election. That possibility is becoming increasingly remote, however, given the latest polling from EKOS which puts Conservatives only a few percentage points ahead of the Liberals, squandering a 14 point lead from October.

Regardless, talk about poison pill budgets; rejection of collaboration with other parties dismissed as separatists, socialists, and elites; and relentless attacks to the checks on the PM's authority have all done more to destabilize Canada's political fortunes than any other development since the creation of the Bloc Quebecois.

According to his former advisor, Tom Flanagan: "The Government's talking points really don't have much credibility. Everybody knows Parliament's prorogued to shut down the Afghan inquiry."

So, trust Stephen Harper when he says that all Parliamentarians have a role.

Apparently, it's just not in Parliament. Now I get it.


Connect The Dots at TGI Jihad's

From the Colbert Report tonight, a critique of the failure of the American intelligence community to "connect the dots" and pre-empt the Underwear Bomber.

"It's the easiest puzzle on the placemat at TGI Jihad's."


ProroGate: The scandal that brought down the Harper Government

Stephen Harper - Going Prorogue - A Canadian Tragedy
Much has been said about the affront to Canada's parliamentary democracy deployed during the winter doldrums by a secretive PM and a disappointingly compliant Governor General. All it took was a phone call to Rideau Hall. Then some schmuck from the PMO repeatedly told us that such prorogations are "routine," and that on this particular occasion, it was needed to allow the government to "recalibrate." These two words appeared as talking points by neoConservatives throughout the last week.

But many Canadians know that there was nothing routine about this prorogation. It was an extraordinary maneuver calculated to disband the parliamentary committee looking into the handling of Afghan detainees, to evade the order of parliament to supply comprehensive unredacted documents pertaining to the committee's hearing, to silence the discord in parliament prior to a possible spring election, and possibly to abandon some of the 37 bills on the legislative agenda should the government choose to be selective about which they reintroduce.

My shock on December 30 quickly morphed to anger, and then some sort of action. This being 2009, I started a facebook group. I started an online petition, urging the Governor General to reject Harper's request to prorogue parliament. And I delivered it to the Governor General twice, once only 12 hours after starting it—on New Year's Eve—and again a few days later. The number of signatures had tripled, and 9 provinces and territories are represented. Final delivery on Friday, January 8.

I read Andrew Coyne, Gloria Galloway, Michael Ignatieff, Rick Mercer, and others. But in truth, I only needed to read Coyne. His incisive critique of all the party leaders, Harper and Ignatieff in particular, belies his despair at the state of our democracy, one I share.

I talked to my brother, a Miltonian, about the Long Parliament that began in 1640. I even had the temerity to draft the text of an act similar to the one enacted by British parliamentarians in 1641 to ensure their relevance and the continuation of their session: An Act against Dissolving the Long Parliament without its own consent. I imagined that if the opposition parties could only decide to unite in purpose to reject the government's transparently self-serving action, that they would be able to hold Harper to account and we could throw the bums out.

We'll see. I've been unimpressed by the virtual indifference of the opposition leaders. A weak Op-Ed from an absent Ignatieff. Even less from Layton. Nothing could make Harper's case for the irrelevance of parliament more strongly than the absence—their actual physical absence!—of the two leaders from the public. In Harper's version of the Night of the Long Knives, his opponents are too sedated to hear the zing of the blade or feel its sting.

Here's hoping they wake up before it's too late.