Friday, August 31, 2007

Late Friday Night Ode To Corporatocracy

(Note: this is being posted early with a post-dated timestamp because I am leaving today for Québec City - and won't be back until Monday)

In keeping with a previous article of mine on When for-profit corporations rule the day, and considering the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor (and an ever squeezed middle class) in both Canada and the U.S.A. , I give you Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies (lyrics below the video):

Billion dollar baby
Rubber little lady, slicker than a weasel
Grimy as an alley
Loves me like no other lover
Billion dollar baby
Rubber little monster, baby, I adore you
Man or woman living couldn't love me like you, baby
We go dancing nighty in the attic
While the moon is rising in the sky
If I'm too rough, tell me
I'm so scared your little head will come off in my hands
I got you in the dimestore
No other little girl could everhold you
Any tighter, any tighter than me, bay
Billion dollar baby
Reckless like a gambler , million dollar maybe
Foaming like a dog that's been infected by the rabies
We go dancing nighty in the attic
While the moon is rising the sky
If I'm too rough , tell me
I'm so scared your little head will come off in my hands
Million dollar baby
Billion dollar bay
Trillion dollar baby
Zillion dollar baby

Henceforth - Keep on rockin'!

(And see you good folks back on Monday)

Addendum: please don't mind the current empty image slots and all on the blog. My host Internet-Québec is experiencing problems and all should return to normal soon - I hope. I apologize for the inconvenience. Problem fixed.

Quick One (Before I Go Away For The Week-End)

(Updated below)

I was just about to leave for Québec City when a regular reader of APOV (who shall remain anonymous by courtesy and appreciation on my part) brought to my attention this supremely hilarious example of (uncalled-for) utter childish boorishness (I will not link to what I have come to consider a feuille de chou of a blog):
August 31, 2007
Blogging hypocrite
This fellow (a lefty) here recently announced on another blog that my blog was beneath him -- at which point he pulled the link from his blogroll.
How quaint, then, that he should still spend such a lot of time reading my blog. At the time of writing this, he is actually online right now and reading my latest stuff. If you look in the sidebar on the far right and locate the widget, you'll see that "Mentarch" always figures in there (again, at the time of writing this, he's actually at the very top of the list).
I only wish that people who don't like this blog and even state so publicly actually practised what they preached and stayed away.
In other words, il n'y a pas plus vache (ou Vachon)!
Update: I have removed him from the widget and blocked him. Why should he get a free link on my blog, after all?
Posted by Werner Patels at 03:00 PM
Now I humbly ask you, good folks, to stop laughing at Mr. Patels (the so-called Alberta Spectator) for a short moment, if you please, so that I may chime in:

In addition to the fact that Mr. Patels is distorting the context and actual chain of events here (which I will not bother to redress for his sake, because that is the kind of generous person that I am), when a supposedly grown adult writes such "illuminatingly transcendent" prattle as what Mr. Patels wrote, one can only conclude that said person is a very little, infantile and petty intellectual sloth-driven incompetent human being.

(And for your information, Mr. Patels - the next-to-last time I suffered visiting your "blog" was in order to collect "mature, composed and thoughtful" comments posted by you and regarding me, on your site, which I posted here and here - I also invite folks to take a looksee at this Google cache of your post with said comments, which furthermore includes my own comment before you removed it and marked it "useless". The very last time I was at your "blog" was to copy/paste your silly entry directly regarding me and which I have now reproduced here. And so it goes with you, your self-importance, your paranoia and your incompetence, Mr. Patels. By the way - have you discarded the Thinking Blogger Award I sent your way back in June 2007, in a now-evident serious error of judgement on my part?)

Furthermore, I would be remiss if I did not mention the "composed, mature and reasoning" (unwelcome) e-mail Mr. Patels sent to me some three days ago (which surprised me, considering that I've never corresponded in such a manner with him prior) - you can read said e-mail and laugh all the more to your heart's content here. You will notice there that he calls me a wanker - indeed.

Then again, calling other people names like an enfant mal élevé appears to be Mr. Patels' forte.

Hence, that is all I have to say about this self-proclaimed "professional blogger" and will not again waste blog space at APOV regarding him.

Even if he responds with more attacks, or further omissions, alterations or distortions of context and chain of events, or all of the above.

Besides, I gotta leave - now. Have a great week-end, folks!

Oh - and do resume your laughter at Mr. Patels' expense ... he has, after all, brought it upon himself once again. ;-)

Addendum: while writing this, I received another (unwelcome) e-mail from Mr. Patels. It goes like this:
"Title: You spend a lot of time visiting my blog all the time
According to MyBlogLog, you spend a lot of time on my blog, which, according to you, is rubbish. How quaint -- and hypocritical. I think I'll have to write a post about that. Actually, right now, you are the most recent visitor in the MyBlogLog group. Tut, tut -- why don't you practise what you preach, you hypocrite?

Monsieur Vachon (vache?), you are not exactly setting an example for the academic community ....
I humbly stand corrected - Mr. Patels is a very little, infantile, petty and puerile intellectual sloth-driven incompetent human being, in addition to being in serious need of psychological counseling.

(Furthermore, he apparently does not understand that not everyone is a member of MyBlogLog or that members are not always logged in - otherwise, I could easily make the very same intellectual sloth-driven conclusion about him visiting my blog, as he does with me. To see what I mean, simply slide down the right sidebar and look at the MyBlogLog widget, as well as the Criteo Widget - as of writing this, Mr. Patels stands at the very top of both widgets.)

And to consider that I am the one who is supposed to be the purported wanker, here ...

Q.E.D. - indeed.

You may resume, good folks, your howling laughter at Mr. Patels' expense ;-)

Addendum II: 09/01/2007 - While driving on my way to Québec City yesterday, it dawned on me that in my rush to write this post in order to undertake the two an a half hour drive, I omitted to address another matter regarding Mr. Patels - I am referring here to his taunt (in his post and concomitant e-mail, both reproduced above) by drawing on the similarity between my family name, Vachon, and the word vache (cow - in English). Now that I have a bit of time here in la ville de Québec, I will now proceed to do so. To this effect, allow me to share a bit of trivia from my youth: the last occurrence of my being taunted in such a way as Mr. Patels did, specifically by drawing upon said similarity between my family name and the word vache, happened when I was ...

(Now wait for it ...)

... in 3rd grade.

I. Kid. You. Not.

Hence, this rather speaks volumes about Mr. Patels', ah, level of maturity - wouldn't you say?

Werner Patels: self-proclaimed professional blogger (and essayist, columnist, editorialist, writer, pundit, commentator, observer) indeed ...

It goes without saying that you may now once again laugh aloud at his expense ;-)

Addendum III: 09/02/2007 - Mr. Patels apparently has removed/deleted his childish post regarding me (along with practically all of his August posts, some of which viciously invited people to stalk other bloggers), being obviously unable to take responsibility and owe up to his behavior like the true, cowardly incompetent that he is. No matter: here is a Google cache of said post as proof. I've likewise kept the e-mails he sent me ...

Update: 09/05/2007 - Another APOV reader alerted me yesterday to another post of Mr. Patels on one of his other blogs, whereby he obliquely apologized to yours truly in the following manner (Google cache here):
"Apologies must go, in particular, to this blogger, who got hit by 'unfriendly fire'."
Although I would not qualify Mr. Patels' gesture as "faire amende honorable", that - as they say - is that.

APOV's Friday Weekly Revue (08/31/2007)

If it's Friday, then it is time again for APOV's weekly revue!

Let us check once again on some of the various news departments of the blogosphere and what they had to say:

From The "Real-World Realism Fact-Checking" Department:
Talking realism with the foreign policy establishment;

Revisionism: it's all good;

What is science and what has Bush done to it?;

Afghan War: funding B.S. from the U.S. DoD;

And The difference between the surge and the success story.
From The "Hypocritical Hypocrites And The Hypocrisies That They Display" Department:
Eric Edelman: asking for war plans is helping the enemy;

Bathroom behavior and the American right wing;

New Orleans: from those who brought you Iraq reconstruction ...;

Hypocrisy of family values voters and champions;

Canadian right wing = American right wing;

Government of Canada's stand against Indigenous people;

And Please stop thanking me for my service.
From The "Assaults On Laws And Constitutions" Department:
Constitutional laws and treaties of the U.S.A.: going down the drain?;

Calling all Canadian constitutional lawyers!;

And Democracy: just another Canadian inconvenience.
And last, but not least - from The "We're Screwed!" Department:
Current credit problems are nothing compared with what's to come.
Well, that is it for now - until next week, enjoy the read!

Call To Action: Job Protection For Canadian Reservists

(08/31/2007 - Bumped. As of this morning, we have 82 signatures. We can do a lot better than that for our armed forces reservists. C'mon, folks: go sign the petition, please!)

Via My Blahg:
"I’ve started up a new facebook group with the purpose of sending a message to Ottawa that legislation protecting the jobs of Canadian reservists who volunteer to serve our country on extended overseas missions should be enacted.

I’ve also started up a petition to go along with it.
To: Canadian House of Commons

Canadian reservists frequently volunteer to serve our country in extended overseas missions. Unfortunately our country–with the exception of the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia–does not recognize their sacrifice and some reservists return home only to face the unemployment line.

This situation is simply not fair to the men and women who put their lives on the line for their fellow Canadians.

Therefore we believe it’s long overdue for the Canadian government to enact federal legislation that will protect the jobs of reservists who volunteer to serve in extended overseas missions.
Empty gestures like ribbons and red t-shirts are not the way to support our troops.
Go. Sign. The. Petition.

There's really no need to explain why, isn't there?

And thank you in advance for supporting our troops - the right kind of way.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Time For Major Reforms In Courts-Martial?

A court-martial is a military court who is convened to determine the guilt, or innocence, of military men and women that have been accused of violating the code of military justice. These military courts can determine punishments subject to military law for members of the military who are found guilty, or may dismiss the charges based on the evidence and/or the case presented.

This sounds essentially similar to a civil judicial court, right? But seemingly all too often, courts-martial are more interested in preserving the image of the military and protecting it from scandal as best as possible, rather than being truly vested in establishing truth in determining guilt or innocence of the accused.

The institution of courts-martial dates back to the early history of armies. To this effect, the modern courts-martial are rooted in systems that predate written military codes and which were designed to bring order and discipline to fighting forces.

Since it is not my intention herein to discuss the full history of courts-martial as well as their evolution, I would first invite you to read here (U.S.A.), here (U.S.A.) and here (Canada), as starting points if you wish to learn more on this subject.

Second, I would simply point out that court-martial judges, juries, as well as both the defense and prosecuting counsels, are officers themselves - and thus each and all quite open and susceptible to pressures from higher-ranked officers in the performance as well as objectivity of their roles within said courts.

Yes, there may be military courts of appeals with civilian judges presiding, as well as some form of oversight from civilian legislative bodies, but let us put aside our well-intentioned and meaning naïveté here for a moment and remember the "superb" oversight job our duly elected representatives have been doing for the last seven years or more. Besides, courts of appeal, whether civilian or military, can only hear cases if these are actually presented to them. Furthermore, no such court has the power to decide the initiation of a judiciary review of any case on its own (at least to my knowledge and I've certainly never heard of such an exceptional occurrence, if this ever happened).

Hence, when justice is miscarried in one way or another in a court-martial because of military political and/or image interests, there will be little chances that a case will find its way to a military court-martial appeals court - at the very least, certainly not by way of a military defense counsel seeking to continue his/her job of representing his/her client (in case of a guilty verdict), or by way of a military prosecutor (in case of a non-guilty verdict), if the case constituted a military image/reputation problem right from the beginning.

Here are two recent cases to support my point (among so many occurences throughout the last two decades only):

I) Female airman claims rape, ends up on trial herself (emphasis mine):
The case is that of Airman Cassandra Hernandez, who has stated that she was raped by three fellow airmen (...) she admitted having drunk 'a lot' at a party before accompanying three male colleagues to a dorm room. She acknowledged that her memory of events is fuzzy, but said she definitely remembers saying 'No' and trying to push the men away. The three men allege that Hernandez started taking off her clothes and that the sex which followed was consensual (...) A hearing was originally set on the rape charges, but after harsh pre-trial questioning, Hernandez decided not to testify. At that point the Air Force brought lesser charges against all four airmen, citing Hernandez for underage drinking and 'indecent acts'. The three men accepted minor punishments, while Hernandez refused. She is now facing a court-martial and could be jailed or expelled from the Air Force. At the same time, the three men have been granted immunity in their testimony against her.
II) Junior ranks take flak for Abu Ghraib (emphasis mine):
The acquittal of a US army colonel on charges relating to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib means no officers have been found criminally guilty (...) The officer, Lt-Col Steven Jordan, was found not guilty by a military jury of failing to train and supervise the soldiers under his authority at Abu Ghraib. Instead he was convicted of breaking an order not to discuss the case. He was reprimanded (...) Two (other) officers were subject to disciplinary punishments. Col Thomas Pappas, the senior military intelligence officer at the prison, was reprimanded and had pay deducted for dereliction of duty. This included allowing dogs to be present at interrogations. Brig-Gen Janis Karpinski, the officer in charge of Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq, was reduced in rank to colonel for dereliction of duty (...) The burden of criminal guilt has fallen on the junior ranks, 10 of whom have been convicted. Spc Charles Graner and his then girlfriend Lynndie England (...) got 10 and three years respectively (...) Sgt Ivan Frederick, the most senior of the soldiers convicted, was given eight years. Another of the (guards), Sabrina Harman, was sentenced to six months.
These two instances are quite revealing, no?

In the first case, the poor airwoman finds herself not only a victim of gross injustice, but gets to have insult added to injury by facing a court-martial herself - with the deck outrageously and cruelly stacked against her. All in the name of an obvious exercise of incompetence-driven expediency, in order to protect and preserve the image and reputation of the Air Force. What are her chances of being found not guilty, do you think?

And in the second case, well ... let's call it a political whitewash all over, whereby the military brass gets off essentially scott-free and the grunts get all the blame - and the prison time. Yet more blatant incompetent behavior at work here, indeed.

In any case, all those service men and women, whether deservedly guilty or not, or whether they will be found guilty, will have to hire civilian lawyers to take their cases to a military court-martial appeals court if they wish to contest their verdicts, because no military defense counsel will risk their careers and chances at promotion by accepting to represent them past the courts-martial. Not convinced? Then hear it from the military lawyers themselves, just with regards to them acting as defense counsels for Gitmo detainees in those infamous military commissions: any legal victories could come at a "steep cost".

Still not convinced? Then here is Marine Corps Maj. Michael Mori, who represented Australian Gitmo (tortured) detainee David Hicks with dedication and resolve: A) the chief military prosecutor sent to the judge in charge of the military commissions an email informing the latter that Mori may have violated Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, relating to Mori's outspoken comments with regards to torture and such - considering that penalties for this potentially include jail and the loss of both employment and accrued entitlements, this was clearly an attempt at intimidating Mori's dedication with the threat of a possible court-martial and/or at subverting a military judge's objectivity; and B) following Hicks' conviction and departure from Gitmo (to complete his sentence in Australia), Mori was re-assigned as a staff judge advocate, or legal adviser, while having been passed twice over for promotion since taking on the Hicks case.

In addition, do you really think that any military lawyer, who performed as prosecutor of those officers involved in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, will contest the slaps on the wrists the accused received to a military court-martial appeals court? No, because they can't according to military justice.

Ergo: courts-martial are too vulnerable and susceptible at miscarrying justice through manipulations and threats from the military brass.

My suggestion?

Let's reform courts-martial once and for all, so that from now on any criminal act as defined by our civil laws involving a military person (as a victim or as an accused), and whether said alleged criminal act was performed on a base, in the field of combat or out of a base, as well as whether in the home country or abroad, be treated like any criminal act involving a non-military - i.e. due process of charging and prosecuting in a civilian court of law.

In other words: remove criminal codes/provisions from the Military Code of Conduct and leave what remains (i.e. dereliction of duty, desertion, obeying orders, etc.) to actual courts-martial. But misdemeanors and felonies, as defined by our civilian criminal codes, should remain the sole purview of civilian courts.


In addition, such a fundamental change of scope would automatically render "secret military tribunals", "renditions" and "military commissions" as defunct, grossly misguided aberrations of the due process, administration and dispensation of civilian justice.

Our civilian justice systems are not perfect - but they are certainly better than what military courts-martial have proven themselves to be so far - since the dawn of military history.

Time to change this, indeed.

(Cross-posted at Suzie-Q)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iran: Here We Go ...

"Mushroom cloud as the smoking gun", anyone?

President Bush, not to be outdone, has one better: "The shadow of a nuclear holocaust".

In the first case, it was about Iraq, WMDs and regime change.

In the second case, this is about Iran, WMDs ... and regime change.

This is what I wrote previously:
"(...) the surge must at least appear to be successful in the minds of Americans so that A) the Iraq adventure does not come off as the paragon of utter incompetence, stupidity and failure that it is; in order for B) justify the need for troops to remain in Iraq to keep the surge going; and therefore C) pre-establishing a launching pad for the soon-to-come Iran War.


Just think about this, if only for a moment: what else is there left to do after designating a country's elite army as a terrorist organization?

Why, launch a military campaign against it, of course.

Not convinced? Then how about the recent agreement between Iran and the United Nations atomic authority, concerning a timetable for Tehran to answer concerns about its nuclear program, which has been deemed "not sufficient" by the U.S.?

Same thing as when President Bush kept declaring "not sufficient" the ouvertures of the Taliban with regards to Osama bin Laden prior to the Afghanistan War, or the reports from U.N. inspectors prior to the Iraq War indicating that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs.

In essence, what we have here is a replay of the build up to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but at a more insidious and slower pace. Nevertheless, an Iran War will be happening in a TV near you within six months.


The Iran War will be mostly conducted through aerial bombardments - and possibly (at least low-yield) nuclear weapons thrown in here and there. In the absence of a draft, the troops stationed in Iraq will serve largely to "hold the fort" while aerial bombarments, from Iraq air bases and/or the aforementioned U.S. aircraft carriers, pound away at Iran in order to send it howling with righteous rage and rancor back to the stone age.

Not unlike what Israel did to Lebanon last summer.


If only because the way to success for the Iraq surge goes through Iran."
Now, here's what Glenn Greenwald wrote today:

"(...) Viewed through the prism of presidential jargon, Bush's vow -- "We will confront this danger before it is too late" -- is synonymous with a pledge to attack Iran unless our array of demands are met. He is unmistakably proclaiming that unless Iran gives up its nuclear program and fundamentally changes its posture in the Middle East, "we will confront this danger." What possible scenario could avert this outcome?

By now it is unmistakably clear that it is not only -- or even principally -- Iran's nuclear program that is fueling these tensions.


In other words, we "seek" a new government in Iran. Are there really people left who believe, with confidence, that Bush is going to leave office without commencing or provoking a military confrontation with Iran?

(...) The path we are on -- with 160,000 of our troops in Iran's neighbor, escalating war-threatening rhetoric, and increasingly provocative acts -- is obviously the path to war.

The Iraq debate is over, at least from the perspective of actual results. It has been over for some time. The Congress is never going to force Bush to withdraw from Iraq. We are going to remain in Iraq in more or less the same posture through the end of the Bush presidency. That is just a fait accompli. The real issue of grave importance that remains unresolved is Iran, and it is hard to find causes for optimism there either."
Thereafter, Mr. Greenwald goes on to make similar points as your truly made in previous posts here, here and here, with regards to the motivations of the neocons and Christianists who have been clamoring for a war with Iran.

Shorter version from little old moi:
Whether it is a belief in some sort of Manifest Destiny, an intractable acceptance of the (false) principle that "might makes right", a desire for de facto Imperialism (whether Holy in nature or not), outright incompetence, sheer madness, or all of the above - there will be nonetheless war with Iran.

Looks like my opinions are in good company after all, eh?

But levity aside, the matter is most grave for all of us - especially for the Middle East.

As I said before: it is not a matter of "if", but of "when".

The war with Iran is coming - and make no mistake about it.

(Cross-posted at DKos, at Suzie-Q, at NION and at Diatribune)

Illegal Domestic Spying: (Again) Where Is Our Canadian MSM?

One more time, from the U.K. Guardian Unlimited: does the gutting of FISA allows U.S. to spy on Britons?

Still a damn interesting question ...

Indeed, almost twenty days ago now, I asked the following:
Considering A) the propensity of the current Canadian (neocon) government to not only follow in the footsteps of the Bush administration, but to actually emulate it; B) the clearly established propensity of the Bush administration to spy and monitor (illegally or not) and, as in many other things, lie and lie about it, then ask for more; C) the demonstrated stance of the Bush administration to demand full information-sharing from Canada and yet arrogantly refusing to disclose all its knowledge (if it really has any) concerning Maher Arar in support of its decision to keep him on the terrorist watch list; D) the demonstrated propensity of the RCMP and CSIS to unquestioningly share data with the FBI and the CIA; E) the still remaining lack of oversight of the RCMP and CSIS; F) the fact that the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) — the functional equivalent of the NSA — may be authorized once again to perform the same kind of domestic spying in Canada as in the U.S.A., as it was authorized before; and G) the now-apparent primacy of the Third-Party Rule in Canada;

I) To which extent is the privacy of Canadian citizens being illegally invaded, through indiscriminate sharing of private information and data, for the benefit of the FBI and CIA - in clear violation of our privacy of information laws?

II) To which extent Canadian citizens are being illegally spied and monitored, either by the RCMP, CSIS, the CSE, the FBI, the CIA or the NSA, in clear violation of our constitutional rights?

And last, but not least, III) Why is there not a single Canadian MSM journalist currently asking these questions?
Furthermore, I stated to this effect:
These questions are critical because - and regardless of claims to the contrary - the security agencies of Canada and the U.S.A. have been exposed not as seekers of truth, but as seekers of guilt.

And this altogether constitutes a drastically different game from the innocent until proven guilty one that we cherish so - Canadians and Americans alike.

More than ever, it appears that Canadians and Americans are riding fast down the same road to perdition with regards to their human rights, their civil liberties and their constitutions.

All in the sacro-sanct name of Security.

The U.K. MSM seems to be awake on this - so I ask again: were's our Canadian MSM?!?

Fully asleep at the switch, as usual.

Isn't it time that we bloggers do the work for them once again, as we did with regards to the bungling S.Q. undercover agents and those "riding liaisons" unlawfully appointed by the Harper government?

(Cross-posted at A Creative Revolution)

Open Letter To: Monsieur Stephen Harper

To: The Right Honorable Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen J. Harper;

Re: To cease and desist with regards to the unlawful excercise of appointing Conservative Party "governmental liaisons" in ridings with, or without, duly elected MPs;

Dear Mr. Prime Minister Harper;

As a Canadian who holds our Constitution to the highest respect, as well as a law-abiding and tax-paying citizen, it was with dismay and outrage that I received news that you appointed Sharon Smith, currently Mayor of Houston B.C. and CPC candidate-to-be in the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding, as said riding's liaison with your government - despite the fact that this same riding already has a duly elected MP, Nathan Cullen (NDP).

Perhaps have you forgotten, Mr. Prime Minister, that the very, basic job definition of a riding's MP is to bring to the House of Commons - and therefore to the government - concerns or issues that constituents of said riding have with the federal government?

Apprently you have, considering that the appointment of Sharon Smith does not constitute an isolated instance. Indeed, we are now hearing news that you have similarly appointed "liaisons" in the Western Arctic and the Vancouver Island North ridings, despite the fact that these ridings already have duly elected MPs - albeit not of the CPC.

Consequently, Sir, there is a clear pattern at work on your part, here.

Need I remind you, Mr. Prime Minister, of the blatant unconstitutionality in the exercise of appointing such liaisons? That such appointments represent outright attempts at subverting our democratic process of parliamentary representation and governance?

It would seem that there is need to, and thus I have.

Consequently, I hereby respectfully, but adamantly, demand that you cease and desist such a practice of appointing liaisons, which obviously stand in direct violation of our Constitution.

Furthermore, and regardless of whether the initiation of such an unlawful practice resulted from a misguided political CPC electoral strategy, whether such a course of action was enacted with the full knowledge and awareness of its unconstitutional nature, or all of the above, I hereby demand of you, Mr. Prime Minister, that you do the honorable thing and resign from your office.

After all, I have no doubt whatsoever that you would be among the first to demand the same of any other Prime Minister who has so blatantly failed to protect, preserve, defend and respect our constitutional laws as well as our democratic process - as you have evidently done here.

All things considered, and as you would surely say: this is not just a matter of Law, but furthermore a matter of principles, ethics and moral values.

Best regards;

Pierre H. Vachon
August 29, 2007


(This is a letter that I have sent to Monsieur Harper. If you wish to do the same, please feel free to copy/paste it and send as is. In any case, I encourage you to keep a respectful and civil tone.)

Snail mail:
Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen J. Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900


(Cross-posted at A Creative Revolution)

Monday, August 27, 2007

When For-Profit Corporations Rule The Day

By now, we've gotten used to hearing voices from lobbyists and politicians for the need to make government less costly and more efficient by outsourcing its services through awarding contracts to the private sector. All for the good of free market competitiveness, thus ensuring better services at cheaper costs - right?

Among many of the dark, sad and tragic tales and lessons that the Iraq War keeps serving us, if not actually reminding us of, there is one which offers us a glimpse into the future of for-profit corporation-provided governmental services and for-profit corporation direct influence, if not control, over our lives.

This future is dystopic and inhuman - frighteningly enough, this is not science-fiction but reality ... today.

As I have stated before, I am all for a free market-based economy. Indeed, competition drives initiative and creativity, leading to better (or new) products as well as to better (or new) services, and henceforth to a better and greater choice for consummers. This in turn will usually translate well into job creation or maintenance, along with better salaries. And this in turn will usually translate into better individual spending powers and higher standards of living.

However, trusting in corporations to "do the right thing" with regards to the welfare of society, citizens, employees, et al., is pure nonsense. The reality is that companies and corporations live by one thing and one thing only: the bottom line. Hence, companies and corporations will do anything, regardless of whether they initially had good intentions or not, to keep profits not only high but also to increase them as well. In other words, companies and corporations will cheat, lie or steal, even go as far as to use spying, sabbotage and violence, as means to protect and increase their profit margins. This is simply the nature of the beast.

Therefore, just like societies need laws to place clear definitions of what is acceptable, non-criminal conduct for their citizens, so must there also be laws to place clear definitions of what is acceptable, non-criminal conduct for companies.

Some call these "regulations". I call these necessities, just like criminal laws for the citizenry. After all, laws serve to maintain the welfare, peace and prosperity of society overall.

To prove my point, behold what happens when a government abrogates its responsibility of competently awarding and overseeing the contracts it grants to for-profit companies and corporations:
"According to the most reliable ­estimates, (the U.S. government has) doled out more than $500 billion for the (Iraq) war, as well as $44 billion for the Iraqi reconstruction effort. And what did America's contractors give us for that money? They built big steaming shit piles, set brand-new trucks on fire, drove back and forth across the desert for no reason at all and dumped bags of nails in ditches. (...) what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success?"
This quote is taken from Matt Taibbi's lengthy and sobering article from Rolling Stone of August 23, 2007, which details how for-profit contractors have been given no-bid contracts and how they've essentially raided the U.S. Treasury by essentially stealing, cheating and willfully not providing the services they were contracted for, all in the name of maximizing profits - while aided and abetted by the mind-numbing incompetence of the Bush administration.

Need I stress how it is eye-opening and crucial that you read this article?

If anything, what has happened (and keeps happening) in Iraq with contractors constitutes the first and foremost argument for the need to have companies and corporations to obey laws, just like every citizens. As I said above, call said laws "regulations" if you will - nevertheless, laws on due process of contract awarding through an appropriately regulated submission process, as well as rigorous boundaries imposed for the fulfillment of contracts, in addition to codified acceptable behavior by companies and corporations (as in our case) and corporate responsibility, are a matter of necessity for the continuity of our democratic societies founded upon the Rule of Law.

Why? Because, once again, all that matters to a company or corporation in the end of the day is the bottom line.

No noble principles of patriotism, no social obligations, no moral imperatives, nor even basic human decency and compassion, can twart the nature of this beast.

For decades, we have been witnessess to this truism.

Tobacco companies lying about the dangers of tobacco smoking.

Corporations hiding fabrication or design flaws in products like tires, cars, and whatnot, and nonetheless selling them.

Insurance (life, health, fire, theft, etc.) companies always seeking any and all justifications to lower awards for rightful claims, if not actually deny them. Same thing with agreeing or denying life-saving medical treatments or procedures.

Companies and corporations raiding the retirement funds of their employees.

Companies and corporations always skimming on the production/construction costs of their contracts so as to maximize profits - often resulting in shoddy and defective products/services, sometimes with dangerous consequences.

Companies and corporations (such as airlines) cutting back on quality control, safety protocols, maintenance repairs, and inspection protocols - all in order to save more bucks, regardless of the tragic consequences.

And so on and so forth.

Any and all means, rationales and excuses are valid to maximize profit. Case in point (emphases mine):
"For all the creative ways that contractors came up with to waste, mismanage and steal public money in Iraq, the standard remained good old-fashioned fucking up. Take the case of the Basra Children's Hospital, a much-ballyhooed 'do-gooder' project championed by Laura Bush and Condi Rice. This was exactly the sort of grandstanding, self-serving, indulgent and ultimately useless project that tended to get the go-ahead under reconstruction. Like the expensive telephone-based disease-notification database approved for use in hospitals without telephones, or the natural-gas-powered electricity turbines green­lighted for installation in a country without ready sources of natural gas, the Basra Children's Hospital was a state-of-the-art medical facility set to be built in a town without safe drinking water. (Contractor) Bechtel was given $50 million to build the hospital (...) with the price tag soaring to $169 million (a year later)."
Or this (emphasis mine):
"When (contractor) Custer Battles was caught delivering broken trucks to the Army, a military official says the company told him, 'We were only told we had to deliver the trucks. The contract doesn't say they had to work.'"
Or this (emphasis mine):
"In another stroke of genius, (contractor Custer Battles) found a bunch of abandoned Iraqi Airways forklifts on airport property, repainted them to disguise the company markings and billed them to U.S. taxpayers as new equipment."
Or this (emphasis mine):
"(A private construction company) wins a contract from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to design and build the Baghdad Police College, a facility that's supposed to house and train at least 4,000 police recruits. But two years and $72 million later, (the company) delivers not a functioning police academy but one of the great engineering clusterfucks of all time, a practically useless pile of rubble so badly constructed that its walls and ceilings are literally caked in shit and piss, a result of subpar plumbing in the upper floors (...) when auditors from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction visited the college (...), their report sounded like something out of one of the Saw movies: 'We witnessed a light fixture so full of diluted urine and feces that it would not operate,' they write, adding that 'the urine was so pervasive that it had permanently stained the ceiling tiles' and that 'during our visit, a substance dripped from the ceiling onto an assessment team member's shirt.'"
Or this (emphasis mine):
"An Air Force vet, (Russell) Skoug had come to Iraq as a civilian to repair refrigeration units and air conditioners for a KBR subcontractor called LSI. But when he arrived, he discovered that LSI had hired him to fix Humvees (...) Working with him on his crew were two other refrigeration technicians, neither of whom (likewise) knew anything about fixing Humvees (...) Thanks to low troop ­levels, all the military repair guys had been pressed into service to fight the war, so Skoug was forced to sit in the military storeroom on the base and study vehicle manuals that, as a civilian, he wasn't allowed to check out of the building. That was how America fought terrorism in Iraq: It hired civilian air-conditioning techs to fix Humvees using the instruction manual while the real Humvee repairmen, earning a third of what the helpless civilians were paid, drove around in circles outside the wire waiting to get blown up by insurgents (...) After much pleading and cajoling, Skoug managed to convince LSI to let him repair some refrigeration units. But it turned out that the company didn't have any tools for the job."
Yet through it all, we keep hearing the calls to downsize government by outsourcing the basic services it is meant to provide to private contractors.

As the Rolling Stone article illustrates, this is a recipe for disaster.

Not only for the basic functions of our society, but for human beings as well.

Here's one example (emphases mine):
"When civilian employees complained about looting or other improprieties, contractors sometimes threatened to throw them outside the gates of their bases - a life-threatening situation for any American. Robert Isakson, a former FBI agent who worked for (contractor) Custer Battles, says that when he refused to go along with one scam involving a dummy company in Lebanon, he was detained by company security guards, who seized his ID badge and barred him from the base in Baghdad. He eventually had to make a hazardous, Papillon-esque journey across hostile Iraq to Jordan just to survive."
And another (emphasis mine):
"James Garrison, who worked at a KBR ice plant in Al Asad, recalls an incident when Indian employees threatened to go on strike: "They pulled a bus up, got them in there and said, 'We'll ship you outside the front gate if you want to go on strike.'" Not surprisingly, the workers changed their mind about a work stoppage."
And last, but not least, let us check on Mr. Russell Skoug again (emphases mine):
"(...) he impressed the executives at Wolfpack enough to hire him away from LSI for $10,000 a month. The job required Skoug, who had been given no formal security training, to travel regularly on dangerous convoys between bases. Wolfpack issued him an armored vehicle, a Yugoslav-made AK-47 and a handgun, and wished him luck (...) insurgent activity in his area increased to the point where the soldiers leading his convoys would often drive only at night and without lights. Skoug and his co-workers asked Wolfpack to provide them with night-vision goggles that cost as little as $1,000 a pair, but the company refused (...) the soldiers leading the convoy refused to let Skoug drive his own vehicle back to Heet without night-vision goggles. So a soldier took Skoug's car, and Skoug was forced to be a passenger in a military vehicle. 'We start out the front gate, and I find out that the truck that I was in was the frickin' lead truck,' he recalls. 'And I'm going, 'Oh, great.'' (...) The bomb went off about a half-hour later, ripping through the truck floor and destroying four inches of Skoug's left femur (...) Skoug was loaded into the back of a Humvee, his legs hanging out, and evacuated to an Army hospital in Germany before being airlifted back to the States (...) When Skoug arrived, it was his wife, Linda, who had to handle all his affairs. She was the one who arranged for an air ambulance to take him to Houston, where she had persuaded an orthopedic hospital to admit him as a patient. She had to do this because almost right from the start, Wolfpack washed its hands of Russell Skoug. The insurance policy he had been given turned out to be useless - the company denied all coverage, beginning with a $72,597 bill for his stay in the German hospital. Despite assurances from Wolfpack chief Mark Atwood that he would cover all Skoug's expenses, neither he nor the insurance company would pay for the $16,000 trip in the air ambulance. Nobody paid for the operations Skoug had in Houston - as many as three a day, every day for a month. And nobody paid for his subsequent rehab stint in another Houston hospital - despite the fact that military law requires every company contracting with the government to fully insure all of its employees in the war zone. Now that he's out, sitting at home on his couch with only partial use of his left hand and left leg, Skoug has a stack of unpaid medical bills almost three inches tall (...) When Linda Skoug petitioned Atwood for help, he refused, pointing out that he had kept his now-useless employee on the payroll for four whole months before firing him. 'After I have put forth to help you all out,' he wrote in an e-mail, 'you are going to get on me for your husband not having insurance.' He even implied that Skoug had brought the accident upon himself by allowing the Army to place him at the head of the convoy: 'He was not even suppose [sic] to be in the lead vehicle to begin with.'"
These examples, especially the last one, illustrate the inherent danger to employees when they find themselves at the mercy of companies and corporations without any laws to protect the employees and/or laws to keep such practices in firm, legally criminal check.

Such laws are needed because that is how a company or corporation will act when it is not bound by any laws. It is the nature of the beast. We have seen this ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

As the Rolling Stone article so accutely states (emphasis mine):
"(The Iraq no-bid contracting situation provides) a window into the soul of for-profit contractors who not only left behind a breathtaking legacy of fraud, waste and corruption but, through their calculating, greed-fueled hijacking of this generation's broadest and most far-reaching foreign-policy initiative, pushed America into previously unknown realms of moral insanity."
When kept unchecked, the need for maximization of profits will inevitably lead to fraud and corruption, as well as to a blatant disregard and abuse of human dignity, human civil liberties and human rights. I repeat here: no noble principles of patriotism, social obligations, moral imperatives or even basic human decency and compassion can twart this.

And now Iraq shows us the truth of it once again.

But of course, this is not just happening in Iraq - we need only look in our own backyards. Two recent examples, among so many:

Via Accidental Deliberations - "(The) private airport security firm Garda had let thousands of airline passengers board Canadian flights with little or no security screening - and (the Harper government) renewed a federal contract with Garda (nonetheless) (...) not only has Garda's track record failed to improve, but the company's employees who took the violations public have been removed from their jobs."

And via yours truly - "Looking for new ways to trim the fat and boost workers' health, some employers are starting to make overweight employees pay if they don't slim down. Others, citing growing medical costs tied to obesity, are offering fit workers lucrative incentives that shave thousands of dollars a year off health care premiums."

I wrote previously that the one and only purpose of government is "to preserve and protect our rights and civil liberties, while dispensing those services that we require - and yes, one such service is the encouragement of the creation of riches and prosperity ... for us. A government is by nature and definition a non-profit organization which we entrust and hold accountable, by giving to it the monies that are necessary for the performance of its function. No more, no less."

What has been happening in Iraq, with regards to contractors there, provides us with a dark, foreboding and cautionary tale by giving a glimpse into a future whereby unchecked for-profit corporation-provided governmental services and for-profit corporation direct influence over our lives, if not actual control, come to rule the day.

Is this what we really want?

Addendum: Let's Talk About It asks: "Where's the money going?"

(Cross-posted at DKos, at NION, at Suzie-Q, at Progressive Historians and at Diatribune)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Update Notice - 08/26/2007

The following articles have been updated:

Got War?: one update;

And True Patriot Vs False Patriot: one update.


Open Letter To/Lettre Ouverte À: Monsieur Jean Charest

À: Le Très Honorable Premier Ministre du Québec, Jean Charest;
To: The Right Honorable Prime Minister of Québec, Jean Charest;

Objet: Besoins d'une enquête publique concernant les agissements de la Sûreté du Québec pendant et après Montebello, 2007;
Re: Need for a public inquiry into Sûreté du Québec actions during and after Montebello 2007;

(English version)

Dear Mr. Prime Minister Charest;

By now, like many Québecois and Canadians alike, you are quite aware of the events which transpired during a peaceful protest against the 2007 SPPNA meeting in Montebello, whereby three undercover officers from the Sûreté du Québec were outed by other protesters. In the now-famous video of the incident, we can clearly see, among many a revealing thing, that one of the officers is carrying a rock - which he refuses to drop at the behest of other protesters - while said same officer pushed and shoved one of the protesters who called on him and his collegues drop the rock and leave the protest (among other reasonable, justified and lawful demands in order to preserve the calm and peaceful nature of the protest).

The overall behavior of the Sûreté undercover officers in itself demands an independent public inquiry, especially considering that the three officers were apparently acting in frustration at being outed and consequently acted unprofessionally in addition to commiting assault (as defined by our very own Code Criminel). Furthermore, the initial public denials by la Sûreté that said three men were indeed undercover agents, followed by the ludicrous claim that said undercover officers were given throwing objects and were subsequently outed because they refused to throw them, constitute unacceptable blatant lies to the public which likewise demand an independent inquiry. Last but not least, considering the aforementioned behavior of the three Sûreté officiers as well as that of the Sûreté itself, the question remains to be firmly established whether or not the undercover officers were there to function as agents provocateur, to what extent such tactics are used by the S.Q., how legally warranted and valid such tactics are, and to what extent the use of such practices actually contributes to the initiation of violence during protests.

Although Public Safety Minister of Canada Stockwell Day continues to spread the disinformation as a means of "defense" that the S.Q. agents were given the rocks and consequently were outed for refusing to throw them, I would like to remind you, Monsieur Charest, that the S.Q. is under our provincial jurisdiction and oversight.

Consequently, I join my voice to the calls on Public Security Minister of Québec Jacques Dupuis to answer for the actions of the S.Q. during and after the Montebello 2007 SPPNA meeting, by adding that a public inquiry into the matter is required here - if only to ascertain what improvements and/or changes in practices/tactics may be required from now on at la Sûreté du Québec.

That the S.Q. has pledged voluntarily to review on its own its practices constitutes an encouraging step in the right direction; however, this is obviously not enough.

Indeed, I am convinced that there is no need on my part to emphasize to you, Mr. Prime Minister, of the critical need for transparency and accountability on the part of our provincial police force, thus allowing it to insure the performance of the excercise of its service and protection duties for our communities with honor and excellence, and that only through independent, public inquiries may flaws and mistakes in the Sûreté's practices be clearly and objectively identified, therefore providing the opportunity for improvements to be recommended and enacted, consequently impacting positively on the welfare and safety of not only the dedicated Sûreté du Québec officers, but as well on the welfare and safety of all Québecois and Québecoises.

I thank you in advance for your time and consideration;

Most respectfully yours;

Best regards;

(Version française)

Cher Monsieur le Premier Ministre Charest;

Tout comme plusieurs Québecois et Canadiens, vous êtes assurément au courant des évènements qui auront transpiré lors d'une manifestation paisible contre le sommet-rencontre du PSPAN 2007 à Montebello, où trois agents infiltrateurs de la Sûreté du Québec ont été démasqués par les manifestants sur place. Tel que clairement vu dans la fameuse vidéo de l'incident en question, nous notons, parmis plusieurs choses révélatrices, qu'un des officiers portait à la main une pierre - qu'il se refuse de jetter par terre à la demande des manifestants - et que celui-ci aura poussé de manière agressive un des manifestants qui l'appellait à laisser tomber la pierre et à quitter la manifestation (entre autres demandes raisonnables, justifiées et respectueuses de nos lois, dans le but de préserver le caractère calme et paisible de la manifestation).

Le comportement général en soi de ces agents infiltrateurs de la Sûreté exige une enquête publique et indépendante, considérant d'autant plus que ces trois agents auront semblé agir par frustration devant le fait qu'ils aient été démasqués et, par conséquent, auront manqué d'éthique professionnelle en plus d'avoir commis des actes d'assault (tel que défini par notre propre Code Criminel). Par surcroît, les dénégations publiques initiales de la Sûreté à l'effet que ces trois hommes étaient des agents infiltrateurs, ainsi que l'affirmation ridicule subséquente que des manifestants auront donné les pierres à ces mêmes agents et que ces derniers auront été démasqués par leur refus de lancer ces pierres avec violence, constituent des mensonges flagrants et inacceptables envers le public qui de rechef exigent également une enquête indépendante. Enfin, considérant le comportement des trois agents de la Sûreté ainsi que de la Sûreté elle-même, il reste à établir sans équivoque si les trois policiers avaient ou non pour mission d'agir en tant qu'agents provocateurs, quelle est l'étendue et la fréquence d'usage d'une telle tactique par la S.Q., quels sont les bases légales, justifiables et valides d'usage d'une telle tactique, et jusqu'à quel point une telle pratique se trouve à contribuer à l'initiation de violence lors de manifestations.

Malgré que le Ministre de la Sécurité Publique du Canada Stockwell Day persiste à disséminer la fausse information à titre de "défense" que les pierres auront été données aux agents de la S.Q. et que ceux-ci auront été démasqués par leur refus de les lancer, je désire vous rappeller, Monsieur Charest, que la S.Q. se trouve sous notre jurisdiction et supervision provinciales.

Par conséquent, j'ajoute ma voix aux appels lancés au Ministre de la Sécurité Publique du Québec Jacques Dupuis de répondre des agissements de la S.Q. pendant et après le sommet du PSPAN 2007 à Montebello, en ajoutant ici qu'une enquête publique sur cette affaire est de rigueur - ne serait-ce que dans le but de déterminer toute amélioration et/ou changement à apporter dorénavant aux tactiques/pratiques de la Sûreté du Québec.

Que la S.Q. se soit engagée volontairement à réviser d'elle-même ses pratiques constitue en soi un pas dans la bonne direction; cependant, ceci n'est évidemment pas suffisant.

En effet, je suis convaincu qu'il ne m'est pas nécessaire de vous souligner, Monsieur le Premier Ministre, l'importance des besoins de transparence et de rendre compte de la part de notre force policière provinciale, ce qui lui permet ainsi d'assurer l'exercice de ses devoirs de servir et protéger nos communautés avec honneur et excellence, et que seulement via enquête publique et indépendante les erreurs et defauts de la S.Q. pourront être clairement et objectivement identifiés, prodiguant ainsi l'opportunité de recommander et instituer toute amélioration nécessaire de façon à influencer positivement non seulement le bien-être et la sécurité des agents dévoués de la Sûreté du Québec, mais également le bien-être et la sécurité de tous les Québecois et Québecoises.

En vous remerciant à l'avance pour votre temps et votre considération;

Veuillez agréer mes sentiments sincères et respectueux;

Bien à vous;

Pierre H. Vachon
26 Août, 2007/August 26, 2007


(This is a letter that I have sent to Monsieur Charest. If you wish to do the same, please feel free to copy/paste it and send as is. In any case, I encourage you to keep a respectful and civil tone./Ceci constitue une lettre que j'ai envoyée à Monsieur Charest. Si vous désirez faire de même, n'hésitez pas à copier/coller le contenu et envoyer tel quel. Dans tous les cas, je vous encourage à garder un ton respectueux et civil.)

Snail mail/Poste régulière:
Premier Ministre du Québec Jean Charest
Édifice Honoré-Mercier, 3e étage
835, boulevard René-Lévesque Est
Québec (Québec) G1A 1B4

E-mail/Courriel: use this link/utilisez ce lien.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rockin' Saturday Ode To ... FUBAR

It's another lazy blogging Saturday here, at APOV. However, with all that is going on, with regards to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the possibility of war with Iran, the utter incompetence and mendacity of the Bush administration, the Harper government still seeking to emulate said Bush administration, the increase of domestic spying and concomitant erosion of our civil rights and liberties, the troubles of the stock market, the environment, etc. ... well, in a short span of seven years, all has pretty much become FUBAR, no?

What better way to express this than bring on stage my fifth all time favorite band, AC/DC - Highway to hell? (Feel free to sing along with the lyrics shown on the video!)

And for good measure, here's an older performance of the same song with the band's former singer, Bon Scott (07/09/1946-02/19/1980; may he R.I.P.):

Regardless, I am still holding hope that we may yet turn things around soon enough, rendering those last FUBAR years as nothing more than a glitch in the judgemental eyes of History.

In the meantime, need I remind you? Oh, hell - just for the sake of it then: keep on rockin'!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Late Friday Night Ode To Rock'N Roll

Tonight's Late Friday Ode is for pure fun only - brought to you by my Top Four All Time Favorite Bands!

To start things off: Led Zeppelin - Rock'n Roll

Then who better to follow than Deep Purple - Highway Star?

Now brace yourselves ... here comes Judas Priest - Breaking The Law!

And who else to close the show, but Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast?

With that out of the way - I'm off to pain the town red. ;-)

Have a great Friday night and keep on rockin'!

APOV's Friday Weekly Revue (08/24/2007)

If it's Friday, then ... (well, you know the rest, eh?)

Let's look at what some of the various blogosphere news departments out there had to say during the last week:

From the "What is what, and what is?" department - Are freedom and democracy politically inconvenient terms?

From the "Here we go again with religious-driven bigotry" department - Free to preach hate, for a price; and The next battlefront for controlling women.

From the "One more instance of lazy, vapid, fatuous and intellectual sloth-driven job performance from the MSM" department - Hysteria against those who oppose of the SPPNA; and How about asking the right questions for a change?

From the "Stereotyping-watch" department - What a real man is.

From the "Enough B.S., please!" department - Let's tap dance around the issue of the surge; also What we do when all we have to fear, we must; and Bush, his conflations and his cheerleaders; and The surge and the spin.

From the "Here's some facts for a change" department - Democracy and the SPPNA: corporatist race to the bottom; also In the name of peace; and Meet the American Taliban.

And last, but not least: From the "We are screwed!" department - Cascading credit failures; and America: a nation of inmates.

Have a good read - until next Friday.


Of Protesters, Trouble-Makers, Police And Agent Provocateurs

The one and only reason I have so far remained "silent" on the SPPNA/Montebello protests and all that has happened is very simple: many Canadian bloggers did an excellent job at covering the events and developments there (nice list of them here). Hence, I felt that my adding to this would not have contributed much more than what was being superbly written and exposed already.

However, now that the SPPNA summit in Montebello is over, I would like to reflect upon a few things.

Let me begin by quoting the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, who does have (easy) access to government leaders and representatives, by virtue of the organization that he is currently presiding:
"I do not say to myself, 'If I don't get an hour with the prime minister in the next six months, I'm going to go out and protest and reject the system outright' (...) I don't do that because civilized human beings - those who believe in democracy - don't do that."
While I agree with him on "rejecting the system outright", I find his pedantic and arrogant contention with regards to "civility", "democracy" and "protesting" quite the typical point of view of the spoiled and privileged - in a similar manner to the idea from the rich and powerful that the poor are "lazy" or "don't want to work".

He probably sincerely thinks that everyone has (or can have) the same access as he does - just like the kid who gets a hefty weekly allowance from his parents thinks that every kid out there is likewise getting the same.

That man either needs to grow up or "get out" more often - or both.

The fact remains that protests are part of a citizen's means and tools of attracting attention to the public on important issues which are little or not covered by the MSM. It is also a powerful means of expressing opinions publicly with numbers on your side, or of showing approval or disapproval of political decisions or governmental policies, or of decrying injustice. Or all of the above.

To this effect, the first and foremost objectives of the Montebello protests were to A) attract attention to the SPPNA; B) raise concerns and issues with the SPPNA; C) point out the lack of transparency in the SPPNA talks; and D) demand a democratic approach to the process of establishing a SPPNA. I'd say here: mission accomplished.

Peaceful protests and demonstrations constitute competence on the part of concerned and engaged citizens. I not only applaud such good folks, I have often been one of them (and will definitely be again numerous times over before I see the end of my days).

But then you have the anarchist kiddies (a clear reference of mine to the rightly and deservedly much maligned script kiddies).

Steve V. at Far and Wide puts it best (emphases mine):
"(...) is there anything more predictable, and frankly boring, than hearing about the latest clash between police and a group of anarchists (...) these constant clashes, every time there is any type of summit, where a camera might be (in) attendance, has lost the power to have impact (...) It is now a pre-requisite that things must deteriorate to the point of tear gas, so that certain groups can claim success at any protest. A badge of honor, a self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein people provoke, to solicit a response, so in turn they can say 'told you so'. I find the entire spectacle mostly distraction, rather than a relevant 'struggle' (...) When you read the press pieces today, the coverage revolves around the violence and the reaction (...) That behavior detracts from the message of the more civil protests, and tends to paint the entire exercise in a bad light. To clarify, there are times when violence occurs, wherein it isn't justified, but sadly, it seems to be a 'must do' when it comes to the black and red gang. I'm sure the small band of borderline hooligans take great pride in their exploits, but for someone who sees the value in civil disobedience, I find the predictable behavior more dull than thought provoking or relevant."
And of course, the anarchist kiddies did not fail to show up at Montebello.

Serious, competent protesting citizens do not pay attention to the police. When, or if, they encounter a police line, they stand in front of it but refrain from engaging the police officers - after all, the objective here is to express your message, not duke it out with the police. Strangely enough, the riot police will very rarely engage such competent, peaceful protesters (unless being so ordered by an incompetent superior - but such things do happen very rarely). In fact, from the many police officers I have known as friends or acquaintances throughout my life, I have found that they always hope that no protester will "light the fire" and are usually sympathetic, if they do not actually agree, with the issues brought up to public light by peaceful, competent protesters. The police officers are only there to do their job and duty - ensuring peace, law and order, to serve and protect. Accordingly, they are very thankful when they are (not) "confronted" by peaceful protesters and are among the first to be relieved by the absence of violence once a protest, or demonstration, is over.

Unfortunately, the mere presence of police constitute an opportunity for violence in the intellectual sloth-driven, immature and adolescent minds of the anarchist kiddies. These four pictures are worth a thousand words each:

See a police fence or line? Do make a "stand off" in front of it. Do taunt and yell at the police officers. Do push against the fence/line and do push back even more when they push back at you. Do bring dogs, batons, rocks and other "weapons". And of course - do light fires and break stuff.

Then you will get your arrests and tear gas, and then you can predict more police violence. You can even blame such police actions for the dwindling of protests. Self-fulfilling prophecy indeed.

The point here is that anarchist kiddies, in their little adolescent minds (regardless of their actual age), can do one thing and one thing only: "rebel" against authority. They must confront it to satisfy their petty needs at "self-expression". All in all, this is nothing more than empty, self-gratifying, pent-up-emotions-liberating, immature protesting.

Violence is the last refuge of incompetence - the Sixth Principle of Incompetence - and anarchist kiddies are the epitome of this.

Unfortunately, it is in good part (although not all) because of anarchist kiddies that police will put undercover agents among protesters in order to identify the rabble-rousers and trouble-makers (and yes - law enforcement and security agencies will do so likewise to actually spy on activist groups, something which I find utterly gratuitous, reprehensible and unacceptable ... but I digress). Case in point in Montebello: those three undercover officers which were outed by peaceful protesters. That these guys were indeed police left little doubt to begin with, as evidenced by their very peculiar behavior and the police-issue boots that they wore. In any case, the Sureté du Québec had no choice but to admit that they indeed planted undercover agents. However, the question does remain whether these three guys were there to spot anarchist kiddies only or whether they were there as actual agent provocateurs, i.e. to stir up the anarchist kiddies into acting incompetently. Indeed, one of the agents carried a sizeable rock in his hand.

Consequently, I add my own voice to calls for a public inquiry on this incident - if only to expose SQ incompetence and attempts at disinformation in this matter, as well as to publicly discuss the twisted approach of using agent provocateurs, its purpose, its justification and its actual usefulness. To this effect, Dr. Dawg has very pertinent questions for such an inquiry.

I reiterate: violence is the last refuge of incompetence.

Legitimate, peaceful and, therefore, competent activist groups and protesters must do a better job at media sensitization so that whenever anarchist kiddies enact their incompetence, whether spurred on by agent provocateurs or not, the media will make a better job of discerning between the two groups - instead of usually conflating them together, as they are lazily prone to do, and thus furthering the perception that protests or demonstrations invariably have an underlying violent intent to them.

A perception which could not be more wrong.

(Cross-posted at DKos, at NION and at Suzie-Q)