Saturday, July 08, 2006

Me and Jack Layton: As Good As it Gets?

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - New Democrat Party leader, Jack Layton blew through my little burgh yesterday, so I went down to the soiree to mingle with the faithful, and ask Jack a few pointed questions regarding Canada's continuing role in the occupations of Afghanistan and Haiti, and the Harper government's abysmal abetting of the holocaust unfolding in Palestine.

Me and Jack Layton:
As Good As it Gets?

C. L. Cook

PEJ News
July 8, 2006

On a beautiful summer's day, I mingled with they, and local party supporters, all anxious to meet the man of the moment. All this city's NDP apparatchik, past and present, were in attendance, squeezed into the Queen Mother's Cafe, down on Victoria's Gorge waterfront. One-time provincial NDP leader, Dave Barrett, aspirant to office, Charlie Beresford, sitting MP, Denise Savioe, and MLA, Rob Fleming, pressed the flesh, and graciously granted interviews to yours truly; I guess they hadn't read my last piece on Jack and the NDP, 'An Open Invitation to Jack Layton: Why Do We Not Fight?'

Pound for pound, I think we'd match up evenly, though Jack is a few years my senior, and a little paunchier, but my "invitation" is of another sort; what I mean is: Why does Canada go along with the fascist agenda emanating from Washington? Why do we NOT fight?

Eight years, and hundreds of interviews since my beginnings in, what has come to be called, 'Citizen Journalism,' I've learned a few things; chief among them: I hate interviewing politicians! They're, generally, coached cleverly, cautious, and rarely give straight answers. I understand, there's a broad constituency to consider, and better to say nothing than stake a position easily assailed, or possibly alienating. But, these are dangerous times, perhaps the most so ever witnessed by we hapless human masters of the world. Now is not the time for meek circumspection.

As in the United States, where the Democrat "opposition" mouths platitudes concerning the horrors of Iraq, more being discovered daily, the NDP's position on Afghanistan refuses a complete and immediate withdrawal of Canadian Forces and support personnel for fear, it seems, that the "thick as a two short planks" Afghanis are incapable of administering their own affairs. Instead, Jack and his party fence-sit, "supporting the troops," while feigning to oppose those troops' masters of war.

Just another "failed state," it is now apparently Canada's duty to ensure Afghanistan's future, irregardless of the wishes of the Afghanis. Though Jack says the time to have Canadians out of the occupation is now, a careful listen to the NDP position requires we first define what the definition of is is.

My time with Jack was short, only time enough for a few questions. I asked:

(CL) "There's many Canadians that want Canada out of Afghanistan now, what's your position?"

Jack Layton agrees, saying:

(JL)"That's our position. We, of course, were the ones to precipitate the vote in the House of Commons..."

(CL) "A vote for bringing them [Canadian Forces] out by 2007; what about bringing them out in 2006?"

(JL) "Well our view, the vote we were able to precipitate, was a vote on whether there should be any extension beyond 2007, and of course if one was not extending beyond 2007 one would have to be starting to pull out now. We voted against, and were the only party to vote 100% unanimously, in attendance, against any continuation in Afghanistan, which of course by implication suggests we should be doing the withdrawal at this moment. And, Canadians, I think, in the majority, and certainly New Democrats, do not support the war fighting role that has been assigned to our troops there."

O.K., so that's it.

The NDP demand the immediate withdrawal of all Canadian troops, and support personnel now, right?
Well, not exactly. When I asked if it not be the time for that, Jack would not "totally agree" with me.

(JL) "I think Canada can, and has, traditionally been able to help countries in conflict to work through conflicts..."

(CL) "But this is a country under occupation."

(JL) "Yes it is. And we have to move away from this concept of occupation, and towards a process of multi-party talks."

(CL) "We're being seen, Canadian soldiers are being seen, as aiding and abetting an illegal occupation of their country, and as well the "reconstruction teams." And, they will be targeted."

(JL) "That's right. And that's why, of course, we didn't support the extension of 'The Mission.' And what we say... I don't believe we should walk away, and wash our hands and say, "Whatever happens in Afghanistan, if horrific things begin to take place, that we're not even gonna suggest that the sides get together. I think Canada should play that creative, important diplomatic role that we've often played in situations where there's conflict."

O.K., so we should stay and go?

What is "one" to make of this shite?

As the planet careens towards global fascism, thousands violently erased daily, here amid the shrimp cocktail and wine I and the party faithful are expected to swallow this limp acquiescence to a perceived Real Politik, merrily congratulating ourselves for token opposition?

Bull Shit!

Remember, please the brutal bombing and invasion of Afghanistan was "justified" by the United Nations on the precept of Article 51, which provides for military action taken in self-defence. The U.S.A. argued the 9/11 attacks emanated from caves by Osama bin Laden, he sheltered by the Taliban government of Afghanistan. For this pauper's gruel thin logic thus the B-52s flew. Never mind due process.

Thousands in that benighted country are dead, maimed, and destroyed on this precept, an assumption so lame, in the view of the vaunted Federal Bureau of Investigation, a direct charge against M. bin Laden has yet to be filed.

But, never mind the facts, bombs away!

There is a true "crisis of democracy" unfolding before us in 2006. In Canada, "America," Britain, Australia, and elsewheres, it seems a consensus has been arrived at where the quaint notion of a system of governance for, and by, the people can't work. It is, that consensus informs, to be replaced by a State/corporate marriage; a union that permits no place for pity, or empathy. It is a vision best encapsulated in the corporate ethos of maximum economic profit manifest in Mussolini's Italy in that awful century past, with shocking results.

And, the best today's leader of the "peace party" can do is parse paragraphs,
paraphrasing his lamentable confrere Democrats south.

Stephen Harper says the reason Canadian soldiers are in Afghanistan today is entirely due to the "about 30 Canadians" perished during the fateful 9/11 attacks. Nearly five years, and nearly five billion Canadian dollars spent since, nothing of substance has been achieved to help the bombed and irradiated people of Afghanistan. But none in the House have mounted a serious challenge to this idiotic policy.

In fact, the opposite is the case.

Had I the misfortune to interview Stephen Harper, or the Liberal party's titular leader, Bill Graham, I would expect nothing more than the B.S., so familiar on every "American" media outlet, blathering about "pottery shop rules," to whit:

"Well, we may have made a mistake, but now we've broken it, we're stuck with it."

But, coming from what I, and many Canadians have, viewed as the guardians of Canadian values, the NDP, it cuts to the bone. If they, the good and decent folks, can't find it in themselves to stand against the mass butchery of women, children, and men, killed solely for the corporate pursuit of profit, what is left?

Sitting on a sunny patio, beneath benevolent skies in my green and pleasant British Columbia, the horrors of our [sic] government's policies abroad are difficult to fathom. Perhaps it's better to just eat the goddamned shrimp cocktail, have a drink, and comfort one's self that, as long as we utter the right words, we're O.K.

Let us all just surrender to this War of Terror, and sanction barbarity in the name of preserving our privilege.

But I can't do it, Jack.

If Jack Layton and his New Democrats are the best we can get out of this system, now is the time to look farther a-field for those willing to defend the identity we Canadians have become accustomed, and wiling to put up a fight for what's left.

Chris Cook
is a contributing editor to PEJ News, and host of Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Uncounted votes raise questions about projections, fears of unrest

By Kevin G. Hall and Jay Root
McClatchy Newspapers

MEXICO CITY - Discovery of 3.5 million uncounted ballots in Mexico's disputed presidential election cast doubt on early projections showing conservative Felipe Calderon in the lead, raising fears of prolonged uncertainty and political unrest.

Hinting at insider corruption and citing a series of voting "irregularities," advisers to leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are demanding a manual recount of every single vote and did not rule out street protests to ratchet up pressure on federal election authorities.

"You cannot come to a final outcome if you do not count all the votes," said Manuel Camacho Solis, a top Lopez Obrador aide. "We are going to demand that the votes are counted ... We have the right to go to the streets and we have the right to express our opinion with full freedom."

A simple recount begins Wednesday, but a full-blown election contest could drag Mexico through weeks of uncertainty and tension.

Calderon's ruling National Action Party, or PAN, dismissed the allegations of irregularities, portraying Lopez Obrador as a sore loser.

The standoff has left Mexico the equivalent of one hanging chad away from a Latin American version of the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election - only with a greater potential for unrest among the country's poor masses, who already are receptive to the idea of fraudulent elections.

There had long been fears that a close election split could spark violent protests and plunge Mexico into a destabilizing crisis. Those fears seemed to ease after early results showed Calderon clinging to a thin but seemingly stable lead. Now the edgy feel is back, even though Lopez Obrador and his advisers have promised to act responsibly and work within established electoral procedures.

As of late Monday, preliminary vote totals released by Mexico's Federal Election Institute (IFE) showed Calderon leading with a little more than 400,000 votes, or 1 percent more than Lopez Obrador. A mandatory recount of vote tallies is scheduled to begin Wednesday - and the revelation that 3.5 million votes went uncounted has become Exhibit A in the growing controversy.

Luis Carlos Ugalde, head of Mexico's Federal Election Institute, acknowledged that the ballots had not been included in Election Day reports. He stressed in an interview with Televisa that it doesn't matter because an official winner won't be announced until the agency concludes its nationwide recount, perhaps by Friday.

He said the tally sheets representing the millions of uncounted votes were set aside on election night because of various "inconsistencies," such as indecipherable markings on the voting booth records.

Asked if the tallies will be included in the recount, Ugalde told the Televisa network: "Of course they will. These tallies will have to be reviewed at a table with representatives from all the parties."

The elections chief also warned that the preliminary tally, known by the Spanish initials PREP, shouldn't have been taken as projecting a winner. That was a rebuke to both candidates who declared themselves victorious.

It's unclear how important the uncounted votes will turn out to be. Some might be ruled invalid. Lopez Obrador would have to win an unusually large portion of the uncounted 3.5 million votes to reverse Calderon's lead.

Lopez Obrador aides said the votes were evenly distributed throughout the country and not concentrated in one particular region.

"I think that, given the margin, I think it will be very difficult for the vote to overturn," said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right think tank in Washington. He was in Mexico to observe the elections. "We still have to wait and see for the counting of the votes and then probably the adjudication process. This is probably going to go until Aug. 31."

That's a reference to the deadline the IFE has set for hearing election challenges. By law, a winner must be announced by Sept. 6, officials said.

Even if the 3.5 million votes don't swing the election, the PRD says it has other "inconsistencies" that prove the results are flawed, including double voting in a Calderon stronghold. They also say that hundreds of vote tallies show markings in congressional races but inexplicably no preference in the presidential contest.

A McClatchy photographer working in the troubled southern state of Oaxaca witnessed discrepancies between the vote tallies posted outside voting stations in the town of Tlalcolula and the data appearing on the IFE's Web site. The photographer also found examples of the presidential vote not counted.

PRD officials are also hinting that Calderon may have a conflict of interest in the election agency itself, saying that could explain why computerized returns showed both candidates actually shedding votes in the wee hours of election night.

Namely, Camacho, the Lopez Obrador adviser, said the campaign was looking into allegations that Calderon's brother-in-law had been involved in the creation of vote-tallying software used by the IFE.

"We are investigating this," he said.

Calderon's brother-in-law Diego Zavala has confirmed that he participated in a bid for election-count software but didn't win. The weekly news magazine Proceso on June 11 reported that the top election official overseeing election-reporting software, Rodrigo Morales, is an old friend of Calderon, raising questions of conflict of interest.

Arturo Sarukan, a top Calderon adviser, referred questions about election software to the IFE. As for the broader allegations of irregularities and skewed results, he said he was certain that Calderon's victory would hold and that the PRD's drive to discredit the IFE, one of the few Mexican institutions held in high esteem, would backfire.

"We haven't seen any irregularities," he said. "They are making a fatal error."

Gabriel Guerra Castellanos, a political analyst, columnist and spokesman for former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, said the IFE's technical work is above question. It's communication with the public and political parties, however, leaves much to be desired.

"The IFE has been real slow in terms of providing information. It has allowed this vacuum (on information), he said, adding, "If you give people excuses to question things, somebody is bound to do it."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Gorilla Radio for July 3, 2006

GR 03-60 CFUV 101.9FM 104.3 Cable ‘’

Monday, July 3rd 2006

5:00:00 3:00 Welcome to GR, etc. Happy belated Canada Day! Or perhaps more fittingly, Happy Late Canada Day. This July 2006, Canada is dead. Verily, the functions of the body politic yet turn, its economic prerogatives churning, digesting the fruits of the people’s labours, still spewing its by-products into the environment maps inform as: the geographical mass known as “Canada,” but for all intents and purposes this nation is a dead letter society. Just one of the many proofs of our collective undoing is Lord Stephen the Harpy’s enthusiasm for the destruction by siege of the Palestinians. As disgusting as this nation’s co-opted leaders leading we to wars of empire in Afghanistan, Haiti, and elsewheres is, “Canada’s” quick acquiescence to America’s embargo fiat against the nascent Hamas government of Palestine starkly demonstrates the depths to which we have sunk. Jon Elmer is a long-time friend of GR; freelance journalist and photographer, and creator of the news web site, From Occupied, Jon has lived and reported from Occupied Palestine and joins us today to discuss the latest from that benighted country in the first half.

And, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hours to bring us up to speed with all that’s good to do in and around Victoria this week coming.

And, in the second half… I’ll be farting and tap-dancing, reading and ranting, and playing a little long-weekend music for this beautiful July holiday.

But first, Jon Elmer and Canada’s quiet complicity in the Palestinian genocide.

5:03:00 27:00 Discussion with Jon Elmer

5:30:00 1:00 Cart(s)

5:31:00 4:00 Music

5:35:00 11:00 Janine Bandcroft

5:46:00 3:00 Music

5:49:00 10:00 Chris Rants

5:59:00 1:00 Thanks to JE, J9; upcoming.

6:00:00 --:-- -0-