Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Post

I wouldn't expect much from an Iraqi-led offensive:

Iraq’s long-touted offensive for the northern city of Mosul has begun, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said early Monday morning.

The U.S.-backed operation, the biggest yet against ISIL militants, aims to push the group out of its de facto capital in Iraq.

They fled the last time.

A defiant Taiwan irritates China:

In Beijing’s view, the 1992 consensus was an acquiescence by Taiwan that the status quo meant a continuation of the Communist Party’s domination of the country until the full realization of Mao Zedong’s vision of retaking the island from the remnants of the 1912 Chinese republic that his communists had overthrown on the mainland. Taiwan’s now-defeated Kuomintang government was willing to go along with that, so long as the 1992 consensus came with the “status quo” of its continuing enrichment by collaboration with its former enemies, the communists-turned-capitalists on the mainland.

Tsai’s refusal to capitulate by hewing to either of these cynical understandings is seen by Beijing as a provocation to invasion and war. Over the past few months, China has been putting the squeeze on Taiwan by shutting down all formal and informal Beijing-Taipei communications, blocking Taiwanese imports, cutting off the flow of tourists from the mainland and throwing its weight around on the so-called world stage to further Taiwan’s isolation. Only 22 UN member states extend full diplomatic recognition to Taiwan. Canada is not among them.

It's time for a new pan-Asian alliance against China.

Because Rex Murphy:

The Clinton campaign is a pyramid of lies, equivocations and cover-up, spite and snobbery. The lies: Hillary Clinton deliberately and (despite the absurd declaration of Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey) with intent, took all her communication off the government’s secure system to escape freedom of information requests, and conceal the octopus ties of her office as secretary of state with the global solicitations and fundraising of the Clinton Foundation. She wanted, above all to hide “her damn emails” from the eyes of everyone, because otherwise they would throttle her candidacy from its first breath.  Her five chief assistants from Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills down were all granted immunity, she received unique treatment, her husband Bill forced access to Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, on an airport tarmac days before the decision not to prosecute. Aides used “hammers and BleachBit on computers and phones” to obliterate their memories.  ...

The snobbery comes from both the candidate and the insiders, the now-famous “basket of deplorables.” To a crowd of her super-rich donors, Clinton rhymed off, “You could put half of (Donald) Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.” 
Much like her insiders, such as campaign manager John Podesta and friends deploring Roman Catholics and their “medieval religion,” Conservative Catholics as illustrating “an amazing bastardization of the faith” and that Conservative donors are only Catholics “because their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.” 

So this is the machinery, the tactics, the attitude and method of one half of this presidential election. And it is only a taste, a sample, of the lowness, cunning and brazen methods deployed in the reach for democracy’s highest office.

I have not even approached the Trump swamp and the Republican hara-kiri, which, with the editor’s permission, I will take up next week, along with the disturbing questions of rape and sexual assault, which have so lavishly ennobled the narratives of both campaigns.

The federal Liberals are reducing the amount of money needed to deal with pipeline spills:

The federal government is reducing the size of a proposed emergency fund pipeline operators would be required to have on hand to deal with short-term costs of incidents such as spills.

Natural Resources Canada says the fund proposed under its new Pipeline Safety Act would bring down the minimum amount of “readily available” money to at least five per cent of a company’s liability from the 10 per cent originally proposed when consultations on the act began more than a year ago.

If adopted, regulations would require a large company with capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels of oil per day to demonstrate it can cover cleanup bills of $1 billion. The “readily available” fund requirement at five per cent would thus be $50 million, versus $100 million at 10 per cent.

No such fund was required under previous pipeline rules.

As usual, follow the money.

Who benefits from limited to no Canadian pipelines?

Given that the National Observer is partially funded by Tides, it bears mention that Tides is by no means an impartial bystander in the campaign against Alberta oil. In fact, Tides is the funding and co-ordination juggernaut behind anti-pipeline activism. Totaling US$35 million, Tides made more than 400 payments (2009 to 2015) to nearly 100 anti-pipeline groups. Without all that Tides money, pipeline projects would not be facing well-organized opposition.

A man who was convicted for killing two people expects the Liberal government to plead for clemency:

A Canadian on death row in Montana has been living on borrowed time since admitting he murdered two young men more than three decades ago, but he says he has renewed hope he might be able to return home with the support of Justin Trudeau's government.

"I'm ready to come home," said Ronald Smith, 59, in an interview with The Canadian Press last week at Montana State Prison. "If you're willing to take me back, I'm willing to come home," Smith, who is originally from Red Deer, Alta., has been on death row since 1983 for fatally shooting Harvey Madman Jr. and Thomas Running Rabbit while he was high on LSD and alcohol near East Glacier, Mont. 

It's a statement Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion issued in February following a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that is giving Smith new hope.

"If the government of Canada does not ask for clemency for every Canadian facing the death penalty, how can we be credible when we ask for clemency in selective cases or countries?" Dion asked. "We must end this incoherent double standard. Canada opposes the death penalty and will ask for clemency in each and every case, no exceptions."

One remembers Stephane Dion and his boldness:

As it was, Dion simply looked on and said nothing as Wang berated iPolitics reporter Amanda Connolly for asking a perfectly reasonable question (agreed to with journalists from other media outlets present) about China’s atrocious human rights record ...


Yesterday, Dion had a message for Israel: Canada isn’t your special friend anymore.

Dion is pretty outspoken for a weasel.


The Liberals are moving towards changing the controversial mandatory victim surcharge brought in by the previous Conservative government, with the federal justice minister expected to introduce related amendments to the Criminal Code this week.

The coming changes are part of sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system — expected to include an overhaul of the tough-on-crime agenda championed by the Conservatives — that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould with leading.

Valerie Gervais, a spokeswoman for Wilson-Raybould, provided no details, but those who have been watching the issue closely are expecting the amendments to restore at least some degree of discretion to judges.

"We can trust our judges to do the right thing," said Anne London-Weinstein, president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa.

"They were doing it for years," she said.

The federal victim surcharge was introduced in 1989 as a way to make offenders bear at least some of the cost of funding programs and services for victims administered by the provinces and territories.

It became automatic 10 years later, but sentencing judges were given the discretion to waive the surcharge if it would cause "undue hardship" to the offender, or to his or her dependents.

That changed three years ago, when the Conservative government made the victim surcharge mandatory — irrespective of the ability to pay — and also doubled the amount judges had to impose.

The Conservative changes sparked protests from judges who, having had their ability to exercise judicial discretion taken away, started refusing to impose the surcharge for impoverished offenders or issuing fines that were so minimal the surcharge amounted to nickels and dimes.

Jonathan Rudin, program director at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, said the mandatory victim surcharge is especially absurd when an offender is receiving social assistance or benefited from legal aid to cover the cost of their defence.

"It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to take away the money that they have, which is barely enough to live on, to pay money back to the same government to run a program," said Rudin.

He also said it disproportionately affected indigenous peoples.

Not everyone is excited about the changes.

"I would hope that any proposed change demonstrate a clear respect for victims and their needs and should avoid back-sliding to the situation that we had before, where these surcharges were being waived routinely, without any justification or accountability," said Sue O'Sullivan, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime.

A 1994 study cited when the Conservatives brought in the changes showed the surcharge was only imposed 15 per cent of the time and actually collected in just 2.7 per cent of cases.

O'Sullivan called on the Liberal government to make sure any changes would not result in reduced funding for victims services. She also wants Ottawa to collect and analyse data to see the impact of these surcharges and to make sure are specific parameters around the term "undue hardship."

Because the most important thing is not to get people off of substance abuse:

By casting a new and skeptical light on the spiritual requirement in addiction recovery, legal actions in Toronto and Vancouver threaten to undermine AA’s unique status as a universal refuge for the desperate drunk, the kind of place anyone can attend of his own free will, or on orders of a court.

As usual, the people no one ever asked are doing a favour for their own egos, not for people who genuinely need help.

And now, some music for a calm Sunday evening: Vivaldi's Autumn:

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