Friday, August 29, 2008

German Occupiers Kill Three in Afghanistan

Germany: 3 civilians killed at Afghan checkpoint

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's Defense Ministry says three civilians were killed when security forces opened fire after their vehicle failed to stop at a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan.

Ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe says the incident happened Thursday evening at a checkpoint southeast of Kunduz manned by Afghan police and German soldiers.

He said Friday that two civilian vehicles failed to stop despite being warned to do so clearly and security forces then opened fire. He said three civilians in one of the vehicles were killed.

Raabe said the incident is under investigation by Afghan police and the German military contingent in Kunduz. It's not immediately clear whether the German soldiers opened fire.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Afghanistan | Kunduz | Thomas Raabe


Thronging Nader

Thursday, August 28, 2008

“Chaos and Instability Washington’s Official Policy Line”

Back to the Future: “Chaos and Instability Washington’s Official Policy Line”
by William Bowles

Back to the future: “Chaos and instability Washington’s officlal policy line”

by William Bowles • Thursday, August 28, 2008 23:06
“In the operation the West conducted on Georgian soil against Russia - South Ossetians were the victims or hostages of it - we can see a rehearsal for an attack on Iran. There is a great deal of “new features” that today are being fine tuned in the theater of military operations.

“…[T]he likelihood of a war against Iran was growing with each passing day, “As a result, the situation in the region will become destabilized…causing chaos and instability" was becoming Washington's official policy line. — ‘Russian analyst points to link between Georgian attack and Iran’.

All the talk by the major Western powers of a return to the days of the Cold War must surely be a wake up call to us all as to what is in reality the ultimate expression of a resurgent and I might add, desperate, imperialism, the recreation of its historical enemy for the better part of the 20th century, Russia, but is Russia the object of desire here? I think not, at least not directly, Georgia is yet another piece on the chessboard, the question is, do the Russians want to play and if they do, by whose rules?

War has been for the better part of five centuries the ‘solution’ to capitalism’s woes, indeed wars of aggression over resources and competitors is the norm for the major powers of the West. But for a brief period, less than fifty years following the end of WWII, the existence of a nuclear-armed Soviet Union curbed the inevitable drive toward a major conflagration over markets and the imperative for the accumulation of capital, without which capitalism is a dead duck.

So with the former Soviet Union out of the way all the signs pointed to a 21st century dominated by the leading imperialist power, the US; after all, where is the opposition?

But reality has a way upsetting the plans of even the most powerful nation on the planet. I am reminded (again) of a major article that appeared in the Economist following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 which amazingly lamented the passing of the Soviet Union, arguing quite forcefully that without an enemy to drive the economies of the West things could only go from bad to worse and how right they were in spite of the invention of the ‘war on terror’ as a cheap replacement for the war on communism (though an ‘enemy’ which is essentially invisible does have advantages over one which can give as good as it gets).

It’s obvious that the Georgian provocation instigated by the US, is part of a larger and even more ominous scheme of destabilization, but the issue here is more complex than ‘grand schemes of world domination’ because I contend that the real world of the collapsing capitalist economies is now dictating events (which makes the situation even more dangerous for all of us).

First of all, Russia is in the way of the US move Eastward, which is where Georgia plays a vital role, hence the need to get Georgia into NATO. However, as with many of the US’s previous ‘allies’, Saakashvili has proved to be totally unreliable (if not mentally unbalanced), and if as seems more than likely, the US ‘advised’ him to invade Ossetia, it has proved to be yet another strategic blunder, or did the US assume that the Russians would roll over and play dead?

Either way, under the circumstances the ‘Cold War’ card was all that was left to the West, but bluffing is all well and good when playing poker but not when the game is chess.

But the Western ‘allies’ are in a bit of a bind, especially the EU members who are divided over what action, if any, to take, especially France and Germany whose economic ties to Russia are at risk. The UK predictably, has been banging the war drums, under the guise of defending ‘new democracies’,

“There was a strong element of what Miliband does best: preaching democracy to new democracies – which are more than converted to the principle – while asking for little in return for his praise that would be awkward for them to give.” — ‘David Miliband at last delivers the right words in the right haircut’, The Times, August 27, 2008.

And in another Times piece, we read,
“David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, also flew to Ukraine to assemble the “widest possible coalition against Russian aggression” — ‘Cold War tension rises as Putin talks of Black Sea confrontation’, The Times, August 28, 2008.

But in actuality, short of going to war, what can the US and its allies actually do? The situation is perhaps revealed by the following quote, “A former British ambassador to Tbilisi said that Nato might have to send troops to the region. Donald McLaren, who was Ambassador to Georgia from 2004 to July last year and is now retired, told the Today programme on [BBC] Radio 4: “I think we shouldn’t be too complacent or too scared in a situation like this.”

“He suggested that a peacekeeping force made up of troops from the US, Britain, France, Germany and Russia should be sent to Georgia to replace the Russian units. If Moscow rejected such a proposal, he said, Nato had only two choices: “To give up and surrender and say to the Russians, ‘It’s your backyard, you’ve won’, or to put men on the ground to protect Georgia’s sovereignty and the east-west oil and gas pipeline from the Caspian and Central Asia.” [ibid]

The problem for the West is that has no mandate to send troops, so short of an illegal invasion there’s very little it can do, “Nato diplomatic sources said that no one within the alliance was speaking about sending troops. “We have no mandate to act in the Caucasus” [ibid]

A mini 9/11 in a far-off land?

There’s also no doubt that the inflammatory rhetoric coming out of Washington is directly connected to the November presidential elections and what better way of boosting McCain’s chances of winning than by invoking the ‘Russian menace’ given the almost total ignorance the US public has over what really happened on August 7 and after. And this allegation is now borne out by prime minister Putin’s latest statement.

“Mr Putin told CNN US citizens were “in the area” during the conflict over South Ossetia and were "taking direct orders from their leaders". “He said his defence officials had told him the provocation was to benefit one of the US presidential candidates.

“The suspicion arises that someone in the United States especially created this conflict with the aim of making the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US president.” — ‘Putin blames US for Georgia role’, BBC Website, 28 August, 2008

And Putin’s allegations are not without substance. Only days before Georgia attacked Southern Ossetia individuals from the Republican Party were in Georgia.
“And so it was that a team from the vice president's office, U.S. security officials and others were in Georgia several days before the war began.” — ‘Why was Cheney's Guy in Georgia Before the War?’ By James Gerstenzang.

And given that the Georgian armed forces have been armed by the US and Israel, drawing such conclusions is not surprising.

Clearly though, provoking the Russians into taking military actions was not unexpected, even the desired outcome, as it provided the US and its capos, with the perfect propaganda weapon, one which was promoted in a very specific way from the onset of the war, namely it was Russian, not Georgian aggression that was the cause. Georgia has been consistently presented as the ‘David’, conveniently ignoring the fact that it is directly (and openly) a US/Israeli client state. As I have indicated elsewhere, from the hour Georgia launched its blitzkreig on the capital, the Western media and the states downplayed or ignored the Georgian attack and focused instead on Russsian ‘aggression’, a theme which they have maintained to this day.

Then there is the ceasefire document drawn up by Sarkozy of France, which when the US read it objected quite strongly to some of its provisions, especially the issue of Russian troop withdrawal.

“U.S. Deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the Russians ‘without a doubt have failed to live up to their obligations under the ceasefire agreement.’
“An immediate concern expressed by all sides involved buffer zones outside of two Georgian breakaway provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia insists it has the right to create these zones under the cease-fire deal, but Wood said, ‘Establishing check-points and buffer zones are definitely not part of the agreement.’

“Wood is of course wrong. Point 5 of the signed ceasefire agreement says:

“Russian forces must go back to positions they held prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Pending an international peace monitoring mechanism, Russian peacekeepers will take additional security measures.” — See also ‘The Mysterious ‘Sarkozy Letter’' for a complete rundown on the events leading up to the ceasefire and after it had been signed and implemented on August 17.

The devil, as far as the US was concerned lay in the phrase “Russian peacekeepers will take additional security measures”, which can mean anything you want it to and under the circumstances, with the US promising to re-arm Georgia, the Russians would be fools not to take whatever “additional security measures” they felt were needed. And in any case, what right do the US or the EU have to dictate to the Russians how they should respond to an unprovoked attack on its citizens?

Wood, by the way is one of the State Department officials who was in Georgia only days before Georgia invaded.

But it is perhaps Point Six of the Ceasefire Agreement that the West has done its best to destroy:

‘Launch of international discussions on security and stability arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia.’

Instead the West, led by the US and the UK have inflamed the situation by sending an armada into the Black Sea, promised to re-arm Georgia, broken off any meaningful dialog with Russia, and re-invented the Cold War. And in so doing, backed Russia into a corner by refusing to recognize its legitimate rights.
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RAN Sells-Out Canadian Boreal Forests

Rainforest Action Network greenwashes destruction of half of Ontario, Canada's boreal forests; despite lack of any detail regarding vague promised protections, and without scientific findings that doing so is ecologically sufficient

(Earth) -- Rainforest Action Network (RAN) of San Francisco has long been one of America's leading rainforest campaign organizations. Yet in July their campaign to protect Ontario, Canada's boreal forests doomed half this vital global ecological system to industrial destruction. In return, RAN and other proponents received vague promises of protections over a decade from now, but no protected area boundaries or protection plans.

Canada's boreal forests are home to hundreds of sensitive species of animals including polar bears, caribou and wolverines. Boreal forests are some of the world's largest carbon storehouses, with holdings equal to decades of global emissions from fossil fuels, while continually absorbing new emissions. The boreal region is also the world's largest reservoir of clean fresh water.

"Just how much longer do you think environmentalists can strike deals that give up half of large wilderness ecosystems to industrial development for vague promises of protection? Simply, more ecologically attuned folks know no more natural habitats can be lost and expect to survive climate hange," explains Ecological Internet's President, Dr. Glen Barry.

Neither RAN, WWF or even Greenpeace realize that there is no longer any acceptable reason to industrially destroy or diminish an intact natural ecosystem -- not if falsely FSC certified, not to briefly alleviate poverty, and not because indigenous people are in favor. The state of the Earth is so
grim, and the needs to protect and restore natural ecosystem so large, that only sufficient campaigns seeking to end industrial cutting and burning are worthwhile any longer. The rest is greenwash.

It is unknown if 50 percent protection -- of unknown strength and placement -- will be enough to fully sustain Ontario's biodiversity and ecosystem services. Future protections will likely center on the sparsely populated and largely unthreatened northern boreal, while with its promotion and endorsement of the vague plan, RAN has greenwashed intensified forestry and mining in the already heavily fragmented southern boreal.

"The only meaningful forest protection is to work to keep all ancient primary forests standing, and to meet needs for forest products from secondary forests regenerating into old-growth. There is no chance of achieving global ecological sustainability until ecological destruction ends, what remains is fully protected, and restoration begins," explains Dr. Barry.

This is the second time in recent history -- the other being in British Columbia, Canada's priceless Great Bear temperate rainforest -- that RAN has been a driving force in continuing industrial loss of the world's most important remaining large, intact forest wildernesses. Greenwashing millions of acres of industrial wilderness destruction in the name of indigenous rights is not doing these people or the environment any favors. Thankfully, RAN now does little tropical rainforest campaigning, so they may be safe. With more victories like this, soon there will be no ancient forests or an operable climate.

RAN's slide from a force for forest good to a force for forest greenwash must not go unchallenged. This is particularly difficult for Ecological Internet, as President Dr. Glen Barry is a RAN rainforest award recipient, and has worked collaboratively with them for decades. Yet RAN's string of blunders -- also including occupying campaign offices of Al Gore to protest oil investments (which Nader also had),
possibly swinging the 2000 election -- cannot be forgotten nor forgiven, particularly while ill-informed appeasement continues. RAN has censored those questioning these policies on their blog.

Dr. Barry laments, "You can't present yourselves as cutting edge, selfless and knowledgeable forest protestors and be routinely cutting deals to turn over millions of acres of ancient forests to fatcat loggers and minders. We need to focus on how many ecosystems are necessary to maintain the Earth's habitability, and reaching these levels of protection and restoration, not upon what can be indelicately and easily negotiated.

RAN is called upon to get on board protecting all ancient forests and working to restore mature, old-growth forests; or they, like so much of the mainstream environmental movement, are part of the climate and biodiversity crises. "Giving up on half of Canada's boreal forests for a pocket full is mumbles is not the role of the Rainforest Action Network, members or donors. They have no authority or expertise to be pursuing such deals."

Dr. Glen Barry is a leading global spokesperson on global forest and climate policy. Ecological Internet provides the world's leading climate and forest web portals at and Dr. Barry frequently conducts interviews on the latest environmental policy developments and can be reached at:
(note confirmation email response required)
and +1 (920) 776-1075.

August 28, 2008
By Earth News, a project of Ecological Internet
Dr. Glen Barry, +1 (920) 776-1075

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

B.C.'s Oil Future

Oil Futures


We're in for a whale of a time, one way or another

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently released its 2008 list of threatened species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). While this news was reasonably encouraging for the global recovery of populations of humpback whales, these assessments have far-reaching impacts on their conservation management. Populations in the Atlantic may now be approaching pre-whaling levels, and while the situation may also be trending in a positive direction on this side of the world's oceans, in the North Pacific researchers still consider the humpback-whale population threatened, and the western North Pacific population endangered.

Until a few decades ago, commercial whaling severely depleted many of the blue, fin, sei and humpback whale populations that inhabited British Columbia¹s waters. Today, our image of whales has changed, and the global moratorium on whaling has given these species an opportunity to recover. Yet for reasons not fully understood, in the North Pacific, populations have yet to rebound to historic levels of abundance, and indeed, fin, sei and blue whales remain endangered.

Raincoast Conservation is now at sea completing five years of systematic marine mammal surveys from Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border. Aboard our research vessel, Achiever, a team of scientists and observers work, eat and sleep on rotations for one to two months at a time. The team records observations of all marine mammals as Raincoast surveys the waters between Dixon Entrance (near the Alaska-B.C. border) and Vancouver Island. Our pre-set tracklines take us back and forth across Hecate and Queen Charlotte Straits and into inlets along the central and north coasts. To date, Raincoast has surveyed over 12,000 kilometers at sea.

In addition to recording sightings of large whales, the results of our surveys provide population estimates for harbour and Dall¹s porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins and minke whales, among others. At present there are no population estimates for any of these species in the area. We are working in conjunction with our partners at Duke University¹s Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab to rectify this data gap.

Collecting distribution and abundance data on marine animals is critical to making informed decisions about oil and gas development on the B.C. coast. The habitat of these species and other marine life is under threat from coastal oil and gas exploration and drilling, as well as a potential increase in tanker traffic linked with the proposed liquid natural gas and oil pipeline terminals intended for the north coast.

In fact, every stage of the looming "energy corridor" scheme poses a threat to cetacean populations on the coast, starting with harmful noise impacts generated by seismic activity all the way through to the prospective spills, underwater noise and ship strikes associated with the transport of the recovered oil and gas. Specific to the IUCN report, the good-news story regarding humpbacks could be put in jeopardy if this array of hydrocarbon-based projects is allowed to proceed.

Addressing the frenzied election-year driven drumbeat in the United States to pursue a similar strategy as is being flogged in B.C., Thomas Kostigen of the online business journal MarketWatch wrote last month that:

"Coastal drilling for oil is mindless, not only from a supply perspective but from an environmental perspective. The amount of oil to be found off our nation¹s coasts would be a trickle of what¹s needed to meet consumer demand."

Coastal oil drilling in the contiguous U.S. is a transparent politicized panacea that will not make much of a dent in terms of demand or pricing in that country. Despite this reality, a collective state of election-fed delusion has distorted the debate as the Republicans attempt to force-feed coastal drilling down the Democratic Party's throat. The Democrats' response has been, as one pundit put it, to crumble like feta cheese. In his article, Kostigen pointed out:

"Drilling creates hazards, and costs the economy dearly. Take a look at the local Alaskan economies that suffered because of the Valdez spill. Not a pretty picture."

This begs the question as to why there is such a push to expose the B.C. coast to these same "hazards" when lifting the drilling and tanker moratoria is so fraught with risk.

The Stats Can website just might have the answer:

"Canadian oil companies derive the majority of their revenues from exports; in 2005, two-thirds (66 percent) of Canada¹s crude oil production flowed out of Canada. Since 1995, thirsty Americans have received practically all (99 percent) of Canadian oil exports."

We do not need coastal oil exploration to satisfy domestic consumption in Canada and the oil sands crude from Alberta anticipated for shipping to Kitimat will be headed straight out of the country (likely to Asian markets)on Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC¹s) approximately the size of the Exxon
Valdez rescinding the moratoria in B.C. has everything to do with export markets. For instance, the U.S. has five percent of the world¹s population, yet their oil usage makes up 25 percent of world oil consumption; Canada ranks as the number-one supplier of oil to the U.S., well above Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela and Iraq.

Both the current provincial and federal governments have indicated their desire to lift the coastal moratoria, even if it means having to double down on the odds of a catastrophic oil spill, not to mention significantly contributing to the already dangerous level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's
atmosphere once all those foreign consumer countries of Canadian oil burn up the product. Parenthetically, in a July article by Gwynne Dyer in Monday Magazine, climate scientist James Hansen of NASA stated that we have passed what he considers the threshold for "maximum permissible concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

It remains to be seen whether federal and provincial opposition parties will ultimately make like feta cheese as the Democrats have in the U.S. or whether they will actually stand up to the ruling parties' oil and gas blitz. The real question, however, is whether British Columbians are willing to gamble with the future of this coast and allow their governments to play the role of hydrocarbon pusher to oil-addicted American and Asian markets.

Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation

Monday, August 25, 2008

wind turbines can kill bats without touching them

Study finds wind turbines can kill bats without touching them
by Rich Bowden - Aug 25 2008, 21:28

Canadian researchers have found wind turbines can kill bats without them actually flying into the blades.

Scientists at the University of Calgary have discovered that bats can die from a lowering in the air pressure close to the blades of the turbines which causes fatal damage to the bats' lungs. A similar condition is called the bends in humans and can occur during ascents and descents by divers and airline passengers.

"As a turbine blade goes around, it creates lift—like an airplane's wings—and there is a small zone of [dropping] pressure, maybe a meter or so in diameter, on the tips of the blades," explained Erin Baerwald, a doctoral candidate at the University of Calgary, in Alberta, who led the research.

"Bats fly through this area, and their lungs expand, and the fine capillaries around the edges of the lungs burst," Baerwald said to the National Geographic.

The team found that as bats use echolocation (radar) when they fly, they rarely fly into structures as big as wind turbines, however their study of bats found in Alberta, Canada found no contact with the blades, they report in Current Biology journal.

"An atmospheric drop in pressure at wind-turbine blades is an undetectable - and potentially unforeseeable - hazard for bats, thus partially explaining the large number of bat fatalities at these specific structures," said Baerwald.

"Given that bats are more susceptible to barotraumas than birds and that bat fatalities at wind turbines far outnumber bird fatalities at most sites, wildlife fatalities at wind turbines are now a bat issue, not a bird issue."

The researchers found that, as the bats fed on insects which do damage to crops, their deaths could have a negative impact on surrounding agriculture.

Wind industry officials have said they will do all they can to reduce the deaths of the bats but concede the task is difficult as little is known of the habits of the nocturnal creatures.

"It's a huge challenge," says Jason Edworthy, director of stakeholder relations for TransAlta Wind said to Canwest News Service. The company operates Summerview Wind Farm where close to 700 bats die each year.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Solving Afghanistan

Solving the Afghanistan Quagmire
by Patrick Seale

Spectacular Taliban successes in Afghanistan and Pakistan are forcing Western leaders to re-think their anti-terrorist strategy in both countries.

In recent days, French President Nicola Sarkozy and Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown have paid separate flying visits to Kabul to assess the situation. They, and other Western heads of government, are facing the painful possibility that NATO is losing the war in Afghanistan -- a war which has also destabilized neighbouring Pakistan.

Three events, among many other violent episodes, have shocked governments and public in both the West and the region:

• The death of 10 French paratroopers and the wounding of 21 others in a Taliban ambush on 18 August, a mere 60 kilometres east of Kabul. The main Afghan- Pakistan highway passes through this district of Sarubi. Severed by Taliban roadblocks, the road is now so insecure that it is out of bounds to foreigners.

As France mourns its dead, a furious debate has broken out in Paris about the wisdom of Sarkozy’s decision last April -- clearly as a gesture towards the United States to increase the French contingent in Afghanistan by an extra 700 men to a total of some 3,000. The French parliament is due to meet in September in extraordinary session to debate strategy in Afghanistan.

• On 21 August, two suicide bombers attacked Pakistan’s largest weapons factory in Wah, 30 kilometres north of Islamabad, killing 60 people and wounding 100 more. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it was in retaliation for military operations by the Pakistan army in the tribal areas along the Afghan border -- carried out under U.S. pressure.

• On 22 August, the Afghan Interior Ministry claimed that U.S. air strikes in the West of the country had killed between 60 and 90 Afghan civilians, including many women and children.

The U.S. command claimed that no civilians had been killed, only some 30 Taliban militants, but it has agreed to conduct an inquiry.

Such events point to the sharply deteriorating situation in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghan capital Kabul is virtually under Taliban siege. A climate of fear reigns there. All UN personnel, as well as all foreigners working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have been consigned to their homes because of the high level of threat.

Meanwhile, 40 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan in August alone, bringing the total for the year so far to around 200, compared to 232 in the whole of 2007.

Seven years ago, NATO and the United States invaded Afghanistan to punish and destroy Al-Qaeda for its September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, and to overthrow the Taliban regime that was giving Al-Qaeda refuge. But the job was never completed, largely because, under pressure from pro-Israeli neo-cons inside the U.S. administration, the U.S. effort was diverted to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Today, the Afghan war has expanded into an unwinnable conflict against a formidable coalition of Pashtun tribesmen on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. The war has drawn in Islamic militants from the Arab world, from Kashmir, and even from Central Asia.

Al-Qaeda may be no more than a small element in this coalition. The tribes are fighting to protect themselves from what they sees as a foreign threat to their religion and traditions, to their tribal way of life, and to the sanctity of their families. Civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes inflame opinion and play into the hands of the Taliban.

What should NATO and the West do? The United States has endorsed a $17bn plan to build up the Afghan army to 122,000 over the next five years. Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown thinks this is still too small to defeat the Taliban. Some experts believe, however, that there is no military solution to the conflict, indeed that the war is already lost.

A more promising approach would be to negotiate a ceasefire with both the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban movements, within the context of a regional strategy, which would include India and Iran, as well as the governments in Kabul and Islamabad.

The goals of such a regional strategy should be:

• To end the U.S.-NATO conflict with the Pashtun tribes of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. They would undertake, in exchange, to close down the sanctuaries they provide for Al-Qaeda. Such a deal would almost certainly mean bringing the Taliban into the Afghan government and confirming the autonomy of Pakistan’s tribal agencies, free from attack by the central government.

• To agree to a timetable for the full withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, while redoubling international efforts for reconstruction and development.

• To negotiate a settlement of the long-running Kashmir dispute, which has poisoned relations between India and Pakistan since partition, but has also spilled over into their competition in Afghanistan.

• To associate Iran with a broad Afghan-Pakistan-India regional settlement, so as to reassure it that there will be no threat to its security from the east.

Such a regional strategy may seem utopian, but it should be high on the list of priorities of the next American president, before more lives are uselessly thrown away and more anti-Western anger aroused in a volatile part of the world.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright © 2008 Patrick Seale

Ontario: The Tory's Electoral Death Wish

Do The Tories Have A Death Wish?
Charles Conn

They are planning to appoint another candidate,­ in Halton this time.

The federal riding of Halton lies west of Toronto. The city of Milton is in the centre and corners of Oakville and Burlington lie on its southern border. The rest is farm, estate and small village country. It's a natural Tory stronghold and the Tories are doing everything they can to hand it over to the Liberals.

It's Garth Turner's riding. He was a staunch Tory until he offended some sensitive person(s) in the PMO and the Party threw him out. Now he's a staunch Liberal.

It must be quite puzzling for the 'smart guys' in the Tory PMO to see the polls continuing to show them lagging the Liberals in 98-seat southern Ontario. Let me venture an opinion. It's not just the avalanching list of errors of omission and commission made by the Harper-quarterbacked government. It's also the thuggish behaviour of Doug Finley who runs the Party's political operations ­ PoliOps in bureaucratic newspeak. He and his gang of yespersons are alienating riding memberships so much that they will not work for appointed "Stars". And grassroots do feed the lawn!

By his disdainful contempt for the membership in ridings like Toronto Centre, Guelph, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Mississauga South, Halton and who knows how many others, Finley is virtually guaranteeing the Tories will do even less well in southern Ontario in October 2009 than they did in January 2006. Quebec won't offset and they'll be lucky to maintain a minority government.

The pattern of misbehaviour varies only slightly in detail.

In Toronto Centre, Mark Warner was duly elected as their candidate by the membership. PoliOps threw him out and appointed a non-resident. He lost a by-election. (Hal Jackman was not pleased!)

In Guelph, the membership elected Brent Barr to be their candidate by a substantial majority over Gloria Kovach, a local city councillor. PoliOps threw out Barr and installed Kovach. She will lose in the September by-election.

In Mississauga East-Cooksville, PoliOps installed Melissa Bhagat, a Liberal living in Brampton, as the candidate before the new board, never mind the membership, had a chance to organize a candidate search and fair election. She will lose.

It is likely that so much fuss was raised in The Star, the Mississauga News and bloggers about the underhanded treatment of the membership in Mississauga East-Cooksville that PoliOps had to tell Major Ted Opitz of Etobicoke that they couldn't give him an automatic appointment in Mississauga South after all ­ he'd have to campaign for the candidacy! (Mississauga South's two-time candidate, Phil Green, had been unceremoniously told that he wouldn't be allowed to even contest for the candidacy this time in order to give Opitz an opening.) Mississauga South was finally allowed to hold their candidate election June 10 at which date poor Major Opitz was blown away by a resident, Hugh Arrison. So far, PoliOps has not thrown him out. He might have a chance because the membership will work for a candidate they chose.

Halton has suffered a textbook combination of political Dirty Tricks.

First of all the riding's board has been asking PoliOps for permission to hold a candidate election for nearly two years. Their requests have been denied and, most recently, simply ignored. (One might wonder how an unelected, unaccountable staff can deny the elected, accountable representatives of the membership, but that's Tory democracy nowadays under the new Rules & Regulations drafted by [surprise] PoliOps.)

Halton riding has a consistent and active membership of around 550 and a significant amount of money in the bank. It has always had a healthy riding association ­ active in many community events and experienced at winning elections. There have been at least three very well-qualified members who have announced their intention to seek the candidacy for the same two years. All the requirements for holding a candidate selection process have been in place. It is axiomatic that the longer a candidate has to work the riding the more likely he/she is to have a positive influence on the outcome of an election.

However, PoliOps has decided to appoint Lisa Raitt as the Tory candidate in Halton.

Lisa Raitt at least lives in the riding. She is the CEO of the Toronto Harbour Commission. Formerly, she was chief counsel for the THC and was responsible for extracting the $35M penalty from Toronto City Council for their holdup of the Island Airport. Clearly a "Star" candidate!

While at the THC, Ms. Raitt hired two lobbyists ­ Vic Gupta and Mark Spiro. Vic Gupta is the Principal of Prime Strategies - a PR firm in Toronto. Mark Spiro is a Partner at Goodmans LLP in Toronto and ran the Target Management Group for Doug Finley during the 2005-06 election. He has recently backed off from open contact with Ms. Raitt, but is still a key advisor to Doug Finley.

Investigators might possibly find it useful to also probe Toronto city councillors and mayor Miller about Ms. Raitt's tenure at THC.

Now here's where it gets a little complicated. Early in 2008, both Lisa Raitt and the Halton board were told that Lisa Raitt was going to be the Tory candidate in the next election. Ms. Raitt was introduced to the board as such. Only one board member resigned in protest, the rest prepared to dig in their heels.

It is likely that the fuss raised by the newspapers and blogs about the nefarious treatment of the Mississauga East-Cooksville membership caused PoliOps a little temporary concern (see Mississauga South) and sometime in February/March 2008 they told Lisa Raitt she'd have to campaign for the candidacy (like Major Ted Opitz). She flatly refused. She gave the bogus excuse that her position in a government agency didn't allow her to campaign for a political position. This is not true. More likely she was concerned about the optics among Toronto city councillors and/or she simply didn't want to lower herself, or exert herself, to engage in a contest for a position she had previously been assured was hers and that she still wanted to have.

So PoliOps made a tactical shift. The membership in Halton will not be allowed to choose their own candidate. Whenever the writ is dropped for the next federal election, the cover of the call to arms will be used to sneak in Lisa Raitt as the official Party Representative.

Recently, Ms. Raitt has been showing up at community events and behaving for all the world as though she is in fact the Tory candidate for Halton.

Investigators might find it useful to ask Ms. Raitt whether she is going to compete for the nomination or whether she has already been promised the candidacy.

Talk about abusing the membership!

The National Council of the Conservative Party is elected to serve and protect the interests of the membership and the Party. Instead, as recent events have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt, National Councillors have abdicated their positional responsibility and ceded their authority to the bully-tactics of Doug Finley and his gang of fellow hirelings.

National Councillors know full well what's going on. I for one sent complete details of what transpired in Mississauga East-Cooksville to: Don Plett ­ President, Richard Ciano ­ Vice President, Jean LeBlanc ­ Secretary, Lois Brown ­ Ontario Councillor, Kara Johnson ­ Ontario Councillor and Susan McArthur ­ Ontario Councillor. Not one had the courtesy, never mind the integrity, to respond.

Furthermore, they can read the media accounts that relate the destruction being wrought, not just in southern Ontario, but also in Quebec, the Maritimes, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. just in the last year. And probably three time as much damage is being done in ridings lacking the juice to fight back or get media attention.

National Councillors and the PMO must soon realize that Finley's actions are wrecking the enthusiasm of party members by denying the memberships and boards the fundamental democratic right to choose who will represent them in elections and parliament. If they don't do something about Finley and his gang they will rightly bear the blame for the next reign of Liberal socialism.

In addition to the persons named above, you may wish to contact:

Keith Hesse, long time and still current Halton board member, 905-876-9900 (home), 905-34-5307 (cell). Lisa Raitt told him she won't declare because she's worried about the media and Toronto Council finding out about her responsibility for the Island Airport. (Rumour has it the Tories want to make her Transport Minister to expand Toronto Island Airport so Porter will buy more planes from Bombardier in Montreal!!!}

Tasha Woodcock, Ontario PoliOps, 613-755-2192.
Wally Butts, south central Ontario Region PoliOps, 519-586-3019
Karma MacGregor, GTA Region PoliOps, 416-846-8236.

Guy Giorno and Tony Kenanke in the PMO with Doug Finley.

Charles W. Conn, Mississauga. August 18, 2008