Category Archives: Current Events

Legitimizing Canadian Torture

Former CSIS director and advocate for torture, Jim Judd. (Photo: Fred Chartrand, Canadian Press)

Just under fifty years ago our prime minister was Lester B. Pearson, onetime president of the United Nations General Assembly and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now we have this:

Canada’s spy agency was so reliant on information obtained through torture that it suggested the whole security certificate regime, used to control suspected terrorists in the country, would fall apart if they couldn’t use it.

That’s the essence of a letter written in 2008 by the former director of CSIS, Jim Judd, obtained by The Gazette.

It suggests a disturbing acceptance by the national security agency of torture as a legitimate strategy to counter terrorism

Let’s make this very simple. Any Canadian citizen who practices or authorizes the use of torture should be charged, tried, and incarcerated in one of the new prisons the Harper government, despite our falling crime rate, has decided we need. The only obvious increase in criminality in Canada at the moment is at the top.

War Criminal, Cont’d

George Bush has cancelled a trip to Switzerland amid demands for his arrest for war crimes:

Former U.S. President George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Switzerland over fears he could have been arrested on torture charges.

Mr Bush was due to be the keynote speaker at a Jewish charity gala in Geneva on February 12.

But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the country.

Criminal complaints against Mr Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials said.

Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against him in the Swiss city tomorrow for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay.

Left-wing groups have also called for a protest on the day of his visit, leading organisers at Keren Hayesod’s annual dinner to cancel Mr Bush’s participation on security grounds.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the cancellation was linked to growing moves to hold him accountable for the use of torture, including waterboarding.


Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters, interviewed on CNN five years ago. The smug, eye-rolling awfulness of the expendable, interchangeable, assembly-line interviewer is reason enough to watch it. 

Mattathias Schwartz has an article on “the origins and future of Occupy Wall Street” in the New Yorker. I knew about its Canadian roots at Adbusters, based in Vancouver, but didn’t realize the extent to which it got the movement going in very short order, demonstrating the generational leap in the use of real-time social media, which sidesteps altogether the mindlessness of corporate “old media,” evident in the clip above. Schwartz’ article also has a good look at the on-the-ground reality of “horizontal” rather than “vertical” organizing principles, and introduces a number of people who are crucial “facilitators” of the movement, but are otherwise unknown, as they’d want it to be. It therefore also provides a surprisingly moving account of the difficult effort to maintain anarchist principles without collapsing into anarchy.

An excerpt:

This is how Occupy Wall Street began: as one of many half-formed plans circulating through conversations between [Kalle] Lasn and [Adbusters editor Micah ]White, who lives in Berkeley and has not seen Lasn in person for more than four years. Neither can recall who first had the idea of trying to take over lower Manhattan. In early June, Adbusters sent an e-mail to subscribers stating that “America needs its own Tahrir.” The next day, White wrote to Lasn that he was “very excited about the Occupy Wall Street meme. . . . I think we should make this happen.” He proposed three possible Web sites:,, and

“No. 1 is best,” Lasn replied, on June 9th. That evening, he registered



This spring, the magazine was pushing boycotts of Starbucks (for driving out local businesses) and the Huffington Post (for exploiting citizen journalists). Then, in early June, the art department designed a poster showing a ballerina poised on the “Charging Bull” sculpture, near Wall Street. Lasn had thought of the image late at night while walking his German shepherd, Taka: “the juxtaposition of the capitalist dynamism of the bull,” he remembers, “with the Zen stillness of the ballerina.” In the background, protesters were emerging from a cloud of tear gas. The violence had a highly aestheticized, dreamlike quality—Adbusters’ signature. “What is our one demand?” the poster asked. “Occupy Wall Street. Bring tent.”


White watched as the e-mail’s proposal raced around Twitter and Reddit. “Normal campaigns are lots of drudgery and not much payoff, like rolling a snowball up a hill,” he said. “This was the reverse.” Fifteen minutes after Lasn sent the e-mail, Justine Tunney, a twenty-six-year-old in Philadelphia, read it on her RSS feed. The next day, she registered, which soon became the movement’s online headquarters. She began operating the site with a small team, most of whose members were, like her, transgender anarchists. (They jokingly call themselves Trans World Order.)

Encouraged by the quick online response, White connected with New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts, which had previously organized an occupation-style action, called Bloombergville, and was already planning an August 2nd rally at the “Charging Bull” to protest cuts that would likely result from the federal debt crisis. They agreed to join forces, and N.Y.A.B.C. said that it would devote part of its upcoming rally to planning for the September 17th occupation.

Post Coming on Police Violence at OWS

An 84 year old woman who was pepper sprayed by police at Occupy Seattle last week

Sorry about the mysterious appearance this morning of a post that was nothing but a title and a raw URL link. I’m drafting a post based upon the Atlantic’s chronology of police violence against OWS demonstrators, and, in the very early stages of putting it together, I hit the publish button rather than the save button and didn’t notice till much later this morning. I hope to complete it very soon.

It’s important to get it right on the issue of violence at Occupy demonstrations. First, because it provides context for the remarkable courage the demonstrators have shown despite unrelenting provocation by police, who throw punches and swing truncheons as though it were sport, and who seem to resort to their weapon of choice, pepper spray, as readily as a traffic warden issuing a ticket at an expired parking meter. As a matter of fact, it is illegal to pepper spray a prison inmate without just cause, but spraying peacefully assembled protesters in the face at close range, that’s evidently okay. The pepper-spraying of students at UC Davis on Friday, and the uncanny silence with which they greeted the Chancellor of the university who was responsible for it on Saturday, is a testament to the trials they face, as well as their consistently peaceful response to them. Another reason to get it right is that the other day on Fox News I saw a couple of Gila monsters in thousand dollar suits hissing and thrashing their tails about how “it is time to end the violence on the streets.” Yes, it is. However, they never mentioned that the violence it is time to end is coming from the police, not the demonstrators.

UC Davis: Chancellor Linda Katehi’s Walk of Shame

One day after their peers were brutally pepper-sprayed by campus police, scores of UC Davis students formed a silent gauntlet that Chancellor Linda Katehi was required to pass through as she left a press conference Saturday night. The students said nothing to Katehi, and sat with arms linked, the same attitude of peaceful protest that had made their classmates the previous afternoon the targets of a cruelly heavy pointblank dose of pepper-spray by at least one riot-geared campus police officer who has since been identified. From the look on Katehi’s face, the silence was perhaps more unnerving than anything else she might have had to contend with that night. Anger she might have been able to understand; stony silence she evidently could not. The only sound that can be continuously heard throughout the video above is the click of her heels as she made her way through the silent crowd. This eerily peaceful display is in keeping with the disciplined restraint Occupy demonstrators everywhere maintain despite continuing incidents of police violence. This video may be the most remarkable instance of that unbreachable discipline recorded anywhere so far.

There have been demands for Katehi’s resignation. She has refused “at this time.” But she continues to conduct television interviews in which she excuses as best she can the assault on students that occurred under her authority.

BoingBoing has more details here.

Eye Witness Report from UC Davis

Report from RT on the UC Davis pepper spray incident

From an open letter to the university’s chancellor by UC Davis English professor Nathan Brown:

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-​sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-​sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-​five minutes after being pepper-​sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

Below is another report from AlJazeeraEnglish, which also reveals that the university has announced a probe into police conduct.

A detailed report from the New York Times here.

Retired Police Captain in Dress Blues Arrested by NYPD for His Support of OWS

Retired Police Captain Raymond Lewis was arrested at OWS on Thursday. As the video shows, he was in full dress uniform when cuffed and taken into custody by NYPD.

MSNBC interview with Captain Lewis on his reasons for joining the OWS protest here: “They weren’t doing this for themselves, they were doing this for all people who are suffering injustice. It just inspired me. I couldn’t do anything else but come on down.” In response to the video of police dowsing peaceful Occupy UC Davis demonstrators with pepper spray: “Corporate America is using police departments as hired thugs.”

Captain Lewis in an on-the-scene video interview before his arrest: “Corporate power has got to go. . . All the cops are workers for the one percent, and they don’t even realize it.”

Wall Street’s Plan to Destroy the Occupy Movement

This video was taken at Occupy UC Davis yesterday: police deploying pepper-spray on peaceful demonstrators as though spraying for cockroaches. It is an image that will be hard to shake. This is what an unthinking response to the constitutional right of peaceful protest threatens to devolve into. Our fundamental rights, as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms calls them, are historically the last guarantee of personal freedom we achieve, and they are always in danger of being the first to go.

It’s a tribute to the resiliency of the Occupy movement that, even with co-ordinated police efforts to level encampments by force where necessary, the attitude on the right has evidently become that nothing but its complete eradication will do. MSNBC reports:

A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests, according to a memo obtained by the MSNBC program “Up w/ Chris Hayes.”

The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC’s clients, the American Bankers Association.

CLGC’s memo proposes that the ABA pay CLGC $850,000 to conduct “opposition research” on Occupy Wall Street in order to construct “negative narratives” about the protests and allied politicians. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and targets specific races in which it says Wall Street would benefit by electing Republicans instead.

According to the memo, if Democrats embrace OWS, “This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street. … It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.”

The memo also suggests that Democratic victories in 2012 should not be the ABA’s biggest concern. “… (T)he bigger concern,” the memo says, “should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies.”

Two of the memo’s authors, partners Sam Geduldig and Jay Cranford, previously worked for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Geduldig joined CLGC before Boehner became speaker;  Cranford joined CLGC this year after serving as the speaker’s assistant for policy. A third partner, Steve Clark, is reportedly “tight” with Boehner, according to a story by Roll Call that CLGC features on its website.

This attitude is consistent with the future such people appear to be rehearsing for: the police dispatched as a paramilitary force willing to resort to violence, along with “negative narratives” to discredit protest and intimidate anyone who sympathizes. For those invested in the status quo, constitutional rights turn out not to matter as much as the handful of municipal ordinances that are conveniently assumed to supersede them. The OWS demonstrators, meanwhile, show no sign of capitulation, despite escalating violence against them, including the dangerous use of sonic cannons brought in to clear Zuccotti Park. Authorities everywhere seem inclined to make the same mistake. As we’ve seen with the Arab Spring, officially-sanctioned violence reinforces the commitment to protest by verifying the problems that led to it in the first place.

Update: The pepper-spraying police officer in the above video is Lt. John Pike. A Facebook page calling for his arrest appeared today.