Happy birthday, Stephen Harper

Scott SimmsToday is the Prime Minister’s birthday. He is 48–years-old. Liberal MP Scott Simms (left)took note of this anniversary during “Members Statements” in the House of Commons today:

Mr. Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Lib.) :
Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer advice to the minority Conservative government and we can do that by checking the Prime Minister's horoscope.

Today is the Prime Minister's birthday and caféastrology.com tells us, “Restlessness, rebellion, and impatience figure prominently”. It is a clear reference to the Conservative Atlantic caucus.

It says, “Your energy tends to be erratic and temperamental” and can, “Act on sudden impulses without considering consequences”. That is an allusion, no doubt, to the government's confusing storyline regarding Afghan detainees.

The horoscope says, “Confrontations engaged in this year could clear the air and help you move forward”. Are the stars speaking of the Clean Air Act? Is there hope for a real environmental plan to emerge from the Conservative chaos on this file?

The future seems uncertain, except for one last prediction. It reads, “Arguments and confrontations are likely. Anger can erupt seemingly from nowhere”. Can question period be far off?

Finally, sincerely, to the Prime Minister, happy birthday.


Trying to stop the Swindle

Scientists are lobbying UK regulators to prevent the DVD distribution of a documentary that claims global warming is hoax. One of the scientists who is featured in the documentary now says the film is “as close to pure propaganda as anything since World War II.” Again: The guy who said that was actually in the movie.

Here’s your key grafs, from an article earlier this week in The Guardian in Britain:

Move to block emissions 'swindle' DVD

Dozens of climate scientists are trying to block the DVD release of a controversial Channel 4 programme that claimed global warming is nothing to do with human greenhouse gas emissions.
Sir John Houghton, former head of the Met Office, and Bob May, former president of the Royal Society, are among 37 experts who have called for the DVD to be heavily edited or removed from sale. The film, the Great Global Warming Swindle, was first shown on March 8, and was criticised by scientists as distorted and misleading.

In an open letter to Martin Durkin, head of Wag TV, the independent production company that made the film, the scientists say: “We believe that the misrepresentation of facts and views, both of which occur in your programme, are so serious that repeat broadcasts of the programme, without amendment, are not in the public interest … In fact, so serious and fundamental are the misrepresentations that the distribution of the DVD of the programme without their removal amounts to nothing more than an exercise in misleading the public.”

The programme featured scientists known as climate sceptics, such as Richard Lindzen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Phillip Stott, emeritus professor at the University of London. It argued that mainstream researchers ignore evidence that counters the consensus that most recent warming is down to human activity. It said there were problems with the computer models that predict future climate change and that solar activity, not greenhouse gas emissions, is to blame for recent warming. Wag TV called the programme a “definitive response to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth”. Scientists complained that the programme makers distorted evidence, and made elementary mistakes such as claiming that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than human activities, when in fact they produce less than 2% of that caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

… Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at MIT, and another signatory to the letter, was featured in the film and subsequently said his views had been misrepresented. He called the programme “as close to pure propaganda as anything since world war two” and has complained to Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, about his treatment.


Attention Catholics: Pope says get green!

I’m an Anglican but this Pope guy sounds like he’s got a plan

The Vatican yesterday added its voice to a rising chorus of warnings from churches around the world that climate change and abuse of the environment is against God's will, and that the one billion-strong Catholic church must become far greener.

At a Vatican conference on climate change, Pope Benedict urged bishops, scientists and politicians – including UK environment secretary David Miliband – to “respect creation” while “focusing on the needs of sustainable development” … [the rest of the story]

The Great Global Warming Swindle Swindle

This evening, on another network’s national newscast, the contents of a British documentary called “The Great Global Warming Swindle”  were reported. Many readers of this blog have brought this film to my attention and, as it has been widely available from time to time on YouTube and elsewhere on the Web, I often open my mail client in the morning to find the URL to this documentary in my inbox. Thank you to those of you who have sent this my way. I am always keen to get more information and more context on the climate change story.

But, as I have pointed out to many of you have corresponded with me over this,  “The Great Global Warming Swindle”, which aired in early March on Channel 4 in the UK, has proved to be a swindle itself: The producer of the documentary has admitted that he fabricated some of the data to make his point.

The following article appeared in the British newspaper The Independent on March 17. It was written by the paper's science editor, Steve Connor:

The real global warming swindle

A Channel 4 documentary claimed that climate change was a conspiratorial lie. But an analysis of the evidence it used shows the film was riddled with distortions and errors

A Channel 4 documentary that claimed global warming is a swindle was itself flawed with major errors which seriously undermine the programme's credibility, according to an investigation by The Independent.

The Great Global Warming Swindle, was based on graphs that were distorted, mislabelled or just plain wrong. The graphs were nevertheless used to attack the credibility and honesty of climate scientists . . .

Martin Durkin, who wrote and directed the film, admitted yesterday that one of the graphs contained serious errors but he said they were corrected in time for the second transmission of the programme following inquiries by The Independent.

Mr Durkin has already been criticised by one scientist who took part in the programme over alleged misrepresentation of his views on the climate . . .

Mr Durkin admitted that his graphics team had extended the time axis along the bottom of the graph to the year 2000. “There was a fluff there,” he said.

If Mr Durkin had gone directly to the Nasa website he could have got the most up-to-date data. This would have demonstrated that the amount of global warming since 1975, as monitored by terrestrial weather stations around the world, has been greater than that between 1900 and 1940 – although that would have undermined his argument.

“The original Nasa data was very wiggly-lined and we wanted the simplest line we could find,” Mr Durkin said. . . .

[Read the full story at: http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/climate_change/article2355956.ece ]


YouTube yanks my Vimy video

Well this is kinda funny. Now I’ve heard of people being overzealous in their protection of copyright but this is nutty: A 30–second video I shot myself with my 15–frames-per-second digital still camera — and narrated myself! — as I walked through the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France earlier this month has been pulled from Google’s YouTube site. Here’s the notice:

Dear Member:

This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Holland & Hart LLP claiming that this material is infringing:

Vimy Ridge Memorial – The Trenches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71fBv-U-6b8

Please Note: Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos uploaded to that account. In order to avoid future strikes against your account, please delete any videos to which you do not own the rights, and refrain from uploading additional videos that infringe on the copyrights of others. For more information about YouTube's copyright policy, please read the Copyright Tips guide.

If you elect to send us a counter notice, please go to our Help Center to access the instructions.

Please note that under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability.

YouTube, Inc.




And it doesn't sound like this is going to be a simple or easy process to put the video back up either. Sheesh. Anyone know anything more about Holland & Hart.

NDP seeks help for C-30 vote

NDP Leader Jack Layton makes public a letter he sent to Opposition Leader Stephane Dion and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe asking each one to consider using some of the procedural options available to opposition parties to try to force the government to bring C-30, the re-named Clean Air and Climate Change Act, to Parliament for a vote.

The government had been pursuing a legislative agenda for its environment strategy but, with the release this week by Environment Minister John Baird of his green plan, the government has abandoned a legislative agenda for a regulatory regime. The government will bring about its plan by changing the regulations in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Regulatory changes can be done through orders-in-council approved by cabinet and do not require parliamentary approval.

Layton doesn’t like that. He wants Parliament to debate this plan. Here’s Layton’s letter:


I write you today with the sincere hope that we can put partisan rancor behind us for the greater good of Canada’s environmental future. After reviewing the latest version of the Conservative “green plan” and your comments related to the Minister’s announcements; it has become increasing clear to me that the opposition parties must once again work together on this issue.

Our parties have worked together to re-write the first Conservative government attempt at combating climate change. Together our MPs amended that the Clean Air Act (Bill C-30) which the government is refusing to bring back to for debate and vote. While the amended Bill C-30 is not perfect, it stands as a far more effective and comprehensive climate change plan than the one announced by the government yesterday.

With the NDP’s next allotted Opposition Day not to occur until the end of May, I am respectfully requesting the consideration of using your parties’ Opposition Days to call on the government to immediately bring C-30 before the House. I understand the next Liberal Opposition Day is Tuesday, May 1 and the Bloc Quebecois’s Opposition Day would be shortly thereafter.

A motion compelling the government to bring C-30 before the House would have the NDP’s total support. I am also willing to move the motion myself should either Party wish to switch and use the NDP’s Opposition Days in late May.

Too much time has been wasted in Canada’s fight against climate change; we cannot afford to fall further behind. With the election speculation across the county now dying it’s time to get results on climate change, once and for all. We must have C-30 debated and voted on at the next possible opportunity.


Hon. Jack Layton, P.C., M.P.



"Torture in Afghanistan: The Liberals knew"

My friend and former colleague Joel-Denis Bellavance reports in this morning’s La Presse that the Liberal governments of 2002 and later knew that Afghanistan authorities were likely to torture or abuse those they captured as suspected Taliban operatives or sympathizers.

The Liberals, of course, have spent all week accusing the Conseratives of covering up these allegations.

L'ancien gouvernement libéral avait été prévenu par des diplomates canadiens en poste à Kaboul, en 2003, 2004 et 2005, que la torture était une pratique courante dans les prisons afghanes.

Malgré ces avertissements, le gouvernement Martin a décidé de signer une entente avec le gouvernement Karzaï, en décembre 2005, afin de livrer aux autorités afghanes tous les prisonniers capturés par les soldats canadiens, révèlent des documents du ministère des Affaires étrangères obtenus par La Presse.

Entre 2002 et 2005, le Canada avait l'habitude de remettre aux Américains les prisonniers afghans soupçonnés d'avoir des liens avec les talibans. Mais Ottawa a décidé de négocier une entente de transfert des prisonniers avec les autorités afghanes, à la suite de la controverse provoquée par les mauvais traitements au centre de détention militaire américain de Guantánamo, à Cuba, et les tortures infligées aux prisonniers par des militaires américains à la prison d'Abou Ghraib, en Irak.

Read the rest of the story


What can I say about leadership?

The University of Guelph’s Centre for the Study of Leadership holds a conference next week for civil servants, academics and other experts in the field of leadership in the public service. I’ll be speaking to that group on Friday May 4.

I’m spending the weekend trying to figure out what to say. I will likely talk about the relationship between the media and Stephen Harper, both in Opposition and now as Prime Minister, and see if conference attendees and I can learn anything about leadership — both Harper’s and among media organizations — from that examination.

Happy to hear your thoughts on that broad theme — directly to me or in the comments section below.


Howard Dean would ban the press

The Associated Press reports that Howard Dean, the president of the Democratic Party, believes voters would be better off if reporters were banned from all-candidates meetings and unable, as result, to tell voters what candidates actually said.

“The media has been reduced to info-tainment,” Dean said. “Info-tainment sells; the problem is they reach the lowest common denominator instead of forcing a little education down our throats, which we are probably in need of from time to time.”

National Press Club President Jerry Zremski lashed out at Dean for suggesting barring the media.

“Has Dean read the First Amendment? The Founding Fathers knew that a free press is central to the free flow of information to the citizenry — and that the free flow of information is the very foundation of a democracy. Repressing media is a tactic one expects from totalitarian regimes, not democracies,” Zremski said.

Tip of the toque to Deb Jones at Canadian Journalist.

Afghan detainees: Some back story

The Afghan detainee issue was again the dominant them in the House of Commons. For some background, a reader points me to some remarks then Defence Minister Bill Graham made on this matter in November, 2005:

… concerning prisoners. This is not a formal presentation, but I would like to share with the House the new policy I am trying to draft in conjunction with the Afghan government. We are in Afghanistan working for the good of the people and their government. We are not there to serve our own interests.

    When I was over there, I attempted to reach an agreement with the Government of Afghanistan on the transfer of prisoners to the Afghan government, with guarantees of supervision by both the Red Cross and the Afghan human rights commission itself, in order to guarantee the status of these prisoners. We are in the process of negotiating this and I hope the agreement will be concluded before our troops are sent in for more extensive duties.