Taliban tortured? Some context.

From the second last page of an Al Qaeda training manual found in Manchester England from a terrorist safe-house:

Lesson Eighteen

PRISONS AND DETENTION CENTERS

IF AN INDICTMENT IS ISSUED AND THE TRIAL BEGINS, THE BROTHER HAS TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING:

  1. At the beginning of the trial, once more the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security [investigators] before the judge.
  2. Complain [to the court] of mistreatment while in prison.
  3. Make arrangements for the brother’s defense with the attorney, whether he was retained by the brother ‘s family or court-appointed.
  4. The brother has to do his best to know the names of the state security officers, who participated in his torture and mention their names to the judge. [These names may be obtained from brothers who had to deal with those officers in previous cases.]
  5. Some brothers may tell and may be lured by the state security investigators to testify against the brothers [i.e. affirmation witness], either by not keeping them together in the same prison during the trials, or by letting them talk to the media. In this case, they have to be treated gently, and should be offered good advice, good treatment, and pray that God may guide them.
  6. During the trial, the court has to be notified of any mistreatment of the brothers inside the prison.
  7. It is possible to resort to a hunger strike, but it is a tactic that can either succeed or fail.
  8. Take advantage of visits to communicate with brothers outside prison and exchange information that may be helpful to them in their work outside prison [according to what occurred during the investigations]. The importance of mastering the art of hiding messages is self evident here.
  9. – When the brothers are transported from and to the prison [on their way to the court] they should shout Islamic slogans out loud from inside the prison cars to impress upon the people and their family the need to support Islam.
  10. – Inside the prison, the brother should not accept any work that may belittle or demean him or his brothers, such as the cleaning of the prison bathrooms or hallways.
  11. – The brothers should create an Islamic program for themselves inside the prison, as well as recreational and educational ones, etc.
  12. – The brother in prison should be a role model in selflessness. Brothers should also pay attention to each others needs and should help each other and unite vis a vis the prison officers.
  13. – The brothers must take advantage of their presence in prison for obeying and worshiping [God] and memorizing the Qora’an, etc. This is in addition to all guidelines and procedures that were contained in the lesson on interrogation and investigation. Lastly, each of us has to understand that we don’t achieve victory against our enemies through these actions and security procedures. Rather, victory is achieved by obeying Almighty and Glorious God and because of their many sins. Every brother has to be careful so as not to commit sins and everyone of us has to do his best in obeying Almighty God, Who said in his Holy Book: “We will, without doubt. help Our messengers and those who believe (both) in this world’s life and the one Day when the Witnesses will stand forth.” May God guide us.

When taken into Afghani custody, did the al Qaeda training take over? Curiously, detainees did not claim torture at the hands of Canadians, but only by Afghani jailers. Detainees are only held by Canadian Forces for at most 96 hours before being handed over to Afghan authorities.

Of course, this does not absolve Canada from their duty to protect the human rights of even the most despicable human beings. However, we should be aware that claiming torture is standard operating procedure for those trained by, or in association with al Qaeda.

The Globe and Mail’s Graeme Smith has been covering this story all week from Kandahar and details horrible accounts of abuse in this article.

I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: I suspect the claims because the Taliban have been trained to claim such mistreatment while imprisoned. However, the Afghan prison system is one of the last places where I’d want to be incarcerated.

The Canadian government is also trying to balance a couple of important objectives here. They must help the Afghani state to stand on its own two feet, and this includes the establishment of a prisons/corrections department of the government. But, they must balance this with being cognizant of human rights.

Consider this from an interview with Afghani ambassador Omar Samad from CTV NewsNet:

“We don’t kiss murderers, and I’m not saying that anyone who is detained is a murderer, but we are dealing with very vicious dangerous people. Every day we are facing normal citizens being beheaded, normal citizens being blown up, your soldiers being attacked, other soldiers that are being attacked. We’ll not tolerate that. At the same time we are trying to bring rule of law to Afghanistan. Justice system that works in Afghanistan. And so we are working on those things. If there are problems we’ll try to correct them as soon as possible.” — Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad

This point brings me back to an earlier thought. While the opposition is coming down on the mission in Afghanistan, showing concern for Taliban detainees, they are driving a wedge through the support of the Canadian electorate for a effort to establish and maintain human rights for millions of Afghanis, including women and children who for many are only experiencing their rights for the first time. We know that the opposition opposes the mission in Afghanistan. However, on the issue of rights I feel that Dion and Layton are throwing the baby out with the bathwater by trying to sink the Conservatives on the issue of detainees.

The news is inherently foggy as it deals with accounts from some unsavoury characters. One example has emerged from Smith’s story that I link above. Smith quotes Sadullah Khan, the Kandahar NDS chief and senior administrator of the system where most of the torture is alleged to have taken place.

However, in a release today, the Afghani embassy in Ottawa issued a release questioning that particular detail of Smith’s report:

“NDS officials also confirm that their employee rosters for Kandahar do not show any person named Sadullah Khan as having been employed by the agency in the past year. They also clarify that the person in-charge of NDS in the province is a person by a different name.”

One thing is certain, we do not have all of the details and those that we have are questionable, at best. The Canadian government has its own capacity to investigate and I’m hopeful that they are doing what they can to clarify, and if necessary, remedy the situation.

Liberals spooked by fax?

When the Liberals received a misdialed fax from the Environment Minister’s office and the subsequently faxed threatening letter suggesting that the original document contained sensitive market information, one wonders if the Grits would have made more of the incident if the Conservatives hadn’t hit back so hard and successfully on the Holland/Jennings boxes incident which backfired on that party highlighting Liberal arrogance when it comes to sensitive information…

Could the last supporter of small government turn off the lights when they leave?

So, Canada’s New Nanny™ banned light bulbs today. Today, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn announced that the government would force retailers to phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2012.

This kind of action is actually counter productive to our progress and to the development of even greener technologies. By tying the invisible hand of the market, the Canadian government has in effect created an artificially high demand in fluorescent lights instead of letting Edison-style incandescents compete with the swirly fluorescents in the marketplace. The inefficient bulbs banned today cost seven times less than the fluorescent variety. Indeed, cost itself poses the problem. By removing incandescent bulbs from the marketplace, the government is removing competition. Now, manufacturers of fluorescent bulbs do not face competing pressure from the incandescent demand. Thus, there is less incentive to make a cheaper and even more efficient fluorescent bulb now that the government has removed its competition from the shelves. Over the long term, we may have in fact stunted the development of cheaper and more efficient means of illumination.

Some may argue that over time, due to energy savings, fluorescent bulbs have better value than incandescents. If this is the case, there is already incentive to switch over. I would rather the government give 100% tax credits on fluorescent light bulb purchases than have it ban me from making my own consumer choices.

Today, I am a little disappointed in my Conservative Party. This is also the same party that two short years ago argued that banning trans-fats was counter to the principles of consumer choice. By one extension, this light bulb decision is even counter to the government’s position on the long gun registry. In 2012, bureaucrats won’t have light bulbs to register. No, by 2012, the government will have thankfully banned harmful incandescent bulbs and the only ones that you’ll be able to find will be on the black market. This isn’t the party that favours government regulations, bans, and registrars is it?

Further, what secondary effects can are we not considering? Studies have shown that children exposed to fluorescent light were statistically more likely to develop hyperopia (far-sightedness). Children under the age of two whose rooms were lit with fluorescent lighting are more likely to develop astigmatism. Fluorescent lighting has also been shown to heighten the symptoms of agoraphobia.

So, the government has decided to ban light bulbs to appease the growing hysteria that, some might say, stems from the left-wing need for global social and economic reconfiguration. Granted, the ban will have a measured benefit in the short term. But, for reasons I’ve outlined above, it is best for the consumer to make such a decision because the market has shown a great talent for addressing consumer needs, whatever they may be.

If a lightbulb is turned on in Timmins, will a tidal wave hit Japan?

Who will sing a folk song for the women of Afghanistan?

There are times when I cannot understand the logical path that the left takes in order to come to some of their conclusions.

For example, the other day, Stephane Dion floated a trial balloon on his idea that perhaps instead of handing Taliban detainees over to the Afghan people, we should import them and detain them here in Canada!

Nevermind that Dion and Jack Layton’s activist base have been advocating for the release of men linked to al Qeada in Canada and held on security certificates. They advocate that if we can’t deport them back to the backward countries that may torture them, we shouldn’t detain them here but rather release them into the public. Now, consider Dion’s plan: import Taliban fighters for detaining, and failing the stomach to detain them — the logical progression and historical record goes — release them into the general Canadian public when leftwing activists condemn the Canadian government for holding combatants without charge.

Most times, while logic is lacking, left-wing positions can often be explained by a sense of self-loathing as these revolutionaries are dyspeptic of their presence in our modern Western civilization.

Let’s look deeper into the intellectual pretzel of Dion and Layton’s crowd.

In a March 2007 article in the Globe and Mail, Amir Attaran wrote:

Transport our detainees from Afghanistan to prisoner-of-war camps in Canada. This sounds awful, but that is a shrill and unhistorical analysis. Starting in June of 1940, Canada transported about 40,000 German and Italian enemy combatants to this country and held them in camps in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Those enemies were treated humanely. They were fed even as Canadians suffered under food rationing. They were given democracy classes, so they could spread those ideas in their fascist homelands. When the war ended, they went home; some returned as immigrants.

All of this was expensive, but Mackenzie King decided Canada should uphold the Geneva Conventions — and we did.

Not only would this option show Canada at our humanitarian best, but it poses vital questions. If Mackenzie King could imprison 40,000 European enemies without devastating Canada’s war effort, then how can it be seriously contended that Stephen Harper cannot now imprison roughly 40 Afghan enemies (the number detained by the Canadian Forces from 2002 through mid-2006)? Mr. O’Connor says the Canadian Forces will always follow the Geneva Conventions. If that’s so, why does the military fail to provide Geneva protections to 0.1 per cent of detainees, compared to the Second World War historical norm?

The heart-rending answer to these questions appears to be race. Canada’s inability to treat European and Afghan enemies on equal terms indicates that our military and foreign-policy establishment may still be dominated by a Eurocentric ethos. The current detainee policy suggests a subterranean racism that lags decades behind Canada’s contemporary reality as a multicultural state.

A primary concern for the Allies and Canadian forces during the Second World War was that Germans and Italians would escape or be liberated by their comrades and rejoin the fight. The removal of 40,000 prisoners from the European theater made sense strategically. If Canadians have captured 40 Taliban fighters, this number is certainly more manageable (and less significant of a strategic concern) when it comes to detainment.

Layton and Dion and their supporters on the left are inconsistent when it comes to their claimed ideology of rights and their policy position that we ought to pull out of Afghanistan. Why do these leaders want to abandon the Afghan mission when the alternative is unthinkable from a human rights perspective? To the Liberals, was the Charter a practical document for Canadian rights or does it represent a global ideal? Women in parliament? Girls in schools? The crackdown by the Taliban would be horrendous if Canada left. In fact, why was World War II worth the fight and why would Layton and Dion suggest that we shirk our responsibility to stop fascism in Afghanistan? Is it the Eurocentric ethos of the NDP and Liberal Party? Or is it more consistent with the trend of reductio ad americanum practiced by the left?

Who is Amir Attaran? Unfortunately, he’s close to the only seemingly sane faction of the Liberal Party. The Globe and Mail provides some information:

Amir Attaran, now Canada research chair in law, population health, and global development policy at the University of Ottawa, was a research fellow at the Kennedy School during Mr. Ignatieff’s time at the Carr.

He ran afoul of an influential faculty member and the school’s administration over a line of academic inquiry he insisted on pursuing, and found himself about to be booted out.

He brought his troubles to Mr. Ignatieff, who gave him office space and mentoring support until he could find another academic home. “Michael stuck up for me against some extremely nasty attacks,” Prof. Attaran says.

Tous ensemble in a twisted stew of self-loathing. It is illogical to suggest that we must transport Taliban fighters to protect them from torture while advocating that we withdraw from Afghanistan leaving women and vulnerable minorities to certain dehumanization.

Canada is in Afghanistan to enable the vulnerable to stand up, but we must also work to protect the human rights of all Afghanis. While war never happens as planned and calls for constant refinements to operations on the ground, we must always work towards maintaining our fundamental principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law so that others may enjoy them too.

CBC Fauxtography

Kate McMillan did some fantastic work yesterday uncovering image manipulation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on an April 19th story about the government’s sobering Kyoto costing. McMillan discovered that the CBC had cropped and applied a photoshop “dirty” filter to an image of smokestacks in Toronto to accentuate environmental damage. Not only was the juxtaposition of pollution and a story on Kyoto costing inappropriate (a less but still inappropriate image would have been a photoshopped stack of papers stamped “Kyoto” crushing the piggy bank of a Canadian family) but to manipulate an image to reflect a editorial point of view is downright unethical. The image was also used in a news story back on February 14th.

top-kyoto.jpg
Pre-photoshop image

cbckyoto.jpg
Screen-capture of April 19th story

Not only is the photoshopping unethical, it violates CBC’s own Journalistic Standards and Practices:

From section III, subsection 2:

Accuracy

The information conforms with reality and is not in any way misleading or false. This demands not only careful and thorough research but a disciplined use of language and production techniques, including visuals.

Integrity
The information is truthful, not distorted to justify a conclusion. Broadcasters do not take advantage of their power to present a personal bias.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that agents of news organizations have manipulated images dishonestly to exaggerate the news in order to convince others of their worldview. News organizations ought to be dispassionate observers and reporters of events and never should have an agenda of convincing the audience of the merits of any particular agenda.

Senator-elect to serve in the Senate!

I was in question period yesterday to see a bit of Canadian history unfold.

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as part of our campaign promise for democratic reform, our Conservative government put forward Bill C-43, which establishes the national process for consulting Canadians on their preferences for Senate appointment through election. We have recently learned that Senator Dan Hays, who holds the seat from Alberta, will be retiring from the Senate after it rises for the summer.

Could our Prime Minister advise the House, Canadians and Albertans on how he will be filling this vacancy?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): First, Mr. Speaker, let me take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Hays on his long public service, including his role as leader of the opposition and Speaker of the Senate.

We do have Bill C-43 tabled. On the other hand, the province of Alberta did some time ago hold a popular consultation for the filling of a Senate vacancy. When that seat comes due, I will recommend to the Governor General the appointment of Mr. Bert Brown.

This is fantastic news for western populists who have been championing senate reform for the past 20 years.

The resignation of Hays has allowed Harper to accelerate the appointment of an elected senator and to realize an old Reform Party ideal.

Once the process of appointing senators becomes normalized, it will be difficult for Prime Ministers to make unelected appointments.

Senate reform may become a key aspect of this Prime Minister’s legacy, despite the fact that it began with the less than ideal appointment of Michael Fortier.

UPDATE: Yukon urged to follow suit

Defining the blogging medium

Last night, I had the opportunity to be an invited guest speaker at Third Monday, a monthly gathering of PR and government relations professionals on the topics of blogging, politics, and the emergence of social media as media. It was an enjoyable experience as I met some of Ottawa’s top thinkers in the marketing of products and ideas.

Immediately, I was able to appreciate the depth of knowledge that the attendees had in blogging and other forms of social media. After our preliminary chat and before I took the stage, I knew that the crowd was past the stage of explaining “a blog, or web-log is a form of website authored by an individual or group that writes on topics in reverse chronological order”. This was refreshing to know, as I knew that we’d be able to get past the technicalities of the medium and discuss the social, legal and ethical implications of writing a blog.

I have raised open questions in the past about a blog’s role in cataloging one’s observation of events. Specifically, how does one define blogs as media? One observer noted that unlike airwaves, the resources of the Internet and the delivery of information is not limited in a sense that a government body ought to license or regulate its use. Of course, in Canada, we tend to suffer over-regulation as the rule so it was interesting to consider the dissemination of media via the internet as an unregulated resource. However, some in this country would advocate for regulation of media, not because of the scarcity of the resource, but for control of content.

But what of “blogs”? I’ve come to the realization over the past few weeks (and indeed years) that blogging is simply a tool, or the method by which one’s ideas can be disseminated. A “blogger” ought not to represent a certain class of individual with categorical privileges, rights and restrictions. Like the pen, microphone, or typewriter, a blog is simply the tool. The blogger is the reporter.

And of the question of whether or not blogging is journalistic? Last night I was asked if what I do is journalism in any sense. To a degree, I would muse that I am an observer and reporter of news events. Journalists in the mainstream media are employed by companies that are owned by large media organizations (like Rogers or Bell) or powerful teachers unions. Of course, a reporter’s loyalty ought to be only to the truth. I believe that what I do is truth mixed with my own sincere opinion. Then again, some journalists are also analysts or columnists and base their views on what they perceive to be true. They have their partisan preferences and are paid to provide opinion. Certainly that opinion has been focused through a lens of experience unique to the individual.

Am I a journalist, reporter, or columnist? Some may say that I should not be considered a journalist since I have my own agenda. One CBC journalist once complained to me that I don’t declare my biases up front (I think this was derived from a similar charge that I had leveled at him seconds before). “It’s right there at the top of the page — Conservative Party of Canada Pundit”, I explained. I was astonished to hear the CBC journo dismissively grunted that “it’s not enough”. To distill what I do to its base elements, at the end of the day I’m just some guy with an internet connection, opinions and $20 a month to spend on website hosting. However, in a political climate bent on accountability, transparency and high ethical standards (and a country where one could do a Historica minute on our proud regulatory traditions), must I consider following a certain code of conduct? Legally, as long as I don’t write hate or indefensible libel against an individual or group, I believe that I’m entitled to speak as I wish; I certainly do not hold any elected office and am not accountable to anybody but myself. Ethically, however, as part ‘shoestring’ media, I believe that I ought to conform to a certain ethical standard. I hope that I’ve had some degree of success in adhering to it.

I suppose after speaking to a room full of lobbyists, individuals that navigate the ethical and legal complexities defined and redefined by Ottawa, these thoughts tend to come to the fore rather than reside nebulously at the back of one’s mind. If one is to assume that this blog has some measure of influence over its readers and if one were to further assume that many of those readers are policy makers and journalists, does these considerations pose certain ethical dilemmas given certain scenarios? I’ve always stated that my blog has been successful in most part because of my readers. As my audience has grown, more and more people send me interesting ideas and items for my consideration. Of course, some of this material comes from political parties (including anti-Dion Liberals), some comes from the media itself (if it’s too ‘raw for prime-time’). Most of the rest of it comes from everyday Canadians that send in interesting observations. However, at Third Monday, the general question came up asking if I could be sent propaganda by interest groups? Could this information influence me? For example, could someone from the oil and gas send me information to muddy the waters on climate change? Of course they could. However, I would never write anything contrary to my own opinion and I try to verify all facts to a certain degree of confidence. I’m also faithful to my sources and would never reveal who has sent me information.

One certainty exists in a media climate that is constantly changing: our views of media are undefined and may never be. A blog is simply a medium, as I’ve stated above. However, I’m certain that some in the MSM would say that blogging has had the effect of admitting pedestrians into a noble profession. Indeed, the cost of blogging is virtually nil; one only needs to go to the public library to publish one’s thoughts to the world. Blogging has also been a boon to democratic participation as one can participate in formative policy based debate with other citizens as frequently or an infrequently as they wish. Democratically, a citizen is not simply reduced to a voter anymore. I do, however, believe that the evolving definition of journalist ought not to be confused by the medium. At one time even television reporters had to fight for access. Blogging may lower the threshold to participation; however the blogosphere can also be viewed as the best crucible in which those that ought to be read, will be and those that don’t, will figuratively burn away. Thankfully, the internet is the closest medium that we have that approaches an unlimited information resource. Let’s hope that nobody ever tries to regulate it, for we should all have access.

No spring election

What follows is a personal theory that I’ve been assembling from observation over the past month. There are only three people, I believe, in the Conservative Party who actually know about an election, and I’m certain that even they squabble over timing.

Here’s my take.

There won’t be an election this spring or summer.

First, the Conservatives have been doing everything in their power to convince us of the opposite. Consider the training conference that the party just held in Toronto. This affair was no small feat and if I were a Liberal watching from the outside, I’d be anxious. Further, the Conservatives just showed off their 17,000 sq. ft. war room to the media. Can you remember a party in recent history that has done something like this? Why show the media one of the cards in your election hand? Again, I believe that this had the effect of sending shock into the spines of Liberal Party officials.

Stephane Dion, and his communications and strategy teams have been reacting to Conservative actions rather than taking the time to forge out their own long-term plan. Instead, the best Dion has been able to muster so far has been to complain that Harper is being “unfair” and that the Conservatives are bullies. The Liberals have not even begun to effectively present and communicate a long term policy plan for Canadians to consider.

Stephen Harper is also enjoying some of the highest polling numbers that he’s ever experienced. He’s got the opportunity to plateau these numbers rather than pick the spike and hope he’s got enough of a gentle slope to ride down on the way to E-day. Back in 2004, when the news came out that Harper was in “majority territory”, this was the kiss of death. Soon after, Ontario voters reacted to the news in order to put Harper back into a comfortable place in their minds.

With respect to comfort, this has been a key aspect of the Conservative plan, in my opinion. Stephen Harper’s strategy has been in part to be the status quo Prime Minister. Harper and his planners have done everything in their power to prevent Canadians from thinking that they’re rocking the boat. Take the latest budget, for example. Conservatives looking for a conservative budget were largely disappointed. “This is a Liberal budget” they exclaimed. The budget was heavy on spending and par for the course for most Canadians. Harper is hardly causing earthquakes in Ottawa. In fact, the more that Stephen Harper can do to be the Prime Minister in the back of the minds of Canadians instead of in the front of their minds, the better.

Harper has indeed been enjoying polling numbers that would give him a majority government. Some analysts have remarked that the best ally that Stephen Harper has is time. The longer that he is Prime Minister, the more that the concept becomes comfortably entrenched in the minds of Canadians. Pair this with Harper’s status quo Prime Ministership and he can ride out high numbers without those numbers themselves becoming an offensive concept in the minds of Canadians. The summer is coming up and most will, as usual, disconnect from politics. The Prime Minister is hoping to be riding high going into the summer so that he can park his numbers there as Canadians get used to the concept of Harper in majority territory.

I’m also getting the feeling that Harper may ride out his numbers far enough so that media observers will go from blaming him from being opportunistic if he were to call an election, to questioning his political acumen for not calling an election with such a good position in the polls.

So, for those of you who think that Harper’s on the verge of calling (or orchestrating) an election, I think that it’s time to reassess. Perhaps that’s only what the Conservatives want you to think.

Then again, maybe they want you to think like me.

Press shuts down blogger

A couple of weeks ago, I headed down the street to Parliament Hill to cover the budget for my blog and for Blogging Tories. You can see the product of that effort here, here, here, and here. I have a Hill pass that indicates that I have been pre-screened by security and allows me access to a variety of places in the Parliamentary district. While hovering on the periphery of a budget-day scrum with Jack Layton, I was spotted by Elizabeth Thompson of the Montreal Gazette. She scolded me and expressed to this lowly blogger that he wasn’t allowed to scrum with Layton. Largely ignoring her, I continued to mind my own business and started to needlessly check my camera settings. Thompson alerted Parliamentary Press Gallery President Richard Brennan to my presence and minutes later, security asked me to leave the foyer area.

I left the hallway outside of the foyer and walked over to the railway room to interview some ‘stakeholders’ of the budget. This went off without incident and during that time, I cheerfully chatted with some reporters that were in the same room.

Having completed my interviews with the stakeholders, I left and headed on over to the Rotunda where I had a friendly chat with Jack Layton. Elizabeth May and her assistant were also hanging around chatting when I saw Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc walk by. Having heard that his party was the lone opposition party supporting the budget, I asked him for an interview. He agreed. After the interview something ugly happened.

An official from the Press Gallery walked over and informed me that he had received “complaints” about me. “Thompson?” I inquired. “Complaints”, he seemed to acknowledge. I pointed out that we were currently in the Rotunda of Parliament and that my pass allowed me to be there. “But you have a camera” he informed me. He called over a security guard to escort me from Parliament.

Unbelievable!

Yes, the Parliamentary Press Gallery, with no powers granted to it by constitution or statute, used security to remove somebody who had the right to be present on the Hill granted to him by the Speaker of the House.

A similar incident happened recently when two female staffers from the Conservative Resource Group were similarly removed from the Hill by security when the Liberals complained to the Gallery.

After the incident, the Prime Ministers office called the sergeant-at-arms (who works on behalf of the Speaker on Hill security) and was told that the Gallery and Liberals were wrong to ask for the ouster of the CRG staff from Dion scrums (and scrums in general).

Of course, this brings up a few questions. If security on the Hill is the responsibility of the Speaker, and if I have been granted access to most non-privileged areas of the Hill by the Speaker, what authority does an official of the PPG have in calling in the guard to have me removed from perhaps the most public area of the Hill? Elizabeth May was also present in the Rotunda, yet she is not an elected member, nor is she associated with an elected party in Parliament. She has also been granted security clearance to the Hill by the Speaker. So, is it the camera? What is so offensive about my camera? Since I am cleared to be present on the Hill, is it because I haven’t been cleared to use one of the Press Guild’s many tools? Would May be ejected by the Gallery if she was in possession of a camera? What if I am invited by a politician to use my camera on the Hill? Is this forbidden? Was this interview with Jack Layton in the NDP leader’s office violating some unwritten rule of the media powers that be? Does the CRG/Dion Hill incident (and the aftermath) set a precedent for my presence (with camera) on the Hill? Again, why does the power reside in a largely unelected, unaccountable body of Parliament that is not defined by statute? I’ve made a sport out of taking on institutions with artificial and inflated senses of entitlement, maybe the Press Gallery is next.

Or, you may ask, why don’t I just suck it up and join this all-powerful guild as some of the friendlier gallery-folk have suggested? I’ve always been unsure about this move as I am a declared partisan, yet I am not employed by the Conservative Party. Still, should partisan media exist? Should it be allowed? Since this blog is de facto media and it already operates in a partisan manner, should the CRTC or Elizabeth Thompson shut it down? Frankly, I can understand reasons against ‘official’ recognition of my media status in the Parliamentary precinct. After all, couldn’t I flood Conservatives with long and friendly press conference questions to waste time? (yes). Would I? (no). Would I sell out my media brethren and sign up for ‘the list’? (yes).

But then again, the game is changing and bloggers are becoming a new category in a variety of forums they intersect. Will the next evolutionary phase be a smooth one or will it require direct action?

As the concept of “press” is being redefined to include bloggers, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that some of the “officials” that are trampling on our rights include members of the “dead tree” division of the guild we wish to complement.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that I am ineligible for membership in the Parliamentary Press Gallery because I am not employed as a journalist by any organization. Do you think that the evolution of media and reporting should change some of the traditions and practices on parliament hill?