Saturday, January 30, 2010
(Artist Ptolemy Dean)
First encounter with the Judicial Committee....
I was led into an ornate office, clearly designed to impress. I was impressed.
I knew that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had moved into new premises, but the ancient figure at work before me appeared to have been transferred with dust undisturbed. He was using a quill and perched at a really old desk. The quill stopped and the figure looked up.
"M'lord, I have with me a constitutional lawyer from Canada on an errand to the Judicial Committee from Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada. He has the correct seals."
The figure shuddered. "We don't have to eat them, do we?"
"No, I mean his documents are correct."
"Very well. You will please remain to take notes."
He gazed at me, speculatively. "Canada, eh?" he said. "Haven't seen you for a while. Interesting that you should turn up now. The last I recall was the Manitoba-Ontario Boundary dispute of 1884...."
"It was a significant ruling, but there have been other important decisions since then, the "Persons" ruling of 1928, for example, recognizing the existence of women...
He sighed. "Those were the days."
He returned from reverie. "So what brings you here? I'd thought we'd done with Canada."
"Unusual circumstances M'lord. Her Excellency, the Governor General, has become concerned about the integrity of the parliamentary process in Canada."
"The current Prime Minister of Canada appears to believe he is the head of a feudal aristocracy that rules by divine right. He has intimidated the civil service with some success, stacked the Senate, abused Parliamentary procedure in the interests of staying in power, and now is trying to control the judiciary. He has twice asked Her Excellency to prorogue Parliament on the flimsiest of excuses, and she assented with reluctance for the greater good, to avoid an open consitutional crisis."
I continued, relentlessly, "But Her Excellency fears that not only will the Prime Minister try to replace her with a more docile Governor General of his own choosing, but that he might try to abolish the office entirely."
"This is grave news, indeed. And what would Her Excellency have the Judicial Committee do about the Prime Minister?"
"Exile to St. Helena."
He straightened slowly. "There is precedent of course, and the Reserve Powers are extraordinary, but the exile of a sitting Prime Minister stretches them considerably. Does Her Excellency have less drastic alternatives to safeguard the Dominion?"
"Yes, in the event that St. Helena is impossible, Her Excellency requests leave from the Committee to construct a moat around Rideau Hall, connected to the remainder of National Capital District by a single drawbridge, and that the moat then be filled with Alberta Tar Sands."
"Your appeal is most unusual. Please allow me one day for consultations, and return here tomorrow at the same time."
I bowed and withdrew. I returned to my lodgings and dreamed uneasily of weasels.
To be continued......
Friday, January 29, 2010
I was stiff and sore after a charter flight from Ottawa: the service had been excellent but the seats were painful. I'd spent extra to get the direct flight, not the one that stopped in the Canaries.
I was working under cover for The Woman in Black, and I surveyed the world bleakly from Victoria Station, where I had debouched after a coach journey from Heathrow of unsurpassing tedium, before hailing a passing Number 82 bus. Only the Europeans understand this level of service and comfort.
I had no idea where I was going, only that I needed to shake off any tails from CSIS. I dismounted at Golder's Green and doubled back towards St. John's Wood to wrongfoot any surveillance, but fell awkwardly into the gutter. I was recovering my presence of mind when two shiny black boots presented themselves at eye level.
"Hello, hello, hello!" said a bass voice that seemed to boom from the heavens. "Had one too many, have we?"
I thought quickly. "No, I'm a Canadian constitutional lawyer."
"Well, that explains a lot, " the voice continued, relentlessly. "We get a lot of them at this time of year. Blown off the migration routes to Florida."
What could he mean? Why drag the CIA into this? I lurched to my feet.
"I merely need to find my way to a bed and breakfast, Constable."
"All very well sir. I suggest you try The Rhinoceros and Weasel, an excellent public house directly behind you."
He assisted me across the threshold with a minimum of force, and the landlord threw me courteously into bed. As I dozed into unconsciouness, the name of the pub echoed ominously. Rhinoceros? Weasel?
The next day I arose at noon, owing to the time difference, and staggered down to a breakfast of kippers and Scotch. The landlord hovered without any real enthusiasm, and I managed to have a quiet word.
"Can you," I asked furtively, "direct me to the offices of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council?"
He was a cool devil, I'll give him that, and his eyebrows twitched almost imperceptibly.
"We hear that a lot," he said.
"How often?" I asked.
"Once," he replied.
I toyed moodily with my kippers as he drifted off to serve another customer with the traditional English fried breakfast. I felt like my brains had been fried. When I checked, that was also on the menu.
He drifted back and stuck a Post-It Note on my menu. It said: "The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3BD."
I lurched out into the street with my London A-Z in hand. It was useless. I hailed a cab.
I fell out at the address and tried to pull myself together. I entered the premises.
A receptionist regarded me disdainfully.
"Who are you sir, and what do you want?"
"I'm a constitutional lawyer sent by the Governor General of Canada to make representations before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council."
"And your bona fides?"
I deposited a flipper pie on her desk, on which was engraved the insignia of the Governor General of Canada, blurred only slightly by an unfortunate baggage incident at Terminal 5.
She was visibly impressed. "Please take a number and have a seat."
I took a number, which was "2" and noted that the only other occupant of the waiting room was a man who resembled Robert Mugabe. He sneered at me. "So, another colonial come to grovel at the feet of the British Crown."
I regained possession of the flipper pie and ground it into his face. I felt better for having done so.
The receptiionist returned. "The Secretary will now see Number 1." There were incomprehensible noises from the Mugabe-like figure, filtered through a thick layer of flipper pie.
"In that case, Number 2?"
I stood up and offered my ticket. It said "2".
"Please come this way."
To be continued....
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
There were days I regretted becoming a constitutional lawyer. This was one of the nights. I stood hunched in the driving snow near the tradesmen's entrance at Rideau Hall. The Woman in Black told me to meet her there, I couldn't be seen coming in the front door. I had a cigar for warmth and a bottle of Chivas for company. It wasn't how I imagined it in law school.
The door opened, then closed. Some one in a seal skin coat stood next to me. I couldn't see her until she smiled, but when she did, the snow sublimated from my parka. I could hear the hiss.
I flicked my lighter and she lit up.
"It's dangerous for us to meet like this," she said.
"You're telling me. My eyelashes froze together until I poured Chivas on them."
"I think you're trying to impress me."
"I'm standing here waiting for you, freezing solid. What more do you want from me?"
"Results." She exhaled. "I heard The Weasel's gunning for me."
"Why wouldn't he be? He's taken out The Cop, The Scientist, and The Soldier, you're the obvious target."
She didn't like that.
"Who does he think he's dealing with?" she snapped, real venom for the first time.
"You mean, 'With whom does he think he's dealing?'"
"Don't give me that fancy lawyer talk...."
"Talk is what we've got unless you want to call out the Army....you ARE the Commander in Chief."
"That would be an unconstitutional exercise of the Royal Prerogative..."
"Look... who's the constitutional lawyer, you or me?"
"You're the one that's getting paid!"
"I've only got your word for that. I've put in three requisitions to the Treasury Board and all I've got in return is a letter telling me I'm being considered as part of Canada's Action! Plan."
"I'm paying you cash. Forget the Treasury Board."
"How can I, when Stockwell Day is flaunting his handbag?"
"I didn't think you'd fall for a pretty face."
"Look, I already have, it's late, and I'm cold. What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to go to London," she said.
I was mystified. "What would I do there? They've got more snow than here."
"Not Ontario... England!"
The light started to dawn. She wanted me to take the Big Walk....
"I want you to appear before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and tell them to take down The Weasel."
She couldn't be serious. For one thing, the Judicial Committee no longer had any power in Canada....or did it? She was after all, the Governor General. Maybe she'd been talking to....Her...
To be continued.....
Sunday, January 24, 2010
"His final message delivered, he relaxed on the 14-hour trip home by watching “Seven Days in May,” the cold war-era film about an attempted military coup in the United States." -The New York Times January 23, 2010
and it's only January.....
Friday, January 22, 2010
Based upon Goebbels' Principles of Propaganda by Leonard W. Doob, published in Public Opinion and Propaganda; A Book of Readings edited for The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
1. Propagandist must have access to intelligence concerning events and public opinion.
2. Propaganda must be planned and executed by only one authority.
a. It must issue all the propaganda directives.
b. It must explain propaganda directives to important officials and maintain their morale.
c. It must oversee other agencies' activities which have propaganda consequences
3. The propaganda consequences of an action must be considered in planning that action.
4. Propaganda must affect the enemy's policy and action.
a. By suppressing propagandistically desirable material which can provide the enemy with useful intelligence
b. By openly disseminating propaganda whose content or tone causes the enemy to draw the desired conclusions
c. By goading the enemy into revealing vital information about himself
d. By making no reference to a desired enemy activity when any reference would discredit that activity
5. Declassified, operational information must be available to implement a propaganda campaign
6. To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.
7. Credibility alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false.
8. The purpose, content and effectiveness of enemy propaganda; the strength and effects of an expose; and the nature of current propaganda campaigns determine whether enemy propaganda should be ignored or refuted.
9. Credibility, intelligence, and the possible effects of communicating determine whether propaganda materials should be censored.
10. Material from enemy propaganda may be utilized in operations when it helps diminish that enemy's prestige or lends support to the propagandist's own objective.
11. Black rather than white propaganda may be employed when the latter is less credible or produces undesirable effects.
12. Propaganda may be facilitated by leaders with prestige.
13. Propaganda must be carefully timed.
a. The communication must reach the audience ahead of competing propaganda.
b. A propaganda campaign must begin at the optimum moment
c. A propaganda theme must be repeated, but not beyond some point of diminishing effectiveness
14. Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.
a. They must evoke desired responses which the audience previously possesses
b. They must be capable of being easily learned
c. They must be utilized again and again, but only in appropriate situations
d. They must be boomerang-proof
15. Propaganda to the home front must prevent the raising of false hopes which can be blasted by future events.
16. Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.
a. Propaganda must reinforce anxiety concerning the consequences of defeat
b. Propaganda must diminish anxiety (other than concerning the consequences of defeat) which is too high and which cannot be reduced by people themselves
17. Propaganda to the home front must diminish the impact of frustration.
a. Inevitable frustrations must be anticipated
b. Inevitable frustrations must be placed in perspective
18. Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I was sitting alone in the bar of the Chateau Laurier, nursing my third Molson's Canadian. I've drunk more than my share of booze, but this was different: the more I drank the worse it got. I was considering changing to Screech, a hellish brew I'd only heard about in back alleys, when a woman came and sat down next to me. She was black, she was beautiful, and she had a constitutional problem. Two out of three ain't bad. I knew the third would be trouble.
"I think I know you," she said.
"That's more than I can say," I told her. "Can I buy you a drink?"
She gave me a long, lazy look, and said, "I only accept drinks from constitutional lawyers."
I held her gaze. "You're in luck, darling, I'm a constitutional lawyer."
"Too bad you don't have a drink."
I could see this one would be hard to handle. I ordered Screech on the rocks for both of us. She took a lady-like gulp and grimaced.
"That's more like it. Can we get raw seal?"
I motioned to the bartender who unobtrusively laid an adult seal on the bar, clubbed it to death, and cut out the heart for her. She munched appreciatively, and washed it down with more Screech. This was no ordinary woman.
Eventually, she opened up: "I have a problem with cowboys."
Constitutional problems and cowboys mix like oil and water. You shake them up, you get salad dressing. I played it cool.
"You don't seem like the type to have problems with any kind of boys."
She grimaced attractively and opened the next bottle of Screech with her teeth.
"It's not as simple as all that."
If Health Canada regulations had permitted smoking in public areas, she would have taken a drag on her cigarette and exhaled slowly. "These guys are something else. They don't play by the rules, they don't think there are any rules, and they play for keeps."
Now we were getting somewhere.. "So why bother with a constitutional lawyer? What you need is a gunslinger from Alberta."
She turned on me. "They're way overrated. They've only got six shots, the shots aren't all that impressive, and after that they're all talk."
"So what's the problem?"
"We need to take them out on my terms, not their terms."
Clearly, this woman could not be taken lightly.
"And that's where I come in?"
"Of course. I want to take these guys down, permanently, and I want them to look like fools while I'm doing it."
I played a long shot. "Have you read the Magna Carta?"
"Only in Norman French."
She had ovaries the size of grapefruit.
"OK, you've hired me, but I'm going to need an advance."
Her smoky gaze met me head on.
"You can have as much advance as you think you can handle..."
To be continued...
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
I had no idea things were going so well in Afghanistan. Then again, I would never have guessed from the BBC post that the Afghan polling outfit, ACSOR Surveys, is a subidiary of D3 Systems of - wait for it - Virginia, and in fact very close to CIA headquarters although I'm sure that's just a coincidence.
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Even so, I'd be interested to know how the pollsters took a random sample in Helmand and Kandahar, and even more interested to know which tribe the pollsters belonged to, and in fact the background to the BBC commissioning a survey that is, on it's face, bizarrely contradictory to almost everything coming out of Afghanistan, Kai Eide's report to the UN just being one example.