Thursday, May 31, 2007

Climate Change Reparations?

Oxfam believes the world's industrial giants should begin paying tens of billions of dollars a year in reparations for climate change damage being sustained in the Third World. From Financial Times:

"The US should pay $22bn a year to developing countries to help them to adapt to the effects of climate change, according to a calculation published on Monday by the charity Oxfam.

"Japan should pay about $6.5bn, Germany about $3.5bn a year and the UK at least $2.5bn a year in order to give developing countries the aid they need. Other countries, such as European Union member states and Australia, should pay between $1.5bn and $2.5bn in climate change reparations, or “compensatory finance”, said Kate Raworth, senior researcher at Oxfam and author of the report.

"Oxfam said it would cost about $50bn a year for developing countries to build sea and other defences needed to handle problems caused by climate change.

"Ms Raworth said: 'This is not about aid, it is about the world’s biggest and richest polluters covering the costs forced upon those who are most vulnerable – an entirely separate and added responsibility [to conventional overseas development aid or disaster relief].'”

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Breath of Fresh Air - Sue Riley

It's a little depressing to endure the global warming agitprop spewed out by the Canwest/Global crowd (which holds a near monopoly position here in B.C.). That's why it was refreshing to read Susan Riley take a shovel to the Harpo/Baird crap in today's Ottawa Citizen:

Tories' Environmental Strategy Revealed

It's right there in today's NatPo. John Ivison reveals that the Harpies' priority is to change public opinion, not combat global warming.

"Environment Minister John Baird would unveil the government's own detailed emissions reduction targets, province by province, based on what he yesterday called "the architecture of a regulatory regime" that he rolled out earlier this spring.

"This calls for greenhouse gas emissions for existing industrial emitters to be 16% below 2006 levels by 2010, with annual 2% reductions to follow thereafter.

"The hope appears to be that once the debate comes down to Earth from its current level somewhere in the stratosphere, and people at ground level become aware of how onerous the Conservative cuts will be on industrial plants in their immediate area, they will have no stomach for the even deeper cuts that would be required to meet Kyoto."

So, according to Ivison, the ploy is to drive the debate "down to Earth" by making GHG emission cuts the public will find unpalatable. From a global warming denier's point of view, which is the viewpoint of Ivison, this all makes sense.

The Tories haven't got the slightest intention of dealing with this critical issue. This is a threat of such scope and complexity that it requires powerful moral and political leadership. Too many people in this country still do not understand global warming and its ramifications while many others flock to the false comfort doled out by the climate change denial community with the collusion of some of Canada's major media.

By not employing that scale of moral and political leadership, Baird and Harpo are counting on the recoil effect of slapping some carefully chosen restrictions that will be painfully felt by an unprepared population. If the only thing you understood about idodine was the sting, you would never use it to treat a wound would you? These vermin don't want to treat the wound, they want you to recoil from the treatment. Mission accomplished, Harpo style.

Canada's New Holocaust Deniers

Forget Keegstra, forget Zundel, there's a brand new breed of holocaust deniers infesting Canada and they reach all the way to the top levels of government, industry and our media.

There's a holocaust coming that's going to make the WWII holocaust look like a bad traffic accident. The coming holocaust is forecast to result in scores of millions of dead and upwards of a billion people permanently displaced from their homelands.

What's really galling about our 21st century holocaust deniers is that they know this is coming, they know they must act now to deal with it, but they have elected to preserve their prosperity and indulgence by spreading confusion about the problem and by claiming to be acting on it while actually subverting any meaningful action.

Today's holocaust deniers are the likes of Big Oil, our federal Tories and their handmaidens in the Canadian media (and you know which papers those are). These types, and their supporters, have made a choice knowing it will be the men, women and children of the far north and the tropics, particularly sub-Saharan Africa who will pay the price for their choice.

That's the ugly side of the global warming debate, the one that the TarSanders, NatPo and the Harpies never mention. Harpo will drone on endlessly about bringing faux democracy to Afghanistan while 55-year old men sell their 12-year old daughters to other 55-year old men. Why won't he talk about bringing real peril - drought, famine and dislocation to Africa - in his quest to transform Canada into an "energy superpower"? I'd love to know how, when Stevie gets on his knees at night and says his prayers, he rationalizes this to his God. I'll bet when it comes to the devastation of climate change, God is as far from Harpo's mind as those kids in Africa.

Canada's last crop of holocaust deniers was bad enough but they merely argued that history didn't happen. Our new crop is so much worse. They deny what is already happening and about to happen on a horrific scale and work to ensure that it does. But this is Canada, a place where these people are still treated with great civility and respect. I guess that alone makes us all a bit culpable.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Trust Us, Really



Harpies Sued Over Kyoto

Friends of the Earth Canada has launched a suit in Federal Court against the Harpo government. The suit alleges the government has breached Canadian law by rejecting the country's Kyoto commitments.

From The Guardian:

"A target announced by the Canadian government last month, which would see emissions cut by 20% on 2006 levels by 2020, would still leave the country 39% over its Kyoto target for 2008-2012, the group said.

"It added that, of the countries signed up to the Kyoto agreement, only Australia was further behind on its targets.

"The case is being brought under Canadian legislation which incorporates the international agreement to cut emissions into domestic law and says ministers have to act if the country is found responsible for an increase in greenhouse gases.

"In October, the Canadian government was presented with legal opinion which indicated it had failed to show "demonstrable progress" on meeting its target, as required by 2005.

"Although this should have triggered action by the environment minister, Friends of the Earth said nothing had happened to suggest the country would meet its targets and it was applying for a judicial review, which would force the government to act."

Broken Bootstraps

There was a time when we in the West could be comfortable in our affluence. We had this belief, unspoken usually, that the rest of the planet wasn't as well off as we were but could be anytime they wanted to pull themselves up by the bootstraps - just like we had done. If only they could be as diligent and principled and hard working and creative as we had become, they too could enjoy the good life.

That was never more than a self-serving myth designed to assuage our consciences while we rapaciously pursued the world's resources and wealth. If some upstart decided his nation's oil should belong to his nation's people - off with his head. If someone else decided his nation's banana plantations should benefit his nation's people - off with his head. If some leader's people opted for a system of government we didn't like - off with his head. What we couldn't dominate colonially, we subverted by influencing, even controlling, the selection of a compliant head of state. The underlying myth made this all possible.

That myth is pretty much gone today. We cannot afford the environmental costs of allowing developing nations to follow our path to prosperity. If China or India began generating the same level of per capita greenhouse gas emissions as, say, the United States or Canada, the most dire scenarios of global warming would become a certainty. The planet can't sustain the levels of industrial activity we have today. Two more industrial revolutions are out of the question.

So, how are we to go about telling China and India not to aspire to what we have achieved? How are we to frame the argument that we have a right to certain benefits that they do not? How do we tell them not to touch those bootstraps?

Read any major Indian newspaper and you will see that this is going to be a very tough sell. The Indian people seem positive rapturous about their country ascending to a top position - economically, militarily and politically - in the family of nations. There is a level of nationalism sweeping India that may pose a huge obstacle to any pleas for restraint. The Chinese too look toward a bright and expansive future for their nation. With economic capitalism wedded to political communism and a domestic market of 1.3-billion (far more than Europe and North America combined) their advance seems unstoppable.

It's pretty tough to ask "have not" nations to forego becoming "haves" at the very moment they've arrived at the opportunity, so how do we persuade them? We have the trade "stick", such as it is, if necessary but what do we have in the way of "carrots" to dangle in front of them? They've already said, quite justifiably, that they want to see the current, great polluters set a clear example before they'll follow suit. The thing is, in North America at least, there's no political appetite for doing that, at least not yet.

Our pathetic leader, Harpo, says he wants a global warming agreement that embraces all major emitters, including India and China, and he's going to work to bring that about. This from the same guy who has scored political points by snubbing China at every opportunity. I'm sure they'll be eager to hear from that bozo. Of course he could always remind them that, now that we're in Afghanistan, we're a major player to be reckoned with. I'm sure that'll have them laughing in the aisles in Beijing.

No, if there is any possibility of an agreement that can be forged, it will be Europe that will have to find the consensus. Harpo's not going to bridge anything. On global warming, he's a thoroughly spent force.

Shuckin' & Jivin'

Are we onside or are we not? Do we support the G8 global warming proposals or are we really just playing for time? Do you believe John Baird or do you believe Harpo? Is John Baird actually just playing green, talking the talk so to speak?

One newspaper claims the wallowing government supports the G8 policies, another says that we're holding back. Something for everybody, Harpo style.

Baird says we're 'very supportive' of the G8 call for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 'Very supportive' is very subjective at best, an outright lie at worst. It was telling that, when asked whether Canada would accept the G8 call for a 30% GHG reduction by 2020, Baird responded, "We're not going to conduct G-8 negotiations in the media." Huh?

Baird acts like he's just heard about the 30% reduction target. It's as though he sees himself on the other side of a horse trade. Just where the hell has this loudmouth been since he took over from Rona (remember her?)?

2020 is a problem. 2050 is half a century off so you can promise just about anything and forget about it. 2020, however, is just around the corner. That means coming up with policies - today - to sharply curb GHG emissions. That means lowering the boom on the tar sands and other major GHG emitters. Yeah, 2020 is a problem for the Harpies.

What to do? Why not try sleight of hand? Let's point some stinky fingers at those yellow folks and their brown friends. They've each got a billion people plus. We're less than 5% of that. So, let's see how each country stacks up on overall GHG emissions. Why, suddenly we look lily white.

Isn't it curious that we're not willing to consider GHG caps for our own country but we want something similar from the Chinese and Indians? What if they offered to cap their per capita GHG emissions at half our own? They're nowhere close to that, at least not yet. If they ever do get to that point, the planet is pretty much screwed anyway. But it's a hell of an argument, one that leaves us no fallback except to say that we're entitled to create vastly more GHG than them because, well just because.

What if the Chinese and Indians offered to guarantee that their per capita GHG emissions would never exceed half of our own in exchange for our guarantee to bring our per capita GHG emissions to a level no more than twice theirs, say within 10-years? That's when Harpo's grand lie would be stripped as bare as a tar sand pit.
Harpo, as usual, is a two-legged sack of hypocrisy.

Monday, May 28, 2007

US Warns Iran - Stop Arming Militants

Don't laugh, not yet. According to the BBC, "The US has called on Iran to stop arming militants in Iraq." Don't those Iranians know that America and its stooge, Maliki, are already doing a fine job at arming the militants, especially the Shiite militias.

Today's New York Times reports on how members of the elite, 82nd Airborne, are coming to have a change of heart about the Iraq war:

"Staff Sgt. David Safstrom does not regret his previous tours in Iraq, not even a difficult second stint when two comrades were killed while trying to capture insurgents.

"But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“'I thought: ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. 'We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.'

"His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.

"With few reliable surveys of soldiers’ attitudes, it is impossible to simply extrapolate from the small number of soldiers in the company. But in interviews with more than a dozen soldiers in this 83-man unit over a one-week period, most said they were disillusioned by repeated deployments, by what they saw as the abysmal performance of Iraqi security forces and by a conflict that they considered a civil war, one they had no ability to stop.

"They had seen shadowy militia commanders installed as Iraqi Army officers, they said, had come under increasing attack from roadside bombs — planted within sight of Iraqi Army checkpoints — and had fought against Iraqi soldiers whom they thought were their allies.
"On April 29, a Delta Company patrol was responding to a tip at Al Sadr mosque, a short distance from its base. The soldiers saw men in the distance erecting barricades that they set ablaze, and the streets emptied out quickly. Then a militia, believed to be the Mahdi Army, began firing at them from rooftops and windows.

"Sgt. Kevin O’Flarity, a squad leader, jumped into his Humvee to join his fellow soldiers, racing through abandoned Iraqi Army and police checkpoints to the battle site.

"When the battle was over, Delta Company learned that among the enemy dead were at least two Iraqi Army soldiers that American forces had helped train and arm.

"Captain Rogers admits, 'The 29th was a watershed moment in a negative sense, because the Iraqi Army would not fight with us,' adding, 'Some actually picked up weapons and fought against us.'

"The battle changed the attitude among his soldiers toward the war, he said. 'Before that fight, there were a few true believers.' Captain Rogers said. 'After the 29th, I don’t think you’ll find a true believer in this unit. They’re paratroopers. There’s no question they’ll fulfill their mission. But they’re fighting now for pride in their unit, professionalism, loyalty to their fellow soldier and chain of command.'

"To Sergeant O’Flarity, the Iraqi security forces are militias beholden to local leaders, not the Iraqi government. 'Half of the Iraqi security forces are insurgents,' he said."

Iraq - Worse Than Vietnam, Hands Down

As a psychological failure, Iraq probably isn't as bad for the US as Vietnam was. It's easy to forget just how troubled the 60's and 70's were in the United States. Iraq, for all of its frustrations and disasters, hasn't left the same scar on the American people.

Where Iraq has eclipsed Vietnam, however, is in terms of its aftermath. Yes, I'm talking about aftermath. It's over. Iraq is a failure, a genuinely earned defeat for the US and Britain. You can't screw up something that badly without working at it. This fiasco was no accident. There was nothing unforeseeable in it.

There were fears that the aftermath of Vietnam would be a "domino effect" that would see communist revolution sweep across Southeast Asia and beyond. That didn't happen. There was bloodshed but nothing on the scale we'd been warned would be inevitable.

The aftermath of Iraq, however, is already taking place and the Americans haven't even bailed out yet. There's a brand new generation of terrorists being minted in today's Iraq. I suppose they could fairly be called the "Bush Brigade" because they are the direct result of George Bush's idiotic invasion of Iraq. The bad guys are doing so well at churning out these fledgling terrorists that they've saturated the Iraqi market. As The New York Times reports, Iraq is now exporting terrorists:

"The Iraq war, which for years has drawn militants from around the world, is beginning to export fighters and the tactics they have honed in the insurgency to neighboring countries and beyond, according to American, European and Middle Eastern government officials and interviews with militant leaders in Lebanon, Jordan and London.

"Some of the fighters appear to be leaving as part of the waves of Iraqi refugees crossing borders that government officials acknowledge they struggle to control. But others are dispatched from Iraq for specific missions. In the Jordanian airport plot, the authorities said they believed that the bomb maker flew from Baghdad to prepare the explosives for Mr. Darsi.

"Estimating the number of fighters leaving Iraq is at least as difficult as it has been to count foreign militants joining the insurgency. But early signs of an exodus are clear, and officials in the United States and the Middle East say the potential for veterans of the insurgency to spread far beyond Iraq is significant.

"Militant leaders warn that the situation in Lebanon is indicative of the spread of fighters. “You have 50 fighters from Iraq in Lebanon now, but with good caution I can say there are a hundred times that many, 5,000 or higher, who are just waiting for the right moment to act,” Dr. Mohammad al-Massari, a Saudi dissident in Britain who runs the jihadist Internet forum,, said in an interview on Friday. 'The flow of fighters is already going back and forth, and the fight will be everywhere until the United States is willing to cease and desist.'

"There are signs of that traffic in and out of Iraq in other places.

"In Saudi Arabia last month, government officials said they had arrested 172 men who had plans to attack oil installations, public officials and military posts, and some of the men appeared to have trained in Iraq.

"Officials in Europe have said in interviews that they are trying to monitor small numbers of Muslim men who have returned home after traveling for short periods to Iraq, where they were likely to have fought alongside insurgents."

George Bush is fond of claiming that America is fighting terrorists in Iraq so that Americans won't have to fight them at home. This moron suggests that his military has these bad guys pinned down in Iraq. Sorry George but that's nonsense. Your adventure is now actually creating terrorists for the export market.

How are we going to stop these guys? I don't know. What I do know is that it's going to take a crop of leaders vastly better than the Bush, Blair, Howard and Harper gang that have created the current mess with their ideologically-bound incompetence.

Blame Me? No, Blame the Media!

Paul Wolfowitz is a genuine Bushie to the end. Having been run out of the World Bank in disgrace, Wolfie says the whole thing was the media's fault:

People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend.

Sorry, Paul, were you talking about your World Bank screwup or the Iraq war fiasco? And please, stop licking my comb!

Memorial Day

Tony Clement's Straw Man

Canada's health minister Tony Clement is blatantly more focused on politics than health care when it comes to Vancouver's safe injection site.

According to NatPo, last year Clement ordered an aide to prepare a report debunking the "five myths" surrounding the facility before he announced his refusal to extend the site's permit.

Here are the five myths that Clement's aide conjured up:

1. safe injection sites are commonly used in other countries,
2. they operate "all across Canada",
3. they are legal,
4. they present "a complete solution" to drug-use harms, and,
5. the Vancouver site "has the complete support of the community."

Guess what, those are indeed myths. It's too bad Clement thought it necessary to make them up. Hey Tony, have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Safe injection sites are used in some other countries such as Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Luxembourg, and Australia. They're legal enough that these countries, states we're proud to be allied with, are running their own sites.

No one, save perhaps for this bozo, Clement, has suggested these sites are "a complete solution" to drug-use harms. To reach that far shows how desperate Clement is for any sort of justification to shut down this facility. Similarly no one has claimed that the Vancouver site has the complete support of the community. What project ever does get complete support? Try building a new arena or, better yet, a transit line and you'll find plenty of people ready to bitch about it. That doesn't mean they're not worthwhile or that you shelve them.

These myths exist only in Tony Clement's tortured mind. Too bad we have to settle for a man of his calibre and vision as our health minister.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Few Things You Need to Remember about Global Warming

It's all so confusing, especially given the sums being shoveled out the back door by Big Oil outfits like Exxon to keep you confused. It's not just confusing, it's frightening. We all find it frightening, me too. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be alarming, it should if only because it is.

Tackling global warming will be a scalding test of your - and my - beliefs. Principles are delightful to righteously espouse when they don't really cost anything. When they come with a price, however, they're not nearly as popular.

In coming years, we're going to face a steadily mounting list of demanded sacrifices, that is if we're going to confront the problem. Critics will denounce it as a socialist plot, an unprecedented transfer of wealth. It's nothing of the sort. Global warming transcends political belief, at least of the sort that Edmund Burke might recognize. It is also anything but some felonious transfer of wealth. Wealth has little to do with it except as it may represent unconscionable privilege to continue damaging mankind.

Global warming is a global challenge and we don't even begin on the same page of the prayer book. If you're reading this you probably haven't felt much in the way of the repercussions of global warming. You're not one of those who is already displaced or dying from it. Displaced, dying? Yes, now go ahead and fill up that Hummer, eh?

You see, those who are dying as you read this are those who don't have Hummers or Esplanades, yachts or holidays abroad. However, those who are killing those who don't have Hummers or Esplanades, yachts and holidays abroad, do. Let that sink in for a minute unless there's something irresistible on the Home Shopping Channel.

First question, my fellow Christians, are we going to stop killing these people? Second question, are we going to let things slide while they die in ever greater numbers? Yes, you're right, I am looking at you Born Agains - you self-proclaimed, truly devout Christians. Hey, what's the deal? Is it going to be the teaching of Christ or is it time to scurry away into the dark reaches of the Old Testament again? Don't look to Falwell to bail you out, he's all tied up with his real maker at the moment.

So there's the first issue you need to keep in mind as you express your opinion - or vote - on this enormous issue: do we in the indulged West have a right to cause the deaths of the less fortunate? TO BE CONTINUED

Climate, Class and Claptrap

Some observations on global warming by Garret Keizer, excerpted from this month's Harper's Magazine:

...We're told that the "science is all in on global warming" and that it's just about unanimous. I believe it. We owe a debt to Al Gore that most people now believe it. But the science has also been in, and in for a while, and is every bit as unanimous in concluding that we are members of a single species, descendants of common ancestors - 'family' in every conceivable sense of the word. How can we imagine that we will address one overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion without having acted fully on the other? The question is not sentimental. If one can be forgiven of applying base political considerations to such a sublimely moral issue" you do not repair the climate of an entire planet without staggering sacrifices, and people will not elect to make staggering sacrifices unless the burden is shared with something like parity.

To put that as succinctly as possible, the days of paradise for a few are drawing to a close. The game of finding someone else in some convenient misery to fight our wars, pull our rickshaws, and serve as the offset for our every filthy indulgence is just about up. It is either Earth for all of us or hell for most of us. Those are the terms, those have always been the terms, and any approach to climate change that begins on those terms can count me as a loyal partisan. Otherwise, don't expect me to get overly excited as to which side of a golf-course heart attack shows the affluent, the educated, the suburban, and the wired a world much hotter than the one they were banking on.

More Baird Drivel

Canada's Enviromin, Furious John Baird, says Canada has to clean up its own climate change problems before lecturing other nations. Look, Johnny boy, talk is cheap so where are your policies?

In a letter to Stephane Dion, Baird says the United States has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than Canada did under the previous Liberal government. Of course, if it wasn't for America's new, bottomless gas tank - the Athabasca Tar Sands - our performance would have been decidedly better. Thanks to Alberta, the Tar Sands and the Tories, Canada is becoming a greenhouse gas factory and the Americans are eager for us to ramp up bitumen production and processing five fold.

Baird says that it's not Canada's place to lecture the US until we clean up our own act. How about we do both, kill two birds with one stone? How about we declare the Tar Sands an environmental disaster and shut the whole thing down until either Big Oil or the Alberta government or both come up with the long promised technology to make this black goldmine GHG neutral? How about it, Big John?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Who Am I?

I've been the leader of the most militarily powerful nation on earth.

I sparked a war and was enormously successful, at first.

Instead of consolidating my victory, I put my first war on hold and went out to topple a vile dictator.

I didn't listen to the many warnings of potential disaster before launching my invasion. I even rejected the advice of my top generals. Instead I surrounded myself with sycophants as incompetent as myself.

I contrived justification for pre-emptive attack.

I skilfully used deceit and half-truths to blind my own people.

I believed that governmental power should be mine, not some legislature's.

I endorsed arrest without charge, detention without trial and I approved of torture.

I brought suffering and death to tens of thousands of innocents.

I waged war according to ideology and what I wanted to believe instead of military principles.

I squandered my nation's treasury on a futile military quest that I could neither win nor leave.

After six years of slowly deteriorating war, I gambled everything on one last, grand operation even though it was almost certain to fail.

As my failures became inescapable I began blaming everyone else, even my own people, for my incompetence.

I made my nation a pariah to all other nations.

I stand as the worst leader in my country's history.

Who am I?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Surge II - Even Better than Surge I

I'll bet George Bush wishes he'd never learned to say "eye-rack." Four years ago he kicked the top off an anthill and has been plagued with the nippy little creatures ever since.

After fumbling and stumbling and bumbling year after year, George decided to change course, to fight another Iraq War. What, you say, there has been more than one Iraq War? Why yes, grasshopper. There was the war to protect America against an imminent attack by weapons of mass destruction, although that one's best forgotten. Then there was the war to topple Saddam. Then there was the war to defeat the "dead enders", disgruntled Saddamites. Of course we can't forget the war to defeat al-Qaeda. Then there was the war to defeat the sectarian militias. Then, when everything else had been thoroughly botched, there was the war to reclaim Baghdad, the "Surge."

Now, even Republicans in congress realize the Surge is just another flop atop all the earlier flops. It hasn't quelled sectarian violence, it hasn't stopped the killing of American troops, it hasn't brought the insurgents to heel.

So what's a complete incompetent right-wingnut president to do? Why not try something that's worked so well before - spin? Let's call the Surge, Surge II. Rebrand the hell out of it. Then, when no one's looking, let's move the goal posts closer and lower them - a lot.

According to the McClatchy news service this process is already underway:

"Less than five months after President Bush announced that 'we need to change our strategy in Iraq,' his administration is preparing to change course there once again, this time emphasizing political rather than military progress.

"'...the search for a new direction,' as one of the officials described the effort, was prompted by a recognition that the increase of American and Iraqi troops in Baghdad hasn't produced the improvements in security or the political progress that proponents of the buildup had expected and that domestic support for the administration's Iraq policy, even among Republicans, is ebbing quickly.

"The administration's new Iraq war "czar," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, remains skeptical that the surge can succeed, and instead has favored the kinds of political steps that Petraeus and Crocker have advocated, one of the officials said.

"There's little optimism in Baghdad or Washington, however, that a new effort to strengthen the Iraqi army, bolster the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and weaken Sunni Muslim insurgents and Shiite Muslim militias is likely to succeed.

"Publicly, the president and his advisers express confidence that the decision to send more troops to Iraq is making a difference. Privately, some administration officials are far more pessimistic.

"One of the major problems, one official said, is the Badr Corps, which is the military arm of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, which controls several government ministries, holds a key position in parliament and controls much of southern Iraq, which lies across the U.S. supply routes from Kuwait.

"Another official said he was skeptical that the Bush administration can find any credible Iraqi nationalists and persuade them to step forward, especially since doing so would invite assassination from Sunni and Shiite extremists. "The nationalists were mostly members of the (Sunni) Baath Party or a few secular Shiites," the official said. "And forget about finding a Kurd who's an Iraqi nationalist."

"A former senior U.S. defense official who still advises the Pentagon said he thought the troop buildup was doomed because there were insufficient numbers of American troops and the insurgents were gaining strength."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What's Next - Back Alley Abortions?

According to NatPo, the Harpies are taking the first, tentative steps back into the Dark Ages. Their opening salvo will be to cancel funding for safe injection sites where addicts can obtain clean needles to shoot up.

The idea behind the clinics holds that it's better, for a number of reasons, to provide a facility for intravenous drug users.

One goal is to cut down on the rate of HIV/AIDS from contaminated needles shared by junkies on the street. Another is to draw them into a place where they can get information and counselling if they want to quit. Another nice little benefit is not having to worry about stepping on those used needles on our sidewalks and in our parks. It strikes me that measures that reduce the incidence of the spread of HIV/AIDS are probably worthwhile but that's just my opinion. Not so say the Harpies. They claim the safe injection sites are tantamount to the government facilitating illegal drug use.

A peer-reviewed (i.e. "legitimate" for you Harpies) study in the London medical journal, Addiction, "...concludes that Insite's opening in Vancouver's grim Downtown Eastside has led to a 30 per cent increase by facility users in entering detoxification programs.The study, provided to The Vancouver Sun Thursday, by the journal Addiction also concluded that Insite users who began detox programs are more likely to enroll in long-term addiction treatment and reduce injecting." (Vancouver Sun).

Message to Harpo. If you have any evidence that safe injection centres actually encourage drug use, let's see it. If, on the other hand, this is just another one of your reactionary, jackboot bents then be honest about it.

Gee, Steve, why do you hate measures to reduce the spread of AIDS? Is this part of that Rapture bullshit you guys buy into? There ain't no Rapture, Steve, and, even if there was, they wouldn't be reserving a spot for your sorry backside.

Hey, here's an idea. Why not promote trade with China instead of promoting AIDS within Canada?

Harper Warns Karzai

Hamid, If I Catch You Negotiating With
the Taliban One More Time,
You'll Be Wearing This!

Diversified Agriculture Booming in Iraq

Farmers in southern Iraq's historic rice-growing region have diversified. Now they're moving into poppy cultivation. From The Independent:

"Rice farmers along the Euphrates, to the west of the city of Diwaniya, south of Baghdad, have stopped cultivating rice, for which the area is famous, and are instead planting poppies, Iraqi sources familiar with the area have told The Independent.

"The shift to opium cultivation is still in its early stages but there is little the Iraqi government can do about it because rival Shia militias and their surrogates in the security forces control Diwaniya and its neighbourhood. There have been bloody clashes between militiamen, police, Iraqi army and US forces in the city over the past two months.

"There has been an upsurge in violence not only in Diwaniya but in Basra, Nassariyah, Kut and other Shia cities of southern Iraq over the past 10 days. It receives limited attention outside Iraq because it has nothing to do with the fighting between the Sunni insurgents and US forces further north or the civil war between Shia and Sunni in Baghdad and central Iraq. The violence is also taking place in provinces that are too dangerous for journalists to visit. Aside from Basra, few foreign soldiers are killed.

"The fighting is between rival Shia parties and militias, notably the Mehdi Army, who support the anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Badr Organisation - the military wing of the recently renamed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). In many, though not all, areas of southern Iraq, the latter group controls the police.

"The intra-militia violence in southern Iraq is essentially over control of profitable resources and the establishment of power bases. According to one report the violence in Diwaniya has been escalating for two months and was initially motivated by rivalry over control of opium production but soon widened into a general turf war."

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Canadian Style

It came from the mouth of the man himself. We're not done, no way near done. That's how Stephen Harper described "the mission" to a gaggle of garrison troops in Kandahar. He made it plain that, if he has anything to say about it, Canadian troops can expect to be in Afghanistan for years to come.

Harper told the troops their work isn't done. I doubt he'd get many arguments on that point, in Afghanistan or Canada. What he didn't let us in on, however, is just exactly what their "work" is and how much of that work remains undone. That's the beauty of Bush's Global War Without End on Terror, it's endless. You can claim victory simply by refusing to admit failure but, then again, that cuts both ways.

Just what is "victory" in Afghanistan supposed to look like? I don't know, do you? Is it a matter of bringing an end to the current insurgency (and I'm only talking here about the one involving the Taliban)? Is it the establishment of a Western-style, secular democracy? Is it Pashtun, Baloch, Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara living peacefully, arm in arm? Is it the establishment of genuine civil liberties for women and children? Is it the creation of a viable economy to end Afghanistan's narco-economy? Is it all of these things? What is "victory" in Afghanistan?

Once we get a handle on the main question we can begin to devise metrics. How much of the job have we accomplished over the past six years? Are we 20% of the way there? How much progress are we making at the moment? What is an appropriate amount of time to achieve victory in Afghanistan?

Once we've defined the task and a target timeframe we need to assess whether we have deployed the forces we need to meet it. Is 2,500 enough? C'mon, get real. Do we need 10,000 or 15,000 or perhaps more? Without a large enough force, is everything else just optics, window dressing?

Are we in Afghanistan for a decade or two or three? Can we turn our back on the rest of the world where we're needed for that long? How do we justify that?

What will the insurgency in Afghanistan look like if the Americans leave Iraq? Will Canadian troops find themselves in the crosshairs of a fresh batch of Islamists hatched out of the Iraq fiasco?

Notice how few of these questions ever get asked, much less answered? To ask them is to reveal that we have no answers.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Harper Style.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Global Warming - Who Says?

Now if you think you know all you need to know about global warming from Exxon or Lennie Asper and the NatPo, then move along, nothing to see here.

If, however, you really want to learn about the problem or even just expand or update your knowledge, here's a site that has links where you'll find everything (or almost everything):

Has NATO'S Time Run Out?

What happened to NATO? For half a century there was a clear purpose to the military alliance. It was intended to safeguard Europe from being overrun by masses of Soviet tanks. Oh sure, the mutual defence of North America was in there too, sort of, wink, wink.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was, as the name suggests, an alliance of Western nations on both sides of the Atlantic. The members' land and air forces kept Western Europe viable while their naval forces maintained the North Atlantic sea lanes.

The US was always the senior partner in NATO. It had most of the guns and most of the planes and most of the ships but, then again, it also had the most to gain or lose.

Despite de Gaulle and lesser irritants, NATO more or less sailed smoothly through the close of the 20th Century until those pesky Soviets folded up and closed shop. The music stopped, the dance ended and no one was quite sure what to do next. The North Atlantic suddenly seemed very quiet, even dull.

Along comes 11 September, 2001 and the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. Get the horses harnessed up, boys, we're going to a fire! Everyone threw on his best pants and raced toward the sound of the guns, except there was no gunfire.

Even though the United States had suffered an attack that was much more a criminal act than an act of war, no one wanted to bother with petty details. Instead we all invoked Article 5 and raced off in mutual defence of a member under attack. That was almost six years ago. Where have we come in the meantime? The answer isn't encouraging.

NATO started fraying from the outset. Some members were eager to come to America's aid, others were hesitant. Still, everything probably would have worked out well enough except that Bush decided to parlay his strength into an illegal, ill-conceived and incompetently executed war in Iraq that was doomed to wind up where it stands today - a mess.

Instead of going to aid America by taking the battle to al-Qaeda, NATO is now backed into something much more grandiose and futile. We're part and parcel of a frat boy's fun scheme to reshape the Middle East. The illusion that (a) we're only in Afghanistan and (b) our presence there isn't an essential part of Bush's greater Middle East fiasco is sheer fantasy.
Bush erased all doubts when he told the NATO Secretary General this weekend that the alliance should play a much bigger role in the "war on terror." Now, let's see. That would be George Walker Bush's war on terror, his Global War Without End on Terror, Amen. That would be the very same war that this cretin has incompetently waged for six years now without accomplishing anything except to leave global security in tatters and the world a much more dangerous place.
This is like the falling-down drunk behind the wheel of the schoolbus asking you to put your kids aboard.
No, it's better for NATO to have no defined role even if it means an end to the alliance than to transform it into some multi-national foreign legion to be commanded by that dimwit in Washington. The American people wouldn't follow this clown into another adventure, why should we send our young people to sacrifice their lives in his ill-conceived causes?

Just Guessing

We've already found Harpo. Is Hamid the long lost Groucho? That must mean Chico's running around the Oval Office.

Democracy - Afghanistan Style

You'll know when conditions in Afghanistan (and Iraq for that matter) have really turned around. It'll be the day when politicians like Harpo no longer have to skulk in on "surprise" visits. Let's face it, the people Stevie is trying to take by surprise are those he figures have a good enough chance to blow his smug ass out of the air before he can set foot in Kandahar if word leaks out. They're the bad guys and we can't give Steve enough protection against them that he can fly in announced.

So, anyway, just how are things going in Afghanistan? Well, if you read today's National Post, we've all but won. The Taliban are a "spent force" in Kandahar, all but finished. Uh, sure, okay.

How 'bout that pinnacle of Afghanistan's liberation, its parliament or Loya Jirga? Some snags there, one of them being outspoken female MP, Malalai Joya. Isn't that typical. Give a woman a seat in parliament and she still won't do as she's told! This uppity female has been a real pain to the men in parliament. They've pelted her with water bottles, even lustilly joined together to call for her to be raped. They tried to off her a couple of times (okay, so it was four times). Did she get the message? NO she di'int!

But now Malalai has really torn it. She had the nerve to call the parliament "worse than a zoo." The gall! Well it didn't take long for the menfolk to sort out this nonsense. They voted (overwhelmingly I might add) to suspend her from parliament for the balance of her 5-year term.

"Most of Ms Joya's campaigning has been about women's rights, which have been severely eroded after initial gains made with the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Women activists, including the highest-ranking official dealing with female empowerment, Safia Amajan, have been murdered.

"Ms Joya said: 'Talking about women's rights in Afghanistan is a joke. There really have not been any fundamental changes, the Taliban were driven off by the Americans and the British but then they were allowed to be replaced by warlords who also simply cannot see women as equals.'

"She added: 'Those of us who speak up are targets. My friends and colleagues have been assassinated. They have tried to kill me four times, the last attack was in Kabul which is the capital of this country which is supposed to be secure and democratic. And then if you try to speak up in parliament their first reaction is to try to gag you.'"

Hey, Harpo's over there. Karzai even turned out to greet him. Why doesn't Little Stevie sort this out. After all, he's a champion of democracy and women's rights, right?

Global Warming - You Guessed It, More Rotten News

This is nap time for the Flat Earth Society. Just go play quietly in the corner.

For those, however, who don't feel like drinking the Exxon Kool Aid, there's word that we're actually emitting more CO2 faster today than just a few years back - a lot more. Now, it's not me. I'm cutting my emissions a lot. That means it has to be you. So, I'll say it right now, shame on you.

It seems our mankind is actually slipping backwards on GHG emissions. A report in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, indicates that greenhouse gas emissions rose substantially during the 2000-2004, much faster than what was assumed by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in coming to the findings in their recent reports.

How much? According to the report in The Guardian, GHGs went up 1.1% annually during the 1990's. During the first four years of this decade, the annual rate of GHG increase shot up to 3.1%.

"The research noted a reversal of the trend towards greater energy efficiency and lower carbon working seen in the 1990s.

"'The trends relating energy to economic growth are definitely headed in the wrong direction,' said Chris Field, one of the authors of the report and director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology.

"'Despite the scientific consensus that carbon emissions are affecting the world's climate, we are not seeing evidence of progress in managing those emissions in either the developed or developing countries. In many parts of the world, we are going backwards.'

"The American, British, Australian and French scientists behind the study found that the acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions was greatest in the rapidly expanding economies of developing countries, particularly China.

"In 2004, 73% of the growth in global emissions came from developing economies, which comprise 80% of the world's population. However, when the scientists looked at total emissions for the year, they found developed countries, including the former Soviet Union, contributed about 60%."

Iran Joining Al-Qaeda Against US?

Now consider the source. Ask yourself: a) whether any party has an obvious benefit to be had from this account, and; b) whether that party and the source are one and the same.

The source: the United States. The story: Iran is planning on allying with al-Qaeda and Sunni Iraqis to help force America out of Iraq.

A "senior US official in Baghdad" tells The Guardian that "...US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran's Shia militia allies, that Iran hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. 'We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus's report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush's controversial, six-month security "surge" of 30,000 troop reinforcements].'"

"US officials now say they have firm evidence that Tehran has switched tack as it senses a chance of victory in Iraq. In a parallel development, they say they also have proof that Iran has reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban's campaign against US, British and other Nato forces.

"Tehran's strategy to discredit the US surge and foment a decisive congressional revolt against Mr Bush is national in scope and not confined to the Shia south, its traditional sphere of influence, the senior official in Baghdad said. It included stepped-up coordination with Shia militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Syrian-backed Sunni Arab groups and al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, he added. Iran was also expanding contacts across the board with paramilitary forces and political groups, including Kurdish parties such as the PUK, a US ally."

So, there you have it. The already failed "Surge" now can be passed off as something other than a failure. Just point a finger at Iran. Come to think of it, with a good bit of spin, the "Surge" might even work as a shoehorn to expand this glorious war to Iran itself. Think of the possibilities! Hell, how is America supposed to win in Iraq with one hand tied behind its back? This drama is straight out of Saigon 30-years ago. Hey, isn't that plagiarism?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Republicans, Rednecks and Racism

The Republican Party has mutated into a party of America's Deep South. That's where the core of its support is to be found and that accounts for why slime like Tom Delay, Trent Lott and George W. Bush ascend to become its leaders.

The Republican Party isn't an overtly white supremacist organization but, these days, that sort of thing really isn't necessary. There are plenty of ways to reach the same objectives and smile at the cameras at the same time.

Now the Deep South and racism are about as well linked as fried chicken and hot oil. If you don't understand the connection you might as well get straight back to whatever planet you just came from. The Deep South has evolved similar bonds to Christian fundamentalism and to the Republican Party.

The history of Christian fundamentalism and racism (at least if you think slavery is a form of racism) goes way back. In his book, American Fascists, author Chris Hedges records how the anti-slavery fundamentalist movement utterly reversed itself when it saw an opportunity to flourish in the pre-Civil War era south. In his early years even the late Uber-Kristian, Jerry Falwell, refused to perform mixed marriages and until only recently Bob Jones University forbad mixed race dating. We're talking real Kristian Krackers here folks.

The Republicans knew a good thing when they saw it - and they saw it when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson enacted civil rights legislation that cut off southern discrimination loopholes. Republicans, Rednecks, Racists and Radical Christians - how far off can the Rapture really be?

Now Bob Jones University got caught red-handed and ran for cover but, c'mon folks, does anyone really believe this Southern Redneck/Fundamentalist/Republican racism problem has gone away? And no, don't go asking a bunch of Southern redneck fundamentalist Republicans, no fair.

If you really have any doubts, try to swing by the courthouse in Jena, Louisiana this week. If you yearn for the "good old days", tomorrow marks the start of a race trial that, as reported in The Guardian, really fits the bill:

"Jena is gaining national notoriety as an example of the new 'stealth' racism, showing how lightly sleep the demons of racial prejudice in America's Deep South, even in the year that a black man, Barak Obama, is a serious candidate for the White House.

"It began in Jena's high school last August when Kenneth Purvis asked the headteacher if black students could break with a long-held tradition and join the whites who sit under the tree in the school courtyard during breaks. The boy was told that he and his friends could sit where they liked.

"The following morning white students had hung three nooses there. 'Bad taste, silly, but just a prank,' was the response of most of Jena's whites.

"'To us those nooses meant the KKK [Ku Klux Klan], they meant, "Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,"' says Caseptla Bailey, a black community leader and mother of one of the accused. The three white perpetrators of what was seen as a race hate crime were given 'in-school' suspensions (sent to another school for a few days before returning).
"Jena's major industry is growing and marketing junk pine. Walk down the usually deserted main street and you will not find many black employees. Bailey, 56, is a former air force officer and holder of a business management degree. 'I couldn't even get a job in Jena as a bank teller,' she said. 'Look at the banks and the best white-collar jobs and you'll see only white and red necks in those collars.'

"Billy Doughty, the local barber, has never cut black men's hair. 'They just don't come here,' he mumbled. 'Anyway, their hair is different and difficult to cut.'

"The majority of blacks live in an area known as Ward 10. Many homes are trailers, or wooden shacks. Rubbish lies in the streets. On 'Snob Hill', where the whites live, the spacious gardens and lawns are trimmed, the gravelled drives boast SUVs and nice new saloons. Only two black families live there. A teacher from Jena High had enough money to buy his way in. But when he arrived local estate agents refused to show him a 'white' property even though several were advertised in the local paper ('they're all under contract,' the agents lied). The teacher eventually went to see one white owner and offered him cash. 'The guy preferred green [dollars] to black, so I got the property,' laughed the teacher, 'but since we moved in three years ago we haven't been invited by a single neighbour.'

"On 30 November, someone tried to burn Jena High to the ground. The crime remains unsolved. That same weekend race fights between teenagers broke out downtown, and on 4 December racial tension boiled over once more in the school. A white student, Justin Barker, was attacked, allegedly by six black students.

"The expected charges of assault and battery were not laid, and the six were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. They now face a lifetime in jail.

"Barker spent the evening of the assault at the local Baptist church, where he was seen by friends to be 'his usual smiling self'.

"Nine days later, with the case technically sub judice, the District Attorney made the following public statement to the local paper: 'I will not tolerate this type of behaviour. To those who act in this manner I tell you that you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and with the harshest crimes that the facts justify. When you are convicted I will seek the maximum penalty allowed by law. I will see to it that you never again menace the students at any school in this parish.'

"Bail for the impoverished students was set absurdly high, and most have been held in custody. The town's mind seems to be made up."

Hurricane Katrina tore the roof off the illusion of Southern equality and the trial of the Jena Six proclaims that the vilest forms of Southern racism are alive and well. Their hatred and intolerance are the powerful fuel of the emerging political right.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

True to Form

General Rick Hillier has been responsible for setting the new tone of Canada's armed forces - tough, macho, trained killers - and he's starting to reap the rewards of his juvenile claptrap.

The proof of this particular pudding is in the type of young person now trying to enlist in Canada's military. A study of the recent recruits has found an increasing number "...are prone to displaying traits of social disobedience, intolerance toward ethnic groups and being fatalistic."

The Toronto Star reports, "A profile drawn up in the study shows that today's average potential military recruit is 'proud and intense,' a 'crude hedonist' and drawn to transgressive behaviour – or breaking the rules. Potential recruits are also driven by the need for social status and 'to belong,' and feel a lack of confidence in the future."

"The potential recruits tend to show an affinity for social Darwinism, characterized by the view that only the strongest members of society will survive. Violence and sex are also prominent interests associated with potential soldiers, according to the study, by Montreal-based polling firm CROP Inc.

"This contrasts, the study says, with those already enrolled in the army, who have upstanding qualities, including a commitment to duty and ethical concerns. They also seek enriching experiences and have a capacity to deal with uncertainty.

"The new report says the standing of the Canadian Forces has clearly risen since the Somalia scandal, thanks to a general alignment between military values and Canadian values.

"It found that Canadians are becoming more deferential to authority and more receptive to the need for strong homeland security, law and order and national pride."

Bush and Blair's Baghdad Fantasy

The lead editorial in today's Guardian contends that Tony Blair and George Bush's perception of Iraq is utterly delusional and repudiated by the facts on the ground.

"...after four years of occupation then Mr Bush and Mr Blair's collective account of Iraq amounts to virtual reality. In their vision there are 152,000 Iraqi soldiers (10 divisions) and 135,000 policemen, 26,000 national servicemen and 33,000 other forces personnel - all trained. There is a navy, 1,000-strong, and an air force. There is a government that functions, and whose writ runs outside the heavily fortified green zone in central Baghdad. There is a constitution, and a political process in place. The surge of US reinforcements is showing signs of working. As trained, professional, non-sectarian Iraqi troops stand up, coalition forces will stand down. The situation is difficult. It may get worse before it gets better. But the American and British people need to hold their nerve. Give the plan we have got time to work, they plead.

"But examine the plan and it begins to unravel, as all the other security plans have. Sunni insurgents are showing a remarkable ability to regroup. Forced out of Baghdad temporarily, 50 of them attacked a US base in Baquba yesterday. There is a major manhunt going on for three US soldiers seized in an ambush a week ago. Anyone who argues that the surge is quelling the insurgency, rather than merely displacing it, will have difficulty sustaining the thesis. Power has become so dispersed that it makes little sense talking about one insurgency, or indeed one civil war. As Gareth Stansfield argues in a Chatham House paper this week, there are Shias fighting against Sunnis for control of Baghdad; there are Kurds struggling against Arabs in Kirkuk and possibly also Mosul; there are Sunnis fighting US soldiers in the centre and the north; there are Sadrist Shias fighting the US and British in the south; Sunni tribal forces are fighting Sunni Islamists of al-Qaida; Shia militia groups are fighting each other in the south, as we report today; and there is also rampant criminality everywhere.

"There is no shortage of deeply gloomy scenarios for a country that is in the process of disintegrating. If serious fighting breaks out this year between the Kurds and Arabs in Kirkuk, the world will see just how much further Iraq can fall. Few doubt that there will be a pull-out of coalition forces. The only debate is how quickly and under what conditions. Some insiders argue that it is better to get the pain over with now, and hand over to the Iraqi army and police force immediately, others that a central government with an army and police force is a myth on which it is dangerous to rely, and that local forces should be put in charge of local law enforcement. Whoever is right, it is surely time that our leaders started recognising the reality of life in Iraq and stopped indulging in daydreams."

Just Who is George W. Bush?

It's often claimed by today's Republican leadership candidates that their unpopular president isn't really a conservative and not much of a Republican either. At the same time, however, polls of core Republican supporters show solid approval for Mr. Bush and his policies. A lot of his committed supporters present him as a good guy who just got bad advice and was let down by his key aides. These myths were shredded in today's New York Times.

The lead editorial refutes the notion that Bush's problems have resulted from bad advice from the likes of Alberto Gonzales, George Tenet or Donald Rumsfeld and the president's renowned loyalty to his aides. It contends that Bush's tenacity in supporting these types, despite their demonstration of chronic incompetence, bad judgment or malfeasance is really grounded in the fact that they've actually been doing precisely what he's told them to do. In other words, the incompetence, bad judgment and malfeasance originates with and lies squarely at the feet of George Walker Bush himself.

One by one these aides and supposed advisors have turned into sycophantic minions delivering up exactly what their boss ordered.

Columnist Paul Krugman takes this argument one step further and claims that while Bush may have, "...degraded our government and undermined the rule of law; ...led us into strategic disaster and moral squalor," he's not been untrue to his party's values and wishes.

Krugman revisited the last Republican leadership debate at which every candidate save for John McCain endorsed the use of torture and mirrored Bush's state of denial about the utter failure in Iraq.

The columnist argues that Bush's bubble, his "no-reality zone" extends to the Republican party's core supporters who, "...believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there’s a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job — and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias."

George W. Bush is indeed the face of today's movement conservative, southern Republican party.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blair Defends Iraq Policy

That seems to be the story line coming out of Tony Blair's final visit to the White House. The media, as always, are treating this as news.

This charade has been going on for years and no one seems to ask "what other choice does he have?" Just imagine.

Imagine if Tony Blair decided to redeem his integrity at his final White House press conference. It might have gone something like this:

1. The whole Iraq business was a fiasco even before the first tank rolled across the Iraqi border and I knew it.

2. The war was illegal. We knew that. It was because we knew Resolution 1441 did not authorize war that my government tabled another resolution before the Security Council, one that would make the war legal. I got caught in my own scheme when it was apparent we couldn't get anything remotely like a majority to approve the resolution. That's when we skulked about, blamed the French threat to veto it, withdrew the whole resolution and invented the notion that 1441 authorized war. We had to, we were already committed to the invasion. It was too late for anything else.

3. Yes, I'm probably a war criminal. So's George and Dick and Rummy. I guess Condi would get lumped in with us too and, of course, Jack Straw.

4. A lot of the blame lies with me. I failed to stand up to my fellow born again. Didn't have the spine. Instead I seconded his adventure, gave it legitimacy.

5. I knew that the intelligence was heavily gamed.

6. My own people warned me that the Yanks had no idea of what they would do after Saddam was driven out.

7. It was obvious from the beginning that there were plenty of ways this whole thing could go bad. We knew there was no bottom to the potential downside of this harebrained scheme.

8. George and Dick and I - and Rummy as well - were utterly and completely incompetent in running this war and tens of thousands of innocents have paid for that with their lives.

9. My friends and I will all soon be out of office but we're not leaving without giving the world a few gifts such as a Middle East in flames; Islamic terrorism born again (neat pun, eh?); global security and co-operation set back decades, two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, lost.

10. Getting rid of Saddam was never worth it.

Tony Blair has left the White House for the last time but he didn't take his integrity with him on the way out.

Poor Old Harpo

Canada's New Government is looking very old - old and tired, worn out and wobbly, running on empty if running at all.

Now this is a site for Progressives so, be fair. Let's face it, Harpo didn't have much to begin with so it's a bit of a cheap shot to measure his performance against a real prime minister.

For starters, the Harpster didn't have a vision. He was driven by an ideology, one that was already crumbling under its own weight elsewhere just as he got his imperfect shot at power.

Harpo was never much more than an Amway type. He found a calling and it was the Reagan Revolution and he was a True Believer and figured he could bring Canadians to heel if only he could get the reins of government. It was always about making the Canadian people fit his ideology, not meeting their own values and interests. In front of his Uber-Right Amerikan friends he mocked and belittled the Canadian people, revealing his goal wasn't to serve Canadians but to serve them up to his skewed and alien dogma.

Stevie has faced a lot of hurdles since he toppled the Martin government and he hasn't cleared a lot of them. It's tough replacing one minority government with another, particularly when the outfit you bumped was actually running the country very well. Oh at first it's easy because you've been left with a full treasury to dole out. That always makes friends. After that, though, things get a lot trickier.

The Harperites were an unruly herd of cats, largely inexperienced and, as these things go, relatively unaccomplished. Definitely not the sort that give any leader too much confidence when it comes to delegation and power-sharing and the calibre that give a control freak like Harpo utter fits. He did the only thing that a person of his character could do - he instituted strongman rule. So long as power was exercised behind the velvet curtain in the Emerald City all would be right, eh?

Harpo tied a set of strings to each of his cabinet ministers and ran about furiously behind the stage making them dance. It was the puppet master, his ideology and his marionettes. A telling example was Rona Ambrose, the Boss's first EnviroMin. Taking his cue from his American Idol, Harpo saw global warming as a load of nonsense about "so-called greenhouse gases" and left Ms. Ambrose swinging idly backstage. When that blew up in his face all he had was a hollow shell of big hair and lipstick. Feeling the flames licking his feet, Little Stevie called in his fireman, Baird, to douse the fire but keep the smoke. And hasn't that knuckle-dragger done a wonderful job?

Now Canada's New Government sits stymied, all dressed up (albeit poorly) and going nowhere in the polls. Without a majority Stevie can't drop the Harper Manifesto on the Canadian people but he can't hope to get a majority without looking assuringly moderate and, on that score, he comes across a poor impersonation of the Liberal government he so despised. One by one he's forced to reinstate Liberal policies and programmes that he furiously scrapped on taking office. The longer he has to stay in that spot the worse it gets for him - and he knows it.

So don't be too harsh in judging Harpo. He just arrived on the scene two decades too late. The world is changing - rapidly - and it's heading in the wrong direction for the only thing Stevie knows, his Reagan ideology.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Weapons of Mass Destruction? Look No Further.

How does this sound for weapons of mass destruction - 132 million unexploded cluster bomblets? Handicap International estimates there are between 22-132 million of these nasty devices waiting to catch the unwary in some 20-countries. From The Guardian:

"The vast majority of cluster bomb casualties occur while victims are carrying on their daily lives, says the report, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities.

"The huge numbers turn "homes and crucial social areas of the people living in affected countries into de facto minefields", says the Brussels-based charity. "As men and boys are the traditional earners and the majority of casualties, the economic loss for both the short term and the distant future cannot be underestimated."

"In Afghanistan, boys between five and 14 who are tending animals are most likely to be casualties. In Laos, more than 1,000 people were killed by submunitions while weeding or sowing crops."

Environmental Degradation Hits Spanish Beaches

Spain is moving to protect its precious tourist beaches from an onslaught of jellyfish. Spain plans to scour coastal waters to scoop up the creatures before they can reach the beaches and vacationing swimmers.

Why all the jellyfish? One cause is the exhaustion of red tuna stocks, a key jellyfish predator, due to overfishing. Another is a lack of rainfall preventing the usual flow of fresh water into coastal regions that once kept jellyfish well offshore.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Iraq Facing Collapse - Chatham House

As think tanks go, Britain's Royal Institute for International Affairs, commonly known as "Chatham House", is about as authoritative as they come. That's one reason to heed its latest report warning that Iraq is poised on the brink of collapse and fragmentation.

The BBC reports this latest paper, written by Gareth Stansfield, a Middle East expert, is unremittingly bleak. Mr Stansfield, of Exeter University and Chatham House, argues that the break-up of Iraq is becoming increasingly likely.

"In large parts of the country, the Iraqi government is powerless, he says, as rival factions struggle for local supremacy.

"The briefing paper, entitled Accepting Realities in Iraq, says: "There is not 'a' civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organisations struggling for power."

"The paper accuses each of Iraq's major neighbouring states - Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - of having reasons 'for seeing the instability there continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments'.

"The paper says: 'These current harsh realities need to be accepted if new strategies are to have any chance of preventing the failure and collapse of Iraq.'

Mr Stansfield contends that the American security surge is moving violence to different areas, but is not overcoming it.

Wolfie Fights to Save What He's Already Lost

Mission Accomplished, Wolfie Boy
It's a spectacle befitting a Greek tragedy. Paul Wolfowitz negotiating his resignation from the World Bank in a vain attempt to salvage his reputation. He doesn't understand that the World Bank was his hidey-hole, the place he was to go to lay low while memories of his instigation of the Iraq war fiasco dimmed. It wasn't a bad job, all he had to do was keep very quiet.

He blew it. Now he's Paul Wolfowitz, architect of America's greatest foreign policy blunder of all time and chump who couldn't even hang onto a job bestowed on him by his own government.

Paul, you might as well just resign and go away quietly. You don't have any reputation left to salvage. You're a two-time loser in a stratus where damned few even get second chances. Go away, preferably well into the night. You're embarrassing senior management.

Wolfowitz Not Welcome

A German cabinet minister has issued a rebuke to World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz.

Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told reporters that Wolfie and all the controversy that surrounds him are not welcome at an African forum the bank is staging next week in Berlin.

"I would not advise him to (take part) if he's still in office," she said, referring to Wolfowitz.

Ethics and Climate Change

Global warming can be seen as primarily a scientific issue but its very enormity brings into play powerful political, economic, social and ethical dimensions.

Ethics and climate change was the topic of a two-day seminar held earlier this month at the University of Washington. Some of the ideas discussed were:

Basic, universal human rights. The argument was made that there is a duty, on the part of all nations and peoples, to protect core human interests including the right to decent health, economic necessities and physical security. These rights must be safeguarded by all for the benefit of those living and for generations to come. In other words, our policies today, our governments and societies must accommodate these rights for future generations. There are those who strongly contend that future people should not have any rights in today's policy making.

What is truly wrong with climate change. This presentation focused on the five fundamentals: 1. that it imposes unacceptable risks (Schneider and others); 2. that it will cause significant economic losses (Nordhause and others); 3. that it is unjust (Shue and others); 4. that it will have irreversible effects. For those who are most concerned about climate change there is a further, fundamental moral intuition that is at work that raises the salience of this issue. The intuition is roughly that it is simply wrong for humans to causally affect natural systems in such a profound way.

The role and duty of scientists to confront those who abuse or politicize global warming science. How far do scientists’ responsibilities go in ensuring that relevant science is appropriately transmitted and understood by the public and policy makers? Even if scientists are not interested in the political ramifications of their work, do they still have a responsibility to try and ensure that it is not misused? What recourses are available to extract work from the fake ‘scientized’ political debate? Do all scientists have this responsibility, or can the field rely on a few public spokespeople? To what extent are ‘public’ scientists responsible for explaining/defending the field as a whole rather than just their own work?

The four dimensions of failing to deal with global warming:

1 . Failing to deal with climate change constitutes, not failing to help future generations, but inflicting harm on them;
2. Failing to deal with climate change constitutes inflicting harm on generations who could have been spared all such harm;
3. Failing to deal with climate change constitutes not simply continuing to make it worse, but unnecessarily creating opportunities for it to become significantly worse by feeding upon itself through positive feedbacks that
would otherwise not have occurred; and
4. Failing to deal with climate change constitutes not only unnecessarily creating opportunities for the planetary environment to become significantly worse, but also unnecessarily creating opportunities for it to become catastrophically worse.

Like it or not, if we want answers that best suit our societal needs, we're going to have to delve seriously into the philosophical, moral and ethical dimensions of global warming.

Change of Heart - Prince Harry Stays Home

Prince Harry will not be with his regiment when it ships out for Iraq. According to the Associated Press:

"Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief of staff who recently traveled to Iraq, said the changing situation on the ground exposed the prince to too much danger. Media scrutiny of Harry's potential deployment exacerbated the situation, he said.

"'There have been a number of specific threats, some reported and some not reported, that relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual,' Dannatt said. 'These threats exposed him and those around him to a degree of risk I considered unacceptable.'"

Tough call, especially for Harry who was pretty determined to serve with his squadron in the war zone.

The Nail in Gonzales' Coffin?

Monkey See, Monkey Do

How low can he go? George Bush's overreaching Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales keeps showing himself to be ever more dishonest and unethical.
The latest episode in the Gonzales drama plays like something out of The Godfather. Then Attorney-General John Ashcroft lies in a bed in intensive care, recovering from surgery. His aide, James B. Comey, then the acting U.S. attorney general, gets a late night call on his way home. It's from Ashcroft's aide. Mrs. Ashcroft has received word that two Bush aides are en route to the hospital.
Comey orders his security detail to head for the George Washington Medical Centre. He also calls FBI Director Robert Mueller to get to the hospital and protect Ashcroft from any coercion.
Comey speeds to the hospital and arrives just in time to head off the intruders, one of whom was the man who would ultimately succeed Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales. The purpose of their visit, or raid, was to get an incapacitated Ashcroft to approve a secret national security directive authorizing warrantless wiretaps. Comey beat them to the punch and they were sent packing.
Comey, testifying before a senate committee, revealed details of that raid and the aftermath that sound like something straight out of Hollywood. The drama aside, his evidence leaves no doubt that Alberto Gonzales is utterly morally unfit to hold the post of Attorney General of the US.

Not Leaving Anytime Soon

Here it is, what will become the biggest embassy in the world. It's American. It's in Baghdad. It's about the same size as the Vatican, 104 acres containing a 27-building complex. It comes complete with 600-blast proof apartments.

The main concern at the moment is that the development simply isn't big enough. Not enough meeting space for congressional delegations, insufficient housing. According to the McClatchey news service, one tenant is even demanding bullet-resistant, kevlar blankets for those long nights when the mortar rounds have you tossing and turning endlessly.

Now, c'mon folks. Does this sound like Washington expects security to return to Baghdad anytime soon? Does it sound like the White House is yearning for the day that the US can clear out of Iraq?

More Tokyo Chicanery

The International Whaling Commission has a new member! Everyone give a big "hello" to - well, to Laos.

Laos has a real interest in whales and don't let the fact that it's landlocked fool you. Whales are big, after all, and Laos isn't big so the connection is obvious. That Laos has now jumped aboard the Tokyo gravy train, perhaps might even use its position to vote against whaling moratoria, really has nothing to do with it.

Maybe it's time we told our Japanese friends that buying votes on the International Whaling Commission is corrupt and wholly unacceptable. Now you may not have any Japanese friends you swap e-mails with but here are some people you might want to contact, folks with names like Sony, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Honda, Yamaha, Subaru and Suzuki. Let those people know what you think of it. They'll get the message.

Let's Train'em, Declare Victory and Leave

Great progress being made in Afghanistan. Six years down the road and we're almost at the halfway point in the goal of building a 70,000-soldier strong Afghan army. Once we hit that magic number, so we're told anyway, it's all "Mission Accomplished" and we can move on. Just a few more years now - or maybe ten or twenty or...

The Afghanistan National Army is a bit of a novelty. The country has never really fielded a national army in recent history. Force has been structured by militias controlled by ethnic warlords - Pashtun, Baloch, Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara. The national army essentially takes that military control out of the hands of the warlords and there's the rub.

Where are those warlords today? Why, many of them are in key positions of power in the Karzai government. Some of those are also in the narcotics industry. Some have ties to the Taliban.

What then is holding the Afghan national army together as its rate of enlistment slowly comes to outpace its rate of desertions? Well the glue would be the US and NATO forces in that country. They provide the structure and, after this many years, they're actually getting fairly good at herding the cats.

The question is whether the western troops have become the indispensible spine of the Afghan National Army. What is there to replace them if we leave that country? What would be left save for a thoroughly corrupt and dysfunctional central government?

If the national government is too weak and corrupt to sustain the national army, what then? That may depend as much on the army's officer corps as the number and quality of soldiers we train for them. It is not inconceivable that it may take a military coup to prevent a post-NATO Afghanistan from sliding back into the abyss of warring fuedalism fueled by the spoils of a failed, narco-state.

Maybe the best we can do for Afghanistan is to help train an effective army with heavy emphasis on its officer corps so that we can leave the country in safe hands. Perhaps this is our only legitimate exit strategy. The quest to bring Western democracy to Afghanistan may be more than the US, NATO and Afghanistan can bear.