Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mukasey Weasels Out

George Bush's nominee for America's next Attorney General, Michael B. Mukasey, has told senators conducting his confirmation hearing that, while he personally finds waterboarding repugnant, he can't say whether it's torture. What do you think?

This account of waterboarding taken from the 1958 memoir of French journalist Henri Alleg. Any doubts about waterboarding as full-bore torture are put to rest by Alleg's account:

"Together they picked up the plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. They rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink.

Lo - fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap, which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag and held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube.

When everything was ready, he said to me, 'When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.' And he turned on the tap.

"The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments.

I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save myself from suffociation. In spite of myself, the fingers of my two hands shook uncontrollably. 'That's it! He's going to talk,' said a voice.

"The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw up the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.

"Well then?' I remained silent. 'He's playing games with us! Put his head under again!'

"This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxiation right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time fighting with all my might not to die. I did not move my hands, but three times I again knew this insupportable agony.

"In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water. The last time, I lost consciousness."

Waterboarding is torture, no question about it. Cheney has no problem with it but then he's an old, diseased, cowardly bastard who's on death's doorstep himself. If Mukasey can't tell if waterboarding is torture his confirmation ought to be denied, no question.

Brian Mulroney's Foul Stench

He's tried just about everything to make the Airbus scandal go away. He threatened journalists. He's bobbed and weaved at every turn. He even bluffed the federal government out of nearly $2-million in damages for his "injured reputation." Yet the Airbus scandal remains a millstone firmly attached to Brian Mulroney's neck and he refuses to take the few simple steps he needs to free himself of it.

An interesting rehash of the known dealings between Mulroney, Karlheinz Schreiber, the CBC and others can be found in today's Globe and Mail. The focus of attention is the $300,000 Mulroney now admits he received from Karlheinz Schreiber. The money was received in three equal payments, in cash-stuffed envelopes, passed across a table to Mulroney in private meetings with Schreiber. That too hasn't been denied.

Of course, in persuading the federal government to cave on his defamation lawsuit, Mulroney stated, under oath, that he'd never had any business dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber. Not any, none, no way, never. When a former prime minister makes an unequivocal statement under oath - on pain of prosecution for perjury - he can expect to be afforded the benefit of the doubt. Mr. Mulroney made the statement, he was taken at his sworn word, the government grovelled and publicly apologized and sent his lawyers a big, fat cheque. Mulroney beat his chest and roared his vindication, assuming it was all over.

But it wasn't.

Schreiber talked. He offered to talk to the National Disgrace, but they rebuffed him. Karlheinz next took his story to the Globe and Mail which ran a basic item on the claims. Mulroney's real problems, however, emerged when a CBC producer got his hands on Swiss bank records evidencing Schreiber's alleged payments.

As late as 1999, Mulroney had his spokesmen, Luc Lavoie, flatly deny that any money passed between Mulroney and Schreiber. "I mean the bottom line is that he never received any money from anybody," said Lavoie.

Confronted with CBC's Swiss bank documents Mulroney finally acknowledged having received $300,000 from Schreiber which he then claimed was a retainer for legal services to be rendered. He maintained he later earned those funds by performing legal work for his client.

Here's the deal. Two years after receiving these payments Mulroney gave sworn evidence that he never had any business dealings with Schreiber. He denied having received any money from Schreiber. We had to take him at his word and gave him $2-million.

Years later Mulroney made a "voluntary disclosure" of the supposed income to Revenue Canada when the CBC had documentary evidence of the payments. Not surprisingly, the guy Schreiber claimed was also in on the deal, former Newfoundland Premier Frank Moores, also made a "voluntary disclosure" of his own at the very same time.

The Swiss bank accounts show Airbus money going to Schreiber and deposited into a "schmeergelder" (grease money) account from which $300,000 payments were transferred into accounts claimed to be for Frank Moores and Mulroney. Out of Mulroney's accounts were three withdrawals, each of $100,000 coinciding with Schreiber's coffee shop meetings with the former prime minister.

New information released in today's Globe shows that in February, 1998 - long after Schreiber had caused Mulroney such enormous distress - Schreiber answered Mulroney's call for a private meeting in Brian's hotel room at the Savoy in Zurich. He was met in the lobby by Mulroney's assistant, Paul Terrien, who escorted Schreiber to his boss's room.

Terrien, today working as chief of staff to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, confirms the Schreiber-Mulroney meeting but says he didn't ask and wasn't told what the men discussed. Schreiber claims Mulroney called the meeting to find out if there was any evidence that might link them financially.

A year later, CBC was digging into the story and asked for an interview with Mulroney. The former PMs spokesman declined the interview request and said, "He is going nuts." This was followed by the public acknowledgment of the payments.

The whole thing smells. If Mulroney received $300,000 as a retainer from Schreiber, there would be trust account records to document it. If the money was sitting in Mulroney's firm's trust account, there would be accounts rendered to justify withdrawal of the money in payment of fees. If the money was earned there should be accounting records concerning it between Mulroney and his then law firm.

In other words there should be at Mulroney's finger tips a series of documents that would conclusively corroborate his retainer/legal fees story. Why has his former law firm not stepped up to confirm that the Schreiber money was received, held and disbursed appropriately? Why did Mulroney not declare as income the legal fees he claims he received, out of trust, in the year they were paid to him? Why did both Mulroney and Frank Moores make voluntary disclosures to Revenue Canada, when were they made and in respect of what income?

Here's another question: Given Stephen Harper's bold proclamation that his government is squeaky clean, why hasn't he demanded Mulroney explain his sworn evidence in 1995 that he'd had absolutely no business dealings with Schreiber? Why isn't he making any effort to see if we should be getting our $2-million back from his close friend, Brian Mulroney?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Spread the Word

It doesn't matter whether you're convinced on global warming or you flat out don't believe any of it or you're somewhere in between. Watch the following video and see if it doesn't eliminate your doubts or reinforce your beliefs:

When you're finished, please spread the word. Your good deed for the day sort of thing.

NATO's Last Chance

We've all heard the hype about how NATO's credibility is at stake in Afghanistan. Without continuing to carry Washington's water in Afghanistan, so the line goes, the Alliance is meaningless. Cute.

Let's remember how NATO got embroiled in Afghanistan. It was so the U.S. could pursue its lark in Iraq to rid the world of all of those nasty WMDs, or so that line went. What is now obvious is that the NATO nations simply served as enablers to a dysfunctional war of aggression and conquest. We were sold a bill of goods by Washington, plain and simple. It was all a big fraud, a scam, but somehow the U.S. still expects us to do the "honourable" thing.

It's time NATO demanded an accounting, a balancing of the books. It's time NATO told Washington that enough is enough, no third Middle Eastern war. Bad enough to be left to battle insurgents coming across the border from America's trusted ally in its Global War on Terror, Pakistan. There's no need to add to that burden a horde of weapons and insurgents pouring in from Iran.

If Bush/Cheney are mad enough to set the entire Muslim world ablaze, they can damned well do it on their own. NATO's jumped-up secretary-general ought to actually do something for the alliance members - tell Washington that we've had it, no more of its botched wars. If NATO can't or won't rein in the Americans, the alliance has outlived its usefulness anyway.

A Carbon Neutral Forest Industry?

Canada's forest industry plans to be carbon neutral by 2015. Better yet, the Forest Products Association of Canada says it will meet that goal without resort to carbon offset schemes.

The forest bloc seems to have recognized the risk it faces from climate change ranging from more severe forest fires to widespread insect infestations. From the Toronto Star:

The effort must extend beyond forests and mills to wood and paper consumers, such as construction sites, homes and offices, Avrim Lazar, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said.

The aim is to protect both the environment and the industry's bottom line, said Lazar, who was to announce the pledge this morning at a conference in Ottawa.

Global demand for wood products is soaring, he said. "If people continue to do it the old way ... it won't be very good for the planet."

The devastating spread of pine beetles in British Columbia – partly because winters are no longer cold enough to kill the insects – is a wake-up call, he said.

"We got a lesson in the impact of climate change before most of the rest of Canada."

As well, global buyers increasingly demand products from "sustainable" operations. That can be an edge for Canadian firms, which face fierce competition from China, Brazil and other places where trees grow faster, costs are lower, and environment rules can be lax.

The Canadian industry has reduced its greenhouse emissions 44 per cent since 1990, when its output increased by 20 per cent.

Part of the industry's plan is a major initiative in recycling by keeping paper out of landfills and recovering scrap lumber from building sites. Major improvements have already been achieved at pulp, paper and saw mills.

Now if only Stevie Harper and Ed Stelmach can give their weary knees a rest and stand up to Alberta's tar gobblers, we might actually have a chance of getting somewhere.

Mission Expired - the Blue Eyed Taliban

Our side had a good run, six years in fact. In a war, six years is a long time. It's enough to even defeat former superpowers like Nazi Germany and Japan. It ought to have been enough to sort out Afghanistan's Taliban. That window of opportunity, however, may have been closing as we hunkered down in our fortified garrisons, ran occasional patrols and even rarer search and destroy missions - the military equivalent of treading water.

A report in today's New York Times tells of a new generation of foreign fighter, some looking more like Vikings than Islamists, coming into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban:

"Foreign fighters are coming from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, various Arab countries and perhaps also Turkey and western China, Afghan and American officials say.
'We’ve seen an unprecedented level of reports of foreign-fighter involvement,' said Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, deputy commander for security of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. 'They’ll threaten people if they don’t provide meals and support.'

Seth Jones, an analyst with the Rand Corporation, was less sanguine, however, calling the arrival of more foreigners a dangerous development. The tactics the foreigners have introduced, he said, are increasing Afghan and Western casualty rates.

'They play an incredibly important part in the insurgency,' Mr. Jones said. 'They act as a force multiplier in improving their ability to kill Afghan and NATO forces.'

Western officials said the foreigners are also increasingly financing younger Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas who have closer ties to Al Qaeda, like Sirajuddin Haqqani and Anwar ul-Haq Mujahed. The influence of older, more traditional Taliban leaders based in Quetta, Pakistan, is diminishing."

The Times report suggests the insurgency is now spreading beyond the country's southern Pashtuns into the Uzbeks and Tajiks. With the addition of foreign fighters the lines of the insurgency are becoming blurred. More problems for NATO, more problems for Canada and yet, again, Canada's modest force deployed in Kandahar will just have to make do with the same small number of troops as we had at the outset.

Next up, Iran. If Bush/Cheney bomb the hell out of Iran, as is widely expected, look for a growing Islamist revolt against Western infidels throughout the region, Afghanistan very much included. Then NATO will be fully enmeshed in the new war, the Global War on Islam. That one should be a real gem.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Alberta Premier to Head Office - All's Okay

Alberta's Tory Premier, "Special Ed" Stelmach has checked in with the Big Boys in Washington to assure them that his government's paltry royalty increases won't interfere with the supply of America's oil.

Washington is counting, big time, on Stelmach to at least treble tar sands production by 2015 to feed America's insatiable appetite for SUV juice and he's determined to show himself an obedient puppy. Maybe Ed knows what happens to local big shots who screw up America's oil supply. Then again...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Diseased Maniacs at Death's Door Need Not Apply

My American friends:

Please amend your constitution - soonest - to totally disqualify maniacs afflicted with chronic disease from holding any senior office in your government. I shouldn't have to explain the reasoning. Give a guy a few heart attacks and he may go from a coward who dodged his country's draft five, yes that's FIVE count'em, times into an outright lunatic who can't find the son or daughter of a working family he doesn't want to send to that very same place.

Take the loser you've already got - the one who lied your country into quagmire and economic ruin - and put him on a plane en route to rendition to the Hague. He's nothing more than a shitsack criminal anyway, who needs him? Besides, it's not like the Dutch will torture the creep unlike the Syrians and Egyptians to whom this jackass has entrusted the fate of many innocents.

Above all, don't let a guy who can't realistically expect to be drawing breath a few years hence hold the power to plunge your country into unwinnable wars. If he isn't going to be around to face the consequences, he shouldn't have the choice in the first place.

Storm the Bastille, arrest Cheney! It's not like he's got a lot to lose.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another Wake-Up Call

"Each person on earth

now requires

a third more land

to supply his or her needs

than the planet can provide."

That is the depressing conclusion of a sweeping audit of the world's resources by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released today. For all those cretins - including our own prime monster, Harpo - who still pitch sustainable growth and intensity-based emission targets it means their policies are morally, not to mention environmentally, bankrupt.

In fact it's precisely the Harpo sort of leaders that are the UNEP's greatest concern, those that just don't get it.

The report - entitled Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development - concludes that climate change is a global priority that demands political leadership, but there has been "a remarkable lack of urgency" in the response, which the report characterised as "woefully inadequate". From The Guardian:

"The report's authors say its objective is "not to present a dark and gloomy scenario, but an urgent call to action".

It warns that tackling the problems may affect the vested interests of powerful groups, and that the environment must be moved to the core of decision-making.

The report said irreversible damage to the world's climate will be likely unless greenhouse gas emissions drop to below 50% of their 1990 levels before 2050.

To reach this level, the richer countries must cut emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 and developing countries must also make significant reductions, it says.

It addresses a number of areas where environmental degradation is threatening human welfare and the planet, including water, over-fishing and biodiversity - where the UNEP says a sixth, human-induced, extinction is under way."

It's about time we, and especially those of you with young children, recognized that global warming heel-draggers like Harper are far more menacing to the coming generations of young Canadians than all the drunk drivers combined could ever be. We have to start treating the Harpos, Bushs and Howards like what they really are - a menace to our families and our societies.

US Questions NATO's Credibility. Really?

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, water carrier to the most delusional administration in his nation's history, has called into question the committment of some NATO nations to "winning in Afghanistan."

This jackass, whose own nation created the mess in Afghanistan by bailing out of that country to create an even greater mess in Iraq, told a group of senior US officers, "The failure to meet commitments puts the Afghan mission - and with it, the credibility of NATO - at real risk.''

These comments attempt to perpetuate Washington's self-serving myth that Afghanistan is NATO's mission, not its own. It's America that has some 30,000 soldiers in Afghanistan compared to 160,000 in Iraq - all of it on a deranged, diseased, bald bastard's wet dream. It's America, and Gates' very own Pentagon, that have created two losing wars and now stand on the verge of opening a third.

If the other NATO nations need any advice about maintaining their credibility, best that advice come from a country that can still claim some credibility itself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's On

The Bush/Cheney regime's cowboy statesmanship has yielded another predictable consequence - global arms races. Bush's bully boy diplomacy, his blind arrogance and his utter failure in Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East has simultaneously goaded and emboldened key rivals such as China and Russia.

Bush and his stable sweeper, Rumsfeld, set events in play when they had America unilaterally scrap its nuclear weapons treaties and announce the development of a new generation of nuclear battlefield (or tactical) weapons. That bit of jumped up bravado along with the Texas Turd's insistence on basing anti-ballistic missile interceptors on Russia's doorstep triggered the inevitable response from Russia's Vlad Putin.

Putin appeared on a call-in show today where he assured Russians that their military is also proceeding with its own new generation,nuclear arsenal and matching, improved capacity missile systems. Russia, recovering from its post-communism economic doldrums and awash in petro-rubles can afford to do just that.

What a difference two decades can make. Then it was the USSR that was in serious financial distress and America ascendant. Now it's America that's in hock to its eyeballs and Russia ascendant.

A prudent president would have positioned the United States much differently. Bush has proven to be foolish to the point of stupidity; picking unnecessary fights, draining his treasury, leaving his military strained to the breaking point and his nation's financial strength sapped. With the looming environmental and resource challenges, Bush has left the United States about as vulnerable as its enemies and rivals could hope for. Even with a clear headed and courageous leader, it could take America decades to undo the Bush legacy.

The Frat Boy has put himself well in the running for the worst president in his nation's history.

In the meantime the new cold war is "on" and we'd better start thinking about what we can do about that.

Okay, Mr. D., Just What is the Game Plan?

Is it still Mr. Dion or just Mr. Disappointment?

Our Liberal leader did not distinguish himself yesterday in his cold-porridge response to the Harper throne speech. The opposition will bring amendments which, if they're rejected, will send it scurrying to abstain from actually taking a position on policies it has long condemned.

Mr. D's Liberal party is in a tactical retreat, or so we're told. The only thing clear is its intent to head for the hills at the first sign of anything it doesn't like. Even if it is a wise option for the caucus - it's a message to every uncommitted Canadian voter that the Libs are in disarray and routed.

Running is one thing, running away is another. There has to be a game plan, something understandable, compelling and convincing, that you're running to or else you're just running away.

The Official Opposition doesn't run from the government it is supposed to oppose. It stands and makes its opposition known and felt. It presents the electorate with a clear alternative, another option they can support.

Tabling amendments doesn't cut it. That's whining, not opposing. To announce, in advance, that you'll be putting forward these amendments and then folding your hand if they're not accepted, gives feckless a near-religious quality.

If Dion wants our support, he needs to earn it. He must come out with a clear, forceful and cogent policy - one that reflects his vision and that carves out real territory for the Libs and forces the NDP and CPC to their natural warrens.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's D-Day

This is the day that Stephane Dion either shows he's got the guts to lead or simply confirms that he is what he's appeared to be ever since he got the leadership - hapless and ineffectual.

Dion should have been able to come out swinging against the throne speech when it mattered - yesterday. That's when Harpo's agenda was scoring air time. Today, when Dion finally unveils his response, it's old news - stale. All he's done is, yet again, undercut himself.

What in Harper's fearmongering crime bill proposal or his rejection of Kyoto or his Afghanisnam 2011 nonsense was so surprising that Dion couldn't have slammed them yesterday when it mattered?

For my money, Dion had better pull something powerful out of his hat today or accept that he's unable or unwilling to actually lead a national party and hand the job to someone who wants it enough to do it.

This is D-Day, Dion Day.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Harper's Whores?

If this one takes flight, you had better duck next time you see a pig.

A group of Vancouver prostitutes wants to establish a brothel in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. From Alternet.Org:

...local sex workers have banded together to establish Canada's first cooperative brothel in an attempt to offer women a safe place to work.

The group, formed by a sex workers' alliance based here, called the British Columbia Coalition of Experiential Women, will incorporate next month and is already setting the groundwork to open the co-op brothel.

Members have begun scouting for a location and are enlisting the backing of local businesses, police and labor organizations.

Faced with the task of cleaning up the city to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver authorities said they are open to the idea.

"We would be willing to explore anything that ... would be helping the situation of sex trade workers, and make it safer for them and make it better for the community," said Vancouver police spokesperson Howard Chow. He noted one requirement: "It has to be something that is lawful."

>Prostitution itself is legal in Canada. However, since most activities associated with it are not -- such as soliciting sexual services in a public place, operating a bawdy house and living off the avails of prostitution -- the group is planning to appeal to the federal government for an exemption.

Now, let's see... "Dear Prime Minister Harper. You don't know us but we're really not much different from you and many of your cabinet ministers. We're all in the business of screwing the Canadian people. Now here's a business idea..."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The War of 1812 - It Still Matters - A Lot

View from the Lake over at Progressive Bloggers linked to an article from the National Disgrace about the War of 1812. NatPo's fluff piece treated that war pretty much as Canadians themselves do, essentially irrelevant. They even quoted some lady from the Sackets Harbor state park as saying America won the war because, had they lost, they'd be using loonies and toonies now.

First of all, the War of 1812 remains of enormous importance to Canada. Second, America lost that war - and lost badly. Third, if you're Canadian you ought to be grateful, every day, to Brock and Tecumseh and the 49th Regiment of Foot, the Voltigeurs, the 41st, King's 8th and Canada's militias including the Canadian Volunteers.

The War of 1812 was America's first foreign war. Like so many since, it was an American war of conquest. The United States initiated the war. Its Congress declared war on us. Canadians were expressly warned to submit or be enslaved. The Americans waged war on us knowing they had enormous superiorities in population and soldiers.

The goal of that war was to drive the British out of Upper and Lower Canada that they might be conquered and annexed to the United States. It is by the goal on which the war was launched that questions of winners and losers are determined.

The United States had the British, Canadian Militias and Indians outnumbered by roughly 10 to 1, about the same ratio as their population advantage.

Population, in a land still being settled, has a huge effect. For example, there were enough American settlers along the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario to justify development of roadways. We had even more territory but only a fraction of the settler population so we had no effective land routes, forcing us to use the lakes and leaving our forces vulnerable to superior American naval power. That was just one example of the advantages enjoyed by the Americans.

Our goal in that war was survival - defeating the enemy in the field and driving his regiments from our soil. If we failed, we were conquered. There was no middle outcome for us. Our enemies' advantages assured that.

Yet it was two centuries ago so how could it remain relevant? To the Americans it was a sorry defeat, their first of many, so it isn't particularly relevant. To us, the underdogs, however, it was an enormous victory that carries with it so much that we take for granted today.

It's not about Americans not having to use loonies or toonies, that's just plain silliness. To us, however, it was thousands of Canadian youth not having to be sacrificed in places like Vietnam or Iraq or any of America's other pathetic lunacies. Had we lost that first and most critical war, had we not overcome our numerical and tactical inferiorities, we would have been American today and for that alone each of us should sincerely thank our own particular God that we prevailed.

Commiottees are being formed in Ontario and New York and elsewhere to turn the bicentennial of the War of 1812 into some perverse Disney-style event. The theme will all be "water under the bridge." Hardly. But for the War of 1812, George w. Bush would be your president today. Think about that.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Too Many Armies, Not Enough Soldiers

One of the problems besetting the NATO mission, or ISAF, in Afghanistan is that there are just too many armies and not enough soldiers.

The forces committed to that wretched place are a piecemeal bunch, each subject to "caveats" or conditions under which they may and may not be used. For example, one country may specify that its soldiers can only fire their guns on the first and third Tuesday of the month and only when fired upon first from really, really close range. These caveats hobble the force commander who must employ his forces subject to each nation's terms and conditions. Too many armies.

Not enough soldiers. NATO's overall force levels are a fraction of those deployed on other, far less challenging missions such as Bosnia but, instead of finding effective ways to greatly increase the force size, NATO is struggling to keep it from shrinking too much in the coming two years.

In a remarkably uncritical piece in today's TorStar the paper's Ottawa bureau chief Bruce Campion-Smith did a bang-up bit of boosterism for "the mission":

"Afghans know the battle is not won yet and so are reticent about offering their wholehearted support to a foreign force that might not be here in two years." Afghans actually know the battle isn't won yet? Really? What else do they know? Maybe they know just how well foreign armies do in their country. Maybe they know how this will end, even if we don't want to admit it - yet.

"The presence of Canada is needed till Afghanistan is able to defend itself. That day is not going to be in 2009," Karzai told Canadian journalists at a recent news conference clearly staged to deliver a message back home. "Look around and see that the enemy is not yet finished, not yet defeated." Look at that, Karzai knows it too. He also knows he has about a snowball's chance on a mid-summer day in Kabul that the enemy (you choose which one) will be defeated. If he actually believed the Taliban would likely be defeated, do you think he would be pleading with them to cut him a deal every other week?

"This is a country that won't be rushed." Rushed into what? With its half-dozen normally suspicious and hostile ethnic groups, it's hardly a country at all. When its people do get together, it's usually to drive out the latest bunch of infidels who show up thinking they'll remake the place. To the extent Afghanistan is a country, it's been described as a collection of bits that its neighbouring countries didn't want.

Whether you support the Conservatives, Liberals or the NDP on Afghanistan, we'd all do much better if we based our arguments on the realities of that country, of NATO and ISAF, instead of the silly scenarios our leaders adopt to further their own political fortunes.

Definitely Not Oprah's Book Club - 4th ed., ch. 2 - The Mess They Made

Military historian Gwynne Dyer is adept at the art of understatement. If anything this style makes his analysis and arguments more compelling. In his latest book, The Mess They Made, he asks what should the West do about the Middle East and comes up with the answer, nothing:

The Middle East as we have known it for the past ninety years is coming to an end, because the Americans Will soon be leaving. President Bush is so determined to resist that conclusion that the legions will not finally depart until he has left office, but it is coming as surely as the sun sets in the west. And although Bush will leave defeated and disgraced, he has set events and emotions in train that will transform the region - if not quite in the way he intended.

...The destruction of the Iraqi state and the subsequent defeat of U.S. military power there have finally destabilized the Middle East, a notional region that came into being after the collapse of the Ottoman empire in 1918. ...It was initially controlled by the British and French empires, who drew most of the borders, but a surge of revolutions in the 1940s and 1950s brought independence to the Arab countries. By then, however, both oil and Israel had made the region of great interest to the United States, which took over as the dominant power from the 1960s onwards. And under that American dispensation, there have been no further changes of regime for forty years, apart from the revolution in Iran in 1978 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003; the undemocratic regimes that were in power in 1967 are all still in power, within the borders that the European empires drew in 1918.

It is that Middle East that is now coming to an end. It is ending because defeat and humiliation in Iraq mean that soon there will no longer be the will in the United States to go on with the task of maintaining the status quo, and because the forces unleashed by the destruction of Iraq are going to overwhelm the status quo. Everything is now up for grabs: regimes, ethnic pecking orders within states, even the 1918 borders themselves might change. Five years from now there could be an Islamic Republic of Arabia, an independent Kurdistan, almost anything you care to imagine.

So what should the rest of the world do about this? Nothing. Just stand back and let it happen. Outsiders to the region have no solutions left to peddle any more (nor any credibility even if they did have solutions) and they no longer have the power or the will to impose their ideas. For the first time in a century, the region is a going to choose its future for itself - and it may, of course, make a dreadful mess of it. Even then outsiders should not intervene, because foreign intervention generally makes things worse - but also because its none of their business.

For several generations the West has insisted that the Middle East is its business, because that is where half the world's oil comes from. Radical change cannot be allowed there because it might interrupt the flow of oil, and so the region has remained politically and socially frozen for generations. But today every major oil-producing country in the Middle East depends on the cash flow from oil exports to feed its growing population, so they are all compelled to sell pretty much every barrel they can pump - and to sell it into a single global market that sets the price for buyer and seller alike.

...the oil will go on flowing no matter who's in charge, so it's all the same to the customers. If the new regime is better than the old, good, if not, too bad. But it's their business, not ours.

Bernier Get Your Mop - Clean-Up In Aisle Six

The Canadian Armed Forces new policy of suppressing bad news out of Afghanistan seems to have reached even the inner sanctum of Stevie Harper's cabinet. That was pretty clear today when our supposed foreign affairs minister, Maxime Bernier, told reporters in Kandahar that attacks against Canadian soldiers there had decreased over the past year.

"The territory is more secure now today, here in Kandahar than it was a year ago," Mr. Bernier said. "Look just a year ago what happened, there were many attacks, and the attacks have diminished."

A United Nations report, one that Bernier apparently couldn't read, states that insurgents attacks have increased 25% over the past year, noting that may be a conservative assessment. Obviously it's not conservative enough for Bernier. The UN report is backed up by like assessments from other respected agencies.

Could it be that Bernier has caught Bush/Cheney disease - the virus that makes you spout whatever crap comes off the top of your head without regard for reality?

According to the Globe & Mail, our befuddled foreign affairs min pointed out other fantasy improvements:

"He also claimed that it's getting easier for aid workers to travel the province.
"We have improvement because our civilians, our humanitarian workers are able to go out there and do their work," Mr. Bernier said.

"In fact, the growing risk of kidnapping among aid workers has prompted the UN to develop a new map assessing the likelihood of capture by insurgents in districts across the country. Almost the entire province of Kandahar is shown as "high abduction risk."

"In a survey this year, Afghan government employees said they have limited ability to visit the majority of Kandahar's districts without armed escort; across the south, local officials said their access was decreasing because of the rising insecurity.

"Another measure of aid workers' ability to work is the UN's internal security map.

"This summer the map showed about one-third Afghanistan in the highest-risk category for travel, representing a deterioration from the summer of 2006, when only 15 per cent of the country earned the same rating."

And we're paying this clown for what exactly? He must've been too busy raiding the mini-bar on the flight over to Kandahar to bother getting even a basic briefing from his staff. Maybe Bernier should start looking for a job he can handle - something with a handle.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The lnquisitor in Chief

George w. Bush isn't going to fare well in the history books. That's obvious based on what we already know of this astonishingly flawed man and the realization that many more "insights" are to follow once he leaves office and his administration's stalinesque cloak of secrecy is gone.

One part of Bush's legacy that's already apparent is George the Inquisitor, the grand torturer of the White House. Today's lead editorial in the New York Times laments the stain that this man has left on their nation:

Once upon a time, it was the United States that urged all nations to obey the letter and the spirit of international treaties and protect human rights and liberties. American leaders denounced secret prisons where people were held without charges, tortured and killed. And the people in much of the world, if not their governments, respected the United States for its values.

The Bush administration has dishonored that history and squandered that respect. As an article on this newspaper’s front page last week laid out in disturbing detail, President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies.

After the attacks of 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the creation of extralegal detention camps where Central Intelligence Agency operatives were told to extract information from prisoners who were captured and held in secret. Some of their methods — simulated drownings, extreme ranges of heat and cold, prolonged stress positions and isolation — had been classified as torture for decades by civilized nations. The administration clearly knew this; the C.I.A. modeled its techniques on the dungeons of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union.

The White House could never acknowledge that. So its lawyers concocted documents that redefined “torture” to neatly exclude the things American jailers were doing and hid the papers from Congress and the American people.

Is this the country whose president declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” and then managed the collapse of Communism with minimum bloodshed and maximum dignity in the twilight of the 20th century? Or is this a nation that tortures human beings and then concocts legal sophistries to confuse the world and avoid accountability before American voters?

Truly banning the use of torture would not jeopardize American lives; experts in these matters generally agree that torture produces false confessions. Restoring the rule of law to Guantánamo Bay would not set terrorists free; the truly guilty could be tried for their crimes in a way that does not mock American values.

George w. Bush has damaged America and will leave his nation weakened and crippled in ways and to degrees that won't be fully appreciated for many years to come. Mission Accomplished, George.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Holy Rollering

No matter how you cut it, $76-million a year is serious money. That's the annual revenue of Oral Roberts University and it's now in jeopardy over claims made in a lawsuit about Lindsay Roberts, wife of Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts.

The lawsuit has been filed by three former ORU professors who said they were sacked for bringing up some inconvenient truths about alleged shenanigans at the university in a report they delivered to the university's board of regents.

The professors allege that university president Richard Roberts "asked a professor in 2005 to use his students and university resources to aid a county commissioner's bid for Tulsa mayor. Such involvement would violate state and federal law because of the university's nonprofit status."

But the juicy bits concern Lindsay Roberts (pictured above) and allegations that she has a curious interest in "underage males." She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."

Definitely Not Oprah's Book Club - 4th ed., ch. 1, The Mess They Made

I've been meaning to write a post about Gwynne Dyer's new book, The Mess They Made, but I think it's too full of gems to pass it off with a review. If you're at all concerned about the Middle East, radical Islam, the United States, or Canada living in the shadow of America, you really should read this book. To try to get you hooked, I'll be doing a few posts based on excerpts from the book.

In this part I'll deal with one of Dyer's conclusions as to why the US won't leave Iraq:

...the U.S. authorities in Iraq expend a great deal of energy in ensuring that an official request for the withdrawal of foreign troops does not see the light of day. The only logical explanation is that, while the Bush administration would love to bring most of the troops home and ease the political pressure there, it still has not accepted the necessity of bringing them all home. It still imagines, in some incoherent way, that it can manipulate events in Iraq so that the insurgency dies down, the economy stabilizes, and a grateful Iraqi government welcomes the permanent stationing of twenty or thirty thousand American troops on its territory. The fourteen "enduring bases," with which the White House planned to replace the bases in Saudi Arabia that have become a political liability for the Saudi government, are still under construction, and as far as the White House and the Pentagon are concerned the game is still afoot. Chickens do tend to run around for a bit even after their heads are chopped off. order to avoid demands for withdrawal the Iraqi government must be kept weak. Prime Minister al-Maliki has publicly said that he cannot move even a company of soldiers without U.S. permission. It is the CIA that pays the entire budget of the main Iraqi intelligence service, not the Iraqi government, so guess who it works for.'s government, unable to raise anything like the amount of revenue it needs from the devastated Iraqi economy, is on a very short financial leash held by the Americans.

Another Olympic Doping Scandal

Marion Jones, the darling of America's 2000 Sydney Olympics, has taken a tumble. Jones won five medals, including three gold, and has been denying allegations of doping ever since.

She's not denying it now. Jones has pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to federal investigators and has confessed in a White Plains, New York courtroom to having taken steroids before the 2000 summer games.

Jones's admission brings an ignominious end to the storied career of a woman once regarded as the greatest female athlete of all time.

In 2004, infamous Balco founder, Victor Conte told ESPN that he'd supplied Jones with several illegal drugs:

On April 21, 2001, in an Embassy Suites hotel room in Covina, California, he [Conte] said, he was sitting about "a foot away" as Jones used a $US1000 NovoPen injector - a device that "looked like a Sharpie [a large felt tip pen]" and that can be used to inject human growth hormone. After pulling the spandex of her bicycle shorts above her right thigh, he said, Jones "dialled up a dose of 4 units of growth hormone and injected it into her quadriceps." Jones's former husband, CJ Hunter, "was hugely responsible for making sure she did what she was supposed to", he said, adding that after they split up: "I had to reprimand her for getting careless."

She left a growth-hormone cartridge injector "on a refrigerator in a hotel room in Edmonton . . . and had to go back and get it," Conte said. "[She] left it again at a hotel in Eugene, Oregon, a few days later. After the first time she forgot it, she said she'd put it in a sneaker and lean the sneaker against the refrigerator so she wouldn't forget it. Then she forgot the shoe. That injector had a thousand dollars worth of growth hormone in it! "I couldn't afford the risk," Conte said. At the same time, he said, he was having "financial problems" with Tim Montgomery, so he ended his relationship with them, and "soon I was working with their rivals".

Montgomery and Jones are now partners and parents of a year-old son. The magazine story confirms previously published accounts of what was called "Project World Record" on Montgomery's behalf, Conte acting as Montgomery's "pharmacology and nutrition" guru. Montgomery set the 100-metre world record, 9.78 seconds, in 2002.

Jones' confession will only add to the controversy surrounding the death of her predecessor, Florence Griffith-Jones. "Flo-Jo" scored three gold medals at the Seoul Olympics only to die suddenly from a heart attack at age 38.

Despised Underdog Wins in Landslide

Maybe not exactly an "underdog" but certainly controversial and it was a landslide, even in a nation that knows a thing or two about landslides, the real ones.

Pervez Musharrraf, or "Mushie" to his friends, has won Pakistan's presidential election, scoring 252 of the 257 votes cast in that country's parliament. Three ballots were tossed out as invalid and two votes went to his main rival, retired judge Wajihuddin Ahmad. There were 691-eligible votes but the opposition pretty much gave this election a pass, either abstaining (the safe option) or boycotting the election in protest of Mushie's refusal to give up his command of the country's armed forces.

Even before the voting, the ruling party's privatization minister, Wasi Zafar, announced the result to an Associated Press reporter: ''He will be elected with a vast majority. God willing we will enter full democracy.'' Good call Wasi but somehow I don't think God had anything to do with it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Far Right Disease

The past few decades have witnessed the growth of a political disease that, like all untreated contagions, led to an epidemic in the United States over the past six years. It's a malignancy often called the "far right."

It's debilitating to those who succumb to it. It disrupts their sensory systems and causes cognitive dysfunction. They see only in black and white and hear only that which pleases them. They quickly become incapable of discerning nuance of any form, of grasping facts and other realities and, in advanced states, become myopic to the point of blindness - seeing nothing more than a burning light that they unquestioningly follow.

The far right malignancy has savaged the United States, sapped its strength, and left it incapable of standing upright. Unable to recognize its true foes it has to be content to swing blindly, treating everyone as a threat.

There are those in our own country who show the incipient signs of infection. One of them currently resides at our expense at 24 Sussex Drive. Fortunately for us, his disease has been slow to spread to our fellow countrymen thereby keeping his own affliction in check, at least for the moment.

There is reason for hope. Today I found it in the musings of right-wing columnist David Brooks. After years of cheerleading, then justifying, then excusing the diseased excesses of his own party - yes, that would be the Bush Republicans - Brooks has seen the light, thrown in the towel, opted for the cure. He has retreated to take refuge in the wisdom of Edmund Burke:

"Modern conservatism begins with Edmund Burke. What Burke articulated was not an ideology or a creed, but a disposition, a reverence for tradition, a suspicion of radical change.

Over the years, the voice of Burke has been submerged beneath the clamoring creeds. In fact, over the past few decades the conservative ideologies have been magnified, while the temperamental conservatism of Burke has been abandoned.

Over the past six years, the Republican Party has championed the spread of democracy in the Middle East. But the temperamental conservative is suspicious of rapid reform, believing that efforts to quickly transform anything will have, as Burke wrote “pleasing commencements” but “lamentable conclusions.”

The world is too complex, the Burkean conservative believes, for rapid reform. Existing arrangements contain latent functions that can be neither seen nor replaced by the reformer. The temperamental conservative prizes epistemological modesty, the awareness of the limitations on what we do and can know, what we can and cannot plan.

Over the past six years, the Bush administration has operated on the assumption that if you change the political institutions in Iraq, the society will follow. But the Burkean conservative believes that society is an organism; that custom, tradition and habit are the prime movers of that organism; and that successful government institutions grow gradually from each nation’s unique network of moral and social restraints.

Over the past four decades, free market conservatives within the Republican Party have put freedom at the center of their political philosophy. But the dispositional conservative puts legitimate authority at the center. So while recent conservative ideology sees government as a threat to freedom, the temperamental conservative believes government is like fire — useful when used legitimately, but dangerous when not.

Over the past few decades, the Republican Party has championed a series of reforms designed to devolve power to the individual, through tax cuts, private pensions and medical accounts. The temperamental conservative does not see a nation composed of individuals who should be given maximum liberty to make choices. Instead, the individual is a part of a social organism and thrives only within the attachments to family, community and nation that precede choice

Therefore, the temperamental conservative values social cohesion alongside individual freedom and worries that too much individualism, too much segmentation, too much tension between races and groups will tear the underlying unity on which all else depends. Without unity, the police are regarded as alien powers, the country will fracture under the strain of war and the economy will be undermined by lack of social trust."

My God, Brooks speaking like a true Liberal. Maybe, just maybe, he could bring a bit of that vaccine to that clown in that lovely house on the Rideau.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Supreme Court Rules on Police Negligence

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Canadian police can be sued for damages caused by negligent investigation. The majority decision was written by Chief Justice McLachlan:

,,,police are not immune from liability under the Canadian law of negligence, that the police owe a duty of care in negligence to suspects being investigated, and that their conduct during the course of an investigation should be measured against the standard of how a reasonable officer in like circumstances would have acted. The tort of negligent investigation exists in Canada, and the trial court and Court of Appeal were correct to consider the appellant’s action on this basis. The law of negligence does not demand a perfect investigation. It requires only that police conducting an investigation act reasonably. When police fail to meet the standard of reasonableness, they may be accountable through negligence law for harm resulting to a suspect.

It has not been established that recognizing a duty of care in tort would have a chilling effect on policing, by causing police officers to take an unduly defensive approach to investigation of criminal activity. In theory, it is conceivable that police might become more careful in conducting investigations if a duty of care in tort is recognized. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The police officer must strike a reasonable balance between cautiousness and prudence on the one hand, and efficiency on the other. Files must be closed, life must move on, but care must also be taken…

The case involved a native man arrested by Hamilton-Wentworth police for a robbery he didn't commit. As a result, the man spent 20-months in prison until he was acquitted on a retrial. His claim for damages was dismissed as was the police department's appeal against a ruling that police investigators could be liable for negligent investigations.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Reality is Bad for Business

There was a telling little article from David Common on CBC's web site today. Apparently Canada's Defence Department would rather not bother you with any information about casualties suffered by our forces in Afghanistan:

...a great many Canadian soldiers are being injured in Afghanistan. And we’re not hearing about it.

The question now is, why? Two years ago, at the outset of this more dangerous mission in southern Afghanistan, any and every injury was made public to journalists embedded with Canadian soldiers in Kandahar, and with Canadians at large.

A new policy has clearly emerged. Deaths are still reported but injuries are not, unless one of two scenarios exists. The first is if the injury is so severe, it may very well result in death. The second is if journalists already know about it. If a journalist happens to be in a convoy that is hit and sees the injury, they’ll obviously know about it.

Injuries are increasingly frequent these days. As many as four roadside bomb strikes happen each week. Soldiers are being injured in the process, some of them seriously. Some of them will lose limbs. Others will have their lives irreparably damaged. We won’t know. Whether we should know is another question.

The point is this: soldiers have died in this place, but many more have been injured. The United States, which is engaged in its own largely unpopular war in Iraq, still releases injury statistics. Canada does not.

Making Canadian casualties disappear from public view is unacceptable.

More Civil Wars Loom for Afghanistan

While NATO forces are swatting at the Taliban for Hamid Karzai some of his country's other dark forces are looming.

The way this miserable war has been pitched to us here, we have the Taliban on one side and we're with the good guys on the other side. Black and white, white and black. Easy as pie. Sure.

As Rosie Dimanno writes in today's Toronto Star, Afghanistan's other murderous loonies now seem on the verge of making their own power grabs:

The most ravaged district of Kabul is a ghostly testament to the folly of war, waged without pity.

There is nothing left intact, just the detritus of siege: Jagged bits of masonry, husks of buildings, crumbling walls pockmarked with artillery fire.

The Soviets didn't do this. The Taliban didn't do this.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar did this.

Hekmatyar has more blood on his hands, arguably, than even the Taliban, with which he has variously fought against and yoked himself to, depending on strategic ambitions. And he's always been a most ambitious man.

...this is the man – an unyielding terrorist by any definition of the word, the embodiment of treachery – that Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he would welcome in peace talks. Hekmatyar says sure, let's parley – once foreign troops are removed and the new Afghan constitution is dissolved.

Nuts to that, Karzai counters, knowing full well that Hekmatyar covets the presidency and an ultrafundamentalist Afghanistan no different than what the ousted Taliban had imposed. Leery of what comes after NATO forces depart, however, Karzai is welcoming all fugitives into the negotiating tent as pre-emptive gambit.

A worst-case scenario: Rumours that Hekmatyar might join forces with another unhappy warlord, Rashid Dostum. The ethnic Uzbek thug is a founding member of the United National Front, an anti-government alliance established this year that has pulled together senior veterans from the fight against the Soviets.

Though detesting each other, they've been fleeting allies before, Hekmatyar and Dostum, during the change-lobsters-and-dance chaos of the civil war era.

Last year, coalition forces found a cache of arms belonging to Dostum's forces. There is an escalating worry that Dostum, perhaps in co-ordination with Hekmatyar, would unleash heavy artillery on ill-prepared NATO troops in the northern part of Afghanistan, soldier contributions from countries that have kept them out of combat zones.
All these factional groups just won't let Afghanistan be, the fanatically anti-West Hekmatyar most especially. Yet there are elements within NATO, even in the U.S. State Department, urging accommodation with Hekmatyar, such is the yearning for a political resolution to end the insurgency.

In Afghanistan, though, internecine politics always devolves to war. And if new Afghanistan is destined to become once more old Afghanistan, Canadian troops have been wasting their time, their sweat, their blood.

Just what did we expect to come out of this idiotic notion that we could establish orderly, Western secular democracy in this nest of vipers?

AfriKom - Open for Business

The US military has officially opened its latest franchise, Africa Command. As you might expect, AfriKom has just one base right now, in Stuttgart, Germany. Plans are underway, however, to find real African nations willing to host American military bases, 24 being the target.

The only thing really apparent about AfriKom is Washington's desire to blanket the region with its military forces. Curiously, they're not saying what they've got in mind. They have said that all those soldiers won't be there to secure American access to resources or to hunt terrorists. Maybe they'll just sit around to make sure no African leader gets too uppity with Washington. I mean they've got to be there for some purpose, don't they?

Liberia is reported to be willing to accommodate some American military presence but other African states seem reluctant, even wary. Nigeria is trying to keep AfriKom's headquarters out of the Gulf of Guinea region.

South Africa's Defense Jinister Mosiuoa Lekota is a bit more blung, "Africa has to avoid the presence of foreign forces on her soil.'' Yeah, well, good luck with that Mosiuoa. Whether you like it or not, there'll be plenty of foreign forces on your doorstep soon, very soon.