Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WikiLeaks? You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

The Guardian's executive investigations editor, David Leigh, says there are many powerful disclosures yet to be revealed from the WikiLeaks dump of U.S. diplomatic cables.

Meanwhile, Noam Chomsky says the leaked diplomatic messages reveal a "profound hatred of democracy on the part of [America's] political leadership."

The North Will Rise Again. Let's Hope Not.

Asia Times Online reports an insurrection is brewing in Afghanistan, one that could leave Western forces stuck in the midst of a full-blown civil war beyond our control.   This time it won't be the Pashtun Taliban in rebellion against Kabul but another rebellion by the northern tribes.

The ongoing insurgency in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan rightly commands attention, but it obscures a critical second conflict in the country. Long-standing antagonism between the non-Pashtun peoples of the north and the Pashtun people of the south are heading toward fissure. Paradoxically, settlement of the insurgency, through negotiation or force of arms, could exacerbate this divide. 

...The center of the demographic dispute is the size of the Pashtun peoples of the south and east, who, on only sparing evidence, purport to be about 52% to 55% of the population and have so claimed since the 19th century.

Other groups, however, disagree. They insist that the Pashtun are perhaps slightly more than 40% of the population, while disinterested assessments say Northerners constitute 45% to 50% of the population. The dispute is not merely a matter for demographers or even for the issue of moneys doled out from Kabul. It now centers on who will preside over Afghanistan - and indeed if there will be an Afghanistan as presently constituted.

For a century or more the question of Pashtun majority could sit on the back-burner as most Afghans had far more interest in local government than in events in faraway Kabul where figures reigned but dared not rule. But decades of war and inept or intolerable central governments have brought the matter to the fore.

Over the past nine years, however, northerners have seen their politicians pushed out of key ministries, especially the Ministry of Defense, which was once administered by the Tajik leader Mohammed Fahim. That portfolio is now in the hands of Abdul Wardak, a Pashtun who has used his office to reassert his people's predominance in key military commands and simultaneously vitiated the militias of northern warlords. Northerners have been reduced to the rank-and-file of the Afghan National Army and ceremonial positions such as the country's two vice presidencies.

Outsiders have criticized the presidential and
parliamentary elections as fraudulent. Karzai is widely believed to have interfered with local polling stations and given himself and his supporters wide victory margins. Northerners certainly agree but insist that outsiders miss an important aspect of Karzai's fraudulence. He not only inflated the national support for himself and his supporters, he also suppressed evidence of non-Pashtun voters and their support for Tajik, Uzbek, and other peoples' candidates. Pashtun politicians counter by insisting that it is the northerners who are tampering with the ballot box to overstate their numbers.

It should have been obvious to anyone, and particularly to our political and military leadership, that since Western forces went into Afghanistan beginning in 2001, we were merely babysitting an unresolved civil war.  We virtually guaranteed this civil war would eventually reconstitute when we decided, out of expedience, to perpetuate, even embrace, the dual scourges of warlordism and tribalism.   No modern, viable Muslim state has ever arisen without first overcoming both warlordism and tribalism.   By ignoring that reality, we reduced our war in Afghanistan to merely banging away on Afghans for no lasting good.

The time we could have done some good for the Afghan people is long past.  It expired while those goddamned fools Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld failed Afghanistan in their blind rush to conquer Iraq.

All the King's Horses and all the King's Men...

Rolling the Dice - Geo-Engineering the Planet

Game On!  Quietly acknowledging we haven't got much hope of getting greenhouse gas emissions under control in time to prevent catastrophic as in runaway global warming, UN scientists will begin preparing an analysis of geo-engineering options to be presented at next year's UN climate summit.  From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Later this year IPCC ''expert groups'' will meet in Peru to discuss geo-engineering. Options include putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight or covering Greenland in a massive ''blanket'' so it does not melt.

Sprinkling iron filings in the ocean ''fertilizes'' algae, which absorbs CO2 and ''seeding clouds'' means that sunlight is blocked. Other options include artificial ''trees'' that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, painting roofs white to reflect sunlight, and human-made volcanoes that spray sulphate particles high in the atmosphere to scatter the sun's rays back into space.

Okay, we're getting ready to roll the dice.   These are uncharted waters.  No one really knows if any of these things will work but that's not the main problem.  What's also unknown, perhaps unknowable before they're implemented, is whether they'll blow up in our faces producing side effects no one could contemplate.  Figuring out what something might do is a fairly direct problem.  Assuring yourself about everything it won't do is an order of magnitude more complex.  In other words, it's desperation time, the Hail Mary play.

What is or perhaps should be the greatest concern about geo-engineering solutions is that they increase our focus on global warming in isolation of the several other, potentially existential challenges facing mankind this century.  Geo-engineering solutions to stop warming won't resolve desertification, deforestation, air/soil/water contamination, ocean acidification, overpopulation, species extinction, resource depletion and exhaustion, the freshwater crisis that is already rapidly setting in, nuclear proliferation, terrorism or any other global security threat.

Geo-engineering global warming solutions may actually make these other threats even more intractable.  Geo-engineering will relieve us of having to address the fundamental flaws and imbalances in global economics, industrialism and geo-politics, the very toxic influences that underlie all the other threats that continue to imperil mankind.  Know that adage about being unable to see the forest for the trees?  Well, this is it.

Will American Hypocrisy Doom COP16, Cancun?

The United States appears to be playing tough guy at the UN Climate Summit in Cancun.  There's  speculation that America's "all or nothing" demands could see the US delegation simply walk out.

Basically, the US wants any agreement on adaptation finance, technology, deforestation, etc., to incorporate tough terms for emissions cuts by emerging economies (i.e. China and India) and a verifiable system of auditing those cuts.

That might sound reasonable if America's Congress was intent on cutting US emissions to acknowledge its per capita emissions imbalance, but it's not.  Anything but.   The Republican-majority House of Representatives is packed to the gunwales with climate change denialists and is openly planning on blocking any emissions reductions initiatives.

It's a repeat of the same stupid child's game that's been going on for some time.  America, whose per capita emissions are massive compared to the emerging economies, wants to mask that by focusing on overall emissions, country by country.   China and India, whose populations dwarf America's, want the per capita emissions factored in.  China also wants some recognition that a good deal of its overall emissions come from producing goods that are ordered for American store shelves.   They argue that the end-user shares responsibility for the emissions from the goods they consume no matter where they're manufactured.  Of course that would blow America's overall and per capita emissions right through the roof so there'll be no concessions on that approach.

The hard line – which some in Washington have seen as ritual diplomatic posturing – has fuelled speculation that the Obama administration could be prepared to walk out of the Cancún talks.

It is already under pressure for its green agenda from a new conservative Republican power bloc in Congress determined to block the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to act on greenhouse gases and other sources of pollution, and defund programmes dealing with climate change. There is next to no chance Congress would take up cap-and-trade legislation or ratify any UN treaty.

The administration's weak domestic position, in turn, has cast doubts on its ability to deliver even the very modest 17% cut on 2005 emissions Obama agreed at the Copenhagen summit last year.

But a walk-out would wreck any lingering hopes that small progress in Cancún might put the UN negotiations process back on track after the debacle of Copenhagen.

Mexico's Calderon hit the nail on the head when he said delegates have to stop approaching these talks from the perspective of their own governments and instead stand up for their countries' future generations.  He's right.   Once you shift that focus, the problem and the solutions become alarmingly obvious.

Uganada, Ghana, Now Kenya - Africa's War on Gays

Well it's "Mission Accomplished" for the Christo-Fascist evangelists who've worked so hard to convince Africans that homosexuals present a dire threat to their children and their societies.  Now it's Kenya where the Prime Minister Raila Odinga has ordered a nationwide crackdown on gays.

Addressing a rally in Nairobi on 28 November, Odinga ordered the police to arrest and bring criminal charges against anyone found engaging in sex with someone of the same gender. He added that the country’s constitution made it clear that homosexual activity was not tolerated.

...Homophobia is widespread in Kenya, but this is the first time such a senior political figure has openly called for legal action against homosexuals. In October, a cabinet minister who called for tolerance towards gays was urged to resign for promoting “un-African” culture.

Joseph Musili, a local pastor, said he fully backed the prime minister. “I am happy, but it took him too long; this is something he should have ordered a long time ago because you can’t allow things like homosexuality under the pretext of human rights and expect to have a moral society,” he said.

As reported here yesterday, U.S. evangelists have been instrumental in stoking the fires of homophobia in Africa where Uganda is proposing to make homosexuality a capital offence. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Would a Fresh, Moderate Leader Give the Conservatives Their Majority?

The Canadian people have mumbled:  we don't trust Stephen Harper enough to give him a majority but we don't distrust him enough to return the Liberals to power either.

In a sense, weak Liberal leadership is the best thing Harper has going for him just as Stephen Harper's machinations keep the Liberals in the game.  It's a Mexican standoff.  But what if the Conservatives got smart and brought in a new gun, a moderate who could connect with the Canadian voter, someone in the mold of an old style "progressive" conservative?

My guess?  I'm pretty sure that'd be a slam dunk for the Tories.  They don't need to push a lot more buttons to get the five or six percentage swing needed to get into majority range.   God knows the Liberals haven't reached the disaffected vote and the Tories have certainly gotten in there before.  They know the way back.

I think the Canadian public is ready for a progressive conservative government - from the Tories, not the Liberals.  Iggy's journey into the centre-right really hasn't paid off for the party, has it?  C'mon, be realistic.  He may have no end of fine qualities and talents but, politically, he's a dud.

If Harper & Company open the door to a moderate successor I'd bet Liberal support will collapse.

Six NATO Troops Shot by Afghan Trainee

Six NATO instructors were shot and killed by a man wearing an Afghan Border Police uniform during a training exercise.

The incident appeared to be the latest in a string of recent attacks by “rogue” police and soldiers, underlining the pressure on NATO-led troops as they try to train Afghan forces rapidly to allow the handover of security responsibility from next year.

Afghan authorities said last year they were tightening vetting procedures for the police and army after a similar incident when a renegade soldier killed five British troops on Nov. 3, 2009.

The Nangarhar shooting was the worst casualty toll suffered by ISAF since eight troops were killed in five separate incidents on Oct. 14.

“An individual in an Afghan Border Police uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Forces during a training mission today, killing six servicemembers in eastern Afghanistan,” ISAF said in a statement.

The statement said the person who shot the troops was also killed. ISAF said the shooting was being investigated but it gave no other details, including the nationality of those killed.

I expect the rebels will be stepping up their efforts to infiltrate ISAF training operations over the coming year.  They do it because of the message it sends to the people at home in the West.

Deep Integration With the US? Consider Spain and Then Think Again

Paul Krugman's column today is on the financial squeeze hitting Spain.  He explores how much of Spain's suffering actually results from monetary union, the Euro.  It's an apt warning for those who think deep integration with the United States would be great for Canada.

Christian Evangelists Refine the Art of Witch Burning

It's all the rage in backward African countries where American evangelists have plied their magic - homicidal homophobia.

It begins by a couple of cracker shamans (like Scott Lively, author of "The Pink Swastika") staging rallies at which they convince the locals that the homosexuals in their midst pose a dire threat to their children and their society.  Once the idea sets in, the rest pretty much takes care of itself.

Their biggest success so far has been in Uganda.   But this weekend in Ghana five attackers, one of whom was an evangelist pastor, seized 72-year old Ama Hemmah, tortured her into confessing she was a witch, and then doused her in kerosene and set her alight.

This video gives you a look into these odious Christianists:

Transforming Uganda / low resolution from Bruce Wilson on Vimeo.

If you're looking for more information on evangelical savagery you can begin here, and here, here and here.

Yeah, But at Least They Like the Idea of Bombing Iran

Oh, those wacky Saudis!  Guess what?   According to a leaked U.S. diplomatic communique, the Saudis are the biggest financial backer of al Qaeda.  Still Numero Uno.  I guess they're just not able to kick the habit.

Imagine that, the Sauds and al Qaeda.  That's a strange combination isn't it?  We're talking America's main Arab ally in the war on terror.    Whats that?   Those Arabs on 9/11 who hijacked those airplanes?  Almost all them Saudis?  Really?  But what about that Saddam guy?  Wasn't he the link?  No?  You sure?

So let me get this straight.   In 2002/2003, the United States staged its army in Saudi Arabia to invade Iraq.   Why didn't they just stay there and topple the Saudis?  I don't get it.

Fascism On the March in the U.S.A.

Mark Ruffalo knows about America's merger of political and corporate power.  It's what landed him on a terrorist list.

AlterNet reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Home Security has placed Ruffalo on its terrorism watch list.  Why?   How has Ruffalo become a terror threat to the United States?   By promoting the film GasLand, a documentary about gas fracking and the dangers that poses to his country's groundwater supplies.

The marriage of government and corporatism.  It would have made Mussolini proud.

Reagan Budget Director Turns Heretic - Attacks Republican Tax Cut Theology

Ronald Reagan's budget director says the Republicans have it all wrong on tax cuts and they've been wrong for thirty years.   The man who created the notion of "supply side economics" and "trickle down tax cuts" attacks today's Republicans for destroying the last vestige of GOP fiscal prudence.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen, Dead at 84

It's being reported that Canadian great, Leslie Nielsen, has died in Florida at the age of 84.  Apparently the actor died of pneumonia.  Nielsen was the brother of former Progressive Conservative stalwart, Eric.

How to Drive America's Christian Fundamentalists Utterly Crazy

Leave it to the Hindu American Foundation.  It has launched a "Take Back Yoga" campaign "to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism." 

According to an article in The New York Times, the group says it isn't trying to convert Americans to Hinduism but merely wants to acquaint yoga practitioners to its roots in their faith's ancient traditions.   The following video shows how yoga is seen by some American fundamentalists.   Sort of like Reefer Madness:


The Harpies Balk at Implementing U.S. Emissions Cuts

If you want to know what a lying dirtbag looks like, take a gander at the mug of Stephen Harper or John Baird.

The lie is that they're just waiting for American action to curb carbon emissions so Canada can do the same.  They're not and they won't. 

In January new rules come into effect south of the border to curb GHG emissions of big polluters.   The Harper government has decided Canada needs something much better than that, something far more comprehensive than a dumb American policy that, if applied in Canada, would directly target the Athabasca Tar Sands.

So just go home and sit and wait for "something much better" or, better yet, just forget about it entirely.  Lying bastards.

America's Government Has Surrendered to Corporatism

If some America's radical right politicians sound eerily fascist that's probably because that's the trend in the United States today.   Even Mussolini knew that fascism is really the marriage of state and corporate power, something that is now well established in the permanent warfare state we know as 21st century U.S.A.

As Frank Rich writes in the weekend New York Times in an op-ed entitled, "Still the Best Congress Money Can Buy,"   American lawmakers now respond only to those who still have all the cash:

"... When it was reported just days before our election that Iran was protecting its political interests in Afghanistan’s presidential palace by giving bags of money to Hamid Karzai’s closest aide, Americans could hardly bring themselves to be outraged. At least with Karzai’s government, unlike our own, we could know for certain whose cash was in the bag."

In Cancun, Four Is The New Two

This may be what the Cancun climate summit will be remembered for - abandoning our focus on limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and, instead, accepting that we can no longer stop warming of at least 4 degrees.

The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has sponsored a report "Four Degrees and Beyond" that will be circulated to Cancun delegates tomorrow.  The report outlines the world we can expect to face.   From The Guardian:

"... . a billion people face losing their homes in the next 90 years because of failures to agree curbs on carbon emissions.

Up to three billion people could lose access to clean water supplies because global temperatures cannot now be stopped from rising by 4C.

"  The main message is that the closer we get to a four-degree rise, the harder it will be to deal with the consequences,"  said Dr Mark New, a climate expert at Oxford University, who organised a recent conference entitled " Four Degrees and Beyond"  on behalf of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

A key feature of these papers is that they assume that even if global carbon emission curbs were to be agreed in the future, these would be insufficient to limit global temperature rises to 2C this century – the maximum temperature rise agreed by politicians as acceptable. " To have a realistic chance of doing that, the world would have to get carbon emissions to peak within 15 years and then follow this up with a massive decarbonisation of society,"  said Dr Chris Huntingford, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxfordshire.

Few experts believe this is a remotely practical proposition, particularly in the wake of the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks last December – a point stressed by Bob Watson, former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and now chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As he put it: " Two degrees is now a wishful dream."

Researchers such as Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office, calculate that a 4C rise could occur in less than 50 years, with melting of ice sheets and rising sea levels.

If you're 40 or under you have a pretty good chance of being around to see this played out.   The rest of us will still manage to catch the first two or three acts of this production and that'll probably be plenty.   Our kids and our grandkids - this is going to dominate their lives.

A billion people without homes or three billion without fresh water - those aren't outcomes, they're triggers.  They set off a chain of events that lead to one or more outcomes that are typically not addressed in reports like the Tyndall Centre's.   They are, however, amply addressed in research studies by the Pentagon, the British Ministry of Defence and even Gwynne Dyer in his book, "Climate Wars."

Put it this way, four degrees Celsius is a civilization changer and nothing less.  Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a wild ride.

It's Time to Bypass Karzai Altogether

Is that it?  Just the one cheque?

No army will be able to defend, for very long at least, a government as weak and corrupt as Hamid Karzai's.  It didn't work in Vietnam and it has even less chance of working in Afghanistan.

That's the view of the International Crisis Group too.   This is how they put it:

" U.S. plans to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014 would lead to a collapse of the government in Kabul and serious security risks for the region.

U.S. military operations are now entering their tenth year and policymakers in Washington are looking for a way out. But the key to fighting the insurgency and bringing about the conditions for a political settlement in Afghanistan lies in improving security, justice and governance. 

" The exit strategy sounds fairly simple: try to pound the Taliban, build support by protecting civilians, lure disillusioned Taliban over to the government and create resilient security forces”, says Candace Rondeaux, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan. “The problem is that none of this is working”. 

...An alluring narrative of a successful counter-insurgency campaign has begun to take shape, but the storyline does not match facts on the ground. While success is being measured in numbers of insurgents killed or captured, there is little proof that the operations have disrupted the insurgency’s momentum or increased stability. The Taliban are more active than ever and they still enjoy sanctuary and support in Pakistan.

...The neglect of governance, an anaemic legal system and weak rule of law lie at the root of these problems. Too little effort has been made to develop political institutions, local government and a functioning judiciary. Insurgents and criminal elements within the political elite have as a result been allowed to fill the vacuum left by the weak Afghan state.

That last line is telling.  We say we want the Taliban to take a place within the Afghan government but they're already there.   The bad guys are part of Afghanistan's political elite and that is doing nothing to stop the fighting.

The ICG is almost certainly right that the Afghan government we have crafted both in Kabul and in the provinces has a snowball's chance in Hell of surviving our departure.   What should also be obvious is that, without a viable, legitimate and honest government, the Afghan National Army really has nothing worth fighting to defend.

The problem is we can't start all over from scratch.  We have accepted the legitimacy of Karzai's government.  Karzai added an insurance policy by cutting deals with some particularly horrible warlords/drug lords.   The only force that could depose Karzai is our own but that would  put us at war with every side in Afghanistan.  We'd be fighting the Islamist fundamentalists in the south and the bandit warlords/drug lords everywhere else.   Unless America wants to bring back the draft and open a massive new line of credit with her foreign lenders, that isn't going to happen.

The worst part is, this is a mess of our own making.  Or rather it's a mess of the Bush administration's making.   They ran the Islamists out, at least as far as the Pakistan border and then they plopped Karzai in as top dog while wasting no time making preparations to move on down the road to topple Iraq.

I guess we can blame both Bushes for creating this mess.   When the Soviets quit Afghanistan in 1989, George H. W. Bush was the newly minted president.  Over the next four years he sat indifferent as Afhganistan descended into a vicious civil war among the victorious Afghan warlords.  By 1994 the Taliban established themselves as a major force by taking Kandahar with the backing of the Pakistani intelligence service.

Bush I turned his back, allowing Afghanistan to collapse into a radical Islamist tyranny where al Qaeda could flourish.   Bush II set out to topple the fundamentalist Taliban government and destroy al Qaeda and then, without finishing either job, like his father turned his back on Afghanistan.   That leaves us in 2010 facing the Herculean chore of undoing the damage caused by the Bush administration in 2003.   That would've been tough in 2003, it's nearly impossible in 2010.

Perhaps the only exit strategy that remains open to us now is in direct negotiations with the Taliban.  We'll never get a straight deal going through Karzai and he's shown us that again and again.  Perhaps if Karzai & Company realized we were willing to deal with the Talibs directly and cut them out they would finally see it in their own immediate, even urgent, interest to reform their rotten state.   However if we're not prepared to go that route, we'll probably be having this same discussion three years from now.   What would be the point of that?

We're looking for the exit but Hamid Karzai is blocking that door.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Is the U.S. In League with Terrorists?

Wikileaks is planning a truly massive dump of U.S. government documents this weekend that could show Washington in league with terrorists.   The documents are said to show the U.S. has been supporting Turkey's Kurdish separatists, the PKK.   This is the same PKK that Washington officially lists as a terrorist group.

A report in The Jerusalem Post said the US military documents referred to the PKK as ''warriors for freedom and Turkish citizens'' and said the US had set free arrested PKK members in Iraq.

The documents also say US forces in Iraq have given weapons to the PKK.

But, then again, if America is supporting them they're not terrorists, they're freedom fighters.  Washington's perfidy will likely drive once secular Turkey even more firmly into the Islamist camp which will also probably eliminate what had been Israel's best friend in the Muslim world.

Holding Humanity Hostage

Those of us from the industrialized nations can have a pretty skewed notion of our place in the world.  We've had it so good for so long we've come to believe the continuation of that imbalance our right.  We are entitled to keep pursuing affluence regardless that others may be bearing the end costs of it.

We're being watched.  The developing nations and the Third World are keeping a close eye on us and they don't like what they see.  Now with the Cancun climate summit a week off, they're accusing the rich countries of "holding humanity hostage."  From The Guardian:

Tonight the first shots were fired in what are likely to be serious diplomatic clashes at the talks. In an interview with the Guardian, Bolivia's ambassador to the UN accused rich countries of "holding humanity hostage"  and undermining the UN. " [Their] deliberate attempts to sideline democracy and justice in the climate debate will be viewed as reckless and immoral by future generations,"  he said. " I feel that Cancún will become a new Copenhagen if there is no shift in the next few days."

" There is deep frustration among the least developed countries", said Bruno Sikoli, the spokesman for the 54-strong group of mainly African countries. " "We feel there has been far too much talking. If the rich countries put nothing new on the table, then it will be very serious. Climate change is affecting our countries hard now. It is most urgent."

If we think we've got a terrorism problem now in radical Islam just wait to see what will come out of a devastated Third World that squarely blames us for their plight.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Brilliant. Gerald Caplan Explores How Canada Has Jumped Aboard America's Permanent War

This should make the Liberal faithful cringe - a lot.   Gerald Caplan explains how our leaders enlisted Canada into service of the most warlike nation ever, the United States.  As Caplan so rightly points out, we are joining America on the path to permanent war.  That's probably understandable from the radical Right but it's an abomination coming from someone who purports to lead the Liberal Party.

Read Caplan's piece and then ask yourself if the Liberal Party or Canada has anything to gain from this sort of leadership.  Caplan notes the passing last week of the American Chalmers Johnson.   Here's what the late Mr. Johnson thought about your Liberal Leader:

During the post-9/11 period of American enthusiasm for imperialism, one of its most influential proselytizers was Michael Ignatieff, a harvard professor and self-appointed spokesman for  "humanitaian imperialism,"  also known as " Empire Lite."   As the demand for his cheerleading faded in light of the Iraq war, Ignatieff decided to return to his native Canada and become a politician.  Back in Toronto, he acknowledged to a journalist that his many essays and op-eds had all been written as if he were an American, and he apologized for having use " we" and " us" some forty-three times throughout his essay entitled " Lesser Evils," which is a defense of official torture.

In the New York Times Magazine of January 5, 2003, Ignatieff proudly asserts, 'Ever since George Washington warned his countrymen against foreign entanglements, empire abroad has been seen as the republic's permanent temptation and its potential nemesis.  Yet what word but 'empire' describes the awesome thing that America is becoming?  It is the only nation that polices the world through five global military commands; maintains more than a million men and women at arms on four continents; deploys carrier battle groups on watch in every ocean; guarantees the survival of countries from Israel to South Korea; drives the wheels of global trade and commerce; and fills the hearts and minds of an entire planet with its dreams and desires.'

In numerous one-liners, Ignatieff sings the praises of American imperialism: 'Multilateral solutions to the world's problems are all very well, but they have no teeth unless America bares its fangs...  Regime change is an imperial task par excellence, since it assumes the empire's interest has a right to trump the sovereignty fo a state...  The question, then, is not whether America is too powerful but whether it is powerful enough.'

Michael Neumann, a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, compares Ignatieff's epistles to the Americans to 'a sprig of cilantro on the nouveau-imperialist bucket of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), transforming Bush's blunderings into a treat for liberal white folks the world over.'

 Oh, I know, I know.   That was the American Michael Ignatieff, not the Canadian Michael Ignatieff who came to restore the Liberal Party to its former greatness.  Really?  Well guess what?  It's up to Michael Ignatieff to explain how someone claiming to be fit to lead the Liberal Party could have so recently and so persistently embraced the American warfare state.  How can a highly educated person simply ditch such boldly stated and repugnant views simply by returning to Canada?  On this, Mr. Ignatieff does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.  The burden of proving - and explaining - his transformation lies squarely with Mr. Ignatieff himself.  We're waiting.

Afghanistan, Now They Figure It Out

All the King's Horses and All the King's Men

Canada went to fight a war barely prepared to fight a skirmish.

The force that now safely retired general Rick "The Big Cod" Hillier assembled for the combat mission to Kandahar comprised 2,500 soldiers (1,500 supporting a battle group of just 1,000) equipped with laughable vehicles like the Itlis, a Volkswagen mini-jeep designed to navigate the densely treed European forests.

That little jeep was used to take shots at former Liberal governments for supposedly under-funding our military.   Apparently Hillier thought that, back when Chretien/Martin were at the controls, trying to pull Canada out of the fiscal nosedive they inherited from Mulroney, the armed forces should have been exempt from cuts.  Anyway, Hillier and Harper gave each other lap dances on that one.  And besides it gave our brilliant civilian and military leaders the chance to make it all right - they bought a bigger and equally defenseless, German SUV, the G-Wagon.  That was indicative of how poorly our military and civilian leadership grasped what they our soldiers were up against in Kandahar.  And that was just the beginning.

When Hillier assembled the Kandahar force, he figured 2,500 would be enough for the job which he described as a mission to "kill scumbags" that he assured reporters numbered just "a few dozen" in strength.  Hillier committed the ultimate error that has marked countless failed military leaders throughout history - he underestimated the enemy he was sending those soldiers to fight.  He underestimated their numbers, he underestimated their capabilities and, worst of all, he underestimated by light years the size of the force needed to secure a province such as Kandahar.

Current American counterinsurgency doctrine prescribes the need for one counter-insurgent (rifleman) for every 25 to 50 civilians in the area to be secured.  In Kandahar that meant a minimum combat force of 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers.   So many troops are required so that they can defend every village, day and night, to deny the insurgents access to and control of the population.   If you pass through a village two hours every day, you leave the locals subject to the whim of your enemy twenty-two hours a day.  If they want to survive guess who they'll be siding with?

For Afghanistan we needed a force equivalent to the combat force we sent to Korea but we opted to wage war on the cheap.  Even back then Petraeus was warning that counterinsurgency is the most labour-intensive form of warfare bar none.   He was pretty blunt that it was "go big or go home."   He also noted that foreign armies have to get the job done quickly because, in a short time, they can go in the minds of the locals from liberator/defender to occupier/oppressor.   The mission Hillier crafted broke every rule in the book with entirely predictable results.

Now that it's probably too late (the political war has been decided and not in our favour), conditions have changed in Kandahar province.  Now, only now, NATO and the US are beginning to field an adequate force.   A report from Reuters has an anonymous Canadian officer praising the improvements:

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has about 25,000 troops in Kandahar province, a big increase from when 2,800 Canadian soldiers tried to control the province's 54,000 sq km (20,000 sq miles) on their own in recent years.

 About 10,000 Afghan soldiers also are in the province.

The sprawling ISAF base centered on Kandahar city's airport rumbles almost constantly from fighters and helicopters taking off or landing and from the noise of new construction.

The greater troop strength means that Canadians and other NATO forces can better protect residents from the Taliban, a key element of the counterinsurgency strategy laid out by U.S. and NATO commander General David Petraeus, the officer said.

 "Before, we were chasing ghosts. We were never able to say, 'We're here to stay and defend you', and then actually do it. It all comes down to boots on the ground,"  he said.

Now they figure it out.   Now they flood Kandahar with an adequate force.   Now it's probably too late to make much difference.  Stephen Harper got his war on the cheap and Hillier and his generals ran cover when they should have resigned in protest.   They sent our troops to a war zone to tread water and troll for IEDs.  

We had clearly defined objectives when we went to war.   We were there to defeat the insurgents and to help craft a secular, democratic, modern government to run a viable state in which the rights of everyone, especially women and children, would be upheld.   One by one, we lost our objectives.   The insurgency morphed back into a classic civil war, insurgents transformed into rebels.  We were so understrength we had no option but to embrace the doubly toxic culture of warlordism and tribalism that poisoned any chance of establishing a viable central government.  We allowed Afghanistan to become one of the most corrupt "failed states" in the world and a narco-state at that.

Every one of those sad happenings was a defeat for us and an outright, albeit unearned victory for our enemy who wants nothing more than to revert to the civil war that existed before we drove the Taliban out in 2001.   A hopelessly corrupt and predatory government works entirely to the rebels' advantage.

But we, our civilian and military leadership that is, masked their defeats by routinely moving the goal posts.  Now our objective is to simply train an Afghan army that can supposedly step into our shoes to fight the Taliban.  That's it and any way you cut it, that's an admission of defeat.   We've lost.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Whatever Happened to 2 Weeks Notice? Danny Williams Quits

Newfoundland & Labrador premier Danny Williams is cleaning out his desk.  Williams will retire - on December 3.  Yeah, next week.  He's certainly been a high profile premier more than ready to stand up to Ottawa when that was needed and I'm sure he'll be missed by many people at the far end of this country and quite a few in between.

How come Newfoundland gets all the luck?  They've got a good premier.  He resigns - on his own terms - and promptly vacates the office.   Here on the Left Coast, we've got a jackass of a premier.  He gets run out of office in disgrace (think pitchforks and torches) and yet hangs on to the very job no one wants him in for months.   I guess that says a lot about the difference between a Williams and a Campbell.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Law Catches Up with DeLay

Former Republican House leader, Tom "The Hammer" DeLay has been convicted of money-laundering.  A jury of six men and six women deliberated 19-hours to reach their guilty verdict.

DeLay faces between 5 and 99-years on the charge but he is, after all, a prominent Republican and this is Texas.  Watch the judge go for a probation deal instead.  To circumvent Texas law prohibiting corporate contributions to political candidates, DeLay accepted the money and laundered it through a co-operative Republican National Committee.  The RNC accepted the DeLay money and then wrote cheques according to a list of candidates and amounts each was to receive.

The Hammer says he'll appeal his conviction.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chalmers Johnson, Dead at 79

Well before America was rocked by the attacks of 9/11, Chalmers Johnson's prophetic book Blowback was published in which he warned that America's secret operations abroad would inevitably exact a terrible price at home.   His subsequent books Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic; and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic came to comprise what was known as the Blowback Trilogy.

This year Chalmers published his final work, Dismantling the Empire, America's Last Best Hope.   All of these save The Sorrows of Empire are reviewed on this site.   The New York Review of Books aptly said this of the man, "Johnson wants the scales to fall from American eyes so that the nation can see the truth about its role in the world.  His is a patriot's passion: his motive is to save the American republic he loves."

A latter day Cassandra, Chalmers Johnson, together with others such as Andrew Bacevich, see their country caught in a death spiral of militarism.  His death certainly is America's loss.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In This Sort of World, Sarah Palin Could Be President

Any remotely sentient being could not imagine the American people electing Sarah Palin their president.   Rachel Maddow explains how the US Right has seen to it that they actually could vote Palin into the White House - a culture of mutually-reinforcing lies:

A Better Way to Vote?

There was a discernible sense of relief across British Columbia when premier Gordon Campbell announced he was finally resigning.  But what should have been a really joyous event fizzled for a lot of us quite quickly when Campbell's departure reminded us of the province's 'other' political leader and candidate for the premiership, Carole James of the NDP.  Oh dear.

Call it the curse of living in a bi-polar province.  The NDP has its staunch supporters on the Left.  The BC Libs, despite their misleading name, have plenty of their own staunch supporters on the Right.   But the key to power lies in capturing the centre.   Most of us in the centre really don't much care for the Left or the Right which leads to a lot of negative voting.  We figure out which one of these clowns we like the least then hold our noses, vote for the other one and brace for the aftermath.

What if there was a second option available on the ballot?  What if, instead of having to vote for someone, you could vote against the candidate you least liked?  I mean we always complain about low voter turnout when that's probably in fact the result of high voter turnoff.  If you can't stand either of the choices, why bother? Just stay home.  But if you knew you could go to the polls and know your vote could be deducted from the candidate you most didn't want it'd certainly be worth the trip.   And wouldn't the results be interesting on the evening news?  "Out of 26,000 votes cast in the riding, Ms. Maple won with a net 2,000, trouncing incumbent Mr. Oak who received just a net 600."  No bragging rights there, no false "mandate" either.

The disaffected vote could actually decide elections and wouldn't that be a wake-up call for the establishment Right and the doctrinaire Left?   Just being the better of two evils might not cut it any more.  I think that's about the only way to get the Left and the Right to be more attentive, even dutiful to the centre where most of us live, the liberal centre.

There's something truly perverse in the current arrangement.   Even though you go to the polls intending to vote against a party or candidate, the only way you can do that is by voting in support of another candidate you may not consider worthy of your support.  That's giving a vote to somebody who doesn't deserve it.  It's like saying "you can only express your opinion by supporting one of these two jackasses."  If you don't think either one of them is fit for the job, why can't you express that in a ballot by having a vote deducted from the worst of them while, at the same time, not giving a vote of approval to the other one either?  Surely that's genuine participatory democracy.

Who needs proportional representation when you can take your scimitar with you into the ballot box?  Regardless of the outcome, your vote will count.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It Takes More than Burning a Uniform

Canadian Forces officers have collected and burned the uniforms and kit of convicted serial killer, Colonel Russel Williams.

Canadian Forces spokesperson Cmdr. Hubert Genest said in an interview that the idea to burn the uniforms had emerged “from the bottom up and been endorsed by the chain of command.”

“We did what we felt was necessary,” said Cmdr. Genest. “It feels right.”

...Military historians called the burning of his kit unprecedented. “I’ve never heard anything like that,” said Jack Granatstein, director general of the Canadian War Museum. “I guess it’s embarrassment as much as anything...to erase the shame and stigma” of Mr. Williams’ association with the Forces. “It’s an exorcism. We are exorcising the memory of Russell Williams.”

An exorcism?  Say what?  Is that how our military washes its hands of Russell Williams?  I don't think so.  Maybe the Canadian Forces should man up and show enough respect to the victims to delve into how a guy this bent could rise to the top ranks of the military.  Was there something they should have noticed?  I mean let's face it, the ranks of the most successful in any field tend to have a solid percentage of sociopathic personalities.   Officer candidates go through a bit of psychological testing on their way in along with plenty of physical testing.   During their careers they have to go through regular physical testing.   Maybe should they also get a little bit of ongoing psychological assessment too?

I think we should know that the people we put in charge of our most lethal weapons haven't come unhinged.  

Defeated Republican Congressman Slams Climate Change Deniers In His Own Party

South Carolina's Bob Inglis lost his party's nomination to a Tea Bagger and he's now packing up to get out of Washington.  But he's taking time on his way out to slam the climate change denialists in the Republican ranks and to warn climate scientists of what they're facing over the next two years.

Unburdened by the prospect of another campaign, Inglis, in this final hearing, spared no scorn for climate change deniers in his own party and beyond, suggesting that they continue to ignore global warming at their own peril. "I would also suggest to my free enterprise colleagues – especially conservatives here—whether you think it's all a bunch of hooey, what we've talked about in this committee, the Chinese don't," the South Carolina Republican said in his opening remarks. "And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century."

" There are people who make a lot of money on talk radio and talk TV saying a lot of things. They slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and they're experts on climate change. They substitute their judgment for people who have Ph.D.s and work tirelessly."

 " I'd encourage scientists who are listening out there to get ready for the hearings that are coming up in the next Congress. Those will be difficult hearings for climate scientists. But, I would encourage you to welcome those as fabulous opportunities to teach. Don't come here defensively."

Iggy, Let's Cut the Crap. Israel Will Never Tolerate a Palestinian State

Never, as in not ever, Iggy and its time you came clean on Israel.  So long as Israel exists it will never tolerate a Palestinian state.

Why not?  Because Israel cannot get by without controlling the aquifer that lies beneath the West Bank.

Listen to former and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  This is what he told the Likud Party and it just doesn't get any clearer than this:

"A Palestinian state would control the aquifer, which gives us 30 percent of our water. Yes to a Palestinian state means no to a Jewish state, and yes to a Jewish state means no to a Palestinian State."
So let's cut the bullshit about Israel wanting to live peacefully beside the Palestinians.  That is a rancid fantasy.  There's a reason why the Israeli army of occupation in the West Bank bulldozes Palestinian orchards and refuses Palestinians permission to drill wells in their own land.  That water is Israel's even if it does belong to the Palestinians.  If the Palestinian shoe was on your foot Iggy, how would you react?

Palin Slams Obamas as Unpatriotic and Racist

Unbelievable.  The Weasel of Wassila, Sarah Palin, is about to release a new book in which she slams Barack and Michelle Obama.   From The Sydney Morning Herald:

Sarah Palin has accused Barack and Michelle Obama of being unpatriotic and has suggested they are racist.
In leaked extracts of her new book, America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate argues that the first black US president is among those who regarded the Tea Party movement as racially prejudiced and who thinks ''America is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country''.

As proof, she quoted a 2008 campaign speech in which Mrs Obama said ''for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country''. Mrs Palin went on: ''I guess this shouldn't surprise us, since both of them spent almost two decades in the pews of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church listening to his rants against America and white people.''

Mrs Palin's second book is regarded as a launch pad for a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination, which she admitted this week she was ''seriously considering''.

The book criticises talent show contestants and the ''cult of self-esteem'', which she blames partly on Mr Obama: ''No one they have encountered in their lives - from their parents to their teachers to their president - wanted them to feel bad by hearing the truth. So they grew up convinced that they could become big pop stars like Michael Jackson.''

Mrs Palin has begun a reality show in which she talks about her family life and home state of Alaska.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden was asked what he thought of Palin's claim that she could defeat Barack Obama:

The Tacs Stay - Bring On the F-35s

The Cold War in Europe is a thing of history but the deadliest weapons developed to fight it are still there.  Hundreds of B-61 nuclear bombs will remain in Europe, stored at supposedly secure bunkers at NATO and US airbases, mainly in Germany.

The B-61 (shown above) is a really versatile weapon.  It can withstand speeds of up to Mach 2, it can be dropped from as low as 50-feet, and it can be configured to deliver a nuclear blast of between 1 and 340-kilotons.  There's even a 'bunker busting' version that might be just dandy for vaporizing some less-than-friendly country's underground nuclear installations.

This bomb was developed in the 60's but, thanks to the Americans' Operation Enduring Stockpile (no, I didn't make that up) they're still going strong.  The Pentagon even has a planned 2-billion dollar update planned for the remaining stocks.  But wait, there's more!   The B-61 is also being modified to make it compatible with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the very ship we've signed on to buy.

Marry a nuclear bomb to the F-35's stealth technology and you've got quite a package - an intruder aircraft capable of getting into the enemy's backyard undetected to nuke the hell out of something before the other side even knows it's there.

You see, all this nonsense about the F-35 defending Canadian airspace is pablum for the gullible.   As the Australians discovered, the F-35 is all but worthless as an air defence fighter.  One mission and it's gone.   BUT - as a bomb sled using stealth to penetrate the other guy's air defences, it seems to have some utility.

Is there some reason nobody on Parliament Hill is asking these questions.

Oh Yeah, About Leaving Afghanistan in 2014?

The Brits say they're definitely, positively, absolutely out of Afghanistan in 2014 and, I suppose, we'll just wait and see.   But I know another country that isn't planning on leaving for years, possibly decades to come.  That would be the United States, the country that has now grown quite comfortable with permanent war, the world's one and only Warfare State.

This one-for-all, all-for-one pap NATO and our own scurrilous pols have been feeding us this past decade is just that.  It's nonsense.  There have always been two players in this, the United States and everyone else.  Call it Washington's NATO Foreign Legion.  America has a bevy of geo-political interests in this hotspot that the rest of us don't share.  It's a focal point for rivals China, India and Russia.  Add to those three another nuclear power - Pakistan.   America, China, India, Russia, Pakistan - those guys have the lion's share of all the nukes in the world and now they're in this hellhole jockeying for position.

I'm not just pulling this out of my backside.  We didn't hear much about it but the U.S. awarded a big contract in early November.  It went to B.L. Harbert, a Birmingham, Ala., contractor who got the nod to construct the new U.S. Embassy compound in Islamabad, Pakistan.  Like its sister embassy in Baghdad, it'll be a Vatican City sized compound including chancery buildings, an ambassador's residence, apartment buildings, recreation facilities and support, maintenance and security buildings and infrastructure.  The contract is for a whopping $734-million greenbacks.   Like the Baghdad embassy it'll be a heavily defended, walled complex which will come in handy because it will be attacked, probably with some frequency.

So, here's the deal.   You don't decide in November, 2010 to build a billion dollar mega-Alamo in a dirt poor country if you even think you might scram in 2014.  No, building the second biggest embassy on the planet is a pretty good indication you've just bought another stack of chips.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Easy Meat

This is scary.  I just took a Pew current affairs quiz on America and I scored higher than 99% of Americans.  There were only 12 questions and mainly softballs at that.  Apparently just one in a hundred respondents got them all correct.

According to AlterNet, Americans quizzed averaged just five right.  That's five out of twelve, meaning seven wrong answers.   Less than half of Americans knew the Republicans took the House in the midterms.

If this is an accurate depiction of Americans' awareness of what's happening in their own country, it explains everything.  Everything.  Suddenly Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and the Tea Party make sense.  I get it.  At last I get it.

Gay Marriage in Canadian Airspace???

Don't they need a licence?  AlterNet is reporting that the captain of a Virgin Airways flight from San Francisco to New York, briefly diverted into Canadian airspace so he could quickly marry two gay passengers.

One passenger told this to MSNBC:
  " The head flight attendant made the announcement on the P.A. " While you were sleeping, we had a little wedding in the galley. The captain diverted us over Canadian airspace so he could marry two gentlemen." The flight attendants on Virgin are very playful and really good at conversation, so we weren't sure if they were having fun with us. But we could tell at the end he was being genuine. I was traveling with two other co-workers and we had to sort out what happened. We were like, is that a service they offer?"
A Virgin America spokesperson had few details about the nuptials, but confirmed that this wasn't the first time Virgin has obliged passengers' wedding needs at 30,000 feet. Three years ago, a wedding was performed on a flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas -- officiated by Sir Richard Branson himself.

Putting Ireland's Problems in Perspective

Metro Toronto has about 5.6 million people.   The Irish Republic has just 4.6 million citizens.  Ireland's bank debt is estimated at well over 100-billion Euros.  In 2008, the Irish government sought to save the country's banks by giving guarantees of 400-billion Euros, money they never had.

This is a very small country drowning in a tsunami of debt.  The ancient Greeks warned that Nemesis always follows Hubris.   How did we come to forget that?

Clueless in Kandahar

As Western forces slog through their 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, a sign of just how poorly they've gotten through to the locals is how few Afghans have any idea of the events of 9/11 and what caused our intervention in their country.  

The International Council on Security and Development reports that fully 92 per cent of the population in the key provinces of Helmand and Kandahar know nothing of the airliner hijackings and attacks of September 11, 2001.   These are the Pashtun provinces where the heaviest fighting has raged for the past decade and the locals still have almost no idea why we're there at all.

ICOS  President Norine MacDonald suggests we should be explaining to the Afghan people just why we've been stomping their villages and countryside for the past decade.  I guess that just never dawned on our astonishingly mediocre military leadership in Afghanistan.   Probably for the cost of just one or two airstrikes they could have papered Helmand and Kandahar with some leaflets explaining the whole business.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gambling on the Misery of Others

It was called champerty and it used to be a crime.   Now Wall Street is all over it, investing in other peoples' lawsuits.  The Center for Public Integrity warns that investors have begun flocking to lawsuits, even divorce and medical malpractice cases, in search of easy pickings:

Large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings.

...Most investments are in the smaller cases that fill court dockets. Ardec Funding, a New York lender backed by a hedge fund, lent $45,000 in June to a Manhattan lawyer hired by the parents of a baby brain-damaged at birth. The lawyer hired two doctors, a physical therapist and an economist to testify at a July trial. The jury awarded the baby $510,000. Ardec is collecting interest at an annual rate of 24 percent, or $900 a month, until the award is paid.

Champerty was widely decriminalized during the 20th century but it can still fetch you up to seven years inside in Hong Kong.  In the U.S., however, it seems anything goes.... but not without problems.

the review shows that borrowed money also is fueling abuses, including cases initiated and controlled by investors. A Florida judge in December ordered an investment banker who orchestrated a shareholder lawsuit against Fresh Del Monte Produce to repay the company’s legal expenses, ruling that the case should not have reached trial.
Such financing also drains money from plaintiffs. Interest rates on lawsuit loans generally exceed 15 percent a year, and most states allow lawyers that borrow to bill clients for the interest payments. The cost can exceed the benefits of winning. A woman injured in a 1995 car accident outside Philadelphia borrowed money for a suit, as did her lawyer. By the time she won $169,125 in 2003, the lenders were owed $221,000.

Lawyers are not required to tell clients that they have borrowed money, so the client may be unaware that there is financial pressure to resolve cases quickly. Lenders also seek detailed information about cases, which can jeopardize client confidentiality. A federal judge in Delaware ruled in June that a company suing Facebook for patent infringement had to show Facebook documents that its lawyer had shared with a lender.

When large banks and hedge funds eye lawsuits as a lucrative investment opportunity, it's their money that can do the talking, not the litigant.

Do They Stay or Do They Go? Europe's Tactical Nukes

Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative are adamant - tactical nuclear weapons, the legacy of the Cold War in Europe, have to be secured and scrapped.  In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, the former senator described these mini-nukes as "a terrorist's dream."

If we don’t address this issue with urgency, we may wake up one day to a 1972 Munich-Olympics scenario, with a masked terrorist waving a gun outside of a nuclear warhead bunker somewhere in Europe. This time the hostages could be millions of people living close by. 

Nunn isn't exaggerating.  There are plenty of these nuclear warhead bunkers throughout Europe and terrorists would have the advantage of initiative in deciding which of them to attack and when.  These are battlefield weapons, intended to be used against enemy formations.  They come in many forms including nuclear land mines, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, nuclear artillery shells and nuclear bombs to be slung under the wings of jet fighters.   Generally speaking they're more powerful than the nukes dropped on Japan in 1945.

Nunn and his colleagues at NTI, including George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, argue forcefully for scrapping of nuclear weapons.  They argue there has been so much proliferation already and so many non-nuclear states poised on the brink of developing their own weapons that another nuclear war capable of sparking a global nuclear holocaust is almost inevitable.   They believe the only way to stop that is a general, nuclear disarmament.

NTI is trying to get its message across in time for the NATO summit that begins tomorrow in Lisbon.   However PressEurop is reporting that the decision has already been taken, those nukes are staying.

“Tactical nuclear weapons to stay in Europe,” announces De Standaard. The Belgian daily explains that NATO’s new strategic concept, to be approved at a summit scheduled for 19 and 20 November, does not call for the withdrawal of 200 American nuclear weapons located in Europe. Some countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and Norway believe that “these weapons have no military purpose.” However, given their proximity to Iran and Russia, Turkey and the Baltic countries are staunchly opposed to any withdrawal. De Standaard notes that France is adamant that the Alliance should not be used to promote the cause of nuclear disarmament in Europe.

Why Ireland Recoils at Being Rescued

The very idea of the European Union bailing out the Irish government and the country's banks is almost more than the country can bear.  It's not that they don't need the bailout.  They do, they need it desperately.  It's not as though the bailout won't save the country from collapse.   That's exactly what it will do.

Think of it as a kid who has lost his job having to go back to live with his parents.

The Irish struggled for centuries to free themselves of British domination.  Barely a century after winning their hard-fought struggle for independence, their wanton excesses have left them right back under someone else's boot.  It's so bad that the Irish leader, Brian Cowen, is in denial, refusing to admit that a multi-billion Euro bailout is even in the works.   From The Guardian:

Historian Diarmuid Ferriter described it as devastating and a " humiliating milestone"  that the nation's sovereignty was being compromised nearly 100 years after hard-fought independence. A leader in the Irish Times talked of ignominy. " There is the shame of it all,"  it said. " Having obtained our political independence from Britain to be masters of our own affairs, we have now surrendered our sovereignty to the European commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF."

But the country's inhabitants probably didn't have much time to read their papers yesterday. At 8.20am, the governor of the Irish Central Bank confirmed – despite protestations by the taoiseach, Brian Cowen, that there was no IMF bailout – that an IMF loan of tens of billions of euros was being prepared.

By mid-afternoon the country seemed to have descended into chaos. There were angry outbursts in the Daíl, accusations of a government cover-up, new threats voiced over the country's low corporation tax rate. Cowen nearly lost his temper with reporters. Again. The finance minister admitted the banks had " very big issues".  And to cap it all, there were fresh accusations that the banks were lying about their figures to maximise the price they would get from the state, which nationalised the banks' most toxic debts this year.

Ireland's government and economy are reeling, the nemesis that inevitably follows on the heels of hubris, but the real victim may be the Irish psyche.

The F-35 is Cracking Up

It's supposed to have a lifespan of 8,000 hours but that may be wishful thinking.  A "B" model airframe undergoing fatigue testing has sustained cracks in the rear bulkhead after just 1,500 hours.   The F-35B is the short-takeoff/vertical-landing model being developed for the U.S. Marine Corps.    In testing the F-35B is apparently faring somewhat worse than other models.

The Pentagon has been working for weeks to come up with ways to expedite testing and to fix defects in the aircraft.

New budgets and delivery schedules for the F-35 are expected to be announced on Monday after the Defense Acquisition Board meets to review the latest cost and test data.

The Dutch Don't Have to Get All Pervy About Airport Security

America's Transportation Security Administration is catching a lot of heat from the travelling public over its intrusive, full body scanners that allow operators to look under your clothes for any concealed objects while getting a pretty good look at your 'junk' too.

McClatchey Newspapers reports that the TSA went overboard with their pervy technology and could have had a safer, effective and non-intrusive system used by the Dutch at Schiphol airport.

Unlike the backscatter imaging devices that provide revealing body images and which have stoked concerns about radiation, the system at Schiphol uses radio waves to detect contraband.

The Woburn, Mass., firm that manufacturers the system, L-3 Communications Security & Detection Systems, claims on its website that the radio waves are "10,000 times lower than other commonly-used radio frequency devices."

If the software identifies a passenger carrying explosives, an outline of the problem body area is displayed on a generic mannequin figure instead of on the actual image of the passenger's body. The mannequin image, which appears on the operator's control panel, " can then be used by security personnel to direct a focused discussion or search,"  the company website reads.

The " automatic threat detection"  system dubbed " ProVision ATD,"  sells for $40,000 to $150,000 and doesn't use ionizing radiation or X-rays.
McClatchey says the TSA has gotten enough heat and has ordered 200 of the ProVision units so you won't have to worry about them leering at yours.

Palin Believes She Can Defeat Obama

" I believe so."  That was Sarah Palin's response when asked by Barbara Walters if she could beat Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

Could she be right?   Well, it is remotely conceivable that America's median IQ could slip into the low double digits, just not very likely.   By all accounts, chances are she'll be taken out by her own team, the Republicans.   Her performance in the mid-terms was less than inspirational.   Palin backed a number of Tea Party candidates who went down in flames.   In her home state of Alaska, the right winger she backed lost to a "write in" candidate.  Ouch, that burns!

Palin's potential Republican presidential rivals are honing their skinning knives.  If she files her nomination papers she'll be like a bull moose on opening day of hunting season.

In a way I'd like to see her seek her party's presidential nomination.  It would be the Republicans admitting they still have room for the village idiot and I suspect her very presence would be toxic to whichever candidate does get the Republican nod.

Well, She WAS Underage....

A 15-year old South African girl has been charged with statutory rape along with the 14 and 16-year old boys who raped her.

Prosecutors had concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge the boys with actual rape but, hey, they're all underage so that means they can all be charged with statutory rape for 'consensual' sex with a minor.

See how that works?  The National Prosecuting Authority figures it can't make rape charges stick against the rapists so that instantly transforms the crime into a matter of consensual sex.

 " "We do feel that this is further brutalization,"  South Africa's Eye Witness News quotes Lynne Cawood from Childline South Africa as saying.

" Secondly, dramatization of a child who is incredibly vulnerable,"  she said.

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world.
One woman is raped every 17 seconds, child rights groups say.

"This is Canada, Not Zimbabwe..."

That was the reaction from prominent U Vic climate scientist Andrew Weaver to the Conservative Senate sabotage of climate-change legislation.

It ticks off Weaver that Harper, having been voted in on a promise to do away with the unelected Senate, instead packed the institution with ill-informed patronage appointments (" Mike Duffy, climate scientist extraordinaire" ) who waited until 15 opposition members were absent before defeating, without debate, a bill that had already been OK'd by the elected arm of Parliament.

The UVic climatologist, sputtering words like " unbelievable" and " dictator" and   " shocking affront to democracy,"  says he hopes the opposition will force Harper's minority government to fall. " He's got to get kicked out. This is Canada, not Zimbabwe . . . or maybe it is.

" It's all about not wanting to do anything about the issue," Weaver says of the Senate sabotage. It's about pandering to the oil industry, to the Conservatives' Alberta power base.

 Weaver had a lot of time for Jim Prentice, who quit as Harper's environment minister this month to take a job in banking. Prentice understood the issues, but couldn't get past the wilful ignorance of the Flat Earth Society at his own cabinet table, Weaver says. "The level of scientific illiteracy in the Harper government is mind-boggling."

 " Climate scientists are  a collective Noah,"  Weaver says. They have done their job, given the evidence to the politicians — only to be ignored. Weaver, the author of Keeping Cool: Canada in a Warming World, also had a key role when the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its report in 2007. People like him must be tempted to throw their hands in the air and walk away, particularly when constantly challenged by the half-informed.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Did US Healthcare Really Plot to Do-In Michael Moore?

A former vice president of one of America's largest healthcare insurers said industry executives were panicked that Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" could be as powerful as "Fahrenheit 911."  One exec apparently said if nothing else worked, Moore might have to be pushed "off a cliff."

Thanks, Uncle Sam. Warren Buffet Praises the Washington Bailout

To the Tea Partiers and the Republican morons, hucksters and fixers who feed on them, Satan arrived in their cherished United States in the form of the government bailout of Wall Street and the banks.  Begun by Bush at the end of his term the programme was carried on by Obama.   And, today, billionaire Warren Buffet says they made the right call.

India Sounds Climate Change Alarm

It's about bloody time.  The Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment has released a report on the sheer havoc that will descend on the world's largest democracy within twenty years.  Yeah, that's right, within the next two decades.

More flooding, more drought and a spreading of malaria would occur, as the disease migrates northward into Kashmir and the Himalayas, according to the report by 220 Indian scientists and 120 research institutions.

The temperature rise, which could be even more extreme along the coasts, would cause drastic changes in India's rain cycles that threaten water supplies and agriculture — the key source of livelihood for most of India's 1.2 billion people.

The report comes out just weeks before the Nov. 29 start of the U.N. climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, where nations will try again to reach a global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions thought to contribute to global warming.

" ""There is no country in the world that is as vulnerable, on so many dimensions, to climate change as India is," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement released with the report on Tuesday. "We must continue this focus on rigorous climate change science."

India's many ecosystems and proximity to the equator make it particularly sensitive to climate change, experts say. The fact most of the country relies on freshwater sources, rather than desalinating sea water, amplifies the threat of global warming on society.

The report also says sea levels will continue to rise, threatening India's more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) of coastline.

Mangrove forests along West Bengal's coastlines "would definitely go underwater," said Sidarth Pathak, a climate policy official with Greenpeace India. Coastal cities such as Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai might also face a threat, he said.

Now, just in case you're profoundly stupid enough to say, "It's India, who cares?", I'd like to share a few thoughts with you.  Anyone who thinks India is the only country in that region that will be hard hit is delusional.  Anyone who thinks India won't be destabilized by this even dumber.  Anyone who can't grasp that three of the nations in line to be hammered by this are nuclear powers and all three of them are dependent on and have rival claims to the Himalayan glacier feeds is as dumb as dirt.

Worse still, anyone who thinks that Canada will be immune from the repercussions of this is a fool.   Do you think these countries don't already have us fingered as the key culprits in global warming?   Do you think they've somehow overlooked the literature about how we Westerners are responsible for most of the climate-change driving carbon emissions already in the atmosphere?  Do you think they won't be able to link their suffering to our indulgence and do you think, even for a minute, they won't be viewing us by our steadfast refusal to take the lead on climate change initiatives?  If you do think any of these things, all I can say (with a genuine pre-apology) is you're a fucking idiot.

Here's something else you might think about - a common grievance is a powerful force to unite otherwise disparate nations.

I want you to think about these things because I know those dumb shits, Harper and Ignatieff, and all the other Petro-Pols of Parliament Hill, won't.  Any change that can occur is going to come from the bottom up.  That means you and me, not our Parliamentary Peckerheads.   You have to agitate for action.  You have to demand better from these jackasses and, if you don't get it, you have to work to have them ousted.  Waiting for them to wake up is not an option.   There's simply not enough time left.