Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Disunion Address

6:15 p.m. Just listening (with half an ear) to Bush's State of the Union address. I made a bet with myself that Bush would take about 15 minutes before we starting hearing 9/11. I was wrong. It took just 3 minutes! Three whole minutes! 9/11...freedom..9/11 . The man needs to start singing a new song.

6:21 p.m. Ahhh. New song. No retreat. No surrender. (can Bruce Springsteen sue for that?)

6:22 p.m. We're winning in Iraq! Iraq has democracy, freedom, new constitution (you forgot to mention .. civil war)

6:24 p.m. Forget about the mistakes of the past re: Iraq (translation: I can't hear you...I can't hear you)

6:27 p.m. I'm grateful for our volunteer troops (grateful enough to volunteer some armour for them?)

6:30 p.m. Middle East democracy won't look like our own democracy (that's because they won't have "democracy by Diebold")

6:33 p.m. We must maintain our offensive against terrorism at home and we deserve to have the tools necessary to do it (oops...there goes the democracy!)

6:35 p.m. Domestic surveillance - it's legal! I said so!

6:36 p.m. Without American leadership, the world will fall apart. (do you ever read a newspaper!!!!)

6:37 p.m. Freedom is on the march!! (see the bootprints on everyone's back?)

6:40 p.m. Economy is doing great (let's keeping give tax breaks to millionaires)

6:43 p.m. Social Security - we can't afford it. You meanies didn't support my brilliant plan to fix it. (it's the Democrats' fault!)

6:44 p.m. We need to get the world to buy American products (note to world: read the fine print on those Free Trade Agreements)

6:46 p.m. Health care - we're doing everything we can! It's the lawsuits...yeah..that's it..it's the lawsuits making it so expensive

6:48 p.m. We need to reduce our addiction on oil. We're on the threshold of great technological advances. So we'll reduce our oil dependancy by.....studying the problem. Who knows what may pop up?

6:50 p.m. We get 75% of our oil from the Mid East. This ain't good - can't trust those guys. So we'll replace that Mid East oil by...applying technology (what technology? you're still researching it...remember?)

6:55 p.m. Supreme Court - we have superb new justices - Roberts and Alito...and I'm looking for clones of them to fill any further vacancies. (good riddance Sandra Day O'Connor)

6:58 p.m. ethical standards for Washington is good (just as long as you don't apply it to Republicans)

7:00 p.m. Problem - AIDS. Solution - pray

Gaaawd I need a drink!

Chile’s Bachelet breaks new ground – appoints 50% female cabinet

When Michelle Bachelet was running for President of Chile, one of her campaign promises was to include more women in the decision-making areas of government. She was true to her word. Bachelet has named her cabinet and exactly half of them are women. Some were worried that she might be overruled by some of the hard-nosed men who hold senior positions in the various political parties that form her governing coalition, but she has made it clear that she will be the one making decisions. Some of the cabinet positions to be held by women are Minister of Defense (a post the Bachelet herself once held), Minister of Economy and Minister of Planning. Bachelet has also appointed a woman as her chief of staff.

This is good news for the women of Chile who are pinning their hopes on Bachelet to be a driving force for increasing female input in political matters and lessening the gender and social inequality Chilean women face.

Bachelet has also made it known that she will not tolerate much in the way of sexist crap from the media;

The subject of gender appeared at Monday's news conference - to her dislike. A reporter asked her who would give her "a little caress", since she doesn't have a husband.“I would have loved that if a man had been in my place he had been asked the same question," replied Bachelet, who lives with her three children aged 13 to 17. "I challenge you to ask that question to men"

Storm Blogging

Woooo! Making my way home from Vancouver Island after conducting a couple of training sessions with junior officers.

That means making, what is normally, a pretty routine 1 1/2 hour ferry trip through the Gulf Islands and across the Strait of Georgia on BC Ferries. The pictures in the link depict a nice sunny day and nice calm waters.

It didn't look like that at all today. All I can say is that I'm glad I wasn't the captain of that 9000 ton ship today. That was one hairy approach to the mainland berth.

Add torrential rain and you've got the west coast today.

Female soldiers die from dehydration

Majikthise has a posting about a number of female soldiers who died of dehydration in Iraq. They refused to drink water during the day in order to avoid having to go to the latrine at night. The reason they didn't want to have to use the latrine at night? - they were afraid of being raped by their fellow soldiers. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez then ordered a coverup of their deaths.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Pentagon preparing to fight the ‘net

Recently, there has been a fair amount of media coverage about the US propaganda campaign in Iraq that had the Pentagon planting news stories in Iraqi newspapers under the guise of independent reporters.

The s**t really started to hit the fan with the publication of a recently declassified Pentagon document called “Information Operations Roadmap” wherein the Pentagon admitted that

information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa
The document was approved by Donald Rumsfeld in October 2003 and the National Security Archive at George Washington University obtained a copy of it via the Freedom of Information Act. The “roadmap” addresses the military framework for information operations (ie: propaganda) and electronic warfare. Although much of the attention in the media has been focused on the propaganda portion of the document, the electronic warfare section is equally interesting (despite huge portions of the document being blacked out before it was released).

Under the category of electronic warfare, it appears that the internet is considered to be a battleground and the military is looking to design “attack” weapons against it. The following excerpts (complete with blackouts) are from the “Information Operations Roadmap”. (in the excerpts, DoD refers to Department of Defence, and EW refers to electronic warfare)

We Must Fight the Net. DoD is building an information-centric force. Networks are increasingly the operational center of gravity, and the Department must be prepared to “fight the net”.
We Must Improve Network and Electro-Magnetic Attack Capability. To prevail in an information-centric fight, it is increasingly important that our forces dominate the electromagnetic spectrum with attack capabilities.
A robust offensive suite of capabilities to include full-range electronic and computer network attack, with increased reliability through improved command and control, assurance testing and refined tactics and procedures.
Provide a future EW capability sufficient to provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, denying, degrading, disrupting, or destroying the full spectrum of globally emerging communication systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependant on the electromagnetic spectrum.
Read that last section again. The US military wants maximum control of virtually every communications system you can think of – telephones, radars, the internet – in the entire world. You name it, they want to be able to control it.

Now go back to the second section – “important that our forces dominate the electromagnetic spectrum with attack capabilities”. The purpose of controlling every communications system in the world is to be able to destroy it.

Consider the potential ramifications for bloggers, a group of people notorious for their reluctance to bow to authority and their willingness to thumb their noses at the government, the media, their own mothers, etc. If you knew that your blog could suddenly disappear into the great black void, you’d start being damn careful of what you say and about whom. As time progresses and blogs increase in both number and quality, bloggers are starting to influence public perceptions. A prime target if I ever saw one.

One single country, both willing and able, to impose their form of censorship on the entire world. It boggles the mind.

Harper attracts the loving attention of a Fascist.

We have been quite open in stating that Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada is more representative of the extremists of the former Reform Party than anything that ever rose out of the former Progressive Conservative Party. Some commenters have argued to the contrary, suggesting that the leader and most of the CPC is the same as past Tory parties. That’s simply not true.

The culture of an organization is identified by the type of people it attracts and the Progressive Conservatives never attracted anything like this. But Harper has.

The Conservative Party of Canada is no Tory party. Instead they are being cheered on by this lot.

An interesting fact: The Free Congress Foundation has removed the linked Weyrich letter from the front page of their site. (I do love Google's cache.) Perhaps Calgary lawyer and CPC operative Gerald Chipeur was feeling a little self-conscious.

Don’t confuse me with the facts

According to a recent study, there is virtually no chance whatsoever of changing someone’s political mind.

When it comes to forming opinions and making judgments on hot political issues, partisans of both parties don't let facts get in the way of their decision-making, according to a new Emory University study. The research sheds light on why staunch Democrats and Republicans can hear the same information, but walk away with opposite conclusions.

Subjects’ brain activity was monitored when they were asked to evaluate information that was damaging to their preferred political candidate. The areas of the brain involved with emotions and conflict resolution were busy, but not the area of the brain that deals with reasoning. Subjects were then required to come to a conclusion in regard to the damaging information. They were able to reach conclusions satisfactory to themselves by ignoring the damaging information or by putting a spin on it that allowed them to see it in a positive way.

Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions -- essentially finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted -- not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward -- similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains.

The finding suggests that the emotion-driven processes that lead to biased judgments likely occur outside of awareness, and are distinct from normal reasoning processes when emotion is not so heavily engaged, says Westen.

The investigators hypothesize that emotionally biased reasoning leads to the "stamping in" or reinforcement of a defensive belief, associating the participant's "revisionist" account of the data with positive emotion or relief and elimination of distress. "The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data," Westen says.
In the end, if we have a belief that we’re not willing to let go of, it doesn’t matter how much contrary information we’re bombarded with, we’ll just ignore it. In other words, don’t confuse us with the facts.

It’s not unreasonable to expect that the same workings of the brain occur with any strongly held belief, not just politics.

So the question becomes why bother blogging about hot-potato issues like politics and religion and feminism, etc.? For the most part, we’re preaching to the converted. Maybe that’s really what it’s all about – finding a community of like-minded people. It’s something I enjoy the most about blogging; knowing that I’m not the only one who thinks the way that I do. There is also an undeniable entertainment value to blogs – they can be fun and interesting. And maybe, just maybe, there’s an outside chance that we can bring forth information that helps to sway an uncommitted person to our own point of view.

But converting a die-hard opponent to your position? Might as well be pissing in the wind.

US soldiers are voting with their boots.

Donald Rumsfeld says it’s not broken. The US Army, he means. OK, Rummie, it’s not broken; not totally anyway. It’s just very seriously damaged.

Rumsfeld and Bush, as deluded as they are about the state of the Army may be faced with a clear choice: re-activate the Selective Service System or face the possibility of mutiny.

On January 18th, the US Army announced that it was raising the age limit for new recruits from 35 to 40 years. Army officials suggested that they actually wanted 40 year olds because they made good soldiers and that this was truly an opportunity which, up to then, had been denied people who might otherwise be pining away to become a buck private at age 39. There was no mention of the fact that the Army had just failed to meet its recruiting targets and was now 80,000 people short.

On January 26th, the Army announced to Congress that it was reducing the personnel strength of the Army Reserve to 188,000 from 205,000 and the strength of the Army National Guard to 333,000 from 350,000. Total reduction: 34,000 troops.

Large numbers of reserve and National Guard personnel are on full-time service with the occupation forces in Iraq making the sudden reduction in personnel strength somewhat… well… questionable. What makes it even more questionable is the fact that the day before the announcement two studies appeared warning of a personnel crisis developing in the American all-volunteer army.

On January 29th, the Army confirmed that it had placed 50,000 troops on “stop loss”, a program that compels volunteers to continue serving past the completion date of their enlistments. A majority of those “compelled-to-serve” troops will be required to do another rotation to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Under the policy, soldiers who normally would leave when their commitments expire must remain in the Army, starting 90 days before their unit is scheduled to depart, through the end of their deployment and up to another 90 days after returning to their home base.
With yearlong tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, some soldiers can be forced to stay in the Army an extra 18 months.

A report commissioned by the Pentagon called stop-loss a "short-term fix" enabling the Army to meet ongoing troop deployment requirements, but said such policies "risk breaking the force as recruitment and retention problems mount." It was written by Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer.

(Defence analyst Loren) Thompson added, "The persistent use of stop-loss underscores the fact that the war-fighting burden is being carried by a handful of soldiers while the vast majority of citizens incur no sacrifice at all."

No kidding. Not to mention the destruction of morale and the unbelievable increase in disciplinary problems that arise from integrating justifiably disgruntled soldiers with those who now see that they may be next on the list to be compelled to serve indefinitely in a war without end.

And the cowards of the Cheetos and Pepsi crowd continue to bloviate about “supporting the troops” while they personally avoid any street with a recruiting office.

It causes one to question the unbelievable unfairness of the whole issue. Troops who have served and completed the service, to which they agreed, are compelled to fill the ranks which should be occupied by others. Support them all you like. Those who have been handed a stop-loss order no longer support you. As the numbers of “pressed” troops grow, all Americans should be asking what state of mind those troops will be possessed of when they finally do achieve separation from the service 18 months and another tour of war duty later than they had expected.

Rumsfeld can deny it if he will. This is a ticking time-bomb.

Attention Harperphobic bloggers!

This is an invitation (aka humble begging) to all Canadian bloggers who are less than thrilled with our new and illustrious leader. Dave and I made a pledge to hold the Conservatives' feet to the fire should they fail to live up to their campaign promises. So I'm thinking I should cave into my anal-retentive need to organize and detail everything. I would like to make a fairly extensive listing of all the promises made by the Conservatives during the recent campaign. Campaign promises only! - this is what they based their win upon. I need as many items as possible. I will keep track of these promises and update on a regular basis as to whether or not they:

a) kept the promise as stated in the campaign
b) kept the promise during the timeline they specified, if specified
c) have done something they explicitly said they would not do (ie: re-open the debate on abortion
d) anything else you can think of.

If any of you have any issue that is near and dear to your heart, tell me what it is and if possible link to a reliable news source to back up the Conservatives' stated policy on that issue. Don't worry if you don't have time to link, I'll find a link for you.

So, whaddya think? A worthwhile venture? Willing to participate? Free chocolate chip cookies for all participants.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Paging Judge Judy -you're needed in Iraq

Never one to miss an opportunity to put on a show, Saddam Hussein and his lawyers stormed out of the courtroom today after Saddam's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti (the former intelligence chief) was ejected from court. The judge carried on the trial without Saddam. This is looking more like a really bad TV show (two of Saddam's lawyers have been murdered since the beginning of the trial) than an actual trial. It's time to get Judge Judy on the case! Judge Judy versus Saddam Hussein. My money's on Judge Judy.

We're off to a good start with France

Two Montreal radio hosts, famous for their hoaxes on well known people, pulled off another one. This time it was French President Jacques Chirac who was on the receiving end. One of the hoaxers managed to convince Chirac’s office that he was Stephen Harper. Chirac, being diplomatic, took the phone call to offer his congratulations to the newly elected PM of Canada. The lengthy phone call included the radio host adopting an outlandishly exaggerated French Canadian accent and telling Chirac that Canada’s new ambassador to France would be Richard Z. Sirois (a French Canadian comedian). When the radio pranksters finally confessed to Chirac who they really were, Chirac burst out laughing.

NY Times - Bushco are liars

The New York Times, via Cathie From Canada, in a Sunday editorial has deconstructed every one of the Bush talking points surrounding the issue of illegal wiretaps. This time though, the Times comes right out and calls Bush and his cronies liars.

The editorial ends with a call for Congress to reign in Bush and re-establish the constitutional checks and balances that it has allowed Bush to ignore and circumvent.

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.


The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to start hearings on the domestic spying. Congress has failed, tragically, on several occasions in the last five years to rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy. It is critical that it not betray the public once again on this score.

Check out the NY Times article. (Registration required)

BS baffles brains

One of the reasons you haven't seen any comment from us on the Abramhoff affair us is simply because we haven't paid close enough attention given all the other things going on. While I'm happy to shoot from the lip on some issues, there are plenty of others watching that whole thing very closely and providing daily updates and analysis. I would only degrade the debate by having to continuously ask questions in an attempt to catch up.

So, when I see something posted on a leading blog about how Canadian not-quite-sworn-in-yet prime minister Stephen Harper is doing, I expect they formed the commentary from something substantive.

Apparently not. Glenn Reynolds just engaged in "Something really important happened in Canada so I guess I should toss some wisdom in the pot. Not knowing what's really going on, I'll make something up, jack-up the verbiage and no one will know that I haven't a clue what's going on."

Thanks to Laura at LWC for catching it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Take strength from the Flying Spaghetti Monster

From comments, regarding this post on Harper’s relationship with Tristan Emmanuel(unedited):

This article is very frusterating to me. Who cares if Harper is a Christian. I am a Christian and so are many other Canadians and citizens of this whole world. Canada is a free country and that includes freedom of religion. No one is knocking u for having your beliefs. Stop being so hard on us for being Christians. If you don't like how "homesexuals are bashed, or womens rights are bashed". Then what gives you the right to start being so anti-Christian. Why is it such a horrible thing if Harper is a Christian. It is that type of attitude that brings about communism ideologies and infringes on our freedom!!! I am a Christian so tell me what is so disguisting about my beliefs that you have the nerve to write an article on how "AWFUL" it is that Harper is a Christian. Think about the many other Christians out there that you are insulting by this type of an attitude. GIVE Us SOME RESPECT!!!
Which was then followed the next day by this:

I would like the writer of this article to comment to my previous message. Ya so comment to that and also explain to me why you have made Christianity your personal target??? If you are so anti-Christian why do you invest so much of your time thinking about it and writing articles about it?? Religious freedom is important and you need to start respecting this in you articles!!
Sigh. Oh, where do I start?

How about with… read the post again. Then go back, Tamara, and read it again! At no time did I refer to Harper being a Christian, if indeed that is what he is. I did refer to his relationship with Tristan Emmanuel who is openly using his position as a religious leader to establish Christian dominion in government and infuse the ideas of one particular religious group on an entire nation. That, to put it as mildly as I can possibly manage (in an attempt to insulate sensitive eyes), is unmitigated bullshit!

The commenter is absolutely correct. This is a free country and freedom of religion is assured. That means I too have the freedom not to have some proselytizing religious wank or group of wanks make an effort to foist their religious doctrine or superstitious beliefs on me. That means you don’t attempt to peddle your religion at my front door, on the decks of my ship, inside my fire trench, in my path on the street nor, especially, via any form of government. That includes school boards, municipal councils, provincial and state legislatures, federal governments and the United Nations. That includes attempts to force public schools to teach a ridiculous religious belief as science or an effort to exclude a segment of society based on the extreme literal interpretation of a particular book.

The commenter seems to think I have made a personal target of Christians. She flatters herself. I am nowhere near so discriminating. I have an intense dislike for most organized religion and a deep mistrust of those who market their faith beyond the boundaries of personal belief in an attempt to “save” me.

As Christians go, I couldn’t care less. Most sects of the Christian religion don’t proselytize. They require some adherence by members to church doctrine and that’s fine, providing it doesn’t extend beyond the congregational limit. But some segments aren’t happy with that and instead insist on forcing their religious beliefs, “the one true religion” on those who are not members, nor are they believers.

Without more than a few seconds thought, I can pull up the names of the three of the most evil people in the world, in no particular order: Osama bin Laden, Pat Robertson and Bill O’Reilly. Hardly an exhaustive list, but one claims to be a Muslim, two claim to be Christians and one even insists he’s intelligent. All of them are guilty of corrupting the canons of their faith, exceeding the limits of propriety and misleading huge numbers of people into believing that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is not only wrong, but should be, at the least, removed from society or, at the worst, executed. And they have a following because there are large numbers of people who are too intellectually lazy to see beyond the limits of tolerance these so-called leaders or communicators impose in the name of “the one true religion”.

In terms of attacking Christians, I engage in no such exclusivity. I treat Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddists, Jews, Confucians, Shintoists and Christians with eminent equality. As long as they don’t engage in extreme behaviour which adversely affects my safety, freedom, serenity, acquired status or personal legal pursuits, I have no quarrel with any of them and their religious beliefs or faith are of no consequence to me. In fact, I have friends who individually subscribe to all of those religious beliefs.

However, if, in the name of a specific religion, there is an attempt to marginalize any person or group on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, differing religious beliefs or non-intrusive behaviour, you will have to face what I have to offer and that will be a determined and single-minded attempt to stop you. If a religious leader attempts to increase the power of his/her religion or cult by infiltrating the secular institutions of this or any other country you will see me, right along side this guy, leading the charge to bring that person or persons down by employing any method possible which does not exclude the possibility of a swift kick to the genitals. (Of course certain religious leaders view this resistance to acquiescent acceptance of Christian dominance as “persecution” and preach so to their followers.)

If you want to believe that Earth was created six-thousand years ago based on the writings of authors whose existence is questionable and whose scientific knowledge was limited to the manufacture of salt from seawater, please, knock yourself out. If you want to fall to your knees and pray in the middle of a Walmart parking lot, I will do nothing to stop you. But, if you attempt to interfere with the right of a woman to chose how she is going to deal with her body, or attempt to marginalize a man because he has a sexual relationship with another consenting man, or publicly vocalize that a Muslim is damned because she doesn’t extract the tenets of her beliefs from the same arcane publication you do, I will defend them, and I will do it by attacking you.

Did I attack Harper? You bet I did. Did I do it because he’s a Christian? Hardly. I attacked him because he allied himself with Tristan Emmanuel, a bigoted, homophobic, patriarchal, religiously intolerant wank.

So, if you want respect, dear commenter, earn it. Bring your intolerant so-called religious leaders into line and demand that they keep your religion out of my house, out of my government and to themselves. Until then, as long as you continue to defend the intolerant behaviour of those religious leaders, you will get all the respect you are due from me – none.

Friday, January 27, 2006

British going big in Afghanistan

From reader ghostcatbce comes this article in The Guardian. The British are increasing the number of troops heading for Afghanistan. The original number was expected to be in the neighbourhood of 4000 total. According to British defence secretary, John Reid, the British committment will now approach 6000 by the summer of this year.

The British will be joined by 2000 Canadian troops which have already started staging into Kandahar. They were to be joined by 1400 Netherlands soldiers although that deployment is no longer certain. Other troops may come from Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and Estonia.

Keeping the entire deployment in perspective:

An advance party of military intelligence officers is understood to have reported a dangerous mix of an opium poppy trade linked to warlords, and Taliban and al-Qaida fighters regrouping and switching to suicide bombing tactics.
There is some concern that the British and Canadian troops will have difficulty separating what are essentially two different missions. The American mission, Operation Enduring Freedom, is a different tasking than that given to NATO. The NATO forces will be involved in trying to suppress the poppy growing areas, quell the war lords and drive out the resurging Taliban.

The British already have 8500 troops in Iraq. Reid says they will not draw down those troops to support the Afghanistan mission.

Of course, the whole British armed forces could end up in the pot if this happens.

Arctic Controversy - A Rovian Maneouvre

The sudden surfacing of the Arctic controversy and the playground shoulder shoving between Harper and US ambassador David Wilkins is more than a tad curious. On the surface it appears to be little more than Harper expressing Canada’s long-standing claim to territorial waters in the High Arctic archipelago and Wilkins replying with the US position that those same areas constitute international waters.

Wilkins latest comments come after the Conservatives won a weak minority based, in small part, on a plank in their platform which will see an acoustic surveillance system planted in the Arctic, an army Arctic training centre built, an Arctic naval port established and three armed naval ice-breakers built and put on patrol within 10 years. Given the tenuous nature of Harper’s win, Wilkins could have kept his mouth shut since none of this is going to happen during Harper’s current term, which makes this even more curious.

Harper appears to be “standing his ground” and is actually gathering public support, however muted, while he demonstrates his heretofore untested skills in dealing with larger foreign policy issues. It attracts even more attention in that it is the US Bush administration with which Harper is being so blunt, something a majority of Canadians would not find objectionable at all. And, all of this transpires within three days of barely securing an election in which most people didn’t vote for Harper and a majority remain suspicious of his position vis-à-vis the United States. Given Harper’s propensity to all things Bush, when it comes to US foreign and defense policy, this might be a surprising break from the mirroring of US plans – if it weren’t so damned convenient and the timing wasn’t so damned obvious.

There is no border dispute here. The argument is over the “nature” of the waters in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Canada’s claim to the landmass is relatively secure and has been so since 1931. Even the US claim to international waters through the archipelago does not deny the existing right to a sovereign 12 mile territorial limit which was established in 1994 by the International Law of the Sea Convention (ILSC) and which also codified an exclusive 200 mile Economic Zone from the low water mark of each nation’s sea coast.

Canada has offered many times to have this question resolved in International Court only to have the US refuse. While it is not clear evidence, it is an indication that the US knows it would lose such a case if it went to adjudication. The US, in 1999, extended its law enforcement to 24 miles from its coast and has always claimed large bays and expanses of water beyond the headland limitations provided for by the ILSC. In short, the US has been getting away with making its own rules and has no argument when another sovereign nation imposes those same rules which may adversely affect its position. Canada’s claim to make the waters of the Arctic Archipelago “inside territorial” is easily supported.

Not that any of that matters. US and Canadian defence agreements extend deeply into each country’s naval policy. The USN keeps the movement of submarines, for example, a closely guarded secret from even their own surface navy, as does the Canadian navy. Both countries’ Submarine Operating Authorities (SUBOPAUTH) have a very healthy and close liaison to prevent the misidentification and accidental prosecution of submarines by either navy’s surface or submarine forces. And both navies are interoperable, often trading off taskings and integrating into each others’ task organizations. Neither navy is likely to want to change that policy any time soon, thus, even if Canada were detecting US submarines in the Arctic, knowledge of such a presence would be communicated back to the US SUBOPAUTH very discreetly and without a public announcement. And, as far as merchant ships passing through what would be Canadian waters, the ILSC allows merchant shipping to travel through the territorial waters of another nation under the “Right of Innocent Passage”. There is no requirement for merchant shipping to ask permission to make such a passage, nor did it exist when the US tanker Manhattan made its voyage in 1969. Add, that if the US considers the waters of the Arctic Achipelago "international", the Canadian Navy can roam them at will.

There is also the fact that the Conservative plan offers the US a strategic advantage. The US has always had an elevated interest in seeing Canada establish permanent military and naval bases in the High Arctic. Essentially, it means Canada will take on the role of active northern surveillance under existing agreements for the joint protection of North America and the US has been pushing that for decades.

That Canada is announcing the establishment of military and naval bases on its own, already secured, sovereign territory, is of no concern to the US. Indeed, the increase in military commitment has long been a demand of the US government and of the Bush administration specifically.

So what’s going on?

One thing is certain. David Wilkins didn’t start making statements on his own. He doesn’t know the difference between a polar ice-pack and a peanut farm. He was speaking the words of the administration and in that, the timing is important.

Wilkins initially jumped in with comments during the election campaign which fed into the Conservative platform taking issue with Paul Martin’s criticism of US trade policy and the fact that USS Charlotte had transited Canadian waters to reach the North Pole. Wilkins snapped that Canadian politicians should stop bashing the US as a means to get elected, yet totally ignored the Conservative platform which has now supposedly raised an issue.

Harper, after being elected, spends at least 15 minutes (or more) in a phone call with Bush. Harper would have made at least two things very clear: His rise to office was, at best, very tenuous; and, he needed to be able to appear to be strong when dealing with the US since Canadians would not tolerate a prime minister who pandered to the Bush administration. The ability to retain and hold power depends on how Harper appears to be dealing with the US.

The Bush administration is, if nothing else, competent in the art of deception and the manufacturing of illusion. They have taken the process of governing and twisted it into a perpetual election campaign, led by Karl Rove who, given his role, has extraordinary power in the White House. And, Harper, the man they want in office, needs the illusion of strength and an issue around which even his opponents can rally or at least something with which his supporters can suggest vocal opposition is being anti-Canadian.

Then Wilkins makes his comment:
There's no reason to create a problem that doesn't exist
That’s right, and there was no reason for Wilkins to comment unless there was a deliberate attempt to engage Harper with full knowledge of Harper’s planned response.

But, nobody asked. So, Harper had to put it out there for everyone to digest.

The following day, in an unprompted statement, Harper surprised reporters with:
The United States defends its sovereignty; the Canadian government will defend our sovereignty. It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States.
Wilkins takes one for the team and Harper looks strong. Illusion complete and, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s having the desired effect.

This has been a classic Rovian maneuver. I smell more than a rat in all this; I smell a very rotten red herring.

We’re being had.

Update: Links fixed

Looks like Darwin was right

I like to consider myself a practical and logical person, so you can imagine how I feel about Intelligent Design (my hero is Canadian Cynic who can take down ID proponents with one hand tied behind his back). So this story gave me an unseemly amount of glee.

Genetic testing of chimpanzees suggests that chimps are much more closely related to humans than to the rest of the primate family. (further proof provided at Bushorchimp.com )

Some of the traits we use to separate the human and ape genera (yep.. that’s the plural of genus. I looked it up. See how practical I am?) include tool-making and language, both of which are considered to exist in chimps in at least a basic form. A slow molecular clock ( a means of dating when two species diverged) is also considered to be a particularly human trait. The genetic testing results now show that the molecular clock of chimps differ from that of humans by a mere 3%.

Scientists are now wondering if chimps have been placed in the wrong genus (you Intelligent Design freaks may need to sit down for this one). That’s right – they’re talking about re-categorizing chimps into the Homo genus which right now has only one occupant - humans.

If we are going to teach creation science as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction. Judith Hayes

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Majikthise, wooden shoes and windmills

Hey, this is cool! Lindsay is going to Amsterdam as a part of a BlogAds promo. If anyone has been to Holland in the last little while, she'd be happy to have you leave some ideas for things to do, people to see and places to go in the comments.

Some ideas:

Prominently display a Canadian flag at all times. There is a special relationship between the Netherlands and Canada which goes back to the Canadian liberation of Holland in WWII.

If you get time, and you've grown tired of the action in the 'Dam, a trip to Groesbeek is a good break. The Canadian War Cemetery is located there along with a good museum.

For about $60 you can get an I Amsterdam card. You get onto public transport whenever you like, you get shopping, restaurant and attractions discounts, plus it gets you into about 20 museums free, including the Van Gogh museum.

Take a walk through the western canal district. It really is very cool.

Take in the Oudekerk and then, if you keep walking south into the alley, you end up in the famous red-light district known as De Wallen. It's in the old part of the city, about 3 blocks away from the Amsterdam main train station.

Lonely Planet still produces one of the best travel guides.

And Lindsay, have a great trip!

What Bush said to Harper on the phone

Via My Blahg, check out this hilarious take on Bush's congratulatory phone call to Stephen Harper by Optimuscrime

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The American 101st Keyboard Kommandos take credit for Harper's success!

There was a time when I didn't think any reason would arise where I would be compelled to even think about looking at the tripe produced by Powerline, the American ultra-wingnut blog. It is little more than a group of Bush apologists who possess not only a lack of knowledge about their own president's constitutional limits, but demonstrate a world view equivalent to that of an ant on a pile of sugar.

So, when I was told I just HAD to go read a particular post, I quite flatly refused. I can get the same thing walking on a ranch in the Chilcotin. "You HAVE to read this one post," I was told.

So, I looked.

I don't think I have ever laughed so hard in my life. In fact, it's difficult to contain my mirth, even now. Ass-Rocket has produced a post that I know will leave even some Canadian conservatives rolling in the aisles and pissing themselves. It's just too funny!

First, he claims:

The Conservatives have won big in today's Canadian election

Wow! OK, John-boy, get this. The Conservative Party of Canada has just won the weakest minority government in Canadian electoral history. (I'm sure anus-missile doesn't have a clue what a parliamentary minority actually is, but "won big" is not the way anyone with at least a grade 9 education would describe it.)

It gets better. He then goes on to suggest that Ed Morrissey, doing mortal combat for the Kommandos from his basement, actually influenced the Canadian election. Then he goes on to congratulate our American pseudo-captain!

The laughter got so loud I had to put on ear defenders. If Ed had influenced the election, he did a really, really crappy job. And whatshername over at small dead critters, or whatever she calls it, will be terribly unhappy to hear that it was fake-Captain Ed and not HER who gave the Conservative party their historical "squeaker" into office.

I hate to have to point this out, but Captain Ed couldn't influence the mind of a Banana Slug in a rainforest full of mushrooms much less affect the outcome of any federal election, anywhere.

I really hope these two get together for a bit of a cyber-celebration. I'm sure they share the same bookmarks to the same sites. Hopefully they don't use up a whole roll of toilet paper in one viewing.

What a pair of maroons.... Jerk and Jack; the "Off" brothers.

I’m a toilet wall?

How does one become a toilet wall?

Step 1: you start with a well-meaning advertising campaign designed to cheer up the citizens of your country (Germany) because you think they might be a bit down in the dumps and grumpy over a faltering economy.

Step 2: come up with a really, really lame slogan such as "Du bist Deutschland" meaning “You are Germany”

Step 3: plaster your country with feel-good advertising celebrating the heroes of your country ie: Albert Einstein, Beethoven, etc.

Step 4: come face-to-face with the complete and utter disdain of the citizens of said country in regards to your precious advertising campaign.

Step 5: (and we’re sooooo familiar with this step): blame the bloggers. Jean-Remy von Matt who was in charge of the advertising campaign was a wee bit upset when it was scorned by the newspapers and bloggers.

Weblogs, he wrote in the internal memo, are "the toilet walls of the Internet.... What on earth gives every computer owner the right to exude his opinion, unasked-for?... And most bloggers really just exude.
I’m a toilet wall !!! You're a toilet wall !!! We're all toilet walls !!

PS: I’m a toilet wall in the ladies room of a very high class restaurant..you know, the kind that is tastefully decorated and has an attendant.

PPS: if some of you look around and see faded wood grain, I hate to be the one to tell you but, you're probably a toilet wall in an outhouse. If so, give me a shout and I’ll toss ya a bar of scented soap and some of that really soft toilet paper.

Possible Gitmo executions in the future?

The US military has released some new rules regarding military executions. Although the majority of them are simply technical clarifications, etc., there is one change that is raising eyebrows. Until now, military executions could only be carried out at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Under the new rules, executions can now take place at any military installation. And that includes Guantanemo Bay.

There are currently 6 people on “death row” in Leavenworth. Does the issuance of these regulations mean that the US is about to hold their first military execution in 35 years?

Military executions are also applicable for foreign terrorists. Although no detainee in Gitmo has been sentenced to death (yet), is this setting the stage for the future?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

9/11 means never having to say you're sorry

In the days and weeks after 9/11, a frightened United States rounded up anyone who looked like they might be Arab or Muslim. They were thrown into prison for months on end and left to languish in the fear that they would never be released. No charges were laid, no lawyers were allowed, there were no interpreters for those who had only a minimal grasp of English, and physical abuse was commonplace.

Amongst those detained were two Egyptian brothers, Hany and Yasser Ibrahim. It has now been four years since they have stepped foot on American soil and they are nervous about being back in New York. The last time they were in the US they were in a federal prison, held without charges, because they looked “foreign” and Muslim.

The two brothers and four others (two other Egyptians, a Palestinian, and a British citizen) have filed a class action lawsuit against US officials over their detention. In their lawsuit they have named numerous officials including Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization James Ziglar. The suit also names the prison warden and prison guards.

The lawsuit details the personal experiences of the six men and their horrifying stories. (note: in the following excerpts, "Doe Defendant" refers to unnamed prison guards, "MDC" refers to Metropolitan Detention Center)

Plaintiff Asif-ur-Rehman Safi
Still in handcuffs, chains, and shackles, Mr. Safi was taken by the Doe Defendants to the Special Housing Unit on the Ninth Floor of the MDC. Once there, the Doe Defendants again strip-searched Mr. Safi and subjected him to physical and verbal abuse. Among other things, they bent back his thumbs, stepped on his bare feet with their shoes, and pushed him into a wall so hard that he fainted. After Mr. Safi fell to the floor, they kicked him in the face. The Doe Defendant in charge, a lieutenant, called Mr. Safi a “terrorist,” boasting that Mr. Safi could expect continued harsh treatment because of his involvement in the September 11th terrorist attacks. The same Doe Defendant threatened to punish him if he even so much as smiled. Mr. Safi offered no resistance.

While confined in MDC’s Special Housing Unit, Mr. Safi was not allowed to make any telephone calls for nearly two months, until November 26, 2001, when the Doe Defendants finally permitted him to make one telephone call. He immediately called theFrench Consulate, which sent someone to meet him at the MDC on November 29, 2001. At that meeting, Mr. Safi was told that the INS had given Consulate officials (false) assurances that he would soon be released. But for the fact that Mr. Safi’s wife included the Consulate's telephone number in a letter to him, Mr. Safi would have been unable to contact the Consulate. The Doe Defendants had refused to give him the French Consulate’s address or telephone number.

Plaintiff Syed Amjad Ali Jaffri

Two days after his arrest, on September 29, 2001, Mr. Jaffri was taken to the MDC, where he was strip searched, fingerprinted and given an orange jumpsuit. All of his personal belongings, including his personal identification, were confiscated. He was placed in a tiny solitary (windowless) cell in the Special Housing Unit. Mr. Jaffri was confined to that cell nearly all day, nearly every day, for the next six months, until April 1, 2002.

Whenever Mr. Jaffri was removed from his cell, he was first strip searched and then placed in handcuffs, chains, and shackles. Four or more Doe Defendants typically escorted him to his destination, frequently inflicting unnecessary pain along the way, for example, by deliberately kicking Mr. Jaffri’s manacles and shackles into his lower body. Despite the pain, Mr. Jaffri offered no resistance, fearing that resistance would only make matters worse. On most days, Mr. Jaffri’s cell was cold and uncomfortable. He had great difficulty sleeping at night, because the lights stayed on 24 hours a day. For the first two months, Mr. Jaffri was denied a bar of soap. He received only two squares (pieces) of toilet paper per day. His meals were served without eating utensils.

When he was first brought to the MDC’s Special Housing Unit, for example, one Doe Defendant, in the presence of other Doe Defendants, told him: “Whether you participated in the September 11th terrorist attacks or not, if the FBI arrested you, that’s good enough for me. I’m going to do to you what you did. Several Doe Defendants then slammed Mr. Jaffri’s head into a wall, severely loosening his lower front teeth and causing him extreme pain. He was never allowed to see a dentist.

Plaintiffs Yasser Ebrahim and Hany Ibrahim
Yasser and Hany each suffered serious injuries as a result of the beatings received upon their arrival at MDC. Their arms and noses remained black and swollen for several days thereafter. Even though Yasser and Hany were in considerable pain and had great difficulty breathing, they were not treated for their injuries.

During his incarceration at MDC, Yasser was locked in his cell for nearly 24 hours a day almost every day.

Whenever Yasser was removed from his cell, he was first strip searched and placed in handcuffs, chains, and shackles. The Doe Defendants frequently inflicted unnecessary pain, while escorting Yasser outside of his cell, by deliberately kicking the manacles and shackles into his lower body.

The lights remained on in Yasser’s cell 24 hours a day, making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to sleep at night. To ensure that Yasser remained sleep deprived, the Doe Defendant banged on his door every 15 minutes, at all hours of the day and night

To say that US officials are unhappy about the lawsuit would be an understatement. While the six plaintiffs are in the US, they are required to be in the constant custody of federal marshals and they are prohibited from making any phone calls while they are here. The brothers admit to being afraid but they are determined to go ahead with the lawsuit. Despite their ordeal, they maintain a surprising faith in the American judicial system.

I'm seeking justice," said Yasser, 33, who had a Web site design business in New York before he and his younger brother, Hany, 29, a delicatessen worker, were delivered in shackles to a detention center 19 days after Sept. 11. "It's from the same system that did us injustice before. But I have faith in this system. I know what happened before was a mistake.

An additional twist to the story involves Rachel Meeropol. She is a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights which represents the brothers. A few weeks ago, the Center filed a class action lawsuit against the US government in respect of the NSA warrantless domestic spying. Meeropol is one of the plaintiffs in the case claiming that her private communications with her clients (such as the Ibrahim brothers) may have been illegally monitored.

It was a time of many “firsts” for the US government. The first use of racial profiling, the first open disregard for the law, the first holding of people outside of the normal judiciary system, the first unapologetic physical abuse of prisoners. What these detainees suffered in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was a harbinger of things to come. It foreshadowed Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary renditions, and the escalation into torture. The Metropolitan Detention Centre was the birthplace.

It goes without saying that the US government has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that September 11 created “special factors” that overrides people’s rights. It is the same worn out excuses we have heard for so long. 9/11 created “special” circumstances, 9/11 changed everything, 9/11 automatically granted special powers to the government.

9/11 means never having to say you’re sorry.

Short Election Perspective

An analysis of yesterday's federal general election is pretty much unnecessary. The result speak for themselves, however, Ian at Tilting at Windmills has a detailed post-mortem of the election and the campaign coupled with a pretty decent look at the future of the upcoming parliament. Scott in Montreal has a "rumination" and does a bit of crystal-balling on at least one of a countless number of possible scenarios. Laura at LWC discusses the departure of Paul Martin and how it was an inevitable result with any kind of Conservative win.

If anything was obvious this morning it is that there is no overwhelming desire to make a political right turn in this country. Canadians were happy with the direction the country was going - they were not happy with the shenanigans of the Chretien Liberals. There was a desire, particularly in the rural regions and smaller cities to effect a change in Ottawa and it was that vote which made the difference. The three largest cities rejected the Conservatives.

British Columbia did what it always does, and voted in opposition to the general direction of the country thus reducing the number of Conservative seats than that held from the previous election. The other message from BC voters was that the ultra-right social conservatives were out of touch with the general feelings of the electorate.

The pundits suggested the voters were behaving strategically. I don't think so. Even if voters were able to communicate across the great expanse, such a conspiratorial exercise would be almost impossible. The 64% of voters that actually made the trip to the polls voted as individuals and marked the ballots as individuals. The results may have the appearance of a strategic response but that is the extent of it. There is really no way to tell how many people actually changed their minds from the time they left home until they actually marked their ballots.

I believe Stephen Harper has one of the most difficult jobs any prime minister will ever face. He has one of the most tenuous minority governments in history. While no one wants another election too soon, he cannot rely on the desire for political stability as protection while pursuing any program a majority of Canadians do not want, nor can he dismantle programs or institutions that raise, first the curiosity and then, the ire of the electorate. Harper also has to overcome one other issue - it's all well and good to sit in opposition and snipe away at government; it's quite another thing to have to produce results and Harper has never been in a position where he hasn't been in opposition. When he makes a mistake, and he will, the wolves across the aisle will attack and mercilessly tear him to pieces.

The next 60 days should prove interesting.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Night Stuff. Martin tenders his resignation

I'm sitting out on the coast watching the election results. It looks like a Conservative minority at 8:45 pm Pacific Lotus Land Time.

It's too early to comment on much of this so far, but the pundits are now yapping about a Liberal/NDP coalition in order to defeat the Conservatives. I have one view on that: Don't you dare.

As much as I didn't want to see the Conservatives gain power, any move to defeat the plurality achieved by the Harper Conservatives using the Governor General would throw the country into a constitutional crisis of the highest order.

A couple of interesting BC results: Svend Robinson was defeated in Vancouver Centre.
Darrell Reid has been defeated. (I suspect Harper is actually pretty happy about that.)
See update below.

Now, if Ezra Levant would just quit behaving as though the Conservatives had just been elected with a landslide... Ezra! It's a weak minority. A really weak minority.

Hopefully, more later, depending on this connection.

UPDATE: The Chief Electoral Officer has reported an extremely poor voter turnout for this election. Apparently it was just under 64% eligible voters. Update: Higher than last election.

UPDATE: 9:14 PM Paul Martin has conceded and has also announced that he will step down as leader of the Liberal Party.

UPDATE: via Bouquets of Gray: Cindy Silver the Conservative wingnut candidate from North Vancouver was defeated.

UPDATE: LeDrew (former Liberal party president, now bow-tied pundit) just told Ezra Levant to shut up. Levant is so excited he's spitting.

Across-the-border cheap Canadian prescription drugs

Nevada is the latest state to defy Washington and the pharmaceutical industry by adopting a law allowing the state’s residents to import Canadian prescription drugs. Currently eight states have enacted similar legislation and numerous more have tried and failed. Nevada’s approach was a bit different; whereas other states enacted similar programs by way of executive proclamation, Nevada’s law, fully endorsed by the state’s Pharmacy Board, was adopted by the state legislature.

The sponsor of the Nevada legislation, Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said the Pharmacy Board's action "is another step in the states' revolt against a broken federal system."

In what is hopefully a sign of the times, the pharmaceutical industry gave up trying to oppose the bill.

Asked why the industry didn't defend itself at the meeting, Tom Wood, a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "There didn't seem to be any point."

But he said the group's view of the Nevada initiative hadn't changed: "It's illegal.

With any luck, the power is starting to return to the people.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

All we can do now is hold our breath

It’s over. The short, but seemingly interminable, election campaign has finally wound down. All that’s left is to wait for the fat lady to sing. The polls indicate that we will have a Conservative government and now we wait to see if it’s a minority government. The prospect of a majority Conservative government worries me (OK, the reality is, it downright scares me). I don’t wish abject failure on a Conservative government – a complete failure of government trickles down to the ordinary citizen and we all suffer. It’s not so much the stated Conservative platform that concerns me (although there are many aspects of it that I’m in very strong disagreement with). It’s the unstated platform that has the ability to cause me sleepless nights. Far too many of the Conservative candidates are so far off the radar that I cannot help but be nervous as to what power they may eventually wield. We have seen the results of obtaining power via a small, but influential electoral base – all we have to do is look south of the border where the Christian right-wing and neo-conservatives practically dictate national policy. The result has been a severely and bitterly divided country ensconced in two widely separate camps, and never the twain shall meet. I dread the idea that the same could happen here in Canada.

But if a Conservative government is what we are destined to have, it is up to us to ensure that they don’t get the same acquiescence as the American Republican party got should they start abusing their power. We know what the Conservative party has said, and we know what they have NOT said. If and when there is any hint that they have achieved power through deception, have failed to deliver on their campaign promises, have offended the sensibilities of the average Canadian, or have set this country on a backwards track, we need to stand up and yell out our objections.

We at the Galloping Beaver are not willing to give the Conservative Party of Canada a free ride.

The shot not heard around the world

This little tidbit is a few years old, but I had not heard of it before and suspected many others were equally unaware.

In 2002, a Canadian sniper in Afghanistan set a world record for a sniper shot under combat conditions – an astonishing 2,430 metres ( one and half miles!). This broke the previous record which had stood for 35 years held by U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock during the Vietnam war.

The five-man Canadian sniper team was attached to the US Army’s 187th ”Rakkasan” brigade. A three-man patrol consisting of two Canadians and an American spotted an al-Qaeda fighter walking on the road. The Newfoundland corporal’s first shot blew away a bag the fighter was carrying. The second shot killed the fighter.

US General Warren Edwards recommended all five members of the sniper team for Bronze stars (two of them being Bronze stars with distinction), a decoration for bravery. But in a bizarre act could only happen in Canada, Ottawa demurred citing “Canadian protocol”. Ottawa hasn’t had a problem in the past – in the first Gulf War the US awarded Bronze stars to two Canadian pilots. It’s speculated that Ottawa was squeamish about letting the Canadian public know that our soldiers actually kill people. Personally, I think Canadians are a little more realistic than Ottawa gives us credit for.

Coastal Blogging

I'll be away for a week or so while I add some training to the skill-sets of some merchant marine junior officers. So... I won't be here as regularly, although I'll try to get something posted daily. It depends on the connection speed.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Chirac's senseless flinging around of nukes

France's President Jacques Chirac, speaking Thursday that he would use nuclear weapons against states sponsoring terrorism was more than a little alarming. It was downright stupid for several reasons.

France is deeply in debt. With a debt of Euro 1.17 trillion (US $1.42 trillion), a full 66 percent of their GDP, France has continued to maintain an expensive and arguably unnecessary nuclear arsenal which is out of proportion with the consequences of conflict.

Chirac's threat, though it did not identify any one country, was very much aimed at Iran and was irresponsible in terms of a diplomatic effort while demonstrating an attempt to find a place long since lost on the nuclear stage with the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

France's nuclear arsenal has been drawn down over the past decade, but its intended use has remained pretty much stable. It is a deterrent force and little else. Consisting of about 300 warheads, the majority of which are deployed in submarines, the arsenal exists in a vacuum with no defined use.

French presidents, the possessors of the French nuclear switch, have always maintained a posture of "I have nuclear weapons and will have no hesitation in using them". It is a posture which has always remained vague. It worked well when the Soviet Union was the clear threat and a stand-off existed. Chirac has changed all that.

By threatening Iran, Chirac has disclosed France's nuclear posture. Where in the past it was simple possession and an assumed will, it is now possession and intended use. Such a position can only further inflame Iran and increase their determination to produce warheads. Iran has been aware all along that France possessed nuclear weapons; now Iran knows they are a target.

Chirac's announcement did further damage by weakening the European (and US) attempt to bring Iran into line with one voice. Now there are two voices and France is too loud.

Jacques Chirac would have made a greater impact if he had announced the decommissioning of the greater portion of France's nuclear arsenal in favour of a more agile conventional force. Thursday's speech, an attempt to give France a global position and stronger voice, did just the opposite.

Now France looks like a long dead world power rattling a sabre it can no longer afford.

More exceptionally good advice from Mrs. Mills

As usual Mrs. Mills in the Sunday Times cuts through the bull and gets to the heart of peoples' problems... with great solutions. From the latest Sunday Times:

The problem

You hear stories about men who are into wearing girls’ knickers, but I’ve recently developed a bit of a thing about wearing my bloke’s underpants, particularly his cotton- jersey boxers. My boyfriend doesn’t seem to mind this at all; in fact, I think he quite likes it. However, I mentioned my secret enthusiasm to a girlfriend, and she was absolutely appalled with me. Is what I’m doing really that wrong?

And the answer...

There’s nothing wrong with your behaviour in itself; it’s the fact that your boyfriend “quite likes it” that really ought to worry you. Mark my words: before you know where you are, you’ll be dressed up in a tight black Nazi uniform, whipping him senseless to the strains of Tomorrow Belongs to Me.

Check out the rest of Mrs. Mills great advice here.

Pakistan to US - Don't Do That Again

Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is an unhappy man. According to AP and CBS News, Musharraf told US Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns:

"...what happened in Bajur must not be repeated"

Really?! Is there some false illusion here? Pakistan is supposed to be an intelligence and military ally of the US, particularly where the hunting-down of Al Qaeda is concerned. Surely Musharraf knew the expected scope of damage from the proposed strike. A quick briefing would have spelled-out the maximum effect of the strike and the corollary damage estimate.

"While reaffirming Pakistan's commitment to counterterrorism, the foreign minister underlined the need for the two countries to work in a manner that precludes recent incidents like Bajur," the [Foreign] ministry said in a statement.

Right. And there lies the problem. The US is operating inside Pakistan, bombing villages with dubious results, and apparently not informing its host ally before the operation. All reports out of Pakistan indicate no prior knowledge of the event. The Pakistani government had filed a protest earlier complaining of US military air strikes against North Waziristan in which eight people were reportedly killed. Again, the Pakistani government claims to have had no prior knowledge of the strike.

Of course, this all goes back to the Battle for Tora Bora and a strategy issued by the Pentagon. Had Tora Bora been cordoned, assaulted and secured as recommended by the commanders on the ground, the eastern escape routes of Garikhil and Mileva, leading to the Khyber Pass, would have been closed by high-grade allied ground forces. Instead the Pentagon issued instructions to use the local Afghan war-lords, which caused a delay, and forced a frontal assault while leaving access to the Khyber Pass wide open. Osama and his entourage had a no-resistance road to freedom.

As much as that's hindsight, it was also being expressed at the time, on the ground, in Afghanistan and it's the reason the Bush administration is in the business of bombing Pakistani villages.

While they missed their target, again, they did accomplish something. The Muslim world is now a few steps closer to a Caliphate.

Conservatives are obsessed with a system that doesn't work

John Reynolds, the National CPC co-chair gave an interview to the pro-Bush Washington Times yesterday. Aside from the usual CPC stroking of GOP genitals, Reynolds popped off with this:

Mr. Reynolds said the first practical step in improving security cooperation between Canada and the United States would be to restart discussions about joining the anti-ballistic missile program. "We've got to sit down and discuss this. There is a quid pro quo for everything," he said. (emphasis mine)

Indeed there is, Mr. Reynolds and The Gazetteer ask a question that has yet to be answered: What else?

These guys either just don't get it or they're getting some incredibly bad advice. As pointed out here, as recently as Wednesday, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency reported a failure of their latest tests. This is a US$100 billion program that has yet to produce a result indicating that it could take out one inbound missile, much less an ICBM assault on a large scale.

Testing has involved highly scripted, slow-count firings at single, pre-determined targets. In a surprise attack, which is the sole purpose of developing it, this system would prove utterly useless.

And the Conservatives can't wait to get into it. So, yeah, what other bit of Bush crap would a Conservative government foist on a population which has already dismissed this worthless garbage? Can you say BOMARC, Mr. Reynolds?

How will we know if Harper is lying?

This great post at the Canadian Cynic explains why we need to ask the question now. In the event Harper becomes the next Prime Minister, CC has put the question to Harper's hardline supporters and he's asking them to be specific.

Of course, given that Harper's hardliners have been so adamant that Harper is a "changed man", I would expect them to be jamming up the server to get onto CC's blog to repeat all of the Conservative Party assurances.

In the event that Harper, should he actually take office, does deviate from his advertised moderate position on absolutely everything he will most certainly have to contend with a force of loud critics who have every assurance, guarantee and public statement of having abandoned the wingnuttery, documented, bookmarked and archived.

In any case, the vote hasn't been counted yet, so this still applies.

Final Weekend Sum Up at Cerberus

Via Cathie From Canada, Cerberus provides one of the best posts I have seen summing up this election campaign with a detailed analysis of the major parties and their positions. I highly recommend you read the whole post.

Friday, January 20, 2006

7th Carnival of Feminists

The 7th Carnival of Feminists is up at Feministe. It's HUGE and there is a wide range of topics but the theme is "Feminism and Pop Culture".

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A search for transformational diplomacy

Condoleezza Rice is touting a “new” form of US diplomacy and she’s calling it transformational diplomacy.

Never having heard the term before, I had a number of questions about transformational diplomacy. What is it? How does it differ from the traditional forms of diplomacy? How is it put into action? What is its purpose? Finding the answers has proven very frustrating.

According to Rice herself, it is use of US diplomacy to promote democracy by “doing things with people, not for them”. Nice words, but not very explanatory. Do you mean “not for them”? or “not to them”?

The Center for Global Development makes an attempt at explaining transformational diplomacy

At its heart, the challenge of transformational diplomacy is to make sure that the State Department is properly organized and is using its skills, resources, and people as effectively as possible to promote democracy, development, and security around the world, particularly in those regions where weak or failed states are failing to exercise responsible sovereignty

Nope, still not getting it. This sounds more like a definition of a civil service shuffle.

Let’s try The Washington Diplomat a publication on diplomatic news. They ought to know what this new-fangled diplomacy is all about. Ambassador Katherine H. Peterson takes a shot at defining it:

Peterson explained that transformational diplomacy seeks to encourage and support governments to adopt more democratic institutions, with a view toward creating a more stable world that will benefit everyone.

This still isn’t telling me anything! Gotta go deeper. Try the State Department. Surely R. Nicholas Burns, US Department of State Under Secretary of Political Affairs will have his finger on the pulse of this elusive concept. In a June 2005 interview with Germany’s Stern Magazine, Burns reveals a bit more about transformational diplomacy:

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Transformational diplomacy as we see it, is a different way of looking at how a nation acts in the world. We can't be passive because we face an era of globalization where there are all sorts of global challenges -- global climate change, narcotics trafficking, international criminal gangs, certainly trafficking in women and children, proliferation of biological and chemical technology and terrorism.
What defines transformational diplomacy is that you can't -- no one country can fight these challenges alone. And so we need international cooperation. We need multilateral cooperation

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. Transformational diplomacy is about international cooperation on a diplomatic level to fight the various forms of evil that plaque this poor world. Sounds like a new direction for US diplomacy – actually talking to and listening to the rest of the world. Now that’s what diplomacy is all about.

Ooops. I may have spoken too soon. A little further along in the interview, Burns accidentally lets the cat out of the bag. He uses NATO and the United Nations as examples of how this diplomacy is being put into action.

We certainly want to strengthen NATO. And we Americans are trying to use NATO more often. Sometimes Europeans resist us using NATO. Europeans want to act sometimes unilaterally.

Resistance is futile? Oh dear, not sounding good. Maybe the United Nations is a better example of how the US is going to diplomatically cooperate with the world.

And now we have a lot of American ideas on how to reform the UN to make it better, to strengthen it.

American ideas??? American? What about the rest of the world?

All right, time to give up. So what exactly is transformational diplomacy? It’s nothing more than impressive sounding term that has no meaning at all. Nothing changes. US diplomatic tactics remain the same – it’s not about the US cooperating with the world, it’s about getting the world to cooperate with the US. Transformational diplomacy?..more like transformational coercion.

Same fleas, different dog.

US Army Raises Recruiting Age - Again.

At age 40 I was still jumping out of perfectly serviceable airplanes. I hated it. I was still putting on diving gear and doing approaches to beaches in the dark. I was still leading patrols and advancing to contact the enemy. I had to work out and run daily. I had to watch my diet. And it took me longer to recover and deal with the inevitable pain than the 25 year-olds in my unit.

The US Army has announced that they are increasing the "No prior service" recruiting age to 39 which means, as long as you haven't reached your 40th birthday on the day you apply, you will be processed.

There's nothing terribly wrong with recruiting 40 year olds and there are a multitude of occupations in the army which do not involve the physical demands of combat arms, but it does send a message: The US Army can't attract the people it needs.

Army officials said the move did not reflect desperation to reverse recruiting shortfalls, noting the Army had achieved seven straight monthly recruiting goals despite coming up 7,000 short of last year's target of 80,000 recruits. The Army has blamed recruiting shortfalls in part on reluctance by some potential recruits to serve in the Iraq war. (emphasis mine)

Gee. Ya think? And, I suppose the increase in age is just to provide middle-aged people with an opportunity they missed 20 years earlier.

Raising the maximum age for active Army non-prior service enlistment expands the recruiting pool, provides motivated individuals an opportunity to serve, and strengthens the readiness of Army units.

Oh! OK. It is an opportunity thing.

The Army, offering new financial incentives to recruits, also doubled the maximum combination of cash enlistment bonuses, up to $40,000 for the regular Army and up to $20,000 for the Army Reserve.

Hmmm. But if they're motivated why do you have to give them 40 big ones?

"In the ongoing discussion and debate about Iraq, some have said the Army is severely stretched. A few have even described it as broken. I believe these comments are incorrect," Army Secretary Francis Harvey told a Pentagon briefing.

Believe it all you want, Mr. Harvey, the proof is in your recruiting numbers and the frequency of rotation.

"Recruiting, I don't think is a measure of the strain on the Army," said Harvey, who touted strong reenlistment among current soldiers and positive indicators on recruiting in future months.

And the army instituted "stop loss" procedures on how many people?

The US Army was granted authorization by Congress to move their recruiting age to 42, but has opted to hold at age 40.... for now.

Harper's Little Pout - Bovine Scatology

Stephen Harper's recent lament over the political leanings of the federal civil service and the Supreme Court of Canada is a disingenuous attempt to allay the very real fears held by Canadians of a prospective Conservative government running amok and an electorate powerless to stop them. One has to ask why he would even say it unless he was fully aware of the fact that he is widely viewed as a dangerous man with dangerous ideas.

Harper's suggestion is that he would be held in check by federal institutions which are peppered with liberals. Aside from the blatant insult leveled at federal public servants, he doesn't even hint at the idea that he would engage in a pogrom on the civil service which would guarantee its compliance with Conservative policy. But, that is exactly what would happen. Harper has made no secret of his belief that the civil service is too large and, should the Conservatives form government, we can expect a wholesale dismissal of massive numbers of federal employees within months of taking office.

Harper has also managed to avoid acknowledging that a significant segment of the Conservative Party is populated with extremists. This time out, they were clearly muzzled by party edict. That silence will come with a high price and the extremists will expect their agendas to proceed with some haste.

Harper gathers support, either through candidates or directly, from groups which will expect their social issues to receive priority on any Conservative government order paper. Vote Marriage Canada, The Promise Keepers, Focus On The Family Canada, R.E.A.L. Women of Canada, Canada Family Action Coalition and Campaign Life Coalition are some of the groups which support the Harper campaign by either promoting their candidate or openly supporting the Conservative Party of Canada platform. All of these groups are homophobic, most are anti-abortion and most pursue an extreme right-wing christian agenda. While some claim to be non-partisan, that suggestion is quickly dispatched with one look at their election literature. Many of these groups are Canadian branches of larger US bodies led by proselytizing christian extremists.

Of course, Harper is a homophobe himself. He has suggested that if the issue of same-sex marriage is presented in a private member's bill, that he will allow a free vote. While stating that he would not use the 'Notwthstanding Clause" of the Charter, he would have little choice since any such bill immediately marginalizes a minority group.

Other parts of a Harper agenda might seem harmless but, in fact, will radically alter the country. Harper's own plan is to change what is now a confederation into a union of provinces. This is the very concept which he and his fellows from The Calgary School suggested in the Alberta Agenda letter, commonly known as the Firewall Letter. Such an arrangement is all well and good if the province is resource rich Alberta, but it leaves areas such as the Maritimes in the economic wilderness. Harper's platform is an Alberta-centric instrument which will cost the rest of the country dearly.

As much as Harper preaches "less government" he only means it in terms of taxation and delivery of programs. When it comes to social governance, a Conservative government would be in your face, in your bedroom and likely listening to your phone calls. Given Harper's attraction to the policies and practices of US President George W. Bush, there is every reason to believe he will mimick Bush's behaviour as closely as possible.

So, while Harper sends out reassuring messages of "checks and balances" which have no basis in reality, we should be looking for the hatchet behind his back.