Monday, July 31, 2006

From the man who called George Bush a near genius...


Ass Rocket has managed to enunciate the simplicity of anti-terrorist policy in terms so easy to understand that even a simple-minded, Harvard-trained, Minnesota litigator could comprehend it.

Anti-terror policy no doubt involves complexities at various points, but the fundamental principle, I think, is quite simple. There are two kinds of terrorists: live terrorists and dead ones. The basic object of anti-terror policy should be to turn the former into the latter. As long as that process is proceeding satisfactorily, it should continue. The time for a cease-fire, it seems to me, is when Hezbollah has more or less run out of live terrorists. I don't think that moment has yet arrived.
It is so simple and pure. Just kill them all. And, if you happen to be an innocent non-combatant caught in the crossfire, well, you were probably going to become one of those live terrorists anyway.

Of course, Butt-Missile was only adding to a post put up by his co-blogger Mirengoff who was wringing his hands over the Lebanese conditions for a cease-fire in the Levant. Never mind that Mirengoff, a Stanford-trained, Washington DC lawyer, steeps his arguments in pure bullshit.

They began the hostilities for the stated purpose of obtaining the release of its prisoners. The deal would not only enable them to accomplish this, but Israel would lose territory (Chebaa Farms) in the process.
Hezbollah did indeed start it. So far it looks like they're going to win it too, especially if the Israelis continue to bomb and kill non-combatants at a rate higher than the designated enemy.

The Chebaa Farms are not part of Israel. Israel captured that ground during the 1967 six-day war from Syria. In 1981 Israel annexed the Chebaa Farms area and, even though there is a UN resolution requiring Israel to withdraw from occupied territories, they have steadfastly refused to move. The Lebanese claim to the Chebaa Farms is based soley on the fact that it was worked by Lebanese farmers before the six-day war. The land appears on the Syrian side of the border on every map in existence. So, the Chebaa Farms actually belong to either Syria or Lebanon but one thing is certain: they don't belong to Israel.

The deal apparently contemplates that Hezbollah would disarm. But who would see to it that Hezbollah disarms and stay disarmed? The answer is the U.N. peacekeeping force and the Lebanese army. But the U.N. force has already proved unable and unwilling to do this
And, unmandated.

This is Mirengoff utilizing the heretofore undisclosed Ivy League law school practice of forming an opinion without research. Neither UNIFIL nor UNTSO are mandated to disarm anybody. It is the job of the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah. A simple look at the UN mandates for those missions and Mirengoff might not have even made such a ridiculous suggestion.

Sorry, yes, he would have.

Interestingly, the UNIFIL mission was to have expired 31 July, 2006. It was expected that Lebanon would request the mission be extended but there were rumblings that in order to have an extension granted the UN would demand that the Lebanese army take over security in southern Lebanon. Coincidence? Sometimes the timing of events can tell a story all on its own.

During the current war, the Lebanese government pledged that its army will join forces with Hezbollah if Israel mounts a serious invasion.
Why is that so difficult to understand or accept? Or, is an armoured advance across your border something you would ignore?

Proponents of the deal might respond that, since Israel is not prepared to occupy Lebanon, it will have to rely on the Lebanese army eventually in any case. This may be true. But it doesn't need to give Hezbollah the face-saving prisoner swap that the terrorists started the hostilities to obtain, or to make more territorial concessions. And the best way to maximize the ability of the Lebanese army eventually to deal with Hezbollah is for Israel to crush Hezbollah in the south. Then there can be a cease fire.
There can be a cease-fire when there is nobody left to kill? Well, that's effective, if it can ever be pulled-off. Actually, Paul, I think the idea of a cease-fire is to prevent anymore killing at all. I know that's a tough one to swallow. After all, if there's anything a draft-deferred, Ivy League educated war-blogger hates, it's to suddenly have the killing stop.

I have a better idea. Why doesn't the US lend Israel an aircraft carrier, fly Ehud Olmert onto it in a flight-suit and codpiece, have a huge blue and white MISSION ACCOMPLISHED sign hung strategically in front of CNN's cameras and Israel can do what the US did in Iraq by pretending it won.

One thing is certain: bombing Qana and killing so many civilians in a single raid doesn't give Israel the moral high-ground and it will only serve to inflame both the Lebanese population and Hezbollah.

Oh well, we can always entertain ourselves with the sharp legal minds of the Powertool gang. I can hardly wait for their version of Why We Fight.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hi honey, I'm home!

Anything happen while I was away?

Anything other than the good old human habit of death and destruction I mean.

Those are a given.

It's what we do. We're just so darn good at it.

Human beings are the conscious animal and of course consciousness is either the jewel in evolution's crown or god's ultimate gift, according to which blarney you buy.

But maybe consciousness is a curse and a festering sore.

There's more evidence for the latter just now.

At bottom I don't care if they want to kill each other off. I wish them luck and hope they all succeed. I won't miss any of them.

I just wish the rest of wouldn't sell them the weapons.

Mrs. Mills clears up the age gap


As usual Mrs. Mills, fearless, indefatigable and wise beyond her shoe size provides some of the best advice for people struggling with the most difficult of problems.

I am a divorcée of 43. I have three admirers interested in me. Unfortunately, the two I am keen on are much younger, 23 and 27; the other is about 45. I can’t believe the attention I am getting from the younger guys. I don’t encourage anything. Is it really so wrong to go for a brief affair? The younger one is constantly at my desk flirting, and his physique is so amazing.
This is a tough one. Is there a future for this terribly confused woman?

Sex with someone 20 years younger will be an empty, meaningless experience, but as empty, meaningless experiences go, it’s one of the best. Woody Allen said that, and let’s face it, he should know.
Catch the rest of Mrs. Mills great advice at The Times Online.

And the world edges closer to World War III

Here I felt that the current war in the Levant was started with prior Bush administration knowledge and that it is a war of clients and surrogates. Further evidence of that emerges as the Pentagon's intelligence analyses are being written to provide additional justification for the continued pursuit of military action.

Cathie From Canada quotes former CIA agents Ray Close and Larry Johnson describing how the Bush administration intelligence estimates are once again designed to take the world to war with no room for dialogue.

Pondering Lebanon - part 2

At what point does the ‘terrorist’ designation no longer apply to an organisation, and the organisation become legitimate? I am aware that ‘one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’, but there is no question something like 11 September 2001 was a terrorist attack. But Osama bin Laden and AQ do not hold territory or inhabit a state. This presents a problem for Israel.

Hizbollah’s origins date back to the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon from 1982 to 2000. It was formed as a resistance movement to occupation in the midst of the Lebanese civil war. It has committed terrorist acts in the past including assassinations, and bombings though I am not sure one could consider attacks on military forces as terrorist. It has supported Hamas and other groups who have unquestionably committed terrorist acts against civilian populations such as suicide bus bombings, etc. However, much of its violence has been directed at military forces. Indeed, it managed to harass the Israeli army enough to force it to withdraw. In its early years it did the same thing to the United States and France through the 1982 bombings of the Marine barracks in Beirut.

Since that time, the organisation has grown and changed. It maintains a military wing, but has political and social services departments as well, with representation in the Lebanese parliament. It now looks and behaves a lot more like a province or state than band of a few religious or ideologically motivated madman blowing up busses and airliners. Except Hizbollah is not a state. It is only really officially recognised within Lebanon and by its state power. Much of the rest of the world considers it a terrorist organisation but this clouds its actual, present function to the largely Shia residents of southern Lebanon.

With reference to broader peace efforts, failure to recognise Hizbollah for what it is, compared to what it once was, limits options and understanding of the actual situation in Lebanon and how that country now functions post-Israel and post-Syria. The problem with officially recognising Hizbollah as something more than terrorist is legitimacy.

A Hizbollah recognised in some fashion by Israel and to a lesser extent the world community is a powerful Hizbollah. It moves out of the domestic Lebanese political, social and military spheres and into the international sphere. It would get listened to and have a voice at whatever future rounds of talks occur in the region. It could even be in a position to negotiate concessions from Israel. The realist and understandably paranoid Israel would not likely sanction this.

Israel likely saw this rising Hizbollah star for what it was, and is now attempting to knock it out of the sky. The narrative of 'terrorist' helps them do this. The sheer brutality of their assault against all of Lebanon may indicate the proportion of fear their government felt about Hizbollah. Unfortunately, Hizbollah may have already checkmated them as far as its legitimacy is concerned. Nothing increases popularity of a political party that taking a definitive stand on a crucial issue and you cannot get more crucial and definitive than protecting the nation in war. In the face of a resolute and professional Hizbollah defence of Lebanese border towns such as Bint Jbeil, the Israeli army, a manoeuvre force with a history of routing opposition in days and hours, has spend more than a fortnight fighting in the same villages. Its air force has not managed to stem the flow missiles into Israel either. Billmon's “Hirohito Watch” tracks the drastically changing and sometimes contradictory statements issued by various official Israeli sources.

If Hizbollah holds out, it may well stand a chance of dominating Lebanese politics as it rides on the crest of its increased popularity. Nothing unites a country like war. This is not Iraq and it is not descending into civil war. If Hizbollah manages to govern Lebanon, then they can either pursue war against Israel, or they can have a chair at any peace settlement and make credible demands against Israel. Either way, its power and influence increase – and if Iran is indeed Hizbollah’s puppeteer, even more so.

Perhaps this is why Israel now appears to be interested in an international force on its northern border. If Israel is beginning to realise that Hizbollah’s star is rising, whether it likes it or not, it may seem like a better option to let the international community manage them. It makes sense from the Israeli point of view. The Israeli army is pouring claret fighting an enemy who has moved beyond traditional guerrilla and into the realm of fighting as a professional army. I think the IDF staff are realising that this is not 1982 and occupying Lebanon could be Pyrrhic. The IAF cannot, apparently, stop the missiles, and may not accurately know how many are left. If Hizbollah’s logistic tail extends to Iran and Syria, Israel would have to war with them to sever it. It cannot hope to ultimately ‘win’ that engagement without glazing the desert. Shifting responsibility for Hizbollah to the international community takes the burden off Israel and if Hizbollah continues to fire rockets, then it is the responsibility of the international community to stop it. If, before this happens, Israel can reduce Lebanon to third world status, then the country becomes another Afghan or Balkan realm for NGOs and multi-national coalitions making it harder for Hizbollah to operate.

Of course, convincing the international community to deploy troops to the region is another issue for myriad reasons – not least of which are local and regional reception, sustainability, and finding volunteers. All Hizbollah has to do is make things to prickly for any international body to deploy. They will have to be negotiated with before anyone sets foot in Lebanon, which in turn legitimises them.

In any scenario more innocent people will die, and more Lebanese and Israeli lives will be destroyed.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Israel's neighbours want to destroy them...

So let's put together a peacekeeping force made up of Israel's neighbours!

Via POGGE, the mind boggles at the thought. But, that is precisely what Steve Harper is now suggesting. (All emphasis mine.)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been blunt about his lack of enthusiasm for committing Canadian troops to a still undefined international force to secure the Lebanese-Israeli border.

He argues it's a task better performed by soldiers from neighboring countries, and that Canada's contribution will come in the form of financial and humanitarian assistance to areas devastated by the more than two weeks of bombing.
Please, please, please, provide something by way of explanation for that line of thinking.

Harper's pre-emptive stance has not, however, deterred opposition Liberal and NDP MPs from arguing in favour of committing Canadian military personnel and equipment. Nor has it eliminated the prospect of Canada being pressed by other countries to pitch in.
OK, let's dismiss the NDP and Liberal arguments on political grounds. Let's not however, dismiss the view of the international community in wanting Canada involved... should such a force ever be generated and if a cease-fire ever occurs.

Canada, despite the position of Harper in taking one side in the current conflict, stands a better chance of placing troops on a blue line and being honest brokers than many other countries. We still have an opportunity to come out of this without becoming mired in failed US diplomacy if we quickly commit to a presence on the ground.

Yes, it would mean Stevie would have to temper his US scripted support for Israel and he might actually have to do something measured. And, there is now an up side to Harper's unqualified support for Israel. The Israelis would probably consider Canada's presence something of a good thing.

Lebanon might not be too pleased, but given his suggestion that Lebanon's neighbours do the job, they probably view Harper as a bit of a diplomatic amateur and pretty low on any scale of statesmanship you might choose to use.

Whether such a mission is ever mounted remains to be seen, but it's a certainty that it would never be comprised in the manner suggested by Harper.

Paul Wells on Stephen Harper


Reader CdnDiv sent along this link to last week's Macleans article by Paul Wells. (All emphasis mine.)

"Man with a plan" is the headline over Stephen Harper's cover interview in the August Reader's Digest. The subhead informs us that "The Prime Minister is fearless, committed -- and having the time of his life." The Prime Minister tells the magazine he gets a rough ride from reporters: "It's a historic fact" that tension between journalists and the government "is always heightened when it's a Conservative government."

You can see his point. Reader's Digest, for instance, pummels the guy. The headline could have described Harper as "Fearless, committed, studly, agile, a man who combines a genius IQ with the common touch." But it doesn't. Bunch of Communists. Not that he cares.
I read that RD article. Aside from the fact that it was written by one of his consistent cheerleaders, it was enough to gag a maggot. One clear recollection was Harper responding that he was deeply offended on those occasions when people likened him to George W. Bush.

The comparisons might stop if he would quit spouting the Bushco party line, letter for letter.

The good news for Stephen Harper as he enjoys his brief retreat is that his political opponents offer him no serious hazard in the short term. The bad news is that any danger Harper faces comes from Stephen Harper.
As in, say, suggesting that any peacekeeping force on the Israel/Lebanon border should be made up of those countries "neighbours".

Harper threatened to call a snap election over Afghanistan -- two days before announcing that his party favours fixed election dates. It had the smell of improvisation about it. When Peter MacKay announced in June that he had asked Germany's foreign ministry to arrest the Iranian prosecutor who ordered the Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi's death, I asked senior advisers to MacKay and Harper what charges would have been laid against the prosecutor, and in which court. Neither aide had an answer. Catching the guy could have been an overture to fiasco.
Which suggests that neither of those two are getting very good advice either.

At home, Harper pronounces himself beset by demons in fedoras with press cards jammed into the hatbands. In interviews with congenial journalists -- the editor of Reader's Digest used to sing Harper's praises in the Calgary Herald -- Harper explains that the world is unfair to him, demonstrating a shaky grasp of Canadian history along the way. "It's a historical fact that tension is always heightened when it's a Conservative government"? Uh, no. Adversarial journalism in Canada began with the Pipeline Debate in 1956, under a Liberal prime minister. Tension heightened considerably under the Liberal governments of Trudeau and Turner. As for Brian Mulroney, the scribes in the gallery were kitty-cats compared to members of Mulroney's own party, who rebelled and ran candidates against him. Odd that Harper would forget.
Not so odd. Harper has a remarkable tendency to forget things which aren't immediately convenient. Remember that letter to the Wall Street Journal? And, Harper seems to forget the immediate past too. The media gave him a free ride in the last federal election. Otherwise he would have had his feet held to the fire on his history.

Harper doesn't like leaks to reporters. He tells Reader's Digest that "before 1993 -- not just the Conservatives, every government before 1993 -- nobody knew what was said in cabinet or caucus." This is fantasy. Mulroney's aide Pat MacAdam told Peter C. Newman: "Leaks were coming right out of the caucus -- the goddamn place is like a sieve." Trudeau's cabinet leaked so badly the Ottawa Citizen ran a cartoon showing a reporter with a fake moustache sitting at the cabinet table. Preston Manning's autobiography is, in large part, a chronicle of Harper's leaks to reporters to undermine Manning. Odd that he'd forget.
Again, not so odd. Harper is a cold, calculating, little prick. He is, however, a believer in fantasy. Combine his ambition for personal glory with fantasy and you have anything but a student of government. And a politician with a very short memory. The thing is, it will eventually happen to him.

Conservatism opens itself to ridicule when it becomes false nostalgia in pursuit of a world that never existed.
It's just too tough for them to understand that June Cleaver, the conservative heroin of "family values", was actually a three-times married Barbara Billingsly, and that the Flintstones was not a documentary.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Passion Of The Jesus Freak

Oh dear! It seems Mel Gibson got a little too cozy with a bottle of tequila while driving his Lexus. And, as for many other jurisdictions, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department was none too happy about it.

So, Mel was arrested. (Type in "Gibson" "Mel").

But before Mel was arrested, he tried to escape.

He was captured.

He then went into an anti-semitic tirade, which the arresting officer recorded.

Gibson's greatest concern seemed to be the fact that all of this would become public.

Nah!!! But, I can hardly wait for the movie. Where are we on the Lethal Weapon sequels?

Consequences

Via Billmon and CSM:
The stakes are high for Hizbullah, but it seems it can count on an unprecedented swell of public support that cuts across sectarian lines.According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.


There's a myth aggressors in a war often subscribe to that assumes destroying towns and cities will terrorise the local population into divorcing themselves from those elements of their polity that are their aggressor party. It almost never works. In the Second World War, the Nazis began bombing British cities and towns, and all that did was increase British resolve in standing up to the Nazi menace. Even when the Allies turned German cities into rubble, the Germans still fought for every inch of ground until the Red Army sat in the Reichstag. The US bombed Hanoi, and every hamlet, village and trail in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos they could find, but Ho Chi Minh's Vietnamese kept fighting. Right now Lebanon is under attack by a foreign power. Its cities, roads, bridges and people have been destroyed, killed and maimed. Hizbollah is the only group in Lebanon actively resisting, and resisting well. A fortnight into the conflict and the most powerful army in the region can't even definitively hold a few small border towns but have managed to kill large numbers of Lebanese civilians of all walks of life. It is no bloody wonder Hizbollah's support is increasing. This cannot work in Israel's long-term interest.
A view of what this could mean can be found here.

CPoC takes the newly built low road


Shorter Mike Donison: Give us $150 bucks and we'll keep telling everyone that Steve Harper is a tough-guy... just like his buddy George Bush.

Via Jeff, CPoC Executive Director Michael D. Donison has just proven that the Conservative moral compass needs to be degaussed. Mike, a former Vancouver Island lawyer, has just stuffed his hand into a bucket of excrement and realized he's made of the same stuff.

Far from taking any kind of moral position on the death and destruction being fomented in the Middle East, he's decided to capitalize on it - for pure unadulterated political gain.

Subject: Finally - A Leader who's willing to stand up and take a tough stand
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 18:20:16 -0700
From: Conservative Fund Canada
Reply-To: donate@conservative.ca
En Francais In English

During the last federal election, Stephen Harper promised to give Canada a principled foreign policy that advances and defends the Canadian values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. As Prime Minister, he is delivering.

Dear,

Our Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper was amongst the first of the world's leaders to take a principled stand on the new turmoil in the Mid-East. Since then, leaders the world over have risen to stand with Stephen Harper. Our nation has every reason to be proud.

Admit it: Moral clarity feels a lot better than the endless equivocation we found with our previous government.

But not everyone is grateful for the strong, clear direction of Canada's new government and this includes in particular the opposition parties who are only interested in maneuvering for party advantage.

And so, I must turn to you to ask you for your support. The fact is: the opposition is not thrilled with the growing strength of the Harper government and the resurgence of national pride Canadians are showing in their country. You need only look at their ceaseless machinations to see that they are doing everything in their power to bring this government down..

We must be ready for an election now because the opposition is blindly determined to drag the country to the polls, on any pretext they can contrive.

As a matter of public record, everyone knows the Conservative Party of Canada managed the last election without adding a dime to the Party's debt. You made that possible, it's just that simple. And if we intend to win the next election and win a majority - we need to continue moving heaven and Earth to be ready.

When an election comes, we will have just days to mount a campaign and ensure the continuance of the most dynamic and forward-looking Canadian government in recent memory. The time to lay the foundation is right now and we continue to need your help if this effort is to succeed.

It is a wonderful thing to be reminded of the power of ideals, principles in which we believe and on which we will act. We have had far too many years of vacillation on ideals and fundamental values about which the majority of Canadians are clear and certain.

Unsurprisingly, Don Martin got it just right in his July 20th National Post column, speaking of Prime Minister Harper, he wrote: " He's proven himself bold, imaginative and unpredictable. This is something refreshing on the Canadian political landscape - a leader willing to take risks to do what's right in the face of certain criticism. It stands him in stark and favourable contrast to the hesitant poll-driven Martin reign."

What did surprise me, though, were the private comments of a Liberal acquaintance, among them the following: " I have never been so proud to be Canadian. I'm thrilled that we're investing in our military. I'm thrilled that we're staying to finish a job in Afghanistan, and I'm ecstatic that we are finally taking a position on issues of global importance like what is happening in the Middle East. Please let Stephen Harper know that I've never been more proud of being a Canadian."

Ultimately, not everything is about party politics. Canadians know what's right and wrong and it is a great satisfaction even if one may not politically admit it - to have a government that has the courage to tell the plain truth.

This government is worth the fight; help us make sure we win the next election whenever it comes. We can expect an avalanche of Liberal fury to get back into power and a flood of media support for their effort. Help us keep the focus on principle and character and Canada's return to its place in the world.

I ask you to make a special contribution now of $150 or $75 to the Party today and help us be prepared to defend the decisive leadership of Stephen Harper and our New Conservative government.

With my sincere thanks,

Michael D. Donison
Executive Director, Conservative Party of Canada

P.S. - Your contribution is tax deductible. To find out the specific tax advantage of your contribution, we've provided a simple tax calculator. For more specific information on the rules governing personal contributions to political parties, click here.

If you prefer that I not contact you again by email, please click here.

Authorized by Conservative Fund Canada, Chief Agent of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick!

It just goes to prove that my assessment of him when I was his patrol leader in Boy Scouts was pretty accurate.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Casus belli - Did Israel pull a fast one?


As a means of solving disputes, war is a rather useless tool. That does not however, mean to suggest that armed self-defence, including the total destruction of an aggressor, is not justified in any number of instances.

Israel, in this current conflict in the Levant, has clearly stated that the reason for their brutal attack on Lebanon was brought about by Hezbollah, lodged in Lebanon, crossing the border and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers during a battle which took place on the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon.

Alison picked-up on something earlier in the week from several news reports which indicated that the two IDF soldiers were captured, not on Israeli ground, but inside Lebanon. That would put Israel's stated reason for going to war against Lebanon in some doubt.

While casting about for more information, something kept running through my mind: Israel's northern border with Lebanon is anything but porous.

Joshua Franks put together a good deal of the information I found. Rather than simply repeat it here, I would recommend taking in Joshua's post.

What I found interesting is that there are several different interpretations of the Hezbollah statement on the day they captured/kidnapped the two IDF soldiers. What is not in question is that Hezbollah immediately held them out as hostages to be used in bargaining for the release of Israeli-held Hezbollah and Palestinian prisoners.

The suggestion that Israeli troops were "kidnapped" on the Israeli side of the border doesn't emerge until well after the incident and well after initial reports stated that troops were captured inside Lebanon.

Hezbollah, making its announcement on al-Manar television, stated:

At 09.05 this morning, the Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers near the border with occupied Palestine, and the captives have been moved to a safe area.
Emphasis mine.

That particular statement might be taken as unclear. However, "near the border" suggests that it wasn't in "occupied Palestine".

It was the Lebanese police who stated that the Israelis had been captured in the area of Aïta Al-Chaab. How they came to know this is another question entirely. Is that what they were told or did they actually witness the event?

There is little dispute over the fact that Hezbollah started an engagement at the border on the morning of 12 July 2006. The group is well-known for that type of activity. It is also more than within the bounds of self-defence to pursue such attackers back into Lebanon in an attempt to capture or destroy them. Even under UN observation, such a border-crossing by Israeli forces would be reported but it would not likely be placed under the heading of a violation.

It is more than reasonable to assume that after a Hezbollah attack on the border, Israeli troops pursued the attackers and that in that action the two soldiers were captured.

There is another reason to suggest that the two Israelis were snatched on the Lebanese side of the border: the near impossibility of getting into Israel from anywhere along their northern border. If the Israeli version is to be believed, Hezbollah guerillas used a ladder to climb over the electrified fence separating Israel and Lebanon, planted landmines on the border road, waited for a patrol and then opened fire with anti-tank weapons. There was a simultaneous attack of Katyusha rockets on Israeli villages and army posts.

That story would only be plausible if one believed that Israel had suddenly let its guard down. Maybe they did, but it is so out of character with Israeli security as to be nearly impossible. It also suggests that Hezbollah could determine the timing of wheeled patrols without fear of another one following. Yet, if anything is random, it is the way Israel patrols its entire border. And, procedures change often and without pattern.

The leadership of the IDF has long called for an end to the tolerance shown to Hezbollah. The problem has always been how to get around international oversight. Thanks to the Bush administration's misuse of intelligence in briefing the UN Security Council on the need to invade Iraq, there is little likelihood that presenting an intelligence case would hold much sway. Further, without an incident, there was little in the way of overt activity which could be held up as evidence of a need to go into Lebanon and take on Hezbollah.

And, then we've got Syria and Iran, both declared by Bush to be charter members of the Axis of Evil and direct Hezbollah supporters and benefactors. To the US and Israel, Hezbollah is a part of that "axis" in the form of a client militia. The US is unable to pursue its goal of turning the Middle East into some form of democratic, Israel-loving arab Balkans as long as outfits like Hezbollah and Hamas continue to survive and indeed, thrive. Hezbollah in particular would have to be crushed, both to free the way for the "rebirth" of the Middle-East and to prove to Syria and Iran that their current regimes are on shakey foundations.

The US is so wrapped-up in Iraq it cannot afford to add yet another dusty venue to its list of troop rotations. The Israelis however, are next door, and they are none too happy with Lebanon.

The silence from the Bush administration didn't mean much at first. They are such an incompetent lot that it appeared they were doing everything with their usual delay of a few days and a few more hundred deaths. Then, when they finally spoke, it was not for a cease-fire or to demand Israel tone-down the overblown response but, essentially, to prod them further.

It made no sense until the realization struck that the US knew before July 12th that Israel was going to take on Hezbollah.

And, it's that, coupled with the fact that the incident which supposedly caused Israel's disproportionate reaction remains completely unclear, which suggests that this is a war of client against client.

Until there is more clarity however, the July 12th border incident which provides Israel its casus belli looks far too much like the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pondering Lebanon - Part 1

This post is an introduction to help explain the "why" of the current war in Lebanon from a largely Israeli perspective. It's pretty basic realist theory, but it is helpful to have it laid out when looking at recent events. Readers, of course, should not infer that I support this war by any stretch.

Israel’s dilemma


Israel, as a state, was created at the expense of others. Since that time, for almost 60 years, Israel has been in a relatively constant state of defensive war varying between very low and very high intensity with various attempts at internationally brokered peace initiatives taking place in the meantime. None have been successful due, in my opinion, to bloody-minded non-negotiables on all sides of the peace equation. These non-negotiable include a refusal by Israel to decolonise and give back territory it took in the 1967 war; a refusal by various terrorist factions to give up arms and negotiate; a refusal by some in Israel to negotiate any possibility of concession on Israel’s part. All parties are guilty of spoiling ceasefires and committing atrocities.

Israel, especially under its current government, is a realist state. It is, by construction and location, an insular society concerned with its own survival as a state and little else in the international context. Though Bush may preach such liberal ideas as spreading freedom and democracy in the middle-east, Israel will only tolerate these as long as they does not threaten its security.

Hamas and Hizbollah refuse to give up their ultimate quest for the destruction of Israel, so Israel can never trust them. Syria does not recognise the Israeli state, so constant potential for war there too. They cannot trust Israel for much the same reasons. All parties are armed and think themselves righteous. All parties play dirty.

From a realist perspective, there are problems with war and peace as they both create situations that threaten the military and economic security of the state. They are explained below.

The problem with war
War is a costly drain on Israel and her neighbours. A heavily militarised society surrounded by enemies is not a society that can sustain itself indefinitely. Likewise, constant attrition campaigns by Israel against Palestinian and other groups are not something they will tolerate indefinitely, as they too are heavily militarised societies. So here, peace agreements would appear to be in everyone’s interest, but…

The problem with peace
…six years of unoccupied Lebanon appears to have allowed Hizbollah to dig in and rearm. Its arsenal of rockets has increased vastly, and it now employs anti-ship missiles. It has never relinquished its goal of destroying Israel. It likely viewed the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon 6 years ago as a battle in a war it never stopped fighting. It created a strategic pause where it could re-org and re-arm. Iraq has likely provided a training ground for its fighters. It is not interested in peace with Israel and represents a real existential threat to Israel.

Aside from allowing Israel’s enemies to rearm, peace also creates an environment where Israel’s neighbours can grow and prosper economically. To some, this also creates an existential threat to Israel the same way some believe Chinese and Indian economic growth represents an existential threat to the United States and the West.

Underpinning this war and peace equation, is the concept that in order to safeguard its security, Israel must maintain full spectrum (military, social, economic) dominance over its neighbours. The neocons in the Bush administration have adopted this same logic.

Lebanon
The current Israeli campaign against Lebanon is founded on the correct assumption that Hizbollah has only grown more powerful in a stable and peaceful state - especially since the Syrians withdrew. Lebanon has being doing well for itself of late (compared to its recent history), and Hizbollah is now an institution there. When it snatched the two Israeli soldiers, Israel attacked Lebanon (the de facto state enabler of Hizbollah), by destroying the environment that allowed Hizbollah to grow stronger (I think Israeli intelligence probably had a good idea of how strong Hizbollah had grown) and then sent its army in to destroy as much of Hizbollah as it could on the ground. It is pre-emptive war.

To further emphasise the "why", I’ll quote a friend of mine who lives there: “…at the end of the day, we have to think of ourselves.” What this means, is that Israeli governments will do what ever they think they need to protect the territorial integrity of the state. Tragically, the current crop of hardliners under Olmert, feels the way to this is through obscene military power projection. Rulers such as these see everything as a zero-sum game where a gain of any kind for the Palestinians, Lebanese, etc is a loss for Israel because it makes their enemies stronger. This is why they apparently do not give a damn about world opinion, or anything else that impedes their protection of Israel, such as the lives of Lebanese civilians and viability of their state, or the lives of UN observers.

This is not a defence of Israeli crimes in Lebanon or a defence of anyone’s crimes against Israel, but rather an explanation of the cold realist logic applied to Israeli security. Peace is not the goal, state security is and too bad for international law, innocent life and neutral forces if they get in the way – the campaign against Lebanon clearly demonstrates this.

I hope to keep posting various interpretations like this as the war unfolds.

Harper sides with Israel again - against the UN


Shorter Stevie Harper: The reason Israel was able to bomb a known UN observation post is because the UN kept it manned. The fault lies with the UN; not Israel, whose actions are always measured.

Koffi Annan, Secretary General of the UN has come out stating that Israel deliberately attacked the UN observation post. Harper has a different view. (Parroting the US view)

"I certainly doubt that to be the case, given that the government of Israel has been co-operating with us in our evacuation efforts, in our efforts to move Canadian citizens out of Lebanon and also trying to keep our own troops that are on the ground involved in the evacuation our of harm's way," he said.

"We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals."
What an incredible piece of bullshit.

Guess what Steve. National Defence Headquarters knew there was a Canadian in that interim force and had the authority to withdraw him at any time. So, since you seem to know so much about such things, why didn't you order all Canadian members of UNIFIL out of Lebanon?

Of course, Steve isn't aware of something pertinent. While the Israeli government is screaming that they would never intentionally target a UN post, the Israeli Defence Force is a different story. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to have had to deal with the IDF in a UN peacekeeping capacity is well aware that the IDF hates blue helmets. It's the blue helmets that rat them out when they intentionally violate cease-fire and disengagement agreements.

Think for a minute what Harper would have said if Hezbollah had hit a UN observation post, accidentally or otherwise. Imagine Harper's response, even if, after the event, Hezbollah stated that they had no intention of hitting a UN post and apologized. Do you think you would hear Harper saying, "I doubt it was intentional."?

Yeah right.

Update: Given that Harper is devoid of original thought, his statement on the UN observer post being manned had to come from somewhere, and sure enough, it turns out it is an Israeli hawk/neo-con talking point. Liberal catnip caught it just a short time ago.

At the going down of the Sun, and in the morning...


With respect and condolences to the family and friends of Corporal Francisco Gomez, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) attached to 1 Bn PPCLI and Corporal Jason Patrick Warren, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada.

Perseverence.

Nemo me impune lacessit.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Naomi tears the WSJ a new one

Just in case you missed this, Naomi makes the only point that counts. The scientific consensus on global warming and the effect of humans on it is clear. Read on:

AN OP-ED article in the Wall Street Journal a month ago claimed that a published study affirming the existence of a scientific consensus on the reality of global warming had been refuted. This charge was repeated again last week, in a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

I am the author of that study, which appeared two years ago in the journal Science, and I'm here to tell you that the consensus stands. The argument put forward in the Wall Street Journal was based on an Internet posting; it has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal — the normal way to challenge an academic finding. (The Wall Street Journal didn't even get my name right!)

My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that human activities are the principal cause.

Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that "most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

Since the 1950s, scientists have understood that greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels could have serious effects on Earth's climate. When the 1980s proved to be the hottest decade on record, and as predictions of climate models started to come true, scientists increasingly saw global warming as cause for concern.

In 1988, the World Meteorological Assn. and the United Nations Environment Program joined forces to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action. The panel has issued three assessments (1990, 1995, 2001), representing the combined expertise of 2,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, and a fourth report is due out shortly. Its conclusions — global warming is occurring, humans have a major role in it — have been ratified by scientists around the world in published scientific papers, in statements issued by professional scientific societies and in reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society and many other national and royal academies of science worldwide. Even the Bush administration accepts the fundamental findings. As President Bush's science advisor, John Marburger III, said last year in a speech: "The climate is changing; the Earth is warming."

To be sure, there are a handful of scientists, including MIT professor Richard Lindzen, the author of the Wall Street Journal editorial, who disagree with the rest of the scientific community. To a historian of science like me, this is not surprising. In any scientific community, there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence. This is especially true when the new evidence strikes at their core beliefs and values.

Earth scientists long believed that humans were insignificant in comparison with the vastness of geological time and the power of geophysical forces. For this reason, many were reluctant to accept that humans had become a force of nature, and it took decades for the present understanding to be achieved. Those few who refuse to accept it are not ignorant, but they are stubborn. They are not unintelligent, but they are stuck on details that cloud the larger issue. Scientific communities include tortoises and hares, mavericks and mules.

A historical example will help to make the point. In the 1920s, the distinguished Cambridge geophysicist Harold Jeffreys rejected the idea of continental drift on the grounds of physical impossibility. In the 1950s, geologists and geophysicists began to accumulate overwhelming evidence of the reality of continental motion, even though the physics of it was poorly understood. By the late 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics was on the road to near-universal acceptance.

Yet Jeffreys, by then Sir Harold, stubbornly refused to accept the new evidence, repeating his old arguments about the impossibility of the thing. He was a great man, but he had become a scientific mule. For a while, journals continued to publish Jeffreys' arguments, but after a while he had nothing new to say. He died denying plate tectonics. The scientific debate was over.

So it is with climate change today. As American geologist Harry Hess said in the 1960s about plate tectonics, one can quibble about the details, but the overall picture is clear.

Yet some climate-change deniers insist that the observed changes might be natural, perhaps caused by variations in solar irradiance or other forces we don't yet understand. Perhaps there are other explanations for the receding glaciers. But "perhaps" is not evidence.

The greatest scientist of all time, Isaac Newton, warned against this tendency more than three centuries ago. Writing in "Principia Mathematica" in 1687, he noted that once scientists had successfully drawn conclusions by "general induction from phenomena," then those conclusions had to be held as "accurately or very nearly true notwithstanding any contrary hypothesis that may be imagined…. "

Climate-change deniers can imagine all the hypotheses they like, but it will not change the facts nor "the general induction from the phenomena."

None of this is to say that there are no uncertainties left — there are always uncertainties in any live science. Agreeing about the reality and causes of current global warming is not the same as agreeing about what will happen in the future. There is continuing debate in the scientific community over the likely rate of future change: not "whether" but "how much" and "how soon." And this is precisely why we need to act today: because the longer we wait, the worse the problem will become, and the harder it will be to solve.
The only comment I can possibly add is... what she said.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Pentagon's 2nd hand store is now open

Where does a terrorist go to get good military stuff? Well, apparently, the same place as Israel - the Pentagon.

Now, Israel has its own special service desk and a personal expediter for bombs and things, but if you can handle cash and carry, and you're willing to browse through the second-hand bins, there may be something of value.

Undercover U.S. government investigators purchased sensitive surplus military equipment such as launcher mounts for shoulder-fired missiles and guided-missile radar test sets from a Defence Department contractor.

Much of the equipment could be useful to terrorists, said a report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In June, two GAO investigators spent $1.1 million on such equipment at two excess property warehouses.
How long has the war on terra been going on now?

"DOD has not enforced security controls for preventing sensitive excess military equipment from release to the public," the report concluded.

"GAO was able to purchase these items because controls broke down at virtually every step in the excess property turn-in and disposal process."

[...]

U.S. Representative Christopher Shays, chairman of the House of Representatives government reform committee's national security panel, will hold a hearing on the matter Tuesday. Earlier GAO reports also found lax security controls over sensitive excess military equipment.

"During previous hearings we learned DOD was a bargain basement for would-be terrorists due to lax security screening of excess military equipment," Shays said in a statement Friday.

"Based on GAO's most recent undercover investigation it looks like the store is still open."
When this kind of thing goes on it makes you realize that domestic wiretapping and snooping through one's telephone records can't really be about fighting terrorism. Clearly, the people who should be leading the charge don't really care.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Canadian Forces shopping at the second hand store again


One would think that National Defence Headquarters would pause before making another purchase of "hardly used but, we mothballed it anyway" equipment. The lesson from the Upholder submarine purchase doesn't seem to have settled in all that well.

The Department of National Defence wants to buy 10 used unarmed aerial drones that Denmark found problematic and mothballed last year.
This all sounds a little too familiar.

But DND says it has carried out an inspection in Denmark and contracted an Ottawa firm to improve landing accuracy of the drones.

A spokesperson for the department described the opportunity to buy the Danish equipment as an exceptional one-time opportunity.
That is exactly what was said about the Upholders. In fact, it was that "one-time opportunity", the pre-purchase inspection and the contracting of Canadian companies for improvements that made the submarines so... attractive.

"We didn't set up the service organization we should have, the firm we bought them from failed to set up the service we needed, and it was hard to get spare parts . . . we didn't want to spend good money after bad," said Anders Paakesen, a Danish military spokesperson.
Ah, yes. It isn't the drones themselves; it's the lack of a service organization. Similar to, "Well, yes, we built them, but we're getting out of the conventional submarine business. Really they're perfectly good boats, but we weren't prepared to support them."

Paakesen said the Danes spent about $75 million on the UAVs, but he wouldn't comment on the expected selling price, nor on what Denmark calculated it would have cost to get the drones to run properly.
Nobody is talking money. That's bad.

Watch this one closely.

MacKay. Sucking and blowing at the same time.


Peter MacKay is either a liar or the stupidest foreign affairs minister Canada has ever had. Anyone who can make Lloyd Axeworthy look good deserves nothing less than a good swat across the back of the head and then immediate dismissal.

The Jurist was all over Peter MacKay's appearance on CTV Question Period pointing out that MacKay has taken an inconsistent position on Israel's assault on Lebanon.

Indeed. It is not only inconsistent but impossible to defend. In a single interview MacKay attempted to suck and blow on the same breath.

"A ceasefire and a return to the status quo is a victory for Hezbollah," said MacKay in response to questions about why Canada has not joined other countries in calling for a cessation to hostilities.
That is the Bush administration position to a word.

"Let's not forget that this was an unprovoked attack by a terrorist organization. Missiles were being fired into Israel. This is an attempt to defend a sovereign nation...This wasn't an impulsive move by Israel."
Bad spin. Israel's response was disproportionate to the incident. This, in fact, was Israel blowing an incident out of proportion and using it as an excuse to take apart Hizbolla and Lebanon. And you can say that's not the intention all you like. The reality is that Lebanon is being laid waste.

Given Israel's sudden request for a rush shipment of precision guided weapons from the US, it becomes clear that Israel has an extensive list of targets they intend to pursue. This is not a short "kick in the teeth". This is an extended assault and Israel clearly has designs on destroying Lebanon. Unless the satellite and laser-guided weapons are purely for looks.

MacKay told CTV that Canada has not abandoned its neutral voice.
"That's not correct. We've changed nothing in the way Canada approaches these circumstances on a responsive basis. The current crisis calls for a response that is rational, that is based on information that is available that may not have been available before."
Sorry. You can't have it both ways. Canada has taken a side and it has fallen in, lockstep, with the Bush administration. The fact that MacKay is even trying to present this position puts in serious doubt his competency to continue in an appointment of responsibility. Given that he went whining to the editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail because, after providing no substantive information, the G&M published a story from sources MacKay cannot identify, to sit on a national political television program and suggest Canada possesses a neutral voice is beyond the pale.

"The PM has staked out ground that is consistent with other G8 nations and other nations in the process that will follow."
Bullshit! Perhaps MacKay, instead of trying to impress the media with his indefensible positions, should talk to his counterpart in the British government. Then perhaps he would not have gone on-air and made a statement that is so patently false. If he didn't know about this, then he is unfit to sit in cabinet.

Britain dramatically broke ranks with George Bush last night over the Lebanon crisis, publicly criticising Israel's military tactics and urging America to 'understand' the price being paid by ordinary Lebanese civilians.

The remarks, made in Beirut by the Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, were the first public criticism by this country of Israel's military campaign, and placed it at odds with Washington's strong support.
Interesting. That means that the countries which now support Israel are: The United States of America, Canada,.... that's it.

Given Harper's continued blathering that we should be standing with our traditional allies, he should now be facing a critical decision - which traditional ally is right? Britain has always been our ally - the US has been on and off over the past two centuries including the occasional attempt to invade and conquer.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Wingnuterer goes FOX hunting


Just go read Zorpheous. Go to the bathroom first.

(Just for a little fun, I have hidden an "egg" in this post)

Afghanistan is running out of time.


It all depends on what we set out to do. The initial incursion into Afghanistan was to capture or eliminate the followers of Osama bin Laden and remove the Taliban government which was sheltering him. That required an overwhelming, thorough and sustained military effort. Anything short of that would leave a country devoid of political stability and lacking the necessary foundation from which to rebuild. In fact, it left this: (Emphasis mine)

The most senior British military commander in Afghanistan today described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy" with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

The stark warning came from Lieutenant General David Richards, head of Nato's international security force in Afghanistan, who warned that western forces there were short of equipment and were "running out of time" if they were going to meet the expectations of the Afghan people.
The assumption within Nato countries had been that the environment in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2002 would be benign, Gen Richards said. "That is clearly not the case," he said today. He referred to disputes between tribes crossing the border with Pakistan, and divisions between religious and secular factions cynically manipulated by "anarcho-warlords".


Corrupt local officials were fuelling the problem and Nato's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan were sending out conflicting signals, Gen Richards told a conference at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "The situation is close to anarchy," he said, referring in particular to what he called "the lack of unity between different agencies".

He described "poorly regulated private security companies" as unethical and "all too ready to discharge firearms". Nato forces in Afghanistan were short of equipment, notably aircraft, but also of medical evacuation systems and life-saving equipment.
And it should have been benign. Operations in Afghanistan, particularly early on, were highlighted by the fact that attacks were either not followed up or they were botched for purely political reasons in the first place. The result was a Taliban which was given an opportunity to rebuild. Warlords, instead of being crushed were courted as allies with little consideration given to the future cost of their employment.

The picture Gen Richards painted today contrasted markedly with optimistic comments by ministers when they agreed earlier this month to send reinforcements to southern Afghanistan at the request of British commanders there. Many of those will be engineers with the task of appealing to Afghan "hearts and minds" by repairing the infrastructure, including irrigation systems.

Gen Richards said today that was a priority. How to eradicate opium poppies - an issue repeatedly highlighted by ministers - was a problem that could only be tackled later.
Because, unlike the politicians, Richards sees the military imperative. The enemy in Afghanistan, the Taliban, has never really been defeated. Richards is well aware that cultural and political problems cannot be addressed until the military situation is fully resolved.

It's too bad Tommy Franks didn't understand that and was tip-toeing around the political micro-managers of the Bush administration. It's too bad he didn't use his war college education and demand that the principle of overwhelming force be adhered to fully. It's too bad Franks allowed Rumsfeld and his half-baked, non-uniformed corps of neo-con ideologues to rob the military leadership on the ground of their necessary tactical command. It's too bad Franks didn't do what was right and demand three times the number of troops to secure Afghanistan after it was clear Osama and a large part of his organization had been allowed to escape.

It's too bad that the politicians were so absorbed with the idea of an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq, thus turning Afghanistan into a side-show. It's still the festering boil it always was.

Too bad, because as Richards says, NATO cannot afford not to succeed in Afghanistan. But the politicians, particularly the Bush neo-cons, have made it possible.

(H/T Cat for the link)

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Centre of the Universe is moving


I don't often write about Canadian towns and cities unless they appear as a part of another subject, but this I just couldn't pass up.

What do the newly formed Canadian Special Operations Regiment, Battlestar Galactica and the city of San Diego's garbage trucks have in common?

Kamloops, British Columbia!

I know you were waiting for Vancouver or maybe even Mississauga but, no, Kamloops is rapidly becoming the centre of the universe. Home of the most useless and dumbest member of parliament in the House of Commons, Kamloops overcomes this minor liability by being progressive and, well, just plain attractive to many groups for many different things.

It would seem that Kamloops has a somewhat unique terrain and a summer temperature which Special Operations Command finds share some similarities with Afghanistan. I can attest to that, having jumped into Kamloops many years ago, before the new armoury was built and BPB (before pine beetles). It's a little more grassy, there are some really nasty trees and the thermals can play havoc with a parachute canopy that has been cut down too many times, which is the only explanation I can provide for missing the drop-zone and landing in the Canadian National Railway yard on the wrong side of the Thompson River. Of course, Afghanistan doesn't have one of these. And no offense intended to the Afghanis, but jumping into Kamloops means planting one's boots among some incredibly sexy, very fit and exceptionally friendly women who tend to dress for the weather. I speak from direct personal experience. I should add that Kamloops has cowboys - real cowboys. But, I digress... I think.

The Kamloops temperature, which during the summer can exceed 40 degrees C (104 F), is a little cooler than South Asia, but it's close enough, although the South Thompson region is semi-arid compared to the mostly arid regions of South Asia. Anyway, CSOR is in the process of completing 16 weeks of training and at the time of writing are busy doing marches across the terrain in 41 degree C (105.8 F) heat.

And, if Kamloops is able to emulate Afghanistan, or parts of it, it also apparently looks a lot like some alien planet... somewhere. Battlestar Galactica, usually shot in Vancouver, is planning a location shoot in Kamloops. (Link will change, so here's the story):

There’s no word on what television planet Kamloops resembles, but crews from the TV series Battlestar Galactica will be here four days this summer.
Dates or precise locations for filming were not announced.
Vicci Weller, executive director of film for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said about 80 crew members will stay in Kamloops while they build sets and film the episode over four days.
The economic impact is estimated at about $100,000 for the local economy.
Kamloops mayor Terry Lake, who is vice-chairman of the film commission, said landing the sci-fi series is a coup because tightly budgeted television productions seldom range far from Vancouver.
“Our desert look and the city’s infrastructure continues to be a significant enticement to the film industry,” he said.
Weller said a 20-member team of producers, writers, director, location manager and key crew members toured the area twice before deciding on a location. They looked at Afton Mine, Highland Valley Copper, Ashcroft and chose the Kamloops area
.
Wow! They passed up Ashcroft! I can understand that. Ashcroft has a very Tatooine look to it. That and it has Vancouver's future garbage dump, which is a great way to cover up all that cow poop on an old ranch.

OK, on to San Diego. San Diego is my favourite US city. It easily lays claim to the title, America's Finest City. Nestled just above the Baja peninsula in Southern California, the climate is great, the people are friendly and the zoo is incredible. I spent a lot of time in San Diego over several decades including a period where I actually lived there. San Diego has a population of some incredibly sexy, very fit and exceptionally friendly women who tend to dress for the weather. That makes it a good training ground for future missions to Kamloops. Again, I speak from direct personal experience, although it was decades ago. Apparently the women haven't changed in 30 years given the occasional comment in that direction by one of my favourite San Diego and somewhat popular bloggers. (The basset hounds would be SoCal bassets which would make them very laid-back and cool.) There's lots to do in San Diego including a visit to the Gaslamp Quarter. If you happen to be there, stop in and say HI to my old friend Larry. (Order a schnapps and he'll know where you got idea to visit.) Or, you could go to Dick's place.

Anyway, Kamloops, always progressive and preparing for the future, has a different interest in San Diego. Kamloops loves San Diego's garbage trucks. Hey! We talking engineers here. San Diego, aside from all the other attractions, has one of the most efficient garbage collection systems in North America. Kamloops will not be outdone. Having gone to an automated collection system, there is every chance that Kamloops, (which has a zoo too!), will adopt a majority of San Diego's waste collection system. At least piece by piece. The next stage appears to be San Diego style garbage trucks followed possibly by a GPS system which will help the drivers find their way back to the public works yard. (It's a big area and when you're amongst the sagebrush, it all looks the same.)

Note that Kamloops rejected Vancouver's system. This has nothing to do with the Vancouver attempt to ship urban coyotes into the Kamloops region, only to be told by the mayor, "Keep your own vermin." Anyway, Kamloops marmots are the same size as a small wolverine and have a tendency to chase coyotes.

So, sorry Vancouver, Toronto and Deer Lake, Kamloops is moving out and up. They're already expanding the financial district to deal with the expected influx of bankers.

Oh yes, Kamloops has some of the best star-gazing in North America. Robert Redford, Angela Jolie....

Thursday, July 20, 2006

U.S. Bombs Canadian troops again


The fog of war. It exists. And, so does negligence, carelessness and apathy. From the National Post:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Canadian troops narrowly missed serious injury or death when a U.S. jet dropped a 225-kilogram laser-guided bomb on their position this month in an incident frighteningly similar to the friendly fire attack that killed four Canadian soldiers in 2002.
Soft ground prevented a bloodbath, soldiers said of the incident the military has kept quiet.
Private Rob Adams, who was kneeling five metres from where the bomb landed and was completely engulfed by the fiery flash, received a concussive head injury. He was airlifted by helicopter to hospital at the coalition's Kandahar Airfield base.
His condition was assessed as very good and he has been released from hospital, said Canadian Forces Major Marc Theriault.
Although 17 Canadian troops were within 45 metres of the blast, and shrapnel splinters up to a half-metre long littered the farmer's field where the laser-guided bomb hit, nobody died. But nearly a dozen soldiers were blown through the air.
"We heard it coming. What went through my head was, 'I can't believe they bombed us,'" said one soldier who had been standing just over 10 metres from the impact point.
Another soldier, 25 metres away, was smashed so hard to the ground that the edge of his helmet was pushed in. He is still suffering severe headaches from the July 8 incident. The explosion blasted a different soldier three metres into a mud hole.
The incident was all too similar to an attack by a U.S. F-16 aircraft that killed four Canadian troops during a training mission near Kandahar in April 2002. Eight other Canadians were injured.
A Canadian soldier who was outside the blast radius in the latest attack saw the bomb hit, and immediately concluded his comrades were dead.
"I thought for sure that everyone was toast, because there's no way you get hit by a 500-pound bomb and walk away," he said.
Had the ground been harder, the three closest soldiers would be dead, and several more severely injured, soldiers said.
"It was soft dirt, so [the bomb] went way deeper than it should have, and the blast went straight up," said one non-commissioned officer. The crater measured about three metres deep and two metres across.
The near catastrophe occurred around 7 a.m., midway through a chaotic 12-hour battle in Pangawayi, 30 kilometres west of Kandahar. The pilot of the A-10 Warthog ground-attack jet mistook the Canadians for Taliban, the NCO said.
"He's coming in fast, he's coming in low, he's in the middle of a war zone, and he made a wrong call," the NCO said. "That happens. Those guys cover us a lot."
Another soldier was less forgiving. "Pangawayi isn't that big. I don't know why they were dropping bombs."
Other soldiers questioned the Canadian military's response. "It's kind of funny that they haven't come to talk to us," said one. "They haven't even sent us to a doctor. They're going to bury this one deep."
Maj. Theriault said the bombing occurred during "complex combat."
"This happens in dangerous situations where you have multiple directions to look after at the same time. Fire is coming from different directions, and you have fire also coming from above," he said. "Fortunately, our soldiers suffered only minor injuries."
An investigation is underway, as in the case of any operation gone wrong, he said. He wasn't sure if the U.S. Army had been notified.
"If it involves a U.S. aircraft, it's pretty much certain contact would have been made with the U.S.," Maj. Theriault said. All of the involved in the incident, except for Pte. Adams, have been in the field and fighting ever since.
Solution: If it's coming hot and straight and you haven't called for direct air support and you're not illuminating a target, shoot the friggin' thing down. You can always say you thought it was a Taliban aircraft.

Enough is enough. And, why was this kept so quiet? Is this another dictate from the PMO?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Queen Of The North Investigation Video


The Canadian Transportation Safety Board has released the video of the June 15th dive by a Remotely Operated Vehicle on the Queen Of The North, now resting in over 400 meters of water in Wright Sound.

The dive recovered the hard-drive of the bridge navigation computer and the quick reference guide for the operation of that system.

The video is 4 minutes long and, from the point of view of a mariner, fascinating. This is a direct link.

TSB made an intresting observation. They recommended that BC Ferries be equipped with Voyage Data Recorders (VDRs). Similar to the flight and cockpit data recorders installed in commercial aircraft, they are not a common item in most merchant ships which are not subject to international regulations and conventions. The International Maritime Organization has adopted a policy requiring all passenger ships and other ships over 3000 tons, constructed after 2002 to be fitted with VDRs. They further required passenger ships subject to international regulations which were constructed prior to 2002 to fit VDRs no later than 2004.

The difficulty here of course, is that BC Ferries are not "convention" vessels. They are required to meet a Canadian coastal trading standard under the Canada Shipping Act which does not necessarily require all the detailed items of a vessel trading internationally.

Nevertheless, BC Ferries has agreed that all new-construction vessels will be fitted "mission-capable" voyage data recorders and all existing ships will be retro-fitted with simplified voyage data recorders.

Presently, the two BC Ferries members who were on watch on the bridge of QOTN at the time of the incident are not answering questions to the BC Ferries internal investigation. They have the right to refuse to answer questions. Given that, it is expected that they would have fully disclosed their information to the Transportation Safety Board, particularly since investigators cannot be called upon to testify in court regarding their findings.

The video is really worth the look, especially the part where the ROV arm grabs the navigation computer quick reference guide.

An Inconvenient Truth


The National Climatic Data Center in the US has released a report entitled Climate of 2006 - June in Historical Perspective. It's worth reading before somebody edits it.

The average temperature for the continental United States from January through June 2006 was the warmest first half of any year since records began in 1895
And, if that doesn't cause you to sit up and take notice...

It was the second warmest June on record for global land and ocean surfaces temperatures since records began in 1880 (1.08°F/0.60°C above the 20th century mean) and the sixth warmest year-to-date (January-June) (0.90°F/0.50°C).
How far back do you have to go to find the warmest global land and ocean surfaces temperatures? Not far. 2005 was the warmest the globe has been since records started being kept. You can check out the graphic depiction and see what's happenning.

What prompted me to look at the figures was the occasion of finally getting out to see An Inconvenient Truth. It's worth the watch. Al Gore's presentation is clear, easy to understand and fully substantiated by the facts.

And, if you're one of the so-called skeptics, keep in mind that denying the presence of global warming and the human contribution to it won't change what's going to happen.

The Rapture is bullshit; carbon dioxide building in the atmoshpere isn't.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hand over the money or the tree gets it.


This is pretty interesting, if you believe there is something that can be done about global warming. (You have to believe that global warming is real. Those who don't can find something interesting to read here.)

Californians could soon invest in trees to offset the greenhouse gases they pump into the air when they heat their homes or drive to work.

The nonprofit California Climate Action Registry was set up by the state six years ago to encourage corporations and government agencies to track, and ultimately reduce, their emissions. The Forest Protocols program will allow environmentally minded citizens to pay to preserve enough trees to offset their personal carbon emissions.

The registry has calculated how much the timber industry loses by allowing trees to grow longer and bigger - past the time they're normally harvested. The industry would then be compensated by other companies that buy carbon credits - or shares of the trees - to offset their carbon emissions.
Actually it's a pretty good idea, and if anyone is curious about the workings of a carbon sink or how carbon sequestration operates, take a look here.

The question would be, then, who and how would the money be collected from those environmentally-conscious Californians?

For instance, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in January asked the California Public Utilities Commission to let it start a program next year where customers could choose to pay about 3 percent more on each monthly bill, with the money earmarked to preserve trees in a registered forest.

The utility pumps about 5.3 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year to supply the electricity and natural gas used by a typical household. If the homeowner opted to pay about $4.31 each month to be invested in forests, the trees would store an equivalent amount of carbon.

"It would cost them about $4.31 a month to become climate neutral," said Wendy Pulling, PG&E's director of environmental policy.

PG&E is the first utility in the nation seeking such a program for its five million electric and 4.2 million natural gas customers, Pulling said. The company serves about 14 million people in northern and central California.

If the utilities commission approves the plan later this year, PG&E projects that about 5 percent of its customers would participate, generating about $20 million annually. That would support a number of trees equal to taking 350,000 cars off the road, Pulling said.
Of course! I should have thought of that. Private enterprise can do almost anything better than government. It makes sense to take a corporation like PG&E and make them responsible environmental stewards. They do, after all, have a director of environmental policy. At first blush it looks like PG&E is being environmentally responsible.

Until you look at the whole thing closely. PG&E is applying to do little more than become a conduit for money. The residential consumer is the payer and while that makes a certain amount of sense, there seems to be little incentive for PG&E to pursue alternative means of generating energy. So, the consumer will pay, allowing the power generator to continue to pump tons of carbon into the atmosphere, which is OK because, well, there are more trees to suck up the bad gases.

Except that there aren't more trees.

The trees that are there will be there for a little longer. There will ultimately be fewer trees, a smaller carbon sink and PG&E, while looking environmentally friendly, gets to do what it always does.

And, for anyone who has a long enough memory, there is a niggling little problem. Funny how when you say Pacific Gas And Electric the name Hinkley pops up in one's mind.

Not that it's the same PG&E as thirteen years ago. No, the PG&E that paid out $333 million for poisoning the residents of Hinkley, California eventually sank into bankruptcy. Something brought about by questionable business practices and deregulation, which PG&E had demanded for years. We won't mention the Enron connection. (OK, but we won't repeat the line about "getting all of Grandma's savings".)

While California's energy consumers are going to be asked to voluntarily contribute to make PG&E look like an environmental sweetheart, they will be asked to forget the rolling blackouts, the siphoning of billions of dollars from the California company to its parent PG&E Corporation while PG&E California claimed it could not afford to buy electricity at the higher rates and the fact that they will now pay above-market prices for electricity through to the end of at least 2012.

And while PG&E California apparently went into bankruptcy because it was cash-strapped, the parent PG&E Corporation was wallowing in money and refused to assist its subsidiary. The residents of California were left holding the bag.

So, should the consumers of northern California buy into PG&E's plan? Perhaps they should ask the director of environmental research at the law firm of Masry & Vititoe. Or, maybe, when PG&E asks its customers for an additional $4.31 each month they should just send in a picture of Erin Brockovich.