Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's confetti making time at the Cheney residence

On next week's election, Cheney said that despite the polls and predictions to the contrary, Republicans will maintain control of both chambers of Congress.

Referring to Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Fox News, 30 October, 2006

Spotted on 10/19, by an eagle-eyed Wonkette reader: The Mid-Atlantic Shredding Services truck making its way up to the Cheney compound at the Naval Observatory.
Wonkette, 30 October, 2006

Too bad he didn't have a Plan B for Iraq.

The Pentagon is gearing up the spin factory again

You might perhaps remember this small event whereby US Central Command saw fit to send out a "form" email to us, personalized in such a way to demonstrate that the author was unaware that most of us here would also have an interest in what might be going on in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

It would seem that CentCom was particularly interested in having us check out their website for "accurate" information. And, I did.

In surveying the information on their site I noticed some omissions and felt obliged to point them out. No charge.

Now, it appears, there is going to be even more in the form of resources available. From the BBC:

The US defence department has set up a new unit to better promote its message across 24-hour rolling news outlets, and particularly on the internet.

The Pentagon said the move would boost its ability to counter "inaccurate" news stories and exploit new media.
Or, they could provide innaccurate news stories. I'm not saying they make anything up. Just that they leave a lot out.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier this year the US was losing the propaganda war to its enemies.
There's a source we can all trust. Perhaps what the Pentagon's new unit should consider is that their greatest liability is their leader.

The administration is particularly concerned that insurgents in areas such as Iraq have been able to use the web to disseminate their message and give the impression they are more powerful than the US, our correspondent says.
Hmmm. Think about that for a minute. We do get emails with pointers at various news stories. We have never been pointed at a site which promotes the cause of the insurgency in either Iraq or Afghanistan. We have been contact by US Central Command to use the information it provides, sanitized though it may be.

So, who is trying to use the web to disseminate their message? I'm pretty sure Specialist Erickson is in the US Army.

A Pentagon memo seen by the Associated Press news agency said the new unit would "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and aim to "correct the record".
Is that develop in the photography sense or develop in the conceptual sense? I have no problem with "correcting the record". We don't really do much of it here, but we do point out when it's been done.

The unit would reportedly monitor media such as weblogs and would also employ "surrogates", or top politicians or lobbyists who could be interviewed on TV and radio shows.
Ah yes. Weblogs... the "new" media. We get all our information from the "old" media and add comment. It must be confusing to the Bushco spin doctors. This guy didn't have an internet to contend with and with no historical reference it means they're spinning by the seat of their pants.

Surrogates? Do you mean like this? As Scott says, "... isn't that Cheney uncanny with his ability to read the minds of "the Terrorists" so aptly? And that they all think exactly alike! Just amazing."

Of course, there's nothing "surrogate" about FOX News.

On Monday, US Vice President Dick Cheney also made reference to the use of media, suggesting insurgents had increased their attacks and were checking the internet to keep track of American public opinion.

"It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we've got an election scheduled and they can get on the websites like anybody else," Mr Cheney told Fox News.

"There isn't anything that's on the internet that's not accessible to them. They're on it all the time. They're very sophisticated users of it."
It's his belief?! What a master of understatement. I hope he remembers that insurgents are faced with the same problem as anyone else. The internet is a series of tubes....

And, Dick, lots of people are sophisticated users of the internet. Hell, your hand-puppet uses Teh Google to look at "the ranch" when you leave him unsupervised.

You know, there's lots of stuff out there. Some of it verifiable and some not. The Pentagon material is usually time-late, sanitized and lacking pertinent details. And truly, you can only absorb so much of the Pentagon's and CentCom's attempts to blow sunshine up everybody's ass. It makes sites like this, just as one example, valuable when searching out information.

Oh yeah, the first bit of spin out of the new machine looks like this:

Mr Ruff [Pentagon press secretary] said the move to set up the unit had not been prompted either by the eroding public support in the US for the Iraq war or the US mid-term elections next week.
My gawd. Now, that's what I call putting lipstick on a pig.

Iraq gun control (Updated)

Still more evidence today of poor management of U.S. tax dollars designed to help rebuild Iraq. And for the first time, the possibility that this may be endangering our own troops. The U.S. has not properly tracked half a million weapons bought for Iraqi security forces, and a new report reveals that 14,000 weapons are now considered missing.

That's right, according to government watchdogs, more than 13,000 Glock semi-automatic pistols, 751 assault weapons and almost 100 machine guns cannot be accounted for in Iraq, raising the possibility that they may have fallen into the hands of insurgents. (Emphasis mine)

30 October, 2006
Since March 2003, coalition forces have seized thousands of unauthorized small arms through security patrols and urban search operations.
Marines and civilians with Ammunition Platoon, Supply Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), are redeploying these weapon systems into the Iraqi Army, turning insurgent resources into coalition assets.
5 October, 2006
A serial number is such a terrible thing to waste. Having lost 14,000 weapons, US forces are now scavenging arms for the Iraqi army. They might even eventually find some of their lost firearms... except they won't be sure because they didn't record the serial numbers.
Update: From comments: Mike suggests: "... sounds like they need some sort of database to track these things. What would that be called? A 'Gun Registry' perhaps."
Since the US failed to disarm the general Iraqi population after "occupying" that country, it would have made a certain amount of sense to record and register everything that went "bang". Despite what you hear, this actually does work.

Monday, October 30, 2006

There being no significant food shortage anywhere...

And all other problems in the World having been solved, Monsanto turns its attention to Halloween:

Monsanto Co. scientist Bill Johnson is trying to breed the perfect pumpkin peduncle.

Stout and dark green, the modern-day peduncle, known as a stem outside the plant breeding world, is the result of decades of intensive breeding, Johnson said. The goal: making the perfect jack-o'-lantern lid.

"If you look at the really old (pumpkin) varieties, their peduncles were really lame compared to the peduncles that are out there now," Johnson said.

Better known around the world for its genetically engineered commodity crops such as corn and soybeans, Monsanto got into the pumpkin business last year when it purchased Oxnard, Calif.-based Seminis Inc.


Pumpkins are big business in the United States, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Production has steadily increased since 2002, with about 680 million kilograms of pumpkins sold last year.

The crop, which is mostly sold around Halloween, was worth about US$106 million in 2005, according to the Agriculture Department.
So, what's the big deal about a pumpkin stem?

Johnson said customers want deep orange colours and dark green stems that don't snap off when you use them to carry the pumpkin. His job is to breed varieties with those qualities with other strains that are resistant to certain viruses or the dreaded powdery mildew. (Emphasis mine)
If you need to know more about Halloween pumpkins and things, this is a pretty good place to go.

And, if you would like to read a little more about Monsanto's affinity for orange, this is a good start.

The Colonel's Original Recipe just changed

Well, this is interesting news if you're a Kentucky Fried Chicken™ afficianado:

KFC Canada announced Monday it would virtually eliminate trans fats from its entire menu by phasing in a Canadian-made canola cooking oil immediately in its restaurants in British Columbia and the Maritimes. It was to be rolled out in Ontario and Quebec through December.

Affected products include KFC's famous Colonel Harland Sanders original recipe chicken, french fries, potato wedges, popcorn chicken, chicken nuggets, crispy strips and hot wings.

Priszm Canadian Income Fund, which operates KFC restaurants in Canada, promised consumers wouldn't lose out on the Colonel's "11 herbs and spices" secret recipe flavour that has been around for over 50 years.


The new cooking oil would also reduce the amount of saturated fat in KFC Canada's food by about 40 per cent, said the company.

KFC in the U.S. announced a similar initiative Monday. The plan, to be completed by April 2007, would involve its American chains using a trans fat-free soybean oil. The change would affect its original recipe and extra crispy fried chicken, potato wedges and other menu items, but not its biscuits.
I was trying to sort out why the varying dates for changes. BC and the Maritimes are first to get "healthier" KFC, then Ontario and Quebec. Hmmm. And, the US doesn't see a complete change until April 2007.

Could it be they have to expend the existing stock of the old cooking fat?

Health Canada has been working with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada to develop recommendations and strategies for reducing trans fats in Canadian foods since November 2004.

Since then, Wendy's International Inc., and New York Fries have switched to a zero-trans fat oil on both sides of the border. McDonald's Corp. had announced that it intended to do so as well in 2003, but has yet to follow through. (Emphasis mine)
There's a reason for that, apparently.

The problem, conceded Marcone, is the time and money it takes to figure out how to produce a trans fat-free item without compromising taste.

Removing fat from a product eliminates the "mouth feel," he said, meaning the fat coats the mouth and slowly releases the flavour. "So if you eliminate the fat you're going to get a quick burst of flavour and then nothing after that," he said.

Consumers should also be aware that some fast food items still contain high levels of salt and sugar, said nutritional experts.

"Lowering the potential harmfulness of these foods doesn't necessarily translate into them now being healthy," said Bruce Holub, professor emeritus of the University of Guelph's Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. (Emphasis mine... again)
Most health experts in the US recommend no more than around 2300 mg of sodium per day. Health Canada suggests, particularly where high blood-pressure is a concern, that sodium intake not exceed 1500 mg per day.

You can take my word for it, speaking from personal experience, that's not much. However, if you'd like to see what various fast foods can do to the recommended adult daily allowance of fats, sodium, etc. you should take a look at this.

Most fast foods will blow your recommended daily allowance of sodium right out of the water.

Of course, it would really help if there was a requirement, particularly where food is prepared on a virtual assembly line using processed products, to display all the pertinent nutrition data as is now required on all packaged food products.

Rolling Stone Rips Repubs Renovated Rear

Read it here and remember that dear leader of Canada's glorious Neo Government once said of these incompetent thugs and crooks that they were "...a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world."

Something slightly off-centre

For dog lovers.

If you are into sending e-cards for events and occasions this relatively new Vancouver, BC based operation may intrigue you.

Sloppy Kiss Cards claims to be e-cards for dog lovers. They have a wide range of occasions already covered, including moving in together. You can also customize your own cards.

There is an annual membership fee (C$9.95) with a portion of the fee being donated to Petfinder.com, a central site dedicated to finding humans for homeless pets.

For those who saw this video and swore off dogs forever or, if you're just a dedicated cat person, word is out that the proprieters, also servants to two cats, are considering an entire feline division. A possible name may be, "This hairball's for you!"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wolf Blitzer. Into the breech.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer goes into a whine over the treatment he received from Lynne Cheney. Via Think Progress:

BLITZER: On Friday in the Situation Room on CNN, I interviewed the wife of the Vice President, Lynne Cheney. The interview generated quite a bit of commotion and we are going to replay the unedited version. First, some history. I have been covering the Cheneys for many years, including on a day-to-day basis when he was the defense secretary during the first Gulf War and I was CNN’s Pentagon correspondent. This — Mrs. Cheney has been a frequent guest on my programs. I have often invited her to discuss her new children’s books. She always is open to discussing the news of the day.

In this most recent interview, she, of course, knew we would would be speaking about politics. That was reaffirmed to her staff only hours before the interview. As a former co-host of Crossfire during the 1990s, she knows her way around the media. She was never shy about sparring with Democratic strategist and co-host.

I was surprised when she came out swinging on Friday, surprised by what she said about the “Broken Government” series and the excellent one-hour report by our chief national correspondent John King. One of the most precise and respected journalists in Washington. The decision to air sniper video which Anderson Cooper branded, I’m quoting now, “a single propaganda tape.” Surprised at her sniping at my patriotism. (Emphasis mine)
He was surprized?! What did he expect? Is it possible Blitzer thought himself immune from Republican thuggery? This is not a happy bunch right now.

Blitzer is lucky... he came out of it with both eyes, although the invitation to a waterboarding session is probably in the mail.

Perhaps if it hadn't taken six years to finally get to the hard questions Blitzer wouldn't have been so shocked.

And, before you move on, go to this post by Billmon, who captures the essence of Blitzer's performance with elegant sache.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Spaced out Sundays

I’m not sure what drew me to this picture. Maybe it was because it reminded me of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. I can drown myself in Van Gogh’s paintings - they give me an overwhelming desire to merge myself with the painting's subject.

In any case, I could not resist this picture of a super red giant faraway star named V838 Monocerotis, hidden away in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Don't look at me when you're talking to her

The Setting

Yesterday’s visit to the bank should have been one of those routine things. Without offering too much detail, it involved us making a personal visit to sign documents. I will offer that in the world of finance, Cheryl, with a long background in the accounting business, is better at sorting through details than I am. She arrives armed with every financial permutation imaginable and whether negotiating interest on a loan or investing in retirement funds, she is fully prepared.

Bank managers, financial advisors and loans officers love it.

And still, yesterday would have been routine. With the moving around of money we rarely concern ourselves over which of our names appear on a financial document. In this case, because she had initiated contact with the bank while I was away, her name appeared as the sole responsible party on a registered document. I was there because the movement of funds was happening through our joint bank account and the nature of the transaction required both signatures.

That was the limit of my participation.

The document being registered required that Cheryl’s signature be witnessed by someone who could legally do so under the Evidence Act: a lawyer or notary public. The banker told us she had a lawyer on contract for such things and he would be arriving in a few minutes.

The Event

The lawyer, an older gentleman, arrived 15 minutes late. Not a big deal, but worth a brief apology for extending a simple, short process. And, this is the last time you will read me referring to him as a gentleman.

As he entered the office he introduced himself and shook my hand. He proceeded around the desk and sat down. Cheryl was raising her hand for a customary business handshake and then put it down. The lawyer made no move to greet her. Indeed, he did not even acknowledge her until the banker introduced her.

The document had to be completed in quadruplicate, inked signatures on each separate copy. When the lawyer looked at the top copy he noticed that the only name on the page was Cheryl’s.

The lawyer looked oddly at Cheryl. Then he looked at me. He then looked back at Cheryl and slid the first of four copies to her for signature. When he passed her the second copy he looked back at me. This time, however, it was a look I recognized as having a meaning. Let’s call it The Look.

The Look involved a glare of disapproval.

There is little doubt in my mind that the lawyer on entering the office, seeing a man and a woman, obviously together, expected that he would be conducting his business with the man. When it became clear that his business was with Cheryl and that my presence at this point was unnecessary he was taken aback.

So was I. He had several opportunities in which to correct his error and took none of them.

Instead, he gave me The Look. And, in that look lies a message:

You traitor. This is a matter of some importance and you are relinquishing your power over this issue to your wife. You are needlessly empowering a woman. You are not a real man. You are disgusting and represent a threat to established male dominion.

How do I know that was the message? Because I’ve met hundreds of him. I’ve actually heard the words before, directed at me or someone nearby.

The lawyer, after having witnessed the final copy, offered an apology for having arrived late – to me. He then packed up and started to leave. I was a little stunned by the fact that throughout the entire process he had completely ignored Cheryl to the point that he never even spoke to her, even though all his business was with her.

As he left he offered his hand in a customary business handshake – to me. This was his last opportunity to correct his behaviour and I expected him to reach over and shake Cheryl’s hand.

Not only did he not make the same parting gesture to her that he did to me but, he did not even acknowledge her on leaving.

Inside, I was more than a little angry.

The Rage

As we walked home I remained silent about the whole episode. I was replaying the entire event in my mind in an effort to understand what had happened. There were so many things I found unbelievable, not the least of which that in this century, regardless of how old and steeped in patriarchal dominance this lawyer may have been, a person conducting business could be treated with such blatant dismissal simply because she was a woman.

There was a slow burn in progress. I had witnessed similar behaviour before, but I had never been so directly involved nor so profoundly affected.

A part of me was wondering why Cheryl, who is not beyond providing a swift kick in the nuts to any man who really pisses her off, was not similarly and outwardly in a rage.

The Shock

When we arrived home Cheryl quite casually said, “Did you notice how I was ignored by the lawyer?” She accompanied it with a shrug and a sigh.

Did I notice? I was focused on it! I was furious! And, I said so. Through the whole of that few minutes in the presence of that lawyer I had contained my overwhelming urge to reach over and smack the sonofabitch. I went into a rant about how abysmal the lawyer’s treatment of her had been and how I really didn’t understand how she could actually dismiss it without some anger.

“That’s nothing new,” she told me. “That hasn’t happened a dozen times in my life. It’s not even hundreds. That has happened thousands of times. If I got upset every time I was treated that way, because I’m a woman, I’d be perpetually pissed-off.”

I was stupefied.

I knew that women endured that kind of treatment but I had no idea as to the degree and the frequency. And, I had erroneously believed things were changing.

I might have even believed there was some exaggeration in Cheryl’s statement except that she dismissed the way she was treated as so commonplace that she was unable to develop any anger over it. “I reserve my rage for the big stuff. That’s not worth getting excited over.”

Yes, it is. I won’t make the same mistake again. The next time something like that happens I’ll be the one getting excited. I’ll make it clear that it is big stuff.

Soviet Veterans On Afghanistan

Matthew Fisher of CanWest News Service does the job of a journalist and interviews former Soviet soldiers about their experiences in Afghanistan.

"It is really impossible to win there. No positive result can be expected,"
Kirjushin, whose shaved head gives him a ferocious look, said during a long,
often grim conversation at the Afghan War Veterans Association in the centre of
the Russian capital.

"As every nation that goes to fight in Afghanistan discovers, nobody has ever conquered that place. Even children were involved. They would blow up our tanks."

Col. Alexander Khmel, who as a young artillery officer spent a year with an infantry unit in Afghanistan and still has four pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body from his time there, shared Kirjushin's dark pessimism about the task facing Canadian troops. "Please send my personal condolences to your army and to the families of those who have already died," said Khmel, who retired from the Red Army last year."

Thankyou, Matthew Fisher. Excellent work.


Those who have never served in a combat action may not understand what motivates some people to perform acts of outstanding valour. Generally, it is something done to save the lives of others: friends; comrades sharing the same situation. Distinguishing valour under fire has everything to do with leadership. It is about taking risks to get your own people out of a bad spot and it is invariably remembered by those who live it as an extremely bad event.

These are the first ever presentation of these decorations from the Canadian honours and awards system:

Star of Military Valour

Sergeant Patrick Tower, S.M.V., C.D.Edmonton, Alberta, and Victoria, British Columbia

Sergeant Tower is recognized for valiant actions taken on August 3, 2006, in the Pashmul region of Afghanistan. Following an enemy strike against an outlying friendly position that resulted in numerous casualties, Sergeant Tower assembled the platoon medic and a third soldier and led them across 150 metres of open terrain, under heavy enemy fire, to render assistance. On learning that the acting platoon commander had perished, Sergeant Tower assumed command and led the successful extraction of the force under continuous small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Sergeant Tower’s courage and selfless devotion to duty contributed directly to the survival of the remaining platoon members.

Medal of Military Valour

Sergeant Michael Thomas Victor Denine, M.M.V., C.D.Edmonton, Alberta

Sergeant Denine deployed with 8 Platoon, C Company, 1 PPCLI during Operation ARCHER in Afghanistan. On May 17, 2006, while sustaining concentrated rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and small arms fire, the main cannon and the machine gun on his light armoured vehicle malfunctioned. Under intense enemy fire, he recognized the immediate need to suppress the enemy fire and exited the air sentry hatch to man the pintle-mounted machine gun. Completely exposed to enemy fire, he laid down a high volume of suppressive fire, forcing the enemy to withdraw. Sergeant Denine’s valiant action ensured mission success and likely saved the lives of his crew.

Master Corporal Collin Ryan Fitzgerald, M.M.V.Shilo, Manitoba, and Morrisburg, Ontario

Master Corporal Fitzgerald deployed with 5 Platoon, B Company, 1 PPCLI Battle Group in Afghanistan. He is recognized for outstanding selfless and valiant actions carried out on May 24, 2006, during an ongoing enemy ambush involving intense, accurate enemy fire. Master Corporal Fitzgerald repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire by entering and re-entering a burning platoon vehicle and successfully driving it off the roadway, permitting the remaining vehicles trapped in the enemy zone to break free. Master Corporal Fitzgerald’s courageous and completely selfless actions were instrumental to his platoon’s successful egress and undoubtedly contributed to saving the lives of his fellow platoon members.

Private Jason Lamont, M.M.V.Edmonton, Alberta, and Greenwood, Nova Scotia

Private Lamont deployed with the Health Support Services Company, 1 PPCLI Battle Group during Operation ARCHER. On July 13, 2006, an element of the reconnaissance platoon came under heavy enemy fire from a compound located in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and was isolated from the rest of the platoon. During the firefight, another soldier was shot while attempting to withdraw back to the firing line and was unable to continue. Without regard for his personal safety, Private Lamont, under concentrated enemy fire and with no organized suppression by friendly forces, sprinted through open terrain to administer first aid. Private Lamont's actions demonstrated tremendous courage, selflessness and devotion to duty.

Bravo Zulu.

Another Global Warming Egghead Heard From

Some guy named Schellnhuber who bills himself as some sort of "expert" in, and I quote from here "The theory of complex non -linear systems - coastal zone research - and regional and global environmental analysis."

Yeah, yeah, yeah - like that's supposed to be impressive. Come on down to the trailer park and I'll show you impressive buster.

Anyway, this guy's produced some kind of list of so called "tipping points" about the so called "theory" of so called "global warming" and that commie rag in Britain called The Guardian has done up a story on his delusions.

Don't bother to read it. It's too confusing, too depressing, too many big words, too long to read while driving the SUV all alone.

Besides, Rona and Stephen don't want you to think about this stuff and get all worried and whatnot.

They'd rather we should read Margaret Wente in the increasingly meaningless and pathetic BellGlobeMedia Grope and Flail - whose opinions about so called "global warming" aren't burdened with all those science credentials.

We're Number 18, We're Number 18, We're Number 18

Reporters Without Borders just released their 5th annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

As the fatuous title of this post attests we’re now ranked 18th.

But what interested me more than our current ranking was our history with the project.

In 2002, which was the first year of the rankings we were ranked 5th, the highest ranked country outside Europe.

In 2003, without comment, we dropped to 10th. Still in the top 10, if barely, but now some of the former Soviet bloc countries like Latvia and the Czech Republic are ranked almost the same as us.

In 2004 we drop another 8 places to 18th and in 2005 to 21st along with other Western democracies. In our case the reasons cited are “…decisions that weakened the privacy of sources and sometimes turned journalists into “court auxiliaries.”

We’ve climbed back into 18th this year, we’re still in the top 20, but Bolivia is ranked ahead of us this year. Canada and Bolivia are in fact the only 2 non-European countries in the top 20.

Isn’t it interesting that the decline in press freedom in Western democracies has coincided so nicely with the consolidation of corporate ownership?

Isn’t it also interesting how many former Soviet bloc countries have risen so sharply into top positions?

Perhaps a free press is more important in places where they have direct, recent and personal experience of what living without one can be like.

Speaking of which the US this year ranks as 56th far behind the bastion of democracy and freedom known as Bulgaria which also ranks one position ahead of France.

But for me the burning question is this: Have we slipped from number 5 to number 18 in 5 years because government, beginning with the Martin neo-liberal regime and continuing into the present Harper neo-conservative regime, has defanged the press?

Or has the press voluntarily taken it's teeth out and put them in the glass beside the bed in order to get a better sleep?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ruth Rendell On Being 76

One of my favorite writers of English crime fiction is Ruth Rendell.

Her Inspector Wexford series of novels are a thing of rare and exquisite craft and if you have a taste for English crime fiction I recommend them highly. Start at the beginning mind. Everyone and everything develops and evolves.

She's just been published in The Guardian writing about being 76 years old and it's a delight to read.

We're all on our way there.

The weird, the whacky and the wonderful

Just a few tidbits that have been floating around on my computer.

The Weird

Try and figure out what this is...photographed under an electon microscope.

A snowflake!

The Whacky

What's the inevitable result of detonating a nuclear bomb? Sex, of course.

A surge in condom sales and bookings at South Korea's ubiquitous pay-by-the-hour "love motels" suggest the country's nervous citizens may be seeking solace in each other's arms after North Korea's nuclear test.

A leading chain of convenience stores reported Thursday that their condom sales rose to an average of 1,930 a day in the week after Oct. 9, compared to 1,508 a day for the year to Sept. 30.

A popular online reservation site for business hotels and the infamous "love motels" — the popular name for lodgings built for clandestine rendezvous — also reported a sharp rise in bookings after Oct. 9 and has no vacancies until next month.

The Wonderful

Charles Darwin's writings are being published online courtesy of the University of Cambridge.

This site contains every Darwin publication as well as many of his handwritten manuscripts. All told there are more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images. There is also the most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published and the largest manuscript catalogue ever assembled. More than 150 ancillary texts are also included, ranging from reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, descriptions of Darwin's Beagle specimens and important works for understanding Darwin's context.

Most of the works on this site appear online for the first time such as the first editions of
Journal of Researches, Descent of Man, Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle and all six editions of the Origin of species (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th). There are many never before published manuscripts such as Darwin's Beagle field notebooks and complete images of his early theoretical notebooks.

Many of the books belonged to Darwin's family or are signed by him. See for example
The life of Erasmus Darwin, Coral reefs or Variation.

David Emerson Speaks and Turds Appear

David Emerson says we're losing the war on trade.

WTF? Man, I hope that's a journos construction and not Emerson's.

What am I saying? Even if the words came out of one of Emerson's mouths they still wouldn't be his words. They'd be Harper's.

But whether the words are the journos, Emerson's or Harper's it still means David Emerson is going to be working on his next deal to screw Canadian companies but this time those trading with China.

Run for your lives...

US voting irregularities... redux

As the US mid-term elections work their way through the last two weeks of a typically nasty campaign stories are starting to emerge from both sides of "irregularities" - the type that can't be fixed with increased fibre.

US voter turnout at mid-term elections is typically low. Actually, it's abysmal with results showing less than 40 percent of eligible voters actually casting ballots during the US mid-terms.

Aside from all the other reasons voters offer for avoiding the polls, cynicism surrounding the process certainly has to be one of the most profound. Irregularities in the process lead voters to believe that no matter what decision they make at the voting booth, forces somewhere are working to skew the final result in favour of the candidate who can cheat their way into power.

Incidents like this do nothing to improve voter confidence and greater participation in the process.

U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday.

Although the problem creates some voter confusion, it will not cause votes to be cast incorrectly, election officials emphasized. The error shows up only on the summary page, where voters are asked to review their selections before hitting the button to cast their votes. Webb's full name appears on the page where voters choose for whom to vote.

Election officials attribute the mistake to an increase in the type size on the ballot. Although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot.

Thus, Democratic candidate Webb will appear with his first name and nickname only -- or "James H. 'Jim' " -- on summary pages in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville, the only jurisdictions in Virginia that use balloting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin.
James Webb. That's a long name?! Is it any wonder significant numbers of voters believe that the whole game is rigged?

Amanda posts the story of her saga to participate in Early Voting in Travis County, Texas. (Incidentally, the head office of Hart InterCivic.) Her description of a screwed-up voter registration system can be a little confusing to someone who comes from a much simpler electoral registration system, but what struck me is that Amanda, a person whom I can only imagine would crawl over a mile of broken glass to cast her ballot, had moments of doubt and was almost prepared to give up.

There were times when I felt like giving up, sending in a new registration card and just hoping that it would somehow manage to make it so I could vote in the next election. Over and over again, my brain kept reminding me that mine is only one vote out of thousands in the county, millions in the state and country and it really isn’t that important, mathematically speaking. And then I remembered all the people that stood in line in Ohio last federal election in order to register a vote on machines that they knew damn well might be fixed.
And, to summarize Amanda's voter registration ordeal, it took her two days and 2 hours of work to sort out the fact with electoral officials that she was legally entitled to vote. Two days... and she was already officially registered.

Imagine, if you will, what happens when, after being frowned upon for taking time off work to vote, you encounter resistance at the polling place to exercising your franchise on election day. Many people just wouldn't bother pursuing the matter and walk away, surrendering their power to an "irregularity".

Certainly a part of the problem in places like Virginia and Texas is the disparate systems of registration and the means used to vote. Federal elections in the US are administered at the state and county level. Registration of voters and the means of casting a ballot are not nationally uniform giving state and county electoral offices a great deal of autonomy in determining the process.

Another issue is the use of electronic voting apparatus. In an age of instant information exchange and high-speed data transfer it may seem "stone age" to insist that a pencil and paper are more effective democratic implements than a computer.

To use Canada and Australia as examples, both countries have rejected electronic voting devices in favour of a system which has served them well throughout their existence as federated nations: paper ballots, twice verified registration of voters, paper registers, hand-counting of ballots and scrutineers. While it may sound slow, it isn't, and the ability to audit process and results, post-election, is clearly less flawed and more definitive than using equipment produced by this outfit.

Australia takes the whole process one step further and requires that all citizens, 18 years of age and up, are required to be registered as voters. Further, Australian election law requires that every elector vote at every election. That requires a bit of definition. A voter who shows up to pick up a ballot and has her/his name marked off the register is considered to have voted. There is no mechanism to force an elector to actually cast a ballot. If a person does not have her/his name marked off the register and can provide no good reason for not using one of the several opportunities to vote, a A$20 fine is levied - or the defaulter can take the matter to court.

There are still the occasions of "irregularities" in the Canadian and Australian systems but the frequency and magnitude are substantially less than the relative situation in the US.

Given the Bush administration's propensity to export democracy to any corner of the world, whether desiring it or not, one would think someone in that government would have the drive to correct the mechanisms of their own electoral jungle. If the stories of candidates names being truncated and registered voters being threatened with disenfranchisement are any example, the US has a long way to go before their democracy is properly secured.

In Mourning

The next federal election, whenever it may be, is going to result in the first of many Conservative majorities to come.

Why would I utter such a repellent thought?

Because the three national opposition parties (I’ll include the Greens here just to spread the rage a bit wider) are more concerned with their own navel lint than they are with the well being of the country.

The Liberal Party is the only one of the three with any realistic chance of winning enough votes to form government.

I know, I know, I can hear the howls of indignation from the NDP even as I type those words. “We’re campaigning to win!”, “we’re the only real alternative”, “the Libs and the Cons are the same guys in different ties”, “who gave you all the fish?”

I’d like the sage masters of political triangulation that reside in the NDP towers of light and outrage to show me their plan to more than triple their percentage of the national popular vote. I’d like them to show me their plan for doing so strategically enough to guarantee the election of 5 times more members than they have now.

No, instead they’ll cling to their antiquated mantras and celebrate like Bacchus when they don’t lose very much ground.

The Greens will have even more reason to celebrate – their percentage of the vote might double. They still probably won’t elect anyone but the organic wine will be flowing at party HQ anyway. A couple of bottles anyway – no budget for more and now there’s a huge debt after the campaign.

The Liberal Party will of course continue on in that confident superior air they’ve so carefully crafted over the past century and a half, consulting amongst themselves and ignoring all others. They will not reach out to either the NDP or the Greens to try to reach some kind of rapprochement or cooperative effort.

And eventually, late on election night, enough of the popular vote will have been drawn away from the only other party with any historically realistic chance to form government and The Right Honourable Stephen Harper and The Conservative Party of Canada will achieve majority government. The well ordered dismantling and reconstruction of the secular, progressive nation formerly known as The Dominion of Canada will begin.

The other parties will undoubtedly make some impotent noise about it but it won’t matter or slow anything down– and anyway, the NDP and The Greens are still celebrating the fact that they got more votes this time. They’ll get more next time too and that, oh that, will be the New Jerusalem.

It won’t matter that The Conservatives will be implementing policies that something like 63 or 64 percent of the voters voted against because they won’t care. It won’t matter that a movement to switch to something other than First Past the Post will gain momentum because they won’t enact it.

Nothing will matter and nothing will change until The Liberal Party, The NDP and The Greens realize that the only way – the one and only way – to ensure that The Conservatives do not have the opportunity to form majority government is for the three of them to work closely together – or merge.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for any of that.

So I’m beginning to mourn instead.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

O'Reilly on Afghanistan... with a Harvard professor

Falafel Bill O'Reilly let his mouth take over while he made absolute statements regarding the war in Afghanistan in a conversation with Sarah Sewell, a lecturer at the Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government and the director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. From Think Progress: (clip available)

O’REILLY: But look, we were successful in Afghanistan. And nobody thought –
SEWALL: Well, the jury’s still out on Afghanistan.
O’REILLY: — overthrow the Taliban in that way. So we were successful.
SEWALL: Unfortunately, Afghanistan’s going backwards.
O’REILLY: That’s a myth.
SEWALL: — which I think speaks –
O’REILLY: That’s a myth.
SEWALL: — to part of the problem with the focus of effort on Iraq. We risked losing the progress that has been made in Afghanistan.
O’REILLY: Now you’re just - that’s not true. There’s always going to be a Taliban insurrection.
SEWALL: It is true.
O’REILLY: As long as they have mountain - now it’s not. Every military analyst working for our team says most of that country is pacified.
SEWALL: Maybe you should be talking to the people on the ground –
O’REILLY: I talked to everybody.
SEWALL: — because they’re concerned about the situation.
O’REILLY: You’re just parroting the left wing line that America doesn’t know what it’s doing.
SEWALL: I’m parroting conversations with commanders who are in uniform serving in Afghanistan.
O’REILLY: All right, so have I. Our information is that there’s no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country, none. They’ll be annoying. There will be a guerrilla warfare. It will not happen. I believe that.
Let's make this easy for O'Reilly. He only has to go here - posted 8 October by Boris.

Nato's commander in Afghanistan has said the country's citizens may start supporting the Taleban unless their lives improve in the next six months. Gen David Richards, a British officer, said the country was at a "tipping point", warning that up to 70% of Afghans could switch their support. They might prefer the "austere and unpleasant" life under the Taleban to five more years of fighting, he said.


"If we do not take advantage of this, then you can pour an additional 10,000 troops next year and we would not succeed because we would have lost by then the consent of the people."
Bill Maher was right on the mark when he said of O'Reilly:

...he's pulling stuff out of his ass.

Cheney calls torture a "no-brainer"

Jeff Hughes' Daily Muck picked up on something Dick Cheney, the hero of the battle of the Armstrong Ranch, said during an interview with a tame reporter.

In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."

"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.

"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided "enormously valuable information about how many (al-Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that."

"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."

Get that? A little dunk in the water is OK, but we don't torture.

So, either Cheney figures torture is just fine, or... he doesn't consider waterboarding torture; simply a robust interrogation technique.

Cheney was being interviewed in his office for Radio Day at the White House. Let's face it, if you're going to violate the US Constitution, you might as well do it from its source of refuge.

Lindsay points out that Cheney's comments are being played for a particular audience.

You eat too much? You use too much gasoline.

Somebody did a little study on Power-to-Weight ratio and came up with an interesting conclusion: If you're overweight, you probably consume more fuel in your automobile.

Want to spend less at the pump? Lose some weight. That's the implication of a new study that says Americans are burning nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in 1960 because of their expanding waistlines. Simply put, more weight in the car means lower gas mileage.


"The bottom line is that our hunger for food and our hunger for oil are not independent. There is a relationship between the two," said University of Illinois researcher Sheldon Jacobson, a study co-author.

"If a person reduces the weight in their car, either by removing excess baggage, carrying around less weight in their trunk, or yes, even losing weight, they will indeed see a drop in their fuel consumption."
Sounds reasonable. The ability to accelerate and overcome inertia is directly affected by weight. Obesity adds weight to the vehicle mass, divided by the force of gravity which then results in more force being required to achieve acceleration and maintain speed.

I'm not certain, but I think Isaac Newton worked that out.

Which means that people who are consuming way too much food, are also quite likely consuming way too much gasoline.

And, some people just consume way too much air. Guess which one from this video.

US War Games Near Iranian Coast and Canada's Navy Is Ready, Aye, Ready!

According to this article on the Global Research site there are two US naval strike groups deployed: USS Enterprise (not currently loading, I wonder why), and USS Iwo Jima (not loading)Expeditionary Strike Group in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Bahrain across from Iran.

"The Canadian Navy has dispatched Frigate HMCS Ottawa, which is now an integral part of ESG 5, under US Command. It is worth noting that particular emphasis has been given to medical evacuations and combat medical support suggesting that a combat scenario could be envisaged."

Iran says they consider this operation to be deliberately provocative.

Gulf of Tonkin Two and in Walter Cronkite's famous words from the early days of television "You Are There, Canada!"

Canada's Neo Government sure is willing to help Georgie keep the drums banging and the dogs salivating.

The operation, oops sorry, games, are scheduled to begin on October 31st. One week before the mid-terms of November 7.

Harper will be able to use the expensive lubricant next time he visits the White House.

US Central Command contacts The Galloping Beaver

Every once in a while we get an email. Well, actually, we get a lot and we try to answer most. Yesterday, we got one from US Central Command… with a request.

Subject: U.S. Central Command
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2006 06:45:42 -0400
From: "Erickson, Christopher J. SPC USA" [Redacted by TGB]
To: The Galloping Beaver [Redacted by TGB]


My name is SPC Chris Erickson with U.S. Central Command Public Affairs. I came across your blog, The Galloping Beaver, yesterday and noticed your interest on Iraq .

I’m sure you’ve come across it in the past, but if you haven’t, I’d like to invite you to check out our web site,
www.centcom.mil. It’s one more resource for information and you’re free to use any of it (video, audio, photos and articles) in conversations on your blog.

Also, if you like, you can be added to our mailing list. We send out news stories and press releases about US and coalition forces operations, humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. This information is also available via RSS on our site.

I appreciate your time today and I do look forward to hearing back from you.


Spc. Chris Erickson
Electronic Media Engagement Team
U.S. Central Command Public Affairs
[Redacted by TGB]

Subscribe to the CENTCOM Newsletter


Dear Specialist Erickson, (Note the nice warm comma instead of a cold austere colon)

Greetings to you too! How are things at MacDill Air Force Base? Hopefully the take-off and landing frequency of the Hurricane Hunter squadron on the base didn’t disrupt your summer in Tampa, Florida.

You just found us yesterday? What the hell have you been doing? Jeez, the US Senate, the Pentagon, CSIS, the FBI, the Canadian House of Commons, the UK Ministry of Defence and US Naval Ocean Systems Command found us months ago. Not to mention the likelihood that the US National Security Agency, British GCHQ, the Canadian Communications Security Establishment and the Australian SIO are reading each post that doesn’t contain a reference to Brittany Spears or Madonna within seconds of them being published.

Perhaps your skills on Teh Google are not as sharp as they could be. Your Commander In Chief might be able to provide some guidance in this regard.

I was aware of the current initiative on your part to recruit bloggers. I learned about it here. I must say, I was somewhat surprised that you limited your invitation to information on Iraq. I would have expected you would have offered us a wide scope to include the entire Global War On Terra™. Don’t misunderstand. Being singled out for particular attention on Iraq was heartening, although I think you may have missed the point. My country has troops in Afghanistan. You know – Task Force Aegis. Although, I understand why you may have focused on Iraq. I do post on that particular little piece of nastiness, but then, I’ve been to Iraq. The highways were just awful when I last visited. Has it changed much?

Your invitation did fill me with something. No, no, not pride. Something else. It was more akin to the feeling one gets in a Force 10 Atlantic storm at sea in a frigate. If you need clarification on that, go looking in your own command for the senior Canadian officer.

I was curious about what your mailing list might contain and then I remembered that one of the more manly members of the blogosphere had actually posted some of your material.

In reading your press release number 06-07-02P dated 26 July 2006 I noticed that you highlight a story about a Coalition patrol coming under attack and then killing a number of extremists, in the Garmser District of Helmand Province. Oddly, other sources report that the battle took place in Paktika Province. Personally, I believe you.

Your press releases seem to have missed a few details: That on 23 July, two Canadian soldiers were killed by a suicide car bomber; that a US soldier died of wounds on 24 July after being hit in a fire fight at Pesch; that on the day of your report a US soldier died by his own hand at Sharona (his brother had been killed in Iraq 16 months earlier); and, that on the day of your report two Netherlands soldiers were killed when the helicopter in which they were passengers crashed.

I know you’re very busy and probably missed those after-action reports. If it will help, I would be more than happy to provide amplifying details upon receipt of a formal request countersigned by your superior officer. If your superior officer makes the request directly, he'll need a note from, oh, say, his Mother.

This has just given me an inspiration: One which might greatly assist the Commander Central Command.

If you recall, both NATO and CentCom were shocked, shocked, I say, at the sudden insurgency that appeared in Afghanistan just as ISAF was taking command on the ground. That speaks to, shall we say, less than stellar intelligence.

The truth is, we at The Galloping Beaver predicted the Afghan insurgency with a great deal of accuracy. Posts were published, before the latest rise of the Afghan insurgency, detailing what was going to happen… here and here. Now that's intelligence analysis. Notice the distinct lack of sugar-coating on those reports. You might want to get your J2 to check in with us daily to see what other good stuff we pick up. And, just to clear up something, Cheryl's analysis was spot on and she hasn't spent one day in the service. Just think, Top Gun - callsign "Charlie".

While I appreciate your offer, Specialist, I think it might be more appropriate if you read us to gather in an accurate picture. Relying on CentCom is something akin to the Five O'clock Follies back when the earth was a little flatter and the insurgents wore black pajamas.

Since my retirement from the service after a rather full career, I haven't been one to stand on formality. However, considering I greatly exceed the rank of everyone on your team I think an exception is in order. Feel free to address me as "Sir" in all future correspondence.


The Galloping Beaver

P.S. I realize, Specialist Erickson, that most of the above is facetious. That's the price of an unsolicited email. I do, however, commend you for at least putting on the uniform of your country and serving, in whatever capacity, and performing a duty assigned. Regardless of my view of the state of affairs in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places, I respect you for your willingness to serve. Perhaps you should go here and convince others to follow your example thus easing the pressure on you and your comrades.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mahar Arar: Who knew what when?

Somewhere between these two statements lies the truth:

"I learned that in that process they tried to correct what was labelled false or incorrect information with regard to Mr. Arar. That was the first time it came to my attention that there was a possibility or that we had mislabeled or mischaracterized Mr. Arar in our dealings with him in the investigation," Mr. Zaccardelli said.

He added that the RCMP "never misled Canadian authorities" and that "discussions did take place relative to that between officials in Canada. A number of discussions took place. My officials were involved in those discussions."

quoting RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli
Oct 16th, 2006
[Wayne] Easter, who was Liberal solicitor general from October 2002 to December 2003, told a dramatically different story.

"I was not so informed," he said Tuesday.

He said he had checked all his briefing notes and other documents and consulted with former ministerial aides to be sure what the Mounties told him.

"There was no reference to erroneous information, no reference to false information, nor was there any reference to any corrective efforts having been made by the RCMP."

Easter noted that he met John Ashcroft, then U.S. attorney general, in the summer of 2003 and "basically gave (him) hell" about the way the Americans had handled the Arar case.
If Ashcroft had known the U.S. acted on faulty information supplied by Canada, said Easter, he would have been sure to raise it.
Oct 24th, 2006
There's a sword out there and somebody is going to eventually have to fall on it.

Israel, the UN, and Anomalous Aeroplanes

From Reuters:

Two Israeli warplanes and a German navy vessel have clashed off the Lebanese coast, the Defense Ministry in Berlin said on Wednesday without giving further details.

Germany daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier on Wednesday quoted a junior German defense minister as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighters flew low over the German ship and fired two shots.

The jets also released infra-red countermeasures to ward off any rocket attack, the paper quoted him as saying.

Israel is letting the UN know it will do what it pleases, and the UN presence will be tolerated as long as Israel finds it useful. No surprises there. Israel is also testing the UN to see how much it can get away with. No real surprises there either.


Something else about the Reuters article caught my eye. The recent photo shown with the article and above is of a two seat F-16 in Israeli Air Force camouflage on an Israeli airbase. However, if you look closely at the tail section, behind the wing and just above the leading edge of the starboard horizontal stabiliser, there is an unmistakable low-vis US military aircraft insignia or "roundel". No Israeli Air Force insignia are visible anywhere on the aircraft. Why?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Decider commits a "Touched Piece" violation without announcing "J'adoube"

You've got to hand it to the Bush administration. When they were calling John Kerry a "flip flopper" it was because Bush knows exactly what a flip flopper is.

On Sunday he said this:

Well, hey, listen, we’ve never been “stay the course,” George.
Billmon pointed out that, yes, in fact George, you were "stay the course... about 18 times on record.

On Monday, White House press secretary Tony Snow announced that Bush would not use the phrase "stay the course" anymore.

The White House said Monday that President Bush was no longer using the phrase “stay the course” when speaking about the Iraq war, in a new effort to emphasize flexibility in the face of some of the bloodiest violence there since the 2003 invasion.
But... but... Bush said he was never "stay the course". In order for him to stop using it, he must have used it in the past. Say, at least 18 times.

Now, Donald Rumsfeld, hero of Fallujah, has muddied things up just a little more. In an interview with Sean Hannity he had this exchange:

HANNITY: A lot of debate has no emerged over the phrase “stay the course,” and what that actually means. “Well, the President is backing away from staying the course.”

RUMSFELD: Aww, that’s nonsense.

HANNITY: He’s not backing away from staying the course?

RUMSFELD: Of course not. The concern was that it gave opponents the chance to say, “Well, he’s not willing to make adjustments,” and of course, just the opposite is true.
As Shake's Sis says, this could lead to a lot of unnecessary soft tissue injuries.

Five Things Feminism Has Done For Me

I really haven’t been procrastinating on this post. Cheryl will verify that I’ve been fairly busy. However, it’s time to take up the challenge presented by Woman In Comfy Shoes and describe at least five things feminism has done for me.

Feminism, as a movement or an ethos was always a little foreign to me. I had some difficulty understanding the cause, methods and the clear outrage being demonstrated by great numbers of women. If that’s difficult to accept, you have to understand that I was raised in a relatively traditional home from the middle of the Korean War to the middle of the Viet Nam War. Change was everywhere and the feminist movement was only one of any number of very vocal, very visible groups expressing a strong need for change. This was tempered by a mother with Edwardian beliefs who exhibited strenuous disapproval for all such movements, women included.

It was terribly confusing and it wasn’t until I was in a position to actually serve with women in a ship that I actually started to understand the complexity of the charges made by the feminist cause against those who had perpetrated everything from blatant misogyny to passive dismissal.

When I met Cheryl, I received a full dose of feminist beliefs. I think I scared her. I agreed with virtually everything she said. And, what I thought I understood had to be set aside and I went about re-learning what feminism was all about. The issues were more complex and ran much deeper than I had originally believed.

So what’s it done for me? Plenty.

1. Feminism provided alternatives to what might once have been called traditional women. We didn’t discover each other in our 20s or even our 30s. By the time we met and established a relationship we had learned to reject the behaviours and people who didn’t meet a personal standard. Far from allowing those standards to slip over time, they actually increased. What that meant was that I was unwilling to take up with a woman who wanted a surrogate parent, expressed too much interest in my annual post-tax income or insisted that I be at the table at 5 pm, precisely. Marrying a feminist put me in a position where none of those things were over-riding factors.

2. I can attribute a strong personal relationship to feminism. Cheryl clearly did not want children. Nor did I. I did want a relationship which allowed us to focus on our own pursuits and each other. While that is regularly construed as bucking the accepted norm it was feminism and the surrounding movement which gave Cheryl the will to reject undesired motherhood and choose a different path. That path gave me the comfort I wanted in a couples relationship without parenthood being a foregone conclusion. The result is that we are, among other things, best friends and the relationship is not impacted by the stresses which might be accompanied by children.

3. Feminism provided me with enhanced financial well-being. The direct effect is that Cheryl was as financially independent as I was before she met me. Without feminism pushing open the doors to fair compensation for work, regardless of gender, the chances that she would have been able to earn a comfortable living would have been diminished. With both of us able to earn fair compensation for the work we do we have experienced increased financial options and the ability to better plan for the future. It also increased the flexibility in choosing the work I do. Whereas in the past I would be bound to take contracts based on personal financial requirements, Cheryl’s ability to earn substantially more than she could have similarly 20 years ago has given us both the ability to accept or decline work without causing undue household hardship. By being able to contribute equally over the course of time we are able to manage variations in each others’ work tempo.

4. Feminism gave me an appreciation for a whole new set of power tools. There was a time when any man found cooking was either a bachelor, a hermit, a monk or a chef with papers. I like cooking. In fact I really like messing around in the kitchen and creating things. That said, some of the implements which I would have been denied use of are now freely available – and for more than stirring paint. The truth is, we both try to outdo each other in the kitchen and there is an unspoken competition to see which of us can produce the best gourmet meal. There’s more. Some time ago I posted that I found Cheryl in the closet trying to find a way to make the vacuum cleaner work. As funny as that may have sounded at the time, it was completely true. It was her busy work season and I was doing a majority of the housework. The vacuum cleaner was my purchase because the previous device was, well, useless. I bought a high amperage, cyclonic thing which would tear the hair off a basset hound. I suppose my point is that housework knows no gender and at any given time either one of us can be doing most of it, depending on how much work the other has on the go. (As long as she understands that she’s using MY vacuum cleaner.) By the way, if anyone thinks that cleaning bathrooms, floors, windows etc. is not a man’s job, they need only join the navy to discover otherwise.

5. Feminism put a new dynamic in household decision-making. Nothing can be worse than trying to make decisions regarding work, major purchases, or retirement planning when the only input from one-half of a couple is “What ever you decide.” Feminism gave women the right to have equal say in the running of the household – the entire household. I’m sure some men will disagree, but I’ve always found team efforts produce better results. Problem solving and planning doesn’t work well when left to one person. We discuss and negotiate everything. When a decision is reached it falls to both of us to see it carried through and should something go off the rails, we share the blame. There are no recriminations for a bad decision which excluded the other person.

6. Feminism was responsible for putting a person in my life who has the confidence, energy and strength of character to be her own person and then share it with me. Occasionally, I pay for that, but for a solid majority of the time it has given us a happy, loving relationship which I could not have imagined just decades ago.

That’s six, isn’t it. No charge for the bonus.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Real Afghanistan. The one we're losing.

Last month, NATO forces struck back around Panjwai with artillery and aerial bombardments, killing an estimated 500 Taliban fighters and destroying homes and schools. But unless NATO can stay for years, create a trustworthy police force and spend the millions necessary to regenerate the district, the Taliban will be back.

Oct. 22, 2006
Just one paragraph from Rubin's remarkable piece describing conditions in Afghanistan. Rubin has written her piece in two parts with the next installment coming next week.
Part one, as Panglossian Notes points out, is disturbing. And, it underscores that Harper's adherence to a predominantly war-fighting mission demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the complexities on the ground. He hasn't a clue.

Bush strategy for Iraq: Version 3.2

This is a "connect the dots" exercise.

First we have George W Bush saying this in April 2002:

No nation can negotiate with terrorists. For there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.
And, before the wet-pants crowd even tries to make a suggestion that he didn't mean it, we'll all remind ourselves that in November 2005, Bush said this:

This is an enemy without conscience -- and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people. Against this adversary, there is only one effective response: We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory.
In short: No negotiation with terrorists. Kill them, capture them, torture them but, never negotiate. There is nothing to be gained by negotiation.

Then there's this from yesterday's Sunday Times:

AMERICAN officials held secret talks with leaders of the Iraqi insurgency last week after admitting that their two-month clampdown on violence in Baghdad had failed.
Few details of the discussions in the Jordanian capital Amman have emerged but an Iraqi source close to the negotiations said the participants had met for at least two days. They included members of the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the main Sunni militias behind the insurgency, and American government representatives. The talks were described as “feeler” discussions. The US officials were exploring ways of persuading the Sunni groups to stop attacks on allied forces and to end a cycle of increasingly bloody sectarian clashes with members of the majority Shi’ite groups.
Secret talks? Sounds like negotiations to me.

Then there's this bit of work by the Bushco fabrication factory:

Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete.
Resolve. Pure steely-eyed resolve.

OK, maybe not complete resolve. This kind of changes things:

WITH mounting American casualties and growing political heat on the Republicans in the November congressional elections, the pressure is on for President George W Bush to “finish well” in Iraq.
Every potential exit strategy runs the risk of plunging the country into further chaos and bloodshed. This explains why Bush has insisted in recent days that he is merely interested in adjusting the “tactics” needed to secure stability. Yet plans are emerging for a dramatic change of course that could lead to an orderly withdrawal of coalition forces. The Pentagon is determined to force the faltering government of Nouri al-Maliki to shoulder responsibility for Iraq’s security.
(Emphasis mine)
That doesn't look like victory in Iraq. It looks more like this. You know - the war that was supposed to stop the Domino Effect, a containment project that wasn't necessary and didn't work in any case.

Then we have Bush making this statement yesterday, (which has now been repeated as a Republican talking point today), and interviewers allowing him and others to get away with it:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: James Baker says that he’s looking for something between “cut and run” and “stay the course.”
GEORGE W BUSH: Well, hey, listen, we’ve never been “stay the course,”
Really!!! Billmon has a list of at least 18 times when stay the course was exactly what Bush enunciated as policy with respect to Iraq.

While Bush is revising history things aren't going all that well in another country he had a hand in destroying. Granted, it was the one country Bush had the right to attack, but it would have been nice if he'd completed the job instead of walking away.

TALIBAN fighters are preparing for a winter of urban warfare, say Afghan and western intelligence, and have established cells in the cities of Afghanistan from which to launch a campaign of explosions and suicide bombings.
While military chiefs have been declaring victory in the south of the country and claim to have killed more than 3,000 Taliban over the summer, diplomats in Kabul warn that security in Afghan cities is deteriorating fast. “This could turn into another Iraq,” said one.
Suicide bombs were almost unheard of in Afghanistan until last year with only five since the fall of the Taliban in December 2001. But this year has already seen 81, which killed or wounded more than 700 people.
Where would the Taliban have learned a tactic like that, I wonder? How do they know it will work?

Ah yes. George W. Bush. Purveyor of democracy. So far he's 0 for 3, having laid waste to three countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and the USA.

And, his new strategy? Cut and run.