Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday Hippo races in Calgary.


Want to know a good reason for an expanded blogroll? Here's one.

Coyote Angry, hailing from Mojave Desert, with a good grasp of the McKenzie brothers form of humour has posted a list of questions from various corners of the globe to Canadians. And the Canadians answer in a most fitting manner. It's one of those "must reads". (Definitely safe for work, although you might want to have a paper bag handy to laugh into since your productivity is going to crash.)

The questions, (and the answers) are real. Most of them come from the Thorn Tree Forum of Lonely Planet.

Bring your sense of humour... and come naked.

The Human Cursor

This is just about the funniest thing I've ever seen coming down the tubes of the internets. The page takes some time to load, so let it do its thing. Once there and loaded, give yourself several minutes to play with it. There are a ton of great moves you'll see coming from the "team".

You can actually tire them out!

Yes! It's completely safe for work. Unless the boss speaks Japanese.

Homeschoolerpedia's view from Earth

My gawd, I'm almost afraid to look up flat-earth. From, AHEM, Conservapedia: (entire entry)
Heliocentric
The view that the sun is at the center of the universe.


Carl Sagan would be so sad.

On the road to Pinkville


The more things change the more they remain the same.
Rushed by President Bush’s decision to reinforce Baghdad with thousands more U.S. troops, two Army combat brigades are skipping their usual session at the Army’s premier training range in California and instead are making final preparations at their home bases.

Some in Congress and others outside the Army are beginning to question the switch, wondering whether it means the Army is cutting corners in preparing soldiers for combat, since they are forgoing training in a desert setting that was designed specially to prepare them for the challenges of Iraq.

[...]

“It tracks with what we should expect when we hurry the units up in their last three months” before a deployment, said Kevin Ryan, a retired brigadier general and former Army planner who is now at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Army commanders are compelled to make “economies,” he added, when an accelerated deployment plan forces them to compress some aspects of training.

ArmyTimes, 28 Feb 2007


"I don't know who I'm fighting most of the time,"

Staff Sergeant Joseph Lopez, northern outskirts of Baghdad
27 Feb 2007


"The same guys who sold us beer during the day were wearing black pajamas at night."

Rick Lucas, Vietnam riverine veteran
Relating his experiences in Vietnam

It's just a month early, right? Only a few corners are being cut, right? The training and leadership for units which are being sent early will be adequate, right?

Troops with not quite the best possible training, troops with not quite the proper amount of protective gear, troops rotating early with not quite sufficient time out of action sent on a specific mission to root out an enemy they can't identify and can blend in with the general population.

What the hell could possibly go wrong?

Or, has the US Army forgotten the events of 16 March, 1968?


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rattling Wal-Mart's cage


Got a Wal-Mart in your city, town, village or hamlet?

I know. Who doesn't?

Wal-Mart is everywhere.

On May 3rd, 2004, US Vice-President Dick Cheney, after making some funny about how he met his wife, said this about Wal-Mart.
This is one of our nation's great companies, and one of the most familiar names in all of America. The story of Wal-Mart exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country -- hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing, and integrity.

Sam Walton opened his first store more than four decades ago with the goal of providing friendly service and affordable shopping for his community. Through Sam's vision, his energy, and his decency, Wal-Mart grew into one of America's largest and most generous companies. And for his contribution to America, Sam was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest honor a civilian can receive.

It was enough to gag a maggot. At the time Cheney was singing the praises of Sam Walton and his discount retail behemoth, the average worker in both US and Canadian Wal-Marts was making less than $8 per hour.

Wal-Mart may be Cheney's idea of a great company but it falls far short of that description in the eyes of all too many employees or "associates". To most who work at Wal-Mart, the wages are so low that fewer than 45% of US Wal-Mart employees are even able to afford the company's health care plan. In Canada, where health care is universal and paid for through taxes, Wal-Mart enjoys the advantage of not having to match employee contributions while still paying near minimum wage for a huge number of employees.

Wal-Mart is more than an 800 pound gorilla. In the US there are 4022 Wal-Mart or Sam's Club operations. In Canada there are 278 Wal-Mart locations, although there should be 279.

Wal-Mart has managed to resist a unionized labour force and has employed all method of intimidation and tactics to keep unions out of their North American operations. It is a part of the Wal-Mart corporate culture and it is probably why the town of Jonquiere, Quebec will never have another Wal-Mart again.

When Sylvie Lavoie had taken enough abuse, had been denied advancement too often and had discovered the massive inequities in pay among peers she led a workers' revolt that resulted in the United Food and Commercial Workers union attempting to organize the workers and bring in union representation. First efforts failed. However, in an event which would turn the heads of those who had voted against certification, store management stood out in public and cheered while hurling insults at union activists.

Three months later, with Wal-Mart management asleep at the switch, Lavoie managed to collect enough signatures on union cards to have the UFCW automatically certified as the Wal-Mart employees' union in Jonquiere. Wal-Mart should have known it would happen. Jonquiere is a blue-collar town surrounded by unionized aluminum and wood mills, and the province of Quebec has the strongest union representation in Canada.

Two months later an intransigent Wal-Mart sat through labour negotiations offering precisely nothing and compromising on no major issue. The UFCW, this time, should have seen what was coming. The company firmly holding their ground, ignoring the union's demands, did not fear a withdrawal of labour. They announced that the Jonquiere Wal-Mart was not profitable.

On February 9th, 2005, Wal-Mart made an announcement that sent shockwaves throughout the Wal-Mart archipelago. The company announced the closure of the Jonquiere store. Wal-Mart, both at the Canadian head-office and the corporate head-office in Bentonville, Arkansas, said the closure had nothing to do with the unionization of the workforce. No one believed them, least of all 90 percent of Canadians who started calling the Wal-Mart corporate leaders dishonest. (Actually, "liar" was used a lot.) It didn't matter. The message was clear to all Wal-Mart employees in Canada and the US: If you try to organize the punishment will be unemployment.

It didn't matter because Wal-Mart was within their rights under Quebec law to shut down the Jonquiere store, providing they never tried to open another one - ever.

On February 6th, Wal-Mart in the United States became the subject of a class-action suit which could involve 1.6 million women claiming discrimination on the basis of sex with relation to wage and benefit inequities. Plus there was the odd case of sexual harassment thrown in - allegedly by a company that has an anti-dating policy among employees.

Wal-Mart tried to impose that strict anti-dating, no flirting policy in Germany only to learn that such employment practice is illegal there. They also proved that the success of discount operations in North America does not equal diligent market research in Europe. Wal-Mart, forced by law to deal with German labour unions and having sent American product managers to stock German stores, found that Germans didn't want what Wal-Mart had to offer. Like the fiasco in Jonquiere, Wal-Mart had not taken into account all the factors of the area. When they tried to impose longer working hours on their German staff, they were flatly rejected by the union.

In July of 2006 Wal-Mart announced they were pulling out of the German market. This time, however, rather than just shut down locations, they sold them to a German retail company. Once again, Wal-Mart has displayed an intense allergy to an empowered workforce.

It gives little for North American Wal-Mart workers to hope for. A company whose five heirs are worth $20 billion each, and which made $11.2 billion in profits in 2006, paying the CEO in excess of $11 million annually can't see its way clear to pay its employees a decent living wage.

However, there is one person who is working to make a difference. Blue Gal highlights the efforts of Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union. Stern isn't trying to organize Wal-Mart employees; he's going for a whole new labour model.

And, he's going after Wal-Mart.


Questions, Questions, Questions

Just some quick questions.

Why do elements in the government and the two major parties think that restricting freedoms is the way to fight against people who "hate us for our freedoms"? Does victory over tyranny require the surrender of liberty? There are a lot of people who think exactly that it seems.

How incompetent is the RCMP? I mean really. After 22 years they now find they absolutely, positively have to be able to "compel" further testimony from someone they've already interviewed. Further to that the only way in the known universe they will be able to do that is by extending a power they've had the option of using for the past 5 years but haven't used because...because...well, just because apparently. So now they can't whisk witnesses off the street in a black bag for a few weeks. Except probably they can if the only people who know about are them and Stockboy. I don't believe there are any good answers the force can offer on this that don't involve admitting they've been screwing the pooch for 22 years on this file and want to use the elevated fears of 02007 to acquire the same powers as every banana republic police force has.

Are you environmentally romantic or scientific? Stewart Brand thinks it matters.

We now return you to the latest report of the disintegration of Anna Nicole's tits.

Are you smarter than a fifth grader Condi?


On Sunday Condoleeza Rice opened her cakehole and said this.
"…It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."
An astounding revision of the facts to suit the Bush administration's needs. Did these people ever go to something so basic as school?

Keith Olbermann addressed Rice's lack of historical knowledge directly... and tore her a a new orifice. Crooks & Liars has the video and the transcript.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Stockwell Day: The consumate liar


Perhaps you remember this about Stockwell Day. Or maybe this. If not, then perhaps, this. All of them pale when compared to the blatant abuse of a government resources by Day when this appeared on the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada website.
OTTAWA, February 23, 2007— Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day, issued the following statement on the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision regarding the constitutionality of the security certificate process as set out in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

“We have just received the Supreme Court’s decision. We are reviewing it carefully.

The Government intends to respond in a timely and decisive fashion to address the Court’s decision. The Court has given the Government one year to address the concerns it has raised with respect to the process for hearing confidential information. In the interim, the security certificate process remains in place.

The security certificate process has been in place since 1978 to protect Canadians against threats to their safety and security.

At a time when the Opposition Parties are being soft on security and soft on terrorism, Canada’s New Government remains unwavering in its determination to safeguard national security and is committed to working with all its partners to protect the safety and security of Canadians.”

Does Day mean, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition? Is he using a government resource for Conservative Party purposes? Does Day know the difference between government policy and parliamentary debate? Does he understand that using a taxpayer supported website for purely party purposes is the same breach of trust as getting on a government aircraft for party electioneering?

Stockwell Day has already been exposed as a racist, a homophobe and a liar. And now, he is bringing a debate from the floor of the House of Commons to a website paid for by the taxpayer.

Abuse of power and an inappropriate use of government resources.

Stockwell Day is so stupid, so childish and so wrapped up in himself that he hasn't the mental capacity to understand the difference between policy and politics.

It's time this ridiculous excuse for a human being was dispatched.

Write him here, and demand that he apologize. It may do no good since Day believes he holds his office by Divine Right, but do it anyway. While you're at it, it might be worth pointing out that all those billboards in the Okanagan with his picture on it are harming the economy of the area. People come there to sample the wine - not be bombarded with images of a narcissist asshole.

Oh, and in the event the Harperites try to hide what Day has done, Liberal Catnip has the screenshot, just for posterity.

That Sinking Feeling


A friend of mine who works in the same neighbourhood emailed me this:
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala - A 330-foot-deep sinkhole killed at least two teenagers as it swallowed about a dozen homes early Friday and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people in a crowded Guatemala City neighborhood. Officials blamed the sinkhole on recent rains and an underground sewage flow from a ruptured main.
The pit emitted foul odors, loud noises and tremors, shaking the surrounding ground. A rush of water could be heard from its depths, and authorities feared it could widen or others could open up.Rescue operations were on hold until a firefighter, suspended from a cable, could take video and photos above the hole and officials could use the documentation to decide how to proceed.

The dead were identified as Irma and David Soyos, emergency spokesman Juan Carlos Bolanos said. Their bodies were found near the sinkhole, floating in a river of sewage.Their father, Domingo, was still missing, according to disaster coordinator Hugo Hernandez.

Just amazing.

Bloody Money Into the Sand

Another $200 million in aid going to Afghanistan.

To do what exactly?

Well, we can't say for sure and we won't find out until maybe next year. Even then what we find out will probably be more relevant the money spent between '01 and '06 than to this money. And that's only if the Harperites don't black out the documents for some specious national security reason.

A further question regarding this new money, and it is new money, is that it will be funnelled to the Afghan people through aid agencies. Which aid agencies is the question? If the money is funnelled through US aid agencies there's every likelihood that less than a fifth of it will ever make it's way to where we think it should. From a report to the House of Representatives on February 15, Peter Bergen notes:

"One important caveat on the reconstruction aid—much of that aid should be funnelled through the Afghan government and/or Afghan organizations rather than recycled to U.S. contractors. According to Ann Jones, an American writer who has worked in Afghanistan as an aid worker, unlike countries like Sweden that incur only 4 percent of their aid costs on “technical assistance” that goes back home to Sweden, “eighty six cents of every dollar of American aid is phantom aid” that will line American pockets rather than go directly to Afghans. For their part, Afghan government ministries must be more efficient at spending reconstruction money. Last year these ministries only spent 44 percent of the aid they were given. This year they are likely to spend 60 percent." (Ann Jones is the author of "Kabul in Winter".)

We have no idea what we're doing.

All we really know is the feel good story we tell ourselves composed of snatches of misheard rumours, breathless patriotic publicity posing as news, manipulative self-serving statements from Afghan nationals who are mostly little better than drug running thugs, all of it overlaid with strong doses of partisan ideological preference.

We have nothing demonstrable to present as evidence of progress after 5 1/2 years. That's about a year and a half longer than World War One and about 6 months shorter than World War Two with nothing measurable accomplished.

We need to pause for further thought but we won't. We need to know that something, anything, is changing for the better in the lives of the Afghan people but we won't. We need to have some kind of an indication of yardsticks, measurements, milestones but we won't.
Instead we'll pour more money into the sand.

Soon it will be spring and we'll pour more blood over the money.

They're back! And they're still not Johnny Depp.


Somali pirates had quietened down for quite some time. Now, all of a sudden, with the resurgence of the war-lords, they're back.
Three Somali police speedboats and a U.S. military vessel were headed Monday toward a U.N.-chartered cargo ship hijacked by pirates, a senior police official said. Piracy has been rampant off the Somali coast.

Somali pirates boarded the MV Rozen - which had just delivered a total of 1,884 tons of food aid in northern Somalia - on Sunday, taking the crew hostage, officials said. It is the third U.N.-chartered ship to be hijacked in Somali waters since 2005.

Police boats were within sight of the ship ``but we asked them to stop going further because our biggest concern is the safety of the crew of 12 on board,'' said Col. Abdi Ali Hagaafe, police chief of the Bari region.

``We have asked the U.S. navy in the Red Sea ... to help us in the operation, and they told us they have started to move towards the ship,'' he said.

The ship is not in international waters, but ``U.S./Coalition forces are in the area and are monitoring the situation,'' said Lt. Denise Garcia of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command based in Bahrain.

Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System equipment. They typically are armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades, according to the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia.

Just in case anyone thinks this is funny, these guys aren't above killing the entire crew just for the hell of it.

So, why is the UN shipping food in unarmed merchant ships without a naval escort? This is now the fourth UN World Food Program ship high-jacked by Somali pirates. Two of them sat with the crews held hostage for over three months.

Escort work isn't sexy, but it is effective.

Whither Pakistan

Darth Veep spends a couple hours talking to Musharraf:

Mr Cheney urged Pakistan to do more to combat the Taleban near the Afghan border, but also praised its role in the "war on terror", officials said.

...

He went straight into talks with President Musharraf on his arrival in Islamabad and made no public comment after his meeting. Pakistani officials, however, said Mr Cheney had conveyed US "apprehensions" about al-Qaeda regrouping in the tribal areas near Afghanistan. And he communicated "serious US concerns" about reports that a surge in Taleban attacks against Nato forces in Afghanistan was imminent, the officials said. But he also praised Pakistan for its "pivotal role" in fighting the militants.
...

His trip follows a report in the New York Times saying that US President George W Bush wants to send a tough message to Pakistan that Washington could cut its aid to the country unless President Musharraf goes after militants more aggressively.
So which is it? Either Pakistan is doing a good job with its "pivotal role" or it is causing "serious apprehensions" worthy of "tough messages". Then there's this:

Pakistani officials said border security was a joint responsibility and that Nato and Afghan forces on the other side must do more.
Short Dick:
"Our nuts are in the fire, help us. If I was physiologically capable of saying "please" I would, but since I can't I just threaten to take away the shiny new aeroplanes we promised you."

Long Musharraf:
"You put your own nuts in the fire. It's not our fault you don't have enough troops in Afghanistan to secure the borders. You withdrew them to go chase oil and phantom Iraqi WMDs, remember? If it served my interest to invade Waziristan, I would. But since, given the large number of Islamist sympathisers in my country, I would be risking my gonads to save yours. Think about it, Dick, I lead a nuclear power - you NEED us to be stable, even if it costs you in Afghanistan, lest I get forcibly replaced by some fanatic."

I suspect to some extent Cheney realises this, and it is why he didn't spend long in Islamabad or apparently press too hard. I also believe Musharraf could do more but has little incentive outside issues of Pakistan's internal stability, because he sees the the US and NATO presence next door as destabilising influences. He also reads the chicken bones and is aware that in another year or two, NATO may scale down its presence or leave entirely: Canada is thinking about 2009 should the Liberals win the next election, and heaven knows what'll happen in US after a couple more years of war, and possibly an attack on Iran.

Tony Blair quietly inserts the dogs of war


The Scotsman reports that Tony Blair's withdrawal of 1600 troops from Iraq is more smoke and mirrors. It would appear that while he's pulling the troops with a Royal Union flag on their camo smocks, he's replacing them with those who wear a slightly different logo. Mercenaries. (via NewsHog)
MINISTERS are negotiating multi-million-pound contracts with private security firms to cover some of the gaps created by British troop withdrawals.

Days after Tony Blair revealed that he wanted to withdraw 1,600 soldiers from war-torn Basra within months, it has emerged that civil servants hope "mercenaries" can help fill the gap left behind.

Officials from the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence will meet representatives from the private security industry within the next month to discuss "options" for increasing their business in Iraq in the coming years.

The UK government has already paid out almost £160m to private security companies (PSCs) since the invasion of Iraq, for a range of services, including the protection of British officials on duty and in transit in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

But, despite expectations that the booming market for private security would go into decline following the bursting of the "Iraq bubble", firms have now been told to expect even more lucrative work during the "post-occupation phase".

A senior official from one of the biggest PSCs already operating in Iraq last night claimed firms had been told to expect increased business opportunities in areas such as personnel protection, highway security and the training of Iraqi police and soldiers.

[...]

The development will reawaken complaints that the government is "privatising" the occupation of Iraq.

Pressure groups have consistently warned that private security contractors have been given too much freedom to operate in Iraq, and one warned that the country was being flooded with PSCs as part of the British "exit strategy
And, after Nepos appointed Orestes, Orestes overthrew Nepos. Then Odoacer, the commander of the Germanic mercenaries employed by Rome, overthrew Orestes. Then Rome fell.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Where does a conservative go for protection from unfair prosecution? To a liberal group, of course.


So where does a gay-bashing, family-values pastor run when charged with soliciting an undercover policeman for, you know, gay sex?

To the liberal community who, without question, will defend his rights, of course.
The lawyer for a former Baptist church leader who had spoken out against homosexuality said Thursday the minister had a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman.

Rev. Lonnie Latham supported a resolution calling on gays and lesbians to reject their "sinful, destructive lifestyle" before his Jan. 3, 2006, arrest outside the Habana Inn in Oklahoma City.

Authorities said he asked an undercover policeman to come up to his hotel for oral sex.

His lawyer, Mack Martin, filed a motion to have the misdemeanour lewdness charge thrown out, saying the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas that it is not illegal for consenting adults to engage in private homosexual acts.

"Now, my client's being prosecuted basically for having offered to engage in such an act, which basically makes it a crime to ask someone to do something that's legal," Martin said.
Yup. Lonnie Latham, who was an executive member of the Southern Baptist Convention, has turned to his rights under the US constitution and is accepting the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in defending himself against the charges brought against him.

Latham, until his January, 2006 arrest, had supported the anti-gay policy of the Southern Baptist Convention calling a homosexual lifestyle "sinful" and "destructive". At the time, the ACLU would have vehemently disagreed.

Now Latham is relying on an attorney who is not afraid to argue that this is a violation of Latham's rights and the ACLU which will not standby and watch anyone get their rights trampled by unconstitutional and ridiculous laws.
Both sides agree there was no offer of money but prosecutor Scott Rowland said there is a "legitimate governmental interest" in regulating offers of acts of lewdness.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed a brief claiming Latham's arrest also violated his right to free speech.

Back when Latham was arrested PZ Myers commented:

My first thought wasn't that it was shocking that a Baptist anti-gay crusader wanted illicit sexual release, but to wonder that it is apparently illegal to simply ask for oral sex in Oklahoma. Is it coercive? Are Oklahomans all so flamingly gay (but repressed) that they can't just say no?

I say, Free Lonnie Latham! He's a martyr to the suppression of the rights of gay men in Oklahoma!

So, Lonnie Latham is now snuggled up to one of the groups the right-wing Christian dominionists despise - the ACLU.

And, let's hope Latham wins. The law under which Latham was charged is ludicrous. The "legitimate governmental interest" should be interesting to read, because if it is held up, there are going to be a lot of heterosexual adults who are going to have to start pussy-footing around the idea of consensual sex.

Latham just doesn't have the profile of some recently exposed hypocrites, but hopefully he'll remember where he found the advocates in defence of his civil and constitutional rights and be prepared to make loud and long with the truth.

His defenders didn't come from anything with the word "conservative" in it.

(Spelling error corrected.)

Juicy Bonus: Canadian Cynic in comments points out that other prominent right-wing whackjobs have benefited greatly from the direct assistance of the ACLU. As the ACLU stated back in 2004:

"For many people, it may seem odd that the ACLU has come to the defense of Rush Limbaugh," ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a released statement.

"But we have always said that the ACLU's real client is the Bill of Rights, and we will continue to safeguard the values of equality, fairness and privacy for everyone, regardless of race, economic status or political point of view," Simon said.

Simon left out that the ACLU also defends mono-synaptic smear-merchants who target the ACLU with a vitriolic fervor which would lead any passing observer to believe the likes of Limbaugh is obsessed with destroying the ACLU. Before the ACLU came to his defence, he had a few things to say about them:


September 12th, 2003:
“If this guy had burned that flag,” Limbaugh said, “the ACLU and countless other groups would be down there supporting this guy’s right to desecrate old glory. But because he’s flying the American flag respectfully, none of the so-called civil libertarians makes a peep.

September 23rd, 2003:
“The ACLU has decided they’re not going to appeal the Ninth Circuit’s decision to reinstate the California re-call election... They must not really care all that much about you stupid minorities and poor people.

December 23rd, 2003:
“Where have all these so-called civil libertarians gone, the ACLU and the rest of them, claiming our government is overreaching?”

Of course, Limbaugh, who reached an "agreement" with the West Palm Beach district attorney over his illegal use of drugs, had a view, while he was using drugs, on how others should be treated for illegal drug use.

“Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. ... And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.”
Limbaugh never did get "sent up".

I'm sure cases like Latham's and Limbaugh's abound. Feel free to accumulate them in comments.



The Nut Free Peter Mackay

What are the chances Peter Mackay can lay off hound dogging after Condoleeza Rice long enough to behave like a Canadian Foreign Minister?

Slim to none I'd wager.

Which is too bad for the Iranian immigrant family from Toronto whose Zoom Airlines flight from Guyana was diverted into Puerto Rico because of a medical emergency.

Verbena-19 is all over this one and is asking for people to email Mackay's office asking for some kind of action to get this innocent family some help.

I'm going to do that but I also admit that I don't hold out much hope that Mackay will step up for this poor family and their 9 year old son.

The Foreign Minister of Canada is a gormless, gutless, nutless errand boy for the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada.

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper is yearning to wield the same arbitrary of powers of detention here that his US counterparts have.

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada is not likely to do anything to draw any attention to instances of those powers being arbitrarily and grossly abused.

That might make too many people wonder why he wants those powers so badly.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mrs. Mills "separation" etiquette


This could have been a touchy problem, but Mrs. Mills provided an answer which smooth things through:

I am in love with my friend and he has declared his undying love for me. He wants me to leave my husband and run away with him, but I don’t know what to do. I can’t seem to make up my mind. What is the correct etiquette for leaving one’s husband? Also, do you have any suggestions as to how I leave my job? Obviously, giving a month’s notice is not an option, as I want to cause as little scandal as possible, or preferably even none.
Of course. Minimize the scandal. Mrs. Mills shows her how:
If you are going to do it, do it in style. Give your company a month’s notice (“because I’m running off with my lover”) and give your husband a month’s notice, too. During this period, both you and your husband will continue to receive all the benefits of your respective positions while you look for work and your husband checks out available talent. Obviously, just as the company will have to let you have time off to attend interviews, so you will have to let your husband try out various replacement partners around the house. A testing time, then, for both of you, but a brighter future in prospect.
It's a particularly good column this week. Check it out at TimesOnline.

I say, Mr. Bush, your generals are revolting


On 13 February, this year General Peter Pace tossed cold water on the attempt by the Bush administration to create a casus belli for an attack on Iran. His point that there was no evidence that the Iranian government was implicated directly in the provision of weapons to Iraqi insurgents came as something of a surprize to Bush. It prompted Bush to make this ridiculous statement:
What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?
Pace's statement was an indication of some serious opposition inside the Pentagon to the Bush/Cheney plans to launch an attack on Iran. And now, we learn that it is probably a lot more serious than originally thought. (Emphasis mine) If any of the Chiefs of Staff of any of the services or any of the commanders of the nine US combatant commands resign over an attack on Iran it would spell disaster for Bush.
SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources. [...]

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

They are joined by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
The kicker is that this appears to be generals and admirals at the most senior level. Pace's stance on Iran would be difficult to maintain if he didn't have the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The question is, which generals and admirals are prepared to walk if Bush/Cheney just go ahead with their obvious plans?

Perhaps Bush should consider dealing with Iran another way.

Single combat.

Ahmadinejad could send one of his eight vice-presidents and Bush could send his only vice-president.

Shotguns. Two rounds each.

Supporting the Troops

Newsweek is reporting today that hundreds perhaps thousands of US Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are homeless. When added to the number of homeless surviving Vietnam vets its estimated that there may be as many as 200,000 US vets living on the streets. This number is expected to grow as Dick and George's Excellent Iraq adventure goes on and bloody on and Afghanistan becomes a more and more intractable problem with no end in sight.

Its also been reported by the Washington Post that Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC is falling apart under the strain. Five and a half years of returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets who have undergone their medical procedures and are now outpatients waiting for psychological help or housing or rehabilitation now outnumber inpatients by a ratio of 17 to 1.

Adds a whole new level of warmth to "Support the Troops" don't it?

I will be brutally clear: the only servicemen and women who have value to the Bush administration are the ones who come home in a box. The maimed, disturbed and outright mad are simply human waste as far as the Bushites and todays GOP are concerned. Something distasteful to be shuffled out of sight, out of mind with as little fuss and cost as possible.

I don't know if all empires have treated failed cannon fodder that way but this one certainly is.

I only hope there are a few men and women in Veterans Affairs Canada who have the jam to stand up and fight back loudly and publicly when the assholes Harper and O'Connor start shifting defence spending away from the responsibilities owed to our vets, wounded as well as not wounded.

They will try at some point, count on it.

Here's why I say that.

As the costs of our foolish over-commitment in Afghanistan mount over the years government will be pressured, probably by some officious assclown bean counter like Sheila Fraser, to start finding "efficiencies".

The corporate model of government we've had foisted on us over the past decades dictates that those efficiencies centre on cutting costs where there is no return on the investment.

Wounded vets and their families are costs with no return.

Why else do you think it's happening in the US?

The pointed end of the stick, where all the big noises and flashes happen get the attention and the funds. There's a return every day in the flag waving media.

The blunted ends are silently ignored and disappeared and then unceremoniously thrown away.

The threat to American culture: Canada!


Remember this post from over a year ago? It was about religious wanker Tristan Emmanuel and his efforts to influence Canadian prime minister Steve Harper.

Well, Emmanuel is at it again. This time he has a new book out entitled, Warned: Canada's Revolution against Faith, Family and Freedom Threatens America.

Thanks to the freaky big-floppy-shoe and red nose types at Newsmax, we come to find that Canada, that's right, Canada is close to bringing down the United States of America.

How did they know?

Among those involved in seeking to subvert America's culture are homosexual activists, left-wing politicians and a plethora of crusading activists Supreme Court judges" whom he says are it in one way or another using their status in Canada to inflict their hard left views on America.

Their target is marriage. They believe that by altering the nature of marriage, it can become a key weapon in destroying America's Christian culture and civilization, Emmanuel warns.

Their ultimate goal in this respect, is, he says, for America to "go gay." He adds that this is already happening in Canada.

Damn! And that was supposed to be a secret.

Look, I was going to do a great post on this. I mean, Tristan Emmanuel? He is truly a target worth the effort. After all, considering this guy is as loud as any other number of Christian wingnut leaders in demanding gays be pounded out of existence, I expect some revelation at any time now.

I was going to do a long post, but the best I could have written would not come close to matching what Hairy Fish Nuts has posted, so I am sending you there.

You must read what Salvage has written. Go have a pee first. You are going to be laughing very, very hard.

The Disingenuousness of Tarek Fatah

At macleans.ca a discussion over Harper's smear of Liberal MP Navdeep Bains includes this from Tarek Fatah.

"Perhaps you can ask Navdeep Bains to state if the Vancouver SUN report is right or wrong. I am surpised (sic) that no one is asking Navdeep this question. If the Van-SUN report is wrong, then Navdeep should take Kim Bolan to task and set the record straight. That should not be too difficult a job."

Using Fatah's disingenuous contortion perhaps someone should ask Maher Arar if reports of his acquaintance with Abdullah Almalki are true.

That too shouldn't be too difficult a job.

Neither matter a whit, Fatah, unless guilt by association is the slimy game you're trying to play.

Up until I read that bit of crap from you I thought you had something constructive to contribute to the discourse.

I'm not so sure now.

Maybe you're just another sludge merchant.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Not My Prime Minister

In recent weeks it has become increasingly clear that Stephen Harper has little to no interest in reaching out toward the 60 some odd percent of Canadian voters who voted for parties other than his own .

His preference, when it comes to that rather large majority of us, appears to be to sufficiently divide us one from another that we split ourselves into a series of disparate, uncooperative political camps unable to form a cohesive opposing force.

It's working out quite well for him. We're playing along quite admirably.

It's working out so well in fact that we're looking at the distinctly grim possibility that the Prime Minister of Canada may be the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper for a good many years to come. Though he may always be the head of minority governments he will still be the PM. There is no comfort to be found in that given what we have seen in the past 14 months.

I only hope we are a strong enough confederation to survive. I say I hope because I am no longer sure.

I am no longer sure because we have never experienced a national government led by a PM whose primary political instinct was toward division. It's true we have had other PM's under whom specific policies led to specific regional divisions. We have never had a PM whose specific and overriding impulse was to divide and to do so by any means possible.

We've never had to find out if as a nation of citizens we are organically oriented toward national unity or if national unity has always been a necessary artifact of a strongly centralized federation. Are we self-confident enough, sure enough of our democratic heritage to survive intentional divisiveness deployed as a tool of national government? On recent evidence I would have to say it does not look terribly promising.

Still, over the course of the next several years we will find out .

In the meantime, I will make my conviction explicit.

I am a Canadian and Stephen Harper is not my Prime Minister.

Fox News plucks one from the asylum


This should be precious. Mouthbreather central is scrambling to regain ratings.
Fox News Channel is testing another pilot on Sunday that will air following its experiment in news satire, "The ½ Hour News Hour."

"It's Out There," a half-hour of stories derived from blogs, will get a half-hour test run following Joel Surnow's satirical take on news.

Show, fronted by conservative blogger-columnist Michele Malkin and former Clinton administration operative Kirsten Powers, will take on political and cultural issues enflaming the blogosphere.

The first episode will look at John Edwards' virtual campaign HQ and other candidates using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to reach young voters.

The pilot airs in a timeslot that's sported a grab-bag of specials and repeats of shows. Both pilots are part of FNC's bid to develop a more permanent lineup for the night with young-skewing skeins that can attract and maintain an aud.
This will be the fair and balanced Michelle Malkin we're talking about. The one who wrote this. Oops! Sorry... (the titles were so close!) She wrote this. (Jesse only did the research!) She also wrote this, while claiming that she's not a racist.

Joining her will be Kirsten Powers, former Deputy Assistant US Trade Representative for Public Affairs during the Clinton administration. (Why do I keep interpreting that as Recording Secretary at a Sons of Scotland executive committee meeting?)

Powers is undoubtedly the "liberal" side of the 1/2 hour program. Well, as "liberal" as you're ever likely to see on a Rupert Murdoch production. She's the "looks" part of the show given that she isn't all that comfortable with TV studio technology.
... hopefully I'll avoid any bloopers such as this one from last night, when I started reading the teleprompter at the wrong time


We'll see how long this lasts. Given Malkin's inclination to go off like a jar of putrefying moose-meat in an Osoyoos heat-wave, Powers might find sitting beside her a tad uncomfortable. After all, Malkin actually likes Ann Coulter while Powers tore Coulter up for dog food over the Iraq war.

And, um, a short word to both Powers and Malkin. If you find a sort of cylindrical object laying around, just take it down the hall to this guy.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation CPoC Hackery


Buckdog takes a bite out of the ass of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation as a result of this press release:
“Do You Think It’s Easy to Hail a Cab?”
Access to Information documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) reveal that St├ęphane Dion’s chauffeur billed taxpayers $14,225 for Montreal hotel and travel expenses. In addition, documents show during the 2005 Kyoto conference in Montreal, Mr. Dion opted to lodge at a hotel at a cost of $5,548, even though he maintains a residence in Montreal where he is the Member of Parliament for Saint-Laurent–Cartierville.
I don't know. Is it? Why doesn't the Canadian Taxpayers Federation check with Heritage Minister, Bev Oda? (Michael Savage MP, Dartmouth-Cole Harbour) (Emphasis mine)

Last year Halifax was delighted to host the Juno's. In fact, Nova Scotia is one of the cultural capitals of Canada. We were delighted to have the Juno's for a number of reasons, one of which was the economic boom that it brought to Halifax. Taxpayers, however, were not aware of the extent to which the heritage minister contributed to that economic boom by the use of taxpayers' dollars.

I have the bill for the limo services that were used by the minister while she was in Halifax. It is interesting to note that she arrived on March 31 and left on April 3. On March 31, two different limousines were required. In fact, one was a mini-van and one was a limo. Apparently the mini-van was not good enough and the limo was requested. It took two orders to get her into the Delta Barrington.

Later that day she had another limo from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for three hours. That evening she required a stretch limo from 4:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. It was on standby, meaning it was not even used. It was just sitting there being charged to taxpayers while she was doing other stuff, some of which could have been business, some of which could have been personal.

On April 1 a sedan limo from 9:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. was used for seven hours. Most of that time the limo was on standby. Later that evening, a stretch limo was required from 5:30 p.m. until 11 p.m., with a half hour break, and then another limo from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. That was hospitality night, and the minister should go to some of those.

The hotel the minister stayed at, the Delta Barrington, is exactly one-tenth of one kilometre from where the Juno's took place. The hospitalities were all in the same general area as well. The Economy Shoe Shop is a great place and one that I would recommend to many members for the artichoke dip. It is a great spot. It is where CTV had the big bash. Did the minister really need 7.5 hours of stretch limo on standby while she was inside the Economy Shoe Shop, which is less than one-tenth of one kilometre from the Metro Centre? The Metro Centre and the hotel also happen to be connected by pedway and underground tunnel. It seems a little excessive.

The next day she used a stretch limo. The day after the Juno's it says here that a stretch limo was on standby from 12 noon until 5:30 p.m. That evening, two sedan limos were required for standby for the red carpet walk event. So even when she walked, she needed limousines. It boggles the mind. After the Juno's a stretch limo was required from 11:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. The next morning a stretch limo took her out to the airport.

The total bill for limousines for the approximately three days that the heritage minister was in Halifax was $5,475, of which she repaid $2,000, leaving $1,000 a day for stretch limos to the taxpayer. [...] Why did the minister break Treasury Board guidelines, try to hide her expenses, and not post them on the website?
I have no problem with tax watchdogs taking a swipe at any politician for sticking their snouts too deep into the trough... provided all politicians are subject to the same scrutiny. If you type Bev Oda's name into a search at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation website it returns absolutely nothing. Zippo. Nada!

As Buckdog points out, Conservative cabinet minister and general slimeball Jason Kenney is the former president and CEO of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a so-called non-partisan group.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation: taking Conservative Party hackery to a whole new level.

Donohue attacks more women


Bill Donohue is busy raising the fecal coliform count of the internet again. It seems this guy is the ultimate human resources critic for every organization except his own.

This time he's running a smear on Frances Kissling, the retiring president of Catholics For A Free Choice. His complaint? Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is going to speak at Kissling's farewell party.
Donohue:
In 1993, and again in 2000, U.S. Catholic bishops, represented by the bishops’ conference, denounced CFFC as a fraud. And well they should have. Funded almost exclusively by fat-cat bigots like those at the Ford Foundation (they gave CFFC $2 million in 2005, which was more than it gave to all but five of 141 organizations it allotted grants to in its ‘Human Rights’ program that year), Kissling has deceitfully represented herself as running a Catholic group. It would be more accurate to say that she has been running the most notoriously anti-Catholic front group in the nation.
Nice try!

What Donohue doesn't spell out is that the Ford Foundation awards grants under several different headings and many organizations receive funding in many different areas which would put the CFFC a long way down the list of top recipients. And as for the Ford Foundation being bigots, here is the Human Rights program requirements of that organization:
Supports groups working on human rights in the United States and around the world. Grants focus on the rights of women, migrants, refugees, marginalized racial and ethnic groups and international human rights efforts. The unit also funds work on reproductive rights and the reduction of stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.
Yeah, that sounds like a bunch of fat-cat bigots alright. The question is, did Donohue apply for a grant from the Ford Foundation, and was it rejected?

So let's have a good look at Donohue's organization.

In the same year Donohue complains that CFFC received $2 million from the Ford Foundation, his Catholic League, registered as a 501(C) tax-exempt non-profit in the United States showed on an Internal Revenue Service form 990 that it raised $2,533,055 from donations. 2005 assets were in excess of $8 million, mostly in securities and investments. The Catholic League spent $1,178,058 in program services. The largest single expenditure? Why, Donohue's compensation, to the tune of $303,766.

The dollar amount of grant and allocations made by the Catholic League in 2005? ZERO.

The Catholic League claims to have chapters throughout the country. The exact number is six.

By comparison the Catholics For A Free Choice has offices and partnerships in ten countries plus a European advisory group. CFFC has also won awards from two independent charity evaluators: The Charity Navigator and Independent Charities of America.

The Catholic League doesn't show up on either of those lists.

The Catholic League reported on its 2005 IRS form 990 that it was not engaged in lobbying. Specifically, the question asked in section VI-B of the form says:
During the year, did the organization attempt to influence national, state or or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum through use of: (list) h. Rallies, demonstrations, seminars, conventions, speeches, lectures, or any other means
Really. Here is the closing line of Donohue's latest press release:
There are good Catholic Democrats out there. It’s time they took corrective action. If they don’t, Catholics will be forgiven if they conclude that the Democratic party has an animus against their religion.
Aside from accusing the victims of child-molesting Catholic priests of allowing themselves to be sexually assaulted, it looks an awful lot like Donohue is trying to influence Catholics not to support the Democratic party. That's a grass-roots lobby.

Compared to the Catholics For A Free Choice, the Catholic League looks like a racket and Donohue looks like the Don.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Jesus is back! All you fundies get packin'!


Umm, that's Jesus Christ. As PZ Meyers says, "Not just a guy named Jesus, but the Son of God."

Liberal Debutante has more on this amazing development and notes that instead of being born in the old-fashioned virgin-birth way and then being chaste, the returned messiah came by way of drug addiction and a spell in prison.

I have to say, he has much better bling than he had a couple of thousand years ago. I wonder if he gets twitchy at the sight of a power pole?

It's interesting that his disciples actually look like a security detail.

Conservapedia has not updated its Jesus entry yet and God's own blog still claims this guy is only a nephew.

The armed chimpanzee


Can you hear the fundies screaming? If you can't, you will soon. A double whammy has just been published in Current Biology. Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani have been studying Savannah chimpanzees in Fongoli, Senegal. What they discovered was more than a little significant. The Fongoli chimps hunt with weapons. The summary (emphasis mine)
Although tool use is known to occur in species ranging from naked mole rats [1] to owls [2], chimpanzees are the most accomplished tool users [3, 4, 5]. The modification and use of tools during hunting, however, is still considered to be a uniquely human trait among primates. Here, we report the first account of habitual tool use during vertebrate hunting by nonhumans. At the Fongoli site in Senegal, we observed ten different chimpanzees use tools to hunt prosimian prey in 22 bouts. This includes immature chimpanzees and females, members of age-sex classes not normally characterized by extensive hunting behavior. Chimpanzees made 26 different tools, and we were able to recover and analyze 12 of these. Tool construction entailed up to five steps, including trimming the tool tip to a point. Tools were used in the manner of a spear, rather than a probe or rousing tool. This new information on chimpanzee tool use has important implications for the evolution of tool use and construction for hunting in the earliest hominids, especially given our observations that females and immature chimpanzees exhibited this behavior more frequently than adult males.
Evolution. The dirtiest word in the fundie vocabulary. But there is something even more significant.

When Pruetz and Bertolani were making their observations they discovered something even more amazing. While all the chimps hunted as a group, it was the females who selected the branch of a tree, trimmed it, sharpened it into a spear and then employed it as a weapon. The scientists have a reason for that. The females, being smaller and less powerful than the males, have employed a technical device to allow them to compete equally with the hunting males. In short, because the females do not possess the physical strength of male chimps, they use their brains to a greater degree than the males.
Pruetz noted that male chimps never used the spears. She believes the males use their greater strength and size to grab food and kill prey more easily, so the females must come up with other methods.


The researchers are suggesting that the behaviour of the Fongoli chimps may reflect tool and weapon development by early humans. And that would suggest that women were the inventors and employers of the first hunting weapons.

This all indicates that this four year old concept may have a lot more merit. Since humans and chimps share 99.4 percent of the same DNA, perhaps it's time we showed them a little more respect. After all, in a few million years, if we don't blow the place up, chimps could be going into space without the help of humans.

Although, I'm sure there are some who would disagree. Let the screaming begin.

You expected.... what?


I share the this view over the attack by Harper on Navdeep Bains. I can't remember when I've seen one short political event raise so much hell in the Canadian blogosphere.

It was so bad, that even some of Harper's supporters felt they had to comment negatively on his actions. Although, I would suggest that characterizing Harper as "kind of a prick" is understating things slightly. He's more of a complete prick.

If there was any surprize at all yesterday it is that Harper did this not as a member of the Opposition, not while leading a majority government, but while at the head of the weakest minority government in Canadian history.

It demonstrates something which has always been present in Harper. He is a bad-tempered, mean-spirited piece of work and when he's not getting his way, he is unable to control himself.

Haven't we always known that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hillier's dilemma


General Rick Hillier managed to anger more than a few people with his "Decade of Darkness" speech. Indeed, he was wrong to truncate the truth. It was more like a quarter century of darkness and, if he was going to speak out that way, he should have painted the whole picture.

The government which preceded the "Decade of Darkness", that of Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives, perpetrated as much as what followed in the Chretien years. Prior to that, Pierre Trudeau had to be pounded into understanding that if he allowed any further rust-out of the armed forces that even minor peacekeeping missions would be difficult to manage and support.

The Mulroney Conservatives inherited major equipment modernization and upgrades from the Trudeau Liberals. Beyond that, eight years of mismanagement and a forces-wide pay freeze were the hallmark events of that government.

Hillier's heinous crime, if he felt so compelled to lay blame for the condition of the armed forces, was to limit it to just the Chretien era. Beyond that, and this is what galls most people, he failed to acknowledge that the Paul Martin Liberals had restored funding to the Canadian Forces and had promised significant growth with a view to re-equipping and modernizing the CF over the next five years. The Harper Conservatives inherited that program - not the one that preceded it. Hillier was being less than honest by not pointing that out.

Notwithstanding all of that, Hillier is not a Harper appointee. He was selected and appointed by Paul Martin. And, no matter how you view it, Hillier has always been outspoken. Martin was well aware that Hillier would fight tooth and nail to get what he needed for an effective armed forces. In his first speech as Chief of Defence Staff he spoke directly to Martin and his government.
In this country, we could probably not give enough resources to the men and women to do all the things that we ask them to do. But we can give them too little, and that is what we are now doing. Remember them in your budgets.
If Paul Martin was surprised by that statement, he didn't show it. In fact, this was the guy Paul Martin wanted at the head of the Canadian Forces. A general who wasn't afraid to defend his own troops and, more than just an advocate, someone who would fight to mold the Canadian Forces into a modern, multi-role, expeditionary combat capable service.

Hillier probably would have been happy with a Paul Martin Liberal government.

Last week's "Decade of Darkness" speech certainly appeared to be over the line. But then, Hillier has never been known for selecting his words well. (Outwardly calling the Taliban, the enemy his forces would be required to face, "murderers and scumbags" was unprofessional at the least and dangerously stupid at most. It demonstrated a clear lack of respect for an enemy he had not properly assessed. Failure to respect the enemy is a soldier's folly.) In that, it may be that Hillier has been badly misinterpreted. While everyone viewed that speech as a jab at the previous Liberal regime (and a certain amount of that can never be denied), he could quite easily have been speaking directly to his current political masters. Something along the lines of "You have to do more for the CF if you want the CF to do more for you. You get what you give."

Hillier is in a fight with the man who is ostensibly his superior, Minister of National Defence, Gordon O'Connor.
So, how serious is the bad blood?

Well, sources say O'Connor has prohibited Hillier from talking to the Prime Minister's Office without his permission, something Liberals insist is a new way of doing business between supreme leaders.

By most accounts, there was a very acrimonious showdown last month when O'Connor rolled out a six-page attachment to the mandate letter that diverted soldiers to protect Arctic sovereignty and put them in position around a dozen cities as emergency responders.

It's a prohibitively costly exercise that will lay claim to thousands of already scarce troops who are needed on international fronts, particularly with the Taliban on the rise. The way some military brass see it, a domestic priority is admirable, but those soldiers just train for eventualities that may never come.

Still, O'Connor is adamant that his Canada First defence policy is critical and has infuriated the brass by demanding Hillier plan for the questionable deployment of a rapid-reaction battalion to Goose Bay, N.L., and the relocation of the Joint Task Force 2 to Trenton, Ont., which seems more to do with electioneering than legitimate military manoeuvres.


It all came to a head a few weeks ago when a top-level military meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper was scrubbed at the last minute because officials felt no consensus was possible.

Two things emerge. Hillier quite likely had a far better relationship with his Liberal defence minister, Bill Graham, than he has with O'Connor.


O'Connor, once Hillier's superior officer in the army, has laid out several plans with which Hillier disagrees and on which he has not been consulted. There have been several occasions where Hillier has butted heads with O'Connor, but the first was undoubtedly the question of strategic airlift. The Harperites, O'Connor included, have some kind of overwhelming urge to build a permanent and expensive strategic airlift component into the CF. Hillier wanted no part of that if it meant paying for it with a loss of tactical air mobility.

The current fight is over domestic operations and plans to make major changes to domestic defence structure and disbursal of resources, troops and capability. Hillier has made it clear that it cannot be done with what exists now, nor can it be done within the envelope of the forecast increases provided by the last Conservative budget.

It will take a lot more money and a lot more troops than what the Conservatives are offering. The CF is emerging, after all, from a decade of darkness, which the Conservative/Alliance/Reform opposition of the day acknowledged as a fiscal necessity, and the legacy of those fiscal restraints has caused considerable damage. Hillier is telling O'Connor and Harper what he needs to correct the problem and if they are not prepared to provide the massive additional funds and a significant increase in personnel then they had better stop asking for things Hillier is unable to provide.

The second thing which surfaces is that O'Connor is attempting to play general. O'Connor retired from the CF as a brigadier general. That is a notable achievement, but he never did attain the level he had hoped for. Hillier, once O'Connor's subordinate, did achieve the top job and while we'll never hear it, O'Connor is probably somewhat rankled over that. And then there's a little thing called Peter Principle. O'Connor advanced into the most junior of the general officer ranks and did not move beyond that for some reason. That is not to say his competence as a BGen was in question, but he was obviously not considered suitable for further promotion. By taking over the political defence file he is probably in over his head by being elevated to his own level of incompetence. He is supposed to be managing a department; Hillier runs the armed forces.

Something of the fight that is going on was made evident when the navy had to announce that they would not be able to carry out a scheduled sovereignty patrol. The Maritime Commander would have reported the navy's financial condition to Hillier. Understand that Hillier, as CDS would never want any part of the CF to have to stand-down for lack of money. But the navy held firm and at a point where O'Connor clearly did not provide the funds necessary to keep the navy at a proper operational tempo, Hillier let the flotilla commander release the information to the media. O'Connor was forced to acquiesce and come up with additional funding. The navy then followed up with the next announcement that would see them pull out of major international exercises. Hillier would have been fully aware of that. It was also a sign that at the department level, not the force level, funds were being manipulated and moved against the wishes of the Chief of Defence Staff.

So, while Hillier certainly spoke in such a way that it could be interpreted as a Conservative Party prop, I have certain doubts. Once the whole picture is in place, I see Hillier talking to his current political boss.

And it's not a pleasant conversation.

Lengthening the blogroll


A few more additions from the past few days:

Verbena-19 is still keeping a sharp eye on Canadian events and beyond. She's moved her great blog over to Wordpress from Blogger, (which would explain why my RSS feed from her site had gone silent. All fixed!)

Asia Exile is written by Richard Lloyd Parry who is the Asia Editor for The Times. He resides in Japan just down the tracks from The Rev who pointed out Richard's blog.

Reader Eastern Front sent us scuttling off to go check out Bouphonia. Yup! It's a good one and worth the visit.

As Blogtopia (a term coined by Skippy) grows so will the roll. If readers have any suggestions we'll always have a look. There is some criteria, although I'm not sure what it really is yet.

Regrettably, Maxwell's House posted a final yesterday. Best wishes on your book Devin.

Let us focus on the surge... oh look! A pony!


Shorter Paul Mirengoff: If Bush's plan were working there would be endless praise and a detailed analysis of every bullet spent and every MRE consumed. It's not working so we have nothing to say. But keep reading because we all wish we had a pony.

The devil is in the details.

D.C. lawyer vs Basseteer.

No contest.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

al Qaeda on the rise

On March 13, 2002 George W. Bush was asked, roughly, "Where is Osama bin Laden?" This was his answer:
Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is -- as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him

[...]

Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.
Just six months earlier Osama bin Laden was cearly identified as the leader of an organization which had perpetrated an act of unprecedented horror upon the United States killing 2,973 people in a matter of a few minutes. Osama bin Laden was definitely worth any effort to bring into custody and face an angry world.

Yet, in six months Osama bin Laden had fallen out of the sights of George Bush. The attention span of the President of the United States was so short that his concern for a mass murderer had waned. Instead, Bush started to march his country to new war, based on manufactured evidence, with Iraq. And, as his attention to the individual responsible for the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks evaporated, so too did his attention to Afghanistan and the place Osama was able to train his followers and from which to coordinate attacks. Bush declared a place and a leader which had not been involved in September 11th as the main enemy and the central front of his so-called War On Terror. His focus shifted to Iraq and he literally forgot about Osama bin Laden.

Now, almost predictably, al Qaeda is back. Far from the fractured, marginalized network of George Bush's imagination, al Qaeda is regaining strength and engaged in renewed training.
American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

The former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA, Michael Scheuer provided an analysis that seems to verify what the anonymous intelligence types provided the New York Times on MSNBC's Countdown. For an excerpted transcript, Jill has the highlights and a strong comment:

I hope Americans will think back on how George W. Bush almost completely abandoned the effort to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, because instead of going to counseling for his father issues like normal people, he had to invade a country that was no threat to us, had nothing to do with September 11, and certainly had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
Exactly.

And you can bet that the next bit of sewage to rise out of the ranks of the right-wing noise machine will be something along the lines of the Republicans are the only US party with the cajones to deal with this rising threat.

If that were true, however, al Qaeda would be a defunct body.

Al Qaeda survives because Bush let it survive. It grew stronger because his rubber-stamp congress endorsed every thoughless move Bush made. It may well be within reach of formulating another devastating attack because Bush and his cargo culture found al Qaeda an inconvenient barrier to an agenda from which they would not vary. They wanted to go into Iraq, they were going to go into Iraq and Iraq is where they ended up. The Republicans are not the capable military crew they purport to be. They talk a good story but when the truth of their accomplishments are analyzed they emerge as completely incompetent. In terms of foreign policy and global strategy, nobody has produced worse results than Bush and flock of war-bangers who supported him. They're good at beating people up, but they don't have the smarts to actually win a fight.

Osama, and the members of his power structure, must have praised Allah a thousand times for their good luck. He got two hits with one swing. Not only was Bush unable to remain focused on his real enemy, he got his military machine bogged down in a country which was once hostile to him. They had but to feed the fires of resistance to keep the US tied down and occupied. In Afghanistan, it was a simple matter of sending sporadic waves of attacks in from the safe haven of North Waziristan to keep NATO and US troops engaged.

What does this mean for NATO troops in Afghanistan? More of the same. As many as NATO think they can eliminate, al Qaeda, and their client, the Taliban, will just send more. They will make an extra effort to keep western forces confused and constantly on the alert. By doing so it causes the governments who sent those troops to look in the wrong direction.

If al Qaeda is successful, if they manage to mount an attack of some significance in North America, it will be because they were allowed to get away with it. It will be because, unable to persevere and deal with each problem to its conclusion, the Bush administration allowed itself, lacking intelligence and discipline, to become distracted. It's happening again as Bush increases his rhetoric and attempts to generate a casus belli for attacking Iran. Osama must be his most fervent cheerleader.

If al Qaeda manages to attack North America again there will be only one group to blame. The neo-cons and the warped ideology that oozes from the dungeons of their imperial citadels.

If it happens again, it will be Bush's fault.