Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dotted line between Iran and Iraq

There has been a lot of interest generated by the view of former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, on the maritime border between Iran and Iraq at the frontier to the Shatt al-Arab waterway. The capture of 15 British naval personnel has raised a question as to whether there is or is not a border there at all.

I have a lot of respect for Murray, particularly in regards to his stand on Uzbekistan, but I have to disagree with his assessment of the existence of the borders at the Shatt end of the Persian Gulf.
The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker. But there are two colossal problems. A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force. B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.
Well, yes and no.

Murray is quite correct in stating that the boundary on the British chart does not exist. At least by agreement. That would be a border established by a treaty and then entered into law. That doesn't mean one doesn't exist by convention.

The actions of the Iranians themselves indicate that they accept the conventional border as drawn on the British chart. When the initially advertised position of the capture of the Royal Navy boats put them on the Iraqi side of the line on the British chart, the Iranians changed the geographic location of the capture to put them on the Iranian side of the boundary displayed on the British chart. They wouldn't do that unless they accepted that boundary, even temporarily, as having some force.

The corporate media has been harkening back to the 1975 agreement which settled a dispute over the Shatt al-Arab waterway by following the thalweg or, deepest part of the river, and dividing it. This is a common means of establishing a border where the river forms the boundary between two countries, as is the case with the Danube in Europe.

Big media has it right, in a small sense, but they don't know why. The dispute between Iraq and Iran over the Shatt al-Arab waterway has been going on since 1639. The 1975 Algiers Accord resolved the division of the waterway between the two land masses but did not clear up the sea frontier. When the media, and Tony Blair, refer back to the Algiers Accord as the resolution of that frontier they are wrong.

What happens, in the absence of any other treaty, law or international convention is that a straight line extension of the same angle as the land boundary is drawn out to seaward for 12 miles. With no other means of determining the actual boundary, that is the only method of being able to resolve the territorial waters of two adjacent countries.

However, there is more information. Iran claims a 12 mile territorial limit. The baseline, or point of origin for that measurement is a mudflat which only dries at low tide. Many people have been claiming, quite incorrectly, that the baseline for territorial waters is the high water mark. In fact, Iran is using the baseline properly for the measured distance to seaward. It is the rest of their claim which is off the mark and those who jump on the "Iran was within its rights" bandwagon do so without understanding the UN Convention of the Law Of The Sea.

Iran, Iraq and Kuwait have all signed the UNCLOS agreement. Iran has the right to establish a 12 mile territorial limit to seaward from the low tide mark of their land in accordance with the convention.
Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention.

Except where otherwise provided in this Convention, the normal baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the low-water line along the coast as marked on large-scale charts officially recognized by the coastal State.

So does Kuwait, and that causes a problem because if both enforce a 12 mile limit in all seaward directions from their land mass Iraq is totally cut off from the Persian Gulf. That is prohibited by the same convention Part II, Section 2, Article 7, para 6.
6. The system of straight baselines may not be applied by a State in such a manner as to cut off the territorial sea of another State from the high seas or an exclusive economic zone.
Essentially, what that says is that Iran cannot use the measurement that would give them a territorial sea in all directions to seaward, 12 miles from the baseline. They are not allowed to cut off Iraq and must accept prior use by Iraq as a means of establishing a boundary.

That goes back to the original event. While the boundary is murky, and crowds of people are protesting the British chart as being an arbitrary invention of their own, the Iranians, attempting to continue justification of their act, changed the position they said they had captured the RN boats to put themselves on the Iranian side of the conventional line. They had a good reason for doing that. They did not want to get into an UNCLOS dispute because
a) it would dilute their intended purpose and change the focus of their actions;
b) they would lose any argument in which they claimed territorial waters beyond the conventional border described by the British.

I get a little irked when I see people take a position that Iran needs to be given the benefit of the doubt over the position they were in when they took those sailors and marines hostage. That's patronizing and it belies the fact that Iran is not some bunch of medieval, turban-wearing religious nutballs. The Iranians are a completely capable crew with a full grasp of international conventions. Their leader is whacked out, but overall, underestimating the Iranians and their ability to play a grand strategy would be to make a huge mistake.

The maritime boundary between Iraq and Iran isn't why Iran captured those sailors and marines anyway. Much closer to the real reason is here.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Before you eat that USDA Prime steak, read this.

Be sitting down when you read this. Do not have a mouthful of coffee, wine, Gran Marnier, tea or rum and coke. If you're smoking, put it down.

THIS is a killer. You would probably expect that USDA beef, having been processed by a meatpacker, would have been tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease.

The federal government must allow meatpackers to test their animals for mad cow disease, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
Yes. You read that correctly. The US Department of Agriculture was trying to prevent meatpackers from testing the animals they slaughter for human consumption.
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a meatpacker based in Arkansas City, Kan., wants to test all of its cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. Larger meat companies feared that move because if Creekstone tested its meat and advertised it as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too.

The Agriculture Department currently regulates the test and administers it to less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows. The department threatened Creekstone with prosecution if it tested all its animals.

How are you doing so far? Slap yourself in the face, this is not a bad dream and it's not a hoax.

Last July, the department cut its testing by about 90 percent. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said testing should reflect "a very, very low level" of the disease in the United States.
That would be about the same time the USDA felt the effects of a $2 billion budget cut.

The Agriculture Department argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry. Robertson said he was concerned by that possibility but noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on.
Yes, well, better to kill a few citizens than harm the "industry".

Yes, a case of Mad Cow Disease will harm the industry. So better that no one ever finds out about it. A cover up would be illegal. Just stop testing the animals and everything just looks so good.

Remember, this is the administration which claims that their first responsibility is the protection of the American people. From terrorists; Not cows.

What you don't know because your government won't look, can kill you.

The petty warrior who hides behind his shield and shows naught to his foe, for he is truly a coward


Ted has it. Jeff has it. Scott has it. Paladia has it. Canadian Cynic has it. And now, I've got it. It's an unrestrained sense of disgust at the actions of the little creep who deigns to present himself as a prime minister after this was disclosed.
Global National offers the latest example of the Harper government's pathetic, all-consuming partisanship. Parenthetically, Stephen Harper's trip to the Netherlands, at Paul Martin's invitation, when Harper was leader of the opposition, was one of the few foreign trips of Harper's life to that point:
That's just the start.
KEVIN NEWMAN: The battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I is considered by historians as the moment Canada earned its right to call itself a nation through its valour and sacrifice. In just over a week, the Prime Minister will help unveil a new memorial at a 90th remembrance ceremony on Vimy Ridge, but as Hannah Boudreau reveals exclusively tonight, politics appears to be at play in deciding who will attend.

NORMAN ATKINS (Senator Independent): That was taken after, you see the sergeant stripes.

HANNAH BOUDREAU (Reporter): Senator Norman Atkins father was a 24 year old gunner who fought on that famous April day in 1917.

ATKINS: My father was a veteran of Vimy Ridge. He fought for the 46th Queens Battery.

BOUDREAU: While Sergeant George Atkins was overseas, he kept a diary detailing his experiences and in typical soldier fashion, the entry for April ninth simply reads put over a barrage this morning, 5:00. The Canadians took Vimy Ridge a flying, took a lot of prisoners, etc. Ninety years later, there are no Vimy veterans alive to celebrate the anniversary, but Senator Atkins feels that with such a direct connection to that day, he would surely be included in Canada's official delegation attending the ceremonies in Vimy.

ATKINS: I am very surprised that I wasn't invited to go with the Minister of Veteran's Affairs. Any list that he could put together, I should have been one that would be considered.

BOUDREAU: But Senator Atkins wasn't the only one left out. None of the opposition leaders were invited, either. And it's by no means a small delegation. The list of people who did make the cut are former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, her husband, John Ralston Saul, and Public Works minister, Michael Fortier. It's not like the Conservative government is just following tradition. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE Day, former Prime Minister Paul Martin included all three opposition leaders on his trip to the Netherlands.
Let there be no mistake about it here. A mere low-life politician has just highjacked an event commemorating the sacrifice made by thousands of Canadians for his own, smarmy political advancement.

Why don't we put Harper right where he belongs on this. During his last trip to Vimy Ridge, overlooking a Canadian battlefield, Harper saw fit to lecture reporters as though he had some first-hand knowledge and insight:
"These were sand, not cement," Harper said of the reconstructed sandbags. "And the enemy carried guns, not cameras," he added, looking directly over the lip of the old trench at a small clutch of Canadian TV and still cameras.
Ah, the great leader of the warrior class educating the masses. Except that the enemy carried rifles; not guns. Only a no-account, soft-palmed, flat-face would call a rifle a gun. And that is exactly what constitutes Stephen Harper. His self-aggrandizing warriorism is a cover for deeply ingrained cowardice and self-interest. He is a comic-book combatant who would curl into a little ball if he had to face anything remotely similar to what the troops at Vimy Ridge had to face.

This education Harper is providing everyone is little more than bathtub bravado. Of the millions of Canadians who have served Canada in uniform, one thing is certain: Stephen Harper wasn't one of them. His contrived displays of insincere empathy are sickening. His politicization of an event at which he should feel eminently privileged to be allowed to attend is an act of disdain for the Canadians who, through their action and determination, helped make this country.

Stephen Harper clearly couldn't care less about the veterans, the memorial or emotions of Canadians as a whole. To him, this is all politics. And he is so afraid of his political opposition, so hungry to serve his own needs that he is unable to sacrifice a slice of his own ego to properly honour those who sacrificed a thousand times more.

Harper is incapable of empathy. He does not honour those who sacrificed and those who died. He worships himself and he allows no room for others, particularly those who stand above him and those who, through their actions have always stood above him. The dead at Vimy Ridge are a thousand times better men than Stephen Harper can ever hope to be. They would vomit if they knew what was taking place in their names. Harper's politicization of their memory is not the reason they fought.

We flush down the toilet better stuff than what makes up Stephen Harper. While he talks a good story and beats his little toy drum, Stephen Harper has made it clear what he really is. He is an unbelievable coward.

The Governor General has the power to fix this. She should call Stephen Harper in and lay it out simply. Stay home. The memory of the people who actually fought for this country is none of his concern. Any speech he makes, no matter how stirring the writers make it for him, will mean nothing.

Harper is about to foul the hallowed ground of Vimy Ridge.

Scotian and Miranda weigh in.
Joseph brings up a round.

Update: Harper has now reversed his position. Too late. He's done his damage. The above remains germane.

Iran and Hostages: Why? EXPANDED

My take so far:

Iran, besides the home front stuff, is doing two things.

First, it is seeking to drive a wedge between the UK/US alliance. The Iranian leadership knows as well as anyone that the British presence in Iraq is not popular in the UK. They may be hoping that taking the sailors and marines hostage will hasten and over all UK departure from Iraq - Shia Basra especially. Not having the British in Basra increases the Iranian ability to influence Shia Iraq, and further isolates the US both politically and tactically as it endangers their withdrawal route to the sea and Kuwait if things go really bad. This, combined with emerging developments in the Kurd - Turk - US equation, could create a real military problem for the US as they lose a safe exit - Syria and Iran are not options (Axis of Evil and all that).

And secondly, in light of US rhetoric and carrier deployments off the coast of Iran, having UK military hostages puts a dent in any designs the US has on attacking Iran as a unilateral US strike on Iran now would effectively end UK cooperation in Iraq. Cheney-Bush must be foaming at the bit. Blair must be shitting himself. Iran probably isn't as concerned about its international reputation as much as it is about controlling the real military threat on its borders. Iran can only assume the US means business at this point - carrier battle groups exercising off your coast would make anyone think so.

EXPANDED: All Iran really has to say to the UK is, "Leave Iraq and get your people back. Stay, and we'll keep them." As reprehensible as that is, it is definitely no more obscene than the unprovoked, ill-thought, invasion, occupation, and destruction of a nation. If the British can negotiate their release, obviously all the better, but because Iran has been threatened with war by the US and now sanctions* by the UNSC, it really has no incentive to let them go. If Blair has any sense left, he'd see the political writing on the wall in the US (not to mention the UK!), and withdraw anyway, humiliating as that may be for him. I fail to see what advantage remaining in Iraq gives them other than a [rapidly expiring] place at the table in Crawford, some nostalgia for empire, and an entry for Blair in a history book.

Isolating the US in Iraq is a bit like calling a bluff. Bush can bluster and harrummph about Iran all he likes, but when Iran starts stripping away what few allies he has, they are effectively narrowing the terms of engagement - mano y mano. Iran isn't caving, they're pushing back.

Without a shot being fired, through a small and simple action, Iran has given itself a significant political and strategic advantage.

*I tend to think sanctions often do little but increase tension in an already tense atmosphere. Looking at the history of states under sanction (North Korea, Cuba, Iraq pre-invasion, etc) they all seem to last and maintain the same leadership, whilst the average citizen suffers. But they make good "look, we're doing something" propaganda.

Heating up the rhetoric with ignorance

A second member of the boats crew and boarding party arrested by Iran has been paraded in an Iranian video in which he "apologized" for entering Iranian waters.
In the video Friday, Royal Marine rifleman Nathan Thomas Summers was shown sitting with another male serviceman and the female British sailor Faye Turney against a pink floral curtain.

Both men wore camouflage fatigues with a label saying "Royal Navy" on their chests and a small British flag stitched to their left sleeves. Turney wore a blue jumpsuit and a black headscarf.

"Again I deeply apologize for entering your waters," Summers said in the clip broadcast on Al-Alam television. "We trespassed without permission."

That got a couple of mouthbreathers over at the Blogging Tories all hot and bothered precipitating a descent into ignorance which can be measured by the Cheezie™ dust on their laps.

No, I'm not going to link to them. Use teh Google.

These clots seem to think being taken into detention in this situation is a straight-forward "prisoner of war" event. They also seem to have developed a view that these people are in a position to defy their captors while puffing on a filterless cigarette as they stroke their Death before dishonour tattoos. One of them went so far as to suggest that Leading Seaman Faye Turney would never be able to show her face among her countrymen again, and that being taken prisoner in this instance was the true test of a warrior.

The writers of that crap, so willing to broadcast the definition of a "true" warrior and the test of combat and captivity demonstrate through their use of language that they have no experience as members of any armed service and their opinions are formed from watching Hollywood renderings of prisoner of war dramas and comic books.

Something needs to be put into perspective here. Those fifteen Royal Navy personnel are not Prisoners of War. They are hostages. Britain is not at war with Iran and while this all has the potential to spiral right out of control, the suggestions by still others that Britain close down any negotiations and simply attack Iran is tantamount to signing a death warrant for all fifteen of those troops.

The several suggestions that these hostages should only be providing "name, rank and serial number", (Yes. One actually said that.), demonstrates further ignorance of both the situation and the training those people would have received.

In a hostage situation, and all of those troops would be well aware that such is their condition, the dumbest thing they could do is to antagonize their captors. Cooperation will both keep them alive and perhaps in good condition. No "apology" or letter of contrition has any meaning outside the place of detention. Those things are being done to feed the domestic situation in Iran. The rest of the world is well able to understand that coercion is being used and if it does anything, it makes the Iranians look worse.

We have no way of knowing how those people are actually being treated, except through a previous experience, which would suggest they are receiving adequate treatment although suffering severe humiliation. None of them will know their location and they will not have access to information of any negotiations save that which their captors provide.

The one thing that they are expected to do is stay alive and as healthy as possible. Getting killed through an act of defiance serves absolutely no purpose and may escalate the situation well beyond where anyone wants it to go. I know that denies the war-bloggers of their orgasmic moment but it isn't them that gets killed.

Both sides are using those sailors and marines as fodder for a dangerous spin game. Despite both sides claiming a boundary in that zone of the Persian Gulf, there has never been resolution and neither side can make the claim that one or the other actually trespassed across an internationally recognized boundary. There isn't one. That will be the subject of another post later today.

Still others are foaming at the mouth insisting that Blair "do something" and quit messing around. I'll admit, I don't like his response to this point either, but not for the same reason some of the Blogging Tories are complaining about. While Blair needed to be forceful, he should have weighed what needed to be done to get his sailors and marines back. Then start piling on the rhetoric.

Iran could have made themselves look like world-class diplomats had they held those people for a day and then returned them with a comment like, "They were in our waters. Don't do it again."

Since that didn't happen, it's now a matter of keeping things even enough to prevent a disaster. And, as far as the clowns barking that some form of action should be taken, it demonstrates another lack of knowledge.

How do they know something isn't being planned? Just because they don't read it in a press release doesn't mean there isn't an incursion and rescue being readied. I'm also sure that if that kind of event took place, the same loudmouths would be patting each other on the back for knowing that the SBS or the SAS came through as usual.

More later.

Ottawa Event: Rory Stewart on Afghanistan

A heads up for any Ottawa area readers out there, Rory Stewart is speaking on 3 April at the International Development Research Centre. Details are available here.

In 2000, Rory Stewart took a leave from his post as a British diplomat and spent the next two years walking across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. He described his 6 000-mile journey in his book, The Places in Between, which the New York Times called “a flat-out masterpiece” and named as one of its Ten Best Books of 2006.

In 2003, Stewart became the coalition Deputy Governor of Maysan and Dhi Qar -- two provinces in Southern Iraq. His second book, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, recounts his experiences negotiating hostage releases, holding elections, and generally trying to establish a functional government shortly after the coalition forces entered Iraq.

Stewart has written for a range of publications including the New York Times, the London Review of Books, the Guardian, the Financial Times and Granta.In 2004, was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and he became a Fellow of the Carr Centre at Harvard University. He now lives in Kabul, where he runs the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.
Wish I could go.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The surge goes well, doesn't it?

I know, I know. It's too early to see results. I should give it until at least 2018 before passing judgement. This time, however, Fort Fumble on the Tigris is the target of the insurgents being chased out and eliminated by the "surge".
Iraqi insurgents are increasingly hitting Baghdad's fortresslike Green Zone with rockets and mortar shells, officials said Wednesday.

Insurgents have struck inside the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. Embassy, on six of the past seven days, once with deadly consequences. A U.S. soldier and a U.S. government contractor were killed Tuesday night by a rocket attack that also seriously wounded a civilian, military and embassy officials said. One soldier and at least three other civilians received minor injuries, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said.

The Green Zone was supposed to be, you know, safe.
The attack stunned a workforce normally blase about Baghdad's habitual wartime booms and blasts.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said, "There are increasing attacks on the embassy."

"These are people who are trying to kill Americans," the official added. "They have someone who is a straight shooter."

That will happen in a war. People get all bullet and weapon happy.
A week ago, a rocket attack landed about 100 yards from the Green Zone residence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, jolting the room where he was holding a news conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Ten rocket and mortar attacks have struck inside the heavily protected sector this month, according to the U.S. military. Most have hit in the past week.

Military and embassy officials would not say where the weapons landed, citing security reasons.

Umm... I don't mean to make too much light of this because it's not really funny, but there is a way to tell where the weapons landed. Rockets and mortars leave a very distinctive residual effect called a "hole". All you have to do is go for a walk and look for them - outside.
Wednesday morning, embassy personnel received a bulletin citing the "recent increase of indirect fire attacks on the embassy compound." It included strict instructions: Body armor and helmets would now be required for all "outdoor activities" within the sprawling embassy complex, even short walks to the cafeteria. There would be no group gatherings outside, including at the famed Palace Pool. No "nonessential" visitors would be allowed in the compound.
My gawd!! Not the pool! The deprivation the "bubble people" are having to endure is staggering. War is hell.

Hang in there people. George is going to get you another $100 billion to fix it. It will be shipped on pallets and should, by my reckoning, weigh about 9000 tons.

Try not to lose it.

MacKay says Canada is involved in Iraq. Time to explain, Peter.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay, referring to the detention by Iran of fifteen British naval and military personnel, issued the following statement yesterday: (emphasis mine)
“We are deeply concerned that Iran has detained 15 British military personnel for more than five days now, despite clear evidence that their vessels were operating in Iraqi territorial waters.

“This is an unacceptable incident. Iran has no authority to conduct military operations within Iraqi territorial waters. It should also be noted that British forces are operating in Iraq under UN authority and at the invitation of the Government of Iraq.

“Canada calls upon Iran to immediately release the British military personnel and take the necessary action to prevent such incidents from happening again.”
Umm... alright. There is a technical disconnect there, but it's hardly worth pursuing at this stage of the game. The kicker however, came in the printed version from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada which provided clarification of MacKay's statement in the final paragraph. Woman at Mile 0 picked it up and it needs an explanation.
The British personnel were engaged in legitimate and routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters in support of the Government of Iraq. Canadian naval ships have conducted the same type of operations in this area under the same mandate.

Since when have Canadian naval operations in the Persian Gulf been conducted in support of the Government of Iraq? How and when have HMC ships been assigned to forces operating under any other caveat than the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom?

Naval support of the government of Iraq is a part of the US Operation Iraqi Freedom and British Operation Telic, neither of which involve Canada - at all.

These are past CF operations. These are current CF operations. Perhaps MacKay can explain where, in any of those operations, the Canadian Navy is tasked with providing support to operations in Iraq.

Perhaps Peter MacKay is stuck in the mindset created by this letter, written by Harper and Day during their fit of anger at being denied the opportunity to join the unsanctioned US invasion of Iraq.

In many cases, naval activities in the Persian Gulf area of operations is placed under one commander, essentially double-hatting the Officer in Tactical Command under both the Op Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the Op Iraqi Freedom (OIF) mantles. In those instances, where a Canadian warship is assigned, there must be a clear definition of the duties to which any Canadian ship can be assigned. Whenever an activity is carried out under OIF direction, orders and rules of engagement, Canadian units should be required to detach and remain clear of that operation.

Canada is not a part of Bush's "coalition of the willing".

But now, it looks like MacKay and company have blurred the lines which separate the two campaigns. Neither he, nor Harper, are in a position to do that yet, either MacKay is trying to sneak one past the Canadian population, and Parliament or, he doesn't know the difference.

It doesn't matter that George Bush has tried to mix the two; Canada isn't involved in Iraq. Any naval operations, and that includes vessel hailing and boarding anywhere in the Gulf, including the Shat al-Arab waterway, must meet the criteria established under a Canadian designated operation assigned to OEF.

It's time MacKay explained the contents of his press release. Canadians have a right to know if this country has committed to Bush's Iraq quagmire. If there is a Canadian Forces mission in Iraq, beyond the single UN observer on Op Iolas, MacKay, Harper and O'Connor need to explain it - in full - to Parliament.

Let the self-preservation kick in... and pass the popcorn

Why does the line, "If I go down, you go down with me," come to mind?
"I and others made staff recommendations but they were approved and signed off on by the principals," Kyle Sampson said, referring to Gonzales and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.
Sampson went on to drag Gonzales a little further into the manure pile.
Earlier, Sampson said that Gonzales had wrongly said he was not involved in discussions about the firings of the eight U.S. attorneys.

Asked whether Gonzales' statement was false, Sampson replied, "I don't think it's accurate if the statement implies that I intended to mislead the Congress."

Couldn't he have just said, "I'm not lying, so he must be,"?

Then there are the "contradictions" which are surfacing and now being "clarified".

The Justice Department admitted Wednesday that it gave senators inaccurate information about the firings and presidential political adviser Karl Rove's role in trying to secure a U.S. attorney's post in Arkansas for one of his former aides, Tim Griffin.

Justice officials acknowledged that a Feb. 23 letter to four Democratic senators erred in asserting that the department was not aware of any role Rove played in the decision to appoint Griffin to replace U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins in Little Rock, Ark.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling said that certain statements in last month's letter to Democratic lawmakers appeared to be "contradicted by department documents included in our production."

That admission, only hours before Sampson's testimony, took some of the sting out of Democrats' key pieces of evidence that the administration had misled Congress.

Still, Sampson provided plenty of fodder. He acknowledged planning the firings as much as two years ago with the considered, collective judgment of a number of senior Justice Department officials.

The Feb. 23 letter, which was written by Sampson but signed by Hertling, emphatically stated that "the department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin." It also said that "the Department of Justice is not aware of anyone lobbying, either inside or outside of the administration, for Mr. Griffin's appointment."

Shouldn't there be popcorn? Really. We need popcorn. This is better than a mob take-down.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blog Against Theocracy

Unrepentant old hippie is putting out a call to bloggers who believe that it is important to maintain a complete and definitive separation between church and state.

I first saw this over at Blue Gal and I'll quote her for what this is all about.
No religious discrimination.
PRO End-of-Life Care (no more Terri Schiavo travesties)

Reproductive health decisions made by individuals, not religious "majorities"
Democracy not Theocracy
Academic Integrity (like, a rock is as old as it is, not as old as the Bible says)
Sound Science (good bye so-called "intelligent" design)

Respect for ALL families (based on love, not sexual orientation. Hellooooo.)

And finally,

The right to worship, OR NOT.
The US bloggers are fighting for a constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state. That may seem a little bit out of the necessary for some Canadians, however, the people they are fighting against all have branch offices in Ottawa and lobby-shops within view of Parliament Hill.

It's probably not necessary to mention the crop of wingnuts resident in Harper's Conservative caucus, but why not. Harper is surrounded by Christian literalist bible-thumpers and if they get an opportunity to cram their religious crap down your throat, they will.

There are no real guidelines to this. The idea is to post at least once from Friday to Sunday Easter Weekend, April 6-8.
A link site has been created at Blog Against Theocracy.

Now, if I could find a way to keep those damned rabbits from laying eggs in the bushes....

And somebody will call them volunteers

One thing about the US not having a draft is that that country gets a totally volunteer army and marine corps.

Well... sort of.
The Marine Corps is recalling 1,800 reservists to active duty, citing a shortage of volunteers to fill some jobs in Iraq.

Members of the branch's Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) will get letters this week notifying them of plans to mobilize them involuntarily for a year, said Lt. Col. Jeff Riehl of Marine manpower and reserve affairs.

The Individual Ready Reserve being the people who have completed their active duty obligation.

From the 1,800 called, officials hope to get 1,200 Marines for aviation maintenance, logistics support, combat arms and several other skills needed for the early 2008 rotation into Iraq.
As Moderate Man says: Isn't that special.

Way back when, when the US was in a different war, in a different time, people could be in the a branch of the US military and avoid being deployed to combat because they had an arrangement.

Amazing, isn't it?

The rich kids either found a way around the draft during Vietnam, or they actually volunteered to join a branch of the US military which wasn't committed to deployment. The draftees took the hit for them.

Now, the kids who have volunteered once keep getting called back to active duty by the same people who deliberately avoided that kind of service. And the kids of those rich kids? They don't have to go because they don't have to volunteer.

No matter what mode of recruitment and induction exists, the rich kids, and their kids, have always had somebody else do the dirty stuff.

Helluva system.

Ah... George has to deal with a REAL mother...

You could probably work out for yourself that George W Bush was something of a spoiled brat as a child. It's not difficult to figure. He's still acting that way. Let's face it, his mom is more concerned with her beautiful mind than much else.

So, it's no surprise that Bush goes into something of a temper tantrum when faced with a real mother.
"Here's the bottom line," Bush said, one day after the Senate voted, in a close vote of 50 to 48, to include in the emergency military spending bill a timetable for pulling out most US forces from Iraq in March of 2008. "The House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders and an artificial timetable for withdrawal. And I have made it clear for weeks if either version comes to my desk, I'm going to veto it."
See. It goes back to his childhood when he was probably told how cute he was when he put that straw up his nose.

Then, along comes a real mother. No nonsense, not willing to spank, but prepared to provide tough love.
"On this very important matter, I would extend a hand of friendship to the president just to say to him 'Calm down with the threats, there's a new Congress in town," Pelosi said. "We respect your constitutional role, we want you to respect ours."

Pelosi continued, "This war must end. The American people have lost faith in the president's conduct of the war. Let's see how we can work together."

"So I just wish the president would take a deep breath, recognize again that we each have our constitutional role, and we should respect that in terms of each other," Pelosi added.

Nancy Pelosi doesn't think little George is cute at all. In fact, she thinks he's behaving rather badly.

Bush is about one tantrum away from a major "time out".

A snapshot in Conservative time.

Casting about the bazaars and this is what I found: (Click to enlarge)

There are more pictures of Stephane Dion on the front page of the Conservative Party website then there are of Steve Harper. Three more, in fact. The context is irrelevant and the message is lost in the obvious obsession the Harpers have in trying to present Dion in as negative a light as possible.

There is also the nice picture of the nice people supposedly representing medical professionals.
Where have I seen those people before?
Not in a hospital.... could it have been a retail advertising flyer?
You'd think the Conservatives could have dug up at least three medical professionals willing to appear on the CPoC website.

Moving along, and just randomly pulling one out of the air, I went to check out what Gordon O'Connor was saying about himself. Apparently, his webmaster went on vacation and left us all a pertinent but very fitting message.

What goes around, comes around

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams is not happy, and he's prepared to show everybody.
Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams has launched an ad campaign against the prime minister, attacking Stephen Harper for reneging on promises he made over the federal equalization program.

Full and half-page ads appeared in newspapers Wednesday that slam Harper for including oil and gas revenues in a new equalization formula as well as implementing a fiscal cap.

The advertisements contain a graphic of the Canadian maple leaf, with the inscription: Is this what Canada stands for now?

The ad quotes a Gaelic proverb: "There's no greater fraud than a promise not kept."

Harper used that quotation in campaign literature he distributed throughout Newfoundland and Labrador when he was leader of the Opposition.

In the brochures, Harper promised that a Conservative government would keep all non-renewable resource revenues out of equalization and not implement a fiscal cap.

"It was a promise that he made in the pamplet," said Wednesday's advertisement. "He stood on two election platforms and said it to our face. He wrote it in letters over and over again. It was a simple, unequivocal promise.

"And he broke it."

Yes, he did.

Allow me to assist in the formula being used here, and I hope I don't appear too cynical.

Number of seats up for grabs from:

Quebec: 75.

Newfoundland and Labrador: 7.

Any questions?

Ann wants to look to the future. We can hardly wait.

I was so going to leave this alone. I had watched the first few seconds of Ann Althouse going into a meltdown screaming "I am a victim!" and pretty much lost interest. Then I watched the whole thing. Something caught my eye. It was Althouse's eyes. Shifty. Her mission was to bring up her unsubstantiated attack on Jessica Valenti at Feministing. She could have ended it quickly, but she pursued it. What we got was an attempt to consolidate her position by claiming a second moral plateau.

Much has been written on this little exchange and I don't blame readers if they have no interest, but I'll put it out there anyway because of a couple of posts which deserve attention.

TRex goes back to the origins of all of this when Althouse found it necessary to criticize a picture of a group of bloggers in a photograph with Bill Clinton. Her bone of contention? Jessica Valenti, who Althouse could not identify at the time, was in the front row and, although fully clothed, she has obvious breasts. And if you have breasts, and you're in the presence of Bill Clinton, and you are in a photograph, well, Althouse reaches the only possible conclusion. Valenti isn't really a feminist at all! Valenti is a slut... and the war began.

Althouse started it as surely as George W Bush ordered the unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

In the exchange with Garance Franke-Ruta, Althouse makes every effort to turn it into a war against her. Of course. She is, disregarding her initiation of hostilities, being beaten up for her original position. She's losing and the only way to win is to dispense with enough history to force people to forget what actually happened.

Thinking it was typical Althouse crap, I was ready to dismiss it until I realized that her form of argument is not unique. It's typical of her ilk.

Althouse: I am a feminist.
GW Bush: I am a compassionate conservative.

Althouse: I'm not judging you by your looks. (Don't flatter yourself.) I'm judging you by your apparent behavior. It's not about the smiling, but the three-quarter pose and related posturing...
GW Bush: Saddam is a bad man. He is the type of leader that would consort with terrorists. He therefore harbors terrorists.

Althouse: I don't accept your saying that Jessica Valenti breast controversy. I consider that an insult…you know..I, I'm on the verge of hanging up with you, for, for bringing it up that way…it was nasty and character assassinating to talk about it that way…
GW Bush: Ignore the fact that we invaded Iraq and the reasons were absolute bullshit. Ignore the fact that we destroyed the country. I'm right. I'm the Decider. I'm the Commander-In-Chief. The Iraqis have to start standing up for themselves. We are the vicitims of terrorism in Iraq.

Althouse, just like Bush, wants to cut off the historical memory where it most suits her argument. Her apparent freak out was an attempt to force the line further to the right.

And nobody is buying it. Althouse is flat-out lying in an attempt to make herself a victim.

Pretty Shaved Ape has put together a great explanation of Althouse in "cat". And TBogg simply spreads the love.

Enough of Althouse. We now return you to the enduring story of Anna Nicole Smith and one of several evolving conspiracy theories surrounding her continued death. (No. That rumour is false. Elvis isn't into blondes.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday night wine box blogging

You may have read sometime back that we were listed by Culture Canada, and with good reason. We all have culture.

One of our great cultural pursuits is wine. Now, I know there are people who think wine-in-a-box is some form of heresy, but honestly, you can get some pretty fine stuff in those 3 litre rectangles. That we choose the cheap stuff is completely beside the point.
With better wine varieties now available in boxes, wineries are attempting to give the category a new identity far from the rowdy boating trips and drunken fraternity parties that gave box vino its cheap, low-quality image.
Hmmm. Must be my age but the rowdy boating trips and frat parties involved a glass gallon jug, (with a little handle at the top) a screw top, and a label that identified the wine as "medium sticky". There were no boxes back then.
Vintners have been doing a good deal of experimenting in the last few years. Wine now even comes in plastic bottles and cans. Although wine has been packaged in a box for some time, the new boxes aren't like the five-liter jugs of sweet, headache-inducing wines of the past. Although those are still readily available, there are now premium varieties on the market which show a bit more complexity with hints of berry, apple or oak.
Yeah, and just remember who the pathfinders were in this shift to "premium" boxed wine. It was the sacrifices made by us cheap wine drinkers that gave the vintners the fortitude to forge ahead and put the over-priced stuff in a real box.
Of course, the premium entries are more expensive. For example, a Chardonnay can run $20 for a box that contains the equivalent of four bottles whereas the lower quality five-liter boxes sell for between $6 and $10 for more than 6 bottles of wine. The premium boxes are still a steal, however, since one quality bottle can run anywhere from $10 to $30 or more.
Those are US prices. In British Columbia a cheap box of wine is more than $30. But it's four litres - not three. In any case, you'll note that the cheaper wine is a much better deal, and that's what it's all about - right?
And of course, you can't beat the convenience. You can take a box of wine just about anywhere or you can leave it at home and not worry that it will go bad. Box wines typically stay fresh for as long as four weeks after they're opened because the boxes contain a vacuum-sealed bag that prevents the wine from being exposed to air.
Yes, vino-collapso stays fresh - sort of. Every once in a while you'll hear someone exclaim, "The wine seems to be tarnished. We'll have to bite the bullet and finish the whole box!"
Despite the advantages, Wall Street analysts and wine industry experts say it could still take some time before Wine Spectator-reading enthusiasts — and the grocery stores and wine shops that cater to them — can fully embrace the box.

"People are pretty nervous with taking that leap," said Barbara Insel, managing director and wine researcher at MKF Research. "People need to feel comfortable that their friends won't make fun of them."

Ahem... candy-asses!! My friends come over and their eyes well up with tears when they see I have a selection of boxed wine. (Not to mention the homemade hootch in bottles in the basement.)

Wine companies must invest in marketing campaigns to change perceptions of both stores and consumers.
Not me. I'm sold on the idea.

The only problem I've had is at a restaurant. After ordering the house red I was asked if I would like a glass, a carafe or a bottle. "Don't hold back," I said. "Bring the whole box."

The service got really bad after that.

It's about the cover up, stupid

Who is Monica Goodling? McClatchy News Service provides a good description.
Goodling, 33, is a 1995 graduate Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., an institution that describes itself as "committed to embracing an evangelical spirit."

She received her law degree at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, says its mission is "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world."

E-mails show that Goodling was involved in planning the dismissals and in later efforts to limit the negative reaction. As the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, she could shed light on the extent of White House involvement in the dismissals.

She was involved? Apparently, she has a lot of the picture. In fact, she may have the big picture. Yesterday she announced that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights under the US Constitution and refuse to answer questions to a Senate hearing.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' liaison with the White House will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, citing her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

"I have decided to follow my lawyer's advice and respectfully invoke my constitutional right," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' counsel and White House liaison, said in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It's funny how that Constitution, which was so much in the way of the Bush administration program of protecting the American people against Terra™, suddenly appears with Republican operators clutching it to their bosoms. Mind you, they were so determined to tell everyone what isn't in the Constitution that they should be intimately familiar with what is in it.

Alberto Gonzales, on the other hand, is clinging to his chair, not because of the power or the perks or the fact that he's an insider. Nope. He has more holistic reasons.

In an interview with NBC News, Gonzales said Monday he was "really pained" by Republicans and Democrats alike who widely say the attorney general has lost his credibility.

Asked why he would want to remain as attorney general amid so many calls for his ouster, Gonzales said he's been asking himself lately whether it's appropriate for him to stay in his job.

But, he said, "at the end of the day, it's not about Alberto Gonzales. It's about this great Department of Justice that does so many wonderful things for the American people."


Anyway, back to Goodling.

John Dowd, Goodling's lawyer, suggested in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., that the Democrat-led panel has laid what amounts to a perjury trap for his client.


"One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby," Dowd said, a reference to the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff in the CIA leak case.
Ummm. That was because he lied. Is Dowd saying the only way Goodling can answer any questions is if she lies?

Leahy swiftly cast doubt about Goodling's motives.

"The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling's concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal charges if she appears before the committee under oath," said Leahy.

Uh huh. Although, she has the right, even if she herself becomes the subject of an investigation.

Dowd shot back in a second letter that Leahy's comments were a good illustration of why testifying was "perilous" for his client.

"It is the politically charged environment created by the members of the committee ... that has created the ambiguous and perilous environment in which even innocent witnesses would be well advised not to testify," Dowd wrote.

Right. Because the question, "What did Gonzales know and when did he know it?" could bring down a whole house of cards.

Update: From TPM
Monica Goodling does have a good faith basis for pleading the Fifth Amendment - just not the ones in her lawyer's letter that are getting all the attention.

Under the federal False Statements statute, 18 USC 1001, it is a felony to cause another person to make a false statement to Congress. Since McNulty has allegedly told Senator Schumer that he made a false statement to Congress based on information provided to him by Monica Goodling, Goodling could very well be prosecuted for a Section 1001 violation.

All the rest of the crap in her lawyer's letter is intended to sooth as much as possible WH anger at her for invoking the Fifth.

(Hat tip Echidne of the Snakes)

Sigh... no spies. Another Conservative promise fades to black

Ed Hollet notes that the Harper promise to create a Canadian foreign intelligence agency, a la CIA, has more or less dropped off the list of really cool things to do in the Prime Minister's office. When the Harpers were campaigning they made something of a big deal about how important it was to have a separate intelligence agency do the things which, according to the Conservatives at the time, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could not do.
The Conservative campaign promise to launch a foreign intelligence service has quietly vanished from sight, government sources say.

The plan, announced during the last election as part of the party's ambitious security agenda, is not entirely dead. But it has dropped well down the list of government priorities in this minority Parliament, the sources say.

The idea of a new service to spy abroad faces opposition from many senior officials in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other existing security agencies, the sources say.

Moreover, CSIS has convinced Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day that it is able to do more spying abroad than it has in the past without the trouble of asking for parliamentary approval to start up a new agency.

Well, discounting the "promise not kept" mantra, the truth is CSIS could always gather foreign intelligence in accordance with article 16 of The CSIS Act. It isn't a blank cheque, but it is authority to go snooping providing they have been requested to do so by the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

You might have thought the Harpers would have checked that fact out a little more closely when they were making grandiose campaign promises.

Personally, I think there may just be other reasons for not pursuing this, the objections of CSIS notwithstanding. Margaret Bloodworth, Harper's national security adviser, may have said more than she thinks she did.

She noted that the start-up costs for a new spy agency would be high. But she would not disclose whether she favoured a new agency, saying her advice is only for Mr. Harper's ears.
Ah yes. Money. Having burned up a considerable chunk of the budget surplus buying votes in Quebec, the money that it would take to start up a whole new spy agency simply may not be there.

What CSIS cannot do, however, is go abroad to collect political or economic intelligence, Ms. Bloodworth told a Senate committee yesterday.

"Personally, I put a priority on security intelligence" over economic or political intelligence, she said.

Liberal Senator Wilfred Moore said it might be in Canada's interest to collect intelligence abroad to trade for intelligence from the U.S. or other allies.

But Ms. Bloodworth said it might not be in Canada's interest to share economic and political intelligence with allies. "It's for us."

There is some truth to that, however, that capability does exist within the established foreign missions of the Canadian government now. We don't have a bunch of "illegals" running spy rings around the world, but we do have political and economic intelligence gathering.

Further, while CSIS may have some limitations, this outfit does not. Yes, it collects national security intelligence, but it collects everything else too. Granted, it doesn't send a bunch of people out into the world spying, but the restriction that CSIS has which prevents it from collecting economic and political intelligence, doesn't exist at the Communications Security Establishment.

There is also the issue of "sharing". There is something niggling here. The suggestion of an active foreign intelligence agency would only go down well with the current US administration if there was a guarantee that everything gathered would be "shared". Saying, "It's for us," is all well and good, but that could result in repercussions down the road, particularly with the US.

So, I would suggest there are actually three things at play:

- The Conservatives made the campaign promise without actually costing out the expense involved in setting up a whole new agency;

- CSIS got its collective nose out of joint and made it clear that, as an agency, it can do more than it is being presently allowed, and, "I say minister, a simple amendment to the act and we are the foreign intelligence agency"; and,

- I suspect someone got their horoscope read to them. A crop of Canadian foreign spies running local agents, tripping over CIA or MI6 operations would be the last thing those two organizations would want. And you can imagine the fur-ball that would be created if a Canadian foreign intelligence service was caught operating in the US.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Human error

This is what most professional seamen have been expecting.
The BC Ferries report on the sinking of the Queen of the North blames human error for the accident, which claimed two lives when the ferry went down along B.C.'s North Coast in March 2006.

The report singles out three crew members in charge of navigation and steering on the night of the sinking, saying they failed to make a required course change at Sainty Point.

The ferry then proceeded straight on an incorrect course for four nautical miles over 14 minutes until it ran into the rocks of Gil Island.

What is not reported in the CBC report, except minimally, is the lack of cooperation provided by the second and fourth officers. The BC Ferries and Marine Workers Union supported the two in remaining silent and refusing to give evidence to the investigation.

While they reportedly cooperated with the Transportation Safety Board inquiry, they refused to answer questions or provide the employer with details surrounding the event. That's all well and good, but now both of them, and BC Ferries will be on the hook for some very serious civil lawsuits.

BC Ferries will now engage in a fact finding inquiry to determine what was actually taking place on the bridge.

Wrong document. O'Connor is still on the hook for his ICRC claim

Stephen Taylor is trying desperately to get Gordon O'Connor off the hook for his mis-step on the detention and transfer of prisoners captured by Canadian troops using this document. (Caution. Large PDF file)

While I understand the confusion Taylor is experiencing and his desire to interpret portions of the Joint Doctrine Manual Prisoner of War Handling Detainees And Interrogation & Tactical Questioning in International Operations in O'Connor's favour, he's got it wrong.

Taylor quotes one section of the document claiming it is the erroneous information to which O'Connor was referring when he assured Parliament that the International Committee of the Red Cross would report to Canada if prisoners transfered to Afghanistan authorities were being mistreated.
Even after PW captured by Canada have been transferred to the custody of another nation, there is still a residual responsibility placed on Canada regarding their treatment. If the Government of Canada is notified by the Protecting Power, usually the ICRC, that the Detaining Power to whom the PW have been transferred is not complying with the provisions of the GCs, Canada has a duty to correct the problem, or to take the PW back into Canadian custody.
Taylor is trying to suggest that the statement "usually the ICRC" is sufficient policy direction to convince the minister that the ICRC held a position which would see them report to Canada if prisoners transfered to Afghanistan were mistreated.

First, the document is a part of CF doctrine. It is not specific to Afghanistan.

Secondly, because the document is doctrine, it requires clarification for a specific mission. In this case, the ICRC is identified as "usually" providing services for the Protecting Power. In order for them to actually do that, they have to be delegated the job by a Protecting Power and the ICRC reports back to the Protecting Power. In the case of Afghanistan, the ICRC has not been appointed a delegate of a Protecting Power.

Therefore, O'Connor who, as a former brigadier-general, is very well aware of the difference between policy documents, doctrine and operational orders should have known full-well that in order for the ICRC to have direct involvement with Canada over transfered prisoners, there would have to be clearly laid-out authority issued to the ICRC to represent a Protecting Power.

The same document in article 105, paragraph 2 explains the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross with regards to prisoners:
2. The ICRC is a neutral and private organisation based in Switzerland. Its work is conducted in conjunction with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, governments and voluntary organisations. The ICRC has a number of roles stemming from its principal responsibility for monitoring the application of the GCs and APs by signatory states. These can be summarised as follows: a. Aid to Prisoners of War. The ICRC helps wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces and PW. It attempts to improve their conditions of captivity over the whole period from their capture to their release. It carries out this work through its own delegates and in conjunction with the agency of the Protecting Power. b. Aid to Civil Populations. The ICRC acts on behalf of civil populations, whether they are in friendly territory, enemy territory or in occupied areas, and acts as a neutral intermediary to relieve unnecessary suffering. c. The Central Tracing Agency. The Central Tracing Agency of the ICRC collects all the information it may obtain (through official or private channels) regarding PW, civilians (especially internees) in the power of a Party to the conflict and missing persons. The Agency then transmits such information to the state of origin of the relevant persons.
Then there is article 106, paragraph 2 which provides the definition of a Protecting Power.
2. Definition. The Protecting Power is a non-belligerent State, which has been designated by a Party to the conflict and accepted by the adverse Party and has agreed to carry out the functions assigned to a Protecting Power. A “substitute” is an organisation acting in place of a Protecting Power when agreement of Protecting Power nominations between Parties to the conflict cannot be reached.
A "substitute" is a delegated organization and must still be agreed upon by parties to the conflict. Article 106 further states:
3. Discharge of Responsibilities. As alluded to above, whilst there is an obligation upon Parties to the conflict to designate a Protecting Power, there is no guarantee that nominations will be acceptable to the adverse Party. Should there be no agreement after the subsequent intercession of the ICRC to mediate, then an offer by the ICRC or any other impartial humanitarian organisation to act as a ‘substitute’ Protecting Power, as defined in the previous paragraph, should be accepted. The Protecting Power will exercise its function through: a. Representatives. The normal diplomatic and consular personnel of the Protecting Power. b. Delegates. Persons appointed by the Protecting Power to discharge its functions under the GCs. Delegates will normally be nationals of the Protecting Power or of another neutral state. Members of the ICRC may also be appointed as delegates by the Protecting Power. It will normally be the Delegates who ensure, through physical checking, that PW are being treated in accordance with the GCs and AP I.
In the case of Afghanistan, the ICRC is not a "substitute" Protecting Power and the ICRC has made that clear.

To rely on the guidance in this document as definitive operational direction is folly. It provides a framework with the typical amount of "usual" and "ordinarily", but it is not a directive. In order to clarify the role of a Protecting Power another, more specific, document is required. One which would refer back to this one. That must exist since the ICRC is not acting as a "substitute". The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission is the authority monitoring prisoner treatment and O'Connor should have been aware of that right from the start.

Sorry, Stephen Taylor, your argument carries no weight.

The document in question is not false since it provides no definitive delegation of Protecting Power. It merely suggest which group might be, and in the case of the Afghanistan mission another organization has been given the task. A home-grown Afghani group with whom Canada has no extensive experience.

That O'Connor did not know this with authority indicates incompetence.

He's still on the hook for this one.

(Thanks to CC for the tip)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Forget the record. A good campaign poster is all you need.

Shorter Mary Katherine Ham: Yes, yes Fred Thompson has a good record as a conservative but that doesn't really matter. I will vote for him because a campaign poster makes my nipples firm.

Nothing says "vote for me" like a line from a seventeen year-old movie where Fred Thompson, former lawyer and future TV district attorney had a small part playing one Rear Admiral Joshua Painter. He was acting. Thompson has never been an admiral.

I'm not sure how that slots in to a US presidential campaign, particularly in 2007/08. It's got that wobbly time-warp feel to it. Does it mean Thompson is actually a Russian? And he has a plan to take a dump?

The actual line Thompson spoke was, "Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan."

Personally, of the lines in that particular movie, I like this one better. "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms." But that would make Scott Glenn the candidate and he was actually, you know, a real US Marine. It would make a helluva bumper sticker though!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

As we wait for volume three of the Bible...

Oh no. Jonah Goldberg has a problem. As we all wait for the greatest book ever written, he's having to deal with this:
Parenting Bleg [Jonah Goldberg]

Okay, so my four year old daughter desperately wants me to do more magic tricks. All I can really do for her are variations of "Hey, I found a quarter in your ear" stuff. And even then, the prestidigitation isn't really up to snuff. If she were five, she'd be on to me. So, I need really simple, stupid in fact, magic tricks that can be done with little skill, that will impress a four year-old. Any suggestions?

Luckily, James Wolcott, recognizing Goldberg's self-admitted limits, has the answer.

Would Jesus™ approve?

That, is a religious icon of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, (Mormons). It is a depiction of the angel Moroni who, according to Joseph Smith, Jr., appeared during the night of 21 September, 1823. There is no indication that Smith had been eating mushrooms earlier in the evening. Moroni, according to Smith, appeared around 20 times in the next six years. Still, no mention of mushrooms in Smith's testimony.

Today, this report surfaced:
For a coffee shop, T-shirts of a Mormon angel with java flowing into his trumpet are selling well. But they don't have the blessing of religious leaders.

The shirts have upset the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not only is the angel Moroni a revered figure -- Mormons believe he appeared to church founder Joseph Smith -- but church members are discouraged from drinking coffee.

The shirts show Moroni, a male figure in a robe blowing a trumpet. The trumpet is turned up at an angle as coffee is poured in.

"They've been the best-selling T-shirts we've ever done," said Just Add Coffee co-owner Ed Beazer.

The church informed Beazer that the angel's image is a registered trademark.

Excuse me?

How can a religious group take a mythical image, (which the believers believe is real), which the LDS say represents the angel revealed in Revelations 14: 6 and register it as a trademark? That's, you know, like a marketing thing. As in a "business".

Organizations which register trademarks usually pay taxes.

(H/T Hairy Fish Nuts)

Flaherty's E85 vehicle inclusion smells slightly rotten

Steve has picked up the G&M article which points out that Flaherty favoured vehicles manufactured in the General Motors plant next to his riding by making last minute changes to the budget. The Finance Department, not the Transport Ministry, included two E85 flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) manufactured at the Oshawa GM plant, even though the 85 percent ethanol fuel is not available in most of Canada and the fuel consumption ratings of both cars is far too high to qualify under the "feebate" program in Flaherty's budget.
Government officials privately confirmed that as recently as one week before last Monday's federal budget was finalized, the rebates for fuel-efficient cars did not include vehicles with engines capable of running on E85, a gasoline made up of 85 per cent ethanol.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Globe and Mail that the Finance Department, rather than departments with policy expertise in the area, added two E85 vehicles in the final days.

The two six-cylinder vehicles, the Chevrolet Impala and the Monte Carlo, are produced at the GM plant in Oshawa, a riding narrowly won by the Conservatives in the past two elections. The plant is minutes away from Mr. Flaherty's riding of Whitby-Oshawa, where the local economy is closely linked to the GM plant, with many residents employed at GM or in spin-off jobs tied to the plant.

That's pretty typical conservative politics, although I would say a little blatant. But there's more around this issue.

The budget said that vehicles running on E85 meet the standards required to qualify for $1,000 rebates because they emit 40 per cent less greenhouse gases than if they ran on regular fuel.

However, the federal government is not aware of a single gas station in Canada that sells E85 fuel to the public. As a result, Canadians who buy these cars will have to use regular gas, so there will be no improvements to global warming.

OK, there are two things wrong here. First off, the "feebate" program rewards or penalizes the buyer on the purchase of the vehicle; not its use. In the various jurisdictions around the world where that method of incentives and penalties have been applied, they have not worked. (It's called research and we all know how much attention the Conservatives pay to that, don't we O'Connor).

The figure that E85 FFVs emit 40 percent less greenhouse gases than the same vehicle burning regular fuel is patently false. The latest studies show the best case reduces GGH emissions by 25.5 percent. That's not insignificant, but it's a far cry from the 40 percent claim.

There's another problem. Gallon for gallon, litre for litre, mile for mile and KM for KM, E85 burns less efficiently than gasoline. Compared to an equivalent gasoline burning engine, an E85 FFV suffers a 25 percent reduction in volumetric fuel economy. That means the reduction in the gallon for gallon GGH output is reduced because a FFV uses more fuel to travel the same distance as a gasoline powered vehicle. The GGH emission reduction is actually around 13 percent for the same amount of time the engine is operated.

That's not to say that a shift to FFVs and E85 isn't a good move, but to include E85 burning vehicles in the budget's "feebate" program has nothing to do with significant GGH reduction. It's a typical Conservative environmental program, grabbed out of the air without proper consultation and research. The truth is, the two vehicles built near Flaherty's riding, (Chevolet Impala and Monte Carlo) when burning E85 have a combined city/highway fuel consumption rating of 12.3 litres per hundred kilometers. A Saturn Vue (bigger vehicle, smaller engine) has a rating of 8.2 litres per hundred KM. The gasoline burning Saturn Vue actually emits less volume of greenhouse gases per KM than the E85 burning Impala or Monte Carlo.

So, why were E85 vehicles included? It looks good on the surface, but a turn of the page and a working of the figures suggests they belong closer to the other end of the scale. Smoke and mirrors again.

I won't even start with the feedstock problems associated with E85. That's for another time.

Steve labeled it properly. It's Flaherty pork.