Friday, August 31, 2007

SPP and the Zapatistas

One of the sanest, clearest overviews of the SPP I've read to date comes from the Zapatistas. Intended as a primer, Ten Easy Questions and Ten Tougher Ones Regarding the SPPNA is of particular interest in that it addresses the threats posed by the SPP to the people of the western hemisphere as a whole, as opposed to the more US/Canada-centric coverage we are used to up here. In this context it is rather chilling to read casual mention of Canada having already signed away the right to control the extent of her oil trade with the US.

A snippet for all you non-clickers out there :
11. How are these regulations drafted and approved?

In most cases the enforcement of regulations requires just the chief executives' signatures. It is actually corporate lawyers who draft the language of the regulations, especially those having to do with trade, in consultation with selected government officials and academics. This procedure overturns the traditional roles played by governments and corporations and in essence constitutes the privatization of what had traditionally been considered a public prerogative.

14. What does this new Partnership have to do with prosperity?

Nothing. The word has been included for publicity purposes given growing poverty among the majority. The SPP will bring prosperity to the multinational corporations, their major shareholders and those in power who are colluding with the former. Large corporations have detected measures that are missing from NAFTA which would facilitate cross-border business and increase profits. These aspects are now being approved with SPP regulations.

The link is provided by Christopher Hayes, who I took to task here for his dismissive article in The Nation regarding the dangers of SPP. Mr Hayes left me a comment with a link to his blog where he explains to Chet Scoville that while still not convinced, he had cut a sentence from his original article that noted gutting regulations and giving corporations free reign were likely a part of the SPP agenda.
After reading this Zapatista position paper, Mr Hayes writes:
"The more I hear the more wary I become, although even this bill of indictment seems a bit vague—more focused on the general worldview out of which it springs and the motivations of the US than specifics about what, exactly the SPP has accomplished or plans to accomplish. Although, since they’re apparently keeping all SPP documents secret, I guess one can hardly blame the critics."

Exactly. Warier faster, please, Mr Hayes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Serious Ontario politics blogging

Green Ideas is a great blog run by Green Party activist Brent Wood to discuss issues in the upcoming Ontario provincial election. Most recently, he's looked at John Tory's attempt to bribe the religious right with a promise to fund all religous schools as compared to the Green Party's official platform of funding only a single, secular public school system, the Charbot Lake standoff between First Nations' activists and a uranium mining company, and the effects of the Ontario Municipal Board. It's all serious policy discussion, so there aren't a lot of laughs, but for Ontario voters and policy wonks, the site is a gem.
(full disclosure: I am related to Brent)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Illiud latine dici non potest

A long time ago I made a promise to myself that I would try to do at least two things to make someone else happy every day.

I am in arrears.

Until I'm caught up....

Jeebus! A story! Alert the blogosphere!!!

So, finally, the traditional media opens an eye and observes democracy being subverted by odious Conservative party tactics. Barbara Yaffe in the Vancouver Sun and Shaun Thomas in The Northern View have both come out swinging. Barbara Yaffe: (Emphasis mine)
An aggressive Conservative plan has bestowed a group of British Columbians with a representative from the governing party before they've voted one in.

Houston Mayor Sharon Smith has been appointed "government go-to person" for the NDP-held riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley by the federal Conservative caucus chair for B.C., Dick Harris.


Throwing in the waste bin the principles that make representative government in Canada function, Harris explained on a local radio show the other week: "To have access to the ministers, realistically, you have to be part of the government. You want to contact the Prime Minister's Office or even the prime minister when you need to, it helps immensely to be part of the government."

He said Smith, working through Conservative channels, would be able to get constituents' concerns in Cullen's riding "right to the ministers involved."

Asked if Conservative MPs in Opposition -- before January 2006 -- were thus ineffective, Harris elaborated further.

"There's a bit of a pecking order in Parliament. As a member of the official Opposition you're quite a bit closer to government than, say, a member of the fourth or the third party.

"There seems to be a cooperation between the official Opposition and the government when it comes to riding issues, so we were able to get a fair amount done.

"It's a matter of having the access and being effective with the access and, quite frankly ... the fact is, it hasn't been happening" in Cullen's riding.

So, to clarify this, Harris would have objected to what the Conservatives are now engaged in on the basis that his party, when in opposition, was a part of the official opposition, therefore could still get things done.

[Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch] says of the Skeena situation: "What [Harris] is essentially saying is that it matters whether your MP is from the ruling party or not, which is saying, essentially, that the ruling party MPs get -- what? -- more favours from the public service?

"Is he implying that ruling party MPs can somehow solve a constituent's problems that are dealing with the bureaucracy, in terms of immigration applications or small business problems or just general citizen problems with government?"

I wonder how Mr. Harris spells corruption?

Shaun Thomas:

Apparently if you didn’t elect one of their candidates, the Conservative government doesn’t really care what you have to say.

At least that was the impression I was left with after reading a news release from B.C. Conservative Caucus chair Dick Harris, which urged people with “concerns or issues with the Federal Government” to contact Sharon Smith, who will be running for the party in the next federal election. Apparently, according to Harris, Smith will provide residents with direct contact to the federal government, which we have not had since 2004, and will “represent constituents of her riding.”

That is quite possibly the most arrogant, ignorant and blatantly misleading thing that I have ever heard from any government or government official. Ever.


But, says Mr. Harris, having a fourth party MP “just doesn’t cut it” when it comes to getting things done for the riding. To me that just seems to be the Conservatives admitting that they ignore the concerns that come from any riding that didn’t vote for them or are represented by them, which is shameful in and of itself

And perhaps even more importantly, in what strange and twisted reality does the Conservative Party of Canada or any other political party have the power to appoint someone as our representative on a federal level? They don’t have that power now, they never had that power and they never will have that power! Only the people of the riding have that power, and for the Conservatives to even think they can tell us who we are to talk to is both insulting and a massive slap in the face to the entire democratic process.

It's worth keeping an eye on how "national" this goes.

In the meantime, there's something I've been itching to do. Having spent the past few years using the stories produced by the traditional media as feedstock, and having listened to or read the line, "The bloggers are abuzz with this story", and then to have a comment quoted in the form of some quaint bullet, turn about is fair play.

(Cue important sounding music) Over to you TGB!

Thanks, FF! Well, since Blogging a Dead Horse first broke this story several outlets have weighed in with new and often revealing information. Once the importance of this story came to light an entire team started to dig. JJ, ACR, CC, Dawg, Chet and Tim have been keeping on top of this one.

(Pan to big plasma display with expanding windows)

So, FF, let's hop over to the ragosphere and check out what the big corporate media reaction is to this....

(Expanding window displays Vancouver Sun masthead)

Well, apparently, FF, the ragosphere isn't saying much yet, but once they see the importance of this story I'm certain we'll see all kinds of response and commentary.

Back to you, FF.

I just had to do that.

The law is an ass, and then there are the people with their head in it.

You'd have to be aware of this in the first place to understand what's happening. PZ Myers, who writes the outstanding blog Pharyngula, is an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota and is a vocal atheist found himself being sued by one Stuart Pivar. I'll give you the intro from that last link:
Remember that Stuart Pivar fellow who wrote a book called LifeCode (2004), a book which purported to advance a new theory of developmental biology — a theory which would, naturally, overturn everything biologists have figured out so far? Well, here’s a quick refresher:
The rest you can follow over there.

Well, it appears Pivar's attorney withdrew the lawsuit yesterday. That's a good thing since the whole suit appeared to centre around Pivar's attempt to silence a negative review of his book.

However, Peter Irons, a constitutional lawyer who stepped forward on PZ Myers' behalf and literally destroyed Pivar's case is apparently being threatened with legal action by Pivar's lawyer, Michael J. Little. Presumably the basis for Little's suit is this letter in which Irons, quite appropriately describes Little's activities as hasty, sloppy and frivolous.

And here I was trying to wean myself off popcorn.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beware the Randy Rat!

Honestly, I had expected to read this elsewhere.
South Africa's health department said on Tuesday it has recalled 20 million potentially defective condoms approved by an official accused of taking bribes from a manufacturer.
Hmmm. Faulty product. Made in South Africa. Personal health. I am waiting for these things to show up in a Canadian "dollar store" somewhere.
The SABS [South African Bureau of Standards] official accused of taking bribes and two directors of the manufacturing company have been arrested and are out on bail, said the spokesman. They will be appearing in a Pretoria court on September 10 to face charges of corruption and fraud. The condoms did not meet several standard tests for strength, pressure and lubrication. The SABS Web site alerted the public, saying the faulty condoms were distributed by brand names including Ultramour, Randy Rat and Positions.

SABS said it had instructed Latex Surgical Products (LSP) to recall the condoms and that it would take legal action against the manufacturer.

Randy Rat? How quaint. (Hold on a second there, darlin'. I've gotta cover the old one-eyed king snake with a Randy Rat. Kind of eliminates the need for candles and easy-listening music.)

The problem, according to various different sources in South Africa is that a recall may be well beyond the realm of reality. No one seems certain how to do it.

The health department said it does not know how many of the defective condoms have been used, and it is urging the public to return them.
Presumably, the South African health department is talking about the unused condoms.

In case you thought this little problem in South Africa couldn't possibly affect you, in North America, Europe or Asia, this little line is from the manufacturer's website.

LSP Incorporating Zalatex is the first manufacturer in South Africa to export low protein sterile surgical gloves and condoms.
I know. You're wondering about the "dollar store" connection. Well, it's because of this. The $1 pregnancy test kit will go nicely with whatever cheapo condoms you might find.

Luckily, in Canada at least, we have an aspiring "dollar store" detective. Once he graduates from toothpaste to rubber products we'll be able to get on with life in a safe manner.

Saving Private Hubbard

Jason Hubbard, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, United States Army, has gone home. That wouldn't be so significant if it wasn't for the fact that he used to have two brothers, one of them in the same unit.
Jason Hubbard, 33, will be re-united with his family in Clovis, California after his brother Nathan, 21, died in a helicopter crash in Iraq on Wednesday.

His other sibling Jared Hubbard was killed by a roadside bomb in 2004.

The "sole survivor" policy, which has allowed Jason to leave Iraq, formed the premise of movie Saving Private Ryan.
Moderate Man has more under the title Kristol Wants More Sacrifice.

With entire families being slaughtered by Bush's pursuit in Iraq, cheer led of course by slimy little chickenhawks like Bill Kristol, it becomes clear that some families are sacrificing a great deal more than others.

Steven Truscott acquitted

It's taken 48 years for Steven Truscott to have the Ontario Court of Appeal determine that the evidence used to convict him of the rape and murder of 12-year old Lynne Harper would not withstand the test of scrutiny.
Steven Truscott was a victim of a "miscarriage of justice," Ontario's highest court ruled Tuesday as his 48-year battle to clear his name culminated in his acquittal of the 1959 rape and murder of 12-year-old Lynne Harper.

"The conviction, placed in the light of the fresh evidence, constitutes a miscarriage of justice and must be quashed," reads the unaminous judgment from the Ontario Court of Appeal.

"The fresh evidence realted to the issue of the time of Lynne Harper's death is sufficient to quash the conviction."

That evidence dealt in large part with the original autopsy notes made by Dr. John Penistan in 1959. Harper's time of death was "crucial" to the original Crown's case. Penistan testified that Harper died before 7:45 p.m. on June 9 - which made Truscott the prime suspect.

Last year, the Appeals Court heard evidence that Penistan's original autopsy conclusions allowed for a time of death much later that 7:45, perhaps even the next day for which Truscott had an alibi - he was in school.

Truscott and his lawyers had been hoping for a declaration of "innocence". The quashing of the conviction would allow the Crown to proceed with a new trial, however, that isn't likely.

Truscott was actually sentenced to be hanged. At age 14, after a two day police investigation and a two week trial, he was convicted of capital murder and became the youngest person in Canada to be sentenced to death by a criminal court. His sentence was commuted in 1960 to that of life imprisonment. He was paroled after serving 10 years.

In 1966, Isabel LeBourdais wrote the book The Trial of Steven Truscott which blew apart the police investigation and the evidence presented at the trial.

In 2000, the CBC's Fifth Estate produced a documentary which presented new evidence, including a 1966 review published by the original pathologist which changed his autopsy results. The program also uncovered the fact that police had ignored other suspects in the case, some of whom had clear histories as sexual offenders.

As inconceivable as this may sound today, Steven Truscott was found guilty and sentenced to death on the strength of nothing more than circumstantial evidence.

The SPP, UFOs, Hitler, and....whoa, nice rack!

"The SPP, is the very kind of organization that one could expect to be launched by an alleged greed-driven "Security Partnership" for the "prosperity" of Human elite minions and Manipulative Extraterrestrials that has been well documented by Dr. Salla and others, toward realizing Adolf Hitler's ambition for a New World Order."
~ The Canadian National Newspaper

And here I thought having the John Birch Society on our side would be problematic.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Convicted drug dealer is Afghanistan's anti-corruption czar

Via Cernig, we get a glimpse of who's who in the anti-corruption offices of the Afghan government.
Twenty years ago US police arrested a young Afghan emigrant at his hotel room in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. The Afghan, who introduced himself as Mr E, tried to sell a bag of heroin to an undercover detective. At his trial, prosecutors said it was worth $2m.

The man spent three years and eight months in a Nevada state prison before being released on parole. His wife, who had stood lookout in the hotel corridor, received a probationary sentence.

Now Mr E - or Mr Wasifi - is the director general of the Afghan government's main anti-corruption agency.

Oh. Well that's just delicious. Wasifi played it down when confronted with the information.

The official insisted it was far in the past - "I have paid the price" - and compared himself to more famous politicians who have fallen foul of the law. "Even George Bush has a record," he said, referring to the US president's 1976 conviction for drink driving. "He was arrested, same shit as me. There's no difference between him and me."
Ummm. OK. Same as Bush. So, is Wasifi doing a heckofa job?

Several foreign diplomats said they were unhappy that although reports of Mr Wasifi's conviction surfaced five months ago, he has kept his job. "It is outrageous," said a senior western diplomat. "We've made it quite clear that we want him removed."

Other critics say the controversy is symptomatic of a wider malaise - the failure of President Hamid Karzai to tackle the culture of greed that is eroding his authority and the legitimacy of his government.

"There is a very serious problem that affects all efforts to win hearts and minds and build their confidence in the state," said Ahmad Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The nexus between drugs and corruption is most powerful at the interior ministry, according to a recent report by the UN and the World Bank. It found that drug gangs have bought the loyalty of police chiefs and government officials across the country. One senior officer said that any police chief who refused to get involved in the trade would be "threatened to be killed and replaced".

Apparently not. And, oh look at this! Afghanistan's opium output has reached record levels. The country produces 93 percent of all the world's opium.


Angela Merkel blows the lid off the polls

Two years ago there was concern in Europe that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, would have trouble maintaining national support for her coalition government. Not anymore.
As Chancellor Angela Merkel heads to Asia this weekend, her standing at home floats at sky-high levels — she enjoys unprecedented poll ratings, strong economic growth and the first government budget surplus since Germany's 1990 reunification.


A poll conducted by the Emnid Institute and published Sunday by the Bild weekly showed Merkel's midterm approval at a record 76 percent, with only 21 percent of Germans wanting a change of leadership. No margin of error was given.

Her performance in foreign relations has a lot to do with her popularity, Emnid director Klaus-Peter Schoeppner was quoted as saying by the Bild newspaper.

"People admire how Merkel stands her ground in the world of men like (U.S. President George W.) Bush, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy," Schoeppner said. "Definitely the rating is also a result of the German EU and G-8 presidencies."

There are a few politicians who would walk through miles of broken glass to get polling numbers like that.

I guess taking 66 trips to Crawford to deal with the brush just doesn't cut it with American voters.

Another Righteous repuglican in the Wrong Place . . . .

What is it with these guys ? ! ? !

Idaho Senator Arrested in Airport

Idaho Sen. Craig Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct in Airport Arrest

The Associated Press - MINNEAPOLIS

Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho (R) pleaded guilty this month to misdemeanor disorderly conduct after being arrested at the Minneapolis airport.

A Hennepin County court docket showed Craig pleading guilty to the disorderly conduct charge Aug. 8, with the court dismissing a charge of gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.

The court docket said the Republican senator was fined $1,000, plus $575 in fees. He was put on unsupervised probation for a year. A sentence of 10 days in the county workhouse was stayed.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, which first reported the case, said on its Web site Monday that Craig was arrested June 11 by a plainclothes officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in a men's restroom at the airport.

And how about this little tidbit from way back in 1982 ? ? ? ?

I'm thinkin' the Log Cabin Republicans are having WAY too much influence on this crowd . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

al's Timeline of Disgrace . . . .

From the Washington Post today:

A Timeline of Significant Events in Gonzales' Career

The Associated Press -
Monday, August 27, 2007; 1:37 PM

Some significant dates in the career of Alberto R. Gonzales, the nation's 80th U.S. attorney general who announced his resignation Monday.

1979: Receives bachelor's degree from Rice University, after enlisting in the Air Force in 1973 and serving at Fort Yukon, Alaska.

1982: Earns law degree from Harvard University; joins the Houston-based law firm Vinson and Elkins, whose client list included Enron and Halliburton.

1995-1997: Served as general counsel to then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas. (While in this position, he was involved in successfully hiding george's drunk-driving charge from 1976 in Kennebunkport, Maine. Way to start your ignominious career with bushco, al.)

There are more "significant" dates in his history of public life which you can see in it's entirety here.

I've saved the best one for last:

Aug. 27, 2007: Gonzales announces his resignation and Bush publicly accepts.

Now, if him and the rest of the crowd involved in the worst administration in US history will be brought up on War Crimes charges, there really is justice for all . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

The status of Sharon Smith UPDATED

Since Dick Harris has "appointed" Sharon Smith the *ahem* liaison with the Harper government from the federal riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley, some questions as to what her status actually represents are appropriate.

Clearly, she's the mayor of Houston, British Columbia and can represent that district municipality in that capacity. Her point of contact: the Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen.

She is a member of the Bulkley-Nechako Regional District board, but that doesn't give her any increased access to federal government than her position as mayor. Since she's not the chairman of that regional district board, she represents Houston on that board.

So what is she?

Well, consider that the University of British Columbia is a public institution and occasionally enters into communication with officers of the Crown regarding education, legislative research and applications for grants, capital or operating funding. In order to do that, the President and every department head of UBC is registered as a lobbyist under the Federal Lobbyist Registration Act.

A search of the Lobbyists Registration System does not produce a result when Smith is entered into a search.

But, with no other official status, the only thing her role seems to represent is that of a lobbyist. Why is she not registered?

If a public university has to register every individual likely to communicate with the government, shouldn't Smith be required to meet that same standard?

Just sayin'.

UPDATE: Tim picked up on another "special liaison" person appointed by the Conservatives. This time it is in the Western Arctic in the form of Brendan Bell. Bell will be running for the Conservatives in the next federal election. Are you surprized?

UPDATE 2: Try as I might, I can't find a supporting link to verify that Brendan Bell has received any special appointment at all. He has announced that he is not running in the North West Territories election and will make a run for the Conservative Party candidacy for the federal seat. Other than that, Bell appears to be a very busy and energetic minister in the NWT assembly. A check on NDP MP Dennis Bevington's (Western Arctic) website contains no information that would indicate Bell has received any special status which would undermine Bevington's role as MP.

Apologies to everyone if the update got everyone's blood up.

Hiring protesters?

Who's hiring protesters? I'll just borrow this little bit of transcript from matttbastard.
Conservatives "work for the well-being of people that work hard, and have no time to protest and who don’t have the time to protest, or have the money to hire protesters."
Mr. Harper, who are you accusing? In recent memory, the only people who we can clearly identify as being on a payroll to perform as "protesters for hire" were members of the Surete du Quebec.

Credit to skdadl commenting at Bread and Roses.

al gone . . . .

ABC News just broke into regular programming to announce that al gonzales has tendered his resignation as Attorney General.

Ding Dong the Witch is Nearly ____ . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

If we're going to trash people who go to gatherings instead of going to work...

Let's get them all.

Steve V at Far and Wide did a great job of highlighting the protests that our man Steve Harper clearly doesn't like. I always appreciate a prime minister who looks at Canadian citizens and trashes them. It's so, so, Soviet.

I do, however, think it only appropriate to point out that Steve (The Harper) has engaged in the hypocrisy of omission. He left himself out of the picture when, in fact, Harper took time off to be a speaker at the very same kind of gathering.
Canadians owe their freedom to soldiers like those fighting in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a rally on Parliament Hill in support of Canada's troops.
I might have gone to one of those things, but hell, I couldn't get the time off.

Stalin, that's right, Stalin, would have been proud of Harper.

Cultural faux pas

This moment of cultural insensitivity has a familiar ring to it.
A demonstration has been held in south- east Afghanistan accusing US troops of insulting Islam after they distributed footballs bearing the name of Allah.

The balls showed the Saudi Arabian flag which features the Koranic declaration of faith.

The US military said the idea had been to give something for Afghan children to enjoy and they did not realise it would cause offence.

The footballs were dropped from a helicopter in Khost province.

You'd think the people who organized such things would do, oh, I don't know, perhaps 15 minutes of research. Saudi Arabia has been complaining ever since the Saudi flag first made an appearance on World Cup souvenir balls. Surely the community affairs offices of the US military in Afghanistan have some grasp of the culture. OK. Maybe not.
Afghan MP Mirwais Yasini said: "To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country around the world."

A spokeswoman for the US forces in Afghanistan said they made "significant efforts to work with local leaders, mullahs and elders to respect their culture" and distributing the footballs was an effort to give a gift the Afghan children would enjoy.

"Unfortunately," she added, "there was something on those footballs we didn't immediately understand to be offensive and we regret that as we do not want to offend."
Yes, it does remind me of something.

Tell me you didn't know that was coming.

So... do I play this one as dirty as a Conservative would?

Not quite. But I come from a culture where the unofficial motto was: You fight dirty? We fight dirty. I will exercise a small modicum of restraint - very small.

Sharon Smith, the Mayor of Houston, British Columbia, had more than a little fame after having donned the chain of office in 2002. She was very "hurt and embarrassed" by all that attention. She seems to be having a less emotional reaction at being used as a lever by the Conservative Party to subvert democracy.

The fame? Well, more like infamy.

On 11 December, 2003, the mayor of a small town in northern British Columbia, population 4,300, made titillating news in London, England; San Francisco, and; Chicago. To name just a few of the hundreds of places that told her embarrassing story.

So, perhaps Dick Harris, working so diligently for the Conservative Party cause, was going for name recognition in appointing her the "go to person" for the riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

And it's that name recognition that is curious. The major organs of the reporting media have given this heinous assault on the electors of Skeena-Bulkley Valley a complete pass.

If Smith were to limit herself to municipal politics there is a chance her past ridiculous lapse in judgment might have faded into nothing but an urban myth. Hell, it isn't even in the pages of Snopes yet. But to become party to a political profanity suggests she is prepared to accept that the gloves are off. Or, in her case, everything but the gloves.

If this type of abuse of the democratic establishment of Canada had been perpetrated by any other party the Conservatives would have been digging under the fingernails of corpses looking for information to post on their party website.

So, Sharon Smith should expect what's coming.

The nude pictures don't matter. I'm sure a lot of people have them, although an intelligent person wouldn't leave them accessible on the family computer where "the kids" friends can get at them.

It's the apparent lack of respect for an office, which deserves to be held with dignity and reverence, which should call into question the fitness of an individual to stand for parliament or, in this case, somehow find herself made a form of government agent without portfolio. Yes, even the mayor of a small town in this country is expected to show deferential regard for the ceremonial trappings of office.

Sharon Smith didn't do that.

She mocked the office that had been handed her by the voters of Houston, B.C. It doesn't matter that the photo was intended to remain private; the place wasn't. It belongs to the ratepayers of Houston.

In short, not her office, not her chair, not her chain.

One can only question how she would treat a position of even greater authority than that of mayor of Houston, B.C.

How she fits in with the Conservative Party is another question, but then, I suppose they're not all that adept at using Teh Google.

Since you mentioned Vietnam...

In the interest of promoting laziness, Jonah Goldberg offers himself up, once again, as a piece of low hanging fruit.
The mainstream media and a lot of liberal-leaning analysts seem to think it's politically foolish or reckless for Bush to compare Vietnam to Iraq because they have one very specific narrative in mind when it comes to that war: America shouldn't have gotten in, couldn't have won, and then lost. What they have long failed to grasp is that's not the moral of the story in the hearts of millions of Americans who believe that we could have won if wanted to and it was a disaster for American prestige and honor that we lost (whether we should have gone in is a murkier question for many, I think).
Millions of Americans? Well, yes. Given George W Bush's popularity, (or lack of it), at around 26%, and using the 2004 census figures indicating 216 million eligible voters, that would translate to about 56 million people. So, yes, millions of people, so blinded to the realities of today that they continue to support the worst administration in American history, quite likely do support the notion that the US could have won in Vietnam.

The question remains: Won what?


In other Pantload news, Goldberg's long awaited and constantly delayed book now has an availability date of December 26th, 2007, so don't expect to find it in the stocking you hang by the chimney. By then, who knows what the title will be?

Why does Goldberg hate Christmas?

Just Say No! to The Quagmire on Drugs

Ever since pot "Just Said No!" to me many years ago, I haven't kept up on The War on Drugs news much, other than to note that at best it appears to be a gigantic federal money laundering racket in those countries which have embraced it. I had always rather assumed that along with giving women the vote and widespread acceptance of the benefits of bathing, legalization of marijuana was just one more benchmark in the long march toward civilization that we would eventually get around to.
While I'm not aware of Health Minister Tony Clements' position on female emancipation and personal hygiene, he recently announced an upcoming $64M federal anti-drug program, presumably to better align Canadian policy with the spectacularly corrupt and utterly ineffective US War on youth, blacks, hispanics and the poor Drugs program.

The UN also recently reported that Canada has the highest use of marijuana in the industrialized world, clocking in at 16.8%, with over half of the population supporting decriminalization as laid out in the LeDain Commission 35 freakin years ago.
The Toronto Star :

"In 2003, the Liberal government introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of less than 15 grams, making it subject to a fine but no criminal record.
The move caused immediate criticism in Washington. It warned Ottawa that if the bill passed, Canadians would pay for it at the border with increased security checks and lengthy delays.

In 2004, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said he opposed decriminalization but that "we can look at fines rather than jail terms for possession under five grams."
When the Tories came to power two years later, however, they killed the Liberal bill.

"Are they kowtowing to the U.S.? Almost certainly," says [Ottawa lawyer Eugene] Oscapella. "

From an article on how the war on drugs is undermining western security, Misha Glenny writes in The Washington Post :

"British Columbia is now home to the greatest number of organized-crime syndicates anywhere in the world (if we accept the U.N. definition of a syndicate as more than two people involved in a planned crime). According to B.C. government statistics, the production, distribution and export of B.C. Bud, highly potent marijuana grown in hothouses along the province's border with the US, accounts for 6 percent of the region's gross domestic product. It now employs more Canadians than British Columbia's traditional industries of mining and logging combined.

The majority of the province's criminals remain passive hippie types for whom the drug is a lifestyle choice. But as Brian Brennan, the chief investigator for the drug squad of the RCMP told me, the marijuana trade is threatening to turn nasty as British Columbia's Hells Angels, one of the best-organized criminal syndicates in the world, moves in on the action.

An avalanche of B.C. Bud rolls southward into the United States every day, dodging U.S. customs in myriad imaginative ways. But as the Hell's Angels and other syndicates get stronger and their control over the port of Vancouver tightens, the ability of U.S. and Canadian authorities to monitor the border becomes ever weaker."

BC as a northern drug economy-based banana republic.
Reading US editorials like this, I can better appreciate why some Americans respond to the news that you come from British Columbia with praise at how well you speak English.

Over in the Netherlands, where civilization seems to be on a somewhat more secure footing and possession isn't a criminal offence, consumption is only 6.1%.
Oscapala again in the Toronto Star : "This shows that criminal law does not prevent people from using marijuana, nor does legalization make people use it."
Well exactly.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A delicious dissection of Michael Ignatieff

I'm pretty sure by now most people have read or have seen pertinent excerpts of Michael Ingnatieff's piece in the New York Time magazine in which he attempts a "mea culpa" on his position vis a vis the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.

Many have taken Ignatieff apart for his apparent lack of remorse and his obvious attempt to pass it off as a temporary lapse in what would otherwise be exceptionally acute judgment.

At least, that's what he'd like you to believe. Ignatieff seems unwilling to accept the outcome of the Liberal leadership convention and is casting about seemingly trying to secure a position he could not win from the convention floor.

While the article is now over 20 days old, it is still making the rounds. That may be good or bad, but it's happening all the same. And just to remind Ignatieff why that's likely happening, it's because he was so wrong, and dismissed those of us who were right all along, that the "best before" date on any revision of thought had long expired and he was written off as a Bushco adherent.

Back in 2004, Ignatieff tried very hard to excuse his belief in something he labeled "preventative war". He did it without admitting that, no matter what tag one hangs off it, it's aggressive war and it's a war crime.

Back then Helena Cobban tore Ignatieff's narrative to ribbons. What she made clear is that Ignatieff was an elitist and his hearing was impaired when it came to people who opposed whatever view he possessed at the time.

Well, Helena Cobban has done it again and it's worth every second it takes to read it. Ignatieff - Still getting it wrong on Iraq, gives you Ignatieff's essay and it gives you the annotations which leave his presentation on a steaming, stinking pile of waste.

I could write more, but that would spoil your fun. Go read.

Tip of the hat to reader MB

We don't need your stinkin' democracy

Ah, the Harperites have done it again. You can read it here, here, here, here and, oh yes, here. Elect whomever you like. If the Harperites gain anything resembling power, they will stuff the decision of the electorate right up their asses.
Dick Harris MP for Cariboo-Prince George has named Houston Mayor and Conservative candidate Sharon Smith as the person that residents of Skeena-Bulkley Valley can contact when they have concerns or issues with the federal government.

Harris said, “As Chairman of the BC Caucus of Conservative MPs, I am pleased that Sharon has accepted this role, and I know the constituents of Skeena-Bulkley Valley will derive a huge benefit from having direct contact with government, something that they have not had since 2004.

I and other BC Conservative MPs will work closely with Sharon Smith as she represents constituents of her riding to the government members. It will be a bonus for people of Skeena-Bulkley Valley to have direct representation to the government on so many issues,” continued Harris

Harris concluded, “Having an MP from the fourth party in the House just doesn’t cut it when it comes to actually getting things done for the folks in Skeena-Bulkley Valley . Sharon Smith with her direct government contact will ensure that things DO get done. The Terrace water infrastructure, Smithers Airport expansion, and Houston event center’s new “green” system are just a few examples of what can be accomplished when you have a direct link to government”.
Of course some people don't think Harris, beyond this obvious attempt to insert one his own kind has any right whatsoever to "appoint" a quasi-MP.

It was with great interest that I read the content devoted to the announced funding for the extension of the Smithers airport runway.

The relief of the announcement was overshadowed by the window dressing made possible by our Conservative government, along with our “liason to the federal government,” candidate Sharon Smith, and the slanted viewpoint of this newspaper and its editor.

First, it was announced that candidate Smith had been appointed “Skeena- Bulkley Valley liaison to the federal government.”

That appointment quoted in the editorial bugs me for two reasons the most important being the fact that I thought that our sitting MP Nathan Cullen was our liaison to the federal government.

Moreover, by being elected freely by the constituents of the riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley, and our true federal liaison in Ottawa, shouldn’t thanks and his presence have been afforded to him when this announcement was made.

Second, if the editorial is true and this title bestowed upon candidate Smith is legit, then does this mean the taxpayers of this country are paying her a salary, honourarium or a budget for a office that would be similar to our sitting MP Cullen?

If so, I would consider this a unconservative waste of taxpayers dollars.

On the second point perhaps I’m being a little coy and satirical in the same way that the editorial should be viewed.

The problem is that, faced with the format of the announcement and the subsequent Houston Today media blitz, somehow our wishes were granted though some back door deal lead by a Conservative candidate — sorry “federal liaison for the Bulkley Valley.”

The notion fails to ascertain the possibilities that the future expansion of our runway was a result of a concerted effort from community leaders, including Mayors Smith and Davidson.

Futhermore, the effort was reinforced by the strong lobbying efforts of our elected and re-elected federal liaison MP Cullen.

On a final note, if one assumes the editorial is true and that candidate Smith is the force behind the funding for the runway extension, then I would like to add my thanks to former liberal candidates Gordon Stamp-Vincent and Miles Richardson for bringing the Prince Rupert port expansion announced under a federal Liberal government in Ottawa.

Just another example of the power of privilege clouding the work of the people and its representatives.

Frank Farrell Smithers

Since Nathan Cullen is the Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, there is no need for a "government liaison" person. That is the MP's role, and it is contingent upon the government to listen to the concerns of his constituents when he presents them.

I suppose it should be mentioned that Dick Harris, the Conservative MP for Cariboo-Chilcotin, and the individual who announced this move, used to represent Skeena-Bulkley Valley until redistribution in 2003 formed the new riding which he now represents.

Maybe this is just a case of sour grapes on the part of Harris. In any case, it represents the shame of the Conservative Party that the only representatives they will with whom they will communicate are those with Conservative Party membership cards.

Harris and Smith have some immediate questions to answer:

1. Does Smith get paid and who pays her?
2. Does Smith have access to caucus?
3. Does Smith have access to cabinet ministers ahead of the duly elected member of parliament?

I hope this contempt for the voters of a riding Harris does not represent plays back into his own riding during the next federal election. In fact, we'll just make sure his constituents and Skeena-Bulkley Valley constituents receive a strong and constant reminder when they next hit the hustings.

The Bank of Canada's strange behaviour

Jim Stanford, Chief Economist with the Canadian Auto Workers' Union, national columnist with the Globe and Mail and past chair of the Progressive Economics Forum has written an excellent post on the strange behaviour of the Bank of Canada in dealing with the current financial crisis brought on by the US sub-prime-mortgage-meltdown credit crunch.

Oh. You thought that was just a US problem? Not hardly. Stock exchanges and financial markets from Shanghai to Frankfurt and, Toronto in between, are being torn to shreds as speculators with collateralized securities watch the value of the paper they hold shrink like a wet angora sweater in a hot dryer.

Honestly, it's their fault and I have no sympathy for them. It's just that the damage they will wreak as a result of their attempt to sell the poor something they could not afford in the first place, and then sell the paper those mortgages were written on at inflated values will come back to bite all of us while leaving the working class in even worse condition.

The surprize was the sudden decision by the Bank of Canada to suddenly defend its interest rate by adding liquidity to the financial markets. What makes this even more surprizing is that the Bank of Canada has made the same statement over the years: Regardless of conditions, the central bank (meaning David Dodge) has made it very clear to all of us that the sole purpose, of that supposedly apolitical institution, is to defend the inflation rate.

The Bank of Canada has stood by while the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar has edged to near par with the US dollar and caused the Canadian manufacturing sector to dump 400,000 jobs. We are told by the central bank that we have to live with that. It's an adjustment and the Bank of Canada is not in the business of defending the exchange rate - it simply defends the inflation rate.

Except that isn't what the central bank is doing. Stanford does an excellent job of lighting up the scene on the Bank of Canada's behaviour and, while you might think he objects to bailing out a bunch of greedy chartered banks and speculators, he actually approves of the Bank of Canada's actions. He can explain it, but before you head over there, this is a sample of his latest column in the Globe an Mail:
What’s got me irked is the obvious contradiction between the Bank’s willingness to ride to the rescue of banks, hedge funds, and private equity dealers, versus its tough-love response to the dislocation of 400,000 factory workers.


If real businesses use cheap credit to invest in too much real production, create too many jobs, and strengthen incomes too rapidly for the Bank’s liking, then it cracks down hard. But if speculators use cheap credit to fuel a frenzied inflation in paper valuations, that’s no problem. An average worker can’t get ahead. But a speculator gets a free pass – even though the “wealth” they create is no more real than the turrets of Hogwarts Castle.
Go read. It's good and it's understandable.

Friendly fire....

Is not friendly.
A U.S. warplane mistakenly dropped a 225-kilogram bomb on British troops after they called for air support in Afghanistan, killing three soldiers and seriously wounding two others in an accident that could re-ignite debate about America's heavy use of air power.

Friendly fire involving U.S. troops has led to the deaths of three British servicemen in the current Iraq war, but the incident Thursday night was the first confirmed case between the two forces in Afghanistan. British officials said they were investigating the error, which comes amid growing concerns about civilian deaths from U.S. air strikes.

The troops were patrolling northwest of Kajaki, a militant hotspot in southern Helmand province, when they were attacked by Taliban fighters, Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

"During the intense engagement that ensued, close air support was called in from two U.S. F15 aircraft to repel the enemy. One bomb was dropped and it is believed the explosion killed the three soldiers."

There are a lot of directions anyone could go with this, but it's still fresh and people are still trying to work out what actually happened.

This goes a lot deeper than just this incident. Canada has lost 6 killed to friendly fire in Afghanistan. The British have lost 3 killed in Iraq and now 3 in Afghanistan. In the 1991 Gulf War the British lost 9 men in a single attack by an American A-10 which caused a huge outcry at the time.

In the 1991 Gulf War, during Operation Desert Storm, the Americans stated that 35 of their own troops had been killed and 73 wounded due to blue-on-blue friendly fire exchanges. That didn't include the shooting down of two British Tornado fighter-bombers, which had been transmitting IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), by US Patriot missile batteries.

One of the problems is the lack of a combat identification system to provide precise identification and position of friendly troops. There was one being developed by the US known as Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS) and it was in direct response to a known deficiency which surfaced during the 1991 Gulf War - tactical air was moving too fast and releasing ordnance without precise knowledge of the position of the friendly forces which had called them in.

Under the Clinton administration a "Low Rate Initial Production" award was authorized for manufacture and deployment of the BCIS to be tested by the US 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

That was until the Bush administration came to power. In the fall of 2001, Donald Rumsfeld canceled the program. The reason? Technology.

Rumsfeld, (who believed technology outweighed boots in a combat zone), felt that increased technology in weapons would lead to greater precision in the delivery of ordnance to a specific target and reduce the incidents of fratricide. Except that when the bullets started flying and F-16s started rolling out in self-defence that precision ordnance was still killing friendly troops. Because despite the belief by Rumsfeld that more precise weapons would make ordnance delivery less hazardous to his own troops, as late as 2005 the method of communicating information from a ground controller to a close-air-support attack aircraft had not changed since the Vietnam war.

Rumsfeld's interest lay in delivering a weapons package on an enemy. He showed little concern for the safety of friendly troops. He also failed to grasp that it wasn't the precision guidance of the weapon that was a problem; it was the awareness of the identity of the target. The ordnance went precisely where it was aimed, and sometimes that was at a friendly force which tactical air could not identify.

The US Navy solved the problem with an $800 off-the-shelf strap-on system in their F-14D Tomcats. It transmitted the information from their Litening II targeting and navigation pods to controllers on the ground. Essentially, it gave the ground controller a view of what the aircrew was seeing in the cockpit. All the ground controller needed was a receiver, a hardened portable computer and compatible software to be able to direct an air attack based on what the aircrew was seeing.

What was out there that the US Navy could simply hang off their fighter aircraft? The unmanned Predator drone - which was operated from the ground using the L-3 Rover II terminal. It was such a simple solution that nobody had recognized it before.

Production commenced on the improved Rover III system and the system was installed in various US close-air-support aircraft. On the ground, the controller could see what the Litening targeting pod was seeing or, to simplify matters, could see both the target and what the pilot was seeing. All the controller has to do is line up the views on Rover III screen.

It works so well that there is going to be an improved Rover IV and even a Rover V (size of a cell phone intended for infantry section leaders).

There's only one problem. The British have complained of a shortage of Rover III terminals. Which means they are patrolling and engaging without them.

There is no information to indicate whether the patrol from the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, which suffered three killed and two seriously wounded as a result of misdirected air-delivered ordnance was equipped with a Rover III or whether the USAF F-15 was transmitting targeting data.

So, I wonder what other outfits are being sent out to advance to contact with enemy forces without the right gear?

Pay them Walmart wages - And watch your economy collapse.

Maybe it was so simple nobody could see it. Although, I don't know how that could be. I'm no economist and even I could figure out that if you paid people so little, in a retail operation that sold cheap products at the lowest prices, and the employees couldn't afford to buy them, that eventually the model would fail.
Somewhere in the Hamptons a high-roller is cursing his cleaning lady and shaking his fists at the lawn guys. The American poor, who are usually tactful enough to remain invisible to the multi-millionaire class, suddenly leaped onto the scene and started smashing the global financial system. Incredibly enough, this may be the first case in history in which the downtrodden manage to bring down an unfair economic system without going to the trouble of a revolution.

First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were "NINJA" loans, for example, awarded to people with "no income, no job or assets." Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of "economic literacy" that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn't these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don't they have personal financial advisors anyway?

Then, in a diabolically clever move, the poor - a category which now roughly coincides with the working class -- stopped shopping. Both Wal-Mart and Home Depot announced disappointing second quarter performances, plunging the market into another Arctic-style meltdown. H. Lee Scott, CEO of the low-wage Wal-Mart empire, admitted with admirable sensitivity, that "it's no secret that many customers are running out of money at the end of the month."

I wish I could report that the current attack on capitalism represents a deliberate strategy on the part of the poor, that there have been secret meetings in break rooms and parking lots around the country, where cell leaders issued instructions like, "You, Vinny -- don't make any mortgage payment this month. And Caroline, forget that back-to-school shopping, OK?" But all the evidence suggests that the current crisis is something the high-rollers brought down on themselves.

When, for example, the largest private employer in America, which is Wal-Mart, starts experiencing a shortage of customers, it needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. About a century ago, Henry Ford realized that his company would only prosper if his own workers earned enough to buy Fords. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, never seemed to figure out that its cruelly low wages would eventually curtail its own growth, even at the company's famously discounted prices.

The sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart-level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army. Nor do they have much use for Wal-Mart's other departments, such as Electronics, Lawn and Garden, and Pharmacy.

It gets worse though. While with one hand the high-rollers, H. Lee Scott among them, squeezed the American worker's wages, the other hand was reaching out with the tempting offer of credit. In fact, easy credit became the American substitute for decent wages. Once you worked for your money, but now you were supposed to pay for it. Once you could count on earning enough to save for a home. Now you'll never earn that much, but, as the lenders were saying -- heh, heh -- do we have a mortgage for you!

Pay day loans, rent-to-buy furniture and exorbitant credit card interest rates for the poor were just the beginning. In its May 21st cover story on "The Poverty Business," BusinessWeek documented the stampede, in the just the last few years, to lend money to the people who could least afford to pay the interest: Buy your dream home! Refinance your house! Take on a car loan even if your credit rating sucks! Financiamos a Todos! Somehow, no one bothered to figure out where the poor were going to get the money to pay for all the money they were being offered.

Personally, I prefer my revolutions to be a little more pro-active. There should be marches and rallies, banners and sit-ins, possibly a nice color theme like red or orange. Certainly, there should be a vision of what you intend to replace the bad old system with -- European-style social democracy, Latin American-style socialism, or how about just American capitalism with some regulation thrown in?

Global capitalism will survive the current credit crisis; already, the government has rushed in to soothe the feverish markets. But in the long term, a system that depends on extracting every last cent from the poor cannot hope for a healthy prognosis. Who would have thought that foreclosures in Stockton and Cleveland would roil the markets of London and Shanghai? The poor have risen up and spoken; only it sounds less like a shout of protest than a low, strangled, cry of pain.
When a credit card you can't afford replaces a paycheck something's got to give. You'd think the financial wizards and a tube sock full of MBAs could figure that out for themselves.

H/T While the Earth Burns

Friday, August 24, 2007

Look what just crawled out from under an Iraqi rock

Remember this? Well there appears to be something of a competition to see who can get to the finish line first.
Escalating a political crisis that has paralyzed the Iraqi government, three secular cabinet members will formally resign Saturday, according to a senior member of the group.

The Iraqi National List, an umbrella group of several political parties composed of secular Sunnis and Shiites, had boycotted cabinet meetings since Aug. 7 because of frustrations with what they saw as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's divisive leadership style. The party, headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, will now submit the official resignations, National List member Iyad Jamal al-Deen said.

Allawi, just to refresh your memories, was the one whom the White House sprinkled Cheney fairy dust upon and was favoured by the Bush administration to lead the Iraqi government. In fact, they installed him as the first head of government after Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi voters saw things differently and Allawi's party lost 15 seats in the January 2005 national elections and his party only took 14 percent of the vote.

Allawi is responsible for providing the report from an "Iraqi intelligence officer" which declared that Saddam could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

That turned out to be... a lie, but it figured prominently in "the dossier" produced by the Blair government in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.

Stay tuned to this guy. It could get very interesting.

H/T The Gazetteer.

Peggy Noonan enters her irrelevant phase

Peggy Noonan takes her lead from Dubya and invokes a past war to support her position.

Her position? Well, when it's all over, most Iraqis will all look back and remember the unprovoked American invasion of Iraq and the subsequent gang-splash in the deep end of a fetid swamp with fondness and sweet reminiscence. And to prove it, she takes us back - waaay back.
Once I went hot-air ballooning in Normandy. It was the summer of 1991. It was exciting to float over the beautiful French hills and the farms with crisp crops in the fields. It was dusk, and we amused ourselves calling out "Bonsoir!" to cows and people in little cars. We had been up for an hour or so when we had a problem and had to land. We looked for an open field, aimed toward it, and came down a little hard. The gondola dragged, tipped and spilled us out. A half dozen of us emerged scrambling and laughing with relief.
Most of us could not relate to hot-air ballooning in Normandy, so it's good that Peggy can tell us how to amuse ourselves. Us effete, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading liberals would never have thought to call "Bonsoir!" to a cow. It's so French.
Suddenly before us stood an old man with a cracked and weathered face. He was about 80, in rough work clothes. He was like a Life magazine photo from 1938: "French farmer hoes his field." He'd seen us coming from his farmhouse and stood before us with a look of astonishment as the huge bright balloon deflated and tumbled about.

One of us spoke French and explained our situation. The farmer said, or asked, "You are American." We nodded, and he made a gesture--I'll be back!--and ran to the house. He came back with an ancient bottle of Calvados, the local brandy. It was literally covered in dust and dry dirt, as if someone had saved it a long time.

He told us--this will seem unlikely, and it amazed us--that he had not seen an American in many, many years, and we asked when. "The invasion," he said. The Normandy invasion.

Life magazine photo - check. Gesturing French farmer - check. Ancient bottle of brandy, appropriately covered in dust and dirt (just like in the movies) - check. French farmer who hasn't seen an American since the invasion - check. Clarification: The righteous invasion intended to liberate France from a German occupying army - check... (OK. She left out the part about the Germans. An inconvenient truth.)

We have the picture.
Then he poured the Calvados and made a toast. I wish I had notes on what he said. Our French speaker translated it into something like, "To old times." And we raised our glasses knowing we were having a moment of unearned tenderness. Lucky Yanks, that a wind had blown us to it.

That was 16 years ago, and I haven't seen some of the people with me since that day, but I know every one of us remembers it and keeps it in his good-memory horde.

He didn't welcome us because he knew us. He didn't treat us like royalty because we had done anything for him. He honored us because we were related to, were the sons and daughters of, the men of the Normandy Invasion. The men who had fought their way through France hedgerow by hedgerow, who'd jumped from planes in the dark and climbed the cliffs and given France back to the French. He thought we were of their sort. And he knew they were good. He'd seen them, when he was young.

Why, this is almost as good as the speech Ronald Reagan gave on the 40th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Well, slap me silly, Peggy wrote that one!
I've been thinking of the old man because of Iraq and the coming debate on our future there. Whatever we do or should do, there is one fact that is going to be left on the ground there when we're gone. That is the impression made by, and the future memories left by, American troops in their dealings with the Iraqi people.
Well, we should have known it couldn't last. Noonan just took a good old "front-porch-rocking-chair" story and jammed Iraq into the mix. And what's with the "coming debate"? Has she been living under a rock these past few years?

"Whatever we do or should do"? Hang on! Noonan is trying to hide under a new camouflage blanket. This is Noonan.
For the uninitiated, Peggy Noonan's spent the last six years responding to every Bush appearance by rolling over, waving her paws in the air and wetting herself in an orgy of submissiveness.
So, where is this latest outing taking us?
I don't mean the impression left by the power and strength of our military. I mean the impression left by the character of our troops-- by their nature and generosity, by their kindness. By their tradition of these things.

The American troops in Iraq, our men and women, are inspiring, and we all know it. But whenever you say it, you sound like a greasy pol: "I support our valiant troops, though I oppose the war," or "If you oppose the war, you are ignoring the safety and imperiling the sacrifice of our gallant troops."

I suspect that in their sophistication--and they are sophisticated--our troops are grimly amused by this. Soldiers are used to being used. They just do their job.

Ah! A "gallant troops" message! And then, as badly as they get kicked around, as much as they're a Cheney spittoon, they're used to it. Because Noonan, chickenhawk cheerleader and all-round Bush sycophant has spent the span of the entire Bush administration writing tawdry approvals for actions which look way too much like the side of the Normandy invasion which was wearing jackboots. Noonan is running for cover, having submissively splayed herself on the Bush/Cheney altar, and she's running in the only direction which is safe from both sides of the political field of fire - the troops.
We know of the broad humanitarian aspects of the occupation--the hospitals being built, the schools restored, the services administered, the kids treated by armed forces doctors. But then there are all the stories that don't quite make it to the top of the heap, and that in a way tell you more.
The parting shot before her withdrawl. It's the media's fault. Then she gives us another history lesson, lest we jump in with another comparison.
Some say we're the Roman Empire, but I don't think the soldiers of Rome were known for their kindness, nor the people of Rome for their decency. Some speak of Abu Ghraib, but the humiliation of prisoners there was news because it was American troops acting in a way that was out of the order of things, and apart from tradition. It was weird. And they were busted by other American troops.
Noonan takes the primer of aggressive war and adds two pigments, coming up with a shade of brown most people find unappealing. Rome? Clearly she knows nothing of Rome. And then to swirl Abu Ghraib into the same paragraph she ignores the fact that the "busted" were those at the bottom of a very long sewer-pipe being fed from the top.
You could say soldiers of every country do some good in war beyond fighting, and that is true enough. But this makes me think of the statue I saw once in Vienna, a heroic casting of a Red Army soldier. Quite stirring. The man who showed it to me pleasantly said it had a local nickname, "The Unknown Rapist." There are similar memorials in Estonia and Berlin; they all have the same nickname. My point is not to insult Russian soldiers, who had been born into a world of communism, atheism, and Stalin's institutionalization of brutish ways of being. I only mean to note the stellar reputation of American troops in the same war at the same time. They were good guys.
Actually, her point was to insult Russian soldiers and she did it by suggesting that it was because of the politics, religious upbringing (or supposed lack of it) and the nature of their leader at the time. No mention is made of the 8.6 million casualties incurred by the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945, nor the fact that Soviet Russia had endured worse than the Soviets repaid. That does not excuse their behaviour but I suspect had any of the Allied armies originated from a country which experienced the swath of rape, pillage and murder at the hands of Hitler's Einsatzgruppen the "stellar" behaviour might have been different. But Noonan is happy to blame it all on the things which offend her conservative ideals. It's easier that way.
Whatever is decided in Washington I hope our soldiers know what we really think of them, and what millions in Iraq must, also. I hope some day they get some earned tenderness, and wind up over the hills of Iraq, and land, and an old guy comes out and says, "Are you an American?" And they say yes and he says, "A toast, to old times."
So, is she talking about the millions of Iraqis who have no place to live? Roughly 2 million Iraqis are refugees in Syria and Jordan. Another 2 million are still in Iraq but have no home. Where does Noonan suppose they are keeping their ancient bottles of Iraqi brandy? The International Committee of the Red Cross doesn't seem to keep that kind of information on hand.

Her hearkening back to those days of World War 2, when her "boys" were pure of mind and gallant of heart is an attempt to compensate for what went wrong in Iraq from the beginning. American troops were not greeted as liberators. The Iraqis did not toss flowers and candies. The entire thing turned into a bloody mess with little more than a short break to change magazines while her "Whole American" announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

What she can't fathom, because it's all too obvious, is that her reference to Normandy and the liberation of France is fitting, not because the actions of Americans were the same then as they are now, but because the actions of the Bush administration now bear a striking similarity to those of the administration which occupied France from 1940 to 1945. When the Germans marched into Paris, they weren't greeted as liberators either.

Noonan is scrambling to find a safe place and she has chosen the "troops" as her shelter. She will ignore the shattered bodies treated as less than animals in the VA hospitals; she will not mention the artificial draft created by a policy of "stop-loss"; she will not acknowledge an increasing level of combat stress among troops whose 3rd, 4th or 5th deployments are now 15 months long; she will not tell you that US ground forces are either in theater, returning from theater or preparing to go to theater - they have no other life.

Noonan's words ring hollow because that is all she ever provides - words. And her past words help put the troops where they are - in a hellhole from which she has done nothing to aid in their extrication.

Noonan bathes in the milk and honey notions of World War Two, a time before she was born, while ignoring the realities of her lifetime. She's right. For the most part, they are good guys. And they've been treated like so much horse manure by an elitist group of self-interested cowards from the political class to the pundit class.

If Noonan wants to compare the troops of today to the troops of the past, I have some examples. She doesn't have to go back to Normandy. She can look at the debate surrounding Iraq and realize, the troops have no say. People will argue and debate and negotiate while the daily death toll among the troops continues.

Noonan needs to go ballooning in the hills again. There will be no cows to call "good evening" to in any language; no old man will come out to greet her; there will be no bottle of ancient brandy and there will be no toast "to old times".

There will, however, be the ghosts of "the troops". The troops who were killed while politicians dithered. The troops who were killed for what the living will tell you was no good reason. Because on this hill and this hill, the only thing you'll be looking for is the unexploded ordnance. You won't have to look for a comparison to Iraq - it's already there.