Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sharp rise in China birth defects


ACCORDING TO THE BEEB, "A senior family planning official in China has noted an alarming rise in the number of babies with birth defects, a Chinese media report says."

Jiang Fan, from China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, said environmental pollution was the cause of the problem.

He said a child was born with physical defects every 30 seconds because of the degrading environment.

The report said China's coal-rich Shanxi province had the highest rate.

Toronto18/ Paintball11/ Tim Hortons10 terrorist fatcamp update

G&M : RCMP agent concedes key role in set-up, running of terrorist training camp
Mubin Shaikh on Friday:
"I thought that if the RCMP didn't tell me I couldn't do it, I inferred that I could do it," Mr. Shaikh testified.
Lawyers for Canada's first underage convicted terrorist argued in court Friday that without Mubin Shaikh, assigned by CSIS and paid by the RCMP, there would have been no terrorist conspiracy at all.

In fact, minus Canada's new US-compliant Anti-Terrorism Act, the most he could have been charged with is shoplifting - and shoplifting items that were not even used in the RCMP/CSIS plot to, uh, blow up the Houses of Parliament, along with CBC and CSIS, although they weren't sure where the parliament buildings were, and behead Prime Minister Paul Martin, having failed to note he was no longer the PM.

Let's review, courtesy of Thomas Walkom, our young convicted terrorist's complicity in the plot :
He did not make bombs or buy guns. Nor did he advocate doing so.
He did not threaten to kill anyone, did not call for holy war, did not pledge allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
He did not even badmouth Canada's military efforts in Afghanistan.

His most damning entry on the audio tapes helpfully provided by Mr Mehta, who testified along with the other crown witness at the kid's trial in September that he believed him to be innocent, was to ask "if Muslims can use Nivea cream".

So what was he convicted of ?
Walkom explains Superior Court Justice John Sproat's guilty verdict last September :
"Under the anti-terror legislation, the government doesn't need to prove an accused terrorist took part in or even knew about a specific plot.
All it has to prove is that he knowingly participated in the activities of a terrorist group and contributed either directly or indirectly to anything "enhancing" its abilities."
Oh well, the kid definitely qualifies then.
As RCMP/CSIS fatcamp troop leader and prosecution star witness Mubin Shaikh testified at the kid's trial, he convinced the reluctant teen to attend the training camp by telling him it was a religious retreat:
"I don't believe that (he) is a terrorist," he said outside the courtroom.
"I don't believe he should've been put through what he was put through, but that's our system."
Shaikh said he did not believe that the defendant was aware of the group's violent plans."
And yet under "our system", if the kid's lawyers are not successful in overturning his conviction by a sole judge, the kid could get ten years for, as Hysperia remarked in comments at the time, "something that someone else might have been doing without his knowledge.".

Related posts :
Canada's first anti-terrorism act conviction
Toronto 18/ Paintball 11/ Tim Hortons 10 - video footage
A load of fertilizer
Clowncar terrorism -Update #2
Clowncar terrorism
RCMP, now with free delivery
.
Cross-posted at Creekside
.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Socialism? or antisocial-ism? A useful quote

Here's a useful quote, this one from Daniel Gross in his Slate article on the meetings at Davos:
...the talk was mostly of systems that didn't work and the nameless minions who simply couldn't help themselves... Most of the talk was of the models and the market. The dismissal of human agency is ironic, but also predictable. /snip/ Just as financial markets in the United States privatize profits and socialize losses, Davos and other conferences like this privatize success (by chalking it up to individuals) and socialize failure (by blaming it on large systemic problems).
Voila, human nature on the large scale. Don't we all try to take credit for our brilliant successes, but fob off our failures on the obvious difficulties and opponents that prevented better performance?

I had a gambler friend whose wins were proudly detailed, but whose losses ... well, what losses? Perhaps we vulnerable humans have to do this in order to do our best. Businesses is not vulnerable in the same way, and should &^%(&^! well admit and accept blame.

I'll hold my breath. This time I plan to achieve a Guinness-level rich dark blue.

Underwriting police brutality in BC

Lifting the arms of a handcuffed man up behind his back while tripping him facefirst onto a concrete cell-block floor causing skull fracture and permanent brain damage is "more force than was necessary" but not "police brutality", concluded Robert Hutchison, retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice acting as adjudicator for the B.C. Police Complaint Commission, "reluctantly" yesterday.

The police constable, Greg Smith, has since been suspended with pay after being arrested last month over allegations of uttering threats in connection with an unrelated domestic dispute.

The victim, Thomas McKay, was a Camosun College student arrested for public drunkenness after celebrating the end of his exams. He was incapable of attending the hearing.
The incident occurred in April 2004.

2004? Why is the BCPCC just getting to this now?

The Victoria Police Dept twice tried to dismiss McKay's complaints as unsubstantiated.
An earlier examination of the case by the Deputy Chief of the Victoria Police Department Bill Naughton in 2006 and again in 2007, which included the same police video tape of Const. Greg Smith sweeping McKay's feet out from under him while raising his handcuffed wrists behind his back, concluded that allegations of abuse against Const. Smith were not warranted, so no disciplinary measures were necessary.

The City of Victoria, however, reached an out-of-court settlement last year for an undisclosed amount in a civil lawsuit filed by McKay’s family. The settlement binds him to confidentiality.

Meanwhile, Willow Kinloch, who was awarded $60,000 in her police brutality claim against the Victoria Police when she was 15, has been informed that the police plan to appeal the jury's decision in her case.

We pay for the police, we pay for the investigations into police conduct, we pay for the higher ups to absolve them, we pay for the hearings, we pay for the settlements to victims, we pay for the police appeals to the settlements, and ultimately we pay for the growing lack of public trust in the police.
.
Cross-posted at Creekside

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Iggy's not feeling shovel-ready today"

~ Comment left by the always witty Q at North of Center in response to my rant at Creekside about Iggy preparing to "swallow hard".

Just sharing it here because it made me laugh whenever I remembered it today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

R.I.P. Coalition

Quelle surprise!

The liberal leader ignatieff caves to harper and puts stevie's nail gun to The Coalition,
per 24 Hours.




It appears his plan is to let stevie wallow through the next couple of years and take the blame for the crappy economic situation. After he garners strength and name recognition he can "ride to the rescue" of Canada.

Never mind that he is obviously putting political positioning above the welfare of the Canadian people.


A pox on all their houses . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)


Can You Say "Photo Op" ? ? ? ?


"Every Picture Tells a Story" - apologies to Rod Stewart.


Talk about your cheesy photo ops to promote your home renovation tax break:

Photo Credit: Reuters


Too bad it's not the last nail in the coffin of his government that stevie's workin' on there.

Feel free to enter your captions . . . .


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Edmonton Panhandling, or, WKOFIT?

WKOFIT?=what kind of fuckery is this?

CBC Edmonton again (my disgusted emphasis):

The City of Edmonton is moving forward on its crackdown on aggressive panhandlers, a group of about 20 or 30 people who police estimate were responsible for 90 per cent of the complaints they received last year. "I know of one individual that lives in a high-rise downtown," Edmonton police Insp. Brian Nowlan said Monday. "He makes about $400 a day panhandling, so this is way of making an income."

Nowlan appeared Monday before the city's community services committee to speak in favour of bylaw amendments that would make it easier for police to ticket aggressive panhandlers. "This bylaw is aimed at that core group — hardcore professional panhandlers, people that make a living off this," Nowlan said.

On Monday, the city's community services committee recommended sending those amendments to council for consideration. The amendments come as police look for ways to crack down on aggressive panhandling, a problem they said has gotten worse in the past year.

In 2008, police received 181 complaints about aggressive panhandling, a 118 per cent increase from 2007. However, under the current bylaws, police have to prove a panhandler is obstructing pedestrian traffic in order to issue a ticket.

Criminal laws don't work well either, Nowlan said."They're very difficult to prosecute in the absence of actually witnessing it. The bylaw is the answer," he said.

The amendments would make it illegal for anyone to panhandle in an aggressive manner, including making continual requests or insulting, threatening, coercing, obstructing passage or making physical contact with another person. Police are proposing a fine of $250, but have suggested the city look at options for people who can't afford to pay it.

"There's ways to make a living in this city and there's ways not to make a living and hopefully this bylaw will deal with those people who are not obeying the law," Mayor Stephen Mandel said. The committee has also suggested a public education program accompany the bylaw. Members also asked city administration to complete a report on alternative methods of dealing with people who panhandle by April.

Nowlan thinks a fine will be effective, particularly for the $400-a-day downtown panhandler. "You betcha he's going to be impacted when he gets a $250 summons," Nowlan said. "He'll either relocate or try to get a job."

There are so many logical inconsistencies, artifacts of staggering ignorance, and downright wrongness in this whole episode, I barely know where to begin. Let me try anyway. First, we have one Inspector Nowlan, who is clearly basing a generalised anti-panhandler bylaw on one heresay (to us) anecdotal case, that if true, resides in the statistical realm of the extreme outlier. By his own admission, there may only be about 20 to 30 "aggressive panhandlers" in the city out hundreds or more. Insp. Nowlan does this as a deliberate play to public ignorance and prejudices. This is frankly despicable.

Next, the Criminal Code doesn't work because well, you actually need witnesses? So...should I infer that this bylaw is merely an endrun around criminal code provisions and the whole innocent until proven guilty thing, simply so you can remove panhandlers deemed to fit some ambiguous definition of "aggressive"? Yes, I very much think I should infer that. Especially when the good ol' mayor comes out as lord high an' mighty decider judge of what constitutes a law and a legitimate way to make a living. I mean didn't Mr. Nowlan just say the laws in the Criminal Code weren't good enough, and now His Worship is contradictively extolling the virtue of laws? Oh wait, I get it! Given this appears to be a joint cop-mayor bylaw project, it is really about setting up their own very loose and subjective private little laws designed not to weigh evidence against an individual and on a case basis (pfft who needs evidence when you've got prejudice), but target an entire [under]class. There has to be a Charter challenge in there.

A private little law that, when you actually examine how they're framing it, is really more about encouraging the homeless to either leave town [and become some other city's problem] or just get [channelling king Ralph] jobs, because it is quite clear this cop and this mayor really just don't like poor people.

On a larger theme, it seems the boom mentality hasn't quite left this mayor and this policeman. If it had, they would see that this province is heading towards some major changes and their panhandling issues are only going to worsen. There not be jobs to get soon. Or perhaps they have and they reckon the best way to deal with the problem is to give the cops power to remove people. Given their public reasoning, it wouldn't surprise me.

The recession is getting worse, layoffs have started in the Tar Sands because oil demand and price are falling, big provincial budget surpluses are gone, and the free-market sand castle and attitude Alberta constructed for itself is about to be swamped by a tide much bigger than its ego. What this eventually means is that the numbers of poor, homeless, and incidences of spousal/family and substance abuse will all go up in a province ideologically and culturally tied to rugged individualism and an aversion to social safety-nets. It's gonna be a mess.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Revolution Is Being Streamed


I don't want to hijack the blog to sell stuff, but if you have a look over at the Woodshed, you can find out how, for less than ten bucks, you can score some awesome music and help progressive politics. The Revolution Will Be Streamed is now available for sale.
As noted in an earlier post, this is an album of MP3 I've collected from various artists who have donated their creative energy, talent and time to help out Netroots Nation with its online activities. I'm not making a dime, it all goes to pay for things like streaming the speeches and workshops at the Netroots Nation convention online in Second Life.
There is very little in the way of overt politics on the album, just a lot of good music. There's a little bit of everything: Folk, Roots, Salsa, Blues, Comedy, funky pop, alt-country, gothic tinged rock, even some reclaimed '80s dance pop.
And if you just want to listen, you can tune into Radio Woodshed, where I'll be streaming the entire album in constant rotation over the next few days.
I should point out that I have no official affiliation with Netroots Nation and they have no official involvement with this project. I, along with some other like-minded people, took on this project because we think Netroots Nation does good work and wanted to raise some money for them. Any errors, transgressions or omissions are mine, not theirs.

Dear Canadian Media : Last call for slagging the coalition


... before parliament returns from its 53 day hiatus - after sitting for only 12 days following Steve's October surprise election - due to what the NYTimes headline referred to as :
"Canadian leader shuts Parliament in bid to keep power"
and generally being on hols/in election mode since June last year.
.
How's that coalition slagging going, by the way? Just give me the last couple of days worth :
.

AP : Coalition forces kill 15 shepherds
Oh, sorry, scratch that last one. Wrong coalition - that one's our coalition in Afghanistan
.
First prize, for the best gratuitous reference to Obama in the cause of slagging the coalition, goes to Don Martin in NaPo :
"President Barack Obama is right. It's time to set aside childish things.
Specifically for Canada, that means an end to that coalition..."
NaPo also snags second prize for "The opposition does not care about Canada" , a compendium of reader's comments - half of which blame the media for promoting the coaliton!
And so it goes ...

.
With thanks to April Reign for the coalition logo
Cross-posted at Creekside

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It was almost 48

CBC Edmonton:

Hundreds gathered Saturday at Edmonton's Boyle Street Community Centre, listening to speeches, music and prayers to honour the 47 homeless people who died last year. Harmony Barry went to the fourth annual homeless memorial to pay respect to family and friends who perished while living on the streets. "I lost two of my cousins and a couple friends over the years. It's in the papers one day and then nobody else remembers it, aside from those of us who have lost friends," Barry said.

Lorette Garrick with the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness said many died as a result of health problems and violence on the streets. "So often they are the forgotten people, so it's really important in society that we remember that these are human beings … [who are] important to somebody. We need to remember that," Garrick said. "We also need to raise awareness in the greater community. I think that's another good reason why we do this every year." Garrick said she would like to see the provincial government provide more funding for programs to help people find housing.

As it turned out, it wasn't 48, but the individual involved is now permanently physically disabled due to severe frost bite.

Homelessness in Edmonton is a major problem. Shelter capacity is poor to begin with, and even more restrictive when it comes to intoxicated shelter-seekers - most places are dry. The Salvation Army men's mat program used to have a capacity of 50. This year an internal decision reduced the number to an arbitrary 16 spots, meaning men are now turned away at 30 below. The homeless used to be allowed to sleep in the LRT stations, but no more apparently because, as I understand, the police are unable or unwilling to supervise stations. There are very few options left. Especially when the city starts proposing shit like this:

The Edmonton Police Commission wants city council to change Edmonton's public places bylaw to crack down on aggressive panhandling. The commission has proposed an amendment to city council that would make it illegal for anyone to panhandle in an aggressive manner that includes making continual requests, insulting, threatening, coercing, obstructing passage or making physical contact with another person. According to police statistics, there were 181 acts of aggressive panhandling in Edmonton last year, with 81 of them taking place downtown.

No bylaws exist to specifically ban this practice and that needs to change, police commission chairman Brian Gibson said. "What we are receiving at the police service are a number of complaints," Gibson said. "Women coming to work in the morning or going home at night and being aggressively pursued for monetary contribution to these individuals and they are feeling very unsafe on the streets."

Proposed $250 fine

Under the current bylaws, peace officers need to specifically prove how the panhandler's actions were impeding the flow of people on the street in order to issue a violation ticket. The commission is proposing a fine of $250, but there will be options for people who can't afford to pay it.

"There has to be another option … you're going to clog courts up with people that can't pay the fine anyway," Gibson said. "So we have to have an option to be able to say, what sort of other activity can we pursue with them to try to … alleviate their aggressiveness or to help them so they don't have to pay." Edmonton police officers would still continue their practice of warning and helping people who are "truly disadvantaged," the commission's report said.

You know, because what defines "aggressive panhandling" is completely ambiguous, does nothing for the problem, and gives the cops a catch-all charge allowing them to remove unsightly human beings. Clearly the fine is not a viable option, but I guess it looks good to the uninformed. Let's just hope the "other activities" do not involve something like a starlight tour.

As the recession gathers steam the numbers of homeless are going to increase across the country. Many on the street in Edmonton come from Fort McMurray, either burnt and binged out from living too hard or are simply unable to earn enough to live on or leave before layoff. Rents in Edmonton are astronomical, there is no rent control, and there are virtually no cheap temporary accomodations unless you're into theft, drugs, bedbugs* and curfews. It's not going to get better. Here, there, and everywhere.

I read the Cons are promising 2 billion for affordable housing. This is not the same as low income housing, nor is it the same as homeless shelters. Indeed, even it were, it'll be implemented by a bunch of ex-Common Sense revolutionaries...



*Speaking of bedbugs: someone with a bit of clout might want to start asking questions about how many months or years the rent paying working poor and mentally ill residents at the Sally Ann ARS on 102nd have been living with a bedbug infestation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Vancouver area cops : "We don't like brown people", allegedly

Last night's TV news coverage of the three off-duty Vancouver area cops arrested for robbery and assault of a newspaper delivery man early Wednesday morning featured the snippet that police were investigating the possibility that the three cops had perhaps been slipped some kind of drug.

Really?
What kind of drug causes three innocent police officers to allegedly rob a newsie and kick him repeatedly in the head while allegedly yelling, "We don't like brown people" ?
What kind of drug would make them allegedly threaten him with a TASER™ and other appalled bystanders with violence after allegedly commandeering a corvette for their alleged convenience?
And the police who allegedly told the victim not to talk to the media? Were they also slipped a drug?
Feel free to add as many more "allegedly's" as you think the situation requires, given that there were witnesses to the beating, including the taxi driver who witnessed the entire event and the municipal workers who attempted to stop it with shovels.

B.C.'s Attorney General Wally Oppal on Friday asked the public to "keep an open mind."
Vancouver Chief Const. Jim Chu says "the public should have confidence in the police investigation":
"For the sake of preserving the public's respect and belief in the integrity of that process, I believe it is important to reassure them on this matter."
Statistics released by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner in November showed that 106 municipal police officers were guilty of misconduct between Oct. 1, 2006, and Oct. 1, 2008. That's about, um, one per week.

Previous Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham was found guilty of discreditable conduct for failing to cooperate in an RCMP investigation into allegations of police brutality. He "retired" in August 2007 and came back out of retirement to become Chief of Police of Victoria on Jan 1st this year.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Taibbi = 1. Friedman = 0 . . . .

Matt Taibbi on AlterNet today gives the definitive "burn" to Thomas Friedman.




Go.

Read.

You too can fully understand the relationship between the size of Valerie Bertinelli's Ass and Happiness . . . .

H/T Lloyd

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Talking to Hamas : from Fisk to Frum

Robert Fisk : So far, Obama's missed the point on Gaza...

"It would have helped if Obama had the courage to talk about what everyone in the Middle East was talking about. No, it wasn't the US withdrawal from Iraq. They knew about that. They expected the beginning of the end of Guantanamo and the probable appointment of George Mitchell as a Middle East envoy was the least that was expected. Of course, Obama did refer to "slaughtered innocents", but these were not quite the "slaughtered innocents" the Arabs had in mind.

There was the phone call yesterday to Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe Obama thinks he's the leader of the Palestinians, but as every Arab knows, except perhaps Mr Abbas, he is the leader of a ghost government, a near-corpse only kept alive with the blood transfusion of international support and the "full partnership" Obama has apparently offered him, whatever "full" means. And it was no surprise to anyone that Obama also made the obligatory call to the Israelis.

The friendly message to Muslims, "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect", simply did not address the pictures of the Gaza bloodbath at which the world has been staring in outrage. Yes, the Arabs and many other Muslim nations, and, of course, most of the world, can rejoice that the awful Bush has gone. So, too, Guantanamo. But will Bush's torturers and Rumsfeld's torturers be punished? Or quietly promoted to a job where they don't have to use water and cloths, and listen to men screaming?"



An inaugural address is kind of like a birthday card, I guess - not really the appropriate venue in which to point out the recipient's various moral failings. And it's early days yet, although an Obama cabinet that includes Dennis Ross, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton may never get further than promoting "blood transfusions".


Israeli writer David Grossman, front page of Tuesday's Haaretz :
"When the guns become completely silent, and the full scope of the killing and destruction becomes known, to the point where even the most self-righteous and sophisticated of the Israeli psyche's defense mechanisms are overcome, perhaps then some kind of lesson will imprint itself on our brain. Perhaps then we will finally understand how deeply and fundamentally wrong our actions in this region have been from time immemorial - how misguided, unethical, unwise and above all, responsible, time after time, for fanning the flames that consume us.

We must speak to the Palestinians : Instead of ignoring Hamas at this time, we would do better to take advantage of the new reality that has been created by beginning a dialogue with them immediately, one that would allow us to reach an accord with the whole of the Palestinian people. We must speak to them and begin to acknowledge that reality is not one hermetic story that we, and the Palestinians, too, have been telling ourselves for generations. Reality is not just the story we are locked into, a story made up, in no small measure, of fantasies, wishful thinking and nightmares."

Canada's creepy one-time speech writer for George Bush on talking to Hamas, Reuters :

"U.S. analyst David Frum said talking to violent men was "an invitation to more violence." He wrote: "Advocates of talks with terrorists often present themselves as pragmatists. Not so. They are guided by unstated biases and pure wishful thinking."

Surely the very definition of wishful thinking here is expecting to achieve any kind of peace by ignoring Gaza's democratically elected government and the people being collectrively punished for having electing them.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fast mover

CBC just now:

Military prosecutors have requested a suspension of trials at Guantanamo Bay on orders from newly installed U.S. President Barack Obama, sources said late Tuesday.

Obama requested a 120-day continuance in the trials through the Department of Defense, sources said.

If his request is granted, it means the trials will be halted, presumably until Obama makes a decision on how they should be handled, the CBC's Susan Ormiston reported from the U.S. army base in Cuba.

...

Wow.


This is gonna be interesting.

Speaking of protest music...



That there is the cover of the MP3 album I have spent the last month putting together. And man, is it suh-weet! 14 tracks of great music and all the money goes to Netroots Nation in Second Life. And I'll send a free copy to whoever is the 50,000 visitor to the blog, which should be sometime today -- if you think it's you, leave an email address in the comments so I can send you your prize.

I'll be putting the album into heavy rotation on Radio Woodshed when it shows up for sale on Amazon.com as an MP3 download soon -- it should be on itunes in Canada and the US in February. In the meantime, here's the liner notes and song list:


As the famous anarchist "Red" Emma Goldman may or may not have said: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution"


There are few things more popular in Second Life than music and dancing. After all, in a virtual universe, we are all young and fit and we can all dance like the genetically cross-bred children of Martha Graham, Fred Astaire, Alvin Ailey, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and Gypsy Rose Lee. But while we dance, we talk, and as often as not, we talk politics.


And you can't dance without music, whether it's the hot salsa of Los Gatos, the sunny folk-funk of Richard Maynard-Langedijk, the brooding, country-flavored power-pop of Calliope's Radio or even the off-beat satirical stylings of Billy Bob Neck -- it's all here.


The proceeds from this album will go to aid Netroots Nation in Second Life in its efforts to support progressive politics through online activism, networking, advocacy and work on behalf of progressives running for elected office. We are grateful to the artists for the donation of the their inspiration, creativity and hard work. And to you, the listener for contributing to this worthy cause.


Special thanks to all the artists who contributed, Gen. J.C. Christian, Jillan McMillan, Jane2 McMahon, Rocky Torok, Michele Migrish, Jackson Street Books, and all the regulars at Cafe Wellstone, the Lonely Yak and the Red Zeppelin.


Check out the website:http://www.nninsl.org/


The Revolution Will Be Streamed


1. So Glad - Richard Maynard-Langedijk

2. My Strange Love - Brian Lillie and the Squirrel Mountain Orchestra

3. Super Evil - Spoon Spatula

4. Arianara - Los Gatos

5. Hank Paulson's Blues - The Black Tie Martini Club

6. Gimme a Job - the Extras

7. Jesus: The Anti-Rap - Billy Bob Neck

8. Endless Night - Richard Ainslie

9. Zumbro Valley - Zathras Afarensis

10. One More (Land of Beginning Again) - Katherine King Segal & Charlie Brown

11. Watcha Gonna Do? - Golgotha

12. Rachel's Song - Scott & Michelle Daiziel

13. Samba Do Sueno - Pete Siers & Los Gatos

14. Darker, Longer - Calliope's Radio


(Shhhhhh, don't tell the Yanks that the first and last tracks are by Canadians)



The Countdown is "Ovah" * . . . .

* As they say in The South.

It's been a long time, but the Official George W. Bush "Days Left in Office" Countdown is registering the following:



The Official George W. Bush
"Days Left In Office" Countdown:

0 Days
0
Hrs 0 Min 00.0 Sec







Free at Last, Free at Last.

We wish the new President all the best.

He'll need it to clean up the mess . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)


"This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender"




Pete Seeger was born in 1919 and has been a lifelong political activist. He and Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly and Alan Lomax - all friends - pretty much invented American folk music. He was jailed in the 50's over his refusal to testify at the McCarthy Hearings. He put out his first studio album in 12 years a little while ago. Short of digging up Martin Luther King, I can't think of anyone better suited to preside over leading a half a million people in song on the Mall in Washington on the occasion of the inauguration of the first African American President.

Just look at that old rascal grin.

"In the square of the city, in the shadow of a steeple,
by the relief office, I'd see my people,
As they stood there hungry, I stood there whistling,
This land was made for you and me

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
The sign was painted, it said 'Private Property'
But on the other side, it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Nobody living, can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me"


I noticed the HBO version of this was taken down at You'Tude within hours of being posted. Some thoughts on certain copyrights:

"This song is Copyrighted in the U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a durn. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."
--Woody Guthrie
Crossposted from the Woodshed, where we are rapidly closing in on our 50,000th visitor

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chomsky : Undermining Gaza

Noam Chomsky
Foreign Policy In Focus
January 16, 2009

DOSSANI: The Israeli government and many Israeli and U.S. officials claim that the current assault on Gaza is to put an end to the flow of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. But many observers claim that if that were really the case, Israel would have made much more of an effort to renew the ceasefire agreement that expired in December, which had all but stopped the rocket fire. In your opinion, what are the real motivations behind the current Israeli action?

CHOMSKY: There's a theme that goes way back to the origins of Zionism. And it's a very rational theme: "Let's delay negotiations and diplomacy as long as possible, and meanwhile we'll 'build facts on the ground.'" So Israel will create the basis for what some eventual agreement will ratify, but the more they create, the more they construct, the better the agreement will be for their purposes. Those purposes are essentially to take over everything of value in the former Palestine and to undermine what's left of the indigenous population.

I think one of the reasons for popular support for this in the United States is that it resonates very well with American history. How did the United States get established? The themes are similar.

continued at FPIF ...

"Building facts on the ground"
The "ceasefire" negotiated by the 2nd highest recipient of US foreign aid, Israel, and the 3rd highest recipient of US foreign aid, Egypt, is the new name for the continued supervision of the collapse of Gaza. Previously it was called "ending the occupation" or "the disengagement".

h/t Waterbaby for FPIF link
Cross-posted at Creekside

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Size Does Matter . . . .

According to Antonia, anyhow:

Scientists have found that the pleasure women get from making love is directly linked to the size of their partner’s bank balance.

They found that the wealthier a man is, the more frequently his partner has orgasms.
*

“Women’s orgasm frequency increases with the income of their partner,” said Dr Thomas Pollet, the Newcastle University psychologist behind the research.


The rest of the story is here.

In today's economy and faltering financial situation, one has to wonder if sexual frustration isn't running rampant.

Time to start workin' on that money muscle, boys and girls* . . . .

* No information provided on same-sex partners.


Israeli refuseniks

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Uncle Sam's Suckling Little Piggies . . . .

As only Lewis Black could explain:



End of story . . . .

UK Jewish MP : Israel acting like Nazis in Gaza


Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, friend to both David Ben-Gurion and Yasser Arafat, speaking in the British House of Commons :

"My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszów. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. Madam Deputy Speaker, my grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.
The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt among Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count.

I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw Ghetto could have been dismissed as militants."

An extraordinary contrast to the mealy-mouthings of Harper and Iggy.

What has your MP said? Write to 'em with a link to Kaufman's speech.

Update : YOUNGFOX CANADA: Take a walk through Gaza

Cross-posted from Creekside

No doughnuts, just holes

What is it with wingnuts and doughnuts?
Admit it, you didn't think they could top the weirdness of the boycott of Dunkin Donuts over a scarf worn in an advertisement, did you? Sadly, you were wrong. This tops CC's discussion with a conservative for the funniest thing I have seen all year. And it isn't even intended as a joke.


KRISPY KREME CELEBRATES OBAMA WITH PRO-ABORTION DOUGHNUTS

Washington, DC (15 January 2009) –
The following is a statement from American Life League president, Judie Brown.
"The next time you stare down a conveyor belt of slow-moving, hot, sugary glazed donuts at your local Krispy Kreme you just might be supporting President-elect Barack Obama's radical support for abortion on demand – including his sweeping promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as he steps in the Oval Office, Jan. 20.

The doughnut giant released the following statement yesterday:
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet "free" can be.


Just an unfortunate choice of words? For the sake of our Wednesday morning doughnut runs, we hope so. The unfortunate reality of a post Roe v. Wade America is that "choice" is synonymous with abortion access and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand.
President-elect Barack Obama promises to be the most virulently pro-abortion president in history. Millions more children will be endangered by his radical abortion agenda.
Celebrating his inauguration with "Freedom of Choice" doughnuts – only two days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion – is not only extremely tacky, it's disrespectful and insensitive and makes a mockery of a national tragedy.
A misconstrued concept of "choice" has killed over 50 million preborn children since Jan. 22, 1973. Does Krispy Kreme really want their free
doughnuts to celebrate this "freedom.""



I know, I know, you read it and you think "Wow, the Onion is really pushing its luck." I wanted to invoke Poe's Law , but I checked it out and it seems to be a actual organization that is run by and caters to people who really need some professional psychiatric help. Seriously, the reeducation camps cannot open soon enough.
The somewhat popular diabolical conservative ridicule machine has more

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Haaretz : Gaza - over 1000 dead, one third children

The following four news items are excerpted from today's Israeli paper Haaretz. The Israeli paper Haaretz.
What an embarrassment it is to compare its coverage and analysis to that of the sorry mealy-mouthed apologetics coming from our Canadian politicians and media.

Gideon Levy : The IDF has no mercy for the children in Gaza nursery schools
"About a third of those killed in Gaza have been children ... out of the 1,000 total killed as of Wednesday. Around 1,550 of the 4,500 wounded have also been children according to figures from the UN, which says the number of children killed has tripled since the ground operation began.
But the horrifying proportion of this war, a third of the dead being children, has not been seen in recent memory. About half of Gaza's residents are under 15.

The public's shocking indifference to these figures is incomprehensible. A thousand propagandists and apologists cannot excuse this criminal killing.
They did not die because they were used as human shields or because they worked for Hamas. They were killed because the IDF bombed, shelled or fired at them, their families or their apartment buildings. That is why the blood of Gaza's children is on our hands, not on Hamas' hands, and we will never be able to escape that responsibility."

Israel Foreign Ministry preparing for 'day after' IDF leaves Gaza
"The Foreign Ministry has created a special task force to prepare for the aftermath of the Israel Defense Forces' Gaza operation. The team will submit proposals for two of the army's main concerns - Iran and Hamas taking control of Gaza's postwar reconstruction, and the harm the offensive might cause to Israel's image abroad.

The ministry hopes to avoid a situation similar to the one in southern Lebanon after the 2006 Second Lebanon War. There, Iran sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Hezbollah to transfer to families whose homes had been destroyed, burnishing the militant group's reputation among the population.
Israeli officials believe after the fighting stops and foreign journalists are allowed entry into the territory that negative sentiment toward Israel will only grow as the full picture of destruction emerges.

The task force's preliminary recommendations highlight the need for Israel to project two kinds of messages abroad. The Arab world must receive a deterrent message indicating Israel will not accept a reality in which its civilians have to endure rocket fire.

The Western world, however, must be presented with the message that despite the scale of destruction rained on Gaza, Israel is a democratic state with a similar worldview to countries in Europe and the United States."

Still, Foreign Ministry officials are convinced that these public relations efforts will not suffice to restore Israel's image and will need to be backed up by diplomatic progress with the Palestinians."

U.S. may cut $1 billion in loan guarantees to Israel over West Bank settlements
"The United States administration plans to cut about $1 billion from the balance of its loan guarantees to Israel because of its investments in the settlements.
Israel has used about $4.4 billion of the $9 billion in loan guarantees extended by the U.S. in 2003.
The loan guarantees arrangement specifies that the U.S. will reduce the guarantees by the amount the Israeli government spends on settlements in the West Bank. The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv monitors that spending and the administration informs Jerusalem of the amount it is holding back from the guarantees."

ANALYSIS / Egypt's Gaza truce plan is mostly bad for Hamas

"After 19 days of fighting and more than 1,000 Palestinian fatalities, the first significant signs that Hamas is breaking could be seen Wednesday night. Hamas representatives to talks with Egypt announced an agreement in principle on Wednesday to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal.

The Egyptian proposal is mostly bad for Hamas. It doesn't let the organization bring the Palestinian public any political achievement that would justify the blood that has been spilled, and even forces on it the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, in the form of its renewed presence at the Rafah crossing (as a condition for its reopening).

Once the cease-fire is reached, the IDF will withdraw from the positions it captured in Gaza, and only then will the two sides begin to discuss the opening of border crossings and removal of the blockade, which was the reason Hamas gave for waging war.

Hamas representatives did say on Wednesday night they had not yet accepted the Egyptian proposal, but in the same breath they said it was the only proposal on the table."

And from the Jerusalem Post :
Israeli groups: Probe IDF 'war crimes'

"A forum of nine Israeli human rights organizations on Wednesday called on the country's political and military leadership to launch a domestic probe into "suspected war crimes" committed during Operation Cast Lead."

The text of their letter here. also details the extent of the damage done to public infrastructure in Gaza.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Now ain't the time for your tears

And you thought it was just a song.


William Devereux Zantzinger, whose six-month sentence in the fatal caning of a black barmaid named Hattie Carroll at a Baltimore charity ball moved Bob Dylan to write a dramatic, almost journalistic song in 1963 that became a classic of modern American folk music, died on Jan. 3. He was 69.

Obviously, the song and the six months he served had a major impact on Zantzinger


In 1991, The Maryland Independent disclosed that Mr. Zantzinger had been collecting rent from black families living in shanties that he no longer owned; Charles County, Md., had foreclosed on them for unpaid taxes. The shanties lacked running water, toilets or outhouses. Not only had Mr. Zantzinger collected rent for properties he did not own, he also went to court to demand past-due rent, and won.
He pleaded guilty to 50 misdemeanor counts of deceptive trade practices, paid $62,000 in penalties and, under an 18-month sentence, spent only nights in jail.
Information on Mr. Zantzinger’s survivors was unavailable. Though he long refused interviews, he did speak to the author Howard Sounes for his book “Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan” (2001) , telling him of his scorn for Mr. Dylan.
“I should have sued him and put him in jail,” he said.


A tip of the Fez to Avedon Carol at the Sideshow for catching this

In case you can't be bothered with waiting for it to come up on the playlist on Radio Woodshed, here's the Dylan song with some other primo protest music.


SeeqPod - Playable Search

crossposted from The Woodshed

US Progressives Delusional ? ? ? ?

Living here in Vancouver, BC, Canada for even a short period of time it is getting easier to see the faults in our local, provincial and national politicians.

It takes a great local journalist to bring one back to reality once in a while.

Today, it was Bill Tieleman of Vancouver 24 Hours turn to do the honours:

Too conservative for Canada?
By BILL TIELEMAN - January 13, 2009


Imagine where a Canadian politician who held the following positions would fit in our political system:


This politician opposes legalizing same-sex marriages.

He has no problem with citizens owning handguns - but proposed limiting their purchase - to one per month.

This politician wants to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan - and to keep them there for years instead of withdrawing them in 2011.

He thinks Robert Gates, U.S. President George W. Bush's Secretary of Defence, has done an excellent job in the Iraq war.

The politician is willing to restrict late-term abortions for women and admits he's not sure at what point a human being gets human rights.

So who did he choose to deliver a prayer before a major political event?

A controversial fundamentalist Christian pastor who has called abortion "a holocaust" and who campaigned in California for the successful Proposition 8, which bans gay marriages.

This politician has described government-run public health care as "an extreme" that leads to high taxes and is "wrong" while supporting private health insurance as the best option.

And despite saying that he has done more than anybody to "take on lobbyists and won" - this politician just appointed one to a top position.


So, where would you place this politician on the Canadian political scene?


An elected representative with these policies that are so obviously way out of line with Canadian mainstream values and popular opinion would likely lead a fringe party far to the right of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with little hope of political success.

But in the United States - his name is President-Elect Barack Obama.

_______________


Just make sure that you don't get caught up in next week's Obama-mania and miss the fact that the new American president is in many ways far more conservative than any of Canada's political leaders.


Granted, Canadian politicians - stephen harper in particular - leave a lot to be desired at times.

When one compares them to those south of the 49th, however, we're fortunate.

It's up to all of us to make the political picture here even better . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Truth & Consequences

As Dubya slithers from the White House, one vital question remains: Will there be any consequences for him or any of his evil, incompetent cabal of ignorant, blood-fattened henchmen?

The soon-to-be ex-president has asked for some television time to give a farewell address Thursday in which he will do his best to find a silver lining to the hurricane of the last eight years and try to burnish his legacy, using the blood and tears of Iraqi children and American soldiers to polish the turd that has been his presidency. "I've kept you safe" he'll bleat "I've fought the terra!" ignoring the fact that if he'd paid attention his national security briefings in 2001 he might well have really kept America safe and that for the last seven years he's been unable or unwilling to find a six-foot-seven dialysis patient in an area not much bigger than Rhode Island.

Thursday's speech will be all about trying to salvage some sort of credit, and I'm not really interested in listening to that crap. No, what I'm waiting for is the announcement to the press on Sunday or Monday about the pardons. Bush supposedly is generally loathe to pardon people, but I'll give you 10 to 1 that there are blanket, pre-emptive pardons handed out for misdeeds that "may or may not" have been committed in the service of the Bush administration. The only question is who gets one and who doesn't.

As has been pointed out in many places this week, the few decent, competent career civil servants who have survived the last eight years of relentless dimwittery and hyperpoliticization are bound to have amassed container-loads of smoking gun memos documenting the both the petty douchebaggery and massive criminality of the likes of Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Monica Goodling, John Yoo, Douglas Feith, Michael Brown ----oh, the list goes on and on and on. Can Bush afford to leave his people exposed to the possible rigors of justice? Is he confident they won't turn on him? How low on the totem pole will the whitewash brush be applied? Will he pardon the torturers or just their bosses? Or will he throw his underlings to the wolves and scurry off into the sunset with just his inner circle granted immunity?

And if he has the hubris to declare that neither he nor his minions have done anything wrong, will Barack Obama do anything about it?

First I bring you radio, now TV

Life imitates Seinfeld, not that there is anything wrong with that. I wouldn't normally post an entire article like this, but the archives are not always open, and I would want to lose this gem. You think you know the people you work with. You think you know the kind of organization you work for. Surprise!


THROUGH OTAKU EYES

Men's bra stimulates otome (girlish) side in men

Kanta Ishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer


Asuka Masamune is a high school kendo champion. Everyone acknowledges he is a cool, good-looking guy and a truly manly man. But he has another self, a side that cannot help being attracted to cute and otome-like, or girlish, things.


This is the protagonist of Otomen (Hakusensha Co.), a girls' manga by Aya Kanno. The manga is brilliant in depicting the otome, or girlie, side in a man. But the reality may go further than the fiction.


In November, Web site WishRoom became a top story on Internet news sites and in weekly magazines when the online lingerie company sold 700 bras designed specifically for men--the first product of its kind in the nation--just in the first month after the launch of the lingerie.


WishRoom said it was not certain whether the bra would sell well when it put it out in response to customer requests. But orders for the bra, purposely designed in a very plain style, surpassed its production capacity.


Freelance writer Mari Aoyama, who published a book titled Buraja o Suru Otoko-tachi to Shinai Onna (Men who wear bras and women who do not, Shinsuisha Co.) in 2005, said men started wearing bras as a secret source of enjoyment in the 1960s, when the widespread use of bras among women took hold in the nation. But those who have bought the WishRoom product are believed to be different from the existing core of male bra users. The new product seems to have stimulated demand among men who wanted to wear bras but had not been able to buy them.


E-mail feedback from WishRoom bra users has included comments that wearing the bra puts them at ease, helps them understand the feelings of women, or makes them more gentle to the people around them. Bras may be an annoying item for women,
bringing a sense of confinement, but it must be a rather fetishistic item for the men as it ignites a girl's mind inside them.


Terms often heard nowadays include soshoku-kei danshi ("herbivorous" boys) or ojoman (girlie men). According to Soshoku-kei Danshi "Ojoman" ga Nippon o Kaeru, (Herbivorous-boy"girlie men" change Japan, Kodansha Ltd.), written by Megumi Ushikubo, who specializes in marketing-related themes, the term "ojoman" refers to a category of men aged 20 to 34 who became adults after the end of the bubble economy. They have little interest in sex, like to do cooking and sewing, and prefer pretty (kawaii) things to cool (kakkoi) ones.


Ushikubo said they are a demographic group that cannot be neglected in understanding consumption trends among young people.


Philosopher and Osaka Prefecture University Prof. Masahiro Morioka also explains in his Soshoku-kei Danshi no Renaigaku (Love study of herbivorous boys, Media Factory Inc.) what kind of views the new generation of gentle-mannered men with feminine sensitivities have toward love. He says they are unlike nikushoku (carnivorous) men who chase after women. Rikei-kun, meaning men who study or work in the math and science fields, another term enjoying a popularity in recent days, can also be viewed as a type of soshoku-kei men.


As I have written in this column before, I believe there is a change in sensitivities at the root of the otaku culture in Japan, one that can be described as a fluctuation in masculinity or the so-called otome-nization of boys. The otaku term "moe" (pronounced "mo-eh")--which literally means "budding" and describes the sensation of being blissfully overwhelmed by cuteness or attractiveness, is already a very otome-like idea.

Therefore, it has symbolic meaning that the men's bra was launched right here in Japan. The country of otaku also is the country of otomen. Don't ever call it gross. I even hope men's bras will continue to spread if all it takes is one garment for men
to become gentle to others.
(Jan. 9, 2009)



The funny part about this story is that it appeared in the Japanese media's bastion of conservatism, The Yomiuri Shimbun. I imagine the equivalent would be George Will or Robert Novak enthusing about their favorite pair of stilleto pumps or lace panties and how wearing them made them feel "pretty." Again, not that there's anything wrong with that-- consenting adults, whatever floats your boat and so on. You have to admit, it would certainly raise a few eyebrows to see a columnist at the National Post, New York Times or Chicago Tribune, to say nothing of a staid conservative publication such as the National Review, Washington Times or Wall Street Journal not merely publically embracing transvestitism, but giving it a hearty reccommendation.

Canada backs the Gaza seige


Maps of Palestinian loss of land, 1946 to 2000.
Israel is about the same size as Vancouver Island; Gaza, that little green strip on the coast, is a little more than twice the size of the District of North Van, or a little smaller than Seattle.
.
Yesterday Canada stood alone in voting against a UN human rights resolution "adopted by a roll-call vote of 33 in favour, one against and 13 abstentions" which :
"strongly condemned the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza, which had resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people, and demanded the occupying power, Israel, to immediately withdraw its military forces from Gaza".
The resolution also called for
"the end to the launching of the crude rockets against Israeli civilians that resulted in the loss of 4 civilian lives and some injuries"
Yes it was heavily weighted against Israel, causing European nations and others to abstain from the vote, but Canada's stated reason for voting against it merely repeated the US/Israeli line that Israel didn't start it (italics:mine):
"MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, thanked the Palestine delegation for its consultations, but said the draft text still failed to clearly recognize that rocket fire on Israel had led to the current crisis. It also used unnecessary, unhelpful and inflammatory language.
Canada therefore called for a vote and would vote against the resolution."
According to Reuters : "The resolution, whose wording diplomats said had been softened at the request of Palestinian envoys in an effort to get a consensus in the Council, was opposed outright by Canada."
Khalid Mish'al, head of the Hamas political bureau, speaking in Damascus on January 11, 2009 :
"Concerning us, we want the immediate and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the lifting of the unjust siege on Gaza that has led to the current situation.
Our other request is the opening of all border crossings including the Rafah border crossing.
We, with an open mind, will deal with any initiatives and decisions based on these three requests.
Therefore, we will not accept any negotiations for a truce in the light of and under the pressure of a military campaign and siege.
Let the military campaign stop, let the Israelis withdraw, and let the rights of our people be admitted to, let them recognize our rights to live without a siege and closed border crossings, just like other humans, then we are ready to discuss a truce, just like we did before.
We will not accept a permanent truce, because it will take the right of resistance from the Palestinian people. The resistance is against occupation and military campaigns and therefore as long as occupation exists, resistance will too…"
"The resolution wholly failed to acknowledge Hamas's continual rocket attacks on Israel that brought about the current crisis, and ignored a state's legitimate right to self-defence," a spokesperson said in an email." [apparently without irony]
Not even CNN is still repeating that one.
The Guardian Nov 5, 2008 :
"A four-month ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was in jeopardy today after Israeli troops killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid into the territory. Hamas responded by firing a wave of rockets into southern Israel, although no one was injured.
Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, had personally approved the Gaza raid, the Associated Press said. The Israeli military concluded that Hamas was likely to want to continue the ceasefire despite the raid."
Back to Foreign Affairs :
"Canada remains deeply concerned about the ongoing hostilities ... and encourages all diplomatic efforts to achieve an immediate, sustainable and durable ceasefire. But first and foremost, Hamas's rocket attacks must stop so that a ceasefire can be realized."
In May last year, a month before he received the B’nai Brith International President’s Gold Medallion, Stephen Harper said :
"... anti-Israeli sentiment is really just as a thinly disguised veil for good old-fashioned anti-Semitism"
quite as if intelligent people would be unable to tell the difference.
In October 2007 Stockwell Day and Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter signed an interim mutual cooperation agreement on homeland security "to enable cooperation in the fields of combating terror and border security".
Dichter laid out guidelines for a Canadian-Israeli security cooperation similar to the Israel US Homeland Security Pact he signed in February in Washington DC. to the Canadian public security committee. The Canada Israel Declaration of Intent was signed on March 23, 2008.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare


THE SUNDAY NEW YORK TIMES has a rather disturbing account of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program. Worth the read.
Just last month in Washington, members of the federally appointed bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism made it clear that for sheer scariness, nothing could compete with what they had heard in a series of high-level intelligence briefings about the dangers of Pakistan’s nuclear technology going awry. “When you map W.M.D. and terrorism, all roads intersect in Pakistan,” Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and a leading nuclear expert on the commission, told me. “The nuclear security of the arsenal is now a lot better than it was. But the unknown variable here is the future of Pakistan itself, because it’s not hard to envision a situation in which the state’s authority falls apart and you’re not sure who’s in control of the weapons, the nuclear labs, the materials.”

• • • • • • •

The Pakistani nuclear program owes its very existence to the government-endorsed and government-financed subterfuges of A. Q. Khan, who then turned the country into the biggest source of nuclear-weapons proliferation in atomic history. And while Khan may be the most famous nuclear renegade in Pakistan, he is not the only one. Soon after Kidwai took office, he also faced the case of the eccentric nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, who helped build gas centrifuges for the Pakistani nuclear program, using blueprints Khan had stolen from the Netherlands. Mahmood then moved on to the country’s next huge project: designing the reactor at Khushab that was to produce the fuel Pakistan needed to move to the next level — a plutonium bomb.

An autodidact intellectual with grand aspirations, Mahmood was fascinated by the links between science and the Koran. He wrote a peculiar treatise arguing that when morals degrade, disaster cannot be far behind. Over time, his colleagues began to wonder if Mahmood was mentally sound. They were half amused and half horrified by his fascination with the role sunspots played in triggering the French and Russian Revolutions, World War II and assorted anticolonial uprisings. “This guy was our ultimate nightmare,” an American intelligence official told me in late 2001, when The New York Times first reported on Mahmood. “He had access to the entire Pakistani program. He knew what he was doing. And he was completely out of his mind.”