Tuesday, February 28, 2006

At least liberal science journals don't cite Barney Rubble.

The kids at Powertools are at it again. Assrocket has produced a stunning piece claiming scientific journals have been taken over by liberals more interested in politcs than truth.

Umm. No.

His cited source is Michael Fumento who holds credentials as an author, journalist and lawyer. He's no scientist and as a source he has even more problems. Fumento regularly takes shots at the scientific community but has a particularly nasty habit of claiming that global warming is junk science and that research into the dangers of man-made chemicals, particularly in regards to agriculture, is needless. His main argument in regard to the latter is that man-made chemicals are not the carcinogens science has revealed many of them to be.

It doesn't seem to faze Assrocket that Fumento is a Bush cheerleader and an associate of the Hudson Institute, a right wing think tank and bastion of conservative policy production. That particular association recently resulted in a little trouble for Fumento.

The Scripps Howard News Service had been carrying Fumento's regular column. On January 13th, this year, SHNS severed their relationship with Fumento when it was revealed that in 1999 he had received a $60,000 book grant from (cough!) the biochemical and agritech company, Monsanto and was clearly promoting that company's agenda.

Fumento's claims, repeated by the the 'tools, is that the study of hurricanes like Katrina fail to look far enough back to justify global warming as a culprit. He states that the conclusions of scientists in Science, would have shown the reverse if they had taken their research back to 1850. Of course, he's counting on you not looking it up, because if you do, you realize that Fumento is dead wrong. Studies here and here, both US government agencies, show a steady increase in hurricane activity and strength since 1850.

His next claim is that Science and Nature journals were duped by Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk when they published his paper having claimed to have successfully cloned embryonic stem cells. While it was certainly an embarrasment for Science, how it translates into the editors and peer-review board being liberal and politically motivated is known only to Hindraker and Fumento.

The last claim made by Fumento is the study by Lancet claiming 100,000 deaths in Iraq as a result of the war. I don't know anybody who wasn't a little skeptical at the Lancet's claim, but it also goes that nobody knows the real figure and the methodology reported by the Lancet was just as good as anything else produced, particularly since the US military had no idea because they didn't keep any statistics and did no research at all. Fumento then cites numbers which are intentionally low and gives a citation to the numbers produced by, of all people, Osama bin Laden. He claimed only 15,000 killed. Well, that's just so much better, isn't it?

The weak suggestion that science journals are being taken over by liberals pushing a political agenda throws a convenient smoke-screen over the fact that US government scientific institutions have been taken over by Bush politicos bent on making the science take second place to administration politics. Or perhaps Hindraker has forgotten that the Bush administration is allowing 24 year-old political appointees, who pad their resumes and lie about their education, give direction to the US's most prominent scientists.

If Hindraker insists on commenting on science and scientists he would do well to limit himself to areas with which he is more familiar. Perhaps something like Voodoo.

Where is the diplomatic note of protest, Peter?

Michael J.W. Stickings over at The Reaction has brought the Maher Arar case back into the daylight, and with good reason. Maher Arar's case is one in which extraordinary rendition affected a Canadian citizen in the worst way. The rendition of Arar to a Syrian prison was illegal under even the loosest of legal definitions. In Arar's case, he was detained in the United States without the right to counsel and flown to a foreign country for interrogation, all without legal paperwork and in direct violation of the US Constitution.

Maher Arar's case gained additional importance when a US federal judge refused to hear Arar's case against the US government.

The judge in the case, David Trager of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, did not dispute that United States officials had reason to know that Mr. Arar faced a likelihood of torture in Syria. But he took the rare step of blocking the lawsuit entirely, saying that the use of torture in rendition cases is a foreign policy question not appropriate for court review, and that going forward would mean disclosing state secrets.
What a load of garbage. The Supreme Court of the United States has already ruled that cases like Arar's are subject to judicial review. In fact, SCOTUS has clearly stated that despite all the terms and definitions which the Bush administration flings around to deny rights and hearings to those they detain and have detained, the administration must adhere to the rule of law.

The public in both Canada and the United States have the right to hear the details of Arar's detention and rendition to a third country which employs torture as a method of interrogation.

If Peter McKay is doing his job, he should be calling David Wilkins, the US ambassador to Canada, onto the carpet and issuing a clear and unequivocal protest against the behaviour of a US federal judge who is now going out of his way to shield the Bush administration from scrutiny.

Or maybe Peter is too gutless to rattle the cage of his boss's good buddy.

Cry Havoc! And get into the chocolate

Good news for chocolate lovers! From Medical News Today comes word of this Dutch study which reports that cocoa drinking, chocolate eating Dutch men have lower blood pressure and fewer cardiovascular problems.

The researchers found than elderly men who drank cocoa enjoyed lower blood pressure and a more reduced risk of developing cardiovascular problems, when compared to elderly men who did not consume cocoa.
I knew this. Because Kaatji told me so.

I had the priviledge of commanding a Netherlands registered cruise ship not so long ago. Aside from the great food available at all times of the day, there was a regular event every four days at midnight known as "Death by Chocolate". It was the most amazing spread of Dutch chocolate I have ever seen, then and since. I also determinately avoided it. I have zero will-power around chocolate.

The crew was a rather cosmopolitan group comprising, Indonesians, Americans, Canadians, British and of course, Dutch. The ship's hostess was a strikingly beautiful woman named Kaatji. I call her beautiful because, besides causing 2nd and 3rd officers to melt at the sound of her voice, she was possessed of amazing intelligence. The Chief Engineer was often wont to say, when some piece of machinery was giving him trouble, "I'll call Kaatji. She can figure it out faster than anybody else." And she could.

During her occasional visits to the bridge, an event which would cause the Officer of the Watch to start babbling uncontrollably, Kaatji would always start a conversation with a subject out of the blue. She was a fountain of knowledge and if one was inclined to research some of her conclusions, she was always proven correct. She was not without ego for she would occasionally expound on her sex life and was quite proud of the fact that she had a lover in every port, thus she had no need to expand any relationship onboard beyond the platonic. This would cause the Officer of the Watch to start weeping, something he would excuse as eye strain brought on by constant staring at the radar.

Kaatji knew I was a chocolate freak. She had analyzed the fact that I would steer well clear of "Death by Chocolate" and had determined the only reason I would do that is because I loved the stuff so much. One morning she appeared on the bridge with some remnants of the previous night's choco-extravaganza, insisting that I have some. I was reluctant lest my addiction returned and I rushed out to buy a case of Cabury's anything. She insisted and said, "It's good for your heart."

"You mean in the Valentine's sense?"

"No," she said. "Chocolate is good for you. It's really good for your heart."

When I expressed my skepticism she told me she would eventually be proven right. And damned if she wasn't right on the mark.

The passing in and out of her lover's seed...

Hey! Don't blame me. I didn't write it - it was written last August by Dawn Eden in the journal of her exploits where she does a thoroughly pornographic job of attempting to deconstruct the position of an unnamed female blogger. Unfortunately, due to being at sea, I missed it completely. Luckily Amanda pointed it out in response to my giving her a heads up on this. The best part though, is how Amanda dealt with it and if you have yet to read it, you should definitely take the time.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The War On Women and the Anti-Birth Control Movement

I didn't think it was possible. While I understand the basic argument of anti-abortionists, I simply cannot agree with it. That said, this bit by Judi Brown of the American Life League blew me off the stool.

This is not anti-abortion; it is anti-birth-control and anti-sex.

...many others, have never heard the truth about how the birth control pill actually works; it is one of the best kept secrets in America.

Brown purports to have secret knowledge on a medication that's been readily available for 40 years, has seen improvement and modification and has been the subject of intense study. She uses the pharmacology on Ortho Novum as the basis for her position.

Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation).
What she doesn't tell you is that she added the brackets. The RxMed description of Ortho Novum from the monograph is like this in every case.

Conception Control: The contraceptive efficacy is attributed to suppression of ovulation with a possible contribution from alterations in cervical mucus and in the endometrium.
But here's what Brown makes of it:

The statement “Reduce the likelihood of implantation” means that the embryonic child cannot implant and will die. This is abortion, and that is a fact.
No it isn't. It means an ovum will not implant, thus any released ovum will not remain in the uterus, available for fertilization. Brown is inventing a scenario.

This sheds a light on the anti-abortion camp which suggests there is no limit to which some groups will go to prevent women from having sex. Given a condition under which a woman deliberately employs a reliable and relatively safe method to prevent pregnancy without entering a convent, Brown ties it in with abortion.

Brown isn't about abortion. She's about trying to prevent women from having sex... period.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

If they're killing each other, it's a civil war, stupid

Reading some of the right-wing blogs one would think that Iraq had suddenly turned into a picture of peace and love in the last 72 hours. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All of them are breathing a sigh of relief that they don't have the dreaded civil war which so many others have been predicting but has, in fact, been undulating between hot actions and moments of harmony between warring factions. Most are basing their interpretation of an easing of tensions on this, which only serves to prove that neither the New York Times nor the Bush supporting bloggers have the slightest understanding of the Arab mind.

Of course, the right wing doesn't want to admit to an Iraqi civil war for one reason: It is an indictment of Bush's adventure in Iraq and further serves to highlight a lack of preparation, a failure to understand the situation in the Middle East generally and a lack of sensitivity for the welfare and safety of the population for whom the US is now responsible. Indeed, the ground is being prepared by the right-wing to blame the Iraqis themselves for failing to behave in a way prescribed by the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney plan. As was pointed out here, both ends of the right-wing intelligence scale are claiming the Iraq adventure was, and remains, a noble idea but which was destroyed by the actions of the Iraqis - not the Americans.

That civil war was inevitable seems to escape Bush and his supporters, despite repeated warnings from various quarters. Indeed, General Norman Schwarzkopf said in 1996, when asked why we didn't go all the way to Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War:

And, oh by the way, I think we'd still be there, we'd be like a dinosaur in a tar pit, we could not have gotten out and we'd still be the occupying power and we'd be paying one hundred percent of all the costs to administer all of Iraq. (Frontline PBS interview)
The problem with the statements coming out of the right-wing punditry is that the only view of civil war they seem able to accept is that of two armies squaring off in set-piece battles, a la the American Civil War. While a few historians would argue that form of warfare is what constitutes a civil war, most would disagree. Warfare between religious factions is just as much civil war as is warfare between political enemies. Indeed, if they had any grasp of Arab culture, they would acknowledge that religious dominance and political power are intertwined in the Arab world and are often indistinguishable.

The fact that Muslim clerics of both the Sunni and Shi'ite sects have called for their followers to stop the violence should be taken as cold comfort. Along with the admonition for a truce was the escalation of blame and statements justifying the acts of the militias. And, as any arabist will tell you, the call to withdraw is only temporary. That the pundits and news outlets are viewing this as a real withdrawl or even a cooling-off period is a mistake.

Iraq is essentially a British creation. It was also a British headache. From the time they placed Faisal on the Iraqi throne in 1921, until the 1950s they were faced with a resistance movement that would not die. Part of the problem was the fact that Iraq was created around three vilayets: Baghdad, Mosul and Basra; Sunnis, Kurds and Shi'ites with a good number of Jews and Christians in the mix. Based on tribal and religious influence, Iraq's borders were unnatural and bound to create difficulty. In fact, the only times Iraq has been held together as a country is when rule was applied with an iron fist.

One right-wing blog produced this:

But if Iraq is allowed to split apart, it will inevitably be seen in the short run as a catastrophic failure on the part of the United States and all those involved in the reconstruction effort. And so, regardless of the long term benefits it may bring to allow Iraq to split apart, we are pretty much committed to keeping it together.
That's a reason?!! Allow the thing to go on, and continue to degenerate into a larger civil war so the US can save face? How many people get killed in the process of saving an already failed experiment? Or don't they count?

It is beyond comprehension that the Bush administration believes it can achieve something in Iraq that the British failed to resolve in 30 years, and it is now faced with failure no matter what action they take.

Increasing US military presence in an effort to prop up a faux government will result in endless warfare, fighting a never ending resistance, requiring enormous financial resources (you think it's expensive now?), spanning several generations of Americans and Iraqis and forcing a return to compulsory military service for American youth. Not to mention incurring the outrage of the combined Arab world.

Total withdrawl will result in a bloodbath of unbelievable proportions. The destabilization of Iraq with an invasion simply acted as a catalyst for various factions which had been held in check by a brutal regime. As noble as the elimination of Saddam may have seemed, failure to research and understand the power distribution in the religious and ethnic sectors of Iraqi society led to a complete misunderstanding of emerging leadership and its sources. The Bush administration had identified their own leaders; the Iraqis had different people in mind. Should the US withdraw, those emerging leaders will draw upon resources from outside Iraq and, what is now a contained civil war, will likely spill over the borders and erupt in a general, regional war.

The reality that needs to be faced is that Iraq is now embroiled in a civil war, and the US is standing in the middle of it. There is no escape. In the words of the man who was my combat theater commander fifteen years ago, the United States is now like a dinosaur in a tar pit.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

On the need to follow recipes exactly... and stuff

I do try to keep the culinary fare around here interesting by varying the meals I produce and adding a little flair. Sometimes that means altering the occasional recipe to liven it up a bit. That's alright if it's something relatively standard, like chicken. Following the recipe precisely isn't really all that necessary and any mistakes can be covered with a cup or so of rosemary. Other specialty dishes however, require the home chef to adhere closely to the recipe or more than a small gastronomic disaster can occur. This uniquely Canadian meal, (from Bert Christensen) for example, is one that I would follow to the letter, not because it can't be enhanced but because I just don't have the kitchen creativity to do it.

The idea that following recipes to get the required result got me to thinking about other things. I was taking a prescription medication and noticed that the instructions were to take one of the little pills daily... by mouth. So, where did they think I was going to take it?

I know I shouldn't ask, particularly since I was once witness to one of my men foaming at the mouth after making an attempt to swallow a bullet-shaped Panadol. He was fine, but he spent the next hour brushing his teeth. That can create its own problem since I know a friend who, half-asleep and in the dark, tried brushing his teeth with something I'm pretty certain did not say TAKE BY MOUTH.

I suppose that goes to actually reading the instructions, although I have often wondered about those little silica-gel packages with the warning DO NOT EAT. That makes sense, I guess, but I have always been curious as to what type of person would think they're getting a little snack with a new DVD player.

Of course, following instructions provided by others isn't always necessary. I do like to create my own woodworking projects. I prefer things that are rectangular. For example, the kitchen now has an amazingly skookum potato box. What makes it truly amazing is that the original project started as a lamp. It's the fun of woodworking and the mark of a true amateur craftsman to be able to take a project which is nearing completion and totally alter it to meet a more pressing need.

I probably wouldn't have said much on this subject except that I actually came across a site that provides a set of instructions on how to follow instructions.

I know. Your head wants to explode.

Mrs. Mills takes on a tough one

I was a little worried that Mrs. Mills of the Sunday Times would be unable to find a solution to this one, but as always, she comes through with a solution:

My German boyfriend has just moved in with me and our relationship has started to fall apart. All of this is because he insists on eating sauerkraut at least once a week and tidies all my stuff away, even my cosmetics bag. Can he change or should I show him the door?
And her always insightful answer:

Today your cosmetics bag, tomorrow your wardrobe. No appeasement, take a stand now before it’s too late.
Don't miss the rest of her column here.

Feminism 201

The Happy Feminist has a great round-up of links to some very interesting and recent posts from the feminist blogoshpere. She covers a wide spectrum including reproductive rights, Larry Summers (of Harvard infamy), Feminism in Islam, bell hooks, a place for men in feminism and some of the reasons hollywood is irritating.

Good reading and loads of interesting topics.

SES poll - Harper is doing... not so good

The latest SES poll places the leaderless Liberals and the governing Conservatives in a statistical tie. Alison has a post over at Creekside with the details. The title is great!

The Theatre of Missile Defence

This is pure theatre.

From the Toronto Star today:

The United States is not planning to ask Canada to join the ballistic missile defence system, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said yesterday.
Of course it followed this on 23 Feb:

"In principle I don't have difficulty personally with ballistic missile defense,'' O'Connor told reporters after a speech to a military conference in Ottawa today. The U.S. must request formal negotiations and Parliament would have to approve the agreement, O'Connor said.
At which time Wilkins ran to the bunker:

U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins declined to take a question today on whether the U.S. will seek a negotiation after speaking at a separate event in Ottawa.
Let two days pass and this is what happens. O'Connor makes a statement that BMD is ok with him but that it requires an invitation from the U.S.

The PMO reminds O'Connor that the position of all opposition parties is against participation in the US missile defence system. Anyway, this guy is running around saying the system is absolutely useless on the verge of being labelled a hoax. (And he seems to know what he's talking about.)

Then somebody gets in touch with Wilkins/US DOD/Rumsfeld/Barney and suggests that being "invited" to participate in BMD is very dangerous. Please explain to George that if it ends up in Parliament and there's a vote in the commons Harper may well end up out on his butt in the snow.

Wilkins shrugs off a question about missile defence by suggesting that the US has moved on and has no intention of asking Canada.

Personally, I thought the kabuki was better here, but I guess live theatre is a matter of taste.

When Thing Get Tough - The Neocons Bug Out

What a difference a week makes. If the report from the Pentagon to Congress had been dated a week later this line probably wouldn't have survived the first draft:

... the term "insurgency" is not necessarily appropriate anymore because the synergy that once existed among various rebel elements "is breaking apart." The report asserted that the insurgents have alienated most ordinary Iraqis. "Terrorist attacks have failed to create and spread sectarian conflict," it said.
The report was written the week before the bombing of a Shi'ite mosque and the series of reprisals. Oh, if they'd only held off by a week. Of course, the civil war which most Iraqis will tell you has been going on for months was actually noticed over a year ago.

The report held another piece of bad news for the Bush administration.

The report provided a detailed description of progress in training the full range of Iraqi security forces, but it did not mention how many army battalions are rated "Level 1" -- those judged to be fully independent.
The reason for that? Well, this:

In a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. Gene Renuart disclosed that the number of battalions at Level 1 had dropped from one to zero...
Well done.

In all fairness, the number of "level 2" battalions have increased, meaning they can plan and lead missions with US support. In reality, they do nothing of the sort. Everything they do is supervised and most operations involve the same US units which would conduct operations without the Iraqis.

Despite the slowness of the Pentagon report, after hearing it and listening to reports like this, some of the iron pins of conservative establishment are calling the Iraq experiment a failure. First there is the clown factor appealing to the masses and then there is the more sophisticated approach from William F. Buckley.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.
Buckley goes on to say that the American postulates were absolutely correct but that they didn't work in Iraq, as you can see, because the Iraqis didn't cooperate.

Both Buckley and O'Reilly, representing both ends of the right-wing intelligence scale, place the blame for the failure of the US adventure in Iraq squarely in one court: the Iraqis. They both claim the US plan was sound, noble and oh-so good, but the Iraqis didn't follow it.

Perhaps it would have been better if the plan had had been sent to the Iraqis in advance. That way they would have known that they were expected to accept the death of thousands, rampant unemployment and a permanently crippled infrastructure.

So, now that Iraq doesn't seem to be improving, and the evidence is everywhere, the right-wing is calling the whole thing a failure. The experiment failed.

And they want to run away.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hoist with his own petard - Bush is imploding

Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, is credited with saying, soon after the attack, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

There is no evidence to support the claim that Yamamoto ever said or wrote those words. However, that is exactly what happened, and the sleeping giant was a united, technological power house with competent, rational and determined leadership.

When the World Trade Center towers were destroyed by al Qa'eda's religious fanatics on September 11th, 2001, they served only to open the door of a caged, fire-breathing dragon and poke it with a stick. The USA, this time was incompetently led, politically divided, facing a global technical challenge, reliant on others for raw materials and in possession of unmatched military might.

On September 11th, 2001, not only did Americans rally around their leaders, but the world rallied around the United States. Inasmuch as terrorism was not new to the world, the level of death and destruction, and the motive were appalling to all but the worst of humanity. The world would not only acknowledge whatever action the US took in response but most would actually assist. The US was the victim in this instance and no matter what events transpired, they deserved support in removing a clear and present danger.

The Bush administration took the goodwill offered by Americans and the world and began to abuse it immediately. The Dubai Ports uproar is, perhaps, the culmination of five years of Bush administration lying, deceit and politicization of a heinous, unforgivable act of terrorism.

Other countries affected by the Dubai Ports deal seem unfazed by the arrangement. On analysis, little changes. It's an ownership arrangement which has little to do with security or sovereignty. But in the US it strikes a nerve which has been on the surface since the morning after 9/11 and which has been relentlessly exploited by an administration which peddled an atmosphere of terror and then manipulated the paranoia and fear by demanding acceptance of outrageous executive behaviour. Domestic political opposition was labeled treasonous, dissent subversive and questions dangerous. The President was infallible.

Americans can be excused for being outraged by a seemingly innocuous trade deal. They have been force-fed a diet of war rhetoric which served to excuse the expansion of executive power and resulted in the presidential authorization of domestic spying, the suspension of rights, the torture of prisoners and the ruthless suppression of dissent. Everything was connected to 9/11, even if the connection could not be explained. Terrorist were lurking everywhere and America was in danger. Then they are expected to accept the Dubai Ports deal as though none of that meant anything.

This article by Paul Krugman, describes the confusion felt by many Americans over the US ports affair. Americans are now expected to accept precisely the opposite of what they have been forced to endure for the past four years.

Now comes the port deal. Mr. Bush assures us that "people don't need to worry about security." But after all those declarations that we're engaged in a global war on terrorism, after all the terror alerts declared whenever the national political debate seemed to be shifting to questions of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, the administration can't suddenly change its theme song to "Don't Worry, Be Happy."
The Bush administration is trying to suck and blow at the same time. Add to that the years of being told that Americans have to comply with the administrations demands for more latitude and that they can never become complacent; That the enemy wants Americans to become relaxed and lessen their vigilance. Then, from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England comes this:

"The terrorists want our nation to become distrustful," England said. "They want us to become paranoid and isolationist, and my view is we cannot allow this to happen. It needs to be just the opposite."
"The opposite" of what has been the administration's unending stream of blather. Now, it appears they want it both ways. A week ago England's statement would have been called treasonous, subversive and dangerous. This latest attempt at spin is not only feeble, it asks Americans to ignore all that has been said in the preceding four years. In fact, what England was expressing is that criticism of any administration decision is not acceptable. It would be better for the administration if Americans would just shut up and take it.

Of course, the port deal highlights another deficiency in the Bush administration: due diligence. For an administration which has consistently flogged Americans with the need to be wary of everyone and to maintain their guard even when it seems like a bitter pill to swallow, the fact that there seemed to be less than severe scrutiny of this deal is contrary to everything the Bush administration has been saying and has the effect of raising the question as to how necessary all other forms of scrutiny by the administration actually were. If the ports deal is really that harmless, if a company owned by people who directly associated with America's number one enemy can freely do business in the US and if the diligence isn't required when dealing with a people who have been institutionally demonized, what else isn't true? And why were Americans being asked by their government to behave differently?

Associated with the lack of due diligence is the admitted lack of knowledge. Given the nature of the deal, when Bush, Rumsfeld and Snow announced that they had no knowledge of the Dubai Ports purchase they exposed themselves to the American public and the world. It is difficult to determine which condition is worse: Lying that they didn't know; or if they truly did not know.
Patricia Wilson's Reuters article spells out the danger if Bush really does not know. She looks at the past, right back to 9/11 where Bush has used the "I-didn't-know" defence of his actions and it's chilling. If it's true, and one can certainly accept that some of it is, then the US is led by a self-admitted boob.

"It's a disaster for him, I think," said Michael Hogan, professor of communication, arts and sciences at Pennsylvania State University. "It's never a good thing for a president to say he doesn't know something."

"Its really a strategy for shifting blame," said Dean Spiliotes, director of Research at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. "But it is dangerous because the average person doesn't necessarily know that this is not something the president is typically going to involve himself in."

"It's a risk because it makes him look like they sort of dropped the ball."
The insertion of Karl Rove in this issue says even more about it. The Bush administration is under siege. To call up the smear-meister must mean that it is out of hand. Further, there was no strategy laid out in advance. Given the traction this has gained and the contradictions being tossed about like the balls in a McDonald's Playplace, Rove may not be able to pull this one from the fire. He is a strategist; not a tactician, and he too is faced with having to tell Americans that everything said in the past contradicts this deal.

It may be that this Dubai Ports deal, something which has not even appeared on the radar in Britain, Canada, Australia and many other affected countries, will be the undoing of the Bush administration. It may have finally caused the real sleeping giant to wake up. In the meantime the world can only watch and wince because this is very much like sitting on the hillside watching a train wreck.

Hat tip to Canadian Cynic for the Truthout.org link

Abortion headlines: Canada versus U.S.

Here are the latest attention-grabbing abortion headlines in Canada and in the United States.


The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal by two women in Manitoba who asked the province to pay for timely abortions outside publicly funded hospitals.

The women started a class-action lawsuit against the NDP government in 2001. They contended they had to pay for abortions at a private clinic because the wait for a procedure at a public hospital was eight weeks.

The province now pays for abortions at a non-profit clinic

United States:

With an overwhelming 23-12 vote to make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions, the South Dakota Senate has joined the lower house of the legislature -- which backed the bill by a 47-to-22 margin -- to endorse a move that could force the shuttering of that state's last clinic.

Just how dramatically unwanted a pregnancy might be is of little concern to the South Dakota legislators who backed the ban. While a narrow exception was allowed for procedures that would save the life of a pregnant woman, the South Dakotans rejected amendments to the bill that would have provided exceptions in the case of rape or incest or serious threats to the health and well-being of the woman.
You'd never know that the two nations reside on the same planet. What a difference!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

US Army - It's a kinder, gentler boot camp - even if the enemy isn't

I missed this last week. Via Steve comes this report on the "new" US Army boot camp.

Today, the Army is opting for a quieter approach. "I told my drill sergeants to stop the nonsense," says Col. Edward Daly, whose basic-training brigade graduates about 11,000 soldiers a year. Last fall, Col. Daly began meeting with all new recruits shortly after they arrive at boot camp to thank them. "We sincerely appreciate the fact that you swore an oath and got on a bus and did it in a time of war," he recently told an incoming class. "That's a big, big deal."
OK, well there's nothing really wrong with that I suppose. It's nice to be appreciated.

New privates are getting more sleep and personal time. Even the way soldiers eat has changed. Drill sergeants long ordered overweight soldiers to stay away from soda and desserts. Today, soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood fill out a survey about their boot-camp experience that asks, among other questions, if they liked the food, whether they were "allowed to eat everything on the menu, including dessert," and whether there was enough for seconds.
Can you say, "disciplinary problems"?

Some drill sergeants worry that the "kinder and gentler approach" -- as drill sergeants have dubbed the changes -- is producing softer soldiers. "If the privates can't handle the stress of a drill sergeant yelling at them, how will they handle the stress of bullets flying over their head?" asked Staff Sgt. Clayton Nagel as he watched his recruits file past him in the Fort Leonard Wood dining hall. "War is stressful. I think we overcorrected."
Let's change the name from US Army Basic Combat Training to US Army Self-Awareness Training!

The Army's decision to overhaul basic training came last spring. The service was having a hard time bringing in new recruits. It ultimately missed its 2005 recruiting goals for active-duty troops by 7,000 soldiers, or 8%, and National Guard soldiers by 13,000 or 20%.
Meanwhile, boot-camp attrition was climbing. New soldiers brought in to replace those who were tossed out weren't much better. "We realized that the further you go into the barrel, the lower the quality," says Col. Kevin Shwedo, a senior officer in the Army's Training and Doctrine Command in Virginia.
So, the standards have been reduced and now the training has been made easier to put more soldiers into the field where the bullets still come out of nowhere and still move at the same speed. But the person providing covering fire may be someone who might not have made the cut under the old system. They keep the people who, in the past, would not have made good soldiers. That sounds like a rush to the bottom to me.

The article goes on to describe an atmosphere where there is 60% less running. Recruits are allowed to carry inhalers for mild asthma and those suffering from depression Paxil or Zoloft. Those changes are resulting in a lower overall attrition rate.

In other words, they aren't training soldiers as much as they are cannon-fodder. Is it time for a draft yet?

Read the whole article here. It's worth it.

Rove Steps In To US Ports Issue - (because he got caught with his pants down and his preznit is in doo doo)

From Liberal Catnip Karl Rove has stepped into the Dubai Ports deal in the US and it appears now that Dubai Ports World will delay the completion of the deal to take over 6 terminal operations in the United States.

Our interest is in making certain the members of Congress have full information about it, and that, we're convinced, will give them a level of comfort with this," Rove said, adding that regulatory rules abroad could also add a few days to a final sign off on the transaction.

There is no word as to the state of the deal with respect to Vancouver's Centennial Terminal since the Conservative government only comes out on cloudy days in an effort to avoid seeing their shadows.

If David Emerson would quit wallowing in self-pity and get on with his job, we might have more information on this. You draw the pay; you do the job, Emerson. Or is this someone else's responsibility?

Check out Liberal Catnip for the whole story.

UPDATE: OK, here's what I see out of this. The guy who REALLY runs the Oval Office has hit the deck running. Rover got caught napping on this one. This was supposed to be a nothing event and just slide on by. Then the press got into it and Congress went nuts. It would have been an easy spin job if it had just been the Democrats making all the noise, but even the Republicans are barking and baring their teeth. (You might say this was Rove engineered if it wasn't for the fact that there is a bi-partisan block working in the same direction and Rove would always view that as a disaster.)

What must be terrifying Rover is that Dubya has been fending off bi-partisan attacks on his own... without the spin machine spun up.

There is another aspect to this. I suspect that more than one of the Republican Senate/House critters knows full well that there is less to this than they are willing to admit, but more than one of them have a solid axe to grind with Rove.

Rove, if you recall, was behaving like a thug with a large group of Senate and House Republicans over their lack of support for Bush's illegal domestic spying operation and was threatening to have them blacklisted. Maybe it's just me, but this looks like payback and a way to stick it to Rove. Certainly, he'll have a tough time spinning this now, especially since the likes of Michelle Malkin, O'Reilly and all the other rabid dogs who usually support Bush are demanding he put a stop to the deal and explain how it got as far as it did. And now Rove has to, (ahem), provide them a level of comfort over the deal. If I was one of the senators previously threatened by Rove, I would think I have a little political capital on this one.

Or, maybe I'm wrong.

US Port Issue - CANADIAN Port Issue.

Thanks to sharp commenter Cee for this. Anyone who is watching the US shyte-storm over port terminal operations and the purchase by Dubai Ports World of P&O Steam Navigation need not look too much harder, nor should anyone get too smug about it being a purely American issue.

The British Columbia, Port of Vancouver's container and general cargo terminal, Centerm, formerly operated by P&O, has been taken over by state-owned Dubai Ports World after P&O sold their operations to DPW. (Confirmed by email)

There's more. P&O has a stevedoring concession for 17 ports on the Canadian west coast from Stewart to Victoria. Those too will now change hands and become a part of DPW.

So, do we start ragging on Harper for selling out the 2nd busiest port in North America to the UAE? Or is that secret little Canadian Forces base in Dubai too important to ruffle the feathers of the Emirates? Or, is it even an issue?

O'Reilly - Let's Cut and Run

Why does Bill O'Reilly do this? I actually like to do a little work to dig out some information. I almost feel guilty being handed something so perfect, so easy that I almost want to just give it a pass. One shouldn't beat up on the weak. Oh hell, why not. It's O'Reilly.

From Media Matters this little tidbit:

O'REILLY: Somewhat of a disturbing report out of Iraq, and it's more important than it first appears. The governor of -- or the mayor of Karbala, which is a town in the south part of Iraq, Shiite-controlled, has banned any further government dealings with the American military in his province, saying that they're not behaving well.
Now, it's a small little thing, but I picked up on it, because here is the essential problem in Iraq. There are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them. And I don't -- we're never gonna be able to control them. So the only solution to this is to hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible. Because we just can't control these crazy people. This is all over the place. And that was the big mistake about America: They didn't -- it was the crazy-people underestimation. We did not know how to deal with them -- still don't. But they're just all over the place.
To O'Reilly: Maybe we should send you, Bill. From the description you are providing, you'd fit right in. Of course, there are a few other problems aren't there? Like, you broke it, you buy it. You were one of the biggest cheerleaders of this adventure... and now, because you're not getting a warm, fuzzy feeling from it, you want to quit.

But hang on here. Just three months ago, on the Today show, O'Reilly told Katie Couric:

These pinheads running around going, "Get out of Iraq now," don't know what they're talking about. These are the same people before Hitler invaded in World War II that were saying, "Ah, he's not such a bad guy." They don't get it.
Pinheads. Right. Got it.

And then, just weeks ago in a program with that paragon of military virtue and convicted liar, Oliver North, O'Reilly said this about Congressman John Murtha:

O'REILLY: But I think that Murtha and a lot of the critics, OK, don't understand the nobility of the effort in Iraq. Yes, it's screwed up.
NORTH: Amen.
O'REILLY: Yes, they made mistakes. They make mistakes in all war. But the — and I told this to David Letterman today, eye to eye. It's a noble effort. And that should not be undermined. Critiqued, yes, OK?
NORTH: Sure.
O'REILLY: Not undermined.
Bill... you're undermining. Are you trying to confuse all the boys with Cheeto dust on their laps?


N157A CIA light - You are cleared to depart on runway 22 left - Have a pleasant flight and we hope all your passengers survive.

According to this news report the CIA has been using Canadian airports on a regular basis for what may be extraordinary rendition flights and there have been a lot more than previously reported or suspected.

Internal government briefing notes obtained Wednesday also reveal senior intelligence officials from six federal agencies, including Canada's spy service, met in late November to discuss the flights.

The memos underscore the level of concern in government circles about public fears the
CIA has been ferrying terrorist suspects through Canada to foreign prisons.

We now know, through the compilation of official data, that known CIA aircraft flew into Canadian airports at least 74 times since 11 Sept. 2001. Whether any or all of them were related to the practice of extraordinary rendition, we do not know. The CIA flies for a multitude of reasons. However, given the number of flights, it is reasonable to assume that at least some of them were involved and the Canadian government was concerned enough to investigate the issue.

The records released Wednesday under the Access to Information Act include an undated secret memorandum, titled Alleged CIA Aircraft in Canada, prepared by Privy Council Office officials for then-deputy prime minister and public safety czar Anne McLellan.


The Nov. 29 meeting included security officials from PCO, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Public Safety, Canada Border Services, Foreign Affairs and Transport Canada.

The agenda indicates they reviewed federal policy on "rendition" - the term often used to describe the transfer of suspected terrorists by the United States to countries where they may be more easily imprisoned and interrogated.

The officials also discussed the government's "public position" on the planes issue and the question of "U.S. engagement" - presumably a reference to raising the issue with American counterparts.
The Canadian Border Services and NavCanada state that all aircraft followed the proper administrative and operational procedures. Planes which are not remaining in Canada do not need to disembark their passengers and are not required to provide physical proof of persons onboard.

Well, that's good.

Given the CIA's proclivity for false fronts and a vacant paper trail the fact that they observed all the necessary Canada Customs and airspace requirements is very encouraging. I wonder though, were there any Jetsgo callsigns in the compiled data?

I was going to suggest that we change our inspection procedure at Canadian airports by requiring Border Service inspectors to board aircraft which do not disembark... but then I remembered who now forms government. No chance.

That doesn't change one fact: Extraordinary rendition is illegal.

(Thanks to reader Catherine for the link)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dubai Ports Uproar - A Tempest in a 40 TEU Container

The whole Dubai ports uproar is bothering me if for no other reason that it has taken three days for the majority of the fixed-media to finally getting around to identifying what is really happening and they still aren't doing a good job of it.

The first reports that came out suggested that the United States was somehow out-sourcing the entire operation of six US ports to a United Arab Emirates state-controlled company, Dubai Ports World. I have to admit THAT got my attention. The very idea sent me spinning.

Those reports then percolated into reports of the out-sourcing of port security and ports control. That put me on guard. If it is one thing that would never be permitted by the US government, even under more peaceful times, it is the port security system and the port state control which is strictly a US government function operated by the US Coast Guard, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service and US Customs and Border Protection Service.

By this time enough US senators and congressional representatives had jumped onto the bandwagon to make it look like the Bush administration was selling New York, Baltimore, Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New Jersey harbors to the highest bidder with no concern for security. Of course, it wasn't that way at all.

It took too long for the fixed-media to actually get all the facts out. DPW, in purchasing Peninsular & Orient Steam Navigation Company was also purchasing the terminals in various worldwide ports which P&O had been operating. And that's the point. It's terminal operations within those ports; not the ports themselves. Security and Port State Control isn't being handed over and any suggestion to the contrary is easily dismissed.

I'll admit that the optics are horrible. Bush has been at the vanguard of a body of Republicans who justify any and all acts, legal and illegal, in the name of combatting terrorism. How often have we heard that terrorists are "lurking"; that they will use any means to destroy America; that his first and most important job is to use any means to protect Americans? Too often, for my appetite, but that is beside the point.

On the surface this looks like Bush is faced with the dichotomy of defending a shady business deal to the detriment of national security, which he has so vociferously defended in the past. I just don't see it that way. As someone who is now fully involved in the global merchant marine, as both a ship's captain and an instructor, I see no change in security procedures or state control in US ports.

Bush may not be a good businessman, and he is perhaps the worst US president the modern world has ever known, but he is, above all else, an entrenched capitalist. Would he sell out the security of the US for a solid buck? Maybe, but that's not happening here.

If anything rang alarm bells in my head, (and still does), it was the sudden and passionate defence of this deal offered by Bush. His threat to veto any bill which stood in the way of this transfer of US-based terminals from publicly traded P&O to state-controlled DPW was shocking. I'm still trying to assess why he would suddenly unravel over this issue. The best I can do is offer a guess.

Bush may not have known the names of well-known world leaders when he came to power, but because of family business arrangements, he could probably have named every arab prince, sultan, emir and sheik with political control of the Middle East oil industry. He undoubtedly had a better relationship with Sheik Maktum bin Rashid al-Maktum of Dubai than he did with Canada's Jean Chretien. Dubai and the six other emirates, despite involvement with al Qaeda and some of the operatives of Osama bin Laden, have provided bases and logistical support to the US Navy and US Air Force. To suddenly have a spear tossed into what he perceives as an innocuous global business deal would raise immediate concerns as to the stability of military support for his forces in the Gulf region. (Although I still don't think that warranted the reaction we all saw.)

Perhaps there is some backdoor financial arrangement, although even there, I have doubts. In any case, since DPW is not a truly public company and the UAE banking system is not open to public scrutiny, we won't know until after 2008 when Bush is out of office.

The port security and port state control cards are nothing but jokers in the deck on this issue and the issue, as bad as certain aspects of the deal are, is no worse than China or any other state-owned company operating terminals in US ports. If it is, I had better get to work re-writing lesson plans.

NORAD or NORTHCOM? O'Connor needs to be clear.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor was being a little cagey when he announced that Canada would be signing a new North American defence treaty with the United States. Most people could be excused for misinterpreting O'Connor's statement to mean that it was a simple renewal of the long-standing Canada/USA treaty which provides for the co-manning and and operation of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) with a maritime surveillance component somehow added in.

That cannot be and is not, however, the truth.

In 2002 the US placed NORAD under the command of a newly formed US military function known as Northern Command, now led by USN Admiral Timothy J. Keating. NORTHCOM sprung out of the need for a unifying command to create fortress America and encompasses military functions which extend to homeland security, homeland defence, force protection and anti-terrorism. It's area of responsibility includes air, land and sea approaches and encompasses the continental United States, Alaska and the surrounding water out to approximately 500 nautical miles. NORAD provides the air surveillance and interdiction capability and constitutes one of the Joint Force Component Commanders which answer to the Commander of NORTHCOM. Of note is that NORTHCOM has no authority outside US territory but is responsible for security cooperation with defence operations by both immediate neighbours, namely Canada and Mexico. For now.

The US Navy has struggled with its contribution to NORTHCOM. The US Coast Guard, an armed safety agency, is the maritime homeland security arm and falls under the US Department of Homeland Security. The USN is not really intended for operations in home waters although the US fleet has many capabilities which are easily adaptable to homeland defence. In this light, the USN assigned the Commander Fleet Forces Command the role of Joint Maritime Force Component Commander responsible to the Commander of NORTHCOM. They also entered into an agreement with the US Coast Guard which would allow a rapid transfer of combat and support assets to the Coast Guard should the need arise.

O'Connor, in announcing this new treaty did not clarify the extent to which Canadian Forces will become involved. In fact, his announcement did not say much at all. Just that a maritime surveillance component was being added. And NORAD isn't organized for that.

What it looks like is that Canada will be joining NORTHCOM. I say "joining" with some hesitation. The subordination of NORAD by NORTHCOM effectively folded the Canadian Air Defence Sector into an exclusive US command. O'Connor's announcement indicates that we will be doing the same thing with the Canadian navy's areas of operations in the northwest Atlantic and northeast Pacific.

I have no real problem with a joint North American command structure which extends beyond air defence. I have no problem with such a command having a US commander. The US can commit greater assets and resources to the overall mission and realistically, the US should hold lead chair.

However, if NORTHCOM is to become a North American continental defence organization which provides the commander with Canadian Forces assets, then Canada should be assuming a role as the deputy commander and not a liaison officer in the form of a brigadier-general. For O'Connor to suggest that the exchange of maritime domain awareness information is something new is disingenuous. We have been doing that for some time and since 2002 it has been formalized.

So, whatever O'Connor was talking about needs to be clearly explained. It isn't NORAD extended and it isn't a naval version of NORAD. Whatever it is, O'Connor was too quick to downplay the effect on Canadian operations and that indicates that he is hiding something of consequence that Canadians will find offensive.

The Conservatives had better learn that they are required to explain everything they do. Most people don't trust them. Announcing major treaties without providing a full description of the purpose, management and execution because they believe the average Canadian is not sophisticated enough to comprehend the details is unacceptably arrogant.

So, Mr. O'Connor, get on with it. We're waiting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It’s a bouncing baby boy! (boy orangutan, that is)

Toronto Zoo officials have announced the birth of a Sumatran orangutan. It’s a big deal because the Sumatran orangutan is a highly endangered species that could face total extinction with the next ten years. This is the fifth baby for mother Puppe, who is known to be a caring and experienced mother. And yes, the pictures posted here are of Puppe and her newborn. Ain’t he cute?

More signs of intelligence?

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs minister Peter Mackay couldn't hold back and said this:

The latest intelligence suggests four Christian Peacemaker Teams members, including two Canadians, are "very much" alive, MacKay said Monday.
The men were kidnapped in November and their captors threatened to kill them last month in what they called a final warning. But there is still reason for optimism, MacKay said.
"The most up-to-date information that we have leads us to believe that there will be - and we remain very optimistic - a safe release of these individuals," he said in an interview.
Today, he's in a little more pensive mood and now says this:

"Sadly, we do not have any more recent information," MacKay told a news conference Tuesday.
And some of the real professionals are saying this:

Two Liberals who once were top Foreign Affairs officials said MacKay invited trouble by publicly discussing the hostage crisis.

It is dangerous to express optimism too boldly because it gives kidnappers additional leverage, said one former official who worked on the hostage file.
This all confirms one thing. Mackay is a bloody idiot.

Signs of Intelligence (OK, that was just to get your attention)

Via the Canadian Cynic, George W Bush is reported not to have known the details of a Dubai company taking over some of the operations of US port facilities.

Bush was unaware of the deal until he heard reports of the congressional uproar, presidential adviser Dan Bartlett said.
The whole mess is as a result of Dubai Ports World buying Peninsular & Orient Steamship Lines. The deal comes with terminals and port facilities all over the world. There is some misconception that Dubai is taking over the entire port of, say, New York - and it isn't. It's taking over the P&O terminals including a cargo terminal and the P&O cruise ship terminal.

However, the offer to P&O shareholders by the Dubai Ports World corportation, a company in the private hands of Sultan Bin Sulayem of Dubai, was posted on December 20th, 2005. Surely the US Department of Homeland Security was advised in some small way that things were changing. Well, maybe not.

OK. Well then, how about when Bush announced the appointment of David C. Sanborn as Director of the US Maritime Administration. That should have twigged somebody. After all, the Maritime Administration is heavily involved in port security and manages the US strategic reserve fleet. That happened on January 23rd, 2006.

Why is that important? Well, David Sanborn would have to be fully checked out. He would also have to be security cleared. So, the Bush administration would have a good idea about what he was doing and who he presently works for.

Sanborn's present employer: Dubai Ports World. Oh yes, Sanborn is the Director of Operations for DPW's European and Latin American operations, so he was directly involved in both the takeover of P&O facilities and the transfer of management.

Yet, Bush says he didn't know anything about it until the congressional uproar.

Even I didn't think Bush was that stupid.

Guest Blogging At Pandagon

I've got a post up at Pandagon this afternoon during Amanda's Blogwhore Bonanza. She's off in Amsterdam drinking beer, cycling, staying up late, checking out the culture, partying and making us all crazy by sending back pictures. Pam and Jedmunds are holding the fort while she's away and several of us roll through. So, click on over and have a look at what's going on! (By the way, I didn't cross-post, so the posting at Pandagon is unique and won't be repeated here.)

If you've just arrived from Pandagon, WELCOME!! Please have a look around. You'll find we cross many borders, and wade through many swamps, but we are progressive, left-leaning, pro-feminist, potty-trained and omnivorous. Some of our more popular posts are here, here, here, here and here. And there are plenty more.

Have a great day, and we hope you come by often to check us out.

Blowing The News Cycle - Stairs gets the boot

The dismissal of William Stairs as Harper's communications director speaks volumes about how out of touch with reality the new Conservative government really is.

Stairs may have had an impossible job, that of controlling the media fallout from the Emerson defection and the Fortier appointment, but clearly Harper and his sycophants believed there would be an initial uproar and then the usual waning of interest. They were wrong and the Prime Minister's Office is blaming Stairs.

The Fortier issue has faded, unfortunately, because if there is anything which flies in the face of Harper's announced "reforms" appointing an unelected individual to a cabinet position should be right at the top of the list.

The Emerson defection won't go away. Everyone jumped on the story and within minutes they jumped on Harper. The demands for Emerson's resignation have not diminished and the requirement for Harper to clearly explain events remains alive.

Appointing a new communications director won't change much. The media, whether Harper and the Conservatives like it or not, are a proxy for the electorate. Since the Emerson treachery, Harper has done what he always does when things get too tough in the public arena; he went into hiding.

With the exception of a public appearance on Flag Day and the announcement that the next Supreme Court justice would face a parliamentary committee, Harper has been absent from the front. Given the fact that the first 60 days after taking office are important in determining the direction of a new government, Harper has wasted the first fifteen.

The announcement of a new process for selecting Supreme Court justices was supposed to have been a major story. It fizzled. Harper's new process doesn't change the fact that it is the same as the old process with three hours of Harperite theatrics involved. The parliamentary committee, which will likely be loaded disproportionately, will have no power to reject the nomination and any recommendation against the nominee can be ignored by the Prime Minister. It is smoke and mirrors, which the media saw through, and immediately tossed on the floor.

The Conservative spin machine isn't working. It's likely that it never will. Harper and his neophytes in the PMO have still failed to grasp how it is they came to power.

Canadians did not elect the Conservative Party of Canada because they wanted a Harper government. They reluctantly removed the Liberals from office. What they did not do was give Harper a mandate to effect change. Canadians were generally satisfied with Martin's policies. It was the Liberal corruption of the previous regime which angered them and there was a feeling that they had to be removed from the comfort of office.

Harper, who was given a chance to respond to the hesitant faith placed in him by the electorate through a demonstration of "stand up" politics, blew it on day one, when his newly appointed cabinet had to sneak out the back doors of Rideau Hall in order to avoid an enraged press corps.

If the appointment of Sandra Buckler is expected to change how the media and the public now view Harper, the PMO may be sorely disappointed. Buckler, who had a hand in the strictly scripted CPC election campaign, will be expected to find the honeymoon Harper never got. What they don't seem to understand is that no amount of media spin would have prevented the outrage of Canadians. Engaging in internal blood-letting within 14 days of taking office will only serve to raise more questions in the media, and rightly so. If the Conservatives continue to fail to answer questions, Canadians will make assumptions and they will not assume that they are employing an honest government.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Let The Swiftboating Begin - And Have A Vomit Bag Handy

The good citizens of Minnesota are now being pelted with television commercials telling them that the war in Iraq is linked to 9/11 and that things in Iraq simply couldn't be rosier. Minnesota Democratic Party chairman Brian Melendez disagrees and has called the ads, run by MidwestHeros.com, as misleading propaganda and outright lies.

The ad states that the media only reports negative stories, a comment that is patently untrue. As reported on WCCO’s ‘Reality Check,’ 4 out of 10 news stories are positive and the majority of Sunday political news show commentators are conservative.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune's Nick Coleman dug into the issue and looked at the funding for these ads. What he found is that money raised by the Progress For America Voter Fund for the 2004 Bush campaign has now been redirected to what is likely to become a national campaign using Minnesota as the testing ground. The plot thickens a little more when a backtrack leads to Ben Ginsberg who had been associated with the Progress For America Voter Fund. He had to quit the Bush 2004 campaign after it was revealed he was involved with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that attacked John Kerry during the 2004 Presidential campaign. Also from Coleman's column:

"This is a political organization that is using troops for a political agenda," says Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). "These ads are trying to prop up the president's flagging agenda. That seems like a cheap trick. It's the same kind of thing he does when he keeps goes around giving speeches in front of the troops."
The truth is, these ads are quite disgusting. They reach out to the emotions of the viewer in an attempt to mislead with distortion and lies.

To Rieckhoff, a combat platoon leader in Iraq, these ads do not speak the soldiers' truth.

"The troops do not overwhelmingly support the president in Iraq," says Rieckhoff, who notes that polls show the troops' approval sinking to the low 50 percent range. "And the CIA said there is no link between 9/11 and Iraq. They still say that.

"So this ad is simply not true."
While the group fronting these ads suggests all the people appearing are all from the midwest, in fact, over half actually reside in Oregon.

Using troops as a front to promote the war in Iraq is distasteful enough, but the second commercial cynically uses the mothers of troops killed in Iraq, and as Coleman points out in a second column, one of them, supposedly the mother of Chief Warrant Officer Erik Kesterson, isn't really the mother of a fallen soldier at all. In fact, the soldier's real mother is totally opposed to the war in Iraq.

M.J. Kesterson is married to Erik's father, who also appears in the ad, and she's Erik's stepmother. His mother is Dolores Kesterson, and the distinction is important because Dolores Kesterson is opposed to a war in which she believes her son died to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist and to avenge 9/11, which was not connected to Iraq.
These ads are not about supporting the troops. They are about propping up an administration that sees a majority of Americans are against the war. It is about diverting attention from the truth about Iraq and putting a nasty spin on in time for the 2006 mid-term elections. They are about exploiting young people fighting a war without end, exploiting the dead and exploiting the grief of families, all for a political purpose. These ads dishonor the very people they pretend to support.

You can view the advertisements here, but be warned, you may want to have a gag bag handy.

The 2006 Swiftboating begins.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It's pure Mrs. Mills

Once again, an installment from that fountain of wisdom and outstanding personal advisor, Mrs. Mills, direct from the Sunday Times:

I have no success with women — it’s a result if I talk to one for five minutes. Then, last week, I looked after a friend’s westie. Whenever we went for a walk, attractive women would press him to their bosoms and let him lick wherever he fancied. Yet, the smelly animal’s only attempt at personal hygiene is an occasional roll on the grass, licking his nether regions. How can I get women to smother me in their bosoms instead?
And Mrs. Mills cuts to the chase with a brilliant solution:

If it works for the dog, why not try rolling around on the grass, licking your nether regions? There must be one woman who finds it appealing, and all the rest will have time to run away.
It was so obvious it makes you wonder why he asked in the first place. Catch the rest of her great column here.

Gathering for the kill

This article from Richard Foot sheds some light on the gathering Christian fundamentalist groups who are now establishing "institutes" in Ottawa in preparation for lobbying what they perceive as a "friendly" government.

Many were also toasting their good fortune at coming to Ottawa at the same moment Stephen Harper's Conservatives had ascended to power.
Yes. What a remarkable coincidence. A better punch has never been pulled, especially in light of this comment from Derek Rogusky, vice-president of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada:

"Under previous governments a lot of us were branded as bogeymen, as somehow un-Canadian, for our beliefs. I think that has changed with Harper becoming prime minister."
The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada is a front for Focus On The Family, run by James Dobson from his Colorado headquarters. And, Dobson IS a bogeyman. He uses his unprecedented access to the Bush administration to expand the power and breadth of his for-profit fundamentalist Christian ministry and his political influence is overwhelming. Dobson led the charge which forced the withdrawal of one of Bush's nominees to the US Supreme Court and pushed for the nomination and confirmation of a rank anti-abortionist, constructivist conservative.

If it were simply one organization which had been drawn to the honey of Harper's apparent friendliness to the extreme literal bible groups it would be of little concern. That, however is not the case. Prior to Harper winning a plurality the only group which had lodged themselves in and around Parliament Hill was the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Centre for Faith and Public Life, led by Bruce Clemenger, (who opposed hate crime legislation on the grounds that it would prevent preachers from being able to openly criticize homosexuals.)

Now, however, there is a whole range of groups, all with the same basic agenda starting to congregate in Ottawa intent on becoming close to government and bent on ramming their agenda down the throats of a majority who do not share their beliefs nor their views.

Concerned Christians Canada Inc, another for-profit organization has made no effort to hide their disdain for those who do not share their views. They are affiliated with Tristan Emmanuel, a dangerous homophobe and somebody with whom Harper has had personal dealings. CCCI is nothing short of a pure political movement which has been involved in the nomination and election of candidates. From their own literature:

CCC will aggressively, consistently and methodically combat the liberal stranglehold on the national agenda. We will ensure that the social conservative agenda is part of the national agenda.
They have been active fundraisers and the Conservative Party owes them.

Another group is the Institute for Canadian Values. They have established a "national think-tank" and profess to be a non-religious organization. Nothing could be further from the truth and their own literature contradicts this claim. Again, they promote regressive political action and the marginalization of any group who does not share their view. They have also worked to elect the Conservative Party and expect repayment in the form of legislation and regulations.

Citizen Impact Canada is a London, Ontario based lobby group which promotes an anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-science education agenda. They have been of little consequence on the national scene up to now and they were unsuccessful in returning either of their candidates to parliament in the last election. That fact notwithstanding, they are notorious for their proselytizing and feel they have a stake in legislation which will marginalize homosexuals, women and which will introduce Christian creationism into school classrooms.

The National House of Prayer, a so-called "charismatic Christian" group, claims not to have political affiliations and publicly does not support one political party. They do however, have a vision which includes becoming the national church of Canada. Despite their claim, they have established a large operation in Ottawa in the old Lowertown convent. They and their followers have been at the forefront of campaigns to ban abortion and eliminate gay rights. Any suggestion that they are being truthful about their intentions is shattered when a list of their financial backers is exposed. Dick Dewert of the Miracle Channel, who openly called for Canadians to vote for anti-gay, anti-abortion candidates, helped the NHP raise $500,000. David Demian of Watchmen for The Nations, and David Mainse of 100 Huntley Street have also become involved in the NHP.

There are more, but why belabour the point?

The truth is, these organizations share one common purpose - to lobby government and advance their agenda, almost all of which is anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-science. To suggest that they are positioning themselves to combat same-sex marriage alone would be to ignore the investment they have made in effort and funds. They are establishing themselves for a long term and they will not rest until they have gained full control of the legislative process.

They do, however, have a serious problem. Unlike the US, Canada has emerged as a very secular nation. Religious adherence differs between Canadians and Americans to a considerable degree. From this study comes a revealing piece of information: where a majority of Americans consider religion important (59%), a majority of Canadians do not (70%). This presents a challenge for the extreme literal bible interpreters since, unlike the US, where most of these groups find their parent organizations, Canadians have already rejected such extreme religiosity.

The only way the fundamentalist groups can possibly inject their agenda into the Canadian social body is to do it surreptitiously, in hopes that a majority of Canadians are not paying attention or, by having it rammed through legislation against the wishes of the majority. In either case, Canadians need to be aware that there will be an effort on the part of these groups to suborn the federal government to their cause. Once that effort is underway the Conservatives need to be reminded that any involvement with these groups is flirting with political suicide. Should a dalliance with the religious conservative right become obvious, this current crop of Conservatives should be dispatched from office quickly and permanently.

Harper would be well advised to tell these groups publicly that he is not beholden to them and never will be.