Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Conservatives to shaft the religious right?

The Globe & Mail reports on the growing number of Conservatives who are getting headaches over the prospect of bringing back same-sex marriage for a vote in the House.

Like all those nervous Tories quoted in the piece, I hope, really hope, that the issue just goes away. But the reason Harper and his MPs are have gotten so sketchy on fulfilling this particular campaign promise is that, if C-38 does get reopened, they lose. From the Hill Times:

A few weeks ago, the [Defend Marriage] coalition took part in a multi-group lobby day on the Hill, in which interest groups, including lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry, a firefighter's union and an environmental group, rented rooms for visiting Senators and MPs. The Defend Marriage Coalition "had one of the biggest rooms on the Hill, but was the most sparsely attended," The Lobby Monitor reported last week.

...Lining up against the Defend Marriage Coalition is Canadians for Equal Marriage, and according to its research, it says it currently has a majority of support in the Commons.

"Our numbers show that this motion is going to be defeated if it happens in this Parliament," Laurie Arron, national coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage, said in an interview. He said that their research shows that 158 are in favour of same-sex marriage, 137 are against, and 12 are undecided. "If you add 12 to 137, you get 149. It still gets defeated," he said. also finds enough support to keep C-38.

As well, two polls in the last six months by Environics Research found about 66 per cent of Canadians considered the issue settled and/or did not want to see the Tories re-open the same-sex marriage debate. Only 2% of voters identified it in a CBC/Radio-Canada poll before the election as their most pressing concern. Depending on wording, slim to sizable pluralities of Canadians have generally supported gay marriage over the past decade, and the support is concentrated among the young. As in the U.S., the trends are bad for anti same-sex marriage advocates.

This, from the G&M is also kind of nice:

...During the last Commons vote on the issue a year ago, only three Conservative MPs voted in favour of same-sex marriage: Jim Prentice (now Indian Affairs minister), James Moore and Gerald Keddy.

Mr. Keddy said his caucus colleagues should take him as example of what happens when you support gay rights: absolutely nothing.

His Nova Scotia riding is predominantly rural and socially conservative, but he was re-elected with a bigger majority.

“Now, people have moved on, it's just not an issue. It is for a very small minority of people,” Mr. Keddy said.

My take (feel free to disagree) is that Harper can't win by reopening the debate. Voters will dislike it. If he wins his free vote, it's a national embarrassment out of step with popular opinion and gives the Libs (surely all the leadership candidates will support keeping C-38) a made-to-order campaign issue next election. But in fact he's almost sure to lose the vote and to get trashed in the press as a demagogue in the process. And it's not like losing is going to make these freaks give up the battle and go home either, or make them into stronger Conservatives than they are. No wonder the Tory caucus is mumbling and shuffling its feet.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Washington Post Discovers Oil Sands

The Washington Post has discovered Fort Mcmurray and isn't sure about what it found there.

Hooper's whopper.

In one of those moments where I sit around while other people work, I had another cast about for information on Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, deputy director of operations, Jack Hooper's testimony to the Senate defence committee.

After posting this, this morning, I found this in the Globe and Mail.

The deputy director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Monday that there are many people currently living in Canada who fought with al-Qaeda during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Either Hooper is the stupidest spy in the Canadian service or he fed a line to the Senate committee.

Al-Qaeda was formed in 1988 after a split from the Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK) which was a fund-raising organization. Neither the MAK nor al-Qaeda had any direct combatants during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The fighters were the Mujahadeen, mostly organized by local mullahs and financed by the USA and Saudi Arabia.

Neither the MAK nor al-Qaeda ever conducted any form of military or guerilla operation in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. Nor was either group involved in planning operations or providing a command structure during the Soviet occupation. The MAK was involved in financing and recruiting during the resistance to the Soviet presence but al-Qaeda didn't actually exist until the Soviets had withdrawn.

How do I know this? From the intelligence my unit was getting at the time.

And Hooper knows it too.

So who wrote Hooper's testimony? And why is he feeding a lie to a parliamentary committee?

Naow Four Somthing Completely Difernet

ABC in the US has announced that they're going to carry the finals of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee live in prime time on Thursday.

I predict disaster.

There will be a huge outcry from freaked out rightwhingers over all the so called "theories of spelling" that have been foisted upon the English language by generations of liberal academics.

FauxNews will retaliate with a reality show of their own featuring nothing but alternate spellings, some of them in no dictionary at all, for all the words used in the Scripps-Howard event. It will be hosted by Bill (shudup kid, ya spoiled whiner) O'Reilly. The FauxNews winner will be consequently be discovered to be a cheat who is not even a kid but rather O'Reilly's dwarf loofah aqua-culturist.

Here at home Stephen Harper, our presumptive Prime Minister, will announce that this is just one more example of media bias and that, as is the case with so much in our lives, the Liberal governments of the past have forced this insupportable political correctness about spelling down our collective throats. He will vow to introduce legislation loosening the red tape around spelling. He will then apologize for using the communist word "collective".

We now return you to your regular programming.

Circumstantial CSIS

Cathie From Canada has an excellent post on CSIS deputy director Jack Hooper's testimony to a Senate defence committee inquiring into the extended deployment of Canadian troops to Afghanistan.

Since the committee was looking into a military operation and Hooper was testifying in favour of that operation something he said hit me like a brick.

First, as a matter of operational security it is considered a heinous crime to disclose an operational capability or deficiency. Given that Hooper is a deputy dawg spy, keeping things close to the chest and very, very secure should be second nature. After all, if one discloses an operational deficiency the opposition will exploit it. So we never, ever mention them publicly. Right? Like this:

Of the roughly 20,000 from the Pakistani-Afghanistan region, Hooper said CSIS could only vet about "one-tenth."
Way to go dickweed!

Second, when testifying before a defence committee on a specific subject, it is highly improper to go WAY off topic.

Hooper, who complained about cuts in funding, says it is difficult to properly screen immigrant applicants.
Ahh... we should have known! Anybody want to bet that the PMO pre-approved Hooper's statements?

Anybody see the Michelangelo Code?

Jeebus H. Christ on a popsicle stick! Dan Brown had better check this out. If Jeff Goldstein is right, Brown may have misnamed The Da Vinci Code. That or Goldstein is just plain dumber than I already thought he was.

Afghanistan and the quicksand of occupation

Afghanistan erupted in violence yesterday. If that surprizes you, it probably shouldn't. Afghanistan is a harsh place and the people have been hardened by years of foreign intervention and internal upheaval. To go back to the 1979 Soviet invasion would be to ignore the centuries of violent internal struggle and the regular conquest of the region by the likes of Ghengis Khan, Timur Lenk and Mahmur of Ghazni.

But that was then. This is now.

A deadly traffic accident Monday involving U.S. troops sparked the worst rioting in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban regime, with hundreds of protesters looting shops and shouting "Death to America!" At least eight people were killed and 107 injured, an official said.

Hundreds of Afghan army troops and NATO peacekeepers in tanks were deployed around the city, as chanting protesters marched on the presidential palace and rioters smashed police guard boxes, set fire to police cars and ransacked buildings, including the compound of aid group CARE International. Computers were set on fire and smoke billowed from the buildings, according to an Associated Press reporter.

Witnesses said that Afghan and U.S. troops opened fire to quell protesters. A U.S. spokesman said American troops shot into the air, and AP Television News video showed a machine gun on a Humvee firing over the crowd as the vehicle sped away. But a Kabul police chief said U.S. troops had fired into the crowd.
Fired over the heads of the crowd. And the projectiles ended up where?

Riots break out because somebody starts them. In a place like Afghanistan it doesn't take much. Oppression replaced by oppression means the people have little to lose by demonstrating their frustration and anger at the constant unrest and disorder which has been the story of Afghanistan for so long.

The Afghanis are not guilt-free in this episode. To attack the offices and compound of CARE is self-defeating. If the Afghanis don't recognize that international aid groups have no agenda other than providing the basics for human life then perhaps it's not worth pursuing the more noble goals of those aid organizations.

And if the Taliban was responsible for leading the deadly riot then conceivably it is much stronger and commands much more popular support than anyone expected. That tells a story of a job poorly done and an enemy underestimated.

The unrest started after three U.S. Humvee vehicles coming into the city from the outskirts rammed into a rush-hour traffic jam, hitting several civilian cars, witnesses said.


Afghans often complain about what they call the aggressive driving tactics of the U.S. military. Convoys often pass through crowded areas at high speed and sometimes disregard road rules. The U.S. military says such tactics are necessary to protect the troops from attack.

A rule of peacekeeping: Any one incident can cause the population to take a specific side. Never provide the incident.

The reason the troops are at risk from attack is that the job was not done properly to secure Afghanistan in the first place. Having occupied Afghanistan, it was contingent on the occupying powers, in this case U.S. commanders and the U.S. political leadership, to provide sufficient troops to neutralize any opposition and provide complete security for the population.

Oh yeah... those troops were needed elsewhere.

It looks like purple fingers have taken on the same meaning in any country they show up. A large segment of the population which refuses to be governed.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

We have nothing to fear but Vic Toews creating an atmosphere of fear

Alison has a great post over at Creekside dispatching the false innuendos of Justice Minister Vic Toews who held a "Town Hall meeting" in Calgary last Wednesday. While she quite accurately describes Toews' gathering as a very "Bush" affair, I will add that it was even more Bush because of this:

On Wednesday night in Calgary, Justice Minister Vic Toews insisted all questions be screened in advance during a town hall discussion on the government's get-tough-on-crime bill.
Despite having vetted questions, at least one participant challenged Toews' assertion that, well, it just isn't safe out there anymore.

I'll just run the headers from Statistics Canada, information they get from, uh, the Justice Ministry, where Vic Toews has his office:

Violent crime down but homicide rate up

Robberies with a firearm continue to decline

Property crime resumes downward trend

Drug incidents resume upward trend

Youth crime down
Perhaps Mr. Toews will take the time to explain all that. Then again, I suppose he won't.

Update: Jacob has a terrific post describing Toews' drift into Vancouver where he insulted everyone that wasn't of his warped and quite incorrect point of view. Jacob provides a new list of people and organizations who the Conservatives feel demonstrate bias against them:

The Media
The Bureaucracy
The Judiciary
The United Nations
Statistics Canada
Vancouver Police
Urban Canadians

More update: Get on over to The Woodshed where The Rev adds even more on this. Rev describes exactly what Toews and Harper are actually all about and why their ideas, well, kinda suck.

The indominatable Mrs. Mills

As usual Mrs. Mills steps in with solutions most people couldn't begin to imagine. Innovative, workable and, well, just downright practical.

The question:

Our friend is dating an annoying, self-obsessed slob. He is her first proper boyfriend, and not a good one: he leads her astray and she is beginning to change. How can we make her see the light and dump him?
Mrs. Mills' solution:

One of you could sleep with him while the other presents your friend with the evidence. This usually ends a relationship. If you are squeamish about that course of action, just put it to her bluntly that her boyfriend smells like a tramp’s trousers after a virulent bout of dysentery. But bear in mind: love is not only blind, it has no sense of smell either.
How many of us would have thought of that?

The rest of her column is here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Conservatives Bar Honourary Degree To Zinni

This snuck past me this week.

The Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario had scheduled retired U.S. General Anthony Zinni to receive an honourary degree at their convocation ceremonies which were held on May 19.

Well Stephen Harper's Minister of Defence, Gordon O'Connor didn't like that idea. Or more likely Stephen didn't like the idea and gave Gordie his marching orders but who knows with these Ponoka palookas?

At any rate, on pretty short notice from the looks of it, General Zinni was disinvited. Ostensibly, according to the principal of RMC, because O'Connor thought it might appear that Canada would be seen as taking sides in US domestic issues.


Anyone think O'Connor would have had this problem had RMC chosen to confer an honourary degree on Tommy Franks instead of Zinni?

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Canada is divided into those who knew her and those who wish they did."

Today during an extraordinarily moving, eloquent eulogy for his daughter Dr. Tim Goddard said this: "I would like to think that Nichola died to protect our freedoms, not to restrict them. I cannot support the privacy decision. There was room on the tarmac for a military videographer and a still photographer. They did not intrude on our grief.”

I have neither the patience, the blood pressure nor the intestinal fortitude to venture into the dark demonic side to find what they are saying and whether they're as poisonous as their US counterparts were about similar issues a few years ago but I do make this prediction.

They're writing off what he said because in the categorical blindness of their partisanship they cannot imagine anything but equally blind partisanship inspiring comments critical of the god of their idolatry.

They are thereby forced to insist that Dr. Goddard must be a Liberal and so can be ignored. They have no room left in their consciousness for any other possibility.

Bush's apology - NOT!

Bush and Blair's television appearance yesterday was supposedly intended to provide us all with the appropriate act of contrition from two political leaders who have certain regrets for past actions regarding Iraq and the conduct of what they both see as the Global War on Terrorism

It was supposed to be a public act of penitence from two leaders who have grown wise with age and experience. It was to demonstrate to all of us that, while the decisions they took were based in righteousness, they're both human - and humans make mistakes.

What it was, in fact, was two long spent politicians trying to maintain an air of authority neither one can claim to possess beyond the official job description of their respective appointments.

It was an attempt to provide a public mea culpa while veiling the fact that these two megalomaniacs are personally responsible for one of the worst imperial expeditionary clusterfucks since the 1838 British adventure in Afghanistan and the US war in Vietnam.

Bush, apologizing for the words he used is shallow at best. What wasn't missing was his faux-gunslinger nimbus which has long since become a joke of a trademark characterizing an unsophisticated, witless buffoon who allowed a cabal bent on world domination to lead him around by the nose.

The act is just that - an act. He is the Ted Baxter of a regime which has failed its people, squandered its wealth and generated an atmosphere of fear to camouflage its efforts in advancing global US hegemony.

Blair typically understated his role.

Blair said the leaders did not accurately predict immense challenges such as the strength of the insurgency. "It should have been very obvious to us,"
We are expected to accept that such predictions were made without competent advice. Never mind that Middle East experts and military leaders had been providing that "obvious" information all along. What Blair didn't say is that both he and Bush rejected any suggestion that the vision they had created for themselves was not realistic. They dismissed anyone who did not accede to their predetermined version of events. In the recesses of their brains, their egos led the decision-making process. Any advice that suggested an invasion of Iraq would be followed with a continuing storm of bombs and bullets was replaced by their own mystical image of Iraqis tossing flowers and candy.

These two so-called world leaders having reached the nadir of their political influence are reaching out with inane apologies for inane acts. There is no substance to it. They are still trying to hide from the truth and hide the truth.

Inasmuch as both of these individuals suggest that history will judge them, Bush will easily be remembered as one of the most incompetent leaders of his time, on the scale of Phokas. Blair will melt into obscurity; yet another British leader who, in an attempt to regain the prestige of empire, failed. The difference between this age and the past is that where previous British military and expeditionary failures were laid to rest at the feet of the person on whom the direct success of the mission depended, Blair himself will be singled out as a root cause of the fiasco. His generals and administrators have long since distanced themselves and will become anonymous to history.

It's worth reading Peter Daou's take on the Bush/Blair admissions of error. And don't miss out on the comments where an extended view of the media reaction is highlighted. Crooks and Liars has the video.

There was no act of contrition. It was disingenuous theater worth less than the value of the paper from which the scripted words were read.

The George and Tony Dog n' Pony Show

So I'm scanning through some of the renditions of the joint presser starring the plain talking and likeable George Walker Bush and the clever and witty Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

Along with the much ballyhooed admissions of error and regret from the principal performers there is the plea for more international support for the new government of Iraq.

OK - I support them.

So what?

What the hydra BushBlair creature is really asking for here is more than that kind of mere "support".

They need money, matériel and manpower. In other words - lend us your armies and don't send us the bill.

Now, only a fool would claim that the preferred outcome of this USUK FUBAR for the international community would be allowing Iraq to become a failed state. By the way, USUK is pronounced "you suck".

However it would also take a fool to claim that the current USUK military and diplomatic leadership would be the optimal implementors of any new or creative strategies with greater likelihoods of achieving better outcomes.

So in light of that I think that the international community has a window of opportunity here. Whether the opportunity will be taken up is not my call but here's how I see it.

Increased international support, ie. increased committment of money, matériel or manpower, must be made contingent on various undertakings by the respective governments of the US and UK.

Bush must fire Rumsfeld and Rice and all their neo-conservative assistants and sycophants immediately. The architects of the disaster have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of cleaning up their mess. Decisions as to their replacements must be made in some fashion or other that involves neither Bush nor Cheney. Perhaps a bi-partisan panel of congresspersons chosen at random. However it is done the replacements must not be fellow travellers of the architects.

Blair has to let Goldsmith come clean about his pre-war advice as to the legality of the war. Depending of what Goldsmith delivers Blair then has to submit to the will of Parliament as to whether he remains PM or is arrested and put in the dock in The Hague.

Bush himself must stand before the UN General Assembly, with Cheney asleep in a chair beside him, and explain to the world exactly how the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was exploited by the neo-conservative PNAC crowd. And he must ask for forgiveness.

Then we can talk.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Rusty got ripped off

Canadian Expatriates has a great piece of Canadian nostalgia on what eventually became a Canadian institution - The Friendly Giant.

Bob Homme started his program in Madison, Wisconson in the early 1950s. In the late 1960s the program was cancelled in the US and Homme moved everything to Canada. He continued to entertain kids until 1985 with new programming and well beyond that in syndicated reruns.

I only ever had one question about the Giant.

How come Rusty had to live in that bag with all the furniture?

Two more corporate giants fall. Worse than common thieves.

It is finally in. The verdict on the Enron prosecution. Kenneth Lay, founder of Enron, is guilty of all six charges against him. Jeffrey Skilling, former Enron CEO, is guilty of 19 of 28 counts against him.

Both these former paragons of corporate enterprize are now looking at 25 years in prison.

Lay, 64, and Skilling, 52, face at least 25 years each in prison after being convicted of using off-the-books partnerships to disguise Enron's debts. Skilling faces additional jail time over his conviction for using inside information to sell Enron stock. Lay was also convicted on bank fraud charges after a trial that U.S. District Judge Sim Lake held without a jury while the panel in the main case deliberated.
These guys were considered to be the corporate shining lights in their time. Huge remuneration, obscene stock options and bonuses didn't prevent them from looting the shareholders' investments.

Hopefully this pair will be sent someplace uncomfortable.

Keep your dance cards empty, boys!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Harper and the media. Bush and the media. Same story - different turf.

Remember this from the Washington Post, October 14, 2003?

The Bush administration, displeased with the news coverage of the war in Iraq, has accelerated efforts to bypass the national media by telling the administration's story directly to the American public.

Yesterday, Bush granted exclusive interviews to five regional broadcasting companies -- an unprecedented effort to reach news organizations that do not regularly cover the White House.

Now take a look at this from today.

He told a London, Ont., TV station Wednesday that he is having problems with the media that a Liberal prime minister would never have to face.

So Harper says he will take his message out on the road and deal with the less hostile local media.

Whiney-ass titty-baby. When the pouting starts, he takes a move right out of The Decider's playbook.

Check out liberal catnip for more.

Neo-Cons planted the Iran story

In looking for the possible retraction by Amir Taheri, the author of the National Post story which clearly stated that Iranian religious minorities would be required to wear zonnars, or color-coded badges, I shouldn't have been surprized to discover that Taheri is part of an exclusive group of neo-cons responsible for past propaganda and mis-information campaigns.

Taheri's story has been debunked, yet in his press release of 22 May, he stands by his contention even though he has dubious or unattributable sources. Curiously, it is also an obvious attempt to mollify an editor for producing a story so widely off-the-mark as to embarrass the National Post. But the most interesting part of the release is not in the words but the organization from which it originates.

Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates, outwardly a New York based publicity firm which is, in fact, a neo-con think-tank, speakers bureau and a notorious ultra-right-wing propaganda organ with clear links to the Project for the New American Century.

Benador Associates, founded by Peruvian-born Eleana Benador, advertises a list of members that reads like the who's who of neo-con ideology: James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, Michael A. Ledeen; a key figure in Iran-Contra among other shady involvements; Richard Perle, dubbed "The Prince of Darkness" while serving in the Pentagon and, along with Ledeen, considered one of the architects of the US invasion of Iraq; and Richard Pipes, a former anti-Soviet crusader who brought Paul Wolfowitz into the neo-con fold and has handed over his virulent interventionist activism to his son, Daniel Pipes.

Taheri falls in with a specially identified few on the "A list" of speakers and writers from Benador separated by a comma from Richard Perle and amongst a short list of public figures who advocate immediate military action against Iran. Benador herself comes with a credential which cements her neo-con relationship, having founded Benador Associates after serving as director for Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum, a hardline anti-Arab think-tank and foreign policy group.

Daniel Pipes, a signatory of PNAC, was more than a little vocal in his demand for the overthrow of mideast governments before 9/11. It has been said that if he had been heeded 9/11 would never have happened, but the US would have been at war with the entire Arab world.

Benador, established in early 2001, also represents Khidhir Hamza, an Iraqi nuclear scientist who, in a 2000 book, Saddam's Bombmaker, stated that Saddam had nuclear weapons. Benador circulated Hamza until he was challenged on his claim when he admitted that Saddam did not have a nuclear bomb.

Benador was also heavily involved in arranging speaking engagements, media appearances and newspaper articles promoting the 10 Downing Street "dossier" entitled "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception, and Intimidation", a 16 page document which turned out to be a verbatim plagiarization of articles written by Ibrahim al-Marashi and Robert Rabil in 2002. Those articles had appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs, a publication soley owned by Dr. Barry Rubin, an American-born Israeli citizen. Rubin was one of Benador's speakers promoting war with Iraq.

At this point it is worth asking, why the selection of Canada's National Post to plant a deliberately misleading article intended to discredit Iran?

There are several reasons, but primary among them is the knowledge that the National Post has past affiliations with some of the same people in Benador's stable, most notably Richard Perle. Perle, a former co-chair of Hollinger International Inc. (Conrad Black's former company), had used the National Post from his Benador position, along with other Hollinger publications, in the run up to the invasion of Iraq to propagandize the evils of Saddam Hussein. The National Post, already a right-wing publication and controlled by the Israeli-friendly Asper brothers was more likely to view an article discrediting Iran in a favorable light. Amir Taheri has a history of publishing in the National Post's pages and is considered by that journal to be an expert.

What would not have worked would have been publishing the article initially in the Chicago Sun-Times or the Jerusalem Post. Benador and Taheri would have been acutely aware that any such article originating in the US or Israel would raise immediate suspicion.

Publishing in a Canadian newspaper also brought with it some air of respectability. Most people outside Canada are unaware that Canadian media ownership has undergone the same convergence and mass-market ownership as the US. The article therefore, would appear to have some credence if only because it came from a large Canadian publication operating in an unrestricted political environment with an assumed high level of editorial credibility.

The path of least resistance for such a story is the Asper brothers' CanWest-Global Communications Corp, owners of the National Post. CanWest-Global owns 50 percent of the Jerusalem Post plus media outlets in Australasia, Europe and Turkey. The mix of Canadian newspaper, Iranian ex-pat journalist (who lives in Europe) and outrageous legislation would be attractive to news outlets along the CanWest News Service wireline plus those who would acquire the story after publication.

In short, it was a neo-con's wet dream. It was a bonus that Canada's Stephen Harper decided to comment on the similarities of the legislation as reported by Taheri as something akin to Nazi Germany.

Except that Taheri's story was based not on the actual Iranian legislation but on unattributable and unverifiable sources. The convenience of confidential sources inside the Iranian government covered the fact that, without evidence to the contrary, Taheri's article remains a gross exaggeration written by a person who's overwhelming desire to see a complete regime change in Iran and whose affiliation is with the same group who lied to sell an invasion of Iraq colors his view.

Newspapers and media outlets around the world picked up the story and ran with it. To them, the research and verification had been done. They attributed the story to the National Post assuming that paper's editors had done due diligence.

What should have been evident to most other outlets was the lack of official information. Most countries would have intelligence at some level, particularly if there was to be marginalization of religious groups and particularly if any law was even close to resembling the acts of Nazi Germany. And it wouldn't have been difficult to find. It would be regarded as open source intelligence. There was none.

By the time newspapers in New York were carrying the story, Stephen Harper's comments were now a part of it, lending even more credence to its veracity.

So was it a deliberate neo-con plant?

You bet it was. It had one purpose: spread a rumor. Take a law, which is bad enough in its own right, and Hitlerize it. Get the world on side.

Too bad it backfired.

And what of the National Post? What does that make them?

How about a whore? If the National Post was an unbiased news organ and less inclined to unquestioningly sweep up anything with a right-wing bent, this story would never have been published. Instead, they have colluded with and been abused by their neo-con buddies, first with Iraq and now with Iran. If the National Post has lost credibility with this story, they have gotten exactly what they deserve.

And the story? An intentionally planted piece of mis-information from the neo-con propaganda machine.

And I will retract that if anyone can provide me incontrovertible proof to the contrary.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Have Seen The Future

Wanna see the future? Here it is. That's a link to the Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

There's more at Daily Kos here.

As the US spends it's military might on juvenile obsessions, it's economic power is in the pockets of the member nations of this organization.

I make no comment on the policies of the Harperites. What would be the point? Not a one of them gives a flying fig about anything other than sucking George Bush's earlobe.

They've got it all...

Your email, your instant messages, your websites visited, your online credit card transactions and your Voice Over Internet Protocol phone traffic. They have all of it.


This outfit, that's who. From Wired News Robert Poe comes this report on the NSA's illegal wiretap program and the AT&T involvement. But it is the presence of Narus that should be the most unnerving.

"Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record," says Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California, company. "We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their (voice over internet protocol) calls."
And don't even think you can encrypt your traffic. The Narus Semantic Traffic Analyzer is capable of seven layer penetration.

All of this came to light when former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, blew the whistle on AT&T's involvement in domestic wiretapping. Wired News also has that information including the raw evidence provided by Klein, including graphics and pictures.

If there was any question about the ethics of Narus, consider that the software they launched publicly in 2005 was already installed in AT&T's secret rooms. Narus claims they do nothing illegal, and from the looks of it, they don't. But they neither care nor care to know if their customers are engaged in illegal activity.

"Our product is designed to comply (with) all of the laws in all of the countries we ship to," says Bannerman. "Many of our customers have built their own applications. We have no idea what they do."
Of course, Narus offers its customers software development packages. A client can do their own thing.

Does Narus know if the client is required to get a warrant? Yes sometimes.

Narus has little control over how its products are used after they're sold. For example, although its lawful-intercept application has a sophisticated system for making sure the surveillance complies with the terms of a warrant, it's up to the operator whether to type those terms into the system, says Bannerman.
Once the money has changed hands, that's it. And Big Brother is handed a weapon... which can be used illegally. It's the same ethic employed by Colt.

In a totally unrelated story, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says the government has the authority to prosecute journalists, depending on how you read some selected statutes and if you ignore the 1st Amendment completely. The only thing interesting about that is the timing. It's one of those coincidence things.

Given that the United States has the largest documented prison population in the world in both absolute and proportional terms, (2.03 million prisoners @ 701 per 100,000) adding a few journalists to a US growth industry will hardly be noticed.

Maybe start with this piece of detritus.

Monday, May 22, 2006

My Country Now

I'm trying very hard to believe that Canada's supposed leadership of the NATO forces in Afghanistan is still something of which we ought to be boast or even believe. Because if the Canadian command structure is involved in any way, any way whatsoever, in bringing down a midnight air raid by the US Air Force on an Afghan village then Hillier's words about protecting the weak and vulnerable are as empty as Stephen Harper's eyes.

Juxtapose that with CNN's story about Canada's sabotage of the Kyoto Accord and one begins to wonder what country we live in now.

If - I say again if - Canadian leadership of the forces deployed in Kandahar province remained silent and compliant in the face of or following this US midnight strike then my continuing support for the Afghanistan mission comes into sharp question. If Canadian forces are revealed to have called it in - my support is vapourized along with the civilian Afghan lives destroyed.

If - I say again if - Canada is joining the US and Australia in actively sabotaging the only major international agreement that even makes an attempt, as difficult as it may be, at addressing global warming then any leeway I might have been willing to grant the Harperites is toast and they didn't have a lot from me to begin with.

As to the first point - if Canadian commanders called it in or condoned it through silence then I make the prediction here that it's only a matter of time till we find out that Canadian forces have been involved in atrocities like this weekends revelation of US Marines and the "Haditha massacre". We will one day be privileged to read a Canadian soldiers version of the recent testimony by a US soldier of the technique of questioning Iraqi civilian families that involved shooting children in the head until the father answered questions.

My faith in the passivity of Canadian media culture almost guarantees that we will one day have that indescribable pleasure.

My cynicism about the smug superiority of the Canadian population almost guarantees that we'll have to endure it more than once.

Danger: Unexploded spud

It ain't over 'til the last bomb's rendered safe. A McCain's french fry factory in Britain recently got a taste of World War I.

Workers at a Canadian-owned french fries factory in northern England had to be evacuated on two consecutive days last week when armaments dating to the First World War were discovered in batches of imported European potatoes, the company said Monday.

McCain Foods - the world's largest producer of frozen french fries - said employees at its plant in Scarborough, 400 kilometres north of London, discovered a suspected hand grenade on Saturday, a day after a shell tip was found among a batch of potatoes.

On both occasions, police and bomb squad officials set up a 100-metre exclusion zone and the devices were detonated in controlled explosions, a statement from the company said.

"There was no danger to the general public on either days," it added.
Would you like that super-sized?

Can we get through this one without a bloodbath?

Montenegro, a part of the former Yugoslavia which has had a rather odd sovereignty association with Serbia appears to have voted to secede and become an independent nation. From the Guardian:

In a referendum that attracted a turnout of almost 90%, much higher than at any election since democracy arrived in 1990, voters decided by a majority of 56% to 44% to opt for independence rather than a creaking dysfunctional union with Serbia, according to a projection by an independent monitoring organisation last night.

The Centre for Monitoring estimated the vote for independence at 56.3%. The separatist camp of the country's prime minister and former president, Milo Djukanovic, instantly started celebrating with fireworks and gunfire on the streets of Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, leading to warnings from the opposition pro-Serbia unionist side. The verbal clashes suggested that more serious trouble might be brewing.

As pointed out in the Guardian, Serbia outnumbers Montenegro in population by about 9 to 1. The union itself was always untenable and the Montenegrins had been pursuing independence from the time the former Yugoslavia started to break up.

Unfortunately Montenegro, at least an independent Montenegro, is a very small country and economically challenged. The union with Serbia came three years ago when the European Union imposed it on Montenegro for both political and economic reasons.

Controversial terms set for the referendum by Brussels meant that the independence-seekers had to take 55% of the vote for the outcome to be recognised by the EU. The vote was heavily monitored by international observers, making ballot-rigging less likely. But Mr Bulatovic complained: "Such a crucial decision [independence] must not be carried out by a trick." He demanded that the government call off victory celebrations.
Given that over 56% appear to have voted in favour of independence the clear majority is there with some room to spare. Predrag Bulatovic, leader of the Montenegrin Socialist People's Party and the pro-Serbia-union bloc is disputing the initial outcome and has claimed that bribery and fixing occurred during the referendum campaign.

The official results are expected today. If, as expected, the prediction is confirmed, it will establish a new small state in the Balkans and leave a shrunken Serbia nursing intense grievances from 15 years of Yugoslav disintegration. But while the margin of victory appeared solid, the projection was close enough to the threshold set by the EU to make a dispute over the outcome almost inevitable.

The leader of the pro-Serbia unionist side, Predrag Bulatovic, refused to concede defeat and talked of "destabilisation" and "tricks." Tensions have been running high in the small highland republic between independence-seekers and the pro-Serbia unionist camp, although there were high hopes that the separation of Montenegro from the rump Yugoslavia could turn out to be a peaceful, if fraught, process, in contrast to the bloodshed which accompanied the independence campaigns of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo in the wars of the 1990s.
Bulatovic has a history worth noting. He was a supporter of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and opposed his extradition to the Hague to stand trial for war crimes.

It will be interesting to watch what happens now. Montenegro was thrust into Yugoslavia by the Great Powers after the 1914-1918 Great War. The small country has been reliant on others for protection and economic assistance since the time of the Hapsburg Empire.

Fully one-third of Montenegrins are unemployed and those with work are earning an average of 120 - 150 Euros per month. Given that, Montenegrins clearly believe they have little to gain by continuing a union with Serbia.

Serbia, on the other hand, has had its territory chipped away continuously. The Serbian government had pulled out all the stops in an attempt to sway the referendum result in favour of a continued and stronger union.

Now, it all depends on Serbia. And Serbia has erupted into violence each time they have lost another state to independence.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Good News!

I thought I'd take a few runs around the web and see what the good news was.

After a series of disappointing google searches I came back to my senses.

There is no good news. Even the good news network website, professionally and constitutionally dedicated as they are, mostly ends up focusing on the good historical news for today's date.

So it's uniformly bad news, worse news and catastrophic news.

Hurricane season begins in 10 days.

Rove hasn't been indicted.

Gonzales is going after journalists irrespective of what the quaint old US constitution says. Of course Congress isn't doing it - the Executive Branch is, so that's OK.

Harper is drinking the kool-aid in public now. And being praised for it by his sycophants.

Ambrose is single handedly demonstrating to the international community that Canada is now firmly in the camp of the US and will not be moved. Plus, Harper has made it pretty clear that we're on board for the new thrill ride in Iran should construction get under way.

Won't it be different, though, to be thought of as a bellicose nation?

Oh, right, I forgot - the geo-magnetic poles are probably in the process of beginning a reversal.

But I'm all right, Jack.

Give it to Harper. He'll eat anything!

We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country--its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

The National Post story on Iran introducing legislation which would have minority groups wear colour-coded clothing has died on the pages of that journal. The internet version has been removed lest we who wouldn't line a birdcage with Conrad Black's printed copy should wish to hold out to his Lordship the kind of stercus his star production issues forth. If you haven't followed the saga, down to the flaccid "retractions" from some quarters, I highly recommend you go here.

Juan Cole picked-up on the point that this whole thing looks like a psycological warfare stunt and Panglossian Notes observes that it is Canada's own little swiftboat operation and that Stephen Harper, in an attempt to appear tough and decisive, opened his mouth too much and too wide.

But, that is the real Stephen Harper.

Harper has an entire communications staff, purpose selected to prevent gaffes. He has undergone tutoring in media relations. He has been handled, trained and reminded to stay on message. The result is that if you asked the colour of his shoelaces you'll get a mass-produced, cult-like answer about his five key principles.

Harper would have you believe he is fully covered on all issues. And if you believed that you'd be wrong. Harper has some buttons exposed and all you have to do is push them. The biggest one is labelled "tough talking US ally". He can't resist appearing to be a tough guy.

Adept politicians when faced with a contentious issue, such as being questioned about odious legislation in foreign countries are cautious about commenting. Without solid information most would withold any statement pending further, substantive information. And given that situation, speculation beyond if it's true it's not good, is both dangerous and irresponsible.

Harper flew his true colours over the false story produced by the National Post. He bit. When initially questioned he said he couldn't vouch for the accuracy of the report. If he had ended it right there and stated that he would be receiving reports from government authorities before making any further comment, that would have put him in a position of control. But instead, he kept on talking and made it clear that he believed what the National Post had written:

"Unfortunately, we've seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action," Harper said.

"We've seen a number of things from the Iranian regime that are along these lines . . .

"It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany."
He then went on to say:

the report [is] a reminder that the international community must prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.
Which is to say he believed the report and was quite prepared to provide a knee-jerk response.

His communications advisors, if they're any good at their jobs, must have been chewing their tails. Harper, with no substantive evidence of the report's accuracy made a combative comment about the regime of a country he knows little about and then compared them to Nazi Germany. And then he kept it up by providing a statement that was in lock-step with the position of George W. Bush.

It was the performance of a rank amateur. A man who was unable to hold back when given the opportunity to present his "tough guy" theatrics in the presence of a visiting Australian prime minister John Howard.

This is not new. This is the real Stephen Harper.

In the March 25th, 2002 edition of Report Newsmagazine, as Bush was manufacturing a case to invade Iraq and was either cherry-picking or inventing false intelligence, Harper said this:

I don't know all the facts on Iraq, but I think we should work closely with the Americans.
Indeed he didn't know all the facts. Yet, without qualification or reservation, he was prepared to hitch his wagon to George Bush's star. No need for facts, just an uninformed knee-jerk reaction.

On January 29th, 2003, as it became obvious the Canadian government would not commit to the US invasion of Iraq, Harper stood up in Parliament and said:

In my judgment Canada will eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass. The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade.
On April 2nd, 2003 in an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Harper said this, after calling then defence minister David McCallum an idiot:

It was probably not an appropriate term, but we support the war effort and believe we should be supporting our troops and our allies and be there with them doing everything necessary to win.
He took that position with no more information than any reader of a daily newspaper. He had no insight except for that which had been provided publicly by the Bush administration. He was not only proven wrong, but he had to retract his position when he found himself on the government side of the House of Commons.

But the actual piece-de-resistance had come six days earlier when Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day co-wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal condemning the duly elected Canadian government for not going to war with Iraq alongside the Bush administration.

The Canadian Alliance -- the official opposition in parliament -- supports the American and British position because we share their concerns, their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended to, and their fundamental vision of civilization and human values. Disarming Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the world, and for the collective interests of our key historic allies and therefore manifestly in the national interest of Canada.


These values continue to be embodied in our allies and their leaders, and scorned by the forces of evil, including Saddam Hussein and the perpetrators of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Harper had bought the Bushco line that Iraq was a viable military threat, with no more information than that held by a bus-rider in Toronto. He also repeated the totally debunked Bush administration linkage of Saddam to the September 11th, 2001 attacks. No thinking politician would do that. Even Tony Blair was careful to avoid such a linkage because above all, it simply wasn't true.

Harper's letter to the WSJ underscored a point. Harper was a shallow thinker, was possessed of an extremely short temper and held Parliament, of which he was a member, in contempt while openly admiring the administration of the US president. It demonstrated another point: a letter published in a US newspaper for a US audience, literally condemning the people of Canada was utterly petulant - a temper tantrum from a spoiled brat who didn't get his way.

So, Harper's recent display of short-thought, long-mouth over Iran, where he would undoubtedly have suffered at least a small amount of embarrassment for inappropriate language is nothing new. Harper is no statesman. He is a diplomatic dilettante.

The media, considering the treatment they have received from Harper and his sycophants, should keep their eye on this important vulnerability and run with it whenever he leaves himself so exposed.

What Harper has proven is that he's no leader. Anyone gullible enough to swallow raw BS, whether from a Conrad Black journal or George Bush's falsified intelligence doesn't have what it takes to run a dog pound, much less a country.

And the "tough guy" act won't go as far as he thinks.

Clarity: Just to point out that the National Post is owned by Canwest-Global which is controlled by the Asper family in Winnipeg. While Conrad Black no longer owns it, little has changed since he sold it. Apologies if I created confusion.

Mrs. Mills calls in the pinch hitter

So, gentlemen...concerned that you're getting neither sex nor a clean house? You're not alone. And our quick-on-the-draw Mrs. Mills has just the answer for you.


I read an article about how women prefer housework to making love. What can I do — my wife doesn’t like either of them?

JR, by e-mail

Mrs. Mills' Response:

An enthusiasm for housework can be stimulated by buying exciting new machines (vacuum cleaners, feather dusters, high-tech ironing boards). If that fails, you can always employ someone to come in and do it for you. Apparently, the same approach works for reinvigorating one’s sex life. Let us know how you get on.

P.S. I've heard that a washing machine with a zippy spin cycle can often be a worthwhile dual-purpose investment.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

We are pleased to serve you in the language of our choice.

It would surprize most people to learn that the United States, as a nation, has no official language. Although English is the de facto language of the US, and despite George Bush's insistence that immigrants to the US learn English, there is no enacted legislation past or present which specifies any official language in the greater United States. Official languages have always been the domain of individual states and territories.

Until Senator James Inhofe, a deranged asshole from Oklahoma, tacked an amendment onto the Immigration Reform Bill that would make English the official national language of the United States at the exclusion of all others.

From the New York Times: (registration required)

The immigration debate in Congress has hit several low points of mean-spirited dimness, and could go lower still, but on Thursday it came pretty close to rock bottom. By a vote of 63 to 34, the Senate tacked onto its immigration bill an amendment from Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma that declares English to be "the national language of the United States." If you thought otherwise, or weren't sure, well, now you know: We speak English here. None of that "Oprima número dos."

What Inhofe failed to recognize is that among the various American states and territories there are already several official languages other than English and some take precedence.

Louisiana - English and French
Hawaii - Hawaiian English and Hawaiian (bookem Dano)
Puerto Rico - Spanish and English
Guam - Chammoro and English
American Samoa - Samoan and English
North Marianas Islands - English, Chammoro and Carolinian

Not to mention the plethora of native american languages that have official status in tribal governments across the US.

If Inhofe's amendment wasn't odious enough, he went further by telling the world that, if his legislation passed, nobody could converse with the United States government in any language but English.

"Unless otherwise authorized or provided by law," the Inhofe amendment says, "no person has a right, entitlement or claim to have the government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English."
All over the world the word moron is being spoken in a hundred different languages.

John Derbyshire oinks again

NRO Conservative columnist John Derbyshire has blessed us all with an apology.

Now don't jump off the train expecting this consumate male pig to apologize for being, well, y'know, a pig. No, no. He's apologizing because he couldn't be a pig. He had to (shudder) listen to a woman tell him his son was involved in an "incident". (Allegedly fighting).

The kid apparently learns his behaviour at home.

I have to go to my son's school to talk to the Dean about an "incident." Apparently Danny's been fighting. My immediate thought on that was: "Great! Has he been WINNING?" But of course that is "inappropriate" in the girlified public-school systems of today. The kiddies are supposed to "work out" their "issues."

I'd like to "work out" my "issues" with the school Dean the old-fashioned way. Unfortunately, it's a woman, so I have to sit there like a good, cowed, law-abiding, middle-class American doofus and listen to how unnacceptably boyish my boy is. I hate the modern world.
We have been terribly deprived.

It would have been pure justice if Derbyshire had just done what he really wanted and then have a woman beat a tattoo on his forehead. But, I wonder, if the Dean had been a male would Derbyshire really have resorted to the old-fashioned way? People who mouth it up about how they would simply resort to a good old-fashioned beating normally couldn't muster the internal fortitude to make a fist.

Of course we're more accustomed to this type of product in Derbyshire's columns:

Did I buy, or browse, a copy of the November 17 GQ, in order to get a look at Jennifer Aniston's bristols?** No, I didn't. While I have no doubt that Ms. Aniston is a paragon of charm, wit, and intelligence, she is also 36 years old. Even with the strenuous body-hardening exercise routines now compulsory for movie stars, at age 36 the forces of nature have won out over the view-worthiness of the unsupported female bust.

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20.
It would seem that Derbyshire, in his 40s, is telling us that not only does he hate the modern world, but the only female bodies he finds attractive are legally protected from him.

I have often wondered why the NRO keeps Derbyshire around. Lately, I have been wondering why he's allowed to consume perfectly good air.

At least he kept the Shakespearian references out of his latest column.... unless that's what he meant by old-fashioned.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Liberal leadership candidates and the Afghanistan vote.

If anybody is interested, the Toronto Star has a rundown of the Liberal leadership hopefuls' votes or stances on General Harper's snap vote on extending the Afghan mission by two years:

Scott Brison and Michael Ignatieff, two of the eight MPs who are candidates for the Liberal leadership, voted to extend the mission. The other six — Ken Dryden, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Stéphane Dion, Hedy Fry, Joe Volpe and Carolyn Bennett — voted against.

Earlier last night, former Ontario premier Bob Rae and former Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy, who are also running for the Liberal leadership, told Canadian Press they'd have opposed the motion if they could have voted on it.

Interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham voted for the motion. Former prime minister Paul Martin was absent.

At the going down of the Sun, and in the morning...

With respect and condolences to the family and friends of Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Failure of command. Prosecute the corporal.

Reader CdnDiv aimed me at this article by Michael Friscolanti in Macleans a couple of days ago. It is the story of Canadian snipers in Afghanistan and how they went from relative heros to goats based on allegations and innuendo that at least one of them had desecrated the corpse of one of their targets.

The fact that Canadian army snipers in Afghanistan had accomplished outstanding feats of marksmanship and stamina during the 2002 campaign, including a world-record long shot, soon fell to a CF National Investigative Service investigation which would delay recognition and fail to provide evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Canadian troops.

Friscolanti's article is well worth reading, and while it is the reason for this post, it is not necessarily the primary focus.

I have had my ass saved by a sniper. My small unit was unaware of an approaching enemy force when, from 400 yards to our rear, a single shot took out their leader. It gave us time to reposition and eventually kill or capture that force. I know all of that sounds very un-Canadian. It isn't, but if it eases the sensibility of some, it was a British unit.

After the action we conducted the necessary patrols and encountered the sniper team which had started the ambush. As good as my team was, the snipers were better at concealment. They held off challenging a two man approach until after they were past. We secured the area and I had a conversation with them. When I thanked them for the initial shot, they both just shrugged and said little more. They were curious as to whether we had taken any casualties. Aware that we had routed the enemy force, they had no interest in how many we had killed.

And whether we like it or not, that is what snipers are all about. Snipers do not fire warning shots. The sole function of a sniper is to identify and kill a target, almost always on direction from a higher authority. They are a specific weapon assigned to a battlefield commander and while free-lancing is not unheard of, it rarely occurs. I have never met a sniper who boasted outside their own team of shots taken or numbers they have dispatched. It is a personal score and while they may take personal pride in their work, there is a huge price to pay.

Most people do not understand what killing other human beings, even in combat, does to a person. Just accept that it changes everyone who does it. The effect on a sniper, where the killing is planned, deliberate, remorseless and often isolated, has even a greater negative effect on the human psyche. Almost all who have had to do their job on the battlefield suffer from some form of post traumatic stress disorder.

Given all that, snipers, because of the nature of the job and the intense inner secrecy of their feelings do not leave a calling card on their victims. The job requires that they take their shot and then melt into the environment. The best effect of a sniper on the enemy is that he is not seen prior to, during or after the shot. The message to all others is the shot itself.

It was for that reason that the CFNIS investigation and the subsequent board of inquiry conducted by the army left me questioning the sanity of those with command authority.

There is little doubt that Corporal Aaron Perry was a problem in his battalion. He was an insubordinate sonofabitch. His fellow team members, although much less inclined to buck authority, were also subjects of the investigation. In the end however, no evidence was found to support any charge of any kind. And believe me, if there had been any, Perry in particular would have faced a court-martial.

The CFNIS is made up of military policemen. Before I go too much further, I will explain that they have a job to do and it isn't easy. However, they are often over-zealous and they rarely understand the assignment of the people they are investigating. All too often in the Canadian Forces, just being the subject of a NIS or military police investigation is enough to ruin one's career or worse, permanently destroy an individual.

In consultation with the Judge Advocate General's office, investigations are carried out in the same format as those carried out by civilian police authorities. And the military careers of both the military policeman and JAG prosecutor depend on "getting" people. Despite high minded mottos, lofty ethics statements and published visions, both NIS and JAG members engage their roles with career objectives very much on their minds.

In the case of the snipers reported in the Macleans article, the pressure applied by NIS was relentless. It was also fruitless. Even an unrelated charge against Perry was dropped, simply because it should never have been laid in the first place. (He was accused of mouthing-off to a chaplain. In that a chaplain, when talking to an individual holds the same rank as that individual at that moment, it is impossible to be insubordinate.) NIS produced nothing, JAG was left with a blank page and the matter should have been dropped.

Then, having been robbed of the opportunity for blood by the military justice system, the command authorities went the next best route - a board of inquiry into Perry's character. The soldiers of 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry were already grumbling that the NIS investigation of the snipers was a sham. When the board of inquiry was convened they knew it was a witch-hunt.

While I know few details of the snipers' case, I have had close involvement with both NIS and JAG. My suspicion comes from the past behaviour of these two groups and their willingness to pursue subjects long after it has become clear that there is no case. They are also not beyond "inventing" evidence and suborning testimony. That they found nothing which could be used against the snipers, particularly Perry, strongly suggests nothing existed.

What is missing from the Macleans article, however, is a look at how the leadership failed. While it is paramount that a soldier take responsibility for his/her own actions, it does not diminish the fact that the senior leadership of the snipers' unit was sorely lacking.

If Cpl Perry was a disciplinary problem throughout his career it was contingent upon his leaders to restrict his advancement until that problem was dealt with. If his character was a problem before he applied for training as a sniper then his request should have been turned down. And if the army is still so politically charged as to find itself unable to demonstrate proper loyalty to its troops then it's time the senior commanders were taken to task for their unacceptable leadership.

To convene a board of inquiry into people's character after they have been exonerated by the military justice system and after having performed one of the most vile jobs on earth is a demonstration of poor judgment at the command level. Perry and his compatriots, whatever their faults, were products of the CF's making. It is the responsibility of their leaders to deal with them properly - not just write them off and engage in the 30 year-old CF habit of making war on its own troops when someone expected to be a stone-killer doesn't act like boy scout.

It's time the careerist officer corps of the Canadian Forces was cleaned out. Perhaps then, more of them would start paying proper attention to their most important resource - their troops.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Eliminate All Controls On Gun Ownership

Got your attention didn't I?

But seriously ... why not?

We're a responsible, serious people. Surely we've demonstrated that time and again over the years. Aren't we the peacemakers, the mediators, the just society, the great example of the virtues of a stable civil society?

Why shouldn't we also be armed?

Look south to our great friend and neighbour. Gun ownership and use of same has contributed mightily to making them the great nation they are. All those enviable freedoms were earned at the barrel of a gun and are maintained that way too.

Imagine how great Britain could be or France or Germany if they too just accepted reality and let everybody have whatever gun they could pick up most cheaply at the corner store. And ammunition of course, can't forget ammunition.

And really who cares what law enforcement people say?

They want us all to be as docile and controllable as they can get us anyway.

I say scrap the gun registry altogether and put guns and ammunition in Superstore and Sears.

Besides, the way things are going the kids might all need some before their middle years are upon them and they should learn about them from their parents. Just like they learn everything else from their parents.


So much for the public appointments commission

Stephen Harper just had Gwyn Morgan stuffed up his nose:

Gwyn Morgan, the former president and CEO of energy company EnCana Corp., had been appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to head the new public appointments commission. But Morgan was rejected in a 6-5 vote by the Commons government operations committee on a motion sponsored by NDP MP Peggy Nash.

Nash said she considered Morgan unsuitable because of recent remarks he made about immigrants.

Morgan raised eyebrows in a Feb. 22 speech in Toronto when he questioned the wisdom of multiculturalism, saying it could divide Canadians rather than unite them. Last year, Morgan linked Canada's gang-violence problem to immigration from places such as Jamaica and Indochina, "where culture is dominated by violence and lawlessness."
Not that Morgan is a Conservative party hack, or anything like that.

"What we had was a kangaroo court, where the decision was predetermined and where the reputation of Canada's top business leader was run into the gutter for short-term political reasons," Kenney said.
From the mouth of a bigoted swine. One thing Jason Kenney can speak of with authority is the view from the gutter. Just so Kenney has this straight, what we had was not a kangaroo court - it was a democratic process. How inconvenient for him.

Harper could have put Morgan into the job unilaterally but decided to withdraw him from consideration, a move that effectively kills the commission.

The appointments commission was to have developed guidelines and overseen the selection process for appointments to agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations.
Oh please, don't quit now. Name somebody else.

The US war on blueberry pickers

I missed George W. Bush's speech last night. I was waiting for it and it never came on. It makes me wonder if the Comedy Channel on satellite radio is really worth the cost.

Bush had a chance last night. A slim one, mind you, but he had a chance. He could have poked his Republican congress with a stick and moved US immigration in a positive direction. Instead, he caved.

We must begin by recognizing the problems with our immigration system. For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders. As a result, many who want to work in our economy have been able to sneak across our border, and millions have stayed.
The Lakota, the Delaware and the Shoshone can probably relate to that.

We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time.
Unless you're the preznit. Then there are no laws. Just stuff for other peeple.

First, the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration, and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.
Whoa there, buckwheat! You're just getting around to that now?! Try to think now, on the day you were engrossed in The Pet Goat a sudden problem arose. For what it's worth, shouldn't border security have been refined then? That was five years ago. Helluva photo op! Kids, goat story, New York city being attacked. But it's good that you're finally addressing the problem and demonstrating how complex it really is. By the way, you left out stray cows. If you're going to do motherhood issues, you should appeal to the animal watchers.

I was a governor of a state that has a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. So I know how difficult it is to enforce the border, and how important it is. Since I became President, we've increased funding for border security by 66 percent, and expanded the Border Patrol from about 9,000 to 12,000 agents. The men and women of our Border Patrol are doing a fine job in difficult circumstances, and over the past five years, they have apprehended and sent home about six million people entering America illegally.
How's that working for you?

Despite this progress, we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that.
Oh... not good.

By the end of 2008, we'll increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000. When these new agents are deployed, we'll have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol during my presidency.
Not to mention having started a war, getting 35,000 people you don't even know killed and 2400 of your own citizens slaughtered after you sent them across a border without checking in at customs and immigration. Of course there's the great job of looking after all those citizens on the southern Mississippi river delta. Oh yeah... that part of your speech is where you put in, "Bring 'em on!"

At the same time, we're launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We'll employ motion sensors, infrared cameras, and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings. America has the best technology in the world, and we will ensure that the Border Patrol has the technology they need to do their job and secure our border.
You left out the internet cafe and the laundromat. How much of this is going to be "outsourced"? Sounds expensive. Wow! I wrote that and Halliburton immediately popped into my head.

One way to help during this transition is to use the National Guard. So, in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be deployed to our southern border.
These must be similar to Walmart greeters. When is somebody going to admit that joining the National Guard for that one weekend a month and two weeks training is actually a full-time, life-long period of voluntary penal servitude with less benefits than the person who actually joined for an active duty hitch? I suppose at least the troops going to the Mexican border can be thankful they're not going to Iraq... yet.

Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples.
Yeah! Look at you! Start out a New Englander and come out a Texan, complete with the boots, belt buckle and accent.

The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate and advance in our society, they realize their dreams, they renew our spirit, and they add to the unity of America.
Is that the part where the National Guard comes in?

On a visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Laura and I met a wounded Marine named Guadalupe Denogean. Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy. He spent his summers picking crops with his family, and then he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps as soon as he was able. During the liberation of Iraq, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean was seriously injured. And when asked if he had any requests, he made two: a promotion for the corporal who helped rescue him, and the chance to become an American citizen. And when this brave Marine raised his right hand, and swore an oath to become a citizen of the country he had defended for more than 26 years, I was honored to stand at his side.
Ah yes. The touching story and the personal involvement. And it has that Bush touch. War, a marine, seriously wounded (injured, George, is what happened when you dabbled in the military. Wounded is what happens when people get involved with bullets and bombs.) Must have been a great photo op.

And then there's this plan (courtesy of BBC).
Seems a bit over the top to me. I don't know why you don't just do this? That way, you can spare the troops and you'll know when people are crossing the border with each explosion.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A low-tax strawman.

There's nothing more amazing to me than the anti-tax movement in the States. One of its warriors, John McIntyre, railing against higher U.S. taxes on the RealClearPolitics blog today, says:

Why have the U.S. and Britain shown tremendous growth since Reagan and Thatcher while Continental Europe with their pseudo-socialism putters along with chronic double-digit unemployment? Go around the world these last 25 years and compare nations with high tax rates to countries with low tax rates, you'll find a pattern.

Absolutely you will. There is such thing as the equity-efficiency tradeoff, and it's at the heart of the democratic economic decision. I believe that Sweden pays for the high rate of social insurance it provides its citizens with some measure of long-run growth and economic dynamism. Making that tradeoff between growth and publicly guaranteed economic equality is something that majorities in Sweden have traditionally accepted and that majorities of Americans have rejected.

To further underscore McIntyre's point, from the Fraser Institute's latest TaxFacts, here are the major Western countries ranked by the share of their GDP that goes to taxes. With the possible exception of Mexico, the countries at the top of the list are the fastest-growing, and those at the bottom are the most redistributive:

Mexico: 19%
Korea 25.3%
Japan 25.3%
United States: 25.6%
Switzerland: 29.5%
Ireland: 29.7%
Slovak Republic: 31.1%
Australia: 31.6%
Turkey: 32.8%
Canada: 33.8%
Poland: 34.2%
Spain: 34.9%
New Zealand: 34.9%
Germany: 35.5%
United Kingdom: 35.6%
Greece: 35.7%
Portugal: 37.1%
Czech Republic: 37.7%
Hungary: 38.5%
Netherlands: 38.8%
Iceland: 39.8%
Luxembourg: 41.3%
Austria: 43.1%
Italy: 43.1%
France: 43.4%
Norway: 43.4%
Finland: 44.8%
Belgium: 45.4%
Denmark: 48.3%
Sweden: 50.6%

The list also shows the big flaw in McIntyre's argument: the differences in growth and economic insurance take place over a massive range in national tax shares -- 30% of a country's GDP. But, for better or worse, very few North American liberals are actually advocating the kind of economic upheaval that would reroute 50% of GDP through the government. US liberals don't argue for the US to adopt overall tax rates comparable to those found in Sweden or even France. McIntyre's traget, Sabastian Mallaby, certainly doesn't. Few of the bloggers or pundits I read have Denmark in mind when they complain about tax giveaways to corporations or to the rich or to the amazing shelf-life of long-discredited supply side nostrums.

A more relevant way to approach the issue is to examine the sort of highly developed, low-union-density, limited-regulation, free-market economies that are actually comparable to the US... like Canada. From the list above, Canada and the UK (since McIntyre brought it up) have, respectively, gross tax rates of 8.2% and 10% higher than the current gross US rate. At least as between Canada and the US, the ratio has been fairly stable since 1994, though federal rates at least have fallen since then in both countries. From the US Department of Labor's statistics (Table 1), the US GDP per capita grew 24.0% between 1994 and 2004. Canada's grew by 25.9%. The UK's grew by 28.0%.

Raise the US tax take to Sweden's 51% share and I'm in full agreement that, in the long run, Americans will pay a massive price in terms of GDP growth and entrepreneurial dynamism. It's not something I would vote for. Raise the tax share to Canada's modest 34% or the UK's 35% -- rates that could wipe out the budget deficit and cover a pretty nice universal public health care plan to boot -- and the international evidence that the US would pay much of a price in terms of long-run growth gets a lot weaker. That's a risk I'd be willing to take.

Update: Update: For the record, a commenter at LWC points out that Sweden's growth isn't too shabby -- and using the numbers from the same BoL table, Sweden has actually outgrown the US in % terms since 1994. So even if nobody is arguing for turning the US into Sweden, it's still not the best country to pick on right now. There's always France...