Friday, June 30, 2006

Casualties of war

No, Iraq is not Viet Nam. It's drier and hotter.

AP reporter Ryan Lenz, embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, has filed a report which shows yet another ugly side of the US-initiated Iraq conflict.

Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq, a U.S. military official said Friday.

The soldiers also allegedly burned the body of the woman they are accused of assaulting in the March incident, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The U.S. command issued a sparse statement, saying Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of coalition troops in Baghdad, had ordered a criminal investigation into the alleged killing of a family of four in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad. The statement had no other details.

The case represents the latest allegations against U.S. soldiers stemming from the deaths of Iraqis. At least 14 U.S. troops have been convicted.


"The entire investigation will encompass everything that could have happened that evening. We're not releasing any specifics of an ongoing investigation," military spokesman Maj. Todd Breasseale said of the Mahmoudiyah allegations.

"There is no indication what led soldiers to this home. The investigation just cracked open. We're just beginning to dig into the details."

However, a U.S. official close to the investigation said at least one of the soldiers, all assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, has admitted his role and been arrested. Two soldiers from the same regiment were slain this month when they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near Youssifiyah.


Senior officers were aware of the family's death but believed it was due to sectarian violence, common in the religiously mixed town, he said.

The killings appeared to have been a "crime of opportunity," the official said. The soldiers had not been attacked by insurgents but had noticed the woman on previous patrols.
I would normally, at this point, be suggesting that nothing more needs to be added until due process runs its course.

That, however, would be to turn away from a fact which accompanies war, particularly a long, protracted and indefinite situation like Iraq and, formerly, Viet Nam: The rape of civilian women by occupying soldiers is nearly inevitable.

The above is not intended to excuse the alleged acts of those now under investigation. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The offenders, if the investigation turns over evidence which bears out the allegations, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Rape is a heinous war crime.

What is disturbing is that this one case came to light the way it did: One of the assailants has admitted his involvement. And, given the level of frustration that fighting an insurgency can cause in soldiers and the length of their deployments, the number of actual cases which go unreported might shock someone unfamiliar with such an environment.

During Viet Nam, rape was common. It also received a blind-eye from command authorities. This piece by Karen Stuhldreher of the University of Washington studies the rape of civilian women by soldiers in Viet Nam and demonstrates that conditions of service often lead otherwise moral individuals to engage in degenerative behaviour.

During the Vietnam war, rape was in fact an all too common occurrence, often described by GIs as SOP--standard operating procedure.2 "That's an everyday affair... you can nail just about everybody on that--at least once," offered a squad leader in the 34d Platoon of Charlie Company when questioned by a reporter about the rape that occurred at My Lai.3 Another GI, Joe Galbally, when testifying for the Winter Soldier Investigation, concluded his report about a specific incident of gang rape by American soldiers by saying, "This wasn't just one incident; this was the first one I can remember. I know of 10 or 15 such incidents at least." Galbally was in Vietnam for one year, from 1967-1968.
What it also suggests is that soldiers' recounting of those incidents indicate they were not motivated by violence but by the need for sexual gratification. Stuhldreher dispatches this "justification", if you will.

... the rampancy of rape during the Vietnam war is indicative of the reluctance on the part of the media as well as the military to report and prosecute these war crimes. This notion that rape is sexually motivated and therefore the logical outcome of male sexual desire, plays directly into myths that rape is spontaneous and victim-precipitated.
The truth is, when soldiers start raping the female civilian population of a militarily occupied but politically unstable country it demonstrates a callous disregard for the indiginous population. Far from being there to help them and win them over, the occupied population has been reduced, in the minds of the occupiers, to sub-human, powerless and subject to intimidation.

In a situation where the "enemy" is no longer a clearly defined, uniformed combatant and has the ability to hide amongst the general population, the entire population becomes the enemy. Soldiers, reacting to the frustration of spontaneous and unpredictable attacks on themselves and their comrades, create fear among a civilian population they do not trust. They respond to violence by demonstrating their power, and rape is one of those demonstrations. While the soldiers may not be deranged sexual predators, the act has more to do with violence than it does sexual gratification.

This latest case in Beiji, Iraq, if the allegations are true, is a symptom of a greater condition. It is a sign that Iraq is lost. The question is whether the war in Iraq will produce a Winter Soldier Investigation or whether 30 years after its conclusion horrific revelations will once again authenticate the folly of sending troops into an inconclusive war where the population is viewed as little more than waste to be disposed of by the leadership of the occupying force.

Gook? Hadji? What's the difference? The level of indifference to their survival is the same.

No, Iraq is not Viet Nam. It's just drier and hotter.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's that smell?

Aside from this post I was going to leave the Conservative Party of Canada finance irregularities alone until things developed a little more. That was a "benefit of the doubt" thing.

Then I read Meaghan's take on it at Somena Media here and here. Leading into an email exchange comes the illuminating fact that:

CPoC members are only concerned with how to also receive tax decductions for the additional expenses of travel, lodging, and food. Most already know that the convention fee is a political donation.
Benefit of the doubt is giving way to a stench of intentional illegal acts.

Tax deductions - for political donations. You don't get tax deductions for eating a rubber chicken unless the rubber chicken is actually worth more than four bucks. And there is no "profit" provision in the Canada Elections Act.

And then, there's this inevitable development.

Canada's chief electoral officer wants the federal Conservative party to open its books following a revelation by the Harper government's accountability quarterback that the party failed to report delegate fees to its 2005 convention.
With this inevitable reaction.

The Conservatives, who rode to power on a wave of outrage against perceived Liberal corruption, initially reacted with fury to questions about the apparent fee omission.

After Kingsley's statement, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper would only say they were "puzzled" by the Elections Canada statement.
What's to be puzzled about?

Or is this the start of another Harper dissing of a public service officer responsible for political finance oversight?

No need for Harper or any of his spokespersons to be puzzled. They have already lied that their 2005 books had been audited by Elections Canada, which brought this out of the Chief Electoral Officer:

"Elections Canada has not audited the books of the Conservative Party regarding this convention," said the release from Kingsley, adding Elections Canada has no legal authority to compel such an audit.
Either the Chief Electoral Officer gets to see the CPoC books, PDQ, or people will start flinging the "C" word around in reference to the Conservatives.

Bush's Gitmo Tribunal Plan Quashed

Well, it wasn't really a plan. It was a Republican temper tantrum and a gross violation of the rule of law. Via Raw Story:

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that President George W. Bush overstepped his authority in denying terror war detainees civilian trials...

The Court has ruled that U.S. detainees--classified by the Bush Administration as "enemy combatants"--cannot be considered exempt from the Geneva Convention. The administration had attempted to argue that the "combatants" had no rights under U.S. or international law, or that only certain rights under each applied.

The Supreme Court disagreed.

The trials had been challenged by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, former bodyguard and limo driver for Osama bin Laden. Hamdan has been held at Guantanamo Bay for four years, eventually being charged with conspiracy. The court pointed out that there is no international law against conspiracy.

The ruling is not likely to result in the release of Hamdan, or other Guantanamo prisoners. In fact, it may result in longer detentions, while the United States attempts to put another system into place.

The 5-3 decision overturns a lower court ruling in the government's favor by Chief Justice and Bush appointee John Roberts. Roberts did not participate in the decision.

A complete overhaul of the system for Guantanamo Bay detainee trails is now expected.
Which suggests the Bush administration will now go with their backup plan... which they don't have.

In other news, one of the world's most famous Jack Russell terriers passed away yesterday. He lived well.

So I Told The Judge...

It's not really speeding if I didn't really mean to speed. I mean, y'know, I'd have to be doing it with the certain knowledge and intent to speed. And if there isn't a posted speed limit sign right next to me when the constable decided to pull me over, well, I can't be certain of the speed limit can I?

No excuse?

What if I was a politician? Would that make a difference?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

When an ass-hat smears Murtha

Roger L. Simon, mystery novelist, screenwriter and instapajamaline blatherer has done it again. Roger attempts to come across as non-partisan on those occasions when he's not doing a Bushco dance. This time he decided that Congressman John Murtha had just jumped the shark.

Wrong. Since "jumping the shark" is actually a television term one would think Roger would understand its meaning - just a little bit - since he's well, sorta in the biz.

In fact, it was Roger who jumped the shark.

He linked to a story (which reader ImJohnGalt had sent to me earlier) and then used a line from the story as a quote from Murtha.

American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said to an audience of more than 200 in North Miami Saturday afternoon.
Except that Murtha never did say that. As ImJohnGalt pointed out later, the original source of the story had to issue a retraction since they had attributed a quote that never actually happened. Murtha was citing poll results - not opining, as Roger L. Simon suggested.

Of course, a somewhat popular blogger jumped all over it from the beginning with first, this post, and then this post. The right-wingers, having slathered all over a statement that was never made, should have been embarrassed by my fave SoCal basset owner but, no... nothing but the sound of crickets chirping. The retractions were, kinda, well, missing in action.

Now, I can understand if Roger L. Simon and the whole of the diaperline crew don't read my stuff. Hell, it adds to the anonymity. But to ignore a somewhat popular blogger? That's kind of rude. May his Beckham piss on their slippers.

Anyway, back to Roger for a moment. In his post, which has since been proven to be little more than a good mixture of camel shit and bus tickets, he said this:

To be perfectly honest, up to a few months ago I never paid any attention at all to Cong. John Murtha, D-PA. He was just another back-bencher to me, if I even recognized his name, which I doubt.
Ummm. That sort of says Roger has been living under a rock for a long time. No kidding! How can Roger claim to comment on US politics and not know Murtha's name?!

Oh, hold it. He's a mystery novelist and screenwriter. The producer of fiction. Real names, real people and real information are secondary to the entertainment value. I get it now. Roger is just funnin' with us. Kind of reminds me of the movies.

Some films make the viewer a participant. Others make the viewer, well, a viewer. Others make the viewer a voyeur. SCENES FROM A MALL makes the viewer a third wheel. A very uncomfortable position to be in.
Written by someone who actually watched the movie. I've never seen it. I therefore would not have written that.

Oh yes. The "comments section" from the link Roger used is available here, again thanks to ImJohnGalt. Be careful when reading them and if you have an air-sickness bag left over from the days when airlines used to give them out at no-charge, you might want to keep it handy.

You have to give it to Roger - he has one helluva great list of sources.

Don't worry about the retraction, Roger. Or, any of the rest of you who couldn't wait to risk carpal tunnel to get an emergency smear onto your sites. Just remember John Murtha knows more about what a war is all about than any of you will ever hope to. Or your fearless leader for that matter.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Abortion Ban Bill - Politicians As Doctors

Private Members' Bills don't usually go too far in Parliament. Most never make it past 1st reading and never find their way onto the Order Paper. Those that do often die before the parliament dissolves. Occasionally a PMB gets to debate. The success is usually limited and if it had no real priority with government, it is bound for defeat. There are presently 148 Private Member Bills before the 39th Parliament at the moment. Most will never see the light of day.

However, they do have a purpose, particularly when a member of parliament wants to make a statement or take a stand on an issue. It provides constituents with a view of the MP's priorities and preserves on the public record the MP's position on what may, in fact, be important issues. On the other hand, some PMBs are just plain foolish.

That makes Bill C-388 all the more curious.

Introduced by Liberal MP Paul Steckle, the Bill is intended to make it a criminal offence, punishable by five years imprisonment, to procure an abortion for any woman who is beyond her 20th week of pregnancy. The exceptions are that such late-term abortions are permitted if it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman or if she will suffer severe physical injury in giving birth.

Needless to say, the anti-choice crowd is crowing like a bunch of roosters who believe the sun rose just for them.

Most are claiming that the proposed legislation meets the criteria of the Canadian Medical Association definition of abortion which suggests a fetus is viable after 20 weeks. The truth is, the CMA policy does not say that at all. The CMA describes abortion as the active termination of a pregnancy before fetal viability. When a fetus is viable is something to be determined by a competent health care professional - not a politician and certainly not some anti-choice wingnut.

The real truth is that late-term abortions are extremely rare, about 0.4% of all abortions performed, and virtually all of them are performed to preserve the life or health of the mother, or because the fetus is severely malformed and would not survive birth. Most women receiving late-term abortions actually wanted the child.

There is another issue here. Abortion in Canada is a medical procedure - and medical procedures are within the realm of the provinces - not the federal government. Provinces have already run afoul of the medical community when they tried restricting abortions only to have the provincial medical associations refuse to cooperate.

There is something else going on here, however.

Paul Steckle's record on issues is less than completely clear, although he is the co-chair with (shudder) Maurice Vellacott, (an ultra-right-wing, homophobic, racist, Conservative MP, who would see abortion made illegal under all circumstances), of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.

Paul Steckle has brought forth a bill which flies in the face of Liberal Party policy which is essentially, hands-off. Abortion is a medical issue - not a political one. Which raises the question of why the bill wasn't introduced by Vellacott?

Simple. Vellacott has already made a complete ass of himself in this parliament. Harper and his senior staff have gone to great lengths to silence Vellacott while not angering his social conservative constituency. Vellacott is a loose cannon in the Conservative caucus and to allow him to introduce a bill with which a majority of Canadians would disagree would have a lasting negative impact on the government as a whole. Better to let the co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus introduce it. And Steckle being a Liberal makes it even better.

In fact, this bill is little more than a stab at aping the US Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, legislation that has already been struck down by the US federal courts.

What the anti-choice/anti-medical groups fail to understand, or at least will not admit, is that after 20 weeks, if the fetus is deemed to be "not viable" by a medical doctor, or the life and health of the mother is at risk, a traditional D&C or D&X abortion is not performed. Doctors induce labour instead. That is neither a miscarriage or an abortion. It is a prematurely still-born fetus.

The wording of the bill indicates a distinct lack of research and understanding of medical practices and procedures. That's not surprizing since it looks like it came out of one of the anti-choice lobby-shops which have pitched their camps along the Rideau.

In any case, it should strike observers as a little odd that the Liberal House Leader would permit a Private Member's Bill of this nature to reach the table.

Not all that odd really. In fact, it's good parliamentary tactics.

The chances of the bill ever seeing debate are so slim as to be negligible. If it ever does actually get on the Order Paper, and if it ever does get to the point of debate, it will have the delightful effect of drawing out all the Conservative wingnuts - and there's more than just a couple of them. It would highlight the social conservative caucus.

It's not likely to happen. Harper may be petulant, arrogant and driven by his oversized ego, but I can't imagine he's dumb enough to put the worst elements of his party on open display.

On the other hand, maybe he will.

Monday, June 26, 2006

From urban BC to rural Ontario

I'm off to the cottage in the Kawarthas tomorrow and I'll be offline for a month.

So here's some thoughts to ponder.

What's the point of Canada? Is there one?

Is there a vision of a Canada that exists as anything other than a point/counter-point to the USA?

Once we no longer own or control our natural resources or their systems of development and delivery will there still be a rational economic argument to be made for the continuing existence of the country as an entity that can be differentiated from the ownership of the resources?

If, as the right likes to claim, the country's identity shouldn't be reliant on it's social infrastructure, then what should it be reliant on? What is it reliant on?

Are we reaching the point where the most sensible course of action is to let the national experiment go and be the first to acknowledge the new global realities?

Happy summer.

Homosexuality influenced by biological factors

This should cause those who adamantly insist that homosexuality is a disease, or some abomination of biblical proportions, to get their Pampers™ in a twist. From Jonathan Montpetit: (all emphasis mine)

Homosexuality influenced by biological factors, Canadian researcher says

A new study suggests a male's sexual orientation is not the product of his environment but rather is influenced by biological factors present before birth.

Researchers at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., have found evidence that "a prenatal mechanism(s) . . . affect men's sexual orientation development."

The study's author, Prof. Anthony F. Bogaert, explored the causes behind what is known as the fraternal birth order, research that shows a correlation between the number of biological older brothers a man has and his sexual orientation.

But that concept leaves unclear whether older brothers have a socializing effect on sexuality, or if biological factors are at play.
Bogaert's study has been peer reviewed and will appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"These results support a prenatal origin to sexual orientation development in men and indicate that the fraternal birth-order effect is probably the result of a maternal 'memory' for male gestations or births," Bogaert writes.

Bogaert, who teaches in both the community health science and psychology departments at Brock, studied more than 900 heterosexual and homosexual men in Canada who had either biological or non-biological brothers.

Dividing his sample into four groups, Bogaert examined the impact of all types of older brothers, including step and adopted siblings, and the amount of time brothers spent together while growing up.

His research found that only the number of biological brothers had an impact on sexuality, regardless of whether the boys were raised together.

"The number of biological older brothers, including those not reared with the participant . . . increases the probability of homosexuality in men," the study reads.
No doubt we'll hear from Big Daddy Dobson and his pack of raging homophobes on this.

And if you happen to get most of your news from the Fox Network, you'll see that the headline is a little different than most other outlets.

Study: Older Brothers Increase Chances Men Will Be Gay
If you don't read the whole story, you'll find you're left with a different sense of what Bogaert's study was actually all about. But then, you can't argue with fair and balanced™. And I wouldn't suggest that Fox News fans are likely to limit themselves to reading only headlines.

If you're pro-abortion - you're a racist

At least that's what this piece of tripe is telling us.

According to the study by Paul Jalsevac any attempt at population control is pure eugenics and anybody who supports abortion, contraception, divorce or even homosexuality is being used by a vast conspiracy to depopulate the earth.

Soon after abortion was legalized in North America pro-life activists did not yet realize who and what they were actually fighting. They had no idea then, and sadly, most social conservatives still don't, that abortion was only one part of much wider, international agendas supported by certain organizations and individuals with some common interests and ambitions.
And who are those organizations?

Planned Parenthood has been the most influential of all and could in fact, as the document explains, be considered the world's most influential organization.
Right! Why did I have to ask? Margaret Sanger did actually subscribe to elements of eugenics but her main focus was on the rights of women to choose. She started Planned Parenthood (several times under several different names) in the United States after her mother gave birth 18 times and then died of cervical cancer.

And the most subversive of Sanger's books? What Every Girl Should Know. A small publication that informed girls about their own bodies - information that didn't seem to be getting out there in 1916. In 1917 she followed it up with What Every Mother Should Know. Since it focused on womens' health, she wound up in jail for creating a public nuisance.

But I digress. Back to the important points of Jalsevac's work.

The local abortion mill, elimination of the handicapped, advancement of euthanasia, easy divorce, billions of condoms to Africa (instead of medical and food supplies) and even forced acceptance of homosexuality have all served two main goals:

1. To massively decrease the world's population. (this is happening)

2. Through eugenics, to prune the human race of what are considered by some to be physically, mentally, socially and even economically "unfit" persons. (this is also happening and accelerating)
Well to address point 1, you only have to look at world population figures to realize this is not in the slightest bit true. As for point 2, the Christendom College graduate suggests that the promotion of contraception is somehow racist. Never mind that denying those populations ravaged by AIDS the use of condoms will accelerate their demise or that not allowing women to limit the number of children they bear will strain the ability of developing countries to feed, house and provide sanitation to their population.

Jalsevac's thoughtless and unsubstantiated claim belies the fact that to accept his conclusions is to deny the reality of a global attempt to prevent the spread of disease. In this, Jalsevac becomes the racist. Following Jalsevac's line of thought, populations of the developing world wouldn't stand a chance of survival.

Of course Jalsevac and his Christian conservative admirers could easily take comfort in this statement:

Every normal man and woman has the power to control and direct his sexual impulse. Men and woman who have it in control and constantly use their brain cells thinking deeply, are never sensual.

A girl can waste her creative powers by brooding over a love affair to the extent of exhausting her system, with the results not unlike the effects of masturbation and debauchery.
Great words a social conservative can buy into. Get the lust out of your system and you'll be just fine.

Oh yeah. They were written by the very person Jalsevac demonized. Margaret Sanger, despite fighting for better health care and a woman's right to choose, was a bit of a prude.

Update: My apologies to readers who are finding this post suddenly doesn't make sense. It appears "blogger" managed to eat or rearrange some of the post at various times throughout the day. Sigh.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Mrs. Mills and the paparazzi

Ever wonder how to deal with one of those digital photo freaks. Mrs. Mills has it all solved.

A friend carries a digital camera everywhere and takes unflattering pictures of everyone — people eating, asleep and so on. We have just come back from a bar and there is not a single picture that I want to see the light of day. I think she takes these sneaky, paparazzi-style shots on purpose. What can I do?
A dilemma for most, but not Mrs. Mills.

Wear sunglasses all the time.

Read the rest of Mrs. Mills at The Times, including giving a "dirty old man" a bit of a kick.

Bring 'Em Home.

No, Iraq isn't Viet Nam. It's dryer and hotter.

Funny though... the music is starting to sound the same.

Bruce Springsteen from DWT.

Friday, June 23, 2006

US Army raises its recruiting age - again

It is not vanity on my part to admit that at age 42 I was in pretty good physical condition. I had also spent a majority of my life at that point as a member of the armed forces. Being in good shape was simply a part of the lifestyle.

Well, the US Army is loosening things up a bit and rather than make you spend 20 years to be all that you can be, the army is increasing its maximum age for new recruits to age 42.

For the second time in six months, the Army is raising the maximum enlistment age for new recruits, this time from 40 to 42, recruiting officials announced Wednesday.

The increase to age 42 applies to both men and women, and older applicants are eligible for the same enlistment bonuses and other incentives available to any other applicant, according to Julia Bobick, a spokesman for the Army’s Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
Now, according to the army, this isn't to prevent the US Army dwindling to an army of one. No sir! This is to provide opportunity to those who have been denied the chance to experience all the benefits of sharing in the warrior ethos.

Adding an additional two years to the entry limit “expands the recruiting pool, provides motivated individuals an opportunity to serve, and strengthens the readiness of Army units,” Bobick said.

Nevertheless, the Army is not expecting an influx of Americans older than 40 who will be eager to don a uniform full-time, she said.

“We don’t anticipate that this is going to give us a lot more enlistments,” Bobick said. “It’s a way to give [older] individuals on opportunity to serve if they want to do so.”
Wow. Hard to believe. At that age I was seriously looking forward to the day when I could burn my combat clothing. OK, well at least turn it in and do that final "out routine".

While the recruiting age limits were extended to all US services in the 2006 defense budget only the US Army has decided to permit 42 year-olds initial entry. The navy, marines and air-force are just being shitty about it and continue to deny such an opportunity to those men and women with dreams of 12 month naval deployments, aircraft maintenance in sunny, warm climates or the chance to dive into some of those delectable MREs.

Oh. OK, maybe that's not why the army's doing it.

Only the Army, which has been struggling with recruiting in the face of ongoing deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, decided to take advantage of the extension, with the age increase applying to the active Army, the Army Reserve and National Guard.
The reason the army has never done this before is because they weren't sure 42 year-olds had a functioning cardio-vascular system.

Although Army officials always intended to raise the bar to the 42-year limit set by Congress, they began by taking an “interim step” and increasing the limit just to age 40, Bobick said.

The reason for that was because officials decided individuals over that age would require additional cardiovascular checkups and other medical tests, and “we needed time to work out the details” of how the tests would be conducted, Bobick said.
Details? What do they do to the 42 year-olds who are already in?

Anyway, the US Army has had a 40 year-old age limit for six months now and it's amazing how many people have taken advantage of the opportunity.

Even with the 40-year age limit in place, the Army has gained more than 1,000 new soldiers that would not have been allowed to join before January, she said.

The active Army has gained a total of 389 individuals older than age 35 since the age limit was lifted, while the Army Reserve has gained 696 soldiers over the age of 35, Bobick said.
Hmmm. The US Army's recruiting goal for 2006 is 80,000 new entries, the same as 2005, which they missed by 6,600 people.

The navy, marine corps and air force all exceeded their 2005 recruiting goals. It was just the army which fell short. Mind you, the navy has a pretty snappy uniform, the air force has better entertainment and the marines just have the best running cadences.

No matter. With all this new opportunity it won't be long until this guy will be able to join; or even these guys.

Run, chickenhawk, run. You're Great Uncle Sam needs you and you should be in good shape when the age gets raised the next time.

The Military/Civilian Compact

I normally ignore emails from people too stupid to be acknowledged. The delete key works quite well and addition to the spam list is convenient. However, this one deserves to be answered, if only because it provides some satisfaction to demonstrate the poor comprehension skills of the author. In all its unedited glory...

For someone who supposdly was in the army or whatever you write like some antiwar freak. Maybe if you knew anything about what is happenning in the afghan you wouldn't be so against it.You antiwar fucktards are deluded and you shouldn't be alowed to write at the Torch.
I was never in anybody's army. I was a Royal Marine. Most of my armed services career however, was as a sailor. My role in those branches of the service is something I will not discuss, however, if one is not able to make the distinction between a marine and a soldier I hesitate to think of the reaction should you make the mistake in face-to-face discussion.

I am certainly not an anti-war freak. I've fought in more than one war during my lifetime, without objection and without postbellum criticism. I paid dearly for participation in those conflicts, but if one thing stands out its the knowledge that I was able to do my job effectively despite the constant fear. And unless you're were willing to stand with me on a two-way rifle range or during a close quarters action, you know nothing of the fear, the horror and the disgust. If you think there's glory you've been reading too much of this crap. Now, that's a freak.

I have not come out against Canada's participation in Afghanistan. Indeed, I supported Canadian involvement. How this is interpreted differently is curious indeed. I do however, view all military entanglements with a healthy skepticism. All expeditionary troop deployments should face the question, "Is this absolutely necessary?" If the answer is, "no" then a much more serious debate needs to occur. Given the fact that Afghanistan was the cauldron from which premeditated and vicious attacks occurred, the question was properly answered. However, that does not mean that such a mission should not be continuously questioned, and if conditions exist whereby national goals will no longer be met then the question should be revisited.

I have a pretty good idea what's going on in Afghanistan. I am assuming that the author's reference to "the afghan" was a failed attempt to employ the common jargon, "the Afstan". I don't particularly like that bit of slang. I see it used by all sorts of people. As far as I'm concerned I hold that the only people who have the right to use that lingo are those who have Afghanistan's dirt in the soles of their boots. The rest of us can call it Afghanistan.

The rest of the email suggests the author is shallow of thought and deficient of education. It also suggests that he (gender verified) doesn't know much about what an armed forces is all about.

The compact which exists between the civilian population and the armed services of a country, particularly a developed, industrial nation like Canada, is unwritten, but it exists all the same. Members of the forces are voluntarily sworn to service and in return they have certain expectations of their civilian government. The government of Canada, regardless of political stripe, has met this compact with only marginal success since World War II, and in some cases has failed miserably.

1. If you commit me to combat or active military service you will have done so only after exhausting all other avenues and resources at your disposal to resolve the situation without armed force.

2. If you commit me to combat you will provide me with a clear goal which I can identify as the end of that operation.

3. You will never send me into combat with the knowledge that I cannot succeed.

4. If you commit me to combat you will ensure that I have everything I need to perform my task including appropriate manpower, high-quality equipment and continuous, unfettered materiel support.

5. If you commit me to a domestic non-military emergency you will guarantee that no other domestic resource exists.

6. You will never require me to fire on a citizen of my own country unless that person represents a clear lethal threat to me, my force or others I am tasked to protect.

7. You will not deny or suborn international agreements regarding the rules of armed conflict.

8. If I am killed as a result of you committing me to active service you will provide for the continued welfare of my dependents.

9. If I am maimed as a result of you committing me to active service you will provide for my complete rehabilitation.

10. You will never use my existence, duty, accomplishments or service for personal political gain.

The problem, of course, is that while those who serve and have served understand the above points very clearly, most politicians don't get it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Another Senate dust collector

A Senate committee, led by Joan Fraser, has produced a report which recommends the CBC-Radio Canada become an advertisement-free, public broadcast entity. The problem is, what that means is that the CBC could easily become the same as PBS and NPR in the US.

The report, to be released Wednesday, will also recommend measures to prevent private media conglomerates from dominating newspaper, radio and television audiences in a single market. According to sources, the report of the Senate's transport and communications committee will recommend that the Competition Act be beefed up to require an automatic review whenever a media company acquires more than a certain percentage of audience share in any market.
The committee, headed by former journalist Senator Joan Fraser, spent more than three years travelling the country and hearing from witnesses. Its final, two-volume report contains more than 40 recommendations.
The CBC proposal would mean the federal government would have to boost the corporation's almost $1-billion annual budget to make up for the loss of advertising revenue. The CBC currently makes about $400 million a year from ads, which the report recommends be gradually phased out.
In fairness to Fraser and her committee, after three years of study, she has to submit a report. What will result however, is a different story.

Expect nothing. Or worse, expect the very recommendations in the report to be ignored and the current government to move in an opposite direction. You see, there's this:

After questioning the importance of CBC television and recommending substantial cuts to its government funding, Conservative MP Jim Abbott will now assist Heritage Minister Bev Oda as she ponders a sweeping review of the public broadcaster's mandate.


Abbott, who was heritage critic for the Canadian Alliance party which later merged with the Progressive Conservatives, recommended the ''commercialization'' of CBC television. He said his party would consider transferring a portion of its current funding to subsidies and tax credits to support Canadian content in films and television.
Abbott makes no bones about the fact that he would like the CBC cut off at the knees. And his views run counter to the reported information in the Senate report so the likelyhood of anything close to the Senate recommendations being implemented would be nothing short of miraculous.

And then there's the fact that media ownership is concentrated in some markets and has limited or shut down diversity in broadcasting.

CanWest Global Communications Corp., which owns the country's largest chain of metro newspapers and the Global television network, dominates about 70 per cent of the market in Vancouver. It owns both daily newspapers in the city and the television station with the most-watched suppertime news show.

Brunswick News, owned by the Irving family, owns three dailies, 12 weeklies and four radio stations in New Brunswick.

Bell Globemedia, which owns CTV and The Globe and Mail, dominates about 43 per cent of the Toronto market.

Quebecor, which owns the Sun newspaper chain, dominates 47 per cent of the market in Quebec City.

The report's recommendation to limit such dominance will undoubtedly be controversial.
Because Abbott would take the money available to CBC and give it to those concentrated media operators. And what do some of those media owners have to say?

... last week, CanWest CEO Leonard Asper argued that the government needs to give its blessing to even greater consolidation of the media industry.


"There will never be concentration like there was before because you have Google, you have MSN and you have Yahoo. You have all these companies that are competing against the Vancouver Suns and the Ottawa Citizens. So let us consolidate," Asper told Toronto's Empire Club.
I can make book on who Harper and Abbott are going to listen to.

This report will make news for two days and find a shelf to live on - and collect dust.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Canadian-born. A new and unnecessary definition

I am Canadian. I was born that way even though, until 1977, my official status was that of Commonwealth citizen. My parents were British subjects who, in 1947, had Commonwealth citizenship conferred upon them and 30 years later were defined as Canadian citizens. They were born here too. To call them Canadian-born British subjects at one time in their lives would have been technically accurate.

Today, if you're born in Canada, you're Canadian. Unless of course you appear to be something else. Then you may be "Canadian-born"; something, apparently, different from being Canadian.

Cathie From Canada has an outstanding post drawing out the language being used in the media which is defining certain Canadians as something different than citizens. What she exposes is little more than intentional racism. And she has an answer to the problem.

I was born here too. And I always thought of myself as Canadian, not just "Canadian-born". But if the term "Canadian-born" is to be used to denigrate those terrorist suspects and turn them into second-class citizens then I have no choice -- I'll just have to adopt it for myself, too.
As we all should. Until the media puts a stop to painting a picture of some Canadians as less than citizens.

Make no mistake, I expect the 17 people arrested for suspected terrorist activities receive due process. There is, however, no excuse for applying labels which have no place in this society.

Unless of course we start identifying white, English-speaking impaired drivers as "Canadian-born potential murderers".

Monday, June 19, 2006

Japan's "scientific" sushi filling

Japan is going to increase its "scientific" whaling. Of course, after all the "scientific" research, the meat will go into "scientific" sushi. Or "scientific" dog food.

Japan is to allow its whaling fleet to catch more of two endangered species after its efforts to have a temporary ban on commercial whaling lifted were frustrated.

Tokyo confirmed that it will increase its catch in the Southern Ocean this year to 935 minke and 10 fin whales.

The Japanese fleet will kill another 40 fin and 50 humpbacks - species listed as endangered by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) - in the following two years under a loophole that permits "scientific" whaling. Humpbacks have an estimated population of 10,000 in the Southern Ocean.
Japan seems to be oblivious to the fact that Humpback whales were hunted to near extinction during the 20th century with their global population reduced to 90 percent of its original strength by 1966 when a worldwide moratorium went into effect. The Atlantic populations have recovered fairly well, but the southern Pacific animals, due to both Japan and the Soviet Union's under-reporting of their actual take, have struggled to re-populate.

Japan is allowed to take whales under a "research" caveat. They make the claim that they need to kill some numbers of animals to do "stock assessements". However, since 1977 researchers have been able to monitor stocks using a mark-release-recapture program. Using non-lethal methods, researchers at places like Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute have been able to accurately determine population numbers using computer modelling.

Of course, germanium semi-conductors would probably give you gas.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Single, serving and second class

The relatives of Private Scott Woodfield found out the hard way that the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn't believe single service members are the entitled to the same benefits as married or common-law members.

Media reports last month said relatives of Pte. Braun Scott Woodfield, who died in a military vehicle accident in November, would be sharing a $250,000 tax-free payment specially authorized by cabinet to compensate for his death while on duty.

At the time, a family member said the money was welcome and that they "appreciate the thought."

But records released under the Access to Information Act indicate Woodfield's family was excluded from the cabinet order, which gave a total of $1 million to four other families grieving over military deaths.
The cabinet order had been made after it was discovered that members of the CF who were killed in action before April 1st, 2006 but after May 13th, 2005 were not covered by the death benefit provided in the Veterans Charter. While there was no legal requirement to provide the one-time payment, to not have done so would have been grossly unfair. The government made payments based on the language in the Veterans Charter, which means single service members with no dependents are not entitled to the VAC death benefit.

The problem is not the cabinet order; the problem is the Veterans Charter and the decision not to recognize single serving members as equal.

The death benefit is a tax-free, lump sum payment of $250,000. It is paid to a spouse or common-law partner, and dependent children, if a CF member is:

- killed while in service; or

- injured while in service and dies within 30 days of the injury.
So, why is the single serving member not entitled to this benefit? Nobody seems to know, except that this gross inequality made it through committee and into law without being seriously challenged.

There was a time in the services when single members suffered considerable inequalities. They were paid less than married members, they endured worse periods of duty and they were denied annual leave during prime periods when married members received precedence. There was even a time when single members were required to pay for rations and quarters whether they lived in barracks or not. And in the days when the services had apprentice soldiers and sailors, young single men were required to allot a portion of their pay to their parents.

All of that ended in the early 1970s and single CF personnel saw their pay increase as their basic levels came up to those of married members. Leave was still a problem but many single members fought and won the right to be included in summer leave schedules. Rations and quarters charges were discontinued if a single member chose not to live in barracks. In short, the inequalities were done away with. Until now.

The assumption that a single serving member of the CF is not providing support to members of his family is not only erronious, but outside the province of the Canadian government. To have written legislation which denies the families of a killed-in-action son or daughter the financial benefit provided married or common-law members should never have been written into law.

National Defence spokesman John Knoll said the Forces also pay supplementary death benefits - two years of salary, tax-free - to the estate of the member or to his or her designated beneficiary. The military will also provide severance pay to the estate or designated beneficiary, seven days' pay for each year of service.
Don't get too excited about this. It's life insurance and the member pays a premium for it. The severance and superannuation payout is the member's money.

This legislation is just plain wrong and I have doubts that it would survive a Supreme Court challenge.

On the other hand, don't expect it to change too quickly.

(H/T reader Cat)

Mrs. Mills Suppertime Etiquette

As usual Mrs. Mills of The Times handles the most difficult problems with remarkable ease.

My new and very attractive girlfriend serves me my evening meal on a tray when we are watching television. The combined effect of the pressure of the tray and her presence results in a commotion in the trouser department. I am concerned that I may tip the tray over in the middle of Doctor Who. Can you help?
Doctor Who? At suppertime?

You could try a heavier tray, but your lives and digestions would be much improved by experimenting with new positions. The dining table is a big hit with Mr Mills and me — I find it is much better for my back, and Mr Mills doesn’t get cramping in his thighs.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gingrich in 2008. Swiftboating made easy.

This article in the Washington Post last week stuck in my mind. The idea of Newt Gingrich running for President of the US in 2008 was a little bit bone-chilling when I first read it. Then I thought, well, he comes pre-blown.

But just in case Gingrich is actually serious, and he thinks he can pull one over, there's this to remember.

Oh yeah, and this, which has a particularly detailed story.

Kip Carter, his former campaign treasurer, was walking Newt's daughters back from a football game one day and cut across a driveway where he saw a car. "As I got to the car, I saw Newt in the passenger seat and one of the guys' wives with her head in his lap going up and down. Newt kind of turned and gave me this little-boy smile. Fortunately, Jackie Sue and Kathy were a lot younger and shorter then."
Say "family values" ten times, real fast then throw your hat in the ring, Newt.

Bush goes green

Credit where credit is due. George W. Bush has just created the world's largest marine ecological reserve. This from the president who has been the greatest walking ecological disaster in history.

A NECKLACE of uninhabited islands spanning 140,000 square miles of the Pacific — almost twice the size of Britain — was declared the world’s biggest marine nature reserve yesterday.

President Bush’s designation of the northwestern Hawaiian island chain as a national monument was being described by administration officials as the “single largest act of conservation in US history”

It also represents a remarkable departure for the President, whose relationship with his country’s vast environmental lobby has been one of intense, and mutual, contempt. Only five years ago, the Administration was considering removing the limited protections from the area’s coral reef ecosystem that had been introduced by President Clinton.
The reason for this epiphany?

Mr Bush’s own inspiration is said to have been sourced in a private White House screening of a 65-minute nature documentary in April where the perils facing the archipelago’s fragile marine ecosystem were laid bare.

The film fired the presidential imagination, according to those in attendance. Mr Bush leapt up from his seat after the screening to congratulate film-maker Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the late underwater explorer Jacques.
You'll excuse me if I don't cheer too loudly. I have this niggling feeling that there is an ulterior motive. And my apologies to the "war" president if there isn't.

Hey! Since movies really turn him on and get him to make decisions, how about a private screening for Bush and his missus of this?

Who knows what could happen.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The rumbling around Rob Anders

Reader Cat pointed out this article at describing a rather delicate situation faced by Calgary West MP Rob Anders.

It seems one of Anders' former aids has launched a lawsuit over being fired and is claiming that Anders' financial manipulations of campaign funds may be a little, shall we say, less than straight.

The federal Liberals are calling on the RCMP to investigate a Conservative MP accused by a former assistant of defrauding taxpayers.

The Liberals say the Mounties should look at a lawsuit filed against Rob Anders by James Istvanffy, who alleges he was fired from his job as manager of the Calgary West constituency office after questioning the way Anders handled his finances.

In a statement of claim filed in Calgary Court of Queen's Bench, Istvanffy alleges Anders borrowed from him thousands of dollars for expenses that the House of Commons would not cover.

Istvanffy alleges Anders then used salary increases, false travel expenses and even bookshelves purchased for his office to pay him back.
Anders, of course has denied the allegations and says he will vigorously defend himself.

There are some rather interesting allegations, not the least of which is that some people were working on the 2004 campaign while still being paid by the House of Commons.


Read the rest.

Sing a song of sixpence...

The US General Accountability Office (GAO) did an audit of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see how they did when it came to handing out money to the victims of hurricane Katrina.


MORE than $1 billion in aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina was wasted on fraudulent or improper payments for a dizzying array of items, from divorce lawyers' fees to an all-inclusive Caribbean holiday.
Sometimes, after a hurricane, you just need to get a divorce. And if you're going to take a holiday, make sure it's all inclusive.

More than 1,000 prisoners were among those who claimed rental assistance for destroyed or damaged homes, from places as far away as Texas and Georgia. More than $5 million was paid to people who registered a post office number as their destroyed property.
Hey! If they can't vote...

In one case a man stayed for nine weeks at government expense at a resort in Hawaii that cost more than $100 a night, while claiming rental assistance of $2,358 for a destroyed property that he did not even live in.
But was the resort all-inclusive?

Another man received the same amount after listing his destroyed home as Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans.
Perhaps he was just thinking of the future.

Been hit by a category 5 cyclone lately? You need to kick back and relax a bit. Y'know, just enjoy life a little to help you relieve the stress and get you back on your feet.

Investigators found that $2,000 pre-paid debit cards issued to alleged victims were spent on items such as champagne at $200 bottle of Dom Perignon, pornographic videos, sex toys and sports events.
OK. Well, maybe not that much.

Of course there is the little point that the US would like Canada to pay that bill.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Decider flies to Baghdad

If there was ever any question as to the status of the Iraqi government in the eyes of the Bush administration, George W. Bush put it to rest today.

Iraq is a U.S. colony and any Iraqi government is little more than a U.S. client.

U.S. President George W. Bush arrived in Iraq on Tuesday, his second visit to the country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and was expected to meet U.S. troops and the Iraqi government.

"Good to see you," a beaming Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Bush shortly after his arrival at a palace used by the U.S. Embassy.

Bush replied as they shook hands, "Thanks for having me."
Sounds cordial enough, if it weren't for one thing. Nuri al-Maliki had no idea Bush was coming and didn't know Bush was in the country until five minute before meeting him.

Bush's visit was also intended to be a visit with the troops. The ones in Baghdad. Anywhere else is too dangerous.

There have been no reports of plastic turkeys in any of the hundreds of mess halls. Just the one walking around on two feet with a Secret Service detail surrounding him.

It does demonstrate that the Bush administration places no trust in the Iraqi regime, even though they virtually picked it. If Iraq had any semblance of independence the trip would require clearance from the Iraqi government before the plane ever left the ground.

As many families are wont to tell relatives who show up unannounced: Maybe it would be best if you at least phoned first.

What-me-worry? wingnuts.

Hurricanes have apparently become a partisan issue. As Dave charts Alberto's course, Glenn Reynolds posts pictures of knocked-over deck chairs.

The subtext, I think, is that every hurricane that fails to produce dire results in terms of human suffering provides one more bit of evidence that global warming is a just a big sham cooked up by liberals. But Glenn is a "libertarian" rather than a winger so he rarely gives the subtexts away.

My prediction: the airwaves and blogs will pulse over the next weeks with the efforts of wingers ranting against the MSM's inflation of the hurricane "problem". Then, if and when a big storm hits, they'll all accuse the left of having wanted the devestation to prove their theories right.

Alberto update today

Tropical Storm Alberto should be making landfall shortly. About 21,000 people have been evacuated from various coastal counties in Florida and Governor Jeb Bush has signed a declaration of emergency.

Given all that, Alberto has not really gained any strength and the chances of it turning into a hurricane are slim to none. From the US National Hurricane Center:




The GOES East satellite rendering shows very little unexpected and a very disorganized storm.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Rubberizing the military

A little tidbit in the news has been the fact that members of the Canadian Armed Forces are suddenly increasing the use of condoms. From CBC:

The number of taxpayer-funded condoms handed out to Canadian soldiers is on the rise again after an unexplained low four years ago.

Soldiers at home and abroad snapped up 306,522 condoms from January 2005 to March 2006, said the Canadian Press, citing figures obtained under the Access to Information Act.

Canadian Forces members are supplied with free condoms, paid for by the government and handed out through military dispensaries.
I'm not sure whether that was intended to raise the hackles of the civilian community or not, but the way it is written would certainly indicate that the reporter has a problem with the fact that condoms are supplied at no cost to the users.

Too bad.

A practice that dates back to the First World War, free condoms help defray medical costs by preventing soldiers from getting sexually transmitted diseases, the military says.
The military says?! It's a simple fact. And since the the CF medical system is required to treat any and all ailments CF personnel contract, a condom is a cheap, shall we say, prophylactic action.

While sex between the 2,300 soldiers is forbidden on the Kandahar air base in Afghanistan, the military does supply condoms there. Officials wouldn't speculate what the condoms were being used for, said the report.
OK. Let's chew on this for a bit.

First, it isn't just soldiers who are using condoms. Sailors and air force personnel use them too. In fact, I would reckon that sailors, in past years, have been the primary consumers of condoms.

Second, speculating on the use of a condom in Kandahar is not difficult. That's sort of like "no comment". Breaking regulations in the service is not illegal. Getting caught is an offence.

Third, the primary use of condoms by members of the armed forces is for safe sex. Is that a hard one to understand?

When I joined the navy there were condoms available at the gangway when proceeding ashore. They were there when I went to the British forces too. They were there when I retired. No one ever wrote a national news piece about them. And yes, they have always been available at no charge. You don't expect that people serve in the armed forces for the money, I hope? (If you do, we need to have a long talk - you're buying.)

Using purely naval vernacular, condoms have one primary purpose: prevent the user from developing a "stinger", something which usually appears about a week after the ship has left its last port and only remains a source of humour until the sickbay tiffy jams a needle armed with 1 million units of penicillin into the ailing sailor's butt.

That's if it's a common and curable STD. Sometimes the diagnosis is accompanied by the word "incurable". That only has to happen once in a ship and the use of condoms skyrockets.

But condoms have a lot of other really great uses in military service.

They make great small arms muzzle protectors. In a dirty, gritty environment they fit nicely over the barrel of a rifle and, held in place by an elastic band, they keep the dirt out of the business end of a weapon. Hey, if they can hold back bacteria they work even better keeping out sand. Further, they don't have to be removed when the weapon has to be fired. Just aim and shoot; the bullet just goes right throught the tip. Magic.

They make exceptional water bombs. On those days when boredom overtakes excitement, (believe me, it happens), the occasional practical joke is a great tension reliever. Nothing is finer than having the executive officer splattered with a well placed condom booby-trap.

There is a distinct shortage of party balloons in ships, tactical air units and infantry battalions. Particularly in combat zones. Condoms actually make superb balloons and with a little spray paint, no one can tell they weren't designed for that purpose. (The lubricated ones have proved to be something of an issue, but believe it or not, some enterprizing young servicemen actually solved that problem too.)

Targets. Condoms, inflated to the proper size actually make terrific small arms targets. In one particular mine clearance training procedure my ship went through a gross of condoms. On another occasion, filling a few condoms with a shot of helium gave the .50 cal machine gunners a full afternoon of practice.

First aid is another use. You'll find a lot of use for condoms in stopping bleeding and covering a bandage to prevent dirt, sand and slime getting into a wound.

There are at least 1001 uses for a condom, but the primary purpose is sex. Safe sex.

Glad to see the troops are listening to those lectures given by the medical officer in basic training.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Harper has spoken. No need for a trial now.

BigCityLib Strikes Back makes the single best point regarding Stephen Harper's speech to the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce: Nobody has been to trial yet.

Harper was loose and fast with the lip during his speech in which he so much as stated that, without the benefit of a trial, the people arrested for allegedly plotting terrorist activities are evil.

Two points.

1. If, after constitutionally guaranteed due process, these 17 individuals are found guilty of the offenses for which they've been charged, then the leader of government can suggest they represent hatred.

2. What ever happened to politicians refusing to comment on cases which were before the courts?

Or is due process too much of an inconvenience for a smug little prick like Harper?

ALBERTO update (updated)

What started out as Tropical Depression #1 of the 2006 Caribbean storm season has progressed to become Tropical Storm Alberto - and it's still growing. From the US National Hurricane Center, issued a couple of hours ago:





This first depression of the season was not expected to reach storm force in the initial predictions. Now it's starting to look like a hurricane is entirely possible.

In terms of hurricanes, this is not likely to be a big one, however it is packing a lot of moisture and it is gaining unexpected strength. The greatest danger so far is from flash flooding. It's movement is a little out of the ordinary in that it moved further north than originally expected.

The movement of the storm seems to be a bit disorganized and there is still a good possibility it will lose energy as it crosses Florida. The latest GOES East satellite photo shows a very loose system, with a fairly wide path.

Click on the photo at the top of the post for a more detailed look.

I'll try to post an update around 2000 GMT (1600 CDT, 1400 MDT, 1300 PDT).

Update 2100z: Tropical Storm Alberto has leveled off and is less likely to reach hurricane proportions. This forecast discussion issued by the US National Hurricane Center suggests winds have reached their probable sustained levels and the system has left the area of the highest oceanic heat content in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alberto will make landfall in the southeastern United States, perhaps as early as tomorrow morning. That should make for some interesting newscasts as the fools who are attempting to report the strength of winds and the tidal surges stand out in the middle of it.

Tidal surges of 8 - 10 feet are expected in some areas.

There is a remote possibility that the storm could increase to hurricane strength during the diurnal convective maximum on Tuesday.

My bet would be that Alberto doesn't get much stronger and is likely to ease off from now until it's energy is spent.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Law and Order, On The Iraqi Border

The front page of today's edition of Stars & Stripes (online edition) provides some interesting reading. It could, however, get a bit confusing.

In this story we read of how US Marines are working a strategy in Anbar province intended to gradually wean the Iraqi army and police from dependence on US military forces.

... Many Army officers are planning for declining troop levels and closing bases, in part because they do not want the Iraqi government and security forces to become too reliant on American assistance.

But the Marines say their fight in Anbar is still fierce and the Iraqis’ training remains limited, making the current, aggressive approach the best option.

“It doesn’t foster dependency, it allows them to ride with some training wheels before you totally let go,” said Lt. Col Larry White, who heads a civil military operations office in Al Qaim.

“The Iraqi police and the Iraqi army cannot take the lead if they are getting whacked every day.”
So what's happening is that the Marines are running a campaign, on foot, to clear out the insurgency. And the reason is so that they can eventually turn the whole security effort over to the newly trained Iraqi army and police.

Then, there's this story from the same front page. Apparently, it isn't the insurgency that is causing grief among the Iraqi troops in Anbar province.

Iraqi soldiers in Al Anbar province are leaving their army in droves, draining much-needed manpower from fledgling Iraqi security forces and preventing U.S. troops from reducing troop strength in the volatile region, U.S. and Iraqi military officials say.

Lousy living conditions, bad food and failure to receive regular pay are the main reasons behind the exodus, which is running at least several hundred soldiers a month, the officials say.

“Many of my soldiers have not gotten paid in six months. Sometimes, they don’t eat for two or three days at a time. I tell my commander, but what else am I supposed to do?” said Lt. Moktat Uosef, a 29-year-old Iraqi army company commander based in Husaybah.

Uosef’s brigade is one of the most troubled. The 4th Brigade of the 7th Iraqi Army Division has lost nearly half its soldiers during the past six months, dropping from 2,200 troops in December to fewer than 1,400 in May, according to Marines who work with the Iraqi unit.

In Haditha, the Iraqi army brigade has been losing about 100 soldiers a month, dropping from more than 2,000 at the beginning of the year to fewer than 1,600 in May, Marines said.
That kind of runs at odds with this statement from The Decider.

And we're making progress when it comes to training the troops. More and more Iraqis are taking the fight.
Hmmm. Stars & Stripes sure doesn't see it that way. In fact, the Marines on the ground, depending on which S&S story you read, don't see it that way. In fact, nobody really sees it that way.

Finally, there is this notice splattered across the front page of S&S online.

That's northern Iraq.

Things seem to be going well all over.

Sunday Weather Blogging

And the season begins

I usually keep an eye on the weather. It's a habit, and when I'm at sea, it's a professional responsibility... which I take very seriously. Having had my butt kicked once too often by the forces of nature I am all too aware that it doesn't matter what's happening in the halls of power in any of the world's capitals - a sudden drop in barometric pressure can ruin the day of even, well, a superpower.

Tropical depression #1 was announced by the US National Weather Service early yesterday. That's no big deal. They just happen and it means winds in the range of gale force, usually with a lot of accompanying rain.

Until the pressure drops even further.

This appeared on this morning's GOES East satellite rendering. (click to enlarge)

And just a little while ago the US National Hurricane Center issued this:




It's called Alberto.

So, you're saying, "It isn't a real ass-kicker. What's the big deal?"

Just this: The predictions were that it would never reach Tropical Storm strength.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The (liberal) Girl Next Door: The Gloves Are Off

Some people just say it so much better than the rest of us. Via Beep! Beep! It's Me:

Christians are destroying the fabric of our society. Just listen to Ann Coulter spew her hatred toward the widows of 9/11, Pat Robertson call for the assassination of a foreign leader, Jerry Falwell blame feminists and gays for 9/11 and it becomes very clear that Christian activists are using God to spread hate and create divisions that serve their narrow personal agendas at the expense of American society.


Make no mistake, it was Christians that killed “witches” in Salem, it was Christians that walked around in white robes and hoods while they lynched black men and burned down their homes, it is Christians that are willing to kill abortion doctors in an effort to get the rest of us under their God’s thumb and it is Christians that are continuing every day to promote homophobia that contributes to the violence toward, and discrimination of, gay people. Perhaps religious tolerance has outlived its usefulness in this country.
Read the rest. It's worth every word.