Wednesday, January 31, 2007

America loses one of its jewels

The woman who hung the moniker Shrub off George W. Bush passed away Wednesday at age 62. Molly Ivins, one of America's great political satirists succumbed to breast cancer.
Ivins made a living poking fun at politicians, whether they were in her home state of Texas or the White House. She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 news organizations, including, subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist humor. Ivins' illness did not seem to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

"I'm sorry to say [cancer] can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person," she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend, former Gov. Ann Richards.

Too young and too soon.

To Ivins, "liberal" wasn't an insult. "Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal -- fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote in a column included in her 1998 collection, "You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You."

Killing them softly. The Conservatives are starving the Canadian Navy

The latest news regarding the Conservative government's dealing with the Canadian Navy leaves one wondering about those lofty promises to support and rebuild the armed forces.
The Canadian Forces plans to get rid of its two refuelling and supply ships, one of which is based at CFB Esquimalt, a move that will leave thenavy unable to refuel vessels at sea for at least two years until replacements are built. The recommendation is part of a military plan to pare down its ships, surveillance aircraft and helicopters to help pay for new equipment in the future. The cuts include six Aurora maritime patrol aircraft and one Iroquois-class destroyer
What that means, in shortened terms is that the Canadian Navy will no longer possess extended deployment capability. In order to manage long range, non-stop patrols, it will be required to rely on allied navies for underway replenishment. Even shorter: it's hitching a ride.

Funny. Isn't that one of the things Harper complained about?
The plan, which is contained in the Conservatives' "Canada First" defence strategy, calls for the military to phase out the destroyer and the two supply ships -- Esquimalt-based HMCS Protecteur and Halifax-based HMCS Preserver -- over the next three to four years.

The defence strategy acknowledges that the Joint Support Ship, the replacement for the existing refuelling vessels will not be in the water until at least 2012. But it says thenavy will somehow "manage the risk" of operating without refueling and supply ships for a two-year period.

So, before anyone runs off at the mouth and suggests this is the navy making recommendations to the government, understand that it is the inverse. Everyone at the upper levels of the navy knows what this really means. In the past 50 years, when a ship has been taken out of service without a floating replacement, the fleet has suffered a reduction and the asset lost was never replaced. This is a plan out of the Conservative government.

In the document, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor acknowledges that the military must make "difficult decisions," but argues it must "consider the pressing needs of the military against other government priorities."
Everyone in the service knows about government priorities. Everyone has also heard the "difficult decision" line, particularly from Conservative governments.

There is another serious issue at play here. While O'Connor whittles away at the navy's capability, suggesting that it will only be two years before replacement combat support ships are operational, it demonstrates a complete lack of competence and knowledge of naval capability. For two years the navy will be unable to manage self-contained task group operations. It will be unable to manage medium to heavy lift of supplies and it will be unable to support ground operations from any coast. But there's something even more significant.

Underway replenishment of warships is a specialized skill. It requires crews which have been specifically trained and worked-up to perform the task. While most people would view it as little more than pulling into a gas station, it goes far beyond that.

Imagine refueling your vehicle from a gas station moving along the highway with you at 50 kilometers per hour. No stopping; engine still running with a tensioned line pulling your vehicle towards the gas pump. You are required to stay within a few feet of the fueling hose which is pumping at as fast a rate as possible to get you refueled. From another tensioned wire you are receiving food, ammunition, toilet paper and chemicals, all of which has to be coordinated from a supermarket system requiring heavy lift elevators, fork-lifts, hydraulics and heavy duty equipment normally only encountered on a heavy construction site.

All of this happens while the ship supplying the fuel maintains a precise speed and impeccable steering, pumping tons of fuel while monitoring the stability and trim of the ship ensuring that absolute safety is maintained. The receiving ships have to constantly adjust to maintain station on the supply vessel. The fueling and storing rigs are large enough to crush a human and, in rough seas, often represent an incredible hazard to the special crews who have to make the connections and connect the spanwires. Add rough seas and the entire operation is incredibly dangerous, requiring unbelievable focus, precision and a massive amount of practice.

While all this happening the frigate or destroyer alongside is required to maintain a combat posture, able to respond to any air, surface or subsurface threat. To complicate the whole evolution, replenishment at sea usually involves this occurring on both sides of the supply ship simultaneously. One moment of error can result in a collision of horrendous proportions as two or three floating bombs slam into each other.

O'Connor is proposing a two year gap in the Canadian Navy's at-sea refueling and restoring capability. Until the new ships come into service.

What new ships? The keels have not been laid yet! There are no new ships.

And, even if there were, where does the Conservative government propose to find the crews to carry out the job? Once they're gone; they're gone. Even if a new support ship was floating within two years of decommissioning the existing supply ships it would take several more years to put them into regular service. And it will take years to train crews to recover the lost skill set.

Naval underway replenishment is not politics - not just anybody can do it.

So much for Harper and his pro-military government. His defence plan isn't worth the paper it was printed on. What we're seeing now is just a Conservative form of crisis management. They can't deliver so they're making up a new and unworkable future.

As for those who pound the "support the troops" tambourine, they might want to change their narrow view. The Canadian Forces is comprised of a lot more troops than a battalion group in Afghanistan. It's about time you started supporting all of them, in all their roles.

Or is that just too hard to gather in?


A visit to Alison's workshop, down by the creekside, is well worth the trip.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Harper's anti-environment mantle is secure

It appears Canadians aren't convinced that the Harper Conservatives are really all that into dealing with the environment. In fact, Canadians believe the Conservatives are playing up to public opinion.

Extension? Canadians believe that a Harper majority government would blow off all things environment and the performance of Rona Ambrose would become the hallmark of the Environment Canada.

OK. It's time the Conservatives started digging through that box of crayons again. Green just didn't do it for them.

How about another "earth tone"?


Dion suggests Harper is... fat!

Stephane Dion gave Global TV reporter Hannah Boudreau a tour of Stornoway essentially to point out how energy inefficient the residence of the leader of HM Loyal Opposition actually is. During the interview Dion was asked about the Harper government Conservative party "attack ads".

He shrugged them off stating that such behaviour wasn't his style.

So be it. But then he pointed out that he and his wife had converted a bedroom into an exercise room and that the next occupant, perhaps Harper, would find some use for it. He then went on to suggest Harper "could lose his overweight problem" with the new exercise room.


The video is at Global National. Scroll down to Inside Stephane Dion's Home. (You will have to get through the annoying commercial.)

Bush tries to bulldoze the press

I Have Had My Differences With Members of the Press. But it's Nothing That Burying them Under Tons of Earth Won't Solve.

Does President Bush have it in for the press corps? Touring a Caterpillar factory in Peoria, Ill., the Commander in Chief got behind the wheel of a giant tractor and played chicken with a few wayward reporters. Wearing a pair of stylish safety glasses--at least more stylish than most safety glasses--Bush got a mini-tour of the factory before delivering remarks on the economy. "I would suggest moving back," Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. "I'm about to crank this sucker up." As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety."Get out of the way!" a news photographer yelled. "I think he might run us over!" said another. White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor's window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned. The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop. He gave reporters a thumbs-up. "If you've never driven a D-10, it's the coolest experience," Bush said afterward. Yeah, almost as much fun as seeing your life flash before your eyes.
Hey! Don't act so surprized. He drives a tractor the same way he runs a country - recklessly and without paying attention.

(H/T Think Progress)

The Microsoft Shuffle

In case you were planning on running out and buying MS Vista to upgrade your PC, you know, because all those games you have will play better on Vista, perhaps you should think twice. In fact, go read Hairy Fish Nuts.

You'll find that Microsoft has managed a few other little maneuvers which raise questions. The new Office package (Office 2007) is not backwards compatible. Terrific!

And you still have to press start to shut down your computer.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Israel's measured response included violating the Geneva conventions

Cluster bombs are nasty little bastards. They are designed primarily as anti-vehicle or anti-personnel land mines. The primary purpose is to deny an enemy the use of an area by making mobility across the mined area nearly impossible.

That's all very tidy except for a few little problems. Cluster bombs are indiscriminate. Deployed from a single shell there may be up to 600 of the small, but lethal, explosive devices scattered over an area as large as a couple of football fields. The other problem is the failure rate of the bomblets. More than 26 percent of the munitions do not arm making them highly unpredictable and dangerous.

Because they are indiscriminate ordnance the use of cluster munitions in or around civilians is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions. Despite what some people may say, there is no other prohibition on the use of cluster munitions except for that caveat.

All that said, using cluster munitions for any purpose but to stop an advancing enemy is misuse. Countries selling and procuring cluster munitions are generally held to conditions which specify the precise use of such weapons.

So then this appears:
Israel may have misused American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon during its war against Hezbollah last summer, the State Department said Monday.

The department's spokesman, Sean McCormack, said a preliminary report on a U.S. investigation of the issue had been sent to Congress. He declined to provide details of the investigation.

The United Nations said last summer that unexploded cluster bombs — anti- personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area — litter homes, gardens and highways across southern Lebanon.

When Israel buys cluster bombs and other lethal equipment from the United States, it must agree in writing to restrictions on their use.

The report, McCormack said, "is not a final judgment." He declined to speculate on what action might be taken against Israel if Congress determined that a violation had been committed. He also said that U.S. agreements about the use of munitions were classified.

Hold it right there. The last time Israel went at Lebanon, in 1982, they indiscriminately employed cluster munitions, despite the fact that Israel had signed an agreement with the US to use them only in specific circumstances and not against civilian targets. That caused the US to ban the sale of cluster munitions to Israel for six years.

What genius in the US State Department believed they wouldn't do it again?

The Israeli method of delivery has been artillery. They used shells, with 500 to 600 bomblets each, in a six round salvo delivering about 3000 to 3600 individual mines onto a footprint of about 1200 square meters. Post-conflict assessments have found unexploded cluster munitions on roads, in farmers' fields and on houses. 30 people have died since the end of the conflict as a result of encountering unexploded ordnance (UXO), all of them due to cluster munitions.

There is also a requirement for combatants to clean up the explosive remnants of war after the conflict has ended. You don't get to leave your nasty bits of explosives laying around on the ground. Israel, because they had to withdraw from South Lebanon, isn't doing the clean-up. The UN Mine Action Service is doing the job and the de-miners are finding that the patterns of cluster munitions footprints indicate Israel was blatantly indiscriminate in the use of cluster munitions and the area of contagion is all of South Lebanon generally.

Now the US is getting all righteous over Israel's likely violation of the ban on indiscriminate use of cluster munitions. Really.

What did they expect?!

Harper owes Canadians an explanation. If we don't want an election, why is he running an election campaign?

It seems everyone has been jumping up and down about the Conservative Party attack ads on Stephane Dion. I've seen one of them.

Aside from the poor quality, there isn't much there. In fact, these things can be turned right around on the producers (Jason Kenney, et al.).

While complaining about the performance of Stephane Dion as environment minister, they dismantled everything, without regard to utility. Why? Because they simply didn't care about the environment. They still don't.

With no program or ideas of their own, the Conservatives repackaged previous Liberal programs and held them out as their own. These are the same programs the Conservatives tell us produced no results for 13 years. And you can bet your boots the only reason anything is happening with regards the environment is because Sandra Buckler got handed a poll that said Harper could lose an election over the environment.

If anything comes out of these attack ads it is a demonstration that the Conservatives are out of touch with Canadians.

Canadians don't like election campaigns. While we are very much engaged politically, we find the behaviour of the political parties during the actual campaign somewhere between disgusting and repugnant.

Television attack ads, of any kind, are viewed as aggravating nonsense. If there is a redeeming factor it is that they are restricted to the campaign itself - until now.

The Conservatives, out of touch with Canadians as they are, have not so much attacked Stephan Dion as much as they have attacked the sensibilities of Canadians. If we don't like TV attack ads during an election campaign, why would we tolerate them at any other time. If you're the one that runs them and assaults us with such crap, you're not only stupid, you're the bad guy.

While everyone is calling these ads an act of desperation, I would prefer to view them as an act of stupidity.

Then we get nasty little Stevie making this suggestion:
"Don't they owe it to the Canadian people to explain, if there would be an election, why we would have the election?" he asked.

"What would be the point of an election, especially if it would just result in another minority anyway?"

No... if you, Steve, try to float something through parliament that the majority doesn't like, YOU have to explain it. And, it's interesting that you have called the election results without actually, you know, letting us vote. So, the point of an election would be to get rid of you, Steve.

And, since Harper is so concerned about how Canadians would feel about an election you'd think he would be aware that the parts of it we don't like and don't want to be assailed with are showing up on TV this week.

So, Harper, you owe us all an explanation. Why are we having to endure an election campaign without so much as a writ?

Update: If you really want to assault your senses, Devin has captured both the Conservative ads and Dion's plans for the next parliamentary session. He asks a very valid question at the end of his post.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

December '63

I asked a question at the end of this post about a reference to December 1963. After mucking about Googling strings of words involving Bush and 1963 (after Cheryl painfully came up with nil), I started to expand my search to incorporate world events of that period, and in the dark hours of the morning I found myself here:

In early l965 the Johnson Administration decided to "go big" in Vietnam--to begin sustained bombing raids against the North and to commit US combat troops in the South. This Presidential order to engage the Communist enemy directly came after an agonizing two-year search for a policy expedient that would save South Vietnam from collapsing. The search began in mid-1963 when the headlined political and military failures of the Saigon government abruptly destroyed the long-held illusions of most senior US policymakers that steady progress was being made toward South Vietnamese self-sufficiency. Their subsequent attempt to find a saving formula first produced from the Kennedy administration a decision to accept the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem by a junta of South Vietnamese military officers. Then, when that coup introduced only a series of even-weaker Saigon governments, President Johnson's administration finally came to embrace the assumption that South Vietnam could be saved by systematically bombing the North and committing US troops to combat in the South.

This study focuses on the role that CIA intelligence production and senior CIA officers played, or did not play, in these policy evolutions. As we will see, White House decisions to allow a coup and, later, to go big in Vietnam, were made with little regard for CIA Headquarters' efforts to inform or modify US policy.


But whether US intelligence was right or wrong or was or was not making a major impact on policymaking was hardly the most important aspect of the Johnson administration's decision to escalate the war. The decisionmakers did not enjoy the intelligence analyst's luxury of simply assessing a situation; they had to act. The basic, hardly disputable fact was that in 1964 the military-political situation was deteriorating badly: during the year there were seven successive governments in Saigon. This fact of life was appreciated widely, even by some of the most loyal supporters of the war effort. Gen. William E. DePuy, who had commanded the 1st Division in Vietnam, later recalled that in 1964-65 there had not been a Vietnamese government as such: "There was a military junta that ran the country. . . . [its officers were] politically inept. The various efforts at pacification required a cohesive, efficient governmental structure which simply did not exist. Furthermore, corruption was rampant. There was coup after coup, and militarily, defeat after defeat."(191)

Hence the United States had little policymaking leverage in this very soft situation in South Vietnam, and it is understandable that frustrated US planners considered whether that situation might be remedied by taking the war to the North and by committing US troops to combat in the South. As momentum in Washington grew, if unevenly, for a major escalation, the bounds of policy debate narrowed and articulate advocates continued to assure President Johnson that only if the US took the war to the enemy in a big way could South Vietnam be saved. Even those senior advisers who might have been impressed by CIA's negative arguments may have decided the circumstances required a gamble, even at worse than 50-50 odds. In the end, however, it was the shocking attacks the Viet Cong made on American men and equipment, coincident with the sweeping reelection of Lyndon Johnson, that capped this long process and at last precipitated the President's decision.

I don't think this is what the original reference specifically referred to, but it works well enough for me.

Apparently, God is an American

At least that's what the Reverend E.F. Briggs of Monongah, West Virginia is claiming. Via Lindsay

An unworkable strategy, a corrupt puppet government. How is that NOT like Viet Nam?

Back here I raised the ghost of Operation Cedar Falls, the US attempt during the Viet Nam war to crush the Viet Cong in the Iron Triangle around Saigon. It failed because,
The Viet Cong choose not to fight and instead melt away into the jungle.
In other words, the US has done this before in another war in another time, but not so long ago that it should be forgotten. It should have been a lesson. Unfortunately, there is a pervading cranial blockage in both the Pentagon and the White House that will not permit a comparison between current day situation in Iraq and the not-ancient history of US military performance in Viet Nam.

In raising that failed strategy, I suggested that exactly the same thing would happen in Baghdad. The "why" is really quite simple. Sending in almost two divisions will only work if the people the US is trying to subdue or destroy actually stay there to let it happen.

Which brings us here:
DEATH SQUAD leaders have fled Baghdad to evade capture or killing by American and Iraqi forces before the start of the troop “surge” and security crackdown in the capital.

A former senior Iraqi minister said most of the leaders loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric, had gone into hiding in Iran.

Among those said to have fled is Abu Deraa, the Shi’ite militia leader whose appetite for sectarian savagery has been compared to that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed last year.

The former minister, who did not want to be named for security reasons, backed Sunni MPs’ claims that Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, had encouraged their flight. He alleged that weapons belonging to Sadr’s Mahdi Army had been hidden inside the Iraqi interior ministry to prevent confiscation.

Maliki said last week: “I know that senior criminals have left Baghdad, others have left the country. This is good — this shows that our message is being taken seriously.”

Sadr has been unexpectedly subdued about the coming purge, prompting allegations of a deal between the radical cleric and the Iraqi prime minister.

The flight from Baghdad could impede American plans to target the leaders of death squads. An extra 17,000 US troops are being sent to Baghdad as part of the surge in forces promised by President George W Bush.

Although Sadr’s militia has been promised no quarter, American and Iraqi forces hope to avoid having to fight their way through Shi’ite strongholds such as Sadr City, home to 2m impoverished people.

With Bush facing heavy criticism at home over the surge, death squad leaders have every incentive to wait out what could be the president’s last-ditch effort to pacify Baghdad. Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing US ambassador to Baghdad, said last week he was concerned that militants were “lying low, avoiding conflict now in order to fight another day”.

I remember, many years ago, sitting talking with some American friends in Honolulu who were quite eager to inform me that the reason the US would never win in Viet Nam is that they had not yet accepted the fact that the traditional application of military force and tactics would never defeat the Viet Cong guerrilla army. Further, they said even if the US changed tactics, it was too late. The Viet Cong had long controlled the countryside.
An interesting theme emerged during that conversation. These US military officers felt that the example of what not to do had been more than demonstrated by the British in various parts of the world after the end of the 2nd World War, including the situation in Palestine from 1945 to 1948.

It was a surprize that these junior officers had it figured out. It is now surprizing that the corporate knowledge and "lessons learned" from past conflicts seem to be shut out of today's planning. Although, the mindset of the US Department of Defense recently departed leader probably hampered the ability to make reference to past events.

It's a different time, it's a different era, it's a different place.
Donald Rumsfeld, July 2003.

But, it's the same problem. And, if you tell them you're coming with two divisions, well, there will probably be a change of tactics to greet you.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ready, Aye... ok not so much

As if this wasn't enough, the Canadian navy is continuing to face problems in operations and maintenance. Now, the Atlantic fleet will be withdrawing from a NATO exercise which involves both the Canadian area of operations and the adjacent area to the south.

This is now getting stupid. The political party that would have had the navy patrol the Arctic with armed ice-breakers can't see fit to make sure the navy has the ability to train in its own Atlantic backyard.
The Canadian navy is pulling three ships out of planned NATO exercises off Nova Scotia next week, citing a lack of funding.

There's no money for the warships to join the U.S. and German ships, navy officials said Friday.

To add to the controversy in comes Steven Staples with a comment that makes little sense.

Defence analyst Steve Staples suggested the navy may be playing politics to get more money in the next budget.

"I think they're playing a dangerous game by trying to embarrass the government," said Staples, with the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute.

Canadians want a military that defends our sovereignty, he said, so the defence minister should tell the navy to get those ships out and "quit playing games."

Staples' comments are not to be misunderstood. He normally appears on the disarmament side of military debates, however, with his statement he finds himself defending Harper's political position by suggesting the navy has enough funding to participate in NATO exercises.

Staples may be a defence analyst but he is no naval planner. When plans to participate in exercises are developed there is often a question as to where the funding will come from. Generally, a number of plans go unfunded while others are over-funded. The shifting of money from over-funded operations and maintenance is regularly shifted into the unfunded programs.

The problem this year is that DND hauled money back from the navy during a review which saw over-funding eliminated and under-funded projects left with too little money. In short, the navy took a budget cut.

Playing politics? Hardly. The upper echelons of the navy are filled with careerists. Such a move is career suicide.

The blame for having a navy which is no longer able to go to sea can be placed squarely on the Afghanistan mission which is sucking up incredible amounts of money.

Gordon O'Connor will deny it, of course.

It will mean nothing.

(h/t Cowboys for Social Responsibility)

Stockwell Day playing loose with the truth

Today on CBC's The House, Kathleen Petty asked Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, about the possibility of getting Maher Arar off the US "Watch List". He offered nothing.

However, Day wasted no time in pointing the finger for Arar's maltreatment at the previous Liberal government. He didn't just do it once, he made it the theme of his conversation.

When Petty asked Day about his prior position on the Arar case and whether he regretted some of the things he said back 2002, Day was unrepentant, except to say he was sorry that he couldn't get more information at the time. He took no responsibility for the words he spoke at the time of the unfolding of Arar's case in 2002 and made every effort to steer the conversation away from any suggestion that Day had made blatant statements in which he argued that Maher Arar was guilty of whatever the US said he was and that the Liberals were behaving as though they were soft on terrorism.

By the end of the interview, Day had made it clear that Harper's apology to Maher Arar was precipitated on the actions of the previous Liberal government. Any apology did not include the actions of the CPoC or the Canadian Alliance Party members who spoke from the opposition benches.

So look at this: (From 2002)
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Canadian Alliance foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day all but convicted Arar of being a terrorist.
Stockwell Day is a goddamned liar.

The lighter side

Here's a bit of fun (or dark humour, depending on your bent) I found over coffee this morning, courtesy of the LA Times:
George W. Jetson's plan for Iraq

By Larry Doyle and Ben Doyle
January 27, 2007

"We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq … our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success."

— President George W. Bush, State of the Union address, Jan. 23
"The military calls its new weapon an 'active denial system,' but that's an understatement. It's a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire…. 'This is one of the key technologies for the future,' said Marine Col. Kirk Hymes, director of the nonlethal weapons program at Quantico, Va."

— Associated Press, the next day

To: [redacted],[redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted]@[redacted].[redacted]

From: [redacted]

Re: Executive Directive on Weapon Development

POTUS very much enjoyed the demonstration today and wanted to thank everyone for their hard work and patriotism. He had some thoughts.

While the ray gun is impressive, POTUS was disappointed that to date it only makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire, and he wants to encourage you to keep working on it until you get it right. He expressed a preference for a ray that turns the target into a glowing red silhouette before making it disintegrate. He also feels the weapon should make a scarier sound.

POTUS was curious about where we are on the invisibility cloak. He pointed out that this was the first project he put into development when he came to the White House and, had it been available earlier, he could have used it to capture SH and OBL personally, saving thousands of lives and the Republican majority. However, he is having second feelings about calling it a cloak, which comes off as evil and French, and has directed that henceforth it be referred to as an invisibility poncho. And he again emphasized that the invisibility poncho be waterproof.

POTUS is frustrated at the continued delays in jet-pack production, a cornerstone in our plan to restore stability to Baghdad. Fix this.

POTUS is also concerned going forward that we continue to consider every possible approach, think outside the envelope, etc. Toward that end, he has designed some weapons systems [see attachment blotter.jpg (1.6 MB)] he feels are pretty cool and provide our best chance for success:

• We have smart bombs; why not smart bullets? They could be trained to tell the difference between Shiites or Sunnis and only shoot the right one, depending on the day.

• Rather than launching missiles into the air, where they are vulnerable to Chinese lasers and birds, why not launch them into the Earth, where they can travel unseen under the ground to their destination? Such UGLMs could also be equipped with a robotic arm, which, upon reaching the target, extends and electrocutes the bad guys before exploding them.

• How hard would it be to mount an automatic machine gun on a gorilla?

• We need a time machine, either based on the POTUS La-Z-Boy design or something more scientific, as long as it's done by Friday. POTUS would like to go back and warn himself about something before it's too late. The machine should be set for Dec. 28, 1963. Never mind why.

Do any readers know what the December '63 reference is about?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Excellent Article On Anthropogenic Global Warming

"Kerry Emanuel is a professor of meteorology at MIT. In 2006 Time magazine recognized him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people."

"Two strands of environmental philosophy run through the course of human history. The first holds that the natural state of the universe is one of infinite stability, with an unchanging earth anchoring the predictable revolutions of the sun, moon, and stars. Every scientific revolution that challenged this notion, from Copernicus’ heliocentricity to Hubble’s expanding universe, from Wegener’s continental drift to Heisenberg’s uncertainty and Lorenz’s macroscopic chaos, met with fierce resistance from religious, political, and even scientific hegemonies.

The second strand also sees the natural state of the universe as a stable one but holds that it has become destabilized through human actions. The great floods are usually portrayed in religious traditions as attempts by a god or gods to cleanse the earth of human corruption. Deviations from cosmic predictability, such as meteors and comets, were more often viewed as omens than as natural phenomena. In Greek mythology, the scorching heat of Africa and the burnt skin of its inhabitants were attributed to Phaeton, an offspring of the sun god Helios, who, having lost a wager to his son, was obliged to allow him to drive the sun chariot across the sky. In this primal environmental catastrophe, Phaeton lost control and fried the earth, killing himself in the process.

These two fundamental ideas have permeated many cultures through much of history. They strongly influence views of climate change to the present day."

Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cheney: Need to control the message? Go to Tweety Pumpkinhead

From the Scooter Libby trial comes this little gem, courtesy of Dana Milbank:
Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

Kind of puts Russert in slightly more of a spot than he was in yesterday, doesn't it? Then, further along, this:

But Martin, encouraged by Libby, secretly advised Libby and Cheney on how to respond. She put "Meet the Press" at the top of her list of "Options" but noted that it might appear "too defensive." Next, she proposed "leak to Sanger-Pincus-newsmags. Sit down and give to him." This meant that the "no-leak" White House would give the story to the New York Times' David Sanger, The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, or Time or Newsweek. Option 3: "Press conference -- Condi/Rumsfeld." Option 4: "Op-ed."

Martin was embarrassed about the "leak" option; the case, after all, is about a leak. "It's a term of art," she said. "If you give it to one reporter, they're likelier to write the story."

Now does the news media get it?

No... probably not.

Colonel, Sir, pass me s'more cod and pork scraps bud.

This is really too cool.
Via Ed Hollett, is this press release from the Canadian Air Force:
Comedian and political satirist Rick Mercer has accepted the appointment as Honorary Colonel of 12 Wing Shearwater's 423 (MH) Squadron, and will begin his tenure in this honorary appointment when he conducts his first official visit to the Maritime Helicopter Squadron in the spring.
Now that's a Maritime Helicopter squadron with class. It leaves me wondering if 443 (MH) Squadron on the west coast is thinking about Luba Goy as that unit's next Honorary Colonel.

Well done, Colonel! Bravo Zulu!

By the way, on a personal note, Rick, you should be aware that a helicopter - any helicopter - is approximately 10,000 parts moving along in close formation held together by a thing called a Jesus nut.

Free Stuff

Now that I've got your attention...

I've been a software junky for years now, always trying out new apps for this and that. What this means is that I'm always trolling about the internets looking for software to satisfy this jones of mine.

Lately the effort has paid off more handsomely than ever.

So here are three of my most recent finds.

First off a PC firewall. The firewall PC World rates as the best in fact. It was developed by one of the big players in online security - you know those guys who put the little padlock logos on secure pages.

It's called Comodo Personal Firewall. I've been using it for about a month with no problems. They make other software that they've made free too. PC only.

Second is for digital photography. I've been using Paint Shop Pro 7 for years and I'm used to it. I've tried Photo Shop but it's way too top heavy for what I generally want to do (as is PSP frankly) and an insatiable RAM pig. What I'm interested in primarily is resizing, cropping, red eye correction, contrast corrections and so on. I'm not a designer and I don't need to overlay textures on the faces of my family members or superimpose their faces on one another's bodies (even though now and then I do).

I was very happy to find this lovely little app is also now being offered free of charge. Photo ToolKit is a sort of end result of the VicMan products being integrated into one suite and, as of December, becoming freeware. Of all the photo apps I've tried this one has the simplest red eye corrector - one click basically. Very nice interface, very intuitive and straightforward with a relatively small footprint. Other nice photo related freeware here too.

The third isn't a piece of software, it's a website that gives away a piece of software every day. No kidding. They give a way a game too but that's not my jones. They're called Give Away of the Day. Today's give away is the i-Sound WMA MP3 Recorder. Other days it's HD utilities or safety utilities or search utilities or video players and mixers. Each morning a new giveaway shows up and you have the day to download it and install it. That's important - you have to install it. (I know, I know, paranoia runs deep) For the i-Sound WMA MP3 Recorder you have about 6 and a half hours as of 5:15pm Pacific today. Tomorrow's another day.

That is all.

The Dissaray of the Right

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times has penned a very good piece entitled "How Iraq and climate change threw the right into disarray".

"In 2003, the kind of people going on anti-war marches – or warning of impending climate doom – looked to many right-wingers like the same people who had been wrong about everything else for the past 25 years...

The thought that these people could be right about anything was frankly intolerable. But, in fact, they were right about two things: global warming and Iraq."

The Good Harbor Report

Noodling about the internets yesterday I happened upon a reference to Richard Clarke. This reference included a link to a website called The Good Harbor Report so I clicked on it.

There are several very good articles and features there, including a report from Clarke entitled "While You Were At War" which seems to me to be a good substitute for the NIE the Senate keeps being stonewalled on. Good Harbor Report is also about to undergo a significant change. Very soon their name will change to Cold Hard Truth dot com and readers will be invited to submit articles because "We want to be the place where the smartest, most original, most unexpected ideas in global security, foreign policy and politics are proposed and discussed, where we don’t simply follow the news but lead the way to new concepts, new philosophies, new realities."

Anyway, the article that really caught my eye and got me looking further was the piece by Julie Sirrs, "Let The Afghans Lead".

Sirrs is a former DIA military analyst. She was the first, for a long time the only, analyst to recognize the significance of Bin Laden moving his base of operation from Sudan to Afghanistan back in the 90s. Gail Sheehy wrote about her in The New York Observer in '04. It's yet another tale of intelligence ignored and people threatened and ostracized by the intelligence and diplomatic communities in the US. (Why exactly do we believe anything they tell us about Arar again?)

Sirrs makes the observation that the Afghans have been fighting each other for centuries and more recently successfully fighting more traditionally organized modern military machines and defeating them.

And yet we don't consider them as capable of handling the fight against the Talibs because the Afghan army isn't enough like a modern army.

As she says, "It’s been five years since the U.S. supported Afghan fighters in overthrowing the Taliban. It boggles the mind that the Afghans who had been fighting the Taliban – and before that the Soviets and themselves – for over 20 years are just now becoming “nearly ready” to fight on their own. Could it be that the way we are “training” the Afghans isn’t really as effective as what they already know? Witness the Taliban’s resurgence. Obviously superior firepower and numbers – the combined U.S. and NATO forces total about 40,000 troops, the Afghan National Army is currently about 24,000, while the Taliban are estimated to have around 10,000 fighters – aren’t the way to win the war in Afghanistan."

The transparency of O'Connor's secrecy

Why didn't they just do what they usually do? Make something up.

A day after Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor met with his American counterpart, the federal Conservative government was still refusing to say what the pair talked about. O'Connor visited Washington on Tuesday for his first meeting with new U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But O'Connor refused to speak to reporters about the taxpayer-funded trip. "Due to time constraints, there was no time for a media availability, however, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities the next time he is in Washington," spokeswoman Isabelle Bouchard wrote in an e-mail. When asked Tuesday and again Wednesday what was discussed, unusually tight-lipped officials said they had no information to provide. Bouchard said only that it was a good meeting and that the minister "looks forward to working constructively with his American counterpart in the future." Canadian officials didn't even announce that the meeting was happening until the day of the visit. There was one clue to the secrecy: a source said staff were ordered by the Prime Minister's Office to keep quiet Tuesday so as not to take publicity away from Stephen Harper's speech on the one-year anniversary of his election win.
Ah, yes. Steve Harper. It's always about our very presidential Steve.

Take O'Connor's visit for what it's worth. Both O'Connor and Gates have one thing in common. They have politically-damaging military actions working against them. By not speaking about it means not having to answer the most embarrassing question of all with an answer that would sound like, "We have not a clue what to do next."

More information on the "Measured Response"

Lt. General Dan "Just Bomb Them" Halutz didn't get his nickname for nothing. As questions are being asked about the Israeli campaign in Lebanon last summer, information coming to the fore indicates that Halutz had no plan for a ground operation.

In other words, he had planned on doing the whole job by bombing, the precision of which was left sorely lacking.
A senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces General Staff said yesterday that during last summer's war, the option of a large-scale ground operation in southern Lebanon was not seriously discussed by the General Staff or by the political establishment until July 27, more than two weeks after the war broke out.


According to the officer, Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky and Operations Directorate Head Gadi Eisenkot (who is currently GOC Northern Command) raised the need for the army to prepare for a large-scale ground operation during the discussions held on the day the war broke out, July 12. However, a short time later it became clear that the political leadership and the chief of staff did not consider a ground operation as being a realistic option at that time, and it was removed from the agenda. Only during the war's third week did the army begin to seriously prepare for a large-scale ground operation, which included placing three divisions into action in southern Lebanon.
And then the army, without plans, without preparation and without the appropriate equipment made a mess of it.

One would think a "measured response" would involve something along the line of planning. Anything else is just a guess. Dolphin 56.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What happens when you put a shark in a goldfish bowl?

After Focus on the Family criticized Mary Cheney, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked "The Dick" to comment on it. What followed wasn't pretty...
Q We're out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you. Your daughter Mary, she's pregnant. All of us are happy. She's going to have a baby. You're going to have another grandchild. Some of the -- some critics, though, are suggesting, for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family:

"Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father, doesn't mean it's best for the child."

Do you want to respond to that?


Q She's obviously a good daughter --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm delighted -- I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf, and obviously think the world of both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.

Q I think all of us appreciate --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think you're out of -- I think you're out of line with that question.

Q -- your daughter. We like your daughters. Believe me, I'm very, very sympathetic to Liz and to Mary. I like them both. That was just a question that's come up and it's a responsible, fair question.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I just fundamentally disagree with your perspective.

Q I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

Blitzer immediately went into "begging for mercy" mode. After all, it isn't like Cheney hasn't shot better friends in the face.

A shark in the goldfish bowl. Feed with caution and never turn your back.

Update: The original You Tube clip has been removed... so the transcript will have to do.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

David Frum: Sound your horn if you're going to back up that fast.

Shorter David Frum: If Bush had done it the way PNAC and the American Enterprise Institute told him he should have done it, we'd all be sniffing roses right now. Oh by the way, none of it is my fault.

George Mascolo interviewed David Frum who, at one point at least, thought George W. Bush was the right man for the job. Apparently, Bush just wasn't enough of a neo-con to get the job done right.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Frum, five years ago you coined the now world famous term "Axis of Evil."

David Frum: A presidential speech is always the work of many hands. When the president makes the decision to accept it, these are his words. We were in the middle of a very big debate. Did the United States and the Western allies have a problem with al-Qaida, or did they face a larger threat from Islamic extremism combined with weapons of mass destruction? The president took the view that this is a bigger problem, that we are dealing with a whole network of countries who together will develop over time access to terrible weapons. He was trying to broaden people's focus in that speech.
Right. Because from that moment onward, al Qaeda would show up wherever the Bush administration was wont to go, including Iraq, Iran or Syria.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Initially, only Iran and Iraq were slated for membership. What prompted the inclusion of North Korea, a country which has no significant Muslim community?

Frum: With the concerns clearly defined, it was very difficult not to mention North Korea since they are such a blatant case. But I think there was one critical failure: Not to consider at all Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Oh... oops! How did that slip out?! Oh can you imagine the suffering? All those Hummers sitting on blocks as Saudi oil dried up.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: That sounds like a really late excuse.

Frum: If you are looking for states that sponsor terrorism, I think there is no state in the world that has a worse record than Pakistan. And if you are concerned about the spread of extremist ideology, there is no state in the world that has a worse record than Saudi Arabia. So, if you are going to criticize what we did and said five years ago, the question should be how can you omit Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?

Because it is an excuse. The mistake Frum is talking about here is not executing the plan the real neo-cons had in mind - World War III.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The simple answer is probably: Because they were and they are close American allies.

Frum: There was too much readiness to believe that Pakistan wanted to completely cooperate with the West, and that is a big part of the problem in Afghanistan. And if terrorists ever get their hands on a really terrible weapon, the history of that weapon will ultimately be traced back to Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has been very helpful in many ways, but if you are thinking about the people who put gas bombs on German trains, they get their ideas from teachers paid by the Saudi government.

Jeez!! Some revelation that is. And how suddenly did a neo-con come to the sudden realization that Saudi Arabia was a problem?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: We don't remember anybody in Washington proposing to deal with Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq.

Frum: I would say that the story of the Bush Administration is the story of an administration caught halfway across the bridge; they did not want to face up to the magnitude of the problems. Its policies are premised on the assumption that we have a firm alliance with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. If it had been possible in 2001 to address the problem of Saudi Arabia, maybe there never would have been an Iraq war.

Oh. my. fucking. gawd. Halfway across a bridge?! If only the bear hadn't stopped to have a crap the dog would have caught the rabbit.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: This sounds hard to believe. So what would have been the appropriate reaction -- attacking Saudi Arabia?

Frum: No, not at all. But we should have faced up to the truth about what Saudi Arabia does and what it pays for. And the US and the other democracies do have the strength to demand that Saudi Arabia change its ways. It would not be too much to demand, for example, that the Saudi government cease financial support to religious missions beyond its own borders. No American administration has ever been willing to acknowledge the nature of the Saudi problem.
Which would have been a whole lot smarter than attacking Iraq, but what the hell, when you're mad, you're mad. You just have to put your fist through the wall.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think the President ever regretted the choice of words?"

Frum: President Bush is not a man for regrets, but the phrase does leave him with a problem. He committed himself in the most solemn possible way to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and yet the administration has no policy, even now. So he has this loose unguarded commitment without a policy to make it a reality.

Ummm. This is not news... is it?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Back then it sounded like a scary unoffical task schedule for his presidency, and today Iraq is in chaos, North Korea a nuclear power and Iran obviously on its way. So is the doctrine still valid?

Frum: The fact that there has been little progress does not make the goal less urgent. It is my sense that, whereas five years ago Europeans often criticized Americans for trying to do too much, today they worry that Americans are doing too little.

Wow. You can cut the arrogance and the hubris with a machete. Actually it's not that Bush is doing too much or too little. It's that he's doing too much wrong. We still don't have a good reason for invading Iraq.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The feeling in Europe seems to be much more, that by attacking Iraq, America lost the credibility to deal with the much more serious problems like North Korea and Iran.

Frum: That is a criticism that looks very powerful, five years later. One of the things the Bush Administration believed in 2002 was precisely that because Iraq was the weakest link it would be the easiest to deal with. The administration's plans were all premised on the idea that Iraq could be a success story, fairly quickly.

Was that the Mother Goose or the Brothers' Grimm plans? Given all the "intelligence" that was being spread around to sell the Bush administration ideas on Iraq, you'd have thought they would have looked at some, y'know, real stuff.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Today, among the most fervent critics of the war in Iraq are the neocons, among them your friend Richard Perle. He said that if he had known how many mistakes the Bush Administration made, he would have been against the invasion. Are you distancing yourself from the war you supported so loudly?

Frum: That's a very difficult question. Let me say that terrible mistakes were made. There was discussion about handing over power to an Iraqi provisional government immediately. But we never did. The other plan that might have worked was a truly massive invasion with 300,000 men, and you had better prepare to stay a long time. The decision between these two plans was not made, so we ended up with an American occupation with only as many forces as were intended to support an Iraqi provisional government ...

Oh yeah. First, the little worm doesn't answer a direct question and then he goes on to blame the current problem on not using a plan that didn't exist.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... because there were many optimists among the neocons, who even did part of the so-called planning in the Pentagon, who even predicted a "cakewalk."

Frum: Whenever you discuss politics, it is always better to use individual names rather then the term neocon. The real misunderstanding was: Military war planners assumed that the United States could move in and encounter a functioning bureaucracy in a functioning state. It was the Japan parallel, that a thin layer of military people at the top working through a bureaucracy would be sufficent to run the country. But under the pressure of the sanctions of the 1990's the state collapsed and Saddam reverted to establishing a kind of feudal tribal regime. There was a sheik, and he was loyal, so he gave him Land Rovers and money. There was a sheik and he was not loyal. So he killed him.

A yes... the "cakewalk" was the plan. Then... don't blame the neo-cons. It was only certain neo-cons - the ones who did it wrong. And then the kicker. How is it the Bush administration did not know the state of Saddam's Iraq before they invaded it? Clearly, sanctions were working. But, Frum is trying to say that they didn't know this before they invaded Iraq. And, if he is telling us that they did know in 2002, it's clear Iraq didn't need to be invaded. Either way, Frum cannot justify his position.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The much too rosy assumptions even lead to the decision to kick out the members of the Baath party and send the Iraqi army home.

Frum: There are a lot of mysteries about the war, and one is where did those orders come from. Donald Rumsfeld insists he did not give them. Yet, Paul Bremer insists that he was carrying out an order given to him by somebody else.

And, hell, you'd think that Bremer would be able to identify the person who gave him the order. You know, from something like a police photo array. I guess that's the problem with "war presidents": they always wear disguises.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So do you come to the same conclusion regarding the Iraq disaster as Richard Perle?

Frum: I am not going to use that kind of language. All I will say in answer to that question is that I absolutely believed that Iraq was very close to acquiring weapons of mass destruction. And I have to think that the president shared that belief.

Hmmm... after he just finished telling us that Saddam had gone feudal. For what it's worth, anyone with a lottery ticket is very close to acquiring at least a million dollars.

This is a picture of a rat scrambling to find a way out of the sewer as the water starts to rise. Brought to you by the American Enterprise Institute where a plan is a terrible thing to waste time on.

Television Bureau of Canada Boo Boo

In amongst all the giddy celebrations surrounding the Harper minority government's surviving their first (only?) year in office was this story in The Star.

It concerns a complaint made against Radio Canada by the Conservatives. Apparently Sandra Buckler is pissed that their meeting in Texas having to do with the quadrupling of production in the oil sands has been characterized as "secret" and as "theirs".

It was not "secret" apparently according to Buckler. And, also according to Buckler, it had been agreed to by the previous Liberal government.

Anyway, go read it.

And pay especial attention to the final few paragraphs which include the following

"Last week, the Television Bureau of Canada refused to approve an ad aimed at Harper because it included an excerpt from a campaign speech, and Harper hadn't given his formal permission to use it...Jim Patterson, the bureau president, said Tuesday the bureau made a mistake, adding that the person who handled the request should have known that Harper's permission was not required." (emphasis mine)

Who was the person who handled the request?

Is this person a member of a particular church? A particular political party? What are this person's family connections?

Nahhh...nothing to see here...move along.

Couldn't be like that Bush family member at Fox who called the election for Bush in 2000.


Conservatives would never do such a thing.

They wouldn't have been slowly inserting themselves into positions of authority in our influential regulatory agencies with the aim of subverting them for partisan purposes.

Would they?

You bet your ass they would. Count on it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

We have a solution to this heinous problem...

Which we created!

From ABC News:
Mimicking the hijackers who executed the Sept. 11 attacks, insurgents reportedly tied to al Qaeda in Iraq considered using student visas to slip terrorists into the United States to orchestrate a new attack on American soil.
Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Yes... and the usual suspects are busy puckering their assholes, sucking air and pointing at the sky. Terraists!!!

What ABC fails to mention is that al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before March 20th, 2003. They simply weren't there.

So what else was ABC up to today? Well, how about a little mixing of drama and politics. In an attempt to make life imitate art, ABC posed a question and attracted an opinion piece from Hugh "There's no silicon in my man-breasts" Hewitt on whether FOX television's "24" went too far in depicting a scenario during which Los Angeles gets nuked. So, under which particular heading did ABC lodge this particular question and answer about a television drama, all of which is pure Hollywood fantasy?

Under ABC News POLITICS, of course. Don't worry... I'm confident CNN will come around and find a spot for American Idol in the appropriate broadcast spot.

Wow... and just one day before the smirking little prick stands before a hostile congress and presents his State Of The Onion Union address.

Speaking of which... it looks like George has fallen so far that he's going to copy his Canadian counterparts. When times are tough and friends are few, green's the new winning hue!
President Bush's staff promise that his pronouncements tonight on energy and climate will "knock your socks off" and score headlines "above the fold."

Listen for soaring new goals for biofuels like ethanol, a plea for more presidential power to boost vehicle fuel economy and perhaps a more concrete acknowledgement of global warming.

Woo... heavy stuff. Especially since...

President Bush ruled out mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions in 2001, favoring encouragement of voluntary cuts and investment in low-carbon technologies.
Al Qaeda in Iraq? Yessir! You brought them there; don't expect them to be tame. Kind of reminds me of something I saw somewhere.

ABC is worried whether "24" has gone too far. Nah! Amateur production compared to what the Brits put out 22 years ago. Now that was nasty bit of drama and it didn't even get off the entertainment pages.

And, as for Georgie Junior suddenly going green, well, isn't it amazing how, when the neo-cons, no matter what nationality, suddenly discover that the majority of the population dislike them, they run and hug a tree.

It's all quite stunning really.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Conservatives copy the Goizueta maneuver

Steve at Far and Wide cuts right to the bone of the Gnu™ Conservative Eco-Energy Efficiency Initiative which, while many people are calling it EnerGuide II, I prefer to label EnerGuide Classic.

Most people would probably shrug their shoulders at the name of a Cuban immigrant to the United States, Robert Goizueta. His is just not a household name, but the company he ran for 16 years certainly was and under his supervision it became "one of the world's most sophisticated and powerful marketing organizations". If you had invested $1000 in his company on the day he took over as chairman in 1981 it would have been worth $62,000 by the time Goizueta died in 1997.

Goizueta took over a company which was starting to suffer. It was on the borderline of being unprofitable. The board of directors shunned any form of risk. Further, the company had become bound-up in the traditions and culture of 89 years of existence. Goizueta, sometimes without fully considering the consequences, set out to shake things up and create a new culture.

He was going to transform Coca-Cola™.

Coca-Cola had once had a strangle-hold on the soft-drink market. It's nearest competitor, Pepsi™, had a market share equal to 20 percent that of Coca-Cola's. That was until 1984 when Pepsi took the lead in sales. The Coca-Cola company found themselves in the minority position with only 21.6 percent of the market share compared to Pepsi's 22.8 percent. Coke was "thundering in" and Goizueta had a plan to turn the situation around. Unfortunately, he was headed down the wrong road.

The formula for Coca-Cola had been around for 99 years in 1985. Goizueta, on the basis of blind taste tests, reformulated the Coke recipe to taste more like the "now popular" Pepsi and rebranded it New Coke.

The North American market rejected the New Coke formula. Many found it too sweet while others simply insisted that they liked the old formula much better. Still others could not understand why Coca-Cola, with a proven flavour, would try to copy something different. There were differences in the colas and Coke's traditional market was not pleased. Coke had become a knock-off of what Coke drinkers felt was an inferior product. The public had an attachment to good-old, comfortable, Coca-Cola. There was an emotional attachment which Goizueta had not anticipated and New Coke simply did not meet the public's need for a product which spoke to their need for stability and tradition. Goizueta had tried to fix something that was not broken and it was costing The Coca-Cola company a fortune in lost sales and popularity. Goizueta, working from an ideology of change had impulsively committed a huge blunder.

In less than a year, Goizueta brought back the "old" Coke formula. But rather than just admit the mistake, withdraw New Coke from the market and re-introduce Coca-Cola under its old name and brand, he made up for his previous mistake with a stoke of simple genius: He created Coca-Cola Classic.

It took off, and Goizueta milked the publicity from his error. Coca-Cola Classic became a marketing miracle. Goizueta had given the public what they really wanted: good old-fashioned Coke; a drink they were comfortable with.

If there is anything strange about the Coke Classic phenomenon it is that nothing really changed. The Coca-Cola people drink now is the same Coca-Cola people have been drinking for over 100 years. There's nothing different - except the marketing and the packaging. It wasn't better than the "old" Coke - it was the "old" Coke. And we loved it!

Goizueta dropped his ideology of change in favour of a new course of action. He retained the traditional products, introduced new ones and diversified the Coca-Cola company by exploring different products. But the stuff which made Coke a success, stayed.

The Conservatives do not have a Robert Goizueta in their midst. They have not had any form of epiphany with respect to the environment. Their re-branding of the former Liberal EnerGuide program is based on public opinion polls. The similarity between the Conservatives and the near-disastrous blunder of the introduction of New Coke is that the Conservatives saw that their trash and burn policy was making the public uncomfortable. They had created a vacuum and the public noticed that the Conservatives had eliminated a valuable program - period. There was nothing "better" to replace it and that made people uneasy. The Conservatives watched their numbers start to fall. To make matters worse, they had no new ideas with which to replace a program they had hacked. They then, unwittingly, carried out Goizueta's, now famous, maneuver. They brought back the old program with new packaging.

Where the Conservatives now fail is that they are still an ideology-driven bunch. That has not changed. Where Goizueta openly admitted his mistake over New Coke, the Conservatives are unable to muster the courage to get past their ideology to make the same kind of admission with regards to canceled environmental programs. They are trying to make the EEEI sound like their idea and something completely new. Where Goizueta never tried to insult the intelligence or instincts of the buying public, the Conservatives most certainly will. Canadians can see right through this.

And, where Coca-Cola long ago recognized that the cornerstone of the company's success lies with the retention of successful products, even though the market share may not be as high as they would like, the Conservatives, if they ever get a majority government, will dump EnerGuide Classic as quickly as they re-introduced the former Liberal program. Count on it - it goes to their ideology.


If you'd like to see what the Conservatives would do with this bit of lemonade they think they have manufactured, especially if they have the chance to form another government, this is more along the lines of how they'll behave. It's just so... fitting.

Disorder on the Pakistan border

Carlotta Gall and David Rohde reporting in the New York Times tell a story which has to raise even more questions as to whether Afghanistan can ever be secured without first dealing with Pakistan. Quetta, on the Pakistan side of the border was a major staging and marshaling area for al Qaeda before the invasion of Afghanistan and for the Taliban before that.
The most explosive question about the Taliban resurgence here along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is this: Have Pakistani intelligence agencies been promoting the Islamic insurgency?

The government of Pakistan vehemently rejects the allegation and insists that it is fully committed to help American and NATO forces prevail against the Taliban militants who were driven from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

Western diplomats in both countries and Pakistani opposition figures say that Pakistani intelligence agencies — in particular the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence — have been supporting a Taliban restoration, motivated not only by Islamic fervor but also by a longstanding view that the jihadist movement allows them to assert greater influence on Pakistan’s vulnerable western flank.

More than two weeks of reporting along this frontier, including dozens of interviews with residents on each side of the porous border, leaves little doubt that Quetta is an important base for the Taliban, and found many signs that Pakistani authorities are encouraging the insurgents, if not sponsoring them.

The ISI has long been suspected of not only being in league with the Taliban but using them as a surrogate army.

The ISI has a long history of dealings with the Taliban. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the ISI was the conduit for money and arms, supplied by the US, destined for the mujahadeen. The ISI flew its true colours when, in September 2006, a deal was reached between the Pakistani government and the Taliban lodged in Waziristan. Shortly after that deal was signed NATO and the US operations in Afghanistan reported that the number of attacks by Taliban (or similar groups) tripled.

The Pakistani military and intelligence services have for decades used religious parties as a convenient instrument to keep domestic political opponents at bay and for foreign policy adventures, said Husain Haqqani, a former adviser to several of Pakistan’s prime ministers and the author of a book on the relationship between the Islamists and the Pakistani security forces.

The religious parties recruited for the jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan from the 1980s, when the Pakistani intelligence agencies ran the resistance by the mujahedeen and channeled money to them from the United States and Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Mr. Haqqani said.

In return for help in Kashmir and Afghanistan the intelligence services would rig votes for the religious parties and allow them freedom to operate, he said.

“The religious parties provide them with recruits, personnel, cover and deniability,” Mr. Haqqani said in a telephone interview from Washington, where he is now a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The Inter-Services Intelligence once had an entire wing dedicated to training jihadis, he said. Today the religious parties probably have enough of their own people to do the training, but, he added, the I.S.I. so thoroughly monitors phone calls and people’s movements that it would be almost impossible for any religious party to operate a training camp without its knowledge.

“They trained the people who are at the heart of it all, and they have done nothing to roll back their protégés,” Mr. Haqqani said.

In the region surrounding Quetta, the people are of the firm belief that the ISI is sending fresh recruits to the war in Afghanistan. And when the question arises as to whether the ISI is a loose cannon all answers are the same: President Musharraf has total control of the ISI.

Musharraf, of course, has his own problems. He lives life on the brink of a coup. At any time, a move which upsets any given power group, such as the ISI, could see him removed from power. Is that forcing him to play both ends against the middle?


The real problem is that there are troops on the ground in Afghanistan who have every right to believe they are accomplishing something, only to discover that their enemy is being reinforced from an area they cannot enter.

That would piss me off.