Monday, April 30, 2007

Stockwell Day busted by the Afghan ambassador

After Stockwell Day announced that Corrections Canada personnel, assigned to Afghanistan in a training and mentoring role, were monitoring the treatment of prisoners taken by Canadian Forces I called him on it. In fact, I called the opposition on it for not jumping all over Day's statement. The Corrections Canada mission has nothing at all to do with monitoring PWs and it doesn't take any amount of research to prove it.

Over the weekend my position was verified by none other than the Afghan ambassador to Canada.
Urging an end to the "political circus" over Afghan detainees, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada says no Canadians, including corrections officers, have monitored treatment of prisoners turned over by Canadian military forces.
End of fucking story.

Alison points it out in clear terms. Stockwell Day should be toast.

Day's deliberate misleading of the House of Commons was an effort to mask the fact that his colleague, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, had no workable agreement with anybody which would verify that prisoners taken by Canadian Forces were receiving humane treatment.

There have been posts on the fringes of the outer wankosphere suggesting that Canadians should not care about the treatment of PWs captured by Canadian troops. There has been one ignorant and incomprehensible comment on this blog suggesting the same thing.

Let's clear this up. The Geneva Conventions are not "quaint" treaties which have no place in modern warfare. They are Canadian law. We may not like that they are blowing up Canadian troops, or that they have the unmitigated gall to actually fight back when someone tries to capture or kill them, but that does not change what is legally required of this country and its agents when a combatant or a partisan is rendered hors d'combat or reduced to the status of an ineffective captive.

Members of the Canadian Forces are required to take prisoner any combatant who surrenders or who is routed. From the point that an enemy surrenders the onus is on the captor to provide protection to any and all prisoners from further harm provided they do not attempt to escape. It is the responsibility of the government of the forces which capture enemy combatants to ensure humane treatment and that captives are removed from further danger as soon as practicable. If a transfer takes place, the government of the capturing force is required to guarantee the proper treatment of prisoners, no matter who it is that receives them. There are no fucking options.

Those who suggest that Taliban fighters are little more than animals and therefore deserve no better than what might happen to them at the hands of the Afghan intelligence services need to review their thinking. I would lay money down that those same people would consider the treatment of Canadian PWs by the Japanese, taken after the fall of Hong Kong, was abhorrent, barbaric and illegal. While Japan signed the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, Japan did not sign the Geneva Conventions. No matter, almost everyone could agree that Japan should be held accountable for the way they treated prisoners. (Few people would be aware that Japanese military law in WW2 prohibited the torture of prisoners and that those regulations were used to provide a prima facie case against military personnel during war crimes trials.)

Those who express the belief that prisoners captured by Canadian troops are not entitled to proper protection and treatment are, in fact, no better than the Japanese who justified their actions as a part of the Bushido Code.

It wasn't right then and it isn't right now.

Back to Stockwell Day, who has made a blatant effort to paint Taliban insurgents as Al Qaeda operators.

His language has been unacceptable and inflammatory. This same piece of shit will stand there and spout "Canadian Values" as a reason for being in Afghanistan and then suggest that we have to live with whatever ill-treatment prisoners receive at that hands of our Afghani agents because "they don't understand".

It's the responsibility of the Canadian government to make the Afghan government understand, including the threat of repercussions if they do no carry out our wishes - to the fucking letter.

Even more sickening is the willingness of Harper, O'Connor and Day to dodge behind "the troops" every time they are held to account for having no coherent prisoner transfer policy. The suggestion that opposition to their unworkable transfer agreements is maligning Canadian troops in the field is an insult, not to the opposition, but to the troops directly.

Just to be clear, the troops are doing their job properly and in accordance with the direction they have received. It is not the responsibility of the troops in the field to monitor or know what treatment transfered prisoners receive once they are out of the hands of those affecting a capture. It is the responsibility of the Canadian government and specifically, Harper, O'Connor and Day.

I agree with Alison: Stockwell Day should resign immediately. And he can take that useless thing playing at Defence Minister with him.

Harper needs to have it clearly pointed out to him that playing at "soldier" involves a lot more than just going out and shooting at things. The taking, proper processing and humane treatment of prisoners is a part of combat operations. It's not an option and, as inconvenient as it may be to him, it is an obligation of all "civilized" countries engaged in belligerent military operations. It's a part of warfare and his Defence Minister has failed him for not providing the proper education.

Harper doesn't get to decide. Fuck, I was teaching this stuff when he was still pissing his bed.

She should have gone to church and lied to her skygod.

Chet hangs the word off Condoleeza Rice which most aptly describes the incoherent, incompetent liar that showed up on the Sunday talk shows yesterday.

Sometimes it's better to just write a cookbook

Eight former members of the US intelligence community sent former head of the CIA, George Tenet, a letter on the occasion of the publication of his book. They seem to have a few problems with Tenet's take on things.
You showed a lack of leadership and courage in January of 2003 as the Bush Administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium. You signed off on Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations. And, at his insistence, you sat behind him and visibly squandered CIA's most precious asset—credibility.


It now turns out that you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community--a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality. Decisions were made, you were in charge, but you have no idea how decisions were made even though you were in charge. Curiously, you focus your anger on the likes of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice, but you decline to criticize the President.


By your silence you helped build the case for war. You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Most importantly and tragically, you failed to meet your obligations to the people of the United States. Instead of resigning in protest, when it could have made a difference in the public debate, you remained silent and allowed the Bush Administration to cite your participation in these deliberations to justify their decision to go to war. Your silence contributed to the willingness of the public to support the disastrous war in Iraq, which has killed more than 3300 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

If you are committed to correcting the record about your past failings then you should start by returning the Medal of Freedom you willingly received from President Bush in December 2004.
The former intelligence types have an idea which would allow Tenet to make amends for his behavior.
Mr. Tenet, you cannot undo what has been done. It is doubly sad that you seem still to lack an adequate appreciation of the enormous amount of death and carnage you have facilitated. If reflection on these matters serves to prick your conscience we encourage you to donate at least half of the royalties from your book sales to the veterans and their families, who have paid and are paying the price for your failure to speak up when you could have made a difference. That would be the decent and honorable thing to do.
Maybe it's just me, but I think there's more chance of The Dixie Chicks performing at the Republican National Convention than there is of George Tenet giving up one penny of the income he's expecting from his book.

There's other good stuff to read. Why waste your money.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Earthquake in Folkestone

Via This Old Brit comes a report of an earthquake which hit Folkestone, Kent, England, this morning at 8:19 AM British Standard Time.
An earthquake has shaken parts of Kent, damaging buildings and disrupting electricity supplies.

Homes in five streets in Folkestone had to be evacuated because of structural damage including cracked walls and fallen chimneys.

The magnitude 4.3 tremor struck at 0819 BST and experts said its epicentre was a few miles off the coast in the English Channel.

I've been to Kent many times in my life and, well, it's really not all that earthquake-proof. But as Richard points out, there was another very serious consideration.

This is the BBC Graphic showing the epicentre of an earthquake 4.3 on the Richter Scale occurring 7.5 miles off the Dover coast in the English Channel.

Just for information, the headland sticking out into the Strait of Dover from France is Calais.

Now look at this graphic (courtesy of Richard):

That's a direct hit by a 4.3 earthquake on the Channel Tunnel between Folkestone and Calais. Interestingly, there was absolutely no news as to the state of the Chunnel.

Methinks it's time to go looking for cracks. No?

(There is no word whether the Bush administration in the US is considering launching a War on Earthquakes.)

Finally! A full blown sex scandal

I was wondering what took them so long. With all the moistness with which the evangelical Bush administration pushes "family values", you just had to know this was going to happen:
ABC News’ Brian Ross revealed tonight that the list of customers of an alleged Washington-based prostitution service includes White House and Pentagon officials as well as prominent attorneys.

“There are thousands of names, tens of thousands of phone numbers,” Ross said. “And there are people there at the Pentagon, lobbyists, others at the White House, prominent lawyers — a long, long list.” Ross added that the women who worked for the service, potentially as prostitutes, “include university professors, legal secretaries, scientists, military officers.”

So far, this has already had the effect of taking out Deputy Secretary of State Randy Tobias. Although Tobias states that he never had sex with any of the women; he simply had them come to his condo to give him a massage. Why to the words, "I never inhaled" keep marching through my mind?

It's worth revisiting a little of Tobias' past utterances.

As the Bush administration's so-called "AIDS czar," Tobias was criticized by some for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS. In a 2004 interview, Tobias explained his approach as "A and B and C. . . Abstinence works. 'Be faithful' works. Condoms work. They all have a role. But it's not a multiple choice, where there is only one answer." As a top official overseeing global AIDS funding to other countries, Tobias was responsible for enforcing a U.S. policy, enacted during the Bush administration, that requires recipients to swear they oppose prostitution and sex trafficking. USAID adopted a similar policy in 2004.
And "massages" work... to relieve all that tension.

I suspect one of the names we will not see on the list is that of Karl Rove. Nope, I'm figuring he's squeaky clean on this one. After all, Karl doesn't like to be touched, especially by attractive women.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Offers of Aid to the USA Are Pointless

The next time a major disaster strikes the USA any allies considering offering assistance ought to refrain.

It would be a waste of resources.

Fools, liars, hypocrites, assholes.

Failure in generalship

Lt. Colonel Paul Yingling has written a scathing feature article in the US Armed Forces Journal entitled A failure in generalship.

Yingling doesn't discuss the morality or necessity of the Bush administration adventure in Iraq. Instead he takes the position all uniformed officers must take: If it is the will of the democratically elected government, and the people, it is my job to tell the truth about what it will take to achieve the end.

Yingling wastes no time getting straight to the point. US generals have failed to provide a proper assessment of the forces needed to secure Iraq, have failed to adapt to the type of warfare in Iraq and generally don't know enough about the people of Iraq to properly win them over.
For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

Yingling doesn't go so far as to name specific generals, however it doesn't take too much imagination to figure out which characters clearly failed to perform the basic duty of providing the correct estimates on Iraq. While Yingling's article is written in such a way that would not allow it, it would be worth remembering that there was one US general who did provide a proper strategic estimate to the Bush administration: former US army chief-of-staff, General Eric Shinseki. His telling of the truth and his willingness to resist the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz fantasy view cost him his job. Yingling, without saying as much, suggests that that is exactly what all US generals should have done. It might have injected a second thought into the political cabal that was planning the invasion of Iraq. Instead, they got Tommy Franks who caved to the unqualified demands of Rumsfeld.

Yingling occasionally travels outside the realm of the generals with pointed comments.

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.
And then he seals that compact with this:

If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means. If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results.
That extends in both directions. While the generals may be culpable, the population of a country can be held as much so. One of the things any combatant in a war expects is that her/his sacrifice, whether it be blood or just deprivation, is being shared to some degree by the non-combatant population. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, that simply is not happening.

However much it is influenced by passion and probability, war is ultimately an instrument of policy and its conduct is the responsibility of policymakers. War is a social activity undertaken on behalf of the nation; Augustine counsels us that the only purpose of war is to achieve a better peace. The choice of making war to achieve a better peace is inherently a value judgment in which the statesman must decide those interests and beliefs worth killing and dying for. The military man is no better qualified than the common citizen to make such judgments. He must therefore confine his input to his area of expertise — the estimation of strategic probabilities.

Yingling then goes into the area which so many have been saying for so long. The mistakes of Vietnam are being repeated in Iraq. He could easily have added Afghanistan to the mix.
America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America's generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America's generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.
Although some did try. Even the initial estimates of the size of force required, which were rejected by Rumsfeld, were far too low.
Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America's generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

Here's were the problem of Rumsfeld's behaviour towards his generals starts to kick back. Each successive general appearing before congressional committees said there were enough troops on the ground to do the job - even though an exercise prior to the coming to power of the Bush administration had proved otherwise. The generals in charge knew perfectly well they were playing Rumsfeld's songs and they knew just as well that they couldn't possibly secure Iraq with the numbers they had been handed.

Finally, Congress must enhance accountability by exercising its little-used authority to confirm the retired rank of general officers. By law, Congress must confirm an officer who retires at three- or four-star rank. In the past this requirement has been pro forma in all but a few cases. A general who presides over a massive human rights scandal or a substantial deterioration in security ought to be retired at a lower rank than one who serves with distinction. A general who fails to provide Congress with an accurate and candid assessment of strategic probabilities ought to suffer the same penalty. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war. By exercising its powers to confirm the retired ranks of general officers, Congress can restore accountability among senior military leaders.
It's worth reading the whole article to understand the context. I would, however, argue that Yingling fails in one area: Even if the generals had provided proper strategic assessments, as Eric Shinseki did, the neo-cons were not likely to have changed their course of action.

Rumsfeld had fixed in his mind that technology would be the army of the future, today, and did not consider the responsibilities of occupation a defense department mandate. Even though there were exercise results on the shelf and his army chief of staff was stating that occupation would take troops on the order of several hundred thousand, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney had already decided how it would be done.

The problem was that the generals let it happen. While I think blaming them completely for the failure in Iraq is a little extreme, they certainly had the power, before the invasion of Iraq ever took place, to make it an unpalatable move requiring four times the existing troops and demanding a national program of conscription to fill the ranks of ground forces.

(H/T Canadian Cynic for the WaPo lead)

Friday, April 27, 2007

UN: we have the money and know-how to stop global warming

The Guardian has obtained...what a familiar ring that has to it...a draft copy of the third IPCC report.

1. Read it.

2. Contrast and compare the recommendations of the IPCC to Harper/Baird.

3. Weep

4. Rage

Evidence That Homo Sapiens Can Survive Itself

Does anyone know of any?

There are many signs that we won't and it's rapidly becoming my opinion that we can't but I know of no signs that indicate we either can or will.

Anyone? Anyone?


Dr. Richard Leakey has called this period of time, our era, the Sixth Extinction.

"It is happening now, and we, the human race, are its cause," explains Dr. Richard Leakey, the world's most famous paleoanthropologist. Every year, between 17,000 and 100,000 species vanish from our planet, he says. "For the sake of argument, let's assume the number is 50,000 a year. Whatever way you look at it, we're destroying the Earth at a rate comparable with the impact of a giant asteroid slamming into the planet, or even a shower of vast heavenly bodies." The statistics he has assembled are staggering. Fifty per cent of the Earth's species will have vanished inside the next 100 years; mankind is using almost half the energy available to sustain life on the planet, and this figure will only grow as our population leaps from 5.7 billion to ten billion inside the next half-century. Such a dramatic and overwhelming mass extinction threatens the entire complex fabric of life on Earth, including the species responsible for it: Homo sapiens." (For more cheery news visit

That was published 12 years ago in 1995. Nothing has improved since then. The situation has become much, much worse.

All of our hominid ancestry became extinct because they were unable to adapt to a changed environment. In each of their cases the change was geological or perhaps astronomical in nature.

In our case the change is neither geological nor astronomical. It is synthetic. We're making the change ourselves.

We aren't even adaptable enough, let alone intelligent enough, to stop doing it.

We certainly aren't adaptable enough to survive it.

I believe the time of homo sapiens is beginning to draw to it's close.

"Court ruling pressures Conservative Party..."

The longer the Harperites are in office the more familiar this phrase is going to become to the citizens of Canada.

Today it's the Anders nomination in Calgary West.

How Many Times Can the US "Capture" Someone?

The internets are chok-a-blok with triumphant stories of the "capture" of yet another Al Qaeda senior operative this morning. Apparently he was trying to sneak into Iraq. All crouched over with his jalabaya covering his head no doubt.

His name we're told is Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.

Problem is that he's been listed as "captured" since March of 2003. Fox News and Free Republic say so, so it must be true. (You can use your pooters find function on those pages.)

Course both sites will probably purge those old pages soon so's Georgie can have his bully moment.

It's just so hard bein' Preznit.

Good on ya, Stephen!


Free of his wheelchair and tethered only to heart rate and blood pressure monitors, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking on Thursday fulfilled a dream of floating weightless on a zero-gravity jet, a step he hopes will lead to further space adventures.

The modified jet carrying Hawking, a handful of his physicians and nurses, and dozens of others first climbed to 7.3 kilometres over the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Nurses lifted Hawking and carried him to the front of the jet, where they placed him on his back atop a special foam pillow.

Stephen Hawking hopes his weightless flight will lead to a suborbital flight some time in the future.

The jet then climbed to about 9.7 km and made a parabolic dive back to 7.3 km, allowing Hawking and the other passengers to experience weightlessness for about 25 seconds.

I hope he, of all people, makes it to Space.

At the beginning of the decade I was working on farms and orchards in Australia. One of my coworkers was Czech and could barely speak English, but every night we'd find him sitting on his bunk with an English copy of A Brief History of Time , and a Czech-English dictionary. I think he made it no more than 20 or 24 pages in two months.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


If you didn't see Bill Moyers' Journal on Wednesday, "Buying The War", try to catch it in a rerun sometime. In true Moyers fashion it was a calm, rational slice into the complicity of the US news media in promoting the Bush administration fabrications which led to the war in Iraq.

The transcript is here.

The day before Bill Moyers came out of retirement to spell the truth of how the American media aided and abetted the Bush administration, Jessica Lynch told her story to the US Senate Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Lynch has been telling her story for a long time. Finally though, she can stand on the elevated platform and tell it like it is: The Pentagon lied and the US news media let them. The truth was out there from the beginning and the US media dismissed it.

Moyers described the Bush adventure into Iraq as "taking leave of reality". The news media can be accused of that too. One would hope that having had it laid at their feet with the world watching would generate an attempt to regain credibility.

Don't count on it.

Stockwell Day's little smokescreen isn't quite a lie, but it's not really the truth either

Confused? You should be. The Harper government constantly moving around the playing field with the ball under its arm trying to find centre field is enough to get your head spinning. First there was an agreement, then there is an agreement with the governor of Kandahar, then there is an agreement with the NDC (Afghan intelligence police), then there is no agreement but there will be and today, there are plans to formalize an agreement on prisoner transfers.

And while all of this is coming out in the House of Commons, Steve Harper is throwing a temper tantrum and accusing anyone and everyone who criticizes his government's policy on prisoners captured in combat as picking on the military. Either Steve thinks he is a part of the military or he is just too stupid to understand the question.

I can't say any more than Impolitical did in this post on the unbelievable and incompetent juggling act performed by Harper today.

But there's more. Stockwell Day entered the fray by suggesting that Canadian Corrections Officers have had access all along.
For a considerable period of time now, our own Corrections Service here in Canada has had corrections officers working in Kandahar. Matter of fact, I talked with one of them two days ago, Mr. Speaker. Fifteen times already she has had access to the prison facility in Kandahar, has full access. Also did a visit yesterday to the detention facility. Improvements are being made. It's difficult. It's moving, but it's difficult. Improvements are being made.
Right! And not one member of the opposition jumped on that. Not one!

Of course Corrections Canada has Corrections officers in Kandahar, and elsewhere in Afghanistan. They are a part of the development and training program which is being sponsored by the Canadian government.

Read again what Day actually said. He didn't say the Corrections officers had access to transfered detainees. Want to know why not? Because they don't.

What Day said was that Corrections officers have access to the facilities. In fact, the Corrections officers assigned to Afghanistan are a part of a training and mentoring program and they have no access at all to detainees transfered by Canadian Forces to Afghanistan. The Corrections officers are there to help develop the Afghan prison system under UNAMA - not to monitor treatment of PWs.

Stockwell Day put up a dishonest smokescreen. His words were probably true enough, (Well, maybe. There's another point to be made.), but they were placed in the exchange at a time when they were intended to be construed as meaning that Canadian Corrections officers were monitoring, and had been monitoring, PW treatment.

Day, I can guarantee you, if confronted with this, will tell you he meant no such thing. But then there is the question of when he spoke to the Corrections officer. He started out by saying he had spoken to her "two days ago". Then he said she had visited a detention centre yesterday. But he spoke to her they day before that visit. So, either he doesn't know when he spoke to her, got the information from a daily situation report or is using his crystal ball. However he got it, he made it sound like he learned it from her directly.

Day has a reputation for developing cute little scenarios in his mind and then blowing sunshine up peoples' asses. This one should have seen him ripped to shreds. He should have been called on it.

Taken with everything else the Conservatives tried to grab onto today, this dishonest little bit from Stockwell Day serves only to confirm that the Harper crowd have no idea what they're doing and are now grasping at straws in an attempt to end the assault.

A bit of advice for Harper, O'Connor, Day and MacKay. Do what criminals do. Everyone get your story straight before the questioning starts.

Das Poop Goes Green

"At a Vatican conference on climate change, Pope Benedict urged bishops, scientists and politicians - including UK environment secretary David Miliband - to "respect creation" while "focusing on the needs of sustainable development"...

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, head of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, said: "For environment ... read Creation. The mastery of man over Creation must not be despotic or senseless. Man must cultivate and safeguard God's Creation."

Yeah, that'll do it.

US military + Iraqi prisons = ???

They just can't seem to get it right, can they?

The commander of a major US military prison in Iraq has been arrested for offences including aiding the enemy.

Lt Col William Steele is accused of giving detainees free use of a mobile phone at Camp Cropper and fraternising with the daughter of a detainee. It is the latest of several scandals involving US jails in Iraq, the worst being the 2003 Abu Ghraib abuse case. Col Steele is also accused of improper behaviour with his Iraqi interpreter and holding unauthorised information.

There are four overall charges against Col Steele and nine specific alleged offences. He was arrested last month and is being detained in Kuwait, a US military spokeswoman said.

Others offences include dereliction in the performance of his duties, failing to obey an order and wrongfully possessing pornographic videos.

I feel like I'm watching some giant real-life Do-Lung bridge scene from Apocalypse Now. It gets weirder by the minute over there.

Sadly, we're not faring much better in Afghanistan in way of prisons either.

Hillier Don't Care About No Stinking ICC Investigations

"Canada's top soldier says he is paying little attention to reports that two human rights professors have requested The Hague investigate the possibility he has committed war crimes."

Well of course he is.

Harper's already told him he'll be OK if push should come to shove.

We'll just opt out of the ICC and let the chips fall where they may.

It's just another of those irritating international agreements we've signed our name to and can opt out of as the situation warrants.

Just because one national government at some point in time commits us to something doesn't mean the next government has to honour it.



Flick Off

This new website is giving Ontario's environment minister a bit of grief. Apparently the political opposition in Ontario views the use of language and the visual excursion as somewhat offensive.

Apparently the political opposition in Ontario hasn't been listening to conversations on the street. Or in schoolyards for that matter.

Some days, it could curl your fucking hair.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

O'Connor goes for "Third Time Lucky"

So, Harper is trying to dismiss a report which contained this statement:
Despite some positive developments, the overall human rights situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2006 ... Extra judicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common. Freedom of expression still faces serious obstacles, there are serious deficiencies in adherence to the rule of law and due process by police and judicial officials. Impunity remains a problem in the aftermath of three decades of war and much needed reforms of the judiciary systems remain to be implemented.
Harper's defence? This:
Mr. Harper said the government had “no evidence of specific allegations” revealed by the Globe and Mail.
No evidence of specific allegations. That was Harper's line throughout Question Period in Parliament. But he didn't say he didn't see the report mentioned above. He may not have had a specific report; but he had that one.

He knew, O'Connor knew and MacKay knew.... OK... so MacKay didn't know. After all, it was produced by his department. None of them, (except MacKay), have denied that they actually saw that report. And the question has to be, why didn't they take the appropriate action to ensure that prisoners handed over to the Karzai government were being treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions? Because they never did take that action. What makes that clear is this report appearing late today:
Canada has reached an agreement with Afghan officials to check on the status of detainees, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said Wednesday in the face of intense questioning at the House of Commons.

O'Connor told a foreign affairs committee that officials have struck a deal with the governor of Kandahar that will let them visit Afghan detainees handed over by Canadian troops.

That agreement, reached Wednesday, would not have been deemed necessary unless so-called rumours of abuse and worse had some basis in fact and the leaders of the Canadian government were aware of it.

But there's more. O'Connor has now implemented a third supposed agreement. The first was with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which turned out not to exist; the next agreement was with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which has claimed it cannot gain access to prisoners, therefore cannot produce information it supposedly promised to provide. Now O'Connor has gone to the governor of Kandahar to allow, what appears to be, Canadians to actually check the condition of prisoners taken by Canadians troops.

There's only one problem: For the last few months at least, the Canadian government has no idea who it was that they actually turned over to the Afghans because they didn't properly document the transfers.

So, who are they going to look at?

And why should we believe O'Connor now? This is his third shot at the same problem. He's screwed the pooch twice before and now we are expected to believe he's finally found the solution? That is more latitude than O'Connor would have given a junior officer when he was a brigadier-general.


Two for one

Jill had her eyes open and picked up on two posts on different blogs. I can't make my mind up as to which one is better or tells a better story. I suspect, because the subjects are so different, they each stand as possessing the highest importance, each in a separate category.

One of the best posts on abortion you will ever read.
There seems to be nothing they can do. They talk about trying some drugs, but then they decide things are going too fast to give time to let them work. So that leaves only surgery as a possibility. Surgery means hosing her out. It means killing the baby. So obviously, we look into other options. Only now, my wife is so out of it, from blood loss, from the painkillers, that the doctor said she is no longer able to legally consent. Now I'm handed a clipboard. On it is consent to basically give my wife an abortion and kill our future child. And it is all on me, my decision, mine alone. Something I never thought I'd ever face, ever have to deal with. Made worse by being a decision of either kill the baby or potentially watch both my wife and the baby die. The doctors did not say at this point that it was absolutely necessary. Maybe more blood could be transfused in. Maybe she wasn't dilated - they hadn't figured it out yet. Still too much blood. So then there I was, facing the sort of choice that you usually see only in hypotheticals in ethics and philosophy classes. Only it was real. It was my wife. And I didn't have exactly a lot of time to think about it. It was just me and the clipboard. An empty line there, marked for my signature. My wife bleeding right next to me. The ultrasound of my baby, and its heartbeat, fresh in my mind from minutes before. I cannot begin to describe how I felt at that moment. One cannot know until you are in it. I won't even try. I hope I never feel that way again.
Then, this from a former US Marine who's husband was also a US Marine and had his tour ended in a body bag.
I'm having the worst damn week of my whole damn life so I'm going to write this while I'm pissed off enough to do it right.

I am SICK of all this bullshit people are writing about the Iraq war. I am abso-fucking-lutely sick to death of it. What the fuck do most of you know about it? You watch it on TV and read the commentaries in the newspaper or Newsweek or whatever god damn yuppie news rag you subscribe to and think you're all such fucking experts that you can scream at each other like five year old about whether you're right or not. Let me tell you something: unless you've been there, you don't know a god damn thing about it. It you haven't been shot at in that fucking hell hole, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

How do I dare say this to you moronic war supporters who are "Supporting our Troops" and waving the flag and all that happy horse shit? I'll tell you why. I'm a Marine and I served my tour in Iraq. My husband, also a Marine, served several. I left the service six months ago because I got pregnant while he was home on leave and three days ago I get a visit from two men in uniform who hand me a letter and tell me my husband died in that fucking festering sand-pit. He should have been home a month ago but they extended his tour and now he's coming home in a box.

You fuckers and that god-damn lying sack of shit they call a president are the reason my husband will never see his baby and my kid will never meet his dad.

And you know what the most fucked up thing about this Iraq shit is? They don't want us there. They're not happy we came and they want us out NOW. We fucked up their lives even worse than they already were and they're pissed off. We didn't help them and we're not helping them now. That's what our soldiers are dying for.

Oh while I'm good and worked up, the government doesn't even have the decency to help out the soldiers whos lives they ruined. If you really believe the military and the government had no idea the veterans' hospitals were so fucked up, you are a god-damn retard. They don't care about us. We're disposable. We're numbers on a page and they'd rather forget we exist so they don't have to be reminded about the families and lives they ruined while they're sipping their cocktails at another fund raiser dinner. If they were really concerned about supporting the troops, they'd bring them home so their families wouldn't have to cry at a graveside and explain to their children why mommy or daddy isn't coming home. Because you can't explain it. We're not fighting for our country, we're not fighting for the good of Iraq's people, we're fighting for Bush's personal agenda. Patriotism my ass. You know what? My dad served in Vietnam and NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

So I'm pissed. I'm beyond pissed. And I'm going to go to my husband funeral and recieve that flag and hang it up on the wall for my baby to see when he's older. But I'm not going to tell him that his father died for the stupidty of the American government. I'm going to tell him that his father was a hero and the best man I ever met and that he loved his country enough to die for it, because that's all true and nothing will be solved by telling my son that his father was sent to die by people who didn't care about him at all.

Fuck you, war supporters, George W. Bush, and all the god damn mother fuckers who made the war possible. I hope you burn in hell.
Got that asshole?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What Harper exposed in his desperate attempt to defend his incompetent Defence Minister

Through all of the maneuvering in the Canadian House of Commons on April 24th, some things just seemed to have slipped by with little notice.

Despite the number of times the government was faced with one incontrovertible fact, the question was never really answered. The head investigator for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Amir Mohammed Ansari, has stated that regardless of the legal permission to inspect Afghanistan National Security Directorate prisons to ensure proper treatment of prisoners, the AIHRC has been denied access. They have no idea what treatment prisoners transfered to Afghanistan from Canadian hands are receiving.
Amir Mohammed Ansari tells the Globe "Legally we have permission to visit prisoners inside the NDS prison, But they don't allow it."
Which falls right back in the lap of Minister of National Defence, Gordon O'Connor.

O'Connor has a lot to answer for. First, he misled Parliament by stating that the International Committee of the Red Cross was monitoring prisoners handed to the Afghan authorities and that that body would report to Canada if there were any irregularities. The ICRC refuted that quickly and stated that no such arrangement existed.

Then O'Connor announces that the AIHRC is monitoring prisoners' treatment, has a face-to-face, look-him-in-the-eye meeting with Ansari and we are expected to believe that Ansari did not express his frustration with the problems being encountered with respect to access to detainees.

Why would Ansari tell the Globe and Mail but not tell O'Connor? That simply doesn't make sense.

When all of this came out, Harper was well aware that he was on the ropes. There is a huge credibility problem here and it underlines the gross incompetence of the Minister of National Defence.

Harper tried to deflect questions by suggesting that they were not about to accept unsubstantiated allegations made by Taliban PWs. That's fair enough, and Harper is right that such allegations need to be investigated.

But what about the public statements made by the body with which the government has an agreement to monitor prisoner treatment? No answer to that, and it's hardly an allegation. Since Ansari has no axe to grind with the Harper government, why are the Harperites not accepting Ansari's statements at face value?

The easy answer is, everything Ansari is saying is true and Harper has no good answer. O'Connor has dropped the ball... again.

After being questioned by Jack Layton on prisoner treatment, Harper resorted to a tactic for which he is now famous - making an unsubstantiated accusation intended to smear the opposition. Here's what he said:
... to suggest that the Canadian Forces would deliberately violate the Geneva Convention, and to make that suggestion solely, solely based on the allegations of the Taliban, I think Mr. Speaker is the height of irresponsibility.
Wait a minute! Wait a minute! NO. They wouldn't.

This was the first direct reference to the Canadian Forces during the entire exchange. No one prior to that line even hinted that the members of the Canadian Forces were at fault. It was all aimed at O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, and he is NOT the Canadian Forces. He runs DND and little things like prisoner transfer agreements are in his rice bowl.

But Harper's statement says a lot. First is that he's deflecting to the troops. Once the pressure was too great he played his "support the troops" card.

The other important aspect is the fact that he is starting to develop an escape route if this all goes sour. If I was a member of the Canadian Forces right now, I'd be a little worried. Harper's number one concern, above all other concerns, is his own self-promotion and his ambition for power. He will screw anybody to achieve his goals. And this time he made it clear that if he gets pushed into a corner he'll blame it on the troops in the field.

You can expect him to say something along the lines of: The troops were not aware that they were in violation of international law. His inference that the Canadian Forces in the field bear responsibility is the start of a major deflection. Harper and his government will not assume responsibility for mishandling of prisoners, but you can bet someone in the Canadian Forces will wear the can.

Harper also responded to demands that prisoners captured by Canadian Forces be transfered to Canada by stating,
"No. We don't want Taliban prisoners in Canada. We're fighting them in Afghanistan so they won't come here."
That from the man who provided reporters with an extremely faulty military history lesson over a year ago in France. What Harper doesn't seem to remember from his high-school history is that in past conflicts, specifically the 2nd World War, German and Italian PWs were sent to Canada.

There is another issue which arises from Harper's statement. Up to now Harper has been telling us that the purpose of the mission to Afghanistan was to meet an international obligation to provide the people of Afghanistan with security and the chance for an improved life. Now, it's to keep the Taliban off Canadian streets? That's a new one.

Harper is desperate. I would advise being well clear of any buses if Harper is anywhere nearby.

The Afghanistan Motion. Putting the NDP between a rock and hard place.

In answer to more than one suggestion that the motion before Parliament today be made a little more public, here it is:
Pursuant to Order made Thursday, April 19, 2007, the House proceeded to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of Mr. Coderre (Bourassa), seconded by Mr. Ignatieff (Etobicoke—Lakeshore), — That,

(1) whereas all Members of this House, whatever their disagreements may be about the mission in Afghanistan, support the courageous men and women of the Canadian Forces;

(2) whereas in May 2006, the government extended Canada's military commitment in Southern Afghanistan to February 2009;

(3) whereas it is incumbent upon Canada to provide adequate notice to the other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) of our intentions beyond that date;

(4) whereas by February 2009, Canada's military mission in Southern Afghanistan will represent one of the largest and longest military commitments in Canadian history; and

(5) whereas Canada's commitment to the reconstruction and security of Afghanistan is not limited to our combat operations in Southern Afghanistan;

this House call upon the government to confirm that Canada’s existing military deployment in Afghanistan will continue until February 2009, at which time Canadian combat operations in Southern Afghanistan will conclude; and call upon the government to notify NATO of this decision immediately.

A couple of points to note:

1. This motion did not call for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was only calling for a commitment from the government to end combat operations in southern Afghanistan by February 2009.

2. It did not call for a redeployment to the north. It did however state that Canada's commitment to Afghanistan should not be limited to the single small area in which Canada is now engaged.

3. It was a John A. MacDonald style parliamentary maneuver. This was a classic hobbling of the NDP by the Liberals. They forced the NDP to take a position one way or the other which would have placed them in the camp of either the government or that of the official opposition: neither of which the NDP wanted to be in. In the end, the NDP appears to be supporting the Conservative position of open-ended war in Afghanistan... no matter what reason they might suggest otherwise. During a future election campaign expect the NDP support of the government to be played hard and put away wet by the Liberals. While many would consider what the Liberals did to be dirty politics, I would rather see political parties engage in parliamentary maneuvers of this sort than the style taken by Harper, which is to simply smear individuals with unfounded accusations as a means to playing to the cameras.

(OK. That was three points... )

Next Step: Canada Leaves ICC and ICJ

Dateline Ottawa.

Jack Layton rose today in Parliament to propose that Canada consider rescinding it's participation in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

Mr. Layton spoke of Canada's long history of commitment to justice and fairness and said that those commitments will only be able to be continued if Canada is not bound by international standards agreed to by former Liberal federal governments.

Prime Minister Harper praised Mr. Layton's principled position and immediately agreed with his proposal, noting that an immediate withdrawal from the Courts is necessary in order to avoid any further damage to Canada's reputation.

Thus as of April 31 of this year Canada will no longer be a member of the ICC or the ICJ.

Mr. Layton in a joint statement with Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day said it was a great day for Canada. Mr. Day also noted that now no Canadian soldiers will be able to be charged with war crimes in those Liberal courts.

Compartmentalizing Canada's Criminal Complicity

What's the best way to wall off the personal revulsion I'm experiencing about financing a government that condones the torture of prisoners?

Perhaps Jack Layton knows. He and the NDP seem to have reached a comfortably compartmentalized equilibrium about supporting the Conservatives on some things while remaining able to say they oppose them on others.

I just don't know how not to be entirely repulsed by a government that has turned Canada into a nation that condones the torture of prisoners.

And I am deeply, deeply conflicted about paying for this government to violate international law.

Could someone ask Jack how he does it and get him to tell me.

The Christofascists are closing for the kill

Thought it couldn't happen here? Think again. According to Pie Palace, right-wing, christofascist, homophobic Darrel Reid is back in Ottawa. And, apparently he has taken a seat in the Prime Minister's Office as deputy director of policy and research.
I'm made slightly uncomfortable by this hire because of this guy's CV. Focus on the Family is US-based organization that openly funds its Canadian franchise (if you believe Wikipedia). I'm not sure that I want someone who was effectively a lobbyist sitting so close to our Prime Minister.
I would be more than "slightly uncomfortable" over such an appointment. This is one of those "sneak 'em in and no one will notice" appointments. It also underscores the knowledge possessed by the conservatives that people like Darrel Reid are despised by a wide group of Canadians.

There is a need for people to remind themselves that no matter what Harper appears to be, he has not changed. He owes the religious-right and they intend to collect. Sticking a raving wingnut like Darrel Reid, first as chief-of-staff for Rona Ambrose, and now, right in the Prime Minister's Office, is a clear indication that the social conservatives have the power and the ear of Steve Harper.

(H/T skdadl from comments)

Monday, April 23, 2007

The latest "blame" video on Virginia Tech

Do you want to know how low the Christian Dominionists will stoop to take over your life? Think about this: In 2005 the leader of the American Family Association, led by Methodist freakball, Tim Wildmon, stated on a radio broadcast that there was evidence of homosexual and lesbian people on Home and Garden Television and Animal Planet.

This time, Wildmon and his pack of literalist bible interpreting thugs have decided to capitalize on the slaughter at Virginia Tech to promote their own program. My Stance on Freedom found this video produced by the AFA. Watch as much as you can. Stop when you begin to gag.

So, Wildmon and his crowd are blaming nineteen different events on:

- Failure to teach the Christian bible, one of several different religions, in public schools;
- The unacceptable act of beating on children;
- Abortion;
- Birth control and the prevention of the spread of STDs;
- The inability to snoop into the bedrooms of the general population;
- The existence of child pornography;
- Hollywood;
- Popular music.

Based in falsehood, misrepresentation of facts and illogical conclusions, this is just another fundie rant demonstrating extreme desperation. As MSOF says, it's an insult to true believing Christians.

I am a little surprised though. Unlike his past accusations, this time, Wildmon didn't blame it on the Jews.

More to the blogroll

A few additions to the blogroll. Say hello to:

Engaged Spectator, and My Stance on Freedom.

A Message From Stalkwell Dei

Every day in every way Conservative majority looks better and better.

We can finally become a fully militarized nation, respected and feared around the world, like our sponsor empire below our southern border though perhaps not quite as much.

We can finally become a nation that fully respects the rights of the yet to be born and demonstrates appropriate contempt for the rights of those living now. Especially those who don't worship properly and who don't vote for us.

We can finally hold our heads up high and proudly declare that, yes, we do condone torture in the name of God. We also believe we should kill all the pagans and let God sort them out. We do believe we are superior.

Once and for all we can unashamedly make it crystal clear that our support for a habitable planet is contingent on the maintenance of our voracious appetites and that as long as we don't have to change anything we're doing we're all for livability.

It will be a grand day indeed when Canada can take its rightful place in the community of nations as an unquestioned and unquestioning client state of the new American empire.

Hallelujah and Amen.

Good News for Pessimists

CTV reports that according to StatsCan, we bought a lot of new vehicles last year. The biggest increase ever apparently.

In particular its noted that "The sales of trucks including minivans and sports utility vehicles demonstrated particular growth - despite the high prices of gasoline and the average price of a vehicle rising for the fifth consecutive year."

Doin' purty good on that glowball warmup thing-a-ma-jig ain't we? Exercisin' our responsibility as consoomers and all.

Lemmings and proud of it.

This is a joke, right?

Having solved every other problem in the world, the member of parliament representing the constituents of Kildonan - St. Paul (Winnipeg) has decided to tackle.... the Internet.

That's right, she's introduced the Clean Internet Act.

Now, I can understand the sentiment of Joy Smith. I just find it a little strange that a member of the Conservative Party is getting all sweaty over the internet and ignoring the fact that everything she covers in her ridiculous little bill is already dealt with elsewhere.

This is nothing but government trying to get into your hard drive.

Alison has more and lays it out neatly, just to make it easy for our miss Joy.

Here's a hint for the voters of Kildonan - St. Paul: Give all candidates for MP in the next election an IQ test. It serves no purpose to send an idiot to Ottawa lest that person is compared to US senator Ted Stevens.

Pity poor Karl. He's been insulted.

Oh good... a Rove saga.

After this happened, Karl Rove, whose ego is just too big to keep his mouth shut, has responded to Laurie David and Sheryl Crow by suggesting they insulted him.
In their Web posting, Ms. Crow and Ms. David described Mr. Rove as responding with “anger flaring,” and as having “exploded with even more venom” as the argument continued.

“She came over to insult me,” Mr. Rove said Saturday night, “and she succeeded.”

Mr. Rove did not respond to a request for comment on the women’s Internet posting on Sunday.

Imagine someone insulting Karl Rove. And the reason he didn't comment on Sunday? He needs time to run it through the spin merchants.

Impolitical nails Rove perfectly with the label "destroyer of reputations-in-chief". Some other labels which might apply... liar, treacherous scum and psychopath come immediately to mind.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bloggerpalooza! in Lotus Land

THAT was fun!

Alison, Bob, Dana, Declan, Laura, RossK, David, Ian and yours truly all got together and killed wild pizza. There were refreshments. In a small, but highly effective nose-thumbing act, we held it at Olympia Pizza, rings and all. (Apologies to Mr. Dickens).

It was a thoroughly brilliant and entertaining afternoon. It also struck me that we had enough skill and enthusiasm to put together a slow-pitch team.

Oh yes... this is the other Lotus you'll find in Lotus Land.

Rover does his rabid act

On Saturday night Laurie David and Sheryl Crow attended the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Aside from having to listen to Rich Little re-live the '60s, (in an attempt to kill any memory of Stephen Colbert's brilliant performance last year), they were introduced to none other than Karl Rove.
We asked Mr. Rove if he would consider taking a fresh look at the science of global warming. Much to our dismay, he immediately got combative. And it went downhill from there. We reminded the senior White House advisor that the US leads the world in global warming pollution and we are doing the least about it. Anger flaring, Mr. Rove immediately regurgitated the official Administration position on global warming which is that the US spends more on researching the causes than any other country. We felt compelled to remind him that the research is done and the results are in ( Mr. Rove exploded with even more venom. Like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum, Mr. Rove launched into a series of illogical arguments regarding China not doing enough thus neither should we. (Since when do we follow China's lead?)
At which point you would think things probably couldn't get much worse. Wrong.
In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow? Unphased, Sheryl abruptly responded, "You can't speak to us like that, you work for us." Karl then quipped, "I don't work for you, I work for the American people." To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, "We are the American people."
Karl Rove did not want Sheryl Crow to touch him. What's wrong with that man?! Most guys would go ga-ga if Sheryl Crow waved from across the street.
Ultimately, we were left wondering what on Earth Mr. Rove was talking about when he said "the American people."
I have the answer to that... pick me! Pick me! OK. Here it is.

It's not you.

Karl decides. You follow. It's paleoconservative way. Once in power, they decide. If you don't agree with them, you are irrelevant.

Now that we've cleared that up, we need to be reminded that Sheryl Crow (and Jeff Trott) wrote a song which could easily be applied to the chubby little political pit-bull.

Hmmm... where did that come from? Oh... and Rich Little? Wasn't David Frum available?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

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

With respect and condolences to the family and friends of Master Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer.

Facta Non Verba

Image being everything in Canada's New Government...

Cathie From Canada has a great take on Canada's prime minister and his "image". Sir Robert Bond's Papers also weighs in on this video:

So, now we know Stevie Harper has a personal stylist/soothsayer/door opener/bag carrier. Very cool. I can think of an all encompassing name for that position. Something like "Court Jester" or even better, "Royal Fool". After all, Stevie is so... so... imperial isn't he?

I can hardly wait for the next phase of Stevie's personal and political development. Do you think he'll ever be able to be compared to Rex?

Nah... I guess not. For all of Rex's faults and weirdness, the differences are too great. Rex didn't say much about it but he actually got things done. As opposed to doing nothing and making a big noise. Style over substance, but then we already knew that didn't we?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Suppose a Politician Took AGW Seriously

Suppose you were a politician who took anthropogenic global warming seriously.

Suppose you understood that this was the greatest threat that humanity has ever had to face.

Suppose you understood that if we don't begin to take action now the chances of being able to do anything about it at all begin diminishing toward zero with every passing month until there's almost no point anymore.

I'm not referring here to your status as a citizen. We're all citizens and consumers and we can all make individual choices and decisions that collectively will make substantive differences.

I'm referring here to your status as an elected member of a legislative body and the responsibility and power endowed by that position.
What would you do? What would determine your political actions?
Would your priorities change? How would they change?
I'm not going to mention any names or parties here. I'll leave that up to you, if you respond in text.
I just want you to examine the questions and your own responses.

Blogroll addition

It's been a while since the last blogroll update. There will be more, certainly, but I thought you should be aware of this one.

Steve Thinks About Stuff.

I'm not sure how one becomes a lapsed Unitarian, but if he says so, hey! I won't argue.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


For anyone who has done any traveling in countries where their mother-tongue is not the language of their destination there is a good chance a Berlitz phrasebook got put to use. The late Charles Berlitz was one of the world's most eminent linguists and spoke 32 languages. His grandfather, Maximilien Berlitz was the founder of the Berlitz Language Schools and a publishing company which produced not only phrasebooks but many other works.

All of that has been swallowed up by other corporations and Berlitz, the company, exists in name only. Berlitz Language Schools has changed hands several times and is now owned by the Japanese Benesse Corporation. Berlitz publishing arm is now a part of Apa Publications, a German firm.

OK, there's that part of the history.

The other part is that I am busy providing training to junior merchant marine officers. One of the phases of training involves a very intense course in radio communications. Sometimes... it gets a little frustrating. Getting it right is critical and often there is more than a small language problem to overcome. Enter the ghosts of Max and Charles Berlitz to lighten up the situation.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rhetoric trumps Law in US Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court upheld the US wide and misnamed partial birth abortion ban in a 5 - 4 decision which reads less like law and more like a political statement.
The decision, the first in which the court has upheld a ban on a specific method of abortion, means that doctors who perform the prohibited procedure may face criminal prosecution, fines and up to two years in prison. The federal law, enacted in 2003, had been blocked from taking effect by the lower court rulings that the Supreme Court overturned.
The widely held view was that there was no way the existing US Supreme Court wouldn't find in favour of the ban, but it was the rhetoric included in the ruling which should give American women pause. The hostility and paternalistic tone of the language was so severe that, in her dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg felt compelled to point out that terminology and phraseology appeared to be based in hostility towards women, medical doctors and scientific knowledge.

ThinkProgress has extracted some of the more vile portions of the US Supreme Court decison which was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas.

Abortion methods vary depending to some extent on the preferences of the physician and, of course, on the term of the pregnancy and the resulting stage of the unborn child’s development. (p. 3)

The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice, nor should it elevate their status above other physicians in the medical community. (p. 33)

When standard medical options are available, mere convenience does not suffice to displace them. (p. 37)

Hardly the kind of terminology one would expect to find in a legal rendering from the highest court in the United States. Ginsburg pointed out what she saw in the opinion:
The Court’s hostility to the right Roe and Casey secured is not concealed. Throughout, the opinion refers to obstetrician- gynecologists and surgeons who perform abortions not by the titles of their medical specialties, but by the pejorative label “abortion doctor.” A fetus is described as an “”unborn child,”” and as a “”baby,” second-trimester, dissenting previability abortions are referred to as ““late-term,” and the reasoned medical judgments of highly trained doctors are dismissed as “”preferences”” motivated by ““mere convenience.”
From the US Supreme Court decision, Ginsburg provides:
Today’s decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg seriously. It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between previability and postviability abortions. And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.
In short, the conservative men of the US Supreme Court have stepped over the line. Previous decisions had established that a woman had the right to seek a previability abortion without interference from the state. It was only after the fetus became viable that the state could intervene. This decision allows the state to intervene on abortions in the second trimester, before the fetus is viable.

Further, where there was previous legal precedence that any state regulation on access to abortion procedures, whether previability or postviability, required that any law must include provisions which clearly state the "health of the woman" takes precedence. The ruling handed down today actually rejects that provision in clear language by stating that it is not necessary.
In sum, the notion that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act furthers any legitimate governmental interest is, quite simply, irrational. The Court’s defense of the statute provides no saving explanation. In candor, the Act, and the Court’s defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court —and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.
A majority of the members of the US Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice, have just placed before the American people their disdain for the rights possessed by women. It's also the thin edge of a very dangerous wedge.