Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ask an expert. Waterboarding is torture

When Bush nominee for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, was asked, during confirmation hearings, whether the technique of "waterboarding" was torture, his answer was evasive at the least.
"I think it would be irresponsible of me to discuss particular techniques with which I am not familiar when there are people who are using coercive techniques and who are being authorized to use coercive techniques. And for me to say something that is going to put their careers or freedom at risk simply because I want to be congenial, I don't think it would be responsible of me to do that." Questioned further, he said, "If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional." But he would not say whether it was torture.
Right. So then the Democratic senators asking that question sent him a letter asking for a written clarification. His response was long on words; short on substance.
On Oct. 30, the nominee replied in four convoluted pages. He called waterboarding "over the line" and "repugnant" on "a personal basis," but adopted the lawyerly pose that it was merely an academic issue: "Hypotheticals are different from real life and in any legal opinion the actual facts and circumstances are critical."
Hypothetical?! But confirmation hearings often enter the hypothetical. You know, "What would you do if... ?"

Well, one way to answer the question is to go to an expert.

Malcolm Nance, a counter-terrorism expert and former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California, has cleared up the question. Nance knows waterboarding. (some emphasis mine)
SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.
Nance makes his point succinctly and bluntly.
There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Nance does believe there is a place for the waterboard. It's just not where the torture cheerleaders think it is.

Is There a Place for the Waterboard?

Yes. The waterboard must go back to the realm of SERE training our operators, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies. Until recently, only a few countries considered it effective. Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations. Forget threats, poor food, the occasional face slap and sexual assaults. This was not a dignified ‘taking off the gloves’; this was descending to the level of our opposition in an equally brutish and ugly way. Waterboarding will be one our future enemy’s go-to techniques because we took the gloves off to brutal interrogation. Now our enemies will take the gloves off and thank us for it.

That's right. It won't matter when or where any future war is fought. US troops are now targets. Even allies would be hard pressed to express outrage should captured US troops be subject to waterboarding. As ugly as it sounds, the Bush administration has made it all perfectly defensible by others by engaging in themselves. And a future enemy isn't going to concern themselves over which president initiated the doctrine.
It is outrageous that American officials, including the Attorney General and a legion of minions of lower rank have not only embraced this torture but have actually justified it, redefined it to a misdemeanor, brought it down to the level of a college prank and then bragged about it. The echo chamber that is the American media now views torture as a heroic and macho.

Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. In essence, our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual SERE school for terrorists.

And you can thank one of the scumballs in Cheney's office for all of it. David S. Addington.

H/T Sadly, No! for the Nance link

A view of the tar sands you're not likely to hear from the government

There is a price to pay for Harper's "Energy Superpower" ambitions. Aida Edemariam writing in the Guardian spells out a few of them in a long article highlighting the troubles around the Athabasca tar sands. (All emphasis mine)
Current technology means companies can reach only about 10% of deposits, but even that makes the Athabasca oil sands the second largest proven oil reserve in the world. Add in the so far unreachable 90%, and Alberta's oil reserves would be at least six times the size of Saudi Arabia's. Already Canada produces as much oil as Kuwait. Soon it'll be two Kuwaits. Canada is the biggest single supplier of crude oil to the US. Small wonder Canada is increasingly described as the world's next great energy superpower.


The extraction of the oil requires heat, and thus the burning of vast amounts of natural gas - effectively one barrel of gas to extract two of crude - and some estimate that Fort McMurray and the Athabasca oil sands will soon be Canada's biggest contributor to global warming; nearly as much as the whole of Denmark. This in an area that has already seen, according to David Schindler, professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, two degrees of warming in the past 40 years.


The oil sands excavations are changing the surface of the planet. The black mines can now be seen from space. In 10 years, estimates Schindler, they are "going to look like one huge open pit" the size of Florida. Acid rain is already killing trees and damaging foliage. The oil companies counter that they are replanting - grass for bison, 4.5m trees by Syncrude alone - but the muskeg (1,000-year-old peat bog and wooded fen, which traps snow melt and prevents flash floods, and is home to endangered woodland caribou) is irreplaceable.

Two barrels of water are required to extract one barrel of oil; every day as much water is taken from the Athabasca river as would serve a city of a million people. Although the water is extensively recycled, it cannot be returned to the rivers, so it ends up in man-made "tailings ponds" (tailings is a catch-all term for the byproducts of mining), which are also visible from space. According to the US Department of the Interior, the dam holding back Syncrude's pond is the largest, by volume of construction material, in the world. Four of the projects haven't started production yet, so their tailings ponds haven't begun, but theirs, too, will soon be full of sand and what Schindler calls "dead water" because, he says, they're full of carcinogenic hydrocarbons and toxic trace metals such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic, all topped off, in Syncrude's case, with an oil slick.


The federal government, led by a conservative Albertan, talks tough, but quietly approves more and more projects, even though the oil sands would have to be shut down altogether if Canada was to have a hope of meeting its commitment to the Kyoto agreement on reduction of emissions aggravating climate change. Everyone, as Canadian author Peter Marsden argues in a book unambiguously titled Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (and Doesn't Seem to Care), is turning a blind eye.
Does that explain anything?
Mayor Melissa Blake, just back from honeymoon, has the unenviable job of running a town buckling under the demands of a population that has doubled in the past 10 years, from 32,000 to about 65,000 - not counting a shadow population of about 10,000 itinerant construction workers. It is projected to grow by another 40,000 in the next five years. Increasingly, she has been squaring up to the Alberta government and to the oil companies: with one, for more money (funds are allocated on the basis of the stable population, not the shadow population, who pay taxes elsewhere); with the others, to slow, even halt construction of the mining and processing sites until she can catch up. No one seems much inclined to listen, so she is firefighting madly. A new sewage treatment plant, begun before a credit agreement was even in place, will be finished in 2009 - and will be too small a year later. A school that took three years to build was too small a year before it opened. Medical services are almost overwhelmed. Blake estimates that she needs roughly $2bn; this year she has debts of $330m.


Rents are among the highest in Canada - expensive cities such as Toronto or Vancouver notwithstanding - if there's anything available at all. Converted garages or spare rooms (no kitchen, no separate bathroom) can cost more than $1,000 a month.

Before she came to Fort McMurray looking for a better future for her three children, Inderjit Kaur, 40, taught computers and English in Mohali, in the Punjab. She began by nannying for her sister in exchange for minimum wage and board, and now has two jobs, nannying and taking telephone bookings at the big new recreation centre. She works 7.30am to 10.30pm, with few days off. After tax she earns $2,000 a month; a two-bedroom flat would cost $2,500 a month, so she can't ask her family to join her. She told them it would take a year, but she hasn't seen them for four.

There is a severe shortage of low-income housing in Fort McMurray, and since Kaur is effectively single, she keeps being bumped down the list in favour of families. "Have you been to the bushes?" she demands. In a place where earning $70,000 a year means you're effectively working poor, it is not uncommon for even the employed to resort to living in tents. The city enforces bylaws and moves them on, but people just set up their tents elsewhere.

Read the whole piece.

H/T Cat

Fred Thompson. "I live the Cold War"

Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson needs a wee bit of help. He's... confused. When in New Hampshire this event took place.
... he switched from civil unions, which give gays legal rights equivalent to those of married couples, to same-sex marriages, which are legal only in neighboring Massachusetts.

"Basically so far, it is a judge-made controversy," Thompson said. "No state or governor has signed off on such legislation on the state level that has endorsed marriage between the same sexes. There may have been a couple of courts that said the Constitution of their states has required that, so it's a judicially made situation as far as I am concerned."

Massachusetts' highest court ruled in 2003 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. But high courts in several other states have refused to follow suit, including Maryland last month. Cases are pending in Connecticut and California.

But he wasn't asked about same-sex marriage. He was asked about civil unions. It didn't take long before someone decided to set him straight since New Hampshire has passed legislation which will endorse same-sex civil unions.

Edward Paul, an employee of the Delta Dental Plans Association, asked the question Monday, but had trouble being understood.

"I'm proud to say that in January 2008 New Hampshire has passed a law facilitating civil unions here. ... What is your belief for federal civil unions to be passed?" Paul asked.

Here's where it gets really good. Note the last question asked by Paul because here is the rest of the exchange.

"Soviet Union?" Thompson responded.

"No, civil unions," Paul said.

"Oh. No, I would not be in support of that," Thompson said.

Even if he didn't hear Paul correctly, one has to ask why Thompson's mind would slide into "Soviet Union".

Methinks Thompson is still in the role of Rear Admiral Joshua Painter.

Go where? part II: Insurrection

So, since last weeks fun in the US foreign service, the 300 odd diplomats selected for Iraq have, um, made their views known:

About 300 angry diplomats attended a meeting at the state department, at which one labelled the decision a "potential death sentence".


Senior diplomat Jack Croddy, who once worked as a political adviser with Nato forces, highlighted safety fears of staff who would be forced to serve in a war zone.

"It's one thing if someone believes in what's going on over there and volunteers, but it's another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment," Mr Croddy said.

"I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?

"You know that at any other [country] in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point."

Let's look at the math from last weeks article. 11 500 total Foreign Service membership. 1200 have been to Iraq. 300 are on the shortlist to go next. That's about ten per cent of the total strength. And that proportion can only increase if one discounts the number of foreign services officers that can't be posted to Iraq for other reasons. And, being a small institution, it sure isn't only the 300 that are rebelling; the entire Service knows.

This isn't a labour dispute, this is a fucking mutiny.

Keep your eye on it.

The United States Foreign Service: another casualty of Neocon policy and highlight of the Bush legacy.

The Boylan Identity

Some of you will be aware that Glenn Greenwald, after writing this post at Salon, received an email with an originator's address indicating that it came from the desk of Colonel Steven Boylan, the Public Affairs Officer and personal spokesman for General David Petraeus. (Yes, that General Petraeus).

None of this would be of any consequence if it weren't for the fact that the very thing Glenn was suggesting in his original post, the politicization of the US military, seemed to come through on the Boylan email. The email writer was sarcastic, insulting and well, just plain ignorant.

Then something odd happened. Boylan denied having sent the email at all.

There was something of an exchange between Greenwald and Boylan with Boylan suggesting he had no idea what was going on and Greenwald observing that originating email addresses and IP addresses of "legitimate" Boylan originated emails were identical to those on the "offending" email. That, however, might not have meant much until computer science PhD candidate Peter Booth, (University of Oregon, Computer Science Department), entered the picture with an in-depth analysis and one of those CSI-style lines:
I have to conclude that these two emails were written by the same person. Or, someone has hacked into the military infrastructure in an effort to discredit this one Colonel by sending cranky emails to bloggers. But one of the two, certainly.
Aha! So, either Col. Boylan is lying, something for which no definitive proof exists, or his office has been hacked, something for which no definitive proof exists. But it's one of the two.

Boylan may not be lying but that would mean there has been a breach of communications security in his office. Not good. Either way.

Greenwald is, quite properly, staying on this one. The truth really does need to come out.

In the meantime, Boylan has a problem. I'll give you a respite from the link farm above and send you to a completely clear and easy to absorb explanation by Jon Swift. In fact, you may wish to ignore all of the previous links and just read Jon's post. It explains a good deal, including this:
Meanwhile, there may be more fake emails sent from Boylan's email address and computer, which he'll also have to deny sending. My advice is not to believe anything "Boylan" says until this whole mess is straightened out.
Col. Boylan has just entered a forest of mirrors.

How Very christian of Them . . . .

From Reuters today:
Kansas church liable in Marine funeral protest
Wed Oct 31, 2007 - By John Hurdle

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - A jury on Wednesday ordered a Kansas church to pay $2.9 million in compensatory damages to relatives of a gay U.S. Marine after church members cheered his death at his funeral.


The soldier's death was God's punishment on America for tolerating homosexuality, the church's members said.

Good on that jury, eh?

Hit 'em where it hurts: The collection plate . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

Update here. Even more good news!

Your moment of Wingnuterer. Boo!

Deja Vu. We've had this tax cut before. Updated

OK, I've been asked if I am going to comment on the economic update/mini-budget/cynical vote-buying event produced by Flaherty.

My immediate reaction to the question is to say, "No." However, there are a couple of points which I'll make quickly.

First, the income tax cuts announced by Flaherty are virtually the same ones we had before the Conservatives came to power. Rational Reasons has expressed, just about perfectly, all I could say on the matter.

Secondly, (and I am not going to take a lot of time or space to spell this out), cutting the GST another point to make it a 5 percent consumption tax is just about the dumbest and most unfair way to lower taxes I can think of.

The GST is a progressive proportional tax. Those spending the most money pay the most tax. It's cheap to collect and it's virtually self-policing. Anybody with a reasoning mind can see that a value-added sales tax makes eminently more sense than the alternative: regressive income taxes.

By announcing that the GST will be reduced on January 1st, 2008, Flaherty has probably done some not-so-insignificant economic damage to small business in this country as consumers wait until after Christmas to make big-ticket purchases. But then, no one ever accused Flaherty of being very bright.

Notwithstanding that, Flaherty could have seriously slashed income taxes, left the GST alone, increased the basic personal exemption much more significantly and instituted a guaranteed minimum income.

He could have made taxation fairer. Instead he pandered to the base instincts of those who don't and won't understand which taxes hurt them the most.

Update: The Wingnuterer weighs in. Thanks Zorpheous!

If your representative is wearing red stockings, he might be a Republican

Via Box Turtle Bulletin and Bene Diction Blogs On we have this report from the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
A Republican state legislator from southwest Washington had sex with a man he met at an erotic video store and then told police he had been targeted in an extortion attempt, according to police documents released Tuesday.

State Rep. Richard Curtis, R-La Center, who on Monday declared, "I have not had sex with a guy," told police he was the victim in an extortion attempt by Cody Castagna at the posh Davenport Tower hotel on Oct. 26, search warrant documents said.

Castagna, 26, of nearby Medical Lake, told police that Curtis, 48, agreed to pay him $1,000 for sex, then reneged on the promise. Police reports also said witnesses told them Curtis dressed in women's lingerie at the erotic store, and records showed Curtis purchased two gay pornographic films from the hotel to watch with Castagna.

You'll have to go to the Seattle PI report if you want to read the rather complicated and sordid details of Curtis' situation, but as has become the standard fare in these instances, Curtis is insisting he's not gay.

That changed, according to police, as the investigation continued.

But as the investigation continued, police said Curtis admitted to having sex with Castagna in Curtis' hotel room.

According to the report, Curtis said he initially gave Castagna $100 as gas money, and said he did not consider that paying for sex.

Police interviewed several witnesses at the Hollywood Erotic Boutique, and according to the report, Curtis walked into a bathroom at the store early on the morning of Oct. 26 and a few minutes later left the bathroom wearing long red women's stockings and a black sequined lingerie top. A witness told police that shortly after that he saw a man with a cane performing a sexual act on Curtis in an upstairs room.

Yeah, well, I don't know about Curtis' fashion sense, but it in the end he told the investigating detective,

... he "would have to tell his wife the truth and he would have to get a divorce attorney."
In the grand scheme of things, this would be a nothing story. Nobody outside Curtis' personal circle would care. He's just another person who got wrapped up in an extortion scheme which has exposed his sexual appetite.

It shouldn't matter. However, Curtis, another Republican dragged out of the closet, gets attention because of this:

In 2005 and 2006, Curtis voted against a bill that granted civil rights protections to gays and lesbians.

In 2007, Curtis voted against a bill that created domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

Despite the fact that both bills passed and are now law in Washington state.

Which exposes yet another Republican hypocrite.

Karen Hughes Inadvertently Spills the Beans

"Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush's last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year, she told The Associated Press.

Hughes said she plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and return to Texas, although improving the world's view of the United States is a "long-term challenge" that will outlast her.

"This will take a number of years," Hughes said in an interview to announce her departure." (emphasis added)

No shit, Sherlock!

Revolutionary France and Contemporary USA

Very good piece in today's NYT by François Furstenberg who is a professor of history at the University of Montreal.

"Much as George W. Bush’s presidency was ineluctably shaped by Sept. 11, 2001, so the outbreak of the French Revolution was symbolized by the events of one fateful day, July 14, 1789. And though 18th-century France may seem impossibly distant to contemporary Americans, future historians examining Mr. Bush’s presidency within the longer sweep of political and intellectual history may find the French Revolution useful in understanding his curious brand of 21st- century conservatism. "

He goes on to draw some quite precise parallels between what we see ocurring in Bush's America and what took place in France during la Terreur.

"Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur."

Regrets, he's had a few

I missed this one last week as I was busy blowing out birthday candles before the kitchen caught fire, but apparently Conrad Black regrets giving up his Canadian citizenship.
Black, who might have faced a lighter sentence if he'd been tried in Canada, admitted to Men's Vogue that he wished he hadn't surrendered his Canadian citizenship -- after a public battle of wills with former prime minister Jean Chretien -- to take up a seat in the House of Lords.
"I do regret giving up my Canadian citizenship," he said, "but I always said I would
take it back."

Well, boo-frickin'-hoo yer lordship, I guess the House of Lords kind of regrets it too. I mean, really, when you get turfed from the Conservative side of the House of Lords for being an arrogant, autocratic robber baron and crook maybe its time to rein in the hubris just a smidgen. As for your Canadian citizenship, which you happily tossed aside to become a titled foreign aristocrat, you might be willing to "take it back" but I don't see the line forming to sign the petition to make you an offer.

Black is to be sentenced on Nov. 30. for obstruction of justice and three counts of mail fraud. He faces a maximum of 35 years in federal prison. Start chilling the champagne.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Max does the Christian Zombie Brigade

Max Blumenthal goes sleuthing again and finds himself at the Value Voters Summit, an event organized by James Dobson's, Focus On The Family and Dobson's Washington D.C. lobby shop, the Family Research Council.

You really need to watch the video on this one. It would be great entertainment if it wasn't for the fact that the pure wingnutty bile spewing out of the mouths of this lot is what they really believe.

Executions for blasphemers and gays. Public schools closed in favour of religious education.

What makes this lot any different from their constructed Islamofascist threat?

Absolutely nothing.

Was it something he said?

This is the America of George W. Bush, William Kristol, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Ledeen, Michelle Malkin, Dick Cheney, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and Charles Johnson.
The [British] international development minister was stopped and searched at Washington DC's Dulles airport after a series of meetings on tackling terrorism.

Mr Malik, MP for Dewsbury, West Yorks, had his hand luggage checked for explosives when returning to Heathrow.

He said the same thing happened to him at JFK airport in New York last year.

On that occasion he had been a keynote speaker at an event organised by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), alongside the FBI and Muslim organisations, to talk about tackling extremism and defeating terrorism.

He's been detained, not once, but twice... because of his race.
Mr Malik said he had received numerous apologies and assurances from the US authorities after that incident.

But he was again searched and detained by DHS officials on Sunday.

Mr Malik said two other Muslims were also detained.

"I am deeply disappointed," he said.

"The abusive attitude I endured last November I forgot about and I forgave, but I really do believe that British ministers and parliamentarians should be afforded the same respect and dignity at USA airports that we would bestow upon our colleagues in the Senate and Congress.

"Obviously, there was no malice involved but it has to be said that the USA system does not inspire confidence."

The surname Malik, no matter how common, would set off alarms in many of the world's airports, but that's hardly the point. This is a minister of the British Crown. A member of a government allied with the United States of America and, (for the time being), an active member in Bush's war on Iraq.

We could call this kind of performance by Dulles and Kennedy airport officials shameful.

But, why bother? It won't change anything. The mantle of fear manufactured by the group named at the top of this post has well and truly taken hold. The pants-pissers are in charge.

Mr. Malik should count his blessings. Others who have fit his particular profile, (skin colour, religion, lack of US accent), ended up on a plane to Syria.

"Could immigrants rip off homeowners?"

It's UK-centric, but heaps of fun, and easily explains how FOX et al gets their headlines. Here is:
qwghlm's "Daily Mail headline generator"

See also the qwglhms's"David Blunket policy maker" for a serious look at the workings of reactionary policy making.

I kind of like people who carry backpacks

Far be it from me to ever defend a politician. I have little use for any of them regardless of their political stripe.

However, of late, I have noticed that there seems to be some kind of dyslogistic attachment made to the fact that Stephane Dion carries a backpack to work. Somehow, the idea that a man would carry a backpack is portrayed in a negative sense. It has, in a rather odd way, been used to demonstrate a form of pacifism associated with eccentricity.

That's odd.

Some of my oldest friends wore backpacks to work. Here's a very well-known and famous photograph of some of them, backpacks and all. Some might have been a little eccentric, but they were hardly pacifists.

Photo: Petty Officer Peter Holdgate, RN

Monday, October 29, 2007

New allegations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan

Via POGGE is this new report that prisoners being taken by Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are still being tortured by the Afghan secret police before being forwarded to the Afghan prison system.
The federal government is dismissing an incendiary newspaper report about the continued abuse of detainees in Afghanistan.

Prisoners at an Afghan jail in Kandahar are being bashed with bricks, having their fingernails ripped out, getting electrocuted, being forced to stand up without sleeping and are whipped with electric cables, Montreal La Presse reported on Monday.

The newspaper cites interviews with three prisoners and independent sources including a spokesman for the Afghan Human Rights Commission and a prison boss.

The Conservative government in Ottawa responded to similar reports last spring by saying it had a new a deal to monitor detainees.

On Monday, the government responded to the latest report by dismissing it as Taliban propaganda.

"We do expect these kinds of allegations from the Taliban," said Tory House leader Peter Van Loan.

Van Loan persists in being a complete idiot. La Presse actually visited the prison and interviewed the very outfit which is supposed to be reporting incidents of prisoner abuse to the Canadian government - the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission.

A spokesman for the Afghan Human Rights Commission is quoted as saying that about a third of prisoners are still being tortured by Afghanistan's secret service before they are taken to prison.

"The Canadians give us a sealed envelope with the names of the prisoners. The problem is that list never corresponds to the one compiled by the secret service," said commission spokesman Shamuldin Tanwir.

Ahem! One would think Peter Mackay would be in a bit of a rush to verify, or put to rest, that report. That's his prize prisoner monitoring agency saying things are off the rails.

There is a very clear solution to all of this. We simply do what we should have been doing all along. Take prisoners and retain them in Canadian custody. It's called a PW camp - in Canada. We then monitor their treatment, which is actually our responsibility as one of the combatants in Afghanistan. By removing them from theatre completely there is no chance that they can be delivered by a corrupt Afghan regime back into the hands of the enemy.

I know, there are those out there who are possessed of the belief that the such captives are entitled to no such treatment. Those people are easily dismissed. When your enemy surrenders they are now your problem. You won. Both sides did their best, and their dirtiest, to kill each other and emerge victorious. This country does not allow, under any circumstances whatsoever, the torture or abuse of prisoners who have turned themselves over as captive. Period.

Stockwell Day showed his extreme ignorance for such matters when, in April 2007, he responded to the suggestion that PWs be removed to Canada thusly:

"We want the Taliban to stay in Afghanistan. We are going to insist that their human rights are respected, but we don't want them to come here," he said.
He then went on to admit that the Afghanis had a history of torture and abuse and that things weren't going as well as we would like.

Day's argument is moot. His painting of the Taliban as murderous torturers carries no weight. The fact is, the NAZI regime in WW2 Germany was also a bunch of murderous torturers on a scale far beyond that of the Afghan Taliban regime. Yet, we placed their captured soldiers in prison camps in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Kingston, Bowmanville, Gravenhurst, Ozada and Kananaskis - by the thousands.

That's right Stockwell, Peter and Steve. We brought them, the soldiers of a regime led by mass murderers and thugs, into captivity in Canada.

I would suggest re-thinking the currently held position but that would require giving the original suggestion some actual thought.

Flaherty is the front man for a Conservative election push

Exactly. What's the hurry? Flaherty's latest stunt is to give three hours notice to the House of Commons with the intention to change the 30 October Parliamentary Schedule to allow him to present a budget economic update... in the House of Commons.
Flaherty had wanted to present the economic statement in the House of Commons. But changing the House schedule on one day's notice requires the unanimous consent of all parties, and the NDP has refused, calling the late-notice announcement a political stunt.
That's exactly what it is. So how did the little weasel respond?
"If I can't do it in the House of Commons because of the NDP, then I'll do it somewhere else," Flaherty told reporters.
Really? How about providing that update where it's normally done - in front of the Commons Finance Committee? It's not a budget; it's an update.
CBC-TV's senior parliamentary editor, Don Newman, noted that the last time an economic update was delivered in the House of Commons — rather than before the House of Commons finance committee — was Oct. 18, 2000. That economic statement included large tax cuts.

Days later, the governing Liberals called a general election.

This is more than a little curious. In fact, I agree with Steve: This looks like a maneuver to force an election.

Philbin off to drama school?

Well, things are changing by the hour on the D.C. beltway.

You'll of course remember the little episode of the "fake" press conference staged by FEMA Director of External Affairs, John Philbin.

Of course you will.

And then, you'll remember that Philbin, after having been exposed, landed on his feet, having secured an "amazing opportunity" to become the Director of Public Affairs in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

As I said, things are changing... yet again.
A Bush administration official whose department had government workers pose as journalists in a news conference has been dropped from a planned new job as media chief for the top U.S. spy agency.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said on Monday that John Philbin, who until last week was external affairs director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would not be taking up a similar job with the intelligence office.

"Mr. Philbin is not, nor is he scheduled to be, the director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence," the office said in a written statement.

Philbin, who has given up his post at FEMA, has effectively fired himself. There was no mention if he was going to journalism school or if he intended to pursue a drama career.

In further FEMA news, the agency's administrator, R. David Paulson, panned the Philbin phoney news conference while defending the agency's director, Vice Admiral Harvey E. Johnson Jr.

The agency’s administrator, R. David Paulison, who was in California at the time, has come to the defense of Admiral Johnson, a retired Coast Guard officer, saying he was “put in a position” by mistakes of the public affairs staff that have unfairly raised questions about his credibility.
Yeah. I've often noticed that admirals allow themselves to get caught with their asses hanging out. It's basic leadership: Know your people. And another one: Your integrity is the example. In short, if you're an admiral and some flunky is doing something so obviously wrong, you stop the flunky. I suppose Johnson missed those days in Admiral School. He might want to consult some of his former petty officers; they had to pass an exam in that stuff.

In a memo to FEMA employees Monday, Mr. Paulison said of M. Philbin, “The failure to properly schedule, or to cancel a press conference that had no press in attendance, or capability to ask questions telephonically, represented egregious decision making by the director of external affairs and his staff.”

From now on, Mr. Paulison said, reporters will always get adequate advance notice of news conferences.

“Finally, under no circumstances will anyone other than media be allowed to ask questions at press events,” Mr. Paulison’s statement said.

Heh. A federal agency of, supposedly, the "greatest democracy on earth" needs a memo to remind them of the fundamentals.

Keep passing the popcorn. This is better than Days Of Our Lives.

I can hardly wait for the Medal of Freedom ceremony.

Keeping them scared

Via Vanity Press, Paul Krugman makes the point, once again, that the pants-pissing brigade is buying into a strategy designed to keep the Republicans in power by preying on, and fomenting, fear amongst the American population.
Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.


... there isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t. And Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 — in fact, the Iranian regime was quite helpful to the United States when it went after Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.

Beyond that, the claim that Iran is on the path to global domination is beyond ludicrous. Yes, the Iranian regime is a nasty piece of work in many ways, and it would be a bad thing if that regime acquired nuclear weapons. But let’s have some perspective, please: we’re talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden’s.

In fact, to anyone who has the slightest inkling of what Islam is all about, Islamofascism is a word (a new word at that) which contradicts itself by combining two opposing ideologies. Fascism requires that the population adhere to the demands of the state; Fundamentalist Muslims reject state control of everything. Or is it lost on those standing in a puddle that most well-known Muslim extremists are stateless?

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy. Instead of treating the attack as what it was — an atrocity committed by a fundamentally weak, though ruthless adversary — the administration portrayed America as a nation under threat from every direction.

Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up — perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.
Slashing and biting at a weak threat is what a panic-stricken animal does when fear overwhelms it.

Damn! And So Close, Too ! ! ! !

From AlterNet today:

Rumsfeld Flees France, Fearing Arrest
By , IPS News - Posted on October 29, 2007

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France today fearing arrest over charges of "ordering and authorizing" torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the U.S. military's detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unconfirmed reports coming from Paris suggest.

U.S. embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint against the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush's "war on terror" for six years.

Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.


"Rumsfeld must be feeling how Saddam Hussein felt when U.S. forces were hunting him down," activist Tanguy Richard said. "He may never end up being hanged like his old friend, but he must learn that in the civilized world, war crime doesn't pay."

One can only hope the rest of bushco gets the same treatment:

No place to run and hide from world justice . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

Everything was going just swimmingly until...

Non-violence best answer, Dalai Lama says

"Avoiding violence in places like Afghanistan and Iraq is the best way to counter the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Dalai Lama said before meeting the prime minister in Ottawa on Monday.
Speaking on the second day of his visit to Canada, the spiritual leader of Tibet said he would tell Stephen Harper, if the subject were to come up, that “using violence to counter violence” can exacerbate problems.

“I always believe non-violence is the best way to solve problems,” he said in response to reporters' questions about Canada's role in Afghanistan.
A clearly uncomfortable Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney stood close by, trying to interrupt without success and tugging at the holy man's elbow."

Tugging at the holy man's elbow? That's really classy, Jason.
Not much on the whole non-violence thing though really, our Minister of Multiculturalism.
Regular readers will recall Jason came this close to winning the coverted Certificate of Hitlertude just this past February.
Cross-posted at Creekside

Sunday Morning War Worship . . . .

The MSM is at it again. Ratchet up the War Machine and watch the ratings soar.

When are we gonna put a stop to this crap?

As Carl Levin says at the end: "Lotsa luck!"

How much longer 'til we're out of here?

Counting the days, counting the days . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

Fresh whiskey! And horses for my men!

You might remember the "fake" news conference held by FEMA over the California wildfires. Well, after being seriously outed by... just about everybody, you can imagine there was going to be at least one rolling head brought on by a swinging axe.

On Friday, FEMA Director of External Affairs, John "Pat" Philbin, apologized.
"It was absolutely a bad decision. I regret it happened. Certainly . . . I should have stopped it," said John P. "Pat" Philbin, FEMA's director of external affairs. "I hope readers understand we're working very hard to establish credibility and integrity, and I would hope this does not undermine it."

White House press secretary Dana Perino said yesterday that "it is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House. We certainly don't condone it. We didn't know about it beforehand. . . . They, I'm sure, will not do it again."

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke called the staged briefing "totally unacceptable," adding, "While it is an isolated incident, that does not make it any more tolerable." He said reprimands are "very probable." FEMA is part of DHS.

At which point one could expect that Philbin would be the one receiving one of those "probable" reprimands. In fact, he left his office for the last time right after making his apology.

Not so fast. Remember, this is the Bush administration. "Reprimands" have a different meaning in the World of Bush.

Philbin's last scheduled day at FEMA was Thursday. He has been named as the new head of public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, ODNI spokeswoman Vanee Vines said.
You cannot make this shit up.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

In a war where nobody is doing "body counts", that seems to be the only metric anybody can hold out as military success. The war in Afghanistan is now at a stage where offensives and battles are now recycled news stories with different dates.
U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops killed about 80 Taliban fighters in a six-hour battle following an ambush in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

Taliban fighters opened fire on Saturday with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades on the joint coalition and Afghan army patrol from a trench system near Musa Qala in Helmand province, the most important town held by insurgents.

"The combined patrol immediately returned fire, maneuvered, and employed close air support resulting in almost seven dozen Taliban fighters killed during a six hour engagement," the U.S. military statement said.

Such lengthy pitched battles are relatively rare in Afghanistan, where the Taliban prefer to "shoot and scoot" before air strikes can be called in.

But analysts say the insurgents are expected to fight hard to defend Musa Qala, in the north of Helmand, where they are heavily dug in after taking control of the town in February.

Reuters, 28th October, 2007

Over the past two months British soldiers have come under sustained attack defending a remote mud-walled government outpost in the town of Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan. Eight have been killed there.

It has now been agreed the troops will quietly pull out of Musa Qala in return for the Taliban doing the same. The compound is one of four district government offices in the Helmand province that are being guarded by British troops.

Although soldiers on the ground may welcome the agreement, it is likely to raise new questions about troop deployment. Last month Sir Richard Dannatt, the new head of the British Army, warned that soldiers in Afghanistan were fighting at the limit of their capacity and could only “just” cope with the demands.

When British troops were first sent to Afghanistan it was hoped they would help kick-start the country’s reconstruction. But under pressure from President Hamid Karzai they were forced to defend Afghan government “district centres” at Musa Qala, Sangin, Nowzad and Kajaki.


The deal — and the avoidance of the word ceasefire — allows both sides to disengage without losing face, an important aspect in the Afghan psyche. Polls suggest that 70% of the population are waiting to see whether Nato or the Taliban emerge as the dominant force before they decide which to back.

The Sunday Times, 1st October, 2006

It looks like that question was answered fairly clearly. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan's Chora Valley:

AUSTRALIAN troops, fearing widespread civilian casualties, refused to take part in a Dutch-led assault on advancing Taliban militia — a battle that left dozens of innocent Afghans dead.

The Sunday Age can reveal that Australian officers were involved in initial planning for the battle, but pulled out when they realised the June operation — in the same district where SAS Sergeant Matthew Locke was killed last week — would contravene our rules of engagement, which determine when lethal force can be used.

Most of the 60 to 70 civilians killed when Dutch forces repelled a 500-strong Taliban assault in the Chora Valley, 30 kilometres from the Australian and Dutch base at Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province, died as a result of bombing and artillery fire, human rights investigators have found.


Australian SAS troops, including Sergeant Locke, had fought a series of intense battles alongside Dutch forces in and around the valley before they were withdrawn from Afghanistan in September last year.

At the time, Australian officers said the SAS had cleared the valley of insurgents, while [Australian Defence Minister], Dr [Brendan] Nelson declared Oruzgan to be "relatively stable".

But the Dutch and the Afghan armies had insufficient troops to secure the area, allowing the Taliban to move back in — a recurring pattern elsewhere in Afghanistan. As security deteriorated, the SAS were sent back to the area in April this year.

The Sunday Age, 28th October, 2007

It's called "shampoo bottle warfare". Suddenly, this isn't funny anymore.

Outstanding Bush impersonation

Jon Stewart really needs to hire this guy.

Or at least give him some airtime.

Best. Bush. Impersonation. Evah!

Thanks Alison.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Brother can you spare a fish

Via Driftglass we learn that newly captive dolphins are adapting really, really well to their new life in captivity - in a Dubai hotel pool.
The five-star Palm Atlantis Hotel bought the wild bottlenose dolphins from the Solomon Islands, the paper reported, despite several international conservation groups decrying the decision by its government to allow the resumption of the live dolphin trade, saying it is inhumane.

Management at the hotel, located on the giant Palm Jumeirah artificial island on the Dubai coast, told the paper the welfare of the dolphins was paramount.

"Bottlenose dolphins are not an endangered species so it is not a problem. They will get good healthcare and good food," said Frank Murru, chief marine officer at the hotel's parent company, Kerzner International.

The Solomon Islands had banned the sale of dolphins in 2003. Then:

Robert Satu, a director of Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre and Exporters Limited, earlier said the dolphin sale was done with the approval of the United Arab Emirates and Solomon Islands governments.

The tiny Pacific nation had banned the trade in live dolphins in 2003 following an outcry over a shipment to Mexico. But Satu took the government to court, claiming the ban was illegal, and won in a ruling earlier this year.

At least they're getting "good food and medical care". You'd think the rest of the dolphin community would be lining up for a deal like that.

As the Bush administration scrambles for a legacy...

One of their own says it isn't possible. But we'll get to that in a minute.

As the Bush administration ratchets up the rhetoric for a bombing assault on Iraq, madame Supertanker is casting about looking for advice from former Democratic presidents on how best to handle the approach to a US brokered mid-east peace deal.
Anxious not to repeat mistakes of past Middle East peace-making, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has turned to former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter for tips ahead of her own conference this year.
She's also been tapping other sources from both parties, but to have touched Carter is particularly telling. Carter despises the Bush administration and has made no secret of the fact.
A Soviet specialist, Rice also telephoned another former Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who tried, and ultimately failed, in his eight years in office to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together.

"She's trying to draw on the historical record and the experiences of others to see -- see what she can glean and how that may be applicable to the current day," [State Dept. spokesman Sean] McCormack said.

"She is a student of history and has a keen appreciation for how we can apply the lessons of history, what we can learn from those who have gone before us," he said.

I've said it here before: The so-called "Soviet specialist" was a miserable failure in that area. Her forecast of Soviet intentions toward the end of the Cold War era were dead wrong.

Aside from that, however, is this sudden interest in how others had approached the same problem. That's new.

Rice, along with all others in the Bush administration were all too willing to dismiss the past efforts of Carter and Clinton. In fact, Bush and Rice treated any effort along the lines of mid-east peace and reconciliation as wrong-headed. They had their way and that was it.

The neo-cons have never done anything like this before and they have no idea what to do now. This is far too complex for them and one wonders why their doing it?

The Bush legacy.

Sarah Baxter poses the question, "Will Bush really bomb Iran?"

A senior Pentagon source, who remembers the growing drumbeat of war before the invasion of Iraq, believes Bush is preparing for military action before he leaves office in January 2009. “This is for real now. I think he is signalling he is going to do it,” he said.

But nobody is sure whether the president really will add a risky third front to the Afghan and Iraq wars that are already overstretching US forces.

“If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said yes,” said John Bolton, the hawkish former US ambassador to the United Nations. “Today I’d say, I don’t know.”

It is clear the military machinery for an attack is being put into place. More than 1,000 targets have been identified for a potential air blitz against Iran’s nuclear facilities, air defences and Revolutionary Guard bases, despite claims last week by Robert Gates, the defence secretary, that the planning was merely “routine”.

And, yes, there is a rush.

The question of timing is becoming ever more urgent, now that Bush has fewer than 15 months left in the White House. Confidants say he is determined not to bequeath the problem of a nuclear Iran to his successor and regards it as an important part of his legacy.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but given Bush's lack of compassion or consideration for anyone who isn't him, I doubt whether Bush gives a red rat's ass about what problems his successor inherits. Let's face it: he's going to leave them his complete and utter screw-ups in Afghanistan and Iraq at the very least.

No. This has more to do with Bush's ego and his desire for a legacy. That's why Rice is scurrying around, consorting with the Bush administration's political enemies, trying to figure out how diplomacy works. This is desperation.

It is also clear that the future bombing of Iran and Rice's call for the creation of a Palestinian state are solidly linked.
In the wider Middle East, the conviction is growing that America is determined to launch an attack. Some well-placed Israeli and Palestinian sources suggest that next month’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, near Washington, could be the catapult for an ambitious plan to establish a Palestinian state and disarm Iran.

“The idea is to tie Palestine to Iran,” said an Israeli Middle East expert. “Israel will be obliged to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state within a short and firm timetable and the US administration will guarantee that the Iranian nuclear issue will be solved before Bush leaves office.”

If that sounds overly simplistic, it is.

This idea looks like another elementary school solution to a highly complex problem. The considerations which would have to brought into play would require months of study and legions of rational thinkers to develop a simple framework for discussions. The first question anyone toying with this idea should ask is, "Will the potential leaders of an Islamic Palestinian state tolerate the idea that a condition of their existence is linked to the military destruction of another Islamic country?"

But elementary school solutions are all the Bush administration is capable of mustering. The past actions of this administration is proof that they cannot do the hard stuff. They don't plan properly and they don't see consequences beyond the sight of their own jerking knees.

Remember this guy? John R. Bolton couldn't even get confirmed as US ambassador to the UN. Diplomacy clearly wasn't his style and the agenda he pushed while an insider of the Bush administration dismissed all forms of diplomacy as hampering US foreign policy. When interviewed he was combative and arrogant. He always insinuated that his constituency, PNAC and the American Enterprise Institute, had it right. Everyone else was just dumb.

Well, as promised, I provide you with the one person who claims that anything like a "grand strategy" or bargain will never happen. And it's not because the Bush administration doesn't want it.

But such a “grand bargain” is far too delicate and complicated to be attempted, according to Washington sources, even if it provides a subtext for some of the negotiations. “We’re not smart enough for that,” Bolton said bluntly.
For once, Bolton's vacant tact makes sense. He could have added "and we never were."

Steve and Sandra. The cartoon.

A number of commenters to this post suggested that Alison produce another issue of her now famous Steve and Sandra.

And darned if Alison didn't jump all over it.

Go there.

For Alison's continuing series of Steve and Sandra cartoons, take a visit to her gallery of goodies. It's a good way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Mrs. Mills on that noisy mattress

Well, not her. But one of her correspondents seeking advice.
My girlfriend and I work hard and look forward to a good night’s sleep. However, our neighbours, with whom we maintain a polite live-and-let-live relationship, are night owls. Their nocturnal activities can be heard through our bedroom wall, and while I would never begrudge anyone a bit of passion, I do not believe it should necessarily be expressed at such a high volume and in the small hours of the morning. How would I go about informing them without causing embarrassment and coming across as a terrible prude?
Funny. As I was reading this one it came to mind that the writer might want to show up at the neighbours' with a video camera and an offer to share the royalties.
If you can hear them, they can hear you. So you could try putting them off: every time the telltale rhythmic twang of a mattress under stress starts up, laugh loudly, or (for an even more unnerving effect) bark. However, if you find this only encourages their efforts, then I’m afraid you are living next door to perverts. Still, all is not lost. See if they will allow you to pop round with a video camera, as making a bit of money through posting their energetic couplings on the internet might help in paying off your student loan.
Imagine that.

More Mrs. Mills at the TimesOnline.