Friday, November 30, 2007

Nah! No conflict of interest there.

One has to wonder exactly what it is about Dr. James Cairns, a public servant, that TASER International, a private corporation, finds so attractive that they keep inviting him to speak at conferences and seminars that they host.
Taser International and another company closely linked to the manufacturer have paid the way for Ontario's deputy chief coroner to lecture at their conferences on the phenomenon of "excited delirium," a medically unrecognized term that the company often cites as a reason people die after being tasered.

James Cairns, one of the country's most high-profile coroners, who publicly advocates the use of the stun gun, has become one of the top Canadian experts Taser officials turn to for help shoring up public support for their products in times of crisis. Since the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, at Vancouver International Airport last month, Taser has repeatedly urged journalists to contact Dr. Cairns for his pro-taser views.

Dr. Cairns has recently given seminars at two conferences hosted by Taser International - one in July in Chicago and another last year in Las Vegas.

I'm not going to question the good doctor's intentions however, he is another of the crowd that insists on using the term "Excited Delirium" as though it has some medical meaning. It is not accepted by the medical community as a disease, syndrome or contributing cause of death of anybody, anywhere on the planet. It is a law enforcement construct intended to replace the term "in-custody death".

It is also being used to camouflage the possibility that TASER® stun guns are a contributing factor in the death of suspects.

TASER International's purpose for holding these conferences is to shore up support for their product. In that sense they are little more than a marketing effort and Cairns appears to be assisting them in that regard.

Perhaps we should look at what Cairns said back in 2004 when he was promoting TASER International's weapons to the Toronto Police Services Board. (Emphasis mine)

"I am absolutely convinced tasers will save lives instead of taking lives. And I hope some day, if I am in the position, please taser me before you shoot me," Dr. Cairns told the board at its meeting.
Agreed! I doubt you'll find too many people who would disagree with that take on the use of TASER® weapons. In short, it is a level of force to which police will resort in place of using a firearm. Unfortunately, we have police resorting to the use of this weapon well before they would consider drawing their lethal sidearm. For one thing, they might possibly have to explain shooting an unarmed person - something that should happen each and every time a TASER® electroshock weapon is used.

Using a weapon, which is listed as a Prohibited Firearm in the Criminal Code of Canada, to gain compliance of a person who presents no lethal threat needs to be placed under careful review. Dr. Cairns, for all his knowledge and expertise, should be welcoming such reviews rather than appearing at TASER International marketing events.

Dr. Cairns might also want to tell his next TASER International hosted conference how many people who supposedly suffered from "Excited Delirium" actually survived.

Or is it only a condition found in dead people?

Hat tip reader Colin

Canadian US refugee treaty dead. Because of torture.

I can hear the Harperites screaming "Activist Judges!" now. A Canadian Federal Court judge has just identified the United States as a dangerous place to be sent back to and both the Canadian and US governments can give Maher Arar credit for bringing it to everyone's attention.
Canada's treaty with the U.S. on the treatment of refugees is illegal because the U.S. doesn't comply with conventions protecting asylum seekers and sometimes sends people to countries where they may be tortured, a Canadian judge said.

Canada entered into an agreement on the treatment of refugees with the U.S. in 2004, as part of the two countries' ``Smart Borders Declaration.'' The accord bars Canada from considering refugee applications from people who arrive in the country from the U.S. by land. Canada is required to send those asylum seekers back to the U.S.

Canada's Parliament approved the law, subject to some conditions, including that the U.S. comply with international conventions designed to prevent asylum seekers from being sent back to countries where they may be persecuted, or to countries that engage in torture.

Which, as we all know, creates something of a problem. The US sends Canadian citizens to 3rd countries for "special treatment".
"The United States' policies do not meet the conditions,'' Judge Michael Phelan said in a 126-page ruling released today in Ottawa by the Federal Court of Canada. The judge cited the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who in 2002 was mistakenly identified as a terror suspect during a stop in New York. U.S. officials sent him to his native Syria where he was jailed and tortured, according to a Canadian inquiry that found Arar was not linked to terrorism.
Can hear them at the PMO? They're running around with their hair on fire. A federal judge in Canada has just labeled the United States a country which does not observe the rule of law. Chile under Pinochet. There will be heads exploding in the government benches.

This is where Bush's War On Terra™ has taken the United States.

The Canada-U.S. asylum treaty also is unconstitutional, Phelan said, because it treats people in identical refugee situations differently by applying only to land crossings.

"One transiting the U.S. from their home country makes the last part of the journey by land to Canada, is immediately returned to the U.S.,'' Phelan said. "The other transits the U.S. and makes the last part of the journey on a non-stop flight originating in the U.S. and receives the full panoply of Canadian protection.''

Finally! Someone actually recognized that argument.

I do believe there will be a segment of the blogosphere out there which will erupt in such a way that it will make the shit-flinging of the Orangutans at the San Diego Zoo look like a kindergarten finger-painting session.

More at POGGE and Moderate Man

And I almost missed Alison's post on it.


If you don't already know Red Tory has decided to pull the plug on his blog for the immediate future.

That's regrettable for all of us, but given the reasons provided, completely understandable. If there's a bright side it's that he doesn't plan on staying away forever and we can expect a return sometime after the new year.

So, RT, wrap yourself in your work and hurry back. We'll look forward to your style and wit in the toobs.

And to explain the title. It's an old abbreviation from the days when communications was done with a speed-key over a dancing blue spark with a code named after Samuel Morse.

T = Thank
U = You
V = Very
M = Much
O = Old
M = Man

Shouldn't somebody ask Pete?

Impolitical has a comprehensive summary of the aftermath of the Mulroney/Schreiber hearing. So, go there and then pop on back. We'll wait.

Done? I know. It's a lot to absorb. There was so much happened around this whole affair yesterday that it's difficult to keep track of who's who. But several things occurred in rapid fire succession which might otherwise seem unrelated.

First is Justice Minister Rob Nicholson exercising power he previously said he didn't possess. While the Liberals have been pounding on him to explain, this would appear to be a poll-driven decision. This despite the fact that Harper has made a point of telling us he would not be driven to govern by polls.
On the eve of Schreiber's much-anticipated Thursday appearance before the parliamentary ethics committee, the Justice Department seemed to change its tune, according to the Liberals.

The department consented on Wednesday night to a judicial stay of surrender to give Schreiber time to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

An agreement not to challenge the judicial stay of extradition suggested the Justice Department has "offered to use a power it claimed it doesn't have," Dion said Thursday.

"Obviously the department wouldn't even make such an offer if the minister didn't have the power to do so," he said.

Yes, well, if the Harperites were true to their word they would simply extradite Schreiber and let the German government have at him. To the peril of the Conservatives however. Public opinion is bent the other way. Canadians would like to hear what Schreiber knows and if there is indeed any link between Mulroney's dealings and the present crop of Conservatives. Booting Schreiber out would, in the eyes of those polled, present the appearance of a quasi-cover-up. So, despite Harper's words to the contrary, it would appear polls are the major influence in CPoC decision-making. Governance by knee-jerk.

One of the big surprizes though, was Norman Spector, former Mulroney chief of staff. From the sidelines of yesterday's circus Spector made a point of tossing Mulroney directly under a moving bus, tying the former prime minister into an even shadier deal involving Karlheinz Schreiber and linking them with then Nova Scotia MP Elmer MacKay. (Pete's dad).

I wouldn't begin to speculate as to Spector's motivation, however much of what he offered in yesterday's interview supports Schreiber's sparse testimony before the committee.

In 1990, Norman Spector says, the prime minister handed him a tiny white paper and told him to move ahead with a plan to build military vehicles in Nova Scotia.

The directive flew in the face of opposition from bureaucrats in the Department of National Defence, from military brass and from the most senior bureaucrat in the country, Spector told The Canadian Press in an interview.

They each had their own concerns about a proposal from German arms maker Thyssen Industries to open a plant in exchange for a federal grant and a contract to build light-armoured vehicles.

"There was tremendous opposition in the system," Spector said.

He says arms lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber was embroiled in a bitter dispute with senior military officers, who were pleased with similar vehicles already being built by GM in southern Ontario.

Perhaps Spector isn't throwing Mulroney under the bus so much as he's tossing him into the wheels of a Thyssen-built LAV. Back in the day there was more than a little talk about the Thyssen attempt to build a plant in Nova Scotia and the fact that DND was, shall we say, violently opposed to the entire plan. Anywhere one went in the wardrooms and messes of the Canadian Forces there was a conversation about how the whole deal had the stench of someone in the Mulroney government getting rich.

There was also the question of use. Who would they be built for? The Canadian army was already in a deal with GM and the Thyssen LAV was hardly a necessary addition to the Canadian inventory. In fact, there was a strong rumour moving through the bazaars that any Thyssen Henschel LAVs would be delivered as a "Use once, mothball, sell" vehicle, the eventual end user being somewhere "over there". (Across the Atlantic, south of the Equator).

As I said, I don't know Spector's motivation for granting an interview like this on the same day as Schreiber's testimony, but it may have been an attempt to put all the dirt on Mulroney while dry-cleaning Steve Harper.

That won't work in any case because there is some linkage that needs to be brought into the light.

In the whorehouse that is the Conservative Cabinet it would do well to approach the bartender and the piano player. While they claim never to know what's going on upstairs, they have much more knowledge of this than they are willing to let on.

One was very close to the coal-face of the Thyssen attempt and while he may well have been bitterly opposed to the manipulations of Schreiber, he would have information pertinent to the events. I'll leave it to you to work out who that was because, for the time being, we're going to ignore him. The other one, however, needs to be put under a spotlight.

Given the machinations made public by Spector yesterday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay should be wondering when he is going to be hauled before a committee to testify.

The timeline offered by Spector (and Schreiber) suggests that things got hot around the Thyssen deal around 1990 and that it fizzled around 1991. Elmer MacKay had been very much involved and had organized meetings with Karlheinz Schreiber and Spector. Spector claims that his successor, Hugh Segal, still had an active file on the Thyssen Henschel proposal as late as 1992 or 1993, an attempt still being facilitated by Karlheinz Schreiber.

Let's see.... what was young Petey MacKay doing at that time?

You don't say! He was working for Thyssen Henschel company in Kassell, Germany. Right about the time Karlheinz Schreiber is working furiously for the same company trying to get an armoured vehicle plant built in Cape Breton, a deal that Mulroney has removed from the hands of the bureaucracy and handed over to his political staff. Schreiber, also at about that time is alleged to have payed-off Walther Leisler Kiep, the treasurer of the German Christian Democratic Party with 1 million Deutch Marks after a Thyssen deal to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia - an arms sale that was approved by then Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

So, maybe somebody should walk into the whorehouse and grab Petey. Ask him how it is that a brand new lawyer from Dalhousie Law School steps into an overseas job with the same firm trying to wangle a deal from a government in which his father (Elmer MacKay) is a cabinet minister, who, by the way, gave up his safe parliamentary seat temporarily in 1983 to make sure Brian Mulroney could enter parliament.

Harper wanted to capitalize on the Progressive Conservative legacy. There it is, and it's looking a little dirty.

Superstition Not Beneficial for Study of Science - Who Knew?!

Pursuant to this post from yesterday comes the results of being a nation infested by superstition and invisible sky beings.

The OECD has just published their 2006 Project for Student Assessment, or PISA, results. The pdf of the rankings is here.

The US ranks "Statistically significantly below the OECD average" falling right between Latvia and the Slovak Republic.

In early December the more detailed report will be released at which time I suspect we'll find that US scores are lower in '06 than they were in '03.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

So, if the Surge is working....

And that point is clearly debatable as you will see, what happens when the troops from that operation are pulled out?
As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a plan to absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.
Well, there is always the Baghdad neighbourhood watch program that was set up by General Petraeus' command. Two weeks ago it was reported to have 77,000 members.
The military also lowered its tally of how many Iraqis had joined neighborhood watch groups. The new figure for Concerned Local Citizens, as the military calls the volunteers, is 60,321. The previous estimate of 77,000 erroneously combined the number of volunteers who are currently serving with those who had expressed a willingness to join.
An over-estimate of 17,000 people? Think nothing of it. It happens all the time.

No. The thing that will set the pot to boiling over is this:
“All these guys coming back are probably going to find somebody else living in their house,” said Col. William Rapp.
I wonder what the good colonel believes that will lead to?

And who does the US have dealing directly with the flood of Iraqi returning refugees? Brace yourself.
Ahmad Chalabi, a Shiite politician and former Iraqi exile who made common cause with the Americans against Saddam Hussein, has been charged with developing a plan to provide services.
Oh yeah! That'll work.
Colonel Rapp voiced the hope that confrontations might be avoided by building new homes for returning Iraqis instead of forcing all of the squatters to leave. “It is probably going to be resolved with new housing construction as opposed to wholesale evictions and resettlement,” he said.
Construction?! Yeah... no one's tried that yet.

Australia joins the coalition of the disappearing

Kevin Rudd, Australia's new prime minister, doesn't appear to be wasting any time divesting his country of links to George W Bush's Iraq fiasco.
About 550 Australian combat troops in Iraq should be withdrawn by about the middle of next year, Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd said on Friday, setting a broad timetable for the soldiers to return home.

Australia has about 1,500 troops in and around Iraq, but Rudd won power at the Australia's national election on November 24 with a promise to bring frontline forces home.

"The combat force in Iraq we would have home by around the middle of next year," Rudd told Australian radio.

This is not a complete withdrawal however. What Rudd is talking about is pulling the Overwatch Battle Group (West) out of Tallil Airbase and removing the roughly 100 trainers out of various locations around Iraq.

What isn't mentioned is the Australian component of the Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell which works on countering improvised explosive devices along with US and British members.

It also looks like three C-130 Hercules transport planes and two P3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft will remain along with a permanently established frigate in the Persian Gulf.

It will be worth watching.

More Americans Belive in the Devil Than in Darwin

"More Americans believe in a literal hell and the devil than Darwin's theory of evolution, according to a new Harris poll released on Thursday."

This explains a lot.

Like why Cheney and Bush were able to bambooozle so many people prior to the invasion of Iraq.

If you build your entire belief system around things you can't see or prove then you'll be perfectly comfortable when someone tells you about something else that can be neither seen nor proven.

In order to support the troops, you have to have an inkling of an idea of what's happening to them.

I have to say, this was a jaw-dropper when I read it this morning. Raphael Alexander may be one of the saner members of the right-blogosphere but this little piece indicates a level of intentionally erected insulation or, as Red Tory in CC comments calls it, willful obduracy. (Emphasis mine)
One could write it off if it were one or two stories in the media, perhaps even from news sources considered to have a political bias. But more and more lately we are hearing about Iraq war veterans being cheated out of bonuses, compensation, and basic benefits in all forms of the American media. Not too many bloggers have picked up on this story, but it's an important one to tell. The idea that the U.S. is cheating war veterans first caught my attention in October...
This recently past October?!

I would like to remain polite during the writing of this. That will depend on where my mood takes me, however. I have no particular opinion of Raphael's political posture nor do I spend much time reading his blog. Regardless, I am still asking, "Which frigging rock have you been living under, Raphael?"

I was going to provide a list of links from this blog over the past couple of years which highlight the occasions during which the contributors to this blog pointed out the abysmal treatment endured by US troops at the hands of the Bush administration. I've decided not to do that. Look it up using the search function, or perhaps even Google. Do some digging. We have.

I was going to provide links to a plethora of progressive blogs which are relentless in exposing and making public all manner of injustice perpetrated by the Bush administration on US veterans. But why should I? The blogosphere is rife with posts on the subject. You do the work, if it can even be called that. Your new found awareness should provide you with enough curiosity to expose a litany of horrors with a few keywords in a search engine.

There's more. We have also been very vocal on the problems faced by other troops involved in both Afghanistan and Iraq, notably Canadian and British.

Yet, unlike you Raphael, according to more than one of the Blogging Tories, we don't support the troops. I have personally been harangued by some mouth-breathing cretin who wouldn't know where to find the ejection port cover on a C7 because, in the vacancy that exists between his ears, I am not supporting his beloved troops. I've also watched a few lies in comments as one individual attempted to tell me that he was the Canadian forward air controller responsible for a blue-on-blue US air attack on a Canadian position and that I didn't know what I was talking about. I let that particular dough-head go on believing he had scored a point even though what he purported to be was completely and utterly impossible.

This and thousands of other blogs, Canadian, American, British and beyond, have spent the last few years documenting a stream of injustice perpetrated on the troops by American, Canadian and British governments. From inadequate medical care and misappropriated pay and allowances to equipment that simply doesn't pass muster, the progressive blogosphere has been jumping on each and every instance.

But, apparently, we don't support the troops.

Then you come along, two years out of sync, sporting your little yellow "support the troops" fridge magnet to tell us about the latest Bush atrocity committed on his own armed forces as though it's something new and revealing. There's a lot telling in that.

Look up some of the following items:

- Walter Reed

- Extended deployments

- Day short rotations

- Loss of combat allowance due to being wounded in action

- Involuntary extension of enlistments by implementing "Stop Loss"

- Troops forced to buy their own body armour

- Families forced to pay for lost or damaged equipment of sons and daughters killed in action

- Failure to treat PTSD

Just to name a few of the subjects which the progressive blogosphere pounds on and all of which occurred before you noticed something wrong this recently past October.

But we don't support the troops, because we don't display some stupid depiction of a fridge magnet.

Let me put a lie to that.

I was one of the troops. I spent a whole, very long career as a member of either the British or Canadian Forces and served on exchange with US forces. It's impossible for me not to support the troops. They're my people. And I won't insult any of them with a fridge magnet.

As you are just now becoming aware of the treatment troops receive at the hands of the Bush administration, the progressive blogosphere has been vociferously attacking every injustice against those people that passes our eyes. All the while a palpable silence on those subjects has been evident amongst the Bush and Harper cargo cultures.

So, to repeat Canadian Cynic's words, we really do have the situation under control on this side of the aisle. In fact, it is the progressive blogosphere which has been supporting the troops all along by pointing out every occasion when government has fucked them over.

I suppose we're expected to thank you, that "centre-right" element of the blogosphere, for suddenly waking up and noticing that returning veterans are being treated as some form of waste product by the government which committed them to combat. That isn't going to happen.

No, Raphael, you came along late in the game. Earn your own stripes. They come with a cost. Some of the targets of any expressed outrage will eventually have to be some of the politicians you so admire. Ready to take them on?

If you are, then watch out for the booby traps. If you're not, then please feel free to going back to admiring the little yellow fridge magnet with our blessing.

Russian grand strategy: a quick question

I'm very busy for the next while and am not sure I'll have time to post much, but in the wake of Dave's recent post, I want to put a question out there that I've been pondering for some time. Quickly:

The USSR is thought to have collapsed in part because, often credited to Reagan, the US was able to outspend it on defence - the Soviet economy could not sustain matching US spending. Russian bomber flights, active SSBN activity, and Cold War rhetoric force the US to spend and commit more forces to the defence of NA/CONUS. The US is militarily hyper-extended, stuck in indefinite wars on the other side of the globe. The bulk of US military capacity is stuck in feeding Iraq and Afghanistan. The US is economically very weak with a reliance on int'l trade for growth, falling $, incomprehensible deficit, a penchant for outrageously expensive military toys (F-22), and blinkered leadership... Bush policy has left the United States in a very weak strategic position. Putin knows judo which means he looks for ways to use his opponents weight and strength against them.

Could Russia be doing to the US what the US did to it force its collapse?

This looks more than a little suspicious

The RCMP might want to explain further why they need to know the full history of Robert Dziekanski's life in Poland.
The RCMP is seeking approval to travel to Poland in order to gather information about Robert Dziekanski, the Polish man who died after being Tasered at Vancouver airport last month, CTV News has learned.

The RCMP told CTV News it would seek to investigate, among other things, Dziekanski's medical history as well as his criminal history in Poland.

The information would be used in several of the ongoing inquiries and investigations launched in Canada.

While the RCMP would probably like to fill in the blanks about the medical past of a suspect who died in their custody after being zapped by an electro-shock weapon, there is little else that would have any relevance.

The weapon was used on a person whose background, whether it be a possible criminal past or a medical condition, was completely unknown to the members who attended at Vancouver International Airport in the Dziekanski.

Unless there is an explanation to the contrary, this looks like an attempt to build an excuse. An effort to justify the actions of members on the scene based on information acquired after the event.

If there is some other valid reason for this little expedition, the RCMP needs to provide it. This will serve only to further erode public confidence and raise suspicion. They don't get to cover their asses on this one.

More at POGGE.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ah! The good old days. Let's do the Cold War all over again.

When this happened back on November 2nd, things got a little hairy for NORAD.
The US Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of F-15 fighter jets after a jet crashed on a training mission in Missouri last week.
That meant grounding the mainstay of the US Air Combat Command's fighter-interceptor force since they still don't have enought F-22 Raptors, and that meant that NORAD had some serious holes in the fighter umbrella covering North America.

So, make a call to the Canadian Air Force.
Canadian CF-18 fighter jets helped plug a hole in U.S. air defences for almost two weeks this month after American jets were grounded as part of a crash investigation.

The request to fill in for U.S. F-15s over the Alaskan coast was considered an urgent priority for NORAD, especially in light of the return of Russian strategic bombers to Arctic patrols.

Although not unprecedented, defence officials said the now-concluded operation was one of those "extremely rare" occasions when Canada was able to contribute to the defence of its much larger neighbour.

The aircraft are now back at their home base in Bagotville, Que., and the air force was able to lift what was described as a veil of operational security.

The Canadian fighters were attached to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.
The Canadian fighter jets were stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, Alaska, and worked alongside the American 611th Air Operations Squadron, conducting sovereignty patrols on behalf of the Americans.
Now, before anyone goes off with their hair burning and yelling "deep integration", this is what NORAD is and has always been about. It has happened before and, especially during the Viet Nam war, Canada carried out several operations which patrolled both US airspace and US sea frontiers on behalf of absent US forces.

So, nothing really to get excited about. Well, not really. The disturbing part is actually why it was such an imperative to get fighter-interceptors up to Alaska.

The resumption of Russian Tu-95MS bomber flights this summer along the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic borders have kept NORAD "quite busy" and the pressure has not eased, he said.

After almost of decade of infrequent forays, the Russians startled Western militaries by resuming high Arctic long-range patrols, which had been a prominent feature of the Cold War.

Flying in pairs for up to 12 hours, the Tu-95MS strategic bombers trace the edge of American, Canadian and often Danish air space near Greenland, forcing NORAD fighters to scramble to meet them.

Oh good. The Bears are back. The Russian aircraft are large four-engine turbo-prop bombers built in the 1990s designated by NATO as Bear-H. As the Cold War fizzled out, the Bear bombers stopped making flights directed at NORAD airspace in March 1993.

On 16 September 1999 a pair of Bear bombers made a flight towards the Canadian and American north causing a NORAD fighter scramble. The bombers turned back just outside Alaskan airspace. After that, everything remained quiet until this past summer.

Probably originating with the Russian 184th heavy bomber air regiment, the Bear-H bombers have been making regular patrols along Canadian and American air boundaries. Although this is only speculation, the most likely candidates for making such flights would be some of the nineteen TU-95MS16s (Bear-H16) capable of carrying 16 AS-15 (Kh-55) air-launched cruise missiles.

None of this should have been a surprize since Putin actually announced the resumption of Soviet-era air patrols back in August.
President Vladimir Putin said Russia permanently resumed Friday long-distance patrol flights of strategic bombers, which were suspended in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"I made a decision to restore flights of Russian strategic bombers on a permanent basis, and at 00:00 today, August 17, 14 strategic bombers, support aircraft and aerial tankers were deployed. Combat duty has begun, involving 20 aircraft."

The president, speaking on the final day of large-scale military exercises involving Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries in the south Urals, said that on the first day of patrol flights, bomber planes would spend about 20 hours in the air, with midair refueling, and would interact with naval forces.

An announcement which was met with a shrug of the shoulder.

"That's a decision for them to take," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "It's interesting. We certainly are not in the kind of posture we were with what used to be the Soviet Union. It's a different era. If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that's their decision."
Really? It looks like a new Cold War to me. And since Russia is developing replacements for both the TU-95 bomber and the AS-15 cruise missile I'd say NORAD is going to be busy with regular fighter scrambles for a long time to come.

It's only a matter of time, (if they haven't already commenced), before the Russians fix their submarine-launched ballistic missile problems and start sending their ballistic missile submarines back out on patrol.

Has anyone told George Bush about this?

For all good men to come to the aid of the party...

Via Balloon Juice comes this interesting development in democracy.
If you're planning to vote in Virginia's February Republican presidential primary, be prepared to sign an oath swearing your Republican loyalty.

The State Board of Elections on Monday approved a state Republican Party request to require all who apply for a GOP primary ballot first vow in writing that they'll vote for the party's presidential nominee next fall.

John Cole was good enough to provide a possible Republican oath for the Virginia Republican primary:
Ich schwöre bei Gott diesen heiligen Eid, daß ich dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes Adolf Hitler, dem Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht, unbedingten Gehorsam leisten und als tapferer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit für diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen.
But I digress. Back to the original story.
There's no practical way to enforce the oath. Virginia doesn't require voters to register by party, and for years the state's Republicans have fretted that Democrats might meddle in their open primaries.
Because it's something the Republicans would do!

The Democrats have requested no such oath, and since their primary is on the same day, they'll be too busy to worry about what the Republicans are up to.

US State Department. Slackers, plagiarists and... ohhh! Nice shoes Condi!

The US State Department produces the Iraq Weekly Status Report which is described, on Foggy Bottom's website in this way:
This comprehensive status report on Iraq provides weekly updates in the eight key areas identified as pillars of U.S. Government policy.
So one could visualize teams of people working diligently for hours each day, gathering in information from a variety of official sources in preparation for a complete, concise weekly briefing on all that is important in Iraq.

One could visualize that, but it would be wrong. You can read the Iraq Weekly Status Report for November 21, 2007 here, or you can go to the following sources and get the same information, virtually word for word:

- The Washington Post - Nov 15, 2007

- Associated Press - Nov 14, 2007

- United Press International - Nov 19, 2007

- Voices of Iraq - Nov 18, 2007

- United Press International - Nov 16, 2007

- The New York Times - Nov 16, 2007

- Reuters - Nov 16, 2007

- Yahoo! News - Nov 16, 2007

Interestingly, the State Department authors of this "report" didn't bother to footnote each article they plagiarized, although they do cite sources on the last page of the report.

Kind of makes moot the idea of posting any State Department personnel to Iraq. I mean, hell, the major media outlets are already doing everything the State Department can do. Why take the risk?

You must now go to AmericaBlog who is the sole origin of this story for more information and where you can see the word for word comparisons.

Condi. You go too. You'll learn something.

Layton Embraces Bigotry

To which bigots does Jack Layton want to appeal?

The bigots in his party? I'd always believed the NDP to be the utter antithesis of a political organization that would be appealing or welcoming to bigots. I know that I've never met a member of the NDP that I would consider a bigot. Perhaps the party membership has changed since Layton formed his unholy alliance with Harper.

Those in other parties? Conservative bigots are never going to vote for the NDP anyway and Liberal bigots are well served within their own ranks.

I can only conclude that Layton thinks this action will play well within his own party.

Even though I will not vote NDP as long as they keep playing sub rosa footsie with Harper I hope I'm wrong that this plays well to his base. I would really be uncomfortable in a country where all three main political parties felt obliged to welcome and play to bigots. And I'm already pretty uncomfortable in Harper's Canada.

I also have to wonder whether we'll ever find out if there's a quid pro quo lurking somewhere among the rats behind the baseboards. Does an NDP member get to chair some obscure, inconsequential committee looking into something no one cares about? Does Olivia get to lunch with Laureen every Thursday? Does Jack get to share Steve's make-up stylist?

Dishonest D'Souza tries science. Fails.

Hairy Fish Nuts gives Dinesh D'Souza a smack.
Religion never repressed science, it was just tough love.
Because of this line from the little weasel.
Galileo Was A Victim of Torture and Abuse: This is perhaps the most recurring motif, and yet it is entirely untrue. Galileo was treated by the church as a celebrity. When summoned by the Inquisition, he was housed in the grand Medici Villa in Rome. He attended receptions with the Pope and leading cardinals. Even after he was found guilty, he was first housed in a magnificent Episcopal palace and then placed under “house arrest” although he was permitted to visit his daughters in a nearby convent and to continue publishing scientific papers.
Which is... let's disingenuously construct the falsehood and then debunk it, thus making one look better informed.

I say, Dinesh, old boy, you've painted a rather lovely picture of being put on trial for telling the truth. Do you have photos?

Aside from that, D'Souza, (Yeah. The enmity is setting in), if it's the latte-swilling, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, university-educated liberals you're attempting to address on this subject, it would serve you well to understand that virtually all of that crowd knows Galileo wasn't tortured.

The only people you may have surprized with your unremarkable attempt at revelation would be the bunch of mouth-breathing morons who think torture is perfectly acceptable and wouldn't know Galileo from a kiwi-fruit.

If it helps, however, you can send them here, here or here for a more educated look at what Galileo's struggle with the church was all about, including a few facts which you omitted.

It seems that was more than a social disease you caught from your old girlfriend.

Thanks to Pharyngula for the Coulter vid.

Caving to the racists

Way to go Layton.
Canadians hoping to vote in the next federal election with a veil, pumpkin, sheet or anything else covering their faces will soon be out of luck as the Conservative government has secured enough support to pass a bill forcing voters to show their faces.

NDP MP Yvon Godin told Government House Leader Peter Van Loan yesterday during a committee review of the bill that his party will support the proposed law. That ensures the government has enough votes to pass the bill through the House of Commons, though it would still have to clear the Liberal-dominated Senate. The position of Liberal and Bloc Québécois MPs on the committee was unclear yesterday as both parties expressed concerns.

Mr. Van Loan said it is unfortunate that the Muslim community has been forced to debate a right that they had never asked for, but noted the controversy has inspired a wave of mischievousness that must now be addressed.

So if the same racists who incited this issue take it further do people have to wear identifying symbols on their clothing when out in public?

Hat tip POGGE

Well, HelloooooKitty!

Yesterday the folks over at What-a-Colossal-Waste-of-Freakin-$$$$$™ unveiled their above official mascots, all of whom apparently hail from Pokemon Prefecture. Yes, this is really them.
Sumi - known affectionately as SueMe by anyone expecting to use the words "winter" or "Whistler" over the next two years.
Quatchi - a raggedy homeless sasquatch. No one ever really sees a sasquatch, making Quatchi the ideal representative for those made homeless by a surprising recent uptick in the boutique hotel reno industry.
and finally, HelloKittyMiga, the singing and lap-dancing cabaret artist, seen here naked but for her boa and mouse ears, celebrating a huge expected increase in her business profile over the two week 2010 holidays.
Not pictured is MukMuk, some sort of rare rodent who will be making the occasional appearance at important events. I think they actually meant Muckety Muck.
What? You were expecting a spirit bear or a moose with a maple leaf or Canadian flag on it? Silly you.
Havril at [insert something clever] and I were discussing these lovable munchkins over a few electrons last night and he'll be back later with a preview of his own What-a-Colossal-Waste-of-Freakin-$$$$$™ mascots plus a rundown on the runners-up who didn't make the final cut.
Oh yah, indeed he will. Looking forward to it. Later.
Meantime here's an olympian knockout post from Pretty Shaved Ape.

Because nothing says "delicious" like an intelligent endangered species

Coming soon to a dinner plate near me, the latest bit of Japanese "research" on whales. They really are conducting whaling as research. They are killing humpbacks to determine if they taste better baked, fried, stewed in a curry or done up as "whale nuggets" -- all in the name of science.
Click here for more on how you can enjoy tasty endangered species! Coming soon, Panda sushi with California Condor eggs fried on a fire of teak harvested from the rainforest.

cross posted from the Woodshed

Was it good for you too?

I'm guessing the Fetusmobile won't be making a return trip to Buford, Georgia for a while.


He'll Get to the Bottom of It . . . .

Finally, george bush has tackled something he may be able to handle.

Go here to find out how he plans to clean up Washington.

The question is: Can he handle it ? ? ? ?

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rove, Clinton and Layton - Separated at Birth

Nobody gives a shit about history any more. Not even recent history.

During the same span of hours that Karl Rove says that Congress pushed Bush into war prematurely, Bill Clinton claims that he was opposed to the Iraq invasion from the beginning.

Both remind me of some of the NDP supporters I've encountered recently.

They'll go light years out of their way to avoid discussing why it was so important for them to help the Harperites bring down the Martin Liberals before the national day care program was ratified with all the provinces. Or why the Kelowna Accord was so vile that the Liberals had to fall before it was signed.

Or why the Conservatives, who loathe everything the NDP has ever stood for, are more palatable than the Liberals, who've cooperated with the CCF and NDP on numerous occasions throughout the 20th century. Which cooperation has resulted in some of the legislation that the Conservatives would like most to do away with or change beyond recognition.

There's no rational answer from them just like there's no rational answer from Clinton or Rove.

They have just as casual a relationship to the historical record as do Rove and Clinton.

In the same way that this Conservative Party is not the same as the Progressive Conservatives of old neither is this NDP incarnation the same as the party of Douglas, Lewis or Broadbent.

PS. I forgot to mention that just as you sufferers of dipper-mania don't give a shit about history I don't give a shit about your opinion of what I have to say. Comments on my posts are off for the foreseeable future and my email link is disabled.

Donald Rumsfeld "Fights the Net"

Here, laugh yourself silly.

The Loftsmen of Britain want a tax break

That's right. The Loftsmen.

You don't know what a Loftsman is, do you? Try a pigeon keeper. And they would like the Queen herself to declare their racing of pigeons a "sport".
Pigeon racers are petitioning the Queen to have their activity officially classified as a sport.

The Belford Racing Pigeon Club hopes the British monarch, the patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, will intervene in a dispute that could see them pay millions of dollars in taxes, chairman Eric Sim said.

Racers, known as "pigeon fanciers," house their birds in sheds - buildings the British government now wants to tax, beginning in April. Sports clubs can get tax relief, but pigeon racing is not classified as a sport, which would leave racers footing a hefty tax bill.

Even if it's not officially classified a sport, "pigeon racing has been recognized as a sport for well over 100 years and this latest turn of events will cause many clubs to struggle to make ends meet," Sim said.

It's not like pigeon racing is (ahem) the sport of kings. It's an Andy Capp kind of sport.... sorry, hobby.
"During (the Second World War), owners gave more than a quarter of a million pigeons to our defence forces and they were used most effectively to carry messages from battlefronts and to save lives from sinking ships and downed aircraft," O'Connell said.

"It is little to ask the government to show some sympathy towards this group of people by reversing this latest decision and recognizing this activity is a sport."

Yes, indeed. In fact, Mr. O'Connell could have played a famous pigeon ace on this one.

To wit, I give you Pigeon NS 15125, otherwise known as William of Orange, winner of the Dicken Medal, otherwise known as the animal Victoria Cross. During the entrapment of British forces at Arnhem during Operation Market-Garden (A Bridge Too Far) William of Orange may have been the one method of communications which saved those troops who managed to evacuate.

He was released from Arnhem, with a message fixed to his leg, at 1030 hours on 19th September 1944 and arrived at his loft in England at 1455 hours having flown over 250 miles. It was one of few messages to make its way back to UK. For his efforts he was awarded the Dicken Medal; the animals' Victoria Cross.
And William of Orange didn't rest on his laurels once his wartime service ended.

William was bred by Sir William Proctor Smith of Cheshire and trained by the Army Pigeon Service of the Royal Signals. After the war he bought him out of service for £185 and ten years later reported that, 'Although now retired, he is the grandfather of many outstanding racing pigeons'.
So, racing pigeons are the offspring of heroes. It would be fitting if the Queen saw fit to at least make them members of an official "sport". Or perhaps give them regimental status.

Photo: William of Orange. Hero of the Battle of Arnhem.

Con policy and death row

Remember this and this? Well, one of those uppity Canadians on death row has gone and found himself some of them lawyer types.
CBC News

An Alberta man on death row in Montana is taking the Canadian government to court over its decision not to intervene in his case.

Lawyers representing Ronald Allen Smith on Tuesday submitted an application to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the government's decision.

Smith's lawyers argue that Day's position is a tacit approval of Smith's execution. Such approval violates Smith's constitutional rights as a Canadian and his rights under international law, his lawyers say.

Keep your eye on this.

Michelle Malkin is seriously upset about this.
A British primary school teacher arrested in Sudan faces up to 40 lashes for blasphemy after letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Muhammad.

Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old mother of two from Liverpool, was arrested at her lodgings at Khartoum's Unity High School yesterday, accused of insulting the Prophet of Islam.

Her colleagues said that they feared for her safety after reports that groups of young men had gathered outside the Khartoum police station where she was taken and were shouting death threats.

Outrage at this event is fully understandable. Fundamentalism runs amok once again. Hopefully the British can intervene quickly and get Gillian Gibbons out of Sudan.

Malkin, however, is hardly the appropriate spokesperson for outrage. I suspect that when it comes to spying on people and threatening them, she speaks more out of jealousy than indignation. Maybe she can file a fundamentalist copyright violation for stealing her M.O. with the Sudanese government.

Mitt Romney: dogs aren't the only thing he abuses

I wouldn't trust Mansoor Ijaz as far as I could throw him but this time he asked Republican US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney a question that got a bit of a mind-numbing answer. (Emphasis mine)
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America's Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.

So... given the Mitt's analysis of things, if you were, oh... I don't know, let's say an ethnic Pashtun, born in northern Afghanistan, emigrated to the US as a high-school student, got a PhD from Chicago University, became an assistant professor of political science at Columbia University, worked with Zbigniew Brzezinsky, served in the Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush and GW Bush administrations and were well-connected to the RAND corporation that, because you were a Muslim, you could only serve at the lower levels of a Republican Romney administration.

The 26th United States ambassador to the United Nations, formerly US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq will be happy to know that.

TBogg does it better.

We'll insure your frog, but not your human partner.

Your pet is a member of your family. So says the Palm Beach Community College.

But your human domestic partner isn't.
The pets of Palm Beach Community College employees will qualify for discounted group medical insurance beginning in January, but domestic partners are still barred from receiving similar benefits.

School officials sent a memo last week explaining the new voluntary pet benefit available via payroll deduction through the private company Veterinary Pet Insurance.

And it's not like the college's pet insurance scheme is restricted to just dogs and cats.

Full-time college employees can receive a 5 percent discount on services because of the college's enrollment in the program, which covers dogs and cats, but also hedgehogs, frogs, guinea pigs, geckos, iguanas and sugar gliders - small flying mammals native to Australia.
You can buy college sponsored health insurance for a frog. But your adult human partner? Well that's a different story, and it was a conscious decision on the part of the college trustees.

In August, PBCC trustees voted down a proposal to allow the domestic partners of full-time employees to receive insurance benefits. The plan wouldn't have cost the school anything because it pays employee premiums only, not those of dependents.
Now the kicker. (Yes, it gets a little worse). The pet health insurance plan (which insures frogs) was made available a mere 90 days after the trustees rejected the option for insuring domestic partners.

The college trustees apparently had a concern.

[Grace] Truman, [PBCC spokesperson] said trustees weren't concerned about costs to the college, but potential long-term increases for employees because of additional enrollees in the group plan.
That's weird. Maybe it's just me but I have always understood that the more enrollees in a plan, the cheaper it got for each member. Silly me for thinking that way.

Palm Beach Community College now joins the ranks of Home Depot, Sprint, Ecolab and Waste Management, all of whom offered pet health insurance and had to be pressured into providing the same option for domestic partners.

For more on this sick form of disconnect, head on over to Pam's House Blend.

And, oh yes, if Palm Beach Community College had ever seen what my two male terriers liked to do for fun, they probably wouldn't have insured them either.

And it begins

The carnage of the obvious ponzi scheme that was the sub-prime mortgage fiasco is starting to have an effect, not just on those who are losing homes, but on the people who work for the lenders who manipulated the whole thing.
Citigroup, the No. 1 U.S. bank by assets, is planning major job cuts over the coming months, CNBC television reported on Monday.

CNBC said that no exact number had yet been set, though some jobs were already being eliminated. It estimated that the cuts could total anywhere between 17,000 and 45,000.

Mike Hanretta, a spokesman for Citi, declined to comment.

Any layoffs would come as Citi wrestles with asset writedowns and looks for a new chief executive officer. Former CEO Charles Prince resigned on November 4, the same day Citi said it may write off this quarter $11 billion of assets linked to subprime mortgages.

Citi said in April that it would eliminate 17,000 jobs as part of a broad restructuring designed to cut costs, which at the time was about 5 percent of its work force.

Having already laid off 17,000, CitiGroup is looking at dumping at least 17,000 more.

When Charles Prince resigned he walked away with a $40 million severance package - for incurring massive losses.

Milton Friedman would be so proud.

H/T Brilliant At Breakfast

Monday, November 26, 2007

MacKay is doing a dance around the truth (Updated)

Minister of National Defence Peter (Support the troops, but cover my ass first) MacKay seems to have something to hide.
National Defence has postponed a decision on whether to continue with major upgrades to its fleet of Maritime patrol planes until after Parliament rises for the Christmas holidays.

Critics say the deferral is an unabashed attempt to bury what is expected to be a bad news announcement for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

A substantial portion of the work has been carried out in his home province of Nova Scotia.

Defence sources say the long-anticipated announcement was put off earlier this week until Dec. 18, almost one month past the government's self-imposed deadline and at least four days past Parliament's scheduled Christmas break.

The bad news? All the work that was going to happen in MacKay's riding is about to be flushed away. Why?

Well, according to the report, there are other plans.

The air force had originally intended to keep its 18 CP-140 Auroras in the air until 2025, but a multi-year upgrade contract was put on hold in September and there have been suggestions the military has been shopping for a replacement aircraft.
Huh?! There's nothing on the project list at ADM Mat. This is new. Very new.

Why are they delaying an announcement? Well, there's a very simple answer to that. After spending $900 million to date on the CP-140 Auroras, the opposition would have a field day ripping MacKay to shreds for even thinking of retiring them. Not to mention all the contractors, many in MacKay's riding who have probably financed themselves to the hilt in preparation for phase two and three of the project only to discover that there will be no work at all.

The life extension has cost taxpayers $900 million thus far and is about to complete its second phase.

To date, the Auroras have received an upgraded navigation system, global positioning systems and better radar, among other things.

The next two phases, which are now on hold, would have given the aircraft better data management system, sensors - such as imaging radar - and finally protection against air-to-surface missiles.

Companies, including IMP Aerospace in Halifax, were preparing for the next round when the project was put in limbo.

Defence sources said officials from IMP met with MacKay earlier this month.

The minister offered no hint about what the final decision might be "other than to suggest they might not be happy with the result," said an official who asked not to be named.

So, why the secrecy and why the delay in announcing it?

Industry officials told MacKay it would be cheaper to continue with the upgrade and keep the planes flying until 2025, rather than spend several billion dollars to purchase new ones.

But the air force has countered that the slow pace of the refurbishment means it could have new aircraft by the time the old ones are back in service, said a defence insider.

Bailing out on the rest of contract would result in a "managable" penalty, the source admitted.

The air force is said to be looking at two aircraft, the P-8 Poseidon and the ASTOR.

The U.S. Navy replaced its Auroas with Boeing manufactured P-8s, which are essentially 737s modified for survelliance.
So, just to get this clear, the air force was told to retain the CP-140 Aurora in an upgraded model. But they're already looking at the P-8 Poseidon. Why would they be doing that unless they were told they could make initial inquiries?

The news report is a little problematic. The US Navy never had Auroras. They were the same airframe, but the US Navy variant was the P-3 Orion. The Canadian Aurora had a much more advanced electronics and avionics suite than the Orion of the day. If there was a fault it was that Canada had too few of them built. But it's strange that suddenly the US P-8 Poseidon has shown up as a possible contender for an air mission which is already filled.

Well, not so strange when you look at who's running the show and the fact that Canada has virtually integrated it coastal maritime patrol activities with the Americans under the NORAD umbrella. (Not NORTHCOM. NORAD. If the distinction is somehow lost in the fog of changing hats, don't let that disturb you. You're not alone.)

In any case, this gets very curious and despite what MacKay and his spokespeople are saying, he's playing politics and trying to drown this announcement in Christmas egg nog.

Let's thicken things up a little: Boris pointed this out from the Canadian Naval Review. (Scroll down to The Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP): The Future of the CP-140s). That post provides some interesting information, including the facts that Canada declined participation in the USN P-8 Poseidon project because of the Aurora upgrade. Further, the air force assertion that they would have a new aircraft in service before the Auroras are completed upgrading is probably closer to fantasy than fact. Boeing isn't even starting production until 2013, so how the Canadian air force (and DND) can presume to be close enough to the head of the line to put a fleet of new multi-mission patrol aircraft in service by 2016 is a stretch of quantum proportions.
However, on 1 Oct, the Ottawa citizen reported that DND was considering replacing the Aurora in the 2016 timeframe with either a derivative of the Bombardier Global Express (modelled on the UK Astor program) or the Multi Mission Aircraft project being developed by Boeing for the USN (the P8 Poseidon, based on a Boeing 737). Additionally, within DND, a third alternative has been mooted - replace/augment the unmodified Auroras with Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), perhaps in combination with the Global Express.

While the P8 satisfies the MMA requirement, the Global Express solution falls well short of the mark.


... it is highly unlikely that DND will be able to actually acquire a suitable replacement for the CP-140 by 2016 resulting in an extended capability gap.


Even if it were decided to procure the P8, the aircraft is still under development with a planned production decision in 2013. Given that virtually every similar development program has taken much longer than planned it would be highly optimistic to expect that Boeing could actually deliver to Canada useful numbers of aircraft by 2016. (As a current example, the Maritime Helicopter Project (MHP) is widely believed to be two years behind schedule) In any event, we would be in the queue behind the USN who plans to order in excess of 100 aircraft and Australia who have already committed to the P8.
Any announcement by MacKay should be interesting to say the least. The thing to watch for is if the completion of the Aurora modernization program is halted, incurring a financial penalty (which will no doubt be ignored in any announcement), and then followed by an overly optimistic statement that a new aircraft will be in service by 2016.

This is going to be messy and has the potential for being the source of outright lies from MacKay.

The humanity of Wal-Mart

Oh, just keep that price cutting little happy face in mind this Christmas. Keep it firmly planted in the forefront of your mind. Sue J is so stunned by Wal-Mart's latest insurance scam, as reported by Mother Jones, that she's speechless. (Emphasis mine)
Just when you think that Wal-Mart had already exhausted every last possible strategy for screwing over its employees, here comes this story in the Wall Street Journal. Deborah Shank, a Wal-Mart employee gets into an accident with a semi and ends up permanently brain-damaged a few years back. Her Wal-Mart health insurance paid her medical bills, but she also sued the trucking company for damages. She wins $700,000, which after legal fees and expenses, nets her about $400,000, which was put in a trust to pay the nursing home she now lives in.

But Wal-Mart gets wind of the settlement and turns around and sues Shank for $470,000, the money its insurance company paid for her care from the accident. Now, the woman is reliant on Medicaid and Social Security and Wal-Mart apparently got a much needed windfall.

Wal-Mart isn't alone in such behavior. Insurance companies seizing lawsuit winnings from catastrophically injured Americans is a common practice that gives lie to the notion that anyone gets rich off a personal injury lawsuit these days, as insurance companies often get first dibs on any judgment or settlement in such cases. But Wal-Mart's cruelty, as always, is extreme in this case. Not only is Shenk profoundly disabled, but while her family was fighting off the company in court, her son was killed while fighting the war in Iraq. Not even bad PR like this, apparently, can eke out a drop of compassion from the retail giant.

Wal-Mart. Where employees are just another source of profit.

So what is evangelical Stockwell up to?

He's not telling. But you can bet your bottom dollar that it's something you won't like, that most Canadians would not fully approve of and is a mirror of whatever his hero, Michael Chertoff, US Homeland Security chief, is up to.

Chertoff is making deals with Israeli Public Security Minister Ari Dichter.

Yes, it's related to standardizing the size and contents of jelly beans. It's that our treaties and agreements have to match those observed by the Bush administration.

And they don't want you to know.

So, Alison will tell you all about it.