Thursday, January 31, 2008

How about those 40 aircraft carriers Steyn?

Mark Steyn, who likes to dress in colour combinations most people wouldn't have in a kitchen, is making shit up again.
America spends more on its military than the next 35-40 biggest military spenders on the planet combined
Ahem! NOT!

Sadly, No! took two seconds, did Teh Google and came up with a slightly different answer.

Perhaps Steyn can go back to reviewing movies and music. Giving things a rating between one and five is something much more apropos for someone so challenged with numbers.

A "new" mammal discovered

The mountains of Tanzania are proving to be a goldmine of "new" critters for zoologists and other researchers. Having already discovered never-before-seen species of birds, shrews and monkeys, this is the latest and perhaps oddest animal to make an appearance in the Udzungwa Mountains.
The bizarre-looking creature, dubbed Rhynochocyon udzungwensis, is a type of giant elephant shrew, or sengi.

The cat-sized animal, which is reported in the Journal of Zoology, looks like a cross between a miniature antelope and a small ant eater.

It has a grey face, a long, flexible snout, a bulky, amber body, a jet-black rump and it stands on spindly legs.

"This is one of the most exciting discoveries of my career," said Galen Rathbun, from the California Academy of Sciences, who helped to confirm the animal was new to science along with an international team of colleagues.

The Udzungwa Mountains have been declared one of 34 World Biodiversity Hotspots. Often called the Galapagos Islands of Africa, the Udzungwa Mountains contain tropical rainforests which stand out from the savannahs of the lower plains. Most of the life in the Udzungwa region has been isolated for millions of years.

Exactly what are we in Aghanistan for?

Notwithstanding that sometime in the near future I have something of a horror story to tell you about the attrition rate of troops returning to Canada , the question of Canada's strategic purpose for being in Afghanistan arises once again.

If we are having to explain to the governor of the province in which Canadian troops are providing a primary combat force that prisoners turned over to his custody are not to be beaten senseless with an electrical cable and rubber hoses, somewhere a lesson has been missed.

Now we have the story of a young Afghani journalism student facing a death sentence - for downloading and distributing information from the internet.
A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country's rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after "liberation" and under the democratic rule of the West's ally Hamid Karzai.

The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

And if you are taken to believe that this is the unsanctioned act of an independent religious court you would be wrong.

The Independent is launching a campaign today to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh. The UN, human rights groups, journalists' organisations and Western diplomats have urged Mr Karzai's government to intervene and free him. But the Afghan Senate passed a motion yesterday confirming the death sentence.

The MP who proposed the ruling condemning Mr Kambaksh was Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a key ally of Mr Karzai. The Senate also attacked the international community for putting pressure on the Afghan government and urged Mr Karzai not to be influenced by outside un-Islamic views.

The case of Mr Kambaksh, who also worked a s reporter for the Jahan-i-Naw (New World) newspaper, is seen in Afghanistan as yet another chapter in the escalation in the confrontation between Afghanistan and the West.

It comes in the wake of Mr Karzai accusing the British of actually worsening the situation in Helmand province by their actions and his subsequent blocking of the appointment of Lord Ashdown as the UN envoy and expelling a British and an Irish diplomat.

This is the new crowd, same as the old crowd. If the non-Taliban is behaving the same as the Taliban did, what is it exactly we're supposed to accomplish?

Canada has a position of leverage here. Very simply Karzai needs to be told a few facts of life. If Karzai, as he has so often repeated, insists that Canadian troops remain in Kandahar then he needs to accept that the cost of our presence is acquiescence to demands for a much more just and civil system of government and law. Killing people for what they read doesn't pass muster.

If Karzai can't accept that then the solution is simple. We leave and Afghanistan can defend itself.
The Independent has put together a petition.
Sayed Pervez Kambaksh's imminent execution is an affront to civilised values. It is not, however, a foregone conclusion. If enough international pressure is brought to bear on President Karzai's government, his sentence may yet be overturned. Add your weight to the campaign by urging the Foreign Office to demand that his life be spared. Sign our e-petition at
There is no reason for Canadian troops to be dying for a country which is unable to embrace basic human rights and the most simple principles of civilization.

Hat tip Sam in comments and Cat via email.

And another one direct from the Bush playbook

As Steve V says, this is just unbelievable.
Environment Canada has "muzzled" its scientists, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with "approved lines."
Whatever an "approved line" is.
Environment Canada scientists, many of them world leaders in their fields, have long been encouraged to discuss their work on everything from migratory birds to melting Arctic ice with the media and public. Several of them were co-authors of the United Nations report on climate change that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

"It's insulting," says one senior staff member, who asked not to be named. She says researchers can no longer even discuss or confirm science facts without approval from the "highest level."

Until now, Environment Canada has been one of most open and accessible departments in the federal government, which the executive committee says is a problem that needs to be remedied.

Well, yes. Open and accessible government is on helluva problem, dontcha know. Why, if someone doesn't bring an end to it, it'll make everyone think the government of Canada is transparent and accountable.

The scientists need not worry. The fat little men in blue ties will be around directly... selling memberships in "the party".

The nazification of the civil service has begun.


Peter MacKay knew the day after Canadian Forces in Afghanistan stopped transferring prisoners to Afghan custody.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay expressed Canada's outrage and dismay directly to Kandahar's governor within hours of diplomats discovering a clear case of prisoner abuse last fall.


Mr. MacKay was in Kandahar on Nov. 6 visiting troops when the Canadian army decided to halt the handover of captured Taliban fighters to Afghan authorities.

The fact that the government kept the decision secret has infuriated opposition MPs.

"He was there, he knew something," said Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre.

"Why didn't he tell us? Is it because he was told not to say anything by a Prime Minister's Office that is controlling everything?"

The news that a prisoner had been allegedly beaten unconscious using an electrical cable and a hose in the custody of Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service angered Mr. MacKay, said a senior Conservative, who spoke on background.

Mr. MacKay immediately demanded to speak to Governor Assadullah Khalid, whose responsibility includes all provincial detention facilities.

The Defence Minister told the governor, a former Northern Alliance commander whose hatred of the Taliban is legend on the streets of Kandahar, that the abuse was "absolutely unacceptable."

Well now, that would be a good thing. It's the proper way to deal with the issue. He might have even scored a few brownie-points if he'd come back to Canada and given Parliament the details.

But he didn't do that, did he?

Instead, MacKay lied to Parliament.

That's all three of them: Harper, MacKay and Buckler.


Tonight on CBC

Listening to CBC...I find out these guys sue researchers who publish unfavourable studies of their product. And their corporate HQ has giant posters of black-clad cops out front. And iris scanners at the front door. Must have something hide...

And NOW on As it Happens, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission tells us things Harper won't - like the location and number of prisoners held by the CF and arrangements made in that regard.

Your Moment of ZENN . . . .

Thanks to the folks at Things are Good: good news blog for posting this Rick Mercer video on the made-in-Canada ZENN car. (The blog is a great place to get away from all the negative news in the world, BTW.)

I want one ! ! ! !

Permanent bases? Oh those permanent bases.

As Jill asks what the congressional democrats plan on doing about it.
President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill.

Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued late Monday after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them.


One section Bush targeted created a statute that forbids spending taxpayer money "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq."

The Bush administration is negotiating a long-term agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The agreement is to include the basing of US troops in Iraq after 2008, as well as security guarantees and other economic and political ties between the United States and Iraq.

The negotiations have drawn fire in part because the administration has said it does not intend to designate the compact as a "treaty," and so will not submit it to Congress for approval. Critics are also concerned Bush might lock the United States into a deal that would make it difficult for the next president to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

"Every time a senior administration official is asked about permanent US military bases in Iraq, they contend that it is not their intention to construct such facilities," said Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., Democrat of Pennsylvania, in a Senate speech yesterday. "Yet this signing statement issued by the president yesterday is the clearest signal yet that the administration wants to hold this option in reserve."

And that's it? Is impeachment still off the table?

Perhaps the congressional Democrats could rent out the US constitution to a country that can make use of it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

May the record reflect that he served with honour and distinguished himself


It wasn't a particularly good day for me to begin with. It was getting better. Then I checked my email.

A long time ago a group of us spent weeks in various holes watching and reporting everything we saw. That's as much as I can tell you about that.

What I can tell you is that a corporal, a good friend and an exceptional marine, did more to accomplish our goal than any other man I know. He did it because it was a part of his nature. And he did it with an endless stream of jokes.

For six weeks we laughed - because he kept it funny. We froze our asses off, but we didn't notice - because he kept us laughing.

He was the first to point out that a woman had sent us to war, putting to rest the idea that female leadership would change anything.

He was sharp; very sharp. If not for him a land mine would have had me. He called it before my foot went down.

I was his nominal leader, but he didn't need me. He had it together. We had faith in each other and we had each other's back. He could have been my leader. Instead, he was an advisor and I never questioned his advice.

In the quarter century that has passed I met him twice very briefly - and we laughed our guts out. He had become a civil servant - still serving his beloved marines. My beloved marines.

Yesterday he took his own life.

And eventually some religious motherfucker will tell me that is a sin.

That will go to prove how stupid they are.

The Wingnuterer draws his blade...

And does a classic.

War without end... and a hint of things to come.

Cathie, who can pick up the finest little detail in a story, has put together a short timeline of Harper's latest little performance. It should scare you particularly because of this bit. (Emphasis mine)
Harper pledged to lead a diplomatic "full-court press" with allies to ensure Canadian soldiers get the help that will allow them to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.
I seem to recall hearing sometime ago that Canadian troops would not be required to do any more than one tour in Afghanistan. With a limited number of battalions, that makes "indefinite" a finite number.

Silly me.

Oh yes. I have more.

Apparently, the Bush policy shoppe has been working past noon. Not content with fucking up Iraq beyond all possible recognition, they have a new idea. (OK, it's an old idea. What do you expect after a three martini lunch?)
The American Enterprise Institute, the think tank that came up with the “surge” strategy for Iraq, has just completed a re-evaluation of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and concluded that another surge of U.S. forces is required, this time into southern Afghanistan.

AEI gathered at least “two dozen” experts for three days of discussions that finished Sunday, according to a Washington source familiar with the proposal. The AEI team was headed up by resident scholar Fred Kagan and included “many of the previous participants” from the discussions that preceded AEI’s Iraq surge proposal, including retired Army Gen. John M. “Jack” Keane, the source added.

Fred Kagan? Yes, this Fred Kagan. But, I digress... ever so slightly.

In a telephone interview, Kagan said AEI did not conduct the study at the administration’s request. While a “core group” of AEI employees worked on both studies, along with a small number of retired Army officers, “otherwise the personnel were [experts on] Afghanistan instead of Iraq,” Kagan said.
Well, there's a novel concept! Kagan might have thought of that very simple idea six years ago.

Does anybody have any questions?

I have one.

Were there any Canadian experts in that "core group"? How about the Dutch? Were there any Brits? Or is this just a "new" concept which commits your NATO water-carriers to war without end... without consultation?

Harper, the automaton, must be creaming himself.

Harper Informs Bush??

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper told U.S. President George Bush during a briefing on the Manley report that Canada won't extend its mission in Afghanistan without more equipment and combat aid."

Would that be because Bush is the head of NATO?

Or would it be because we're in Kandahar in a combat mission to placate Bush?

Logic might dictate that the phone call would have been more constructively made to de Hoop Scheffer. Or maybe to Dan McNeill.

But to Bush?

Maybe Steve really just needed to listen to his masters voice in these dark hours.

And then go kill a cat and suck it's blood.

Do you really have a Member of Parliament?

Or has Harper's paranoid regime gotten in the way of MPs doing their legitimate business for their constituents?

Remember the story of Sharon Smith? She, the naked Mayor of Houston B.C., was appointed the " go to" person for the riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley, even though Nathan Cullen is that riding's duly elected member of parliament.

Apparently, that was only the start.

Now the Harperites are requiring the civil service to record all questions to them which come from your member of parliament.

It's called a one-party state. Harper's wet dream.... as long as he's the head of that party.

Stephen Harper. Automaton.

Correcting an oversight

I regretfully admit to having fallen down on the job here. Blogroll maintenance has been allowed to slide. I offer no excuse.

I had meant to put this one on the blogroll last month. I didn't forget. I just ended up doing something else. My sincere apologies.

Say hello to Canuck Attitude. (Rants and diatribes from the world's lousiest conformist.)

I promise to get on with proper blog maintenance in mid-February, once I'm back on the solid ground of home.

"Manley, Best-Selling Author?"

reads the incredulous Jan 30 headline at Embassy Mag, following the news that John Manley's Afghanistan panel report has been down-loaded 160,000 times since its release on Jan 22.

Oh man, Manley must be saying to himself right about now, how soon they forget!

Indeed, who could forget his previous hit best seller, Building A North American Community, written for the US Council on Foreign Relations with Thomas d'Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Robert A. Pastor, self-proclaimed father of the North American Union.

Here - let me refresh your memory with a quote from it :

"The Task Force's central recommendation is establishment by 2010 of a North American economic and security community, the boundaries of which would be defined by a common external tariff and an outer security perimeter."
In fact, right now at Amazon, you can get Manley's first best-seller pictured above, plus his co-author Robert Pastor's Toward A North American Community, both for the low, low price of $33.48.
Everyone agrees - It's a steal.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Oh Gawd! No!!!!

Ralph Nader has decided it's time to emerge from his burrow. From Melissa:
I'd have a lot more respect for him if he made a concerted effort to make this point—and endeavored to either galvanize a vibrant third party or progressivize the Democratic party—in between elections, instead of popping up once every four years to indulge a vanity campaign.
Why can't he just be happy with having taken on one of the largest corporations on earth, at the time, and beating them.

Punt! Punt now!

Goodbye Giuliani. It must be sad to realize that even Florida Republicans think you're a worthless piece of crap.

Dear Halifax...

I'm calling in a favour for making that emergency port visit to Cape Breton in the middle of a fisheries patrol plagued with crappy North Atlantic winter weather. And for finding Ordinary Seaman (we'll call him Bloggins) not guilty of being "adrift" (absent without authority) because he had the good sense to tell me a story I had not heard before. After being accused of over-staying his time in the company of a young woman, he explained that he had merely fallen asleep in a local restaurant.

But I digress.

The next time you're outbound for Fort Fumble on the Rideau, take a few moments to check this out.

It's one of those "Why We Fight" kind of things.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Harper: The cheque is in the mail, (and other even less savory promises)

So Harper, gushing all over the Manley Report, ( Didn't we he do a lovely job on that!), tells us that he is pretty firm on the idea that Canadian expeditionary forces in Afghanistan need to have helicopters and surveillance drones as one of the conditions for keeping a Canadian combat force in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper twice said yesterday that crucial new helicopters and drones for the troops in Afghanistan are "on order."

However, government officials later said the Prime Minister jumped the gun and that they are still trying to find the best way to obtain the equipment quickly.

Yes, Harper did say that. And he's a fucking liar.

One only has to go to this site to see what the state of materiel acquisition is in the Canadian Forces. ADM Mat is the "shopping authority" for the Canadian Forces. Everything "new" goes through them.

Let's take a look at the Medium-to-Heavy-Lift Helicopter Project. Do you see what I see?

At best there has been a no-bid contract offered to Boeing for 16 Chinook helicopters. They have not been ordered; no milestones have been established; and, no production schedule has been laid down.

Let's look at the surveillance drones.

Oh no.

There isn't even a project for the surveillance drones.

Harper is lying through is teeth and he's hoping you are too dumb to know it. The earliest a CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter could be delivered, if we placed a firm order tomorrow, would be in 2012.

Drones? Forget about them. The air force hasn't even decided who might be the best supplier.

Would you like a little juice with that toast?

The Netherlands has seven CH-47D Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. They had eight until one crashed. Where did they get them?

From us. Canada sold them to the Dutch.

Go back. Go back to the Mulroney Conservative government. They eliminated the Canadian Ch-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter fleet, for the money.

Now, if I may, allow me to show you how passionate Harper is about getting heavy-lift helicopters for the Canadian Forces. If the only barrier to saving the lives of our troops is the "worldwide demand" as Harper is stating, the problem is solved... in a heartbeat.

Boeing did an upgrade on the Chinook to make them last past 2030. In the process of upgrading, and building new ones, they ended up with a surfeit of the CH-47D (the same variant we used to own). Boeing has a program known as Cargo Helicopter Procurement and Support or CHAPS. Essentially it is a means of selling off used US Army CH-47D Chinooks and using the income to further upgrade other Chinooks. Upgrades to that model (the one we used to own) would come with it. Oh yeah, they're cheap to buy.

The CHAPS program provides for the sale of flight-ready CH-47D Chinooks under "Exchange and Sales" regulations. Under this program, select D-Model Chinooks from the U.S. Army fleet are available to military users and service organizations worldwide providing them affordable aircraft fully capable and easily up-gradable to include any future system provided in the CH-47D. CHAPS provides countries affordable alternatives to more advanced aircraft and enables users to support military operations, medical and disaster relief, search and rescue, fire fighting and civil support with reliable, cost-efficient helicopters.
You want heavy-lift helicopters? There they are. And what is Harper telling you? They're on order.

This is such a typical Conservative promise to upgrade the military. Smoke, mirrors and the man behind the curtain.

If Mulroney hadn't sold the Chinooks we had, this whole point would be moot. But we have to move past that and look at today.

Harper is not only lying, he is quite prepared to watch Canadian troops roll back and forth on roads over land-mines and IEDs rather than buy used helicopters to prevent them being killed - right now.

Can you feel the passion? Can you feel the fucking support?

That nuclear pile is getting a bit messy

JimBobby pegged it. Before that, the warning signs were there when Berlynn raised this flag. Now, finally, someone is waking up.
Opposition parties are accusing the Harper government of manufacturing last month's medical isotope crisis.

The parties levelled the accusation Monday based on a report that the government did not speak to alternative European suppliers of isotopes until Dec. 10 - 19 days after the research reactor at Chalk River, Ont., was shut down.

Even then, according to a Montreal newspaper, the government advised officials at three European reactors that they didn't need to increase their isotope production because the shutdown at Chalk River would be remedied shortly.

The following day, the government introduced emergency legislation to override the safety objections of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Health Minister Tony Clement insists the report is "completely untrue."

Yeah, right. Given the number of times we've been hearing the word "misspoke" from this lot, Clements is fairly easy to ignore.

Then today, Linda Keen had a chance to say her piece, and she wasn't flinching. We can be pretty sure that this isn't quite what Harper wanted to hear.

The woman who was fired by the federal Conservatives as president of Canada's nuclear safety watchdog said Tuesday the safety risk of resuming the Chalk River, Ont., reactor was 1,000 times higher than accepted international standards.

Linda Keen, former president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), said there was a one in 1,000 chance of an accident occurring and she did not believe the medical isotope-producing nuclear reactor in Chalk River should have resumed operation.

In the case of a nuclear fuel failure, the international standard for acceptable risk is one in a million, Keen said.

"Some have suggested that the chance of a nuclear accident was low and that the reactor was safe enough. Well, with respect, safe enough is simply not good enough," said Keen, who spoke before a House of Commons natural resources committee.

"When it comes to nuclear facilities, ignoring safety requirements is simply not an option, not now, not ever."

Hmmm... that would be the "World Stage" Steve thumbed his nose at when he told everyone that there was no chance of a nuclear accident at Chalk River.

And before Linda Keen testified today, Auditor General Sheila Fraser had something to say.

Before Keen's appearance, Auditor General Sheila Fraser testified that Keen's firing clearly raised questions about the independence of regulatory bodies and how they are dealt with.

She said that at a minimum, there appears to be "a lack of clarity" around the issue.

During testimony, Ontario Liberal MP Lloyd St. Amand accused Lunn of interfering in an independent commission, and asked Keen about a call she received from the minister in early December about the incident.

"You were being told by the minister of natural resources what to do and how to do it," Armand said.

"There's absolutely no doubt in our mind that we were being told when to do it and what to do on that date, and that was my impression," Keen said.

This has hardly even started from the look of it.

Calling all Conservatives! Calling all Conservatives!

Tonight's usual gathering after the close of business in the House is canceled due to other rather more urgent requirements.

Harper Party MPs are to gather in the caucus room to discuss issues of some relevance to... well somebody.

The crisis management committee will convene to determine a six minute plan and the long term strategy committee will provide a framework for a course of action which should get the party through the forenoon tomorrow.

Refreshments will be served. Please try not to show up drunk.


I don't think I need to say much about this...

I gotchyer operational secrecy right here

Steve Harper, having now made it clear that he will play politics with the lives of Canadian soldiers, is about to find out just how angry certain elements of the... oh! I suppose he may already know.
The Canadian Forces are holding insurgent detainees at their Kandahar Air Force base rather than turning them over to Afghan authorities, are taking fewer prisoners and are quickly releasing some of them.

The information, provided to The Globe and Mail by sources, answers questions about Canada's new policy for handling detainees that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other ministers repeatedly refused to provide Monday, citing the need for combat operational secrecy.

Hmmm... I honestly don't know if I would have provided quite that amount of information, but I probably don't have to paint to much of a picture to give you an idea of what's happening here. Steve's "operational security" caveat doesn't have the stranglehold on information that he might have originally thought.

Reports have also emerged that General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, was furious with the Prime Minister's Office's handling of the military's new policy and angrily telephoned Mr. Harper Friday night after letting it be known he was “tired of being used” in political controversy.
It looks like Steve's book of secrets is coming apart at the binding.

Might I add, that this is just the start?

I guess since Steve has established his entire hold on power on the premise that he's the only one who actually knows what's going on and everyone else is too stupid to actually understand, there's little chance he'll see what's approaching from behind.

Take Off, Eh ? ? ? ?

The naked truth about flying . . . .

From today's Globe and Mail:

Fly naked on Germany's first nudist holiday flight

Reuters - January 29, 2008 at 5:49 AM EST

FRANKFURT — German nudists will be able to start their holidays early by stripping off on the plane if they take up a new offer from an eastern German travel firm.


The 55 passengers will have to remain clothed until they board, and dress before disembarking, said Mr. Hess. The crew will remain clothed throughout the flight for safety reasons.

Besides making it easier to go through the security checkpoints, there must be other benefits to this mode of travel. Probably the middle seat wouldn't be quite so bad, depending on your seat-mates.

Turbulence while the flight attendant is pouring coffee over your lap might be a bit disconcerting, however . . . .

Monday, January 28, 2008

The age of American Idol is over (Because they're coming to repossess your big-screen plasma TV)

I hear that George Bush gave some kind of speech tonight. Damn! I wish they would announce those kinds of things in advance. You just know he's going to fuck something up.

I guess it doesn't really matter anymore. Anything the moron has to say is pretty much irrelevant and the fight is on to nominate the contenders.

Driftglass lays it all out and concludes with his special eloquence. His point: This is, perhaps, the only chance anybody will have to fix the damage done by an administration of self-absorbed assholes.
Because with the globe in genuine peril, Dubya's six-week Cakewalk War about to enter its sixth year, the nation plunging into the shitter, our Constitution begging for help and the Supreme Court one bad cold or slippery patch of pavement away from a bulletproof wingnut majority for the next 20 years, I for one am all finished with losing nobly and consoling myself that at least I kept my political hymen pure and intact.

CANADIAN. The racial slur edition.

I remember a sign on the door of a hotel in a place far from Canadian shores. It said, No dogs or Canadian sailors. There was a good reason for that. We had, shall we say, abused greatly the hospitality of our hosts.

On that occasion we deserved what we got. But that is hardly normal. Canadians are generally looked upon as affable and nice, if somewhat unexciting.

So, are you wondering why the "Stars and Bars" in the corner? That's because this is an American story.
When you hear the word "Canadian," what's the first thing that comes to mind? Someone who is hockey-crazed? Someone who says "eh" at the end of every sentence? Someone who is, dare I say it, nice?

How about someone who is black?

It would seem that in place of the former racial slurs used to describe black Americans, the racist segment of the US has taken to using Canadian in its place.
Earlier this month, an e-mail that had been circulating since 2003, written by a Houston assistant district attorney Mike Trent, resurfaced. The e-mail was short, only about 100 words, and was sent to the entire office. It started out by praising a junior prosecutor for a job well done. Then the message continued:

He overcame a subversively good defense by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."

The problem however, (and this raised concerns with Trent's superiors), is that Canadians are not permitted to serve on US juries. So Trent had to mean something else.

Check The Racial Slur Database and scroll down to "Canadian". There's your answer.

Trent claims that he was unaware of the meaning, overheard someone saying that there were Canadians on the jury, took that literally, and just repeated it in his e-mail.
Really? One would think Trent might have discovered the odd "Canadian" during the Voir Dire phase. You know, jury selection. It was, after all, a criminal case. In a place like Houston, Canadians have funny accents. And we say, "eh" a lot.

Why Canadian as a racial slur referring to blacks? From the National Post:
Last August, a blogger in Cincinnati going by the name CincyBlurg reported that a black friend from the southeastern U.S. had recently discovered that she was being called a Canadian. "She told me a story of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a Canadian at that place. She didn't understand what they were talking about and assumed they must be talking about someone else," the blogger wrote.

"After this happened several times with different patrons, she mentioned it to one of her co-workers. He told her that ‘Canadian' was the new derogatory term that racist Southerners were using to describe persons they would have previously referred to [with the N-word.]"

A similar case in Kansas City was reported last year on a Listserv, or electronic mailing list, used by linguistics experts. A University of Kansas linguist said that a waitress friend reported that "fellow workers used to use a name for inner-city families that were known to not leave a tip: Canadians. ‘Hey, we have a table of Canadians.... They're all yours.' "

Stefan Dollinger, a postdoctoral fellow in linguistics at University of British Columbia and director of the university's Canadian English lab, speculated that the slur reflects a sense of Canadians as the other.

In other words, when used by a white racist, "Not one of us. Not a real American."


Thought so.

Thanks to Cheryl for catching this.

Harper's "I love me" wall.

OK, this is just very, very creepy. From Elizabeth May:
What may have been the most fascinating part of the afternoon was my time in the Government Lobby. Behind the curtains that run along the last row of benches on both sides of the House, are doors to long skinny living room areas. One is called the Opposition Lobby; the other the Government Lobby. In my pre-Green Party leader life, I have spent a lot of time in both. The Government Lobby was a frequent work space when I was Senior Policy Advisor to the federal Minister of Environment back in the mid-1980s. And I frequented both lobbies when I was with Sierra Club of Canada from 1987-2006. It did not strike me until I walked into the Government Lobby to await my turn as Speaker that I had not been in there since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister.

It used to have some paintings on the wall. Past prime ministers, certainly a formal portrait of the Queen. Landscapes. I know there was the occasional photo of current Prime Ministers, but when I walked in this time, I felt chilled to the bone. Every available wall space had a large colour photo of Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper at Alert. Stephen Harper in fire fighter gear. Stephen Harper at his desk. Stephen Harper meeting the Dalai Lama. Even the photo of the Queen showed her in the company of Stephen Harper. None were great photos. None were more than enlarged snapshots in colour. They didn’t feel like art.

The student with me said it was the same in Langevin Block, the Prime ministers Office. Photos of Stephen Harper everywhere.

And if you think Ms. May is exaggerating, I give you Kady O'Malley:
I didn't mention the Wall of Harper in my original post, but not because I didn't think it was worth noting. The government and opposition lobbies have been off limits for the press gallery for years, and I didn't want to get anyone at QMP in trouble for bringing a journalist into the House, even during the parliamentary off-season. But now that someone else has spilled the beans on the Conservative decorating scheme, I'm lifting my self-imposed non-disclosure agreement long enough to confirm her report. And yes, it is a little disconcerting, although I did like the picture of the Prime Minister gazing thoughtfully at a polar bear. Make of that what you will.
Remember when we used to call it The Stephen Harper Party and mean it as a joke?

Be afraid. Be very afraid. This kind of behaviour doesn't belong in a parliamentary democracy... anywhere.

Oh yeah. I'm guessing the picture of Harper in the Festus get-up isn't included in the self-admiration display.

Zorpheous and Holly Stick in comments provide this reminder. And I am pleased to prove to you that Harper admiring an array of photos of himself is something of a habit.

Voting for choice.

Twenty years ago the Supreme Court of Canada resolved what should have been the final dispute over abortion when it issued the decision in the case of R v Morgentaler.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, would never again go to jail for performing a safe medical procedure on any woman requesting it.

Section 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada was rendered void.
Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman's body and thus an infringement of security of the person. A second breach of the right to security of the person occurs independently as a result of the delay in obtaining therapeutic abortions caused by the mandatory procedures of s. 251 which results in a higher probability of complications and greater risk. The harm to the psychological integrity of women seeking abortions was also clearly established.
And women, after over a century long struggle, had won another small measure of freedom.

Henry Morgentaler stands as figure who defied the established male-dominated order and won. He stood against the carnage created by laws which did not prevent abortion - they simply made abortion dangerous.

This is not really about abortion however. This is about freedom. This is about one-half of a population enduring subjugation, limits on their rights, abuse and restrictions imposed by a constructed standard that cannot hope to survive.

Amanda Marcotte once told me, "... a system based on oppressing half the human race is what you might call "unsustainable". "

To say the least. In fact, it is destructive. Any society which imposes limits on half its population is limiting the potential of the whole. And a society which places any kind of unique limit on its women is only doing it to maintain male dominion - expensive male dominion.

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, it has been women fighting for freedom from the male dominance of society which has brought about most of the positive changes we take for granted today. Most young people today would not accept that women in this country at one time were not allowed to vote, were not allowed to own property and were, in fact, considered "minors" under the governance of their husbands with no more rights than their own children.

A simple observation is that the majority of those who oppose a woman's right to make her own decisions regarding her own body are men. The majority of voices in western governments opposing health initiatives for young girls which would protect them in adulthood are, you've got it, men.


Dominance. And it isn't sustainable.

Too often, when women actually do achieve something nearing equality in some aspect of life, it is framed by a male demand for compliance. True equality always falls a little short of the mark.

Look at make-up of the Canadian federal government ministry. At last count there were 28 ministers in cabinet and 5 outside cabinet. Six are women.

This same government has made a meal out of wreaking havoc on the ability of women to advance to an equal standing in this country. Three things stand out.

The defunding of Status of Women Canada was a clear assault on the advancement of women in social, business and political forums.

The cutting-off of funds to women's shelters and sexual assault crisis centres. Believe it or not, some of the current political leadership considers these operations have the effect of eroding families. The fact that they were there to deal with the results of already eroded families didn't prevent the Canadian government from ending financial grants.

Perhaps the worst though, is the statement made with the scrapping of a national child-care agreement with the provinces. It has long been understood that comprehensive child-care arrangement would unleash the power of women and the contribution they can make to economic, academic and social advancement. Despite that, the current federal government took a route which was deliberately fashioned to crush the ability of women with young children to advance beyond the front porch.

The current federal government is quick to proclaim that women have achieved equality and that they clearly do not constitute a "minority" group.

No. They haven't. And, no, they don't.

One might expect that a thinking politician could read that particular formula and come up with a different answer and different policies than they have so far.

But they haven't.

So, when I get the slightest indication from a politician that they would cause government to revisit a woman's right to dominion over her own body, I dismiss them. Losing my vote is only the start of it.

20 years, 20 weeks, and .007

Twenty years ago on January 28 1988 in R.v.Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the jurisdiction of the state over women's bodies was unconstitutional.
Justice Bertha Wilson wrote :
"The decision whether to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision, a matter of conscience. I do not think there is or can be any dispute about that. The question is: whose conscience? Is the conscience of the woman to be paramount or the conscience of the state? I believe, for the reasons I gave in discussing the right to liberty, that in a free and democratic society it must be the conscience of the individual."
So there you have it : In a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual is paramount.
Meanwhile CBC reports that some fetus fetishists, who presumably hope to one day celebrate the supremacy of the state over the individual here, have attempted to mark the occasion by selling anti-abortion billboard ads for buses and shelters in St John's, Fredericton, and Hamilton. Their ad was declined on the grounds that it was misleading. It read :
"Nine months… the length of time an abortion is allowed in Canada. Abortion.
Have we gone too far?"
Yes, fetus fetishists, I'm afraid you have gone too far this time.
A fetus becomes viable at around 20 weeks, no?
According to Statscan, the percentage of Canadian abortions performed at the 20 week mark in 2003 was .7% or 0.007. That's point double-oh-seven - which, luckily for you, is already a very famous number .
So let's try that as a billboard ad instead :
" .007...the percentage of abortions performed at 20 weeks for medical reasons in Canada."
OK, I think that would more adequately meet the truth-in-advertising requirements of the Metrobus people in St. John's, Nfld. I think they would definitely run that one for you.
Good luck with your celebrations, everyone!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One price of the Bush and Cheney superpower stunt

On September 11th, 2001, after Osama bin Laden had unleashed attacks on the United States, the death toll of Americans and other nationalities killed in those attacks stands at 2,974 and 24 missing.

That the United States would suffer further casualties as it went after the perpetrators of those attacks was something of a foregone conclusion. However, when George W Bush decided to execute plans to invade Iraq, nobody counted on this.

The US has suffered more than 72,000 battlefield casualties since the start of the war on terror in 2001, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The query by the campaigning Veterans for Common Sense organisation shows that 4372 American soldiers have died and another 67,671 have been wounded in action, injured in accidents or succumbed to illness in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The veterans' group had to force the US Defence Department to release the figures by persuading judges to uphold their FoI rights.

A second request to the Veterans' Administration, the government-funded body responsible for taking care of ex-servicemen and women, showed 263,909 soldiers with experience of the two 21st-century wars have so far received treatment for everything from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the aftermath of amputated limbs.

It also showed 52,375 veterans had been diagnosed with PTSD and 34,138 have received approval for disability claims for the psychological disorder. As of October 31 last year, 1.6 million Americans have been deployed overseas since 2001.

That's just American casualties. It doesn't even touch on the countless thousands who have died while the Bush administration laid waste to their country.

Keep in mind, the Pentagon made an effort to withhold those figures. But there's another one.

Harvard University estimates the cost of caring for Iraq and Afghan veterans over the next 40 years will amount to between £125bn and £350bn [$250bn and $700bn], depending on the long-term effects of trauma.
Cathie pulls up another cost which the neo-cons never figured into their grand adventure: gross unpopularity and a country so weakened that recovery may involve decades of reconstruction... and pain. And there's no guarantee that Americans will be willing to endure what it takes to find a place in the world again. Right now they are the object of universal scorn for giving the world one of the worst presidents ever.

Mrs. Mills does Canadians

Mrs. Mills, in her usual witty style, deals with a small language problem... from some Canadians.
My wife and I have dual nationality, but we are from Quebec. The British ask us, “Why do you speak French, if you are Canadian?” Any suggestions as to a reply?
And how does Mrs. Mills deal with this cultural problem?
I should have thought it was obvious why you speak French: there’s less chance of being thought Canadian and you might even be mistaken for an interesting person.
Well... that's a bit off-putting, isn't it? Doesn't Mrs. Mills know that Canada is now on the world stage? I mean, Canada has Le Grande Chien Chaud for a prime minister.

Catch the rest of Mrs. Mills at the TimesOnline.

It was a slow traffic week... until...

One picture did this. If it keeps going, we'll have had 100,000 unique visitors in one day. Go figure.

Opening the ugly box

Not since Viet Nam have defendants in murders committed in the United States used the post traumatic stress disorder defence. Now, a US judge has included combat stress as a mitigating factor when passing sentence on a convicted murderer in South Dakota.
When it came time to sentence James Allen Gregg for his conviction on murder charges, the judge in South Dakota took a moment to reflect on the defendant as an Iraq combat veteran who suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. “This is a terrible case, as all here have observed,” said Judge Charles B. Kornmann of United States District Court. “Obviously not all the casualties coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan come home in body bags.”

Judge Kornmann noted that Mr. Gregg, a fresh-faced young man who grew up on a cattle ranch, led “an exemplary life until that day, that terrible morning.” With no criminal record or psychiatric history, Mr. Gregg had started unraveling in Iraq, growing disillusioned with the war and volunteering for dangerous missions in the hope of getting killed, he testified.

This was supposed to have been long past. It was to have died with the veterans of the Viet Nam war. Remember, Iraq was only supposed to last a few weeks.

Born during the Vietnam War era, the combat version of what became known as the PTSD defense is being dusted off for a new generation of war veterans.

“I’m seeing it all the time now,” said David P. Sheldon, a civilian lawyer in Washington who represents military personnel. “And I will not be surprised to see this resonate as a consistent theme over the next few decades when people will be committing crimes after suffering repeated traumas in Iraq.”

California has updated a law, written five years after the end of US involvement in Viet Nam, which permits judges to divert offenders with Iraq or Afghanistan service to treatment instead of jail. Although only for lesser offences, it is an acknowledgment that combat stress is real and has a lasting effect on many individuals.

“I see these stickers that people have on their vehicles saying, ‘Support the troops,’ ” Judge Kornmann said. “I don’t see much support for the troops as years go on when these people come back injured and maimed.”
A millenniums old problem. Douglas MacArthur did no favours to returning combatants when he said, "Old soldiers fade away."

Maybe they do, but there is likely to be a horribly disturbed life between the date of discharge and the final fading away.

Wag the dog

Has it occurred to anyone how bizarre a picture it forms when the communications director, lead spokesperson for the prime minister's office, is behind closed doors, hiding from the media and two elected members of parliament are sent out to issue prepared statements in English and French about that communications director?

This is making the Francois Ducros affair look positively tame. And, unlike Buckler's foot and mouth connectivity, Ducros had the advantage of accuracy. Her assessment of George W. Bush was spot on.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rambo and the Karen

Building on Dave's post, I have some personal familiarity with the Karen people who are the subject of the latest Rambo "film", so I'll stay up a bit later past my bedtime tonight and comment.

Citizenship and Immigration states:

Karen Refugees in Thailand

A solution is in sight for thousands of refugees from Burma (also referred to as Myanmar) who have been “warehoused” in camps for decades and are currently accommodated in nine camps in Thailand. Following an agreement by the Royal Thai Government to allow large-scale resettlement of Burmese refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified 13,000 of an estimated refugee population of 140,000 in need of priority resettlement. The groups identified are those facing a particularly precarious existence and who have suffered severe persecution, including torture, imprisonment, forced labour, the burning of villages and forced relocation in their homeland.

Eight hundred and ten Karen refugees have been accepted by Canada. This is the first time since the resettlement of Indochinese refugees that Canada has accepted a significant number of refugees from Thailand. Other countries offering to resettle large numbers of Burmese refugees are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Group Resettlement of Karen Refugees

The refugees accepted for resettlement to Canada are among an estimated 14,000 who have been confined in the Mae La Oon camp in Mae Hong Son Province of Thailand. They are predominantly of the Karen ethnic group. The majority fled to Thailand in 1995 following a major offensive by the Burmese government army against the Karen National Union (KNU). A small portion of the population has been in Thailand since as early as the 1960s, having lived in sporadic settlements until the camps were formed by the Thai government in the late nineties.

Of the nine camps in Thailand, Mae La Oon has the dubious distinction of being the most remote and the most difficult for aid workers to reach, and of having the worst living conditions. The camp is extremely overcrowded. Refugee dwellings are built on steep hillsides that are susceptible to landslides. The lack of appropriate sanitation and water facilities for a population of 14,000 creates a situation where serious public health risks are endemic, and where other social problems associated with such conditions are reaching alarming levels. It is because of the worsening conditions in Mae La Oon that the UNHCR has pushed for group resettlement from Thailand as a matter of priority.
What the CIC site does not say is that the Karen are still periodically raided by the Burmese army while in the Thai camps. Nor does it tell you that the Thai government places severe movement and education restrictions on the Karen, and will periodically raid the camps with its own army looking for evidence that Karen have engaged in travel or work outside the camps. Nor does it tell you the Thia government does not like admit refugees live in Thailand. Nor does it tell you the Thai government will deny exit visas to sponsored refugees, forcing them to remain in the camps. Nor again does it tell you that the Karen came to be in their prediciment because they fought and died for the Allies (British) in the Second World War, who then went on to deny their claim to a recognised Karen State homeland when they were divesting themselves of colonies following the war. This was and still is a source of bitter disappointment and resentment among many Karen. Like so many other ethnic minorities in post-colonial coloniser-constructed states, conflict with Burmese overlords ensued. Postwar Karen then formed what became the Karen National Union (KNU) in armed and political opposition to a new and hostile Burmese leadership. The conflict still goes on.

Canada has settled a little more than the 810 mentioned by CIC through private sponsorships, but not many. Even factoring in the nine other states does not help the 140 000 living in camps to any significant degree. Nor does dividing an ethnically, culturally, and geographically homogeneous people amongst ten different countries around the world do much for its preserving heritage and securing dreams of a return to their homeland.

Bringing this back to Mr. Stallone's gorefest, the production costs alone could have sponsored the resettlement of a good many of those refugees. The profits from the film could resettle many more, or provide the camps with material support, or help pressure the Thai government into allowing Karen access to Thai education and employment opportunities. Or support a number of NGOs who aid the Karen in the Thai camps and in settlement countries. Or all of the above and more. There is nothing on the movie homepage to suggest anything of the sort - though fans can apparently win a home theatre system. Furthermore various other wanker fuckwits (they will not be linked) have reviewed this film and picked on apparently wimpish qualities of portrayed "liberal" aid workers as justification (fantastification?) for realworld Ramboery. Look here, lest you lend them any sort of credibility.

In sum, you can assume that this lastest film is designed to exploit the plight of real living breathing people to further en-filthy-rich a freak and provide death fetish grip enhancement material for interstellar garbage.

See Dave's excellent alternative instead. Or, if you're really keen on Burma and the Karen but not like Sly, try this selection.

The new RAMBO is out... and La Senza is having a Valentine's Day sale.

A movie review? Hardly. I don't really do such things unless there is enough complexity to engage the brain.

No, this is a comparison. Here is a movie reviewer having at the latest Rambo offering.
Sylvester Stallone insisted he would only do another "Rambo" flick if it was about the human condition.

He stuck to his guns. Chapter 4, simply titled "Rambo," is about the condition of humans - after they've been blown apart by bombs, land mines and projectiles fired from the biggest, loudest firearms you may ever encounter on screen.

A box-office and critical joke for years with a string of absurd movies, Stallone regained a lot of good will with fans on 2006's "Rocky Balboa," a resurrection of his most-famous character that proved an unlikely commercial success and also earned the respect of many reviewers.

"Rocky Balboa" got back to the core of the lovable goof known as the Italian Stallion, evoking a lot of the charm of the original "Rocky" and rinsing out some of the bad taste left by the increasingly caricatured sequels.

Co-written and directed by Stallone, "Rambo" is sickening, almost degenerate, in its savagery. Any hope that it might redeem the franchise the way "Rocky Balboa" did vanishes about the time a Burmese soldier bayonets the belly of a child during one of the movie's early sequences of utter carnage.


The movie might satisfy bloodthirsty action fans, but for most people, this is one Stallone do-over we could have done without. One and a half stars out of four.

Now, stroll on over to Canadian Cynic, scroll to the bottom of the post and, (if you dare), click the link.

I almost feel the need to apologize.

But I won't.

If you go to RAMBO you'll probably be disgusted. If you rent this movie, you'll probably be disgusted, intrigued, angry, happy and amazed.

Not that I care, but I thought you should know.

The Automaton Indeed

What are the odds the national media start referring to Harper as "The Automaton" the way they referred to Martin as "Mr. Dithers"?

Slim to none?

I'd go with none.

Right out of the Bush playbook

If this isn't Bush/Cheney Republican then nothing is.

How much is it going to take for people to realize that this is not the Tory party of your fathers and grandfathers?

When is the media going to start asking the hard questions?

Why does it take Bob McDonald, the host of Quirks and Quarks, to tell us this, and why hasn't the screaming started? McDonald provides us with things science; he shouldn't have to report the news of the Conservative Party's latest move toward the Bush culture.
The one scientist in this country who had direct access to the Prime Minister is being dismissed. Canada’s National Science Adviser, Dr. Arthur Carty, was appointed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin to provide expert advice on the government’s role in matters of science and science policy. Now, less than four years after the position was created, the Harper government feels that it’s no longer necessary.

The National Science Adviser is a voice of reason to the government over actions it should take on issues such as climate change, genetically modified foods, managing fisheries, sustaining the environment - any time the politicians need to be educated on the basic science behind those often controversial issues. Of course, decisions are seldom made for purely scientific reasons; all too often, the interests of industry, special interest groups or a misinformed public will cloud the scientific truth. The Adviser’s job is to provide clarity and perspective.

Clarity and perspective. Right.

Now I get it. That would be in the interest of knowledge and sound decision making. Unless it translates into votes and more power, it has no meaning in Harper's crowd.