Monday, June 29, 2009

Double up and secure. Ring off main engines. (But don't let the boilers cool)

That was one helluva ride. It started in early August last year and didn't really settle to a stop until yesterday.

Along the way there was buying one house in one city and selling one in another, all in a market which suggested one shouldn't be buying a house until the market bottoms-out and facing the reality that other buyers were thinking and acting exactly the same way. Treating the situation with my usual "It'll work itself out" approach didn't work. Given what was happening - everywhere - a fixed level of stress set in.

Couple that with a physical move of several mountain ranges and a body of salt water. That would have been enough of a challenge except that right at that time I found myself travelling, unexpectedly, to get a crew ready to deliver a ship from Europe. That translated to Cheryl pack everything, I'll deal with the other end when I return.

Didn't work that way.

Owing to a series of rapid and radical changes in training requirements I ended up staring into the very breech I'd been hoping to avoid for several weeks. That meant arrive in new locale and start a frenetic pace the very next day. That's not a cry for sympathy - just a part of the ride I was on.

Then, in one of the only places in Canada where you can actually grow citrus fruits, "it" decided to be winter. You must understand that winter weather doesn't bother me. It's winter weather in a place where snow is looked upon as quaint for the first 24 hours and then acidly evil after that that creates the problem. Observers watch snow plows with a sense of amazement and then hop into their cars, replete with deliciously worn summer tires, and engage in a region-wide demolition derby of excessive speed and a blissful lack of awareness as to extended stopping distances. Perhaps worse though was having to tolerate the seemingly endless stream of local comments which all ended with, "What global warming?" And becoming bored with explaining that, while this area gets blasted every 10 years or so with a touch of "real" winter, what was happening was actually more related to warming than cooling... snow is actually water... aw, just skip it and go back to your cheap coffee and the complaints about how your taxes are too high - just quit demanding a snow plow where one doesn't exist. I digress.

The result of "winter" was that the already stuffed schedule was now compressed until February.

That was when I thought things had settled down a bit. Having accepted that things were simply too frantic and stressful to pursue what amounts to a hobby, I had retreated from intertoobs. I got back to visiting other blogs and producing bits for this one when I could actually see a horizon I though was permanently fixed by my height of eye. I was wrong.

Things managed to get even hairier and plans to complete alterations to new home were set aside. And something else would have to give - blog and other forms of toobal interaction. From then until now it has been sporadic. While I had wanted to write more, the obligations of life prevented it. I don't like doing "short-form". While others do well in that format, I'm not very good at it. I watched an issue build in front of me which I consider important to me and others which I had no time to address. It's still an issue. It still needs some light shed upon it.

So, today, as a long erratic schedule supposedly ended, I was prepared to contribute more to TGB. Then about half-way through writing this I received word that I'm still not done. Make no plans, suffer no schedule.

So, there still might be a bit of a wait for that series of postings I so want to do. So it goes.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Has there been a military takeover in Iran?

Ex-CIA middle east field agent Bob Baer and Newsweek editor, Fareed Zakaria, (who is something of an expert on the subject of Iran) seem to believe it's likely.

Both agree that the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps seem to be in charge of everything that's happening in Iran at the moment. The tell was the speed at which the Basij (a volunteer military/police auxiliary force) was employed to quell dissidents. The Basij is directly controlled by the IRGC and in past years the IRGC has been spending a great deal of money and energy arming this particular group.

Baer also pointed out last week that it is entirely possible that Ahmadinejad actually won the election and that Ahmadinejad is actually leading a hard-line take over, ousting the mullahs.
Before we settle on the narrative that there has been a hard-line takeover in Iran, an illegitimate coup d'état, we need to seriously consider the possibility that there has been a popular hard-line takeover, an electoral mandate for Ahmadinejad and his policies. One of the only reliable, Western polls conducted in the run-up to the vote gave the election to Ahmadinejad — by higher percentages than the 63% he actually received. The poll even predicted that Mousavi would lose in his hometown of Tabriz, a result that many skeptics have viewed as clear evidence of fraud. The poll was taken all across Iran, not just the well-heeled parts of Tehran. Still, the poll should be read with a caveat as well, since some 50% of the respondents were either undecided or wouldn't answer.
In that same article Baer, who knows Iran well, points out that there is something missing from the so-called popular uprising in Tehran.
Most of the demonstrations and rioting I've seen in the news are taking place in north Tehran, around Tehran University and in public places like Azadi Square. These are, for the most part, areas where the educated and well-off live — Iran's liberal middle class. These are also the same neighborhoods that little doubt voted for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rival, who now claims that the election was stolen. But I have yet to see any pictures from south Tehran, where the poor live. Or from other Iranian slums.
Even the great Twitter revolution is centered on a specific group of Iranians with both access to and comfort with the internet.
For too many years now, the Western media have looked at Iran through the narrow prism of Iran's liberal middle class — an intelligentsia that is addicted to the Internet and American music and is more ready to talk to the Western press, including people with money to buy tickets to Paris or Los Angeles.
Add to all this that the west has next to no reliable window into Iran. Diplomatic missions are sparse and the Basij has been rounding up western reporters and Iranian workers at the British embassy.
The government's arrest of nine Iranian employees of the British Embassy was a significant escalation in its conflict with Britain, which Tehran has sought to cast as an instigator of the unrest since the disputed June 12 election. Tehran also continued to charge journalists with working as agents of discord, publishing one editor's "confession" while continuing to detain others without charge, or barring them from working.
The whole idea, if Ahmadinejad has suborned the IRGC in a take over, would be to continue to accuse Britain and the U.S. with interference, and continue to arrest western journalists and embassy staff in the hopes of provoking a response. It would suggest that Ahmadinejad did win and now commands enough popular support to suppress the power of the clerics and take control of the country. He can point at any rhetoric or threats from either the U.S. or Britain (or both) and declare an even greater emergency on the basis that his accusations are correct.

That will likely translate into even greater suppression of anything which looks like opposition or an uprising. The government will transform into a military dictatorship (as opposed to a religious one) led by former IRGC member Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the support of the IRGC.

The thing is, we're not likely to know what is really happening for some time to come but the chances of the uprising in Iran resulting in something good are very slim indeed.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

For all of you at Bloggerpalooza III

Apparently there may be more than one Bloggerpalooza this weekend. But the biggest and the best will be out west in the west end.

Have a great time people.

Or you could just keep on going to Mom's Cafe in Sooke.

(Click to enlarge) Via Broadsides. Now the "Have it your way" Burger King campaign of the 1980s makes sense.

Unlike this Gaviscon ad out of South Africa, (where the copywriter's second language was English), this one is clearly intentional.

I wonder what Terry O'Reilly would do with this?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Walking the Gay Walk . . . .

Lots of rumbling in the GLBT community of late about how President Obama may not be living up to their "hope" during the '08 political season.

His actions while in office don't exactly match the campaign rhetoric.

From McClatchy/Kansas City Star today:

To gays who supported him, Obama hasn't walked the walk

Rick Montgomery | Kansas City Star
| June 26, 2009

If Diane Silver's blog reflects the sentiments of gay and lesbian Americans in the heartland, President Barack Obama is fast losing a serious fan base.

The Topeka woman's postings throughout June, which is Gay Pride Month, have railed about what she calls Obama's "awful record … token action and empty words."

She called his Justice Department's recent court filing — a 54-page defense of a federal marriage law that Obama had pledged to repeal — "hideous."

Many in the movement still speak hopefully of a president who won their overwhelming support in the 2008 elections. But the enthusiasm — and the same level of campaign contributions — may not be there for other Democrats in next year's elections.

Complaints over what many see as the administration's lack of zeal are found throughout the gay and lesbian blogosphere.

Stampp Corbin, a gay San Diego city commissioner who rallied supporters to Obama's presidential bid, wrote online: "When I wake up each morning, I feel a …' It's bit schizophrenic myself. 'I love Obama, I hate Obama, I am ambivalent maddening."

Corbin was among several leaders of gay and lesbian communities who Thursday boycotted a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Washington. He suggested the White House had better start delivering results "or the coffers of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community will be slammed shut on the fingers of your administration."

Nationally, gay-rights groups continue to count the president as a friend, at least in public. Given persistent pledges to end the military's ban on openly gay service members, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and to repeal discriminatory elements of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, the White House hopes for a strong showing next week when Obama hosts a Gay Pride reception.


Much of the anger centers on a June 11 Justice Department brief seeking to dismiss a constitutional challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

The law, limiting federal marriage benefits to opposite-sex couples, is the target of a federal lawsuit in California. Justice spokesman Charles Miller said that as attorneys for the government "we have to defend that law" when it's taken to court. "It's Congress' job" to change or chuck it if Congress sees fit.

The government's brief outlined a defense seen by gay-rights advocates as unnecessarily vigorous. "DOMA does not restrict any rights that have been recognized as fundamental," it stated.

"That just went too far," said Missouri Sen. Jolie Justus, a Democrat who recently seized upon Iowa's same-sex marriage law to wed her partner in Iowa City.

The brief went on to point out that incestuous relationships, too, were outside states' legal purview of marriage — as if to lump uncle-niece pairings with same-sex couples.

"The government could have defended DOMA without using the red herrings and insulting arguments that once were used to stop interracial marriages," Justus said. "We've been talking about this constantly … a slap in the face," though she said she expected Obama to press his pledge to undo the law in time.


The president's hesitation to push for an end to the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has widened the divide, especially after the handling of Pietrangelo v. Gates.

The case, brought by James Pietrangelo, an infantry officer who was preparing for his third tour in Iraq when he was discharged for being gay, reached the U.S. Supreme Court — where the Obama administration urged that it not be heard.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, the administration's lawyer before the court, said in her filing that the ban is "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion."

Days earlier, however, in the wake of Rep. John McHugh's nomination to be secretary of the Army, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said McHugh shares Obama's commitment to repealing the ban, which isn't "working for this country right now."

After his lawsuit was disposed of, Pietrangelo called the president "a coward, a bigot and a pathological liar … who spent more time picking out his dog, Bo … than he has working for equality for gay people."

More than 250 lesbian and gay members of the military have been booted out since Obama took office.


Silver, in a telephone interview, said she and the families of same-sex couples have waited long enough.

Their options? One is to "just shut your wallets" when Democratic fundraisers come calling, she said.

"The GAY-TM is closed."

Should we be surprised? Disappointed, maybe, thinking he would actually be a different kind of politician.

"Fool me once, shame on you."

And all that . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Canada's "Hollow Army"

"It's tough right now because we don't have enough soldiers on the ground to do the job," he said, adding that some in the military are tired. "The senior NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and officers especially ..."

General Walt Natynczyk,
chief of the defence staff

You need to read Brian Stewart's entire report.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

S.P.P. DVD . . . .

At The Lady Alison's suggestion, I had placed the Paul Manly documentary "You, Me and the S.P.P: Trading Democracy for Corporate Rule" on my Vancouver library request list months ago.

Once released, it finally came to my local branch yesterday. I picked it up after lunch and watched it this afternoon.

Great stuff, and every Canadian should view it to become fully informed on the creeping US-ization of North America.

Scary stuff, Gang.

Tell your peeps . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

What are you running there MacKay?

Fort Fumble on the Rideau has done it again. The initial decision to withhold the projected future costs of the Afghanistan military expedition on an information request using a "national security" blanket has simply served to further erode public confidence.
The Defence Department admitted Wednesday that it was wrong to withhold the future cost of the war in Afghanistan on the basis that releasing it would violate national security.
Of course it was wrong. And whoever made the decision in the first place knew it was wrong. And knowing it was wrong suggests that the final decision came from a creature well up on the totem pole.

Yet the defence minister claims it wasn't his decision. How odd.

The response to requests for information from the Canadian Forces is governed by policy. There are, or were, explicit instructions as to what type of information could or could not be released in the response to an information request. I've handled more than a few of them in the past and, as much of a pain in the ass as they were, determining the contents of a response was reasonably straight forward. The easiest ones to get off the desk were the ones asking about "the cost of ...". Not my bailiwick, send this to a higher authority toute de suite.

The infuriating part was the fact that such requests normally came forwarded from the Puzzle Palace in Ottawa in the first place. Sending them back meant explaining to the idiot well up the chain of command that operational commanders do not respond to requests for budgetary information which already exists as knowledge at a higher level.

Defence policy information requests were always answered by the boffins (Often referred to as "reeky, pencil-necked, civvy, pukes". Hey! It was a part of the lexicon.) At best, we could only contribute to a response by detailing unit preparedness or the like but for the most part we never saw such requests.

Further, there was and still is, a restriction on what one could say publicly for any record. Defence policy, and in particular operations beyond the current year, were absolutely verbotten. Those always went to the minister's cadre and with good reason: The uniformed members of the Canadian Armed Forces do not formulate defence policy.

That makes this part of the Mike Blanchfield's article particularly rankling. (Emphasis mine)

For the first time Wednesday, the military also offered up costs for "future years" — a column also censored in this most recent NDP request — pegging those at $540 million.

Asked about those numbers, given that the mission is to formally have ended by 2011, the defence official explained that was because of costs associated with closing out the mission, such as bringing equipment back to Canada and restoring it to its pre-war state.

But Harris rejected that explanation, saying the military "obviously has significant plans for the military in Afghanistan beyond the mission end date of July 2011" because the post-2011 costs are $1.2 billion.

"That's not keeping the engines turning while you're bringing the equipment back home," Harris said.

"They obviously have some plans, so lay it on the table and let the Canadian people decide whether we want to be involved in this or not."

There is some unfortunate conflation occuring here. Harris and those repeating his comments in the media have consistently referred to "the military" as having undisclosed plans for Afghanistan beyond 2011.

They have the order of battle wrong.

The "military" doesn't decide what form the mission in Afghanistan will take; that is a political decision made at the ministerial and cabinet level. In this particular government, that means the over-dressed kids in the prime minister's office.

I agree with Harris that the figures for 2011-2012 suggest a rather significant level of military activity on the ground in Afghanistan, but the Canadian Forces did not make that projection based on its own ideas for what it's expeditionary role should be. The government has told the CF what form the Afghanistan mission will take after 2011 and to provide estimates for the mission the government wants.

The initial decision to withhold the information requested has the PMO's fingerprints all over it. Since defence policy seems to come from the war-gamers in the Langevin Block, the disclosure of projected costs would shine a nasty bright light on something they really don't want you to know - same mission; different description. (All the signposts are there to suggest little is going to change after 2011. Future post.)

In any case, now that the costs are out there, the embarrassment should be dumped on the appropriate doorstep. Harper and MacKay should be wearing this - not the Canadian Forces. The fact that those costs have risen so significantly and given that Harper instructed the CF to run this contingency operation from within the defence budget explains why other components of the CF are suffering.

I expect we'll never know which individual, very close to the ground on the totem pole, gets gutted for this little fiasco.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Affinity Fraud

Believe in God? Good for you. Whether you believe me or not, we all have to have something to believe in. It drives us, even if we believe in 60 watt light bulbs.

Do you believe that your god knows how to best manage your retirement savings? That's not smart. I will aim your gaze at that 60 watt light bulb.

Now read Bene D.

Paul Wells gives Steyn a clinic on accuracy

Last week's newstand edition of Maclean's magazine was nothing short of the crap you normally see among the tabloids of the supermarket checkout. It was not just hyperbolic in it's cry out; it was right off the sanity scale.

THE RETURN OF FASCISM was splattered across a full cover photo of supposed neo-nazi storm troopers. Worse, however, is that it was pointing at an article written by one-time theatre writer and now overpaid creep, Mark Steyn.

Steyn's narrative was absolute crap. In it, he attempted to mislead readers into believing the European Parliament was filling up with the adherents of Adolph Hitler faster than you can say schutzstaffel. He was also blaming this "resurgence" of fascism on the "polytechnic left", to use his words. One can be excused for being confused at this point because if it's something we've all known about Steyn for a long time it's that he is much more comfortable standing among neo-nationalist fascists then he is even being remotely downwind of any centrist or someone farther left on the political spectrum.

Steyn was blowing some kind of whistle to warn us all that a horde of evil Hitler clones have returned and oh, by the way, it's the fault of the very people he can't stand to see in political power. On any other day, Steyn would be cheerleading for the very caste he is now claiming are some sort of threat. And to make his point... he heavily obscured the truth.

You don't have to read Steyn's drivel. Paul Wells did it for you and he shows Steyn exactly how much mercy he deserves for writing such bovine scatology - none.
The cover pointed to a column by our Mark Steyn. And Mark’s column—well, it’s a bit of a mess.
That's the warm up. Then Wells demonstrates to Steyn how to relay the results of simple research and transpose them into print. He shreds both Steyn's numbers and fallacious assertions.

Wells also notes that Steyn uses Netherlands parliamentarian Geert Wilders as an example of the milder of his corps of emerging fascists yet Steyn has always written supportively of Wilders in the past. (My emphasis)
As examples he names Dutch documentarian Geert Wilders and the UK Independence Party. Yet he sees “nothing” to consign UKIP to the fringe “other than the blinkers of the politico-media class.” And he has written about Wilders many times, always supportively. Makes sense: they both worry about Muslims. In his film Fitna, Wilders displays a bar graph that shows 54 million “Muslims in Europe.” The number comes from the Central-Institute Islam Archive in Soest, Germany, which notes that only 14 million of those Muslims are in the European Union. Another 25 million are in Russia and 5.9 million in Turkey. When asked whether he wants Turkey in the EU, Wilders said, “No. Not in 10 years, not in a million years.” Yet he’s eager to put Turkey’s Muslims in his bar graphs. No wonder Steyn likes him. They’re both sloppy counters.
And yes, there was a point where being a fly on the wall last week would have been interesting. To have one "columnist", albeit one who is universally reviled by a huge segment of the population, have his pants completely pulled down by a much more skilled columnist in the pages of the same weekly journal is uniquely refreshing.

Southern Baptist Morality Police to the Rescue . . . .

Rednecks, gays and religion.

As Rodney King would say: "Why can't we all get along?"

Per the

Southern Baptists cut ties with Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist

June 23, 2009 | By LEE WILLIAMS

The Southern Baptist Convention kicked out Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church on Tuesday, saying its stance on homosexuality is too lenient.

Convention delegates, known as messengers, voted to end the 127-year relationship with the historic Fort Worth church during the annual convention being held in Louisville, Ky.


The impasse came to a head last year during a public debate over whether Broadway should allow photographs of same-sex
couples in its church directory. The photographs eventually were rejected in favor of group pictures of all church members.

One reason for not allowing photographs of gay couples was to emphasize that the church is in line with the Baptist constitution, which does not include churches that "affirm, approve or endorse" homosexual behavior, according to a letter written to the Southern Bapist Executive Committee.


Stephen Wilson, a member of the Executive Committee and vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University, said the issue with Broadway is about the church allowing members who are openly homosexual and unrepentant.

"If churches are ministering to homosexuals, they are doing nothing more than what our own convention’s task force has asked us to do," Wilson said. "But in Broadway’s case … the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals."

Dana Carvey's Church Lady might put it this way:

"Well, isn't that special ? ? ? ? "

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Isotope Shortage Tracker

Hustle on over to Impolitical where you'll find an interesting web gadget - The ISOTOPE SHORTAGE TRACKER.

Once you're into the map you can monitor updating information providing the effects of the medical isotope shortage brought about by the shut down of the Chalk River NRU reactor and the bungling of the Harper government.

You can also click on the image above to get there.

If your riding voted Conservative...

And you're well connected and... well... an exclusive club which the average Canadian couldn't afford to join, the Harper government has something just for you...


You will notice that Harper is featured prominently in that press release. All that's missing is a picture of him personally shoveling money off the back of a truck to his best-buddies at the mahogany hog trough.

After all, it's not like there are bridges falling down, in Liberal-held ridings or anything like that.

Hat tip

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another Alberta Conservative acts like a hillbilly

Jeebus, these people are dumber than an elephant at a roundabout.

Edmonton-Calder Conservative MLA Doug Elniski apologized late Monday afternoon for controversial comments that he posted on his blog, and insisted that he is not sexist.

Elniski posted the text of a speech on June 13 that he said he gives to junior high school students at Grade 9 graduation ceremonies.

Part of the posting included advice to girls saying, "Ladies, always smile when you walk into a room, there is nothing a man wants less than a woman scowling because he thinks he is going to get s--t for something and has no idea what."

It continues, "Men are attracted to smiles, so smile, don't give me that 'treated equal' stuff. If you want Equal, it comes in little packages at Starbucks."

Oh good. Now the women of Alberta (and beyond) are getting "How you little ladies should behave" advice from an overweight, middle-aged hillbilly.

Here's a piece of advice for all those who read his original statement (which he conveniently sent to the memory hole) and his subsequent apology (which he wouldn't have had to offer if he wasn't such a mindless, sexist pig).

Tell him to go fuck himself and stuff his apology up his hemorrhoidal ass. That apology is similar to the word "but" placed in a sentence. Everything that came before it is irrelevent, but when an apology is issued from a politician, it's an attempt to camouflage how they really feel.

And would you like to know a little more about this piece of work? Let's see what we can dig up...

Right here.

Elniski has now taken down his blog, where more than one remark offended more than one group of citizens.

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for Google cache. Yeah... Doug, old boy, technology trumps your 1950s view of the world.

I n t e r e s t i n g!!!

It's bad enough that Elniski so lacks an original though that he found it necessary to give an address which he substantially ripped away from celebrated Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, but that the significant alteration was a line Mary never included in her column:

Men are attracted to smiles, so smile don't give me that "treated equal" stuff, if you want equal it comes in little packages at Starbucks.

Some advice to the schools of Edmonton-Calder. Don't invite columnist-aping Conservative politicians to address your graduating class. Get the real deal and have Mary Schmich do it with the level of respect every person in the room deserves.

Hat tip reader Cat.

Man of Steel, Government of Wobbly Bits

On Friday the government adjourned for three months because they have to get started on their barbie bunfests for next fall's election and hell, there's not much going on in Canada right now anyway, right?
Today we learn :

"In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country's taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security.... Julie Jansen, the director of the military's access branch, cited "the defence of Canada or any state allied" with it, in justifying the withholding of the figures for the three next fiscal years."
Three years? WTF?

"The military's new secrecy comes after the financial cost of the mission became a major issue for several days during last fall's federal election campaign."
Right. That would the report from our fearless first-ever Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, aka Jennifer's Man o' Steel, the guy who ... well, let's let Jennifer explain :

"Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page released his accounting of the true costs of the Afghanistan War , which to nobody's surprise turned out to be somewhat higher than Stephen Harper's guestimate."
Page's first report, released during last fall's election, calculated that the cost of the Afghanistan mission not including military equipment will be about $18.1 billion by 2011.
The second, published shortly before Diamond Jim Flaherty vowed there was absolutely no chance of a deficit in 2009, projected a serious deficit for 2009.

Parliamentary Librarian William Young and House and Senate Speakers Peter Milliken and Noel Kinsella referred to these corrections of the government's mistakes as evidence that Page was "exceeding his mandate".
....Wait for it ... don't rush it ...

Parliament wants to gut first-ever Parliamentary Budget Office's independence
"The Joint Library of Parliament Committee's report will gut Canada's first-ever Parliamentary Budget Office of its transparency and independence and is a simple power play to keep Kevin Page in line because he embarrassed the federal Department of Finance, says Parliamentary observers and some MPs.

"What they've done is put Kevin Page in a box, haven't they?" Concordia University professor Jim McLean told The Hill Times last week."The whole idea of the Parliamentary budget officer was to have an arm's length assessment, to have a person and a group backing up that person of highly-qualified people who could make independent assessments and do it in a transparent fashion. Independence and transparency has been stripped out of this, all together."

McLean : "Twelve people in an office embarrassed the thousand thinkers in the Department of Finance and that's where the politics of the whole thing started to work against Kevin Page."

The muzzling of Kevin Page is a bipartisan effort with both Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella and House Speaker Peter Milliken wanting him reined in :
"The parliamentary library operates on a solicitor-client basis. This means any research the library collects for MPs and senators is "privileged" and can be withheld at their request. As an adjunct of the library, Mr. Page's reports would be done for MPs and committees who then can could use the information as they want."

Privileged. Withheld at their request. As they want.

Well it will make a nice change from all that transparency and accountability we've been dealing with lately.
McLean : "the office is going to be buried, very, very deep."
Time for Jennifer to fire up her forces again.
Cross-posted at Creekside

The Vatican flys to Kansas

The Roman Catholic church would like to make the late Father Emil Kapaun a saint. Now, given the story of Kapaun's selfless determination to help the suffering in a brutal North Korean prisoner of war camp (where he died in 1951), his memory certainly deserves recognition. In fact, the Catholic church recognizes him as a Servant of God, the first step to sainthood. And there is a bronze statue of the man on the grounds of Kansas State University. Emil Kapaun is, beyond doubt, a hero.

But, to be elevated to sainthood requires one specific thing - a miracle.

Lo and behold, doesn't one appear just when it's needed. Some young athelete, who never knew Kapaun, has an accident and fractures his skull. He is rushed to hospital, given emergency surgery, survives and is now recovering. Doctors say he beat the odds; his family says it is the miracle of Emil Kapaun because the whole time the young athelete was being treated they were praying to the memory of the late US Army chaplain. In short, the family is declaring that a long-dead priest somehow came back from the dead and saved their son.

If you're having a little difficulty with this, P.Z. Myers provides an easy to follow two column event line.

And the Vatican has sent out a miracle investigator to check out the events in Kansas. (I wonder how many carbon off-sets they ignored to buy that plane ticket?)

In any case, while the Vatican detective is in Kansas, he might as well head down to Wichita and relax while watching Kansas' aptly named professional baseball team.

Bloggerpalooza 3

Join RossK, West End Bob, Laila Yuile, Pale, Prole, and Frank Frink from ACR, Great Auntie Bertha, hopefully Dave and Cheryl, and myself as we lay to waste a perfectly good afternoon in a downtown pub.
RSVP in comments.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Begging to Differ . . . .

Just finished "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ" by Iranian-American Hooman Majd. It's a very timely analysis of today's Iran and the people/events that shape it. I highly recommend it for a primer on what's going on currently in Persia.

Listening to some of the US political pundits and elected "representatives" pontificate on what should and should not be done in Iran (I'm listening right now to a podcast of "This Week" with S.C. Senator (?) "leeensay" graham spouting BS right now, and it's pretty gagging.) brings to mind some of these quotes from the book:

"It strikes me often while I am in Iran that were Christian evangelicals to take a tour of Iran today, they might find it the model for an ideal society they seek in America. Replace Allah with God, Mohammad with Jesus, keep the same public and private notions of chastity, sin, salvation, and God's will, and a Christian Republic is born."


"The Iranian revolution on 1979 was a clear rejection on non-Iranian political concepts, and although rage and animosity toward the United States in its aftermath were consequences of this, it was hardly understood that the real fear of Iranians at the time was that the United States, the most powerful country in the world, would simply not allow a political system to develop that didn't mirror its own. What the Iranians were saying, in effect, was: 'Leave us alone, and if you don't, we'll find ways to make your life miserable.'"


And, on the supposed Iranian-supplied bombs to Iraqi insurgents in 2006/2007:

"Little proof was offered, except for at one press conference where unexploded bombs and shells were displayed with markings, in a perfect English lacking even on unfortunate Iranian road signs, that allegedly showed they were made in Iran. Except the dates of manufacture stenciled onto the bombs were not only in English, but in the American form - that is month, day, year - rather than in the Iranian (and rest of the world's) standard format of day, month year. That the Iranians would be sending weapons to Iraq conveniently and obligingly labeled not only with their country of origin in English but also with the date of manufacture designed so as not to confuse the Americans (who,one supposes, the Iranians know are short on Farsi interpreters) beggars belief, as Javad Zarid, the Iranian ambassador to the UN at the time, told me he had complained in one of his speeches. But few American analysts, and even fewer reporters, including those with experience in the Middle East, questioned out loud this apparently clumsily manufactured evidence, leaving many Iranians to wonder yet again about real US intentions with respect to their country."


"Shias are always Davids, always the underdogs fighting for a just cause in an unjust world, except it matters not that they actually slay their enemy, but merely that they hold their ground and chalk it up as a victory of justice over tyranny. To them, there is no Goliath today greater than the United States. The Ayatollahs and all their little Davids are determined to stand up to it whenever necessary, whenever the cause is just, and to never lose, even if, or may because, they can't win outright."

Check it out at your local library or at Amazon here . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Musical Ride to Shame

BOY, STEVIE SURE IS SILENT ABOUT THIS. The RCMP is a disaster that gets worse as time passes. The problems are everywhere in the force. We have pension fund problems, training problems, management competence problems at every level.

The Mayerthorpe Massacre shows how bad the training and management problems are at the local level, with poorly-trained officers led by people with abysmal judgement.

Then a year later, in Saskatchewan, two horsemen got killed in a gunfight while pursuing the bad guys — can't our guys shoot any more? What are the firearm competence standards? What is the training budget? Jeez, I'm a city-dweller, and my best on groundhogs is 280 yards with a .22 Hornet. Seems like these guys couldn't hit a barn door.

Then there's the RCMP's less than stellar track record in security and relations with CSIS (which deserves to be turned inside-out and examined itself). Maher Arar could probably help with some recommendations.

Then there's the Taser Tempest — and nobody's responsible.

What a can of worms, and nothing but shirking by politicians everywhere. NOBODY'S RESPONSIBLE, including Stevie. Grrrrrrrrr.

"'Ya Want Change With That Legal Brief, Sir ? ? ? ? "

If the Obama administration's stance on legal matters is any indication, the "change" they're offering is mainly pocket change.

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know what you're thinking: "But if you consider the alternative, he's head and shoulders above.
They would have been disastrous!"

Consider these quotes from the article below, however:

President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush;
Obama's legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush's;
this administration's legal arguments have blended into the other;
Obama has come to emulate Bush;
he's following Bush's lead in defending in court the federal marriage law;
The Obama White House has followed suit;
The Obama White House, so far, takes the same view;
The Obama administration now agrees;
as Obama follows the Bush lead;
The Obama administration now says the same.

From McClatchy yesterday:

In stark legal turnaround, Obama now resembles Bush
Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers | June 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, as administration attorneys repeatedly adopt the executive-authority and national-security rationales that their Republican predecessors preferred.

In courtroom battles and freedom-of-information fights from Washington, D.C., to California, Obama's legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush's: White House turf is to be protected, secrets must be retained and dire warnings are wielded as weapons.

"It's putting up a veritable wall around the White House, and it's so at odds with Obama's campaign commitment to more open government," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group.


Whatever the reasons, policy persists.

The Bush White House sought to keep e-mails secret. The Obama White House has followed suit. The Bush White House sought to keep visitor logs secret. The Obama White House, so far, takes the same view.

Petaluma, Calif., resident Carolyn Jewel and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a legal activist group, sued the Bush administration over warrantless wiretaps. The Bush administration said that the lawsuit endangered national security. The Obama administration now agrees.


An ACLU lawsuit, initially filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., contends that the Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan knowingly supported a CIA operation that flew terrorism suspects to brutal overseas prisons. The Bush administration invoked the "state secrets" privilege in an effort to stop the suit.

"Further litigation of this case would pose an unacceptable risk of disclosure of information that the nation's security requires not be disclosed," the Bush administration declared in a legal filing on Oct. 18, 2007.

The Obama administration now says the same, after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled April 21 that the case could proceed.

"Permitting this suit to proceed would pose an unacceptable risk to national security," the Obama administration declared in a legal filing June 12.

For both arguments, the two administrations relied on the attestations of the same man: former Bush CIA Director Michael Hayden.

You need to count your "change" the next time a vote is cast.

I seem to be missing some of mine . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Beaver bits

Recalling a time long past when a young combat engineering lieutenant was trying to build a road through a piece of Canadian boreal forest, I was reminded of the long fight he had with a group of beavers. The little beasties would wait until the construction crew had finished for the day and then, during the wee hours of the morning, construct a dam across the culvert beside the road, totally flooding the good lieutenant's masterpiece.

It was an extended battle which the lieutenant lost despite the fact that he relocated the road several times. My involvement was that of a mere observer, but we all watched as the lieutenant slowly went mad, totally baffled as to why the beavers followed him and continued to destroy his project.

What got me here was reading a bit put together by Jill Harness which led me to this:
Humans have always marveled at the beaver's ingenuity since he always picks the narrowest part of the stream for the site of his dam. This fact was always cited as proof of the beaver's intelligence and engineering skill. Yet even a modest acquaintance with beavers will soon reveal that they are far from cunning beasts. It was at this stage of the debate that a young grad student entered the scene and began to investigate.
Ah! Nothing like working on a PhD to solve a problem.
He noted that beavers living in ponds and lakes and along rivers never build dams - so this compulsive beaver barrier building business was not a result of their busy nature since non-dam building beavers found an outlet for their busy-ness in some way other than dam building. He therefore obtained several pairs of beavers (all with proven dam building track records), released them in different environments and then sat back and watched what they did. Those released in ponds and large rivers burrowed into the bank, set up beaver housekeeping and then showed no more desire to construct anything beyond their holes. Those released along streams, however, found likely looking pools and then proceeded to deepen them by constructing dams at the narrow, shallow, downstream end.
Keeping in mind that all of them had extensive dam building resumes.
So he proceeded to a riffle (the shallow, high gradient part of the stream) and set up a tape recorder to tape the sound of the water rushing over the gravel and stones. He then set up speakers around known beaver haunts and at dusk turned the tape on.

Lo and behold when he returned the next morning he found the speakers buried under several feet of sticks, gravel and mud - thus effectively silencing the sound. The result was the same whether done along a beaver dammed stream, a large (and quiet) river or a lake or pond. The beavers always covered the speakers until they couldn't hear the sound of rushing water.


Based on experiments with both free living and captive beavers the researcher found that the sound of rushing water was as annoying to a beaver as the sound of fingernails on a blackboard is to humans. And that beavers will pile up sticks and mud in any spot they hear that sound until they can no longer hear it.

There may be other reasons, but I hope the once-lieutenant finds this and realizes it wasn't really personal.

Why the Harper Conservatives are not Tories

Here's a definition from today's Slate that finally clarifies the distinction for me -- in an essay on the thought of columnist Henry Fairlie.

The characteristics of the Tory, which separate him from the conservative, may briefly be summarized: 1.) his almost passionate belief in strong central government, which has of course always been the symbolic importance to him of the monarchy; 2.) his detestation of "capitalism," of what Cardinal Newman and T.S. Eliot called "usury," of which he himself calls "trade"; and 3.) his trust in the ultimate good sense of the People, whom he capitalizes in this way, because the People are a real entity to him, beyond social and economic divisions, and whom he believes can be appealed to, and relied on, as the final repository of decency in a free nation. The King and the People, against the barons and the capitalists, is the motto of the Tory.
Smell the wafting of the fragrance of G.K. Chesterton, as I do? Chesterton, who wore a cape and carried a sword-cane just in case he might have an heroic adventure thrust upon him?

Further in this essay, we read:
[I]t is time that it was acknowledged that there are now only two choices: one can be either for strong government for the few and the rich, or for strong government for the unrich and the many. There is no longer a third way. This is what the American election this year [1976, USA] is about: not whether there should be "big government" or not—that is a false issue—but whom the "big government" should serve.
By that standard, I agree 100% (or "110%", on the hockey player's scale.) The government inherently has powers, mostly involving coercion, that trump private players. A small government in that sense -- small army, small police, small or ineffective justice system -- does not lead to a modest and unobtrusive government -- it leads to a failed state. And failed states are so ugly that almost any other format of un-failed state is preferable.

So, who do our governments serve? The bullies and userers of the private domain have mobilized their profits in part to ensure that the first of Fairlie's options holds sway. This is their nature and is to be expected. It is not to be encouraged, however. The most pragmatic reason, not involving ideals like "democracy" and "freedom", is that the more profit-driven a society, and the more disproportionate those profits to the services supplied, the less efficient, resilient and diversified the culture will be.

By Fairlie’s definition I find to my surprise that I am a pretty strong Tory. I only wish the Harperites were.

Noni Mausa

Friday, June 19, 2009

So long, Zorph...

Your wit and bs skewering talents will be sorely missed around here.
As Rev put it : "the blogosphere will now have too many nuts and not enough squirrels"
Happy scubas. Hope you'll still drop by from time to time...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

second thoughts on Iran

Having followed the Twitter frenzy over events in Iran and having read whatever else I could find (I would especially reccommend a few of the first hand accounts posted at Juan Cole's joint) I find I am leaning toward calling "Bullshit" on the widespread idea (which I initially bought into) that the Iranian Revolution is being driven by Twitter and social networking sites.
The case against the Twitter being a big deal for the Iranians is laid out in great detail and much more cogently over at Open Anthropology, but the main points are that very few Iranians actually use Twitter, the overwhelming majority of the the tweets being posted are repeats and copies of non-information and messages of support ( ie "support the Iranian Revolution by turning your profile picture green" "Change your location in Twitter to Tehran to make it harder for the Iranian censors to find Iranians twittering" "We are with you" "Freedom for Iran" etc etc etc) and warnings NOT to post info identifying Iranian dissidents and the same half dozen links to articles by journalists on the ground in Tehran. What little information there is to be found on Twitter is highly suspect, and much of it appears to be disinformation circulated to serve U.S. and Israeli interests -- claims that the government has imported thousands of Hezbollah and Hamas goons to violently suppress the demonstrations, for example, intended to drive a wedge between Iranians and the terrorist groups their government has supported (the Iranian government has no need to import goons, they have plenty on hand already). Much has been made of the U.S. State Department asking Twitter not to shut down for scheduled maintence as it had intended to do earlier in the week for a few hours, claiming that Twitter is an important communcations tools in Iran. It is an important communications tool, but for the Americans, not for the Iranians.

The exception might be YouTube, to which dissidents have been posting cell phone videos of clashes with the government forces. These serve as an important record and rallying point for the Iranian people. And ten minutes of video says a lot more than 140 characters of text can.

Clearly there is more going on here than is evident at first glance. Much of the public communication we are seeing is part of a propaganda effort intended to manipulate events and public perceptions, some of it is counter-insurgency work by the Iranian government, some of it is political posturing for domestic consumption by US political factions on both sides of the fence. Remember that a few months ago, many of the same conservatives now cheering for the Iranian Revolution were calling for bombing Tehran -- some were even hoping the previous administration would start a war with them before handing over the reins to Obama, who they now insist must "do something" or he will have "abandoned" the Iranians who wanted "freedom."

I had a slight disagreement, more of an exchange of snark really, with Laurence Simon aka Crap Mariner (of 100 Word Stories fame) about what Obama should do and he mentioned smuggling satellite phones and uplinks into the country to help dissidents get the word out to the rest of the world. Given statements like this, I'm not so sure he cares that deeply about helping the Iranians so much as complaining about Obama. A few things about the smuggling idea: 1)The Iranians don't really lack high tech gear, nor do they really care what the rest of the world thinks for the most part 2) Who's to say the United States isn't doing exactly that right now? If they were, they would hardly be advertising the fact since it would play into the government's efforts to portray the opposition as tools of the West and 3)anyone caught with such equipment would probably be executed as a spy.

I think all Obama can and should do openly is to condemn any and all violence and call for the two sides in Iran to work things out peacefully without outside interference. He could also denounce the violations of human rights going on in the country, but given that he wants to reestablish diplomatic ties or at least hold direct talks with whoever eventually becomes president, he may have to hold back and let others (like the Twitternauts) send that message.

The more I learn and the more I think about it, I don't think there is a revolution going on in Iran. There is political and civil unrest to be sure, but at the end of the day, even if the protestors get what they want, the country will still be a conservative, authoritarian fundementalist Muslim theocracy. If the opposition wins out, the people in power might be slightly less unreasonable and the control of the mullahs may slacken ever so slightly - both good things - but I the pro- and anti-government demonstrators both chant "God is Great" at their rallies and will be back to chanting "Death to the Jews, Death to America" in six months. The current struggle might in fact be serving to help the government purge the real revolutionaries who want true change by drawing them out into the open while at the same time allowing the population to blow off some of the social pressure built up by 30 years of repression without any real changes being made.

It may be that sometime in the future Iranians will look back at all the green profile pictures on Twitter and and find a softer spot in their hearts for America, but I think it is more likely that most will see it as another attempt by "the Great Satan" to interfere in their nation's politics. Internet users are a small minority in Iran and those using Twitter an even smaller minority among them. Those people are more likely already interested in Western ideas and culture and in favor of real change in their country. Twitter activists in the West appears to be preaching to the converted and possibly even endangering those whose cause they claim to champion.

crossposted from the Woodshed

She's not nuts. She's just following Stockwell's footsteps


Hard to believe, in this day and age, in the depths of the most dangerous economic pinball game most of us have ever encountered in our lifetimes, that it's possible for someone to be so glaringly stupid and utter such contemptuous statements. (Emphasis mine)
"[W]hen you're raising children, you don't both go off to work and leave them for somebody else to raise," [Iris] Evans, [Alberta Finance Minister] said. "This is not a statement against daycare. It's a statement about their belief in the importance of raising children properly."
Which may not be quite as heinous as this statement from the same speech.
"The huge failure of Canadians is not to educate the children properly, and then why should we be surprised when they have mental illnesses or commit dreadful crimes?" she said.

Imagine how much better the world would be if the CEOs of GM and Chrysler had just followed Evans' financial model.

Looks to me like this piece of work now qualifies for Harper's coterie of federal hillbillies. Don't be surprised if she's recruited to make a run for parliament.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Then they were heroes. They were heroes."

Another brown Canadian citizen has been held in the US for 5½ years, 4 of them in solitary confinement, for "allegedly assisting al-Qaeda", and his lawyer worries that like Omar Khadr and Abousfian Abdelrazik he will be denied the necessary travel documents to return to Canada by Ottawa.

CBC : Ottawa not saying if Canadian linked to al-Qaeda can return
"Last month, U.S. federal prosecutors offered to drop the five charges of material terrorism if Warsame pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to support al-Qaeda."
Mohammed Warsame has accepted the offer - and after four years in solitary in the US, so would I - but Warsame does not deny his association with al-Qaeda.
In 2000, he left Toronto for Afghanistan to train with al-Quaeda. Disillusioned by what he found there, he returned to Canada in March 2001 - six months before 9/11 - and was picked up by the FBI in Minneapolis in 2003. He has been held in custody without trial ever since.
As his lawyer explained: "Like many young Muslims, he was attracted by the notion of an Islamic state he believed was a sort of utopia."

Reading this I was reminded of a Chris Sands interview with the wife of an American diplomat stationed in Kabul. She spoke of her husband accompanying the Afghan resistance on their missions across the border against Soviet troops and of her friendship with fundamentalist Mujahideen leaders.
"Then they were heroes. They were heroes," she said.
Yes. They were portrayed as herioic, we now know, for their usefulness in embroiling the Soviet Union in a crippling unwinnable war. "Freedom fighters", Reagan called them.
But what is not often mentioned is the effect all that hero worship and propaganda in the western press would have had upon young Muslim teenagers in Canada and the US.

Warsame's crime was to have believed it.

Cross-posted at Creekside.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy Bloomsday

105 years ago today.....

"STATELY, PLUMP BUCK MULLIGAN CAME FROM THE STAIRHEAD, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently-behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned..."

Wiki has a decent capsule study of the whole thing.

Tune into Radio Woodshed starting a noon EDT to hear the whole novel read aloud, unabridged, all 27+ hours of it.
And if you think Ulysses was hard to read or listen to, imagine writing a 265,000-word novel with a vocabulary of about 30,000 words that all takes place in a single day - it only took
Joyce seven years to write it, but has taken most people much more time to read and develop an understanding of it. It is said by many to encompass the whole of human experience in a single days stream-of-consciousness.
Culture, beeyoches, come get some!

A chilly breeze in the South China Sea

Adding to previous examples of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) Navy spreading the web and venturing into places they haven't been seen before this report appeared last Friday.
A Chinese submarine accidentally collided with an underwater sonar array being towed by a U.S. military ship, CNN reported on Friday, quoting an unnamed military official.

The incident occurred on Thursday near Subic Bay off the coast of the Philippines, according to the CNN report.

The destroyer USS John S. McCain was towing the array, deployed to track underwater sounds.

"The John S. McCain did have a problem with its towed array sonar. It was damaged" on Thursday in Subic Bay, a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters in a telephone interview.


The U.S. Navy does not view the incident as a deliberate move by Beijing to harass military ships operating in the region, CNN reported.

No? I waited until after the weekend to see if anything more was going to come of this because there is an element of strangeness to it.

Things went into the security hole. Nobody is talking about anything.

Thinking maybe it was just me, I went over to check and see what Galrahn had on it. It seems we were viewing this the same way. (Emphasis mine)

First, if the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) had its towed sonar deployed off the coast of the Philippines, then she was actively searching for a submarine. It is not normal behavior for the US Navy to tow around an expensive towed sonar in the littorals off a country with no submarines like the Philippines. That suggests the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) knew there was a Chinese submarine in the area, then deployed the towed sonar, and it was at that time a PLAN submarine hit the sonar. Second, if the PLAN submarine hit the towed array, it means the submarine was positioning itself behind the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), meaning just like the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) was hunting the submarine, the submarine was hunting the destroyer.
Yup. In fact, I'll go one further and suggest that USS McCain's towed array got whacked during either streaming or recovery operations when the "tail" is most vulnerable.

More important though is that, despite the USN silence on the matter and the brushing it off as an accidental encounter, it was hardly that. The incident supposedly took place in international waters. While the Chinese have now acknowledged the encounter (finally), a nasty little issue remains: China is claiming the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters.

The US 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan, probably had good information on the Chinese submarine from the time it sailed. The US destroyer was likely the quick response surface ship dispatched to localize and report the position of the PLA unit.

In short, this is old Cold War stuff. This time, however, it may not end well. China takes a much longer view than either the US or the former USSR.

Hat tip Boris.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dennis Does ken . . . .

Thanks to the Louis Riel Trail for posting this Dennis Kucinich vs. ken lewis (of bank of america infamy) video yesterday:

Just one more example of why "drf" and I were Dennis supporters before he pulled out of the race for Prez.

He would have really been "Change You Can Believe In" . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)