Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Canada's gnu recalibrated liars

In other words, what we said is not what we really meant and if we didn't actually say what we intended to do we can actually proceed with our hidden agenda. Not that we have a hidden agenda... just the one we didn't tell you about.

Here and here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hillary drops the A bomb on Cannon

At the G-8 foreign ministers wrap-up today, Hillary Cinton was asked about Canada's initiative on child and maternal health care in the Third World. Clinton responded:
"You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion."

She was seated next to Lawrence Cannon at the time. After she abandoned him on podium yesterday for excluding aboriginal leaders and three northern nations - Iceland, Finland and Sweden - from his Arctic summit, I figure his butt plug must be packed with smelling salts.

O' course, Hillary's bold pro-choice statement would carry more weight had Obama not just jettisoned abortion funding in the US in order to get his not-really-health care bill passed, but it doesn't look as if Harper's chances of using moms and tots to vault into a seat on the UN Security Council were much advanced by Cannon's shenanigans this week.

Université Laval sure knows how to build 'em . . .

WIRED REPORTS THAT A CAR designed and built by students from Université Laval has won the Shell Eco-Marathon for the second year in a row, with a winning consumption of 2,487.5 MPG. That's a lotta empeegee, folks. According to Tony Borroz, 

This year’s Shell Eco-Marathon was held over this past weekend, and the winner in the top “prototype” category was a bunch of Canadian students. At first, that might seem surprising, but as it turns out, the students from Laval University won last year, so they seem to be the team to beat.

Turns out that in 2010, it was the same team that won in 2009: A student team from Laval University in Canada. They brought home the gold in the prototype category from the race in Houston, Texas with a winning miles per gallon figure of 2,487.5 mpg. The Laval University team’s car used an Alerion Supermileage combustion engine to accomplish the feat. Interestingly, they were unable to match the MPG figures they set last year, a staggering 2,757.1 mpg.

Epic of Guergis continues...

Via Stageleft, this report about Helena Guergis' assistant penning fan letters to newspapers under a pseudonym...

Monday, March 29, 2010

A little concerned...

Just read JHK's Monday morning rant:
Republican leaders' avidity to ally themselves with the followers of hate-monger entertainers like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the Fox News gang is only the beginning of the process that will lead to a political convulsion possibly worse than the one that started at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, 1861. If it comes, it will certainly be a far more incoherent conflict. The guerilla forces of the radical right will not know whether they are fighting for WalMart, or the Financial Services arm of General Electric, or against abortions, or for bigger and better freeways, or the rights of thoracic surgeons to drive families into bankruptcy, or against the idea of climate change, or evolution, or Jews-in-the-media, or their neighbors having something they feel envious about....
And a few minutes later happened across this little example in the NYT:

Nine members of a Michigan-based Christian militia group have been indicted on sedition and weapons charges in connection with an alleged plot to murder law enforcement officers in hopes of setting off an anti-government uprising.

A Web site for the Hutaree group talks about a coming battle against the putative forces of the Antichrist but does not appear to focus explicitly on recent political events. The Web site, which describes the group as “preparing for the end times,” featured video clips of people running through woods in camouflage gear and firing assault rifles, along with links to gun stores and far-right media. It also features an elaborate system of military ranks for its members. The site says it coined the term Hutaree, intended to mean Christian warrior...Hutaree members would retreat to several “rally points” and wage war against the government, using prepared fighting positions as well as “trip-wired and command-detonated” bombs. “It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the government,” the indictment said. Mr. Stone used the Internet to obtain diagrams of “explosively formed projectiles,” a particularly lethal form of roadside bombs responsible for many deaths of United States soldiers in Iraq, the indictment says.

It's groups that don't advertise one really has to worry about. Also, as Mr. Stewart and CC point out, despite fitting the letter definition of a terrorist organisation, that term isn't used much in the media descriptions.

California Pot Vote

THE SACRAMENTO BEE has a report by Peter Hecht, "California will vote on legalization of marijuana in November".

California's raucous argument over legalizing marijuana is headed to the ballot.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen confirmed Wednesday that voters will decide in November whether to legalize and tax marijuana use for Californians 21 and over.

California's annual pot crop is worth about $14 billion, according to the State Board of Equalization. It estimates that legalization and taxation could bring in up to $1.4 billion in revenue.

Should be a hell of a show to watch. The U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center, has released a report, "National Drug Threat Assessment 2010". 

Overall, the availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing.1 In fact, in 2009 the prevalence of four of the five major drugs–heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine)–was widespread and increasing in some areas. Conversely, cocaine shortages first identified in 2007 persisted in many markets.

… Although drug use remained relatively stable from 2007 through 2008, more than 25 million individuals 12 years of age and older reported using an illicit drug or using a controlled prescription drug (CPD) nonmedically in 2008. Each year, drug-related deaths number in the thousands, and treatment admissions and emergency department (ED) visits both exceed a million. These and other consequences of drug abuse, including lost productivity associated with abuse, the impact on the criminal justice system, and the environmental impact that results from the production of illicit drugs, are estimated at nearly $215 billion annually.

Mexican DTOs {drug trafficking organizations} continue to represent the single greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States. Mexican DTOs, already the predominant wholesale suppliers of illicit drugs in the United States, are gaining even greater strength in eastern drug markets where Colombian DTO strength is diminishing. The extent of Mexican DTO influence over domestic drug trafficking was evidenced in several ways in 2009.… National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) analysts estimate that the overall threat posed by illicit drugs will not diminish in the near term. Although NDIC believes that sustained shortages of cocaine will persist in some U.S. markets in 2010, the availability of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana will increase, largely the result of increased production of the drugs in Mexico. The growing strength and organization of criminal gangs, including their alliances with large Mexican DTOs, will make disrupting illicit drug availability and distribution increasingly difficult for law enforcement agencies.

Uh, just say no.  :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fun in the sun . . .

THERE'S THIS CHAP ERINGER, Robert Eringer, who has some interesting tales to tell about his time, starting in 2002, as the spymaster for Prince Albert of Monaco.

Eringer’s brief was simple, if complex in its execution: To ensure the Prince would be well informed not only during his extensive foreign travels but also about the foreigners, residents and native Monegasques who surrounded him at home.

His mission statement: 1) to investigate individuals and entities about whom the Prince voiced concern. 2) To keep the Prince apprised of information, which, as his eyes and ears, would come to his attention. 3) To create liaison partnerships with the intelligence services of select countries--with a view to soliciting expert briefings and advice.

Well, for a number of reasons, the wheels fell off. Eringer wound up suing the Prince, and won. An excerpt:

That evening, the Prince and his spymaster dined in the private room of a Spanish restaurant in downtown Washington.

Their hosts: Senior officers from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).

Purpose: To open unofficial contact.

Much to the dismay of CIA, Prince Albert permitted two of his buddies to attend the dinner meeting. Later, when the agency ran checks, they were horrified to discover that one of the Prince’s friends had spent a year in prison for his role as bagman to Maryland’s corrupt governor, Marvin Mandel.

The Prince departed with his two chums early, at ten o’clock, so he could visit a striptease-club in Baltimore owned by his ex-con friend.

Eringer remained behind to cement liaison relationships with both special services.

Anyway, it's an interesting read. When you visit his site, be sure to go to "older posts", because he has published excerpts (titled "Spy Lord") from a series of interviews with former KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov. A Vlad kind of guy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Matt Weighs In . . . .

Matt Taibbi weighs in on the "Vati-scum" - aka, "bennie and the jerks" - in action.

A sample:

That’s all the church is. They’re a giant for-profit company using predatory salesmanship to sell what they themselves know is a defective, outmoded, basically unnecessary product.

The full article here.

As usual, his writing is on-target and verbiage more than entertaining . . . .

"We have shot an amazing number of people...

...but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat," said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties."

~ New York Times, Friday, March 26, 2010

h/t Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque

Friday, March 26, 2010

Red Libs vs. the Blue Dog and Bay Street Libs

Cliff at Rusty Idols on the Libs' very very very bad week :
About time for the Red Libs to realize the Blue Dog Libs and the Bay Street Libs are going to use them hard and put them away wet forever. They don't respect them, they plan to never respect them. They'll push them in front for the cameras during campaigns and keep them chained up in the basement the rest of the time.

Libs who believe in reproductive freedoms, a robust safety net, peace and economic justice will still be getting used and abused by what's left of the Liberal Party long after the rest of us are all dead.

George Orwell, cheerful sod that he was, said the defining image of the future would be a boot smashing into a face again and again forever.

For those on the left wing of the Canadian Liberal Party it's John Manley's smirk. For him it's the back of their heads.

Online: 2628 pages of Afghanistan documents

CBC is uploading all 2628 pages the Cons dumped in parliament yesterday. You can find links to the online viewer here.

There's obviously quite a lot to sift through and much of blacked out. But even with censor's ink (a lot of it I might argue necessary especially where names of individuals and descriptions of actions are mentioned), the actual construction of the documents gives insight into the nature of military and government communications in Afghanistan.

This grows more bizarre by the minute.

Elephant Painting

An amazing elephant that really paints. Not alone, either, apparently other pachyderms daub and dab, as well. News to me. The video is really impressive. Sentience at work.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ugly things

Whatever their motive for dropping off those 2500 pages documents today, the Conservatives have opened the gates now.
"After they handed over the detainee, the local authority would walk the detainee out of range and the detainee would be shot," says a 2008 report on the soldier's claims. "This occurred on more than one occasion."

A February 2008 memo prepared at National Defence Headquarters by Capt. S.M. Moore noted "significant shortcomings and areas for concern with regard to the conduct of [military police] operations in Afghanistan." Many of the problems "are systemic" and result from a lack of oversight, it said. The memo notes a survey conducted "in theatre revealed that soldiers stated they had witnessed the abuse of detainees" — yet the information was not immediately passed on to military police. It adds that on Feb. 15, 2008, two unknown individuals approached a female military police member when she exited the shower, grabbed her arms, pushed her against the shower wall and told her: "MPs mind your own business." Other documents suggest many of the military police assigned to Afghanistan lacked basic soldiering skills. The material was tabled in the House of Commons without translations, in no particular order, and with deletions on nearly every page.

True grit . . . .

CHINA DAILY has a report by Cao Li and Hu Yinan "Desert storm blankets most of North China". It's a report of interest, because it indicates a continuing and worsening problem for the Party. The climate is producing a humongous dust-bowl. When you need all the agricultural production you can get, this is a heaping, steaming bowl of NOT GOOD.

The sky across North China turned dark yellow over the weekend as the biggest sandstorm this year offered a grim reminder of the impact of the country's worsening desertification.

Tons of sand carried by winds of up to 100 km/h have affected more than 270 million people in 16 provinces since Friday, covering about 2 million sq km, said meteorological experts. The storm, the worst since January last year, reached Shanghai on Sunday.

Thanks to overgrazing, deforestation, urbanization and drought, deserts now make up more than 16 percent of the country, and scientists say the shifting sands are increasing the risk of sandstorms - the grit from which could travel as far as the western United States.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences estimates that the number of sandstorms has jumped six-fold in the past 50 years to two dozen a year.

Now, why should you care? Well, if the wheels fall off Chinese agriculture, then a Chinese expansion into less gritty areas further south might happen. As well, it will make the Party more intransigent to change and challenge and Taiwan.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cancelling Coulter and uncivil mobs

Between Rev's post and the comment thread here, there's some discussion about the apparent "mob" of anti-Ann protestors at the University of Ottawa who seem to have led to the cancellation of her talk. Some out there think that protesting the likes of Coulter should fall within Canadian norms of politeness and civility.

Well fuck those Canadian norms for a moment.

There are moments when a bit of incivility is required and acceptable. We've seen over the past few years of the Harper government a rise in the policies that support the sort of sentiments that Coulter advocates. The cases Abousfian Abdelrazik, Maher Arar, Omar Khadr, Mohamed Harkat, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the current fiasco with Rights and Democracy, etc etc, all suggest an insidious bent to the Harper government that Ann Coulter simply voices in plain language.

She becomes a symbolic target for the impotent rage that many of us feel toward the Harper regime and its perverse and fascistic fans. There is a link.

And if there was a mob, and it was unruly enough to shut down her little talk, fire alarms and all, then so be it.

This is what happens when bigots and fascists show themselves in public to spew their bile. This is also what happens when the public cannot find civil means (pay attention here, Opposition) of redressing the temperament and actions of a far-right minority government hell-bent on destroying the open liberal democracy that about 60 to 70% of us seem to support and enjoy. We find targets we can actually hit, and we push back.

And we sure as hell shouldn't apologise for taking a stand.

Censorship or just the Free Market in action?

As much as I dislike Ann Coulter, I do respect her right to say just about any stupid thing that comes into the space between her ears. I don't think the University of Ottawa should have invited her in the first place, but I'm not sure how I feel about her speech having to be cancelled due to "security concerns."
I'd rather have seen her be allowed to speak, and then roundly booed and mocked by those in attendance.
One thing is for certain though, and that is that she, and Ezra Levant and the rest of the para-fascist shriekosphere will be milking this for all it is worth.

I'm puzzled as to how Canadian Immigration Authorities can justify allowing a hatemonger like Ann Coulter into the country while barring British MP George Galloway, scholar and former radical  William Ayers and trying to keep out journalists who might say mean things about the big burning stick festival in Vancouver.

But then, I suppose such people are not going to bring teh laffs like Brownshirt Annie:

During the Q & A a 17 year old female Muslim student quoted Ann Coulter's statement encouraging 1) the US to invade the Islamic nations, kill their leaders and convert their citizens to Christianity; and 2) for Muslims to be banned from airplanes, and that if they need to fly they should take their magic carpets. The girl asked if 1) she should be forced to convert, and 2) given that she doesn't have a magic carpet, what should she do if she needs to fly somewhere. Coulter didn't much address the first question, but addressed the second one by telling her to take a camel! (not that camels fly but, you get the drift).

Laugh? Ha, I almost started!

Stay KKKlassy conservatives!

Ann was introduced in London by fellow wingnut trougher and longtime media whore Ezra Levant. And apparently Kathy "12 feet of nasty packed in a five foot box" Shaidle was also there to try to claw her way onto the gravy train and spreading her usual sunshine.

What these half-bright hate peddlars and their "moran" fans fail to realize is that history has completely passed them by. They and their morally and intellectually bankrupt ideology are flavor-of-the-moment relics from the last decade and anyone with any sense at all has long since moved on. All their outrageous statements and publicity stunts aimed at getting them back in the limelight will fail, because after 20 years of their screaming "wolf" and predicting doom if they weren't given the keys to the kingdom even conservatives are now realizing they've been had.

And speaking of cheap and obvious publicity stunts, apparently Coulter is planning to launch a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over a letter she received prior to speaking at the Univeristy of Ottawa.

"...a senior University of Ottawa administrator has warned her to use "restraint, respect and consideration" when speaking at the school.
Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost, advised Coulter, who holds a law degree, to review Canada's hate speech and defamation laws before giving her talk at the university.
In an e-mail sent to Coulter on Friday, a copy of which has been obtained by the National Post, Houle wrote: "Our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or "free speech") in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here."

He continued: "Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."

After also mentioning defamation law, the provost wrote: "I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind."
Shorter: "We both know you like to shoot your mouth off and we have laws against hate speech up here, and every liberal in the country will be waiting to pounce, so please don't drag the univerisity into a lawsuit by saying something actionable, mmmkay?"

And Coulter's response?

"Now that the provost has instructed me on the criminal speech laws he apparently believes I have a proclivity (to break), despite knowing nothing about my speech, I see that he is guilty of promoting hatred against an identifiable group: conservatives," Coulter wrote in an e-mail to the Ottawa Citizen Monday...

Shorter: "You Canuckistani socialists aren't the boss of me! I'll say whatever hateful thing I want!"

Obviously, Ezra has had a word with Ann about the publicity value to be had in getting to speak in front of the Human Rights Commission, no matter how obviously stupid your case, something he has considerable experience with.

Seriously, there ought to some kind of fine levied for wasting the commission's time with this kind of bullshit.

(crossposted from The Woodshed)


He was referring to you, and only you, no matter how much you might want to define your lunatic freakshow (with apologies to non-lunatic freaks) self as embodying all things conservative.

"Now that the provost has instructed me on the criminal speech laws he apparently believes I have a proclivity (to break), despite knowing nothing about my speech, I see that he is guilty of promoting hatred against an identifiable group: conservatives."
Well, on further consideration, maybe you do embody quite a bit of what is now, sadly, the unreflexively toxic vernacular conservativism. But the Provost was still just talking about you.

CC has more. So does the Dawg.

Disorder in the Court

THIS MORNING, I RECEIVED an e-mail that had some oldies but goodies, from a book allegedly  called "Disorder in the Court". As it happened, I had been thinking about one of 'em, and voila! — there it was in my inbox. I decided to search, and yes, the book really does exist: "Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History", by Charles M. Sevilla.

I'm sure you may have seen them before, but what the hell . . . .

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until  the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He's twenty, much like your IQ.

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Getting laid.

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.

Canada-EU Trade Agreement and the 'Buy American' scare

Why does it fall to a former Irish MP and Member of the European Parliament to raise questions about the dangers of privatization to Canadians when the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA) gets passed? Isn't that the job of the Canadian government and the Canadian media? *rhetorical lol*

Under the guise of harmonizing regulations between provinces, TILMA enjoyed limited success in the west in ending the provinces' and municipalities' right to "Buy Local" in favour of investor rights for international corps. This was a big sticking point for the EU decision in going ahead with a Canada-EU trade deal - if European companies weren't going to be allowed to bid as equals on government contracts for both goods and services and if the provinces refused to end the favouring of local or national providers of public-sector services, well then the EU wasn't very interested in pursuing the deal.

Luckily for Harper and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the 100 transatlantic CEOs plumping for CETA, the big "Buy American" scare came along. In exchange for a one day opportunity window into the 4 or 5 billion dollars left in Obama's Buy American stimulus package - jobs! jobs! jobs! - Harper convinced the provinces to give up their local procurement rights.

Between these two deals - the throw-away Buy American 'exemption' and the proposed Canada-EU deal - we're caught in a pincer move to further corporatize public services.

Good thing there's one Irishman at the European parliament asking a few questions on our behalf then, eh?

Monday, March 22, 2010

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

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Cpl. Darren James Fitzpatrick, 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Succumbed to wounds sustained as a result of enemy action.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

IP Nails It . . . .

Idealistic Pragmatist has the definitive post on the US dems, health care "reform" and the sorry condition of the Excited States here.

Go, read and hope the situation doesn't creep across the 49th . . . .

Missed statistics class that day, did we Steve?

I don't know of any post-secondary education in things involving the exchange of goods and services, the movement of money or the creation and stability of wealth that doesn't involve a healthy dose of the science of statistics. That would include, even at a basic level, an education in economics.

Apparently Harper missed that part of his boiler-plate economics training and paid more attention to his political science puppet-masters. And now, he's pretending Canadians don't notice that he's being led around by his statistically insignificant Christian-Conservative base.

So, Steve, here's a lesson you apparently missed. No confidence interval - just easily understood statistics which prove you, Buckwheat, and your crypto-fascist Christian base are out of step with the statistically solid majority of Canadians.

Rock on!

With none other than Lindsay Stewart, resident at Canadian Cynic and a regular commenter here at TGB.

Way to go, PSA!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The enterprise of piracy.

As Charli Carpenter points out, one of the more interesting parts of the UNSC-mandated Monitoring Group on Somalia report is not just the rampant corruption, but one of the annexes to that report which details how piracy operations are run from that territory.

A basic piracy operation requires a minimum eight to twelve militia prepared to stay at sea for extended periods of time, in the hopes of hijacking a passing vessel. Each team requires a minimum of two attack skiffs, weapons, equipment, provisions, fuel and preferably a supply boat. The costs of the operation are usually borne by investors, some of whom may also be pirates.

To be eligible for employment as a pirate, a volunteer should already possess a firearm for use in the operation. For this ‘contribution’, he receives a ‘class A’ share of any profit. Pirates who provide a skiff or a heavier firearm, like an RPG or a general purpose machine gun, may be entitled to an additional A-share. The first pirate to board a vessel may also be entitled to an extra A-share.

At least 12 other volunteers are recruited as militiamen to provide protection on land of a ship is hijacked, In addition, each member of the pirate team may bring a partner or relative to be part of this land-based force. Militiamen must possess their own weapon, and receive a ‘class B’ share — usually a fixed amount equivalent to approximately US$15,000.

If a ship is successfully hijacked and brought to anchor, the pirates and the militiamen require food, drink, qaad, fresh clothes, cell phones, air time, etc. The captured crew must also be cared for. In most cases, these services are provided by one or more suppliers, who advance the costs in anticipation of reimbursement, with a significant margin of profit, when ransom is eventually paid.

When ransom is received, fixed costs are the first to be paid out. These are typically:

• Reimbursement of supplier(s)

• Financier(s) and/or investor(s): 30% of the ransom

• Local elders: 5 to 10 %of the ransom (anchoring rights)

• Class B shares (approx. $15,000 each): militiamen, interpreters etc.

The remaining sum — the profit — is divided between class-A shareholders.

As you may have already determined, there is a level of business sophistication one wouldn't expect from a group of "disorganized outlaws". It's downright Wall Street.

But then, maritime pirates have always been well ahead of the likes of both business and government. As Peter T. Leeson wrote in 2007, 17th and 18th Century pirates, far from either the romantic, swashbuckling buccaneers portrayed by Hollywood or the less savory image presented by the British Admiralty as bloodthirsty murderers, maritime pirates were actually well-organized, employed democracy to their benefit and lived by a strict code of behaviour amongst themselves.

They could easily have taught their land-based organized crime brethren a few lessons in personnel management. Apparently the last few crops of MBAs drifting out of the world's leading business schools caught at least a part of the lesson. The one where they pay themselves bonuses.

In any case, far from glorifying these acts, it is interesting to note that modern-day pirates continue to operate more like a business than an unorganized rabble. Take a look at page 97 of the report and then page 99.

Oh.... you have a question? Yeah. So do I.

A pondering Corleone . . .

Friday, March 19, 2010

Srebrenica massacre?

Blame it on the queers. So says a retired US general and frothing lunatic about the contentious showing of the Dutch army in the 1995 Serbian massacre of civilians in the former Yugoslavia.

Japan 1 Bluefin 0

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a sad report, "U.N. Rejects Export Ban on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna", by David Jolly and John Broder. If you're a polar bear, it's also a bummer, too.

Delegates at a United Nations conference on endangered species in Doha, Qatar, soundly defeated American-supported proposals on Thursday to ban international trade in bluefin tuna and to protect polar bears.

Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin, a fish prized especially by Japanese sushi lovers for its fatty belly flesh, have been severely depleted by years of heavy commercial fishing, while polar bears are considered threatened by hunting and the loss of sea ice because of global warming. The United States tried unsuccessfully to persuade delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites, to provide strong international protection for the two species.

“It wasn’t a very good day for conservation,” said Juan Carlos Vásquez, a spokesman for the United Nations organization. “It shows the governments are not ready to adopt trade bans as a way to protect species.”

Then there's Japanese whale hunting, aka "research". I hope all those shiny, happy people in their Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans feel warm and fuzzy. Then there's dolphins, and "The Cove". A pox on all their keiretsu. Like Republicans, the only thing they respect is money — so I don't buy Japanese.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Harper Conservative Jim Abbott believes in torture...

So long as a a whisper-fine technicality allows it.

Let's put it another way. Despite the fact that the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence have absolutely vowed that the articles of the Geneva Conventions apply to all combatants in Afghanistan, Jim Abbott is defending the actions of Canada's Afghan jailers on the basis that "the enemy" does not constitute a "state" as defined in the various conventions of the laws of armed conflict of which Canada is seized.

Therefore, according to Abbott, torture is NOT prohibited... technically, y'know.

Resolved. Jim Abbott is not suggesting torture does not happen to detainees handed over to our Afghan jailers. He is suggesting it happens and it is perfectly legal because the combatants taken into custody are not protected by any convention.

That is the Harper Conservative position... once again emerging as a defence against charges of Canadian government complicity in inhumane treatment.

I guess Abbott now understands he has just put Canadian troops at great risk. Should a Canadian soldier fall into the hands of "the enemy" they can do pretty much anything they want to that individual, with Abbott's permission, because the technical line he's following works in both directions. If a bunch of insurgents, Talib or not, capture a Canadian soldier and start cutting off his body parts on a You Tube video, (when they're not pre-empted by Steve Harper trying to play one of the kewl kids), he'll just shrug it off because technically, our troops have no protection from partisan forces under the rules of armed conflict.

Tie me another yellow ribbon Abbott, you senseless fuckwad.


This could get interesting.

I expect the Cons to come out at any moment and declare parliament treasonous or some such shit. Anything really that might distract or detract from the issue at hand.

If things were going well in Afghanistan...

This wouldn't be happening. (Emphasis mine)

This refusal to allow reporting of certain combat actions is one of the odd experiences of being at war with the Canadian military and I have complained about it for years, as have others. But the gag order on embedded reporters in Kandahar continues.

The excuse the Canadian Forces gives is that Taliban guerrillas might learn from immediate media accounts whether their warheads had hit a target or not, which would allow them to recalibrate.

That's a legitimate concern even though most Taliban firing isn't that sophisticated. Rockets are simply hurriedly stuck in the ground at a rough angle and fired off, usually to no effect.

However, I accept the need for caution and so I am not offering up the exact time or location of these incidents. But there should clearly be limits to all this secrecy.

What really concerns me here is that a tally of rocket attacks on Canadians never does get out. Not even days or weeks later, after a safe passage of time.

It's simply as if they never happened, and such censorship distorts our own sense of the war and its changing tempo.

Something most of our closest allies are aware of and realize that, if such stringent censorship was ever exposed, it would come back to bite them.

This is interesting because Canadian officers have become extremely skilled in recent years in appearing open towards the media, which they are compared to most Harper government departments.

Still, neither of our principal allies, the U.S. and British, imposes the same OPSEC restrictions that Canada does. They are more open.

So, if they're hiding the obvious ineffective rocket attacks from the Canadian public... what else are they hiding?

And who ordered them to hide it?

More from M@ and POGGE.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Corporations are people too!

PR Watch : "After the US Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, the self-described progressive firm, Murray Hill, Inc., took what it considers the next logical step: running for office in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District."

Washington Post : "In Maryland, independent candidates are not required to be registered voters. They can qualify for the fall ballot by collecting enough signatures from voters in their district -- about 4,500, in this case."

As a five year old company, Murray Hill Inc. does not meet the minimum age requirement of 25 however so a "designated human", the company's CEO, has been chosen to represent them.

The corporate candidate has its own Web site, a Facebook page with nearly 6,000 fans, and the online ad above that has drawn more than 187,000 hits.

“Vote for Murray Hill Incorporated — the best democracy money can buy.”

Heh. Well done.

That weird feeling...

Was You Tube abuser and abysmally bad Beatles cover artist, Steve Harper, blowing scripted sunshine up your ass.

Kady first:
Oh, I know what some of you are thinking: "Aha! You control freakish mainstream media types just don't want Canadians to be able to hear the prime minister speak without a filter!" But really, it's not always about the cuts, it's about taking part in the discussion -- asking follow-up questions, probing the answers, and yes, when necessary, saying, "Alright, let's move on to a different topic." It would be different if this actually had been an interactive chat, and the Canadians posing the questions were able to respond to the PM's replies, but it wasn't, and they weren't, and as Susan Delacourt points out, the resulting viewing experience was reminiscent of nothing so much as an oddly anodyne end-of-year outing.
And now, Susan:
The optics are the same; the PM, made up for TV, in a chair, fielding questions from an interviewer. The people who asked the questions were not permitted a chance to interact or ask follow-up questions. There was no one there to say -- hey, wait a minute, you didn't answer the question. Or, in the case of the Prime Minister saying that questions about Afghan detainees were an insult to the troops, after he said he didn't always answer critics with that retort, there was no one to say, well, that.
Moreover, I suspect that if the Google interviewer had asked a question that the Prime Minister didn't like, that would have been the last interview he did with Harper. That, I'm afraid, is the sorry reality here -- the "you're so dead at recess" strategy of media management. So that's business as usual too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Epic [Fail] of Guergis...[update x 2]

Blogger A BCer in Toronto today posted an item regarding a claim on embattled Minister Helena Guergis’s official website that she holds an MBA from the University of Alberta. Apparently last year a community paper looked into the matter and after a little pressing a Guergis staffer testily admitted the Minister of State for Status of Women has “put on hold” her “aspirations” to attain a graduate degree.
Now go read A BCer in Toronto for more, including the smoking screenshots.

Something tells me her chances of completing an MBA - or apparently even an undergrad degree - at my university or any other (that doesn't involve an offer through email spam) are now less than zero. This is serious misrepresentation and at least an academic high crime.

If Harper keeps her on, then we know there's some serious dirt under the Conservative rug.

UPDATE (16 Mar 2010, 16:43 MST): Elizabeth Thompson at Eye on the Hill notes that:
A quick call to the University of Alberta confirms that Ms. Guergis is indeed the proud possessor of an MBA degree from that august institution - Class of 2009.
I've never made a "quick call" to any university and I study and work at the one in question. That aside, multiple internet searches of the University of Alberta website for any reference to Helena Guergis (alone or incombination with MBA, 2009, alumna, alumni, convocation, etc) only turns up three links: one to a PhD thesis, a reference to keynote speech in a 2008 China Institute newsletter, and an UofA in-the-press notice where she is indirectly mentioned. No reference to her receiving the MBA is mentioned in any of my searches - try for yourself. Nor does the Wikipedia list of notable UofA alumni include reference to Guergis, although her colleague Rona Ambrose is both there and on the UofA site. One would think that some mention of such a high profile graduate would exist somewhere in the intertubes, but this does not appear to be the case.

Further, allowing for the possibility that Guergis gained acceptance to the UofA MBA programme, the issue of where the Member and Secretary of State for the Status of Women would find the time to complete an MBA that does not seem to offer a distance education option, remains unaddressed. Nor has anything been brought forward to refute the reported claims from her staff that she had suspended her MBA studies.

So what we have are statements in her webpages, and the hearsay in a few lines from one reporter who claimed to call the UofA versus several conflicting and circumstantial news reports and credible conjecture. Lots of room in there.

Pending new and better information, I remain sceptical but completely willing to concede that she managed to earn an MBA. Although that in turn may raise an eyebrow about circumstances of her award.

minor UPPERDATE: It occurred to me that it might worthwhile to collect screen shots of member bios and sleuth out their credentials a little. Could be fun to see what turns up.

PLOT THICKENS: Via Holly commenting at BCL we find a note claiming that Guergis' MBA was attained prior to her political career:
Before her career in politics, Helena attained an MBA from the University of Alberta and owned a small business for seven years.

Was she "Class of 2009" or some other year before 2004, when she was first elected, or something else entirely? I suspect the Doctor may be involved.

(h/t BCL, and hearty well done to A BCer!)

From the chamber of sober second thought

Senator Mike Duffy, formerly of Corporate Television Vehicle, has figured out what's wrong with modern journalism :

"When I went to the school of hard knocks, we were told to be fair and balanced," Duffy was quoted from his speech in yesterday’s issue of the Amherst Daily News. "That school doesn’t exist any more. Kids who go to King’s, or the other schools across the country, are taught from two main texts."

According to the Senator of Extra Pudding, those two main texts polluting young minds are : "Noam Chomsky and critical thinking"

Critical thinking. Oh, the horror.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Boulder Mountain drama... after the avalanche

A grieving Alberta widow wants to know why, even after clear avalanche warnings, an event which was clearly dangerous, especially to a bunch of weekend thrill-seekers, went ahead.

The executive director of the BC Snowmobile Federation provides an answer.
"Right now it's personal choice," Les Austin said in an interview from Revelstoke. "I don't believe there needs to be greater regulation. We need greater education and stuff like that so people can make better-informed decisions. That doesn't happen overnight."

Yeah. I guess a series of snowmobile triggered avalanches are pretty tough to absorb over all that noise. And as for the effect of their actions on everybody else?
And what of the time, cost and personal risk associated with rescue efforts for snowmobilers who get into trouble after wilfully ignoring avalanche warnings?

"You're right, we appreciate all the rescue efforts because without all those people this thing could have been worse than it was," he said.

Consequences of one's behaviour. Taught in primary school.

Of course, given all the warnings, we could just call it suicide and let the insurance companies provide the lesson.

In the meantime, there's always this.

Dear Frank

Good letter from Fern to Frank over at Dammit Janet :

My Letter to the Hon. Frank Iacobucci

Dear Sir,
I am writing to you as one private citizen of Canada to another.

As a former Supreme Court Justice and upholder of the Constitution, you must recognize that the government's move to employ you to examine the documents relevant to the Afghan detainee ruckus is, at least, not very popular among some knowledgeable commenters.

To many, me included, it is a mockery of the concept of Parliamentary supremacy.

It is, further, merely the latest in a long series of anti-democratic initiatives by this Conservative government.

No one questions your ability or your reputation. The issue is whether Parliament is to be allowed to do its job.

Please. Reject the assignment.

Yours truly,
fern hill

Phone: (direct) 416.865.8217 Fax: 416.865.7380
Email: fiacobucci (at)
Mail: 79 Wellington Street West, Suite 3000Box 270, TD CentreToronto, Ontario, M5K 1N2 Canada

I'm guessing Fern wouldn't mind if you copy and pasted that puppy with your own name under it.

Here's my letter :

Dear Frank :

In your last go round with whitewashing government complicity in torture, it took you 16 months to determine that even though :

1)CSIS and the RCMP "mistakenly" advised Egyptian and Syrian authorities that Canadian citizens Ahmad El Maati and Abdullah Almalki were "associated with Al Qaeda" and an "imminent threat to public security" and a "confessed terrorist" and that El Maati was "involved in a plan to commit a terrorist act in Canada", resulting in

2)El Maati being subjected to "electric shock to his hands, back and genitals, and sleep deprivation while being subjected to excruciatingly painful stress torture for days on end", and that subsequently

3)CSIS fired off a handy list of questions to be put to them,

you ultimately determined in your report that :
"I found no evidence that any of these of these officials were seeking to do anything other than carry out conscientiously the duties and responsibilities of the institutions of which they were part."

"It seems inevitable, in the struggle against terrorism that mistakes of various kinds will be made."

After which the government redacted "about 20% of your findings from the public document for national security reasons."

So, really, Frank, who gives a fuck what you think?

Yours truly,

Strongly advise sending Fern's letter instead.

Guergis to sue Air Canada employees?

For "slander", apparently, and "breach of privacy" for reporting her manic meltdown at Charlottetown Airport

"They" will never let Helena "hell hole" Handbasket go through with it of course.


h/t Buckdog

That could be on rye . . .

WIRED MAGAZINE has a very disturbing report by Brendan I. Koerner, "Red Menace: Stop the Ug99 Fungus Before Its Spores Bring Starvation". It's about a mutant fungus that originated in Uganda, discovered in 1999, that is starting to spread.

Why should you care? Well, according to Mr. Koerner,

Stem rust is the polio of agriculture, a plague that was brought under control nearly half a century ago as part of the celebrated Green Revolution. After years of trial and error, scientists managed to breed wheat that contained genes capable of repelling the assaults of Puccinia graminis, the formal name of the fungus.

But now it’s clear: The triumph didn’t last. While languishing in the Ugandan highlands, a small population of P. graminis evolved the means to overcome mankind’s most ingenious genetic defenses. This distinct new race of P. graminis, dubbed Ug99 after its country of origin (Uganda) and year of christening (1999), is storming east, working its way through Africa and the Middle East and threatening India and China. More than a billion lives are at stake. “It’s an absolute game-changer,” says Brian Steffenson, a cereal-disease expert at the University of Minnesota who travels to Njoro regularly to observe the enemy in the wild. “The pathogen takes out pretty much everything we have.”

Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s wheat has little or no protection against the Ug99 race of P. graminis. If nothing is done to slow the pathogen, famines could soon become the norm — from the Red Sea to the Mongolian steppe — as Ug99 annihilates a crop that provides a third of our calories. China and India, the world’s biggest wheat consumers, will once again face the threat of mass starvation, especially among their rural poor. The situation will be particularly grim in Pakistan and Afghanistan, two nations that rely heavily on wheat for sustenance and are in no position to bear added woe. Their fragile governments may not be able to survive the onslaught of Ug99 and its attendant turmoil.

And it gets better:

Ug99 isn’t just on the march. It’s mutating, too: It has developed the ability to overcome resistance genes that were being used to combat it. At least four variants of the pathogen have been discovered to date, and each has the ability to knock out resistance genes once thought to be worthy substitutes for Sr31. The most troubling of these variants, first detected in Kenya in 2006, tears through Sr24, the gene that so many North American wheat producers rely on to keep P. graminis at bay. Another variant shreds Sr36, commonly used in the winter wheats of the Great Plains.

Can you make brownies with rye flour?