Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks, some thoughts

What a concept. A 'service' to radical democracy? Or a threat to the security of states? Both? I discuss.

As I mentioned in the comments on another post, Wikileaks is not Julian Assange. He's just the frontman for an idea. They can kill, disappear, litigate, gag, gaol, or otherwise neuter the man, but ultimately that matters not a whit (sorry manly Tom). The concept of a universal whistle blower site is something that can be easily mimicked by any budding disruptor agent. Any focus on Assange is a distraction.

Wikileaks is a ambiguous phenomenon. It is both good and bad depending on your perspective and the substance of the information being released. It reveals truths, and truths are powerful things. If North Korea shells another town and kills people and cites something aired through Wikileaks, then that isn't a particularly good outcome. The service it provides makes it a security problem for those in power, regardless of what country they inhabit. We all like to poke a finger in their eye, but at the same time, public distribution of state secrets can have very serious consequences. The hawks do have a point here.

That said, there's a radical democratisation element. The diplomatic cables reveal a lot about the nature of how governments think and behave outside of the filters of news media reports, speeches, and press scrum soundbites. This is raw data and a gold mine of content and discourse. It exposes politicians, spies, and diplomats for utter wankers as they claim to in the interests of their publics. We learn how people like Jim Judd see the institutions of democracy as problematic obstacles to the for the serious hobby business viagra vanity activity of security and statecraft. Which of course explains so much about why awkward things like this have occurred in recent years. Following Jim's logic we'd be safer if we shredded the Charter and turned CSIS into our own Stasi or Mukhabarat. You know, because they need to the tools to keep the terrorists and nasties away until we're a nice fat fascist dictatorship ourselves (more on this another day). Exposing these paranoid loons is security for masses. So Wikileaks does a service here.

What Wikileaks is, in my view, is remarkable thing. We've never had someting like this. It's a product of a interneted and globalised world, a time without great power struggles, and when states themselves are increasingly caught up in issues they've never had to face and which are quite beyond their control. It exists as a new actor, a releaser of black swans, an agent of no party. In the past, state governments feared the mole, the spy who would burrow deep and give vital secrets to other governments. Everything still stayed secret and state publics wouldn't know what the spies had pilfered and traded. Now, no state is safe and the powerful, everywhere risk having their dirty laundry aired to the entire world. The shift is from government versus government to the state and economic elite versus a global public. Photos of what the clergy have been up to are being passed around the pews in all the world's temples and both good and ill will come of it.

Wikileaks is, fundamentally, what radical democratic change looks like in this day.

Whatever the implications of the document releases, the powerful worldwide now have to contend with the possibility of instant espionage by class and mouse click, not heavy iron curtains and hidden microphones.

Wikileaks is an insurgent in a Cold Class War.

What might you be up to, Mr. Harper?

Southern Lebanon is a giant hardened in depth defensive position. Israel faced an enemy able to stop it in the 2006 war there when Hezbollah proved itself a capable conventional military force able to go toe to toe with the IDF.  Keep this in mind. 

Stephen Harper has allied Canada with the rightwing Isreali government in a most biased way (see Peter Kent, Rights and Democracy, and this).

So I went and saw the bombastic George Galloway the other night because it seemed like a better idea than reading theory in my office at 9pm. Showman that he is, he said all the right things in the right way, and had the mixed crowed standing and clapping and sometimes laughing. Still, even without some of his less than stellar life moments (ahem Saddamn, ahem)there's just something about the man I instinctively do not trust. It could be the whiff of politician's sulphur about him. However, I will say that, one, if Canada had a politician half as scrappy and blunt as Mr. Galloway, we'd have a much different Ottawa right now, and Stephen Harper would have very capable opposition. The man clearly delights in a righteous fight. And two, on that note he seems to have adopted our Jason Kenney as a cat adopts a mouse. I would not want to be a Jason Kenney with a Mr. Galloway licking his chops like that.

Anyway, Galloway brought up something else which set off quiet bells in my head. CBC released an investigative report the other day which seemed to finger the head of security for Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri along with Hezbollah as conspirators in his assassination. According to Galloway, there is heavy Canadian involvement in the UN investigative tribunal which is potentially reaching these conclusions. Conclusions which, he claimed, when layered on top of Sunni-Shia schisms, and local politics which threaten to renew civil war in the Levant (no Ezra, not you). Galloway ran through the reasons why Syria, Hezbollah and others wouldn't benefit and fingered Israel as the party who would most.

There are wheels within wheels in that part of the world and there could be any number of opaque and complex reasons for assassinations and I am not knowledgeable enough to critically comment on the veracity of his rationales. However, a Lebanese friend was quite fearful and the audience, which included a great many Arabs, seemed to loudly agree.

Moreover, ours is a government with declared bias to a state with arguably the most to gain from a weakened Lebanon. If Israel can no longer easily beat Lebanon militarily, then why wouldn't they attempt to break it through the tried and true political skulduggery of spooks, assassins and agents provocateur?

Questions do arise when one factors this with the secretive Harper government's declared alignment and support of Israel's government and the Canadian involvement in things inquiring Hariri. Have we entered the fray as a non-neutral party and de facto agent of the current Israeli government?

Conservative Lawnorder

Here's one of Stephen Harper's trusted advisers opining on the wikileaks story, take it away Flanagan...

Hey Ezra, here's you're tough on crime, law & order gang at work. Counseling to commit murder, a political adviser to the Prime Minister condoning politically motivated assassination. Douchebag.

Hat tip: Matthew Gregory from politcsandprofit.com

Greater powers, Mr. White?

I refer the good chief of police White to something called the Criminal Code of Canada which gives police a great deal of power for dealing with society's rogues, regardless of occupation. He may have heard of it.

Things that grow in the darkness

Being any part of National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa (or over there in Hull) can be frustrating. It's like living in a mushroom farm much of the time. Things grow out of cracks and turn into things you don't expect.

However, if you are the Commander of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) you would expect that you are close enough to the oracle to at least be given a "heads up" that an expeditionary mission is coming your way. It kind of goes with the territory, the security clearance and the film-star wages. There is, after all, that planning thing, then the staffing thing and, most difficult of all, that logistics thing to organize.

So, when politicians start to rumble about that there will be an extended role for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan as trainers you'd expect that such discussions would include certain key figures in uniform, like the Chief of Defence Staff and the Commander CEFCOM.

But not when Harper is in charge.

For the past two weeks the only thing I have been hearing is, "We didn't see that one coming." And that is now verified by the Commander responsible for organizing the mission.(Emphasis mine)

"Right now we are just at the fact-finding stage, determining what is available at what rank, what skill set, what timeline," Lessard said in an interview with Postmedia News after arriving in Kandahar. "We are not looking at one option in particular. There are individual positions, left and right."

As well as meeting for 45 minutes in the Afghan capital with Gen. David Petraeus, the American who runs NATO's war here, Lessard spoke with Maj.-Gen. Stu Beare, a Canadian who is one of two deputy commanders for training.

"It is mind-boggling, all the positions. What we are looking at are things that make sense. We do not want to just scatter people all over the place," said Lessard, who also conceded he was surprised by the government decision to deploy trainers.

"Quite frankly, I did not know what was going to happen," he said, "but in the military, we are ready for anything."
Lessard's comments and description of the task he has been handed go further by confirming that the Harperites, despite all their confident claims, had and have no idea what the training role would be. You will recall that I made this point:
Canada cannot meet the demand to start filling Caldwell's requirements by this winter and next spring. We still have a combat role and will not be able to deploy personnel to a bolstered NTM-A until well after that. We can safely assume that other NATO allies will fill that demand long before we have personnel available. This is the kind of commitment many NATO nations view as a healthy and safe way to deploy without wearing the political splatter of combat casualties. We aren't going to be there for any of it.
Sure enough, Lessard expanded on that too.

The Harper government's announcement two weeks ago that Canada will undertake a mission to train the Afghan National Army _ in the relatively safer confines of Kabul once the combat mission ends _ clearly caught the military by surprise.

Up until late October there had been no planning undertaken for a follow-on mission, said defence sources in Ottawa.

Lessard said they have yet to sketch out what the training scheme will look like because a seven-member fact-finding team has just heard from NATO about what positions need to be filled.

He confirmed that not all Canadians will be based in the Afghan capital, despite what the Conservative government has said.

"It is to be Kabul-centric. What that means is: the emphasis is to be on Kabul, but not solely Kabul."
Many of the positions at the recently established NATO Training Mission Command in Kabul are already taken, but there are positions at the various military schools scattered around the country.
So .... while Harper and MacKay have known for some time now that they were going to commit to a role in Afghanistan beyond July, 2011, they never bothered to have that conversation with the organization responsible for planning and executing such a concept.
The assertion by Harper that the mission would be in Kabul was actually an uninformed assumption on his part and now turns out to be far from reality.What is clearly apparent is that Harper and MacKay had no idea what the mission would look like, the proof being offered that, after actually asking NTM-A what positions need to be filled, the Commander CEFCOM is still trying to give it form. And it isn't going to look like what Harper said it would.

The mushrooms grow strong at 101 Colonel By Drive.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Warped headline

Federal Tories take 2 byelections, Liberals 1

There were no "Tories" running. They were Harperites. Surely the CBC can tell the difference.

Angry man in uniform says something

Bill Blair, Toronto cop-chief.
The video shows about a half-dozen police officers chasing and then tackling Nobody at Queen's Park. SIU director Ian Scott said the video appeared to show one of the officers striking Nobody repeatedly while he was on the ground. Police had forensically examined the tape and found it had been altered, Blair said. "The evidence that they're relying on is false. It's been edited. A significant portion of it has been removed," he told CBC's Metro Morning. "And I think that removes any opportunity for a reasonable explanation of the force that was used, and frankly, I would have expected more." But the SIU is standing by its investigation.
"What I can say is that if the chief has relevant information that will assist us in furthering these investigations we'd certainly be willing to take them and review them and take any necessary action," said SIU spokesman Frank Phillips.
Bill, if I may,
You enforced a secret law that lead to the detention of a thousand of my fellow citizens at the hands of your 'police', violating just about any Constitutional and legal right one could point to. The more you defend their actions and thus yours as their leader, the more you reinforce the mistrust between the public and police. 
We simply don't believe anything you or the members of your constabulary say anymore.

You and your police are utterly devoid of credibility. 
This is the problem you need to fix, and attempting to defend your officers does not do that.

The Therapeutic Drug Initiative sends out a final warning

From the CBC a story warning about a blood thinner.

A new blood thinner is easier to use to prevent blood clotting and strokes, but researchers in B.C. caution it may pose serious risks for some patients.
The Therapeutic Drug Initiative at the University of British Columbia is world renown for spotting dangerous drugs. In BC the group has saved taxpayers $50 million annually helping to keep dangerous drugs out of BC pharmacies. The provincial funding was $1 million per year. It's easy to understand why Big Pharma doesn't much like the Therapeutic Drug Initiative.

Gordon Campbell, the premier who resigned and then appointed himself interim leader, has gifted the people of BC with a new deal - he's killed it, and he's made sure the researchers who have staffed the TDI are not allowed to involve themselves in any new drug review process in BC. 

Campbell and the orks which occupy the BC cabinet table have caved, and I mean totally caved, to Big Pharma. From Friday's Time Colonist:

The walls of the Therapeutics Initiative are papered with accolades and letters of support from around the world. A leading medical journal called it "the only source of critical assessment of new treatments in Canada that is not political or partisan." Another commendation referred to the Therapeutics Initiative as "one of the best sources of information about pharmaceuticals ... in the world."
But no good deed goes unpunished. Drug companies have been lobbying for years to get rid of the agency.
It's worth considering the various motives involved. The Therapeutics Initiative's job is to disbelieve anything it hears about a drug until evidence can be found to support it. That makes it an industry critic. 

And of course pharmaceutical firms want to sell their products. They are on the other side of the fence.
But where does this leave the provincial government? Sitting on the fence -- until a few days ago. 

For some years, a succession of health ministers tried to square this circle: How to placate the drug industry, which is a major contributor to the Liberal party, without gutting the Therapeutics Initiative. 

The Ministry of Health has just outlined a new assessment process. First, the Therapeutics Initiative will have no further role. Its funding is terminated. 

Second, whereas the drug industry had no voice in the old system, it will have extensive influence in the new one. Conflict-of-interest rules have been substantially weakened. And the industry has been given four separate points of engagement. 

Third, in what can only be considered an act of spite, staff at the Therapeutics Initiative are to be kept off the new drug benefit council that will manage the process. The experts who ran Canada's most successful drug review program have been told they are not wanted.
Any questions? The Campbell government isn't interested in your health. They are bought and paid for by their dollar contributing big business buddies.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Oh... Craig James ...

I hope you can leave without shit on your lips.

The only role you are allowed to have, and I mean allowed, is to be the defender of the democratic functions of all British Columbians.

You have failed to protect both the rights and the functions of democracy.

Leave with dignity and the ability to rework your CV or we'll tear you to pieces.

You have a rough 48 hours. I'm not kidding.

Bubble's Buddies strike again . . .

IF THE POLICE PERFORMANCE WITH THE G8/G20 was less than stellar, now the Ottawa police force is following up with equally egregious behaviour. Unlike the Toronto videos with which the "authorities" could not identify police officers in illegal disguise, Stacy Bonds' torment is something the police can't run away from.

And the best McGuinty can do is say he was "very, very troubled" by the incident. Let the shrugging and evasion begin!

At the going down of the sun ...

Belated condolences and respect to the family and friends of Captain Frank Paul, 28 Field Ambulance, assigned to JTF-Afghanistan Health Services Unit.

Capt. Paul was on active service, on a Home Leave Travel Assistance visit, when he succumbed to an illness on 10 February, 2010.

Capt. Paul is being officially recorded as a casualty of the Afghanistan mission.

Militi Succurrimus

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saturday, 27 November, 2010 is a day to mark on your calendar

Just put a red X on that date and stare at it for a minute. Read this and know that it was predictable. Here's why.

At 1900 hrs AFT on 27 December, 1979, 30 members of KGB Spetsgruppa Z, 24 members of GRU Spetsgruppa A, 520 men from the 154th Separate Spetsnaz Detachment of the Soviet Ministry of Defence and 87 members of the Soviet 345th Guards Airborne Regiment executed Operation Storm 333.

They were dressed in Afghan army uniforms.

By the following morning the operation was complete and elements of the special force had taken control of Tajbeg Palace, just outside Kabul, and killed President Hafizullah Amin along with all of his 200 man bodyguard. Simultaneously, the force took control of the Ministry of Interior building, the Internal Security building and the Darul Aman Palace which served as the General Staff Headquarters. The Soviet force suffered 19 killed and over 50 wounded. The Afghan defenders lost over 200 killed and over 200 wounded with some 1700 troops captured.

The Soviet special forces had arrived two days earlier among a draft of airborne troops which arrived in Kabul on 25 December, 1979. The Soviet 103rd Guards Airborne Division landed at Bagram air base on the morning of 27 December.

As the Soviet special forces were taking key government centres in Kabul, the Soviet 40th Army had already entered Afghanistan from the north crossing the Amu Darya river at Termez, Uzbeck SSR and the then Turkmen SSR town of Kushka. At the same time an air bridge was established into Bagram air base. By the end of December the Soviets had 80,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Two weeks later that number was closer to 100,000.

That Soviet invasion was in response to months of insurgency and open revolt by large segments of the Afghan population. Ostensibly carried out at the request of Afghan government (they were invited in), the actual plan was a takeover of Afghanistan utilizing the well-tested Soviet method of armed stabilization. The Soviets also had a great deal of mistrust in Hafizulla Amin who had come to power in a violent coup during which his predecessor, Nur Muhammad Taraki, had been purposely killed. The history of Afghanistan politics prior to that event is a tangle of uprisings, civil war and factionalized infighting.

Once the Soviets had occupied Afghanistan they took control of all major urban centres and had installed Babrak Karmal as president. The mass occupation was intended to quell the uprisings and restore calm to the entire country. It did the opposite.

The presence of Soviet troops, not yet engaged in open warfare, had the effect of causing even greater rebellion which the Afghan army and security forces were unable to contain. In fact, the desertion rate of the 80,000 strong Afghan army had reached critical levels which saw huge numbers joining independent rebel factions - a loosely allied and largely disorganized body which would come to be known as the mujahideen.

The Soviets were dragged into open warfare with the mujahideen and, in a future post, I will detail some of what happened, how they became so strong and the massive mistake that took place after the Soviets realized they had been defeated. What the Soviets left in Afghanistan was a political vacuum and a well armed insurgent force. What followed their departure was a mass fratricide. While the Soviets have to take some of the blame, most of the fault lies with the countries that treated the Soviet withdrawal as the end game. Failure by the nations which had armed the mujahideen to acknowledge the obvious danger they had created would erupt into a bloodbath.
Gen Boris Gromov walks out of Afghanistan

On the 15 February, 1989, Lt. General Boris Gromov, commander of the Soviet 40th Army walked across the bridge at Termez, Uzbeck SSR and became the last Soviet soldier to leave Afghanistan, completing a withdrawal which had been agreed upon two years earlier. The Soviet engagement in Afghanistan lasted 9 years, 1 month and 20 days.

No one followed them across the Termez bridge.

From the time of the first air attacks and the NATO commitment to support the U.S. assault on and occupation of Afghanistan on 7 October, 2001 to Saturday, 27 November, 2010, NATO forces, including Canada, have been at war for 9 years, 1 month and 21 days.

And there is no end in sight.

Some pertinent reading.

Just awesome...

Nine years of blood and treasure, including the deployment of the most sophisticated intelligence organisations in the history of the world, for this:
The fake Taliban commander, said to actually be a Pakistani shopkeeper, received thousands of dollars in goodwill payments from the Afghan government, British newspapers reported, and was flown on NATO aircraft.

Really, it is just awesome. If there was ever a sign to quit and go home, now, this is it. It's all down hill from here. NATO's late career trainwreck. The guns, the bombs, the gambling on big roles beyond their experience. It's all too much. Just stop NATO, you're done. Pull pole and go. Because now every freakin' dude hangin' in the bazaars is going to be knocking on your door claiming to be a high ranking Taliban member willing to negotiate. They'll be pissing themselves for a thousand years on this one. They'll make "I am Taliban commander" T-shirts. They'll be comedy sketches, reality shows for who can most elaborately fool NATO...

A sense of humour . . .

DUH concept: Don't mess with men's balls.


Crows know things...about Mortal Kombat!

"Acting" Chief Electoral Officer of BC demands absolute perfection ... UPDATED

Even though he himself has never been properly appointed by the required all-party committee of the BC legislature. From the Times-Colonist:
(Emphasis mine)

In a letter sent Wednesday, acting chief electoral officer Craig James said the application for recall in Oak Bay - Gordon Head was rejected because it "exceeded the 200 word limit."

"Elections BC cannot accept an application that does not meet the legislated requirements of the Act," wrote James, adding it was the acronyms - such as MLA and HST - that pushed it over.
Right. We live in a political Star Wars environment in BC. We don't need the Evil Empire spelled out for us. We know what the HST is.
I don't agree with former BC premier Bill Vander Zalm on much, but he's right on this one:

"We call on Craig James to admit he has lost the confidence of the people of BC and done irreparable damage to the independent reputation of Elections BC, and resign," Vander Zalm said in a statement.
"Failing that, we call on the premier to remove him and we call on the entire BC Liberal caucus and all of the potential leadership candidates to immediately denounce this charade," he added.
And seeing James to the door is gaining popularity.

Very important update: This requires an investigation.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy American Thanksgiving . . .

Happy American Thanksgiving . . . deep-fried or not, have a tasty whatever. If you'd like to try the engine-hoist recipe, click on the link.

Speaking of things that fly ....

Can you say awkward?

Questions are being raised about the Conservative government's procurement of Russian helicopters that Canadian pilots have been secretly using to fly troops into combat in Afghanistan.

Until this week, the government had been silent about the MI-17 "Hip" helicopters that were leased last year. The government still refuses to provide any details of their procurement, including how much the lease cost.
Ooooh. I would think the auditor-general might have wanted to know about that. In the AG Fall 2010 report there is diddly about an MI-17 acquisition.

"It was competed, it was open, but for reasons of security I really can't go into any other details," Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday.
I wouldn't be too sure about that. Since the AG missed it in a detailed report entitled Acquisition of Military Helicopters, one has to question the veracity of MacKay's statement. Sounds like some details weren't available to the AG.

So off to the digs and what do we discover? Ah yes, there was an idea way back when it was realized that the CH-47 Chinooks we ordered were not going to appear before the previously scheduled end of the Afghanistan mission. 
Shortly after the RFP’s release, Canadian defense think-tank CASR began pointing out 2 potential solutions to this dilemma. One is the possible solution discussed during November 2005 coverage of Canada’s “emergency” purchases for Operation Archer: buy Mi-17 helicopters, the same type flown by East European NATO allies and by the Afghan Air Force. A Russian trade delegation made that precise offer during their March 2006 visit to Canada, and a Canadian company named Kelowna Flightcraft is already cooperating with the Mil factory in Kazan, producing Mi-17KF “Kittiwakes” with fully Westernized avionics and rear loading ramps.
Right. And if you read the above you'll notice that the original had a bunch of links in it back to the Simon Fraser University based CASR think-tank site. Back to that, right after this.
Mi-17s wouldn’t be a substitute for the Chinook. Their load is 24 fully-equipped troops at best, with an external sling load of 3,000 kg, vs. the stated Canadian requirement of 30 troops and 5,443 kg. Hot and high altitude conditions will reduce those totals further. On the other hand, their cost is about 1/8 that of a new CH-47 Chinook, and deliveries would have been rapid. They would create a temporary solution, one which could be repurposed later to other military roles, given away to the Afghans, or even given civilian rescue or disaster-related roles as Chinooks become available.
So, the Chinook would still have to be purchased, but to fill an immediate need, these things might work. However, cost conscious Canadians would see the price differential and ask, "Why, Peter?" 

Ah yes... those CASR links. Don't waste your time. Despite the fact that Defense Industry Daily was able to link back as recently as 28 Oct 2010, CASR now has this statement regarding all previous things MI-17.(highlighting mine)
This Background Index previously focused on the Canadian Forces medium-lift tactical helicopters required for Afghanistan. That medium-lift role has now been filled through the purchase of six ex-US Army CH-147D Chinooks. At the end of Canada's Afghan mission, remaining CH-146s  – one CF Chinook is said to have been lost to enemy action – are to be sold back to the US government. Those 'D models will be replaced by CH-147F MHLH (Medium-to Heavy-Lift Helicopters).

In earlier Background pages, we covered CF options and alternatives to hard-to get Chinooks. With CH-147s in place with Canada's JTF-Afghanistan Air Wing in Kandahar, those alternatives became moot and the pages have been removed.

Really?! Not so moot. And the timing is so ... coincidental.

In the CBC article we hear from University of Calgary political science professor Rob Huebert.

Defence analyst Rob Huebert said the huge price difference between the two helicopters might help explain why the government has kept the deal secret.

"From a political perspective, one can also see that the Conservatives may not want to be seen to be undermining their claim that they needed the Chinooks to the degree that they did," Huebert said.

But he said the air force was wise to choose an American helicopter to be a permanent part of the Canadian equipment in order to have access to experts or spare parts. That could be a concern if relations with Russia start to freeze up, he said.
Whoa, there! First part good. Second part bad.
Yes, there are a lot of questions as to why the Harperites kept this deal secret. The MacKay line of security is a load of crap. Huebert has it right that this has a lot of potential to embarrass the Conservatives. And they could be left wanting for any coherent answer.

No. Huebert is over-simplifying and playing at "cold war" mentalism with regard to suppliers. While the MI-17 (MI-172) "Kittiwake" is a Russian-built airframe, it incorporates avionics from BAE in the UK and (brace yourself) Kelowna Flightcraft in Canada. As they are only too happy to point out.

No, the problem for the Conservatives is that having leased Russian helicopters, and with Canadian companies involved, it makes the northern dance with the "Bears" look a lot less ominous and the theatrics of MacKay and Soudas even more pathetic.

Worse though, is that Harper and MacKay have yet to learn that it isn't their money. Any suggestion that this was "open" is misleading at best.

Another question: "It was competed," says MacKay.

Against what? Who were the other contenders? Where did it appear so all of us could be assured of a proper bidding process? Where?

Mind you, given the Harper/Soudas/MacKay definition of a competition it was probably a tossing of credit cards into the middle of the table to see who was going to pay for the drinks.

public health message

Warning, contains illustrations related to teh sex.

You're either with her or you're with the the turkeyists

The inimitable TBogg plays a holiday classic for US Thanksgiving. It's got everything: blood, gore, supporters of North Korea and a latte.

That brings up something else. Palin is being dismissed far too easily by far too many as a contender for the US presidency in 2012. That she's an ongoing train wreck is almost irrelevant. She may be a horror story but she's a horror story to both the Democrats and the Republicans.

I had been curious about what it was she was trying to set up with all the celebrity fame-whoring and I can only come back to "name recognition". That plays a bigger part in American politics than competence when one is playing to the navel-gazing masses. If she bangs on the GOP door looking for a nomination and the Republicans shut her out, she will take her witless, self-absorbed self into a realm that will leave the Republican power-brokers reeling in terror - she will run as an independent and shatter the GOP base.

I went back and forth with this scenario wondering if it was likely. She doesn't have the strategic sense to work that play on her own. But it's obvious from the spotlight she's managed to find herself in that there is an organizational mastermind behind it and it isn't Steve Schmidt.

Lo and behold, along comes Robert Reich with a clearer depiction of the Palin strategy.

The Republican establishment doesn’t get it. Celebrity is part of The Palin Strategy – as is avoiding the insider game. She doesn’t want to do what Huckabee, Pawlenty, Gingrich, or Romney have to do. She has an outside game.

Palin’s game plan is directly related to America’ white working class, and the economy it faces – and the economy it’s likely to continue to experience for years.

No prospective candidate so sharply embodies the anger of America’s white working class as does Palin. And none is channeling that anger nearly as effectively.
And while Schmidt pointed out back in January that Palin was both dishonest and a geographic moron, Reich makes the case that none of that matters to the white working class voter. And then he launches that bomb.
The Palin Strategy is to circumvent the Republican establishment, filled as it is with career Republicans, business executives, and Wall Streeters. That’s why her path to the Republican nomination isn’t the usual insider game. It’s a celebrity game – a snark-fest with the nation’s entire white working class. Vote for Bristol and we’ll show the media establishment how powerful we are! Buy my book and we’ll show the know-it-all coastal elites a real book directed at real people! Tune into my cable show and we’ll show the real America – far from the urban centers with immigrants and blacks and fancy city slickers!

As I believe will become clearer, the Palin Strategy will involve a political threat to the GOP establishment: Deny her the nomination she’ll run as independent. This will split off much of the white working class and guarantee defeat of the Republican establishment candidate. It will also result in her defeat in 2012, but that’s a small price to pay for gaining the credibility and power to demand the nomination in 2016, or threaten another third-party run in 2020.
It's worth reading all of Reich's article.

H/T Jill

The big push. From the advertising department of DND

The Jurist has just the right amount of sarcasm spread evenly on the subject. If the Department of National Defence has to go on an advertising blitz to try and convince people that buying a super-cool, enemy air-space penetrating high-tech bomb truck is such a splendid idea ... well it's looking like it might be a less than splendid idea.

The cross-country tour will cover seven cities in all. It started last Friday in Ottawa, skipping Parliamentary Press Gallery journalists who cover defence and focusing on academics and business contacts in the nation’s capital. It continued Monday with a roundtable for media in Vancouver and a separate session for academics and companies – a format that continued in Calgary and Winnipeg.
This is unprecedented. Never has DND gone out to gather a sales force to peddle a military acquisition project. It borders on the obscene.
To add fuel to the argument that the sales pitch is wrong-headed, a real military analyst takes a bite. 

Retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie said the PR blitz is an indication of how much grief Ottawa is getting over the F-35 deal, adding he can’t recall Defence previously launching such a campaign in support of a military purchase.
And then he leaves a welt on those who play the argument that we have to buy the "best" even if it's the most expensive.

The former senior military officer said the argument that the military needs cutting-edge technology is not always an easy sell, even for veterans of past wars.
“Talk to some of our tankers who went into World War II. They did a pretty damn good job, but they didn’t have the fifth best tank, let alone the best tank.”
The truth be known, Canada has rarely had the "best" equipment. More often than not, the equipment is suitable and we have lived with the knowledge that there was better, and more expensive, available.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Patrick Ross and the Cost of Malicious Defamation

In the wake of what can truly be called a fail worthy of epic as a descriptor, it should be interesting to chart the fallout from the case against Patrick Ross. Having been found to have acted with malice in a protracted campaign of defamation, the ruling orders Ross to remove any and all blog posts that mention Rob Day. There is no mention made in the ruling to comments he made at other blogs where the smear campaign was spread by Ross. With that said, there remains an interesting side note to the ruling wherein the various blogging aggregators Ross joined will almost certainly require cleansing of the offending material. Canadian Blogs for example not only reprints the content from Ross's originating blog but organizes his posting by tag, as one can see here. That tag is among the actionable slurs that has found Ross on the short end of the judicial stick. By recklessly smearing another person in such a public manner and by using the boards and means of others to amplify the smear, Ross has in effect exposed these publishers to action and will likely cost them some effort and/or expense in mitigating that exposure.

One also wonders how an organization like examiner.com will react to one of their contributors being found a malicious defamer in a court of law. From the bottom of their page listing all of
Ross's articles...

Examiners come from all walks of life and contribute original content to entertain, inform, and inspire their readers. They are credible, passionate and influential because of their knowledge of a particular topic. Want to join their ranks?

Well, one has to wonder how they will define the term credible in the wake of a $75,000 finding against Ross. They may well want to re-examine his contributions in an act of due diligence after the fact. Given the propensity of the person in question to smear others, they might want to reconsider the wisdom of an article entitled
Mike Hudema Not a Coward, But Not Being Honest. Should Mr. Hudema decide to pursue action against Ross and the Examiner, his case might be bolstered by the finding for Day. And as a commercial enterprise the Examiner could be liable for a far larger award.

Ross has two weeks to clean the offending posts from his own blog, I'm sure there will be a few eyes turned that way to witness his compliance. I don't know what penalties would result from a failure to comply but it will be fascinating to watch.

Oh my my.

Nuked by hizzown word and deed.

Might I suggest renaming it "Nexus of Libel."

How the Terr'ists win piss themselves laughing

via reddit

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Under the category of "Who cares?"

Bristol Palin, (they actually named her after a bay named after a British admiral? Awesome!) came third.

She should have been dancing with me and saved herself the limelight. Honest. I do my dancing on Channel Night or Straits Night.

However, her big yappy ego did produce this.

Earlier in the night, Palin said winning would be like “a big middle finger” to those who dislike her and her politician mother, Sarah Palin.

A lot of politicians have that kind of egotistical twist. You know... giving a victory speech before the polls have opened.

Too bad. So sad. I guess it's back to filleting Halibut. Life's a son-of-a-bitch including the times when your Mother doesn't give you enough information to prevent a pregnancy.

Are we done now? Can we get back to having your Momma run for Presnit? You're not a dancer. And Mommy is a quitter.

I have to add this. I just can't resist.

I have NEVER watched dancing with the stars or whatever it's called. Not my thing. But Jennifer Grey ... Jennifer Grey. She's 50 years old and she whopped your ass! That's my kind of woman!!

And she's 50? I thank mother earth. She probably doesn't spend her life texting to her facebook account. Go Baby!

OK, OK! Stop with the friggin' emails!!!

Yeah... justice is a bitch ain't it.

I don't care if they pay for the gas...

If they want to look for oil and gas in my Arctic, they can go buy their own bloody ship, not rent ours.

Questions are being raised over the use of a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker by two oil companies for research that could help them make a case for drilling in the Arctic.
CBC News has learned that for a minimum of $50,000 a day, BP and Imperial Oil paid to use CCGS Amundsen — Canada's most advanced research ship which is dedicated to the study of climate change — for a total of six weeks over the past two years.
The oil companies want to study the environmental impact of their exploratory oil drilling plans in the Beaufort Sea.

What's that BP? You can't afford your own ship you say? Some problems in the Gulf this year cost you a little much?
The notion of renting a public climate change research vessel by private oil companies to look for the very sources of anthropogenic climate change is simply appalling. I want new rules about the use of my ship. 

Climate Change funding...

My research looks at phenomena that link closely to climate change impacts. I must actively look for PhD opportunities outside of Canada because of things like this:

The federal funding that supported most university-based weather and climate research for the past decade has almost run out, and there is no sign it will be renewed. The Ottawa-based Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, launched under prime minister Jean Chr├ętien's Liberal government in 2000, will have given out $118 million in research grants by the time it runs dry at the end of 2011.

There are increasingly concerted research efforts and the money allocated to support them in Europe and Australia. Canada, under this government, is intentionally moving into the realm of unknowledge and we will likely suffer the braindrain that goes with it. For a canary-state already feeling the impacts of climate change on land and people, this is an intolerable thing to contemplate. We should be a centre of excellence. 

Like the Census long-form, the loss of climate research is a loss of critical strategic intelligence about things that affect the wellbeing of all Canadians, including their governments. 
The long-term threat of climate change and our capacity to adapt are compounded by the Harper government. Climate is a global system. The loss of Canadian research means that the we lose the Canadian contribution to the understanding of how that global climate system behaves. Given that our white north is global climate engine, and that our melting permafrost threatens to release vast volumes of trapped methane (a much more potent greenhouse gas), the world must have Canadian research. 
Either we do it, or their scientists will come here to do it. Just watch what happens in foreign capitals when the Conservatives start blocking visas for climate scientists. Just watch what happens when Canada, sitting beside a much weakened US is left to defend its intransigence against an urgent and pissed off global community. 

A moment of your time if you will …

A delightfully warped cake for an even more delightfully warped ape – may this be the happiest of happy birthdays for you.

They just can't help themselves

The righteously omnipresent Kady maintains her PrivilegeWatch:

...As it turns out, it wasn't just any report that Block's now former staffer had leaked, but the still confidential draft report on the Finance committee's pre-budget consultations. 

According to a report tabled in the House earlier today, on November 18, 2010, her then-parliamentary assistant Russell Ullyatt "transmitted" the report to to three lobbyists: Clarke Cross, now a senior consultant at Tactix, who worked for then-Reform MPs Leon Benoit and James Lunney in the early 2000s; Tim Egan, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Gas Association; and Lynne Hamilton, Vice President for Public Affairs at GCI Group, whose experience, according to her corporate bio, includes "working with Conservative governments federally, provincially and municipally." including several Mike Harris-era ministers and the former premier himself.
Your Harper brand Conservative government: Ethically bankrupt.

Oh, and I think this qualifies as prorogue incentive numero trois!

In a world of Grope and Fly . . .

Monday, November 22, 2010

And now for something completely different ...

Once upon a time there were three sub-lieutenants and a midshipman in HMS Ark Royal. Last night at sea after a long deployment, an OOW notebook filled to the last page and the "last day crazies" start to set in.

Why wouldn't you want to join The Andrew after that.

They watched their business elders and thought... why not?

Then their professor, Richard Quinn, took his University of Central Florida class to lunch. Out of a class of 600 business students over one-third have admitted to cheating on the course mid-term exam.

Hat tip NewsHoggers

Security gone mad

Via Le Daro. TSA strips and fondles children.

How much longer before a passenger gets shot for flattening the nose of the TSA agent who just felt up them or their loved one?

Today in news of the weird and kinky

Braying ass gives ride to invisible authoritarian ex-cop.

Julian Fantino pulled in a celebrity endorsement from Don Cherry this weekend amid charges from the Liberals that the star Conservative candidate is purposely avoiding the public spotlight.

Is it just me, or does the scenario of a macho man wearing flamboyant suits fawning over another macho man who wore uniforms all his working life have all sorts of kink written into it?

Anyone want to complete the title? "Don Cherry and Julian Fantino star in __________"

Conservative Armed Forces...F-35

Impolitical is the must read in reference to David Pugilese's latest.

The Conservatives first abandon the rigorous process of competitive aircraft selection and the rationale for such and decide the sometimes stealth, delay and cost wracked bomb-truck is exactly what we need to zip around over Beaufort with. Then they send holders of the Queen's Commission to parade and trumpet the Conservative decision to specially selected F-35 Fan Clubs around the country.

What next? Will the Harper government be sending military officers out to 'sell' their next little hobby war to the public?

Do we have officers left in this country who are willing to resign on principle?

When does this end?

It's November

And in November is when someone pulls the pin. It's when the hillbillies in Harper's office get caught with their pants around their knees. Something happens that they weren't prepared for and they have to resort to drastic measures to save their own asses.

It is now tradition. Harper will do something to further erode the conventions of Canadian democracy to serve his own needs. We are in very real peril of having some bloody-minded little prick like Harper turn Parliament into the Government's whore.

This past week, it was the unelected Conservative senators audaciously killing a climate-change bill passed by a clear majority of elected MPs in the House of Commons. 

The week before, it was Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with tacit agreement from the Liberals, deciding to bypass the Commons in any debate over extending Canada's troop commitment in Afghanistan — a decision that itself flew in the face of a Commons vote to end the mission in 2011.
Real democracy taking a real hit from a real autocrat.
Harper, who only came to govern on a backlash punishment vote, all the while promising to diminish the limited influence of the Senate, has turned the upper house he claimed to despise into a weapon against the voters and representative authority.

And he's not done yet.

This is the time of year when the political animals running the endless Harper campaign from the PMO miss something or miscalculate and event. At that point, any shred of democracy standing in the way of their retaining power is trampled by the scramble to retain power. Government runs for the bunker in hopes of avoiding a pasting. Twice now, that has involved shutting the doors of this country's representative assembly.

I predict it will happen again. What will be the issue the gamers in the PMO have missed while stuffing their faces with cheese puffs?

Ahhh. There's one now. A showdown the Harper/Soudas gang didn't see coming.

It's November. Prorogue is in the air.

(h/t Scott)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Campbell, I believe that's a live grenade up your ass

Mark Hume at the Globe and Mail takes Laila Yule's research out into the light. He gets some very strange answers on the shadow tolls on the Sea to Sky highway. In the end however:

Peter Milburn, deputy minister of Transportation, said “shadow toll” is not a term he would use. But he acknowledges the private consortium will get incentive payments of about $75-million over 25 years depending on safety performance targets and vehicle use.

So, it is a toll, but it’s invisible to the public, and the government doesn’t have to wear it because it can be described as something else. Talk about creative bookkeeping.
But you have to go back in the article for the best part ...
Tolls aren’t popular with the public in general, and tourism operators in Whistler didn’t fancy the idea of having a toll gate looming like a barrier between Vancouver and the ski hill.
Oh dear. That makes me very, very angry. I might swear.
This is the same bunch of fucking carpet baggers who have forced a three-fold increase in ferry fares throughout coastal British Columbia. And we're giving celebrity-hangout Whistler a free ride? I smell a buy off.

An American Thanksgiving Classic

Happy Thanksgiving to friends in the states. Remember... the TSA wants you to piss on their hands.

Driftglass is running an American Thanksgiving Classic today.

Meeting Abousfian Abdelrazik

Last night I met Abousfian Abdelrazik and heard him tell his story from the early CSIS harrassment in Canada, to the torture and imprisonment he faced in Sudan at the behest of the Canadian government, and his current woes in having himself removed from the United Nations 1267 list. I then had the deep privilege of dining with him and his Edmonton entourage.

I'm not sure how to convey the depth of the occassion other than to say that sometimes we might be beyond fortunate enough meet these rare people, who despite unimaginable hardships, still radiate an intense and kind light of uncomprimising grace, humility, courage, and conviction. These Abousfians are living evidence what an individual human being is capable of when faced with deep injustice and the worst excesses of the small and wicked men who wield big states.

Things are shifting in this country. The audience last night was full of people who came to Canada in fleeing oppressive regimes in their homelands, and it is not the first time I've heard new arrivals speak in fear of what they see emerging here under Harper.

Regardless of whatever dark turn our politicians might take us in the coming months and years, an unassuming man with an infectious smile and iron will is living proof that we can beat them, even at their worst excesses. This is power of a class that cannot be matched.

He'll be visiting Calgary tonight and Vancouver on Sunday. If you can, please make the effort to go (dates and locations below). If not, consider helping to remove him from the UN 1267 list by contributing to Project Fly Home (see last link). In Abousfian's words last night, he is in a prison with out walls because he cannot work, open bank accounts, or otherwise support himself without the government stopping him.

Sunday, 21 November, 7pm
The Unitarian Church, 1703 1st St NW
(just off 16th Ave; enter from 1st St)
More info: tel. 403 246 8246
Tuesday, 23 November, 6pm
Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph Street
(south of Powell Street, west of Victoria Drive; Bus #20, 10 or 16)

Sarah Palin. Reader. Just ask her Mother.

Palin - no book in sight
Sure. That's why she quit halfway through her term as governor. So she could spend more time reading.

Palin became testy when I asked her about the books I heard she had been reading. "I've been reading since I was a little girl," she snapped. "And my mom is standing 15 feet away from me, and I should put her on the phone with you right now so she can tell you. That's what happens when you grow up in a house full of teachers -- you read; and I always have. Just because -- and," she continued, though in a less blistering tone, "I don't want to come across sounding caustic or annoyed by this issue: because of one roll-of-the-eye answer to a question I gave, I'm still dealing with this," she said, referring to her interview with Katie Couric.

"There's nothing different today than there was in the last 43 years of my life since I first started reading. I continue to read all that I can get my hands on -- and reading biographies of, yes, Thatcher for instance, and of course Reagan and the John Adams letters, and I'm just thinking of a couple that are on my bedside, I go back to C.S. Lewis for inspiration, there's such a variety, because books have always been important in my life." She went on: "I'm reading [the conservative radio host] Mark Levin's book; I'll get ahold of Glenn Beck's new book -- and now because I'm opening up," she finished warily, "I'm afraid I'm going to get reporters saying, Oh, she only reads books by Glenn Beck."
Her infomercial showed her signing books that someone had written for her, but it didn't show much of a library. One wonders how she finds the time between Twittering and Facebooking to actually, you know, read real stuff. (Even if it is right-wing fantasy).

I don't know why those particular conservatives, lacking any sense of intellectual curiosity, feel compelled to invent a reading list to present to their equally lazy fan-base. Let's face it, those attracted to Palin don't care whether she can read anyway.

Calendar creep on the Afghan map

Interesting things coming out of the Lisbon NATO summit. Canada's grand emissaries to the summit had better be prepared to explain, with absolute clarity, what their hillbilly mouths agreed to.

First is this from the Afghanistan Daily Outlook. (The link will probably not survive so I'll quote the relevant line)

NATO nations formally agreed Saturday to start turning over Afghanistan's security to its military next year and give them full control by 2014. The U.S. and its allies appeared to take conflicting views on when NATO combat operations would end. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he did not expect NATO troops to stay in the fight against the Taliban after 2014. "I don't foresee ISAF troops in a combat role beyond 2014, provided of course that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role,"
That requires a careful re-read. Canada has committed to pulling out of a combat role commencing mid-2011 and starting a new mission in a training role by the end of next year. NATO has determined that an end date for its combat involvement will be 2014, if the security situation allows it, and then to take on a more "supportive" role. That could be anything from training to providing combat support in the field. The issue is that Canada assuming a training role, supposedly until the end of 2014, without grinding out the details in a proper national discussion, may well end up committed well past that advertised time.
The NATO plan is highly conditional. The US has rejected any end date and has stated that they will continue combat operations alone, if necessary.

By contrast, US officials insisted that the Nato transition plan did not guarantee an end to American combat operations. US forces could go on fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan even after transition, they said.
Transition and ceasing combat operations are “not one and the same”, said a senior US official. Speaking to reporters at the Nato summit , Barack Obama, the US President, said: “One thing I am pretty confident we will still be doing after 2014 is maintaining a counter-terrorism capability. It’s going to be pretty important to us to continue to have platforms to execute those counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.”
And now the Harper statement:

Regardless of what role NATO forces may play in Afghanistan after the deadline, Canadian soldiers will not be there to participate, according to Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.
Combat troops are pulling out next year as planned, he said, and the military trainers pledged to NATO this week will not stay past March, 2014, regardless of what other members of the alliance do. “There is no flexibility,” he said.
Right. Given that just this past summer Harper was rattling on that after 2011 the Afghanistan mission would be completely "civilian", there is absolutely no reason to believe that statement. Without a proper national discourse this is nothing but foreign affairs governance by press release.
And we don't know whether Harper and Cannon have consulted with Bob Rae yet.