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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Great line of the day 

Josh Marshall writes the truth about Iran:
The only crisis with Iran is the crisis with the president's public approval ratings. Period. End of story. The Iranians are years, probably as long as a decade away, and possibly even longer from creating even a limited yield nuclear weapon. Ergo, the only reason to ramp up a confrontation now is to help the president's poll numbers . . . The period of peril the country is entering into isn't tied to an Iranian bomb. It turns on how far a desperate president will go to avoid losing control of Congress.
Go to his heart. Go to his weaknesses. Though the realization of the fact is something of a lagging indicator, the man is a laughing stock, whose lies and failures are all catching up with him.
To the president the Democrats should be saying, Double or Nothing is Not a Foreign Policy.
The great bulk of the public doesn't believe this president any more when he tries to gin up a phony crisis. They don't believe he'd have much of an idea of how to deal with a real one. Enough of the lies. Enough of the incompetence and failure. No buying into another of the president's phony crises.
Emphasis mine.

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"Gronk!" 

Some poet once described poetry as a make-believe garden containing a real, live toad.
Stephen Colbert was the Poet Laureate of America last night -- his ugly toad just hopped into the make-believe Washington garden and gronked all over the fantasy-land that is official Washington.
Colbert better watch his back -- the knives will be out. Jon Stewart can tell Tucker Carlson and Paul Begula that they are endangering the republic on live TV and it can be brushed aside as just another comedy central moment. But Colbert's rant, likewise on live TV, will provoke an "Off with his head!" response from the Bush administration and the entire White House press corps -- or, as Colbert described them so unforgettably, the typists:
. . . let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home.
And try as they might, will anyone in Washington ever again be able to forget Helen Thomas's basic question:
Why did we invade Iraq?
Billmon says "It may have been comedy, but it also sounded like a bill of indictment, and everybody understood the charges."

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Simple principles 

Following up on yesterday's post about the antiwar movement, it occurred to me that my own opposition to the war in Iraq wasn't really a very difficult position to achieve -- it didn't take a lot of discussion or deep thinking. Basically I just followed my own standard principles:
Never eat in a restaurant named Mom's
Never play poker with a man named Doc
Never buy a car from a man named Frenchy
Never go to war unless the United Nations says to
And I plan to follow the same principles when it comes to Iran. If the United States cannot convince the Security Council to authorize a war with Iran, the US has no right to go on its own -- no matter how much Iran is mouthing off.
I guess I trust the collective judgment of the UN over the warmongering judgment of the Bush administration any day.

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Great line of the day 

A reporter at the UN speaks truth to power. She asks John Bolton why the United States thinks it has any credibility now in promoting war with Iran:
. . . you violated the UN charter when you went to war against Iraq and you constantly lied to us about the reasons we went to war . . . why do you have credibility other than you've got the biggest guns?
Crooks and Liars has the video.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

War protests 

The anti-war movement in the United States and elsewhere has been pretty discouraged lately because protests don't appear to be making any difference to US policies in Iraq.
But protests may still make a difference with Iran.
And anyway, we have to take a stand, whether anybody is listening or not. Imagine how we would feel if we didn't protest and then Bush usee nuclear weapons against Iran, and then he said, well, I did it because nobody was against it!
Overseas, I think governments ARE still listening -- hence the protests in Greece this week when Rice visited:

In fact, I don't think there is anywhere in the world that Rice or anyone from the Bush administration would not be greeted with thousands of protesters.
Here's some AP photos of today's march in New York City, with Cindy Sheehan, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and a cast of thousands:






And at the University of Minnesota on Friday, AP reports that "scores of high school students skipped school to join the college students in the protest as rain fell."


Atrios today highlights an interesting column from a blogger called Belle Waring, who was for the war before she was against it:
Don't you sometimes wonder what I was thinking way back when when I thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq? I sure do. My apologia from September 2004: Why I Was So Totally Wrong About Iraq. I ain't feeling a whole lot righter, I'll tell you that. It still seems to me, even now, that war supporters on the left, even those who now basically agree that the whole thing was a bad idea, still cling to some weird sense of moral superiority [cough, Euston manifesto, cough]. Like, "at least I wasn't some big hippie who didn't seriously grapple with the issues." The thing is, those people, hippies or not, were completely right, and many of them were right because they had seriously considered the issue and decided (correctly, mind you) that it was a bad idea . . . there seems to be some sense floating around the pundit class that those on the left who were wrong about invading Iraq were wrong in an interesting, morally meaningful way; wrong in the manner of a wrong Winston Churchill, or something . . . That's just total bullshit and any of these people who is now going on to advocate war with Iran should be roundly ignored. No, they should be laughed at, and then ignored. And then maybe someone should pistol-whip them a little.
And don't miss the great Comments to Belle's post, which discuss in thoughtful detail what is going on with the anti-war movement now in the US. I was particularly impressed by this comment from a blogger named Nell (who's blog is called A Lovely Promise and its a keeper.) Nell describes his own intense involvement in the anti-war movement. How sad that his principled, thoughtful opposition to the Iraq war wasn't taken seriously in time -- a situation which I sincerely hope will NOT be repeated when it comes to Iran:
I live in a small, conservative, southern college town. We mounted a determined, sizable, and energetic opposition to the war much earlier than most places, and with all the seriousness asked by Bah above.
- collected hundreds of signatures in July and August on a petition to our Congressional rep and Senators that featured pragmatic as well as moral reasons for why not an Iraq war.
- joined 30 other Virginians in meeting with the staffs of our Senators at their Richmond offices in August 2002. Huge collection of serious, factual arguments on why invading Iraq was bad idea.
- locally, had fifty people on sidelines of annual Labor Day parade (a mandatory stop for statewide pols) asking Warner to oppose the war, and thanking him for holding hearings. Hearings which heard from at least one general opposed to war (Hoar) and got ZERO media coverage.
- sent small delegation to Washington in late September to meet with Congressman (he bailed and we met with staff).
- while in DC, joined a larger delegation that met with Sen. Warner's staff. Rather than put his defense/foreign poliy L.A. to work, Warner sent a 22-year-old intern. Who took no notes.
- had letters in the local and regional papers every week during September and October opposing the war, then again after the UN vote consistently mid-November to the eve of the war.
- sent a dozen people to the October DC march against the war, and 70 locals to the January 2003 one.
- helped bring Tony Zinni and Pat Lang to a panel discussion at VMI three days after the fatal Congressional vote in front of 400 cadets and locals in which Zinni blasted the war.
- got on national TV when Good Morning America came to town on Veterans Day; as we constituted half the crowd for the Potemkin-village Veterans Day parade, replete with signs, American flags, sober-minded flyers, and red-white-and-blue balloons reading 'No War on Iraq', they had to interview us.
- held weekly vigils outside the courthouse from mid-January through the invasion.
- got excellent coverage from our local paper for all our public activities, culminating with very sympathetic interviews (balanced with one of a local war supporter) that appeared on the day Baghdad fell.
We made more of a dent locally than the movement did nationally, exactly because we got a much more respectful hearing for our arguments.
But the national media and "respectable" pundits froze out coverage of dissenters (especially ones like Webb and Zinni who could not be dismissed as hippies), mocked opposition, pretended there were no serious arguments being made, and bowed to the powerful CW that this war was just plain going to happen. As did the Democratic leadership in Congress.
No amount or soberness of opposition would have stopped Bush once he had that blank check from Congress . . . If Democrats buy into the lie that there is a military option to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon, then we'll end up having that war. I'll blame you, among others, though of course the fundamental blame is on Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld.
And someone named TK has another great comment in the same thread:
The unacknowledged irony in Belle's spot-on description of the American political climate (even today) is that the so-called "sober realists," who were so much more serious than the hippies, were the ones who engaged in the lion's share of the vituperation. Not to put too fine a point on it, they acted like immature children, while the hippies tried to keep them from possibly running the car of a cliff. Yes, the antiwar people said unkind and cynical things about the people planning the war, and those unkind and cynical things turned out to be, if anything, too kind and trusting.
But I don't think anyone who opposed the war ever impugned the patriotism of fellow Americans who supported the invasion. What we didn't appreciate was being told we were stupid and knee-jerk and terrorist sympathizers and didn't deserve a place in a debate about the single most decision a democracy can make: declaring unprovoked war on another country. What kind of mature democracy thinks that way?
The reason I say "even today" about the political climate is that war supporters still can't wean themselves from these habits of thought. Upthread someone confesses to agreeing with Hitchens about "anti-Americans" like Noam Chomsky. Noam Chomsky, for all his manifest and erfectly human faults, has spent a life writing and giving lectures to thousands about US foreign policy, at little or no profit to himself, and that's not even his day job. You think he does this to turn his native country over to its enemies? So do you think he needs moralistic lectures from a drunken Trotskyite British ex-pat like Christopher Hitchens? Please. Chomsky probably receives more personal vituperation and orchestrated slander than any nonpolitician in American political life, which is a pretty odd effort to go to for someone whose views are supposed so self-evidently crackpot.
Maybe that's because he's actually proven right a good deal of the time? Recall shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan (the "good" war of course, which all decent patriots support) when Chomsky was derided as a nutball by the smart people at the Note and Slate (and Salon) for predicting that the US would commit human rights abuses that would be covered up and if that failed, rationalized by the US media? How crackpot does that sound now?
Here's an idea for the "sober realists": try acting sober and dealing with reality, not some cartoon version you carry around in your head.

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North American Defense Union? 

Hmmm -- why was this done on the QT?
This news story -- Canada recommits to NORAD in quiet ceremony -- says "NORAD has previously only been responsible for guarding North American skies from attack. The new deal also authorizes NORAD to watch out for drug traffickers and human smugglers operating by sea."
So, in effect, do we now have a "defense union" between Canada and the United States, where the US military, instead of the Canadian coast guard, can pick up possible criminals in Canadian waters?
UPDATE: I guess the new agreement isn't actually signed yet -- it still has to be debated in Parliament.

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It's Harper's credit, or blame -- whatever. 

One last item on the softwood deal -- though the Globe and Mail may be trying to give Martin some credit when it notes that the softwood deal was brewing for a year or more, make no mistake that this deal is primarily Harper's baby.
So if it works out, then it is to Harper's credit that he got a deal negotiated which, hopefully, will allow our forest industry to maintain production.
And if the deal doesn't work out, if it turns out that our producers are more damaged by these provisions than they should have been, then it is Harper who must be blamed -- its pretty clear from reading the Globe story that the deal would not have happened without him.
Still, I got sort of a chuckle out of the comment in the story to the effect that Canada and the US had to resolve the lumber dispute so we could get on with building our great relationship in other areas -- and then the very next story is about how the US State department is manufacturing fantasy accusations about Islamic terrorist cells operating due to Canada's "liberal" immigration system.
UPDATE: Over at Galloping Beaver, Dana notes several problems with the deal -- or perhaps we should now be calling it, the "so-called deal".

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Friday, April 28, 2006

The Americans are laughing at us 


So the guy who is executive director of the main anti-Canada lobby group had a good laugh today at Canada's expense, when he said that U.S. lumber producers may use their $1 billion in softwood deal money to sue Canada.
It was a Nelson moment -- ha-ha!
The chair of the group later withdrew these remarks. And somebody else quickly said that the deal will prevent lawsuits.
Yeah, sure it will.
And I think its pretty clear what they really think of us now.

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Guilty, sort of... 

Now I get it -- the wierd Rush Limbaugh Settlement Agreement is designed so that Rush doesn't have to admit he has been "convicted" of a crime. His lawyer says "we believe the outcome for him personally will be much as if he had fought the charge and won" -- except, of course, he didn't.
Excellence in Broadcasting wins again, I guess.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

No joy in Mudville 


Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.


As Harper is discovering, the problem with being kissy-kissy with the Bush administration is that when you make a deal, nobody likes it. Nobody believes you have gone all out to get the best deal possible for Canada; in fact, they suspect you sold Canada down the river.
What is being said about the softwood lumber deal today isn't very pretty:
Shares of Canadian lumber companies dropped Thursday ahead of Mr. Harper's news, as a slew of analysts derided the tentative deal.

First, here's how much the shares dropped:
Shares of Canadian forestry companies dropped in Toronto on Thursday, with International Forest Products Ltd. shares dropping 3.7 per cent to $7.80, Tembec Inc. shedding 9.52 per cent to $1.90, Canfor Corp. stock shedding 2.6 per cent to $14.36, and West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. losing 1.27 per cent to $42.70.
And here's what the "slew of analysts" said:
"The deal is awful. It basically marginalizes the Canadian industry over the next seven years," Richard Kelertas, an analyst at Desjardins Securities, said in an interview. "Even if the Americans make some modifications to this, it is still a trap for the Canadians. The trap is that there is no language to exit, so they will be trapped in this bad deal for seven years." . . . Mr. Kelertas, the Desjardins Securities analyst, said that the original deal flew in the face of the North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization regulations, which state that cross-border deals are illegal. "The danger here is that you set a very dangerous precedent by saying that NAFTA is no good and can be argued by the Americans that it is unconstitutional." Mr. Kelertas lambasted Mr. Harper for agreeing to a deal that is bad for Canada "just to get a nice photo-op" with U.S. President George Bush. "George Bush apparently told Canadian and U.S. officials that if a deal is not done by midnight Thursday, the NAFTA appeal deadline, they don't want to spend any more time on this," he said. "We are talking about the lifeblood of thousands of communities across Canada." . . . The Thursday midnight deadline has been artificially created by the Bush administration, who are trying create a sense of urgency in order for Mr. Harper's government to accept a "shitty" deal, Mr. Kelertas said. If an agreement similar to the one on the table does go through, he added, shareholders of Canadian forestry and paper companies could sue the Canadian federal government for financially crippling them.

BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst Stephen Atkinson said the recouped duty payments are not a "windfall," but rather money that Canadian companies were giving their rivals. "Why would you give 22 per cent to your competition?" he said. "This money belongs to the companies and their shareholders, and the Canadian government is giving it away."

The framework deal negotiated Wednesday is "negative for many of the Canadian producers" said Robert Duncan, an analyst with MGI Securities.

"I didn't talk to anyone who was happy with it," another analyst, who did not want to be named, said of his discussions with lumber executives.
In the blogosphere, Ross at Gazetteer has a number of posts up about this deal and its impact on British Columbia, in particular visualizing Harper waving a newspaper "Peace in our Time".
Over at Galloping Beaver, Dana writes:
. . . This is almost exactly the same deal that Emerson reportedly scuttled during the election campaign. One analyst referred to it as the same pig just with lipstick and a nice dress . . . It undercuts NAFTA, rewards US thuggery with a billion point three dollars from Canadian producers, limits access to US markets, has no exit clause...jaysus wept...it's just a dreadful outcome. If all you were going to do was drop to your knees and pucker Stephen you could have at least waited until the BBQ at George's ranch in Texas.
Scott Tribe over at Progressive Bloggers writes:
. . . Harper has arm-twisted the provinces and producers to accept this sham of a deal. The US gets a 1 billion $ reward for illegally harrassing our lumber producers..we're not allowed more then 34% of the US market.. and this is a victory for Canada according to Harper? And we're locked into this deal for 7 years? The NDP's trade critic has reminded everyone on CTV that the Conservatives had promised to bring international treaties to the H of C for debate and votes. If thats the case, this deal should be voted down.
And BigCityLib notices an "entitled to my entitlements" moment:
In trying to explain where $1,000,000,000 stolen from Canada and redistributed to the American lumber lobby went, Ambassador Michael Wilson said that "A Negotiation is a Negotiation." Can anyone explain what that means?

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So, I guess the US gets what it wants 

But does Canada? I'm not sure. Ontario isn't happy, but neither BC nor Quebec have chimed in yet.
One line in the CTV story about the resolution of the softwood lumber dispute worried me:
The framework would also require both sides . . . to drop lawsuits and place a moratorium on future trade complaints.
Now, this ain't gonna happen. The US lumber industry and the lumber states may say now that they will live with such restrictions, but their promises will last only until the next US election.

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Four toilet seats and six hammers 

Canadian Cynic refers us to Gaanjah Mama's letter to Revenue Canada:
Dear Canada Revenue Agency
Enclosed is my 2005 tax return showing that I owe $3,407.00 in taxes. Please note the attached article from the Globe and Mail, wherein you will see the Feds are paying $171.50 for hammers and The Royal Canadian Air Force has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat. I am enclosing four toilet seats (value $2400) and six hammers (value $1029), bringing my total remitted to $3429.00.Please apply the overpayment of $22.00 to the 'Conservative Election Fund,' as noted on my return. You can do this inexpensively by sending them one 1.5" Phillips head screw (article from the Globe and Mail detailing how CMHC pays $22.00 each for 1.5" Phillips Head screws).
It has been a pleasure to pay my tax bill this year, and I look forward to paying it again next year.
Sincerely, A Satisfied Taxpayer
I think the postage would run about $30, so Canada Post would also be happy with this solution.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Shooting themselves in the foot 

Dana at Galloping Beaver has posted Why I Quit The NDP -- an excellent post which explains a lot of the problems I have seen with Jack Layton's NDP.
I couldn't understand it last fall, why Layton would suddely become so bitterly opposed to Paul Martin's Liberals, especially when they were finally seeing the development of a national NDP-oriented agenda, in particular the national day-care program, the Kelowna accords with Aboriginal people, housing programs, and the Kyoto implementation. Did Jack think Canadians would actually thank him for screwing this up? Harper will abandon all of these initiatives as quickly as he can.
Dana's post explains the NPD's delusions -- they think they can wipe the Liberals off the map and take over as Canada's "progressive" party. Dana writes:
. . . The Harper Conservatives pose significant enough perils to the future well being of this country that foolish hubris and bravado like Pat Martin’s or narrow partisan triangulation like Jack Layton’s have no place . . . Harper hates the press, the eyes and ears of the people . . . Harper is as contemptuous of those who expected he would be a politician to keep his campaign promises as he is of those who did not expect he would. Harper has constructed his centrepiece Accountability Act in order to give himself cover for his Defence Minister, who himself appears to want nothing more than to emulate Donald Rumsfeld. Harper’s centralization of power in his own office is in near diametric opposition to what he has led us to believe his governing style would be. His aping of the tactics of the Bush Republicans are now fully exposed and we can expect more, including the rhetorical contortions and protestations of the Bush-lite Harper fanatics . . .
This is the crowd that . . . the NDP caucus wants to legitimize in order that they can exercise their delusion that they have the electoral clout to remove the Liberals from the board. Jack, I will not participate.
The Liberals disappeared in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan 10 years ago not because of anything the NDP or even the Conservatives did. It was because of the gun registry.
Eastern Canada has never appreciated the depth of western anger over the registry, I don't think. The Liberal vote in the west has not disappeared, but in many previously Liberal western ridings the margins were slim enough to begin with that the anger over the registry waw enough to eliminate Liberal MPs. Without MPs for a decade, the constituency organizations also deteroirate.
But Liberal fortunes will begin to rise again in the West as soon as the Conservatives dump the registry -- provided the new Liberal leader doesn't indicate he would reintroduce it, a safe bet, I think.
The western vote didn't go to the NDP this election, and won't go there in the future either -- even those western voters who support the NDP provincially don't want a Toronto alderman in charge of the Wheat Board.

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Meltdown 

Apparently the Bush administration is getting set to appoint a Fox news reporter, Tony Snow, as press secretary.
Now, never having watched Fox news, I don't know who this fellow is. But I gather I haven't missed much.
ThinkProgress has rounded up all the names that Snow has called George Bush recently, like "An Embarrassment" and "Impotent" and a "dime-store democrat". Media Matters has gathered a lengthy list of his botched news stories. And Firedoglake can hardly wait to start using the term "Snow Job" for everything announced by the White House henceforth.
And the guy hasn't even been appointed yet!
I wonder what it feels like to be eaten alive by the press? I have a feeling that Snow is going to find out.
Help meeee, I'm melting!!!!

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The reasons NOT to attack Iran 

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski tells the United States why they should not attack Iran.
I hope they're listening:
. . . there are four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:
1. In the absence of an imminent threat (with the Iranians at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war. If undertaken without formal Congressional declaration, it would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president. Similarly, if undertaken without the sanction of the UN Security Council . . . it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s).
2. Likely Iranian reactions would significantly compound ongoing U.S. difficulties in Iraq and in Afghanistan [and would likely] cause the United States to become bogged down in regional violence for a decade or more to come. Iran is a country of some 70 million people and a conflict with it would make the misadventure in Iraq look trivial.
3. Oil prices would climb steeply, especially if the Iranians cut their production and seek to disrupt the flow of oil from the nearby Saudi oil fields. The world economy would be severely impacted, with America blamed for it. . . .
4. America would become an even more likely target of terrorism, with much of the world concluding that America's support for Israel is itself a major cause of the rise in terrorism. . . With America increasingly the object of widespread hostility, the era of American preponderance could come to a premature end. . .
The choice is either to be stampeded into a reckless adventure profoundly damaging to long-term U.S. national interests or to become serious about giving negotiations with Iran a genuine chance to be productive . . . American policy should not be swayed by a contrived atmosphere of urgency ominously reminiscent of what preceded the intervention in Iraq.
Emphasis mine. These reasons apply equally well to Canada -- I just hope Harper doesn't think that hiding a few caskets will persuade Canadians to string along with Bush on this one -- actually, NOTHING could convince Canadians to join Bush in attacking Iran.

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Great line of the day 



In his New Yorker riff about Rummy and the generals, Hendrik Hertzberg notes in passing that the United States is looking more and more like a South American banana republic:
In the ongoing South Americanization of political culture north of the border -- a drawn-out historical journey whose markers include fiscal recklessness, an accelerating wealth gap between the rich and the rest, corruption masked by populist rhetoric, a frank official embrace of the techniques of 'dirty war', and ... a judicial autogolpe installing a dynastic presidente -- what has been dubbed the Revolt of the Generals is one of the feebler effusions. But it is striking all the same.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

They think we're stupid, don't they 

Stephen Harper thinks Canadians are stupid.
He thinks if we don't see flag-covered caskets on our news, then Canadian opposition to the war in Afghanistan will not increase.
After all, this "see no evil" policy has worked just soooooo well for Bush, hasn't it? You know who I'm talking about, don't you -- that president who is not supported now by two out of three Americans?
What Harper doesn't seem to realize that if anything will turn Canadians away from Afghanistan, it will be incompetent, uncaring, callous and cynical leadership.
That's what has turned America off Iraq -- "Bush lied and our soldiers died" has been absorbed into America's consciousness now.
Its neocon slander that either Canadians or Americans could be frightened away from a righteous war just because soldiers are dying. But in both countries, we do demand righteousness. In Iraq, Americans have now realized that this was an illegal war started by lies and executed with increasing incompetence. In Afghanistan, both Americans and Canadians still support this war. But Canadians could change our minds if Harper continues to demonstrate such contempt for our mental processes.
Like Bush, Harper is now preventing coverage of returning soldiers' caskets. And like Bush, Harper will not be meeting the coffins either.
Not exactly a profile in compassion, is it?
The Conservatives can prattle all they like about privacy and tradition, but Canadians know the truth. These are NEW measures, not old ones.
Honestly, do they really think we will believe this fairy tale about how the Liberals were violating some revered "tradition" of not lowering flags for war casualties -- when Canada hasn't actually HAD any war casualties for the last 50 years, except the recent ones for whom the Liberals lowered the flag? And preventing coverage of the caskets is an insult to the families of these soldiers, implying that their sacrifice is not worthy of media coverage.
Some Canadians ARE doing the right thing:
. . . Alberta Premier Ralph Klein says flags at the legislature will be lowered to half-mast whenever a soldier from the province is killed. He said Tuesday that this is what most Albertans would want, as an act of respect for fallen soldiers. He said when soldiers, either from his province or stationed in his province, die, flags will be lowered on the day of the funeral.
Canadian flags outside post offices in Edmonton are also at half-mast -- Lieut. Bill Turner was a part-time army reservist who worked in that city as a letter carrier.
"It is important because (Turner) was one of our members," Ramon Antipas, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers local, told The Canadian Press. "He truly believed in the mission. This is in recognition for what he was doing." The mayor of Toronto has also made a decision to lower the flag atop Toronto City Hall, beginning Tuesday, to half-mast in honour of the four Canadian soldiers. One of the soldiers, Cpl. Dinning, was from the Toronto area.
The Prime Minister's Office can't do anything about Ralph or about Toronto, but I would imagine Canada Post will be getting a phone call from some PMO flack issuing orders to get that flag back up -- and I hope someone hangs up on them.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Signs of the apocalypse 

Oh, come on!
This so-called 'news' story -- Researchers Probe Ghost Sightings on Ship - is presently in the Top Stories section of Yahoo News.
Next, I suppose, we'll be hearing about how the Ghostbusters are investigating an apartment building in New York City which they suspect is a portal for Gozer. And then I suppose Allison and Melinda will be dropping by . . .

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Four more dead 

Four Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan from a roadside bomb.
And those charlatans who talk, talk, talk about how much they support our military have decided not to fly the flags at half-mast anymore on Parliament Hill when Canadian soldiers die.
Apparently this gesture of respect for Canada's dead soldiers is not part of our "tradition" -- the Liberals started doing this, you see, so of course it cannot be continued. And it costs a few bucks, too, for the staff to raise and lower the flags.
But I wonder if there is a even sleazier reason, a smarmy, disrespectful "neocon" rationale -- like in the US, where they prevented coverage of returning caskets, are the Conservatives thinking that limiting the acknowledgement of dead Canadian soldiers will stop us from wondering if the mission in Afghanistan is worth it?
DarkSyde at Daily Kos has this to say about the situation in Afghanistan -- The Forgotten:
With the world on our side after the events on September 11, 2001, with the contacts in place we had painfully gained during the Soviet occupation, with brave Americans quitting their jobs and signing up for military service while the Twin Tower wreckage was still smoldering, and because of the hard work and careful preparation of thousands of fighting men and women under several Presidents, we could have given the Afghan people the first decent shot at prosperity they've had in modern times. With the kind of resources we had available, applied under the watchful eye of wise leadership, we could have turned Afghanistan into a shining example and demonstrated to the Islamic world what We the People are really all about. All in a region that has endured brutal poverty and devastating warfare for generations.
Our hard won credibility with the Afghan people was pissed away into a Baghdad cesspool along with lives, limbs, blood, and hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, Afghan opium production is soaring, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zahrawi are making videos threatening more attacks against the US and our allies, the Taliban is growing bolder, and the Afghani people are caught smack dab in the middle of another civil war. And our men and women in harm's way there are quickly being relegated to forgotten warriors. All because of the colossal errors of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld.

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Bush's ghosts 

Digby writes about how the right-wing has gradually jettisoned more and more of the taboos which kept American society civilized:
First, they declare that the taboo against wars of aggression, formed in the blood of more than 70 million dead people in the 20th century's two world wars, is out. Not even a second glance at that taboo. They simply repackage it as "pre-emptive" war . . . Then there's torture. This society used to teach its children that there is no excuse for torture . . . We didn't make exceptions for "except when you suspect the person is a really bad person." We said torture is wrong. Now we have sent a message far and wide that torture is necessary and even good if the person who is committing it is doing it for the right reasons. Those right reasons are usually that we "know" that the victim has information but is refusing to tell us what it is . . . Finally, we seem to have crossed the rubicon with respect to nukes. We are openly discussing using them on television, much as otherwise decent people tossed around the idea of torture after 9/11. . . . just as with torture, once you start talking about how it might be ok in certain circumstances, then you have begun to break down the taboo against it . . . For the sane among us, letting the nuclear genie out of the bottle is simply unthinkable. It's not and never can be "on the table" because once you start talking about it as if it's just another form of warfare somebody is going to do it.
One of the saddest things is watching America slide into a pit of its own making -- sometimes I feel like I'm watching Marley's ghost, whose description of the chain he dragged is surprisingly apt to America's present situation: "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I crafted it of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it."

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Friday, April 21, 2006

They think they have a say 

Yes, you have the right to an opinion.
But you don't have a say in how I run my life.
My sister describes a phenomenon she calls "Jerry Springer Syndrome" -- when we start acting like we're a "studio audience" for other people's lives, and therefore we can pass judgment on other people's lifestyles. We act, she says, like we have a say. But we don't.
Every time she would dial past the Jerry Springer show and other shows of this ilk on TV, she would see the studio audience booing and cheering and yelling and jeering and howling at the poor smuck on stage, writhing in self-inflicted and vainglorious agony.
These shows, she says, promote the idea that everybody in the audience has a say -- the whole format of the show encourages people to think that their opinion about whatever is happening on stage must be continuously, enthusiastically and loudly expressed.
Now that we have pundits on TV all the time opining at the drop of a hat on everything political, social, moral, religious and cultural, we all seem to have adopted the attitude that everyone should be constantly judging everyone else all the time. When it comes to politicians, of course, they're asking for it. And they get it, from pundits and columnists and journalists and talk-show hosts all the time. But, too often these days, everyone else gets it too -- from Michael Shiavo to the runaway bride, from Tom Cruise to Elton John, from Michael Jackson to Queen Elizabeth -- everyone seems to think they have to have a say in how other people are living their lives.
Why not, my sister asks, just leave people alone?
You don't like what someone else is doing with their life? OK, fine -- but just shut up about it. Unless they asked for your opinion, or unless what they are doing directly affects you and yours, well, its none of your business.
Ann Landers used to tell people MYOB -- mind your own business. Maybe that's an acronym we should revive.
I thought of my sister when I read this LA Times story, about a US court ruling that yes, a school can tell a student not to wear a gay-bashing t-shirt. The right-wing student, of course, is all outraged that he cannot inflict his anti-gay opinions on all his fellow students, gay or straight. And he's using his religion as his excuse -- just because his religion supposedly condemns homosexuality, he says, this gives him the right to wear a shirt on Day of Silence which said on the front "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned'' and on the back "Homosexuality Is Shameful''.
Well, no one is saying he cannot HAVE a negative opinion about gay people. But he doesn't have shove his opinion in everyone else's face.
While the issue may seem trivial, the principle is not. The majority opinion from the court noted that students have the right to
"be secure and to be let alone...being secure involves not only the freedom from physical assaults but from psychological attacks that cause young people to question their self-worth and their rightful place in society. The 'right to be let alone' has been recognized by the Supreme Court . . . as the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men"
The dissenting judge seemed to think that the shirt was OK because people didn't come to blows:
There was no evidence that gay students were harmed by derogatory messages of the type conveyed on Harper's T-shirt, Kozinski said. Moreover, Kozinski said there was no indication that a discussion Harper had with other students about the T-shirt "turned violent or disrupted school activities." In fact, Kozinski said, "while words were exchanged, the students managed the situation well and without intervention from the school authorities. No doubt, everyone learned an important civics lesson about dealing with others who hold sharply divergent views."
Obviously, this judge has been seriously afflicted by the Jerry Springer Syndrome -- ' no fight, no foul' was his attitude, and apparently he is either blind to the larger context of gay-bashing in the US, or personally biased against gays himself. The LA Times story describes the overall picture:
Today's ruling comes amid a growing campaign across the country to compel public schools, state universities and private companies to annul policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. Plaintiffs in several lawsuits are seeking to knock out tolerance programs on the grounds that they violate religious beliefs that oppose homosexuality. Legal experts, such as UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, said the issue eventually would reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
I must say, it disgusts me that they are parading around their supposedly-Christian religiousity as a justification for their prejudice. How many gays do they think Jesus would bash?

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Did Harper actually INTEND to disrespect every Aboriginal person in Canada? 

Or will this be merely a happy byproduct of making Maurice Vellacott chair of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee?
As my husband said, that's like putting Ernst Zundel in charge of a Holocaust survivors' tribute.
There is nothing Harper could do which would indicate more clearly to Canadian Aboriginals that the Kelowna accords are dead. Not only that, but the Conservative government considers Aboriginal people to be second-class citizens, whose history is not worthy of respect and whose concerns are not worthy of consideration.
Star Phoenix columnist Randy Burton's provides the background in his article -- Hard to imagine worse choice than Vellacott:
. . . Vellacott's latest contribution to racial harmony is to suggest that the reason two Native men were found frozen to death outside of Saskatoon is because they were in the habit of going to a shack on the outskirts of town to drink.
This is no doubt going to come as news to the police, to Darrell Night and to anyone else in the city with an interest in this topic.
What shack? Where is it? Can Vellacott provide a tour? Or is this merely another figment of the man's crowded imagination?
After all, the debate over whether the police had a habit of dropping Native people outside of town has dominated the discussion about policing in Saskatoon for years.
It was the core of the case against former Saskatoon police officers Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson, who were convicted of unlawful confinement for dumping Night out of their car on a freezing cold winter night back in 2000.
Vellacott has never accepted that verdict and last year even asked the provincial Justice Department to reopen the case, based on the claim that Night asked to be dropped off.
This line of defence was rejected in the original court case, but Vellacott later claimed to have "new evidence" in the form of a relative of Night's that Vellacott said was living in a Fairhaven apartment complex at the time.
Even if this was true, it does nothing to explain why Night would be left some 2 1/2 kilometres from where he asked to be dropped off.
In any event, the RCMP investigated Vellacott's claim and rejected it. After a review of the relative's rental receipts and the business records of the landlord, police found no evidence the relative had ever lived there. In response, Vellacott said the RCMP "weren't diligent" and "have not done their job."
Now more than a year later, Vellacott has another dead horse to flog. This time, he has a new theory of how Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner died. In an interview with the Globe and Mail this week, Vellacott suggested they must have been drinking in a shack just outside of town and then froze to death when they tried to stumble back home.
For this to be true, Wegner had to have walked five kilometres out of town without shoes or a jacket in order to do some drinking in Vellacott's shack. Of course, he would also have had to be carrying a case of beer or a bottle of whisky. The same applies to Rodney Naistus, who was last seen on a downtown street in front of Winston's pub.
That had to be some nice shack to attract people to walk out to it in the dead of winter. Or if they drove, there would have been some sign of traffic left behind, tire tracks in the fields, cigarette butts, something.
However, throughout the subsequent police investigation and two coroner's inquests, not once did anyone ever report finding any sign of a party shack anywhere on the outskirts of town.
Where Vellacott gets his information I will have to leave for him to explain. His office informs me he is far too busy on his Easter break from Parliament to return phone calls. The reason this issue has arisen is because Vellacott took it upon himself to issue a press release earlier this week saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper is about to name him chair of the aboriginal affairs committee.
Why the prime minister would want to do that is a mystery almost as deep as Vellacott's shack . . .
The CBC reports on the reaction of Aboriginal leaders:
. . . Vellacott wasn't speaking with reporters Tuesday, but some aboriginal leaders were expressing their concerns. "We wonder what kind of message this government, this new government is sending to us having seen the history of the person that's been nominated," said Alphonse Bird, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. "Mr. Vellacott has been very outspoken but not necessarily in favour of aboriginal issues," said Métis National Council president Clem Chartier.
When questioned by reporters Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not specifically discuss the Vellacott nomination, but he defended his right to hand pick MPs to chair Commons committees. Harper said he doesn't want Conservatives fighting amongst themselves.
Yes, its just so much better that his Conservative MPs should fight with the Canadians whose interests they are supposed to be representing, I guess.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Great line of the day 

From Taylor Marsh at Firedoglake:
There are two signs that a Republican is in trouble. One is they start talking about Bill Clinton. The other is they book an interview on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.
I guess Rumsfeld was on Limbaugh yesterday. Maybe he picked up a Gitmo Staff t-shirt?

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I hate this man 

Nothing personal, but this Idaho man eats 6,500 calories a day -- he has a little trouble gaining weight, you see.
I, on the other hand, do not.
There ain't no justice . . .

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Son of Chretien 

Amazing, isn't it?
Now that Harper is Prime Minister, he's finding that the rigid, controlling, autocratic way Chretien did things just makes so much more sense than the messy, controversial, democratic way Paul Martin did them -- like for the Prime Minister to appoint the committee chairs again.
Jean will be so proud . . .

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Stuff 

Looking for some good stuff?
Don't miss Canadian Cynic's "kittens 'n guns" visuals -- baby kittens are so cute!
Ross blogs a great description of how Neil Young's newest protest song was recorded.
. . . when the lyrics we were supposed to sing flashed on the giant screen, a roar went up from the choir. . . . The session was like being at a 12-hour peace rally. . .
Digby refers us to Lance Mannion's take on the David Brooks' NYT column about rape and the Duke team. Mannion also quotes Amanda Marcott's "Shorter David Brooks", which has in a few brief days become a net classic:
"In exchange for shutting up and giving up this silly fight for sexual and racial equality, we white men promise that we won't rape. As much. Well, it won't get into the news, that's for damn sure."
Here's Tom Englehardt's History Ambushes the Bush Administration: In the Rubble, a companion to his earlier post The Hyperpower Hype and Where It Took Us: Exporting Ruins -- both are well worth your reading effort.
And here FYI is one of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich's cartoons (from October):

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Rogue cop 

Canada's own Ian Welsh writes great sense at Firedoglake.
. . . I have to tell you, that from a foreigner's point of view. . . you are a rogue nation. You invade people based on lies. You have no credibility on Iran. You are the boy who cried Wolf. You don't obey the Geneva conventions. You have secret prisons. You torture people, including the citizens of your allies. You have abolished habeas corpus for classes of people. You kidnap foreigners and secretly ship them off to be tortured. . . . There are only two nations in the world who constantly talk about how they're willing to nuke people without even being attacked first: The North Koreans - and the UNITED STATES.
You gave up the ability to stop countries like Iran from getting nukes when you invaded a country like Iraq which had no nukes and no real possibility of getting them. That was your wad, and you blew it. You chose to be weak. At this point, for you to stop Iran would involve you in a war you cannot win -- or at least no victory worth having. You can't occupy Iran, so are you going to really glass Tehran or the entire country? Do you know what the world reaction would be? Do you know what would happen to the dollar? Are you out of your minds?
Why is this even being discussed? And why is it that I can't simply dismiss it as diplomatic posturing? When did the US step through the looking glass? When did insanity become reasonable?
Exactly.
I keep hearing American talking head pundits discuss war with Iran as though it was some kind of obligation -- like, America is the global cop, the global superpower telling other countries what to do, its some kind of divine right or mandate or something.
I want to say this to these talking heads -- America used to have four things: a magnificent Constitution, the sympathy of the world following 9/11, a large economy, and a large military budget. All that is left is a large American economy -- as long as oil is still purchased in American dollars and China is still purchasing debt -- and all that military spending.
But America has no monopoly on morality. Not any more. And no more right to tell everyone else how to live than Brazil does -- in fact, at least Brazil still knows how to have fun.

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Great line of the day 

Digby:
I find it simply mind-boggling that after the unbelievable intelligence manipulation and incompetence that led us into the Iraq anyone in this country is willing to trust George W. Bush to launch another "pre-emptive" war. What exactly would he have to do to make the beltway courtiers question his good intentions? Get a blow job?

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Signs of the apocalypse 

It has struck me lately that components of our "western culture" here in North America are turning back in on themselves.
No wonder the rest of the world thinks we're nuts.
So, I've decided to document this in an occasional feature I intend to call "Signs of the apocalypse".
And I'm NOT even going to use any C&W lyrics to make my point -- that would be just too easy.
So here's the first one -- I realize that western civilization may be doomed when I see photos like this --

-- showing a diver in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo hiding eggs for an underwater Easter egg hunt.
I think its the bunny ears that did it for me . . .

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OK 

Sorry for the lack of posts -- everything is OK but my daughter is here visiting for the weekend so main minutes and spare minutes have been spent visiting -- also, for the first time yesterday since my accident, my knee was strong enough that I actually went shopping in three different stores! And I bought some clothes!
Amazing how your frame of reference changes after a period of being physically exhausted by walking a few steps.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Great line of the day 

Tim over at POGGE describes the ridiculous spectacle of our Prime Minister manufacturing needless disputes with the Ottawa Press Gallery.
Doesn't he have better things to do, like running the country maybe?
Anyway, Tim writes:
However his supporters try to spin this, the public is seeing the image of a prime minister trying to control the press, or trying to pick friendly reporters instead of those who might ask uncomfortable questions. It's absurd, and Harper appears a little bit smaller every time he tries to assert his 'executive privilege' or whatever the hell it is he's asserting . . . why is it no one that he trusts is explaining to him that he is engaging in a popularity contest he simply cannot win? Journalists may not be held in as high public regard as, say, teachers, but they certainly rank much higher on the credibility scale than politicians.
Emphasis mine.

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16 days? 

Yeah, sure, Iran can produce enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb in 16 days -- provided those days are February 1 to February 17, 2016.
Maybe.
IF they can somehow get 54,000 centrifuges. Right now, they have 180.
Oh, and they also have to figure out how to do it.
So as Steve Gilliard notes, the scare headlines about Iran having the nuclear bomb are utter bullshit.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fear and loathing 

The blogosphere is unleashing its best fear and loathing on the prospect of the US starting an unprovoked, aggressive nuclear war against Iran.
First, for some perspective on Iran's actual political situation and actual uranium enrichment capabilities, see these two short articles:
Ian Welsh's The Three Principles of Iranian Foreign Affairs
[1]Iran wants its neighbours to not be a threat . . . [2] Iran needs a deterrent against the US and other great powers . . . [and 3] The Mullahs intend to stay in charge . . . Really, almost everything else is a corollary of these three rules . . .
And Juan Cole's "Iran can now make glowing Mickey Mouse watches" :
. . . all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade." The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb . . . The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran. Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base . . . If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames.
Now for some perspectives on the impact such a war would have on the world and on the United States itself:
Billmon worries about the muted media reaction to a US nuclear first strike:
. . . to the extent there is a rational excuse for treating a nuclear strike on Iran as the journalistic equivalent of a seasonal story about people washing their cars, it must be the cynical conviction that the Cheneyites aren’t serious . . . the rest of us have learned that when Dick Cheney starts muttering about precious bodily fluids, you'd better pay attention. . . . Maybe the idea of the United States would launch a nuclear first strike – albeit a "surgical" one – is too hard for most Americans, including most American journalists, to process . . . the current nuclear war gaming strikes me as much more likely to end in the real thing – partly because the neocons appear to have convinced themselves a "tactical" strike doesn't really count, partly because of what Hersh politely refers to as Bush's "messianic vision" (Cheney may have his finger on the bureaucracy, but Shrub is still the one with his finger on the button) but mostly because I think these guys really think they can get away with it . . .
Tristero at Hullabaloo punctures the myth of the so-called "tactical" nuke:
It really doesn't take much effort to make a tactical nuclear device.
1. Take one nuclear weapon with the destructive power of as many Hiroshima bombs as you like.
2. Add the word "tactical" to the description.
Voila! You now have a tactical nuclear weapon that magically always hits its target and only kills evil people, leaving all the good people alive and perfectly healthy.
Josh Marshall :
President Bush's dimwit megalomania seems to have survived the disaster of his Iraq adventure wholly intact . . . They appear to have learned almost nothing from the last three years in Iraq. The only sensible expenditure of energy is to find ways to hem these guys in or constrain them before they do even more damage to this country.
Pachacutec at Firedoglake:
Nuking Iran will not just incite the Middle East against us for the rest of our lifetimes. The whole world will turn against us. China. Everyone. World War III. Terrorism will continue its post 2001 increase. Oil will go to $200 per barrel, destroying our economy. Many of us will starve as food grows scarce. Most of us - the educated and the unskilled alike - will lose our jobs. Foreign nations will sell U. S. dollars and invest in Euros. We will lose international trade, and our national debt holders will band together to neutralize us. Nuking Iran would quite simply be the end of America . . . the current Bush policy is not contemplated in self defense. Iran is ten years away from the ability to develop weapons grade uranium. It possesses no nukes today. This is a situation fundamentally unlike any we faced during the cold war with the USSR. All Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, should stand shoulder to shoulder to demand that plans for preemptive nuclear strikes against Iran be scrapped . . . Iran is willing to engage in direct negotiations with the U. S. Our allies lack the leverage to induce concessions without our participation in direct talks. And yet, we refuse to talk to Iran. What is the point of threatening use of force when we offer Iran no alternative course of action, other than confrontation? Bush and Cheney are playing suicide pact politics in a gutless, insane attempt to save their plummeting poll numbers among some members of the Republican base going into the November elections. They want to look strong because they are weak: that makes them dangerous. They love their power more than they love America. . . . There is no reason to believe Bush is bluffing, since he has offered no negotiated way back from confrontation to Iran’s leaders (who frankly also face weakness at home and are at least in part colluding in this suicide pact for internal political gain). Bush is too filled with grandiose messianic delusion to engage in sane "strategery."
Arthur Silber :
If we can repeatedly engage in aggressive, non-defensive war -- and if we can use nuclear weapons offensively -- other countries will make the same arguments. Self-justification is not our exclusive domain. We may want to believe that we can control events across the world: the last few years have demonstrated conclusively that we cannot control events even within Iraq. But if we continue to seek to control events on a worldwide scale in the manner we do today, we will achieve one end at some point: destruction of a kind that will make the twentieth century pale in comparison . . . The possible end of civilization as all of us have known it, either in slow motion or on a faster schedule, is almost impossible to comprehend. It is the material of science fiction, not of real life. But whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, this is the nature of where we are today, and this is the critical historic juncture at which we stand . . . The world as we have known it may well be swept away in time, just as all the great civilizations of the past have been
We should also remember this:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
and this:

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Monday, April 10, 2006

I think the Bush administration approved the Plame leak 

The new official story doesn't make any sense.
The story is now that the Bush administration wanted to refute Joe Wilson by leaking to Judy Miller that the National Intelligence Estimate supported the uranium-from-Niger claim
But this claim had already been discredited before the "leak" occurred.
Here is the timeline:

July 6, 2003 - The New York Times publishes Joe Wilson's Op-Ed "What I Didn't Find in Africa"
July 7 - The White House retracts the Niger allegation, which was its first admission of a flaw in the case for war
July 8 - Scooter Libby meets with New York Times reporter Judith Miller over a two-hour breakfast and supposedly leaks the NIE story
July 11 - George Tenet issues a statement taking the heat for the 16 words, that they should not have been included in the SOTU.
July 13 - Novak's column "Mission to Niger" published: Plame outed to public.
July 18 - A declassified version of the NIE is released. (Newsweek)


So the seeking-uranium-in-Niger story was already toast by the time Libby and Miller met.
Now, perhaps Cheney is so far around the bend that he thought the NIE could still be waved around like a magic wand to convince a doubting nation that war was justified after all.
But for stone-age white guys like Bush and Cheney and Rove and Libby -- and for Novak and Woodward too -- its much more likely that they would think the Plame revelation was a great, juicy smear.
A long-haired, limp-wristed liberal, whose brassy-blond spy wife gets rid of him by sending him on junkets -- wow, they would think, what a wimp...
So I think THIS is the leak Libby was told to spill.
It must have surprised them that Miller didn't care what Valerie Plame did for a living-- nor did Walter Pincus or Matthew Cooper. They were actually more concerned about the war, amazingly, and so none of them wrote a story about Plame.
But good ole boy Bob Novak went along with the pussywhipped spin, and so did Woodward.

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Oh, for crying out loud 

For crying out loud, will we ever stop with the tests and the trials and the reviews and the hearings? Here's the latest-- Ontario coroner has no luck with DNA tests on exhumed body of Lynne Harper
Enough, already.
Steven Truscott was found guilty of murder 47 years ago. For 40 years, ever since The Trial of Steven Truscott was published in 1966, Canada has known that he is innocent.
It is time to exonerate him.

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Anti-immigrant claptrap 

When we lived in BC 20 years ago, we used to hear a certain amount of anti-immigrant claptrap -- from people whose great-grandparents were, of course, immigrants but who now considered themselves "Canadians" and who now deeply resented all those new people, usually brown-skinned of course, who had the effrontery to use Canadian social services from time to time.
With all the marches going on in the United States now, I'm hearing more anti-immigrant claptrap again in the blogosphere.
So here is an interesting post -- More Stupidity in my In-box -- which rebuts very effectively some of the most ridiculous clap-trap stuff -- worth reading because it applies to Canadian attitudes too.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

We'll meet again... 

I was going to title this quote a Great Line of the Day, but its a little more serious than that. AMERICAblog writes: "We cannot afford having George Bush think that America is in the business of launching pre-emptive nuclear wars."
This is in relation to Seymour Hersh's article The Iran Plans. AMERICAblog's line reminded me of George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove -- Gentlemen, we cannot afford a mine-shaft gap! But the Hersch article reminds me even more of the last scene in Dr. Strangelove -- Slim Pickin's Texan pilot Major T.J. "King" Kong, riding his bomb down to oblivion, yahooing all the way:

Followed by Vera Lynn singing the war torch song:
We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through, just like you always do,
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

Its a chilling article, describing how the Bush administration is talking itself into going to war, then talking itself into using nuclear weapons -- all with the purpose of preventing Iran from building its own nuclear weapons, which the US cannot even prove Iran is trying to do anyway.
The US intention, apparently, is to bomb the shit out of Iran so that local rebels will be able to take over the government thereby changing Iran's leadership to one that will listen to the United States and won't want to build nuclear weapons anymore.
Yeah, that's what I thought, too.
Here's what Hersh says about how the US is justifying nukes:

. . . at least four hundred targets would have to be hit . . . Some of the facilities may be too difficult to target even with penetrating weapons . . . One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites . . . the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete . . . The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. "Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap," the former senior intelligence official said. " 'Decisive' is the key word of the Air Force's planning. It's a tough decision. But we made it in Japan." He went on, "Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout -- we're talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don't have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out -- remove the nuclear option -- they're shouted down." The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran --without success, the former intelligence official said. "The White House said, 'Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.' " . . . “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.” The adviser added, however, that the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “They’re telling the Pentagon that we can build the B61 with more blast and less radiation,” he said. The chairman of the Defense Science Board is William Schneider, Jr., an Under-Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration. In January, 2001, as President Bush prepared to take office, Schneider served on an ad-hoc panel on nuclear forces sponsored by the National Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. The panel’s report recommended treating tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the U.S. arsenal and noted their suitability “for those occasions when the certain and prompt destruction of high priority targets is essential and beyond the promise of conventional weapons.” Several signers of the report are now prominent members of the Bush Administration, including Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
How pathetic yet how frightening -- "It's a tough decision but we made it in Japan"?
Yeah, Truman used nuclear bombs to stop an unprovoked war of agression against the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, China, and Malaysia, that had already gone on for four years, had killed hundreds of thousands of people and promised to kill hundreds of thousands more -- and even then, the justification for using nuclear weapons has barely passed the world's muster.
So now Bush thinks he wants to go down in history as the first president to authorize using nuclear bombs again -- this time not to end a war but to start one, against a country which hasn't attacked any of its neighbours and doesn't offer any imminent or proveable threat to the United States?
People, that is simply crazy -- the leadership of the United States is suffering from a pathological disorder, grandiose narcissism?

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Found at last 


I love stories like this one, about Sam who was finally rescued after two years living by his wits. In his case, he had been neglected as a pup, and had only been with his new owners three weeks when he got loose. Luckily, he stayed in the area so his owners kept hearing about him. But he was spooked, so they had a hard time recapturing him.
Lost dogs spook easily and it doesn't take long for even a dog raised in a loving home to "go wild" -- I think it is some kind of primitive survival instinct.
Our dog, Mars, got away from a vet's office once and wandered the streets near the riverbank for several hours before we could find her. As we were driving back and forth, I spotted her just lying down on the grassy section of a boulevard. Driving up, I got out and opened the passenger door and called her to come -- she got up and just looked at me for a few seconds, sort of confused, like "do I know you?" before she finally responded to the "going for a ride" cues and jumped into the car. Then suddenly she DID know me and was wiggling all over with excitement and joy. We were a very relieved family that day, let me tell youl.
One of the greatest stories I ever heard was a friend of my sister, whose little Sheltie dog got away in Waskisiu provincial park. She spent weeks driving back and forth every weekend, putting up posters and looking for the dog. Finally, five weeks later and some 30 miles away from where the dog had been lost, she got a phone call from a cafe in a lakeside resort area where they had seen the dog scounging their garbage.
With her other two dogs, she drove up and started walking around the wood trails near the cafe, calling for her dog. At last she spotted her lost one in the bushes. Careful not to shout or leap or startle the dog, she just called the dog softly. He didn't run but he wouldn't come to her. So -- and I don't know how she managed to do this so calmly -- she just kept on walking. Finally, she turned around to find all three dogs walking with her, and she got all of them back to the car. Her lost sheltie was malnourished and took several weeks to fully recover but, amazingly, had nothing wlse wrong with him. She was convinced it was the other two dogs, as much as herself, who helped bring her dog home again. But I credit her devotion and persistence -- she wouldn't give up and she blanketed the area with her fliers -- the person who called her about the dog was the teenage son of the cafe owner, who had happened to see a flier with the dog's photo on it and finally convinced his parents that their stray was that particular dog.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

So who will be voting for this? 

Now we hear that one of the aspects of the Conservatives trumpted "accountability" act is to impose a whole new set of accounting requirements on Aboriginal reserves -- thus pandering to the right-wing mantra cum Conservative wedge issue which claims that poor people, particularly darker-coloured poor people, are always trying to rip us all off.
Are the Conservatives also demanding similar levels of accounting detail for all of the municipal highway projects they fund each year? How about all of the business development grants they make? And the job-creation funding for companies? And the health-care transfers to provinces? Is the Auditor-General planning to expand her staff to hundreds of people, to look into all those federal transfers? Or are Aboriginal reserves going to be singled out?
I just hope the NDP, Liberals and Bloc will be asking questions like this before they give a knee-jerk vote in favour of "accountability" -- because who would want to be against it? -- without realizing they are actually voting for a divisive - maybe even racist - policy.
I say racist because so many reserves are already struggling to stretch their very limited, non-indexed federal dollars for education and housing. Now they'll have to spend even more on hiring more accountants, just to prove that they aren't spending anything wrong.
And don't tell me that these additional federal audits are needed to catch illegal embezzlement -- police and RCMP are already catching these offenders. Some cases of fraud don't justify implicitly tarring every reserve with the "fraud and mismanagement" brush, any more than every city mayor should be blamed whenever one or two mayors put their relatives on the payroll.

I searched the web for some photos of Aboriginal reserves, just to demonstrate that these are not people living in the lap of luxury. Here's a CTV photo of the Kashechewan reserve, which was under a boil-water advisory for two years -- TWO YEARS -- because their sewage treatment plant wasn't working and they couldn't get the money to fix it.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

How about a nice little recession this spring? 

In Comments, Scott notes that what many of us have had so far from the Conservatives is actually a tax increase. No GST cut yet -- apparently its not happening until the April or May budget or even later, into July.
Personally, of course, I'm going to try like hell to avoid buying anything major until the GST is reduced -- no new car, no new flooring if we can possibly delay.
I'm no economist, but it occurs to me that if everyone else in the country does likewise -- and apparently I'm not alone -- then in no time at all Canada will have a nice little recession underway plus maybe a few business bankruptcies.
Great stuff, Stevie.

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Harper has opened the first envelope 

A new manager takes over and finds on his desk three sealed envelopes marked One, Two and Three, with a note from the previous manager advising him to open them in order when he doesn't know what else to do.
So he settles in OK but finally the honeymoon is over and he starts having some problems, so he opens the first envelope.
"Blame your predecessor" it says.
So he does that and this works for a while. But then things start to go downhill again, so he opens the second envelope.
This one advises "Reorganize".
Ok, that works just great and everyone seems happier for a while, but then he starts having problems again and he's at his wits end how to solve them. So finally, he opens the third envelope.
It says "Prepare three envelopes."

Today Harper spend Question Period blaming the Liberals for every problem he was asked about -- obviously he has already had to open the first envelope.

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Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out 

Tom Delay's last words, referring to Hillary Clinton:
Nothing worse than a woman know-it-all.
Takes one to know one, you jerk.
Let's just remember, too, that neither Hillary nor Cynthia McKinney nor any of those other know-it-all women have had to resign in disgrace.
Memories of Charlotte Whitton, first woman mayor of Ottawa:
Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yes, it happens just about every day 

From Digby (of course, who just won a Koufax for his writing):
...I guess that whole 'Delay Rule' thing was secret Democratic plot to take over the minds of Republicans and make them act like asses. (A common leftist tactic.)

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There but for the grace of God 

As a parent, when I read a story like this one, I just cannot help but finger my own metaphorical rosary beads of the times when my own children could have been grievously hurt, but by grace or fate or chance, were not.
Here are some of the beads I count every now and then:
I tripped over her walker when I was carrying my baby girl into the kitchen and somehow I twisted in mid-air as I fell so that when I hit the floor she was on top of me instead of underneath.

I poured a cup of coffee, then left it to answer the phone and turned back just in time to see my toddler daughter had grabbed the coffee cup and was holding it over her head and I leaped and pushed the cup forward and spilled the steaming coffee over the floor.

Our children were playing in the next yard and somehow the dog got out of the front door and the neighbour who saw it all said that the car that hit our dog came this close to hitting our 5-year-old son instead.
I hope little Brandon continues to recover.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Learning to shut up 

The Ahenakew hate-crime conviction appeal was heard today. Ahenakew's lawyer argued that he shouldn't have been convicted because he hadn't intended to promote hate. But as the Crown pointed out "No one forced him to argue in support of his views, he did that by himself. You're not excused because you are answering questions by a reporter or anyone else." The news story also goes on to note that that "Ahenakew ... would not speak to reporters." Well, that's a relief. The world has heard quite enough from him already.

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Ring around the rosie 

Pocket full of posie
Husha
Husha
Delay fall down

He must be guilty as sin. By next week, all the Republicans in Washington will be saying "Tom who? Nope, sorry -- never met the fellow." Thus joining Jack Abramhoff as the Republicans Nobody Knew.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

The bestest photo ever 

Havril at [insert something clever] titles this post of Bush with Harper We'll always have Cancun.
I found it referenced at Canadian Cynic:

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God of War 


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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Great line of the day 

From Michael Berube, International Professor of Danger:
If you want to make wingnuts' heads explode this week, just propose an illegal immigrant amnesty program in which immigrants become naturalized citizens if they agree to take jobs away from liberal professors.
Emphasis his!

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I'll drink to that 

So I guess the original researchers were three sheets to the wind when they concluded that drinking prevents heart disease.
Darn.

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Overstaying your welcome 

So Ralph is shocked! SHOCKED! that almost half of his party wants him to leave now.
But after all, Ralph, its been 14 years. Not surprising that people don't want to make it 15 -- party leadership is not an endurance contest.
When you start throwing books at 17-year-old girls, maybe its time to say buh-bye.
There's a little ditty which Paul Martin remembered clearly -- and it would behoove other party leaders to remember as well -- the one that goes like this: "Got along without you before I met you; Gonna get along without you now."

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