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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

That was then, this is now 

As someone who lived through the Vietnam War, it struck me as ironic to read Juan Cole's report that Vietnam has won a contract to supply rice to Iraq.
And in 2035, I guess, my children will be amused to see reports of Iraq having a US contract to supply gasoline to the US army fighting in China. . .

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This makes me sick 

I should have realized:
Canadian troops in Afghanistan have been told the Geneva Conventions and Canadian regulations regarding the rights of prisoners of war don't apply to Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters captured on the battlefield. That decision strips detainees of key rights and protections under the rules of war, including the right to be released at the end of the conflict and not to be held criminally liable for lawful combat.
Ah, yes, what was it we are over there fighting for? Something about democracy, truth, justice and the American way? And we'll get right on that, I'm sure, just as soon as it is convenient, and doesn't impose any annoying regulations or ask us to consider any moral quandries or anything aggravating like that . . .

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Facts about Afghanistan 

Coming from an agricultural province, it sort of helps put Afghanistan into perspective to find out that it has 200,000 hectares devoted to poppy production -- on a Canadian scale, that's about a third of the land planted to crops in British Columbia -- and that almost 90 per cent of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan's fields -- and of course one can only speculate on the percentage of Canadian pot production which comes from BC!
Anyway, over at Informed Comment, Juan Cole posts about the Kabul riot today which killed 14 people. In his post, he also provides some facts about Afghanistan that should be more widely known than they are:
. . . The US military presence in Afghanistan has quietly been pumped up from 19,000 to 23,000 troops . . . Over 400 Afghans have been killed by US bombing and military actions in only the past two weeks. While most of these are Pushtun nativist guerrillas (coded by the US as "Taliban"), some have demonstrably been innocent civilians . . . the Pushtun guerrillas have been waging a very effective terror campaign in the countryside around Qandahar, and have launched a fierce series of spring offensives . . . While most anti-US actions in Afghanistan come from the Pushtun ethnic group, these Kabul protests, which paralyzed the capital and resulted in the imposition of a curfew, heavily involved Tajiks. Kabul is a largely Tajik city, and the Tajiks mostly hated the Taliban with a passion, and many high officials in the Karzai government have been Tajik. So they haven't been as upset with the US invasion and presence as have been many Pushtuns, especially those Pushtuns who either supported the Taliban or just can't abide foreign troops in their country . . . Significant numbers of Tajiks are clearly now turning against the US, and that is a very bad sign indeed . . . Pushtuns are 42 % of the population and Tajiks 27 %. Pushtuns have usually supplied the top rulers . . .
Despite Bush administration pledges to reconstruct the country, only six percent of Afghans have access to electricity. Less than 20 percent have access to clean water. Although the gross domestic product has grown by 80 percent since the nadir of 2001, and may be $7 billion next year, most of that increase comes from the drug trade or from foreign assistance . . . About half the economy of Afghanistan is generated by the poppy crop, which becomes opium and then heroin in Europe. Afghanistan produces 87 percent of the world's opium and heroin, and no other country comes close in its dedication of agricultural land to drug production (over 200,000 hectares).
The government lives on international welfare. Some 92 percent of Afghan government expenditures come from foreign assistance. The Afghan government is worse at collecting taxes than fourth world countries in subsaharan Africa. Unemployment remains at 35 percent. Unemployment is estimated to have been 25 percent in the US during the Great Depression.
The great danger is renewed Muslim radicalism and the reemergence of al-Qaeda, combined with a narco-terrorism that could make Colombia's FARC look like minor players.
Cole also notes that US media don't want to talk about how NATO troops are being killed and injured in Afghanistan, including of course Canadian troops but also troops from France -- and it is odd to me how France is still targeted by US commentators and comedians as a nation of cheese-eating surrender monkeys while their soldiers are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, as are ours.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

They're here, they're there, they're everywhere, so beware! 

So let me see if I have got this right:
CSIS says we have to be afraid, be very afraid, of any young brown Muslim-type people living next door because they might be 'Home-grown terrorists'.
. . . young Canadians from immigrant backgrounds are becoming radicalized through the internet and are looking for targets at home, not abroad. "They are virtually indistinguishable from other youth. They blend in very well to our society, they speak our language and they appear to be — to all intents and purposes — well-assimilated," [CSIS deputy director of operations Jack Hooper] said [to a Senate defense committee]. "[They] look to Canada to execute their targeting."
And your evidence for this is . . .?
The men responsible for the 2005 transit bombings in London were from immigrant families, said Hooper. "I can tell you that all of the circumstances that led to the London transit bombings, to take one example, are resident here now in Canada," he said. Training camps in Afghanistan produce terrorists, said Hooper, including a Canadian resident who played a key role in an earlier attack. "The individual who trained the bombers in the August 1998 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi was a former resident of Vancouver who fought in Afghanistan," he said.
Oooohhh, "the circumstances" are "resident" here, just like in London. Well, what can we do about this terrible situation? Build a case and arrest someone, maybe?
Hooper, who complained about cuts in funding, says it is difficult to properly screen immigrant applicants. Of the roughly 20,000 from the Pakistani-Afghanistan region, Hooper said CSIS could only vet about "one-tenth."
Oh. So, I guess the solution is that CSIS needs more money to screen immigration applications. Well, nice to have that problem solved, isn't it?

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Doing the right thing 

Funny what a difference an apology can make. I had liked Westjet a lot and was disappointed to realize that Air Canada was righteous in accusing them of spying. Now, finally, WestJet has admitted it and has apologized.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Great line of the day 

A simple one, from AMERICAblog:
Pope asks why God let Holocaust happen.
Get a mirror.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Expertiness 

First, there was truthiness, for when you feel something to be true even if the actual facts show you are wrong.
Now I think we have also identified "expertiness", for someone who feels himself to be an expert even if he doesn't actually know anything about the subject.
The Editors nails Slate writer Gregg Easterbrook for trumpeting his own "expertiness" on global warming when he is not a scientist himself nor apparently is he even capable of reporting accurately on the content of technical reports.
Expertiness personified.

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Inquiring minds want to know 

Forget global warming, forget energy policy, forget fighting AIDS in Africa.
The American national media certainly can't be expected to understand all this boring policy stuff.
And forget watching the Hayden confirmation hearings on Air Force One if we haven't seen the newest version of King Kong yet. The American media certainly shouldn't have to pay attention during their working day to all this boring news stuff.
And forget the failures in Iraq and the Marine war crimes and Guantanamo and ethnic cleansing of the Iraqi people. The American media certainly cannot construct a narrative out of all this stuff that keeps America looking good to itself.
So lets focus instead on the really important questions:
Did Al Gore spend a whole summer in France when he was 15 or was it just six weeks in the middle of a summer? Or was it when he was 16, really?
Doesn't Jimmy Carter deserve to be censured as the worst president ever?
Did Hillary have to adjust her hair tint to wear that lemon-yellow pantsuit?
And how often do Bill and Hillary get it on, anyway?
Howard Dean says to Chris Matthews:
I think gossip and silliness like that, in the long run, do not overcome the fact that somebody‘s got to do something about gas prices, that we‘ve sent a ton of jobs to China, that we have a budget that‘s so far out of balance that our kids are in debt—those are the issues that matter, not salacious gossip. And I don‘t care who writes it.
But what does he know anyway about the important stuff . . .

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Four year terms? 

Harper is now proposing fixed dates for elections.
Interesting idea, I think. Harper says:
"Fixed election dates prevent governments from calling snap elections for short-term political advantage. Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar. They level the playing field for all parties. The rules are clear for everybody."
Yes, I can see the advantages, I think.
However, the disadvantages also occur to me, too when we look south of the border -- lame-duck, do-nothing administrations for the last 12 or more months of the four-year terms.
Perhaps being able to go to the polls earlier would resolve this -- though if going earlier is an option then I don't understand what difference is Harper actually proposing to the system we now have, where majority governments seldom go to the polls earlier than four years anyway.
So I will be looking foward to reading various opinions about this on both the progressive and conservative blogs.

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"I'm sorry, the military has made a mistake" 


One of the funnier scenes in Fawlty Towers is when Basil has to apologize to some guests about a ghastly error he made which was entirely his fault, and he walks toward their room saying to himself over and over "I'm sorry I made a mistake, I'm sorry I made a mistake" and then he flings open the guestroom door and says, "I'm sorry, my wife has made a mistake".
Now Stephen Harper is using it too -- "I'm sorry, the military has made a mistake!"
What a coward -- he couldn't simply apologize to Tim Goddard, saying "I'm sorry, my government's policy was wrong."
No, not Harper. It's always someone else's fault. As described in the Globe, Harper is now saying that the press could have been at Trenton after all when Nichola Goddard's body arrived:
“I had given fairly clear instructions that, when bodies were to come home, families were to be consulted, and if all families were agreed on making that particular ceremony public, that our government should have no difficulty with that. I'm not sure what happened in this case . . . I'll look into it and find out if the family's wishes were different to what was done and why that was the case and we'll correct it in the future."
Yeah, yeah, its all the military's fault -- they obviously took it upon themselves not to follow your "fairly clear" instuctions.
As the Globe article implicitly points out, his statement is a lie -- the actual military policy had been to consult the families, and it was Harper who changed this policy:
Long-standing Canadian military policy has been to consult with families to determine whether they want the media on the tarmac at CFB Trenton when coffins are removed from the planes bringing them home. The overwhelming majority have agreed.
That changed this winter after the Conservatives took office. Reporters were told they were no longer welcome and defence staff said the decision came from the government.
Harper is the guy who thinks he supports the troops -- but he doesn't hestitate to point his finger at them when it is actually his own government that was to blame for the policy.
The opposition has noticed:
“I'm actually struck by Mr. Harper's ability to manufacture facts,” Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh said yesterday, shortly before the media ban was overturned. “He manufactured the consultation of the families in this case.” NDP defence critic Dawn Black also attacked the government on the contradiction. “You wonder who is telling the truth in this,” she said.
The military has likely noticed too, but they won't be able to say anything.

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Great line of the day 

Wolcott is back!
For a few days there, his blog wouldn't load for me -- just a blank screen -- but now I can read him again. So glad -- here's a recent one that's priceless.
In It's Only a Movie, Ingrid, Wolcott talks about the big ball of tangled wingnut string called The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Against Patriotism, Tradition, Religion and The American Way, which now apparently includess Tom Hanks and everyone else in Hollywood:
. . . Hanks' credits also include producing and directing Band of Brothers, an HBO series of unimpeachable heroism and patriotism;--hardly products of cultural subversion. Co-exec producer of Band of Brothers was Steven Spielberg, and just as his star-spangled work was heaved overboard by neocons and cultural conservatives after he offended their hawkish sensibilities with Munich, Hanks too is now being tarred as a cultural malefactor for his participation in The Da Vinci Code. Give it up, guys. You're never going to sour America on Tom Hanks; you're never, in short, going to be able to Swift Boat him.
If this is what Kurtz and his kind are like with The Da Vinci Code, I don't want to be around to hear the caterwauling that may occur should Oliver Stone's World Trade Center become a hit. It'll be like karoke night among the coyotes.
Emphasis mine.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Fort Apache, Baghdad 



Americablog has a new commentator, AJ, who is a former DoD intelligence officer -- his first post is titled Iraq: Bush's plan for victory is really a plan for politics and it confirms what I had thought was happening with US troops in Iraq -- they're sounding retreat and pulling back to their super-"forts", leaving the Iraqi people to fight among themselves or starve or whatever.
Despite incessant rhetoric about the "Plan for Victory," and indefensible claims of improvement from his administration, Bush is quietly pursuing a "Plan for Politics" in Iraq by slowly but surely moving troops out of populated areas and into so-called superbases. These few huge bases, virtual mini-cities with tens of thousands of troops, are in isolated areas, meaning the troops have little ability (or responsibility) to affect daily life in Iraq.
This strategy clearly shows that the Administration has given up on true counter-insurgency tactics, which necessitate working with and among the people, and instead defaulted to focusing on preventing full-scale civil war and total governmental collapse. From the superbases, troops can deploy to stop major conflict, perform targeted strikes, and make large shows of force when necessary, but cannot regularly engage the population.
The mainstream media is not very good at explaining military strategy, and the shift to superbases was mostly covered as evidence that the U.S. isn't leaving anytime soon. While that is true, the shift is also a tacit admission from the Pentagon, if not Bush himself, that our objective has devolved from establishing a functional civil society to preventing large-scale sectarian battles in the streets. There are plenty of possible reasons for this -- the most likely, I think, being that the Pentagon realizes our nation-building efforts have failed and further needless casualties should be avoided, something the "shrill" among us have been saying for a while -- but the result will be more anarchy. Imagine, for example, if every police department in America decided they would only leave the station if there was a full-on gang war in the streets. Originally, American troops in Iraq were like the police, but now they’re more similar to our domestic National Guard units: primarily for emergency use. Nobody, however, is replacing the law enforcement mission.
This means that while civil society breaks down (crippled infrastructure, no electricity, oil production below pre-war levels, etc.), the overarching U.S. strategy is to avoid the kind of big eruptions that get media attention . . . in other words, trying to create an Iraq that American voters will ignore.
The shift may or may not be good strategy, but it would be nice if the Commander in Chief owned up to such a significant change so it could be recognized and evaluated. Assuming, of course, that he's even aware of it.
But they're not going to surrender, oh no, not at all. Sid Bluemthal updates us on where Bush is coming from these days:
Bush continues to declare as his goal . . . the victory that the U.S. military has given up on. And he continues to wave the banner of a military solution against "the enemy," although this "enemy" consists of a Sunni insurgency whose leadership must eventually be conciliated and brought into a federal Iraqi government and of which the criminal Abu Musab al-Zarqawi faction and foreign fighters are a small part.
Bush's belief in a military solution, moreover, renders moot progress on a political solution, which is the only potentially practical approach. His war on the Sunnis simply agitates the process of civil war. The entire burden of progress falls on the U.S. ambassador, whose inherent situation as representative of the occupying power inside the country limits his ability to engage in the international diplomacy that might make his efforts to bring factions together possible. Khalilzad's tentative outreach to Iran, in any case, was shut down by Washington. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for her part, finds herself in Bulgaria, instead of conducting shuttle diplomacy in Amman, Jordan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Ankara, Turkey; and Tehran. The diplomatic vacuum intensifies the power vacuum in Iraq, exciting Bush's flights of magical thinking about victory: I speak, therefore it is.
Bush doesn't know that he can't achieve victory. He doesn't know that seeking victory worsens his prospects. He doesn't know that the U.S. military has abandoned victory in the field, though it has been reporting that to him for years. But the president has no rhetoric beyond "victory."
And now I am wondering about the apparent disconnect between where the White House thinks this war is going, and where the Pentagon is actually taking it.
Does the same disconnect exist with Afghanistan? Does it put our Canadian troops at risk?

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Sorry about that, chief! 

The Galloping Beaver provides a post about the Bush-Blair press conference yesterday titled "Bush apology-NOT".
Very true -- it was one of those "I'm sorry you were offended...." pseudo-apologies -- in other words, the problem wasn't what I said but rather how poorly you all took it, its really the world's fault, not mine, they just don't understand straight Texas talk, blah, blah.
At times, watching the press conference, I wondered what war they were talking about -- the real one, killing thousands of innocent civilians and sending thousands more to refugee camps to escape sectarian violence, while shell-shocked soldiers flood into Baghdad ER. Or the mythical war of liberation which both Bush and Blair seem to think is going on, where metaphoric roses are being tossed at clean-limbed, resolute Tommys and Yanks as they stride manfully toward a magical hall of governance, carrying on their shoulders a purple-fingered batch of grateful Iraqi government ministers. . .
And most unreal was Bush's comment about how a reporter had "dissed" both him and Blair, apparently by asking questions in an insufficiently-deferential tone of voice.
Dave writes:
It was supposed to be a public act of penitence from two leaders who have grown wise with age and experience . . . What it was, in fact, was two long spent politicians trying to maintain an air of authority neither one can claim to possess beyond the official job description of their respective appointments. It was an attempt to provide a public mea culpa while veiling the fact that these two megalomaniacs are personally responsible for one of the worst imperial expeditionary clusterfucks since the 1838 British adventure in Afghanistan and the US war in Vietnam . . .
What Blair didn't say is that both he and Bush rejected any suggestion that the vision they had created for themselves was not realistic. They dismissed anyone who did not accede to their predetermined version of events. In the recesses of their brains, their egos led the decision-making process. Any advice that suggested an invasion of Iraq would be followed with a continuing storm of bombs and bullets was replaced by their own mystical image of Iraqis tossing flowers and candy.
These two so-called world leaders having reached the nadir of their political influence are reaching out with inane apologies for inane acts. There is no substance to it. They are still trying to hide from the truth and hide the truth.
Inasmuch as both of these individuals suggest that history will judge them, Bush will easily be remembered as one of the most incompetent leaders of his time, on the scale of Phokas. Blair will melt into obscurity; yet another British leader who, in an attempt to regain the prestige of empire, failed. . . . There was no act of contrition. It was disingenuous theater worth less than the value of the paper from which the scripted words were read.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars raises doubt about both the spontaneity and sincerity of the big apology scene. Right after the "me so sorry" moment at the press conference, Bush gave a big grin and wink to the reporters in the front row -- or maybe he was just smiling through his tears.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

White equals right 

Steve Gilliard highlighted this Daily Kos diary Getting on the wrong side of white privilege and I think white people in Canada should read it too.
. . . while racism between minorities is real and harmful, it's racism by white people that really counts. This is the racism that's actually enforced by the larger society-- the sentiment that can actually carry seriously negative consequences for you. But people don't see that. So allow me to provide an example.
This evening, my girlfriend and I enlisted two friends to help her move into a new place on the city's far north side [in Chicago]. The neighborhood she's moving into was historically very diverse, but has lately become something of a mecca for wealthy white gentrifiers attracted by the relatively low housing prices. My girlfriend and one of the friends involved are of Irish descent. My other friend is Mexican-American. We're moving using an old pickup truck loaned to her by her family, that happens to have a ton of Irish symbols and bumper-stickers on it.
So we've just begun to unload the truck when a white man in a luxury sedan comes into the alley. He immediately pulls up alongside my Mexican friend and I and begins accusing us of waking him up last night, making too much noise, yelling, etc... Needless to say, this isn't true. As we protest, he starts making up things about how he'd seen us, and "our" truck. Consider the racial frames in play here. Clearly the vehicle covered with pro-Irish paraphernalia couldn't belong to the pale-skinned redheads standing next to us. The people he "knew" were making noise and being "uncivilized" were the two minorities in the situation. So I'm rolling my eyes and trying to placate this idiot, but my friend is more willing to express his annoyance and says, "Sir, I don't like your tone." To which the man responds, "Ok, I'm calling the cops."
And there it is, the moment that's been played out millions of times in the history of this country. The few seconds in which a misunderstanding turns into something bigger, with potentially huge consequences for the people involved. Granted, in this case the worst that could happen was probably just annoyance for us, but think about this in a historical perspective. An Indian brave mouths off to a white soldier. A young black man makes a sarcastic comment around a white cop. A Mexican kid in a border state says something in Spanish in the wrong tone around an Anglo. It's a few seconds in which a frustrated white person stops trying to interact with individuals and lashes out against a race just because he can. How dare we, these mud people sitting in an alley, dare to question his authority? The police will know what to do with us. And, frankly, given the class and race of the accuser vs. the accused, it's likely that he would have gotten a result he liked -- a fine, poor treatment, etc. Like I said, something small, but a victory nonetheless . . . Luckily, cooler heads (meaning me) prevailed in this situation. I talked to the guy and got him to leave us alone, leaving him to roll his eyes and drive off to his oversized reserved parking space. But being able to talk the idiot down doesn't mean you don't feel that stab of anger. It doesn't mean you're automatically able to get over the fact that the man just reduced you to nothing but the few micrometers of skin cells covering your body. And after you feel that, it's hard not to react with some racial bias of your own. I for one will feel a lot less secure around the new wealthy white population of that neighborhood from now on.
I've been thinking about this stuff a lot lately, so it's curious that such a crystallizing moment occurred. For South Asians (and Arabs) in this country, the reality of white privilege is something that's gone from hidden to open over the last few years. Every few months you hear about a person accused of terrorism or openly insulted because of some totally innocent cultural norm. He wears a turban, she wears a hijab, they're talking in Arabic, they're reading a "scary" book. I myself have been accused of seriously terrible things, solely as a function of purely physical or cultural things. I'm talking in a non-English language. I didn't shave b/c it's a Saturday and I don't have to. I'm reading a book about the Middle East. When someone's accusing you in a situation like that, it's hard to communicate just how much terror there is beneath it. There is virtually nothing I could do to my accuser, but in an era where American citizens are held indefinitely without charges, where having brown skin means you're not a "real American" and the Constitution doesn't apply, where people have been jailed and tortured just for looking like I do, there's a whole lot he could do to me.
Once again, the idiot in the alley today could muster a nuisance at best. But the underlying feeling-- that he holds all the cards and you hold none, simply because of who you are-- is a symptom of that larger issue. So for those who are curious, that's what white privilege feels like.

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Canada's Touchy Turtle 


It doesn't take very long in public life for a politician's "brand" to be established, however unfair it may be.
A few incidents and stories, and soon both reporters and the general public have created a shorthand description which gives us a quick way to frame the latest move.
Martin was a ditherer, Chretien was the little guy, Mulroney was a braggart, Joe Clark was well-meaning but clumsy, Trudeau was clever but mean, and so on back.
Harper is rapidly getting branded as a petulant paranoid -- Canada's Touchy Turtle.
Our story so far: on Tuesday, some press gallery reporters apparently exited a Harper news conference because he wasn't going to answer any of their questions.
Now Harper has had a further "L'Etat-C'est-Moi" Moment and decided that he just won't talk to national reporters anymore; instead he will talk to what the CP reporter writing the story described as "less hostile local media".
Does Harper really think that the people who work for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and CKOM Radio are just a bunch of ignorant rubes who couldn't possibly come up with any difficult or embarassing questions for the Prime Minister like "Do you have any idea what you are doing?"
The Toronto Star says that Harper's relationship with the media "began deteriorating just weeks after the prime minister took office" and now it is "so poor that his spokespeople have asked registered lobbyists to act as intermediaries in dealing with reporters."
This is pretty strange, isn't it?

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Great line of the day 



Digby writes about Uncivil Liberties -- how the right-wing scream machine says those college students were just so awful to boo the speech by war hero McCain, while it was perfectly OK for Republican students to boo an anti-war speech by a Democratic politician:
The right has been thuggish and uncivil for decades. And they are very good at smirking faux outrage at the other side doing anything comparable. They call for the smelling salts with such over-the-top fluttering of delicate little hands and eyelashes that you have to laugh. Elephants in a tutu. It's a parody. This is one case where I think we just have to play the game they've set out. I'll match my outrage to their outrage any day.
Emphasis mine. They can dish it out but they can't take it.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Great line of the day 

Here's another great post from Stirling Newberry over at The Blogging of the President. This time he is writing about what he calls The Trillion Dollar Men:
Lieberman and McCain are both in a very select club . . . Men whose bad judgement has cost more than a trillion dollars each - and on more than one occasion. McCain was personally involved in the S&L meltdown . . . Lieberman isn't just an Iraq booster, but the architect of the Department of Homeland Security . . . This puts them in the range of blunderers of epic proportions, and yet each is so unshakeably convinced of his own infallibility, that a pontiff would blush at it . . . Let us face the economic reality - the war in Iraq has squandered the last years of the baby boom. We are now going to face a period of hammering retirees and their expectations to pay for the trillion dollar trash heap that is Bush's version of Baghdad. The money that could have been spent dealing with real and pressing issues, was spent chasing phantasm and fantasy. We not only didn't find WMD in Iraq, but we didn't find cheap oil there either. The first was a foregone conclusion, the second is an act of incompetence so staggering that it requires a particular genius.
These two trillion dollar men both have delusions of presidency - and McCain, ensconced as he is in a bell jar of his own superiority - has a very good chance of getting there. He is perfect for being a Hoover of this age - a man who will drive the engine over the cliff. And Lieberman, should be be elected, would make the perfect Vice-President for him.
Emphasis mine.

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Phone hell 

There's a company called Gethuman.com which is developing a new database to help us speak to an actual human being when we phone a company which which we want to do business.
Give them a medal, somebody, please.
The phone answer system which is now at the top of my own shitlist is Aeroplan's new "voice response" system -- which they seem to be just sooooo pleased to announce.
But it can barely understand Canadian English clearly spoken on a good line -- God knows what someone with an accent or on a scratchy cell line encounters when they try to use this disaster. And after a decade spent learning how to punch numbers into phones, I am not allowed to use any number bypass -- it's speak or nothing!
I just hate calling Aeroplan.
Next on my personal list are all the phone systems which tell me in smooth, duclet tones "Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line...." to which I always snarl "If my call was so goddamn important to you, you'd ANSWER IT!"
Gethuman has some advice for navigating automated phone systems to reach a person:
-Interrupt: Press 0, 0#, #0, 0* or *0 repeatedly, sometimes quickly. Some systems connect to humans after invalid entries. Others will disconnect.
-Talk: Say 'get human,' 'agent' or 'representative.' You can also try mumbling incoherently. The computer might connect you out of confusion.
-Hold: Say nothing and pretend you have an old rotary phone.
-Jump queue: Ask for account collections or sales, which are usually answered quickly. Then ask to be transferred to the department you need. Sometimes this works, but occasionally a call is put at end of queue.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Friends forever 

Speaking of Worse-Than-Hitler title holders, before Ahmadinejad and Hussein, there was Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Read this great post at Liberal Oasis, called The Qaddafi Card which describes how theWorse-Than-Hitler leader has been rehabilitated. Bill Sher concludes:
. . . Qaddafi is no longer officially sponsoring terror in the eyes of Bush's State Department. Never mind that he was accused a few years ago of trying to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince. Or that he still runs the sort of oppressive dictatorship Bush himself says fosters terrorism.
As long as Bush can trot him out to justify the war, or to make himself seem pragmatic and flexible while continually snubbing Iran, and as long as Qaddafi keeps pumping oil and providing intel, he’s now our boy.

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Certificate of Hitlertude 


The other day I made a comment on a blog somewhere to the effect that the president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now been declared the world's newest "Worse-than-Hitler" leader (the previous title-holder, Saddam Hussein, having retired. But I digress).
Now I am pleased to announce that, at last and not a moment too soon, a grateful world can take a Professional Approach to the Worse-Than-Hitler competition.
Commenter Alison on Canadian Cynic refers us to Creekside which takes us to Uncyclopedia's Certificate of Hitlertude -- the definitive solution for all those occasions when we want to compare some political or social leader to Hitler.
The World Institute of Hiterology will also provide the subject's Hitler Quotient:
At 91-100%, the thing you said is indeed deemed to be Just What Hitler Would Have Said. You lose your argument. Try again. Examples: 'I think that invading Poland would be just tops!', 'Let's slaughter as many Jews as possible!'
At 71-90%, you have said something similar to what Hitler would have said, but not quite as bad. You will probably lose your argument, but you are entitled to do so in bad grace. Example: 'Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein careful series of governmental checks and balances!'
At 51-70%, you have said something that Hitler might have said, but so would most other people. Examples: 'Is it just me, or could the French do with a solid kicking?', 'My moustache really itches!'
At 26-50% is the smartass band; things that Hitler would have said, but which are so banal as to make the comparison worthless. Examples: 'Good morning,' 'I don't think much of Communism,' or 'Where did I leave the keys to my Mercedes?'
At 25% or less are remarks that the experts agree that Hitler almost certainly never would have made. Examples: 'Give peace a chance,' 'All you need is love,' or 'Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai elohaynu Adonai echad!'
You can also get a Certificate of Communism at this site, but as the institute itself notes, "since the collapse of the Soviet Union, only Cubans, Koreans and Americans actually still give a rat's arse about Communism..."

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Iraq update 

So how are things going in Iraq these days?
Well, let's check Juan Cole.
Oh, good, a new government at last!
Oh, bad, look who it is:
The ironies here are manifold. Iraq has had to wait over 5 months after the December 15 elections for a government finally to be formed. The US intervened with local Iraqi parties to overturn the democratic vote of the United Iraqi Alliance for Ibrahim Jaafari.
It got instead [Nuri al-Maliki] a long-time member of the Damascus politburo of the then-radical Islamic Dawa Party, which helped form Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Double bad, that's not all:
. . . under US viceroy Paul Bremer, the US tried to establish "red lines" stipulating that no "Islamist" should fill posts like minister of education or minister of culture. This, Bremer says, was to protect the rights of the "secular" Iraqi "majority." . . . now the Bush administration extolls the turn-over of Higher Education to a Sunni fundamentalist from the equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the turn-over of Culture and of Education (i.e. K-12) to Shiite fundamentalists. Iraq now has a coalition government dominated by parties with names such as the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Islamic Dawa Party, the Bloc of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and the Iraqi Islamic Party (begun as a branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood). Bremer's "red lines" are long gone, pushed over the cliff by US policies along with the phantom "secular" majority. No wonder neighbors like Egypt are alarmed and fit to be tied.
Triple bad:
Nuri al-Maliki . . . has not presented ministers for any of the key three cabinet posts having to do with national security. Wouldn't you think that addressing national security might be the first priority? He has given us a minister of Tourism but not a Minister of Defense or a Minister of the Interior?
Finally, some good news:
. . . the incomplete character of the new government probably doesn't matter that much. The Sunni Arab guerrilla movement will only redouble its efforts to overthrow this new government. And, there is no evidence that the troops and security forces of the new government can effectively curb the guerrillas, even if they had new leadership.
So it doesn't matter that the new Iraq government is incompetent, because they're irrelevant anyway.
Great.
Cole also describes the current state of the Iraq civil wars -- two civil wars and two guerrilla wars:
There are now four distinct wars going on in Iraq simultaneously
1) The Sunni Arab guerrilla war to expel US troops from the Sunni heartland
2) The militant Shiite guerrilla war to expel the British from the south
3) The Sunni-Shiite civil war
4) The Kurdish war against Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk province, and the Arab and Turkmen guerrilla struggle against the encroaching Peshmerga (the Kurdish militia).
Moreover, all of these wars involve strongly entrenched militias, which both keep some order and also substantially disrupt it.
These wars are not going to be over for a long, long time.

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Road to Iran 


"We're off on the road to Tehran
Hang on till the end of the line . . .
We may run into villains but we're not afraid to roam
Because we read the story and we end up safe at home"
(with apologies to Hope and Crosby)

Dave at The Galloping Beaver writes an excellent, thought-provoking post about Harper's incompetence in foreign affairs.
And now I'm convinced Harper will gleefully, casually, and thoughtlessly commit us to fighting with the Americans in Iran, if George calls and asks.
Here's Dave's analysis of Harper's latest gaffe, his media reaction to National Post's now discredited "yellow armband" story:
Harper, with no substantive evidence of the report's accuracy made a combative comment about the regime of a country he knows little about and then compared them to Nazi Germany. And then he kept it up by providing a statement that was in lock-step with the position of George W. Bush.
It was the performance of a rank amateur. A man who was unable to hold back when given the opportunity to present his "tough guy" theatrics in the presence of a visiting Australian prime minister John Howard. This is not new. This is the real Stephen Harper.
Howard, on the other hand, peppered his response to the story with "if that is true" and "I hadn't previously heard of that" -- after several years of American disinformation campaigns, it appears that Howard now is at least a little suspicious of "wipe Israel off the map" psyops stories like this.
Harper, evidently, is not.
Dave then recalls how Harper embarassed Canada with his 2003 Wall Street Journal letter criticizing Chretien for not joining Bush's "coalition" in Iraq:
Harper's letter to the WSJ underscored a point. Harper was a shallow thinker, was possessed of an extremely short temper and held Parliament, of which he was a member, in contempt while openly admiring the administration of the US president. It demonstrated another point: a letter published in a US newspaper for a US audience, literally condemning the people of Canada was utterly petulant - a temper tantrum from a spoiled brat who didn't get his way.
Finally, Dave explains what both incidents illustrate about Harper:
So, Harper's recent display of short-thought, long-mouth over Iran, where he would undoubtedly have suffered at least a small amount of embarrassment for inappropriate language is nothing new. Harper is no statesman. He is a diplomatic dilettante . . . What Harper has proven is that he's no leader. Anyone gullible enough to swallow raw BS, whether from a Conrad Black journal or George Bush's falsified intelligence doesn't have what it takes to run a dog pound, much less a country. And the 'tough guy' act won't go as far as he thinks.
When Bush is trying to assemble his new "coalition of the gullible" to declare unprovoked, unjustified, illegal war against Iran, I have no doubt now that Stephen will be first in line. And Canadian soldiers will not "end up safe at home" as a result.

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Who-Likes-Who 

When we said in the 60s that the personal is political, we had it backwards. American reporters now think that everything is actually just personal, and it all comes down to who-likes-who.
Easier, really, to consider politics as just a soap opera, where who-likes-who is the only thing that is important -- saves all that effort and engagement and eye-strain reading that boring policy and research stuff.
The American media are commenting on Stephen Harper's inclination not to attend the annual Press Gallery dinner. NewsBusters commentator Matthew Sheffield says maybe its OK to blow off the dinner because Bush's experience proves that "making nice with journalists who despise you, your party, and your policies, doesn't do much good." And CBS's Public Eye Brian Montopoli says "If Harper . . . wants to skip serious engagement with the press – and that starts to be seen as a successful model here – that's another story entirely."
Hmmpff!
"Doesn't do much good"? "Starts to be seen as a successful model"?
Whaa?
For five years, we have witnessed a Bambi-eyed Make/ Announce/ Type lovefest between the cowardly White House Press corps and good-ole-boy brush-whacker George.
And as a result we've seen reporters give the Bush White House a free pass on everything from having a male prostitute lobbing softball questions in their very own press room, to assembling a fradulent case for a war which has killed and injured more than 20,000 Americans, to allowing a Religious Right takeover of social and healty policies, to bribery and corruption at all levels of the Pentagon, Congress and the White House staff, to illegal monitoring of millions of phone calls -- and they still talk about how Bush hasn't had good press coverage?
Gag me with a spoon!
American reporters like George Bush -- he's a very charming fellow, apparently; as Chris Matthews memorably put it, "everybody sort of likes the president except for the real whack-jobs on the left" -- and so they gave him a free pass over his policies.
Of course, in the end, likeability has nothing to do with either policy or competence. The American people always knew this. Now that more than seven out of ten Americans have realized what a lousy job Bush and his boys are actually doing, the reporters are thinking its mean to poor George to mention it.
So Stephen, stay away from the dinner if you want -- who cares? Not the Canadian public, certainly, and I hope not the Canadian media either. They can bill it as An Evening Without Stephen and sell lots of tickets.
Or maybe they can get Stephen Cobert to come instead.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Great line of the day 

The Editors agree with me about the true purpose of the NSA phonegate program:
. . . the question becomes: why was none of this done? . . . why wouldn’t you be interested, just on general principles, in trying to protect the privacy of Americans who you have absolutely no reason to suspect are involved in terrorism? Even if you didn’t have to, why wouldn’t you try to work with the Congress and the courts, just to ensure that everything could be carried out smoothly? In order to make some legal/philosophical point about the Unitary Executive? Because you forgot? Because you didn’t have the time?
Bullshit. The lack of oversight and the lack of privacy protection is not a bug; it’s a feature. This program was not intended to catch terrorists - it was intended to give the White House access, invisibly, to information about private citizens which it wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to have. (We’ve seen the tip of this iceberg already.) The goals of this program are political. There’s just no other plausible reason to conduct the program this way.
Emphasis mine.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia" 

I was googling the phrase "Never get involved in a land war in Asia", which I heard for the first time tonight watching The Princess Bride . . . a better movie than I had thought it would be, but I digress.
So anyway, I was looking up this phrase . . . which maybe originated in this movie because I couldn't find an older reference, but I digress . . . and I came across this funny commencement address at a blog called The Morning News. Some excerpts:
Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll spare me a minute, I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice for today’s graduates.
Ask not, ever. Some people will say your college years are the best of your life—ignore them.
I find that, sometimes, when your miss your bus, you can run really fast and catch up to it at the next stop!
Also: Write more letters, especially if you’re in jail. Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation.
And for God’s sake don’t stomp on flaming paper bags.
If you’re bi-curious, experiment now; that window is about to close.
Spit only in the bathroom sink . . .
Don’t make generalizations—they will be wrong more often than not . . .
Fear God. And never get involved in a land war in Asia . . .
It’s important to hope, but vodka does not remove bloodstains from white linen . . .
And not everyone needs a blog—I’m just saying . . .
If you’re going to binge drink, wear practical shoes.
It’s better to throw up when you’re still drunk than to wait until the following afternoon.
And never let your passport expire . . .
And if you don’t know the difference between Philips head and flat head screwdrivers, learn; it will impress the plumbers . . .
And never eat at any restaurant that offers free balloons. Seriously.

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Sniper 

I don't know very much about how the Canadian military or armies or snipers work (except, of course, for enjoying Bob the Nailer tales), so I found this to be a fascinating post by Dave over at Galloping Beaver: Failure of command. Prosecute the corporal. I guess just as companies sometimes don't deserve their own best employees, militaries sometimes don't deserve their own best soldiers.

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Great lines of the day 

Republican Senator Pat Roberts made an amazing statement yesterday "I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead."
John at Americablog summarizes the basic cowardice in such a statement:
. . . Patrick Henry once said: 'Give me liberty or give me death.' Pat Roberts said yesterday: Take my liberty and spare me death. You see, among the far-right wingers now running the Republican party, the concept of actually fighting FOR your freedoms, of actually DYING in the DEFENSE of those freedoms, is nuts . . . They don't understand our freedoms, let alone appreciate what it means to be willing to give your life to protect and preserve them. They have no concept that some things really ARE worth dying for. And that's a very scary thing indeed. . .
Emphasis mine.
And Matthew Yglesias at Talking Points Memo writes about how insulting Robert's statement is to Americans:
First off is the sheer cowardice of it. Sure, liberal democracy is nice, but not if someone might get hurt....Second is just this dogmatic post-9/ll insistence on acting as if human history began suddenly in 1997 or something. The United States was able to face down such threats as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany without indefinite detentions, widespread use of torture as an interrogative technique, or an all-pervasive surveillance. But a smallish group of terrorists who can't even surface publicaly abroad for fear they'll be swiftly killed by the mightiest military on earth? Time to break out the document shredder and do away with that pesky constitution. Last, there's the unargued assumption that civil rights and the rule of law are some kind of near-intolerable impediment to national security . . .
Emphasis mine, again.
What is wrong with these people? Don't they realize what they're giving up? They have forgotten these words supposedly said by Benjamin Franklin two centuries ago"Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither".

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Doug Flutie 

TBogg writes a great post about the retirement of Doug Flutie -- who he actually met, sort of.
I guess Flutie did some great things playing college football in the states, of course, but Canadians revere him as one of the greatest quarterbacks we ever had -- three Grey Cups.

1996 Grey Cup game against Hamilton

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"We breathe it out" 

In reply to Al Gore's new film, some oil-funded outfit calling itself the Competitive Enterprise Institute has produced two of the stupidest commercials ever made.
Just go take a look -- you'll think they are SNL parody ads, but they're not. Their message is that carbon dioxide just can't be bad for us because "we breathe it out."
Oh, yes..."out" is, of course, the operative word here.
They just don't get it, do they?
Media Matters writes :
It’s comforting to know that this is the best global warming rejectionists can come up with. There are plenty of things that are healthy and essential in reasonable quantities but harmful in extremely large quantities. (For example, drinking a few glasses of water is beneficial. Drinking 10 gallons of water can kill you.)
Media Matters also points out that the p. r. flacks who wrote the second commercial don't even understand the meaning of the glacier research they are quoting.

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Yeah, sure 

There's this naive assumption, even in Left Blogistan, that the NSA's phone monitoring program is hunting terrorists.
If the truth ever comes out, I think we will find that the program actually is tracking all the Enemies of the Bush State -- journalists, talk show hosts, media executives, Quakers, peace activists, progressives, liberals, Hollywood movie stars, members of NARAL, gay rights organizations, environmentalists, Democratic politicians and Al Gore.
Today Josh Marshall and Digby both reference a Baltimore Sun story about how NSA had a computer program which would have gathered communications data legally. It would have encrypted the phone numbers and ensured that only those records which demonstrated a potential terrorist threat were ever decrypted.
This program was junked, the article says, due to "bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's survelliance powers."
Oh, sure -- not because such a program would also have stopped the Bush administration from tracking phone calls to the New York Times and John Murtha . . .

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Canadian Way 

Harper put on a huff about losing the vote to nominate one of his Alberta cronies as patronage appointments czar.
I think this is just an excuse to dump the czar idea and keep the patronage power in the Prime Minister's office where it belongs.
What's the good of having a bunch of patronage positions to hand out if you cannot reward your friends and fundraisers? These are the people who agree with your point of view. They like you. They will do things your way. And they will donate money to your next campaign if they are made to feel like part of the team.
And if you go too far and get too blatant about it and appoint too many cronies and incompetents, then Canadians will know who to blame and they'll throw you out of office (cough, Liberals, cough).
That's the Canadian way.
And really, I think its just as well that government appointments are not being given over to Gwyn Morgan in particular, a man with a great resume but with some pretty racist and moralistic attitudes. Harper may have the same attitudes, I guess, but at least if Harper's office makes the patronage appointments then everyone will know who is responsible.
That's why we call it Responsible Government.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

International Pickle Day 

According to the radio this morning, today is International Pickle Day.
Have a crunchie one, everybody!
And I found this website to help us all keep track. May 16 is also:
Wear Purple For Peace Day
Biographers Day
National Bike to Work Day (Third Tuesday in May)
Root Beer Birthday
Spaghetti-Os Birthday
Spam Birthday
US Nickel Minted In 1866

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Monday, May 15, 2006

How low can they go? 

So Emerson says the softwook deal critics are just expecting too much. Well, I ask -- how low should our expectations be of the Harper government?

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War with Mexico? 

Atrios describes the Mexican-American War of 2006:
. . . I know what they're thinking at the White House. We can have a lovely little 'fake war' at the border, one with all the cool uniforms, hummers, helicopters, etc... A war which is entirely safe. A war where there isn't really an enemy. And the president can safely visit that war, prance around in his codpiece, yell things out a bullhorn while sitting astride a massive hummer. Ridiculous, but that's probably the plan.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

My carnation is white 


The white carnation is worn on Mothers Day when your mother has died.
My mother died 29 years ago, and I still find it hard to believe she is gone -- to this day, I find myself talking to her and asking her for advice.
Several years ago, the comic strip For Better or For Worse had a series about Ellie's mother dying. One strip showed Ellie and her mother talking in the hospital, and Ellie asked her mother to watch over her children from heaven.
That's what I would have wanted to ask my Mom to do.
But then, I didn't really need to ask, because I know she would do it anyway.
I know it's sort of sentimental, but here's a poem, author unknown, about mothers:
Your Love is like an island
In life's ocean, vast and wide,
A peaceful quiet shelter
From the wind and rain and tide.
Above it like a beacon light

Shone faith and truth and prayer;
And through the changing scenes of life,
I find a haven there.

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With small men no great thing can be accomplished 

In Comments, reader M@ refers us to John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, saying that "what Mill says about the "tyrrany of the majority" is pretty much all you need to know about the necessary limits of majority rule in a liberal democracy. Every high schooler in the western world should read it. There are very, very few other books I would say that about."
Also instructive are the sentences at the end of Mill's essay, which apply to what is going on now in Washington and maybe also in Ottawa:
The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it . . . a State, which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.
In other words, if the nay-sayers and freethinkers and shit-disturbers are discredited or silenced, the government will run smoother but the nation as a whole will fail.

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Time for a career change 

So MP Nathan Cullen said he can't help a constituent because he's afraid of the RCMP -- and now he regrets saying this but won't apologize.
This sounds like a man who needs to find a different career, one which doesn't require either courage or good judgement.

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Rights and wrongs 

Billmon provides one of the best summaries I have read about why polls are wrong about civil rights.
He is talking about Phone-gate, and some recent polls showing that half of Americans are so terrified of terror that they think the government needs to monitor their phone calls without warrants to keep them safe.
They won't be so cheery about it when their kids start getting arrested for drug possession after chatting on the phone about their dope stash. Or when police come breaking down their door because their son was talking to his friends about Grand Theft Auto. But that's all going to be happening later on, and people will be heard to say things like, Hey, didn't Americans used to have some sort of right to privacy or something? Does anyone remember that? No? Oh, well, maybe my memory is slipping....
But anyway, Billmon's argument now is true when it comes to any kind of civil rights, like anti-discrimination court rulings, gay marriage, and so forth:
The whole point of having civil liberties is that they are not supposed to be subject to a majority veto . . . some things are wrong just because they're wrong -- not because a temporary majority (or even a permanent one) thinks they're wrong. Real conservatives used to understand this. But the authoritarian right, for all of its talk about moral absolutes, understands and respects just one thing: power. In our system power flows from votes -- and having the money to demagogue those votes. It doesn't get more relativistic than that.
We can't do anything about how a corrupt, oligarchic system works (or rather, doesn't work) but we can at least stop accepting the other side's terms for the debate. What the government is doing is illegal and unamerican, and that would still be true if the polls showed 99% support -- in fact, it would be even more true.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Great line of the day 

Digby contrasts Bush and Clinton:
. . . Bush . . . roared into office with his one vote majority and treated the Democrats like lackeys, behaving as if he had a mandate to enact the most extreme items on the GOP agenda. He used patriotism as a bludgeon to intimidate all dissent against his inexplicable war with Iraq. At every turn he behaved with insolence and hubris and his failure has been manifest. Now he lives in a bubble, wandering around dazed and confused about what is happening to him --- which is not the result of Democratic partisanship, I might add, but rather the assessment of the American people. . . . Perhaps that's why his fall has been so steady --- the slow realization among the people that being a leader takes more than a manly swagger and a down home accent.
Bill Clinton may have been an imperfect human being but he was a president. This guy is, and always was, just a brand name in a suit.
Emphasis mine.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Phone-gate 


Atrios is following the phone records story as it breaks -- will it be called "Phone-gate"?
When I heard about Bush speaking today, it reminded me of You Know Who -- remember "I am not a crook!"?



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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bitch 

Mary Cheney proves that just because a woman is gay doesn't mean she cannot be pathetic.
And talk about projection -- she won't call her father out for his suppoft of a State of the Union address where Bush promoted his anti-gay marriage amendment. Instead, she calls John Kerry and John Edwards names because they had the temerity to defend her against Republican anti-gay hate.

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Home, chickens, roosting, etc. 

Well,well...so Vellacott resigns from the aboriginal affairs committee -- and he says its all the Liberal's fault. I guess they're still running everything behind the scenes, don't ya know...

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Nuremberg reborn 

Steve Gilliard talks about the new Nuremberg:
. . .after 9/11, Bush asked for nothing. Not to save gas, not to enlist, nothing. So the burden fell on the willing and they are tired. Tired of war, tired of begging for food, tired of seeing their friends horrifically wounded . . . Bush has demanded nothing, and he gets nothing.
The US after WWII understood not only the burdens but the rewards of shared sacrifice . . . This administration does not. It's as if Herbert Hoover was asked to fight the Nazis without rallying the public. . . And how do we do it? By tossing away every lesson we've learned from Nuremberg. We build gulags, we sent people into a modern version of night and fog, where people are beaten to death, we coerse our allies into accepting kidnapping flights and dump the passengers in places where they will be tortured . . .
The excuse for violating what we once rejected was more than hubris. Every society has sadists. Most keep them under check, few allow them real power. Rumsfeld unleashed them, their worst instincts justified and it went from CENTCOM down to their field . . . Rumsfeld unleashed these people because he thought they had an easy solution to a difficult problem. But instead, they allow children to be raped and the innocent murdered for no gain. None.
We had embraced what we had fought so hard to end, not because we were inherently evil, but because it was one more easy thing to do for a man who always chosen the easy, wrong path.
I would like to think we will redeem ourselves one day, that the sadists and their bosses will face justice, real justice, in a large court for the world to see, to redeem the promise of what was begun at Nuremberg. . .
Read the whole post.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Great line of the day 

Roy at alicublog asks why conservative commenters at The Corner and the Weekly Standard are always complaining:
Can't these people just enjoy the many economic, social, and governmental advantages whiteness unfairly confers? I know I do!

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

This is ridiculous 

Now, I haven't researched this because I don't want to ruin my amateur standing, but can anyone tell me what is the matter with the British Columbia justice system these days?
They just finished the unsuccessful Air India mess, and now the Globe is reporting about how the Pickton trial is expected to last two years.
This is apparently being seen just as a problem for picking a jury -- because what sane person wants to put their life on hold for two years and spend their Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries for 2007 and 2008 in a courtroom.
But is anyone asking why the BC justice system is even contemplating such a monster trial at all?
Get a grip on it, folks -- even the Nuremberg trial lasted only 11 months.
Life without parole is life without parole, whether he is found guilty of six or 26 murders.

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Great line of the day 

From Eric Alterman, via The Sideshow:
Note that the same Beltway crowd that last year was telling us the Downing Street Memo was not news, is the same crowd insisting Colbert was not funny.

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Any day now... 

Well, that's a relief -- Bush is saying now that he "would like to close [Gitmo] and put the prisoners on trial." Yeah, any day now, I'm sure. So I guess everyone in the United States can vote Republican again because they're going to do the right thing. Any day now...
Reminds me that just before the presidential election in 2004, Bob Novak reported that Bush was going to bring all the soldiers home from Iraq just as soon as he was reelected. And Pat Buchannan said Bush was going to fire all the neo-cons and get rid of Rumsfeld just as soon as he was reelected.
Any day now...

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Great line of the day 

Al Gore criticizes the Conservatives for withdrawing from Kyoto:
. . . they were elected because of issues that had nothing to do with global warming and the climate crisis, and now they're pretending to have a mandate to abandon Canada's historic commitment to playing a leadership role in cleaning up the world's environment.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

It's a gusher! 


Oh, this is just so much fun.

Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.
- Peggy Noonan, April 24, 2000
At Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher says:
Color me confused. Everyone on TV seems to be buying the line that the Goss resignation has been planned for weeks. No natural curiosity about the fact that it takes effect immediately, or that there is no replacement, or that he had a meeting scheduled this afternoon he didn’t show up for. Not to mention the fact that as Professor Foland pointed out in the comments, the White House would’ve probably sacrificed its collective left nut to avoid stepping on a drunk Kennedy story.
But has the entire press corps turned into such a pile of humorless prudes that they can’t connect the dots in the Brent Wilkes hooker scandal?
The Editors speculates:
. . . taxpayer-subsidized gay orgy . . . hot middle-aged Congressman-on-lobbyist XXX action . . . fifteen-year-long homosexual coke-n-hookers-n-dogs-n-box turtles Republican party scene which would make a lost weekend on Fire Island look like an early-afternoon meeting of your grandmother’s penny-ante bridge club . . . before anybody jumps to some unseemly and grossly immature conclusion based on William Kristol’s public speculation that Goss’s warp-speed resignation was due to “something that popped this week“, consider this: what if Porter Goss was just doing top-secret research into how to protect Americans if terrorists try attack the homeland with weaponized amyl nitrate? Bet you’d feel pretty stupid then. Let’s wait until all the facts are in before we start in with the Gannon jokes.
Sadly No speculates:
Just because rumors have long swirled about Austin gay bar habitué Scott McClellan, and also the dapper Andrew Card, both recently resigned from White House employ, and just because Randy "Duke" Cunningham has admitted to homosexual liaisons, and despite the fact that former White House sleepover guest Jeff Gannon has suddenly begun appearing in public and in fact only this week admitted to his homosexuality, it does not necessarily mean that the hookers in question were male. ...Nor does the fact that Ken Mehlman is in a bit of hot soup at the moment, nor the fact that Condi Rice is a lesbian.
It is irresponsible to speculate too boldly in this regard. On the plus side, however, there are supposed to be photographs.
Atrios concludes:
I bet Tony Snow's really looking forward to Monday.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Great line of the day 

At Hullabaloo, Tristero writes a post comparing how Bush went to war in Iraq with how he intends to go to war with Iran:
. . . Remember: he's The Decider. He decides what's best. And it is what's best because he decided it was. The rest of us are, like it or not, along for the ride. That's the problem with living in an authoritarian state . . . You really cannot affect its politics or influence its behavior very much. And if it frightens you to think that the fate of your country, if not the world, rests on the outcome of a desperate power struggle between a goddammed malicious idiot, the Joint Chiefs, the calculations of corrupt Republican politicians and no one else in the world, then... Welcome to the 21st Century, my friends. This ain't your father's Missile Crisis.
Emphasis mine.

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Undefended border 

Dave over at The Galloping Beaver flags wingnut suggestions about solving America's gas prices by taking over Saudi Arabia.
When will it occur to them that Alberta is right next door?

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Truthiness about Beloved Leader 

Glenn Greenwald reflects on the Bush-worship of the right-wing bloggers:
. . . It is a frenzied effort to defend the administration that is composed every standard weapon in the Bush apologist arsenal -- attacks on the motives of those who disclose the information, threats of criminal prosecution against those responsible, an insistence that the Leader's Goodness precludes the truth of the accusations, and when all else fails, a simple fact-free refusal to believe that it's true . . . this self-justifying, fantasyland mindset is constant and applicable to every issue. Insurgency in Iraq? Can't be; it just doesn't exist. Reports of civil war? Not true - the media is just biased and dishonest. Poll after poll showing the President is reaching historic levels of unpopularity? The polls are just biased and corrupt because the President is really beloved. Secret torture gulags in Eastern Europe? They don't exist either - that was all just a masterful set-up to find the CIA leakers (a fantasy in which Strata indulges for the Plame disclosure, too: "I think this was a canary trap"). The CIA agent outed by the administration was working on Iran's nuclear program? False - the reporter is an idiot, her husband is a liar, it's just one CIA agent, and the President is too good and smart to do that, no matter what facts emerge . . .

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

They should be ashamed 

Harold Albrecht (Conservative: Kitchener—Conestoga)
Inky Mark (Conservative: Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette )
Rod Bruinooge (Conservative: Winnipeg South)
Colin Mayes (Conservative: Okanagan—Shuswap)
Marc Lemay (BQ: Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Yvon Levesque (BQ: Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou)
If you happen to live in any of these ridings, drop your boy a line and ask why he insulted every Aboriginal person in Canada by voting for Maurice Vellacott as chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
Harper should also be ashamed of himself, putting forward such a racist to chair the committee.
And these Good Ole Boys dutifully voted in favour -- party unity is just so much more important than insulting thousands of their constituents, don't ya know!
The Globe story sums it up:
Liberal MP Anita Neville said her party attempted to block Mr. Vellacott because of his controversial comments relating to the freezing deaths several years ago of aboriginal men outside of Saskatoon. . . Mr. Vellacott has drawn fire for defending two Saskatoon policemen who were convicted of driving an aboriginal man out of town and leaving him to walk home in the dead of winter.
More recently, he has been criticized for suggesting that some of the aboriginal men may have gone outside of town on their own to drink or take drugs. "Mr. Vellacott does not give a good message to aboriginal Canadians," Ms. Neville said. "[His comments] reinforced stereotypical views of aboriginal peoples." . . . [Vellacott] defended his comments about the Saskatoon police, saying he has a full understanding of the situation. . .
whatever that means.
Well, adding this to today's budget, which killed the Kelowna Accords, I think Aboriginal people now have a "full understanding" of Harper's message, too -- I think it can be summarized as "Aboriginals, Please F*ck Off!"

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Monday, May 01, 2006

If you are Anglican, you need to read this 

If you are Anglican, and you wondering why your church leaders are ripping your church apart over gay issues instead of helping people work together toward a more inclusive doctrine, you need to read this expose from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington:
When the General Convention of the Episcopal [AKA Anglican] Church meets next month in Columbus, Ohio, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face serious consequences. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.
Two articles titled "Following the Money" provide the details -- Part 1 and Part 2:
Millions of dollars contributed by a handful of donors have allowed a small network of theologically conservative individuals and organizations to mount a global campaign that has destabilized the Episcopal Church and may break up the Anglican Communion.
A few years ago, the American Episcopal church ordained Bishop Robinson, who is gay, and several Canadian Anglican bishops have supported gay marriage. Now, church rules are supposed to prevent one bishop from taking over another bishop's churches, but the articles describe how a few American conservatives arranged for bishops in Africa and Asia to take over not only the congregations but also the church property of break-away American and Canadian churches whose congregations did not support gay-friendly policies.
The articles also show how this same small group also manipulated the result of last year's Anglican conference -- I wrote about that here and here -- to make sure the conference would freeze out the Canadian and American bishops who supported gay-friendly policies. I had no idea there could be such an organized campaign to break up the Anglican Church -- which apparently, and merely as a happy byproduct of course, would also allow the break-away leaders to take over the weekly offerings and the property of those break-away congregations.
Thanks to pastordan for the link. Pastordan writes:
The goal of this movement is not theological realignment, but political, to weaken the organization of the ECUSA in order to make it more pliable before a radical Religious Right agenda. Robinson's consecration is the wedge to an eventual takeover of the denomination, much like ultra-conservatives wrested control of the Southern Baptist Conference from moderates and transformed it into a platform for Republican moralism. . . . Say what you will about "left-leaning" churches like the UCC: we at least chose our path in open discourse, and the national church takes its lumps for doing so . . . I don't believe there's any sugar-daddies secretly funding our stands.

UPDATE: The Green Knight is on this too.

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We're falling down the rabbit hole 

Can you believe this? He's baaaaak!
Ahmed Chalabi . . . is acting as broker between the US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Iranian officials in what are now stalled diplomatic efforts between the US and Iran . . . It is unclear, however, who has tasked Chalabi to act as middleman or who he is representing in these attempts at negotiations.
Curiouser and curiouser!

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Just the same loveable guy he always was! 

Huhhh?
A 48-year-old accountant who has just pocketed more than $30 million after winning a lottery says he's not sure he's going to give any money to his siblings . . . Although Dubeau says he wants to create a foundation to support his brother's missionary work in Africa, the brother and two sisters may not be as fortunate. "I don't think so," Dubeau replied when asked if he would give them money. "I have no idea. I don't think so. In the short term, I don't think so. I am the only winner." Asked the same question later, Dubeau replied: "Usually I'm pretty generous. It's quite possible but everything will depend on my plans."
Which only goes to show that just because you won $30 million doesn't mean you're not still an a**hole!

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