Friday, October 29, 2010

Late Night Video Fun Or Canada Under Reagan Oops Harper-

The first video is going out to the suddenly enlightened folks over at Syncrud, I mean Sincrude, oops I did it again I meant Syncrude. Pretending to have seen the light and doing there darndest to save the ducks, except actually getting rid of the toxic dumps posing as lakes. Take it away Britney.




With the big vote on Tuesday I thought this interview with Frank Zappa was kinda timely.





Another vid of Frank this one his being ambushed by two putzes. This is the abridged version.



The full twenty plus minute rukus.





Maybe some tunes.





Now something to get us all pumped for the last day of work.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Late Night (mostly) Environmental Blogging

You get the government you deserve, so the saying goes. I don't know what we did to deserve Harper but there's no sign as of yet that change is in the near future. And what about the opposition? Do you get the opposition you deserve or is that some sort of curse? They defeated the private members bill on social responsibility in the mining sector as 14 Liberal MP's stayed away from the vote. To be fair 6 from the Bloc and 4 from the NDP missed the vote as well.

In British Columbia the Cohen Commission inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River is trying to figure out what happened to last year's salmon run and why the one this year set records and what can they expect next year. One of the theories for the sockeye boom of 2010, has been linked to a volcanic eruption in Alaska, in 2008.

From the good people at GreenPeace, a story about how BP and other European companies complicit in funding climate change denier candidates for the US senate. Speaking of BP, how furious growth and cost cutting led to their terrible record on the environment.

Another GreenPeace story about Cairn Energy failing in Arctic oil drilling attempts. In spite of a lot of bravado and bragging, they came up empty.


And here's a bonus video of some very brave GreenPeace activists doing their thing in Arctic waters:



Climate change brings us a new weather phenomenon: a weather bomb! I can hear the objections,  so go read, "Would recent extreme “events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” The “appropriate answer” is “almost certainly not.” Hansen - NASA. The thing is scientists have known for decades about the effects C02 has on the atmosphere and the greenhouse effect.

I start to really worry when people start talking about futurist techno-scenarios collectively known as geoengineering. Geez, what could go wrong?

As I Was Saying...

The week has been pretty busy in non-Khadr related news. Alex Hundert is having his rights quashed and I can't for the life of me understand why the media and the public don't think it's a big deal. If they can do this to him they can do it to any of us.

 Shortly after paying a $3 million dollar fine for being responsible for killing 1,600 ducks Syncrude's tailings ponds lakes are once again the cause of waterfowl deaths. No doubt we can expect another Syncrude/Government PR campaign to explain to us how it's all getting better and gonna' be fine and not to worry our pretty little heads about it.

So far as the WikiLeaks documents are concerned the foreign presses are doing a better job of digging through the revelations contained therein.

Predictably, Fox news is howling that WikiLeaks is the enemy and should be treated as such. They are enemies of the warmongers exposing the war crimes of the US and highlighting the slaughter of innocent Iraqis, so in a twisted way they have a point. As for those war crimes, the US says they are not responsible for what the Iraqis do -- even though they are American trained. The British military has also been training interrogators in techniques that include threats, sensory deprivation and enforced nakedness in an apparent breach of the Geneva conventions.

Those WikiLeaks documents on Iraq and the new political alignment between Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki both provide fresh evidence that Gen. David Petraeus’s war against Shi’ite militias in 2007-2008 was a futile exercise.

A CNN interviewer asked enough stupid questions to cause Julian Assange to walk out on the interview. You'd think the confirmed deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis as well as evidence of widespread human rights abuses and torture would supersede any interest they might have in the recent charges that have been leveled at Mr. Assange. You'd be wrong.

The great people over at Boingboing.net noticed most members of the establishment MSM avoided the word torture at all costs so they came up with a torture euphemism generator -- i.e. invasive submersion evaluations.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Back To Blogging

I have to admit that the stories about Omar Khadr and the manner in which he was forced to plead guilty to a litany of transgressions so he could escape a life sentence in jail made me ill. I got over over it when I heard Peter Mansbridge last night mindlessly repeating what Khadr was admitting to in that kangaroo court military tribunal. No context, no questioning if any of it was true, and no mention of Khadr's lawyer's repeated words that what Khadr had signed on to was "just a piece of paper," and he would have "admitted to killing J.F.K. if it meant getting out of that hellhole!"

 Never mind that the script given Khadr was ludicrous and has him (swear to gawd!) with an AK-47 in one hand, a pistol in the other and presumably throwing the grenade with his teeth. And since Peter is too much of an MSM shill to mention it, let's remember that these acts came after a 4 hour firefight that included attacks from a pair of A10 Warthogs, the bombing and strafing of the compound with cannon and rocket fire from AH-64 Apaches which was then followed by the dropping of 500 lb. bombs from a pair of F-18 Hornets. Now my military insider who was on the radio show today assures me of a couple of things: two minutes in a real firefight feels like hours. Imagine then four hours of such a fight. Also at the end of the four hours of such a pounding you would be stone cold deaf and probably concussed.

However, Khadr's script (PDF) has him plotting the death of more Americans instead of attempting to flee the compound as any sane person would. But not our Omar though. This skinny 15 year old cross between James Bond, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a Mujaheddin warrior was getting ready for more. Hoping that he would get to "relish" the killing of more Americans. That, according to his poorly written script was his all encompassing raison d'etre.

The point of all this is that the moronic stenography that Mansbridge engaged in -- and he's not alone -- is the reason why we need the blogosphere. Sure he's not that bad. And the Canadian MSM in general is considerably better than the American one. But the bottom line is that their default position is to protect and defend corporate interests ahead of ours and act as spinners for the always pro-war military industrial complex. It hasn't changed sine Eisenhower first used that phrase -- it's gotten worse, much worse.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You Must Be Proud John Murphy!

Driving home from the radio show at 10 AM Monday morning I heard that Omar had pled guilty to the crimes the Americans had accused him of. I was hoping this would happen because it would signal that a plea deal had been reached and instead of a life sentence he would receive eight years or so based on the reports that have been in the media for the past week. I wasn't relieved or happy because as Khadr's lawyer had said this is not justice for the young man who has already spent a full third of his life unjustly incarcerated. I was sickened by his having been railroaded, by the apathy shown by not only the Canadian government but also by the Canadian public.

 If people don't understand that this once 15 year old child was a product of his environment then they understand nothing -- and that's if you're credulous enough to believe the charges which I am not. I think one of the things that disgusted me most was after the admission Khadr was forced to make there was the unseemly gloating of the prosecutor John Murphy, who said afterwards, “Omar Khadr is not a victim. He’s not a child soldier. He’s convicted on his own words.”

Right! Words forced out of him under the threat of imprisoning him for life. Words that were the result of eight years worth of imprisonment and inhumane treatment which included torturing a 16 year old child. So, you should be so very proud John Murphy -- hell of a victory! You and the rest of your torturing lying pals are a real brave bunch. No doubt your Mom would be proud.

  And it actually gets worse. Aside from the fact that hey had the widow in court dressed in black and weeping as part of their Kabuki kangaroo court production, today they made Omar say all kinds of ridiculous and impossible things.

Were you aware he conspired directly with Osama bin Laden and did the Snoopy "happy dance" every time an American was killed? And even though money was never an issue he dreamed of killing as many Americans as possible for the princely sum of $1,500 per? He could do this because he had received special one-on-one private terrorist training directly from Al-Qaeda in how to use rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and improvised explosive devices during training in Afghanistan and do the Al-Qaeda "Death To America" victory dance. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists and spying. When the Americans picked up this whirling dervish of a terrorist they helped to make the world a much safer place. If he had not  been caught they most definitely would have lost the war in Afghanistan.

They then topped it off with theatrics from Michael Welner -- who is a real piece of work all on his own. A bigger steaming pile of crap you may never come across than this trial and the lies forced from Omar and spewed by the prosecution. I can't imagine anything more shameful than the piling on they felt it necessary to do after extracting the false confession to justify their years of holding and abusing him in Guantanamo.
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His lawyer kept repeating he would have pled guilty to the assassination of John F. Kennedy to not have to spend the rest of his life in prison. Kinda' makes you sick doesn't it?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Steal This Late Sunday Post

After all the hubbub looks like that may or may not be a deal for Omar Khadr. According to his lawyer the case is proceeding on Monday and there is no deal as of yet. Of course he could just be keeping tight lip as not to influence the odds makers. (Lotto Quebec has a line on everything)

Looks like some people are going to the polls. Prime Minister Harper announced three by-elections for Nov 29 in Manitoba and Ontario. (5 will get ya 10 that we'll be inundated in Tory attack adds come Monday morning)

There is an interesting (not sure if it's good interesting or bad interesting) article about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in the New York Times. According to the article his latest batch of classified documents has caused him to live on the run, switching encrypted cell phones and such. Looks like he's our very own modern Abbie Hoffman minus the curly hair. (for the kids, Abbie Hoffman was a 1960's rabble rouser) Looks like people are upset that he included the names of Afghans working for the US, not ofter Amnesty International and the Pentagon agree. That is according to the NY Times article but when I checked the AI website there was no mention of a disagreement with the leaks and instead there was a call to examine the papers. Also from the Amnesty International  website is an post from September 13th warning of

THOUSANDS OF IRAQI DETAINEES AT RISK OF TORTURE AFTER US HANDOVER  

The 60's Julian Asange

This clip is dedicated to Karl.



I saw this at CNNwebsite it looked interesting. A link the website http://www.vbs.tv/en-ca/newsroom


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Do Canadians Know?

Couldn't help notice that Hillary Clinton contacted Lawrence Cannon to discuss the status of Omar Khadr. Presumably this is about Canada taking him back at some point after a plea deal is struck. If the plea deal falls through and Canada does not repatriate Omar at some point then in all likelihood the kangaroo court military tribunal put together for the express purpose of finding him guilty will do just that and Khadr will receive the equivalent of a death sentence -- 50 years to life in an American prison.

 Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will then be responsible for completely destroying the life of someone who was taken off the battlefield at the age of 15. I've said this repeatedly, there is no more malleable creature than a 15 year old boy and there is an acknowledgement of this by the UN which is why there are laws that forbid the prosecution of child soldiers, as well as programs that exist for their rehabilitation. Canada contributes money to those same programs. Also, sadly, looking at the evidence that's been presented he probably did not do what he is accused of (scroll down to the sub-heading that says Firefight) -- which near as I can discern would be defending himself while under attack.

In some actual good news, a ruling on the case that involved Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Leblanc and his attempt to protect a key source, Canada's Supreme Court said that journalists have the right to protect their sources. It wasn't a blanket ruling however and means such issues in the future will still be judged on a case by case basis. So journalists and their sources are not immune from scrutiny but there is a right to freedom of the press and expression when it's in the public's interest to know. Unless the revelation of the source is essential to resolving the case, journalists do have the right to protect their sources. So for Daniel Leblanc it feels like victory as he heads back to the Quebec courts better armed with this ruling.

I got a kick out of reading Gerald Caplan's opinion piece over at the Globe entitled, 'If Stephen Harper’s an economist, I’m the Queen of Sheba.'  He does a better job than any members of the various opposition parties in Parliament of making the case that the Tories are not to be trusted on anything including their much vaunted claim to being more fiscally trustworthy than the opposition. To regular readers of the Canadian blogosphere (or even my blog) there's not much new here but he does a great job of putting it all together and making it of a piece.

Iggy? Are you there? Do you read the Globe and Mail?

Another example of everyone being better at making the case against Harper and his policies than members of the opposition comes from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives last week when they released a report on those jets that Harper wants to spend $16 billion dollars of Canadian taxpayers money on. Making the case that the jets don't improve response time to unpredictable events like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and since there is little likelihood of Canada launching expeditionary operations without our allies -- even then our contributions would not be essential -- we should be looking at other alternatives. This is not only wasteful spending but there are no guarantees that any of the money spent on servicing these aircraft will go to Canada's aerospace industry. Again, nothing that's new to the political junkies and hippies of Canada's blogosphere but do Canadians know?

And if they don't, whose fault is that?

The Failure of Canada's Opposition Parties

One of the more surprising things I learned this week came on the day Canada's answer to Sarah Palin, Candice Hoeppner, decided to take a dump all over 'Decorum Day' on the hill. An act that was not particularly surprising when you consider the source. She, after all was the same woman who sponsored the bill that would have ended the long-gun registry and also, in a nasty bit of politicking, drove up to the Peace Tower on the day of the vote in an SUV emblazoned with "Kill the Registry" decals, shrieking and disparaging anyone who disagreed with her point of view. I'd loved to have seen her try this courageous act in front of UQAM or Dawson College here in Montreal.

 Anyhow, as I was reading about her mean spirited attack on what seemed to me to be a relatively non-controversial private members bill from Michael Ignatieff (would he sponsor any other kind?) -- one that enshrined pay equity for women as a right -- I learned that in the omnibus budget bill C-9 there had been a clause shoved in there that put pay equity for women on the table. That's what had Hoeppner so exorcised. She couldn't believe that Ignatieff would sponsor a bill that did the opposite since he had allowed the budget bill to pass. She thought she had him cornered somehow.

For starters, by inference and an unfortunate choice of words on her part, she has as much as said she is against equal pay for women for equal work. And PM Harper, by sticking this noxious idea into his budget, has said the same. My question is, how on earth is this not a winning issue for members of the opposition and why have they not communicated it as such to Canadians?

There aren't a whole lot of issues where you can be guaranteed to get better than 60% or 70% agreement  from the public but I'd hazard a guess that pay equity is one of them. Please stand up and shout Mr Ignatieff. I think Canadians would welcome hearing from you on an issue that hits so close to home for most everyone I can think of.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Soylent Green Blogging

Another week has gone by and optimism is still in short supply. Friday's on the radio show are for reviewing the most important stories of the week (IMHO of course) and this week it seemed to me that stories about Global Warming fit that bill -- so let Friday Soylent Green blogging begin!


 Now the stories that really don't get enough coverage in the MSM and are the most likely to have a long term on all our lives were blogged yesterday and are about disappearing fresh water resources and the deteriorating state of global habitats. So there's no need to repeat them, but here's a link to a story about record warming and melting in the Arctic this year that shows perhaps these stories will soon begin to break through the MSM in ways that will get everyone paying attention again. Even though no one's entitled to their own facts the deniers have long been having their way as far as the media spin is concerned and that's illustrated by this pre-debunked op-ed in the formerly reliable Christian Science Monitor.

There was an interesting story from over at Science Daily about how various species respond differently to the same amount of warming making it more difficult for ecologists to predict future biological effects of climate change, and plan for these effects. While not as alarming as some of the studies I've posted, there's still lots here to be concerned about.

After studying the growth and survival of tens of thousands of individual plants over six years, the research shows a complex and somewhat unpredictable pattern of responses. There are opposing trends which show that under current conditions, even across the huge range of conditions studied, some populations of plants are doing equally well across 30 degrees of latitude.
"Up to a point we may see little effect of warming for many organisms. But past a climatic tipping point, the balance of opposing effects of warming will likely cease, leading to subsequent rapid declines in populations."
While this tipping point will be different for each species, responses of natural populations to gradual shifts in climate will not necessarily in turn be gradual.
Here in Canada representatives of the Pembina Institute, Environmental Defence and Équiterre were on hand in Ottawa Wednesday calling on the federal government to institute clear guidelines governing oilsands development. Currently the Athabasca oilsands in northern Alberta produces about 1.7 million barrels of crude per day, but soon that will jump to in excess of 7.5 million barrels per day.

Environmental Defence executive director Rick Smith says that "A tripling or quadrupling of output, unchecked, is a disaster waiting to happen." He's quick to make assurances that they are not against development of the dirty oils, which they view as a transitional fuel source, but are simply worried about the pace and scale of the project as well as making sure the industry takes full responsibility for cleaning up whatever messes it creates. There's no call for new regulations, they simply want, ...Ottawa to use regulations already in place in the Fisheries Act, the Species At Risk Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to ensure sustainable development of the oilsands.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has no problem with Canada's dirty oil either, ...saying she was "inclined" to back the project, which would carry crude oil nearly 2,000 miles from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to Port Arthur, Texas, via Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Some of her remarks on the subject were refreshingly honest:
"We're either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada," Clinton said after an Oct. 15 speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "And until we can get our act together as a country and figure out that clean, renewable energy is in both our economic interests and the interests of our planet" the United States will remain dependent on oil, she said.
UPDATE: It needs mentioning that the point of blogging about all the peer reviewed science that is being reported in the assorted stories I've pointed to about AGW (anthropogenic global warming) is that while the evidence mounts and the climate models become more frightening, the fossil fuel industry and their bought and paid for shills continue to deny and do all they can to block legislation and prevent action.

WikiLeaks!

The much awaited dump of some 390,000 documents relating to the Iraq war has finally taken place and not surprisingly a grim picture emerges from this war of choice that the US and their "coalition of the willing" took part in.

 Last week a report released by the Pentagon made the specious claim that "only" 77,000 civilians had been killed in the war. An absurd claim on its face that doesn't gibe with alarming figures that show 1 out of every 6 Iraqis is an orphan. How many were killed in this brutal war, where the most powerful nation on the face of the earth rained down "shock and awe" on what was essentially a 3rd world nation, is still unknown.

Some of the details that have emerged include how US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished. Also ...numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death.

Included in the whistleblowing leaks is the cataloguing of more than 15,000 civilian deaths in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities. And that in no way covers the actual deaths as for example in the battle of Falluja, ...the site of two major urban battles in 2004, no civilian deaths are recorded. Yet Iraq Body Count monitors identified more than 1,200 civilians who died during the fighting.

There are numerous examples of crimes and abuses committed by the invading and occupying forces, hell bent on revenge for something that had nothing to do with Iraq, sent by the bloody minded Bush jr. administration. In the end as you'll no doubt recall they tried to pretend the war was about national security and WMD's -- a claim that also rings falsely over all the years and death.

 And as these revelations come to light they are once again invoking national security as they did during the last round of leaks accusing WikiLeaks ...of possibly having "blood on their hands" over the previous Afghan release by redacting too few names. But the military recently conceded that no harm had been identified.

To avoid such charges this time the whistleblowing activists say they have deleted all names from the documents that might result in reprisals. In a just world this would never be an issue and in that same fictional setting GWB jr. and Dick Cheney would have been impeached and prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

Happy WkiLeaks dump day everybody!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Have Met The Enemy...

Down at the radio station I've made Thursdays my day to cover science, environmental and global warming news. I felt it was more effective to put it all together and make it all of a piece. Sadly today's stories all put together create an alarming picture of where we are headed.

 Starting with this speech given by Maude Barlow, a former UN Senior Water Advisor, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and founder of the Blue Planet Project, about global warming and its effect on our water systems.
Half the tropical forests in the world – the lungs of our ecosystems – are gone; by 2030, at the current rate of harvest, only 10% will be left standing. Ninety percent of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practices. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise “there is no blue frontier left.” Half the world’s wetlands – the kidneys of our ecosystems – were destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate one thousand times greater than before humans existed. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward a “biodiversity deficit” in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than Nature can create new ones.
If that's not sobering enough, she makes the case that we are in the process of polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death.
Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water, the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of wastewater produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. A comprehensive new global study recently reported that 80% of the world’s rivers are now in peril, affecting 5 billion people on the planet.
She makes the point convincingly that carbon markets and the like are false solutions which, essentially, privatize the atmosphere by creating a new form of property rights over natural resources. Go read the whole thing over at alternet.org and prepare to be alarmed.

If that's not enough to make you wonder whether or not you'll ever have grandchildren, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) uses 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions and provides analysis of  predicted and extended droughts headed our way as a result of unceasing unrestricted emissions and warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path at this point.
Previous climate studies have indicated that global warming will probably alter precipitation patterns as the subtropics expand. The 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that subtropical areas will likely have precipitation declines, with high-latitude areas getting more precipitation.
The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.
You can go over to ClimateProgress.org and read Joe Romm's post 'Putting the "hell" in Hell and Highwater,' which has the links to a host of articles related to this story.
 
If all of this wasn't bad enough, warming is also affecting our oceans and marine eco-systems in ways that are potentially devestating.
 And yesterday the Ausralian Research Council (ARC) announced in a press release that there's been a huge coral death which has struck Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean reefs which proves the urgency and need of controlling global carbon emissions.
Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.

Climate change is having a dramatic impact on the tropics by pushing their boundaries towards the poles at an unprecedented rate not foreseen by computer models, which had predicted this sort of poleward movement only by the end of the century.

Many reefs are dead or dying across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle following a bleaching event that extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and include reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and many sites in western and eastern Indonesia.
“It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science,” says Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook Universities.
Go over to the WWF climate blog where you can find more information about the devastating effects that global warming is having on the Coral Triangle which has been called ...the planet’s crown jewel of coral diversity, and what its loss will mean to ecosystems, people and societies.

Mostly War Blogging

Beginning with the continued obfuscation and lack of transparency on the Afghan detainee issue where almost four months after a special committee of MPs was created to examine 40,000 sensitive Afghan detainee documents, not a single page has been cleared for public release. The Tories are clearly working overtime to kick this down the road -- I'd say it almost guarantees a spring election.

 A report from the Australian news site theage.com.au that says the Taliban have ''overwhelmed'' foreign troops and cannot be defeated by military means, one of Australia's top combat soldiers has warned. This in the same week that the Australians decide to commit to ten more years in Afghanistan.

Interestingly the British have decided to cut their military budget significantly while promising to still punch way above their weight -- anything else of course would be unmanly.

In Iraq things continue apace -- that is terribly for all concerned except the makers of armaments. The New York Times writes:
Although there are no firm figures, security and political officials say hundreds of the well-disciplined fighters — many of whom have gained extensive knowledge about the American military — appear to have rejoined Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Beyond that, officials say that even many of the Awakening fighters still on the Iraqi government payroll, possibly thousands of them, covertly aid the insurgency.
Iraqi refugees forced to return to Iraq because they couldn't afford the high cost of living in neighboring countries such as Syria and Jordan have expressed regret about returning. Some 60 percent cited security concerns such as bombings, harassment, military operations and kidnappings. Geez, why are they bitching? America brought them freedom didn't they?

Seven months (222 days to be precise and a world record!) after the Iraqi elections they are still having a tough time cobbling together a ruling government. The one that is in the works includes Nouri al-Maliki and the anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr is not amenable to the US and they are expressing their reluctance to deal with such a coalition.

In Afghanistan the United States has stepped up air raids against members of  al Qaeda and the Taliban. Last month,  U.S-led NATO planes in Afghanistan conducted 700 missions, more than twice the number for the same month the previous year. It was also one of the highest single-month totals of the nine-year Afghan War.

It turns into whack a mole as the Taliban have now moved into the north where they are now exercising greater influence including collecting taxes on farmers in the northern Kunduz Province - and if the troops follow them there they'll go east or west or back to the south maybe the middle. And there are consequences for the Nato allies in all this as casualties are on the rise.

As for those much awaited Wikileaks release of documents related to the Iraq War, the US government is warning the news media against covering this or any future leaks. It'll be interesting to watch the firestorm when it happens as the US Supreme Court already ruled decades prior that the media is allowed to release classified documents in the public interest.

Last but not least, there's what I would call pretty good and interesting news out in Calgary, where a progressive Muslim candidate has been elected to the Mayor's office. The Globe and Mail describes Mr. Naheed Nenshi as qualified, charismatic and well-spoken, whose career path has set him up well, perhaps purposefully, for a political career. We wish him all the good luck in the world! John Ibbitson describes it as Ken Dryden's Canadian dream coming true.

UPDATE: Omar Khadr

Got a tip from the comments below to a terrific article written by Jeff Kaye over at Firedoglake, called 'The Psychiatric Demonization Of Omar Khadr.' The best bit comes at the conclusion as he posts along with the video of some 8 minutes of the interrogation of Omar Khadr by CSIS officials and asks: ...better yet, review this videotape of an interrogation of Omar Khadr in 2004. Did the young man, then age 16, use the opportunity to "call… to radical Islamists to mature beyond their elemental intolerance"? You tell me.

 Just got back from the station and my interview with Hilary Homes of Amnesty International was not in the archives as they stopped recording late last night while the station manager and programmer are in New York. She has promised she would talk to us again next week if and when the trial got under way so sadly if you didn't tune in this morning you'll have to wait until next week to hear her. I'm sorry and a bit frustrated by this. I did put up last Friday's show if you want to go have a listen -- the Omar Khadr story is covered in some detail as well as stories about Stephen Harper's excuses for failing to get a seat on the UN Security Council (Harper and the Conservatives principles were too much for the UN body to elect them so they chose Germany and Portugal instead who obviously have no principles) and Rachel Maddow explaining the US Chamber of Commerce trying to buy the election for the republicans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Expert On Evil Weighs In On Khadr

This morning I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Hilary Homes of Amnesty International to find out where the rumoured plea deal for Omar Khadr stands. Also to help recap for my listening audience how it is that a child plucked off the battlefield at the age of 15 could end up spending 8 years in military detention and then have to face a military tribunal, which explicitly forbids the invocation of the Geneva Conventions and where the outcome is pretty much predetermined. There's also the issue of the brutal interrogation techniques Omar was subjected to by his American captors and the underhanded and possibly criminal manner in which CSIS helped to do dirty work for the US.

 The interview was a good one and I'll post up a link to it later today so you can listen for yourself. Hilary is a terrific interview and the talk was informative as I knew it would be. So I get home and open up my local fishwrap to see what's there like always and maddeningly I find on page A-21 of the News Section an article entitled "Khadr has never renounced Muslim jihad, expert on evil says."

A bunch of questions spring to mind. What makes one an expert on evil? How would you quantify such a thing? Why isn't this in the Op-Ed section of my paper?

Well, it turns out that the expert in question is Dr. Michael Welner who is a renowned forensic psychiatrist which is a profession that encompasses the interface between law and psychiatry. They work with the courts to help evaluate two specific areas of interest: Competency to Stand trial (CST) and Mental State at the Time of the Offence (MSO). Dr. Welner has tried to go further by creating what he calls the 'Depravity Scale.' This mostly subjective measurement he has created incorporates forensic science, law and public input so as to distinguish crimes that warrant more severe punishment from those that do not. In effect, it's an attempt to quantify evil.

This of course does not make him an expert on evil any more than any of us, but it sounds sexier when you're writing up a newspaper opinion piece. Oh wait! This article is not in the Op-Ed section of my newspaper it's in the regular news section. So even though what's being forwarded is one man's opinion -- a man whose area of expertise is not the Middle-East or terrorism or the psychology behind child soldiers, the story is right there along with the rest of the news. A narrative to help make Omar Khadr seem less sympathetic.

So Dr. Welner who has never met Omar and who has never been to Guantanamo "discounts much cited comments by some US guards at Guantanamo that the Toronto native is a "good kid" and salvageable." He calls them shallow in their prognostic significance. Well, at least they have met him. Welner also says that Khadr has never publicly repudiated Al-Qaida and made no call to other "...radical Islamists to mature beyond their own elemental intolerance."

The sociopathy at work here from someone who should know better is stunning. There is the presumption of guilt for starters, no acknowledgement of the child's malleability, and for him to suggest that this boy should be calling on all who believe in jihad or radical Islam to renounce it is preposterous.

Another day, another lying, manipulative narrative from the MSM -- in this case from Steven Edwards of Postmedia News, courtesy of Canwest News and the Montreal Gazette.

You can help by sending a letter to the PM by going here. If you're in Montreal, Toronto or Edmonton the schedule for screening of the documentary about Omar entitled 'You Don't Like The Truth - 4 days inside Guantánamo' can be found here.

UPDATE: An anonymous reader has informed me that Dr. Welner in fact was hired by the Pentagon to be its witness and  has spent seven to eight hours over two days interviewing Omar Khadr which still does not make him an expert on child soldiers, coerced confessions or anything else relating to Omar's case including Omar. He seems to have been hired strictly because he is a high-profile guy and is willing to say what the Pentagon wants him to say. Dr. Stephen Xenakis a former brigadier-general in the US military who has spent more than 100 hours meeting with the Toronto-born captive holds an opinion that is the exact opposite of Dr. Welner's. I stand by what I said originally about the "expert on evil."

Also it's worth a trip over to Peace, order and good government, eh? to read what pogge has to say on the matter.  It's short and to the point!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Economies Of Scale

So I'm reading about the $1.3 billion dollars that were spent on the summit security and we all know how fabulously that went and what we got for our money. Armed, uniformed bullies conducting mass arrests and violating people's civil rights while the G-8 and G-20 delegates and officials had their photo-op pictures taken for deals that had been struck pro-forma (before they ever got here). I mean I can't think of a better way to spend that kind of money, can you? It's a great demonstration of the Conservatives bona fides as far as being fiscally conservative goes, and government officials were saying today that the costs for the G8 and G20 summits in June were a bargain at $1.3 billion. Who could ever doubt them now?


 You had to spend that kind of money,  ...to assure the world that the summits would go off without a hitch, said the man who oversaw security at the meetings, former spy chief Ward Elcock. "Many leaders will simply not come to a meeting at which adequate security does not exist."

Holding the G8 at a resort in rural Huntsville, Ont., the government had to pay high fixed costs to set up the infrastructure, temporary accommodation, telecommunications and transportation services the summit needed -- and by holding two summits at different sites, authorities had to secure hundreds of kilometres of highway, as well as make sure alternative transportation was available in case of bad weather.
So the original planning helped dictate high costs, although the above explanation doesn't really gibe with what the head of the government's Summit Management Office and chief organizer Peter McGovern says.
Since the two meetings were held just 250 kilometres apart — in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto — Ottawa was able to spend efficiently by using the same contractors and planners for both events, McGovern argued.



"Although the summits were held in two locations, the advantage of choosing Toronto and Huntsville as hosts was that the contracts for goods and services could serve both locations given their relative proximity," McGovern said. "It also meant that my office did not need to double up the request-for-proposal process."
So the costs were high because the two summits were far apart, but because the two summits were close together they saved money. Got it.

As fuzzy as those explanations are, the excuse that caught my eye was McGovern's claim that, the "overarching consideration" in putting together the summits was "finding economies of scale. I'm pretty sure if you looked up the definition of obfuscating horsesh** in the not too distant future this statement will be there. Economies of scale? Really? The cost advantages that a business obtains due to expansion? That was the best they could come up with?

Needless to say he opposition aren't buying it but that hardly matters when you look at the polls. The real question is are Canadians paying attention? And if they're not, whose fault is that?

Hoeppner Craps All Over Decorum Day

A huge surprise in a Parliamentary committee hearing today as a Conservative member was the first to break with the spirit of  "Decorum Day" on the hill. All parties agreed in advance to support Equal Voice’s Decorum Day but agreements mean little to members of Canada's teaparty north.

 Apparently angered by Michael Ignatieff's private members bill to enshrine pay equity as a human right Candice Hoeppner attacked Mr. Ignatieff because she saw his bill as undoing one of the many untenable bits of legislation that were crammed into the omnibus budget bill C-9 which put pay equity on the bargaining table.

 As Mr. Ignatieff tried to explain that going to the polls every time you disagreed with the government was not a serious option he was interrupted repeatedly by Hoeppner who had to be cautioned by the committee chair to let the Liberal Leader finish his answers.

Ms. Hoeppner fresh off the loss of her own private members bill that would have scrapped the long-gun registry -- a bill women's groups across the country uniformly wanted to stay in place -- doubled down on not supporting equal pay for women by adding that while recognizing that many women fall behind, she said she likes to promote women who are successful. So if you're falling behind while trying to make ends meet or being screwed over by your employer, you are of no interest to her or her colleagues and you can expect no protection of your rights from the Conservative government.

Tea. Party. North.

Preserving Life On Earth

The title sounds a bit grandiose and the Globe and Mail even suggests that the task facing the 193 national delegations descending on Nagoya, Japan, ...is one befitting a deity: how to preserve life on Earth. The Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement signed amid great hope and in the early 1990s is part of what's at stake during the eleven day conference. And it begins with bad news:
The document bound countries to cut mass species loss “significantly” and preserve 10 per cent of the world’s ecological regions by 2010. But this year brought the sobering realization that not one country had met those targets.
Not one! After twenty years of high-level talks and treaties, mass extinction continues apace and three contentious issues issues have the potential to send this off the rails. There are seventeen developing countries bearing the overbearing moniker Group of Like Minded Megadiverse Countries and they've formed to accuse their richer counterparts of biopiracy. This group includes India, China and Brazil and they want regulations in place that would compensate them for pirated resources. With Canada leading the way, Western nations have largely resisted, according to those involved in the negotiations.

These developing countries are demanding that rich countries bankroll their conservation efforts as they cannot afford it. The same is not true of the west and there has been success of a kind: A recent World Wildlife Fund inventory of world biodiversity over the past 40 years found that while extinction rates continue unabated in the developing world, they have levelled off in the West, where expensive conservation projects have a ready place in national budgets.

Lastly, the ambitiousness of the targets undermined by failure and a lack of action means that the future viability of the convention is in doubt.

Interestingly, Canada's Conservative government has increased its support for the Global Environmental Facility, a global fund that invests in biodiversity projects fund by 50 per cent to $238-million over the next four years. And Jim Prentice the Minister for the Environment, who will attend the last four days of the conference has spoken constructively of this get together saying, “It’s an extremely important summit because biodiversity is an area where we all need to improve. This is a real issue for us and our children.”
“This is the one chance governments have to fix the loss of species and loss of biodiversity, said Bill Jackson, deputy director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a Switzerland-based group working closely with governments in Nagoya. “In some ecosystems, we only have 10 or 15 years left before they’re gone.”

UPDATE: Here's a wonderful page full of links from the Guardian with 100 tasks for world governments to undertake to tackle the biodiversity crisis. George Monibot emphasizes what's at stake: The outcome is expected to be as tragic and as impotent as the collapse of last year's climate talks in Copenhagen.

We cannot accept this. We cannot stand back and watch while the wonders of this world are sacrificed to crass carelessness and short-termism.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday News Roundup

The documentary film about the interrogation of Omar Khadr, You Don't Like The Truth, is being screened in Montreal from October 29th 2010 at the Cinéma Parallèle de Montréal, on November 1 2010, 7:30pm at the Ciné-Club de Laval (Salle André-Mathieu) and in Toronto from October 29th 2010, at the Royal Cinema, 608 College Street. The documentary will also be screened to Canadian MP's by the Bloc Québécois, and Luc Côté one of the directors of the film, says he has been told by Khadr's lawyers that some of the documentary will be used during closing arguments at his trial if it comes to that. There have been reports of a possible plea deal but it has yet to be confirmed.


 Here in La Belle Province, a loud and angry emergency debate is taking place in Quebec City over what else, a language bill. Remaining in character, Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois accused Quebec Premier Jean Charest of abandoning the defence of the French language. Charest replied that she was a wealthy, overstuffed sh** disturber who was living in the past trying to invoke old demons... Wait, that was me! Charest actually said, ...that he is the leader of a "great people" and accused Marois of promoting radical ideals.
 
It`s a raucous day in the federal Parliament building as well as the opposition is busily hammering away at the Tories for the failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council, blaming a long list of Conservative policies including inaction on global warming and blasting them for attempting to scapegoat Michael Ignatieff for their failure. And Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale tore into the governing Tories accusing Finance Minister Jim Flaherty of financial mismanagement noting that Canada has gone from a $13 billion surplus to an all-time record deficit. It`s hard to argue with the numbers but are Canadians paying attention?
 
It doesn't seem like it when you take a look at the latest polls and see that in spite of numerous missteps and being on the wrong side of issues that Canadians feel strongly about, PM Harper still leads in all the various political polls out there, albeit by the margin of error. Still, he and his party poll consistently between 32% and 35% while Ignatieff and the Liberals rarely break the 30% barrier. In this latest poll which also calculates estimated seats won if an election were held today, the Conservatives would win 129 seats, the Liberals 96, the Bloc 53 and the NDP 30.
 
And for the second time today a video courtesy of theRealnews.com people, a report and an interview with Alex Hundert the organizer of protests at the G-20 summit whose civil rights have been trampled upon by the authorities and how he has been coerced into signing on to unprecedented gag orders. I'm trying very hard not to venture into the realm of hyperbole here, but it's really hard not to be reminded of what used to take place behind the iron curtain in the bad old days before the Berlin Wall came down. We are surrendering our freedoms and not putting up much of a fight.
 

New Guidelines On Taser Use A Joke

Vic Toews and provincial and territorial justice ministers got together and agreed to new general guidelines on Taser use after many provinces had already enacted similar rules. What they agreed upon is revealing so far as what has essentially been the unregulated use of this weapon that has seen 26 Canadians die after they were employed.

 It's hard not to be puzzled by the following guidelines that include, ...police forces should establish a training policy and minimum training requirements for officers authorized to use a Taser. So previous to this agreement there was no training policy? That's criminal!

Justice ministers also agreed that better tracking of the devices was needed. The guidelines include a requirement that an accurate inventory of the weapons be maintained, including their location. There had been no inventory on who was taking these lethal weapons home from work? No accountability? How is this possible?

Officers should be required to check their conducted energy weapon before and after their shifts and they should be required to submit a report whenever they've discharged one. Treat Tasers like they were lethal weapons? Genius! That's why these guys get paid the big bucks.

On to my favourites, ...“where possible” Taser use should be “avoided” on the pregnant, frail and elderly, as well as on children. No zapping the elderly or kids? Then the terrorists win, don't they? Oh. "where possible."

The guidelines add Tasers generally shouldn't be used on people who are already restrained, or who are driving a vehicle, bicycle or snowmobile. Police officers are also urged to avoid zapping sensitive areas of the body such as the head, throat and genitals. Covering all their bases while the police take aim at ours.


Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews bragged, “The development of these new national guidelines is another significant step in strengthening public confidence in police use of this important tool,” after the meeting of his provincial and territorial counterparts in Vancouver.

There you have it. Taser International doesn't lose a client, no further studies on its use are urged or even suggested and Canadians who are famous the world over for being cautious had damned well better remain that way. Even in the confines of their own borders.

Caricature doesn't Like Being Caricatured

I somehow managed to miss the news and video featuring "Officer Bubbles," the bullying caricature of a police officer, who did what he could to intimidate citizens during the G-8, G-20 summits. Rob has posted the video of his revelatory behaviour in a post below. I don't really see how he can sue someone for cartoons as they fall under the category of satire and humour which makes it open season -- like this: How many soapy bubbles did it take Officer Bubbles to lose his mind and have an innocent citizen harassed and arrested? Answer: None. People with small penises don't need any excuses to throw their weight around.

 Here's a report from theRealnews.com people on some of the still unanswered questions as to the long list of civil rights abuses perpetrated by the police during the weekend of the G-20 summit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

William Shatner Is Awesome!

I love William Shatner. If that means you think I'm a nerd then so be it! Here's an ad he made for the Sierra Club that warns about the consequences of a rapidly warming planet and what can be done to change and stabilize the current dynamic: reduce our total carbon emissions by 2% each and every year until 2050. I understand that on a planet whose population is currently increasing at a rapid rate that this is more ambitious than it first sounds, but what is the alternative? Surrender and pass down to our children and grandchildren a world of "...drought, floods, disease and global strife?"

 That's where this all leads: wars for water, food, oil and mass migrations of a kind unseen before in modern history -- and if you don't believe me, go see what the US military thinks.

Un- Saintly Sunday

The Conservative government is preparing for a national debate on health care finance and reform. Which I imagine is code for so long medicare, welcome to Canada  big US health insurance companies. 

In case there is any doubt as to where our beloved Prime Minister good old Steven Harper stands on the issue, he was President of the National Citizens Coalition from 1998 to 2002. What is the National Citizens Coalition? According to Wikipedia.

The National Citizens Coalition is a Canadian conservative lobby group. It was founded by Colin M. Brown in 1967 to oppose the concept of a national health care system. It supports privatization, tax cuts, and government spending cuts and opposes laws that limit spending by non-party organizations during election campaigns. It has been heavily involved in advertising, political campaigns and legal challenges in support of its goals of "more freedom with less government." 

A National Citizens Coalition billboard in downtown Toronto in 2003.

Another sweet little sunday night story, something to keep you up at night wondering what has become of us. A U.S.  who soldier allegedly killed three Afghan civilians for fun is facing a court martial with a maximum penalty of life in prison with no chance of parole. 

Specialist Jeremy Morlock is charged with premeditated murder in the deaths that occurred between January and May of this year.

Morlock is one of five soldiers charged with murder  and seven others are accused of trying to hamper the investigation. They are also being charged for drug use and the beating of a fellow soldier that informed on them. 

Last week charges were dropped against hundreds of concerned citizens arrested during the G20 meetings and now one infamous police officer, "Officer Bubbles" is suing YouTube for over a million dollars. I seems he doesn't  take kindly to some cartoons posted on the site that poked fun at his disposition. The cartoons were taken down but the incident that inspired them is still up.(he obviously has no sense of humour.)


Senator Al Franken oh so, not so, long ago..



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Late Night Blogging

Hello there! Late to the blog because it was a long and busy day. I wanted to follow up on the Omar Khadr story with what news I could find before the day ended. You can go see the PM Harper's "principled" reaction to news of a possible plea bargain here. There' nothing new of course. No acknowledgement of the fact that he was in fact a child soldier when he picked up off a battlefield by the Americans at the age of 15. Just the comment "he's charged with very serious crimes," while never mentioning that the only real proof of these so-called crimes comes from Khadr himself and was obtained under the extreme duress of torture. Such evidence of course would be thrown out of any court in Canada and the US except the military tribunal that Omar is being tried in.

 The Globe and Mail editorial board (hardly filled with crazed liberal hippies) state, in terms that can only be described as politic, that they believe the young man has suffered more than enough and deserves a chance to live his life.

Here's a list of places where the documentary about Omar Khadr is being screened in Canada over the next couple of weeks (hopefully more will be added soon). You can join Amnesty International's efforts to have Omar repatriated by signing their letter here or you can just e-mail the PM at pm@pm.gc.ca