Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WikiLeaks Party Blog

I have no sympathy for the idiots in the US State Department who are busy crying foul over the WikiLeaks release. As stated in this Miami Herald article which quotes spokespeople from the Pentagon, there is no proof that anyone has been harmed as a result. In direct contrast there is ample evidence that the Americans ongoing wars of choice continue to see innocent civilians killed daily in Afghanistan and Iraq, where despite claims the war there is over the Americans have left behind 50,000 combat ready troops as well as thousands of modern day mercenaries (i.e. Blackwater/Xe).

Who's who of the WikiLeaked world leaders. From left to right: Robert Mugabe, Guenther Oettinger, Moammar?Ghadafi, King Abdullah bin Abulaziz, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nicholas Sarkozy, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Dmitri Medvevev. The global diplomatic firestorm that has broken out is all of the Americans own doing. No one forced their hand and made them run a secret intelligence campaign targeting the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK. They could have chosen to remain within the law and honored the 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states: "The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable." And yet Washington also went after ...credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer account numbers for UN figures and "biographic and biometric information on UN Security Council permanent representatives".

There's lots to learn in these cables. For example:
There were grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, with officials warning that as the country faces economic collapse, government employees could smuggle out enough nuclear material for terrorists to build a bomb.

There are allegations that Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations, with one cable reporting that the relationship is so close that the country has become a "virtual mafia state".

The cables names Saudi donors as the biggest financiers of terror groups, and provide an extraordinarily detailed account of an agreement between Washington and Yemen to cover up the use of US planes to bomb al-Qaida targets. One cable records that during a meeting in January with General David Petraeus, then US commander in the Middle East, Yemeni president Abdullah Saleh said: "We'll continue saying they are our bombs, not yours."
That's a lot to digest all of itself, and there's much more to sift through. In spite of what your media might be claiming this is an important catalogue of living history and a good look at the people behind the curtain and what they're really up to. It'll no doubt slip down the memory hole far too fast to have the affect it should have on the public's perceptions of the people who are acting on their behalf. This is a feast of information that will no doubt be treated like fast food by the rapacious media.

You can go read in the Globe and Mail about some of Canada's part in all this that, ...former CSIS director Jim Judd went so far as to complain that judicial rulings and public naiveté were paralyzing his spies – specifically lamenting that Canadians were prone to “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” and “paroxysms of moral outrage.”

It's good to see the former head of our spy service getting one right. I'm pretty much apoplectic with moral outrage because none of this is how I expect my government to behave in my name. He can call it naiveté if he likes, I take no offense. I simply hold that we can accomplish our strategic goals without compromising what we believe. Why cede the moral high ground without a fight? To prove that we can be tough guys too? Sounds childish, like something that belongs back in the schoolyard and not in the halls of international diplomatic dealings. And perhaps therein lies the problem and the reason for the US's embarrassment. They can't even argue through all this that the ends justifies the means as clearly the ends are merely their own selfish goals -- there's no higher purpose in all this. And as for the means, well the less said about that the better!



Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't Do As I Do, Do What I Say

It's a strange Grey Cup Sunday evening, Wikileaks, verge of war in Korea, not so good elections in Haiti and a few by-elections that will probably go the Conservative's way.

Wikileaks are everywhere on the news, more like a hole in the pipe than a leak. Aside from the obvious embarrassing moments for the people concerned it brings up how far the difference is between the powers that be and the rest of us who have to deal and live with their consequences. Ask the folks in Ireland what they did to cause the strife they'll have to put with for the next decade.

Speaking of a double standard it appears there won't be any police charged for using excessive force during the G20 cafouful. It appears one goon in a black outfit can't be told apart from another goon in black.

On the other hand about 90 police officers face discipline over not wearing badges. And why did they not wear their badges? I figure they figured they were going to cause trouble and didn't want to be identified. Not really rocket science to figure out the evils of man. Looks like they will be paying the hefty penalty of loosing a days pay. A days pay to bash heads, I think in cop talk thats like a cheap night out. Of course the government has passed laws specifically outlawing the wearing of outfits that hide ones identity, whats good for the goose is defiantly not good for the gander.

There are three federal byelections being held Monday, luckily for the Liberals, Mr. Ignatieff (and the rest of us) the results won't give the Conservatives a majority should they get a clean sweep. The odds of that appear unlikely with the word on the street is at best they will get two out of the three ridings. The most interesting is in the Toronto area riding of Vaughan. Historically a Liberal strong hold but the Conservatives are running star candidate, ex-police commissioner Julian Fantino. The riding in Winnipeg North is between Liberal Kevin Lamoureux and NDP candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis. The third riding Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette has voted Conservative for more than a decade and it doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

I was watching the Grey Cup and noticed the PM wearing a green hat, looks like his team lost. Those RCMP officers looked so proud carrying the Grey Cup into the stadium. It kinda made me wonder how many people they beat up while in the custody of the nation's constabulary?

Some Sunday-Monday vids,



Thats was a bit of a bummer vid so this should put a smile on one's face. Karl was worried about using a bad word in his post, (there are no bad words only bad intentions) so I thought of this comedic romp with lots of those 7 words your not supposed to say.

Who Is Accountable?

At every turn I extend the benefit of the doubt to our soldiers serving overseas. For the most part this is true of most of the people in the various media. The boys are following orders, doing their best and deserve our support. So when I read about soldiers handing over prisoners to the notorious NDS (Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security) who are infamous for using torture, I assume this is the fault of the policy makers and blame them and not the soldiers, and hope that somehow our system of justice will eventually hold those who are responsible for such actions accountable -- this is apparently pie in the sky as Prime Minister Harper manages to subvert democracy and accountability at every turn with the unwitting help of the opposition.

 But when I read, as I just have, in the Globe and Mail, The Canadian Forces in Afghanistan have for at least four years captured children accused of co-operating with the Taliban and transferred them to a local security unit suspected of torture, according to CBC News, I lose interest in giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. Children are off limits and fuck screw anyone who thinks different!

If indeed these children have been coerced into assisting the Taliban or whomever the hell it is Canada is at war with in Afghanistan, then get them out of the way without handing them over to know torturers! How difficult can that be? Our mission, after all, is supposed to have a humanitarian component to it.

 Does anyone in government anywhere on this planet have a moral compass anymore? Are we all to allow ourselves to be governed and ruled by sociopaths? What in Christ is the matter with us? Does anyone understand that actions have consequences and that things like this are why it is so easy to recruit more for terrorist causes?

We have helped bring nothing but war to Afghanistan. All else is propaganda. Unless you think 70% of the population living in poverty with more than half of all children under five (54%) whose growth has been stunted due to poor nutrition is some kind of victory for democracy, freedom and the NATO allies! By the way, life expectancy is just 44.

"Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world," states Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF's country representative. Other indicators are equally appalling, such as 70% of the population lacking potable water. Diarrhea in particular kills tens of thousands of children every year and is, in Afghanistan, a particularly serious health risk.
 
Anything there make you feel proud of the Canadian efforts in Afghanistan? Anything there explain to you what we're doing in Afghanistan? Nine years and counting, and we've just signed on to staying until 2014 and beyond!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Context

Hardly a day goes by without the demagogues in the American right-wing attacking Obama for being different from ordinary Americans, or characterized as having a different set of beliefs or being foreign born or some such rot. It's a testament to the failure of the various media that they allow themselves to be used to propagate this slander and thinly veiled racism all the while pretending that it's being done in the name of "balance."

Always included as part of the narrative is Obama's relationship with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. There are a litany of quotes taken from a post 9/11 sermon that are always served up as "proof" that Obama was listening to anti-American screeds all these years and hence must be anti-American too. It is of course absurd on its' face but as far as media narratives go that doesn't prevent it from continuously being spread to the unquestioning viewing and hate-radio listening public.

Back when this story broke and the right-wing media were playing those selected clips around the clock I went looking for and found the entire sermon which I played on my radio show several times to put context to the oft repeated sound-bites being played. Interestingly, the sermon was not anti-American at all. It was a presentation of the American foreign policies he believed led to the attack and the folly of seeking revenge. The most controversial statements in the sermon do not belong to Reverend Wright but are him repeating what former US Ambassador Edward Peck had said while being interviewed on the Fox network -- save the phrase "America's chickens are coming home to roost," which was an embellishment of the part of the Reverend.

In some circles these ideas may be somewhat controversial but certainly not in all and so I've wanted to post the video for some time but the full video is no longer available but I did find a ten minute snippet which indeed does put enough context to put the lie to Obama's pastor was a radical anti-American. It's a speech delivered with passion and a certain amount of flair which I do not believe is that uncommon in a lot of American churches. Have a listen and please tell me what you think.

More War Stuff!

Snow on the ground here in Montreal and there's a pleasant quiet in the house and on the surrounding streets. A good time to sit down and read my favourite Globe and Mail writer Gerald Caplan, who yesterday was talking about Canada enlisting in America's forever war -- something I've written a considerable amount about here at NMP. It's somewhat gratifying to read in Canada's MSM an opinion that reflects what I see for Canada in the Afghanistan quagmire. I'm okay with being a dirty leftist hippie but now and then I do want to believe that it's not just myself and Canada's progressive blogosphere that sees this war for what it is, an enormous waste of blood and treasure and worse, possibly unending.

 Mr. Caplan does what he can to put the US's military spending in some sort of perspective -- it's approximately the equal of the rest of the world's --  and then with tongue in cheek explains why the whole world should be grateful that in the name of peace the US has ...fought more wars, invaded more countries, supported more tyrants, sponsored more coups, trained and funded more foreign armies, and enabled more massacres than any other country in history. He also chronicles their long history of interventionist wars around the world that are arguably immoral, illegal, imperialistic and unarguably  murderous. And then wonders why Stephen Harper has embraced this American crusade that maintains about 1,000 military bases in 130 countries, and continues military aid to four nations who are known to use child soldiers in their armies.

It's a good read and one wonders, like always, is anyone listening?

 So while we're discussing the war it is notable that the US is shrugging off Afghan anger at civilian killings. They're just being ungrateful and have no appreciation for the freedom the US and NATO forces are bringing them. The US denies the allegation of such killings, but admitted that they don’t both the investigate the vast majority of the complaints because they assume them to be “Taliban propaganda.” The commander of the Marines is the district says that the Taliban are to blame for “every single instance” of a civilian casualty in the district. In direct contradiction to such claims by the US, airstrikes are the single largest cause of civilian deaths by foreign and Afghan government forces during the first half of 2010, accounting for 31 percent, said the U.N..

US envoys are being forced to apologize in advance of the upcoming WikiLeaks document dump that promises to be an embarrassment to the US and the Pentagon is being described as "hyperventilating over being held to account" for its actions. According to the Independent, "Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public." A thought to which I have a one word response, Good!

Of course as always the US is claiming that the release will put lives in danger -- I think it'll put politicians careers in danger. The US's unending war efforts are what puts lives in danger. Shining a light on what they're up to is merely holding the accountable for their actions. Something there needs to be more of.

Politically Canuck Blogging

Norman Spector believes that if the NDP want Canadians to hear what they have to say, they should get the hell out of Ottawa. This would be sage advice for the Liberals as well. None of the opposition parties messaging seems to rise above the din and in some cases goes unreported. What else is wrong with the Liberals? Funny you should ask 'cause Robert Silver has an idea or two and links to three articles that all beg the question  "what is wrong with the Liberals?" I disagree with them all -- I think a modicum of spine would go a long way. I'm also starting to think liberals should stop being willing to compromise until after we've seen real change. Does that make me shrill?

 Word is Iggy doesn't mind his junk being touched in airport screenings -- it may be because he's a bit numb there after two steady years of being kicked in the nads by the Conservatives.

The smell of corruption wafts in our general direction from Ottawa but so far we've only one man's word. Mustn't jump to conclusions -- except of course the opposition Liberals did. Good theatre perhaps but lousy politics if there turns out there's no corroborating evidence. There was a run on a B.C. mining stock that has prompted securities investigators to see if there was a leak of confidential information from inside the government that triggered the sell-off.

Corruption does seem to be rife in Quebec where Charest survived a non-confidence vote this week.

A holy crap! moment brought to you by four fascist members of the Ottawa police force who kicked, then forced a woman to the ground and then strip-searched her after she was arrested on Rideau Street for public intoxication — a charge stayed by Justice Richard Lajoie of the Ontario Court of Justice in a verbal ruling issued Oct. 27. Lajoie ruled that while the accused had been drinking when she was arrested, there was "no evidence that Ms. Bonds was a threat to herself or anyone else" and so there was no grounds to detain her.

Jack Layton wants to see wealthy tax cheats pay their fair share. Stephen Harper's friends probably won't be very amenable.

The Conservatives believe what the country needs is a PR campaign to sell Canada on their $16 billion dollar sole-sourced purchase of F-35 jets that Canada doesn't need as much as it needs improvements to health care. But why should Stephen care? He can always turn to the Senate to get his way.

Global Warming Blogging

Have been off for a couple of days but wanted to return with the important stories that I covered on the radio show that really have gotten little MSM coverage. Starting with what should be a huge story so far as global warming is concerned but so far has received very little coverage in the media, Antarctic waters are warming and a citadel of ice is melting. It's completely remarkable when you consider that the fringes of the world's coldest continent are warming faster virtually than any place on earth. This represents what is essentially the first breech in an area that holds 90% of the world's ice. Steady warming has the potential to raise ocean sea levels many feet.

The question now, as humanity pours greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at an accelerating rate, is not whether Antarctica will begin to warm in earnest, but how rapidly.Here's a link to the indispensable Climate Progress's pretty thorough wrap on global warming and green energy news that includes stories about how the World Bank has been talking about focusing its support on clean energy projects, the UK is negotiating a central role for business at the Cancun climate summit next week, hybrid tugboats, an organic farming system geared for homeowners, schools, restaurants and commercial growers, optimizing wind farms, China hitting their energy efficiency and pollution targets and at the cost of one Tim Horton's donut per month Ontario's solar PV industry will have created 72,000 person-years of jobs.

The people at Motor Trend take on the hate-mongering, drug addicted blowhard Limbaugh over his uninformed stance on the new Chevy Volt and remind him that driving and Oxycontin don't mix! Interestingly the Globe and Mail disagrees with Motor Trend's choice for car of the year but for entirely different reasons than Rush.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ezra Levant: Condescending And Racist

When my local fishwrap prints an unbalanced op-ed piece that comes from someone shilling for the oil and gas industry I get angry I'll admit but I also have come to expect it. My real complaint is that they almost never print an opposing opinion on the same day for balance. Truth is most people don't read the newspaper every day anymore and so if the local paper prints a differing opinion sometime later in the week it may not be seen and a lying narrative is born. The narrative can be killed or have a stake drriven though it but if no one is there to read it then it lives again as a zombie lie -- the purpose of these kinds of zombie narratives is to obscure the truth and affect public policy. The last ten years are rife with examples of zombie lies regularly disseminated as common wisdom in the various media.

  Ezra Levant is someone who makes a living as part of the right-wing Wurlitzer whose purpose in these times is to obscure the case for global warming and clean energy. In the past he has supported Quebec separatism in the hopes that it would end bilingualism and multiculturalism in Canada. He also hoped that Quebec separation would be a catalyst for the government to deny First Nations groups the justice on social issues they were seeking and environmentalists the changes in public policy that they sought.

His career in advocacy for extremist right-wing positions began early: 

As a student he accused the University of Alberta of racism for instituting an program of affirmative action for hiring women and aboriginal professors. He also organized a debate between Doug Christie, a lawyer known for his advocacy in defence of Holocaust deniers and accused Nazi war criminals, and Thomas Kuttner, a Jewish lawyer from the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission.
He has been involved in numerous libel cases that include attacks against Alberta PC Senator Ron Ghitter who sued him and Canadian Alliance MP Rob Anders (famous for voting against making Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen of Canada because he said he was a communist and a terrorist) for defamation and in 2000. Both he and Levant admitted liability and issued a formal apology to settle the suit. In September this so-called advocate for free speech wrote a column for Sun Media accusing George Soros of funding avaaz.org, a group lobbying to stop Sun Media being granted a license for Sun TV News Channel, and strongly attacked Soros's character and history by alleging that as a child he collaborated with the Nazis. Soros threatened to sue Sun Media for libel and on September 18, Sun Media issued a retraction and apology to Soros stating that:

On September 5, 2010, a column by Ezra Levant contained false statements about George Soros and his conduct as a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary. ...The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made.Sun Media, this newspaper and Ezra Levant retract the statements made in the column and unreservedly apologize to Mr. Soros for the distress and harm this column may have caused to him.
More recently a court ruled that he pay $25,000 to Giacomo Vigna, a Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer, for libelling him with "reckless indifference" to the truth in blog posts about a major hate speech case.

As evidenced, he is a charmer and it was his op-ed the Montreal Gazette printed Tuesday about how Alberta's tar-sands are an "ethical investment." I kid you not. Destroying the environment, pumping tons of pollutants into the atmosphere is this guy's idea of an ethical investment. The mind would boggle but it's the early 21st century and corporations rule the playing field and so this is pretty much SOP for the media and for corporate shills. I winced but couldn't even be bothered to talk about it on my radio show that morning -- I had other things scheduled and I could get around to discussing this bit of whoring for the oil and gas companies later in the week.

In my search into the character of Ezra Levant was I thought I had come across enough damning evidence to suggest that he was racist, a shill and in general a man seemingly without any redeeming characteristics so far as his participation in public life went. Then I came across two videos posted over at Rabble.ca that show engaged in a debate about the tar-sands with indigenous youth worker and activist from Fort Chipewan Alberta, Gits Crazyboy. He proves himself to be far worse than I had previously thought. He is condescending, racist and simply vile. Watch and be amazed that this man could be allowed to be represent anyone or anything -- an embarrassment to the human race:



Odds and Ends

Over at Rabble.ca Murray Dobbin has written a timely piece about our sociopathic corporate overlords and makes a great argument for changing how we view and deal with this phenomena, beginning with taking away their personhood. Turns out that voters in the US, where this year's Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court has enshrined this kind of corporate citizenship allowing for their unlimited spending in political campaigns, want Congress to amend the Constitution and overturn this ruling by a double-digit margin.

 Sun Media continues its' ongoing war on the public broadcaster. The CBC is currently fighting federal information commissioner in court to stop Suzanne Legault’s office from reviewing files that have been requested under the access laws but have either not been delivered or delivered with some of the requested information removed. Many of the requests come from Sun Media's QMI Agency and the court has ruled in favour Legault's request to review the files but the CBC is appealing the ruling. Like a lot of other issues in Canadian politics this is about process and a bit dry but nonetheless important. NDP heritage critic Charlie Angus told QMI he thinks the CBC is right to fight claiming the CBC is under-funded and being undermined by the current government.


The Tories were apparently not telling the truth about the costs of the long-gun registry that they tried to kill. Who could have guessed?

South of the 49th Sherry Boehlert, a member of a vanishing breed of moderate, pro-science Republicans writes about global warming and the science that the GOP can't wish away.

The hatemonger who runs Fox news, Roger Ailes, blames unscrupulous rabbis for his calling the execs over at NPR, nazis. What a classy organization. And now that the Pope has declared health care to be a universal right, will Ailes and the rightwing media characterize him as being like Hitler in the same fashion that they accused Democrats who were in favour of health care reform?

The current battle over the ratification of the NEW START treaty has the Economist declaring that, ...this is a bad moment in the United States for thoughtfulness on foreign affairs—at least in the popular press and in the halls of Congress. The right-wing media have attacked President Obama's New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, claiming it "may harm national security." In reality, the treaty enjoys widespread support among military leaders, who have called its passage a "no-brainer," and have argued that the treaty makes the US safer. Ah, those pesky facts!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Christmas Song For Atheists

This is my new favourite Christmas song, 'White Wine In The Sun.' Written by Tim Minchen and wonderfully sung by Kate Miller-Heidke:

The Most Dangerous People In America

You just know reading the title I'm going to start talking about the tea party wing of the Republican party. These people are John Birchers with a new handle and a lot of shadowy money funding their activities. Now you may think you already know how dumb these people can be -- after all they backed Sharon Angle, Christine O'Donnell and Sarah Palin is their queen. Another favourite Rand Paul, the recently elected Senator from Kentucky compared Obama's rise to Hitler's and suffered no consequences because these people thrive on hate and inflammatory rhetoric.

 Well, get ready for some real stupid baby, 'cause you ain't seen dumb yet! And that's if you went to all the links and read all the moronic and demagogic quotes from this nasty group of opportunists.

Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones has been plumbing the depths of their absurd beliefs in a must read piece, and just like their Bircher counterparts these people are believers in mad conspiracies. For example they hold that local planning and zoning commissions in the US are busy carrying out a global conspiracy to trample American liberties and force citizens into Orwellian "human habitation zones." At the root of this plot is the admittedly sinister-sounding Agenda 21, an 18-year-old UN plan to encourage countries to consider the environmental impacts of human development.

They get their ideas from people like Henry Lamb, a WorldNetDaily columnist who has argued for decades that the UN is secretly plotting to herd humans into crowded cities so that the rest of the world can be devoted to wildlife preservation. Tea partier Virginia activist Donna Holt says, "...there is a global agenda to actually abolish private property and abolish the Constitution for that matter. If sustainable development is fully implemented, this basically will turn us into a Soviet state."

This sounds laughable on its' face but as Mencimer reports:
...that doesn't mean they won't derail local development projects. Take what transpired recently in Tampa, Florida, where tea party activists helped defeat a widely supported measure that would have funded light rail and road improvements in Hillsborough County. In the lead-up to a ballot initiative on the penny-per-dollar sales tax increase to fund the project, the local conservative paper, the Tampa Bay Examiner, ran a series on Agenda 21 plus commentary suggesting that the "smart growth" principles underlying the light rail proposal were simply "cover for an agenda to transfer American sovereignty to various tentacles of the United Nations."
Ed Braddy, a popular speaker on the tea party circuit and the executive director of the American Dream Coalition, which opposes smart growth and other standard components of modern land-use planning, says that tea partiers recognize the evils of sustainable development. "It's almost an instinctive thing,"

Needless to say, their view of the definition of sustainable development and its' actual meaning are light years apart. You may think it means, resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. But that would make you an elitist, commie, pinko supporter of terrorists, or something. According to the tea party acolytes, sustainable development is code meaning the UN wants to herd you into human habitation camps and take away your god given freedoms.

The scary thing is that these people are given credibility by the various media and their craziness is never questioned in an effective and straightforward manner that would in all likelihood marginalize them in the same fashion that the Birchers were marginalized back in the 60's. Instead, they are allowed to continuously move the discourse and society as a whole in a backwards direction.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Canadians Get Burned While Ignatieff Fiddles- North And South Korea Have Artillery Exchange

Looks like we have an opposition after all, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe will be calling for a vote in the house of commons concerning the extension of the mission in Afghanistan. (One good thing about being in Afghanistan for so long I can spell it now no problem. Now we just have to invade Kasikstan.)

I found a copy of President Karzai's speech from Lisbon,(wicki leaks don't got nothing on me) this is my fave part,


In this regard, we look forward to our international partners fulfilling their commitments of the London and Kabul Conferences to channel 50% of resources through the Afghan government and to aligning the use of all resources around Afghan priorities.

Constitutionally, our State is unitary, so we ask that the resources your governments contribute to our common effort be provided in a manner that strengthens Afghan government, reinforces our sovereignty, and advances the success of our State.
We appreciate NATO’s comprehensive approach in Afghanistan, where the campaign against terrorism goes hand in hand with development assistance. However, parallel aid systems raise significant issues of accountability and efficiency, whereas national programs can build institutions and allow for public participation. We therefore ask our partners to join us in expanding existing national programs and in designing new ones. We must particularly work together to ensure that provincial transitions are guided by a coherent national approach. Our security institutions are still modestly equipped. Ensuring enablers and trainers for our police and armed forces is therefore essential to the success of transition.

We have long been concerned about the unintended adverse consequences of international contracts on our economy, politics and society. We welcome the review of NATO contracts and commitment to the policy of “Afghan First”. Giving preference to the Afghan private sector will have major positive effect in
harnessing the market as a force of stability. Providing Afghanistan with market access to ISAF/NATO countries can also boost peace and prosperity. As the transition succeeds, reinvesting the dividend into the creation of opportunity for Afghan citizens will be welcome.

I believe thats government talk for, "just deposit the aid money directly in our Swiss Bank Accounts."
A link to the whole speech: 



I was thinking about all the hassles of flying lately and I discovered an alternate mode of air travel, enjoy the ride



STOP THE PRESSES: NEWS ALERT : HIDE UNDER THE DESK TIME; Just got Tweeted by the  NY Times and they are telling me that North and South Korea have exchanged dozens of artillery shells. Local news(South Korean I assume but cannot confirm) says more than 80 rounds. Updates to follow.

Around the Blogosphere

By the time Monday shows up there's usually a whole raft of important stories being ignored by the various media in favour of the more sensationalist or celebrity related news (caution!). That doesn't even count news about the hypocritical Palin and the rest of her clan which is now a whole separate industry. Barbara Bush for one, wishes she would just go away.

 Still, occasionally an important story breaks through the vapidity as is the case with the story about the thawing of the permafrost that is under way in Siberia and the negative affect the resulting release in methane could have on the speed with which global warming takes hold of the planet. Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse forcing gas 25 or so more times more powerful than CO2 and there are 1.5 trillion tons of carbon locked inside the frozen earth. Most of the greenhouse modeling done to date does not even include this major warming factor.

There's a story getting some play in the media about the Republicans obstructing the NEW START treaty with Russia that is critical to securing loose nukes and monitoring Russian nuclear weapons. In short it's important to the overall security concerns of the US but that seemingly is not as important to Republicans as their hatred for Obama.

For a little bit of fun, here's some Keith Olbermann back doing his worst Person In The World Segment featuring the vicious madman who runs fox news and some other idjits and he also has a few words for John Stewart:




A couple of people who are no doubt likely to be featured on Keith's show in the near future are the insane Michelle Bachman, who was recently busy calling Obama anti-American in an interview with the BBC,  newly elected wingnut Allen West who has a bizarre and violent past and his most recent media enabler David Gregory of Meet the Press. The media sinks to new lows every weekend!

And in a 'dog bites man' kind of story, the polluters at BP still evil and couldn't give a crap about the environment -- seems they've done some of their best work in the pristine wilderness of Alaska.

Monday Morning Links

Monday's at the radio show are named mayhem because of the importance of alliteration in radio and because of the wide array of stories that present themselves after two days away from the mike. Starting with a story from The Mark, a story we've talked at some length about on New Media and Politics, the Tories mad desire to imprison more Canadians, build new prisons at a time when crime rates are historically low (Tories plan to build 13 new prisons to accommodate more prisoners and harsher sentences) and imitate our American cousins by instituting mandatory minimums for crimes like possession of marijuana.

 A story about the ambiguous announcements (surprise!) coming out of the NATO get-together in Lisbon discussing the future of the war there and how all NATO alliance troops will be leaving Afghanistan in 2014 no matter what, except the ones that don't.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen officials said the date was not a deadline. Combat operations could continue beyond 2014, he warned, and the pace of the transition will have to be determined by conditions on the ground in each town, district and province.
In an Afghanistan war related story and how the war took a turn for the worse when the Americans took their eye off the ball and began the fiasco in Iraq, George Bush jr. engaged on his book-selling/making excuses tour, has shamefully tried to lay the blame on the NATO allies for not wanting to fight -- no doubt like he didn't want to serve in Vietnam -- but his version of the story differs wildly with  Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen — whom Bush appointed to in 2007:



Whatever happened to the Afghanistan detainee issue and the multi-party panel created to sift through the documents you ask? Near as anyone can report, nothing!

Bruce Anderson of the Globe and Mail says the Liberal Party may be suffering from an enthusiasm gap as 64% of Canadians believe they should change their leadership. That's got to be pretty tough for Iggy to swallow with his morning cup of java. My caveat here would be that Mr. Ignatieff suffers from a lack of faith in the Canadian voter gap. He's been given innumerable issues that he could have taken to the Canadian voter and perhaps rallied them to the side of the Liberal Party but seems not to trust them with issues and policy and instead sits on the sidelines being marginalized while waiting for the polls to tell him he's suddenly popular and should force an election.

In the interim Harper has abused prorogation, muzzled several watchdog agencies, stonewalled on the Afghan detainee issue, used executive spending powers to eliminate things he does not like, with no public debate, continued his party`s assault on women's rights, diminished the role of science in the economy, engaged in attacks on the cultural sector and eliminated the funding for advocacy organizations which criticize the government. Oh, and Bill C-9 gave the Tories the power to waive off environmental assessment and unilaterally approve projects like drilling in Canada`s Arctic or tar sands expansion. Do you think that somewhere in there Iggy could find a winning issue or two?

A great example of a valuable institution that Harper and his band of ideologues have decided to neuter is Statistics Canada. By eliminating the long-form census they have reduced its' effectiveness and deprived numerous organizations of important data.
Statistics Canada says more than 700 different clients bought reports or data based on the 2006 census, including 297 government bodies from all levels, 232 businesses, 66 non-profit organizations, 54 health and social service agencies and 62 educational institutions.

This effectively marginalizes the poor and those already on the fringes. No doubt that was its purpose. Again, an issue with which an effective opposition could make headway with the Canadian public. Mr. Layton has been equally ineffective at messaging and it is leaving the playing field to the Tories.

My Local Fishwrap Prints An Op-Ed

On Friday morning I'm rushing off to work and take a quick peek at the Montreal Gazette and see an editorial entitled, "The Senate was right to kill the climate-change bill," by Tom Harris. At the bottom it reads that he is the executive director of an organization called the International Climate Science Coalition.

 Sounds official. They even sound like they might be an environmentally concerned group of people. But if that's so, then why would they be happy about Stephen Harper and his undemocratic machinations to kill the climate bill? And why would there be the usual threats that are so commonplace now every time industry and corporations see a bill or regulations they don't like, "It'll cost thousands of jobs!"

So when I got to work I quickly did a google search and sure enough Tom Harris is the head of an organization that spends their time lying about global warming, its' possible impacts while ignoring the actual science altogether. Don't believe me? Go have a look at their official sight. The information that Al Gore has tried to get people to sit up and notice? Indoctrination! According to one editorial the sight is promoting, Global Warming has been made up! Never mind that 97% of scientists who are members of the National Academy of Science agree that Global Warming is real and it has a human footprint. Tom Harris and his organization don't deal in facts. They deal in obfuscation and corporate propaganda.

And this is tripe is published in a major media outlet with no mention as to what it is his organization is about, who they represent, the shadowy organizations they are aligned with,  nor are there any scientific facts for anyone to hang their hats on. They have aligned themselves with the discredited conspiracist Alex Jones the very thoroughly debunked Lord Monkton. They have also trumpeted the so-called "climategate" affair which has been repeatedly proven to be no scandal whatsoever.

Without overstating the obvious, the very least the newspaper has an obligation to do is inform its readers of who the author is and what his or her potential conflicts of interest might be. An op-ed on the science of Global Warming without any science is absurd but this is what passes for journalism in the 21st century. It's shameful and ultimately works against all our interests to have a debate about science between scientists and the propagators of opinion journalism. In a better world, this wouldn't be a fair fight.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Will Anyone Notice If NATO Stays In Afghanistan Forever?

As the NATO member nations make their way to Lisbon for the big meet-up this weekend that will tell the world where the war in Afghanistan is headed and how 2014 is now the date that the war will end, there are signs that suggest that is utter bullshit. Here's the first paragraph from the Globe and Mail on the get-together:
The meeting, which begins Friday, will bring together the 28 countries that are members of the alliance to define the threats it faces in the future, discuss the possibility of a shared missile defence shield and restart talks on security co-operation with Russia after a two-year freeze.
The threats the alliance faces? The possibility their citizens will notice the whole exercise is a sham and they are just kicking the can down the road -- stalling. This could cost them votes in upcoming elections. Serious threats indeed! The possibility of a missile defense shield? To forestall threats from whom? Certainly not from Iran because that would be suicidal so maybe from... the US? Because if they can't sell their armaments then they'll surely go bankrupt seeing as how it's the only thing they know how to do anymore. And if no one buys their arms the Americans won't be able to spend and consume with their accustomed zeal and that will surely threaten the world's economic outlook.

As for relations with Russia, how bad are they when the NATO allies are already allowed to run important supply routes through Russia to aid their efforts in the Afghanistan war/occupation, and they have Russian cooperation on Iran sanctions? There is also the new START treaty that Russia was willing to sign on to with the US even though many Republicans are now balking so as to deny Obama a victory on the world stage at the expense of their own security. So discussions about relations with Russia should be taking place back in the US and not in Lisbon... it would seem.

Now supposedly General Petreus will ...provide an overview of the situation on the ground and on plans to cede responsibility over the next four years to Afghan security forces, province by province and possibly district by district, with the goal of completing the transfer by the end 2014. That makes it sound like the war will finally be ended then by 2014 after what will be, by then, only 13 years of war and occupation.

Unhappy signs abound however. Karzai and Petreus are feuding rather publicly over Afghan corruption and the lack of access Karzai has to the reconstruction money which he says fuels the corruption. Karzai has angered Petreus by calling for an end to night raids and other combat operations by American-led forces in his country and Petreus sees these comments as a direct challenge to his counter-insurgency strategy.

Alain Juppé, the newly appointed French Defence Minister said yesterday that,“Afghanistan is a trap for all the contingents that are there.” Who would have thought the graveyard of empires could turn into a trap?

NATO’s top civilian representative, Mark Sedwill said, “There might still be one or two parts of the country where the transition process is ongoing and that might last into 2015 or beyond.” He also cautioned that pacifying some areas and getting stable local governments in place could take longer. I'm sure we're all surprised to read that.

Finally, maybe Australia knows something the world's media would like to ignore -- they've signed on for 10 more years in Afghanistan. Now why is that?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A National Debate?

The beginning of the first sentence of this Globe and Mail article left me flummoxed, "In the midst of a national debate on pension reform..." What? When did this debate begin? Who's having it? Whose idea was it to have this "national debate?" Why wasn't I informed? I read every damned newspaper there is!

 So I did what you're supposed to do with the new media, I googled it and while not a whole heck of a lot came up what I found sifting through the numerous pages was useful. Turns out that while there is not exactly a public debate taking place, the provinces have been busy trying to find consensus and reform the CPP -- which may or may not be what that mysterious first sentence was all about. Interestingly in October a new research paper was presented by expert Jonathan Kesselman, which compared the pension reform proposals on the table, and came to the conclusion that a bigger CPP, with a mandatory increase in premiums as well as benefits, was considered to be the best choice. And this is the direction that both federal and provincial governments are moving in.

There was more on the google pages but it pre-dates the above resolution of this "debate." An economist, Norma Kozhaya of the Montreal Economic Institute, who in 2007 said that we should raise the retitrement age in Canada from 65 to 67 in the next 12 years but there wasn't much more other than a few caveats about Canadians living longer and having to increase the CPP premiums or else! There was a story in the Digital Journal about the Canadian pension system coming in at fifth place in the second Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, produced by Mercer for the Australian Centre for Financial Studies, which is not too shabby.

 But there have also been some interesting discussions about the subject taking place, including one with a reminder that says,
If you haven't noticed the start of the retirement debate, perhaps you've been too busy working. Get used to it.
So now that this debate is raging all over the world, and even though Canada seems to have already settled on a solution, there are those who want that debate to re-start. Thankfully Finance Minister Jim Flaherty rejects the idea and is participating in the saner approach by working with the provinces to increase benefits through “modest” increases to Canada Pension Plan contributions. How long this holds is anyone's guess but you can expect the usual assortment of right leaning think-tanks to come out and endorse the idea of having this debate with the media acting as their enablers.

There is a case to be made for those who can and want to work beyond 65, but a mandatory raising of the retirement age unfairly targets the poor and those who work in manual labour -- which is probably the whole point. Not enough people eating cat food to keep them feeling good about themselves. So when you read how we need to have this debate immediately, don't believe it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Americans Spend Their Money On: UPDATED

When looking at the budget fights the Americans are currently embroiled in, it's important to ignore the spin from both sides and remember what it is they spend their money on. If ever there was a case to be made that the Military Industrial Complex has taken over and has far too much influence on American policy, both foreign and domestic, it's contained in the numbers below which were put together by the non-partisan National Priorities Project. As you can see, there's 5% for health, 4% for education, 6% for environment, energy and science and other piddling percentages for things that should be considered important but so far as Discretionary Spending goes they spend the bulk of it on their military.

 A stunning 58% of the US budgeted discretionary spending goes to fuel the war-machine at a time when 59 million Americans have no health insurance, 132 million are without any dental insurance, their social programs are being cut to the bone and there's even talk of ending social security as they know it.

The icing on this cake is for all the talk there is from the Republicans about cutting programs and reducing spending, none of them wants to sit on the Appropriations Committee which controls all discretionary spending because none of them has the balls to actually cut the popular programs they're always calling for an end to because it would likely cost them their seat in the next election.

UPDATED: It has been pointed out to me that this post may be misleading and so I want to clear it up. Discretionary spending was $1.39 trillion, or 38% of total spending of the US budget in FY 2010. It is that part of the U.S. Federal Budget that is negotiated between the President and Congress each year as part of the budget process. It includes everything that is not in the mandatory budget, which are programs required by law to provide certain benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare.

This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance, cleanup, and production, which is in the Department of Energy budget, Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Department's payments in pensions to military retirees and widows and their families, interest on debt incurred in past wars, or State Department financing of foreign arms sales and militarily-related development assistance. Neither does it include defense spending that is not military in nature, such as the Department of Homeland Security, counter-terrorism spending by the FBI, and intelligence-gathering spending by NASA.

The upshot of all this is that our American cousins devote an enormous amount of money on weaponry when they already have the capability of completely destroying the world and several other worlds too if they could reach them (the earth can only be destroyed once!). It's never enough however, because as I write there are Americans in Congress getting ready to scuttle Obama's New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia without which the U.S. will be unable to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal as it has since the end of the Cold War, potentially creating significant nuclear instability. One of the reasons for doing this according to Senator Lindsey Graham is, ...we need to modernize our nuclear force, the weapons left, to make sure they continue to be a deterrent and make sure we can deploy missile defense systems apart from START. So you got two stumbling blocks, the modernization program and how missile defense works apart from the treaty.

So, keeping in mind that poverty levels in the US continue on an upwards trend and this spending takes place in the shadow of children without food, schools, heat and people without jobs you can see what an enormous waste and lost opportunity this wanton military spending represents. Also keep in mind that the poverty level is defined as being at approximately $22,000 for a family of four which is a very low threshold.

Below is a chart comparing what the US spends on military budgets as compared with what the rest of the world spends. For a more complete picture you can go have a look over to GlobalIssues.org.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Alberta's Tar Sands

Yesterday the CBC reported CNRL's Horizon oilsands project near Fort McKay, Alta. and the possible environmental problems that a tailings pond which has containing berms on only three of its sides could cause the local environment. The reports are that a toxic sludge is flowing into the muskeg from an uncontained western edge. The western edge of the pond uses a rise in elevation and clay beneath the surface to prevent overflow, an arrangement approved by Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). As there are no physical barriers to keep wildlife away local aboriginals are concerned that the animals they traditionally hunt and trap are drinking water from the pond, which could potentially put toxins into the food chain.

There was disagreement from CNRL and a government of Alberta apologist for big oil, Minister of the Environment Rob Renner who claimed the CBC pictures "...fail to show the gradual slope of the land, which creates a natural barrier to contain the tailings." Hopefully there's some truth in what he says and there won't be yet another oil sands related environmental tragedy. Environment Canada enforcement officers have been sent to inspect the tailings pond Tuesday by federal Environment Minister John Baird and we'll have a better idea about the wisdom of planning a tailings dump with berms on only three of four sides.
CBC News shot video of the tailings pond and screened it for the world-renowned water expert and ecologist from the University of Alberta, David Schindler. "This is such a big area," Schindler said as he watched the video. "Some of those chemicals have to be seeping into groundwater and Environment Canada should step in."


The land beneath the forest floor is made of clay, which is believed to be a natural sealant. But Schindler says clay isn't completely reliable and engineering tests often don't account for holes created by tree roots or burrowing rodents.
Over at Alternet.org the tar sands project along with shale oil in Alberta, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains was included in a list of 5 mining projects that could devastate the entire planet.

And one more story of note, since the public is split about 50-50 on whether or not global warming is occurring but ninety-seven percent of top scientists are in agreement, they've decided to take action and be more pro-active and speak out about climate change and its' dangers.
 

Canadian In Name Only

Dig this, if your thinking of flying south(over the land mass known as the United States) for Christmas be prepared to have your identity probed by Uncle Sam.  Even if your feet never touch down on said turf it don't matter, Uncle Sam gotta know and the Conservatives just made it legal for them to do it. Saying they have a right to the information. Our rights don't seem to matter. Click here for the full sad, disgusting tidbit of information.




The worst kept secret was made official with the details of the extended Afghan mission being made public.

This this could only happen in Florida, well maybe 49 other states as well. It seems a Florida car dealership is offering a voucher for a free AK-47 with every purchase.



Looks like there was no winner for the t-shirt. Better luck next time, the song was Billy Bragg's Think Again.

Hard Ball Politics Or Don't Drink The Brown (Radioactive) Tea

Looks like we'll be finding out the details of the "non-combat" role the army will be doing in Afghanistan on Tuesday. According to the CBC there will be 950 military personal helping out  until the 2014 (if they don't extent the mission again) or when the cows come home, or the Leafs win the Stanley Cup which ever comes first.

With the release of pro-democracy leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi (pronounced souki like the Montreal Expos first mascot) looks like things are getting touchy between the Burmese military and Karen rebels. The two groups seem to be on a collision course since the elections held earlier this month. Burmese rulers cancelled voting in more than  3,000 villages, denying 1.5 million people the opportunity to vote.

Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest on Saturday and now walks a tightrope between speaking her mind and the fear of the consequences, "I'm not scared. I know that there is always a possibility. Because they have done that in the past, they might do it again," she said. "My attitude is that I will do as much as I can while I am free and if I am re-arrested I'll do as much as I can under arrest."



The United States and its NATO allies are finishing up the details on setting up a missile defence shield over Europe. Going old school, build up a wall, build up a wall! (not counting the ones along the Mexican or Israeli borders) The plan will be discussed during a NATO summit being held in Lisbon over the weekend. Speaking of NATO they certainly have a liking for irony, during the summit they plan on asking Russia to take a larger role in Afghanistan. Their hoping to get 20 transport helicopters to provide training to Afghan pilots. (Seeing a Russian helicopter flying over Afghanistan is sure to bring back some fond memories, those were some  good times. The Taliban died fighting on our side you know. YOU CAN WIN A NMPCANADA T-SHIRT IF YOUR THE FIRST  TO GUESS WHAT SONG I PARAPHRASED THE LAST SENTENCE FROM) 

Speaking of Russia I was wondering if Mr. Putin has a video or book on playing hard ball politics. Iggy could maybe borrow it from the library. 

Have a great day.