Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gotta Love Those Danes

Those danish protesters really raise the bar for demonstrations, they're so darn civilized. No tearing down the barricades or flinging paving stones at the 'pigs', the Danes take arrest in stride and actually cooperate by lining up nicely for police transportation. And, surprisingly, they show up in as great numbers every day,  for more. they must be serious about that global warming. Problem is some folk, in the hall, aren't.

One of them is our cosmic muffin, Steve Harper. Now don't get me wrong, it's not as if Steve is in favour of polluting the environment his grandchildren might develop in, no way. But he's not a knee-jerk tree hugger, either, and sees a solution that helps business help the environment as a natural way to go. After all, don't we live with the marvels of manufacturing, the delights of Dow and the blessings of Enercorp? If it wasn't for corporations, we wouldn't have any multi-million dollar mansions and all the electronics we've got.

And that's maybe the essential part of the problem, guys like me and Steve and the way we live. Why I'd bet that, between the two of us, we've emitted more carbons since we got up this morning that the wealthiest 20 percent of Matabeleland. Geez, while we were sleeping more energy was expended on our behalf, than in a large part of Fiji.

Since this global whatever is going to hit everybody alike, in Steve's estimation, shouldn't everybody share alike in reducing the carbon footprint? Shouldn't the Basuto or the Kalmuk reduce their emissions on the same relative scale? If all those third worlders were to be 'moved ahead' to a place where they had the blessings of industry, the world couldn't take it. Sooooo .... since we've already got it, expecting us to go without is about as fair as expecting us to pay the poor to live on less, or gad forfend, to become more developed, right? So that's where the nub lies.

In the estimation of some, then, the nonsense of too much carbon starts to make sense, because having to do something about it is something we just can't afford to do. And if you remember the adage about the ease of apology compared to getting permission, well you see where this is headed. If, in, say, fifty years the planet is thoroughly screwed, our descendants can tap into our recorded apologies if they can pedal fast enough to generate a spark, or get the solar panels defogged.

And as far as the  Danes go, well I gotta hand it to them. If Al Gore's right, they can thank me and Steve Harper when their little city becomes another 'Venice of the North'. If  I was looking at having to buy a boat, instead of wanting to buy a boat, I'd be 'taking it to the streets' with a slingshot.

If You Wait...

Appropriatel to the season of waiting is a short item in to-day's 'Daily Times of London' (dailytimes ). The headline reads: "Taliban stall Key Project".

The 'key project' referred to is the Kajaki Dam hydroelectric project in Helmand province. And its story is that of Afghanistan in microcosm. Initiated in the 50's by an American company to provide electricity to  Kandahar City and irrigation to the Helmand River Valley, the project was abandoned and incomplete when the Soviets 'invaded' Afghanistan. During operation Enduring Freedom the dam was a bombing target for ISAF air forces. In 2006 it was decided to rehabilitate the installation.

USAID succeeded in getting  the dam functional and one generator unit 'on line'. Further development ie construction and emplacement of the other planned generators required a massive military operation (Okab Tsuka, 2007 The success of the mission in getting the turbines to the dam has not been replicated in installing them. Thaat was put on hold when it was fond that due to silting above the dam it would have to be raised 50 feet, or the turbines wouldn't be necessary at all.  But the turbines have had to be well-guarded since by a significant military defence force at, and near, the dam site.

So why don't the Afghans want the benefits of modern civilzation? For one thing the proposed irrigation scheme, has like many others in that part of the world, been counterproductive.  Surface irrigation leaches high salinity in the soil to the surface and actually destroys the valley fields it purports to improve. Not many valley farmers want to get irrigated, and the ones who do, away from the valley, are going to take the water.

The water diversion also causes low water problems downstream, in a part of the world where water really is life, that can have severe consequences, too. Neighbouring Iran has been affected already.

As far as the hydro goes, what production does exist can only be used near the dam itself, for there is no transmission line to distribute the power. Needless to say, one of the prime users is ISAF and the power is used to energize military installations and in anti-taliban applications.

So what's the hold up? While, apparently, the same Taliban 'indians' who necessitated the guarded wagon train that bore the new turbines to the dam, is making the 'road' far too damgerous to import the 900 tonnes of cement required to put the turbines in place. Afghan 'security' are interfering with the work projrects (guarding the refurbishment of the irrigation canals) and the reconstruction of the dam itself.

So there the turbines sit, being guarded against a day in the future when Afghanistan may be a more hospitable land. In the interim, the USAid corporation handling the project is planning to mothball the equipment and is looking for other areas of Afghanistan in which to 'invest'.

Neither a military, nor a civilian solution is on this particular horizon. The road to hell, and all those good intentions, eh?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Santy Comes Early

The Toronto Pleece Service  continue to give the RCMP a run for the money in terms of what pleece services are all about. The Mounties may have them 'tapped' in the strides department, but the true-blues are far better-paid.

 Both on and off the job. A recent story in the Toronto Star outlined the little salary enhancement the pleece service has in its off-time: earning up to three times their regular salary for showing up in uniform to guard movie shoots, weddings and construction sites. And all this time I thought they did traffic control for funeral processions out of respect and not for the $75 an hour they're paid.

Some good news for the brotherhood this week when long-pending charges against some members of the force accused of shake-downs were dropped by the crown prosecutor. Why, after 5 years, were the charges dropped? Well because some investigating officer 'muffed the case' and compromised his informant, don't ya know. As well as causing a lot of that 5 year delay, that 'senior investigator' saved a lot of somebodies' bacon.

This, another case in the many that add-up to the notion that you CAN pay some cops too much money. Last month there was the wrap-up of another marathon investigation - the Creba case - that saw most of the shooters accused of 'accidentally' killing a young girl during a Christmas shopping gunfight, released for lack of evidence after 5 years in the lock-up on pleece charges. Betcha the ex-pleece in the former case have their law suits settled first, eh?

Four months ago another group of 'angels with tarnished wings' were set free after another corruption investigation, but the Crown is appealing that one. So those fellows are still 'living in the hell of  degradation and lack of self worth' described by the fellows who 'took the fall' and resigned from the force they loved so well - albeit after they were accused of taking thousands in extra 'donations' to the pleece 'Santy fund' from restaurants, some run by real crooks. But that's a matter for their wrongful dismissal lawsuits.

For a bunch of guys who start blubbering regularly that 'nobody really likes' them, the gang behind the barricades, bunkers and guarded parking lots don't do a lot that is likable - beating bums, muffing cases and stealing on and off the job. It may be a tough job but it doesn't require a shitty outlook on life to do it. Enough of ,  'Oh, Maw! They've turned me into an asshole! Oh, poor me!'

So we'll  wish all such pleece officers, everywhere, the best that Santy brings - be it a new car, some needed furniture or just the cash to catch up on credit card debt. And hope that the real Daddy Christmas has a large 'Mr. Henke' to leave under their tree.  Bah, freaking humbug!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whaaat the F**K?

The Missus called me downstairs to take a dekko at  the closing act of this years'  American Music Awards that she'd taped.

It was a number performed by somebody called Adam Lambert who'd been a contestant on American Idol last year. He wasn't successful there - other than to declare himself a homosexual and wind up- like other losers- winning the opportunity to begin a music career and record his first album. He performed  a tune called 'For Your Entertainment' and it rang chimes all around the world. Adam got his desired attention, but it wasn't for any talent he had, for, his sexual proclivities aside, Adam well and truly 'sucked' - vocally, musically choreographically and possibly as a homosexual too.

What Adam did do, however, was the cause of the reaction. As part of his 'entertainment' a set of male and female dancers were featured. The females were certainly talented, at least one could even dance. The other submitted to a bisexual 'groin grope'. The boys in the chorus replicated the old Abu Gharib dog walk competition with Adam playing the part of Lyndie England on the domination end of the leash. He even went so far as to recreate a 'conditioning exercise' used there on muslim prisoners which involved somebodies' pubic region and the prisoner's face. It must have been the Muslims complaining, for, I understand, they're down on homosexuality. They obviously missed Adam's political statement. So did I for that matter.

To round it all off, after tripping and doing some weird Elvis kung-fu recovery roll on the ramp on set, Adam stomped his way to the upper tier where a funk-punk band of musicians thrashed and thundered. There he lingered to plant a tonsil examination on an androgenous femality engaged in tickling the keyboard. They parted like Sinatra's strangers and Adam concluded his number doing a Gene Simmon's tongue routine and an off-key screaming fit to match his off-key and off-colour performance. Another source said he concluded by 'flipping the bird' to the audience. I didn't see that, but it might explain the delayed applause at the conclusion of his 'song'.

Apparently his show lit up the call-in lines with worldwide complaints. Adam's scheduled appearance the next morning on a national program was cancelled. He, of course, inferred it was a 'gay' thing and felt sorry for the admiring public who would miss his art.

It's just another of our freedoms they hate us for. On the other hand why do we take such abuse in the name of somebody else's freedom? I'd like to be free of this crap.

 Knowing how 'phobic' I am, I think the Missus did it deliberately.

A Great Time for Canadians

These days it's great to be a Canadian. At least if you can ignore what's going on in Canada.

Economically things are great, unless you're unemployed, or looking to extend your career because your retirement nest-egg was imploded. Our economy, according to our pundits -  guys who make money without actually doing, or making anything - is the North American equivalent of the 'Wirtshaftwissenwunder' the Germans had going a while back. But our economy is predicated on two fundamentals - the resource extraction industry and big banks, everything else we do on a large scale is middling to poor. The great number of small specialist manufactories that we have, are being poked in the eye by too close a relationship with the same sort of thing in America. Consumer goods are now, for the most part, Chinese imports.

The Canadian Banks of which there are now 6 or 7 big players have managed to insulate themselves from the American horror by racking up fees, decreasing interest returns, investment in China and getting stimulated by the Canadian government. Yeah, they were overextended in Fanny Mae and Winnie Bago - like everybody else 'on track' for big bucks - but you won't hear them pulin' about losing their shirts for - thrifty nippers that  they are - they managed to actually make money. No doubt by fobbing-off their plunging investments on their unwitting mutual fund customers - who saw their accounts head south faster than a Canadien with a lotto win. That worked during the dotcom crash, so why wouldn't it work again? Right now they're handling the 'credit crisis' they've developed by jacking service charges, and the rates they charge on loans well beyond the prime rate - it's all that increased risk you know, all them sudden unemployments and iffy new car sales. At the same time, all that loan money can be used to play the market, which when 'yo-yo ing' provides some great opportunities for the wise, and a  fleecing of more suckers.

The resource industries are hot to trot, too. A threatened reduction in demand for a lot of Canadian minerals never really happened - other than as an exercise in cost-cutting. The prices haven't tanked - some are at all-time highs - which is providing a decent return on investment. At the same time Canadian operations abroad are doing even better. But there's an unknown price being paid by someone and it's not the extraction companies, the investors or the Canadian banks. It's anybody who gets to live near these wealth-making activities.

Right now in Canada there is a UN-inspired investigation into Canada's mining industry underway. Canadians should have remembered some of the unique messes blighting Canada at the hands of big mining interests. There was a time when Sudbury was a dusty, dirty heap of mine tailings and smelter slag. But now that crap is covered by a layer of topsoil and is restored to a 'pristine natural state' - but be really careful with the water eh. And rejoice that you don't have to drive south for cancer treatments that you can get at the regional cancer centre. Just a few million bucks can buy tons of good will, especially if you can get the government to pay for most of it. Add to this a few other wonders of the industry like Asbestos, Quebec, Maple Ridge in BC and Sydney on Cape Breton Island and you get an idea of the part of 'moiling in the mire' that big business has managed to walk away from.

But Canada has developed a set of 'rules and regs' that stop the more obvious travesties from happening - at least in the short run. No such rules apply in other countries and Johnny Canuck has gone prospecting all over the world.

Darfur, the festering sore in central Africa,  started when the locals were 'bothering' a Canadian oil exploration company (now defunct Talisman Energy). The Canadians importuned the government to 'resettle' the locals - largely nomadic or pastoral negroid tribes. This was just what the Muslim government needed, and the subsequent revolt in the western provinces of Sudan was squashed with heavy handed and long term military action. This of course destabilized the oil exploration process and the instigators decamped for safer, if not oilier, pastures. The Canadians never did get their due for that.

Another more meaningful incident was the great BreX hoax. Canadian gold prospectors had dug a large hole in in East Borneo and conned a good number of the world's sharpies into believing they'd hit the golden calf. It was more like the gilded lily and billions were lost by the greedy to stock market sellers, resellers and managers. But Borneo still figures largely in Canadian mining operations.

In South America, Africa and some parts of Asia, Canadian mining interests are at work. In virtually all of them with some concommittent trouble from the locals. This is what's under investigation now. To-day's testimony was about the incidence of gang rapes by 'site security people' at an operation in Borneo. Yesterday it was about shootings at another mine in Colombia. The industry reaction - shocked disbelief and incredulity has been evident before - as at Darfur, for instance, which went on for the better part of a decade before Canadians pulled out. Given their track record of 'good citizenship and customer satisfaction' in Canada, it's difficult to fathom how some corporate executives and company lawyers in Toronto and Montreal could be so far out of touch, or maybe they're not - well, let's just leave it at that.

Canadian interests have been present at some of the world nastiest business and never once have I read of anyone blowing a whistle and calling for government attention. Being, as they all claim to be, such humanitarians as well as businessmen, it can only be adjudged that either they were monastacized, or that they were too involved to want any attention. My loonie goes on the latter - they rarely admit to a screw-up unless they have no other choice. The world, or at least human rights bodies, want more government scrutiny of what Canadian companies do overseas. I think that's the least that should happen. The sanctions (now at removal of public support ie taxpayer funding) should be extended to provision for suits in Canadian courts and sequestration of corporate property in Canada.

I ran into an old chap out for a walk one day while fishing recently. As we stood on the banks of a river at very low level, he told me his life story, or at least the career part of it. He had spent most of his life from the mid-forties engaged as a geologist/prospector for Canadian mining interests all around the world. He'd written a book about his work, and experiences and had donated same to the local library where I later had a chance to check it out. His quest had been for short-staple asbestos. He was quite successful in his work and through him the mining industry had made millions. That low-level river we stood beside, the result of some private enterprise's need for water.

As I stood there observing the detritus of a formerly-vibrant community lumber mill now festooning the bottom of that river - the remains of 5 or six drains extending into the water including one made of square lumber which still dribbled an oil sheen on the water and a number of 50 gallon barrels (left in place to avoid disturbing some worse horror?) - it was interesting to hear him describe his work as some sort of human 'achievement'. I wonder if he ever heard that his 'discovery' was no longer a visible part of domestic sales and a downright toxic menace to most people? I remember reading some 'propaganda' years ago at the CNE about the wonderful future Canada's mines were producing for us all, one page of which touted asbestos as the wonder product that 'kept firemen safe'. I wonder if that's why so many of the statistically were prone to lung diseases? Asbestos, Quebec has a new claim to fame: the largest incidence of mesotheliomic cancer. But that has only slowed the production of Canadian asbestos for the third world market.

Canadian industry (by and large) has been allowed for too long to take its profits, pay its taxes and then walk away from a problem(s) left for the future. If anything a portion of those taxes, or a surcharge on them, should be set aside by the government to cover such eventualities. Whether it's missing pensions, or toxic soil, it seems apparent that industry is not what they've told us they are. They should be treated as any other 'ripoff artist' with little respect, and a minimum of trust.

Canada's other big black eye is a revisitation of the Afghan experience. The involvement of Canadian troops with the mistreatment of prisoners in Afghan prisons is getting another look. The protestations of ignorance, and denials of actuality are being shredded by testimony in front of an inquiry in Ottawa. So far there is little to be proud about. Canada has certainly lost any moral pulpit we ever had on telling others what human rights should be like. The Prime Minister might be able to commiserate with China, but any appeal for rights for Tibetans or Uighurs went out the back of an army truck in Kandahar.

Meanwhile the debate has become politicized - additional blow-back from our 'American' relationship is increased rancor about political belief  - Liberals (in every derogatory sense) and Conservatives (who should be calling themselves republicans). It is a great time for Canadians, we have an Olympics to think about!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who Tried to Hustle the East?

Afghanistan is much in the news as the day of decision nears. President Obama will decide in the next couple of days whether the US will pursue Gen. McCrystal's 'all-new' strategy of defending the cities of Afghanistan. The decision is ultimately about how many more troops will be required to, hopefully, light the light at the end of the tunnel. Obama has already committed 17 000, which, if they're there yet, haven't shown much progress at all, and the General is calling for up to 80 000 more.

Remember the Taliban forces arrayed against them have been estimated at no more than 7 000 and many of them are classed as the $75 part-timers. So when the close to 70 000 US troops on site are matched with NATO's 30 000 and adding in the again estimated 100 000 'contractees' the Taliban should have given up - even if they don't know figurin'. For it's not just the boots, there is the whole panalopy of modern war from AFV's to artillery, Navy Seals and Special Forces, riverine units and massive air power arrayed, and well-used, against them. And that's not counting the 250 000 in Afghan police and army units who are, apparently, as much use as tits on a bull. Despite the lobsided opposition, the Taliban seem to be waxing when by every standard in God's great scheme, they shouldn't be there at all.

And there's the rub. They weren't there at all after Operation Enduring Freedom chased them into Pakistan. But US mismanagement in the form of some 'payback' for 9/11 by citizen soldiers who had no idea what they were doing, aroused the Afghan populace and 'hey presto' the shootin' war was back, but nothing like the one that SF and a handful of Afghan militias won the first time. This time it wasn't the Taliban government, it was the Afghan people. And so this notion of 'killing the bad guys', with all the mean spiritedness and ignorance that went with it, has made all of Afghanistan, even the Northern War Lords' territory, places where no white man is safe. Kid oneself not, the Americans didn't "ignore Afghanistan to go after Iraq", they actually increased the forces in Afghanistan in an effort to 'wipe 'em out'. No, the US military bungled a really good chance to move forward by insisting on doing what they do best .. shooting.

And now the military are back again, blaming the Taliban for their lack of success. And they're saying that the war will be 'lost' if they don't get more resources. And so what if it is a loss? Well there's NATO to think of. NATO that got us through the dark days of WW2 and the gray days of the Cold War. Now looking like some bloated  Mickey D's addict - NATO, which includes virtually every nation in Europe, has decided its work is no longer the North Atlantic, is job is in central Asia. The white man's burden is now to civilize the Asiatic .... again. And this will be as successful as it always has been.

Americans make the noise that they're 'being really careful' to avoid the mistakes the Russians made, the biggest being 'going it alone'. If memory serves didn't President Bush tell the world that, if the world wouldn't fight terror, America would "go it alone"? And didn't he also mention 'with us or against us' as a choice? But that's horsepellets anyway for, if there is a country that should have been able to subdue the Afghans, it is Russia. Everything, except the 'stingers', were pointing its way and even the Afghan allies it had were willing to fight. But Russian militarists 'goofed' just like their US counterparts are 'goofing' now. The US has a myth about its 'stingers', but those Afghans would have beaten the Russians even if they had been on their own, it just would have taken longer. Just like now - they're fighting, and lousing up NATO and no one is helping them.

Kipling had a point when he wrote:

"It is not wise for the Christian white
To hustle the Asian brown;
For the Christian riles
And the Asian smiles
And weareth the Christian down.

At the end of the fight
Lies a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased;

And the epitaph drear,
A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

Speaking of those tombstones white, Canada had two more soldiers killed this week. The Canadian CO, Brigadier Jon Vance had some kind words to say about them. He said of the most recent a young Sapper called Marshall, "He had an incredible sense of humour and a contagious grin that never left his face, even during the most difficult moments. He would embrace any situation and always found and shared that silver lining with his mates."

Considering the soldier had been in Afghanistan for a week, I wonder how the Brigadier could know a sapper that well. It's not like they golfed together. But then the Brigadier paints all his boys as grinning innocents, just over there to 'make a difference'.  I don't know about you, but I think a guy with a gun is inclined to make limited varieties of difference, and most of those negative.

The BG continued, "A stable environment is the best defence against insurgents, because they have no way to counter the positive effects that soldiers like Steven bring to bear. ... [H]is death will also sadden the Afghan community where he worked to bring them a better life."

Well they do have some negative ways to counter all that positivity, and for some reason they're willing to use them on guys who are 'only there to help'. Why? They hate our freedoms? They want to abuse their women and don't like children? They're scumbags? Maybe it's because, as a Southern Rebel in America's Civil War told his northern captor when asked why he was fighting, "It's cuzzen you'all down hyah."

Maybe Sapper Marshall and his mates are dead because they were 'over there' and the Afghans didn't appreciate all the help. I would be surprised if the Afghan community were saddened by his parting, he'd only been there a week - hardly enough time to make any difference to their life - for better or worse. Maybe he's dead because somebody thought it was time, again, to hustle the east.

The US is taking casualties at the rate of 1000 per month in Afghanistan, they're dying in handfuls now instead of ones and twos. And winter's coming on. Traditionally that's a time when the Afghans would hunker down and stop fighting. Last winter, for the first time in recent history, they didn't. It remains to be seen if they will take a break this winter. Afghan winters are nasty and NATO troops are hard pressed to operate in the winter mountains. My bet is that the Taliban will be destabilizing, trying to make sure NATO is off-balance again come spring. That's when Mr. Obama's troop reinforcements, if he chooses to send them, would really go into effect.

I hope he's not of a mind to go hustling too.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Whoo Hoos Still Steering the Ship

When the late President responded to his opposition's calls for a voice in deliberations, he wasn't shy about reminding them who 'won the election'. The new guy must have missed that part. For in addition to having a majority in both houses, and having won that last election, he's bending over backwards to be fair to the opposition. So far backwards, however, that he's allowing the 'loonie toons' and 'patriots' who backed Bushco's new American century to screw him out of what little chance for good the rest of the century holds.

Add to that he has a few 'whackos' on the democratic side to deal with, as well. Like the guy who thought it was a good idea to try selling Chicago at the IOC meeting in Copenhagen last week. Sending Michelle, along with Chicago's mayor was all right, but to try the President in a 10 minute sales pitch to cinch a deal with an organization that doesn't like anybody was not a good idea. Consequently President Obama comes home with a 'black eye' rather than a 'feather in his cap' to those Americans who value eyes and feathers - and there are a lot of them. Ollie North - the hero of Nicaragua- was first off the mark accusing Obama of  'fiddling' after 'Olympic Gold' while Americans died in Afghanistan. Of second guessing 'the commander with a plan-der' to win in the Panshirs. As if any plan for Afghanistan could pay-off as well as Ollie's arming the Contras by supplying Iran's weapons needs. Ollie should know about successful plans.

If there is one thing that there have been lots of coming out of Afghanistan it's 'plans' - to date, all unsuccessful. Correct that, successfully, but not yet victoriously. Correct that, if things don't change it won't be a win. I hope General McChrystal's 'plan' would include a novena or six, for prayer seems to be as good as another division at accomplishing anything positive over there. Just for starters though, Obama should 'do a Georgie' - do a 'name that tune' sort of thing - find a general who could do the plan with less troops - just like the Petraeus 'Surge'. (Who can do that plan with less troops? I'll do that plan with a platoon, sir!' Good. You're promoted!) It should be easy, for it's all just media relations exercise anyway, there aren't that many Taliban in Afghanistan left to kill.

If the war in Afghanistan is being lost, it's being lost. Not because the Taliban are winning, or are any better than before, just that the job being done there is worse. The 'mission' is ill-defined and more scattered than ever, the goals aren't measurable. Ground taken is given up or poorly-controlled and now that's happening all over the country not just in 'injun territory'. Explosives and air-power are still being applied massively - in comparison to Iraq. The civil authorities border on barbaric, and the soldiery - many into a third or fourth rotation are beginning to realize that little is being accomplished for all their hard work and sacrifice. The Afghans don't like them, or want them. The only Afghans really "afraid" of the Taliban are living in Kabul and are looking for a way out when the balloon goes up.

Add to that a stated 'new' tactic of 'saving the people' (hearts and minds anyone?). When added to the common tactic of 'killing the militant' and a general soldiery which can't tell the difference between the two, this new strategy is doomed to failure.

In Canada there is a growing fear that our government is planning to extend the Canadian 'mission' beyond the 2011 cut-off. The Minister of Defense was flying that balloon in the press last week. He should consider that, if America wasn't there, would Canada be supporting the other NATO allies in a war? I'd doubt it. If America withdrew tomorrow, would Canadian troops maintain the noble course they've charted for that 'long run' he was talking about? What do you think?

In the news was the recently completed case of a young soldier who shot his tentmate while playing a game of quick-draw. Aside from the dead soldier's family, everybody else seemed to consider the sentence - dishonorable discharge and 4 years in a military slammer -  a little harsh for some horseplay in a war zone.

The defense, we're finding out, presented evidence that such gunplay wasn't all that uncommon among the troopers. Evidence had been introduced of troopers in training holding pistols to each others' heads for fun. This, as far as I'm concerned, is up there with paying to heal wounded warriors who might have been hurt in similar antics. Or like paying a pension to Clem Matchee for trying to hang himself. It's reminiscent of the hazing and horseplay that caused the Airborne Regiment to be dissolved. Soldiers have a nasty streak of the 'little boy' in them, it's that willingness to take a chance that makes them heroes, or war criminals. Discipline and military law are supposed to minimize this, but what happens when the NCOs and officers are 'Peter Panning' too? You get organized chaos. Like in Somalia, and in Afghanistan.

The groundswell of patriots -"If you're not behind our Forces, you should be in front of them"- dopes who take American jingoism and drape it with maple leaves, like we invented that crap - will be turning apoplectic about this 'treachery'. Forgetting for a minute that their sires and grandsires, mine included, along with thousands of others, spent 5 years stopping Germans and Japanese who had the same bullshit mindset. I don't think one of those real 'vets', in his heyday, would have put up with what passes for patriotism, or even 'democracy', today. Their honour has been suborned by the fascists.

And so the tail continues to wag the dog.

Friday, October 02, 2009

We Stand on Guard for Thee. Not you! Thee!

Short sides 'n back types from down in pistol country must be delighted to know, if they do, that Canada is taking the national security 'skeer' up a couple of notches. What they might not realize is that all the black uniforms, baseball caps and glocks are in reality a fund-raiser for the customs and revenue agency. They may have gleaned that from the new 'smartass' approach to the 'welcome to Canada' spiel once offered by pimply-faced summer students, but now in the arena are a generation of police foundations grads and superannuated cops. Our boys, and girls, on the 45th parallel must be receiving lessons in "I don't give a fuck" from somebody.

I had occasion to visit the land of the free home of the brave etc recently. Driving past US customs - notorious sticklers for having things right - was a breeze compared to the coming home again reception. The US border officer was interested in where we were going and what we'd be doing there. She asked about the standard stuff that we weren't supposed to be bringing into the country and examined our documents. She was pleasant, but serious and wished us a good day when she released us. Would to Gord the Canucks could do that. But then I never got to see the 'inside' of the US operation.

The return trip to the Canadian side started off the same way - with a passport check. Then an innocuous 'where have you been and when did you leave the country'? She wanted to get a look at passenger number three which involved tangling with the child-proof lock that kept a door from opening. Questions followed about what we had been doing, what we had, or didn't have with us and then returned to some math quiz - so how many days have you been gone? A muffed answer got a snotty wisecrack - and a heads down, fill-in-a-form thing. The form led to a vehicle check. Which in turn led to the discovery that we were returning to Canada with slightly over a litre of 'illicit' Crown Royal - 4 for $75 at Canadian duty-free on the way out.

That led to a close encounter with the 'inside operation'. If the outside was annoying, the inside was there to put you in your place. A bank of agents -armed, flak jacketed, black ball-capped serious young guys - lined a counter on one side. All assiduously scanning computer screens. If they weren't playing solitaire they were looking at something far more interesting. At last one of them looked up, but he looked like he was about to pass a massive turd as he took my ticket. "Driver's license" he keyed in some info, waited, keyed in some more. He asked how much liquor I had, and was surprised to hear that the three of us had 5 litres. The gal outside, who'd wanted to see passenger three, only checked two occupants. A 'friendly' agent next to him thought to ask about ages lest one of us didn't count for booze importation. The other agent keyed in some more and told me I owed $74 in duties. I remarked that it was a lot of duty compared to the price of the booze. He told me he'd done me favour because it should have been more. He sent me over to pay the cashier.

The cashier was more personable and I asked her if she would tell me why I owed more in duties for a litre of booze than I would regularly pay with all the duties and taxes imposed in a liquor store. She told me some stuff about taxes on the duties, but I still couldn't understand how the booze had almost doubled in regular price. She was telling me that because I was 'over' the duties were now payable on all the booze. I replied that had I known this, I would have left the bottle at the last rest stop. A civilian employee said something quietly to her and she offered that I could 'abandon' the bottle in lieu of paying the duty. At $74 I thought that a good idea. I was directed, with a printout, back to the agent from which I'd come.

"The agent at the cashier's desk tells me I can abandon that bottle, I think $74 bucks duty is a bit too high."
"Yeah, but you've already paid it." he said.
"No, I haven't." I replied.
"Well where did you get this receipt?", he asked.
"The gal at the cashier's wicket gave it to me, to give to you." This last induced another bimmie face.
"You're going to abandon the liquor?"
"Yep! Can I go get it?"

When I returned, I thought the agent really had needed a dump for he was nowhere to be seen. The others either didn't know where he'd gone, or didn't think I needed to know where he'd gone. So I stood in front of his empty station holding a bottle of CR and looking more stupid than usual. Eventually he returned a supervisor in tow. Like 'unringing' a supermarket sale, he had to 'unring' the duty impost. It was then that he discovered the duty was really only $21. I asked him if there was any other information I could provide that might him lower the duty even more.

I paid the $21 and kept my hooch.

On the way out I passed a body-builder in Tshirt and jeans with a gold badge on his belt and a pistol under his arm. A sheaf of paper in hand. Parked beside our car was an unremarkable white van with 'Government of the USA' stencilled unobtrusively on the door. A larger version of the first guy was lowering a set of steps at the rear door of the van. Then he took a look around Canada while he waited.
We didn't wait to see who their passenger was to be, my buddies wanted to leave before a wisecrack about booze and national security got us arrested.

$75 bucks, $21 bucks - 10 cars at a time raking in $2,000-$3,000 an hour in duties and imposts. With the odd chance of finding a load of dope or catching a sneaky 'enterer'. Or maybe even having somebody drop an imported pistol on the ground. Jobs the border service has always done but with less service now and and a lot more negativity.

Somehow I don't think that a pick-up truck full of patriots from down south would get the same attention, unless they were of a coloured persuasion. I'd love to see what they'd do to their head honcho 'BIG Jim' VanLoan - an Estonian refugee with a Dutch name who looks like an Indian. But they'd probably recognize an asshole as 'one of their own'. I think they've all been transferred from EI - cutbacks in that ministry to fill a burgeoning 'war on terror' - and everybody else.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Goldstone's Report

The Goldstone report commissioned by the UN Human Rights body to look into charges of violations arising from Israel's latest 'panzerschlacht' in Gaza has finally been presented. 3 paratroop brigades and 5 armored brigades, the IAF and the Israeli Navy took part in a three week 'hoo-hah' in Gaza over the end of last year and first two weeks in January. 'Operation Cast Lead' was a 'reaction' to a newly re-started 'barrage' of homemade rockets flying out of Gaza. It was also, allegedly, intended to attack HAMAS and punish the Gazans for supporting them. The Israelis claim it was a spur-of-the-moment result of frustration and anger at Palestinian recalcitrance and ungratefulness. The Palestinian authority remained mute during the operation and kept a clamp on any West Bank protest. Attempted censorship and spin failed, largely due to an active internet presence by Gazans who got numerous reports with real-time video and photos out while the operation was underway. 'Cast Lead' came to an abrupt sort of end after an Israeli news program featured a Gazan doctor, who worked in an Israeli hospital, described on-air how a tank shell, bursting in his home, had just killed his two teen-aged daughters and a niece.

The Goldstone Report - 500+ plus pages reads like a litany of grievances that would warm the heart of any former Sonderkommando. If there is one thing the Israelis have learned besides 'never again', it's how to do things as well as other persecutors did. And the reaction in Jewish circles around the world bears witness that the 'big lie' - perfected by Goebbels ministry of propaganda - is not a strange thing to 'Israelis' living in less violent parts of the world.

The Israeli government has responded to the Human Rights body, from day one, with a barrage ranging from 'blatant anti-semitism' to 'we're investigating human rights abuses ourselves'. But no matter the variety of the message - the underlying one is 'we reject this report and we want everybody  else to reject it as well'. The US of course was first off the mark, with it's 'concerns' about 'fairness' in the report. No doubt the 'fair-minded' Canadians will maintain their 100 percent opposition to any HRC report involving Israel. The Israelis are careful not to address the salient points made by the report's defenders: the Chairman is an eminent jurist of the Jewish faith (whose wife claims the report was 'moderated' by his participation); the Israelis had an opportunity to partake in the formation of the investigation - they didn't. They were offered an opportunity to appear to present their side, they chose not to. The Israelis actively tried to interfere with the commissioners by barring access to and through Israeli controlled territory. It's easier, and certainly more self-serving ,   to just charge the world with anti-Jewish bias.

Some of the charges in the report are still fairly evident - the on-going blockade of Gaza by land and sea, for instance. Israeli jets bombed 'smuggling tunnels' again to-day and Israeli tank fire killed two 'terrorists' near the Gaza wall. This siege has been exacerbated by the destruction of food sources - flour mills and chicken farms were purposefully destroyed - a sewage lagoon was breached, it contaminated adjacent farmland. Water wells and purification plants were bombed and the only soft drink factory in Gaza was destroyed. To this day building materials, to repair or reconstruct hundreds of homes and public infrastructure allegedly deliberately destroyed by Israeli forces, are embargoed. Even if they weren't, the only two concrete/cement making plants in Gaza were also bombed to destruction.

A major part of the commission's work was aimed at investigating charges that the IDF had deliberately targeted civilians. The findings are that there appear to have been instances where charges under the Geneva conventions might be warranted. That in some situations it appears that IDF forces were instructed to 'be rough' with Gazan civilians and property and that some soldiers may have taken the roughness to extremes.

The commission also investigated Israeli use of new types of weapons (and some regulated types) particularly in settings where civilians were known to be. It found that IDF forces may have deployed some weapons such as white phosphorus, in contravention of the Geneva convention. In general the principal of 'proportionality' was examined, as it applied in Gaza earlier this year. Again the IDF, for all their protestations of innocence, were found wanting.

The report leaves an opportunity for the Israelis to investigate and address these findings. But it concludes with the statement of the intention to proceed to charges before the International court if Israel does not clean its own house. The report is also supposed to be presented to the Security Council of the UN, a move the US and Israel are working hard to block. This could lead to more 'ineffective' sanctions on Israel. But even these sanctions are bit of a 'damoclean sword' for the fair fellows of the middle east. It's hard to point fingers at Iran, when one's own pot is perhaps even sootier. Besides, the Iranians tend to comply with the UN - at least sometimes, and if only indirectly. The middle eastern 'good guys' stopped complying shortly after they accepted the UN mandate for the State of Israel. Add to that the possibility of some Israeli commander on holiday getting charged and hauled into a Hague court.

So Goldstone's report becomes another part of the myth. It's a changed world from the days when little David was fighting off a Goliath of Arab states. Perhaps it's those beatings Goliath gets on a regular basis that has the world wondering why 'little Dave' has never been able to carry-through on peace with its neighbours when it's had so many chances, and so much strength, to do so. The recent problems with Hamas are re-casting David as the robust giant pestered by a galling little Goliath - and being every bit the bully the  original Philistine  'invader' was. If anybody is 'in danger' to-day it's Palestinians - Goldstone's report demonstrates this. It may be myth, but it's not the myth Israelis want to hear.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama's Good Ideas

Whatever else you can say about Americans, you have to say they don't give up what they think is a good idea. A couple of cases in point.

Oliver North - former Marine and central figure in the 'Contra Scandal' at the end of the Reagan administration, is still around. Not only is he still around, he has a following of sorts through Fox news in 'strategic' circles in the US. Eastern Europe - particularly Rumania - and Afghanistan hold some fascination for him. The first as what he thinks to be a 'bulwark of democracy' and the latter as an arena for fightin' for a noble cause. Last week he blathered on about the need for a personnel upgrade to defeat the treacherous Pathan.

After the standard red, white and blue weeper about the nobility of sacrifice to free little girls to get an education and allow Americans to really 'help', Ollie got to the part about the dangers of "leaving the battle space to those who hate America". What Afghanistan is really about, for Ollie, as it has been since the first J-dam slammed into an Afghan mountain, is about war. Afghanistan has been a 'battle space' from 2001 on, the difference to-day is that the 'warfighters' have parleyed the battlespace from a shrunken corner in the extreme southwest into, virtually, the whole country. The American notion of finding and killing the Taliban has led to the Taliban giving, not only the Americans but all of ISAF, an opportunity to find and kill them all over the country even in the 'safe' Northern Alliance parts. This opportunity usually comes couched in some acts of 'cowardice' that see a steady stream of young NATO soldiers going home in a different aspect than when they arrived. There's lots of 'battlespace', but precious little evidence that it's in any practical way under NATO/American control. ISAF is restricted to it's bases other than when there is a foray outside the wire. 'Taking and holding' anything is a euphemism for building a bunker in hope of exercising some local control. If all those fortifications were mutually observable it would still be a crapshoot about the locals - let alone those little girls, schools and clinics that Ollie would see built, if it was 'more secure'. So Ollie's calling for a few thousand boots more. And, after that, as many as it takes. He'll know victory when he sees it - just like he did when the USAF wiped out the security force from a NATO airbase so Ollie could get some Fox News video and started the latest 'save the (good) citizens' campaign.

The second gang are Bill Kristol and the Israel lobby. These are the 'neocons' who worked closely with Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld to make sure Iraq got its come-uppance. Of course they bailed from George Bush's floundering 'Ark o' War' when Iraq started looking like the quagmire it is. They managed to dodge the blame for a loss, as well as the 'bad intel' they had bruited aloud to get it started. They were able to stand back and tell Americans that they had been right and George had screwed it up. Now they're back. Iran's the target and because they control the central nervous systems of a whack of 'tea party' types they're advising Obama to 'get tough', or, preferably, explosive with the Medes. The Democrats seem to be having difficulty telling them to shut up and eff off. In fact the Dems seem to be listening to them. It must be the old thing about being the first president to 'lose' a war. Obama should consider that if the tail can wag the dog into a series of endless wars, it can wag its way to a victory that might otherwise be described as a defeat. Just like Nixon's 'win' in SE Asia.

To make up for his resistance to change in the shooting wars, President Obama seems hell bent on destroying other 'good ideas'. The 'missile defence' of America in Europe seems to be a dead duck. He's trying to stop the F22 - America's 'back-up' 31st century air superiority program - he seems to think the F35 program should be sufficient. And now he's making deals with the Russians to cut back on the number of 'revitalized nukes' Bushco ordered. If the howls the 'socialist' healthcare reform engendered are any indication, stripping America's defense will be cause a flood of shaving lather in the teacups of the nation.

It took some massive sacrifices to put America light years ahead of any conventional forces that could attack it. Seeing those light years diminishing into realistic realms of 'defence' can only aggravate those who made their living off the expense. And that's never a good idea.

Oops! They've Done it Again

Canada's boyz 'n girlz in red have been earning campaign medals - just like the real sojers - for service in Afghanistan. This continues a fine tradition that saw 'volunteer' detachments of Mounties posted to South Africa to police the Boers and, for a while, posted as an independent unit in Canada's WW1 expeditionary force in Siberia and a separate unit of the Provost Corps - no doubt to 'police' the troops. In Afghanistan the Mounties are supposed to be fulfilling the vital function of turning the Afghans into a bunch of latter-day Dudley Doowrights - sans horses, and striped trous, lacking tasers and mace as well, no doubt.

'Supposed' might be the operant word here, for the Afghans probably have a firmly set idea of policing that stands little comparison to working traffic at Lester B, a booze run in Winnipeg or even Saturday night patrol among the Gleichans. So that leaves the 'postees' with, what, at least 6 months to hang around base thinking up some 'diversions' before they can complete the indent for the gong.

And hence the post. To-day's Star ran another little 'black eye' for Canada's valiant effort in south Asia - the tale of the lesser mortals. It seems our multicultural police force in Afghanistan divided itself into two homogeneous groups - the 'real' Mounties - scions of Wee Georgie French and his pale boys from Belfast - and the 'darkies' - those latter-day Mounties hired as a sop to Canada's multi-ethnic make-up. So in with the Pakis and the Sikhs, the Jamaicans and the Chinese went the original Canadians who might in no way be described as pale in the face, or apparently 'military enough'.

"Afghan Tour Race - based"

A native-born officer complained to his superior about the Team 'A', Team 'B' set-up and some of the high jinx 'A' was playing on 'B' - he was told 'Don't go there.' when he mentioned the race word. I wonder if there were Team 'A' subdivisions for 'dogans' and the loyal believers? What about the 'ladies' assuming female RCMP types get posted into war zones. Two senior officers are suing the force.

I would imagine that having Afghans trained by people who resemble them might be a benefit of some kind in the current situation. I'm pretty sure that the white 'Sahibs' are better viewed though a set of gunsights in the minds of most Afghans, police included. So Canada has a wonderful opportunity to impress upon the Afghans the importance of even-handed policing for which we are renowned and instead the best we can muster is a double ration of mental midgets who might otherwise be engaged in tasering travelers or putting the fear of the lord into another generation of reservation youngsters. This story would have us believe that they've taking their barrack-room bullying overseas.

But what if it's only a 'horsefly in a nosebag'? After all it's an in-house matter, something with which the command echelon can deal. It's notable that the Mounties have been in country going on 6 years now and this is the first it's been noised around. Stuff like this doesn't usually stay unnoticed so long. It might be nothing, but it may indicate something happening with indiscipline, or indifference, over there.

Neither one should be happening here, let alone in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Courage of One's Convictions

'Tis the season when the good works of security services in Canada and Great Britain come to fruition in the conviction of Muslim plotters who would, had they not been stopped, have unleashed Jihad on the littoral of Lake Ontario and in the skies over the Atlantic. It's a good thing that we have laws which can punish plotters to almost as great an extent (in some cases more so) as they would an actual perpetrator. But then, the new 'security' laws don't have to meet the judicial standards of proof that, for instance, saw Sikh plotters walk away from an actual aircraft bombing, or a Libyan accused get an early release from prison. Having some 'nacht und nebel' legislation allows security forces to get 'er done without too much judicial interference - the gestapo proved that. But now that police hackles are going up (He's calling us Nazis!) let's just say that rigorous standards for investigation can be replaced with a certain amount of 'intuition' and 'erring on the side of the angels'.

Let's take a look at the case of the Brit bombers. Right off the get go, to-day's news of the conviction is tempered with stories about how close the investigation came to be being derailed by a take-down in Pakistan. How security forces had to 'rush' the arrests before all the "iron-clad proof" had been gathered. Maybe that's why it took two trials to get a conviction.

There are a whole bunch of 'truisms' laid end to end that are purported to indicated an intent (leave out the ability) to cause some mayhem. Some plotters visited Pakistan, some communicated with a suspected terrorist in Pakistan, some plotters may have been disenchanted with the West, some plotters checked air schedules, some bought luggage, some bought products that by a stretch could be used for bomb-making - if not for a hundred other non-explosive activities. One made 'martyrdom' recordings on his computer. Some sent 'cryptic' emails to each other. Some seem to have emptied drink bottles without opening them. But there is no indication they ever actually tested a bomb, or even booked seats on airlines (one ticket was found, destination unreported). There is a disturbing lack of money involved, and an inferred propensity for 'home-cooking' that imperiled the lives of others in their family homes and neighbourhoods. It took a couple of tries to get the 'evidence' organized so that even a sympathetic court could 'see' what security could 'see'. It had to be more than we're 'seeing' in the media.

Crucial to the whole matter, I think, is how does one go about building a peroxide 'bomb' and doing it in such a way as to bring down and airliner? Such bombs can be built, but they're not something that can be made at home, or even in a home lab. They have been made and exploded by police labs. Nobody has yet demonstrated a way to make one from materials taken on board an aircraft, for a prepared device is too volatile to be transported any great distance or subjected to any abuse. If those security labs could have taken the materials into an airliner's head and 15 or 20 minutes later blown the loo to bits, I might have given the reality of the plot some credence. However, such an 'experiment' was too dangerous for security personnel (not to mention a virtual impossibility in an airliner's toilet). I guess we're supposed to believe that, if you're suicidal, it's not. But then what about the time involved and the martyr's ability to actually do it? That hasn't been demonstrated and it's what crucial - for most scientists think it can't be done.

If someone's plotting to do something they couldn't do, then we're into punishing thought. That could be a dangerous precedent for all of us.

Unclear in both the British and Canadian operations is how, and why, these particular individuals came to the attention of 'security'. We're told in the British case that it was investigation into a purported 'terrorist banker' (who wasn't charged in the conspiracy) that brought the plotters into focus. The police also describe their investigations as a "covert" operation. That could refer to the ignorance of the subjects, but it could also refer to the operation of a police 'plant'. That is the the case in the Toronto model.

In the Canadian reprise of Jihadist terror. The subjects allegedly came to light as the result of a gun smuggling investigation. This led back to a gunshop in Georgia owned by an individual who was, so were told, tracked to a meeting of Jihadists in Toronto - he 'confessed' to being part of the plot in Toronto before he was jailed in the States. A police informant, associated with a Toronto Mosque, was involved and after a two year 'investigation' 16 plotters were arrested (in a massive police operation) with 20 bags of crap labelled by police 'ammonium nitrate' and, no doubt a couple of gas can full of diesel, in a garage they'd rented for the purpose of assembling a bomb to target an office building containing RCMP and CSIS Toronto HQs. Of the sixteen, only two have been convicted - after they 'confessed'. One is currently free, the other will be serving a reduced sentence. Some were freed early on and 4 remain to be tried. The police agent received 3/4 of a million dollars and a little mosque on the prairies somewhere.

One of the other sad truisms is the massive fear these operations engender. Air travel will never be the same again - but then air travel has been evolving for decades, and not for the better in many regards. Fear, in the minds of some, is a good thing. It makes us more conscious of personal safety and helps us accept the need for greater expenditure, and less freedom, to keep us 'safe'. The same expenditure and 'safety' entrenches the power of the state to protect 'interests' at the expense of the individual. Fear has become an objective, a manufactured reality, in to-day's world, and we're far away from the Rooseveltian perspective on it.

The hype and hoopla - an 'icing' of a story (in this case a non-story) finally being told - accompanying the conviction of 'terrorists' is designed to make us more vigilant of our security to-day than we were yesterday. Why? So that we'll feel better when security nets the next bunch - and we're told, they're on the way!

A brave show, bravely done!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

One Other Little Thing

The members of NATO , Canada included, find themselves involved in a 'mission civilitrice' instigated by the last US administration as part of what it claimed was a response to 'world-wide terror'. Canada, along with the US and a couple of other NATO members finds itself involved in the bang-bang end of the mission, the part that entails 'defeating' a Taliban insurgency spurred on by Al Qaeda.

To what end? Well first of all there's a democracy to build, and a democratic government to support. Then there are a people(s) to lift out of ignorance and degradation into a modern world-economy. There are little girls to be educated, clinics and schools to build, cell phones and consumerism and entertainment industries to be developed. There's a pipeline planned to supply the fuel needs of India and Pakistan we're told, but built by the US oil industry. That's a tall (if not totally impossible) order given that the Afghans don't seem to want any of it.

Along with all the civilization there are a couple of problems that are sneaking up.

There's the drug problem for one thing. Not the growing and export of opium and heroin, but the growing number of Afghan addicts. For a country so steeped in the culture of the opium poppy, either one would have thought that the subjugation of a bunch of addicts would have been a walk-over for the forces of cleanliness and decency, or perhaps, like other places, where such 'diversions' are part of the natural landscape, drugs are a part of life and not an escape mechanism. From what we've known drugs were not a big problem in Afghanistan before, but they certainly are now. Our media is replete with regular tales of degradation due to drug use in the Afghan cities. US-style addiction ie 'the street person effect' - idleness, poverty and social dependence are on the up-swing.

Also on the up-swing is the American predilection for 'poontang and dick'. Prostitution and 'slavery' are becoming more prevalent as parts of the 'market' available to those in need of money. As usual, US (to a lesser extent other NATO) service personnel with money and time on their hands are a driving force. Two women were shot last year by the Taliban in Khandahar allegedly for working as prostitutes on the NATO base there.

There is a disturbing story creeping out of Kabul lately about the 'adventures' of US embassy security personnel - for the most part civilian employees of the Armor Group Security firm.

Added to this were other recent reports that these contractor were developing and executing their own 'missions' in the Kabul area - usually involving nighttime forays among uninhabited buildings. You can bet your bippy that, given their 'alternative' discipline and a propensity for high school sophomorics, this gang couldn't be doing much good for Afghans. Add the fact they're armed to the teeth that's probably a gross understatement. What they are, however, in mufti or otherwise, are a gang of six-foot walking targets. One day they'll get it and 'Taliban Massacre' will be all over the papers.

I'd love to know just how many 'cowboys' it takes to get the rest of the herd thinking Brokeback Mountain escapades ain't really bad after all? One? More than one? "Hey I got a idea. Let's drink vodka straight outta the crack in Joe's ass! Joe drop trou! Me first, I like mine salty with a backkick o' doo doo - cause I'm macho man! If the wife or kids at home see it, it all the PTSD's fault."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Do I Smell Election Fever?

The 'pundits' are saying that Canadian Prime Minister Little Stevie Harper's day's are numbered. Wolfie the Magnificent, Gershwin or whatever the leader of the Liberals calls himself, has bestirred himself from summer dreaming, girded his 'lion' (that's what they're calling him) and declared that "Mene! Mene! Tikal" has shown up on Stevie's patio door.

Apparently we've entered the electioneering mode. But we have yet to see those 'focus' ads pouring out of the PMO and whatever government agency is springing for the expose on Liberal pandering. What with everybody being at the lake, there haven't been many gaffes this summer. Other than Goody Doofus doing things to himself (or letting the 'little men' do him for himself).

There's the on-going shortage of medical isotopes - a situation with which he boxed Liberal ears with a year back and then parleyed into a testicular event when his chosen men obviously weren't up for the occasion and FUBARed the program.

Then there was his eminence's recent round of appointments to the Senate. This round on 'bonhommie' reminds us all of what Stevie was saying was wrong with the Senate when we elected him. Too bad his minimal majority stopped him from passing electoral requirements for the Upper House, like he swore he would do. Heck, if ya can't beat em, what the hey, appoint away and be darned!

Then there's the economy. Stevie's got us 'on line' for 12 trillion semolians to bail out the economy. But other than manufacturing, which he has no intention to 'help', and infrastructure renewal, which he's in the process of announcing, Stevie's gang of thieves hasn't spent much at all. A few million to help the Swedes finance buying Nortel and a few billion to the struggling automakers, some piddly amounts into junking clunkers and a home renovation program that won't do much for any but the well-heeled, his malignancy, FiMin Flaherty, should be in for a good year and a better one next, if he can line the premiers up for some mutual swilling and tax harmony.

All those promises of money and nary a dollar actually spent. A car salesman's dream - Mike Harris will be dribbling in his trous over that one. Makes one look positively fiscally responsible. Remember the deficit Flaherty told everybody Ontario DIDN'T have before he lost his job at the provincial bourse? He's one guy who could eff-up a tax windfall.

And finally there's the thing about 'real Canadians' like the little white gal sprung from Mexican tyranny, and the 'darkies' who keep on visiting countries where they don't appreciate a good bottle of Crown Royal. Or if they do appreciate it, the gang at the embassy will be buggered if they're going to get it. Or at least the 'darkies' in question and assistance - as opposed to a mediocre rye. 'Harpie' had two of them 'twisting in the wind' - one for the better part of a year at the embassy in Khartoum and the other in a Kenyan slammer for three months. Gosh darn it, we really should 'do somethin' about Canadian passports.

But why the electo-babble. Why it must have had summat to do with the recent hi-jinks in Afghanistan. That little UN exercise 'only' cost 20 million to run. One might muse that, if the spending was 'up there with what Canada spends replacing it's muffins, or even, lawdy forbid, anything even coming close to 10 percent of what America calls 'paying for democracy', then a different outcome might have been expected in Afghanistan. But that lesson is long lost on North Americans. If even a tenth of what we've spent on bang-bang had been spent on redevelopment another outcome might have been expected. But there are signs of hope all over the place.

The UN chief electoral officer, a nice Canadian boy, wasn't long in declaring the Afghan travesty an 'honest and effective' election. No mention that, although President Karzai is now president-elect with a massive 45.7 percent of the votes cast, only 20 percent of Afghans actually were able (willing?) to cast a vote. This down from a massive 90 percent turn-out back in the days when victory was in the air. The opposition started crying 'stuffed ballots' and other irregularities which are considered S.O.P. in the land that time forgot. Karzai's majority* is reported to be slipping as tabulations continue and the US ambassador, who cut his teeth dealing with rabid Ulstermen, was reported to have had an intense conversation with Karzai.

* The final count seems to be more or less done. With up to 1/3 of Karzai's ballots being tossed as fraudulent, he managed to squeak across the magical 52 percent or whatever number stops the fiasco from having a rerun. They obviously a) found a lot more Karzai ballots or b) dumped as many of the opposition's.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer in Kabool

A summer idyll of sorts came to an end to-day when the Taliban (scratch that - it had to be AlQaeda) - slipped a suicide truck through morning traffic in the 'western' zone to detonate in front of ISAF headquarters.

In a country where the Taliban are regularly whupped and 'on the run' in the face of Canadian, Brit of American fighting men, the goat-herding mercenaries who are, we are told, on a rent-to-fight basis and issued bullets one at a time, have an interesting propensity to show up and do some spectacular and, as in this case, none-too-damaging crap.

Last year it was a massive prison break-out in Kandahar City, followed by a parade disruption in the capital. Then there were on-going attacks on UN supply convoys in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, that had the Taliban parading around in new Humvees before they were stripped and torched. After seven years of fairly steady fighting the Taliban south is as volatile as ever and now the Taliban are extending their work into thew formerly tranquil Northern half of the country. They had actually shut down four of the five new highways into Kabul at one period this winter.

Afghanistan is anything but tranquil and the Americans can only think of beefing-up an already considerable military presence.

But the photo that came out of to-day's attacks, I think says it all. Here is a distraught American soldier - perhaps flabbergasted by sudden carnage and destruction somewhere he never expected it to happen. I'd love to know what he's telling these two Afghans, but I'd bet, whatever it is, it's in English and whatever good he intends to do is lost in translation. As it is, he seems like a nutter in uniform - and that language is universal. Look at the Afghans - they think he's lost it. Maybe he has. Maybe they have.

A Peanut Buster Parfait, Over Here!

The sagebrush sachem and generalissmo of all that conservatives love, is just coming off a pasting at the NAFTA group talks and is actually taking flak for bringing a sick little lady home from Kenya. You'd think a nice muffin could catch a break!

Actually Little Stevie Wunder has been sowing the seeds of his own lack of success. Back in late spring he decided that the myriads who show up each summer for Canadian welfare by uttering the abracadabra word, "refugee", were just too much. So he put the kibosh on the biggest offenders - Mexicans? That earned him no respect from the Mexican President in the recent tripartite talks with President Obama. The Mexicans wouldn't back him up when Stevie started whinging about the Yanks 'Buying American', so Steve wound up coming home with a statement that it wasn't 'national policy' and a commitment to keep on pumping American oil out of Canada at cut rate prices so that ordinary Americans wouldn't get too much of a jolt in the moneybag as they 'turn green'. The Yanks will continue to buy what they want cheap, and sell us lots of food in return - so Steve can go ahead and gut what agricultural 'sector' we have left.

Funny how the Yanks can beat us around the head and ears in a NAFTA tribunal when they object to Canadian interests, but Steve doesn't know that there are tribunals when they're busy stopping Canadians from bidding on US contracts or living up to the agreed part of free trade. Maybe that's because there are no NAFTA tribunals in Canada, we (apparently) don't need them.

Meanwhile to show that he's really world-class, Steve allows the Swedes to buy off the best part of Nortel's cutting edge communications software. No prob, the Chinese arm of Nortel will be making a knock-off. But nobody's saying boo about all the R&D funding provided by Canadians, or about Nortel's tax deferrals that won't be forthcoming now that the ship's gone belly up. Maybe the Conservatives will demonstrate their 'humanity' by picking up Nortel's pension plan obligations to ensure a bigger PC 'rooting section' in Kanata.

Speaking of humanity, the Wiz decided to make the plight of the little Somali lady stranded in Kenya "priority one". She was back in Canada within hours. It's a pity that nobody informed the head honcho that the story has been on the front page of a least on liberal rag (the blue ribands too) for more than two months.

The 'bailout' money will be getting the same treatment. The pustules of stimulus will have to have big green heads on them, verging on septicaemia, before the magic antibiotic rides to the rescue with a cheque. I'd bet if they weren't blowing the budget money on some snappy partisan advertisements, and overpriced military supplies from the arsenal of democracy down south, the thrifty lot in Ottawa would be close to running a balanced budget. ( Har de har! The 'frugal Minister of public probity was shocked (Shocked, I tell you!) to find that, somehow, his little yearly deficit was going to top a hundred billion.)

Back to that little Somali lady. About eight weeks ago the lady in question tried flying 'home' from a visit to Kenya. Despite what some of our boneheaded brethren might say about 'good' Canadians not going to Kenya, there's not much strange in that when, to-day, most Canadians can claim an affiliation with somewhere else on earth. Anyway, some airline clerk - apparently looking for a little baksheesh, claimed her passport photo looked wonky. This sentiment was echoed by Kenyan security - who must be, praise the lord, really averse to putting people on planes to Canada any more with wonky documents so they have to say 'refugee' when they arrive in Canada without them. The lady was held and missed her flight.

The next week she was taken to the Canadian High Commission to have her identification verified. Some 'diplomat' thought that her passport looked wonky enough to trump her other photo ID - an Ontario Health Card and a Driver's license - as well as her credit card, etc and she was declared an "imposter". Her Canadian relatives, wondering why, perhaps, she never showed up in the arrivals doorway at Pearson Airport, started making inquiries here. The first responses were naturally the 'imposter' ones. That was followed by a deafening round of ministerial non-comments, or involvements, as the identification process headed toward DNA matching. Even at that, the two cabinet ministers, somebody Van Loon and another Jean Guy anonymity, didn't bestir themselves, or their departments, to actually do anything. It took a court order and the work of a newspaper to arouse 'the gentle giant' from his summer slumbers to get her home. Now, we're told, she's deathly ill and fixing to sue our collective asses.

I think 'his gentleness', or the Tories, should be picking up her tab. They effed-it up - it wasn't political, it was purely stupid. Given their 'good luck' with money they might consider cutting the cost of a passport since it , and $1.47 will get you a medium double-double at Tim's.

Meanwhile over the distaff side of the House of Commons, the wandering Jew is thinking deep thoughts and the NDP are considering plastic surgery to re-brand themselves. But they're standing on guard for Canadians.

As 'the Cashman' says on his TV ads , 'O-hhh Yeah-hhhhhh!'

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The 'Poil' of Great Price

One of the catch phrases notable in to-day's affairs is that relating to price. "Paying a price" or "exacting a price" were expressions historically used by Israeli spokespeople to threaten retaliation to the various evolutions of Palestinian resistance. To-day it's use is extended to any situation where military or economic sanctions might be used. Lately the subjects of 'paying for it' are Russia and Iran.

In to-day's news Vice President Joe Biden, on a protracted visit to gallant little Georgia, had time to explain to a group of schoolchildren the Georgian fable of Russia using a 'pretense' to 'invade' and 'occupy' parts of their native land. He pointed out to the future Georgian freedom fighters that the US was making the Russian pay a high price for their temerity. (What exactly the price was he didn't say, although I'd bet it's more than a Dolce&Gabbana handag at the 'risen-from-the-ruins' Saarkashvili International Airport.) Yesterday, in what could be assumed as a reversal of the price theorem, he was touting Georgia's 'right' to join NATO. After a week in wonderland, there are only so many Georgian highlights to see, and so many issues on which to comment. It's a good thing the Georgian opposition 'backed off' enough to permit the Veep to be welcomed without the smell of burning rubber and tear gas.

Meanwhile further to the southeast, the Secretary of State, on a protracted visit to South Asia, was 'putting the price' on Iranian nuclear development, and on their lack of response to offers of American reason and sensibility. The first was, I imagine, an effort to get their attention, couched, as it was, with the promise of the American 'nuclear umbrella' being stretched over Israel should it come under Iranian attack. The second point was waffled with the lack of response being written-off to the 'disordered' situation of a government beset with 'allahu akbars' echoing across nighttime Teheran.

It was very kind of MS Clinton to make those latter allowances for the mad mullahs' failing, again, to roll over for some American 'rapprochement'. But then, she was equally kind enough to not refer to the Israelis' 'nuclear umbrella' that they may, or may not, already have, and which is lately pointing in the direction of the dastardly Mede. Her comments did draw some ire from Jerusalem, which accused the US 'tolerating a nuclear-armed Iran'. Obviously a massive bombing offensive, in anticipation of the possibility of a nuclear umbrella being required, is a sentiment the Israelis would like the rest of the world to share. But even given the latest political disturbances, Iran seems far more stable, pacific even, than, say, nuclear-armed Pakistan, with which the Israelis don't seem to have much problem at all.

Meanwhile the originators of the notion of 'paying for', and 'paying back' are maintaining the commercial aspect of their peculiar relationships by burning out Palestinian property in the west bank and attacks on Palestinians that would see somebody shot if 'the shekel was in the other purse'. The largely-American 'settler movement' has undertaken to exact 'a price' for each settler outpost targeted for removal by Netanyahu's government. The 'price' is the destruction of all Palestinian property in the immediate locality of the squatters' camp. The principle of 'greater Israel', which underpins the settler ethos, is doing for the middle east what 'greater Germany' did for Europe and 'greater Japan' did for the Pacific - with much the same tactics and effect. Except that this ISN'T an 'official' policy, although it is protected by the military and police.

One has to wonder if these recent geopolitical manoeuvres aren't in some way related to domestic issues in the US? After all, two of Obama's 'big guns' were out of Dodge when the national health boat was launched. Maybe the Veep and SecState are 'paying a price'. Or avoiding one.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Uhhhh - Choo

The Southern hemisphere is engaged in a test run of the 'Swine Flu'. It's 'wintertime' in South America, Africa, South Asia and Australia and theoretically if flu's going to spread, it will happen now. That seems to be the case in Australia.

Australia was one of the first 'outsourcings' from Mexico back in March. Since then the flu has spread widely. No reported out breaks in India, although a unit of the US army was repatriated from Qatar when members fell ill. No significant outbreaks in Africa other than in South Africa. South America remains, surprisingly, unaffected given the travel between there and Mexican destinations. There are enough cases to observe that the major outbreaks will be in 'first world' countries.

The USA and Canada, along with Britain and some other European countries have significant out breaks. Parts of Britain were to-day declared "near epidemic" - with 14 dead. What is interesting is that the summer hasn't ended the outbreak. Par for the course for something incubated in a Mexican 'winter'. Already in these areas the first 'anti-viral resistant' flu has appeared. And a steady number of deaths among otherwise healthy children and young adults is noted. Emergency services are gearing up for what could be a nasty autumn.

Hopefully an anti-flu preparation is in the works. But so far other than 'we're working on it, nothing is reported. Besides the testing for efficacy might have to be done in a real world application. And nobody knows how that might play out.

However, the 'flu' is a non story. Folk are almost as interested in the economy. Stories like Michael Jackson and Iranian protests seem to be more important. The on-rushing advent of Planet X might be still more important, we'll just have to wait and see.

As it is I shudder every time I get near a snot-nosed kid or anybody with a hacking cough.

Bless Me Fadder, for I Yam Good

Guy 'the wunderkind' Giorno and the other fey blades in Canada's Prime Minister's Office are running damage control after Mr. Dopey pocketed the sacred host at a recent Roman Catholic Mass.He may have walked away with the Holy Eucharist but we have only the word of his 'eminences grises' that he actually ate it. I think the resultant smoke and visual puckering would have been an indicator of that event.

We are assured that Premier Daffy had actually attended a Catholic Mass before and really knew what he was doing. Video shot at the scene, shows the sack of spuds take the wafer and relegate it to the palm of his right hand. It makes him look like some sort of simp, or the guy crouched down beside the tombstone and accosted by an early rising passerby, "Morning!" " Nope I'm just taking a dump." It was a funeral Mass.

Also in the news the DuD that's 'newspeek' for the Ministry of Defense is re-announcing the previously announced announcement that they'd be announcing that the Army was getting new panzers. 5 Billion smackeroos - that's more than the Yankees charged for the fleet of gigantic C-17 flying hearses - will be spent of a fleet of LAVs - that's Light Armored Vehicles - which given their size and 'profile' will require a lot of 'up-armoring' if they are every deployed against any forces armed with more than slingshots. Elephantine and top-heavy are an adjectives unwasted on this product of the US 'defense' establishment. But all that's beyond the point, no use discussing this until Flaherty opens the chequebook. And that could take more effort than getting a LAV right-side up again.

Another tidbit is Canada's answer to Ted Baxter newly-minted Minister of Foreign affairs Peter ('I speak news') Kent, advising the legally-elected, but recently overthrown, President of Honduras 'Mel' Zelaya to stay away and save his country for Canadian mining interests. Seems the nasty git had been canceling contracts some Canadian companies had to assist catastrophe-stricken Honduras get rid of some unnecessary natural resources (and avoid future landslides) by digging large holes for them. I wonder if this will net Pete an 'Order of Canada'? If he gets unelected, he could always take a job dealing for Peter Munk.

Last but not least on the righteousness report, is the justifiable backlash against the 400G's in government largesse given to Toronto's alternate sexuality population to 'take 'er out in the street'. Little Minister whomever showed up for a photo-op with the organizing committee. Little did she realize, or maybe she did, that she'd be posing alongside and array of sexual freaks! They pulled out the stops in 'camp'; with a female impersonator, some little Rubenesque 'babydoll', a dwarf and parents of a number of quasi-gendered children. She obviously thought a smile was in order, backed, as they were, by a forest of over-priced "pride banners". Clem and the posse of potentates from out back of the equipment shed at party headquarters (Hind quarters did you say?) in the golden West were not impressed. When she did it again on a lesser scale for 'Brokeback Cowboys' at the Calgary Stampede, she lost her job to Tony 'goggles' Clement.

They probably were more impressed with lesser amounts those free-thinking Progressives slipped into the mattachinists over the last couple of years. Cause they didn't complain about that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The On-Going Saga

When negative stuff keeps on happening in regard to an organization, or an activity, it might be time to have an in-depth review, at least. Some sort of cost-benefit analysis.

The government has done this before - like with the Paras - maybe it's time to take hard look at the RCMP. What benefit does it provide for all the deficits it has incurred in recent times?

It's a national police force, like the FBI. True. But it also has local and parochial aspects that the FBI doesn't have, in terms of direct responsibility for policing. The RCMP is also the 'provincial' police in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Theoretically that's supposed to be a good thing, but lately it's just opened the force up to more charges from further afield. If the Mounties in Manitoba have a problem, it's a national problem.

They've acted as Canada's 'security and intelligence' arm. True, and to some extent they still might. CSIS is populated with superannuated Mounties. This aspect of the work has been a 'labor of love', for most Mounties working their way up the ranks gain little experience or knowledge of intelligence work, unless it's from chasing drug gangs. CSIS stands a chance of being effective insofar as something can be made from 'new cloth'. It's highly unlikely that somebody raised in the 'Mounties' way' is going to stray far from the barn.

They are a Canadian 'icon'. True, but what does that have to do with policing? Duddley Doowright could be an icon. You can get an icon from casting central. A good cop is something else.

So are the benefits worth the expense? What expense you might ask? I'm talking about the expense incurred when the force fails to carry out its role(s). The costs incurred by long investigations and law suit settlements. The costs incurred by a series of amateurish bungles and cluster-f*cks caused by the boys, and girls, in red serge.

We're coming off the 6 month judicial inquiry into 3 minutes of RCMP behavior and, to-day, word that even that process has been buggered-up. Within a week of the inquiry starting, the result was etched on that Pole's gravestone, 'death by misadventure' - the police were just doing their jobs. It took millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of testimony. All paid by the same public that pays the guys who caused it. But that was all a sop, for the verdict was already in. Until to-day, when an email from one senior Mountie to another foolishly (honestly?) mentioned that tasering that Pole was the 'game plan' Mounties had decided before they laid eyes on him.

Never mind pointed staplers and failure to follow english orders and hand gestures, that guy was getting tasered if he said 'Boo!' That part took the first 7 seconds of the Mounties' 3 minutes, and that was what they boys has in mind. They didn't think they were going to kill him, but, hey, crap happens. That looks like somebody was lying (not being accurate of forthcoming) to the judicial inquiry, however.

Actually we won't know because this revelation isn't a Mountie problem, they gave the emails to the Federal lawyers. The federal team just 'forgot' to give them to anybody else, or mention them to the judge.

So today we have lawyers tears, explaining that it was no 'intention' to deceive. Just an 'honest error' like that other 'honesty', i.e. performing a duty to serve and protect, that cost somebody his life.

Maybe Federal lawyers need a look, too. Committee of Public Safety anyone?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hey Look! My Turd's Back!

The nice thing about not knowing what you're doing is that when it happens again, you might not realize it. On the downside of that equation is that, when the crap doesn't flush the first time, it looks just the same when you see it again. And Mr. Hencke is baaaack!

That Atomic generator 'fracas' we had last January has resurfaced. This time the old tub sprung a leak and pumped some irradiated water into the Ottawa River which flows right past the throne of the greatest leader of all time, little Stevie Harper. So once again the old 'burner' has been shut down - jeopardizing Canada's supply of medical isotopes.

You may recall that the last time isotopes were jeopardized, the minister of tasseled loafers canned the chief of Canada's atomic oversight commission and replaced her with a 'yes' person, while ordering a party hack appointed to run the generation arm to fire up the burners again.

Repairs were probably never made and this year the same old system contaminates a water shed. But because there are those 'new' men at the helm, this time there is NO crisis. Those isotopes, this time, "are available elsewhere" or "probably aren't needed at all". This time it's a pure Conservative cock-up, so everything's OK.

Not only are new men running the reactor, the Minister of tasseled loafers has been moved into a less challenging portfolio (transport?) and he's been replaced with with a highly incompetent ball-breaker Ms. Makeover - Lisa Raitt. Not to be outdone in the iffy category, MS Raitt got the ball rolling by leaving all her notes (top secret of course) on a lectern at a press scrum. Her aide took the bullet for that.

A couple of days later her email gets aired about how she as going to handle the 'sexy' issue that landed on her desk. Like some Catch 22 'golden opportunity to get ahead' she soon found herself up to her hooters in publicity flak, about calling somebodies' tumor diagnosis 'sexy'. It took the full ministrations of Guy Giorno and the fey blades of the PMO to get her sobbing in front of the hacks as she described dead relatives in an attempt to 'de-sexify' herself. The PMO's posse think they 'got it', but there is no solution to the isotope production problem that should have been on somebody's radar, at least since last years' accident'. Tasseled loafers probably thought she could 'get this' herself. She was too busy 'getting' the other cabinet 'femmes'.

We got the govermint, and no isotopes, we deserve.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Cry Me a River"

'Lyin' Brian' is on stage, again, defending his 'honour' from the swine with whom he once laid down. The 'guy from Baie Comeau', although he might have had some deep concerns about the financial equity of his family as he stepped from the political stage into a sinecure that would have delighted most other guys from Baie Comeau, is trying to explain the 'honest' reasoning that led him to accept packets of cash from a German arms pedlar. It must have been the thought of baby Alexander, a mere decade along his path and facing the possible prospect of never owning his own new Porsche, that made 'Daddums' suck on a molar and take that filthy lucre.

Not only was that distasteful, but the solon of our time had the perspecacity to sock it away in a safety deposit box lest he have to consider it as 'income',and report it for tax purposes. It's never income until you're going to spend it (r-i-i-ight) and RevCan allows a window while some favored folk can make up their mind. He tells us he eventually did come clean, when the first attempted besmirching wised him to a possible comeuppance. Of course, being as since nobody asked him about packets of money, he never thought to mention them, even though he went right out afterward and turned them into taxable income.

For somebody as wise as them lawyer guys, Mulroney speaketh the shits. And not particularly well.

But failing the bullshit there are always Irish tears. Not any sincere kind, the ones that generally appear at the bottom of a grog bottle, or when the heartstrings are plucked by maudlin sentimentality, or when you're caught with a naughty bit in the babysitter. And so the thought of overfed newsies sniggering while the 'Leader' spoke of the devastation faced by little Alexander having his Daddy called a crook, moved the great one to shed a tear - a sniffle, a stifled sob, a subdued 'merci' before he had to bawl out loud. As Pat Corrigan's cartoon in the Star, below, depicts.

This particular scene of the comedy may once again play out in the favour of Mr.Mulroney, but taken as a whole this particular farce is actually a tragedy. Not for Mulroney, according to himself - for once again he sees 'vindication' in a failure to convict. In that heart of hearts, however, the one he might once have had of a confessional Saturday and the one he's going to need again in the none too distant future, he knows human law to be the ass it was once described to be. There is another - and there may be tears then, too, only too late.