Saturday, March 31, 2007

No, freedom is not on the march

Via Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government raised the death toll on Saturday from a truck bomb in the town of Tal Afar to 152, making it the deadliest single bombing of the four-year-old war.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Kareem Khalaf said 347 people were wounded in Tuesday's attack on a Shi'ite area. There was another truck bomb in the mixed northwestern town on Tuesday, but it was small.

Khalaf said 100 homes had been destroyed in the main blast, which officials have blamed on al Qaeda. The explosion left a 23-meter (75-ft)-wide crater.
The past week has been the bloodiest in Iraq since the government launched a security crackdown in Baghdad in February aimed at halting the country's slide toward civil war.

Bombings blamed on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda have killed 400 people in Shi'ite areas across the country in the past week.

Now, first of all, it is a civil war. Let's all agree about that, shall we? Just how much more evidence do you need when attacks like this are not aimed at the occupiers but are squarely targeting other Iraqis?

Meanwhile, as Democrats are more than eager to continue funding the war and the failed "surge", Bush was busy complaining on Saturday about all of the pork attached to the supplemental spending bill as if his Republicans have never added their own bacon to previous bills. And, while Bush has been crying about how the troops will run out of money and that an acceptable bill must be signed "within weeks", the truth is that the military has more than enough funds to last until July.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House panel on Thursday that after April 15, without emergency funding, the Army would have to begin curtailing some troop training, which "could over time delay their ability to go back into combat."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that if the funds were not approved by May 15, the Army might have to extend some soldiers' tours, because other units would not be ready, and reduce equipment repair work, among other things.


WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has enough money on hand to finance the Iraq war through most of July, according to a congressional study that challenges President George W. Bush's assertions that an infusion of funds is needed more urgently.

According to a Congressional Research Service memo dated March 28 and sent to the Senate Budget Committee, "The Army could finance the O&M (operations and maintenance) of both its baseline and war program ... through most of July 2007" by shifting around money in existing accounts.

Poor Bush. Having to veto the Dems' generous war-funding bill because he doesn't like not getting his way. Very few in congress though seem to actually want to end this war as soon as possible. How many more people will die thanks to the Democrats refusing to stand up to the most corrupt commander-in-chief ever? Why would they take impeachment "off the table" as Nancy Pelosi did in a bargain of Faustian proportions when this president clearly deserves it? What, exactly, are the Democrats waiting for (besides the '08 election, which brings absolutely no guarantee that this war won't go on endlessly)? Why are they continuing to fund this war at all?

I say the entire congress should be forced to go and spend a month in Iraq - outside of the Green Zone - and then come back to their constituents and explain why they think continuing this war into March '08 or whenever is in anyone's best interests. This idea that hell will descend on Iraq after US troops leave belies the fact that hell actually has already descended on that country with a fury.

Saturday: 1 GI, 59 Iraqis Killed; 94 Iraqis Wounded.

That is Iraq, day after day, month after month, year after year. Every single congressperson owns that now unless they are calling for an immediate pullout. It's been 4 years and it's getting worse, not better.

There is no "winning" to be had. Everybody has lost. There is no glory in continuing a bloodbath when your very presence escalates the nightmare and gore. War for war's sake is the privilege of those who are never touched by it directly. For millions of others who actually have to live through it, it's the worst curse imaginable.

Tortured mangled bodies, dead children, extreme pain, grief and trauma. That is what war is on a daily basis. It certainly is no glorious display of humanity. It's a scourge perpetrated by the powerful against the powerless. It's a crime of the highest order. Yet some attempt to stand on their pedestals of moral purity while proclaiming they are the righteous when they are in fact the morally bankrupt who continue to drag their followers into a pit of endless destruction. It's all a lie. All of it. There is nothing "just" about war.

Why is peace so threatening?

Spot the Obvious Contradiction

Via the NYT:

The Arab League endorsed the 2002 peace proposal once again at a Riyadh meeting that ended Thursday. The initiative calls for “achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194” passed in 1948.

The resolution, in its key paragraph, “resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.”

Israel has always argued that the United Nations resolution gives no specific right of return to Palestinians.

There will be no peace in the region until Olmert is replaced. That much is obvious.

TEL AVIV, March 30 — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in interviews published Friday that Israel would not allow a single Palestinian refugee to return to what is now Israel, and that the country bore no responsibility for the refugees because their plight resulted from an attack by Arab nations on Israel when it was a fledgling state.

When other countries continually violate UN resolutions, they are quickly called to account (See: Iraq and Iran). This issue has been going on for almost 60 years and has still not been resolved.

Resolution 194
Electronic Intifada. Daily news and opinions from a Palestinian perspective.
Olmert channels MLK:

"I have a dream. That within five years there will be a global peace accord in the Middle East," Olmert told Maariv.

What Olmert doesn't seem to understand is that if you want peace, you actually have to make it happen and, on that front, he has failed and will no doubt continue to do so.

Video: Will the police protect you?

Not exactly comforting...and, at times, the consequences are absolutely devastating.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Chocolate Jesus

Why would anyone object to a sculpture of Jesus made out of chocolate? In order to answer that, you have to know something about the bigoted bully Bill Donohue of The Catholic League. (Yes, the same Bill Donohue who launched the campaign against the former John Edwards' bloggers, who both eventually resigned. See the e-mails written to Amanda Marcotte as a result of that scandal. Jesus would not be pleased.)

So, what is Donohue up to this time? Well, apparently an upcoming display of a naked, chocolate Jesus was just too much for him to handle:

Catholic protesters have forced the cancellation of an exhibit in New York showing a naked Jesus sculpted from chocolate.

The sculpture My Sweet Lord, by Cosimo Cavallaro, an artist who grew up in Montreal and Italy, had provoked thousands of protests by Catholics, including Cardinal Edward Egan.

The display was shut down by the hotel that houses the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan, which planned to exhibit My Sweet Lord starting next Monday, the day after Palm Sunday.

Matt Semler, the gallery's creative director, has submitted his resignation over the incident, saying the gallery was being strong-armed by people who haven't seen the show.

"They jumped to conclusions completely contrary to our intentions," he said.

The Catholic League had urged members to boycott the hotel, and the hotel was concerned about security amid the chorus of criticism, Semler said.

The hotel and gallery were flooded with phone calls and e-mails after the League for Religious and Civil Rights, a watchdog group, said the naked sculpture was offensive.

"This is one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever," said Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League.

No. You know what really is one of the worst assaults on Christianity, Donohue? It's that a bigot like you has a megaphone that you use from your bully pulpit whenever anything offends you personally or when you figure you can garner some free publicity for your over-inflated, self-righteous ego. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Jesus being made out of chocolate and anyone who thinks so obviously has no sense of what art is. Do you honestly think Jesus would have minded?

Here's the so-called "game plan" Donohue has posted on his site (which I will not link to):

“The Roger Smith Hotel is located in the heart of New York City, and it boasts on its website that its Lab Gallery ‘is a high traffic, fast paced’ venue. Indeed it is: the gallery is located on street level, easily accessible to the public. But it is sure bet that in the years to come there will be little in the way of high traffic coming from the Christian community.

“As I’ve said many times before, Lent is the season for non-believers to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus. What’s scheduled to go on at the Roger Smith Hotel, however, is of a different genre: this is hate speech. And choosing Holy Week—the display opens on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday—makes it a direct in-your-face assault on Christians.

A chocolate Jesus is "hate speech"?

How about this example of hate speech, Donohue, which you wrote?

“All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don’t react the way extremist Muslims do when they’re offended—otherwise they may have more than their heads cut off. James Knowles, President and CEO of the Roger Smith Hotel (interestingly, he also calls himself Artist-in-Residence), should be especially grateful. And if he tries to spin this as reverential, then he should substitute Muhammad for Jesus and display him during Ramadan.

I'd say that's a direct threat. No wonder the gallery's creative director has resigned. Let's hope he has police protection. Donohue also shows his complete ignorance about the taboo in Islam that does not allow for depictions of Mohammed. How he can even equate that to public depictions of Jesus, which are allowed in Christianity, just shows how bigoted and intolerant he really is.

And when Donohue received word that the exhibition had been cancelled, this was his response:

“While we are delighted with the outcome, we are not pleased with the comments of the gallery’s creative director, Matt Semler. For him to say that our objection to this outrageous display constitutes hate speech and is the equivalent of a fatwa shows how deliriously irresponsible this man is.

“Because we did not like the way the Roger Smith Hotel handled the decision to drop the display, we have no intention of contacting the 500 organizations that we alerted to this assault on Christian sensibilities to inform them that the exhibition has been cancelled.”

Now certainly Jesus wasn't a pompous nutbar. Why would anyone in their right mind actually listen to a word this self-proclaimed, irrational disciple of his has to say? That's what I want to know.

People like Donohue are dangerous. Others know it and, unfortunately, have to protect themselves - just as the Edwards' bloggers did. This man knows no boundaries. He wants power for the sake of power and, although I gave up being a Christian some 30 years (and don't even believe that Jesus existed), I had enough schooling in the Bible and Christianity to know that this man's crusades are the antithesis of what Jesus stood for. It's long past time for Christian extremists who have hijacked their religion for their own selfish purposes like Donohue to be called to account.

Chocolate Jesus is no more a threat than an oil paint or marble depiction. Why is that so difficult to understand?

No doubt, Donohue would have tried to have Michelangelo excommunicated or worse if he'd been around at the time.

Michelangelo's Rondanini Pieta

Chocolate Jesus photo credit: AP


The tainted fruits of torture:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An al Qaeda suspect at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison said he was tortured until he confessed to involvement in the USS Cole attack and other plans, according to a hearing transcript released on Friday.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected mastermind of the 2000 attack on the U.S. warship, also said he told interrogators Osama bin Laden had a nuclear bomb. He said he made up that and other statements because he was being tortured, according to a transcript of a March 14 hearing held at Guantanamo Bay.

"From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me," Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian national of Yemeni descent, said through a translator.

"I just said those things to make the people happy," he said. "They were very happy when I told them those things.

Do we have any reason not to believe his claims considering the Bush administration's track record?

It is still utterly unbelievable that there hasn't been a rebellion in the United States to take the country back from the torturers and those who make and condone the torture policies. The silence is absolutely deafening.

It's not enough to just sit in front of your television or computer screen, cringing whenever another tale of alleged torture appears. It's not enough to just fire off a few e-mails in disgust when there's proof that your president endorses torture and has taken it upon himself to even itemize what's acceptable. A man who also authorized torture flights and makes no apology for them whatsoever. And, when victims have sued the government, their cases are blocked on "state secrets" grounds because, apparently, protecting the security of the United States means covering up torture methods and locations.

Torture continues.

That is something everyone should keep in mind.

The CIA operatives involved in torture have been giving immunity from congress.

Somewhere, in some secret US torture prison, someone is most likely being tortured as you read this - in the name of the United States.

And, let's not forget that Canada's government is doing absolutely nothing to have Gitmo prisoner Omar Khadr, who has also reported being tortured returned to our country - a move that many other countries have made regarding their nationals. Why have we washed our hands of him? Has he ceased being a Canadian?

When did that become acceptable? When was it decided that it's okay to push the issue of torture to irrelevance behind whatever other concerns of the day may be competing for the nightly news audience? Why aren't more people talking about it? Why isn't there an investigation by this Democratic congress into the use of torture? Why, in relation to the attorney scandal which surrounds Alberto Gonzales right now, aren't more people screaming that his endorsement of torture via his legal justifications made as Bush's counsel shows exactly what kind of so-called character he has? Why is he considered to be a moral authority on anything related to the concept of "justice"?

Tortured. That's what all of this is. And let's never forget the victims. They will live with their physical scars and the scars of indifference forever. They deserve more than that.

Friday Fun: Communication Breakdown

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Afghanistan: Reality and Stoned Policemen

An anti-opium billboard in Kabul (photo credit: AFP)

I don't why the National Right-Wing Post editors let this depressing anti-Afghanistan war propaganda appear in their paper (maybe they're starved for readers?) but, nevertheless, here it is:

OTTAWA — Two leading experts on Afghanistan painted a sobering picture of the conditions there Thursday, arguing support among Afghans for NATO forces is plummeting, the U.S.-driven policy of poppy eradication is wrongheaded, and the war might not be winnable in its present form.

U.S. scholar Barnett Rubin and Gordon Smith, Canada's former ambassador to NATO, delivered their withering comments to a parliamentary committee only days after Canada's top military commander, Gen. Rick Hillier, touted the progress being made in Afghanistan.

Hillier, the chief of defence staff, this week predicted Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan should soon see a rise in attacks from the Taliban. But he insisted on using the term "surge" rather than "offensive."

surge, where have I heard that before?

Rubin, who has been to Afghanistan 29 times and followed it for more than two decades, said Thursday that many Afghans are growing frustrated with the pace of Western efforts to stabilize the country.

"They're not at all happy. Support for both the international presence and the government has plummeted in the past year or so," he told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.

He said Afghans aren't seeing the results of promises by the United States and NATO, which took over the mission in 2003, to increase security, establish democracy and improve the economy.

"The main complaint that I hear from Afghans is not that we're imposing something on them that we don't want, but that we haven't delivered what they think we promised."

Gee...that sounds familiar too...

Smith, meanwhile, threw cold water on Hillier's suggestion that Canadian troops are facing a weakened enemy.

There is evidence that al-Qaeda-affiliated militants, who often fight alongside the Taliban, are actually gaining strength, said Smith, now executive director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria.

"The al-Qaeda problem has not gone away," he told the committee. "It's important that we not forget the original motivation for going to Afghanistan, and that was to deal with al-Qaeda."

Smith recently released a critical report of his own, entitled "Canada in Afghanistan: Is it Working?" He questions whether NATO can achieve its stated goals, even within a period of 10 years. Canada has committed to maintain its military presence until 2009.

"If we're serious, and we've got to be serious, we'll be there for a long time," he said.

And the so-called "new" Conservative government has even budgeted for that possibility while trying to make everybody believe we're only in this until 2009.

And about that opium issue...:

MAIWAND, Afghanistan (AFP) - Colourful ribbons tied to their Kalashnikovs and opium flowers decorating a van, police in flip-flops meet with Canadian soldiers about a new anti-Taliban operation in southern Afghanistan.

Well, at least our troops were greeted with flowers.

The Canadians, part of a NATO-led force, had been on time for the rendezvous with the district police chief at a highway checkpost in Kanadahar province's Maiwand, known as a through route for Taliban and drugs traffickers.

Three scruffy policemen were on duty, lounging on wooden beds and watching the cars pass. "The boss is not here. He is in Kandahar. Didn't you know?" said one, Abdul Wassi, with a smile.

He was wearing a long traditional shirt because his uniform "is being washed."

Wassi put in a call to the deputy of the district, named Gulali.

The "commander" arrived in a whirl a few minutes later at the wheel of a van with opium flowers attached to the bumpers at the front and three teenagers on the back, green, blue and yellow ribbons attached to their guns.

"They have just come back from an operation to pull up opium poppy," Wassi explained.

Canadian officer Alex Ruff, nearly twice the size of Gulali, told the deputy the evening's operation was to disturb Taliban expected to move through the area to flee offensives in neighbouring Helmand province, further west.

"We are going to reinforce this post and I need all your men," he said to Gulali, whose eyes were lowered.

"We do not have enough vehicles," the Afghan replied, still not looking at the Canadian. "Do what you can," was the reply.

There are about 250 policemen in Maiwand, a Taliban stronghold. Among them are "auxiliary policemen" who are recruited by tribal chiefs and receive a gun and a uniform after two weeks' training.

The Canadians do not really expect this small post to do much to stop the Taliban. "Two or three guys in a hut, armed with rifles, could not do much if they were attacked. They could not even stop a vehicle," said one soldier.

Wassi said he searches two or three vehicles a night and about 10 in the day.

"I am not afraid even though the Taliban captured and decapitated four policemen from this post a few months back," he said.

Night fell and Canadian armoured vehicles discreetly took positions around the post, ready to intervene should anything happen.

"There will be no clashes. The Taliban know you are here," one Afghan policeman said.

In the meantime, about 20 policemen had blocked the road for a few hours, "high after smoking opium and searching everything that moves," a Canadian soldier said.

There was no incident apart from some trucks turning back after seeing the roadblock.

Ruff, the Canadian officer, said he does not have much confidence in the police in a district where the governor himself is suspected of being involved in the trafficking of opium, of which Afghanistan is the world's top producer.

Poppy-induced freedom is definitely on the march.

Yes, DynCorp has sure done a heckuva job in Afghanistan of (not) training the police there. Give that company the Medal of Freedom!

I'm sorry, what?

Via the AP:

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Three homeless men mistakenly arrested last year on charges of sleeping too close to a pile of feces have settled a lawsuit against the city for $45,000.

Eastman Webber, David Hicks and Jerry Halfpap each received a check for $10,000 in the settlement of their federal civil rights lawsuit, according to American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which sued on their behalf.

City spokesman Jace Radke confirmed the settlement Thursday.

The men were arrested in November for violating a provision of a Las Vegas ordinance no longer on the books. The city council had approved the ordinance in August, making it illegal to sleep within 500 feet of a deposit of feces or urine, but then repealed it in September.

City Attorney Brad Jerbic has said that part of the ordinance was a mistake.

Good thing they don't have that law in DC or Ottawa. I'm just saying...

Quotes du Jour: RCMPgate

"I'm a lawyer and I tell you they would be in court if it was anyone else, and packing a tooth brush for prison," said Conservative MP Brian Fitzpatrick.

Said Liberal Shawn Murphy: "The coverup is worse than the crime."

RCMP Probe Announced

OTTAWA – The federal government is appointing an investigator to probe allegations that top Mounties committed fraud involving the RCMP pension and insurance plans.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day promised a "full public report," but stopped short of calling a public inquiry, which would have the power to subpoena witnesses.

If there are alleged crimes involved, why wouldn't Day want an investigator to have subpoena powers?

These allegations are not new, of course, so I also wonder why Day took such a long time to actually call for action.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Random News & Views Roundup

- Karl "MC" Rove raps (video). I throw up a bit in my mouth.

- As I wrote about here Bush cited Iraqi bloggers from Iraq the Model in his speech to the Cattlemen's Association on Wednesday to prove there's "success" happening but, as E&P's Greg Mitchell points out:

(March 28, 2007) -- This is how far he, and his argument for continuing the slaughter in Iraq, have fallen: President Bush today was reduced to quoting two anonymous bloggers from Baghdad.

He cited them as evidence that his surge/escalation is working. One problem: their posts were written weeks ago, and re-published in the Wall Street Journal on March 7.

So the bloggers weren't even talking about current conditions in Baghdad. That left it to Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief of The Washington Post -- and author of the heralded 2006 book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" -- who appeared on MSNBC's "Countdown" tonight to debunk this idea of a newly-safe Baghdad. "I talk to Iraqis all the time," he said.

He revealed that there had been steady insurgent mortar shots falling in the supposedly safe "Green Zone" all week, at least two Americans had died there in recent days, and U.S. Embassy staff had been instructed, in a switch, to wear their protective armor and helmets outside at all times. He also disclosed that the embassy's pool, scene of much partying in the recent past, has now been declared off-limits. All of this and more appears in a Post "Green Zone" article on Thursday.

Another day, another Bush screw up...but they're winning!, right?

- By the way, John McCain is on his way to Iraq where I'm sure he'll be able to enjoy that leisurely stroll through the streets of Baghdad that he's been touting all week. Send us a postcard, John. Well, that is, as long as you're not bothered by things like this while you're out there looking for a souvenir shop:

In Baghdad, 13 dumped bodies were recovered. A car bomb exploded at a major intersection in Bayaa, killing three people and injuring ten others.

- If you believe this headline, I have some really nice swampland to sell you: U.S. says not escalating tension with Iran. Tomorrow's headline: US Says the Sky is Green.

- The power of attempted suppression:

News that Channel 4 is to broadcast a controversial film called Mark of Cain, written by Tony Marchant, about British soldiers torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners in Basra in 2003, comes hard on the heels of a controversial book by the American sociologist Bob Lilly at long last finding a British publisher - Palgrave Macmillan.

Lilly's book, Taken by Force, was first published in France in 2003, and then in Italy in 2004, but initially failed to find either an American or British publisher. As one American publisher explained to Lilly, professor of sociology at Northern Kentucky University - "I wouldn't touch that book with a 10-foot long pole", given that the subject matter was concerned with the estimated 14,000 rapes committed by American soldiers in England, France and Germany between 1942 and 1945.

In short, at a time when "French fries" and "French toast" were being renamed "Freedom fries" and "Freedom toast" because, unlike us, the French refused to join the Bush administration's war in Iraq, the American public did not want to be told that their fathers, uncles and brothers who had fought in the second world war - that "Band of Brothers" as the historian Stephen Ambrose christened them, and whose status as the "greatest generation" had been cemented by Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan - had, in fact, been involved in some of the worst crimes on mainland Europe, including black-market trading, armed robbery, looting, rape and murder.

Couldn't have that published while America was at war, after all, now could we? Truth is bad for morale.

- Saudi King Abdullah:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 28 — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.

When Bushco is even losing the Saudis, you know there are big problems...

Turki al-Rasheed, who runs an organization promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia, said the king was “saying we may be moving on the same track, but our ends are different.”

“Bush wants to make it look like he is solving the problem,” Mr. Rasheed said. “The king wants to actually solve the problems.”

Well, it would be nice if somebody would actually solve "the problem". I don't really care who it is.

- Kyle Sampson is set to testify about AttorneyGate (or whatever the kids are calling it) on Thursday. You can catch it on CSPAN online.

Alleged Blackfive Blog Spokesman Threatens Me

What am I supposed to make of this threat?:

john Writes:
March 27th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

We over at Blackfive do not appreciate the lies of some commie like yourself that wants the U.S to loose and all our boys brought home in a body bag. You think you can mess with those of us that have served our country? The least you will get from the boys at Blackfive is a video smack down by our own resident ex-special forces, Uncle Jimbo! Uncle Jimbo as killed more people than girls you have kissed during you dorm spin the bottle games at vassar college. Come over and vist the boys at Blackfive and let yourself be known. We love guests. If you want trouble you got it by talking smack about our young men in the services. We are a tight knit bunch and we could care a less if there was one less ass clown moon bat ruining our beautiful country. You and your friends will pay. They have put the word out at Blackfive and we will find you.

That was a comment left at Alas, a blog which I allowed to repost my March 19, 2007 diary that appeared here titled, Into The Fifth: Stories From Iraq.

Lies? I posted media clippings and photos from various news stories. My only commentary in that post was this:

It’s all about “good days and bad days” to Bush.

Identify one “good day” in Iraq since this war began, Bush. I dare you.

And now I have been personally threatened by someone allegedly speaking on behalf of Blackfive. And even if I had expressed an opinion beyond that, that certainly does not excuse that kind of threat. If you think your threats are going to stop me from posting my opinions, you're just plain wrong.

As we were recently again reminded, threats in the blogosphere are nothing new. Neither are death threats.

Rest assured, I will investigate this and whoever is responsible for that threat will be dealt with through legal means.

I'm calling for an immediate response from Blackfive. I want to know if that is the opinion of their site or anyone who runs it. I want to know if the person who wrote that threat is affiliated in any way with Blackfive. And I demand that they answer for it.

I will not go quietly. You can count on that. You've chosen the wrong person to threaten.

Update: I want to thank one of the bloggers at Alas, a blog for helping me to track down the person involved. I need to add that one of Blackfive's owners took time out of his vacation to help me today as well. The person who wrote this threat has also tried to cause trouble for Blackfive's owners as well. He will be dealt with as soon as possible and legal action will be taken now that I have this person's city of residence and possible name. Thanks to all who've popped in to support me too. This has been a trying day and that's meant a lot to me.

Danny Williams' Fighting Words

We will not allow you to defeat us in Newfoundland and Labrador. It will be over my dead body.

That was the message Nfld and Labrador premier Danny Williams sent to Stephen Harper in an appearance on CBC's Politics show on Wednesday. Williams was referring to a comment Harper made in 2002 in which he said, "There is a dependence in the region that breeds a culture of defeatism." Williams used that as a reminder to Harper that maritimers are not about to bow to whatever he decides to throw at them.

This, of course, comes on the same day that Williams has launched attack ads over Harper's broken promises on equalization.

Williams has launched a retaliatory attack against the recent federal budget, which he says serves as a betrayal of his province. Williams accuses the prime minister of breaking a promise to fix equalization and address the so-called fiscal imbalance.

Harper insists his government hasn't broken any promises and has come up with a solution that benefits Newfoundland and Labrador. He says Williams is overreacting.

"What we're seeing is confrontation for the sake of confrontation," the prime minister said in question period Wednesday.

Not exactly.

And if there's anyone who does "confrontation for the sake of confrontation", it's definitely Harper and his cronies who are still operating in opposition party mode.

Harper had promised that the budget's solution to the fiscal imbalance would fully exclude non-renewable natural resource revenue from the equalization formula used to calculate payments to have-not provinces.

Williams told CTV Newnset it wasn't a "flippant" promise, but "a very strong commitment" made in letters to premiers, in election blueprints, in speeches and in a pamphlet sent to households in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The purpose of the ads, he said, is to make Canadians aware that "the prime minister has broken a promise to Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans, Nova Scotians and Saskatchewanians and in fact it could happen to them."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's new budget allows receiving provinces to choose whether their equalization payment is calculated based on a formula that includes 50 per cent of their revenue from non-renewable resources, or excludes all of it. The option was recommended in a report to the government by Al O'Brien.

Williams says both options mean a loss for Newfoundland and Labrador, while other provinces stand to gain from the new arrangement.

The new budget -- which survived a confidence vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday with the support of the Bloc Quebecois -- also establishes a cap on how much have-not provinces can receive as resource revenues rise -- another measure Williams is opposed to.

"The problem is that in that same brochure, in that same householder, and in those commitments, there's no mention of a cap, in fact in the brochure that was sent around it specifically said there's no cap," Williams said.

"Well the O'Brien report has a cap and that's basically what cuts off the benefit to Newfoundland and Labrador, to Nova Scotia and of course to Saskatchewan. So it basically neutralizes any benefit that was coming from the deductibility of non-renewable resource revenue."

Williams also claims the new budget reverses progress made with 2005's Atlantic accord, a deal signed with former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. It allowed Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to keep their oil revenue without having their equalization payments docked.

Williams certainly isn't one to walk away quietly from any fight and this one has already become ugly:

Opposition MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador blasted the equalization choices offered to their province.

"Why did the prime minister lie?" Liberal Bill Matthews, of Burin-St.George's, asked in the House of Commons.

The comment prompted Speaker Peter Milliken to ask Matthews to withdraw his remark. It is considered unparliamentary language to accuse a member of Parliament of lying.

Matthews refused, saying he'd be lying to his constituents if he were to say the prime minister honoured his commitment.

The drama continues...and I doubt very much that Harper can come out of this one without any permanent scars.

Bush Cites Iraq the Model Blog

There has been an ongoing controversy about who might really be behind (or at least, supporting) the Iraq blog, Iraq the Model. As noted in this linked article, even Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca) was suspicious after two of the original three brothers (one bowed out after feeling like an American propaganda tool, which he felt put his family's lives in danger) who own that blog were guests of the White House in 2004.

So, it's not surprising that during a speech Bush gave today to the Cattleman's Association (in which his Texas drawl was very exaggerated for the cowboy crowd), he used that blog's views as an example of "success" in Iraq.

"I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad just like we got here -- (laughter) -- describe -- 'Displaced families are returning home. Marketplaces are seeing more activity. Stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve.'"

That's exactly the kind of message ITM puts out every day. That could be written off as just being optimism on the part of a couple of Iraqis who just want everything to turn out well and who really do believe that the American occupation is the best path. One has to wonder however, why out of all of the bloggers in Iraq, that one is the most connected to the White House and is the darling of the warbloggers who defiantly reject any criticism of the blog or the occupation.

Quote du Jour: Armageddon

Madeleine Albright on the Colbert Report:

Armageddon is not exactly a foreign policy.

I think Bush et al would beg to differ - although it did come as quite a surprise when he changed one of the horsemen (Rumsfeld) in the midst of the apocalypse.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Warbloggers are Excited

Oh my. According to Jules Crittenden who linked to an AP (the media organization the warbloggers call the "Associated With Terrorists Press") article, the US is winning in Iraq.

By The Way, It’s Official …

… we can win in Iraq, we are winning in Iraq, and George Bush’s surge strategy is responsible for it. Not even the AP can ignore it* anymore:

"The US military has captured the leaders of a car-bombing ring blamed for killing hundreds of Iraqis.

The news came as the departing US ambassador said Americans are in ongoing talks with insurgent representatives to try to persuade them to turn against al-Qaeda."

Oh how exciting!

Well, except for this little detail:

Insurgents have blown up two trucks in the Iraqi town of Talafar, killing 50 people and injuring 125, police say.

...which Crittenden ignored. You remember Talafar. That safe place Bush was so proud of last year where they used the same strategery they're now using in Baghdad?

Bush: The ability of al Qaeda and its associates to retake Tal Afar was an example of something we saw elsewhere in Iraq. We recognized the problem, and we changed our strategy. Instead of coming in and removing the terrorists, and then moving on, the Iraqi government and the coalition adopted a new approach called clear, hold, and build.

Mission failed. But why not try it again anyway - just for old time's sake?

But getting back to Crittenden, let's see how he dealt with this:

At least 138 Iraqis were killed or found dead today and another 209 were wounded in violent incidents. Although attacks continued in Baghdad and Iskandariya, today’s violence focused on areas where al-Qaeda operatives are believed to be active.
Four people were killled in Iskandariya when gunmen opened fire on a funeral procession. Shi'ites planted bombs in a Sunni mosque; about an hour after the bombs exploded clashes between militant groups left four Sunnis dead and one Shi'ite wounded.

Crittenden: Just a fleeting mention of "...sectarian clashes that left two people dead in Iskandariyah and a bomb in Mahaweel that killed no one."

And then there was this:

BAGHDAD - Two Americans, a contractor and a soldier, were killed in a rocket attack on the heavy guarded Green Zone on Tuesday, according to statements from the U.S. Embassy and the military.

Five other people were wounded, one contractor who was seriously hurt and three with slight wounds. A second soldier also was wounded in the attack, but the military did not give a condition. mention of that in Crittenden's post. No problem. They're winning!

Apparently, Crittenden lives in the same Neverland as John McCain. (video)

CNN correspondent Michael Ware: "Honestly, Wolf, you'll barely last twenty minutes out there. I dont know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad."

And General Petreus is so sure it's safe, he rides around in an unarmed humvee. He and/or his family may come to regret that some day. But I guess when you live in Neverland, all of those flying bullets and exploding bombs are just annoying figments of your imagination - especially when you're winning!

Crittenden: One of my past wankers of the day. That time, he tried to cover his country's losing ass by blaming Canada for not sending troops to Iraq. And that's about all you need to know about him.

Video: Sean Penn on How Democracy Should Work

"Let's show them we can fire this fucking president and put him in jail."

You go, Sean!

John McCain's MySpace Site Hacked

And he deserved it:

If you visit John McCain's MySpace page (as of 9am PST Tuesday morning), you will notice an interesting announcement from him. He's apparently reversed his position on gay marriage as well as revealed a bias towards attractive lesbians.

Why would a presidential candidate make such an important announcement on his MySpace page?

The answer? He wouldn't.

But I would.

You see, John McCain's people commandeered my world-renowned MySpace design template and did a few things wrong:

1. They did not credit me for the template, even though the template explicitly requested credit.
2. They used my own unmodified imagery, specifically for the "Contacting John McCain" table.
3. As if #2 wasn't bad enough, the McCain crew is actually pulling their image directly from my server on each page load. So every time someone visits the McCain MySpace page, my bandwidth is being used to deliver part of the page! Bad McCain!

He added this to McCain's page:

Dear supporters,

Today I announce that I have reversed my position and come out in full support of gay marriage…particularly between passionate females.

And he made sure that what he did wasn't illegal:

...the only thing necessary to effectively commandeer McCain's page with my own messaging was to simply replace my own sample image on my server with a newly created sample on my server. No server but my own was touched and no laws were broken. The immaculate hack.

Abortion? The Iraq War? Probably too heavy to joke about. Gay marriage seemed like a more of a non-lethal subject to center the prank around.
Note: Before McCain fans comment on this, let me reiterate that this was a prank. I'm not politically inclined, I'm not anti-McCain, and I'd have a beer with the guy anytime. Election season on Newsvine is sure going to be fun though.

Well done, Mike D.!

Protester Assaulted in Westminster Abbey

LONDON – Within spitting distance of the Queen and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a lone black protester today eluded tight security at Westminster Abbey to denounce the national commemorative service to mark the end of the Atlantic slave trade of Africans 200 years ago.

“This is a disgrace to our ancestors,” shouted the protester, jabbing his finger at Queen Elizabeth and Blair. “Millions of our ancestors are in the Atlantic.”

The man identified as Toyin Agbetu ground the church service to a halt and stunned a crowd of 2,000 gathered in the most famous protestant cathedral in the world.

He got to within three metres of the Queen, who sat emotionless with Prince Phillip at her side. Church officials and several black worshippers surrounded the man, wrestling him to the ground but quickly unhanded him as he shouted, “Let go of me.”

“This is an insult,” the man said, urging the large throng of blacks in the crowd to walk out of the commemorative service, organized by the Church of England, which itself owned some 600 slaves on Caribbean plantations.

Johnny Hogg, a descendant of William Wilberforce, the most famous of the abolitionists who pushed the British Parliament to end the slave trade in 1807, was one seat over from the protester when he rose in the middle of a prayer.

“This is a public relations disaster on a day like today,” Hogg said. “Four white people wrestling a black guy to the ground is not what you want (in news clips and pictures),” he said.

... "a public relations disaster". Yes, because PR is always the most important consideration when things like this happen, right? And notice how the article begins with the characterization of the man being "within spitting distance" of the queen, as if he was a physical threat to her.

Some things just never change...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Disgusting Bigotry in the US Military

And to top it all off, the person involved is still working for the US military:

(CBS) JERSEY CITY, N.J. An Army recruiter is in hot water after taking part in a war of racial and anti-gay words with a Jersey City resident who had simply posted his resume on a Web site in search of a job. Corey Andrew, an openly gay black man said the heated exchange began in late February after the recruiter responded to his resume displayed on

U.S. Army recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode wrote to Andrew from her official military e-mail address, but after Andrew said he wasn't interested in joining the Army, he did probe the recruiter on the Army's policy on gay and lesbian soldiers. The fireworks set off when he revealed he's openly gay.

Ramode told Andrew that being gay made him unqualified, and that it was "disgusting and immoral."

"In any other corporate structure in America, an e-mail like this going around in an office building would result in termination immediately," Andrew said.


To say Andrew, a musician who is a copywriter by trade, was shocked would be an understatement. "I thought she was absolutely out of her mind," Andrew said.

Andrew admits he lost his cool at times during the exchange and shot back at Ramode, taking shots at her for spelling and grammatical errors, but also told her after he'd found she was Native American to "take that to your next rain dance."
Officials say for now Ramode is still working in the military, but not in recruiting. Andrew is hoping she'll be removed from the post for good, especially for violating the Department of Defense's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in which recruiters are barred from asking applicants about their sexual orientation.

This is just disgusting all the way around and Andrew obviously didn't do himself any favours by striking back with a racist slur either, however, the fact that this woman is still employed by the US military when proof of this exchange exists is inconceivable.

Then again, if General Peter Pace can get away with calling homosexuality "immoral" while neo nazis have become acceptable recruits, what can anyone expect from the US military establishment anymore when it comes to respecting civil and human rights?

Liberal Minority Gov't Elected in Quebec

Quebec Election results:

Liberals - 46 48
ADQ - 42 41
PQ - 37 36

(as of 11pm ET, Monday nite...corrections reflect updated numbers as of midnite ET)
Source: CBC

CBC News is projecting a Liberal minority government in Quebec.

The Liberal party and Action Démocratique du Québec were running neck and neck in several closely contested ridings, with the PQ trailing behind for most of Monday night.

This is the first minority government in Quebec since 1878.

With about two-thirds of the votes counted, the Liberals, led by Jean Charest, had 32 per cent of the popular vote, translating to about 47 seats. Mario Dumont's ADQ was narrowly behind with 31.5 per cent of the popular vote but slightly ahead of the Liberals in seat count, leading or elected in about 40 seats.

The Parti Québécois, led by André Boisclair, has tallied 29 per cent of the vote, translating to about 38 seats.

The newly rebuilt Green party enjoyed a three per cent gain in popular support but failed to take a seat.

Poor Harper:

In the last stretch of the election, Ottawa handed Charest a trump card as the Conservative federal budget allotted billions of dollars in transfer payments to Quebec.

The Liberal leader turned around and promised another round of tax cuts for Quebecers, many of whom scoffed at the offering, calling it a ploy to buy votes.


Montreal Gazette
La Presse
The Globe and Mail

From the 'Quel Surprise' File

Via USA Today:

The Homeland Security Department and the military this summer will test whether drones flying 65,000 feet above the nation's busiest airports could be used to protect planes from being shot down by terrorists with shoulder-fired missiles.

Dubbed "Project Chloe" after a character on Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's favorite TV show, 24, the anti-missile strategy is the latest to be explored by government leaders looking to thwart potential missile threats at commercial airports. Other methods are being considered, but Homeland Security officials say they may be too costly or impractical.

I hear Donald Rumsfeld and soon-to-be-disappeared-from-Washington Alberto Gonzales are vying for the roles of CTU torturers next season...

More Conservatives Behaving Badly

Another week, another installment of Conservatives Behaving Badly.

Thousands stripped of citizenship, CBC investigation finds:

The number of Canadians who have lost their citizenship through obscure sections of the 1947 Citizenship Act is far greater than the federal government has admitted, CBC News has learned.
While Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley says her department is only dealing with 450 cases of so-called "Lost Canadians," new documents obtained late last week by CBC News show that her department has stripped citizenship from nearly 4,000 Canadians in just seven years.
During Question Period Monday, Finley maintained the 450 number when criticized by Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi that she was "downplaying the issue," adding her department, which established a special hotline with dedicated agents, has already granted citizenship to 33 of those people.

I've long said Finley should be turfed. Who needs facts when you have lies?

Canada last in ECE spending:

Canada ranks "dead last" among developed nations in its spending on early childhood education – despite overwhelming evidence of how crucial the first six years of life are, says a new study by the country's foremost expert in the field.
The federal Liberals had promised money for child-care initiatives to the tune of $5 billion, but that was cancelled when the Tories took power.

And they replaced it with useless band-aids. Good job, tories!

OPP probe former MP's link to charge of 'inducement':

Ontario Provincial Police have launched an investigation into allegations that a senior federal Conservative played a role offering an inducement to a mayoral candidate in Ottawa.

Former MP John Reynolds is named in a sworn affidavit from Terry Kilrea, who was a candidate for mayor in Ottawa's 2006 election.

Kilrea dropped out of the race in August last year.

He has claimed Mayor Larry O'Brien offered to pay his campaign expenses if he dropped out.

According to the affidavit, O'Brien also asked what would happen if Kilrea were offered a job on the National Parole Board.

The same affidavit names John Reynolds as the man who could make that happen.

Reynolds, who also recently registered to be a lobbyist denies everything. We'll see how this shakes out.

Reynolds said last year, and repeated yesterday, he will never approach Harper on behalf of a client. But he said his move to act as a registered lobbyist for the groups doesn't violate his promise, since he's not being paid.
...Duff Conacher of the ethics watchdog group Democracy Watch, said Reynolds's move still violates the Conservative promise while in opposition to end the "revolving door" of powerful political insiders who begin lobbying their former colleagues once they leave government.

Abandoned Documents Expose Conservatives’ Lack of Accountability:

The Conservative government’s blatant disregard for the privacy of their own employees raises serious questions about their competence to protect the privacy of all Canadians, the Liberal Opposition said today as they handed over boxes of confidential personnel files the Conservatives left behind in Opposition offices.

"Today we're returning five years worth of personal performance appraisals of Conservative staffers that this government negligently left behind," said Liberal MP Mark Holland.

"These are confidential documents on their own staff. Such gross ineptitude makes me very nervous about how this government handles other issues of a private nature," he added.

Personnel records are not the only confidential documents left behind by the Conservative Party. Last week, a series of documents were discovered indicating Pubic Safety Minister Stockwell Day and former Canadian Alliance officials paid off a fellow Alliance MP to make way for Mr. Day’s election in 2000.

Mr. Holland indicated that other documents left behind may contain information in the public interest. The Liberal Opposition is currently examining these documents and will turn them over to the RCMP and other relevant officials if further evidence of criminality or breach of ethics rules is found.

I guess the tories just couldn't afford movers. That's how I'd spin it if I was them.

Oh and there's much, much more...

Cherniak Pulls a Cherniak - Again

Welcome to tonite's drama in three parts:

Part 1: The Rumour

Let's face it. People cheat in politics. It's not a good thing. It shouldn't happen. But it does. The rumour around TO (Let me be very clear; I am not suggesting that the rumour is true. I am only stating that it is out there.) is that Olivia Chow won because NDP supporters from across the city voted early and often at different polling stations in Trinity-Spadina. I don't know if it's true, but just the rumour led the federal Liberals to fight for a new rule that voters must show ID before receiving their ballot.

Part 2: The Rumour - Redux

In hindsight, I wish I had used a less controversial example because the real point was lost in all the yelling. Frankly, though, I didn't realize that so many bloggers were so clueless about the rumours out there.

Part 3: The Quasi Apology

I'll be honest. When I get upset and feel attacked, my initial reaction is to attack back. It certainly doesn't help when most of the people complaining are accusing me of foul play. However, after reading this post and this post by two bloggers who I greatly respect, I have realized that I was wrong.
...this still does not change the fact that people believe such rumours. The fact that I believed it was reasonable when it is so clearly unlikely has only strengthened my conviction that we need better laws to ensure confidence in our voting system.

Who is this "Ian" character?

Via AFP:

"I see weapons that we find in caches that have Iranian markings on them reading 2006... We also found a very large EFP (armour-piercing weapons) cache a couple weeks ago, and those we believe came from Ian too.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How to Insult Your Allies

We all remember when Bush forgot to mention Canada as one of the US's good friends in his SOTU speech...and when Rumsfeld gleefully used the phrase "Old Europe". And who doesn't have the term "freedom fries" scorched in their brain forever?

Well, there's nothing like calling the British military wimps to really make you the popular kid on the block:

A senior American commander in the Gulf has said his men would have fired on the Iranian Republican Guard rather than let themselves be taken hostage.

In a dramatic illustration of the different postures adopted by British and US forces working together in Iraq, Lt-Cdr Erik Horner - who has been working alongside the task force to which the 15 captured Britons belonged - said he was "surprised" the British marines and sailors had not been more aggressive.

Asked by The Independent whether the men under his command would have fired on the Iranians, he said: "Agreed. Yes. I don't want to second-guess the British after the fact but our rules of engagement allow a little more latitude. Our boarding team's training is a little bit more towards self-preservation."

The executive officer - second-in-command on USS Underwood, the frigate working in the British-controlled task force with HMS Cornwall - said: "The unique US Navy rules of engagement say we not only have a right to self-defence but also an obligation to self-defence. They [the British] had every right in my mind and every justification to defend themselves rather than allow themselves to be taken. Our reaction was, 'Why didn't your guys defend themselves?'"

And, as if that wasn't bad enough, the Brits are apparently taking the fall for a huge diplomatic blunder made by the yanks in Iraq:

His comments came as it was reported British intelligence had been warned by the CIA that Iran would seek revenge for the detention of five suspected Iranian intelligence officers in Iraq two months ago but refused to raise threat levels in line with their US counterparts.

Nevertheless, the Brits will gladly take the heat, apparently:

The capture of the eight sailors and seven marines - including one young mother - will undoubtedly renew accusations that Britain's determination to maintain a friendly face in the region has left its troops frequently under protected.

Even though...

Vastly outnumbered and out-gunned, the Royal Navy team from HMS Cornwall were seized on Friday after completing a UN-authorised inspection of a merchant dhow in what they insist were clearly Iraqi waters. The Iranian Republican Guard Corps Navy appeared in half a dozen attack speedboats mounted with machine guns..

On top of that, the Brits are obviously tea-sipping pacifists:

Yesterday, the former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West, said British rules of engagement were "very much de-escalatory, because we don't want wars starting ... Rather than roaring into action and sinking everything in sight we try to step back and that, of course, is why our chaps were, in effect, able to be captured and taken away."

I mean, really. With a title like "First Sea Lord", you know they were just asking for trouble.

Obviously, they don't show Rambo enough in Britain.

Dreadful pity.

Bolton to be Investigated?

Last week, John Bolton told the BBC that he was "damned proud" of the fact that the US refused to work for an early ceasefire in the Israel/Lebanon war. "He said the US decided to join efforts to end the conflict only when it was clear Israel's campaign wasn't working." In other words, the Bush administration's failure to seek a ceasefire cost hundreds of people their lives. You'll recall the last minute blitz by the IDF against Lebanon when the Israeli government knew UN resolution 1701 was going to be passed by the UN security council. It was a final act of desperation in a war they had already lost.

Now, the the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is calling for a congressional investigation into Bolton's revelations.

In January, the US Department of State issued a preliminary report to Congress indicating that the State Department might have found evidence that Israel violated bilateral weapons agreements when it dropped US-made cluster bombs on civilian populations in Lebanon last summer. According to reports from international human rights organizations, it was determined that Israeli Defense Forces dropped more than 130,000 cluster bombs containing 1.2 million cluster bomblets in 498 locations in villages throughout southern Lebanon. These cluster bombs are in addition to those already present in southern Lebanon from previous Israeli operations.
It should be noted, Israel dropped the majority of unexploded ordinances in Lebanon during the last 72 hours of the conflict before an impending cease fire deadline. Bolton's remarks to BBC indicate that the delay in implementing this ceasefire was a result of deliberate actions by the United States. The 2006 war in Lebanon resulted in well over 1,000 Lebanese civilian deaths, 43 Israeli civilian deaths, approximately 4,500 Lebanese civilian injuries, and approximately 4,000 Israeli civilian injuries. The war displaced over one million Lebanese civilians from their homes and resulted in an environmental tragedy creating the largest ever oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea with over four million gallons of oil leaking into the Mediterranean as a result of Israeli bombing of Lebanese power plants. According to reports, the damage to Lebanon's infrastructure and economy is estimated to surpass four billion dollars.

We also recently learned through leaked testimony that Olmert had been planning the war against Lebanon for months before the generally accepted reason (one of a few justifications) - the seizure of IDF soldiers (which became the cause celebre) - was used as an excuse to spur on a plan that had already been set in motion. It was just a matter of waiting for the right timing.


And second, we have an interview in the Israeli media with Meyrav Wurmser, the wife of one of the highest officials in the Bush Administration, David Wurmser, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s adviser on the Middle East. Meyrav Wurmser, an Israeli citizen, is herself closely associated with MEMRI, a group translating (and mistranslating) speeches by Arab leaders and officials that is known for its ties to the Israeli secret services.

She told the website of Israel's leading newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, that the US stalled over imposing a ceasefire during Israel's assault on Lebanon because the Bush Administration was expecting the war to be expanded to Syria.

"The anger [in the White House] is over the fact that Israel did not fight against the Syrians. The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space. They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its [Iran's] strategic and important ally [Syria] should be hit."

In other words, the picture that emerges is of a long-standing plan by the Israeli army, approved by senior US officials, for a rapid war against Lebanon -- followed by possible intimidatory strikes against Syria -- using the pretext of a cross-border incident involving Hizbullah. The real purpose, we can surmise, was to weaken what are seen by Israel and the US to be Tehran's allies before an attack on Iran itself.

That was why neither the Americans nor Israel wanted, or appear still to want, to negotiate with Assad over the Golan and seek a peace agreement that could -- for once -- change the map of the Middle East for the better.

Many, of course, posited that the Israel/Lebanon war was just a proxy war against Iran and Syria and while the Israeli government was failing, the pressure for sanctions against Iran was racheted up via UN resolution 1696 (which was followed up again this weekend with yet another resolution. This time, however, the Bush administration didn't get everything it was asking for.)

Justin Raimondo was certainly prescient back in December, 2005 when he wrote this:

Syria is now girding for the imposition of economic sanctions and trying to head off the campaign to destabilize the country on two fronts: by restarting talks with Israel, and by cooperating with the request to permit Syrian officials to be questioned in the Hariri investigation. I have the funny feeling, however, that this is not going to do them a lot of good, as far as their enemies in the West are concerned. As we have seen in the case of Iraq, when the U.S. wants to manufacture a case for war, it can be done pretty easily: Congress is not likely to ask inconvenient questions until it's too late, and the American people can hardly be expected to keep up with arcane doings in faraway Lebanon, the scene of the intrigue and obscure religious-ethnic rivalries that could spark another Mideast war. Acting pretty much without either congressional or public scrutiny, this administration thinks it can get away with anything when it comes to Syria – and in that, they are probably right.

If things had gone differently in the Israel/Lebanon war, it definitely is possible that Syria would have been brought into the armed conflict as well.

I imagine John Bolton was severely disappointed by the IDF's failure - that is, if he actually feels anything at all - about anything. Only a sociopath would be "damned proud" that he engineered a strategy that cost more people their lives based on a failed neocon ideology that places military might above all else.

Will the Democratic congress, most of which supported Israel's war, agree to investigate Bolton? I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Sunday Food for Thought: Truth

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
- Buddha

The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards.
- Alexander Jablokov

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.
- Winston Churchill

The search for truth is more precious than its possession.
- Albert Einstein

Though all his life a fool associates with a wise man, he no more comprehends the Truth than a spoon tastes the flavour of the soup.
- Buddha

It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.
- Robert M Pirsig

Saturday Nite Video Flashback: Dust in the Wind

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Why were NYC cops spying on Canadians - in Canada?

Not that their spying on Americans isn't bad enough, but what were they doing in our country and, if they were auhorized to be here, who let them in and why?

Via the New York Times:

For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.

From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.

These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.

In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities.
Police records indicate that in addition to sharing information with other police departments, New York undercover officers were active themselves in at least 15 places outside New York — including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montreal, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. — and in Europe.

According to the article, spying on political groups is "generally" legal (with restrictions), but how does that US law extend to Canada - with NYC cops involved?

In the records reviewed by The Times, some of the police intelligence concerned people and groups bent on causing trouble, but the bulk of the reports covered the plans and views of people with no obvious intention of breaking the law.

By searching the Internet, police investigators identified groups that were making plans for demonstrations. Files were created on their political causes, the criminal records, if any, of the people involved and any plans for civil disobedience or disruptive tactics.
On Jan. 6, 2004, the intelligence digest noted that an antigentrification group in Montreal claimed responsibility for hoax bombs that had been planted at construction sites of luxury condominiums, stating that the purpose was to draw attention to the homeless. The group was linked to a band of anarchist-communists whose leader had visited New York, according to the report.

And what did that have to do with the 2004 GOP convention? The NYT doesn't say and neither does the "intelligence digest", apparently. We also don't know who else besides this group the NYC cops were spying on in Canada.

The article also notes several other American groups and individuals who were spied on and infilitrated by NYC police in advance of the convention - from sponsors of an MLK birthday march to a guy with a bicycle (who was subsequently arrested) rigged for squirting harmless chalk messages on sidewalks.

We deserve to know why NYC police were in our country spying on our citizens and whether or not that type of police activity continues to this day. I certainly suspect it does. It seems to me however that we have our own police services that are quite capable of monitoring any possible threats on this side of the border (although they certainly prove to be quite inept at times, as the Arar case proved) instead of allowing city cops from other countries to wander around Canada trying to dig up dirt.

Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents seven of the 1,806 people arrested during the convention, said the Police Department stepped beyond the law in its covert surveillance program.

“The police have no authority to spy on lawful political activity, and this wide-ranging N.Y.P.D. program was wrong and illegal,” Mr. Dunn said. “In the coming weeks, the city will be required to disclose to us many more details about its preconvention surveillance of groups and activists, and many will be shocked by the breadth of the Police Department’s political surveillance operation.”

We'll need to keep an eye on what comes out of that, along with any other secret documents the NYT decides to release in the meantime.

Rice's Latest ME Shoe-shopping Trip

I don't know why Condi Rice even bothers going to the Middle East anymore. I suppose she's expected too since it is in her job description but the more she visits, the more well-deserved flak she gets. That's what happens when the administration you work for gave up on any kind of peace process a la "road map" long ago. She might as well just pop into Israel to play the piano and buy some shoes and be done with it. This masquerading as a Secretary of State over there has worn pretty damn thin.

As one critic puts it:

"She has 18 months to become a consequential secretary of state," said Aaron David Miller, a former adviser on Middle East issues to both Republican and Democratic administrations. "The way to become a consequential secretary of state is to take a problem that normal human beings know is hard and make it better."

She's obviously failed. 18 more months isn't going to make one bit of difference.

While she's gallavanting over there this weekend, the Egyptian government has basically told her to take a flying leap:

On Sunday morning Rice will have talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at a meeting expected to touch on Egyptian domestic politics and constitutional changes which will go to a national referendum on Monday.

Rice said on Friday the United States was concerned and disappointed by the constitutional changes, which human rights and Egyptian opposition groups have called a step away from freedom and democracy.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit dismissed her criticism as unwarranted interference in Egyptian affairs. "Only the Egyptian people have the right to say their views on that referendum... If you are not (Egyptian), then thank you very much. It's our own development, our own country," he said.

But, she's dreaming about one day in the future when (it sure won't be while she's around) "the U.S. might one day propose its own solutions to the most vexing problems dividing Israel and the Palestinians, such as the borders of an eventual independent Palestinian state." And that isn't happening now because...?

And she isn't even taking the peace process seriously anymore, reducing her role to some quasi Ann Landers advice column status:

In the meantime, Rice said, she wants to use meetings like those she will attend in coming days in Jerusalem and the West Bank to draft a common set of questions and concerns on both sides. She gave no timetable for either effort but made clear that the United States would be at the center of them.

"I don't rule out that at some point that might be a useful thing to do," Rice said when asked about presenting a set of U.S. proposals to settle enduring problems that have scuttled past negotiations for peace.

That's about as firm as Jello™.

Meanwhile, at the UN:

Israel: Lebanon Cease-Fire in Jeopardy

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's defense minister told the head of the United Nations on Saturday that the U.N.-brokered cease-fire in southern Lebanon is endangered by Hezbollah militants, who continue to hold two captured Israeli soldiers and receive arms shipments from Syria.

Luckily, Ban Ki-moon isn't quite as one-sided as Israel's government would like him to be:

Ban has criticized both Israel and Lebanon for violating the resolution, noting an increase of Israeli military overflights of its northern neighbor in February and early March. He has suggested an independent mission examine the monitoring of their border amid the Israeli allegations of Syrian arms smuggling.

Well, almost not quite as one-sided:

In Cairo, Ban said he welcomed the formation of the week-old Palestinian coalition government, which adds moderates and independents to an administration formerly made up entirely of members of the hard-line Islamist group Hamas. He urged the coalition to live up to the international community's demands that it recognize Israel and work toward peace.
Ban said he would not meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, citing a busy schedule. He said he would, however, meet with Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, an independent.

So, the Palestinian people will continue to suffer under financial boycotts by the west due to the presence of a coalition government they democratically elected while Israel's government is saber-rattling against Lebanon - again - acting as if it has no responsibilty in the tensions with that country.

And what's Condi doing about all of this? Nothing besides standing by and watching the suffering continue on all sides as she pretends she's actually making a difference. I mean, really, when she gets a weak headline like this: Rice: U.S. may offer ideas for Mideast, is there anything left to say about her ineffectiveness?

Sleepy Saturday Open Thread

A few things of note:

EJ Dionne points out Republican hypocrisy in his editorial, Inserting Politics Into Justice.

The UN Security Council has passed new sanctions on Iran. The US didn't get everything it wanted however, due to objections and veto threats from Russia and China.

About the possibilty of a federal Canadian election:

Insiders say the federal Conservatives are split between hawks who want to force an election this spring and those who say Prime Minister Stephen Harper should continue in power as long as possible.

The hawks are certain to be emboldened by a new poll putting the Conservatives at 39 per cent nationally, one of their strongest showings outside of an election campaign in recent years and enough to place them in striking distance of a majority victory. The Liberals have 31 per cent, the NDP 13, and the Green party 9 per cent.

Shssh! Don’t Tell Americans How We Treat “Enemy Combatants”

From Dahr Jamail:

Iraq is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. Along with names and dates, the Brussels Tribunal has listed the circumstances under which Iraqi media personnel have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. This extremely credible report cites 195 as dead. If non-Iraqi media representatives are included, the figure goes beyond 200. Both figures are well in excess of the media fatalities suffered in Vietnam or during World War II.

What's going on in your corner of the world?

Friday, March 23, 2007

This is Dignity for the NYC Victims of 9/11?

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Debris that may have contained bits of bone from victims of the World Trade Center attacks was used to fill potholes and pave city roads, according to court papers filed on Friday.

The charge was made in an affidavit filed in Manhattan federal court in an ongoing case filed in 2005 by family members of those killed in the attacks against the city. They say the city did not do enough to search for remains, denying victims a proper burial.

Eric Beck, a construction worker employed at the Fresh Kills landfill in the borough of Staten Island, where the rubble was taken after the Twin Towers fell, said in his affidavit that the process of sifting through the debris was rushed.

Beck said he saw sanitation workers removing small pieces of debris containing possible bone fragments and loading them "onto tractors, and using it to pave roads and fill in potholes, dips and ruts."


Write Your Own Caption

Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq. Now, please join us all after my press conference as these veterans, family members and I present our moving production of Onward Christian Soldiers.

Quote du Jour: Things That Make Conrad Black Happy

Via Naomi Klein's Class War in Conrad's Court:

During the jury selection process at the Conrad Black fraud trial in Chicago, the judge polled potential jurors on their impressions of Black's home, Canada. "Socialist country," one replied. According to press accounts, Black, once the third-most-powerful press baron in the world, turned to his wife, Barbara Amiel, and they shared a smile. At last, a juror after their own hearts--the couple had been redbaiting Canadians for years.

It doesn't look like that attitude is going to help him much though.

Poor Little Lord of Blackness. Justice is so unfair:

Regardless of what else happens in the Black saga, the jury-selection process has already provided an extraordinary window onto the way regular Americans, randomly selected, view their elites--not as heroes but as thieves. As far as Black is concerned, this is all terribly unfair--he is being "thrown to the mobs" because of rage at the system and, unlike American billionaires, he doesn't "dress in corduroy trousers" or donate his fortune to AIDS charities. Black's lawyers even argued (unsuccessfully) that their client could not get a fair trial because the average Chicagoan "does not reside in more than one residence, employ servants or a chauffeur, enjoy lavish furniture, or host expensive parties."

h/t arcturus