Thursday, May 31, 2007

Write Your Own Caption

Laura with the spelling bee kids:

"Mrs Bush? My mom made me practice this word so I could spell it just for you! I-m-p-e-a-c-h-m-e-n-t"

Some Justice for Dudley George

In September 1995, a half-century-old native land claim dispute exploded in Ontario's Provincial Park and left protester Dudley George dead.

Read more about the Ipperwash scandal here.

Via the CBC:

The government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris, Ottawa and the OPP all bear responsibility for events that led to the 1995 death of Dudley George, the head of the Ipperwash inquiry said Thursday.

Commissioner Sidney Linden found Harris did not order provincial police into Ipperwash Provincial Park to remove unarmed aboriginal protesters, but he could have "urged patience, rather than speed" at resolving the dispute.

"The federal government, the provincial government and the OPP must all assume some responsibility for decisions or failures that increased the risk of violence and make a tragic confrontation more likely," Linden said.

Linden added:

Linden said in his final report, released in Forest, Ont., that he didn't believe Harris when he claimed he never made a racist statement about the occupiers during an informal government meeting with provincial police just hours before George's death.

Harris acknowledged during his testimony that he wanted the occupation brought to a quick end, but denied he said, "I want the fucking Indians out of the park," as former Ontario attorney general Charles Harnick alleged during his own testimony.

"After carefully assessing the evidence, it is my view that Michael Harris made the statement," Linden wrote. "I agree with Premier Harris's characterization of the statement … as racist."

Well, I don't know how anyone could conclude that it wasn't racist.

"The provincial government could have appointed a mediator or negotiator at any time, but did not," Linden wrote. "The premier could have urged patience, rather than speed."

Linden also found Harris and Harnick misled the leglislature [sic] about the so-called "dining-room meeting" involving government officials and police, and by doing so, contributed to the appearance of inappropriate interference and a lack of transparency by the government.

Harris' lawyer feels there's absolutely no need for his client to apologize. What else is new? None of these bastards ever think they have to apologize for anything they're responsible for unless they are actually forced to do so and, even then, they only do it because they have to - not out of any sense of morality or acknowledgment of the suffering they've caused. According to Harris' lawyer, "He has done nothing wrong."


The inquiry also blames the OPP for ill-informed actions, cultural insensitivity and racism, faulty intelligence and poor communications.

Linden also faulted the federal government for expropriating disputed First Nations land for military use during the Second World War, then in a series of "successive neglects," failing to give it back as promised.

In the more than 60 years following the action, the Stoney Point band tried to get the land back, claiming it contained a burial ground destroyed when the military camp was built.

The state of land claims negotiations and aboriginal human rights in this country is absolutely appalling. Yet, government after government stalls and passes the buck. The latest affront was obviously the rejection of the Kelowna Accord by this bunch of minority government Conservative non-apologists.

It took 12 years for this investigation into Dudley George's death to finally point the finger of blame where it belongs. There is no excuse for that delay, just as there is no acceptable reason for First Nations' issues to have been pushed by the wayside for so bloody long.

Canadian Aboriginal Children 78th on the United Nations Human Development Index

February 8, 2006 - 1:00am

Aboriginal children, on and off reserves are not doing nearly as well as non-Aboriginal children. Over half of Aboriginal children live in poverty. Twice as many Aboriginal babies will be born prematurely, underweight or die within the first year of life. Three or four times as many babies will die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Three to four times as many children will die by injury, poisoning or violence. Five times as many of Aboriginal young people will commit suicide. The National Children's Alliance Policy Statement (in PDF) addresses this sharp divide in quality of life.


And people wonder why there is so much despair, hopelessness and anger in aboriginal communities?

How could there not be?


The CBC has videos of today's news conference by Linden along with an interview with Dudley George's brother, Sam.

The Ipperwash Inquiry Report can be found here.

The Assembly of First Nations calls on all Canadians to join them on June 29, 2007 for a National Day of Action. Please take some time to read their statement.

If you get the chance, check out the book and/or movie about George's death: One Dead Indian. I haven't read the book, but I did see the film and it is definitely worth watching.

The Globe & Mail has more on today's report.

Is Calgary Turning Red?

Via columnist Rick Bell:

You kick it long enough and hard enough and somebody just might kick back.

So here we are, nearing six months since some of Stelmach's less-conscious supporters crowed about applying some boot to this city after their man won, and a growing number of locals are beginning to feel this crowd is a big pain in the posterior.

According to the noses being counted by well-respected pollster Bruce Cameron of Calgary's own Cameron Strategy, there are an increasing number of nostrils out of joint with Unsteady Eddie and his Conservatives without a clue.

Yes, flicker, flicker, lightbulbs are actually going on in these parts. About time.

In fact, an amazing half of Calgarians think the Tories don't deserve to win the June 12 byelection to replace Ralph as MLA for Calgary-Elbow.

That's not all.

Since January, Stelmach's sad sacks have tumbled 19 points in this city, to 40%, two numbers lower than in Edmonton, where the party support is also down.

Yes, the poll shows fewer Tory backers here than in Edmonton, as in the city with all the Liberal and NDP MLAs and the nickname Redmonton. Oh my.

"About time" is right. Obviously, there is some vast left-wing conspiracy at work here. I just wonder where the hell it's been hiding all of this time. Somewhere under the oil, no doubt.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another Canadian Killed in Afghanistan

Via the NYT:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Five Americans and two other soldiers died when a Chinook helicopter was apparently shot down Wednesday evening in Afghanistan's most volatile province, a U.S. military official said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said other troops rushing to the scene were ambushed and had to call in air support to drive off their attackers.

Initial reports suggested the helicopter was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, said the U.S. official, who insisted on speaking anonymously because the crash was still under investigation. NATO said there were no survivors.

Along with the five Americans, two soldiers from Britain and Canada who had been passengers were also killed, military officials said.

This, on the same day that opposition MPs were once again calling for useless defence minister Gordon O'Connor to resign for lying in parliament about the DND's funeral funding inaction.

May this soldier rest in peace.

In other news from Afghanistan:

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, May 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. military said coalition and Afghan troops killed six Taliban and arrested four in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, though a provincial official and residents said the casualties were villagers.

According to a coalition statement there were no coalition or civilian casualties suffered during a firefight that erupted in an operation in the mountains of Nangarhar province.

The statement did not mention the location in Nangarhar, but Dadak Zalmai, the chief of Khogiani district, said there was a pre-dawn raid on a house in his district.

"The troops killed three civilians and took four with them," Zalmai said.

Several residents said seven civilians, including women and children, were killed and eight wounded in the raid.

How many more civilians are going to die in these botched raids?

Alberta's Creationist Museum: Yay!

So I was reading this news article last week that said a new museum was opening in Kentucky that espouses the belief that there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark. Who are these people?? I wondered.

Opponents argue that children who see the exhibits will be confused when they learn in school that the universe is 14 billion years old rather than 6,000.

"Teachers don't deserve a student coming into class saying 'Gee Mrs. Brown, I went to this fancy museum and it said you're teaching me a lie,'" Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, told reporters before the museum opened.

You can see how that might be a problem, however:

A Gallup poll last year showed almost half of Americans believe that humans did not evolve but were created by God in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

Three of 10 Republican presidential candidates said in a recent debate that they did not believe in evolution.

Alrighty then. Those darn yanks - they'll buy anything.

Oh, but wait a minute. One of my blog readers, Raj, (hi Raj!) has informed me that there's a similar museum opening up in the bible belt north of Calgary (Stockwell Day's old stomping grounds).

BIG VALLEY - Alberta will soon have a museum filled with "scientific evidence" that the flood in the Book of Genesis and other biblical events actually happened, and that people walked the Earth at the same time as dinosaurs.

[IIRC, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather was squished to death by a brontosaurus toe on his way to work one day. Or maybe he just died naturally. I can't remember... -catnip]

Canada's first creationist museum will open June 5 in Big Valley as "a scientific and biblically based alternative to the evolutionary view of Earth history" put forward by the Royal Tyrrell Museum [no dinosaurs stomping on people there. -catnip] 60 kilometres to the south, said Harry Nibourg, founder of the Big Valley Creation Science Museum.
Nibourg, a 46-year-old oilfield service worker, has been planning, building and preparing the museum for four years.

He put his own money and sweat into the facility, building it himself with no public funding, although he did get a few private donations.

"We're not trying to push an agenda," he said Wednesday. "We just think that people should see both sides of everything."

No agenda there.

I find this display quite intriguing:

One video shows a bacterium and describes how it travels by rapidly moving its tail -- suggesting that even the most primitive creatures must have been intelligently designed. Children can push a button and activate a giant bacterium.

I don't know about you but I've always wondered what it would be like to "activate a giant bacterium", so that's a big draw for me! They even have a handy video about how to do it on their site. How exciting!

On the other hand, this may just be too traumatic for me to deal with:

Well-lit cases display fossilized plants from species that still exist, to show that fossils aren't necessarily very old.

Making the same point is a teddy bear treated with mineralized water to make it appear fossilized.

That's cruelty to teddy bears. How dare they?!

"We don't refer to creationism -- we don't refute it or support it."

Hello? It's called "Big Valley Creation Science Museum."

'Nuff said.

If you can't make it out to Alberta this summer for what really should be your next travel destination, you can always visit the museum's site so you too can be indoctrinated fooled amazed by what promises to be quite a piece of work wondrous thing!

And remember, "7/7/7, begins at 11 am!"

(That scares me for some reason.)

O'Connor Lies Again

During question period on Wednesday, Gordon O'Connor denied that he had said on Monday in the house that all funeral costs had been paid for fallen soldiers' funerals.
When questioned by Paul Steckle - L (Huron-Bruce,ON), who also demanded that O'Connor apologize to the Dinning family (who have now gone public with their complaints against DND after feeling that their integrity has been impugned), O'Connor responded with this:

Hon. Gordon O'Connor (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr Speaker, I think if you check the record, I didn't say that they all got full compensation. I said I directed that they get all full compensation. If there are any anomalies, Mr Speaker, the chief of defence staff is going to ensure that all families are contacted to make sure everyone gets proper compensation.

From Monday's hansard, this is what O'Connor said:

Hon. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Scarborough East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is fairly clear that Canadians do not care about bureaucratic submissions to the Treasury Board, as we learned yesterday, asking for more funds. Canadians want funeral cost aid in full right now.

Will the Prime Minister give a personal guarantee—which we have not heard—here and now, that effective immediately, the Government of Canada will pay the full costs of the funerals for our soldiers who have paid the ultimate price? Yes or no?

Hon. Gordon O'Connor (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I will give a better guarantee than that. We have been doing it since I have been in office. Any family that has had to bury one of its loved ones is entitled to full recompense for the funeral.

The man is a serial liar.

Via the Dinning's press conference:

Lincoln Dinning has written three times to the Defence department to be reimbursed for the expenses related to the death of his son, Matthew, who was killed in Afghanistan a year ago.

Mr. Dinning has also written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ask why the families of married soldiers receive a $250,000 death benefit and the families of unmarried soldiers get nothing.

He has yet to receive a reply.

Of the more than $25,000 that Mr. Dinning and his wife, Laurie, have had to pay to bury Matthew and to deal with the psychological trauma of losing their son, they have received a little more than $6,000.
Last August, Mr. Dinning wrote to his family liaison officer at the Department of Defence to say he had been reimbursed for about $5,600 of a $12,151 funeral bill. He asked for an additional $3,000 to cover the costs of the arena that was required to hold the 2,300 people in the family's home town of Wingham, Ont., who wanted to attend the ceremony.

He did not claim an additional $4,000 that the family paid for a reception for those people because he felt that that was the family's personal choice.

He did ask, however, for $1,200 for grief counselling for his wife that was not covered under his own medical plan and for $525 to cover the cost of a hotel room in Ottawa so that he and his wife could attend a memorial when Matthew's name was added to the honour role.

Another letter was written in February asking for additional grief counselling costs. Mrs. Dinning told reporters that the department informed her that mothers in her situation should require no more than four sessions of counselling.

Unconscionable. Yet the Conservatives will hang onto O'Connor just as Bush protected Rumsfeld, no matter how much he lies or denigrates this country's reputation. He should be fired. Period.

Related: The DND's funeral compensation policy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Glenn Beck: What happens to real estate prices if there's a nuclear attack?

Because, obviously, that is the issue everyone should be concerned about. I mean, really, look at what happened to the real estate market in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after all...people lost money (well, those who were left anyway). The horror.

CHARLES FERGUSON, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: That`s right, Glenn. I mean, the consequences in terms of the economic damage could soar upwards of $1 trillion. Some experts believe it could spark a global economic depression. And I`m concerned that it could spark, actually, a global thermonuclear war.

We could be back in a nightmare scenario that we were in during the Cold War. Imagine if nuclear material leaked out of Russia, and we traced the bomb back to that Russian material. What do we do? Do we nuke Moscow? I mean, it`s sort of a scenario from the movie "Fail-Safe," when we kind of trade New York for Moscow.

BECK: But let`s -- you know what? Before we go to global nuclear war, because that`s what would happen -- I mean, if we would bomb -- let`s say we found out that it was from Iran, we bombed them, somebody else is going to bomb. I mean, it`s going to get ugly.

I want to go back to the point, if they destroyed just a large section -- let`s just say they destroyed all of Wall Street. The economy here in New York, the real estate prices alone, between New York and Connecticut and New Jersey would just collapse, because no one would -- nobody would want to live here. What does that mean to the economy? That would collapse at least the American economy, most likely, and thus collapse the entire world, wouldn`t it?

FERGUSON: It could, but in terms of attack on Wall Street, it`s my understanding that the financial network is backed up. Every day...

BECK: I`m not saying...


BECK: Yes, I`m not saying that. I`m saying just from the real estate market. You have a 1,000-square-foot home here in New York City. It`s over $1 million.


BECK: Who wants to live or work on this island if you`re thinking there are only six exits, if you`re thinking somebody could drop a nuke here? And somebody does, what happens to the real estate market and, how does that ripple across the economy?

FERGUSON: Oh, exactly, and a similar event could play out in Washington, D.C. I live on Capitol Hill right within a mile of the Capitol, and, you know, the way the wind patterns blow, my house would be covered in radioactive contamination. So, you know, whoops, there goes the housing market.


Canadian Connection in Today's Baghdad Kidnappings

Via the Globe & Mail:

Five Britons were kidnapped Tuesday from an Iraqi government office in Baghdad, swooped away in a convoy filled with men in police uniforms who headed toward a Shia stronghold in the capital, the British government and an Iraqi official said.

Four are employees of the Montreal-based security firm, GardaWorld, the company confirmed.

"A client and four of its security professionals working in Baghdad were forcibly taken from a work site this morning," said Joe Gavaghan, speaking on behalf of GardaWorld Securities Corp.

"We cannot disclose anything about the client," he said.

Garda is also withholding the names of the employees and Mr. Gavaghan said only that they were providing "protective services".
Mr. Gavaghan could not say how many GardaWorld employees are currently in Iraq but said Garda has approximately 5,000 employees working in the Middle East.

Earlier this month, Gardaworld was awarded a "peace prize from the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East [FRRME] for its Work in Iraq" for protecting Anglican church Canon Andrew White (PBS interview).

Christianity Today has more:

At least four British men abducted today in Baghdad were linked to the vicar of St George’s Church, Canon Andrew White.
In an e-mail entitled “urgent prayer request” to Times Online today, Canon White wrote: “Four of our security guards have been kidnapped along with one other British client. They were taken from the Ministry of Finance, which is Shia controlled.”

The BBC reports that Gardaworld's staff in Iraq is "largely staffed by British former service personnel". Makes you wonder how many Canadians are over in Iraq as well.

GardaWorld is one of the biggest suppliers of private security in Iraq, and is thought to have hundreds of staff in the country.

Canada's Blackwater?

Monday, May 28, 2007

CIDA 'Undermines' Military Success in Afghanistan

That's the conclusion reached by the Senlis Council.

Via the CBC:

Canada's lead agency for international assistance in developing countries is not up to the job of delivering aid to Afghanistan and should be relieved of that responsibility, a think tank said Monday.

"The extremely limited results achieved by Canada’s International Development Agency in Kandahar to date demonstrate the incapacity of the agency to operate effectively in a war zone," according to a report by the Senlis Council.

The international think-tank, with offices in several countries, including Canada, researches and recommends foreign policy and policy on security, development and counter-narcotics strategies.

CIDA's "limited achievements" are undermining Canadian military efforts and compromising the likelihood of mission success, the report says.

Kandahar’s refugee camps are growing steadily and its hospital is dilapidated and filthy, the report states.

As well, there is no functioning food aid distribution system, and legal money-making opportunities remain extremely limited, according to the report.

Extremely serious concerns and allegations:

"The failure to demonstrably address the extreme poverty, widespread hunger and appalling child and maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan — let alone boost economic development — is decreasing local Afghan support for Canada’s mission and increasing support for the insurgency."

Norine MacDonald, of the Senlis Council, said the problem is a structural issue because the money the agency does have is not ending up on the ground.

I wonder how minister Josee Verner - always one to try and show just how stunningly well CIDA is doing in Afghanistan - is going to respond to this report by this well-respected think tank. Obviously, throwing money at the problems doesn't seem to be working. Nice talking points don't equal success. Neither do shallow photo ops. Verner owes all Canadians and Afghans a damn good explanation for what her department has failed to do and most especially she needs to respond to the very serious allegation that CIDA is actually undermining the military's work there. If she's anything like Harper and O'Connor though, she'll just dismiss the think tank's report as they did last year while pretending she actually knows what's happening in Afghanistan and how to fix it.

Related: Senlis web site

Iraq: Lowering Expectations to Define "Success"

Bush defined "success" in Iraq on May 2, 2007 as this:

"Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed," he said. "And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not no violence."

While saying "succeed," Bush appears to chuckle.

The president then compared Iraq to the United States, saying that there were parts of the US with "a certain level of violence," but that "people feel comfortable about living their daily lives" in those areas. That level of violence, said Bush, is what the US is aiming to achieve in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Jon Stewart featured a montage of Bush clips featuring his ever-changing definitions of success. He seems to have a new vision of that every other week.

Now, according to the LA Times, that definition has been dressed down once again. Interesting, considering the Dems jumped on the "let's see if the surge works and things look better in September" bandwagon. Yes, after decrying the surge, they are now supporting it.

BAGHDAD -- U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success.

In September, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, is scheduled to present Congress with an assessment of progress in Iraq. Military officers in Baghdad and outside advisors working with Petraeus doubt that the three major goals set by U.S. officials for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki will be achieved by then.

Enactment of a new law to share Iraq's oil revenue among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions is the only goal they think might possibly be achieved in time, and even that is considered a long shot. The two other key benchmarks are provincial elections and a deal to allow more Sunni Arabs into government jobs.

With overhauls by the central government stalled and with security in Baghdad still a distant goal, Petraeus' advisors hope to focus on smaller achievements that they see as signs of progress, including deals among Iraq's rival factions to establish areas of peace in some provincial cities.

"Some of it will be infrastructure that is being worked, some of it is local security for neighborhoods, some of it is markets reopening," said a senior military official in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing military tactics.

After 4 years, the best they can offer is the small stuff to try and prove what a glorious march for freedom this failed experiment in American imperialism has been.

Military officers said they understood that any report that key goals had not been met would add to congressional Democrats' skepticism. But some counterinsurgency advisors to Petraeus have argued that it was never realistic to expect that Iraqis would reach agreement on some of their most divisive issues after just a few months of the American troop buildup.

It's been years. They've had years to work these things out. The Democrats never should have bought the fantasy that somehow things would change in September. Seriously, were they even paying attention?

So in September, Petraeus will share his happy fuzzy puppy stories about Iraq, the Dems will be all up in arms as if they're completely shocked and, once again, they'll agree to further fund the war. Oh but they'll have the small stuff to fall back on as some sort of consolation prize for the blank check they wrote Bush last week.

A bandaid on a gaping head wound. That's all they have. And I truly believe that Bush sees "success" in the Iraq war as his leaving office while it's still going on - never having been impeached for his lies and never having to face prosecution for war crimes.

Monday: 123 Iraqis Killed, 233 Wounded

Ignorance really is bliss:

WASHINGTON — Confronted with strong opposition to his Iraq policies, President Bush decides to interpret public opinion his own way. Actually, he says, people agree with him.

And not just that 28%.

Britain's Alberto Gonzales

The Independent reports:

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is facing accusations that he told the Army its soldiers were not bound by the Human Rights Act when arresting, detaining and interrogating Iraqi prisoners.

Previously confidential emails, seen by The Independent, between London and British military head-quarters in Iraq soon after the start of the war suggest Lord Goldsmith's advice was to adopt a "pragmatic" approach when handling prisoners and it was not necessary to follow the " higher standards" of the protection of the Human Rights Act.

That, according to human rights lawyers, was tantamount to the Attorney General advising the military to ignore the Human Rights Act and to simply observe the Geneva Conventions. It was also contrary to advice given by the Army's senior lawyer in Iraq, who urged higher standards to be met.

Today, rights groups and experts in international law will call on the Government to disclose Lord Goldsmith's legal opinion, which they say could have helped create a culture of abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers.

Who are these heartless men who obviously have no functioning conscience who decide that torturing and abusing human beings is acceptable in any instance - especially considering that the Geneva Conventions have been in place for decades to stop these horrendous practices? And who are the extremely ignorant people who give them promotions as rewards for their unconscionable and illegal opinions? And who are the lawmakers who support these crimes against humanity?

Cowards. They're all cowardly criminals.

Shami Chakrabarti: We risk the values that make Britain worth defending
An abuse of human rights - and a blot on our integrity

'Happy' Dead Soldiers Day?

I was over at Daily Kos this morning reading Cindy Sheehan's diary "Good Riddance Attention Whore" in which she announced that she's decided to stay home and take care of her family rather than being the face of the antiwar movement any more - after years of being the most visible US antiwar advocate following the death of her son Casey in the Iraq war:

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes. [She has also received scorn from some at Daily Kos. -catnip]

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

Exactly. And that sentiment is akin to blasphemy on a blog like Daily Kos which exists , in the words of its founder, as "a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory." That goal trumps everything. Anyone, such as those who advocate third parties or otherwise doesn't fall in line is ridiculed, harassed and/or troll-rated into oblivion or banishment.

Cindy's fight was against a corrupt government - and that includes Democrats who supported the war or did nothing to end it - those who chose to look the other way after Bush had so blatanly and dishonestly pursued a pre-emptive war against a country that wasn't even a threat to the United States. That's what Cindy's son died for and she is brutally honest about it.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

Imagine her tremendous pain at that realization.

And so she is going home:

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

So how, on the day that is supposed to be in remembrance of dead soldiers, can anyone bring themselves to attach the word "happy" to this or any memorial day or think it's just a day for barbeques and parties?

Via wiki, the dead seem to be an afterthought:

In addition to remembrance, Memorial Day is also a time for picnics, family gatherings, and sporting events. Some Americans view Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer and Labor Day as the unofficial end of the season. The national Click it or ticket campaign ramps up beginning Memorial Day weekend, noting the beginning of the most dangerous season for auto accidents and other safety related incidents. The USAF "101 Critical days of summer" also begin on this day as well. Some Americans use Memorial Day to also honor any family members who have died, not just servicemen.

"Memorial Day" wasn't always about having a long weekend and "Memorial Day sales" in the stores:

Memorial Day formerly occurred on May 30, and some, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), advocate returning to this fixed date, although the significance of the date is tenuous. The VFW stated in a 2002 Memorial Day Address, "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."

In these times, the Bush administration's blackout of returning coffins of the war dead has also contributed to that nonchalance - as has the derision against those who oppose war who have been so wrongly labeled as being "unpatriotic" or "treasonous". The wars the US are in have been so sanitized for public consumption that they hardly seem real and the majority of US citizens support war as a concept anyway. Those who speak against that have been shunned and have even been spied on by US administrations as being possible threats to America's security. Ironic, since US involvement in Iraq (and in support of Israel) has now created the biggest threat. 3,400+ soldiers killed - more people than were lost on 9/11. Over 20,000 wounded - with no end in sight.

And then there are the war victims - when's their day of remembrance? When does the world pause to think about them? Where are their names carved in stone for time immemorial? I suppose if the US government decided to assign a day for them, they'd just make another long weekend out of it so people could just wish each other "Happy War Dead Day" while they grill another hamburger, because that seems to be what the memory of a life is worth these days.

No wonder Cindy Sheehan is going home. She's done her best and I wish her well. Hers was a sorely needed voice in the midst of such warmongering insanity. May she find some personal peace, at least.

Related: Read Andrew Bacevich's editorial, "I Lost My Son to a War I oppose", in the Washington Post.

Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."

To be fair, responsibility for the war's continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son's death, my state's senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son's wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff. More accurately, after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don't blame me.

To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

It's been said over and over and over. When will people finally wake up?

See also: Wrapped and Trapped by Madman in the Marketplace.
Cindy Sheehan: Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: Sharing the Rain

This is a post I wrote last spring but I thought I'd resurrect it... -catnip

Do you ever lay awake at nite, listening to the rain, safe in your bed, secure in your house and wonder about others who lay and listen to the rain as well?

A child soldier in Colombia who just fired a gun the first time that day; a woman in Congo who was raped earlier that evening; a sister who just lost her 5-year old brother in a bombing in Iraq; a woman in China who works in a factory and dreams of freedom and a large family; a man in Darfur whose family was slaughtered last week; a daughter in Canada who worries about her dad fighting in Afghanistan; a child prostitute in Thailand who will only have a brief reprieve; an overworked Japanese man who no longer has time for his family; your neighbour down the street who has just been beaten by his wife; a homeless woman in Toronto forced to sleep in a tent made of blankets; a boy in LA whose brother was shot in a gang fight; an immigrant fleeing from extreme poverty in Honduras laying in a field; a child living in a tin shack in the ghettos of Jamaica; a Muslim man who lays dying in an alley after being stabbed in Paris...

All who lay in what is their 'bed' for the nite...listening to the rain...wondering what tomorrow will bring.

Do you ever wonder about them?

I do.

Saturday Nite Video Flashback: Black Uhuru

This one's kind of a selfish pick. (I suppose they all are.) I found this clip on YouTube with the comment that it was filmed at Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay in 1986, which I attended when I did some work for a Jamaican reggae magazine down there. I first went to Sunsplash in 1984. Good times. Irie.

So, I suppose unless you're a die hard reggae fan like me, you may never have even heard of Black Uhuru, but they had an unmistakable sound - heavy on the rhythm (Sly & Robbie style) with the social militancy message of the times. They're still around in a morphed form but, as usual, the classics are their anthems.

This is General Penitentiary:

I was also introduced to Black Uhuru member Michael Rose that summer when we ran into him at a vegetable market in Kingston. Don't ask me what we talked about though. That was a long time ago. But, it was one of the highlights of my trip as well.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Boos at UMass for Andrew Card

This is what happens (and what should happen more often) when you're a shill for the Bush war machine:

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) -- President Bush's former chief of staff Andrew Card was loudly booed by hundreds of students and faculty members as he rose to accept an honorary degree at the University of Massachusetts on Friday.

The boos and catcalls - including those from faculty members who stood onstage with Card - drowned out Provost Charlena Seymour's remarks as she awarded the honorary doctorate in public service. Protesters claim Card lied to the American people in the early days of the Iraq war and should not have been honored at the graduate student commencement.

Card smiled slightly while Seymour spoke and raised his hand in thanks, then sat down without speaking.

While he turned one hundred shades of red...

The protests were mainly contained to an area in the back of the campus arena, though many of the faculty members onstage joined the three- to four- minute outburst.

One faculty member onstage held a sign: "Card - no honor, no degree." Another sign said, "War criminals go home."

Chancellor John Lombardi declined to comment on the protests or Card's honorary degree.

Before the commencement ceremony, about 100 faculty members and students sang anti-war songs, handed out leaflets and waved signs outside the arena.

It's excellent that so many faculty members were involved. Takes the "it's just angry kids" meme away from the right-wing apologists.

Why Massachussians... Massacitizens... Massachusettsians... whatever... ever elected Republican automaton Mitt Romney for Governor, is beyond me. They have since come to their senses though.

Kudos to the UMass crowd for relegating Card to the dark dustbin of history where he and his fellow war criminals belong.

Update: Bonus video of the ceremony (h/t Marie)


Crazy Cat Saturday Open Thread

Brought to you by your hostess Joey, who will be 15 years old in June.

"I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats." - Eckhart Tolle

3,400 Pairs of Combat Boots

Via Reuters:

Inayat Khan, of Indiana, looks at a pair of boots belonging to his cousin Captain Humayun Khan, which are part of "Eyes Wide Open: An Exhibition on the Human Cost of the Iraq War" in Chicago, May 25, 2007. More than 3,400 pairs of combat boots, one pair for every U.S. soldier killed in the Iraq War, were on display.

And just imagine if someone took on the task of also displaying the boots, shoes, sandals and baby booties of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed during this occupation as well...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Nite Video: Rosie v Elisabeth

Watch the entire segment from The View, beginning with poor little Elisabeth cringing at the list of Bush incompetencies and crimes presented by co-host Joy Behar.

Although scheduled to leave the show in 3 weeks, Rosie announced on Friday she's calling it quits. Can't blame her, really.

I actually used to watch The View now and then, but when they brought annoying Republican apologist Elisabeth on the show, I decided I'd rather scratch my nails on a blackboard - thank you very much - than to listen to her incessant whining and right-wing talking points. I see I haven't missed much since then.

Damage Control

There's a sucker born every minute.

Over at GNN, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber have co-authored a post titled 'Democratic Spin Won't End the War in Iraq'. No, it certainly won't, and the meltdown and continual attempts to control the damage done by Democratic sellouts who voted to fund the emergency war spending bill on Thursday is going to take much more than continual pep talks from the front pagers at places like Daily Kos and MyDD, where they really do believe they can spin gold from straw or victory from more dead bodies.

As Rampton and Stauber point out:

The bottom line, however, is that MoveOn until now has always been a big “D” Democratic Party organization. It began as an online campaign to oppose the impeachment of President Clinton, and its tactical alliances with Democratic politicians have made it part of the party’s current power base, which melds together millionaire funders such as George Soros and the Democracy Alliance, liberal unions like SEIU, and the ballyhooed Netroots bloggers like Matt Stoller, Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga of the Daily Kos. At a personal level, we presume the members of this coalition genuinely want the war to end, but their true and primary priority is winning Democratic Party control of both houses of Congress and the White House. Now that the war in Iraq hangs like a rotting albatross around the neck of the Bush administration, it has become the Democrats’ best weapon to successfully campaign against Republicans. From a “shrewdly pragmatic” point of view, therefore, they have no reason to want the war to end soon.

That is echoed by the "just wait until September - we'll nail Bush then" meme that bloggers like kos are now pushing. And, to add insult to injury, he and Bowers have the audacity to continue to shill for donations to the Democratic party in the midst of a major meltdown in which several Dem party members have expressed that they've had enough and are finally ditching the party (despite the fact that poor kos finds that embarassing. It hurts his feelings, you see.)

If progressive grassroots activists are too demoralized to make small donations, the party becomes more reliant on large donors.

Thousands of Dem party supporters actually believed the party mouthpieces when they promised that a Dem majority would bring an end to the Iraq occupation so they opened their wallets, even if some couldn't afford to. Which "donors" do you think the party leadership listened to?

And, as if that wasn't insulting enough to the party's anti-Iraq war base (only a very small minority is actually anti-all war. See: war, Afghanistan - which no one has made a peep about there and which also received funding via that bill), kos (who along with his other front pagers have written an amazing flurry of posts the past couple of days to try to force his readers/members to still support the party) is dredging up 3 days old news about Lieberman threatening to leave the party (because, you know, if it weren't for Lieberman, somehow the Dems could have automagically ended the war yesterday) while making excuses for Jim Webb's 'yes' vote because Webb was one of kos's chosen people to win.

Webb, like most of his colleagues, bought into the b.s. right-wing frame that voting against this supplemental was voting against our troops.

He's talking about Jim Webb - Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan - as if he's some sort of political simpleton who was just fooled by right-wing talking points.

Does it get any clearer than that that kos et al are in absolute desparation mode? No wonder he titled his post 'Moving Forward'. He can't put this behind him soon enough.

This vote was a bloody trainwreck of massive proportions - but - it was no accident, that's for sure. The Democratic party is not an antiwar party. It's not even an anti-Iraq war party. It's amazing that so many people are only now awakening to that reality and those who have allowed themselves to be fooled should have paid more attention to history.

From that GNN article:

There is an organized anti-war movement in America that is not an adjunct of the Democratic Party. Up until now, it has been weak and divided and unable to organize itself into an effective national movement in its own right. In its place, therefore, MoveOn and its Netroots allies have become identified as the leadership of the anti-war movement. It is vitally important, however, that a genuinely independent anti-war movement organize itself with the ability to speak on its own behalf.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, the civil rights movement was most definitely not an adjunct of the Democratic or Republican Parties. Far from it, it was a grassroots movement that eventually forced both parties to respond to its agenda. Likewise, the movement against the Vietnam War was not aligned with either the Democratic or Republican parties, both of which claimed to have plans for peace while actually pursuing policies that expanded the war.

That’s the sort of movement we need again, if we wish to see peace in our lifetime.

That is exactly what Scott Ritter wrote about in 2006:

It's high time to recognize that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue.
Despite all of the well-meaning and patriotic work of the millions of activists and citizens who comprise the anti-war movement, America still remains very much a nation not only engaged in waging and planning wars of aggression, but has also become a nation which increasingly identifies itself through its military and the wars it fights. This is a sad manifestation of the fact that the American people seem to be addicted to war and violence, rather than the ideals of human rights, individual liberty, and freedom and justice for all that should define our nation.

In short, the anti-war movement has come face to face with the reality that in the ongoing war of ideologies that is being waged in America today, their cause is not just losing, but is in fact on the verge of complete collapse.

And those competing ideologies cannot be described as simply being Republican v Democrat - as more people on the so-called left have now realized as a result of Thursday's vote. Take the case of the much-heralded Jack Murtha, who voted in favour of yesterday's bill - again to some Democrats' surprise. Ritter had him pegged:

Americans aren't against the war in Iraq because it is wrong; they are against it because we are losing.

Take the example of Congressman Jack Murtha. A vocal supporter of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, last fall Mr. Murtha went public with his dramatic change of position, suddenly rejecting the war as un-winnable, and demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. While laudable, I have serious problems with Jack Murtha's thought process here. At what point did the American invasion of Iraq become a bad war? When we suffered 2,000 dead? After two years of fruitless struggle? Once we spent $100 billion?

While vocalizing his current opposition against the Iraq War, Congressman Murtha and others who voted for the war but now question its merits have never retracted their original pro-war stance.

The bottom line is this: the real antiwar movement is not to be found on the big box blog sites like Daily Kos or their various spinoffs. In fact, many antiwar activists have either been ridiculed to no end, bullied, labeled as "radicals" and/or banned from those sites for having the audacity to go against accepted Democratic war policy. Code Pink members and antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan have been repeatedly insulted (you know - the people who are actually out there doing something to end these wars). And kos has decried any talk of impeachment as "impeachment porn". That's what's insulting to democracy - not vocal antiwar activists who have better things to do than to sit around figuring out 50 ways to apologize for the blow their spineless elected representatives dealt to them this week, like kos is currently up to.

It's amazing that a well-coordinated antiwar movement hasn't emerged after all of these years in the US. Perhaps this will act as one of those many "wake up calls". That depends, of course, at how successful Dem apologists are at spinning this latest catastrophe so they can lull people back into complacency. That road, however, looks much more rocky than it has in decades but it's time they felt some of that real pain that families of the dead and injured - Iraqi, American and coalition forces - have had to deal with in the face of the Democrats' utter failure to stand on principles instead of worrying about whether or not they'll be re-elected in '08.

And always remember: War is a Racket. Again, which donors do you think the Democratic party is listening to?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Video: Bush Crapped on by Terrorist Bird

The Secret Service, FBI and CIA have all vowed to track down the bold perpetrator of this craptacular spectacle whom they've dubbed "Mini bin (Laden)" (and the chase for him will probably take just as long as the one for his namesake...).

Snow Day Open Thread

Yes, it's a snow day here in Calgary but, as usual, wait 5 minutes and the weather's sure to change.

And in news that would be of interest to bear-hating Stephen Colbert: Woman fights off bear in South Glenmore Park. That's in the city of Calgary.

Police and Fish and Wildlife officers are searching for a bear in South Glenmore Park following a close encounter with a couple on Thursday afternoon.

Police duty Insp. Dale Flemming said the woman used a tree branch to defend herself against the animal believed to be a black bear.

STARS air ambulance, fire crews and paramedics were also on scene to assist.
Flemming likened the encounter to a game of cat and mouse but said no physical contact was made by the bear. Police are warning Calgarians to stay out of the park until the search is called off.

Cat and mouse? That sure was one huge cat!

What's happening in your neck of the woods?

Update: 5:15 pm ET - the house debate on the Iraq funding bill has begun. Joe Biden has jumped into Bush's lap to support it:

"I believe as long as we have troops in the front line, we're going to have to protect them," said Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del. "We're going to have to fund them."

Biden was alone among the potential Democratic candidates in immediately pledging his support for the bill.

John Murtha, speaking on the floor, has said he'll vote for it as well.

Quote du Jour: Bush - bin Laden 'not leading many parades'

"He's not out there traipsing around. He's not leading many parades," Bush told a news conference after being asked why bin Laden had not been caught.

True. But he did lead at least one in May that we know of:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Diego Garcia: A Victory for the Islanders

This has been a long and frustrating fight:

Exiled islanders win 40-year battle to return home as judges accuse UK of abuse of power

An estimated 2,000 Chagossians were driven from their homes between 1967 and 1971 after Britain made a secret deal to lease the island of Diego Garcia to the US for use as an airbase. They were tricked out of their homes, encouraged to leave on temporary trips, and not allowed back.

Later, the islanders were subjected to intimidation. At one point US soldiers rounded up their dogs and gassed them. The departing Chagossians were loaded on to boats, allowed to take only one bag with them, and deposited in Mauritius, where most have lived in poverty ever since. The base has served as a refuelling stop and base for air raids in a succession of wars, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Foreign Office said it was "disappointed" by the ruling, and said it would consider an appeal to the House of Lords. A spokeswoman said, the islanders "in theory" now had a right to go home.

Chagossians - who are descended from 18th century African and Indian labourers on French coconut plantations - are not seeking to resettle Diego Garcia itself, but other islands in the archipelago, which are from 60 to 100 miles away. US and British officials have argued that raids on the air base could be launched from those other islands, or they could be used to observe the movement of warplanes.

But yesterday's ruling meant that three British courts have decided, in effect, that security concerns cannot trump the right of the Chagos islanders to return home.

After a court declared the islanders' expulsion illegal in 2000, the government took the unusual step of blocking their return by "orders in council", a use of royal prerogative that bypassed parliament.

Last year's decision and yesterday's ruling deemed those decrees illegitimate. Lord Justice Sedley declared them to be "unlawfully made, because their content and the circumstances of their enactment constitute an abuse of power."


And why were the Americans there? It's a familiar answer: oil. It's always about oil.

In the 1960's, America's naval policy in the Indian Ocean had many ingredients. The foremost was to deter Russia from interrupting the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf countries to America and Europe. Politically, this entailed American support of Iran to counter Russian influence in Iraq. It entailed maintaining a naval presence in the Persian Gulf, and wherever possible, in the countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean, not only to secure the sea lines of communication which criss-crossed the Indian Ocean but also to inject military force from seaward when required. By 1968, the American Navy had effected the necessary adjustments in its global naval deployments.

A 2004 Guardian article was much more graphic in describing the fate of the island's inhabitants:

Paradise Cleansed
John Pilger

The story of Diego Garcia is shocking, almost incredible. A British colony lying midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean, the island is one of 64 unique coral islands that form the Chagos Archipelago, a phenomenon of natural beauty, and once of peace. Newsreaders refer to it in passing: "American B-52 and Stealth bombers last night took off from the uninhabited British island of Diego Garcia to bomb Iraq (or Afghanistan)." It is the word "uninhabited" that turns the key on the horror of what was done there. In the 1970s, the Ministry of Defence in London produced this epic lie: "There is nothing in our files about a population and an evacuation."
During the 1960s, in high secrecy, the Labour government of Harold Wilson conspired with two American administrations to "sweep" and "sanitise" the islands: the words used in American documents. Files found in the National Archives in Washington and the Public Record Office in London provide an astonishing narrative of official lying all too familiar to those who have chronicled the lies over Iraq.
At first, the islanders were tricked and intimidated into leaving; those who had gone to Mauritius for urgent medical treatment were prevented from returning. As the Americans began to arrive and build the base, Sir Bruce Greatbatch, the governor of the Seychelles, who had been put in charge of the "sanitising", ordered all the pet dogs on Diego Garcia to be killed. Almost 1,000 pets were rounded up and gassed, using the exhaust fumes from American military vehicles. "They put the dogs in a furnace where the people worked," says Lizette Tallatte, now in her 60s," ... and when their dogs were taken away in front of them, our children screamed and cried."

The islanders took this as a warning; and the remaining population were loaded on to ships, allowed to take only one suitcase. They left behind their homes and furniture, and their lives. On one journey in rough seas, the copra company's horses occupied the deck, while women and children were forced to sleep on a cargo of bird fertiliser. Arriving in the Seychelles, they were marched up the hill to a prison where they were held until they were transported to Mauritius. There, they were dumped on the docks.

In the first months of their exile, as they fought to survive, suicides and child deaths were common. Lizette lost two children. "The doctor said he cannot treat sadness," she recalls. Rita Bancoult, now 79, lost two daughters and a son; she told me that when her husband was told the family could never return home, he suffered a stroke and died. Unemployment, drugs and prostitution, all of which had been alien to their society, ravaged them. Only after more than a decade did they receive any compensation from the British government: less than £3,000 each, which did not cover their debts.

The behaviour of the Blair government is, in many respects, the worst. In 2000, the islanders won a historic victory in the high court, which ruled their expulsion illegal. Within hours of the judgment, the Foreign Office announced that it would not be possible for them to return to Diego Garcia because of a "treaty" with Washington - in truth, a deal concealed from parliament and the US Congress.

read on...

I remember seeing a documentary about the history of Diego Garcia a few years ago. Perhaps it was Pilger's 'Stealing a Nation', but I do recall being struck by the inhumanity of the situation - all in the name of the military industrial complex. I can only hope that the UK's Foreign Office will finally accept defeat in this long battle with the islanders and let them reclaim the home of their ancestors. So many many displaced and abused people.

Update: I found the documentary 'Stealing a Nation' online in its entirety here.

Video: More Olbermann

This is, in fact, a comment about… betrayal.

Few men or women elected in our history—whether executive or legislative, state or national—have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious, nor instructions more clear:

Get us out of Iraq.

Yet after six months of preparation and execution—half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this:

* The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;
* The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;
* The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
* The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.

You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions—Stop The War—have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.
You may trot out every political clichĂ© from the soft-soap, inside-the-beltway dictionary of boilerplate sound bites, about how this is the “beginning of the end” of Mr. Bush’s “carte blanche” in Iraq, about how this is a “first step.”
Well, Senator Reid, the only end at its beginning... is our collective hope that you and your colleagues would do what is right, what is essential, what you were each elected and re-elected to do.
Because this “first step”… is a step right off a cliff.

Read on...

Video: Olbermann - Iraqus Interruptus

Olbermann: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Iraq funding compromise. The Democrats get benchmarks, the president has the right to waive the benchmarks. What the hell kind of benchmarks are they if the president can just waive them?
And you thought that big statue of Saddam Hussein fell over quickly and symbolically and with surreptitious help.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, right up there with the fall of Baghdad itself, you can now add the fall of the Democratic Congress, agreeing to fund the conflict in Iraq without any timelines for withdrawal, with mere benchmark, which the president can waive, Democrats in the White House reaching a so-called bipartisan agreement to keep funding the war through September without holding President Bush accountable.

After weeks of refusing to back down to the White House, today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pretty much did just that, only days after rejecting a measure put forward by Republican John Warner as too weak, today Mr. Reid accepting an agreement that looks remarkably like the Warner war supplemental funding bill.

The agreement would fund the Iraq War through September, requiring President Bush to give Congress reports on Iraq‘s progress. As for benchmarks, yes, there are benchmarks. And the president has the ability to waive the benchmarks, the only possible fly in that ointment, emphasis on the word “possible,” Speaker of the House Pelosi saying earlier this evening she would not be likely to vote for anything that does not have timetables in it, adding she would wait to see what the final draft of the legislation actually says.

Write Your Own Caption

"I asked for rose-coloured glasses, damnit!"

CP Photo

Harper Hints About Extending the Afghan Mission

During the weeks leading up to the current parliamentary break, the prime minister was repeatedly asked whether his government had been having discussions within NATO to determine whether Canadian troops would stay in Afghanistan beyond their February, 2009 commitment and/or what plans were being made for Canada's eventual withdrawal. Harper responded that it simply was too early for such discussions - along with spouting several other excuses.

He seems to prefer to be more candid with the press in Afghanistan though than with MPs who represent Canadians:

Canada could lengthen Afghan mission, PM signals

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Canada could keep its military mission in
Afghanistan beyond the scheduled February 2009 withdrawal date despite increasing pressure to bring the troops back on time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated on Wednesday.
"You know that your work is not complete. You know that we cannot just put down our arms and hope for peace," Harper told a crowd of soldiers at an outdoor ball hockey rink at the Canadian military base.

"You know that we can't set arbitrary deadlines and simply wish for the best. And you must also know that your hard work is making a real difference to real people and their families," he said.

Channeling Bush.

Brigadier-General Tim Grant, Canada's most senior soldier in Kandahar, said the mission could not achieve all its aims by the withdrawal date.

"The work will not be done here in February '09 and so we want to make sure we do as much as we possibly can between now and then. But at the same time it would be irresponsible for us not to plan past that point for the good of the country," he told reporters.

And here's Harper acting like the complete ass that he is once again:

Harper, who won a January 2006 election in part on a promise to increase defense spending, says his critics care more about the torture allegations of Taliban suspects than they do about Canada's troops.

Which part of the fact that people who care about human rights can also care about the troops doesn't he get? Why is it always one or the other with conservatives? And exactly who does he think he's fooling with that cheap shot besides his drooling base who fawn over any red meat he throws their way?

"It is clear in our minds that this prime minister never had any intention of leaving in 2009 ... it's normal in an international mission to have an exit strategy," said Liberal legislator Denis Coderre, a party defense spokesman.

Sorry Denis, "normal" doesn't apply to this so-called "new" government of "accountability" and the Liberals who caved and voted for this extension last spring should have known that.

I spoke to an Afghan immigrant who's been in Canada since the late 70s this morning and who has been back to his native country several times since then. He said quite bluntly to me that the idea that Karzai's government is exercising anything like control beyond small pockets of Afghanistan is a myth. "There is no government", were his words.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Today is brought to you by the word "cave"

Because that's exactly what the Democrats did on their Iraq bill:

Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months.
The spending package, expected to total $120 billion when the final version is released today, would require Bush to surrender virtually none of his war authority. Democrats were working to secure two other priorities that the president had previously resisted -- an increase in the minimum wage and funding for domestic programs, including veterans' benefits, Hurricane Katrina relief and agricultural aid.

Instead of sticking with troop-withdrawal dates, Democrats accepted a GOP plan to establish 18 political and legislative benchmarks for the Iraqi government, with periodic reports from Bush on its progress, starting in late July. If the Iraqis fall short, they could forfeit U.S. reconstruction aid.

And lordy, lordy:

Reid called the benchmark language "extremely weak," but he noted that Bush had initially demanded a bill with no strings attached on Iraq. "For heaven's sake, look where we've come," Reid said. "It's a lot more than the president ever expected he'd have to agree to."

Yes, for heaven's sake, it's not like there's a totally fucked up war going on or anything. Lighten up, people!

Meanwhile, Pelosi is singing Tomorrow, tomorrow, we'll end the war tomorrow...

"This is another stage in the sequencing of ending this war," said Pelosi, who added that September would be "the moment of truth."

Riiight...see you in September, Nancy.

The NYT reports:

But even so, many Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, indicated that they would not support the war money, meaning that a significant number of Republicans would have to sign on to ensure the plan’s approval.

Ms. Pelosi made clear that if money for the war was going to be provided without a timeline for withdrawal, it would be without her personal support. “I would never vote for such a thing,” Ms. Pelosi said as she entered the office of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, to put the final touches on the $120 billion proposal.

So, what was the point of all of this?

That's what Russ Feingold would like to know:

“There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action,” said Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who was unsuccessful last week in his push for a withdrawal of combat troops by spring. “Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq.”

Just wait til September, Russ...September...only a few more thousand people will have died by then...and hey, maybe Buscho will have strong-armed the supposedly democratically-elected Iraqi government to sign that oil law (because that's what this waiting game is really all about - getting the oil profits into the hands of private US war profiteers.)

Steve Goes to Afghanistan

But, it's not about polls or photo ops or anything...

Plus, it's just been raining too damn much here in Calgary for Harper to be out on the golf course. Might as well go where the weather's nice.

Chaos in Lebanon: Who's Responsible?

The meme that has been pushed by the Bush administration and much of the mainstream media (including Robert Fisk, surprisingly) is that Syria's government is behind the current chaos in Lebanon based on its opposition to the Hariri investigation:

[Tony Snow said] 'We will not tolerate attempts by Syria, terrorist groups or any others to delay or derail Lebanon's efforts to solidify its sovereignty or to seek justice in the Hariri case -- or for that matter to take on the violence that continues to plague the country,' he told reporters.

That sounds certain, doesn't it? But then Snow immediately contradicts himself:

Snow said the United States did not know whether Syria was involved in stoking the violence, stressing: 'We are still studying precisely what is going on but it is important to send the signal.

'The Syrians have said that they wish to play a constructive role. One constructive role is make sure that you're not part of the violence,' the spokesman said.

Even Bush is backing away from directly accusing Syria:

"I don't know about this particular incident. I'll be guarded on making accusations until I get better information, but I will tell you there's no doubt that Syria was deeply involved in Lebanon. There's no question they're still involved in Lebanon," he said.

Perhaps part of the reason the WH is "studying" the situation is due to what really might be going on, according to Sy Hersh (watch the video):

In an interview on CNN International's Your World Today, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh explains that the current violence in Lebanon is the result of an attempt by the Lebanese government to crack down on a militant Sunni group, Fatah al-Islam, that it formerly supported.

Last March, Hersh reported that American policy in the Middle East had shifted to opposing Iran, Syria, and their Shia allies at any cost, even if it meant backing hardline Sunni jihadists.

A key element of this policy shift was an agreement among Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national security adviser, whereby the Saudis would covertly fund the Sunni Farah al-Islam in Lebanon as a counterweight to the Shia Hezbollah.
Hersh implies, the Bush administration is no longer acting rationally in its policy. "We're in the business of supporting the Sunnis anywhere we can against the Shia. ... "We're in the business of creating ... sectarian violence." And he describes the scheme of funding Fatah al-Islam as "a covert program we joined in with the Saudis as part of a bigger, broader program of doing everything we could to stop the spread of the Shia world, and it just simply -- it bit us in the rear."

Just exactly what was Cheney discussing with the Saudis during his last two visits there?

Politics and war do indeed make strange bedfellows:

BEIRUT, Lebanon: The Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militant group has so far backed Lebanon's army in its confrontation with a Sunni militant group inside a refugee camp — despite the fact that Hezbollah has been pushing to topple Lebanon's government.

The Hezbollah stance highlights the complex tensions among Lebanon's various factional and militant groups. Hezbollah — as a Shiite group — is a sworn ideological and religious enemy to groups like Fatah Islam, the Sunni militant group involved in the siege, whose leader had ties to former al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Such emnity is often bitter — Al-Zarqawi pushed for the killings of Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere before his death last year, calling them infidels.

Such tensions are longstanding across the Mideast, even though countries like Syria have been accused of sometimes backing both Sunni and Shiite militants.
In a statement from the group that shows its complex stance, Hezbollah denounced the attacks against the Lebanese army — stressing the role of the Lebanese army in safeguarding peace, but also tacitly criticized Lebanon's current government.

"We feel that there is someone out there who wants to drag the army to this confrontation and bloody struggle ... to serve well-known projects and aims. We are hearing calls for more escalation and fighting, which will ultimately lead to more chaos and confrontation in Lebanon," the Hezbollah statement said. It called for a political solution to the crisis.

And to add further irony to irony via CNN reports that Lebanon's president has asked the Bush administration to send military help which would result, of course, in the Bush administration supporting Hezbollah.

The complexities they create for themselves.

Meanwhile, the situation in the refugee camp under attack is extremely tense.

A truce declared by Fatah al-Islam in the Palestinian refugee camp ended soon after it was announced Tuesday, when a U.N. relief convoy in the camp came under fire at 11:30 GMT (7:30 a.m. ET)

A U.N. official in Beirut said several of the agency's workers were trapped inside the camp for several hours, but later got out shaken but unhurt. It's not clear who fired on the convoy or whether it was targeted. (Watch an explanation of what's behind the fighting Video)

The Lebanese army had said it would not fire unless fired upon. A spokeswoman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, Hoda Samara, told CNN from Beirut that the relief convoy had been loaded with water, food and medical supplies.

"The humanitarian situation is very, very bad," she told CNN, "and deteriorating every minute. Inside the camp, there are no hospitals and only one health center," which had been unable to stay open during the fighting. The overcrowded camp was home to some 40,000 people.
Battles between Lebanese soldiers and militants have killed at least 30 troops and as many as 25 militants, according to Bilal Aslan, who belongs to the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The fighting has also left 20 civilians dead, he said.

Blogger The Angry Arab is on top of what's happening in the camp. His posts are not to be missed. (h/t Marisacat)

Considering the plight of the refugees in that camp, you'd think the US State Department would show some actual humanity instead of releasing a statement saying more than that the Lebanese army attacks are "justified". Then again, humanitarian concerns have never been at the top of Bushco's priority list.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Female Afghan MP Expelled From Parliament

Peter Mackay in a National Post interview on Saturday:

A: What ever form of democracy they have -- and it comes in many packages and permutations -- the Afghan people are not going to go back to what they had. Women feel more empowered, I dare say, than they ever have in the history of that country. I met female members of parliament -- five years ago they couldn't vote, now they're sitting in a democratically elected institution where they have decision- making power.

Tuesday's Independent:

The most outspoken female MP in Afghanistan has been expelled from parliament after saying proceedings had descended to a level "worse than a zoo". The views of Malalai Joya, in a television interview, outraged fellow parliamentarians, who immediately voted to suspend her from the house for the rest of her five-year term. Some even demanded that she should be brought before a court for defamation and stripped of the right to stand again as a candidate.

This was not the first time that 28-year-old Ms Joya, a fervent advocate of women's rights, has angered male MPs with her criticisms. Some have thrown water bottles at her while she spoke in debates and others have threatened her with rape. She has also survived assassination attempts and has to regularly change her address after receiving death threats from Islamist groups.

Ms Joya's suspension yesterday came after a tape of her interview with Tolo TV, an independent station which has faced official wrath over some of its investigative reports, was shown to MPs. Describing what was happening in parliament, she had said: "A stable or a zoo is better, at least there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk. This parliament is worse than a stable or a zoo."
Most of Ms Joya's campaigning has been about women's rights, which have been severely eroded after initial gains made with the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Women activists, including the highest-ranking official dealing with female empowerment, Safia Amajan, have been murdered.

Ms Joya said: "Talking about women's rights in Afghanistan is a joke. There really have not been any fundamental changes, the Taliban were driven off by the Americans and the British but then they were allowed to be replaced by warlords who also simply cannot see women as equals."

I should have subtitled this post, Mackay and His Rose-Coloured Glasses.

Wiki profile of Malalai Joya
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
PBS: Afghanistan Unveiled:

Although the new Afghan government includes two women in ministerial posts, the ministers of public health and women’s affairs, only two women were nominated to serve on the country’s first post-Taliban loya jirga, or grand council. In 2003, a coalition of Afghan and Afghan American women drafted an Afghan Women’s Bill of Rights, demanding mandatory education for girls, equal representation in the loya jirga, criminalization of sexual harassment and domestic violence and the right to marry and divorce according to Islamic law. The bill was later presented to President Hamid Karzai, but despite assurance from leaders that it would be included in the constitution, it was not. Even the loya jirga’s conference began with the chairman proclaiming to women: “God has not given you equal rights because under his decision, two women are counted as equal to one man.”

In January 2004, the loya jirga ratified a constitution that included an equal rights clause referencing gender — something not included in the United States' constitution— proclaiming that all Afghan citizens, men and women, "have equal rights and duties before the law." However, this clause is open to interpretation and could be used to undermine women’s rights, as “the law” includes religious law. The Taliban’s treatment of women, for example, would have been permissible following its definition of the law. As many women registered to vote in Afghanistan’s first national presidential election under the new government, the country’s future—and their future—remains unclear.