Monday, August 31, 2009

Selling a Bloodied Afghanistan

Last week, the Stars and Stripes revealed that the Pentagon was using the Rendon Group (a very well-paid company of pro-military propagandists) to "profile reporters" writing about the Afghanistan war.

The new revelations of the Pentagon’s attempts to shape war coverage come as senior Defense Department officials are acknowledging increasing concern over recent opinion polls showing declining popular American support for the Afghan war.
Stars and Stripes reported on Monday that the Pentagon was screening reporters embedding with U.S. forces to determine whether their past coverage had portrayed the military in a positive light. The story included denials by U.S. military officials that they were using the reporters’ profiles to determine whether to approve embed requests.

In the wake of that story, officials of both the Defense Department and Rendon went further, denying that the rating system exists.

“They are not doing that [rating reporters], that’s not been a practice for some time — actually since the creation of U.S. Forces–Afghanistan” in October 2008, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Monday. “I can tell you that the way in which the Department of Defense evaluates an article is its accuracy. It’s a good article if it’s accurate. It’s a bad article if it’s inaccurate. That’s the only measurement that we use here at the Defense Department.”

Why anyone believes anything that comes out of the Pentagon is beyond me especially since the only way it ever admits the truth if it ends up being publicly humiliated into doing so.

La voila, today the US military has terminated Rendon's contract.

“The Bagram Regional Contracting Center intends to execute a termination of the Media Analyst contract,” belonging to The Rendon Group, said Col. Wayne Shanks, chief of public affairs for International Security Assistance Forces–Afghanistan.
“The decision to terminate the Rendon contract was mine and mine alone. As the senior U.S. communicator in Afghanistan, it was clear that the issue of Rendon’s support to US forces in Afghanistan had become a distraction from our main mission,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, in an e-mail sent Sunday to Stars and Stripes.

Did I say the Pentagon admits "the truth"? Whoops. Sorry. It was all just a "distraction" (cough cough).

“I have been here since early June and at no time has anyone who worked for me ever conducted themselves in a manner as your newspaper alleged. I cannot and will not speculate on the past, although I have found no systemic issues with fairness or equity in the way U.S. forces have run their media embed program.”

Compiling reporters’ past bodies of work is common practice to help the military’s public affairs officers prepare for incoming journalists, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said last week.

On Thursday, Whitman said Rendon would continue to produce the profiles and they would include “characterizations” as positive-to-negative, but he scoffed at their value and said the Pentagon used no such outside analysis.

“This was a decision made by US forces Afghanistan. I would refer you to them for their reasons,” Whitman wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Sunday.

Then why fire Rendon?

In at least two of the profiles, copies of which were obtained by Stars and Stripes, Rendon clearly stated the purpose of the analysis was to help military public affairs officers determine what kind of coverage to expect from the journalist, whether to grant their embed request, and if that journalist could be steered toward “positive” coverage for the military.

On Friday, a public affairs officer with the 101st Airborne Division said that when his unit was in Afghanistan and in charge of the Rendon contract, he had used the conclusions contained in Rendon profiles in part to reject at least two journalists’ applications for embeds.

It's not just a US military effort that's been required to keep selling this unpopular war. As I blogged back in 2007, our government had also been very busy at the time (and no doubt since then) trying to convince Canadians that our military presence there was all about the Orwellian-sounding "democracy promotion".

On a side note, I find it interesting that the US and Canadian governments were outraged (outraged!) by claims of election corruption/rigging in Iran but seem to be absolutely mute about the the same accusations coming out of Afghanistan following that country's recent election. Will the end result there be any more legitimate than what happened in Iran? No. Will our governments really care? No.

Today, controversial military honcho General Stanley McChrystal told BBC News the same old song and dance: time is needed to come up with a new strategy that will allow the Afghan people to control their own country.

The general says the aim should be for Afghan forces to take the lead - but their army will not be ready to do that for three years and it will take much longer for the police.

It's been 7 years already. Just how long does it take to train these people?

The bottom line is that there is no end game here. This will be Obama's Vietnam. And you can try dressing it up in purple-stained icing and multi-coloured sprinkles but you can't hide the fact that what lies beneath is a new, monthly, record-setting death toll for US troops along with a seemingly never-ending rise in "collateral damage" - all juxtaposed against a corrupt government that will take much more than a new leader to fix.

Meanwhile, an Afghan man said Monday that Taliban militants cut off his nose and both ears as he tried to vote in the Aug. 20 presidential election.

"I was on my way to a polling station when Taliban stopped me and searched me. They found my voter registration card," Lal Mohammad said from his hospital bed in Kabul. He said they cut off his nose and ears before beating him unconscious with a weapon.

"I regret that I went to vote," Mohammad said, crying and trying to hide his disfigured face. "What is the benefit of voting to me?"

(More about Mr Mohammad here).

Somebody needs to answer his question. Honestly.

Perhaps he should have a chat with Robert Fisk.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Food for Thought: God is Homeless

Ergo, the so-called Creator can't be sued:

A US judge has thrown out a case against God, ruling that because the defendant has no address, legal papers cannot be served.

The suit was launched by Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers, who said he might appeal against the ruling.

He sought a permanent injunction to prevent the "death, destruction and terrorisation" caused by God.

Judge Marlon Polk said in his ruling that a plaintiff must have access to the defendant for a case to proceed.

"Given that this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant this action will be dismissed with prejudice," Judge Polk wrote in his ruling.

Mr Chambers cannot refile the suit but may appeal.


The court, Mr Chambers said, had acknowledged the existence of God and "a consequence of that acknowledgement is a recognition of God's omniscience".

"Since God knows everything," he reasoned, "God has notice of this lawsuit."

Mr Chambers, a state senator for 38 years, said he filed the suit to make the point that "anyone can sue anyone else, even God".

What's interesting about this case is that if someone had decided to sue, let's say, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Tinkerbell™, it's hard to imagine a court of law acknowledging their "existence" yet denying the case because neither could be served. No doubt those cases would have been laughed right out of the courtroom. But, somehow, this mass delusion that "God" exists without any proof whatsoever is enough for a judge to conclude that he/she/it exists - forcing him to come up with a legal justification for dismissing the case.

We live in an odd world.


More about Ernie Chambers here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Fun: For Anyone Who's Ever Bought Annoying Shit

(LOTS of swearing. You've been warned.)


Bill Clinton is a Cheap Date

Unable to compete with the head-rushing excitement of CNE thrillers like the Tilt-a-Whirl™ and the ever-enticing Whack-a-Mole&trade, it looks like Canadians in the big commie city of TO just have better things to do than to pay 5 bucks to see Bubba.

Ticket sales for Bill Clinton's speech Saturday at the CNE have been much slower than expected, forcing organizers to reconfigure the stadium layout and offer fairgoers $5 tickets at the door.

About 7,000 advance tickets are sold for the 4 p.m. event, a far cry from the 25,000 people expected when it was announced two weeks ago.

“I'm the eternal optimist. I thought we were just going to sell like crazy at the very beginning and it looks like we're going to sell more towards the end of this sales cycle,” said David Bednar, general manager of the Canadian National Exhibition. “I can almost guarantee that we will not sell out.”

(To be fair, I know there's not much that could pull me away from the Whack-a-Mole™ either. Maybe they could stick Bill in a box with a few holes? Just a suggestion.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gary Doer Resigns

Manitoba premier Gary Doer has resigned basically stating that you can stick a fork in him - he's done. (If I were Jack Layton, I'd be checking out my rear view mirror.)

Doer also let the media know that he definitely won't be one of Harper's newly appointed senators.

(In a related note, I had to chuckle this morning when I heard CTV's Roger Smith describe Mike Duffy as "non-partisan" when he was selected by Steve the last time around.)

No word yet on when Doer's leaving or who his successor will be.


Mr Doer Goes to Washington as the new ambassador to the US.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quote du Jour: A kick in whose head?

Plunging natural gas prices are gutting the Alberta treasury, with the once-booming province staring at a deficit of almost $7-billion, its biggest ever.

The price of natural gas has fallen by more than half this year, steadily sliding each month as a flush of new supply in the United States smashes against weak demand because of the recession.

It has been a “real kick in the head,” said Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans, as she announced a budget update and the new deficit of $6.9-billion for 2009-2010, $2.2-billion worse than predicted in the April budget.

This province has been run by economic fools for decades. Conservative fools who keep getting elected by an ignorant public that apparently likes being kicked in the head repeatedly by finance ministers who never come through on their forecasts. Ever. And we always end up paying for it by more cuts to essential social services like health care and education.

Don't look to the Liberals or NDP to be making any breakthroughs during the next election even with a lot of grumbling aimed at Steady Eddie Stelmach. The buzz now is all about the (further) right-wing party, the Wildrose Alliance. Just what we need - our own bunch of neocons.

I'm a liberal. Get me out of here.


Next thing you know, we'll be having a garage sale too.

Thoughts on Ted Kennedy's Passing

Ted Kennedy has died.

While I'm not a fan of political dynasties, the US senate certainly can't afford to lose a liberal when there are so few of them.

I thought it was a mistake for Kennedy to pass the family torch to (what was obviously) a centrist Obama during the 2008 campaign. (Not that there were any other choices beyond Kucinich when it came to liberal presidential candidates at the time).

Kennedy fought hard for what he believed in and wasn't afraid to let George W Bush know that the Iraq war was dubya's Vietnam. (Just as the Afghanistan war may well turn out to be Obama's Vietnam, ironically).

While the issue of succession is currently under discussion in Massachusetts, one former Bush deputy assistant, Bradley Blakeman, might be wishing he could eat his words today after positing this past Monday - while calling for Senators Kennedy and Byrd to resign - that "We should not allow any official to rule from the grave." May you be haunted, Mr Blakeman.

Although Kennedy's life experiences were controversial, he never shirked from standing up for what mattered. And although I didn't agree with some of the legislation he supported (No Child Left Behind and the Serve America Act - to name 2 of the most recent), I did admire his gravitas and overt crankiness.

Robert Byrd has called for Obama's health care bill to be named after Kennedy. I don't know if that's fitting considering how much Obama has caved on basic liberal principles that would make American health care more affordable and available - but that's not for me to decide.

RIP. Condolences to his family and friends.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feingold: You're Getting Nothing for Xmas

Keeping with my theme of This Week in Zombie News, Russ Feingold has prognosticated:

Feingold: 'We're headed in the direction of absolutely nothing'

Russ Feingold tells a Wisconsin crowd of the prospects for health care legislation:

"Nobody is going to bring a bill before Christmas, and maybe not even then, if this ever happens," Feingold said. "The divisions are so deep. I never seen anything like that."

Feingold reiterated his appraisal a bit later.

"We're headed in the direction of doing absolutely nothing, and I think that's unfortunate," he said when asked about the plight of uninsured Americans.

Shorter version:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Secret prisons by any other name...

The NYT reports that the ICRC will now be given the names of so-called terrorist suspects in Obama's secret prisons "temporary screening sites" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But, wait a minute, you're thinking - didn't Obama close the secret prisons?

Well, no.

The executive order he signed last January only included secret CIA prisons. (And we'll never really know if that has actually happened, will we?) Meanwhile, the US military is still more than free to have its own little private gulags.

The New York Times reported in 2006 that some soldiers at the temporary detention site in Iraq, then located at Baghdad International Airport and called Camp Nama, beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces, and used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball.

Military officials say conditions at the camps have improved significantly since then, but virtually all details of the sites remain shrouded in secrecy.

There's more of that promised transparency Obama campaigned on.

How often do we need to be reminded that people taken prisoner during these wars have been continuously denied their basic human rights while our governments pretend otherwise?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Breaking News That Isn't Breaking or News

So, I turn on the teevee to check out CNN and the Breaking News! banner tells me that Tom Ridge, in his new book, reveals that the Bush administration used the terror alert level for political purposes.

Well guess what?

Ridge revealed that so-called Breaking News! back in 2005.

WASHINGTON (2005)— The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

His comments at a Washington forum describe spirited debates over terrorist intelligence and provide rare insight into the inner workings of the nation's homeland security apparatus.

Ridge said he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.

"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?'"

CNN - "The most trusted name in news"


The CNN/MSM/Tom Ridge needs to sell books Bullshit Alert level currently sits at Elmo:


Amnesia-plagued boneheads and lying liars in action.

Hello? Google, anyone?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And now, the really important news...

Having passed universal health care decades ago, we Canadians have moved on to much more important scientific debates which don't involve semi-automatic-packing wingnuts showing up at town halls.

Science ponders 'zombie attack'

If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.

That is the conclusion of a mathematical exercise carried out by researchers in Canada.

They say only frequent counter-attacks with increasing force would eradicate the fictional creatures.

Zombiegeddon - coming soon to a town hall near you.

Oh, wait...

Harper and the unwiped bums...

No, they didn't. Really?

Oh yes, they di-id:

OTTAWA — An unfortunate blunder by the Prime Minister's Office has residents of Nunavut alternately chuckling and cringing.

A news release sent out Monday outlined Prime Minister Stephen Harper's itinerary as he began a five-day tour of the North. The release repeatedly spelled the capital of Nunavut as Iqualuit - rather than Iqaluit.

The extra "u" makes a world of difference in the Inuktitut language.

Iqaluit, properly spelled, means "many fish."

Spelled with an extra "u," the Nunavut language commissioner's office says the word translates as a derogatory reference to "people with unwiped bums."

Bloggers from Iqaluit were quickly online ridiculing the gaffe - some light-hearted, some angry.

Iqaluit was named capital of Nunavut when the territory was created in 1999.

A news release today from the PMO spells Iqaluit correctly.

(h/t to James Morton who found it only "mildly amusing". Me? I think it's frickin' hilarious and so very expressive of the Cons' so-called 'cultural sensitivity'.)

Robert Novak - Gone

The "douchebag of liberty" has passed away.

Alas...he was such a kind and gentle soul...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Khadr - one step closer to coming home

IN yet another blow to the federal government, a federal court has ordered Ottawa to repatriate Omar Khadr from Gitmo hell.

In his 43-page decision, O'Reilly wrote that the federal government's ongoing refusal to request his repatriation to Canada "offends a principle of fundamental justice and violates Mr. Khadr's rights.

"To mitigate the effect of that violation, Canada must present a request to the United States for Mr. Khadr's repatriation as soon as practicable," the judge wrote.

Khadr's lawyers have argued the Canadian government was complicit in the detainee's alleged torture and mistreatment while in U.S. custody and is obliged under international law to demand his return.

Documents show Khadr's U.S. captors threatened him with rape, kept him isolated and deprived him of sleep. In 2003, Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers travelled to Guantanamo to question Khadr and shared the results of their interrogations with the Americans.

The watchdog over CSIS recently found the spy agency ignored concerns about human rights and Khadr's young age in deciding to interview him.

Khadr's situation parallels that of another child soldier allegedly tortured while being jailed at Gitmo as well. Recently (at least ordered to be) released Mohammed Jawad (who is said to have been 12 when he was detained) is just another example of the US ignoring the convention on the rights of child soldiers.

The fact that our governments have to be forced by the courts to release these detainees shows how much of a mockery any claims to protecting human rights of children made by successive Liberal, Conservative, Democrat and Republican parties have been.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Up here in Canada...

...we call this just plain crazy talk:

RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it's fine to get involved, and -- and it is good to show up at a town hall meeting and -- and have a conversation. But you have to have the conversation and you have to have the discussion.

And many of these people -- not all, I'm sure, but many of these people are clearly showing up to shut the conversation down. And they are being inspired by -- by some members of Congress who are floating this rumor, as -- as certain talk show hosts do, that, you know, Obama is all -- is all about killing the elderly, and, you know, there are these death panels, as Sarah Palin put it on her Facebook page.


REAGAN: And I -- I don't know that it's going to get dangerous out there. I tend to think that a lot of these might calm down a little because they realize this is not good press for them.

LOESCH: Well, yes.

REAGAN: But let me just add that, in Arizona today, a gun dropped out of one of these people's pockets while they were hooting and hollering at one of these town hall meetings.

LOESCH: Maybe they had a concealed-carry license.

[CNN host John ROBERTS]: Yes.


REAGAN: Well, maybe they did, but, you know, you have got to wonder whether you really need to be packing heat to go to a town hall meeting.

LOESCH: Well, you know what? I tell you here, at Russ Carnahan's town hall meeting, as a -- as a young woman looking back at a bunch of really big guys in SEIU shirts who were glaring at me, I was a little bit afraid, I have to tell you. And that's stuff that we're facing.

REAGAN: Really -- really thinking you were going to be coming to harm, Dana?

LOESCH: Well, I...


REAGAN: I don't think so.


LOESCH: ... was beaten down in the parking lot afterwards, so, you know?

REAGAN: Well, you know, it is only a matter of time before somebody pulls out a gun and does something with it.


ROBERTS: Well, I don't know.


LOESCH: Yes, but the...

ROBERTS: Yes, it could be that this person did have a concealed- carry license.


REAGAN: I'm not arguing with you that they didn't have the concealed-carry license.


LOESCH: You can't immediately assign a negative -- you can't immediately assign...


REAGAN: But that's not the point.


LOESCH: ... negative simply because they -- they may have had a concealed-carry license.

But you know what? It is interesting that the guy didn't pick up his gun and start shooting everybody with it.

REAGAN: Well, let's hope not.



REAGAN: When that becomes the good news story of the day, I think we're in trouble, Dana.

LOESCH: He was demonstrating responsible firearm ownership.


ROBERTS: I'm sure the gentleman just picked up the gun and put it right back in his pocket, where it was duly licensed to be.

REAGAN: Put it right back in...

If you don't support Obama, you'll kill him

So this is goodbye from me. At least for a while. I wish you all the best and i'll pray for Obama's safety every day, because i've seen first hand how tragic can be the end of a visionary and forward-looking leader, when right wing lunatics decide to eliminate him and the left leaves him all alone.

- Daily Kos diarist, blackwaterdog

[insert heavy sigh here]

It was bad enough when, during the campaign, people who criticized Obamalama were labeled "racists". Now, you are basically the one holding the gun to his head if you voice your opposition to his policies which, contrary to the laundry list of hyped-up crap in that diary, have been anything near "progressive".

But the Leave Obama Alone! crowd can't deal with reality hitting them in the face. Too much "doom and gloom", they say - as if it's all about how their poor feelings are getting hurt. Maybe they should sit down for a face to face with the families of the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and talk "feelings". Maybe they should have a face to face with those who've been tortured who won't see any justice done by this administration and talk "feelings". Maybe they should have a face to face with people who are dying from a lack of proper health care and talk "feelings".

But, no. If the "left" (whatever is left of the left in the US surely isn't in this Democratic party) abandons the Spelunker-in-Chief (I coined that term) who never met a cave he didn't like - he's as good as dead.

We joke about the insanity of the wingnuts who are showing up, completely misinformed while embarrassing themselves to no end, to the health care town halls. Pelosi and Hoyer have called their rabble-rousing "un-American". (Them's fighting words.) Meanwhile, the so-called "left" on blogs like Daily Kos - who loudly cheered the protests in Iran while posts about US protests for universal health care on the site faded quietly into oblivion - can't even bring themselves to get their asses off their chairs to get out there to fight for their rights in their country. No. Obama told them to write their congresspeople (because that's so effective, isn't it?).

Conservatives typically despise unruliness. Oh how they hated the 60s. And this centrist bunch of self-identified "pragmatic" Dems - who also chided every attempt by groups like Code Pink to bring attention to the horrific wrongs perpetrated by Bushco (and now continued by Obama's administration) - are stuck standing by while the right-wingers ironically claim the radical mantle of very public dissent. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Rahm Emanuel says that "Dems attacking other Dems are 'fucking stupid'". This, in the middle of a seriously muddled attempt to roll out a bill that the Dems have absolutely failed to explain.

Obama kicks the issue back to congress. But, because he believes he is the face of absolutely everything (and haven't you felt like selling your teevee too by now?), he owns this mess. And he owns the fact that the wingnuts are having an absolute field day (death panels, anyone?).

He owns every single bad policy decision his government has enacted since he's been in office. He wants to own it all. How many times have you seen one of his cabinet secretaries in the media explaining his policies? Does anybody even know who they are?

And, as has been noted ad nauseum by people who are actually in touch with reality on the real left and who won't be guilted into backing off from criticizing him because of ridiculous claims like the one made by the above-quoted Daily Kos diarist, Obama has committed a slough of very non-progressive missteps. He's only been in office 7 months!, they proclaim. As if he's going to change his very character and wake up one morning soon to unleash his hidden inner liberal. Or maybe, they hope, Michelle will make him do it. (No, really. Some have actually said that.)

Read my lips: that's not going to happen.

The Hopeyness train has left the station and it took the Changeyness policies with it.

You just can't call the wingnuts crazy while making equally crazy statements yourself.

If you can't stand the much-deserved criticism, refresh, refresh, refresh and leave the rest of us alone.