Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bush: Incompetence Personified

Why am I not surprised by this:


Bush Had No Plan to Catch Bin Laden after 9/11

New evidence from former U.S. officials reveals that the George W. Bush administration failed to adopt any plan to block the retreat of Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders from Afghanistan to Pakistan in the first weeks after 9/11.

That failure was directly related to the fact that top administration officials gave priority to planning for war with Iraq over military action against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

As a result, the United States had far too few troops and strategic airlift capacity in the theatre to cover the large number of possible exit routes through the border area when bin Laden escaped in late 2001.

Because it had not been directed to plan for that contingency, the U.S. military had to turn down an offer by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in late November 2001 to send 60,000 troops to the border passes to intercept them, according to accounts provided by former U.S. officials involved in the issue.

On Nov. 12, 2001, as Northern Alliance troops were marching on Kabul with little resistance, the CIA had intelligence that bin Laden was headed for a cave complex in the Tora Bora Mountains close to the Pakistani border.

The war had ended much more quickly than expected only days earlier. CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks, who was responsible for the war in Afghanistan, had no forces in position to block bin Laden's exit.

Franks asked Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, commander of Army Central Command (ARCENT), whether his command could provide a blocking force between al Qaeda and the Pakistani border, according to David W. Lamm, who was then commander of ARCENT Kuwait.

Lamm, a retired Army colonel, recalled in an interview that there was no way to fulfill the CENTCOM commander's request, because ARCENT had neither the troops nor the strategic lift in Kuwait required to put such a force in place. "You looked at that request, and you just shook your head," recalled Lamm, now chief of staff of the Near East South Asia Centre for Strategic Studies at the National Defence University.

Franks apparently already realised that he would need Pakistani help in blocking the al Qaeda exit from Tora Bora. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld told a National Security Council meeting that Franks "wants the [Pakistanis] to close the transit points between Afghanistan and Pakistan to seal what's going in and out", according to the National Security Council meeting transcript in Bob Woodward's book "Bush at War".

Bush responded that they would need to "press Musharraf to do that".

(Read more here)
Indeed.

No wonder the rest of the world overwhelmingly regards Bush's Global War on Terror(TM) as a dismal failure.

In this respect, everything Bush and his administration has touched upon, or had to deal with, has been an utter and complete failure - or has been near-permanently stained and broken.

From 9/11 warnings to Afghanistan to Iraq to Katrina to cronyism to politicizing the apparels of government to the U.S. Constitution to human rights to Kyoto to climate change to the economy - the litany of incompetence is as staggering as it is frightening.

Meanwhile, the McSame-Obama race remains statistically close ...

Go figure.


(Cross-posted at The Wild Wild Left)

All Neocons Use The Same Talking Points, Mr. Rae

This is not surprising:


Rae accuses Harper of plagiarizing speech on Iraq

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae on Tuesday accused Conservative Leader Stephen Harper of plagiarizing a speech from Australian Prime Minister John Howard in a 2003 address in the House of Commons calling for Canadian troops to be deployed to Iraq.

At a campaign appearance in Toronto, Rae played video showing then prime minister Howard speaking to the Australian Parliament on March 18, 2003, alongside video of an address by Harper — at the time the leader of the Canadian Alliance — two days later in Ottawa.

The two speeches have lengthy duplicate passages.

Rae called the apparent duplication "shocking," saying it reveals the ideological approach of the Harper government in shaping Canada's foreign policy.

"How does a political leader in Canada's Parliament, on such a crucial issue, in fact an issue that in many ways defined our foreign policy for a generation, end up giving the exact same speech as another country's leader?" Rae said. "Let alone one who was the key leader of George W. Bush's 'coalition of the willing.' "

Howard was a stalwart ally of the Bush administration in the Iraq war and deployed Australian forces to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of the country in March 2003, which other world leaders, including then Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien, opposed.
The actual point here is that Howard himself "borrowed" heavily on Bush-Cheney talking points to sell the Iraq war in Oz Land.

Harper only did the same to try to sell the Iraq war over here.

As he did to minimize global warming, dissmiss/demean/kill Kyoto and stall every further global warming international talks so far.

As he did to push further oil production from the Alberta tar sands.

As he did to make Canada the torch-bearer for the Afghanistan war.

As he did (and still does) to make us "strong" militarily.

As he does to deny our worsening economy.

As he does to push "trickle-down" economics down our throats.

Because Harper, and Howard, are conservative/republican/neocons adjuncts who not only follow lock-in-step the American G.O.P./neocon philosophy, but accordingly take their talking point lead from the standard bearers of the American G.O.P.

Case in point - Harper's own words back in June 1997, at a Montréal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing U.S. think tank:
Your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.
Hence, that is why nearly all conservative/republican/neocon adherents throughout the Western World use the same playbook for their campaigns, which inevitably are about character, fearmongering, toughness on crime, toughness on security, pro-military, pro-corporate, pro-oil production, anti-gun control and pro-Christian "social conservative" moral values.

What I call the same old song and dance.

And that is why I've wondered before whether Harper served the U.S., instead of us.

And that is why McCain sounds like Bush-Cheney.

And that is why Harper now sounds not only like Bush-Cheney, as before, but also as McCain.

Any questions?


(Cross-posted at NetRoots)

Reloaded: Media Reform Needed In Canada As An Issue?

As a follow up from back there, I offer the following article for your consideration:


Why Media Is a Big Election Issue
Canada is about to remake the way you get your information

By Steve Anderson

With online media taking an increasingly important role in the media ecology, Canada is on the brink of a major restructuring of its media and communications system. The government and MPs elected on Oct. 14th will play a decisive role in developing not only the kinds of media available, but also in how Canadians communicate with one another.

Those of us who care about the role of media in society should take a more active role in this election and inform citizens across Canada about exactly what kind of media system they are voting for. Three key areas where the stakes are huge:

1. Mega-media as corporations merge

In looking at parliamentary activity since the last election, issues concerning the wave of media acquisitions over the last year and a half were barely mentioned. Key acquisitions included: CTVglobemedia's purchase of CHUM (with Rogers taking the spoils), Quebecor's purchase of the Osprey Newspaper chain, and the Canwest Global and New York investment bank Goldman Sachs' purchase of Alliance Atlantis. This latest CanWest purchase makes Vancouver the city in North America where media ownership is most concentrated.

2. 'Throttling': Providers discriminating against some on the Net

The past year has also seen a rising concern over the role of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in "shaping" Internet use. The debate centers on the principle of net neutrality, which requires that Internet service providers move traffic in a non-discriminatory manner based on the desires of Internet users. The net neutrality debate exploded when it was revealed that Bell Canada's traffic "throttling" was limiting users' ability to view the CBC's hit show "Canada's Next Great Prime Minister." Some users claimed it took over a day to download the show. To make matters worse, in addition to manipulating its own customers use of the Internet, Bell also "shapes" traffic passing through its network from independent ISPs like TekSavvy Solutions, thereby also limiting one of it's few competitors from offering open access to the Internet.

In response to public outcry over this situation, Industry Minister Jim Prentice's position was to, "leave the matter between consumers on the one hand and Internet service providers on the other" -- effectively, no position at all.


(Keep reading ...)

Monday, September 29, 2008

From The Horse's Mouth: Afghanistan Going Down ...

Read it and weep (emphasis added):


Afghanistan has seen 'spiral downwards': top US general

Parts of Afghanistan have seen a "spiral downwards" of violence, the incoming US regional commander (Gen. Petraeus) said Monday, adding the fight against Taliban forces would continue unabated through the winter.

General David Petraeus told reporters outside Downing Street after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that there had been "significant progress" in some areas of the country.

But he added: "There's no question but that the trends in terms of violence and so forth have been in the wrong direction.

"So in that case, you're either spiralling downward or upward and in certain areas in Afghanistan clearly there has been a spiral downward that all involved... want to arrest and then get going back up again".

Petraeus, who was in charge of US-led forces in Iraq until earlier this year, takes charge of US forces in southwest Asia and the Middle East next month.

He also said he expected to see NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan "through the winter, perhaps a bit more than we have seen in the past."

Petraeus added: "I think we are going to endeavour to continue a higher level of operational tempo throughout so that there's not a lull in the fighting season that we continue...to take the fight to the enemy."
Got that, McCain - you who keep on fawning about that whatever Petraeus says, is God's Law?

Got that, Harper?

Let me repeat this slowly this time around, so all you incompetents out there whom have kept on denying the grim reality of this ludicrous Afghan war: we must leave Afghanistan ... now.

Not in 2009. Not in 2011. Not in 100 years.

Now.

Besides - bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban have been hiding in Pakistan since 2002 ...

Enough wasting thousands of lives and billions of dollars yearly.


(Cross-posted at The Wild Wild Left, NetRoots)

Willfully Ignored: Gobal Starvation

The following article should provide for much food for thought (pun intended):

Global Starvation Ignored by American Policy Elites
By Peter Phillips

A new report (9/2/08) from The World Bank admits that in 2005 three billion one hundred and forty million people live on less that $2.50 a day and about 44% of these people survive on less than $1.25. Complete and total wretchedness can be the only description for the circumstances faced by so many, especially those in urban areas. Simple items like phone calls, nutritious food, vacations, television, dental care, and inoculations are beyond the possible for billions of people.


Starvation.net logs the increasing impacts of world hunger and starvation. Over 30,000 people a day (85% children under 5) die of malnutrition, curable diseases, and starvation. The numbers of unnecessary deaths has exceeded three hundred million people over the past forty years.

These are the people who David Rothkopf in his book Superclass calls the unlucky. “If you happen to be born in the wrong place, like sub-Saharan Africa, …that is bad luck,” Rothkopf writes. Rothkopf goes on to describe how the top 10% of the adults worldwide own 84% of the wealth and the bottom half owns barely 1%. Included in the top 10% of wealth holders are the one thousand global billionaires. But is such a contrast of wealth inequality really the result of luck, or are there policies, supported by political elites, that protect the few at the expense of the many?

Farmers around the world grow more than enough food to feed the entire world adequately. Global grain production yielded a record 2.3 billion tons in 2007, up 4% from the year before, yet, billions of people go hungry every day. Grain.org describes the core reasons for continuing hunger in a recent article “Making a Killing from Hunger.” It turns out that while farmers grow enough food to feed the world, commodity speculators and huge grain traders like Cargill control the global food prices and distribution. Starvation is profitable for corporations when demands for food push the prices up. Cargill announced that profits for commodity trading for the first quarter of 2008 were 86% above 2007. World food prices grew 22% from June 2007 to June 2008 and a significant portion of the increase was propelled by the $175 billion invested in commodity futures that speculate on price instead of seeking to feed the hungry. The result is wild food price spirals, both up and down, with food insecurity remaining widespread.


(Keep on reading ...)

The Fundamentals Of Our Economy Are Strong ...

... indeed, as shown today in reaction to the U.S. bailout deal being defeated:
TSX down nearly 800 points amid bailout uncertainty

The Toronto stock market shed nearly 800 points Monday as the price of crude traded sharply lower and investors remained uncertain about a US$700-billion Wall Street bailout plan.

Toronto's S&P/TSX index was down 739.78 points to 11,386.22 in early afternoon trading Monday.

The TSX Venture Exchange dropped 80.2 points to 1,435.44 and the Canadian dollar was down 0.52 cent to 96.3 cents US.
Where is our Prime Douchebag on this?

Ah, yes:
Harper pledges tax credit for children's art activities

A re-elected Conservative government would create a tax credit for children's artistic activities, Stephen Harper pledged on Monday, saying the measure will "help families breathe a little."

Speaking in Ottawa, Harper said the Conservatives would extend the new credit worth an estimated $150 million a year to lower-income families, along with the existing children's fitness tax credit.

(...) During the funding announcement, Harper again stressed credits were part of the Conservatives' "clear, affordable, practical, and believable" proposals at a time of global economic uncertainty, while Stéphane Dion's Liberals are offering "untested, grandiose, theoretical" proposals.
And let's not forget about crime. We are too soft on crime while we are being overwhelmed by criminals and so we need to be tougher so that we may all feel safer, right?

Lucky for our Mini Leader that irony does not maim, eh?

Be that as it may - why has Harper so far remained (as of 2:30 PM Eastern time) silent on today's disastrous outcome in our trade markets? Isn't he supposed to be our "Strong Leader", showing "strong leadership" in addressing and tackling our worsening economy, making "strong leadership"-like decisions to correct this worsening crisis?

But I forgot - Harper emulates George W. Bush and, therefore, will let Rome burn while blaming the catastrophe on everyone else (especially the liberals) but him ... just like Bush has done.

Case in point: our Prime Douchebag of Canada was given fair warning (twice) that something like what happened today would happen - and nevertheless rejected said warnings just last week.

Our Strong Leader says: "At the moment there are problems in the Canadian economy, but we aren't in a recession."

Our Strong Leader says: "We don't have the same situation here with the mortgages as was the case in the U.S. with the subprime mortgages there. So, therefore, I think that our market is in a much stronger position."

One more time: "Don't worry, be happy".

Harper's minority government has been a near-failure in just a little over two years. I shudder to think of another four years of this, let alone of a majority Harper government ...


(Cross-posted at NetRoots)

We Are Facing A "Truth Emergency" ...

... not only in the U.S., but in Canada as well - if not in all democracies of the world. As I've often said before. More on the matter at hand:

Truth Emergency US
By Peter Phillips and David Kubiak

Many economists now doubt that government measures can prevent a major recession given the severe slump in the housing market, the subprime mortgage crisis, growing unemployment, declining consumer spending, and record high oil prices. Even harder times for working people are undoubtedly at hand, yet mainstream corporate media continues to lavish more attention on the Super Bowl and celebrity misadventures than measures to protect Americans from grave personal economic harm. We are spun, mislead, propagandized and amused to death by our media conglomerates and as a result the US has become the best entertained and least informed society in the world.


There is a literal truth emergency in the United States, not only regarding distant wars, torture camps, and doctored intelligence, but also around issues that most intimately impact our lives at home. For example, few Americans know that there has been a thirty-five year decline in real wages for most workers in the country, while the top 10% now enjoy unparalleled wealth with strikingly low tax burdens.

George Seldes once said, “Journalism’s job is not impartial ‘balanced’ reporting. Journalism’s job is to tell the people what is really going on.” Michael Moore’s top-grossing movie Sicko is one example of telling the people what is really going on. Health care activists know that US health insurance is an extremely large and obscenely lucrative industry with the top nine companies “earning” $93 billion in profits in 2006 alone. The health-care industry represents the country’s third-largest economic sector, trailing only energy and retail among the 1,000 largest US firms.

Nevertheless, 16%of Americans still have no health insurance whatsoever and that number will not soon decline, as insurance costs continue to rise two to three times faster than inflation. The consequences are immediate and tragic. Unpaid medical bills are now the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the country, and the Institute of Medicine estimates that nearly eighteen thousand Americans die prematurely each year because they lack coverage and access to adequate care.

US private health care services differ markedly from other industrialized countries where single payer systems provide everyone with medical care as a basic human right. Unfortunately, objective media coverage and comparisons of single-payer public health care with our current profit-driven corporate system are almost non-existent at this time. To protect their bloated bottom lines, private insurance companies and HMOs invest heavily in lobbyists and corporate-friendly political candidates that promote their “indispensable” role in any future health care reforms. Besides their insider political influence, these firms deploy massive advertising budgets to discourage media investigations of the economic interests shaping our health policies today

Tens of thousands of American engaged in various social justice issues constantly witness how corporate media marginalize, denigrate or simply ignore their concerns. Activist groups working on issues like 9/11 truth, election fraud, impeachment, war propaganda, civil liberties/torture, and many corporate-caused environmental crises have been systematically excluded from mainstream news and the national conversation leading to a genuine truth emergency in the country as a whole.


(Keep on reading ...)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

APOV's Weekly Revue (09/28/2008)

Yes, ladies and gents - the Weekly Revue is back after a two week-or-so hiatus!

So without further ado - let's roll:


Oh, Canada!
As Harper and his Harpies are heading to re-election as a minority government again (at least), matttbastard @ bastard.logic offers us a sober assessment of Canada's disregard for social justice under the rule of our Mini Leader. To this effect, pogge @ POGG.E asks: "could you direct me to the nearest free speech zone?"

Meanwhile, Pale @ ACR warns us of the consequences of continued in-fighting among progressives and a resulting Harper majority government, whereas Steve V. @ Far and Wide flatly - but rightly - concludes "we get what we deserve".

In between, Dr. Dawg @ Dawg's Blawg discusses the Canadian media's envy of us Canadian bloggers.

Oh, U.S.A.!
Between the economic chaos and the election campaign whereby polls still show a close race between McSame and Obama (even if McCain blinked in his political stunt to "suspend his campaign" as Kyle E. Moore @ Comments from Left Field explains, and despite Sarah Palin proving to be a complete disaster as Ken Anderson @ Shockfront illustrates), Alexa @ NION states "we stand for nothing", Constitutionalist @ Ideal Thoughts concludes "we reap what we have sown", and Omnipotent Poobah @ Bring It On! concurs by exclaiming "never underestimate the dipshittery of the American people". In turn, Arthur Silber @ Once Upon a Time writes about studies in conformity, in generating consensus, and why American voters are not adults, while aristeides @ TWWL feels trapped in a funhouse mirror.

In between, Enigma4ever @ The Peace Tree writes her "letter to Mr. Bush from a mom on Mainstreet", whereas JollyRoger @ Reconstitution declares "now, we are ALL Chimpy's Daddy". To this effect, Tom Harper @ Who Hijacked Our Country discusses George W. Bush's letter of resignation.

Oh, Global War on Terror(TM)!
Jeff Huber @ Pen and Sword keeps us appraised on things over there in ... Wackystan, while BJ @ Newshoggers tells us there may be yet hope as Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are apparently wearing out their welcome in Pakistan. On the other hand, Chris Floyd @ Empire Burlesque pens "coming attractions: war without end, amen".

Oh, Environment!
Boris @ The Galloping Beaver calls the current state of global warming a nightmare. On a related point, Steven D. @ Booman Tribune agrees that Al Gore is right after all with regards to protesting to shut down coal plants.


Thus on this note ends the Weekly Revue for this Sunday September 28, 2008.

Media Reform Needed in Canada?

I say yes, please. Bad enough the overall Canadian electorate is essentially as (badly or non) informed as the American electorate was in 2004 (IMHO), the current Canadian media is definitely not helping in better informing the citizens - in fact, it is contributing in the spreading cancer on the body democratic, thus facilitating the job of concervatives/republicans/neocons/Christian right/denialists in exploiting the situation for political purposes. We must not forget the painful reality that the majority of citizens do not get their news from independent sources on the internet - rather, they mostly do so via TV. Some further food for thought on the matter:

Why Media Reform Should Be A Democratic Priority
By Robert Hackett


On New Year’s Day, 2003, few crystal-ball gazers predicted that during that year an estimated three million Americans would contact politicians or sign petitions on — what? The Iraq war? Global warming?


Try again: media concentration. Fed up with drastic cutbacks to local programming following massive consolidation in the radio industry, as well as collusion between corporate media behemoths and the Bush Administration’s drive to war against Iraq, Americans across the political spectrum successfully intervened to prevent the pro-industry broadcasting regulator (the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC) from further liberalizing ownership rules. It was a stunning wake-up call for the secretive, elitist and arguably corrupt process of communications policy making in Washington, as grassroots organizations like Free Press mobilized popular protest.

There are strong signs of a parallel process in Canada (see Canadian Dimension, November/December, 2007). Media reform should be a top priority for progressive politics and democratic renewal in Canada. Why so?

Media are the institutional space that concentrates society’s symbolic power, a concentration that the Internet has only somewhat ameliorated. Yes, the Internet is an invaluable organizing tool for activism — but it’s also a foremost means of neoliberal globalization. Besides, as Steve Anderson discusses elsewhere in this issue, its most democratic aspects are under threat from the logic of enclosure, one backed by powerful corporate and commercial forces.
Why Do Media Matter?

Media both reflect power, but also exert power, in interaction with other social institutions. Media can influence the trajectories of social movements — their emergence, consolidation and success or failure. Writing of the relationship between the mass media and the student-based antiwar New Left of the 1960s, Todd Gitlin (in his classic The Whole World is Watching) argues that mass media generally have forced social movements to choose between adopting “moderate” and specific goals and tactics, or become demonized and marginalized by pursuing more broad-ranging and radical programs: co-optation or marginalization. Even if that dilemma is not as rigid as Gitlin suggests, social movements today have reason to be frustrated with their access to the institutionalized machinery of representation. Given the growing ties between huge media conglomerates, the state and global, neoliberal capitalism, the rise of right-wing hate radio in the U.S.; the decline of the public-service ethos and the spread of hyper-commercialism; and serious cutbacks to journalism — it’s arguably more difficult than it was in the 1960s to mobilize public support through sympathetic news coverage.

Beyond the fate of social movements, media can help massage public opinion. That is not to say that audiences are dupes — but we are likely not to contest media frames unless we have counterbalancing personal experience or ready access to oppositional discourses. Media help set political agendas — not by changing attitudes directly, but by providing maps of the world beyond our own direct experience, and thereby changing perceptions. Cumulatively, media cultivate the popular imagination. It is not hard to see the political usefulness of the typical Hollywood “action” film: a struggle between good and evil resolved by redemptive and legitimated violence. Views and interests excluded by the dominant media face a “spiral of silence”; the holders of views that are not reinforced by media repetition become reluctant to express them for fear of social isolation — and, over time, they cease to hold them.

(Keep reading ...)

The Unspoken War

Shhhhhh ...

The Unspoken War
Pakistan, the Media and the Politics of Nuclear Weapons

By Anthony DiMaggio
"We're on the brink of war with Pakistan…the fact remains that American forces have and are violating Pakistani sovereignty…the Bush administration's decision to step up attacks in Pakistan is fatally reckless, because the cross-border operations' chances of capturing or killing al Qaeda's leadership are slim. American intelligence isn't good enough for precision raids like this, Pakistan's tribal regions are a black hole that even Pakistani operatives can't enter and come back alive. Overhead, surveillance and intercepts do little good in tracking down people in a backward, rural part of the world like this…our going into Pakistan, risking a full-fledged war with a nuclear power, isn't going to stop them…Finally, there is Pakistan itself, a country that truly is on the edge of civil war. Should we be adding to the force of chaos?"

- Robert Baer, September 17, 2008


As a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, Robert Baer has many important insights to add to American foreign policy deliberation. Too bad his warnings have been systematically ignored throughout the mainstream media. The comments above, cited from Time magazine, are the only commentary I've managed to find in all of the American press that warn about the dangerous game the U.S. is playing in destabilizing Pakistan.

The Pakistani political situation has heated up with the September 21st bombing of the Islamabad Hotel, which many suspect was undertaken by radical Islamists. The massive attack, detonating over one ton of explosives, killed at least 60 civilians, injured hundreds more, and may have been intended for Pakistan's Prime Minister, President, and military leaders (who had reportedly planned to meet for dinner at the Hotel).

This attack on Pakistan's government is merely one of many that have been attempted against major officials in recent months. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a suspected Islamist attack in December of 2007, while former President Pervez Musharraf was also the target of attempted assassination. Pakistan's political leaders are caught between the terrorist attacks of Islamist forces on one side, and the increasingly cavalier bombings of the United States, which have further inflamed hostility toward Pakistani officials close to American political leaders.

In recent years, the U.S. military has increased its aggressive attacks against Pakistan. These attacks have typically led to civilian casualties, rather than to the neutralization of Al Qaeda- affiliated or Islamist terrorists. The basis for this extended, low-intensity conflict arose in January 2006, when the U.S. attempted to assassinate Al Qaeda's number two political leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in an attack on the village of Damadola on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan. The attack failed in killing Zawahiri, instead resulting in the deaths of 18 civilians. The policy of U.S. aggression was formalized in July of 2007, when the Bush administration issued a presidential order that authorized American attacks inside Pakistan without the approval of Pakistan's government.

The enunciation of the Bush administration's Pakistan position was followed by numerous attacks on alleged terrorist targets, with dire results. Various attacks in recent years using unmanned predator drones resulted in dozens of deaths, and led thousands of Pakistanis to protest the attacks as unwarranted, terrorist incursions into their sovereign territory. Recent U.S. attacks in September 2008 in the mountainous Waziristan region in Northwest Pakistan have left dozens of civilians dead, consistently failing to kill suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives.

The U.S. has long treated Pakistani leaders as if they were commanded by Washington. Following 9/11, the Bush administration threatened to bomb Pakistan "back into the Stone Age" if it did not cooperate with the war against Afghanistan. Pakistan's assistance was demanded, considering the Pakistani Secret Intelligence's (the ISI) lengthy history of working with the Taliban and radical Islamists in Afghanistan. The cooperation of Pakistani presidents Musharraf and Zardari resulted in intense skepticism on the part of the country's public, which views them as corrupt figureheads serving the United States. It's not difficult to see why considering the United State's long history of opposing democracy in Pakistan. As Time magazine aptly admits:

"For much of Pakistan's history, Washington has preferred doing business with military dictators, who don't answer to voters and, at least on the surface, seem more eager than their citizenry is to cooperate with Washington." Popular discontent has become even further entrenched in light of Islamist terrorist attacks, increased political instability, a sluggish economy, and the escalated assault from the United States.

Media reactions to U.S. attacks against Pakistan have varied tremendously depending upon the country reporting the developments. Pakistani and American media coverage differ night-and-day in their framing of the issues. Pakistan's Nation newspaper condemned a September 4th border raid by the U.S. military as an act of "tyranny" and "ruthless aggression and crude pressure" against its people. The paper condemned the U.S. for its unmanned predator drone attacks as a "violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity" – and as part of a larger "killing spree" that has been undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism.

American media coverage, conversely, is driven by a warmongering that's remarkably indifferent to the dangers involved in escalating the conflict. U.S. attacks on Pakistan inevitably carry the risk of further inciting Pakistani anger against the U.S. Such anger takes on a renewed urgency in light of widespread political and military instability, and the recent emboldening of anti-governmental Islamist forces. All of this, we should remember, is happening in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. The U.S. has attacked this nuclear power with no regard for the consequences of the possible use of Pakistan's weapons, should they fall into the hands of anti-American forces.

Don't expect to hear about many of these warnings in the U.S. press, however. If political leaders refuse to address the concerns over U.S. aggression (and they haven't), then for all practical purposes these concerns may as well not exist. Short of occasional media coverage in papers such as the New Yorker, most of the American press has been hesitant to criticize the U.S. too heavily for unwittingly evacuating Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders from Pakistan during "Operation Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan. These leaders secretly fled Afghanistan, along with Pakistani intelligence officers when they were evacuated by the U.S. in late 2001 in a plan approved by the Bush administration and promoted by former President Musharraf. Rather than focusing on this embarrassing incident, blame for Islamist forces' operations in Pakistan has been placed squarely at the feet of the Pakistani government, which is attacked for "turning a blind eye as the militants organize their insurgency" from within the country.

(Keep reading ...)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

'Because It Was Necessary' - Revisited

In this post here, I explored the damning significance and impact of the words uttered by Condoleeza Rice, "because it was necessary", as her excuse to justify torture. I also wrote on how the Bush administration performed legalese gymnastics, in an echo chamber as it were, in order to give themselves a self-serving deluded moral and legal "grounds" to conduct torture.

Meanwhile, most Americans approve ... as they keep on riding down the road to perdition.

The following article discusses additional, recent revelations concerning the brainstorming behind the legalese gynmastics to justify torture - at the same time constituting yet another instance of outright lying by the Bush administration on this issue:

Rice Admits She Led High-Level White House Talks About Torture
By Jason Leopold

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admitted for the first time that she led high-level discussions beginning in 2002 with other senior Bush administration officials about subjecting suspected al-Qaeda terrorists detained at military prisons to the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, according to documents released late Wednesday by Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee.

Responding in writing to questions by Levin, who will convene a hearing today on the administration’s interrogation program, John B. Bellinger, Rice’s legal adviser at the State Department, said they recalled participating in meetings with Ashcroft and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in July 2002 about an Army and Air Force survival training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime.

Bellinger, who also worked with Rice at the NSC, the then National Security Adviser “expressed concern that the proposed CIA interrogation techniques comply with applicable U.S. law, including our international obligations” and that Rice asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to "personally review the legal guidance" of specific interrogation techniques.

In April, President George W. Bush told an ABC News reporter during an interview that he approved of meetings of a National Security Council's Principals Committee, whose advisers included Vice President Dick Cheney, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, former CIA Director George Tenet and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, where these officials discussed specific interrogation techniques the CIA could use against detainees.

Waterboarding—or simulated drowning--has been regarded as torture since the days of the Spanish Inquisition.

“I recall being told that U.S. military personnel were subjected in training to certain physical and psychological interrogation techniques and that these techniques had been deemed not to cause significant physical or psychological harm,” Rice wrote in response to a question about the SERE techniques.

But those techniques were meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by a brutal regime, not as methods for U.S. Interrogations, which is what Rice said the discussions at the White House centered on. Moreover, the SERE methods were first designed by the communist government of China to be used against U.S. soldiers.

The hearing Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee will focus on the genesis of the SERE techniques used during the interrogations of suspected terrorists.

Rice has denied that the U.S. tortured or abused prisoners. But in declaring the U.S. does not engage in torture, appears to be relying on a narrower U.S. definition of torture than that is accepted under international law, such as the 1984 Convention Against Torture that was signed by the Reagan administration in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994.

“The threshold for torture is lower under international law: acts that do not amount to torture under U.S. law may do so under international law,” wrote Philippe Sands, law professor at University College London, in a column published in the Dec. 9, 2005, edition of The Financial Times.

“Waterboarding – strapping a detainee to a board and dunking him under water so he believes that he might drown – plainly constitutes torture under international law, even if it may not do so under U.S. law. …

“When the U.S. joined the 1984 convention it entered an ‘understanding’ on the definition of torture, to the effect that the international definition was to be read as being consistent with the U.S. definition The administration relies on the ‘understanding.’

“So, when Ms. Rice says the U.S. does not do torture or render people to countries that practice torture, she does not rely on the international definition. That is wrong: the convention does not allow each country to adopt its own definition, otherwise the convention's obligations would become meaningless. That is why other governments believe the U.S. ‘understanding’ cannot affect U.S. obligations under the convention.”

(Keep on reading ...)


Then type rest of your post here.

America's Elephant In The Room

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (or scratched CD or DVD): it's all about intellectual sloth and the cancer on the body democratic it keeps on festering. Same thing with regards to the perception of Barack Obama. Case in point - the following article:

America's Elephant In The Room
by David Michael Green

The second most astonishing thing about American politics is that John McCain and Sarah Palin have a respectable chance of winning the White House in 2008. (Or, for that matter, that any Republican could have a shot at any office for which the Democratic candidate hasn't suddenly died on the stump.)

Yeah, yeah, I know. Barack Obama has a funny name. He's relatively young and inexperienced. Oh, and - have you heard? - he's also black. But, just the same, I mean, c'mon. A Republican could win the presidency in 2008? You gotta be kidding, right?


All of this is deeply related, in multiple ways, to what is without a doubt absolutely the first most astonishing fact of American politics. And that is that conservatism (I prefer to call them ‘regressives') isn't the most repudiated ideology this side of cannibalism. And that regressive practitioners of this hateful disease masquerading as a political philosophy haven't been tarred-and-feathered, hung, drawn and quartered, then run out of town on an electrified rail. And that any red-blooded American wouldn't infinitely prefer in this day and age to be called a pedophile, a terrorist or a European - heck, or all of the above combined - rather than a conservative.

I mean, seriously, people. Now that Wall Street has imploded, potentially taking down with it the entire global economy in a fun reprise of the 1930s, what more could possibly be necessary to repudiate a set of ideas for which a good day is when thousands of people don't die (again) as a result of anyone, let alone the world's sole superpower, subscribing to something so astonishingly stupid? Really, is there anything that the regressive agenda has touched so far that hasn't completely turned into a pillar of salt? Not only do these nice pious Christians show every evidence of actually being the antichrist, they've also managed to be the anti-Midas as well.

The scope of the destruction is breathtaking to gaze upon. The rapidity with which American affluence and power and respect and responsibility were converted into their opposite numbers is mind-boggling. But the most astonishing thing of all is the absence of repudiation. Not from subscribers, of course. That army of clones was so existentially terrorized in their impressionable years by some toxic stew of religion, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-communism and/or some other forms of anti-otherism - along with a sinking economic status - that their cold, stiff fingers will never be pried from the politics of guns, gays and god. Especially now, when they can also add to their fears the blame for being so spectacularly wrong about everything imaginable these last decades. Who would want to own that?

But what about the rest of us? What, indeed. We still live in an America where almost nobody dares call themselves a liberal. But what's even more bizarre - and I mean like watching-a-Twilight-Zone-marathon-in-Wonderland-sitting-there-with-Alice-and-frying-on-acid-while-listening-to-In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida-("here-comes-the-drum-solo-man!")-backwards-and-at-half-speed kinda bizarre - is the degree to which conservatism has not become a dirty word and a rejected ideology. For my money, this is the single most absolutely anomalous political curiosity currently to be found in what is surely one of the most curiously anomalous polities that ever existed. Oh, and, for the record, it turns out that that bit about ‘my money' is quite literally true - a whole bunch of it has already been spent on the various insanities of this backwards ideology, and probably a lot of yours too.

But I digress. What is conservatism, and how should it be regarded? Like any ideology, it has lots of flavors and sub-cults, many of which don't necessarily get along with each other, and certainly don't agree on which conservative projects should be given priority at any given time. All the same, I think we can boil the ideology down to a few key concepts - indeed, ones that even our regressive friends would agree accurately represent the ideological program.

Traditionally, well... tradition has been key, as a matter of fact. One key tenet of conservatism is to avoid change. Reactionaries go even further, preferring the (typically heavily mythologized) world that grandpa inhabited. Economically, conservatism is all about low taxes, low government spending (except when it comes to cops and bombs), balanced budgets, low regulation of the private sector and privatization of any service which might otherwise be provided by the government.

This is why conservatives love to describe themselves as the ideology which maximizes freedom, but this turns out - shockingly, I know - to be a lie. Indeed, it first turns out to be a lie because in practice supposedly conservative governments break most of their own economic rules catalogued above. Saint Ronald The Reagan quadrupled the national debt by irresponsibly slashing tax revenue (especially for the rich) and massively increasing spending. Before he sold out the country for his own career aspirations, George H. W. Bush described that formula as "voodoo economics". He ought to know. His voodoo spawn was not to be outdone by any White House predecessor. Or even all of them. Lil' Bush has followed an irradiated version of the same formula as Uncle Ron and has now doubled all the national debt which was incurred by his 42 predecessors. Combined. Very ‘conservative', eh?

(Keep reading ...)

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Feel A Terrible Disturbance In The Blogosphere ...

... as if a great progressive political blog had suddenly, unexplicably been erased from existence.

Tomcat's Politics Plus was among my premier regular blog reads.

About six months ago, Tomcat's postings were reduced to about one a week, going online from his local library at that (my understanding was that his computer was broken or something to this effect - although I may have misunderstood this). However, he had not posted anything since around April-May.

Since then I would check in once a month or so to see if Tomcat had (at last) resumed his regular blogging activity. Today, I find that Politics Plus has been wiped out from the blogosphere.

I am proud to consider myself a friend of Tomcat and I find this development quite disturbing.

So, to all other Politics Plus regular readers: anyone know exactly what is going on here? Any news of Tomcat? His (blogger) email doesn't seem to be working ...

Feel free to email me on this - or post a comment to this effect - and thanks in advance.


Huge update 12/22/2009: The TomCat is back and has been since September of this year! Awesome news!

One Hour Later: The Obama-McCain Debate

After one hour, this is what the debate has been so far and will remain until its end:
Obama: (offering sober facts and clear plans/strategies)

McCain (mumbling like a stereotypical angry old man doing everything to control his anger): "I have a record. Obama doesn't understand. I understand. I know how to do this (insert: whatever) - but won't tell you now. I have plans - but I won't tell you now. I have strategies - but won't tell you now. But I know how to do things. Back in the 80's I had a record as a maverick (forget about me supporting Bush all the way since 2000). I have a record. I know people. I understand. Obama doesn't understand. Oh - did I say that I have a record?"
In short - Obama keeps a straight line on the discussions. On the other hand, McCain keeps going all over (high, low, left, right, front and behind) to dodge any fact (truth) thrown at him by Obama, in so doing rambling nonsensical through it all like a stereotypical old geezer.

Wanna bet McCain will come up smelling roses nonetheless?

(sigh)

Anyway - that's my call right now: Obama wins on facts and truth. It remains to be seen whether McCain managed nevertheless to confuse enough of the (uninformed) electorate to end up the winner - instead of the clear loser - in their mind's eye.



(Addendum 10:35 PM: As I called it, McCain keeps on being about "I have a record" and how he is essentially the savior and progenitor of all that has been good so far (whatever). However, I am greatly disappointed by Obama on five points: A) he essentially repeated Al Gore's mistake of "agreeing" with his opponent too often (rememebr the first debates between Gore and Bush? in 2000?); B) he let fly McCain more or less scott free on supporting Iraq from the start when the US had no business there to begin with; C) he let fly McCain scott free on torture; D) he let fly McCain scott free on renditions, domestic spying, et al.; E) he himself evoked the spectre of "suitcase nukes".

This is not good - not one bit.)


(Addendum 11:00 PM: Ha! Keith Olbermann opened Countdown following the debate essentially the way I presented it above! Wow - am I finally getting the hang of this blogging thing?) ;-)

Late Friday Night Ode To ... Voter Attention Deficit Disorder

Voter apathy, voter disinterest, misinformed voters or even uniformed voters ... ah yes, indeed - intellectual sloth and democracy, culture and our future.

A cancer on the body democratic which keeps on spreading.

Not just in the U.S.A., but also in Canada as well as in all of today's democracies.

And that is why, in Canada, Harper and his Harpies are likely to win a minority (at least) government again, whereas in the U.S., the Obama-McCain race remains a close one (and McCain's mendacious "suspended campaign" stunt looks like it will greatly impact positively on the American electorate).

So first, a little snippet of information (simply replace "American" with "Canadian", and any American institution with a Canadian one, if you wish to):


And now, for the Ode proper - a double-shot of Stone Temple Pilots:

(Vasoline)



(Dead and bloated)



As I always say - keep on rockin'!

Palin And The Theocons: Reloaded

Awww - isn't she, well, quaint (h/t)?


(Why is it that most outspoken Christian Right/Conservative/Neocon women like so much to pose with guns in hands? Do they actually think that this makes them attractive? But I digress)

Following up on this, the article below discusses more of Sarah Palin and her fundamentalist Christian Right faith - looks like Palin is "Bush déjà vu all over again" in more ways than previously thought:


Sarah Palin and the Rapture
The Politics of Tribulation

By Raymond J. Lawrence

Is this country ready for a president who is excited about and eagerly looking forward to the Rapture?

The Rapture, as it is called, is the imaginary day when Jesus will come down from the sky and lift up into heaven all those who are saved, leaving behind all unbelievers to destruction and death?

Anyone who believes in the Rapture scenario will likely interpret a catastrophic nuclear exchange as the opening scene of the Rapture. Thus an American president who believes in the Rapture would arguably have at least some ambivalence toward a nuclear holocaust. A believer in the Rapture with his or her fingers on the nuclear trigger might even be tempted to bring on the Rapture. The Rapture, for those who believe in it, is hardly a negative event. Rather it is culmination of everything they hope for, deliverance into the heavenly arms of Jesus.

Presumably Sarah Palin believes in the Rapture. It is one of the doctrines of her religion, and she has nowhere disavowed it. Are Americans ready to sleep at night with a President who longs for the Rapture?

The doctrine of the Rapture is a very recent invention within some of the radical fringe churches of Christianity. The Rapture doctrine is first cousin to millennialism, the belief promoted by various groups who have predicted that “the end is near.” Millennialist groups have popped up and burnt out from time to time throughout Christian history.

The Rapture doctrine has no support in the historic Christianity of any of the main traditions - Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant. The doctrine of the Rapture is cobbled together from several obscure, unrelated comments drawn from the epistles of Paul the Apostle. No credible biblical scholar in two thousand years of Christian history has taken seriously the Rapture doctrine, millennialism, or anything similar to it.

The American people ought to be concerned about the religious beliefs of its political leaders as those beliefs may determine the life of the nation as a whole. It would be foolish of the American people not to be deeply concerned about the religious beliefs of Sara Palin, who may be elected Vice President for the oldest President ever inaugurated into the office.

(Keep reading ...)

Remember That 'War On Terror' Thingie?

Seven years later, Afghanistan turns out to be nothing short of a FUBAR for absolutely nothing - and remains as such, even after Harper made us carry the torch for this war while we wasted billions of dollars ($4.1 billions for 2001-2006, with the counting total so far, as well as that projected up to 2009, or 2011 rather, still remaining a "mystery" - however, estimates indicate that the war costs Canada about $1.3 millions a day) and not counting military and civilian lives galore. As predicted, Pakistan is rapidly destabilizing - and then some (which now include skirmishes between ISAF and Pakistani forces along the Afghan border). Meanwhile, whether the surge has been successful or not does not invalidate by one iota the fact that the U.S., the U.K., and assorted minor poodles coalition partners, simply had no business going in Iraq in the first place. Period.

The following article offers a cold, sober assessment of the never-ending Global War on Terror(TM), going on now for seven years and keeping on going, and going, and going ... and making things worse by the year.

The war on terror: seven years on (Part one)
By Paul Rogers

The United States responded to the attacks of 11 September 2001 by launching a global "war on terror". Two weeks after 9/11, Paul Rogers began to track that war in a weekly openDemocracy column. In the first of a two-part retrospective, the author reflects on these seven years: mistakes made, lessons learned and paths not taken.


When the first column in this series was published on 26 September 2001, the United States was about to start a military operation to terminate the Taliban regime and disperse the al-Qaida movement, killing or capturing Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri and Mullah Omar. There was already a widespread view in Washington that the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq had also to be terminated, with some sources even linking Iraq to the atrocities of 9/11.

Seven years and 370 columns later, the original Taliban regime has long since gone, as has Saddam Hussein, but the war on terror goes on. In Afghanistan, the Taliban movement has staged an extra ordinaryrevival and now threatens the security of much of the country; a devastating attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the capital's most notable elite gathering-point, has been described as "Pakistan's 9/11". In the face of escalating violence the United States is determined to increase its forces in Afghanistan while it extends the war into the west of Pakistan. Military analysts foresee a conflict of at least a decade.

There has been some easing of security in Iraq - after five and a half years of a bitter war that has cost over 100,000 civilians their lives, seriously wounded at least double that number, led to over 100,000 people being detained without trial and 4 million people living as refugees. The moderately increased stability remains fragile, with persistent bombings and a dangerous environment in Mosul in particular. Indeed, the fear of United States military leaders of a new upsurge of violence in Iraq makes them deeply reluctant to withdraw anything more than a fraction of their forces, notwithstanding the urgent need to reinforce the troops in Afghanistan.

A traumatic moment

That first column of 26 September 2001 (which followed a number of shorter contributions to openDemocracy's immediate post-9/11 online discussions) argued -perhaps forlornly - that forceful military action to terminate the Taliban was the wrong approach. The 9/11 atrocities should have been seen as appalling acts of international criminality rather than the trigger of a war; every effort should have been made to bring bin Laden and the others responsible to justice in the international arena. Instead, to deploy United States military power and forces in Afghanistan was probably what they wanted - direct engagement with their "far enemy", evidence of the imperial hegemon's ungodly ambitions in Muslim lands, and opportunity to wear down another superpower in much the same way that their predecessors had humbled the Soviet Union two decades earlier.

For Washington's part, the problem from the start was that its proposed approach took too little account of the circumstances of 9/11. Many commentators at the time compared the attacks to the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, but that was quite wrong (see John W Dower, "Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq", MIT World, 7 April 2008). Pearl Harbour was an attack on a distant military base by another state that was already perceived as hostile to the United States. Furthermore, it took place in the pre-television age.

By contrast, 9/11 was an bolt from the blue sky which struck at the heart of American economic and military power. The collapse of the twin towers, in particular, was deeply traumatic - seen live on television by tens of millions of Americans who witnessed the destruction of these huge symbols of commercial success and knew that thousands of people were dying inside. The effect was visceral, and its impact was not fully recognised abroad.

Moreover, the political context was crucial. If Al Gore had won (or been recognised as the winner) of the presidential election of 2000, there might well have been some kind of US action in Afghanistan but it is less likely that a more general "war on terror" embracing an "axis of evil" and regime-change in Iraq would have ensued. But George W Bush represented a very specific trend in US politics: the rise of neo-conservatism and assertive realism, and the conviction that a "new American century" was unfolding.

The first few months of his administration in 2001, after all, had already seen a raft of unilateral measures: among them withdrawal from the Kyoto climate-change protocols, the end of any chance of ratifying the comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty, and opposition to the International Criminal Court (see "United States unilateralism: alive and kicking?", 23 January 2002). Charles Krauthammer summarised the attitude admirably in a piece for the Weekly Standard written just three months before the attacks:

"Multipolarity, yes, when there is no alternative. But not when there is. Not when we have the unique imbalance of power that we enjoy today - and that has given the international system a stability and essential tranquillity that it has not known for at least a century.

The international environment is far more likely to enjoy peace under a single hegemon. Moreover, we are not just any hegemon. We run a uniquely benign imperium." (see Charles Krauthammer, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto and the New American Unilateralism”, Weekly Standard, 4 June 2001).

A force under pressure

In looking back over the past seven years, many aspects offer some understanding of what has transpired and why the war on terror has had such unexpected and counterproductive results. Three such aspects stand out: none perhaps the most obvious but each throwing fresh light on the course of events in these years.

The first relates to the behaviour of United States troops in Iraq in the first couple of years of the war - behaviour thatis both fully understandable in the circumstances and does much to explain the level of opposition that the US came to experience across the middle east and southwest Asia.


(Keep reading ...)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Whereby I Get To Say 'I Told You So' ...

... although I won't really - especially since I am far from happy at being proven right.

Nevertheless, some Canadian progressive bloggers (like Steve V., seemingly a first, or Pale, who has also previously touched on this issue) are acknowledging what I have been writing/ranting/decrying/warning about all along at APOV concerning the underlying dangers of our times in all democracies, including our very (Canadian) own, with regards to the majority of citizens (most of whom, by the way, do not use the Intertubes to get their news) and their "dedication" at getting fully informed for, if not actual interest in, elections. A few examples:
Democracy and intellectual sloth;

Intellectual sloth and culture;

A cancer on the body democratic;

The real problem with terrorism;

The shape of things to come;

Primitive minds;

Step back, take a deep breath and look hard in the mirror;

The limits of ignorance;

False leaders versus genuine ones;

Behold the wisdom of the sheep;

True patriot versus false patriot;

A definite recipe for the death of democracy;

Welcome to our Semi-Dark Ages;

The cure for our Semi-Dark Ages;

A generation in waiting or sulking?

Democracies in trouble;

Democracy and deference;

Mea culpa, mea culpa vox populi;

No one is safe: the real low down;

You see, it's all about intellectual sloth-driven search for instant gratification;

Losing ourselves beyond redemption;

As polls come and go ...
Conservatives/Republicans/Neocons have mastered the exploitation of general disinformation, misinformation and/or outright ignorance among the electorate.

And that is why they win or manage to make elections close - despite their atrocious track records, their lies and their incompetence.

That is why Harper and his Harpies will end up being a minority government again (if not actually becoming a majority one), and that is why the race for the White House remains overall a close one.

What we need in Canada is what progressives have been doing in the U.S. - full onslaught of organizing, of voting-drives and of information-drives, from the grassroot levels.

And that would be just a start.

Then again - who pays any attention to little old moi?


(Addendum 09/26/2005: Saskboy adds more ...)

Harper: 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' - Part Deux

Following up on this post from yesterday whereby Harper proclaimed to not accept the conclusions of a report issued Wednesday by Merrill Lynch Canada economists David Wolf and Carolyn Kwan, which warned that it's only a matter of time before the "tipping point" is reached and the housing and credit markets crack in Canada.

Well, Harper is beginning to look alone, bewildered and lost in the desert as he keeps on singing "Don't worry, be happy" to the gathering vultures:
Canada won't be immune from aftershocks

Canada's top central banker says the world's economies would be at serious risk without the US$700-billion bailout of the U.S. financial sector that's being put together by the American government.

(...) Carney said Thursday that other countries may need to follow the Americans' lead with similar government rescue packages to help out their domestic financial institutions.

He also said Canada is in better shape than most to weather the storm, but will not be immune from the aftershocks.

(...) Carney predicted the coming months will bring more losses and significant consolidation in the U.S. financial industry and that the repercussions will be felt beyond the American borders.

Carney suggested that the turmoil and the seizing up of credit will have the impact of slowing global growth, and particularly the U.S., beyond what the bank had forecast in July.

"Any slowdown in the U.S. economy would have consequences for Canada, but the current situation poses particular problems," he said.

(...) Carney said there's no credit crisis in Canada but that the economy has already felt the effects of a slowdown in the U.S. economy, pointing to a drop-off in exports of Canadian-made vehicles.

The Bank of Canada also thinks economic growth globally, and particularly in the United States, will be even slower than it forecast in July.
So, to put all of this in perspective:
Bush in Nov. 2007: "The U.S. economy has some strains but its underpinnings remain strong and resilient."

Bush in Feb. 2008: "I don't think we're headed to recession. But no question, we're in a slowdown."

Bush in Sept. 2008 (last night): "Ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession."

Harper in April 2008: "Canada's economic fundamentals and the oversight of its financial system remain strong."

Harper in July 2008: "Canada's economic fundamentals remain strong."

Harper in Sept. 2008: "At the moment there are problems in the Canadian economy, but we aren't in a recession."
Anyone notice a pattern here?

That's because this is what incompetents do - deny, deny, deny reality ... until all Hell breaks loose and utter catastrophe looms just around the corner, if it has not already descended upon our sorry heads.

But hey - don't worry, be happy, eh?

While No One Was Paying Attention ...

... the Security State has greatly expanded its search parameters at U.S. borders.

We all remember this from last summer, right?


U.S. defends laptop searches at the border
Courts have upheld routine checks of Americans’ hard drives at the border. Critics say they’re anything but routine


Is a laptop searchable in the same way as a piece of luggage? The Department of Homeland Security believes it is.

For the past 18 months, immigration officials at border entries have been searching and seizing some citizens’ laptops, cellphones, and BlackBerry devices when they return from international trips.

In some cases, the officers go through the files while the traveler is standing there. In others, they take the device for several hours and download the hard drive’s content. After that, it’s unclear what happens to the data.

The Department of Homeland Security contends these searches and seizures of electronic files are vital to detecting terrorists and child pornographers. It also says it has the constitutional authority to do them without a warrant or probable cause.
Well guess what? Laptops and electronic devices are not just what the DHS considers "open game" for searches without probable cause:
New Border Search Policy Far Broader, New Documents Reveal

The old policy (.pdf) -- largely established in 1986 -- included a heading in bold reading: Customs Officers Should Not Read Personal Correspondence.

The U.S. Customs Service must guard the rights of individuals being inspected to ensure their personal privacy is protected. Therefore, as a general rule, Customs officers should not read personal correspondence […]

The new policy? It doesn't even mention personal letters as a special category.

Instead in the 2008 policy (.pdf), private letters, text message and emails are treated the same as any other information carried on a traveler's person or in his cell phone or in his laptop.

In the course of a border search, and absent individualized suspicion, officers can review and analyze the information transported by any individual attempting to enter, reenter, depart, pass through, or reside in the United States.

Compare that to how the 1986 policy -- as modified in 2000 -- instructs officers how to deal with printed material brought in by a traveler:

The U.S. Customs Service must guard the rights of individuals being inspected to ensure their personal privacy is protected. Therefore, as a general rule, Customs officers should not read personal correspondence […]

As opposed to reading content, Customs officers may glance at documents and papers to see if they appear to be merchandise. […] If, after glance at the documents or papers, the officer reasonably suspects that they relate to any of the categories in section 6.4.1 of this directive (books for sale, sedition, embargo violations, etc.), the officer may read the documents.

By contrast, the new policy allows agents to copy documents or laptops without having to show any probable cause.

That disturbs Shirin Sinnar, an attorney for the Asian Law Caucus, which was prompted to sue for the documents after what they say were dozens of complaints from Muslims and South Asians about intense questioning and searches at the border.

"For more than 20 years, the government implicitly recognized that reading and copying the letters, diaries, and personal papers of travelers without reason would chill Americans' rights to free speech and free expression," said Sinnar. "But now customs officials can probe into the thoughts and lives of ordinary travelers without any suspicion at all."

But DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa says it should come as no surprise that the policy changed after 9/11 and that the government decided to use every legal means to prevent another attack.

"The decision to change standards reflects the realities of the post 9/11 environment," Kudwa noting that even under the old policy, officers could glance at material without having individualized suspicion.

The courts have generally sided with the government. Most recently the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the border agents didn't need to be say why it wanted to look into a laptop -- dismissing arguments that laptops are more analogous to a person's mind than to a suitcase.

That ruling expanded the so-called border exception to the Fourth Amendment, which allows the government to search a person entering or leaving the country without having to have any cause to do so.

Aah, the ever-convenient rationale of the Security State ...

I. Told. You. So.

What's next - opening/reading your letters before they are properly delivered without probable cause?

Shhhhhhhh ....