Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reloaded: Happy Holidays Indeed


Once again being rude to my hosts here in Québec city - but here's yet another one I could not let go by without blogging about it (emphasis added):


Illness may force family out of Canada

A French family who immigrated to Montreal after being wooed by a Canadian embassy official in Paris have been told they must leave the country because their daughter has cerebral palsy and places an "excessive burden on social services."

David Barlagne settled in Montreal with his wife and two daughters in 2005, hoping to start a computer software business. Barlagne said he had warned Canadian authorities that his daughter, Rachel, has cerebral palsy, a congenital neurological disorder that causes lifelong uncoordinated physical movement.

"I asked whether this would be a problem, and I was told that once my business was established in Canada after a couple of years, I could make a request for permanent residency and it would simply be a formality," Barlagne recalled.

Four years later, his business is thriving, and his wife, Sophie, teaches French to immigrants as a volunteer.

But Citizenship and Immigration Canada has rejected Barlagne's request for permanent residency because Rachel, 7, is considered "medically inadmissible."

In a letter dated March 11, 2009, the government stated because Rachel suffers from what it described as a "global developmental delay," she "risks giving rise to an excessive burden on social or health services."

Rachel attends a public special-needs school, École Victor Doré, but has not required medical attention. She is in need of some rehabilitation services, as she can't walk or speak, but Barlagne has said he would be willing to pay out of pocket to help his daughter.

"She's just beginning to speak a few words," he added.

All applicants seeking permanent residency in Canada must pass a medical exam. Barlagne and his wife passed the exam, as did their daughter Lara, 10. But Rachel was rejected even though the immigration official who made the final decision never met her.

"It's very unfair," Barlagne said. "What I find particularly unjust is that a representative of the government of Canada had told me: 'Come to Canada, no problem,' yet after arriving in Quebec and contributing to society here, we can't stay anymore.

"It's very stressful. Our lives are on standby."

Barlagne is seeking a Federal Court review of Immigration Canada's decision. The hearing is slated for Feb. 23. If they lose, the family would have to leave the country immediately. If they win, the review would mean another Immigration Canada adjudicator would have to look over their file - and not necessarily reverse the earlier decision.

Lawyer Patrice Jourdain has decided to take up Barlagne's case pro bono, outraged by what she calls the "cold, heartless" decision by immigration officials.

"This family has the financial means and the will to provide for their daughter to overcome the presumption that she might be perceived as a burden," Jourdain said.

Jacqueline Roby, an Immigration Canada spokesperson, declined to comment Tuesday on Barlagne's case.

She did say, however, that "such decisions are difficult for our department and are heartbreaking for our staff."
I call bullshit on Mme Roy - and she, as well as her (politicized) like-minded Jason (Mr. Rapture) Kenney minions, can just go fuck themselves (there - I said it!) with their self-serving, hypocritical claims of "compassion".

I want Harper and his like-minded theocon bastard, incompetent and ignorant, stupid Harpies gone.

I want my parliamentary democracy back.

I want my country back.

(And that goes double for you, Governor General Jean.)

Enough is fucking enough.

How's that for a pre-emptive New Year resolution, fellow Canadians?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays Indeed


I'm being rude to the people I am currently with in this holiday visit, but when I read the following - I just could not let it go by.

So, folks, looks like this is what we have come to (emphasis aded):


Man ignored as he lay dying

On a crisp, wintry morning in the east end, an elderly man lay dying on the sidewalk.

But no one paid attention.


Across the street, a man sat in his van, the engine idling. Groups of people walked up and down. A 20-something businessman even crossed the road in an apparent effort to avoid the 76-year-old man.

It was a shocking display of apathy for Christine Carruthers, who happened to be driving past the intersection of Jones and Dagmar Aves. on Tuesday morning.

"I'm sure (some people) literally stepped over him," she said in disbelief. "This was not a dangerous situation. This was a 76-year-old elderly man, lying on his back like a turtle, reaching for help. And nobody helped him."

It was still dark outside so Carruthers approached cautiously, calling through the car window.

When the man didn't respond, she got out and saw that his eyes were cloudy, and he was rolling from side to side with one arm reaching into the air.

Lined up at his feet were a cane, reading glasses and a blue toque. It was almost as though he had "stopped, put everything down, and fell onto his back," she said.

"He was just in some sort of distress," she said. "I didn't know what it was. I just knew that he needed help."

Carruthers called 911 and paramedics were on scene within two minutes. The man was taken away on a stretcher and Carruthers drove to work, assuming he would recover in hospital.

But later that day, she received a call from the police: the man had had a heart attack, and he passed away en route to the hospital.

Carruthers said she was "blown away" by the news.

What unnerves her even more, however, is the apathy she witnessed that morning.

"If one person had just taken the five minutes to dial 911, this man may still be alive," she said.


(...) Hemminger's niece-in-law, Debbie Hemminger, said her uncle was single and lived in a rooming house. She said he had a mental disability but was very independent, always smiling and "young at heart." (...) "People are so absorbed in their own lives they don't stop to look," she said.
How low we have fallen. How low.

Happy holidays indeed.

I don't know why, but I don't think I'll be doing much "merrying".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And Now For A Quick Word ...


I'll be away from APOV HQ between December 23rd and Jan 4th.

Unfortunately, I won't be blogging much during that time - if at all.

So, I wish to all you good folks out there happy holidays and a happy new year 2010 in advance!

Enjoy yourselves - and be safe, ya hear?

;-)

Harpocrisy Revealed Yet Again: Same Predictable Pattern


Our Prime Poseur today: Harper can't rule out carbon tax.

Our Prime Poseur back in June 2008: PM: Dion's carbon tax would 'screw everybody'

Are you really that surprised by such shameless hypocrisy on the part of Harper or any of his Harpies?

Let's take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?


Our Prime Poseur and his Harpies on the economic crisis:
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: "The only way there is going to be a recession is if (the Liberal Party of Canada is) elected."

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

(Finance Minister) Jim Flaherty in Oct. 2008: "This country will not go into recession next year."

Harper in Nov. 2008: "There might be a technical recession at the end of this year or the beginning of next."

Flaherty in Nov. 2008: "We may well be in a technical recession."

Flaherty in Dec. 2008: "The economy is weakening significantly."

Flaherty in Dec. 2008: "The economic picture continues to worsen."

Harper's Jan. 2009 Throne speech: "Canadians face a difficult year — perhaps several difficult years."

Harper in Jan. 2009: "We're entering the recession later."

Harper in March 2009: "Canada was the last advanced country to fall into this recession (...) we will come out of this faster than anyone and stronger than ever."

Harper in March 2009:"We are in a global recession principally."

Harper in April 2009: "Today the world faces the greatest economic crisis of the postwar era."

Flaherty in May 2009: "We are going through a deeper economic slowdown than anticipated."

Harper in June 2009: "These are trying times for many Canadian families, those who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the worst downturn in the world economy in half a century (...) The effects of the recession are beginning to ease."

(International Trade Minister) Stockwell Day in July 2009: "I'm not kidding. The recession is over."

Flaherty in August 2009: "No (the recession is not over)."

Harper in August 2009: "Canada is not yet out of this world recession."

Harper in Oct. 2009: "We’ve got (Federal Reserve) Chairman (Ben) Bernanke and others saying the recession is over but I think that’s only in a technical sense."
So - we went from "there won't be a recession" to "we have some economic problems" to "there's a recession in the technical sense" to "the worst recession in a half-century" to "several years of hardship" to "recession is beginning to ease" to "the recession is over in a technical sense".

It's all about technicalities, you see. And (of course) it's been worse than anticipated.

Now let's hear Harper and his Harpies on deficits:
Harper in Oct. 2008: "Our position in this election is we're not going to run deficits."

Harper in Oct. 2008: "If you don't want a carbon tax and tax increases and a deficit and recession, the only way to ensure that is the case is to vote for the Conservative party."

Flaherty in Oct. 2008: "We're sure not going to run a deficit ... We will maintain a surplus in Canada and we will continue to pay down debt."

Harper in Oct. 2008: "There’s nothing on the horizon - notwithstanding the storm clouds, and they are significant - (that) indicates to me that we should immediately go into deficit (...) I know economists will say we could run a small deficit, but the problem is that once you cross that line, as we see in the United States, nothing stops deficits from getting larger and larger and spiraling out of control."

Harper in Nov. 2008: "If we do short-term deficit spending as a deliberate policy we will have to be able to demonstrate to Canadians that those deficits will genuinely be short term."

Harper in Nov. 2008: "The government of Canada today is not planning a deficit. But if the government of Canada decides . . . that we do have to engage in fiscal stimulus, that government spending is essential not just to shore up economic activity but investment markets, that would be the occasion we would go into what would be called a cyclic or a short-term deficit."

Flaherty in Nov. 2008: "We're on track to run a small surplus. For next year it's more challenging (...) So that may mean that we will run a deficit next year."

Flaherty in Dec. 2008: "We will ensure that spending that puts us into deficit is temporary, is for finite purposes, so that we will not be into a permanent deficit."

In Dec. 2008, Harper said that Ottawa is looking at a deficit in the $20 billion to $30 billion range next year, suggesting that his government is preparing to introduce stimulus of between $15 billion and $25 billion.

In Dec. 2008, Flaherty said the 2009-2010 budget he presents Jan. 27 will show "how we’ll come out of deficit, so that it’ll be clear to Canadians that as the economy recovers the deficit will disappear and we’ll be in surplus again."

Harper in Jan. 2009: "There’s nothing unconservative about running deficits during a recession (...) but what we’ve got to be sure of as we enter a deficit [is] that those spending measures are short-term."

Flaherty in Jan. 2009: "Our government is making a deliberate choice to run a substantial short-term deficit (...) a temporary deficit cannot be avoided. As a result, our government projects a budget deficit of $34-billion for the next fiscal year; and $30-billion the year after that (...) There will be no long-running or permanent deficit (...) By 2011 we project the deficit will fall to $13-billion; by 2012 it will fall to $7.3-billion. By 2013 we project a return to surplus — for that year, a surplus of $700-million (...) We have chosen this course because it is necessary, and because we know it will be temporary."

Flaherty in May 2009: "We will run a substantial short-term deficit this year which I would estimate at more than $50 billion."

Flaherty in May 2009: "I expect we will have a larger deficit than anticipated in the federal budget . . . the deficit will be substantially more."

Harper in May 2009: "Our deficits will be large, but they will be temporary. In fact, in the short term, they will be as large as they have to be to help us weather this recession (...) But only if these deficits are temporary and our stimulus spending ends when the recession ends."

In Sept. 2009, Flaherty revealed Canada's budget shortfall will swell to a record $55.9 billion this year, but pledged that the Harper government will trim the deficit to a manageable size within the next five years (...) the finance minister pledged that the government will reduce the deficit to $5.2 billion by 2015.

In Sept. 2009, Flaherty said the severe economic recession means that, between now and 2014-15, Ottawa's budget shortfall will total more than $160 billion.

Harper in Oct. 2009: "I actually do think we are in a rare period, one that as an economist I didn't think we would see again in my lifetime, where deficits are not only necessary but actually advised."

Harper in Dec. 2009: "And within four to five years (...) we should be back to a balanced budget."
So - we went from "there won't be a deficit" to "we can't cross the line of deficits because they can't be stopped from growing" to "we will have a small deficit" to "deficits cannot be avoided" to "there will be deficits but only temporary, short-term" to "we will have substantially larger deficits" to "deficits will be as large as they need to be" to "it will take much longer to return to balanced budgets" to "deficit spending is actually necessary and advisable".

Recognize the pattern?

From denials to obfuscations to contradictory spins to backtracking/grudging acknowledgments to contradictory position updates to outright reversal of initial denials - only in order to return back to square one afterwards.

Rinse and repeat.

On fighting climate change? Same damn pattern.

On Afghan detainee abuses? Again the same damn pattern - over and over again.

Hell, even on the loss or misplacement of official documents! On everything and anything, for that matter.

That is hypocrisy all right - that is the behavior of outright incompetents.

Case closed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Once Again: Meanwhile, Back In Judea ...


Israel: a beacon of modernity, freedom and democracy in the Middle East? You make the call (emphasis added):


Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs

Israel has admitted that in the 1990s, its forensic pathologists harvested organs from dead bodies, including Palestinians, without permission of their families.

The issue emerged with publication of an interview with the then-head of Israel's Abu Kabir forensic institute, Dr. Jehuda Hiss. The interview was conducted in 2000 by an American academic, who released it because of a huge controversy last summer over an allegation by a Swedish newspaper that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to harvest their organs. Israel hotly denied the charge.

Parts of the interview were broadcast on Israel's Channel 2 TV over the weekend. In it, Hiss said, "We started to harvest corneas ... Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family."

The Channel 2 report said that in the 1990s, forensic specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.

In a response to the TV report, the Israeli military confirmed that the practice took place. "This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer," the military said in a statement quoted by Channel 2.

In the interview, Hiss described how his doctors would mask the removal of corneas from bodies. "We'd glue the eyelid shut," he said. "We wouldn't take corneas from families we knew would open the eyelids."

Many of the details in the interview first came to light in 2004, when Hiss was dismissed as head of the forensic institute because of irregularities over use of organs there. Israel's attorney general dropped criminal charges against him, and Hiss still works as chief pathologist at the institute. He had no comment on the TV report.

Hiss became director of the institute in 1988. He said in the interview that the practice of harvesting organs without permission began in the "early 1990s." However, he also said that military surgeons removed a thin layer of skin from bodies as early as 1987 to treat burn victims. Hiss said he believed that was done with family consent. The harvesting ended in 2000, he said.

Complaints against the institute, where autopsies of dead bodies are performed, at the time of Hiss' dismissal came from relatives of Israeli soldiers and civilians as well as Palestinians. The bodies belonged to people who died from various causes, including diseases, accidents and Israeli-Palestinian violence, but there has been no evidence to back up the claim in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians for their organs. Angry Israeli officials called the report "anti-Semitic."

The academic, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a professor of anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley, said she decided to make the interview public in the wake of the Aftonbladet controversy, which raised diplomatic tensions between Israel and Sweden and prompted Sweden's foreign minister to call off a visit to the Jewish state.

Scheper-Hughes said that while Palestinians were "by a long shot" not the only ones affected by the practice in the 1990s, she felt the interview must be made public now because "the symbolism, you know, of taking skin of the population considered to be the enemy, (is) something, just in terms of its symbolic weight, that has to be reconsidered."

While insisting that all organ harvesting was done with permission, Israel's Health Ministry told Channel 2, "The guidelines at that time were not clear." It added, "For the last 10 years, Abu Kabir has been working according to ethics and Jewish law."

On a related note, Israel does not confirm nor denies that it has nuclear weapons ...

Words fail me.

And so it goes ...

(I wonder if I'll be accused of being anti-semitic for this post? Wanna bet?)

Reloaded Yet Again: The Cost Of Empire


That's right: Congress passes $636 billion in military spending.

But Americans should not have a "socialist" universal health care system, let alone an unnecessary, life-destroying, unpopular and unwanted public option, or even Medicare for that matter, because, well, it would cost too much and deepen further the US deficit - thus leading the country one step closer to bankruptcy.

Besides - the money is needed for the surge in Afghanistan (at the cost of $57,077.60/minute) and for the troops still remaining in Iraq. Not counting those in military bases all over the world. And the maintenance of those military commissions. And other assorted "police actions".

While we're at it - why not instead decrease minimum wages, take away unemployment benefits, provide yet more tax cuts to the rich and further deregulate (especially in health care insurance) in order to help jump-start the US economy and boost ... employment?

Because you see - a greater income inequality will lead to prosperity and opportunity for all.

In the meantime, umemployed folks should simply enroll in Medicaid - you know, what is also being called the medical ghetto. Or perhaps even open ... Medicare to more Americans. Or uninsured folks should simply rely on ... charity.

Better yet: let everyone work for the US government - thus solving both the unemployment and health care problems at the same time!

But wait - apparently, the government doesn't create jobs and health care already costs too much. Hmmm ...

I suppose, any argument is a good argument to keep on supporting American exceptionalism and Empire, eh?

Words simply fail me before such an onslaught of cognitive dissonance, of defective basic reasoning faculties, of absent primary (human) intelligence capacities ...

... of mindless incoherence.

God bless America - definitely, indeed.

Could Someone Please Tell Me In What Century We Are Living?


Why the following (h/t) is actually occurring, let alone not being challenged in any way, is beyond me (emphasis added):


Army general in Iraq issues pregnancy ban
U.S. personnel in the north could face court-martial, jail for failing orders

The Army general of U.S. forces in Northern Iraq has banned pregnancy among military personnel in his command, NBC News reported on Friday.

Anyone who becomes pregnant or impregnates another servicemember, including married couples assigned to the same unit, could face a court-martial and jail time, according to an order issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo.

The order, which went into effect on Nov. 4, was first reported by the military publication Stars and Stripes.

(...) Military officials say the order was issued because Army policy requires the force to remove a pregnant soldier from a war zone within 14 days of learning of the pregnancy, creating a hole in a unit that makes it more difficult to complete its mission.

“It is a lawful order,” Thompson said Friday during a phone interview with Stars and Stripes.

Thompson, who has served 29 of the past 39 months in Iraq as an inspector general, told the publication that it’s the first time he can recall pregnancy being prohibited.
A lawful order?!? In a pathetic, sexist attempt to prevent the inevitable, continued shrinking of the military of the American Empire due to its never-ending wars and endless occupations?

Then again - what's next, a court-martial for women soldiers whom have been raped by their fellow male soldiers?

A woman being fired for becoming pregnant because she will be less productive in the workplace? Fired for getting an abortion because the company does not approve?

A woman being further victimized by the corporation she works for after being raped by other male employees?

A woman being denied pregnancy health care from her insurance corporation because pregnancy is deemed a pre-existing condition? Because rape is deemed a pre-existing condition? Because actually being a woman is deemed a pre-existing condition?

Is it just me, or is this so-called "Western civilization" of ours backsliding further and further into the past - as in, the Middle Ages ... if not Antiquity?

What's next - women's reproductive rights must be curtailed/controlled/eradicated?

Women shouldn't vote?

Can someone please tell me in what fucking century we are living, anyway?

Addendum 2:55 PM: well, looks like we're back at last in the 21st century:
Obama signs Franken’s anti-rape amendment into law

The White House Press Office sent out a statement today announcing that President Obama signed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 into law on Saturday:

H.R. 3326, the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010,” which provides FY 2010 appropriations for Department of Defense (DOD) military programs including funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, and extends various expiring authorities and other non-defense FY 2010 appropriations.

Within the Appropriations Act is Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) amendment prohibiting defense contractors from restricting their employees’ abilities to take workplace discrimination, battery, and sexual assault cases to court. The measure was inspired by Jamie Leigh Jones, who was gang-raped by her co-workers while working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. Many Republicans opposed the legislation — saying it was an unnecessary attack on their allies in the defense contracting business — and faced intense political blowback over their positions.

But for how long will we remain in the 21st century is an open question - just read above again ...

(Addendum 12/24/2009: the US Amy has decided to return to the 21st century ... beginning in 2010. That's one case resolved positively, but there's still way too many others to go ...)

Harper And Climate Change: Because Incompetents Want To Bring Everyone To Their Level


Here ye, here ye, the latest decree by our Environment Minister Jim Prentice (emphasis added):


Provinces should stand with feds on climate: Prentice

Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he expects all the provinces to come to terms with the Copenhagen climate deal, despite "divisive" comments made at the summit by some premiers.

"There is no doubt that some of the comments that were made have been divisive," Prentice told CTV's Question Period Sunday. "I think wiser heads will prevail and we have a lot of work to do."

Prentice was responding to questions regarding comments made by Quebec Premier Jean Charest last Wednesday in Copenhagen. Charest said if the government failed to negotiate a strong international treaty to tackle climate change, the provinces would have the legal authority to act on their own initiative.

Ontario and Quebec have been highly critical of the federal government, saying its plan to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020 is too weak.

Prentice said whenever Canada is at a summit of world leaders, the government speaks on behalf of all provinces.

"We'll continue to work with the provinces, they were there, we co-operated with them, but I think when we're on the international stage, Canadians need to bear in mind that we're there as a country, speaking as a country," he said.

Prentice said the federal government can reach the 20 per cent target but needs "the co-operation of the provinces and certainly, the federal government will provide that, will provide the leadership."
The Harper government providing leadership in tackling climate change?

Are.
You.
Fucking.
Kidding.
Me?


This is why Ontario and Québec have been instead working together and individually to reach higher reduction targets of GHG emissions - while Harper and his Harpies just continue to posture (see above and here) about fighting climate change.

Meanwhile, back in Alberta ... just toeing the line of Harper and his Harpies.

I suppose that is the kind of "co-operation from provinces" Prentice meant ...

After all, here is the First Principle of Incompetence (emphasis added):
Incompetence surrounds itself with incompetence

Incompetents do not realize their own incompetence (intellectual vanity, remember?) and rarely recognize de facto competence in others. In addition, the incompetent distrusts anyone who shows signs of actual competence, should he/she somehow recognize it, because competents not only make the incompetent look bad, but are most likely to question him/her. Furthermore, incompetents find security and comfort in echo chambers - consequently, loyalty to self, as well as to same ideology/beliefs/party, overrides all considerations in the incompetent's petty mind (i.e. cronyism rules). To this effect, incompetents will seek to bring all those around them to their level. Therefore, incompetents are always surrounded by like-minded, and likewise, incompetents. In addition, in this context, incompetence always rewards incompetence. Some call this "functionning inside the bubble", I call it "herd mentality".
Q.E.D. once again.

(Addendum: oops - HarperBizarro beat me to the punch already ...)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Late Friday Night Ode To ... Ignorance


Here's to the prevalence of ignorance - of facts, of information, or verity.

For this is the perfect mean to destroy a secular democracy, the reason why we are living in semi-Dark Ages, the root cause of the spreading cancer on our body democratic.

Hence why the majority of the citizens of our democratic societies is non-informed, misinformed, apathic and uncaring - except for their selfish, instant gratification- and entertainment-craving, petty, little selves.

And nevermind the obvious vaccine, if not cure, against this rotting disease in our midst.

Therefore, I give you the Stone Temple Pilots - Dead And Bloated:


Still - keep on rockin', folks.

I'll see ya'll back Monday, hear?

Acting In God Faith: Doing God's Work (Again)




DeMint Laughably Claims Republicans Have Been Acting In ‘Good Faith’ To Improve Health Care Reform

Republicans opposed to health care reform have long said that their “objective is to slow this down” in order to “defeat” reform. Earlier this month, Politico’s Chris Frates obtained a copy of a memo authored by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) outlining exactly how Senate Republicans can kill health reform using various parliamentary tactics such as offering “an unlimited number of amendments — germane or non-germane — on any subject.”

Over the past few weeks of Senate debate, Republicans have put their plan into action, using procedural stunts like Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) demand that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 767 page single payer amendment be read in full on the Senate floor. On Fox News today, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who took delight in Coburn’s effort, claimed that Republicans weren’t just being “obstructionist,” but were working in “good faith” to make “progress” on the legislation:

HOST: Alright, so we read that quote from your spokesperson about how you’re basically being obstructionist and it sounds like you think that’s a badge of honor at this point. But let’s face it. Are you just postponing the inevitable and do the American people really just want you to obstruct it or are they looking for progress here?

DEMINT: We’ve tried to work in good faith with the Democrats for the last few weeks, debating a bill on the floor, proposing amendments. But its turned out that this bill is just a decoy and that the whole strategy’s bait and switch. They’ve been working on a bill behind closed doors that we haven’t seen. That no Democrat other than Harry Reid has seen. And what I mean by obstructing is at least slow it down in time, give us a time to even look at it or read it. But they’re gonna file this bill at the same time they file a motion to cut off debate. Before we even have debate. So the definition of obstruction is really maybe slow it down for a day or two, so we can at least see a little bit of what’s in the bill.

DeMint went on to claim Republicans “have not been in the way so far” and “haven’t held up anything.” Watch it:

DeMint is being willfully misleading when he says that Republicans are acting in “good faith” with their procedural tactics. In fact, he tweeted on Wednesday that the GOP will “do everything we can to stop this government takeover of health care.”

Just last week, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Republican whip, told Hugh Hewitt that “none” of the Republican “amendments are designed to make the bill better.” In an interview on WorldNetDaily’s radio show yesterday, Sen Bob Bennett (R-UT) admitted, “We’re not offering amendments in order to fix it.” DeMint claimed he was only trying to “slow it down for a day or two,” but Bennett explained what the real strategy is:

BENNETT: Well, we’re opposed to the bill. That’s the first thing that people need to understand. We’re opposed to the bill and we don’t think it can be fixed. We’re not offering amendments in order to fix it. We’re offering amendments in order force the Democrats to confront some of the bad parts of the bill and force them on the record. To say, oh gee, I’ve opposed this amendment that would have and then you fill in the blank because every amendment we propose is, we propose exposes one of the problems in the bill. Sure, we want to make sure that it does not get voted on in 2009 because the chances that it gets defeated if it gets voted on in 2010 are better. There’s nothing really complicated about that. I think even a journalist in the mainstream media ought to be able to figure that one out.

Perhaps DeMint is confused about what the term “good faith” means.

Good faith indeed on the part of Jim DeMint.

Nevertheless - I think DeMint knows exactly what he means by good faith (emphasis added):
GOP wants to ‘kill health reform through God’s intervention’

Prominent congressional Republicans have turned to Christian activist Lou Engle to help them bring God to their side in their battle to defeat health care reform.

In an online "prayercast" Wednesday night, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann joined a number of Christian leaders in praying that health care reform will be defeated. Leading the prayer was Engle, whose organization Call to Conscience describes itself as a "movement to bring holiness and purity back to America."

On her show Thursday night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow played a clip of Engle, the prayercast's leader, discussing California's Proposition 8 last year. If same-sex marriage is allowed to stand in California, Engle argued, it "will release a spirit that is more demonic than Islam. A spirit of lawlessness and anarchy. And a sexual insanity will be unleashed into the earth."

"Liberals are debating whether or not it is smart and ethical to have a mandate without a public option," Maddow said. "On the Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback side of the aisle, they are approaching this rather differently."

During the prayercast, Sen. DeMint said, "If we have the government making decisions about the most personal and private part of our lives, it's so naive to think that that coverage is not going to include a number of things that cause people of faith a lot of heartburn, whether it's funding abortions, whether it's rationing care, whether it's funding medical marijuana, whether it's euthanasia."

Now, watch them piously pray:

Yes - there was our very same Jim DeMint.

Yes - there was the very same Michele Bachmann.

Yes - there was the very same Sam Brownback.

And yes - there was the very same Lou Engle ...

Other luminaries attending this prayercast included Tony Perkins, Randy Forbes, Harry Jackson and Jim Garlow.

Funny how these bozos never pray for anything positive - you know, like the end of disease? Or universal peace on Earth? Or other some such ideals?

Then again - what else can you expect from primitive minds?

Doing God's work indeed ... and then some.

Welcome to our semi-Dark Ages.

(Addendum: one more note added in proof that those bozos just can't pray for anything actually positive and/or noble. And yes - this is the very same Tom Coburn here ... And then in response, here is the enlightened "base" wondering whether their bozos prayed hard enough. Words fail me. It turns out that it was a crank call. Oops.)

(Cross-posted at The Peace Tree)

Afghanistan War A FUBAR? One More Note Added In Proof


Last month back there, yours truly mentioned that the Taliban was ending up being funded by ... the USA - and narry another peep was heard at the time on this matter.

So, just to let you folks know that the US Congress has now decided to look into this (emphasis added):

A House committee has launched an investigation into claims that US military contractors in Afghanistan are paying the Taliban to guarantee the safety of their transportation convoys, an allegation that could mean American taxpayers are indirectly funding the insurgency that has killed more than 900 American soldiers so far.

Serious allegations have been [made] that private security providers for US transportation contractors in Afghanistan are regularly paying local warlords and the Taliban for security," said Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. "After a preliminary inquiry, it has been determined these reports warrant a full-scale subcommittee investigation."

Tierney said that if the allegations are proven to be true, "it would mean that the United States is unintentionally engaged in a vast protection racket and, as such, may be indirectly funding the very insurgents we are trying to fight.

Allegations that contractors are resorting to bribing insurgents to guarantee their safety first came to light in an article in The Nation last month. Aram Roston reported:

Welcome to the wartime contracting bazaar in Afghanistan. It is a virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers joining hands with former Taliban and mujahedeen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.

In this grotesque carnival, the US military's contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban.

"It's a big part of their income," one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents.

Several days after the Nation report, the Financial Times reported that "Taliban fighters have turned NATO's huge logistics chain into a big source of funds by extorting money from hauliers and kidnapping their drivers for ransom, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, the companies say."

The FT said the bribery problem is adding to a growing "war economy" in Afghanistan, and may in fact cause President Obama's Afghan troop surge to backfire because it will give insurgents more targets for extortion:

The militants' ability to prey on supply lines on both sides of the border shows how the Afghan conflict fuels a self-sustaining war economy in which the boundaries between insurgency, organised crime and banditry are blurred.

Although the amount gleaned from transporters is smaller than the Taliban's multi-million-dollar income from the opium trade and donations from supporters in Gulf states, any big increase in US troop numbers will provide more convoys to target. "The more trucks there are, and the more roads that are in use, the more opportunities there are for extortion," a US official said.

The House subcommittee has requested documents from the Pentagon and from eight principal contractors involved in the Host Nation Trucking program, a $2.1-billion initiative that coordinates US military supply lines in Afghanistan, allowing for the shipping of everything from food and water to fuel and ammunition.

A number of progressive activists and politicians have pointed to the allegations of bribery as a sign that the war effort in Afghanistan is misguided. Last week, House Rep. Dennis Kucinich described the alleged schemes as a "racket."

US contractors are paying US tax dollars to the Taliban in order to protect the delivery of US shipments of US goods to US soldiers so that our soldiers can fight the Taliban," Kucinich said, starkly illustrating the implications of the bribery claims.

Ah, those contractors ... they sure cost a lot, don't they?

Need I say again that this war in Afghanistan is a complete and utter FUBAR?

Then again ... what do I know?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More On The Cost Of The War In Afghanistan


There it is (I wonder if this includes the indecent contracting to private/mercenary companies? And by the way - Canada's military budget has reached a 60-year high ... ):


Afghanistan: $57,077.60 - Surging by the Minute
by Jo Comerford

$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute. Keep that in mind -- just for a minute or so.

After all, the surge is already on. By the end of December, the first 1,500 U.S. troops will have landed in Afghanistan, a nation roughly the size of Texas, ranked by the United Nations as second worst in the world in terms of human development.

Women and men from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be among the first to head out. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into Afghanistan for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge.

By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum.

But perhaps this isn’t a time to quibble. After all, a job is a job, especially in the United States, which has lost seven million jobs since December 2007, while reporting record-high numbers of people seeking assistance to feed themselves and/or their families. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 36 million Americans, including one out of every four children, are currently on food stamps.

On the other hand, given the woeful inadequacy of that “safety net,” we might have chosen to direct the $30 billion in surge expenditures toward raising the average individual monthly Food Stamp allotment by $70 for the next year; that's roughly an additional trip to the grocery store, every month, for 36 million people. Alternatively, we could have dedicated that $30 billion to job creation. According to a recent report issued by the Political Economy Research Institute, that sum could generate a whopping 537,810 construction jobs, 541,080 positions in healthcare, fund 742,740 teachers or employ 831,390 mass transit workers.

For purposes of comparison, $30 billion -- remember, just the Pentagon-estimated cost of a 30,000-person troop surge -- is equal to 80% of the total U.S. 2010 budget for international affairs, which includes monies for development and humanitarian assistance. On the domestic front, $30 billion could double the funding (at 2010 levels) for the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Or think of the surge this way: if the United States decided to send just 29,900 extra soldiers to Afghanistan, 100 short of the present official total, it could double the amount of money -- $100 million -- it has allocated to assist refugees and returnees from Afghanistan through the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Leaving aside the fact that the United States already accounts for 45% of total global military spending, the $30 billion surge cost alone would place us in the top-ten for global military spending, sandwiched between Italy and Saudi Arabia. Spent instead on “soft security” measures within Afghanistan, $30 billion could easily build, furnish and equip enough schools for the entire nation.

Continuing this nod to the absurd for just one more moment, if you received a silver dollar every second, it would take you 960 years to haul in that $30 billion. Not that anyone could hold so much money. Together, the coins would weigh nearly 120 tons, or more than the poundage of 21,000 Asian elephants, an aircraft carrier, or the Washington Monument. Converted to dollar bills and laid end-to-end, $30 billion would reach 2.9 million miles or 120 times around the Earth.

One more thing, that $30 billion isn’t even the real cost of Obama’s surge. It’s just a minimum, through-the-basement estimate. If you were to throw in all the bases being built, private contractors hired, extra civilians sent in, and the staggering costs of training a larger Afghan army and police force (a key goal of the surge), the figure would surely be startlingly higher. In fact, total Afghanistan War spending for 2010 is now expected to exceed $102.9 billion, doubling last year's Afghan spending. Thought of another way, it breaks down to $12 million per hour in taxpayer dollars for one year. That’s equal to total annual U.S. spending on all veteran's benefits, from hospital stays to education.

In Afghan terms, our upcoming single year of war costs represents nearly five times that country’s gross domestic product or $3,623.70 for every Afghan woman, man, and child. Given that the average annual salary for an Afghan soldier is $2,880 and many Afghans seek employment in the military purely out of economic desperation, this might be a wise investment -- especially since the Taliban is able to pay considerably more for its new recruits. In fact, recent increases in much-needed Afghan recruits appear to correlate with the promise of a pay raise.

All of this is, of course, so much fantasy, since we know just where that $30-plus billion will be going. In 2010, total Afghanistan War spending since November 2001 will exceed $325 billion, which equals the combined annual military spending of Great Britain, China, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. If we had never launched an invasion of Afghanistan or stayed on fighting all these years, those war costs, evenly distributed in this country, would have meant a $2,298.80 dividend per U.S. taxpayer.

Even as we calculate the annual cost of war, the tens of thousands of Asian elephants in the room are all pointing to $1 trillion in total war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan. The current escalation in Afghanistan coincides with that rapidly-approaching milestone. In fact, thanks to Peter Baker’s recent New York Times report on the presidential deliberations that led to the surge announcement, we know that the trillion-dollar number for both wars may be a gross underestimate. The Office of Management and Budget sent President Obama a memo, Baker tells us, suggesting that adding General McChrystal’s surge to ongoing war costs, over the next 10 years, could mean -- forget Iraq -- a trillion dollar Afghan War.


(Keep reading ...)

Behold The Cancer On Our Body Democratic In Its (Sad) Glory


Here is the very disease which is afflicting our society, care of Margaret Wente (emphasis added):


Are you feeling guilty about your lack of interest in the news? Do you secretly care more about Tiger Woods's sex life than Afghan detainees? Do your eyes glaze over whenever someone mentions “Copenhagen”?

You're not alone.

(...) In the absence of substance, the media have turned the climate-change story into a litmus test of Canada's virtue, or lack thereof. We should be ashamed of ourselves, we're told. Our emissions have soared (although not as much as Spain's). We are among the worst climate offenders in the world, and everyone knows it (except for the 5.99 billion people who don't).

Our government's seemingly prudent decision to harmonize Canada's climate policies with the U.S. is seen as an embarrassing cop-out, and our oil sands are proof of original sin. If only our economy had collapsed, like Russia's! Then we'd be climate heroes, with billions of dollars worth of carbon credits stashed in our climate piggy bank.

The prospects for a binding, enforceable climate accord – next week, next year or next century – are about as remote as the prospect that Afghanistan will be transformed into a thriving, modern, liberal state. You are entitled to feel helpless about that story, too. Nor are you necessarily a bad person if you aren't as outraged about the fate of Afghan detainees as you ought to be.

Like climate change, the detainee issue has turned into another symbolic story about morality and virtue. “I feel ashamed to be Canadian,” letters to the editor frequently proclaim, which really means the writer thinks the heavy-handed Harper government (or the oil sands) is evil.

The nub of the story – that some Afghan prisoners detained by Canadian soldiers were abused in Afghan jails – is neither new nor particularly surprising. The problem was resolved long ago, although it probably should have been fixed sooner than it was. Now the story is about the Harper government's obstructive tactics to hush it up. It's about who knew what, when did they know it, what they claim they knew, and whether information was suppressed or ignored. These are good questions. But the story has been turned by all sides into political theatre.

Most Canadians seem to have decided that the detainee scandal does not amount to a potential war crime, despite what some human-rights activists allege. Instead, it's the kind of snafu you'd expect when you go off to war with few resources, in an unfamiliar place, where certain protocols are not in place and the local allies are not up to date on the Geneva Conventions. (That's not an excuse, just an observation.) This is not a repeat of Somalia, when our own soldiers were doing the abusing. For most people, it's a confirmation that the sooner we're out of there, the better.

The detainee story may also be a way for us to avoid a harder (and politically unsayable) truth: that despite our best intentions, our Afghan mission – for reasons beyond our control – has been an utter failure.

Wouldn't you rather read about Tiger Woods? Me, too.
Such vapidity. Such superficial, non-critical thinking. Such hedonistic wallowing in self-pity.

The climate change and detainee abuse issues are complex and yet they are rightfully about principles, morality and virtue - and yes, about the standing of our very own laws as well.

If you "feel bad" about it, then perhaps you should actually do something about it.

Rather, you would choose to feel "helpless" - and prefer to be entertained instead.

This is the cancer on our body democratic at work, folks:
Democracy is slowing rotting away. There is not only a cause for this wasting disease, but as well a potential cure - if we commit ourselves with courage, diligence and determination to apply such a cure.

Intellectual sloth is a human character flaw with numerous ramifications, and which constitutes the gravest threat to our democracies.

On the one hand, intellectual sloth pushes any person who is afflicted by it to wallow in ignorance, finding security in absolute ideologies, philosophies of thoughts, tenets of faith, various dogmas or views of the world, without seeking to understand them fully or even less to question them. In turn, ignorance festers fear which, as we know all-too-well, acts as a powerful motor in driving irrational thinking and actions. Furthermore, a person afflicted with intellectual sloth refuses to accept any fact of reality which confronts, rattles, or even invalidates, the comfort of one's “convictions”. To this effect, such a person will be often deluded by intellectual vanity, being arrogant, if not contemptuous, towards anything and anyone that confronts his/her ignorance generated by intellectual sloth.

On the other hand, a person afflicted with intellectual sloth is continually in search of the quick-and-easy and of instant gratification - in fact, he/she craves such things. Incidentally, a person afflicted with intellectual sloth is egocentric, selfish, greedy and covetous, even paranoid, in his/her immature search for facility and instant gratification. Consequently, intellectual sloth-driven people invariably become slaves of expediency. That is also why such persons will all too often want (consciously or not) to be serviced an opinion, like being served fast food, rather than to make the effort of actually forging an informed one for themselves - they search for easy and absolute answers.

In short, intellectual sloth transforms a supposedly adult (and thus mature) person into an irresponsible, reactionary, judgement-impaired, and comfort-craving child or adolescent, who lives only in the “now” while remaining blind to “yesterday” and “tomorrow".

Therefore, intellectual sloth renders those afflicted by it incompetents - as thinking, reasoning human beings, as well as in dealing/composing with reality (or at least in trying to understand it).

One direct consequence of the prevalence of intellectual sloth is not only voter indifference and apathy, but as well the complacent acceptance of the "dumbing down" (and disinformation) of the news and of the political discourse - after all, journalists and politicians are from the same culture as the voters's ... thus our current tabloid journalism and politics (Assault on Reason, anyone?).

Hence, the "it's all about me", "not in my backyard", "who cares? ", "we're the best", "not my problem", "we're good, they're evil" and other such selfish, uncaring, absolutist and/or uninformed attitudes that have been prevailing among the citizenry (...).

Call it scandal fatigue. Blame the MSM and the politicians as well, if you will.

But I call this intellectual sloth-driven incompetence as citizens.

As I wrote before: "We prefer to wallow body and mind into reality-tv shows and the local version of American Idol (Canadian Idol in Canada and Star Académie in Québec). Thus, therein now lies our democratic passion, whereby we discuss, analyze and evaluate which participant to support and then vote for him/her".

But, to do such things in the exercise of our duty as citizens of democracies? Forget it. We act like ostriches in the face of it. It is too complicated. Too discouraging. Too unsettling.

And don't you dare blame the Media Corporations - since they have no qualms at yanking shows that have poor ratings, why do you think they keep serving tabloid infortainment, news, reality shows, game shows and other such tripe? Because. These. Have. High. Ratings.

The intellectual sloth-driven search, if not need, for instant gratification craves entertainment - on TV, in movies, in music, in videos and in games. This in turn is the root cause for tabloid news and politics - a society-wide dumbing down. That is why (and how) Bush was elected in 2000 and again in 2004. That is why most candidates (GOP and/or Democratic) are often timid, "dumb and dumber" or "uber triangulators". We face the same problems in Canada with regards of our main political parties.

They are only responding (or trying to respond) to. The. People.
This is why a minority government like Harper's can act with impunity as if his party actually constituted a majority government.

This is why Harper's CPC remains in the lead in polls - despite the fact that the majority of us believe his government has been covering-up Afghan detainee abuses - not the first such mindboggling contradiction on our part here.

This is why we keep on losing ourselves beyond redemption.

We just won't stand up for our principles, our values, anymore.

Who cares about Afghans being tortured by their own?

Who cares what our government knew and when they knew about detainee abuses? Who cares that they keep trying to cover it all up?

Who cares that we harmonize our "green plan" with that of the USA? Who cares that Copenhagen will end the same way as all previous other climate change summits - i.e. failure?

Who cares about banks making insane profits, dishing out indecent bonuses and whatnot after engulfing our taxpayer monies - and yet still not lending?

Who cares about corporations hijacking our democratic way of governance by manipulating information, spreading disinformation, buying politicians/governments and outright writing our laws?

Who cares if many parts of the rest of the world have gone FUBAR - especially since we played directly or indirectly a hand into these?

Who cares that our international reputation keeps going further down the drain?

Who cares that we are being indiscriminately spied upon by paranoid, power-abusing security agencies - thanks to profit-driven corporate accomplices?

Who cares about facts? About the truth of things?

Who cares that in the end, we are nothing more than hypocritical flakes?

We just don't care about anything - except our precious selfish little selves.

Indeed, we care only about our instant gratifications and, of course, about being entertained - when it is not Paris Hilton or Bradjelina, it is Tiger Woods, Oprah or any other celebrity du jour ... especially if the subject is involved in some matrimonial and/or sex scandal.

Thus we citizens living in a democratic society have been in gross dereliction of our duties, of our responsibilities:
We The People - this is what it has, and always has been, about. In a democracy, it is the electorate who holds all the keys and guard all the doors - provided that the citizens actually live up to their responsibility.

(...) we are the ones who have broken the "contract between citizens and their government" because, in essence, we thought somehow that our vigilance and implication were optional.

We have abrogated our responsibilities by virtue of A) that we do not get involved in party politics and nominations; B) that too many of us do not bother to vote; and C) that voter apathy not only perpetuates, but furthermore exacerbates, the problem.

(...) Intellectual sloth and the need for instant gratification are the primary cause of the current state of affairs in the political system - what I call the metastasizing cancer on the body democratic and society. As I wrote recently:
More than ever, we would rather be serviced an opinion, like being served fast-food, instead of making the effort to forge an informed one for ourselves. We prefer to wallow body and mind into reality-tv shows, infotainments, games and leisure, instead of putting the effort in exercising our duties as citizens in our democratically-based societies.

We must have our instant gratification with minimal effort.

This in turn is the root cause for our current tabloid news and politics - a society-wide dumbing down.

That is why the overwhelming majority of politicos are often either timid, "dumb and dumber", or "uber triangulators", all the while seeking to appear as the most toughest and decisive leader-like leader-to-be - no substance, but all appearance ... which is what matters in election years, because that is what we want.

Indeed - the politicos are only responding (or trying to respond) to We The People.

We have become so superficial ourselves that we make our democratic choices based largely on appearances, not on substance.

(...)

In the meantime, we - meaning those of us who actually bother to get off their tv couch and go out to vote - keep electing demagogues that "make us feel good, make us feel secure, make us feel at ease, tell us what we want to hear" while rejecting with disdain and mistrust genuine candidates that are actually knowledgeable and better qualified as leaders.

Yes indeed - we can easily blame the politicians, the media, the corporations, the lobbying groups, or anyone else, all we want ... but the painful and ever so tragic truth remains this: we have only ourselves to blame.
I reiterate: we only have ourselves to blame - because of our lack of involvement due to intellectual sloth, lack of taking responsibility as citizens and overall laziness on our part.

We gave the keys away to the foxes and let them guard the hen house without supervision, because we would not be bothered anymore with our "burdensome" responsibilities as citizens. Hence, we are only reaping what we have sown.
This brings me to reiterate the following:
Dissent is what will save us?

Agreed.

However, it would require first that we reacquaint ourselves with our responsibilities as citizens of democracies:
Living in a democracy is a right and a responsibility. And yes, this responsibility requires effort. But which is better: having your back bent by the effort required to keep on living in a democratic society, or letting leave for complacency and find yourself one day with a back bent under a totalitarian regime (however benevolent it may be)?
Today, Margaret Wente constitutes the poster child for our sickening and withering democracy.

Superficiality. Vapidity. Asininity. Instant gratification. Intellectual sloth.

Are we, then, nothing more than Joe the Plumbers and Sarah Palins?

Looks like at long last we are - just ask Margaret Wente.