Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tracks in the Snow

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, Ol' Spot an' me been doin' a fair bit o' walkin' down to the soybean field lately. The mud and water's all froze up so Ol' Spot don't get too dirty.

This mornin', I was especially proud of Ol' Spot. He was a ways ahead o' me -- about 70-100 metres, or so -- when I seen him light out after something. I hollered fer Spot to stop an' danged if he didn't do just like he was supposed to. When he stopped, I seen three good-sized white tail deer headin' fer the old railway track bed. They was closer to Ol' Spot than I was.

If Ol' Spot had chased after them deer, he'd probbly still be runnin' an' I'd be out huntin' fer a lost border collie. Ol' Spot's growin' up, I reckon. He oughta be. He's about 4 an' a half, now. Here's a pitcher of ol' Spot right near where we seen the deer this mornin'.

Ma was readin' in the Brantford Suppositor how to tell coyote tracks from dog tracks. We got quite a few coyotes around here so that's a handy thing to know. The coyotes walk puttin' the back foot right exactly where the front foot went. That means they make tracks that look like this:

I was in the fresh snow when I seen these this mornin'. There weren't any human tracks nearby. These were from early this mornin' and from a dog-like critter about the same size as Ol' Spot. I'm callin' 'em coyote tracks.

Here's what dog tracks look like. There's 4 footprints fer every two from the coyote. Ol' Spot's about the same size as a coyote.

Another kinda track I see out in the soybean field is mouse tracks. Here's some mousie footprints:
An' then there's the all terrain vehicles an' snowmobiles. Here's some quad tracks:
Looks like the poor little mouse wasn't fast enough. Some critter'll come along an' make a meal outta the little feller, I figger. That's a JimBobby track at the lower left.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Rant on the Afghanistan Compromise

Whooee! I was just over at Saskatchewan Liberty Train where The bigass elephant in the room is the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We are not fightin' terrorists. We are siding with one group of terrorists against another group. The government that our kids are dying for is ruled under Sharia Law as entrenched in its brand new constitution. The government we are dying for considers it a death penalty offense to convert from Islam to Christianity. The government we are propping up issues the death sentence for questioning fundamentalist Islam's treatment of women.

Although the new constitution guarantees education to girls and women, only 30% of grade school age girls attend school. Less than 8% of girls attend secondary school.

We've spent $6.1 billion on military effort and only $741 million on reconstruction. On top of that, we know that about 90% of intended aid money goes to bribes and graft.

The people we installed by way of a "democratic" election are former(?) CIA operative Hamid Karzai and the Northern Alliance. These are warlords and drug dealers. They are not the least bit interested in curbing opium growth or in modern reforms. They are simply using NATO to help them stay in power and they are gaining personally every day.

Canadian kids are dying to protect a narco-state so riddled with corruption that it cannot even be trusted with its own police payroll. They are torturers and woman abusers and we force ourselves to look the other way so we can somehow justify our presence.

Karzai has been negotiating with the Taliban for years. He's admitted as much publicly. We are simply supporting Taliban-lite in its civil war with Taliban-heavy. Taliban-heavy kills people by executing them in soccer fields. Taliban-lite kills people by supplying them with addictive drugs and taking an active part in the illicit international narcotics trade. Both wings of the Taliban are torturers and misogynists. Both wings accept Sharia Law.

And we are sacrificing young, dedicated, Canadian lives to prop up Taliban-lite. Now, thanks to the great compromise, Dion and the Grits have agreed to 2 more years of senseless death without the slightest indication that we will be any more successful in the future than we've been in the past.

Every Canadian death from 2009-2011 will be on the heads of Dion and the Liberals. The Liberals support this unjustifiable waste of life, limb and money and they're giving King Steve carte blanche for one reason only: they're afraid to face the voter. Canadians shouldn't have to die in needless battles so the Liberals don't have to face the electorate.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bluebirds in Ontario

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, Ma an' I was out fer a good walk this afternoon down to the soybean field. We had ol' Spot an' his new sister Ellie with us. Ellie's mostly rottweiler. Ma got 'er from the pound a while back an' she an' ol' Spot play pretty good together.

Anyways, while we was out I spotted a robin. I was fumblin' with my camera and never got a good pitcher o' the robin but while we was looking at the robin, we also seen a buncha bluebirds - probbly 5 or 6. I managed to snap a few not-bad pitchers of a bluebird. Here's a bluebird in Ontario, February 23, 2008.

I figger it's dang early to be seein' robins or bluebirds. We still got a pile o' snow on the ground. The bluebirds was eatin' sumac seeds. I don't know what the robins are eatin' this time o' year. There ain't many bugs or worms out an' about.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Warmonger Parties Compromise - More Canadians to Die for Nothing

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, both the Cons and the Grits are up on their hindlegs crowin' about how Parliament works and a great compromise on Afghanistan is proof of it. Both sides are sayin' they gave only a little and both sides are sayin' the other side blinked.

I figger both Dion and Harper compromised for one reason only: to save their political asses. Neither wants to go to the polls over Afghanistan. If Harper forces an election and fails to increase the CPC seat count, he faces a leadership challenge. Dion doesn't want to go to the polls over anything.

This great compromise between the two warmongers means another two years of Canada propping up Karzai's CIA-backed, warlord-ruled Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Two more years of working hand-in-hand with corrupt Afghans who torture some prisoners but release 60%-70% for bribes as low as $20.

Two more years of Canadian deaths and maiming. Two more years of supporting Sharia Law and death penalties to Christian converts and free-speech advocates who dare to question fundamentalist Islam.

So far, we've spent $6,100 million on the military effort. At the same time, we've spent only $741 million on reconstruction. We're informed that about 90% of the reconstruction and aid money is siphoned off to bribes and corruption. Two more years of a lopsided mission where seek-and-destroy takes a front seat to aid-and-rebuild and Afghanistan sinks even lower on the international economic index.

The numbers tell the story:

  • The report calculates that Canada spent $6.1 billion on its military effort in the central Asian country between fiscal 2000-01 and 2006-07.
  • The total financial aid between 2001-02 and 2006-07 was $741 million.
  • The report said Canada's average annual spending is $100 million, although the total jumped to $250 million in 2006-07.
  • There are about 2,500 military personnel deployed in Afghanistan.
  • In comparison, there are 47 civilian government employees assigned to the country: at the embassy in Kabul, at Kandahar Airfield and in the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) office in Kandahar City.
  • Of the 335 PRT team members, 315 are military personnel.
    (Source -
The war is unwinnable. The writing has been on the wall for decades, if not centuries. Afghanistan cannot be conquered by an invading army. We are throwing away the lives of our dedicated soldiers.

And now, we're going to throw away more of those lives for another two years.

For nothing more than to prevent an unwanted and unwinnable election, the Grits and Cons have ganged up to force and unwanted and unwinnable war on Canadians. Neither party deserves any credit. Both deserve only blame and scorn.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

CO2 Sequestration: Good Science or SciFi?

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I just left a bigass comment over to BigCityLib's boog an' I'm recyclin' most of it here. BCL has a boog story about an idea fer carbon sequestration by use of giant (100m x several KM's) balloons. The idea is to place these giant air mattresses on the ocean floor, 3 KM deep. CO2 is heavier that H2O and it'll sink to the bottom.

I admit I ain't studied this idea too hard. I'd be happy as Larry if somebody come up with a good CO2 sequestration method. Here in Nanticoke, we know how to remove almost all the particulate and conventional pollution from the coal-fired generators. They done a good job of that up in Lambeth but Ginty sez he won't spend the money on Nanticoke on accounta he's gonna shut it down anyways.

The problem with burnin' coal is the greenhouse gases (GHGs). If we could capture all the GHGs from the 1000's of coal-fired electricity plants around the world, we'd be doin' a great thing. So far, most carbon sequestration ideas are only ideas. There ain't a working version anywhere. That don't mean it can't happen. Maybe someday, someone will build a giant pie-shaped container and put it in space and we'll transport GHGs by space shuttle. That'd be the pie-in-the-sky solution.

I got big doubts about this underwater air mattress idea, though.

We're only beginning to fully explore and understand the deep sea bed. New species are being discovered as we develop and deploy more advanced unmanned submersible exploration vessels.

As soon as I saw this idea, I started to wonder about its effect on life forms. Plankton and other microscopic food sources live on the sea bed. What will happen when we cover the seabed with a plastic bag that's kilometres in length? This idea seems like an extension of the ocean-as-a-dump mentality.

Maybe the plastic bags would work better if they were laying above ground. Maybe in the desert somewhere. There are puncture and leak hazards to consider. If the bag springs a leak 3 km underwater, it'll be harder to repair than if the bag was above ground. Maybe even impossible to repair at such depths.

The energy required to pump CO2 from coal-fired electricity plants located 100's of miles from the seacoast will be considerable. Will there be a net gain with such a plan? Or will it turn out to be like ethanol -- creating as much GHG as it saves?

Schemes like this are "have your cake and eat it too" schemes. We need to be working more on energy efficiency, conservation and renewables. These are proven methods of reducing GHG's and they really do work -- if they are sufficiently funded. How many KWH could be saved by investing the cost of one of these undersea air mattresses into replacement of energy hogging old refrigerators and air conditioners?

New technology is sexy but we already have the technology to reduce GHG's. What we don't have is the political will that earmarks sufficient funding to deploy existing proven technology on a large scale.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MacKay Unfit to Lead Troops - Living in Fantasyland

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I just seen a story about Canada's Defence Minister that makes me wonder if he has even the slightest grip on reality. When the Defence Minister loses his grip on reality, the lives of our troops are at risk. MacKay must resign. For the good of the Forces.

NEW DELHI, India - Canada's defence minister says he doesn't see the two latest suicide bombings in Afghanistan targeting Canadian soldiers as an escalation in Taliban activity.

Speaking from New Delhi, India, where he is leading a trade mission, Peter MacKay says it's just another example of Taliban determination to disrupt rebuilding efforts.

Today's suicide bomb attack on a Canadian convoy near Spin Boldak killed 38 civilians and wounded four Canadian soldiers.

The marketplace bombing came one day after Afghanistan's deadliest insurgent attack, which killed at least 100 people watching a dog fight near Kandahar City.

MacKay says he's not blind to the fact that these types of attacks have an impact on the perception of people "back home."

But he says Canada must remain resilient in turning back what he called "these insidious tactics" used by the Taliban.
(Canadian Press)


As the guy in charge, MacKay should be working with facts and not fantasies. Our soldiers lives depend on the Minister's judgment. How can MacKay ignore facts while putting our troops in harm's way?

The facts regarding whether or not there is an escalation of violence and insurgent activity are not open to conjecture and wishful thinking.

Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan have climbed 64 per cent in the past year, from about 4,500 incidents in 2006 to about 7,400 in 2007, according to NATO statistics released yesterday in response to a query from The Globe and Mail.

Those numbers include insurgent attacks, ambushes, small or heavy arms fire, rocket or mortar fire, improvised explosive blasts, mine strikes and surface-to-air attacks.

Such violence has been concentrated in the south, causing a rising discontent among the tribal elders of Kandahar who serve as a fulcrum of power in the southern provinces.
(Globe & Mail)

138 Kandahar civilians were killed in a two day period and despite the statistics, the man in charge of our troops denies there is an escalation. Another suicide bomb killed one person in Kandahar again today.

When Peter MacKay states that there is no escalation, he calls into question his mental abilities. He demonstrates that he is entirely unqualified to manage the Canadian Forces. His utter denial of reality demonstrates his inability to work with facts and that inability puts our troops lives at risk.

Catnip points out that MacKay's assessment is at odds with a top NATO commander. She also posits a few reasons why MacKay said what he said. One idea is that MacKay is attempting "to lull Canadians into a false sense of security while the Harper gov't plans to extend the combat mission."

I can't buy that one. MacKay just ain't smart enough to come up with that. Although... If one of Catnip's other choices ("because that's what Stephen Harper told him to say") is correct, MacKay needn't be any smarter than the average ventriloquist's dummy.

He may be smarter than a wooden headed mannequin but he's still lacking. MacKay is not even smart enough to tell the difference between humans and dogs. That level of intelligence disqualifies him for the job of Central Nova dogcatcher. With all due respect to canine control officers, a man unqualified to be dogcatcher should not be making decisions that affect the safety and well-being of our dedicated men and women serving in the Canadian Forces.

MacKay must resign. For the good of the Forces.

The Globe story I cited above is about a meeting of Kandahar tribal leaders. They're on the ground in Kandahar where our troops are dying. They can see the obvious facts that Peter MacKay cannot. The tribal leaders say we're failing.

An unusual gathering of 27 powerful tribal elders is scheduled tomorrow in Kandahar city to approve a seven-point manifesto, which starts with a blunt declaration: "The problems are now so great, it's impossible for the government to control them," according to the draft text. "The people need to stand up."

"The foreign soldiers aren't helping, they're behaving like an occupying force," said Haji Mohammed Essa, Kandahar's former attorney-general and a leading organizer of the tribal gathering.

"You kicked out a government that called itself a legitimate government, but you didn't bring any better government."

The new council of elders does not intend to position itself as a rival to the existing provincial council, Mr. Essa said, but others involved in the project said it's an effort to circumvent a government that isn't working.

The Kandahar Governor was blaming Canadian troops yesterday for the Spin Boldak marketplace bombing. That's the same governor who was recently accused of personally torturing prisoners, by the way. The other bigwig in Kandahar is ex-CIA operative and current Afghan president Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. He's been linked to the upper echelons of the opium trade. The Afghan National Army and police forces are so corrupt that they routinely release captured Taliban fighters after being bribed with as little as $20.

I wonder why those tribal leaders think we've installed a government that's no better than the Taliban.


Monday, February 18, 2008

$26 Million and Some Beads and Trinkets

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, we ain't been hearin' much about First Nations' land claims and Caledonia an' negotiations too much lately. I live closeby to the Six Nations Reserve and I get the some local papers so I'm maybe a little more informed on what's been happenin'. The latest news I got is the gummint's made an offer of $26 million to the Six Nations to settle a claim for the Welland Canal.

The claim goes back to 1829 and the gummint's just got around to makin' an offer. The funny part is the gummint's in a bigass hurry fer a yes or no from the Six Nations folks as to whether they'll accept that offer. The natives been waitin' 170-odd years. I reckon the gummint can wait til they talk it over amongst themselves.

The $26 mil is fer about 2000 acres of land that was flooded when they built the canal. It comes out to about $13,000 an acre. I figger it ain't a bad offer but that's up to the Six Nations fellers an' gals to decide. While they're decidin' , they can maybe compare that $26 mil to some other recent gummint spendin'.

Something that caught my eye about the same time as I heard about that $26 million was a story I seen about how the fix-up job up at Bruce Nuclear is about half done and it's already $300 million over budget. The guys in charge don't seem to be too worried or apologetic. The public purse is gonna pick up about half of the over run. We're gonna be payin' an extra $150 million on top of the $2.75 billion already goin' into refurbishing two reactors up at Bruce.

The public share of the over budget amount is 5 times that $26 mil we're offerin' the Natives. $26 mil's startin' to look kinda small. I wonder if the nuclear guys'll wait 170 years to get paid.

While we're ponyin' up an extra $150 million just fer the cost over runs at the nuke plant, our gummint's makin' us feel good by shellin' out a big $15 million to green energy projects. Whooee!

I just seen somethin' about the victims of the Walkerton water fiasco have been paid $65 million, so far. Lot's of 'em ain't been paid nothin' yet but it's only been 8 years. I wonder if they'll still be waitin' 170 years from now.

While the Six Nations folks is ponderin' that $26 million offer, they might wanna read about how the Ontario gummint's gonna give $100 million to bigass timber companies. The timber outfits'll probbly be patient if they hafta wait 170 years fer their dough.

They might also wanna think about how the dumbass gummint is throwin' $520 million into ethanol. Ethanol ain't a solution fer nuthin' except fillin' commodity brokers' bank accounts.

$26 million's soundin' more like chickenfeed all the time.


Friday, February 08, 2008

John Cleese's Letter to the Americans

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, like almost everyone with an email account, I got a friend who sends out funny stuff to everybody in her address book. This one just came in and I thought it was worth postin' up here.
To the citizens of the United States of America

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy), as from Monday next.

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium," and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour', 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise."

3. You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra'; you may elect to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you find you simply can't cope with correct pronunciation.

4. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up "vocabulary"). Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

5. There is no such thing as "US English." We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize."

6. You will relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out Task #1 (see above).

7. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but to be celebrated only in England. It will be called "Come-Uppance Day."

8. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grownup enough to handle a gun.

9. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

10. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

11. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric immediately and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

12. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling "gasoline") - roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

13. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with mayonnaise but with vinegar.

14. Waiters and waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

15. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer," and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager." American brands will be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

16. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

17. You will cease playing American "football." There is only one kind of proper football; you call it "soccer". Those of you brave enough will, in time, will be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

18. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the "World Series" for a game which is not played outside of America . Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.

19. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

20. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due backdated to 1776.

Thank you for your co-operation.

John Cleese
Now, I ain't really sure if ol' Basil Fawlty actually wrote this but I reckon it's a laff, anyways.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Afghan Clerics Support Death Penalty for Journalist

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, the Afghan journalist sentenced to death for humiliating Islam is another step closer to the gallows.

Clerics urge Kabul not to interfere with death sentence

Associated Press

KABUL — Conservative clerics and elders demanded Thursday that the Afghan government not interfere with a controversial death sentence handed down to a young journalist convicted of insulting Islam for distributing a report questioning polygamy.

Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, 23, was sentenced to death on Jan. 22 by a three-judge panel in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for handing out a report he printed off the Internet to fellow journalism students at Balkh University.

The article questioned why men can have four wives but women cannot have multiple husbands.

Mr. Kaambakhsh has appealed his conviction.

More than 100 tribal and religious leaders convened Wednesday in Gardez, the capital of the conservative eastern province of Paktia, and demanded that the government support the sentence.

“Kaambakhsh made the Afghan people very upset. It was against the clerics and Islam. He has humiliated Islam,” Khaliq Daad, head of the Islamic council of Paktia, said Thursday. “We want the Afghan president to support the court's decision.”

Yep. That's the sorta place to which we're sending our best and bravest to die. Maybe General Hillier get get up on his hind legs and tell us how this is none of our business; Afghanistan is a sovereign state and we should stay out of their internal affairs.

While many other world leaders spoke up early on and condemned this insanity, Canada officially stood silent until passing an NDP motion yesterday.

The wording of Jack Layton's motion:
That this House condemns the proposed execution of the Afghan journalism student, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, and calls on the Government of Canada to intervene with the government of Afghanistan to have all criminal proceedings against Sayed Pervez Kambaksh immediately abandoned.
Kudos to NDP leader Layton for showing leadership and getting unanimous consent for this motion.

We can only prop up this draconian regime for so long before the abuses and repression come back and bite us in the ass. If Kaambakhsh/Kambaksh is executed, getting unanimous House consent for abandoning Afghanistan completely will be the next step.

Not in my name!

Change the climate in Parliament.


Manley-minus: Cherry-picking the Manley Report

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I been seein’ a new hyphenated word a coupla times in the past coupla days: Manley-minus.

Manley-minus refers to Harper’s motion on Afghanistan and his response to the Manley Report. Dear Leader is cherry-picking Manley. He wants to adopt all the war stuff and leave out all the humanitarian aid stuff. He's also leaving out any action to deal with another of Manley's primary concerns: the lack of communication by the Harper government to the Canadian public.

But one opposition source characterized the wording of the motion as "Manley-minus" - meaning that it will call for an extension of the combat role, without mentioning some of the recommendations made by the Manley panel on humanitarian aid, diplomacy, and more open communications by the federal government.
(Source - Maclean's)

Many Canadians think we're there on a massive humanitarian mission and, militarily, we're only trying to protect aid and development programs and projects. The amount of money and manpower alloted to military effort versus the amount spent on humanitarian aid belies that assumption.

Bill Doskoch has the numbers at Here's what BillyBoy sez about Manley's opus:

  • The report calculates that Canada spent $6.1 billion on its military effort in the central Asian country between fiscal 2000-01 and 2006-07.

  • The total financial aid between 2001-02 and 2006-07 was $741 million.

  • The report said Canada's average annual spending is $100 million, although the total jumped to $250 million in 2006-07.

  • There are about 2,500 military personnel deployed in Afghanistan.

  • In comparison, there are 47 civilian government employees assigned to the country: at the embassy in Kabul, at Kandahar Airfield and in the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) office in Kandahar City.

  • Of the 335 PRT team members, 315 are military personnel.

Couple all that with the fact that about 90% of intended aid money gets siphoned off to graft, bribes and corruption and we’re delivering exponentially more in military effort than in aid effort.

I hope an entreaty by the Canadian Council of Churches has some effect. I’m not optimistic, though. Harper has set a course and he’s bound and determined to make war, not peace. When does he start referring to himself as a "war prime minister"?


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

1000's of Lives at Risk? Tell me another one, Gary.

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, another day, another confirmation of lies and exaggerations by the HarpoonTossers. Along with the gal I adore, Earth Mother Lizzie May, a few of us bloggers been sayin' the so-called isotope crisis weren't really a crisis, at all. Even if it were a crisis, it was entirely manufactured and avoidable.

Here's another piece of evidence to add to the stinkin' heap.

Doubt cast on assertion that thousands of lives at risk in Chalk River fiasco

OTTAWA - Doubt was cast Tuesday on the Harper government's assertion that thousands of lives could have been lost if it hadn't forced resumption of isotope production at the Chalk River nuclear reactor.

Dr. Karen Gulenchyn, a nuclear medicine expert who helped advise federal Health Minister Tony Clement during the isotope shortage last December, said it's "very difficult" to speculate on what might have happened to patients whose diagnostic tests were delayed due to the shortage.

"It's a very difficult question to answer," she told the Commons natural resources committee.

Pushed by committee members to elaborate, Gulenchyn finally added: "Could people have died? Yeah, they could have under certain circumstances."

Her cautious appraisal of the situation was in contrast to the bold assertions by Clement and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn. They have raised the spectre of massive loss of life to justify the government's decision last December to force the reopening of the reactor over the objections of Canada's nuclear safety regulator.

Clement has spoken of the "huge human health impacts" of allowing the reactor, which produces about half the world's supply of medical isotopes, to remain shut down.

And Lunn has justified the subsequent firing of Linda Keen from her post as president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission by arguing that she was "willing to put the lives of thousands of Canadians in jeopardy."

Isotopes are used primarily in diagnostic tests for cancer and heart disease.

If Gulenchyn was cautious, Dr. Thomas Perry from the University of British Columbia, was downright skeptical of the government's claims of a health care emergency.

Although not a nuclear medicine expert himself, Perry said he's spoken to many colleagues in his province who've told him the isotope crisis was "much ado about nothing." The former NDP provincial politician said he couldn't think of one diagnostic test that couldn't have been conducted in an alternate way without isotopes.

Gulenchyn said the group of experts who advised Clement during the crisis found that the impact of the Chalk River closure varied greatly across the country. British Columbia was the least affected while eastern Canada and small and remote communities, with the least access to alternative diagnostic equipment, were hardest hit.

Among patients awaiting diagnostic tests, she said the group found delay could result in serious harm for about 10 per cent and in delayed treatment and unnecessary pain for another 50 per cent. About 40 per cent of cases could be safely deferred.

Had the reactor not come back on line on Dec. 16, Gulenchyn said "we believe unmanageable shortages would have occurred within a week." She conceded that European reactors could likely have taken up the slack, had they been given enough advance notice to ramp up their operations, but that was not the case in December.
(Source - there's more and it's worth readin')

So, an adviser to Clement who is a nuclear medicine expert says, "European reactors could likely have taken up the slack, had they been given enough advance notice to ramp up their operations, but that was not the case in December." It was not the case in November, either. MDS Nordion was well aware that the supplies from Chalk River would be disrupted. They put out press releases in November to that effect.

MDS Nordion also claimed that hey were working with their European competitors to obtain alternate supplies. So far, we've seen or heard zero evidence to back up that assertion.

I gotta go an' take ol' Spot fer his mornin' exercise now. I'll post more on this later.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Isotope "Crisis" Profit Motivated: Canadian Medical Association Journal

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is blowing the lid off the December isotope "crisis." A new article in the association's Journal (CMAJ) describes how MDS Nordion and AECL duped Canadians and Parliament. They couldn't have done it alone, though. MDS had help. Big help. Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Quite a few bloggers have picked up on this story, including POGGE, The Galloping Beaver (TGB), Impolitical, Accidental Deliberations (Jurist) and Canadian Cynic. Like last week's revelation that the "crisis" was no crisis, at all, the CMAJ article is echoing and lending authority and credibility to what some Canadian bloggers have been saying for weeks.

There was no need for an isotope shortage. There was no need to restart NRU. There was no need for Harper to mislead Parliament and all Canadians about the cause of the shortage. There was no need for Harper to fire the nuclear regulator.

By way of patting myself on the back and telling my thousands an' thousands of readers how prescient ol' JimBobby was, I'm gonna quote myself. Here's what I said back on December 18th:
MDS is the profitable private company that distributes AECL's isotopes. On Nov 30, MDS issued a press release advising investors that the company was facing a supply problem and shortages may develop. Such reporting is required for publicly traded companies when a known issue may affect stock price.

Lives were put at risk. A full-blown crisis was manufactured and Harper, et al, saw no other option than to overrule CNSC and restart NRU. There were other options but they were apparently unknown to parliament.

If MDS had outsourced, no crisis would have developed. If MDS had outsourced, MDS's stock price would be negatively affected. Outsourcing from suppliers who are working overtime to meet demand is expensive. MDS's customers are mainly in North America. Flying isotopes from Holland or South Africa is expensive. Transportation costs would have would cut further into MDS's profits.

MDS played its cards skillfully. They created a shortage. They failed to notify all the affected parties. They failed to procure available alternative isotopes. They put thousands of lives at risk. They got Parliament to restore their source of profitable isotopes.
(Source: JimBobby, Dec. 18, 2007)
Here's some of what the CMAJ article says:
Although the health care implications of the Chalk River kerfuffle are serious, the many headlines declaring a world-wide isotope shortage may have been premature, if not errant. Countries like Canada, the United States and Japan were facing shortages that would have resulted in thousands of cancelled diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, but it was business as usual for European nuclear medicine practitioners.

Europe’s 2 large-scale isotope suppliers — the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group in the Netherlands and the Institut National des Radioéléments in Belgium — coordinate their production schedules to ensure 1 reactor is always running. They also have open communication with Nuclear Technology Products in South Africa. Some in the international nuclear medicine community claim that foreign producers could have buoyed the North American supply chain, had Canada been a better global partner.

“The 1 problem we have is that we never get information from the Canadians,” says Kevin Charlton, commercial manager for business development and sales with the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group.

Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine President Dr. Jean-Luc Urbain claims foreign isotope producers were not capable of picking up the slack. But others, like University of Texas public affairs professor Alan J. Kuperman, argue MDS Nordion has no interest in international contingency planning.

“They see themselves as the big dog. They are not going to share information with the small ones nipping at their heels.” “There is all sorts of surplus capacity,” says Kuperman. “Nordion and AECL [Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.] obviously knew there was an option of going to other suppliers … Instead, they went to the public and the Canadian government. That was misleading and, one could argue, socially irresponsible.
(Source: CMAJ [pdf], emphasis mine, JB)
Socially irresponsible. They could have coordinated efforts with alternative suppliers. They could have prevented the shortage from developing and they did not.

AECL and MDS Nordion, with the help of Prime Minister Harper, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn and Health Minister Tony Clement, pulled the wool over the eyes of the public and the eyes of 100% of Canadian MP's.

Why was the shortage manufactured? Profit, pure and simple.

As I said seven weeks ago, MDS's bottom line was at risk if they had to outsource isotope production. They played a dangerous game that put 1000's of medical tests on hold and could have cost lives.

MDS's point man was Stephen Harper. Harper's bluster, exaggerations, crisis mentality and partisan bullying was essential to the scam. Without Harper's representation in the House, MDS would have had to own up to its part in creating a life-threatening shortage for the sake of profit.

Harper did his job. The job he did was not on behalf of Canadians or even on behalf of all cancer patients expecting diagnostic tests. The job that Harper did was to ensure that MDS's cheap supply of medical isotopes was restored. Harper's job was to ensure MDS's profits did not suffer. The suffering of cancer patients? That takes a backseat to the profit-driven medical industry.

Underlying all this, is the Harper government's unabashed desire to sell off AECL. Other influential factors include the fact that the Maple 1 & Maple 2 reactors are "duds." MDS and AECL have managed to jointly get the Maples 8 years behind schedule and over $400 million over budget. That's not exactly shocking in the nuclear industry where massive cost overruns and multi-year delays are pretty much the norm. What is shocking, however, is the idea that these replacements may never go into service.

In 2007, officials at the federal agency predicted it would cost the public purse another $130 million to get the new reactors in service.

But senior government sources say the figure is closer to another $400 million, bringing the total cost to around $900 million -- an overrun of about 650% from the original contract price.

"There is no way those (reactors) make any economic sense for commercial isotope production," says one federal official close to the situation.

"Taxpayers would be subsidizing them forever."

Sources also warn that even investing $400 million more would not guarantee the reactors would actually work.

The biggest technical problem, in simple terms, causes the nuclear reaction to speed up as the reactor speeds up, creating a cycle of ever increasing power that may not have a happy ending.

Atomic Energy officials argue that the problem is only slight, and can be rectified.

But one federal official points out the world has already seen the phenomenon in action once, albeit on a far larger scale than anything that could occur at Chalk River.

"It was called Chernobyl."
(Source: Greg Weston, Toronto Sun, Feb 1, 2008)
Weston devotes most of his article to blaming 13 years of Liberal mismanagement for AECL's problems. I won't argue with that. Weston focuses on the problems with the Maples fails to mention anything about the manufactured and avoidable nature of the December shortage. He does reveal some interesting facts concerning MDS's profitability.

MDS would own the reactors, and Atomic Energy would get a share of the proceeds from the sale of medical isotopes across Canada and around the world.

But by 2005, costs had spiralled out of control, and still the Maple reactors were plagued with technical and other problems.

In 2006, after a lengthy legal fight with Atomic Energy, MDS Nordion did something that should have sounded alarm bells about the reactors.

The company simply wrote off the staggering $345 million it had invested in the Maple reactors, and handed Atomic Energy the keys -- and all future financial responsibility for the project.

In return, MDS got a guaranteed 40-year supply of isotopes.

MDS Nordion's share price went up on the announcement.
(Source: Greg Weston, Toronto Sun, Feb 1, 2008)

And as we're all finally learning, everything about the AECL/MDS relationship is about profit: share prices. Note that after a legal battle, AECL guaranteed a 40 year supply of isotopes. Just how are we (yes, we taxpayers own AECL) supposed to honour that legally binding agreement? Will we be running NRU when it's 90 years old?

Here's the question Canadians need to ask:

Were Harper, Lunn and Clement dupes? Or were they duplicitous?

I'm going for the latter.

Harper, Lunn, Clement and AECL/MDS conspired to trick the public and Parliament. For profit. Like the guy said in the CMAJ article, the engineered crisis was misleading and socially irresponsible. I'd call that the antithesis of public service. Harper et al scammed Parliament and they scammed all Canadians. They must be called to account.

Change the climate in Parliament.


UPDATE: MDS Nordion is paying attention to what the blogs are saying.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bribe for Good, Not Evil

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I floated this idea once or twice before but I think it's time to dredge it up again. Here are a few premises I'll start with:
  • Money talks.
  • Afghanistan is a corrupt society where has bribery flourished for centuries.
  • 50% of Afghans live on less than $1 a day
  • Canada spends $1.3 million dollars a day on the Afghan war.
  • We aren't making significant progress; we may be losing the war.
Okay, so here's my idea. Instead of throwing money away on American made war machinery and paying our troops to fight and capture Talibans only to have them bribe their way out of jail, we should bribe the entire Afghan population.

Drop money from airplanes and helicopters. Warn the Afghans that the money drops will cease if they don't put the kibosh on the Taliban. The Taliban pays its recruits $12 - $14 a day. The Afghan National Army pays $4 a day. Give the good guys enough money so they can pay better than the bad guys. If there are any good guys, that is.

Bribery is an entrenched way of life in Afghanistan. We need to accept that fact. Because we're so afraid of learning that our Afghan allies torture prisoners, we turn a blind eye to all detainee treatment. In doing so, we turn a blind eye to the fact that 60% -70% of Afghan prisoners are able to bribe their way out of jail -- sometimes in hours, sometimes in weeks; sometimes after they've been tortured, sometimes before being tortured.

Bribery has proven itself to be more powerful than NATO's military might. We should use bribery to our advantage. Admit that Afghanistan is run by a corrupt central government with corruption pervading every level of authority. Use that knowledge to shape the nature of the state.

Why send our kids to die when we could just bribe our way to success? I contend that it would be much cheaper and safer.

Currently, it costs NATO something like $1200 for every Taliban killed or captured. Since the captured ones are back out on the battlefield shortly after their capture, we're paying double or even triple when we are forced to fight the very same men again and again.

Never mind sending troops. Never mind trying to build schools. (Since 2001, 624 schools built. In 2007, 590 schools destroyed.) Never mind trying to clean up the government. Never mind trying to eradicate the opium crop.

Just bribe the entire population.

If they will sign up for frontline Taliban fighting at $14 a day, imagine the loyalty we could buy with a $6/hour minimum wage.

Change the climate in Parliament.


Hillier, Harper, MacKay and Bernier -- Wimps Compared to the British

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, a few days ago, General Hillier praised Kandahar's governor as doing "a phenomenal job" and brushed aside allegations that Governor Khalid was personally involved in the mistreatment of prisoners. Hillier says that sort of thing is none of our business; Afghanistan is a sovereign state and the governor was appointed legally by the "democratically elected" President Karzai.

Next door to Kandahar is Helmand Province. As was the case in Kandahar, the governor of Helmand was personally appointed by Karzai. In 2006, however, the British got fed up with the corruption and forced the removal of Helmand Governor Sher Muhammad Akhunzada. Karzai was not amused but he did agree and the British were able to exercise control over the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Hillier, Harper, MacKay and Bernier are not even willing to launch an investigation into serious accusations of human rights violations. Wimps.
“There was one part of the country where we suffered after the arrival of the British forces,” Mr Karzai told a group of journalists at the Davos Economic Forum. “Before that we were fully in charge of Helmand. When our governor was there, we were fully in charge. They came and said, ‘Your governor is no good’. I said ‘All right, do we have a replacement for this governor; do you have enough forces?’. Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them. And when they came in, the Taleban came.”

Asked if he was blaming British failure for the return of the Taleban, he added: “I just described the situation of mistakes we made. The mistake was that we removed a local arrangement without having a replacement. We removed the police force. That was not good. The security forces were not in sufficient numbers or information about the province. That is why the Taleban came in. It took us a year and a half to take back Musa Qala. This was not failure but a mistake.”

Britain had no immediate comment to the criticism. But senior military commanders and diplomats in Afghanistan have bemoaned privately the lack of co-operation with the Karzai administration and its controversial appointments of key provincial posts to the police and local government in Helmand. So far they have refrained from public criticism of President Karzai, who remains the West’s only credible figurehead.
The Afghan President lambasted Britain for encouraging him to remove Sher Muhammad Akhunzada as Helmand governor in 2006, a move which he claimed undermined the security situation. Mr Akhunzada was a fierce fighter against the Soviet occupation and is seen as staunchly anti-Taleban.

However, he was also accused of being a prominent figure in the drug trade and embroiled in numerous personal vendettas. He was removed after British officials told President Karzai that their troops would struggle to bring peace to Helmand if the governor remained in power, he has retained a strong background influence and is angling to be reinstated.

Mr Akhunzada told The Times this week: “I’m not against the British in Helmand but they should listen to President Karzai on matters of structuring local government.”

Now a senator, he and Mr Karzai are old friends, their relationship cemented during the years of fighting in the mujahideen against the Soviet occupation. The British, however, regard him as such a destabilising influence that Gordon Brown is reported to have tried to exact a promise from Mr Karzai to keep the former governor on the sidelines.

The warlord was too crooked to be a governor so Karzai appointed him to the Afghan Senate. That's something Canadian Prime Ministers can relate to.

"A figurehead, Hamid Karzai, was put in power. Real power, however, was held by the Communist-dominated Northern Alliance. Once the Northern Alliance took Kabul, the KhAD, rechristened NDS, was quickly re-established. The old Communist torturers and war criminals went back into business."
(Eric Margolis. Source - Originally published May 6, 2006 in the Toronto Sun)

Yup. That's the guy we're taking orders from. That's the guy who our troops are dying to keep in power.
Human Rights Watch wants Karzai's Vice President Karim Khalili and army chief of staff Abdul Rashid Dostum to face trial for war crimes, and has listed Karzai's senior security adviser Mohammed Qasim Fahim, his Energy Minister Ismail Khan, and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani as among the "worst perpetrators" of war crimes / human rights abuses.
And that ain't all...

"The US government and Mr. Karzai mostly rely on Northern Alliance criminal leaders who are as brutal and misogynist as the Taliban."
(Source: RAWA, an independent organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice)


"Instead of relying on those people who may have brought the criminal warlords to trial, Karzai appoints these criminals to higher posts. For instance, this year he appointed 13 former commanders with links to drugs smuggling, organized crime and illegal militias to senior positions in the police force."

"Izzatullah Wasifi, the government of Afghanistan's anti-corruption chief had a criminal record in the US and was arrested at Caesars Palace on July 15, 1987, for selling 650 grams (23 ounces) of heroin. Prosecutors said the drugs were worth $2 million on the street. Wasifi served three years and eight months in prison."
(Source: Associated Press, Mar.8, 2007)


"The list of those suspected of involvement in the drug trade reaches high into Karzai's government.

Nyamat [a former intelligence agent] and an Afghan trafficker singled out Gen. Mohammed Daoud, a former warlord who is Afghanistan's deputy interior minister in charge of the anti-drug effort.

The Kunduz trafficker said he wasn't worried. He counts Daoud as one of his connections. Late in the summer of 2003, he said, Daoud helped him retrieve heroin worth $200,000 that had been seized at the Salang Tunnel."
(Source: Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2005)

It's a dang good thing there's so much sand in them there Afghan deserts. Western politicians and military commanders have been able to make good use of that sand for burying their own heads.

Not in my name!

Change the climate in Parliament.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Desperate Afghanis Selling Children for Food Money

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, the more news I get from Afghanistan, the worse it looks. I was over to the Mound of Sound's blog this morning where he's got a post on the selling of Afghani children by desperate parents.
Our good friend and faithful ally in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, must be about the most useless president of any country on earth. He can't handle the insurgency that's spreading throughout his country. He can't handle the flourishing opium trade that has left his country strapped to a runaway narco-economy. He can't handle the rampant corruption in his police and security services. He can't prevent torture in his prisons. He can't bring his country's warlords to heel.

He has been able to safeguard his own job and install his friends in high places. He has managed to thwart the UN's efforts to appoint a super-envoy to organize reconstruction and aid efforts lest that somehow diminish Karzai's own standing.

But surely he has time to protect his country's children.
(Read the rest of it)
A bit of news searching turned up this disturbing report.

Parents who had sold their young daughters said they did so because of extreme poverty and their inability to feed them
KABUL, 3 February 2008 (IRIN) - The recent sale of three Afghan girls in separate incidents by parents blaming extreme poverty for their actions has sparked concern about the safety of poor children in Afghanistan and the lack of adequate legal mechanisms to effectively curb such trade.

Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has expressed alarm over the sale of the children, who came from Herat, Kunduz and Takhar provinces.

“We are shocked over these cases,” Hangama Anwary, AIHRC’s commissioner on the rights of children, told IRIN in Kabul. “They pose a serious warning about a possible catastrophe which may affect poor Afghan children.”

In early January, a displaced family in Shaydayee camp in Herat Province, in western Afghanistan, reportedly sold one of their twin four-month-old daughters for 2,000 Afghanis (US$40) due to their inability to feed both babies.

On 27 January, the parents of a nine-month-old girl in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province sold their daughter for US$20, the human rights commission confirmed. In addition to being very poor, both parents suffered from walking disabilities.

In neighbouring Takhar Province, another nine-month-old girl was sold for US$240, local Afghan news agency Pajhwok reported on 28 January quoting the provincial governor.

In all three cases only female children were offered for sale.

Philanthropic assistance

As a result of philanthropic financial contributions and assistance by government officials and local people, all three children have been safely returned to their parents, provincial officials say.

The parents of all the children have received financial assistance and the disabled parents have since been accommodated in a government-run home at the behest of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Legal or illegal?

All the parents denied any wrongdoing but called attention to their inability to feed their children due to extreme poverty.

Those that paid for the children also felt they had done no wrong as they intended to protect the children from hunger and cold.

While over 50 percent of Afghanistan’s 26.6 million people are estimated to be bellow 18 years of age, the country still does not have specific laws related to child abuse and the sale and trafficking of children.

“We are currently working to draft a law which will address various issues related to child abuse,” Anwary of AIHRC said.

However, all forms of child exploitation are prohibited by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Afghanistan is a signatory.

Photo: Abdullah Shaheen/IRIN
Afghanistan's human rights commission is concerned that in the absence of proper legal mechanisms more cases of child sales may occur

According to Article 35 of the convention, the state must make every effort to prevent any form of “abduction of children or sale of or traffic in children”.

The abuse and sale of children is also prohibited by Islamic Sharia law, which is the major source of nearly all laws and regulations in Afghanistan.

Stop further selling

AIHRC is concerned that the publicity derived from the recent cases of girls being sold may provoke other vulnerable parents to sell their children, particularly girls, in a bid to gain sympathy and financial assistance.

“We want the government to tackle the sale and abuse of children by their parents in a systematic, transparent and legal way, and not in an individual sympathetic manner,” said Anwary, adding that the living conditions of poor families must be improved to end the vulnerability of their children.

Plagued by decades of conflict, Afghanistan is the fifth least developed country in the world with over half of its population living below the poverty line on less than US$1 a day, according to the country’s 2007 national human development report.

Since the beginning of the Afghan mission, Canada has been spending $1.3 million dollars a day. By the time we're supposed to be through Feb 2009), we'll have spent nearly $5 Billion. That's a huge investment in Afghanistan by Canadians. What are we getting for our money? What will we have to show for our $5 billion a year from now?

We say we're there for humanitarian reasons. Yet, more than half the population lives on less than $365 per YEAR. People are so desperate that they are selling their children. They see this as a way not only to feed themselves but to ensure the sold children are fed and cared for. But are they? How does anyone know what becomes of those (mostly) little girls?

If we are really there to help, we should be organizing massive food distribution and relief efforts to stem the starvation and desperation. We are told that only 10% of the aid money we earmark for humanitarian purposes and send to Afghanistan is actually getting to the intended recipients. Corruption, graft and mismanagement gobble up 90% of our aid dollars.

A country is judged on how well it looks after its weakest citizens. Poverty stricken parents and bartered children must be the weakest. We are in Afghanistan to help create a stable society; a democracy which operates under the rule of law. Canadians were told were going on a humanitarian mission. We knew there'd be some fighting but we expected we'd at least not be presiding over a famine.

This is a colossal collective failure. NATO, the UN, the US, Canada and Karzai's warlords must share the blame.

Not in my name!

Change the climate in Parliament.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Afghan Detainees Routinely Bribe Their Way Out

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, Newsweek magazine has a bigass story about Afghan detainees. It don't say much about torture. Newsweek's a Merkan magazine, after all, and Merkans are fairly torture-tolerant. Merkans ain't too corruption-tolerant, though. Especially, when that corruption means there's more Talibans takin' shots at NATO.

The Newsweek story's all about how most Afghani detainees bribe their way out of jail.

The whole dang system's rotten. They got Talibans they've captured three times; and three times, the Talibans bribed their way outta jail. After these Talibans bribe their way outta jail, they go back to fightin' NATO. Killin' Canadians.

Corrupt Afghan cops, judges and jailers are sabotaging the war effort in Afghanistan. While no official statistics are publicly available, hundreds of captured militants every year appear to be buying their way out of official custody. NDS spokesman Saeed Ansari denies that the directorate has ever taken payment for releasing prisoners. Nevertheless, sources in the U.S. and Afghan governments and inside the Taliban itself have told NEWSWEEK that in Afghanistan's detention system, freedom is always up for sale. "It's very true," says a U.S. counterterrorism official, declining to be named on such a sensitive issue. "It happens a lot, on a regular basis." The official rattles off the noms de guerre of fighters whose backdoor releases have caught the attention of U.S. authorities: " 'Red Eye' … 'Uncle' … 'Mullah Crazy' ... It's a continuing thing."

And it's everywhere. In southern Afghanistan, Western residents have remarked for years on the relative scarcity of Taliban detainees in local police holding cells, despite the hundreds of insurgents who are arrested there every year. In Ghazni province, Bari boasts that 60 to 70 percent of Taliban fighters detained by the local police are turned loose as soon as payoffs can take place. A senior government official in an- other eastern Afghan province, speaking anonymously because the topic is so sensitive, says Kabul's jails don't seem much better at keeping dangerous men locked up. His forces have captured "a significant number" of Taliban and sent them with "strong evidence" to Kabul. He expected them to be in jail a long time, he says, but thanks to crooked cops and the corrupt judicial apparatus, many detainees have already returned to the insurgents' ranks in his province. "It's a serious issue," he says, adding that the whole system urgently needs a cleanup.

Bari and other Taliban sources say their group has a network of agents across eastern and southern Afghanistan whose job it is to buy freedom for captured insurgents. The size of the bribe—from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000—depends on various factors: how important the detainee is, what his mission was and what type of weapons he was carrying. The price and the complications rise exponentially with every transfer of a detainee up the official chain of command. If struck by a twinge of conscience, notoriously underpaid local members of the Afghan National Police can tell themselves that if they don't accept a payoff, someone higher on the ladder will. Too often, they're right.

Yeow!! Canajuns have been concerned about handin' over POW's to the Afghans. We're worried about Afghani's torturin' detainees and we need to worry about that. But we also need to worry about the Afghani's takin' bribes and lettin' these guys go so's they can kill more Canajuns.

Yesterday, I wrote about how the AIHRC is pushin' to get Canada to resume detainee transfers. They said it was because the locals suspect the Canajuns of torturin' their people. After readin' the Newsweek story, I ain't so sure about that. I wonder how much corruption exists within the AIHRC. Are they callin' for a resumption so's the bribery and payoffs can resume?

Guys like Hillier and Harper and MacKay say that Afghan prisoners are the sole responsibility of the Afghans and we shouldn't be meddling in their sovereign right to treat prisoners as they historically have. We hand over suspected Talibans and the Afghan authorities use them as a revenue source and release them as soon as the sufficient bribes are proffered. Then, General Hillier, they come back and kill your soldiers. Then, Prime Minister Harper, the opium crop you protect provides the money for the bribes. Then, Defence Minister MacKay, the narco-sate you support slips even further into corruption and lawlessness.

We must monitor detainees handed over to Afghan authorities. We cannot trust these so-called allies. We cannot trust them to treat prisoners humanely. We cannot trust them to rebuff bribery and keep these enemy fighters in prison.

One of the biggest reasons we can't trust them is that they are dirt poor and desperate. They are easily bribed. Top Taliban commanders are released for as little as $1100. The cops and army are poor because the central government can't be trusted to pay the cops and army.

We say we're in Afghanistan to rebuild their nation, to help them create a democratic society that respects human rights. Yet, we're turning a blind eye to corruption that pervades every level of the government. We're turning a blind eye to torture. We're turning a blind eye to bribery -- even when that bribery is freeing Talibans to kill Canadians. We're turning a blind eye to the opium economy of the narco-state we've helped create. We're turning a blind eye to the strict enforcement of Sharia law where death sentences are handed down for "humiliating Islam."

We must open our eyes to the reality of the Afghan mission.

Not in my name!

Change the climate in Parliament.


Earth to Hillier: Torture is Everyone's Business

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, I'm chewin' nails and fartin' tacks. I seen Field Marshall Hillier on the TV last night sayin' it's none of Canada's business if the Governor of Kandahar is accused of torturing detainees.

Might I remind General Hillier that Canada is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions? Should anyone have to remind Canada's top soldier that we are treaty-bound to pay attention to allegations of abuse?

Canada is in Afghanistan to help create a democratic state that operates under the rule of law. That's the mission. That's why we're there.

We are not there to act as apologists for torturers. We are not there to participate in an illegal and immoral system. We are not there to gloss over evidence of torture. We are not there to perpetuate an inhumane, cruel, despicable regime. We are not there to protect opium dealers like President Karzai's brother Ahmed. We are not there to prop up warlord governors who were personally appointed by Karzai and who personally engage in illegal acts of barbarism. We are not there to uphold Sharia Law. We are not there to support the death penalty for journalists who dare to read about womens' rights. We are not there to trample Canadian values and to kowtow to warlords and war criminals.

If we are there and dying for this regime, we need to be sure the regime is worth dying for. It isn't. With every new revelation of secrets and lies by the Harper government, Canadians are realizing just how wrong our involvement is and how much we've been complicit in criminality. It is our business. It is the business of every human being.

Today's headline says the Governor Khalid is denying allegations of torture. Big surprise. Nearly every convicted criminal in every prison in the world is denying their guilt. Why would a torturing governor admit that they were a war criminal? Did anyone expect Khalid to simply 'fess up?

Big questions of the day:
  • Canadian diplomats informed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of the allegations against Khalid back in Apil. An investigation was to ensue. Was there an investigation?

  • If there was an investigation, what were the findings?

  • Why was Canada not informed of the findings of the ICRC investigation?

  • Why, with no results of a promised investigation, does Canada continue to work closely with Khalid?

  • Why did Peter MacKay keep these allegations secret from the Canadian people?

  • Who sets policy in Afghanistan, Parliament or General Hillier?

  • When do Canadians say, "Enough is enough. Not in my name!!"
Change the climate in Parliament.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Earth to MacKay: The Fox is Guarding the Henhouse

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, it just keeps gettin' worser an' worser. Now, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission(AIHRC) sez we oughta start handin' detainees over to the Afghani authorities again. It ain't that they've figgered out how to stop the torturin'. Hell, even the Governor of Kandahar has been accused of personally torturing prisoners. Those accusations were made by Canada in a report to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

But now, the outfit we've got monitoring detainee conditions and which allowed the torture to go on under its nose is saying we should resume transfers. The optics, they say, are not good. The locals equate Canada with America and America with Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The locals think we're keepin' the prisoners so we can torture them.

The AIHRC thinks we should accept that framing and hand over the detainees to the human-rights-abiding Afghanis. I'm sure Governor Khalid agrees and since Khalid and Pete MacKay are on good speaking terms, I'm sure Pete will give the "All clear" soon.

Here's a picture of Potato Pete with the Governor. Peter MacKay complained to this Governor on November 6 about detainee torture. MacKay knew since April that there were serious and credible allegations of torture against the governor himself. Yet, in November when MacKay wants to complain about detainee treatment, he takes his complaint to the one person who can be counted upon to ignore it completely.
So, what you figger they're sayin'?

MacKay: Let me get this straight, Governor. You take hold of their pinky and twist it until it breaks? Like this?

Khalid: Yes, Infidel Lackey, you're gettin' it. Another good interrogation method is to make them interlock their fingers, like this, and then just use the sledge hammer. You can break 7 or 8 fingers at a time.

MacKay: Wow! I bet even Jack Bauer doesn't know that one. That pansyass treehuggin' Governator Schwartzenegger's got nothing on you, Governor Asadullah, old buddy old pal.

Man in red jacket: Okay, so you get them folding their hands... and then... I gotta get this written down. Minister MacKay will want notes on this when we get back to Ottawa.


Here's a little advice from a country boy to ol' Pete MacKay. PeteFeller, when you got problems in the henhouse, don't call in the fox to fix things up.

If this AIHRC was any sorta legit outfit, they'd inspect the Canadian detention centre and inspect the Governor's secret torture chambers and then report to the public. Instead, they lend credence to the idea that Canadians are torturing Afghani's at Kandahar Air Field. Where'd we find these guys, again?


Wall Street Journal Links to JimBobby Sez

Whooee! I was lookin' at my Sitemeter stats just now and I see that I got a link from the Wall Street Journal. A feller by the name of Khaled Hosseini wrote a WSJ article on the Afghani journalist who's been sentenced to death for humiliating Islam. Thankee kindly fer the link up, Khaled.

I reckon I'll be gettin' a few more Merkan visitors than usual. Welcome to my little piece o' the Canajun boogeysphere, Merkan readers. While yer here in Canada, why not drop over to Pergressive Boogers and see what the left side's spoutin' off on today.

I need to go out now an' shovel some dang snow but I can't seem to get my hat to fit my big head.


Another Day, Another Scandal: Kandahar Governor Personally Tortures

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, when do we stand up and say:

"Not in my name!"?

The Globe & Mail is reporting that way back in April 2007, Canada had strong indications that the Governor of Kandahar Province was personally involved in the torture and mistreatment of detainees.

Ottawa kept abuse charges against ally secret

Kandahar governor accused of beating and using electric shocks on detainees in secret Afghan prisons

From Friday's Globe and Mail

The Harper government knew, but tried to keep secret since last spring, allegations that the governor of Kandahar was personally involved in torture and abuse of detainees.

The allegations against Governor Asadullah Khalid, appointed directly by President Hamid Karzai and a key political partner to Canada's nation-building efforts in southern Afghanistan, were regarded as sufficiently credible that senior officials in Ottawa were immediately informed and Canadian diplomats secretly reported them to the International Red Cross and Afghanistan's main human-rights group.

Government documents detailing the accusations were heavily censored by the government which, claiming national security, blacked out the references to “the governor.” But multiple sources, both inside and outside the government, confirm that the words “the governor” have been censored as have whole passages referring to secret cells allegedly run by Mr. Khalid outside the official prison system.

Rumours have long linked Mr. Khalid to secret prisons. That he had close ties with U.S. intelligence agents and special forces had been known since Canadian troops arrived in southern Afghanistan in early 2006. But Ottawa didn't confront an accusation of the governor's direct involvement in the interrogation and torture of prisoners until it sent diplomats to inspect the main secret police prison in Kandahar on April 25, 2007.

Yesterday, I exposed how Peter MacKay lied to Parliament after the November 6 change in detainees policy. Today, we find out that MacKay and Harper were aware of serious, credible allegations of torture. This isn't the Abu Ghraib style torture that can be blamed on a few rogue guards. This is torture at the hands of the governor who was personally appointed by Hamid Karzai. The only way this could get much worse is if we find out Karzai himself has been attaching the electrodes and wielding the rubber hoses.

Can MacKay and Harper claim ignorance? No. They made a report to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informing the ICRC of the allegations.

Despite sharing the allegations with the Afghan government and outside agencies, Ottawa kept them from a Canadian Federal Court judge hearing a case brought by Canadian rights groups. It claimed the national security exemption.

Canada began follow-up inspections of detainees it transferred to Afghan custody after The Globe and Mail published a series of stories detailing accounts of torture and how internal documents showed that the government was aware abuse was rife in Afghan prisons.

Another diplomatic cable, dated April 26, the day after that first inspection uncovered the direct allegation, says “Governor Asadullah Khalid, in separate discussions, has noted his surprise and unhappiness at The Globe and Mail.”

It remains unclear whether the allegation of torture against Mr. Khalid has ever been investigated, as is required under the new detainee-transfer agreement.

Prior to the allegations, when Prime Minister Harper visited Kandahar, he was greeted by and met with Governor Khalid. That's normal protocol. After the allegations were made, Harper visited Kandahar again but in a break from protocol, he did not meet or greet the governor. Perhaps he didn't want any photos of himself with a known torturer.

Yet, whenever the subject of detainees treatment was brought up in Parliament, Harper, O'Connor, MacKay, Bernier and the rest of the ConMen all tried to say such allegations were fabricated by Taliban sympathizers and "real Canadians" would not make such suggestions. At the same time, our government was advising ICRC that they had received credible reports of the governor's personal involvement in physical torture.

More secrets and lies. More reasons why we should quit Afghanistan immediately. More evidence of Canadian complicity in war crimes. More "support-the-troops-you-Taliban-lover" taunts from a government that exposes its own troops to prosecution for war crimes. More dehumanization. More degradation.

More shame.

Change the climate in Parliament.