Friday, July 30, 2010

Whistleblowers: The real threat?

Peter Worthington sniffs in disdain at Wikileaks and the information they've revealed:
WikiLeaks also “reveals” (my quotations are meant to imply irony) that Taliban have infiltrated Pakistan’s Intelligence Service and have alarming support in that country.
So what else is new? That’s been written about and commented on so often you’d think it hardly worth mentioning. Sure, it’s important, and unless the Pakistan government regains full control of its country, the war against the Taliban cannot be won. And the Taliban protect al-Qaida.
So what damage has been done by WikiLeaks exposes?
The real danger lies in individuals who squeal and steal stuff in order to leak it. They are a menace who violate their oaths and/or betray trust while often posing as people motivated by a concern for truth and principles — all of which camouflages their treachery.
So Peter Worthington is a 'journalist' (my quotations are meant to imply utter contempt) who thinks the real threat isn't a decade's worth of deadly morass in a country that has never been successfully conquered or controlled by outside powers going back to the time of Alexander the Great, that beat the British Empire at the height of its powers, sunk the Soviet Union and is actually known in history books as the 'graveyard of armies'. No the real threat is whistle blowers revealing the hard evidence of a failed and corrupt intervention causing thousands of deaths per year.

This is a so-called 'journalist' condemning the release of raw data that contradicts the rosy pronouncements of governments and military figures. Sure we already knew they were shining us on - despite the obsequious stenography of 'journalists' like Worthington - now, thanks to Wikileaks we have proof.

I'm sure Worthington will fit in well with the new 'Fox North' Sun regime.

Quote of the Day

"Having a journalist around is like having a pet bear. Most of the time it's really cool, but once in a while it'll bite your hand off." - Michael Hastings, the Rolling Stone writer whose reporting compelled the White House to fire Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Afghanistan gets its 'Pentagon Papers'

History doesn't repeat itself - at best it sometimes rhymes-Mark Twain
Bradley Manning is going to prison. Probably for years, but like Daniel Ellsberg, he will do so knowing he personally contributed to the truth coming out and maybe even a war shortened.

It is important not to undersell how much of a bombshell the massive data dump that Wikileaks clearly spent the last month or so preparing for is. Several media outlets were given early access to the info on condition they waited a pre-arranged period of time and the outlets and Wikileaks were all releasing everything at once. The kind of thing a paranoid person like Julian Assange who doesn't trust anyone would arrange.

If nothing else, any question of whether Wikileaks are media players is now resolved. These media outlets accepted the information and the conditions demanded to release this devastating portrait of a war gone wrong. The administration's claim that they were afraid Wikileaks would release diplomatic cables and embarrass allies is now revealed as a sign that they were thinking too small.

The coalition has actively suppressed the information that the Taliban were using heat-seeking missiles - possibly because it's well know that this is the weapon that allowed the Mujaheddin to drive the Soviets out of the country. That secret is now blown. Optimistic Pentagon PR and a compliant press has kept just how bad the war in Afghanistan is and how its being getting worse every year. That badly kept secret is also now blown. Spectacularly

Can we expect some more historical rhyming in the coming years? Maybe a final airlift scene from the American compound in Kabul à la the fall of Saigon?

UPDATE: The shorter response from the White House:
'The leaked information is putting our troops in danger, but it is also too old to be relevant to the current situation in Afghanistan.'
This is the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

UPDATE 2: A week later and the Washington Post makes the Ellsberg comparison.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Love Henry

A stunningly rendered tale of revenge and a woman scorned. Ladies and gentlemen,
Judy Henske

They can turn out the lights at the Sun chain...

...the last world class writer has left the building.

Veteran Sun op-ed columnist Eric Margolis is another casualty of Sun Media's shift to the far right, with little regard for longevity or popularity.

"I wrote for the Sun chain for 27 years because it allowed me total freedom of expression even when the editors disagreed with my opinions - something very rare in the media," Margolis told Toronto Sun Family in an e-mail today.

"This policy has changed. My views are displeasing to Ottawa," he says. "Accordingly, the Sun and I are parting company."
Eric Margolis was, for many years, the only reason to read Sun chain international coverage. Experienced, knowledgeable with a unique perspective that allows him to cut through a lot of the blather and propaganda other journalists treat like hard news. I will continue to follow him at his site or at Huffington Post, I encourage you to check him out if you haven't before.

Here in Calgary there had been a very noticeable shift to the center at the local Sun in recent years, editorials condemning the death penalty, much more rational columnists among a dwindling pack of reactionary haters, even a few dramatic evictions of far right writers engaging in unethical manipulation or race baiting.

I haven't looked at the Calgary Sun in a while, but I suspect the glasnost spring is probably joining the rest of the chain back in a long cold reactionary winter.

Hat tip to BigCityLib

UPDATE: The exit interview (audio), plus here's more on the recently exposed Netanyahu remarks about how easy the US is to push around the antiwar radio show concentrates the first half of the program on.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Punished for impersonating a human

An Arab worker in Israel convicted for telling a girlfriend he was actually Jewish.
In tune with the public, Kashur's judges assumed, rightly, that the woman would not have gotten into bed with Dudu were it not for the identity he invented. She also might not have gotten into bed with him if he had told her in vain that he was available, that he was younger than he really is or even that he is madly in love with her. But people are not prosecuted for that, certainly not on rape charges.

Now the respected judges have to be asked: If the man was really Dudu posing as Sabbar, a Jew pretending to be an Arab so he could sleep with an Arab woman, would he then be convicted of rape? And do the eminent judges understand the social and racist meaning of their florid verdict? Don't they realize that their verdict has the uncomfortable smell of racial purity, of "don't touch our daughters"? That it expresses the yearning of the extensive segments of society that would like to ban sexual relations between Arabs and Jews?

It was no coincidence that this verdict attracted the attention of foreign correspondents in Israel, temporary visitors who see every blemish. Yes, in German or Afrikaans this disgraceful verdict would have sounded much worse.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Myth of Pragmatism

Knowing how deeply unpopular the ideological right wing's beliefs are with an unshakable majority of Canadians, the government of Stephen Harper has devoted considerable effort to trying to soft-peddle and obscure them.

'Pay no attention to the mean-spirited, racially insensitive, woman hating religious fanatic behind the curtain.' is the message of Harper's government. Forget about the Conservative Party's long, well documented tradition of attacking women's reproductive rights, making hateful remarks about the poor and the non-white and the non-Christian, gloating over doing nothing about the environment and attacking civil society. Ignore the far right socially conservative attitudes of the base, held in abeyance only by the desire to win a majority and really stick it to the cultural groups they cannot hide their contempt for.

What they really want to be seen as, is sober small 'c' conservative managers, but the weird paranoid ideology keeps seeping out like pus from a wound.

Hence the census, and the decision they thought they'd get away with. Catering to the paranoid, 'fluoride is a communist plot to violate our precious bodily fluids' whackos over the mandatory long form census, an invaluable tool for government, industry and civil society.

As I've suggested here before, underneath the paranoid looniness is the cold-blooded calculation that accurately counting Canadians can only be a bad thing for a Conservative government wedded to a strategy of deliberate neglect for Canadians most in need and a hold on government so tenuous that anything that could cause electoral boundaries to shift is an unambiguous threat to their power.

They've begun the traditional final stage of scandals over their real agenda: lashing out viciously at those who disagree with them. StatsCan head Munir Sheikh felt he had no choice but to to resign and respond publicly to Industry Minister Tony Clement's false claim that StatsCan had signed off on the vandalism of the census process:
“I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion ... the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census,” Mr. Sheikh wrote.

“It can not,” he said.
The Conservative response was as predictably sleazy and vindictive as we've come to expect from these vicious clowns:

“Our approach is about finding a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians,” the Tory “info-alert” said.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Sheikh did not share these objectives.”
'And when did you stop beating your wife?'

These extreme yahoos are going to continue their sub rosa attack on civil society at any and every opportunity until the day they convince or hornswaggle enough Canadians into giving them a majority when they can do this stuff openly and to the extremes that are their real goal.

The public resignation letter that the government is now censoring reprinted here in full, hat tip to Challenging the Commonplace:
Media advisory: 2011 Census

July 21, 2010

OTTAWA — There has been considerable discussion in the media regarding the 2011 Census of Population. There has also been commentary on the advice that Statistics Canada and I gave the government on this subject.

I cannot reveal and comment on this advice because this information is protected under the law. However, the government can make this information public if it so wishes.

I have always honoured my oath and responsibilities as a public servant as well as those specific to the Statistics Act.

I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

It can not.

Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister.

I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity of serving him as the Chief Statistician of Canada, heading an agency that is a symbol of pride for our country.

To you, the men and women of Statistics Canada – thank you for giving me your full support and your dedication in serving Canadians. Without your contribution, day in and day out, in producing data of the highest quality, Canada would not have this institution that is our pride.

I also want to thank Canadians. We do remember, every single day, that it is because of you providing us with your information, we can function as a statistical agency. I am attaching an earlier message that I sent to Canadians in this regard.

In closing, I wish the best to my successor. I promise not to comment on how he/she should do the job. I do sincerely hope that my successor’s professionalism will help run this great organization while defending its reputation.

Munir A. Sheikh

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Wise up, you douchebag"

MONTREAL - Cheech and Chong have got some pretty blunt advice for Prime Minister Stephen Harper when it comes to Canada's marijuana's laws.

"Wise up, you douchebag," Cheech Marin says with some glee when asked what he'd tell the prime minister.

Chong, who hails from Edmonton, nods in agreement.

The team of tokers is miffed that Canadian authorities, after nearly decriminalizing pot a few years ago, have made a 180-degree policy shift which culminated in a rash of recent marijuana arrests.

"I would tell Stephen Harper to let go of George Bush's butt," Chong chimes in. "Your head's too far up there. Get your head out of his butt. He's gone. George is gone. He's history, Stephen.

"In fact, turn it over to other people who care about more important things."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office was not immediately available to comment.

Sunday Linkblast - July 18

  • Utterly inflexible
    It doesn't matter how many oppose it, how many experts say it's a huge mistake, the census decision won't change.

  • Israel abandons the rule of law
    The Israeli government routinely ignores court decisions it doesn't like. Where Harper learned it from?

  • The Aggressive Iran myth
    A spirited debate at Andrew Sullivan's place while he's on vacation lays down some perspective on the scary Iranian boogieman.

  • Jonathan Kay on the denialists
    Conservative columnist calls on Canadian conservatives to abandon kook stance. Analogous to Buckley VS the Birchers?

  • The Religious Right VS Birth Control
    "Given the choice between reducing abortion rates and controlling female sexuality, they will always choose the latter. Thus the idea that contraception can be a means of achieving a ceasefire in the culture wars has always been a fantasy. Liberals and conservatives aren’t just divided by abortion but by broader questions of female equality and sexual freedom."

  • The Puzzling Collapse of Earth's upper Atmosphere
    The thermosphere that protects us from solar radiation has collapsed to the lowest level since we started recording it and a new cycle of increased solar activity is starting.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Follow the Money

A little more than a week ago I wondered, with a certain amount of anticipatory dread, how many horses would be mowed down this year at the Stampede. It was never a matter of if, just how many.

Six so far. Mysterious heart attacks, injuries, and one so maddened and stressed that it shattered its own spine with it's convulsions after bucking its rider off.

Terrifyingly, this doesn't even come close to being a really bad year for the Calgary Stampede. In 2005 nine horses leaped off a bridge to their deaths and the peak in recent years was 1986 when twelve animals died.

In an article that otherwise is an exemplar of the 'circle the wagons in support of your subject' school of journalism they usually reserve for the oil patch, the Calgary Herald draws a connection to the Stampede's death toll, unusually high even by the gory standards of professional rodeos, and the prize money pressure to take dangerous risks.

However, some involved in the sport are questioning whether the Stampede's big cash prizes play a role in the injuries and deaths of animals at the competition in Calgary.

Although it's hard to pinpoint why there have been more animal deaths in Calgary, while other rodeo and chuckwagon competitions across the province have been relatively casualty free, one stakeholder suggests competitors feel pressure to succeed with $2 million in prizes up for grabs.

"The guys run hard at every race, but the drivers are really keyed up for Calgary," said Sandy Stafford, chairman of the Guy Weadick Memorial Rodeo in High River.

The Ideology of Death

Conservatism is an ideology of death. It was conservative laissez-faire free market ideology - that maximizing profit comes first - that led to:
  • the corrupt relationship between the oil companies and the Interior Department staff that was supposedly regulating them
  • minimizing cost by not drilling relief wells
  • the principle that oil companies could be responsible their own risk assessments on drilling
  • maximizing profit by outsourcing risk assessment that told them what they wanted to hear: zero risk!
  • maximizing profit by minimizing cost of materials
  • maximizing profit by failing to pay cleanup crews and businesses for their losses
  • focusing only on profit by failing to test the cleanup methods to be used if something went wrong
  • minimizing cost by sacrificing the health of cleanup crews, refusing to allow them to use respirator masks to protect against toxic fumes.

It is conservative profit-above-all market fundamentalism that has led other oil companies to mount a massive PR campaign to isolate BP as an anomalous "bad actor" and to argue that offshore drilling should be continued by the self-proclaimed "good actors." Their PR fails to mention that in Congressional hearings it came out that they all outsource risk assessment to the same company that declared that BP had "zero risk." The PR fails to mention that they all use cost-benefit analysis to maximize profits just as BP did. Cost-benefit analysis only looks at monetary costs versus benefits, case by case, not at the risk of massive death of the kind gushing out of the Gulf at present. Death, in itself, even at that scale, is not a "cost." Only an outflow of money is a "cost." This is what follows from conservative laissez-faire market ideology, an ideology that continues to sanction death on a Gulf scale.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Desert Behind the Pay Wall

Murdoch's theory that people can be convinced to pay money for access to his newspaper's online content is playing out as many predicted and it isn't pretty.
Rupert Murdoch is trying to make news at the Times and Sunday Times in London—but he’s not reporting on it. Will his paywall work is the biggest story in the media business, and it would be quite a journalistic coup to document the progress, or lack thereof, that’s being made in trying to convince a skeptical world to shell out 2£ ($3) a week for what’s heretofore been free.

He is not reporting on himself because even less than most news outlets, Murdoch outlets have no objective sense when it comes to their own interests (or the boss’s interests), or willingness to ask questions which the boss might find uncomfortable, or penchant for anything but the party line. The news from News Corp. is always snarlingly good—even when it is very bad.

My sources say that not only is nobody subscribing to the website, but subscribers to the paper itself—who have free access to the site—are not going beyond the registration page. It’s an empty world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why does Dean del Mastro hate Canada?

By now we've all probably heard the opinion of the Peterborough Conservative MP that anyone trying to investigate the abuse and detention of hundreds of people never charged with a crime is defending 'thugs and hooligans'.

It's worth pointing out that Canada has experienced far more mayhem and destruction around hockey games than around political demonstrations. Of course if police responded to hockey riots the same way they did to the much fewer and less destructive cases of vandalism and damage at the G20 they would have... waited until a day later and then swept through the streets seizing anybody in a hockey jersey.

Of course Mr del Mastro wouldn't want to be considered a pandering hypocrite, so he must believe that the cases of rioting and vandalism of a few bad actors after hockey games means that all fans of our beloved de facto national sport are 'thugs and hooligans'

So I repeat, why does Dean del Mastro hate Canada?

Vatican: Attempting to treat women as equals as bad a crime as raping children

The Vatican today made the "attempted ordination" of women one of the gravest crimes under church law, putting it in the same category as clerical sex abuse of minors, heresy and schism.

The new rules, which have been sent to bishops around the world, apply equally to Catholic women who agree to a ceremony of ordination and to the bishop who conducts it. Both would be excommunicated. Since the Vatican does not accept that women can become priests, it does not recognise the outcome of any such ceremony.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hat Trick

In the original version of the Globe and Mail's 'G20 Most Wanted' article, the guy on the left was wearing a hat that said 'Police'. I went back to it 30 seconds later and that photo had disappeared replaced with this one:

Too on the nose?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shocked at the Accusation

In response to a pending NAACP resolution condemning the hateful messages of the movement, the Tea Party's major figures angrily reject accusations of racism.

Really, just because it's a movement overwhelmingly made up of middle aged white people who only became upset about spending and constitutional abuses when a black man became president and their events routinely feature racist signs and speakers (as well as all but open calls for violent insurrection.) is that any reason to be so truthful offensive?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Taking Count

Just to expand on a reply I gave to a post of at Dawg's place on the subject:

The surface reason among the right in both the US and Canada for opposing the census is crazy, the subsurface one is evil.

The surface stuff is all Glenn Beck paranoia about the evil alien entity 'the government' trying to pry into people's lives so it can pollute their precious bodily fluids. The subsurface reason that the hard headed backroom right wingers who never let ideology or conspiracy theory get in the way of the power impulse worry about, is about keeping a proper count of the population from being done to try to remove the pressure to spend money and attention on communities that aren't part of the right wing coalition.

Spending money on the poor and the non-white is what they're in power to stop. Hard numbers that prove the need of these communities make it harder to neglect them.

There is a direct linkage between detailed counts with detailed questions and representation and spending in and by our government. Think about how precarious a hold the Conservatives have on power and think about why they would oppose a detailed count of Canadians that might result in pressure for boundary changes, reapportioning of electoral seats and increased spending in places they'd rather pretend don't exist at all.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Big Brother doesn't want you watching him back

In three US states it is now illegal to film or record police abuse:
In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

I wonder how many horses the Stampede will kill this year?

The Calgary Stampede has started and now we wait to find out how high the body count will be.

The Stampede chuckwagon races routinely feature grotesque and devastating accidents. They've caused the death of 22 horses in the last decade. That's right, an average of two a year, beautiful, majestic animals dying in splintered agony or from heart attacks caused by the terror and strain the races put them through.

So we wonder how many will die this year and wait to mourn them.

Update: That's one. Not the Chuckwagon event but another horse driven to fatal heart attack in a cattle penning event. How many more will there be this year?

Update: Monday night and two more, bringing it to three dead horses so far only four days in.

Update, Tuesday Morning: Another one last night, bringing it to four dead horses in just the first three days of competition. I feel like I'm bearing witness to a massacre.

UPDATE, Friday morning: Six now.

Freedom VS Liberty

The libertarian right cast themselves as the defenders of freedom and the opponents of government over-reach and oppression.

In practice their definition of freedom is very selective, and always seems to boil down to economic freedom for elites to mistreat employees, pollute the environment and give big business control over all the essential services currently handled by government.

And the wholly predictable result of such policies is a decrease in freedom and an increase in oppression.

We've seen the results over the last few decades of slashing away at regulation of business, attacking unions (the freedom of employees to join together collectively to defend their interests is NOT among the freedoms that Libertarians cherish.) and constantly reducing the contribution of the wealthy and big business to the social contract and the results have not been pretty.

When Reagan came in he slashed away at the tax burden on the wealthiest and the regulation of the financial sector brought in by FDR that had led to decades of stability and prosperity. Within just a few years the result was the Savings and Loan debacle as financial cowboys including the Bush clan used that deregulation to loot their customers and the American taxpayer for billions while the Republican tax policies starved the state of funds to protect the weakest from the depredations of the strongest. None of this reduced the Republican appetite for deregulation and the results of the next round of eliminating Wall Street regulation were seen by us all last year.

The results of the rampant deregulation of other industries can be seen today in the Gulf of Mexico.

Democracy and wide disparities in wealth are fundamentally incompatible and massive disparities of wealth are the sine qua non of libertarian ideology.

How much freedom and liberation from oppression do you have when a tiny gilded minority live in gated splendour while ever more aggressive private law policing is keeping the ever hungrier majorities in line in the devastated polluted zones outside the fences?

This is the world promoted by organizations like the Fraser Institute. The rich get richer and contribute less every year to the society that helped make them rich, while the world gets more poisoned and rigid social control over the restive majority needs to get ever more draconian and aggressive to keep those majorities in line.

Right wing libertarianism is the most anti-freedom ideology out there absent fascism itself, and leads inexorably to an oppressive police state to protect the interests of the elites who promote it.

There's a reason why right wing libertarians tend to get all misty eyed over the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet that sustained it's elite serving 'free market' with torture chambers and death squads.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Fadden Doubles Down

OTTAWA — The director of Canada’s intelligence service told a committee in Parliament on Monday that he thinks two provincial cabinet ministers, as well as some municipal politicians and public servants, are under the influence of foreign governments.

Richard B. Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, was summoned to an unusual summer hearing after making similar accusations during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that was broadcast two weeks ago. Those comments provoked widespread criticism, particularly from the Chinese-Canadians.

While Mr. Fadden had initially issued a statement in which he appeared to backtrack from his claim, he repeated the accusation on Monday and said that his agency planned to file a report with the government about the situation “within weeks.”

As he had before, Mr. Fadden cited national security laws in declining to identify the elected officials who he thought were under the influence of foreign governments. And while he did not explicitly name a country, he again broadly suggested that it was China.

While some members of the committee on public safety and national security asked Mr. Fadden to resign and questioned his judgment in making the remarks, he offered no apologies.

For those astonished he still hasn't been fired, wonder no more. The PMO web and the gruesome spider king at it's center have decided there are more votes to win from scape-goating, dark implications and vague accusations against the sinister 'yellow peril' than there are in apologizing for Fadden's original bizarre McCarthyite rant.

I don't even recognize this country anymore.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Quote of the Day

KRAKOW, Poland — Intolerant governments across the globe are "slowly crushing" activist and advocacy groups that play an essential role in the development of democracy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday.

She cited a broad range of countries where "the walls are closing in" on civic organizations such as unions, religious groups, rights advocates and other nongovernmental organizations that press for social change and shine a light on governments' shortcomings.

Among those she named were Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, China and Russia.

"Some of the countries engaging in these behaviors still claim to be democracies," Clinton said at an international conference on the promotion of democracy and human rights. "Democracies don't fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together, to advocate and agitate."
Does this mean Clinton will be pushing our government for an independent probe of the G20 police response? Will she condemn government attacks on critical NGOs in Israel and Canada?

Will she be publicly asking her own country's police force to renounce tactics like 'kettling' or other elements of the Miami model?

Or is this just a display of hypocrisy and calculation, referencing countries that are either international competitors or compliant client states that the US could administer more control over if they wished?

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