Saturday, January 31, 2009

Iraq Showing Signs of Stability: Time To Pull Out

Good news from Iraq as elections were held peacefully today. Could this endless war be coming to an end? The New York Times has an article describing the mood.

Any arguments that remain in Washington about the shape and timing of the troop withdrawal this year seem almost moot here, given how much Iraqis want to how they can govern on their own and how much Americans want to hand over responsibility to the Iraqis so they can meet withdrawal deadlines.

(....) The provincial elections will test political stability: whether Iraqis can begin to resolve still festering sectarian and ethnic tensions through the ballot box. The formal process of disengagement started in earnest in November, when the Iraqi Parliament approved a new security agreement with the Americans that sealed the date of departure, by the end of 2011, and almost immediately changed the balance of power.

The outlook of Iraqi citizens has changed as well. They are more confident that their problems are their own, and that the Americans cannot fix them and often have only made matters worse.
I'm skeptical that the Iraqi's aren't merely posturing to save face. Similarly, in South Korea, it's very common to say publically that they want the US troops to leave when they don't truly believe that. They fear North Korea, and it saves them personnel and money to have the US there. If they really wanted them out, they could arrange it.

If the US start to pull out, doubtless there will be an uptick in insurgency action and therefore there will be all kinds of pleas to stay. ( I can hear it now: We can't leave the country in chaos! We started it, we need to end it peacefully and honorably! etc, etc.) The US need to keep this in mind and firmly call the Iraqi bluff. They claim they want the US to leave, so by god take them at their word. For better or for worse for them. If they do pull off complete withdrawal by 2011, I'll be surprised but pleasantly so.

Military Surge in Vancouver?

You heard that right. There's going to be a large military contingent for security during the Olympics. Having the Olympics in the post 9-11 world is a real pain. (read)

VANCOUVER — With frigates in the harbour and jets zooming overhead next month during the first active Olympic security exercise, residents here will not need a reminder that Canada's hard-pressed military will play a major role in one of the largest peacetime security operations in the country's history.

An estimated 4,000 members of the armed forces will be seconded to Olympic duties in 2010 – far more than the 2,500 to 2,800 military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan.


Two frigates and three maritime coastal defence vessels, some aircraft and a light contingent of troops will participate from the military, sources indicated.

I'm not a defense expert by why do we need five ships, including two firepower heavy frigates? To counter German U-Boats?

Looks like a PR excercise. I hope to get some pictures of the frigates.

Absurd "Human Rights" Complaint on Canadian Blogger

Free speech has been under fire in Canada in the guise of the provincial and federal Human Rights Commissions who deem to punish speech deemed "hurtful" to minorities. This has received much publicity over the last year when Maclean's Magazine, for articles written by Mark Steyn, were brought to the BC HRC Kangaroo Court here in BC. Also Ezra Levant had a complaint against him for publishing the dreaded Danish cartoons. Ezra Levant's website is dedicated to defending free speech,

Yesterday a blogger at Right Wing Canada received this threatening email:

Mr. Lawton:

I am writing today to inform you that as of 10:27am EST this morning, I have filed a claim against you under the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Among other hateful and inflammatory remarks made on your blog,, you referred to President Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama," citing that he is an Arab-American. This was made in a hateful and dirogatory manner, and such racist propaganda is forbidden under section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I hope that you go down in flames like your other Nazi friends.


This one doesn't pass the laugh test, but that doesn't matter. The thought police at the human rights commissions will doubtlessly "investigate" it. Your tax dollars at work.

I regularly visit Ezra, as mentioned above, and Mark Steyn's site for updates on the free speech issue.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Drug War Collateral Damage: Mexico on the Verge of Collapse

Some scary news from Mexico as gang violence is taking over and the country is becoming virtually ungovernable. (article)

Mob murders doubled from 2007, taking more than 5,300 lives last year. Residents of the border cities of Juarez and Tijuana wake up each morning to find streets littered with mutilated, often headless bodies. Some victims are dumped outside schools. Most are just wrapped in a cheap blanket and tossed into an empty lot.

Many bodies go unclaimed because relatives are too afraid to come forward, meaning most killings go unsolved.

Warring cartels still control vast sections of Mexico, despite Mr. Calderon's two-year crackdown, and have spawned an all-pervasive culture of violence. No one is immune.

So what does the US do?

Still, the U.S. government is extremely supportive of the Mexican president. It recently handed over $400 million in anti-drug aid. Mr. Obama met briefly with Mr. Calderon in Washington last week and promised to fight the illegal flow of U.S. weapons that arm the Mexican cartels.

It looks like Mexico is going the way of Colombia into utter chaos. Is drug use in the US going down? You'd think a guy like Obama, who has admitted to smoking marijuana as a young man, might give some fresh eyes to this issue.

It's Friday

“I feel sorry for people who don't drink. They wake up in the morning and that's the best they're going to feel all day.”

- Dean Martin

Mike Ramirez Cartoon from the New York Post

(click to enlarge)

Obama Protectionist? Who Would Have Thought?

Last year, especially when campaigning for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama talked openly about re-negotiating NAFTA, and setting up trade barriers for foreign goods. Now that he appears to be doing this, Canadians are acting shocked. Originally, I was for McCain because he said he would honour NAFTA and even came up to Ottawa to make a speech about it and reassure people. It didn't make a difference though, as Obama is far more popular. It just shows what a popularity contest the whole thing is. People don't care about the issues, even if it affects them.

Armed with his new $800 billion dollar pork package, the US will have a "made in America" clause for steel that goes into new works. The Canadian steel industry is worried:

Industry Minister Tony Clement also did not hide his unease.

"We're always concerned when there are protectionist pressures in the United States," he told CBC News.

"The U.S. Congress is a place where you get manifestations of protectionist pressures, there's no doubt about that," he added.

"At the same time, the United States has treaty obligations that they have signed on to — NAFTA is one, the World Trade Organization is another — and we expect the United States to live up to its treaty obligations of open and fair trade."

Canadian steel producers and builders say they have "grave, grave concerns" about the bill.

This is absurd on many different levels. If the Canadian steel industry starts losing revenue because of this, we will no doubt prop it up with our own pork. (If we don't already.)

Protectionism is one of those populist issues that people can't get their head around. In the US they fear that the steel mills will close and people will lose jobs. The problem is, there are twenty times more people employed constructing things out of steel than making raw steel. Getting cheaper steel from abroad helps the economy much more.

What does it matter anyway? These are make work projects and they don't care about costs and profits.

Hat tip: Strack Attack

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Charing Cross Bookshop Closings

Internet commerce is killing the book shops at Charing Cross Road in London. I was hired on as a book seller there, in my early 20's. (I ended up being transfered to the Oxford Street branch.) My shop is long gone, and it looks like's others are following.

Money-grabbing landlords are destroying one of London's most famous streets, replacing long-established, small independent bookshops with bland, faceless shops.

Charing Cross Road is world famous for its second hand and specialist bookshops - in fact there's even been a film and a book about the street, 84 Charing Cross Road (1986).

It's a shame. It was the kind of street that you can only find in a city like London or New York City. For about three blocks (Londoner's would cringe at that word, since the city is not a grid) there is/was bookshop after bookshop. For every taste. Literally, if you could not find a book there, you couldn't find it anywhere.
Ottawa is the fourth largest city in Canada and when I was living there, we had about three pocket sized bookstores in the whole metropolitan area. I was in awe of the big city when I strolled down Charing Cross.

The Death of American Conservatism

Yesterday I mentioned Sean Hannity, Ann "the man" Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. Today there is an article on NRO (for some reason still in my favorites list) from Victor Davis Hanson. Of all the Iraq war and overall Bush apologists, VDH was considered to have credibility. He's a professor of history and the classics. But he's just another blind partisan hack, and outright liar, as seen here:

Why is Obama’s grand talk already at odds with his actions?

For one reason, he is unduly empowered by a media that too often roots for him, rather than reporting critically about his actions.

Second, in the last two years, Obama and his supporters advanced two general gospels that are coming back to haunt him:

First, that George W. Bush was a terrible president, and that his toxic policies had done irreparable damage to the United States.

Second, and in contrast, that Obama was an entirely novel candidate with fresh hope-and-change ideas that would bring a renaissance to the United States and the world.

Bush’s Texas twang and occasionally tongue-tied expressions strengthened the first supposition. Obama’s youth, charm, and multiracial background enhanced the second.

But we are already seeing that simplistic polarity was infantile—even if the enthralled media desperately wanted to believe in the mythology.

In truth, Bush, after the left-wing hysteria over the 2003 invasion of Iraq, governed mostly as a traditional conservative rather than a reactionary extremist. Meanwhile, newcomer candidate Obama predictably embraced old-style and well-known liberal orthodoxy.

You see? Bush was a traditional conservative. Starting two foreign wars he couldn't end and socializing the US economy are traditional conservative things to do. The reason why people didn't like him was his Texas twang. (Come to think of it, that's why they hated Palin too, her hick accent! Nothing to do with anything else!)

What a disgrace. Outside of the snake handlers, who believes this stuff anymore? Bill Buckley is spinning in his grave for what has become of his magazine.

The Death of Canadian Conservatism

Andrew Coyne blasts Harper as a sell out, and tallies the long term damage this budget is going to do at his Maclean's blog:

And whatever its likely consequences for the debt, its effect has already been to ratchet up expectations, to tilt the political landscape toward greater and greater interventionism, to change the very language in which we discuss these things. Again, this is unlikely to be easily reversed. Among the consequences of the end of conservatism will be to make it difficult, if not impossible, to muster a constituency even for restraining the growth of government, let alone rolling it back. When the “right” is defined as $34-billion deficits, record spending, and bailouts for everything in sight—when every other party is to the left of that—people lose the ability to think in any other way. They forget there was ever a contrary view.

Conservatives, then, should think hard about whether they can afford to support this government any longer. Its sole contribution at this point is to limit debate, to rule out of bounds any serious discussion of alternatives, since “even” a Conservative government now believes in an all-pervasive, ever-expanding state. The Conservative experiment—the whole enterprise of “uniting the right” in which conservatives have invested much of the past decade—has reached a dead end. They have not succeeded in replacing the Liberals. They have only succeeded in becoming them. Perhaps, some conservatives will conclude, it would be better if this government were defeated—if the party were to lose power, that it might find itself.


When there is no longer any budget constraint, when deficits are not evidence of incontinence, but “stimulus,” why should any project, any sector, any region be denied? More to the point, when there is no political constraint—when no party is pulling to the right, while four pull left—spending can only go in one direction. And for the foreseeable future, that’s where the action is going to be: sucking money from the gushing spigot of the state. Starting a business? Only a chump would spend his time worrying about pleasing the consumer. It’s the politicians you want to keep happy, mate.

It's such a massive about face. Has anybody turned so hard, and so fast away from their base before in Canadian history? I guess you could say Mulroney but when he got all those Quebec seats, I don't think anybody was surprised he was just a run of the mill pork barreler.

UPDATE: Small 'c' conservatives express their dismay in this CP article:

"But it looks like things are grinding to a halt. Are we just going to enter a period of political pragmatism, when all you do is fight to survive? That's very discouraging.

"We thought that Mr. Harper had the strategic acumen to survive and make some progress toward conservative goals."

Hat tip: Pat

US Retreating From Nation Building, but Still 'Slogging' Along in Afghanistan

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was subject to a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and there were some frank admissions on his part.
The buildup must be part of a new strategy that emphasizes expelling terrorists and their allies and avoids overreaching in achieving broader economic and political goals, Gates said.

“Afghanistan is the fourth or fifth poorest country in the world,” Gates said. “If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose, because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience or money.”

OK, step one is admitting the problem. Even after almost eight years.
The committee’s senior Republican member, Senator John McCain of Arizona, said the American public “must understand this is a hard, long slog we’re in, in Afghanistan.”

Is that all McCain can say? Doesn't he, more than anybody understand the costs of dithering leadership during a war effort that looks increasingly disorientated?
In Afghanistan, Gates said the highest priority is to train and expand the Afghan army and police, which would give the U.S. an “exit ticket” from the conflict.

Does anybody in their right mind think that the Afghan army and police will successfully take this off US and NATO hands?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where Were These Gasbags for the Last Eight Years?

I was watching Sean Hannity's show on Fox News. He was interviewing transvestite Ann Coulter. At one point Hannity says:

This [Obama's] stimulus package is the single greatest, most massive transfer of the economy to the government.

Coulter: In know, I'm shocked!

What, the most massive transfer since 2008? Where were these jokers when Bush was doing this? They go on like the Democrats pulled this out of nowhere, without precedent.

Those people have good gigs. Feed the zombies with talk radio and books and make millions.

UPDATE: The king of these people, Rush Limbaugh has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the same topic. Terrible of you to go slumming like that WSJ.

I believe the wrong kind is precisely what President Barack Obama has proposed. I don't believe his is a "stimulus plan" at all -- I don't think it stimulates anything but the Democratic Party. This "porkulus" bill is designed to repair the Democratic Party's power losses from the 1990s forward, and to cement the party's majority power for decades.

Again, where was this fat slob when Bush nationalized the financial industry of the country?

Newfoundland Can't Be Weaned Off Welfare

Newfoundland, for the first time ever has been declared a "have" province thanks to oil revenue. But they're still whining for transfer payments:

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is calling on opposition parties to show Prime Minister Stephen Harper the door, following a federal budget he described as callous.

Williams said the fine print in changes to the federal equalization program, contained in the budget that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered in Parliament Tuesday, have left him no choice but to rekindle his notorious battle with the governing Conservatives.

"It's a good indication of the punitive, vindictive, nasty side of this prime minister," Williams said. "The indication over the next three years is a pretty crippling effect."

Talk about entitlement. Since that province joined Confederation we've been shoveling them money hand over fist. So slow this down a little when they have a little of their own revenue, and they scream that we're taking away their money.

I throw my hands up in despair about this crazy country of ours.

Live at the Iggy Press Conference

Lots of hot air about how bad it is, but ultimately, he's going to support the budget. You should hear the righteous anger. Vote it down if it's so bad then. Bock, bock, booooooooooock!

He's going to propose a series of admendments in Parliament today. Yawn...

UPDATE: Jack the Mustache is having a press conference and is ripping Iggy for supporting the budget. He said it's unfortunate that he hasn't changed Dion's policy of propping up the Conservatives. He said: "We have a new coalition on Parliament Hill and it is Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff." Hilarious!

Boondoggle 101 - Laugh, Cry

Kelly McParland lists off some of the more distasteful pork barrel spending of the 2009 in the National Post today.

* Over $335 million in support for culture and the arts — recognizing the importance of our artistic institutions and the role they play in Canadians’ lives.

They should just hire a guy with a flag, who could wave it at Quebec and yell: "Yoo-hoo, Quebec? Over here! $335 mill for the arts! See, we DO care. We LOVE the arts. Can't live WITHOUT it! Especially that stuff on Quebec TV. Hoo-boy, how did you guys get so TALENTED?


* The Government of Canada invests over $10 billion each year in Aboriginal priorities. Budget 2009 invests another $1.4 billion on Aboriginal priority issues.

Anything that helps First Nations is good. But Ottawa spends $10 billion a year already, and for that we get Third World conditions. Does anyone really believe throwing more money at the problem is the answer?

* $25 million for an endowment to support the creation of international awards to recognize excellence in dance, music, art and dramatic arts.

Yeah, awards, that's what we need. Especially international ones. That way we can get more international entries into categories like: Best televised program involving a politically correct visible minority in a hilarious comedy set in a small prairie town. (Or, Borat visits Dog River)

What Could Have Been?

As I mentioned at the time of the Great Canadian Coup d’état, Harper should not have tried to seek to prorogue Parliament.

If he lost the confidence vote, he could have demanded an election. If the coalition agreed, he was a cinch for a majority. Were the Liberals going to run with Dion again? Impossible. They would have backed off completely if faced with this. Harper should have called the bluff.

He could have let the Governor General decide to allow the Coalition. Imagine that clown Dion presenting this horrendous, mega-deficit budget? What a scenario: The Liberal leadership candidates squabbling all the way until May at the convention; Jack the Mustache annoying the hell out of the public as a cabinet minister; Gilles Duceppe is lauded in Quebec for all the extra pork; The PR would be so bad, it would guarantee a Tory majority in the future. Iggy’s career would be permanently damaged.

Instead the Conservatives own this terrible pork-barrel budget. Lefties won’t even appreciate it, and conservatives are repulsed. It looks like things are going to get worse, no matter what's in the budget, so it gives the Liberals a chance to say it wasn't their fault.

The only hope is that the opposition votes it down today. I doubt the Liberals will be so foolish.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bleak Budget Outlook From Andrew Coyne

From his blog at Maclean's today:
Say what you like about the Tories: they don’t do things by halves. When they spend, they spend. When they go into debt, they do it $100-billion at a time. And when they decide to put an end to conservatism in Canada — as a philosophy, as a movement—they go out with a bang.

We can safely say that the strategy of incrementalism, at least, has been put to bed. With this historic budget, the Conservatives’ already headlong retreat from principle has become a rout: a great final leap into the void. For there will be no going back from this, for the party or for the country. Whatever the budget’s soothing talk of “temporary” this and “extraordinary” that, and for all its well-mannered charts showing spending obediently returning to its pen, deficits meekly subsiding, “investments” repaid in full, we are in fact headed somewhere we have never been before. We are on course towards a massive and permanent increase in the size and scope of government: record spending, sky-high borrowing, and — ultimately, inevitably — higher taxes. And all this before the first of the Baby Boomers have had a chance to retire, and cough up a lung.

No Clear Goals or Strategy in Afghanistan

Ralph Peters has an excellent op-ed in the New York Post today. I don't agree with everything he says but the bottom line is important. Vietnam-like the US seem to be fighting without a big picture strategy and are not setting goals.

Will Afghanistan be President Obama's Vietnam, with Pakistan as Cambodia on steroids?

I like that line: "Pakistan as Cambodia on steroids."
The bitter truth (as in Vietnam) is that we still haven't decided what we really want to achieve. We babble about nation-building where there's no nation to build, just a premedieval mosaic of tribes that hate each other. And the Taliban are homeboys.

We want Afghans to be like us. They never will be. (Good morning, Vietnam!)

If we want to alter the strategic environment amid a foreign population, we must be clear on three things: what we want to achieve, what the target population wants - and how much of what we want that population's willing to accept.

Washington is vague and naive on all three points.

Another 30,000 US troops? Fine. As long as they have clear, achievable missions. More nonmilitary aid? OK. Tell us specifically what it will accomplish. And mark the bills.

We can't bear any more of the Bush-Clinton-Bush approach of sending troops and mountains of aid in the nebulous hope that something good will happen.

Can anyone in the Obama administration articulate what we intend to achieve in Afghanistan? The Bush folks couldn't. I doubt this bunch can either.

I agree with most of what he says, but later he thinks we should fight tougher and meaner. This is true but then you run into the "we had to destroy her to save her" paradox.

I've been posting a lot on this issue recently because I feel the issue is being swept under the rug by the government. Recently, diplomat Richard Holbrooke was appointed by Secretary of State Clinton as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the press conference he was asked about the Pakistan issue, to paraphrase what he said: "That's a complicated issue that I can't get into." Oh.

The lessons of Vietnam are within recent memory, was nothing learned by them? The one lesson they did learn was to stifle the press. This is why this conflict has dragged on so long before people started noticing that it wasn't going well.

Busted for Advertising Jos. Louis Cakes in Quebec

I used to love Jos. Louis when I was a kid. Little did I realize how sinister these snacks were. In Quebec, home of the Jos. Louis, the producer of them was fined for advertising them to children.

But now the cakes, found in virtually every grocery and convenience store in the province, have been targeted by a health-conscious group worried about growing obesity, and put on notice that they cannot be advertised to children.

Saputo, the giant food multinational behind Vachon, pleaded guilty in a Quebec court yesterday to violating Quebec's law prohibiting advertising to children younger than 13 years old for commercial purposes.

Saputo must pay $44,000 in fines.

You can't advertise to childern younger than 13? Send a memo to Captain Crunch and My Little Pony.

This can't go over very well. Pepsi, poutine and Jos. Louis are the three pillars of Quebec cuisine.

New Administration: "Afghanistan is a Mess"

Vice President Joe Biden has made the news by saying: "The bottom line here is we've inherited a real mess." He was speaking about Afghanistan. The Obama administration has a plan to transfer 30,000 new troops to the country. Biden gravely admits, that there will be an "uptick" of action, which probably means more casualties for NATO forces.

In this CBC article, it appears that expectations have been lowered:

A few things are becoming clear, however, and none more stark than the notion of what winning in desperately poor, decentralized and deeply traditional Afghanistan would look like.

It is likely to be less about democracy and more about old-fashioned charity and development work. It will be measured by small, local gains in security and governance that give Afghans a reason to reject the efficiencies and protection offered by the Taliban insurgency.

Not to be too simplistic but President Obama has a chance right now to withdraw honourably. To make a big decision. Pull out of Afghanistan, stop funding Pakistan.

It's not going to happen. More lives and tens of billions of dollars will be wasted in that pit of hell. It's never going to become a western style, liberal democracy. Let's forget the phony idealism.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Two messy foreign wars, recession, catastrophic debt levels, mass layoffs, what does a new president do? Fight global warming of course.

He called for greater fuel efficiency and an "energy economy" aimed at creating millions of jobs.

He also ordered a review of whether states can set car emission standards.

This challenges a Bush administration decision which favoured a national standard for vehicle pollution.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton picked Todd Stern - who took part in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations on climate change from 1997 to 1999 - as her envoy for climate change, the state department said.

Mr Stern, who served under former President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001, will be the Obama administration's principal adviser on international climate policy and strategy as well as its chief climate negotiator.

"Containing climate change will require nothing less than transforming the global economy from a high-carbon to a low-carbon energy base," said Mr Stern after Mrs Clinton announced his appointment.

So solutions to real problems are put on hold to fight the dubious "Global Warming" which is a theory that continues to lose credibility. The Kyoto Accord was shot down in US during the 90's because it would hurt the economy. And that's when the economy was GOOD! We can't afford this folly.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had asked Mr Obama to reverse the Bush administration's insistence on a single, national standard.

California wants a 30% reduction in motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 2016, achieved by improving fuel efficiency standards.

That's really fantastic that California pushes for those laws as unemployment reaches 10% and it is on the verge of defaulting. Way to go Arnie!

Peter Schiff: The Absurd Position of American Creditors

Once again, Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital wants to remind us how precarious the health of the US is economy is. As a debtor nation, the US relies on foreign creditors.

What he might have said was that the nations funding the majority of America's public debt -- most notably the Chinese, Japanese and the Saudis -- need to be prepared to sacrifice. They have to fund America's annual trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future. These creditor nations, who already own trillions of dollars of U.S. government debt, are the only entities capable of underwriting the spending that Mr. Obama envisions and that U.S. citizens demand.

These nations, in other words, must never use the money to buy other assets or fund domestic spending initiatives for their own people. When the old Treasury bills mature, they can do nothing with the money except buy new ones. To do otherwise would implode the market for U.S. Treasurys (sending U.S. interest rates much higher) and start a run on the dollar. (If foreign central banks become net sellers of Treasurys, the demand for dollars needed to buy them would plummet.)

In sum, our creditors must give up all hope of accessing the principal, and may be compensated only by the paltry 2%-3% yield our bonds currently deliver.

As absurd as this may appear on the surface, it seems inconceivable to President Obama, or any respected economist for that matter, that our creditors may decline to sign on. Their confidence is derived from the fact that the arrangement has gone on for some time, and that our creditors would be unwilling to face the economic turbulence that would result from an interruption of the status quo.

A definite weakness of democracy is that it's hard to call for belt tightening, and sacrificing today, for tomorrow's good when you have to win another election.

Taliban Spread Terror in Pakistan - Army Does Nothing

The New York Times have a snapshot of the region of Swat, in Pakistan where the Taliban have vitually taken over. It's a terrifying read.

With the increasing consolidation of their power, the Taliban have taken a sizable bite out of the nation. And they are enforcing a strict interpretation of Islam with cruelty, bringing public beheadings, assassinations, social and cultural repression and persecution of women to what was once an independent, relatively secular region, dotted with ski resorts and fruit orchards and known for its dancing girls.

Last year, 70 police officers were beheaded, shot or otherwise slain in Swat, and 150 wounded, said Malik Naveed Khan, the police inspector general for the North-West Frontier Province.


When the army does act, its near-total lack of preparedness to fight a counterinsurgency reveals itself. Its usual tactic is to lob artillery shells into a general area, and the results have seemed to hurt civilians more than the militants, residents say.

In some parts of Pakistan, civilian militias have risen to fight the Taliban. But in Swat, the Taliban’s gains amid a large army presence has convinced many that the military must be conspiring with the Taliban.

“It’s very mysterious how they get so much weapons and support,” while nearby districts are comparatively calm, said Muzaffar ul-Mulk Khan, a member of Parliament from Swat, who said his home near Mingora was recently destroyed by the Taliban.

The US is sending $2 billion a year in military aid to their "ally" Pakistan. They have been doing this since 2001. How did they get suckered so easily?

Liberals Posturing Before Budget

Are the Liberals going to take down the Tories over tax cuts?

Opposition parties are threatening to vote down this week's much-anticipated Conservative budget because it contains a potentially contentious proposal to permanently slash taxes for middle-class Canadians.

While the Conservatives say the tax cuts will help working families during a challenging economic era, the Liberals say the rollback is ill-advised and will do little to stimulate the economy.

"If the permanent tax cuts were very large, we would be very concerned, partly because it would saddle future generations with a big debt and a permanent deficit," Liberal finance critic John McCallum told CTV's Question Period Sunday.

McCallum added that the tax reductions will be an ineffectual stimulus because people are more likely to save extra money during recessionary periods.

And if the Tory budget fails to deliver what's best for Canada, McCallum said the Liberals will have little option than to vote it down.

Good luck with that message. "Hey Canadians, you wouldn't spend your money like we want you too, so we are going to take the tax cuts off the table. " Not a very good piece of an election platform. Sounds like a bluff to me.

Hat tip to Strack Attack. Who also mentions that heroic Obama is giving lower and middle class tax cuts in the US, why is it so bad when Harper does it?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Russia To Cooperate in Afghan War Effort?

This article from the Toronto Star is brief but it seems to suggest that the Russians are willing to open up a supply route for NATO forces:

MOSCOW–Russia's NATO envoy says his nation wants NATO to succeed in
Afghanistan to reduce a regional threat.

Ambassadors from the 26-member alliance will meet in a joint council with Russia tomorrow for the first time since NATO suspended the sessions to protest Russia's "disproportionate" use of force against Georgia last August.

Dmitry Rogozin said Russia is keen to see the afghan mission succeed and noted that as much as half of NATO shipments through Pakistan are stolen or destroyed by the Taliban.

What a disgraceful figure if it's true. This is something you never hear about in the main stream media. Pakistan is a supposed "ally." We aren't given much information but it appears to me that they are negotiating to set up a supply route through Russia. It's a long land route to get there but with Pakistan proving unreliable, it might be an alternative. The US have bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (the latter on the Afghan border.)

Neptune Driving the Tide In

Saturday, January 24, 2009

They're Not Calling on Red Bull to Withdraw Sponsorship Money, Though

Reader Strack Attack sent me this article with the comment: "How many articles like this do we read a year? They're so f-cking annoying!"

Skating event’s name irks sovereigntists
Maintaining an English name for today’s popular Crashed Ice downhill skating event in Quebec City is akin to "spitting" on the French language, a sovereignty group charged Friday.

About 30 banner-toting protesters from Mouvement Montreal francais hit the streets of downtown Montreal to propose alternative names they believe are more respectful of the French language.

Surrounded by the Fleur-de-lis and chanting slogans like Red Bull Has No Respect and Red Bull Spits on French, the group even had a bull mascot join in.

"We are calling on Red Bull to rename Crashed Ice in French," spokeswoman Sophie Beaupre said at the protest held outside the company’s office.

"In refusing to do so, Red Bull is spitting on Quebec — literally."

Beaupre was referring to the French word cracher which means to spit.

Just go ahead and separate already.

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The Awfulness of Billy Joel

Ron Rosenbaum has a laugh out loud column on his contempt for Billy Joel, in Slate Magazine. (Sure, it's been done before, people have been ripping Joel since my childhood, but this one is worth the time.)

"It's Still Rock and Roll to Me."'

It shows how completely, totally clueless Billy Joel is. It suggests he wrote it because he thought people regarded him as an outmoded relic because he doesn't wear the right hip-signifier clothes. That it's a matter of his wide ties vs. New Wave skinny ties, that it's because his car doesn't have white-wall tires or because he doesn't dress "like a Beau Brummell" or hang out with the right crowd or look like Elvis Costello.

He thinks people can't stand him because he dresses wrong or doesn't look right.

Billy Joel, they can't stand you because of your music; because of your stupid, smug attitude; because of the way you ripped off your betters to produce music that rarely reaches the level even of mediocrity. You could dress completely au courant and people would still loathe your lame lyrics.

It's not that they dislike anything exterior about you. They dislike you because of who you really are inside. They dislike you for being you. At a certain point, consistent, aggressive badness justifies profound hostility. They hate you just the way you are.

Barbeque Sauce War Over

For chicken and pork, Canadian Club Hickory Bold is the best danged barbeque sauce out there. That's east, west, north and south of the Fraser River.

We barbeque more days than not, so having a good sauce is critical. Most of the time we use olive oil and spices, to prepare for the grill, but you can't do that everyday. Especially with chicken and pork. We had it narrowed down to Bull's Eye and Kraft. (Kraft is surprisingly good.) I've tried them all. Gourmet, local, name brands. My wife discovered Canadian Club by accident, being in a downtown specialty shop, it was all they had. I had a feeling it would be good, because one time I enjoyed "Jack Daniels" marinated ribs at a restaurant in the US. For some reason whisky works well for grilling. Why not with good ole' patriotic Canadian rye?

We had pork yesterday and chicken today on the grill and we both agreed it was the best flavour we've had yet. With pork and chicken low and slow is the key to grilling. I like to paint on every flip. The smoke, juices and CC Hickory Bold blended together like sex, drugs and rock and roll. (Without the disease and rehab associated with that expression.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Harper Holds Firm With Khadr

Stephen Harper is keeping his cool and is not in a rush to bring grenade lobber Omar Khadr "home". (story)

Stephen Harper said Friday he rejects the premise that Omar Khadr was a "child soldier" because the young Canadian was not a member of an army when he was accused a lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier.

Far from backing down to mounting pressure to repatriate Mr. Khadr, Mr. Harper said he will not make any decisions until he finds out whether the U.S. is going to drop murder charges.


"As you know, Mr. Khadr is charged with some serious offences, and we'll have to see what the resolution of that particular issue is, but we have no indication at the moment of any withdrawal of charges."

This is a good point. Khadr was born in Canada, and his father was an Egyptian. He wasn't in an army. And, it's not like he was some innocent kid born and raised in a village in Afghanistan when US soldiers appeared and he had to protect his home.

What's the hurry to get this guy back? He blew up a medic with a grenade. Let's take a breath before we welcome him to Canada.

Foreign Entanglement Friday

Why not another post about the foreign war quagmires?

In Foreign Policy, Marc Lynch has an excellent breakdown of what it will take to withdraw troops from Iraq. Lynch takes seriously President Obama's pledge to end the war in Iraq. (End it for the United States that is.)

Inevitably there will be calls to stall, or if they do start drawing down, to step back up at the first sign of trouble. Obama needs to ignore these and start the process. The Iraqi Parliament drew up a bill the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to begin this process and ultimately have a full withdrawal of US troops by 2011. The US needs to work together with the Iraqis to ensure it is implimented.

Upon taking office, Obama will likely face great pressure from various parties -- military, Iraqi, and partisan -- to relax his plans to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. There will likely be coordinated arguments about the fragility of the current situation, the risk of squandering the gains of the "surge," and the need to maintain troop strength through the provincial and national elections. These arguments should be resisted. The catalog of political frailties and security risks are real, but there is little reason to believe they will be any less real in six months or in a year. Postponing withdrawals would continue to freeze the current situation in place, while squandering the best opportunity the United States will ever have to reshape its commitments to Iraq.

There is only one chance to make a first impression. The transition to a new administration represents a unique -- and short-lived -- opportunity to establish a new relationship with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It is absolutely essential that upon taking office, Obama clearly affirms, publicly and privately, his commitment to his timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. At the same time, the president should assure the Iraqis that he intends to jointly coordinate and manage the drawdown of U.S. troops. Any uncertainty about American intentions in this regard should be corrected. Front-loading withdrawals would help significantly with the July referendum on the SOFA/WA.

Read the whole article. He carefully weighs the issues at stake and has steps to implement the withdrawal. It's not Obama's war. He needs to take advantage of the time and mandate to start this process. The Iraqis have to realize there's no more blank cheque commitment from the US.

Steven Pressfield on Democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan

Steven Pressfield has written two books about Alexander the Great: The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Greatand The Afghan Campaign: A Novel. While researching the projects, he couldn't help but see the parallels of what is going on today with the US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I found this op-ed he wrote in 2006.

The tribesman does not operate by a body of civil law but by a code of honor. If he receives a wrong, he does not seek redress. He wants revenge. The taking of revenge is a virtue in tribal eyes, called badal in the Pathan code of nangwali. A man who does not take revenge is not a man. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the sectarian militias of Iraq are not in the war business, they are in the revenge business. The revenge-seeker cannot be negotiated with because his intent is bound up with honor. It is an absolute.

Perhaps the most telling difference between the citizen and the tribesman lies in their views of the Other. The citizen embraces multiplicity; to him, the melting pot produces richness and cultural diversity. To the tribesman, the alien is not even given the dignity of being a human being; he is a gentile, an infidel, a demon.

The tribesman grants justice within the tribe. In his internal councils, empathy, humor and compassion may prevail. Outside the tribe? Forget it. Can Shiites really sit down with Sunnis? Will the pledges of Hezbollah or Hamas to Israel prove true?
The democratic virtues of the Enlightenment, the Rights of Man and the American Constitution are not virtues to the tribesman. They are effeminate. They lack warrior honor. "Freedom" to the tribesman means the extinction of all he and his ancestors hold dear; "democracy" and Western values are a mortal threat to the ancient and proud way of life that the tribal mind has embraced (whether Scythian nomads, Amazon warriors, or American Indians) for tens of thousands of years.

Here is another essay on tribalism he wrote earlier: It's the Tribes Stuipid.

Nation Building in Afghanistan Update: Karzai Getting the Boot

With the economy tanking, the debt levels at red alert - it's unfortunate that the new US administration has to worry about who leads a stone age country, half a world away in Afghanistan. The nation building/democratizing project is not working out and now it appears Hamid Karzai is wearing out his welcome in Washington.
Barack Obama's arrival in the White House and the wind of change sweeping through Washington could lead to the ousting from power of Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, The Independent has learnt. International support for Mr Karzai, who was once the darling of the West, has waned spectacularly, amid worsening violence, endemic corruption and weak leadership. But until very recently, diplomats insisted there were no viable alternatives even as fighting has intensified and the Taliban insurgency in the south has grown.

It didn't work out with Karzai. The real surprise would have been if it did.
Karzai officials had hoped Hillary Clinton, now the US Secretary of State, would prove their ally in White House. But those hopes were dashed last week when she branded Afghanistan a "narco-state" with a government "plagued by limited capacity and widespread corruption" during her confirmation hearing.

Clinton has been in the Senate since the Afghan War started in 2001. She waited until 2008 to make this statement? She just came to this conclusion? She was a member of the Senate Committe on Armed Services and she never piped up on this?

They are bungling their way through this. The next guy they're going to appoint in Afghanistan is going to be better? We're looking at another fours years minmum, as the new administration tries to feel its way through this. It's too bad, this is their chance to say "mission accomplished" and go home. We've rooted out the Al Qaeda camps from the country and that was the mission in the first place. Let them do their own nation building.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Popular are the Taliban?

Guerrillas war is a kind of war waged by a few but dependant on the support of many.

- BH Liddell Hart

Coming to Britain: The Food Police

At first I thought this was some kind of prank, but it's not April Fools day today, and it looks like it checks out. From the Daily Telegraph:

Home cooks will also be told what size portions to prepare, taught to understand "best before" dates and urged to make more use of their freezers.

The door-to-door campaign, which starts tomorrow, will be funded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a Government agency charged with reducing household waste. The officials will be called "food champions". However, they were dismissed last night as "food police" by critics who called the scheme an example of "excessive government nannying".

In an initial seven-week trial, eight officials will call at 24,500 homes, dishing out advice and recipes. The officials, each of whom has received a day's training, will paid up to £8.49 an hour, with a bonus for working on Saturdays.

The pilot scheme, which will cost £30,000, could be extended nationwide if it is seen as a success. If all 25 million households in the UK were visited in the same way, 8,000 officials would be required at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

The main reason behind it is for environmental considerations. This must be what they mean by "green collar" jobs.

The project is part of WRAP's "Love Food Hate Waste" campaign, which has so far cost £4 million. The organisation says food waste has a significant environmental impact, in terms of the carbon generated to grow, transport and package items and the cost of having to dispose of them. It has calculated that stopping food waste could reduce the annual emission of carbon dioxide by 18 million tonnes - the same effect as taking one in five cars off the roads.

This is beyond satire. These are the same people who toughed out the Nazi Blitz? Another sign that Western Civilization is circling down the eco-friendly toilet.

Big Deficits Projected for Canada

The federal government will run a $34-billion deficit in the coming fiscal year, and a $30-billion deficit in the following year, a senior government official said.

The size of the deficit is largely attributable to the Conservative government's decision to include billions in stimulus spending beginning in this year's budget. That includes immediate spending on infrastructure and help for Canadians hit hardest by the economic downturn.

With a minority government, I believe Harper had no choice. That said, it still feels like a punch in the stomach. My pessimistic side believes this will be another 20-30 year run with deficits.

Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio was 23.4 per cent in 2007, and that is forecast to rise to 28 per cent in 2010. Even with that increase, Canada will still maintain the position it has held as having the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G8, the official said.

It really felt like it was within our grasp to get out of debt altogether. Oh well, maybe the next generation can do something about it.

Heath Ledger Nominated for Oscar

Heath Ledger is up for best supporting actor his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Today is the anniversary of his death on January 22, 2008.

I was blown away by the movie and his Joker specifically. I reviewed it a few months ago. The Dark Knight.

UPDATE: Robert Downy Jr. is up for best supporting actor in Tropic Thunder. He was hilarious playing Kirk Lazarus an actor playing a black guy. I thought I'd hate that movie but after a few beers on a Friday night, I thought it was a great comedy. "You went full retard, man. Never go full retard."

Fantasy Victim

I’ve been watching some sports news and now I’m watching Jay Leno and he has Cuba Gooding Jr. as a guest. Jay is asking Cuba how he feels about being an African-American with Obama being elected. As with the sports shows, he gets to talk about the struggle, how he never saw it happening, etc.

So I thought I’d imagine an interview with me, if some other middle class, white, schmuck from Nepean, Ontario, was elected Prime Minister of Canada (we’ll call him John Jones).

Here’s the interview:

Jay Leno (JL): So Sea Salt, tell me how you feel about John Jones being elected Prime Minister of Canada.

Sea Salt (SS): Jay, tears were pouring from my eyes. I phoned my father and he was choking up. Dad, I said, let it go, man. (Hold up hand, emotion taking over.)

JL: When you were accepted at Carleton University, mocked as “Last Chance U” did you ever think you’d see a fellow alumni at 22 Sussex?

SS: Not only did he go to Carleton like me, but also lived at home with his parents while he got his degree. He had to battle this stigma. People treat you as less than human. (Hand up, tears again)

JL: Gosh. Times were tough back then.

SS: A girl would say, where do you live? I’d say west of here. She’d say, where specifically? I’d say, the suburbs. She’d say, why is a 21 year old living in the suburbs? And then came the killer line. Wait, you live with your mom don’t you? Yes, and I watch Star Trek dammit!

JL: It’s like you were less than human.

SS: I’ll confess, sometimes, I just hated who I was. Why does this repressive majority with their rich parents and student loans get to live in cool places downtown, while I was barred and stigmatized.

JL: Jones’s victory speech?

SS: My heart filled with hope, when he said: “This is a great country when a plain featured white guy, educated in the streets of Trend Village, in Nepean, Ontario can grow up to be Prime Minister one day.”

JL: It’s not only what he says, it’s the way he says it, isn’t it? That line gave me chills.

SS: I’ve lived my whole life to hear it.

JL: Nepean doesn’t even exist anymore does it?

SS: That dark chapter was closed with the City of Ottawa Amalgamation. One hundred years from now, they probably won’t even know what went on there. The name may have changed, but the scars never heal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Nuke the Fridge" the New "Jump the Shark"

I see the Razzie awards are out and Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull is nominated for Worst prequel, remake, rip-off or sequel.

When I was 12, Raiders of the Lost Ark came out and forever after nothing has compared to the movie experience I had then. I was completely blown away.

The sequels pretty much sucked, but I had to watch them.

So I had to give Crystal Skull at try. Early in the movie, Indy hides in a refrigerator on a nuke test site in Nevada. The atomic bomb goes off, and Indy is blown a few miles up and out, and lands inside the intact fridge in the middle of the desert. No damage. He opens the door, walks out a bit woozy, dusts himself off and moves on.

At this point I said f-ck this and my wife and I agreed to turn it off. I simply couldn't go on. We have had jokes about it ever since.

'There's nothing on tv, do you want to try watching the Indiana Jones movie again?"

"No way, not after that f-cking fridge thing."

Well it turns out we weren't the only ones. I'm delighted to find out that the term "Nuke the Fridge" has now become a popular term like "Jump the Shark."

Nuke the fridge is a colloquialism used to refer to the moment in a film series that is so incredible that it lessens the excitement of subsequent scenes that rely on more understated action or suspense, and it becomes apparent that a certain installment is not as good as previous installments, due to ridiculous or low quality storylines, events or characters.

The term comes from the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which, near the start of the movie, Harrison Ford's character survives a nuclear detonation by climbing into a kitchen fridge, which is then blown hundreds of feet through the sky whilst the town disintegrates. He then emerges from the fridge with no apparent injury. Later in the movie, the audience is expected to fear for his safety in a normal fistfight.

Fans of the Indiana Jones series found the absurdity of this event in the film to be the best example of the lower quality of this installment in the series, and thus coined the phrase, "nuke the fridge".

Arar Case Heating Up Again

Here's an appalling piece of journalism from the Ottawa Citizen. (Listed under "News" not "Opinion", and not credited to an individual writer.) There have always been big questions about the Arar case, but the Citizen does not want us to ask.
The revelation about Mr. Arar emerged during a hearing at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay First, let's get something on the table. Everything that comes out of that gulag is suspect.

A "gulag." Talk about loaded language. Omar Khadr is a well documented prisoner and has confessed to his actions. It's not some secret gulag, because we know all about it. It is not the same as millions and millions of Soviet citizens disappearing at night to be deported to Siberia to spend the rest of their short lives in agony. Shame on them for cheapening the word.

A Canadian citizen of Syrian origin, Maher Arar has always denied any terrorist ties, and has always denied ever having been in Afghanistan. Canadian security officials once thought otherwise. So did U.S. officials, who in 2002 secretly deported Mr. Arar to Syria, where he was tortured.

Funny how The Citizen talks about rules of evidence, when there is no evidence, other than his word, that Arar was tortured. They write it as fact though.

It's odd that now, all these months later, an FBI representative suddenly produces seemingly definitive evidence that perhaps Mr. Arar was not all he pretended to be.
Is is that surprising, since, you know, there is a hearing going on? The US have always maintained that he was guilty.

This is not good enough to convict Mr. Arar in the court of public opinion, or any other court. (Needless to say, even if he had spent time in Afghanistan, that wouldn't have justified his rendition to Syria and torture there.)

It also wouldn't have justified Canada paying him $10.5 million either.

But so far as Maher Arar is concerned, there's never been evidence that he poses, or has posed, a security threat to anyone. If anything, he and his wife Monia Mazigh have embraced their public roles with dignity and humility -- writing books, giving interviews, even (in the case of Ms. Mazigh) running for political office. Surely by now they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Well, yes there is evidence, and why should we give them the benefit of doubt?

Again, this Western Standard article about the questions from the Arar case is must read.

Harnessing the Sun and the Wind and the Soil

David Frum has a breakdown of Obama's speech in the National Post today.

He takes note of this point:

And indeed the address itself delivers an ominous early warning of how wasteful Obama’s spending will likely be:

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.

Obama wants to move away from coal-fired electricity on environmental grounds. Fine. The best alternative, hydropower, is largely tapped out in the United States. (Although there remain some large potential projects in Canada, especially in northern Manitoba.)

So what should be used instead? As a rule of thumb, nuclear power costs about 50% more than coal; windpower, at least three times as much. Solar power costs even more than wind, at least with existing technology.

Those basic cost factors imply that the money Obama wishes to invest in energy technology will almost certainly reduce US economic growth rather than accelerate it. Obama promises that his government will aid the private economy. In reality it will be burdening it.

That needs to be said. Whenever the argument of so-called clean energy comes up, wind, solar and ethanol, the politicians and environmentalists never say that it will hurt the economy. There would be more credibility for the movement if they were up front and said, we think it's worth it, even if it means recessions and unemployment. Instead we hear that it will help the economy, all those "green collar" jobs.

Foggy Downtown Vancouver

We've been shrouded in fog for about five days now. Only the tallest buildings stick out. I feel very small seeing this perspective. (click on picture to enlarge)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Globe and Mail Contortion Experts

These little headline gymnastics from the G & M gave me a laugh.

The headline: Duceppe trumpets coalition's strength

The sub-headline: Bloc Québécois Leader doubts Prime Minister will change tone and meet Liberal-NDP demands on budget

The opening of the article (A CP wire re-publication):
MONTREAL — Gilles Duceppe says his party's coalition with the Liberals and New Democrats is just as robust as it was before the Governor-General prorogued Parliament last month.

The Bloc Québécois Leader said he would be surprised if Prime Minister Stephen Harper changed his tone and met the coalition's demands in next week's federal budget.

I love how the G & M add in the sub-headline that these are "Liberal-NDP" budget demands, like its coming out of Duceppe's mouth. Like Duceppe and the Bloc don't have any demands and might not even be a part of the coalition. In the CP article it is quite clear that Duceppe is speaking as a member of the coalition.

Breaking: Ted Kennedy Collapses in Capitol Building

I'm watching Fox News. He is suffering from a brain tumor and collapsed in convulsions at the Obama ceremony and was removed by stretcher.

Apparantly he is at the hospital and doing better.

Obama's parade is starting but he and his wife appear sombre, after witnessing the incident.

UPDATE: ABC News have the full run down.

Kennedy was at a table with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Vice President Mondale and Mrs. Mondale, and others. While at the table, Kennedy began having seizures that lasted for several minutes. As they were carrying Kennedy out of the room, he was still seizing. President Barack Obama went out of the room with him, but he is back in the luncheon room now.

Liberals Dust Off "Hidden Agenda" Criticism Again

You can tell Iggy has hired Chretien era communications people as he uses the same doomsday accusations against the Conservatives:

"The federal government is weakened, the country becomes more regionalized. It becomes a more unjust and more unequal society bit by bit. This is (the conservatives') long-term strategic plan," he said.

Harper has been Prime Minister for three years, and people can see for themselves that it hasn't turned into a fascist dictatorship. They need new talking points, they are plain out of ideas.

Ezra Levant Thinks Arar is a Liar

On Omar Kadr's seeing Maher Arar in Afghanistan, Ezra Levant pulls out the 2007 Western Standard piece of investigative journalism on the huge questions and inconsistencies in the Arar case.

Maher Arar was declared by the breathless mainstream media to be a saint whose lamb-like innocence was never tainted by association with terrorists.

Word comes from another media darling -- Omar Khadr -- that Arar in fact was at an Al Qaida safe house in Afghanistan on various occasions, contrary to Arar's denials of ever being in that country.

All of which vindicates one of the most important cover stories the Western Standard ever ran, entitled "What really happened to Maher Arar?" You really must read it -- you'll learn things that just haven't been reported elsewhere, ranging from that fact that Arar's purported injuries from "torture" were never examined by an independent doctor; that when he was picked up by Canadian diplomats in Syria, he showed no signs of torture whatsoever -- only signs of not having bathed. Those are just two little tid-bits. Really: read the whole thing. It's a great story, written by Kevin Steel.

News at a Standstill

It's all about Obama today, so let's enjoy the spectacle and see what happens next. Not be be a spoilsport but I don't have a lot of hope and so far from what he has initiated as president-elect, not much change either. Iraq and Afghanistan will continue as it is. The economy will continue with bailout-stimulus-nationalization mania, instead of realism and belt-tightening.

Sorry to be the wet blanket.

Monday, January 19, 2009


An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

- HL Mencken

Frum Signs Off at NRO, Embarks on a New Project

Here's the last excerpt from the "Frum Diary" at NRO

In the months ahead, conservatives and Republicans will face the most adverse political environment since the middle 1960s. At the same time, the current economic crisis raises some of the most searching intellectual problems conservatives have faced since their rise as a coherent intellectual movement. How did we get into this mess? How do we get out? And perhaps above all: Why did American incomes stagnate so dismally on our watch, even before the crisis struck?

The work ahead is difficult. As ever, it is difficulty that brings out the best in individuals and in political movements. I look forward eagerly to working through those difficulties together with you, our readers and (I hope) future commenters - and with the brilliant band of colleagues and associates who will be posting at

I wish him luck on the project. Conservative punditry has been dreadful the last few years as they tried to pretend that Bush wasn't a disaster, that it's unpatriotic to question the war strategy and staying mute while Bush nationalized the economy, and has the country on the brink of bankruptcy.

The cracks started to show with Bush's handling of the economy, signing every spending bill that crossed his desk. Republicans are supposed to be for small government and free markets. Bush was making a mockery of the concept. Then we noticed the wars were dragging on and nation building projects that conservatives were skeptical about were proving costly and likely futile.

This all broke when McCain chose Palin as his running mate. Conservative punidts were saying this illiterate, proudly ignorant twit represented "real" America. It was an embarrassment and high profile conservatives like Frum, George Will, and Peggy Noonan bolted for the exits.

Is the War on Drugs Worth the Fight?

Radley Balko has a comprehensive essay on how much damage the war on drugs is having from police militarization, foreign policy blunders, damage to rule of law, record incarceration rates, and hurts people who need medical treatment. (read)
In the 1980s, the “war” part of the drug war got very real. America’s long (and wise) constraint on using the military for domestic policing began to blur, as states deployed National Guard troops to search for marijuana hidden in fields and forests and, in some cases, to patrol drug-riddled inner cities. The line between cop and soldier further blurred when President Regan authorized active-duty elite military units to train with narcotics police, and then again with the exploding use of paramilitary SWAT teams in America.

Only a handful of police departments had SWAT teams in the 1970s, and they were only deployed in total a few hundred times per year. That number soared to around 4,000 per year by the early 1980s. There are around 50,000 SWAT deployments per year today in America, and they’re primarily used to serve drug

By the late 1980s, Congress had opened up the Pentagon’s cache of surplus military equipment for civilian police departments across the country to scavenge, again driven largely by the drug war. Millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on the battlefield—including guns, tanks, armored personnel vehicles, helicopters, grenade launchers, and armor—would now be used on American streets, against American citizens. Parallel to the rise of SWAT teams was the rise of the “no-knock raid” which sent cops barreling into private homes to look for dope, a particularly aggressive and violent method of policing, that has since left behind a predictable trail of tragedy.

I have written about this issue here: A Day to Examine Drug Prohibition

Globe and Mail Pretends that the Bloc Quebecois Aren't Part of the Coalition Again

Iggy is threatening to vote down the new Tory budget. The Globe and Mail has the scoop.

“If the budget does not respond to the circumstances, if the budget is not up to the level of the crisis we are all facing, we must vote against it.”

Mr. Ignatieff did not mention the Liberal-NDP coalition, which is supposed to be waiting in the wings to take power if Mr. Harper's Conservatives are defeated in a budget vote.

Funny, the Globe and Mail didn't mention the other Coalition member, the Bloc Quebecois. I think we may have a complete rewind from the fall with the same talking points. I hope the Liberals try to force this no confidence vote again. If they try to seize power or force an election they are in big trouble.

Once again, what a rag the once proud Globe and Mail is for openly propagandizing for the Liberals. They pretend the Coalition does not contain the Bloc. Shame!

As I wrote back in December the Liberals (and their media backers), think we're so stupid, we don't notice that the Bloc are part of the deal. One day they have a public signing together, the next they say the Tories are out of order suggesting that the Bloc are part of it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

NFL Championship Sunday

Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.

- Joe Theismann

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not the Boss of Me

As an NFL football diehard, I read a lot of American sports writing. They are all excited, to a man, for Bruce Springsteen's appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show. I never understood the hype for Springsteen.

I find him a poseur. His dramatic blue-collar anthems are over-the-top. It's like a guest on Oprah playing up their victimhood status.

Got Mary pregnant, down by the river? Call Dr. Phil, and spare me.

Taliban Openly Govern Parts of our "Ally" Pakistan

We are constantly assured that the government of Pakistan is trying their best to suppress Al Qaeda and Taliban forces who are fighting our troops in Afghanistan. This Timesonline article shows that the Taliban operate openly, including courts where they met out their justice. (read)

The 71 Taliban courts operating in the Kabal, Matta, Khwazakhela and Charbagh districts of Swat amount to a parallel legal system. Their judgments on finance, land disputes, smuggling and narcotics are arbitrary and handed out by self-proclaimed Taliban judges with scant legal or religious knowledge.

Taliban informers spy on people alleged to be breaking Islamic law, who then receive a three-day warning to shut their business. Most obey instantly, but anyone defying the order is arrested by armed Taliban and dragged to court for a summary trial the next day.

They are completely out in the open about their control of the region.

But wait, US commander, General Patraeus says:

Pakistan does have large, well-developed security institutions and its leaders are determined to employ their own forces in dealing with the significant extremist challenges that threaten their country.

How can he say that with a straight face? When you hear this sort of thing, you think the terrorists are hiding in caves and running a covert guerrilla operation. No, they are wide open and actually control the legal system up front in some provinces. This while the US sends an annual $2 billion of military aid to their "ally" Pakistan in the hopes that they keep it under control and help the effort. What a joke. How do they expect to win the war with this bullshit going on? It's a disgrace. A disaster in the making.

You can't win in Afghanistan unless you can get Pakistan under control. We're sitting here watching this happen. They don't seem to care that it's unwinnable, as long as they are showing that they are making some kind of effort.

Churchill on Afghanistan

There was a tip in the comments section recently to read Winston Churchill's account of Afghanistan from 1898. PBS Frontline had an excerpt from Chapter 1, which makes me want to get the whole book. (excerpt)

Every influence, every motive, that provokes the spirit of murder among men, impels these mountaineers to deeds of treachery and violence. The strong aboriginal propensity to kill, inherit in all human beings, has in these valleys been preserved in unexampled strength and vigour. That religion, which above all others was founded and propagated by the sword -- the tenets and principles of which are instinct with incentives to slaughter and which in three continents has produced fighting breeds of men -- stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism. The love of plunder, always a characteristic of hill tribes, is fostered by the spectacle of opulence and luxury which, to their eyes, the cities and plains of the south display. A code of honour not less punctilious than that of old Spain, is supported by vendettas as implacable as those of Corsica.

It's a little naive to expect nation building and democracy to work there. I was open minded about it at first, but it's been almost eight years now and it hasn't miraculously turned into a western style peaceful democracy. Time to be realistic and start downgrading expectations.

Backlash to Government Fiscal Stimulus

Terence Corcoran gives a clear eyed look at the Tory's planned fiscal stimulus package in the Financial Post today. (here)

Except for one problem: What if it's not true? What if, as a wide and growing school of economists now suspect, the government spending and stimulus theory is a crock that is shovel-ready to be heaved out into the barnyard of economic waste?

The Prime Minister, in his comments on Friday, seemed to be riding right into the barnyard. He said the government would be simply "borrowing money that is not being used" and "that business is afraid to invest." By borrowing that money, and turning it over to all the groups and interests looking for part of the stimulus spending, he would be jump-starting activity while the private sector got its legs back.

Even disciples of Keynes, such as Harvard's Greg Mankiw, recently highlighted economic studies that show government spending binges -- shocks, they are sometimes called -- don't seem to help the economy grow. They might even make it worse.

We're now seeing the effects of the Coalition's attempt at a coup. The Conservatives are taking advice from likes of the NDP and putting together this ridiculous budget. How Layton railed that the Harper government "wasn't doing anything." Boy, I wish Harper stuck to not doing anything.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Schwarzenegger a Bust in California

California tax refunds to be delayed starting Feb. 1

Controller John Chiang said Friday he must delay $3.7 billion in payments next month because lawmakers have failed to address California's growing deficit.

With a $41.6 billion shortfall over the next year-and-a-half, the state is on the brink of issuing IOUs.

Wow! Can you imagine if you're expecting a return, how you'd feel about that? It's not all Arnie's fault, but he never addressed California's growing bankruptcy seriously. They have great anti-smoking and environmental laws though.

I can't think of a nicer place in the world to live and it's going to ruin. It looks like a default is on the way.

I know he was a success in movies and all that, but I've never seen an interview with him where I didn't roll my eyes. His governorship seemed like a joke and it looks like it is.

Breaking: Jon Gruden Fired by Buccaneers

George W Bush: The Worst President Ever?

I was over at Andrew Sullivan's site today and he thinks, as it stands now, W is even worse than James Buchanan.

I won't go that far. Buchanan watched the South secede without lifting a finger, deferring to President-Elect Lincoln to deal with it. Treason through in-action. You can't get worse than that, so he's still number one.

So let's weigh Bush: his massive government expansion; jaw dropping debts; two long, expensive wars that still aren't won yet (or maybe never); lowering the US image worldwide to an all-time low. This puts him in very clear contention for #2 all-time.

Let's compare a few of the other bad ones:

Jimmy Carter: Nearly destroyed the economy and thought being nice to people would solve international problems. Impotent during the hostage crisis. The old joke about Carter, from somebody marooned on a desert island for four years during his administration: "Next thing you're going to tell me is that he gave away the Panama Canal."

Richard Nixon: The only president to resign and escaped jail only with a pardon by his successor. Conservatives scoff at his liberal policies. Took five years to get Americans out of Vietnam. In hindsight, just how ground breaking was his recognition of China? Somebody was going to do it eventually.

Lyndon Johnson: The Great Government Expansionist before Bush. Started the Vietnam War that he didn't know how to wage and couldn't finish. At least he put through Kennedy's tax cuts and therefore enjoyed a good economy.

Warren Harding: Scandals and corruption but had the good fortune to die before he did too much damage.

US Grant: Administration was plagued with scandal and nearly bankrupted the country. Won the Civil War as a general, so all was forgiven.

Andrew Johnson: The drunken tailor from Tennessee was the only President impeached before Clinton. Had the bad luck to have taken office after the assassination of the greatest president ever, Abraham Lincoln.

It's a tough one. I think Bush takes #2. The US has bounced back from the others, but it looks like things are going to get much worse this time.

Plains of Abraham Battle Re-Enactment Causes Stir

It's Friday and that means it's time for some light hearted reading. In the Globe and Mail, a plan to re-enact the historic battle this summer has upset some Quebecers. (read)

Mr. Juneau, whose [National Battlefields Commission] is an agency of Canadian Heritage, acknowledged that he was "a bit on the defensive" about the event, but said the anniversary could be an opportunity to mark Quebec's advancement in 250 years.

"Yes it was a defeat. We took a beating in 1759," he said. "But we got up again. We survived. Today we're recognized as a nation."

Not to sound like too much of a bully but here's a guy who works for the government of Canada, talking about the proud Quebec nation, even though it is not an independant country. Forgive me, if I find that a little weak.

As I've written here before, Quebec needs to man up and go ahead and separate. You don't even have to fight for it, we're willing to let you go with a simple majority vote. Why Isn't Quebec an Independant Country?

Vancouver 2010: Big Owe Revisited

Looks like the yet to be completed Olympic Village Complex is becoming a colossal disaster. (read)

The city is now asking the province for special permission to borrow money in order to finance the remaining $458-million needed to finish construction on the 1,100-unit village by the end of October.

Mr. Andrews dealt mainly with the project's compliance with city planning, design and environmental guidelines, as opposed to overseeing its finances.

Also Thursday, Mayor Robertson revealed in a letter that the city of Vancouver is racking up $87,000 per day in interest costs to bridge the financing for the Olympic Village project.

It took 30 years for Montreal to pay off Olympic Stadium and now it looks like Vancouver is already on the hook. At least Montreal had the more prestigious Summer Games. Did such major metropolitan areas like Lake Placid, Albertville, Lillehammer and Nagano have to pay so much for the Winter Olympics?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

BC Hippy Hunger Strikes for Khadr

And he speaks to the CBC about it:
My take: I decided to protest against the unfair and illegal treatment and detention of Omar Khadr, who was a young soldier that, regardless of which 'side' he was involved with, should have been granted a minimum of protection from the Canadian authorities.

Nationalism certainly is dead when a "side" is dismissed as an arbitrary thing.

No word yet if he's abstaining from smoking dope.

UPDATE: They link to his Facebook page, check this out:

Contact Info
Office: Cold but sweet VW Van
Location:Whatever one my wheels
decide to venture on

No, I didn't make that up.

In the Quebecois Press Today

"Bloc MPs are duly elected by Québec voters. They are not traitors, they are not the enemies of Canada."

- Michael Ignatieff (From LeDevoir, translated from French)

Michael Moore Sued For Misuse of Photo

Good to see the hefty propagandist is getting bad publicity for his misleading work.

"The implication on Moore's Web site was that our soldiers were somehow responsible for that kid being wounded," Yon's lawyer, John Mason told Page Six. "That is absolutely not true. She was the victim of an insurgent's car bomb." Yon said:

Typical Moore, he'll just put something up and through innuendo imply what's happening. The audiences eat it up.

I remember a few years ago I was speaking with an American client. Noting that I was Canadian he said, "I saw on the news somewhere that it's so safe up there that you people don't lock your doors." Obviously he was thinking of "Bowling for Columbine" when Moore asserted this canard. I don't know about small town people, but here in Vancouver and other big cities, of course you lock your doors.

Book Review: Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford

This book is popular amongst US troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Published in 1971, it’s supposedly a non-fictional account of an ex-Waffen SS officer who joined the French Foreign Legion and was sent to fight the Viet Minh guerrillas in the jungles of Indochina in the late 1940’s and early 50’s.

It’s clear when reading it that it is not a true account, but fiction. I speculate that the book was written specifically for the US combat trooper, then still in Vietnam fighting the Vietcong guerrillas. The American author recognizes that what made it so difficult to fight that war for the GI was that you were hampered by rules of engagement:

1. Forbidden to engage civilians as they harbor or openly support the guerillas.

2. Forbidden to cross the border to enemy safe havens and supply depots in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Fictionally, to solve those problems, enter Hans Wagmeuller, an SS officer, fighting in the first Vietnam War, not bound by any rules of decency and commanding a specially formed German battalion (The Devil’s Guard) for the Légion étrangère. The French, desperate to fight for their colonies, turned a blind eye to the pasts of these former enemy soldiers and possible war criminals; set loose in the jungle and with experience fighting Russian “partisan” fighters, these men weren't going to flinch:

I was resolved to show the enemy that terror, brutality, and cold blooded murder were not their monopoly, a Communist privilege, and that at least my battalion was ready to pay them tit for tat. They understood no other language.

“The French are great fort builders,” the Germans laugh. Wagmeuller observes the result of French garrison mentality - supply convoys getting ambushed, outposts being overrun - and fashions his own unit to fight like guerillas. They move fast and quietly in the jungles and hills and unleash carnage and death on countless communist camps, fighters and hostile villages. If you are squeamish about such things, don’t read it because this is full-on ‘war porn’. (To use the term from “Jarhead” about troops watching combat movies to see the action, not for the anti-war moral message.)

The 900 man brigade view all civilians, even in French controlled areas, as potential enemies. Never get fooled by the peasants in the rice patties because they’re more than likely to report your position or even directly engage you when your guard is down.

It shows the futility of fighting these kinds of engagements. If you leave them alone, you could get killed - there were plenty of grenade lobbying grannys, mothers and children. But alternatively what are you going to do, kill off the whole population? The villagers themselves might not like the communists, but opposition is sure death. Ho Chi Minh and his communists seized power by force and aggressively indoctrinated the people.
Back then, the north was technically still controlled by the French and headquarters was in Hanoi, not Saigon. Newly victorious Mao Tse Tung in China was a vital ally for the Viet Minh. They provided border area safe havens, as well as money, arms and military advisors.

After a devastating hit to a French garrison, courtesy of a well known Chinese in command of a Viet Minh division, Wagmeuller decides he’s going to covertly cross the Chinese border to destroy two enemy bases. French high command are aware of it, but pretend not to be and certainly would never approve it (wink). The key is that not a single prisoner or body can be left behind as proof of the incursion, or it would cause an international incident. The Chinese and Viet Minh, comfortable in their sanctuary are caught off guard, and the Germans manage to inflict major casualties, and destroy bases, trucks and supplies, on their commando mission.

You can see why the book was as popular back then with US troops, as it is now. In 2009, it’s a different time and place (the Middle East) but they’re fighting against guerrillas with, as the saying went in Vietnam, “One hand tied behind their backs” - fighting an enemy that mixes in with civilian populations, and who are supplied from over borders that they themselves aren’t allowed to cross. It's hard to win a war that way and Wagmeuller himself admits in his day, in the long term, the situation was unwinnable.

The Viet Minh don’t destroy the Devil’s Guard but the liberal western press does. The communists were master media manipulators. Here’s an interesting observation by Wagmeuller (that is very relevant to today’s news):

When the Viet Minh was unable to claim any success by force of arms, the commissars always secured at least a political victory. Their formula was a simple one. Had their peasant -cum-guerrillas managed to rout a French garrison, the Communist victory was widely publicized. But when the Legion squashed them somewhere, the fallen terrorists were stripped of military equipment, their corpses were rearranged (often with arms and legs bound with ropes), then photographed and displayed to friend and foe alike as the” innocent victims of a French massacre.

The war ends for them before the disaster at Dien Bien Phu, and the absolute loss of Indochina for the French.

Overall the book is very interesting but the comic book fiction elements are irksome: They always have plenty of ammo, even on weeks long jungle marches, hence plenty of shooting and explosions for actions scenes; The plans, except for a few minor contingencies always work. (Which in combat is highly unlikely. As Mike Tyson said: “Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.”); The enemy always fall into traps and are generally stupid. It’s a more sophisticated version of Sgt. Rock.

It’s a cool idea. I think of the 60’s and 70’s motorcycle gang books, like “Chopper” that they produced in Britain. That too was under the guise of non-fiction but had the action/adventure and criminality/rebelliousness that readers were looking for. I think the writer "George Robert Elford" tapped into a great idea: The ultimate combat book, set in a theatre that the Americans were then fighting in, and dealing with real issues and tactics that were involved.