Posts from our progressive community

FBI Upgrades Animal Cruelty to Major Felony

The Disaffected Lib - 46 min 55 sec ago
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has reclassified animal cruelty to the ranks of major, Group A felonies such as murder, arson and assault.

The change reflects a recognition that most serial killers begin their criminal careers as sociopathic animal abusers.

...the new category will mean law enforcement agencies will have to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse, the FBI said in statement. The bureau didn’t answer questions beyond a short statement.

“The immediate benefit is it will be in front of law enforcement every month when they have to do their crime reports,” said John Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association who worked to get the new animal cruelty category instituted. “That’s something we have never seen.”

...FBI studies show that serial killers like [Jeffrey] Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s parakeet; and Albert DeSalvo, a.k.a. the “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the boxes.

My CBC Letter Of Complaint

Politics and its Discontents - 2 hours 58 min ago

Although probably a futile effort, here is the letter of complaint that I have sent to the CBC ombudsman, The National, and CBC Audience Feedback regarding the Corporation's absolute failure to keep Canadians informed about the Health Canada's unwillingness to protect Canadians from tainted pharmaceuticals:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to complain about the abject failure of the CBC to inform Canadians on an issue that is a potential threat to both health and life. That issue recently emerged when The Toronto Star conducted an excellent investigative series into the lack of drug safety oversight being provided by Health Canada:

The investigation revolved around the agency's failure to hold generic drug manufacture Apotex to account for issues that resulted in several of their drugs being banned by the American Food and Drug Administration, which maintains a publicly accessible database to keep its citizens informed over drug investigations, recalls, etc. Health Canada refused to make this information public; Health Minister Rona Ambrose cited 'proprietary privacy issues.'

The Star investigation also uncovered the fact that Health Canada asked Apotex to suspend the importation of certain drugs, and the company refused. Again, no details as to the suspect drugs were released to the public.

This matter was taken up in the House of Commons, and as a result of the efforts of both the NDP and The Star, action has finally been taken, as reported in today's edition:

I am sure you would agree that this story is of national interest and significance. Yet as far as I can determine, on none of your platforms, be it radio, television, or Internet, has a word of this scandalous situation been uttered or printed.

This is behaviour totally unacceptable for Canada's national broadcaster.

I avidly await your explanation for this egregious failure to keep Canadians informed.
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On the Stealth Front

The Disaffected Lib - 2 hours 59 min ago
China is about to respond to the proliferation of F-35 stealth light bombers in east Asia.

Japan, South Korea and Australia are expected to deploy about 300 F-35s while the Americans could easily double that from air force bases in the region as well as naval fleet carriers.

The authoritative journal, Janes Defence Weekly, claims that China is expected to counter the stealth threat with its own, more or less indigenous stealth warplanes. The journal reports that China will buy 2-300 J-20's and upwards of 400 J-31 stealth fighters.  The J-31 bears an eerie resemblance to the F-35 only it's equipped with two engines.

China has unveiled a new, low-frequency radar system that is claimed to be able to defeat stealth masking.  China claims the DWLOO2 passive radar can detect stealth warplanes without alerting the pilots that they're being tracked or targeted.

Meanwhile, in the game of brinksmanship, comes the suggestion that an attack on a US carrier by Chinese DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles could trip America's nuclear threshold.  It's believed the missile could take as much as 15-minutes from launch until it hits the carrier, an interval in which Washington could decide to launch a retaliatory nuclear missile strike.  This concern, of course, leads to calls for China to establish a second-strike nuclear missile deterrent targeting the United States.

And that, kids, is why they call it MAD.

What Is It Going to Take?

The Disaffected Lib - 3 hours 16 min ago

What's it going to take for the Liberals and NDP to place the environment at the very top of their agenda?

I would have thought yesterday's seismic report that Earth has suffered the loss of half its wildlife over just the past 40-years might have done the trick.  Apparently not.  Damn few, it seems, really care about such things.

Ask yourself what this complacency means for the fate of the surviving half of our planet's wildlife.  If we're so blasé to the body blow we've already dealt biodiversity it's hard to imagine we're going to take any drastic measures to defend what remains against what really threatens these lifeforms - our rapacious overconsumption. 

It's one thing to observe that mankind is consuming the Earth's renewable resources at 1.5 times their replenishment rate.  Bad humans, bad.  That fact takes on a far more serious dimension when you realize that every other life form on the planet also depends on those same resources for its existence.  If we take more than everything, what remains in store for everything else, the surviving fraction?  Answer: oblivion, eventually.

Species extinction is occurring, by some reports, at up to a thousand times the natural rate.    That would certainly seem to be in keeping with the loss of 50% of Earth's wildlife over the past four decades.

A number of scientists warn that we may have already triggered a mass extinction event, the sixth mass extinction in our planet's history.  This time the great die-off is human driven.

It's quite a nest of vipers we've got here.  Loss of wildlife; species migration and extinction; disease and pest migration; overconsumption and resource exhaustion (fisheries, farmland, forests, fresh water); droughts and flooding (especially the flash flooding so commonplace over the past few years); polar ice loss and sea level rise; global inequality and food insecurity; and, oh yeah, global warming and ocean acidification.

Really, what's it going to take for this to become the most important problem, the top of the agenda, for the Liberals and New Democrats?   By act or omission, we're taking decisions today that will heavily impact the lives of our children and grandchildren and some of those decisions are irreversible.  It's not unreasonable to expect our opposition leaders to make the environment their priority.  Given the stakes to both us and to our descendants, that's their responsibility, their duty to the country and to us.

Take the Keys and Lock ‘Em Up…..

Left Over - 4 hours 16 min ago
Lock up chronic runaways to keep them safe: Winnipeg police officer The longer they are on the street, the worse it becomes for them, says Supt. Danny Smyth

CBC News Posted: Sep 30, 2014 4:11 PM CT Last Updated: Sep 30, 2014 4:11 PM CT

At what point do the police  have the ability to lock up anyone for any reason, to save themselves some aggravation? How about dealing with the reasons for chronic runaways at the source, instead of this obviously useless style of warehousing them??
There are many reasons for children to be runaways, and yes, I am speaking from experience..started at 12, and a few more times before I became old enough to stop running and take care of myself..there were reasons for what I did, just as there are reasons for what any runaway does, but locking me up and handing me over to whoever was ‘in charge’ was never the answer then (50 years ago) and it still isn’t…
When parents are held morally and legally responsible for their children’s well-being, things might change…when children are educated about being good parents, and have good models at home, maybe things will change…
Until then, the cycle continues…and it is depressing to know that not much has changed since I was a runaway, all those years ago.

When  those on the Right who want to advocate against birth control, abortion , etc. open their maws and start braying, I wonder how many of them  are speaking about  anything they have experienced…an unwanted pregnancy, an inability to cope with  a child for economic or  emotional reasons,  a single parent struggling to  support their child(ren) or  have they ever experienced  an abusive relationship,  one  where you and/or  your child is being threatened with physical or sexual  assault…?

Can anyone state  categorically that  any of these people are in a stable  family situation?

And the children who continue  to run from these situations should be locked up?

It's Why I Subscribe

Politics and its Discontents - 5 hours 44 min ago

To borrow a line from one of my favourite Shakespearean plays, Macbeth, "So fair and foul a day I have not seen."

It is fair because the newspaper I subscribe to and heartily endorse, The Toronto Star, has achieved a victory whose significance cannot be overestimated. Thanks to its investigative series into Health Canada's scandalous and potentially life-threatening negligence in overseeing drug safety, Health Minister Rona Ambrose, has finally acted:
Health Canada has banned the import of all drugs and drug ingredients made by two Apotex factories in Bangalore, India, with Health Minister Rona Ambrose saying Tuesday night that the trust between the regulator and the Toronto-based drug company has been “broken.”
Despite that action, long in coming, there are no plans to recall any of the 30 suspect drugs manufactured at the plants, drugs that include
a generic form of Viagra, the antibiotic azithromycin, and other drugs made to treat hypertension, dementia, high blood pressure, asthma, convulsions and Lou Gehrig’s disease.Not surprisingly, the information that led to the decision was taken from the FDA database, which is fully transparent and accessible to the public.

So what is foul? Two things:

One, had it not been for the tenacity of The Star, Health Canada would have continued to give its imprimatur to potentially life-threatening drugs, thereby egregiously failing in one of the most important aspects of its mission.

Two, despite the significance of the scandal, and despite the fact that it provoked some intense questioning from the NDP in The House of Commons, no other media outlets reported the story to my knowledge, not even the CBC, our putative national broadcaster.

Why the silence? One can only speculate, but I do intend very soon to write a letter to the CBC to ascertain the reason. Some might link it to the Corporation's policy of appeasement, about which I have written previously.

I will let you know if I get any response from the CBC.

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Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 6 hours 46 min ago
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Abdul Abiad, David Furceri and Petia Topalova highlight the IMF's research confirming that well-planned infrastructure spending offers an economic boost in both the short and long term:
(I)ncreased public infrastructure investment raises output in the short term by boosting demand and in the long term by raising the economy’s productive capacity.

In a sample of advanced economies, an increase of 1 percentage point of GDP in investment spending raises the level of output by about 0.4 percent in the same year and by 1.5 percent four years after the increase (see chart, upper panel).

In addition, the boost to GDP a country gets from increasing public infrastructure investment offsets the rise in debt, so that the public debt-to-GDP ratio does not rise...

In other words, public infrastructure investment could pay for itself if done correctly. - And the Montreal Gazette offers one example of an area where public investment is sorely lacking by pointing out the importance of making homes available as part of the fight against homelessness.

- Trish Hennessy's latest Index examines Canada's weak job market - including the continued shift away from secure full-time employment toward self-employment and other precarious, low-paying work. And the Huffington Post notes that even by the top-heavy metric that is GDP, Canada's economy is looking rather anemic.

- Which of course means that it's time for...more attacks on workers! There, Stephen Kimber notes, this time it's Nova Scotia's Liberal government breaking an election promise not to gratuitously attack health care workers - and rightly facing a backlash as a result. And Bryce Covert writes that the U.S.' already-woeful system of paid leave is getting worse by the year.

- Finally, Scott Stelmaschuk challenges Andrew Scheer's rationale for allowing irrelevant answers in Question Period by wondering why a tradition of unaccounable government would be worth preserving. And Ole Hendrickson laments the fact that we're governed by political operatives rather than representatives.

Insincere Sincerity

Northern Reflections - 7 hours 9 min ago


Michael den Tandt writes that the apology Sun News issued this week to Justin Trudeau will go down in  history as a superb example of  insincere sincerity:

Having first suggested last week that Levant is not really a Sun News journalist, but rather a mere comment contributor, the network saw fit to broadcast its mea culpa via a voiced segment, in vintage newscaster baritone, that aired just before Levant’s regular Monday evening spot. The host himself did not apologize, or acknowledge the apology in any way. It was as though, as far as he was concerned, it hadn’t happened.
Like Paul Calandra's blubbering last week in the House of Commons, everyone knows that, behind the babble, there is no commitment to change:

Perhaps Levant threatened to quit rather than personally apologize? Or maybe the network preferred not to force the issue. Either way, it is now a given there will be future Levantist overreach, given this host’s odd, almost fetishistic obsession with the Trudeau family, and the federal election in the offing. No matter what tripe Levant spouts, whether about the Roma or about a federal politician, Sun Media does not withdraw his platform. Clearly, they love the guy.
Brian Mulroney reportedly insisted on the apology. But clearly there will be no attempt to change the organization's culture. In fact, nothing in Conservative culture has changed -- not for Levant, for Calandra -- or for the master of insincere sincerity --  the multiply apologetic Rob Ford.

But, den Tandt writes -- all indications to the contrary -- people are not stupid:

There is a reason why Levant is not taken seriously by many. There is a reason why Calandra is now a punch line. There is a reason why Rob Ford, before cancer took him out of Toronto’s mayoral race, was on track to get booted from office, and it is simply that most people are not idiots.

Despite every attempt by political professionals to purge a sense of honour from our politics, the majority of individuals still possess an instinct for truth. They still respond viscerally to its obvious presence or absence. They still can spot insincerity for what it is. And they are still predisposed, in a democracy, to punish politicians who routinely play them for fools.
Which begs the question: How will Canadians react when Stephen Harper tells them that going to war in Iraq is a "noble" enterprize?

The Silence of Ezra Levant and the PMO Network

Montreal Simon - 9 hours 18 min ago

Well I see Ezra Levant is keeping a low profile, and remaining unusually silent.

After being spanked by his bosses at Sun News, with a soft fluffy feather. 

Even as critics call for Levant to make a personal apology for a monologue that included calling the late Pierre Trudeau a “slut,” the host of Sun News Network’s The Source declined to answer the Star’s questions when reached by email Tuesday morning, and again in person later in the afternoon as he was leaving the network’s downtown Toronto studios. 

“My comments are that I have no comment,” said Levant, when repeatedly asked if he will apologize to Trudeau.

And in a column today Michael Den Tandt claims the reason Levant got off so lightly is because there are two Sun News Networks.
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Road to War

Montreal Simon - 11 hours 24 min ago

I have no idea which voice in his head was commanding him, but it was a very different Stephen Harper who turned up in the House of Commons today.  An unusually subdued version.

He reached out to the opposition, answered their questions politely, instead of mocking them, or setting his howling Con jackals on them.

But the essential message remained the same: He will lead us into a war he calls both noble and necessary. 
Read more »

Field of dreams

Cathie from Canada - 12 hours 51 min ago

Loved watching tonight's ball game.
There is no game but baseball where the team that wants it more can come back to win, even against a better opponent.

KC may not get very far against the LA Angels, but you never know.

When Canadian Soldiers Must Choose Between Their Pensions and Their Mental Health

Montreal Simon - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 20:13

I've written many stories about the callous way the Con regime and the military treat our wounded soldiers.

But since nothing ever seems to be done about it, and I've seen the horror up close, I'm just going to have to keep repeating this:

Making soldiers choose between their pensions and their mental health is the absolute limit. 
Read more »


The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 16:23

There's no better word to describe the chaos in Iraq and Syria than FUBAR.  If you don't know what it is, Google it.

There are some breathtakingly simple minds beating the drums for Canada to engage in combat against the Islamic State, ISIS.  The trouble is that simple minds, even among self-identified Liberals,  get a lot of good people killed.

The Harper government is chomping at the bit to "get some" ISIS butt and there are enough bellicose Liberals ready to go along.  What Harper and his backers have in common is a phenomenally naive grasp of what is going on and how Western intervention is liable to turn out.

Foreign Policy's Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has a dandy assessment of the mess we're likely to get ourselves into.

Looking at our Syria policy, it has begun to dawn on me that we really face a two-part conundrum that we will have difficulty unpacking. First, there's the obvious: Hitting the Islamic State (IS) strengthens Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Second: If we choose to hit him, we'll buck up IS, al-Nusra Front, and the rest of the swell groups that are in the Syrian opposition, not to mention alienating our new friends, Iraq's prime minister, and of course, Iran, and a few of our old acquaintances like Putin.
That two-part conundrum only reinforces my real concern: the new and potentially slippery slope that is at the heart of our approach. And it's not boots on the ground. Instead, it's the reality that we're being pulled inexorably like a moth to a flame not just toward a military conflict with Assad, but toward bearing the responsibility for fixing -- or worse, for creating -- the new Syria. Indeed, under the realist's rubric of striking IS to keep America safe, we may well end up in the very place U.S. President Barack Obama has willfully tried to avoid: nation-building....IS is a symptom of a problem. If it weren't for a failing Syrian state and a weak one in Iraq, we wouldn't be having this conversation. It's the chaos and vacuum combined with the grievance-producing policies of Assad and former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki that created the opportunity and the pool of recruits owhich IS and other jihadists feed. It is only logical to assume that the only stable end state that can, in the president's words, "ultimately destroy ISIL," is good governance in both countries.  And in Syria that means getting rid of Assad and finding new leaders with a more inclusive approach to govern the country.Second, we can't control our local allies on the ground. It's already evident that beggars can't be choosers. The local Syrian opposition will take our weapons, money, and training on the assumption that the fight is going to be against IS. But who is going to control them? Who will order them to fight against IS once we train them, rather than against Assad, the evil one who has killed their comrades, families, and friends? These forces won't be like predator drones controlled from Toledo. And what about their cooperation with Nusra, which they feel is the most effective force in the field? They already believe the United States has betrayed them and they will use every asset to take advantage of us in order to do what they want to do in the end -- and that means directing fire against the regime. And if they do fight Assad, are we going to stand by not assisting or defending them as we've done with the Kurds and others in Iraq? Already there's more talk of a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border, perhaps as a condition of getting the Turks more committed to the fight. And finally, who stops the ethnic cleansing when Sunnis enter liberated regime areas and start killing Alawites? of the reasons the Saudis and other Gulfies chose to become part of this coalition is about more than just fear of jihadists. They also see an opportunity here to get the United States to engage militarily in Syria not just against IS but against Assad, too. The Arabs understand the contradictions inherent in U.S. policy....defeating IS and Islamist jihadists requires Assad's ouster. And while the last thing the United States needs now is another trillion-dollar social science experiment, this time in Syria, the president has now placed America and his successors in the middle of a mess that could evolve in that direction. And something tells me that before it's over, we'll have taken on not only IS, but the Assads, too. The question is what comes after and who's responsible for it? To quote the immortal worlds of Alfred E. Neuman: What, Me Worry?By the way, if we're really insistent on a bombing campaign to take down the Islamic State, we could begin by leveling Qatar.

Cheap Rhetoric Versus Practical Questions

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 14:40
With regard to the ISIS threat, here is what Prime Minister Harper had to say in the House:
“These are necessary actions, they are noble actions” .... “When we think that something is necessary and noble, we don’t sit back and say that only other people should do it. The Canadian way is that you do your part.”
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, on the other hand,
asked a series of questions on the matter, including the length of the planned mission, the exit strategy and the exact demands of the United States for a Canadian military contribution.
While Harper is content to wrap himself in the flag, one wonders how ordinary Canadians will react once that flag is draped around coffins coming back from the Middle East.

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How Did Canada Enlist in America's "Permanent Warfare Legion"?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:56
I recently came across an article asking the reader to recall the world pre-9/11.

September 11th, 2001 - the 21st century had just begun, the very beginning of the third millennia A.D.  Somehow everything changed on that horrible day. How many of us could have imagined that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would so powerfully change the world, the way we lived, how we are governed?

Remember, "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists"?  George w. Bush and his supposed line in the sand.  No one stood up to him.  No one responded, "Says who?"  No, Americans were grievously upset, looking for enemies, spoiling for a fight, and so we fell dutifully in line.  It was no time to be challenging the global hegemon.

We jumped aboard the bus, heedless that the driver was pissed to the gills and, worse, in a rage.  How did we think that was likely to turn out?  Did we think that, having us aboard the bus, they would let us off at the next stop?  Hells bells, we're still riding that bus as it veers along the road from shoulder to shoulder.

The purpose of war is to get back to peace.  Without peace, war is kind of pointless - killing for the sake of killing.  Yet that's what we do now.  It's like playing "whack a mole" with humanity instead of wooden rodents.

Proof in point.  We fight wars now without knowing how to win them.  We go to war without objectives upon which we can forge peace.  It's our lack of clearly defined metrics that allows incompetent political and military leadership to keep this party going, forever. Killing becomes a "make work" job.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Arab names we can't be bothered to recognize or learn.  That's who we fight - for now.

What's in it for the Permanent Warfare State if we somehow came to our senses, devised a strategy and defeated these enemies?  What then?  Who next?

A cynic could be forgiven for assuming that we don't really set out to defeat Islamic extremism because, for now, they're the only game in town.  We know they need us to keep their recruits and financial support pouring in.  They're the home team fighting the Crusaders.  That's a powerful narrative in their corner of the world.

Just as the best thing that ever happened to al Qaeda was the American conquest of Iraq, some experts think ISIS beheaded those two American journalists because it desperately needed Crusader intervention to keep going.  And what kind of good sports would we be if we didn't accommodate them?

How is it we could defeat the Third Reich and its Axis in under seven years but we failed to defeat a bunch of farmboys with Korean War-vintage assault rifles in more than a dozen years.  We had all the state-of-the-art hardware; the strike fighters, the attack helicopters, the tanks and armoured fighting vehicles, the artillery, the aerial surveillance drones - everything. We even had them outnumbered.

We went into the Afghan war without a clear strategy to win and, a dozen years on, we still had no strategy to win.  We went in marching to victory and we left just hoping that the place wouldn't collapse before we evacuated. Yeah, that's what we did. We evacuated.  Our troops held quiet ceremonies in remembrance of comrades sacrificed to our folly and then we left.

Now we're off to rain death from above on ISIS.  We'll bomb them, that's what we'll do.  We'll bomb them because, for us, it's about the safest way to bring modern, high-tech violence into play.  The folks at home don't like friendly body counts.  Whether it works or not is beside the point.  That much is inarguable from the degree of success All the King's Horses and All the King's Men have achieved over the past decade-plus in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Perhaps bombing is to modern warfare what the centuries old practice of bloodletting was to medicine - a placebo that was usually harmless in moderation but every now and then killed the patient.  We've become catatonic with our obsession over geopolitical humours and vapours.

Why does this matter?  It's all water under the bridge now anyway, isn't it?  Well no, it's not.  Not hardly.  In fact we're just getting started in what promises to be a century of revolt and violence.  The experts have a term for it, the "new war."  If there's one adjective for this type of war, it's "chaotic."

New War is chaos and it demands a new pragmatic approach to conflict between states as well as conflict between states and non-state actors be they militias, terrorists, insurgents, separatists or just well-organized criminals.

Surely if Afghanistan taught us anything it's that the heavy-firepower/low manpower Western way of warfare is not suitable to New War.  Even if we fail at it, we do pride ourselves on conducting warfare in accordance with lofty humanitarian rules and principles.  At the outset we expect to wage war, get stuck in, emerge victorious and get out before the Stanley Cup finals with time to spare.  That's how we wind up playing "whack-a-mole."  It's all we understand.

We consider ourselves above the brutality and treachery of New War in which loyalties can shift and rules (to the extent there are any) can change with the winds; where state and various non-state actors can ally and then turn on each other; where little is as it seems.

New War is not humane war, it's war of slaughter and atrocity.  It's war of intimidation and terror whether that be massacring prisoners by the hundreds or beheading journalists.

When the Romans fought the barbarians they discovered that the way to win over a village in mortal fear of the Goths was to be even more brutal with the villagers.  The Romans out-barbarianed the barbarians.

I do not suggest for a moment that we in the West adopt the Roman way of defeating what may seem to be little more than rabid dogs.  It is completely unacceptable that we should adopt New War tactics and worsen the suffering of the beleaguered and powerless who just happen to stand between us and our adversary.

What I do suggest is that we start picking our fights. There is nothing to be gained - for anyone - in fighting a war we're not prepared to win.  There is no reason to engage in hostilities unless we know, from the outset, that we're going to win and just how we'll go about it.

We need to understand that, in New War, securing the civilian population is even more important than defeating your adversary in the field.  In New War, the side that controls the civilian population wins. The other side loses.

We failed in Afghanistan because the Talibs were able to control and administer territory and the people who lived there.  We patrolled the villages but we had an inadequate force incapable of securing them.  Ours was a garrison force of the sort that has been defeated in insurgencies from Algeria to Vietnam.

Here's the thing.  There is no end of bad guys out there and they've all got our number.  Yes we might intervene in their troubles - for a while - and we'll undoubtedly show up with enough high-tech everything to be seemingly invincible.  We are masters of the battlefield but they rule the backstreets and the alleys.

We're much better at bombing than bombing is at winning wars.  As a substitute for major ground combat, bombing often postpones critical outcomes.  In New War that can be rife with consequences.  Look what happened to Libya.

Washington could have cajoled Egypt's military to use its impressive arsenal of M-1A1 Abrams tanks and F-16 strike fighters to roll over the Libyan border and take out Gaddafi.  It would have been over in a week and the rebel command structure was in place to establish an interim government.

Instead, we delayed, for months.  It was long enough for what had been a pretty clean cut civil war to degrade into a New War into which al Qaeda in North Africa managed to insinuate itself fighting the rebels as much as it ever did the regime.  The Islamists even assassinated the rebel leader poised to become the Libyan leader in the post-Gaddafi era.

What did we do?  We bombed and we bombed and we bombed and then we declared victory when Gaddafi was captured and killed.  What does that victory look like today?  The country has descended into chaos and anarchy and there's no solution in sight.

So, after Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya, why do we still insist on doing this? Why does Canada feel obliged to join the fight against ISIS if Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt won't mobilize their ground forces to clean them out?  If the Arabs won't do the heavy lifting, why should the Crusaders do it for them?  It's not like we have a great track record with this sort of thing.

We need some rules, some guidelines to see Canada through this tumultuous century.  How about a rule that we not get into wars that we're not prepared to win?  How about reviving the Powell Doctrine?

The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States:
  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?[2]

We just can't go through a succession of wars without end.  If we go to war it has to be a war that matters enough to warrant our exertions and resources to the exclusion of everything else.  Afghanistan was important but not that important that it should ever have tied down Western forces for more than a decade.

We must also be ever mindful of the Permanent Warfare State at our border. That old, military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned of?   It's become something else now, something much bigger and harder to control.  As Andrew Bacevich demonstrates in The New American Militarism, today it's become the military-industrial-neoconservative-Christian fundamentalist-for profit warfighting complex that has no intention of ever being stood down.  Just today Obama gave America's Afghan war another 10-year lease on life. 

Sometimes you just gotta say no.

The Honest Pro-Lifer

Rusty Idols - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:30
An American right wing pro-life columnist named Kevin Williamson has done us  the good service of taking the pro-life 'Abortion is murder' rhetoric to it's logically consistent extreme:
Over the weekend, a presumably bored National Review writer, Kevin Williamson, became the subject of much derision and shock across the political Internets when he tweeted his argument that ”the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.” My colleague Elias Isquith highlighted Williamson’s clearest descent into pure trolling — responding to a question about whether women who have abortions should get life without parole with the line, “I have hanging more in mind.”As the Salon piece points out, all Williamson has done is strip away any soft soap gloss from the extreme radicalism of the Pro-Life position.  He has openly articulated the end game of the Pro-Life movement in a way most Pro-Lifers get uncomfortable and mumbly about when pressed, as this video shows.

 Of course the real world expression of this viewpoint is already affecting women's lives as many US states have started criminalizing miscarriages and attacking personal bodily autonomy based on junk science about the effect of maternal drug use on fetuses.


This Is Not The Time For Absolutism

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:21

In the absolutist world of Stephen Harper, there are those who wear white hats and those who wear black. No berets (especially berets!) of middling colours are recognized. So when he declares that Canada will not stand on the sidelines on this possibly endless battle against ISIS, King Stephen is positing an absolutist scenario, one that sees military action as the only way to make a meaningful contribution.

It is a blinkered perspective with which not all agree.

Writing in The Globe, a professor of political science, Michael Bell, offers the following observations and reminders:
Western “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan and Iraq have been abject failures, leaving behind a still more profound conundrum. Could this happen all over again?
It is ironic that the American-led invasion of Iraq and the abortive Arab Spring in Syria, albeit the latter a noble failure, combined to let loose the explosive radicalism we are faced with today. The subsequent power vacuum unleashed unchecked ethnic nationalism and extremist ideology. The law of unintended consequences prevails again. Whether “boots on the ground” will ultimately be the answer is more than doubtful.Roger Barany of Vancouver points out that there are viable alternatives to military engagement for Canada:
The disturbing examples of extremism we have seen (or avoided seeing) from Islamic State are no justification for Canada to be part of a massive aerial bombing campaign that could kill as many innocent civilians as intended targets. And this is assuming that the intelligence is reliable in the first place (For Harper, Decision To Deploy Must Come With Full Disclosure – Sept. 29).

This is not our war, but not being part of it does not mean sitting on the sidelines. Canada will always have a humanitarian role to play. It can start by joining a coalition of countries willing to help deal with the massive refugee outflows and human suffering caused by the air strikes in Syria.

If the Prime Minister is intent on Canada having a direct combat role, the debate should be premised on the worst-case scenario: Canadian soldiers deployed in a long-term ground war in the Mid-east. Then the question should be put to a free vote in Parliament so that MPs of all stripes can vote their individual conscience and that of their constituents.

Today's Globe editorial also warns against hasty commitments:
...sending our forces into combat is not the only alternative to standing on the sidelines and watching. The Harper government is among the world’s most vocal supporters of Ukraine and Israel – but no Canadian troops or planes have ever been involved in the fighting in those countries. Opposition to the IS does not necessarily mean a direct combat role. Humanitarian aid, technical support, financial support, weapons, training – there are ways Canada can participate usefully in Iraq and Syria without intervening directly.And it warns that once engaged,
no one should believe that this is a battle that will begin and end with a few fighter-jet sorties.Expect these warnings, based as they are on logic, recent history and reflection, not to be factors in the Harper regime's decision.Recommend this Post


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