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Updated: 56 min 29 sec ago

From Bad to Worse to Absolutely Nuts. How Yemen Complicates and Confounds Everything in Our War on ISIS.

1 hour 3 min ago

MSM reporters are finally beginning to figure out that all's not what it seems with our air war against ISIS.  There are wheels spinning within wheels on this one.  There's the religious civil war between Shiite and Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia versus Iran.  Then there's China's interest in expanding its presence and influence in the Middle East.  Russia is holding a hand too although it's keeping its cards pretty close to its chest for now.

Much as we badmouth ISIS, it does have its usefulness.  Among other things it's presence has become the hallmark of a failed state.  If ISIS is there, the place has gone all to hell.  ISIS shows up just in time to push everything over the edge.  ISIS also lets us see our supposed friends in a clearer light.  ISIS is in Iraq which has gone all to hell.  ISIS is in Libya which has gone all to hell.  ISIS is big in Syria - yeah, gone all to hell.  ISIS is in Yemen - ditto, ditto, ditto.

ISIS is synonymous with chaos.  Which brings up an interesting point.  How do you restore order out of chaos with a bombing campaign?  You could put that question to the half-wits that make up our political and military leadership but you would need to be fluent in babble to make any sense of them.

The lack of any shred of coherence in our current adventure in the Middle East is blatant in the fighting now underway in Yemen.  Lots of players there.  Start with the ousted (Sunni) president, a puppet of the Saudis.  Also on the Sunni side are ISIS and al Qaeda fighters.  Among their ranks are the guys on whom Obama has been waging drone warfare for.. well, it feels like forever.  On the other side are the Houthi rebels, a Shiite bunch, who have been kicking their government's ass and are engaged in fierce combat against ISIS and al Qaeda.  But wait, there's more.  Asia Times has a good backgrounder.

Simply put, the conclusion becomes unavoidable that while Obama has no option but to be seen openly holding the hands of King Salman, a key ally, the US would have serious misgivings about the efficacy of the military intervention achieving anything of lasting value. The Saudis, after all, have no known record in modern history of being great performers in wars and the Americans willy-nilly factor in that if and when the Saudi operations in Yemen fail, a direct US military intervention may become unavoidable, which means involvement in another Middle eastern war, which is something that Obama has refused to contemplate.

Most certainly, Washington would also see that the weakening of the Houthis at the present juncture can only shift the balance of forces in favor of the extremist Islamist groups affiliated with the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the standoffish stance taken by the European Union would also imply an early warning to the US from Brussels that it will essentially have to opt for a ‘coalition of the willing’ to carry forward any sustained military intervention in Yemen. In a clear-cut statement on Thursday, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has disapproved of military actions on the whole and has counseled that the aim should be to reach “a political consensus through negotiations” so that a “sustainable solution” becomes available.

...Conceivably, Obama and Mogherini’s thinking converge. And that brings in the role of Russia and Iran. Of course, Moscow and Tehran have held consultations. President Vladimir Putin received a phone call on Thursday from his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and has been reported as stressing “the urgency of an immediate cessation of hostilities and of stepping up efforts, including the UN, to develop options for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

Clearly, Moscow is reading the tea leaves correctly that US will turn to the UN Security Council shortly to open a political and diplomatic track and that Russia’s cooperation becomes vital.

Hey, even Pakistan wants in.

This dominant thinking in the world capitals make it very difficult for the Saudis to push ahead with the military operations and expand them to a ground offensive. Interestingly, Riyadh has since advised Islamabad to postpone the visit by a high-level Pakistani delegation including military officials that was to have taken place on Friday. (See my blog Pakistan’s Yemeni War.) Sensing that the Saudis are having a rethink, Islamabad has also quickly re-calibrated its earlier enthusiasm to be part of the Saudi-led coalition.

All in all, the Saudi operations in Yemen are lacking a sense of direction and may have to give way to the political and diplomatic track sooner than later. Iran will be pleased that the prospect of the Houthis being accommodated in Yemen’s power structure in Sana’a as a legitimate constituent party looks brighter than ever. If that happens, Shi’ite empowerment in the region gains further ground. Indeed, the suppressed Shi’ite communities in Bahrain (where Shi’ites are in majority) and other regional states in the Gulf, including even in Saudi Arabia, are watching closely the denouement in Yemen.

As the best-organized force in Yemen, the Houthis can afford to play the long game. Their winning trump card, in the ultimate analysis, is that they are the bulwark against the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Yemen — and not the GCC states.
Our leaders, political and military, cannot see where this is going.  Harper and Kenney do not see the larger picture.  They haven't got a clue.  The conflict in Iraq is tied into Syria and, through ISIS and al Qaeda, those conflicts are tied into Yemen and the victorious Houthis are kindred spirits with the "suppressed Shi'ite" minorities in the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia where most of the really good oil fields are in Shiite areas.  
And what does it really come down to at the end of the day?  This is it.

Sunni Muslims regard themselves as the orthodox and traditionalist branch of Islam.

The word Sunni comes from "Ahl al-Sunna", the people of the tradition. The tradition in this case refers to practices based on precedent or reports of the actions of the Prophet Muhammad and those close to him.

Sunnis venerate all the prophets mentioned in the Koran, but particularly Muhammad as the final prophet. All subsequent Muslim leaders are seen as temporal figures.

In early Islamic history the Shia were a political faction - literally "Shiat Ali" or the party of Ali.

The Shia claimed the right of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and his descendants to lead the Islamic community.

There you go.  Now does all this chaos make sense?  Is it finally clear?

Even Diplomats Admit Our Middle East Policy is a Mess.

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:49

Of course it's a mess bordering on schizophrenia.  We can't figure out which side we should be fighting, Sunni or Shia.  We're bombing Sunnis on behalf of the Shia in Iraq and, soon enough, Syria but we're backing the Sunnis in their air war against Shiite rebels in Yemen.  Next year we might switch sides again.

What's going wrong here, what's missing?

I think I know.  We're succumbing to a messed up foreign policy because we haven't yet accepted that we've become unwitting warriors in a religious civil war underway in the Muslim world.  It's Saudi Arabia versus Iran, Sunni versus Shiite, and we're reduced to proxies, muscle for one side against the other.  Why should they do the heavy lifting when we'll show up to do it for them?

800-front line jet fighters sitting in the hangars of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf States, all of them within easy striking distance of ISIS, so why are we sending a six pack of aging CF-18s 10,450 kms, the distance from Cold Lake, Alberta to Kuwait?  Their kit is mainly newer than ours and often better.  These Arab states are literally awash in F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, Eurofighter Typhoons, Panavia Tornadoes and Mirages of all varieties.  So, why us?

"We’re not taking sides against a Shia faction [on behalf of] a Sunni faction,” insisted a State Department spokesman, Jeff Rathke. “We’re trying to promote a dialogue process in which the views of all Yemenis can be taken into account, and it’s the Houthis who have refused to engage in that dialogue.”

This, of course, is pure bullshit.  The Saudis have been dropping American and Israeli-made ordinance, including cluster bombs, on Yemen's Houthis for months now as discovered by Vice News.  Everybody wants to pretend this just started. That's nonsense.

The US has also denied it is overtly working in concert with an Iranian-backed assault on Islamic State militants in Tikrit, arguing that their interests only temporarily overlap.

But Rathke revealed the conflict in Yemen had been raised at a meeting between John Kerry, the secretary of state, and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif during talks in Lausanne that are separately aimed at reaching a treaty with Iran over its nuclear programme...
“Yes, it is messy. It is contradictory. That’s foreign policy,” a former US ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, told the Guardian.

“As opposed to seeing it as ad hoc … I would prefer to see it as tailored to local circumstances,” she added. “I would be more concerned if we had some sort of overly rigid policy. I think that would do us less good.”

Hey, I've got just the idea to sort this out.  Wednesdays and Thursdays and every second Monday we'll bomb Shiites.  The other days we'll bomb Sunnis.  There, perfect.

It's a Muslim Religious Civil War and We're Going In Blind.

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:23
When we see one of our closest Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, go after a Shiite bunch engaged in combat with ISIS and al Qaeda forces, the same groups we're supposedly fighting, then it should be obvious that all is not as it seems. Suddenly this entire anti-ISIS coalition smells off.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar are up to their arses in modern strike fighters, over 800 among them, and they're within easy flying range of ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.  Stationing a penny packet of 6 CF-18s in that territory is literally sending coals to Newcastle.

I assume Obama has any number of geo-political reasons for delivering yet another Western air armada to fight ISIS but c'mon it's the tail wagging the dog as usual. We, however, seem to be there because somebody blew the "coalition" dog whistle.  That's life in America's Aerial Foreign Legion.

Harper is utterly Pavlovian about these gigs.  It's the equivalent of yelling "squirrel" to a setter.

We get in, not knowing what we're going to achieve or how or what we're going to do when things go sideways which is often the result of going into these things in such a half-arsed manner.

Vic Toews - Deadbeat Tenant

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:22
He says he couldn't understand the documents because they were in French even though the judgment was entitled "Decision."  It wasn't until former Harper henchman Vic Toews judges' salary was garnished that the little moustache figured it out.

Toews left Ottawa owing his Gatineau, P.Q. landlord apparently stiffed for three-months rent, a total of about $3,900.

The landlord waited a year before turning the debt over to a collection agency that notified Toews in December to pay up.  When Vic didn't cough up, his salary as a judge on Manitoba's Court of Queens Bench was attached.

Toews, the former Minister for Family Values, hasn't confirmed whether he's paid up yet.

Running on Empty - Harper Defence Budget Stretching Military to Breaking Point

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 08:32
It's the usual story.  The federal government talks a good game but it's just empty talk. A glaring example is Canada's military.  Harper came to power promising to build up the Canadian Forces into a war waging, ass kicking powerhouse.  Rick "The Beached Cod" Hillier praised Harper to the rafters for rescuing the forces from their "decade of darkness" under the Liberals.

Today the boast is burst.  Harper has his own stealth programme, quietly defunding the military.  As Liberal senator Colin Kenny has pointed out, Harper won't downsize the military to meet his budget cuts, unemployed soldiers would be hard to conceal.  Instead he's just allowing their equipment to fall apart as already overdue replacement is stalled.

Harper's Hubris inevitably summons Harper's Nemesis, the parliamentary budget officer.

Jean-Denis Frechette, the parliamentary budget officer, says the federal government will need to either pour more money into its defence budget, scale back its ambitions, or do a mixture of both in order to put Canada’s military on a sustainable footing.

The Harper government currently spends $21.5 billion on defence — or 1.1 per cent of the gross domestic product.

In order to sustain the existing number of troops, bases, tanks, planes and ships, the budget office says the Conservatives will have to spend about 1.6 per cent of GDP, which would be an increase of at least $3 billion annually.

“The model shows that it was only with the significant spending increases seen in the latter half of the 2000s that the affordability gap was closed and capability was able to be maintained and to some extent re-built. However, the recent cuts to the defence budget point to an impending affordability gap beginning in this fiscal year.”

That affordability gap — or shortfall — runs anywhere between $33 billion and $42 billion.

Frechette said, under the current budget structure, the government can afford a military about the same size it had in 1999, at the height of what the Conservatives have often described as the “decade of darkness” under the Liberals.

The Great Economist doesn't seem to understand that you can only play war war if you're ready to pay pay.  Ask the Royal Canadian Navy.  They can't sally forth to defend even one of Canada's three coasts because their air defence destroyers and provisioning ships are at dockside preparing for their next life as artificial reefs.  
It speaks volumes of the character of Stephen Harper that he shamelessly squeezed every drop of political capital possible out of the dead and broken bodies of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and then dumped them when they were of no further use to him.  This while Vlad Putin is aggressively contesting the skies and the seas, especially in the Arctic where Canada stands wholly unprepared.

From the Mekong to the Rio Grande - Some Things Just Don't Change

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 10:28
During the Vietnam War, America maintained a large and active riverine force to patrol the Mekong and its tributaries to engage Viet Cong elements.  It was a role featured in the movie, Apocalypse Now.  Remember this scene from the movie?

That was then, this is now only today it's the Rio Grande that the Americans are patrolling with machine guns.

Gee that machine gun looks familiar.  Wow, it's the same (only a bit updated). But what about the menacing looking guy with the baseball hat and sunglasses? That's former Texas governor and Republican presidential hopeful, Rick Perry, manning up for what is claimed to be the now obligatory Rio Grande cruise for Republican aspirants.

New Contest. Spot the Progressive!

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 10:02
I'll bet you've got inside yourself some sense of progress, progressive, progressivism.  Even bad people have a little.

The question today is whether progressivism remains a real construct in Canadian politics.  Have our political parties become so neoliberal as to eradicate progressivism?

Let's take a look at some of the major problems of the day.  You think of how a progressive would respond.  Then compare that of any of the three main parties seeking power today.

What about an easy one, Palestine?  How would a progressive respond to that volatile and worsening problem?  How would Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair respond?  Short of condemning Israel for its half century of enslavement of a people, how would a progressive respond?

See what I'm getting at?  Take a problem.  Here's a partial list:  climate change, health care, education, inequality, bitumen trafficking, Arctic Canada, democratic deficit, free and fair elections, freedom of information, press freedom, corporatism... you could easily spend half a day tacking items onto this list.  Just pick a couple or a few and try to envision what would be a progressive approach to them.  Then "contrast and compare" that with the thin gruel being offered up by our major political parties.

Who knows, maybe you'll be able to Spot the Progressive.  Somehow I doubt it.

I Used to Find Him Odd. Now I Know He's Nuts.

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 08:41
He's the Republican presidential nomination front runner (if only because there's no one else in the race yet) and he's a special guy at that.  In his own humble opinion, Ted Cruz is a modern day Galileo.  And those of us who accept the scientific consensus on climate change?  Well, in the curious mind of Galileo Cruz, we're "Flat Earthers."

Speaking to the Texas Tribune on Tuesday, Cruz said that contemporary “global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers.”
“You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier,” he said.

In Cruz’s opinion, when it comes to climate change, his denier position places him alongside 17th Century scientist Galileo Galilei, who was also considered to be denying the mainstream knowledge of his day. According to Cruz’s logic, he is taking the minority view that human-caused climate change is not happening, just as Galileo took the minority view that the scientific method should be trusted over the Catholic Church.

Crazy is not considered grounds for disqualification for running for the Republican presidential nod.  See:  Santorum, Rick.

A Little Perspective, Please.

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 08:04
There's a split in the Liberal ranks over Canada's role in our notional air war against ISIS.  Should we be bombing ISIS forces in Iraq?  Should we expand our missions into Syria?

Some, like the Loudmouth Liberal see this as our moral duty, utterly unassailable.  Our six CF-18s are needed to keep these monsters at bay.  It's our duty as real Canadians to do our bit.

This is where a little perspective might come in handy.  Now, ISIS is a fundamentalist Sunni band of brigands.  These insurgent/rebels had to come from somewhere and nobody's pointing fingers at Shiite Iran.  That's because they're largely from the Sunni Gulf States.

Let's have a look at some of those Sunni countries in the neighbourhood.  First up is Egypt.  What could Egypt contribute to this melee?  Egypt is the fourth-largest operator of the F-16.  They've got about 228 of those.  Add to that 18 Mirage 2000s and 200-older jet fighters.

How about the Saudis?  They've got even better stuff.  150 F-15s, 40 Eurofighter Typhoons, and 80 Panavia Tornadoes.  That's a mittful.  Next up, Jordan.  The RJAF has about 60 F-16s.  Kuwait has 35 F-18s and they're a lot newer than ours.  Even Qatar has a dozen Mirage 2000s.

Oh yeah, I've left out NATO's Muslim member, Turkey.  It's one of a handful of countries that actually produces its own F-16s and they currently operate about 260 of those multirole fighters with more coming off the line all the time.

All totaled that comes out to well over 800 combat aircraft that would be just dandy for suppressing ISIS.  It's an aerial armada big enough that they could pretty much do the job by dropping bricks if there is ever a bomb shortage.

So, to sum up, THEY have many hundreds of modern multi-role fighters parked right on ISIS' doorstep.  WE have six F-18s.

Just Sayin'

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 01:07
C'mon, wrap your heads around this one.

Does anybody find it curious that (radical Sunni) Saudi Arabia can barely make a token contribution to the fight against (radical Sunni) ISIS but seems to have no end of firepower to bring down on the heads of the (Shiite) Houthi rebels in Yemen?  Does it matter that the Houthi rebels are mainly fighting al-Qaeda and ISIS forces?  The Houthi are fighting the people we're fighting but we're okay with Saudi Arabia giving ISIS a pass so they can bring the hammers of hell down on the Mouthi?

The Saudis are giving air support to ISIS in Yemen.  What have we gotten ourselves into?

Just sayin'

Top Gear Becomes Dropped Gear

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 17:25
The BBC has given Jeremy Clarkson the boot from the world's most popular TV programme, Top Gear.  The show is sold to more than 124 countries and gets about 350-million viewers per episode.   Even in the States there's nothing close.

Clarkson's co-host, James May, says Clarkson is a "nob" but describes the three hosts, Clarkson, May and Richard Hammond as a package and doesn't seem interested in doing the show without him.

My guess?  There might soon be a new car show on a rival network.

Whatever You Do, Don't Let Harper Find Out.

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 17:15
This would appeal to Stephen Harper.  Actually, appeal wouldn't be the right word.

The new leader of Thailand, junta boss Paryuth Chan-ocha, says how he'd react to journalists who don't tell the (junta approved) truth.

Last month Gen Prayuth said he had the power to shut down news outlets, and on Wednesday he took an even harsher line. “We’ll probably just execute them,” said Prayuth, without a trace of a smile, when asked by reporters how the government would deal with those who do not adhere to the official line.

Actually, judging by the cowed performance of most Canadian journalists, maybe Harper already has that policy in place.

A Small But Hard Won Victory Over Harper

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 17:15

It's bittersweet at best.  Health Canada has issued an exemption to Vancouver's Insite, the city's clean needle injection site.  That's not to say the battle is over. Despite the clear ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Harper regime has put Insite on a year-to-year exemption meaning the Vancouver authorities will have to run the regulatory gauntlet every year.

Vancouver Coastal Health is required to apply for an annual exemption to operate Insite.

"We know Insite works," says Coastal Health chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly, in a written statement.

"Thousands of overdose deaths have been prevented, the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C have been reduced, and clients can more easily connect to health services like detox and primary health care," she says.

The Harper regime this week passed the Orwellian named Bill C-2, The Respect for Communities Act,  which is a vehicle to heap layers of federal disrespect on communities like Vancouver.
Daly said the new legislation will make the process of applying for an exemption more onerous, requiring volumes of information to meet 27 conditions.

"VCH is troubled by the numerous conditions set out in the new legislation," she said.

Donald MacPherson, spokesman for the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said he believes the government purposely created Bill C-2 to discourage new sites from opening

"Supervised consumption sites are a response to a very dire situation," he said.

I've Got Just the Thing - Let's Go Fight in Yemen!

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 10:05

We've already got a crew in the neighbourhood, we could probably cut'em a sweet deal.

Yemen asked the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday to back military action by "willing countries" to combat an advance by Shi'ite Muslim Houthi militia, according to a letter from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi seen by Reuters.

Hadi wants the 15-member body to adopt a resolution to authorize "willing countries that wish to help Yemen to provide immediate support for the legitimate authority by all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter the Houthi aggression."

Hey, when it comes to whacking Muslims, what says "willing country" more than Canada?  And this time we'd get to whack some Shiites .  We've been ripping up Sunnis for almost 15-years and bombing Shiites for once might be a nice change.  Who knows, we might just like it.

Here's some background on Houthi from Vice TV's Ben Anderson that aired several months ago.

Yes, By All Means, Bomb ISIS But Why Not Bomb the Next ISIS Too?

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 09:40
Where do they keep coming from?  We've seen several iterations of radical, fundamentalist Sunni butchers.  They go from mild, the Taliban; to mid-grade, al Qaeda; to full bore,  ISIS, with plenty of other outfits betwixt and between.

If you keep running into 7-foot tall monsters that look like Karloff in drag, while you're slugging it out with them you might start asking just where they're all coming from and where will you fight the next monster?  Then when it dawns on you that there's this doctor named Frankenstein you might want to pay him a visit and bring this nonsense to an end.

We know our doctor Frankenstein.  That would be the vastly wealthy sheikhs and princes of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States.  Those guys are leaking money so fast that there's plenty to fund these murderous radicals and the bunch after them and the bunch after them and so on.

Whatever happened to, "now clean that up"?  They've got the tanks, they've got the troops, they've got all the whistles and bells so why aren't the Saudis and the Gulf States killing the monsters they created and continue to create?  What conceivably makes that our job?  Have we become Saudi Arabia's janitor, racing with bucket and mop in hand, whenever they leave something embarrassing on the floor?

Just because NATO can't find a decent paying day job does that mean we have to become some Arab prince's day labour?

And what about our pay packet?  When elder Bush waged Desert Storm, America collected enough donations that it actually came out ahead.  Why are we funding this one?  Why aren't those Clown Princes picking up our tab?

This whole business stinks.

Don't Eat That, Charlie, It's Bullshit.

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 09:13

Most of us come with a pretty good "BD" or Bullshit Detector as standard equipment.  People lie, so we need it.  Not that it always works but it's still pretty good.  The more obvious the lie the better our BD works.  White lies sometimes get past us but whoppers rarely do.

So, why?

Why have we spent decades listening to Israeli leaders tell us how they support the "Two State" solution only to then authorize new Israeli settlements on land that plainly belongs to the Palestinians?  Look at it this way - there are now more than 600,000 lies illegally occupying the West Bank.  Why do we still believe this nonsense?

How in hell would Israel ever relocate, oh let's use the term "repatriate" all those settlers back into Israeli territory?  Do you think they haven't already asked and answered that question?  Of course they have. They're not stupid.  And the answer is, and always has been, "we won't."

Take a look up top.  Can you foresee Israel going back from Map 4 to Map 2? Of course not.  So then you're pretending to believe that this Two State business is at least possibly in the cards.  You're making this up in your mind.  The only place it has any illusion of reality is between your ears.

There aren't many people still breathing who know the doctrine of "profit a prendre" or "long user."  They're old real property terms from the days of the ancient British land registry system.  Long user describes the situation where a farmer crosses your field to access his own.  Over the course of 20 or 30-years he acquires a right of long user. It's sometimes a right of carriageway or an easement.  Profit a prendre is a right to take something (okay, let's call it groundwater) from land belonging to another.

Israel has another term for "long user" when it comes to Palestinian lands.  They call it "reality on the ground."  It's another way of saying, "my tank is parked on that hill, ergo it's my hill."  I don't think the Israelis have come up with their own term for profit a prendre but they don't need one, they just take the groundwater without it.

At this point further talk of the Two State solution should have your BD buzzing hard enough to loosen your fillings. So what's the point of pretending it's not?  Is it because we don't like to think bad thoughts?  Is it because we realize we're complicit in the armed conquest and illegal seizure of the Palestinian homeland? Is it because we don't like to trouble our beautiful minds with images of two generations of Palestinians already born into captivity with a third not far off?  Is it because we know that what we're watching is slow-motion ethnic cleansing?

Whatever our excuse, it sucks.    

The Falklands - Again?

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 16:19

The British government is planning to reinforce its garrison on the Falklands Islands out of concern of another attempt by Argentina to take the islands by force.

The south American nation is feared to be increasing military expenditure. Senior ministers in the country have also made a series of increasingly aggressive statements about the islands in recent years.
[Defence secretary ]Michale Fallon said: "The threat remains. It is a very live threat. We have to respond to it."

He said reports that Russia is working on an agreement to lease 12 long-range bombers to Argentina which could be used to support a renewed attack are unconfirmed.

"We do need to modernise our defences to ensure that we have sufficient troops there and that the islands are properly defended in terms of air defence and maritime defence.

"The threat, of course, to the islands remains but so does our commitment to being absolutely clear that islanders have the right to remain British and the right to proper protection by our forces.

"It is our general view that the threat has not reduced. Argentina still, sadly, maintains its claim to the islands 30 or more years after the original invasion and the war and we have to respond to that."

It's Not For the Sake of Science.

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 10:34

China, the People's Republic Whereof, wants to establish an Arctic research station in Tuktoyaktuk or Cambridge Bay, NWT.

John Higginbotham, senior fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Arctic policy expert, knows that China is eyeing the Arctic's resource wealth, but says that Canada should welcome researchers, as long as they can ensure that Chinese research adds and builds on work already done by Canada.

"I am not at all concerned that we, Canada, cannot well protect our sovereign interest... while at the same time finding important areas of co-operation and common interest with China," says Higginbotham.

Before we go along with this sort of thing it might be prudent if we got some thorny issues clarified first.
One problem arises out of China's position that seabed resources in the Arctic Ocean should not be governed by the standard international conventions.  China is not an Arctic nation and so it fears that the existing protocols could impair its access to these resources.
A second problem is that China has already stated it wants to maintain a permanent military presence in Arctic waters.  Why?  Does it think the Northwest Passage is in peril from Inuit copying Somali pirates?  Does it worry that Russia, the United States, Canada and Norway can't maintain naval security in their shared waters?  
Of course we have a huge problem.  Beijing is currently our prime minister's Head Office and the Nexen deal showed how low Harper will go to keep his masters happy.  

A Growing Chorus Demanding an End to Denialism.

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 10:13
Climate change denial is immoral.  Who says?  A growing chorus of voices in the United States for starters.

California governor Jerry Brown slammed radical Republican, Ted Cruz, for his denialism arguing it made him "absolutely unfit" for the office of president.

“That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of scientific data,” Brown said Sunday during an appearance on Meet the Press. “It’s shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.”
Now the top woman in the Anglican Communion has denounced climate change denial as an immoral position that reject's God's gift of knowledge.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity, said that climate change was a moral imperative akin to that of the civil rights movement. She said it was already a threat to the livelihoods and survival of people in the developing world.

“It is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview with the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

They're in good company.  Pope Francis, who intends to release a Papal Encyclical on climate change, isn't hedging on the issue.
“An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.

“The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.

“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” he said.

Did Bibi Spy on Barack? Easy Answer? Of Course.

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 09:54
Israel has never been reluctant to spy on its global benefactor, the United States. Now Washington is accusing Israel of having spied on American negotiations with Iran for a nuclear enrichment treaty.

The apparent decision by the White House to leak the allegations is the latest symptom of the growing gulf between Barack Obama’s administration and Binyamin Netanyahu’s government over the Iran talks, in which the Israeli leader suspects US officials of being ready to make too many concessions at the expense of Israeli security. Intelligence analysts suggested that the leak reflects the degree of anger in Washington at Netanyahu’s actions, and could mark a more serious blow to the already tottering relationship.

The leak has come exactly a week before a deadline for the US-Iranian negotiations in Lausanne to produce a framework agreement.

According to the report, the US has long been aware that Israel is among the shortlist of countries with the most aggressive intelligence operations targeting America, alongside Russia, China and France. It said American diplomats attending the talks in Austria and Switzerland were briefed by US counterintelligence officials about the threat of Israeli eavesdropping. It also raised the possibility that Israel gathered intelligence about the US position by spying on other participants in the negotiations, from western Europe, Russia, China or Iran. US intelligence had previously provided help to the Israelis to spy on the Iranians, the report said.

The fact is that Israel has a rich history of spying on the hand that feeds it some $3-billion a year.

The most infamous case was that of Jonathan Pollard currently serving a life sentence.  By some accounts Pollard may be released from prison this November.  Netanyahu has repeatedly pressed various American presidents to free Pollard at one point claiming it would be an appropriate reward for Israel suspending the expansion of illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories for three months.

In the 60s, Zalman Shapiro was suspected of smuggling weapons-grade uranium from his processing plant in Pennsylvania to Israel.  In 1985, US businessman Richard Smyth was convicted of shipping about 800 nuclear bomb triggers disguised as "radio tubes" to Israel.

Then there's this eye-opening summary of Israeli spying against the United States published in 2004 in CounterPunch.

Overall, it seems that Israel was second only to the Soviet Union in spying on America, at least until the recent ascendancy of China.