Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cry Harder, Red

Red Tory (Martin Ranyer?) bemoans neo-nazi ravings

In a recent post, the seeming mr Martin Rayner of Victoria, BC, bemoans his apparent recent outing by none other than Nexus valued collaborator Werner Patels.

In it, he complains about the ravings of some bizarre Aryan nations freak:


Ouch. That is indeed harsh. And unsettling. Yet, I have a similar story of my own to relate, which happens to regard one of my earliest pieces of published work.

It just so happened this piece became the topic of discussion on, where, upon joining the discussion I was basically accused of having a poor understanding of their revisionist history. An accusation was even lobbed that I was part of a global zionist conspiracy, but seems to have since been trimmed from the site (along with my assertion that they still couldn't explain away the deaths of even four million Jews -- six million admittedly being a total number for the Holocaust that includes Homosexuals, Gypsies and political prisoners, used in a moment of overzealousness).

The point? This kind of stuff comes with the territory of being a public figure. Either you have the courage to deal with the risks involved, and you're suited to public life, or you don't, and aren't.

It also helps if you aren't intentionally and virulently inflammatory. But whatever works for the "talented" Mr Rayner...

Dear Canadian Cynic...

Bring it the fuck on

Apparently, you've taken exception to my recent noted suspicion that I may have tracked you down to your place of residence.

But you need not worry. I won't publish a street address (along with a name) until I've confirmed that it's you. The anonymity you enjoy via the internet aside, there are many ways to do such things. I'll move forward on them at a time of my choosing.

You can rest assured that, when I ascertain your true identity (and I will), I will publish it here on the Nexus. Then I'll mail copies of your comments to your friends and family.

See, apparently, you'd like everyone to believe you're shitting your pants at the very idea that someone may come to your home and give you the beating that, frankly, you deserve. Trust me when I tell you that's the least of your concerns.

Why don't we go back to the entire "Fuck you Wanda Watkins affair" (and you call my blog a cesspool -- wonders never cease) that started this entire thing.

That was, by the way, some real "devestating logic" there.

How would you like to face your friends and family with those comments? Do you think your parents would be proud of you? Or maybe a little bit ashamed? How much respect do you think you'll retain in the eyes of your friends (that is, assuming you actually have some -- your online behaviour suggests otherwise) once they realize you're the kind of cretin who attacks the mother of a dead soldier because you think you don't agree with her politics?

By the way, you never answered the whole Jim Davis thing.

Beatings are fickle. Bruises and broken bones heal. Let's face it, Cynic, it isn't a beating you're afraid of. It's having to face your loved ones, with them knowing everything you've spouted from that trash heap you facetiously refer to as your blog, that you should really be afraid of. It's the toll this could all take upon your personal life that you need fear.

Would I feel bad for destroying your "blogging livelihood"? Frankly, no. Not for a heartbeat.

Frankly, anybody who isn't so ideologically blindfolded and inherently, petulantly vicious as to positively love your drivel understands that you deserve it.

So, in conclusion, fuck with me Cynic. Please? Pretty please?

Bring it the fuck on.

-Patrick Ross

P.S. I seriously hope you don't plan to be a lawyer when you grow up. There's nothing illegal about publishing your identity online.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Worst Idea Ever

Ahmadinejad’s offer completely untenable

Any Democrats campaigning on an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq may have just been given the best reason in the world to change their tune.

Iran has volunteered to “fill the power vacuum” an American withdrawal would be leaving behind in Iraq.

"The political power of the occupiers (of Iraq) is being destroyed rapidly and very soon we will be witnessing a great power vacuum in the region," Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced. "We, with the help of regional friends and the Iraqi nation, are ready to fill this void."

The “regional friends” Ahmadinajed has in mind? Syria and Saudi Arabia.

"They are trapped in the swamp of their own crimes," Ahmadinejad insisted. "If you stay in Iraq for another 50 years nothing will improve, it will just worsen."

Of course, nothing is guaranteed to improve under a new occupying power, either. In fact, if it’s guaranteed that the Iraqi quagmire will worsen under continuing American occupation, it’s just as guaranteed that it will worsen under Iranian occupation.

Iranians, Syrians and Saudis in Iraq would, with near-absolute certainty, fall prey to the same forces that the Americans have – that of Iraqi nationalism.

It was Iraqi nationalism that American observers underestimated when they insisted they would be "greeted as liberators". Ahmadinejad isn't underestimating it any less.

Some may find themselves prone to endorse Ahmadinejad’s proposal on the basis that Muslims – more importantly, Shi’ites (like Iraq’s majority) – would have better luck pacifying the country than the Americans. These people underestimate the power of Iraqi nationalism.

They’re also forgetting their history. Between 1980 and 1988, Iran and Iraq fought one of the bloodiest conflicts of post-WWII history – one of the most recent conflicts in which more than one million people were killed.

Many Iraqis are still old enough to remember this war. Even those who aren’t old enough to have lived through it have been indoctrinated to view Iran as their enemy through Baathist propaganda.

Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to find support amongst their neighbours. Ahmadinejad’s attempts to establish a regional security pact have been rebuked by Gulf Arab states, who have their suspicions regarding Ahmadinejad’s intentions.

As well they should.

Taking Ahmadinejad up on his offer also has implications for Iraq’s Kurdish population. The region that historically comprises Kurdistan is currently split four ways, between geographical Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Under Ahmadinejad, the Kurdish population could be due for the same oppression that Kurds in Iran and Kurds in Syria currently face.

There is a reason for this. Historical Kurdistan accounts for a significant portion of Iran’s territory.

Ahmadinejad’s offer is far from an altruistic gesture in favour of regional peace: it’s a ploy to undercut the emergence of a new nation state that could prove territorially threatening to both Iran and Syria (as well as Turkey, Kurdistan accounts for up to one-fifth of its territory).

Establishing an Iran-esque Muslim theocracy in Iraq would also spare Ahmadinejad the uncomfortable position of eventually being sandwiched between two stable democracies cast in the western mould – in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad honestly believes his proposal represents some sort of "miracle cure" for the Iraqi quagmire, he desperately needs to re-think it. Iraq will prove no more receptive to Iranians -- with whom Iraqis fought the region's bloodiest war of the 20th century -- than it has been for the Americans.

Ahmadinejad's offer must be rejected out of hand. It's either entirely ill-conceived (though no more ill-conceived than the Iraq war itself), or just plan disengenuous.

The stakes in Iraq are too high to turn the country over to a wolf in, well... wolf's clothing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Strange Things Afoot in NDP Advertising?

NDP claims “Saskatchewan Party Stands For PTORN”

Politics and pornography generally make for strange bedfellows.

If the claims made by Saskatchewan Party MLA Nancy Heppner turn out to be true, that would make these strange days, indeed.

Nancy Heppner, the MLA for Martensville, has raised a complaint about a recent NDP ad which accuses the Saskatchewan party of having a “hidden agenda”.

In the ad, numerous phrases are displayed on screen, all of which relate to an NDP claim about the Saskatchewan party’s policies. Each one slowly fades out, letter by letter. At one point, the phrase “Sask Party stood for Privatization of Crowns” fades out. Before the letters disappear completely, the word “porn” can faintly be seen.

The suggestion has been made that the NDP ad represents a lowest-common-denominator attempt at subliminal advertising.

“If it was done on purpose I think it's reprehensible, and if it's done accidentally it needs to be fixed,” Heppner insisted. “Either way it needs to be fixed because I think that it's taking campaign politics and campaigning to a new low and I don't think it's something Saskatchewan people are going to stand for."

Of course, there are problems with Heppner’s claims.

First off, when one examines the screen shot, it doesn’t really seem to read “PORN”. It actually seems to read “PTORN”. Aside from that minor point, there is a larger issue regarding subliminal advertising.

That is, it doesn’t work.

Subliminal messaging theories rely heavily on the theories offered by Gestalt psychology, wherein it is argued that perceptions of the world are essentially broken down into pieces, interpreted by different parts of the brain, then reassembled in the brain.

The process of disassembly, analysis and reassembly theoretically allow such messages to be perceived unconsciously by the mind’s autonomic processes.

Claims regarding the alleged prowess of subliminal advertising were originally made by James Vicary, a man who claimed subliminal messaging had successfully been used to hock coca-cola and popcorn in a Fort Lee, New Jersey movie theatre. Further experiments into subliminal advertising yielded no supportive results, and Vicary finally admitted in 1962 that he had falsified his original claims.

In fact, the alleged power of subliminal advertising has never been proven emperically.

If Heppner’s claims turn out to be true, then it would seem that the NDP is hitching their wagon to a horse that has been proven to be lame – or at least hasn’t been proven to be effective.

Given that the “message” doesn’t really distinctly spell “PORN”, it’s more likely that the “message” Heppner has detected is entirely coincidental.

Stranger things have happened.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ontario Working Families Coalition Not a Legitimate Third Party Advertiser

Difference between legitimate third parties and front groups

According to the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, the Working Families Coalition is merely a front group for the Ontario Liberal party, and they want Elections Ontario to designate it as such.

The group, established and funded by education and trades unions in 2002, was established (in the words of Gary O’Neil) “to give a voice to working men, women and their families throughout Ontario.”

According to Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove, the groups purpose is very different. It was established “to make sure the Tories don’t get elected here.”

O’Neil himself is the president of Operating Engineers local 793, a union that has donated more than $65,000 to the Ontario Liberals since 2002.

In a video on the coalition’s website, O’Neil even regurgitates some typical Liberal-style talking points. “With an Ontario election on October 10th, we need to ensure we don’t return to policies of fear and division,” he insists.

The Working Families Coalition is very partisan, indeed. Does that in and of itself make them a “front group?”

Not necessarily.

Does the involvement of Don Guy, Dalton McGuinty’s reelection campaign director make them a front group?


The involvement of those individuals at the very least undermines McGuinty’s claims that “They're an independent organization and they're going to do whatever they want to do.”

Yet, one can rest assured that so long as Guy and senior Liberal strategist Marcel Weider are involved with the coalition, “whatever they want to do” will probably involve continuing partisan attacks against John Tory and the Conservative party.

That’s far from being independent.

Of course, to regulate every individual interest group as part of a party’s campaign every time they released a partisan statement would actually be setting a very risky precedent.

The right of individual lobby groups to support parties and candidates that support their cause is part and parcel of democratic freedom, and the right to be involved in the democratic process. This is one of the reasons why putting spending limits on third-party campaign advertising is fundamentally wrong.

Gary O’Neil and the Operating Engineers union have every right to donate money to any political party of their choosing. They have the right to support any party they wish, and they have the right to do so as a third party if they so choose, or to do so by becoming directly involved in their party of choice’s campaign.

These two acts, however, are inherently different from one another, and both must be regarded differently by elections law.

To this end, Canada clearly needs new rules regarding who actually qualifies as a third party, and who doesn’t.

The Canadian Auto Workers Union, along with most of the groups backing the WFC (although some may find it difficult to explain how white-collar engineers such as O’Neil qualify as “working families”), qualify as legitimate third parties, holding only indirect links to the Liberal party and New Democrats.

The Working Families Coalition, considering its brazenly partisan foundation, doesn’t. Through Guy and Wieder, the WFC holds some direct links to the Ontario Liberals and their campaign. No Gun, No Funeral doesn’t either. It can be traced directly to Michael Bryant, and as such, both organizations should be counted toward the Ontario Liberal party’s campaign spending.

Colby Cosh is right about one thing: the government can’t regulate partisanship, nor should it try. It can, however, investigate who is involved in interest groups and determine precisely who is pulling the strings. When that turns out to be political candidates and their campaign staffers, it’s pretty fair to conclude that these organizations are being used to tip toe around election spending limits and stage shadow campaigns against their political opponents.

A shadow campaign is still a campaign, and should still count toward election expenses, at least when the candidates are directly involved.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fight Against Child Soldiers in Afghanistan Critical to Mission's Success

Camp Okutta campaign underscores critical Afghan issue

“Camp Okutta does not exist.”

“But camps like it exist all over the world.”

This is the tagline for War Child Canada’s newest campaign to raise awareness for the critically important issue of child soldiers.

Using several striking ads as well as the Camp Okutta website, War Child is using this brilliantly-conceived viral ad campaign to attract attention to the issue of child soldiers around the world.

The child soldier issue also has implications for Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

In late 2004, UNICEF reported they had demobilized up to 4,000 of Afghanistan’s 8,000 known child soldiers. UNICEF and several other organizations continue to work in Afghanistan helping former child soldiers through education and therapy.

The Taliban has been known to use children as recently as April 2007, when a child was used to behead a suspected traitor.

“Part of the Taliban's strategy is to make Afghan civilians afraid and their attempts to show that everybody is unified against the occupation of Afghanistan as they call it,” says Human Rights Watch commentator John Sifton. “They may have decided that it would be intelligent to use children to somehow show a kind of solidarity with the Afghan people.”

The use of child soldiers in Afghanistan, by both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, has a long history, basically spanning at least the last 30 years of the country’s civil conflict.

While reports of Taliban use of child soldiers (whether as front-line fighters, executioners or merely as indentured support staff) continue, it has been suggested that the participation of NATO troops in the training of the Afghan National Army has prevented the recruitment of child soldiers into its ranks. In 2003, Afghan president Hammad Karzai issued a presidential decree forbidding the recruitment of anyone 22 years old or younger into the ANA.

It should, however, be noted that the Northern Alliance – a group integrated within the current government – has used child soldiers before, sometimes as young as 11 years old. “Our cause is so great that even our children want to join us in fighting the enemy,” one Northern Alliance commander is noted to have once claimed.

Clearly, if Canadian efforts to help demobilize Afghanistan’s child soldiers and keep them demobilized are to be successful, we’ll have to ensure the Afghan government doesn’t regress in its policies regarding recruitment.

One of the most important, factors involved, however, will be the ever-present fight against Afghan poverty. As of 2007, Afghanistan remains the seventh poorest country in the world.

Economic hardship drives children out of schools and into the work force, and military work tends to be most abundant in a war zone like Afghanistan. Pairing micro-economic foreign aid programs with a push toward attracting private sector business into Afghanistan will go a long way toward ensuring Afghan families don’t feel the need to send their children to war.

But it isn’t only Afghan children who have been recruited to the Afghan battlefield as child soldiers. Consider that Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen was only 15 years old when he was arrested while fighting in Afghanistan.

He’s currently being held in Guantanamo Bay.

Cutting off the supply of child soldiers can also go a long way toward defeating the Taliban, making it harder for them to replace their lost fighters on the battlefield. To that end, perhaps the search for – and subsequent demobilization of – child soldiers needs to continue on Canadian soil as well as in Afghanistan.

Whatever the future nature of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan – be it a combat mission or otherwise -- helping to demobilize and rehabilitate child soldiers will be a key factor toward ensuring a successful disengagement.

Even beyond that, it’s just the right thing to do.

Camp Okutta doesn’t exist. Canada needs to ensure camps like it don’t exist in Afghanistan.

Friends, Romans...

Lend me your money...

Or perhaps that should be give.

Now, if only the blogosphere's premier emotionally-stunted intellectual coward could explain to his readers why he thinks they should pay him to blog via a service that Blogger provides for free...

Update - He even calls it the "Red Tory sustainability fund". He may as well call it what it actually seems to be: the "gimme money so my shit doesn't get repoed because I can't pay my bills fund".

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Response to Some Reader Comments

Given the mini-controversy brewing here at the Nexus regarding some comments I made about the recent "bootgate" controversy, we're going to take some time out to address some reader comments.

Many of these comments have to do with the question of the rock in the officers hand, and what readers think he was going to do with it, despite the fact that what he didn't do with it is much more relevant:

Here’s a comment from a reader identified merely as Chris:

Police have now admitted they were cops. They claim that someone gave them the rock to use but this doesn’t pass the laugh test given that they had been repeatedly told to “put the rock down”.

I’m all for cops going undercover as this appears to be, as claimed by the protestors, to be cops acting as provocateurs.

Rocks in hand: one. Fair enough.

Rocks thrown? Zero.

This considering the fact that undercover officers routinely stage opportunities to defy police officers as a way of proving their legitimacy.

If the officer in question was holding the rock with the intent to throw it, and incite a riot, rather than simply as a pretext for their “arrest” (subsequent removal from cover), he probably would have thrown it. It actually would have served as proof they weren’t police officers, and the boot revelations would have never even come to pass.

Here’s another, from another reader:

So there is no proof that they were "agents provocateurs", nothing conclusive at least. I'll grant you that. But why were they dressed as hoodlums carrying weapons when most of the guys around them were dressed normally?

Their presence only makes it easier for the media to ignore the protesters message and focus on violent extremists. That should not be the goal of the police. Worse their attitude and demeanor made the possibility of violence more likely. If David Cole wasn't there to demand he put down the rock, who knows what might have happened.

The other fact about undercover police work is that undercover officers don’t disguise themselves as an average, everyday person. They disguise themselves to fit in with their target.

Clearly, when patrolling a protest site for violent protesters, one isn’t targeting people like David Coles and the CEP. One is targeting groups like Black Bloc protesters (in this case, the officers were dressed as Black Bloc protesters.

There is a good reason for this. A Black Bloc is organized so that all members appear as part of a uniform unit, and are virtually indistinguishable from one another. A protester could throw a rock, retreat back into the bloc, and be unidentifiable. Police would be forced to arrest the entire Bloc, as opposed to merely the one member.

However, if you have undercover officers inside the Bloc, you’re more likely to be able to arrest that member once he retreats into the group.

It should be noted, however, that while groups like the CEF shouldn’t be considered targets for arrest, they are part of the patrol area in general, and will eventually be monitored in the name of covering the entire area in question.

However, this reader does make one very good point: this scandal does tend to direct attention away from the message of the protesters (which, in the CEF’s case, was a very benign and respectable image) and toward the issue of violent protest in general.

It does serve to undermine the protests, which, when non-violent (as was the CEF) are legitimate forms of democratic expression.

Here’s another comment, from a reader identified as Gayle:

"There is still no reason to assume they were trying to incite a riot, and actually every reason in the world to believe the opposite, considering that staging an arrest to remove an officer from cover is well within the boundaries of typical undercover practices, especially when an officer's cover is blown."

The funny thing about lies is that once a person lies about one thing, it is pretty hard to believe that person is telling the truth about anything.

So here you have a denial they were cops, and then, finally, an admission. The first denial was an outright lie, and it begs the question as to why we should believe them when they say there were not there to incite a riot.

You may be correct - the cops may well have been posing as rioters and carrying weapons (and hid themselves amongst a group of individuals who were not armed) solely for the purpose of maintaining the peace. I would point out, however, that simply possessing a rock in those circumstances was itself a criminal offence (possession of a weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public) - hard to argue they were trying to preserve the peace when by definition their actions were violating the public peace.

Add to this the evidence of the other protesters, who claimed these undercover cops were there to incite violence. While you may not want to accept that evidence, it is in fact evidence and cannot simply be discounted simply because it is not convenient for you to acknowledge it.

Now I do not conclude they were trying to incite a riot, but that is hardly the point. The suggestion has been made, and the damage is done. If people believe the police were there to incite violence, the police have only themselves to blame.

As Gayle may or may not be aware, in any criminal case two basic things must be proven: first that actus reus, the act itself, has taken place. Secondly, that mens rea, the intention to commit the act, was present in the accused.

In a case like Gayle is proposing, first the rock would have to be demonstrated to pose an imminent danger to the public. This is actually fairly simple to prove. When the officer picked up the rock (or accepted it, as Stockwell Day claims, but there is actually no evidence to show the rock was given to the individual in question, so this supposition will be discarded for the sake of this argument), there was a certain amount of danger involved: risk that someone else in the group could have taken the undercover officer’s possession of the rock as a cue to begin throwing rocks on their own, thus precipitating a riot. Whether or not these events actually transpired is immaterial: the danger existed once the rock was picked up.

However, mens rea cannot be established. As a matter of fact, it is already disproven, given that the rock gave nearby riot officers pretext to remove them from cover after their cover had been blown.

Once again, the evidence isn’t “inconvenient”. Where as previous evidence was inconclusive, the matter regarding the officer handling the rock is no less conclusive toward the pretext theorem than it is toward the provocateur theorem. Perhaps even more so, because the rock was never thrown.

Matt Bin:

Let me just get this clear -- you're saying that despite the fact that the Surete were caught in a blatant, public lie, we should give their officers involved the benefit of the doubt about their intents. Because what they say about their agents' actions can now be believed.

You'll excuse my spluttering laughter

People like Matt Bin, on the other hand, may want to check into the actual statements made by the Surete du Quebec. While they have recently admitted that the individuals in question were police officers, they never denied it (nor did they initially confirm it).

What they denied are the claims the officers were acting as agents provocateurs.

Admittedly, CTV's headline was somewhat deceptive, cosidering that no denial that the men were officers is found anywhere in the body of the actual piece.

As such, the initial statements released by the Surete du Quebec do nothing to undermine the credibility of later statements. There are no "lies" among them, except in the minds of those who have concluded that if police were working under cover among the protesters, they simply must have been there to incite a riot.

This despite the fact that the behaviour of the officers in question is consistent with the practices of undercover police officers, and not at all consistent with the past activities of either the RCMP or the Surete du Quebec.

Then again, when the case against the officers is built entirely upon politically-motivated cynicism, it's unsurprising that such facts seem to matter so little.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Supporting the Troops... By Denying them Tribute

Yeah. Who else?

This from the same guy who essentially argued that you can support the troops by refusing to acknowledge the validity of their judgements regarding which missions they want to risk their lives over.

And lost. Badly.

And for what? Because he doesn't like the name?

But perhaps he could muster the cojones to show up to Highway 401 and tell the thousnds paying tribute to our fallen soldiers that he thinks what they're doing is stupid. That'll probably work out really well for him.

If he was honest (and at this point, let's face it, he isn't, and that's been proven) he'd just go ahead and admit that the politics embroiled in the Afghanistan war are more important to him than the lives of the soldiers actually doing the fighting.

Just like you don't support the troops by refuting (or even ignoring) their right to support the mission, you don't support the troops by denying the fallen tribute.

But that's no problem for Red Tory. He just doesn't support the troops.

Undercover Police Officers, Clearly. Agents du Provacateurs? Hardly.

Still much ado over nothing

After two days of controversy, the Surete du Quebec have admitted that the alleged protesters taken into custody in this video were, in fact, undercover police officers.

But they maintain that the undercover officers were not agents provocateurs.

“At no time did the Quebec provincial police officers act as agents provocateurs or commit criminal acts," insisted a statement released by the force. "It is not part of the policy of the police force nor is it part of its strategy to act in this manner. At all times, the officers responded to their mandate to maintain law and order."

At the end of the day, those who are decrying the injustice of it all have nothing to rely on aside from one officer holding a rock in his hand.

Which actually provides the riot police on scene with a pretext to stage an arrest of the men in the name of withdrawing them from cover, particularly when they are at risk of being “made”. In fact, “busting” undercover police officers is a common practice:

Undercover officers are often "busted" to give a progress report and let management know if they need more or less supervision.

The assumption that undercover officers at a protest must be agents provocateurs stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what undercover police work entails. Consider the claims that the use of undercover officers to bust a terrorist ring in suburban Toronto last year entailed “entrapment”.

Yet undercover police work is entirely legal, and is often used to build cases against organized crime cartels, although it clearly also has its uses in terms of monitoring the situation at a protest, which are known to often turn violent.

So in the end, what does the scandal ultimately boil down to? The use of undercover police officers to help control potentially riotous crowds, a tactic that has been found to be effective in the past.

Of course, there are lines that can be crossed. The various cases of American protest groups being actively infiltrated by undercover officers is particularly troubling.

With no evidence, however, of any such attempts by Canadian police forces (at least in cases where no criminal acts are yet being committed), the actions of the undercover officers in Montebello appear to be nothing more than an earnest attempt to monitor and manage a very volatile environment – a tricky task indeed, even using the most refined psychological tactics available.

Hiccups like the outing of the officers in question are bound to happen.

In the end, it is true that some of accusations turned out to be well-founded. The officers were, indeed, wearing the same brand and model of boot (this has eventually been confirmed through photographic evidence, although early enhancements of the photographs in question were very poor). It turned out that, by the admission of the Surete du Quebec, the individuals in question were police officers.

Fair enough.

But the biggest, most serious accusation of all – that they were acting as agents provocateurs – has yet to be proven, and is still being based on circumstantial evidence. It stems, however, from a tendency to assume the worst about our men and women in uniform.

Whether it’s assuming that Canadian soldiers are knowingly and willingly handing Taliban prisoners over to torturers or assuming that Canadian police officers undercover at protests are there to incite riots, the suspicion of our uniformed men and women really stems from a fanatical desire to find the worst in any accusation.

At best, it’s politically-motivated hysterics. At worst, it’s a meager attempt to transplant an American scandal north of the 49th parallel.

This is because it’s well known that political protests can turn violent and cause thousands of dollars in property damage. It’s also well known that the Al Qaida training manual instructs terrorists to lie about torture.

Yet when politics are on the line, neither of these facts matter. Many of these people choose to assume the worst, because it’s politically convenient to do so.

It gets to the point where one assumes that those portraying the proactive law and peace enforcement activities of our men and women in uniform as the acts of totalitarian police states are opposed to allowing terrorists to strike on Canadian aoil and are against rioters causing thousands of dollars in property damage to people who really have little or nothing to do with the summits they protest, but who can be sure? Most of them aren't so vocal on that particular point.

Long story short, it can now (and only now) be accepted as fact that the individuals in question at the Montebello protest were police officers. That’s far from proving they were agents provocateurs.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Highway of Heroes Long Overdue

Dalton McGuinty promises to consider online petition

For decades, the Vimy Ridge memorial has been more to Canadians than merely a pair of concrete spires built on French land ceded to Canada after World War I.

It's become a part of Canadian culture.

Today, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty took a step toward making a similar emerging part of Canadian culture official: renaming Ontario's Highway 401 the "Highway of Heroes".

In recent years, thousands of Canadians have flocked to Highway 401 to honour many of Canada's fallen soldiers as they return from Afghanistan.

Joe Warmington, a columnist with the Toronto Sun was among those who coined the name for the now 60-year-old highway, completed shortly after the Second World War. "It is the Highway of Heroes because the history of Highway 401, particularly from Trenton to Toronto, has changed. And it's changed because dozens of Canadians have been carried home in flag-draped caskets from a war zone far away."

The highway indeed has changed. Just as Vimy Ridge has changed from a patch of French countryside into a symbol of sacrifice, Highway 401 has been changed from a mere stretch of freeway into a symbol of courage.

In the end, while McGuinty's promise may be encouraging, perhaps it matters very little.

"Thousands of people have come out to pay tribute along the routes, so this highway will always be the Highway of Heroes whether you put the sign up or you don't," Warmington announced.

Perhaps it's fitting. Vimy Ridge would have always been Vimy Ridge, regardless of whether or not it was recognized as an official memorial. And so it is with Highway 401, Canada's Highway of Heroes. Sometimes sacrifice doesn't need a plaque or a sign, it only needs respect in the hearts and minds of the people that sacrifice was made for.

That being said, Highway 401 already is, and will always be, the Highway of Heroes.

It's time to make that official.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saskatchewan NDP Looks to Light a Fire With Hidden Agenda Ploy

Lorne Calvert rolls out the “hidden agenda” fallacy for an encore

With a provincial election looming on the horizon, one had to expect the Saskatchewan political scene to heat up.

With the leak of some of the governing NDP’s campaign material, the political winds have begun to shift, and it spells trouble for Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan party.

"We're saying to Saskatchewan voters, what lies behind this friendly new image, beware of," says Saskatchewan deputy Premier Clay Serby.

The pamphlet accuses the Saskatchewan party of being “inexperienced and reckless”, and insinuates that the party is obfuscating its policies on health care and Saskatchewan’s many crown corporations.

"This is about saying to Mr. Wall and the Saskatchewan Party, come clean with your polices. Make your policies available to Saskatchewan people today so that we can debate them," Serby announced.

Yet Serby’s claims aren’t consistent with the Saskatchewan party’s legislative record.

For example, Wall explained, "We have voted for the NDP legislation to keep public ownership of the Crowns.”

Unfortunately, Brad Wall doesn’t seem to realize the futility in branding these claims as “a pack of lies.” The federal Liberal party found, much to its apparent delight, that the real beauty of a “hidden agenda” claim is that you don’t have to prove it. The invisibility of such an agenda almost becomes proof that it exists.

The hidden agenda tactic also exploits weaknesses in the party it’s directed against by exploiting a not-well-rounded image. Poorly-defined policy stances can suddenly take on shades of “calculated ambiguity”, and fuel the “hidden agenda” fire all of their own.

When the target rushes to put out the fire, their arsonist antagonists simply continue to fan the flames. The efforts of the target eventually become a sort of evidence in and of itself. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and in this sense the hidden agenda tactic actually works best when it monopolizes the target’s time and effort.

Does the NDP believe the Saskatchewan party really has a hidden agenda? Probably not. But they know the tactic works, and even if the “hidden agenda” isn’t the most honest tactic, it’s politically effective.

The pamphlet also predictably targets the federal Conservative party, describing Wall and the Saskatchewan party as “Stephen Harper apologists”.

When a party is investing so much effort in campaigning against a proxy opponent, it only makes sense to utilize tactics that have been effective against that proxy. When Lorne Calvert appeared before a Senate committee crusading for “fairness for Saskatchewan”, it sounded a good deal like election rhetoric for a reason. In all odds, it was intentional.

Dragging out the hidden agenda fallacy -- and it is a fallacy, based entirely on a refusal to debate actual policy in favour of hypothetical policy – the Saskatchewan NDP has found a way to force the Saskatchewan electorate to equate Wall with Prime Minister Harper as closely as possible, if not treat him as second fiddle altogether.

From this point out, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan party need to avoid any sparks. Lorne Calvert, Clay Serby and the NDP have doused the pile with gasoline, and the Saskatchewan party’s own ill-defined policy package has provided the kindling.

What ensues could prove to be a fire that will burn Brad Wall alive before he manages to put it out.

And the Obsession Continues

Gee. All this attention for lil' ol' me.

Red Tory's obsession with the Nexus has apparently continued unabated. Look at all the time he spent on me today.

Ironically, at the end of the day our obsessed little bloglodyte provided us with precisely what I asked for: a clearer image of the boot in question. And apparently, there is little question left about it: the protester in the image is wearing the same brand of boot as the police officers.

Then again, considering that this boot is available to the civilian consumer, it isn't proof of anything concrete. He himself has admitted this.

So, let's satiate Red Tory's obsession: after losing every previous round, he finally gets to win one -- sort of.

Then again, if I were Red Tory, I suppose I'd be obsessed, too. After all, he couldn't convince anyone with a properly-functioning cranium that there's an operative difference between anonymity and pseudonymity. He couldn't conjure a single coherent criticism of this blog. Then, after going back on a de facto peace agreement (having previously tapped submission), he couldn't identify me as his so-called "Number Four".

He also refused to retract that libellous accusation once he was proven wrong -- ironically, by photographic evidence.

So, today Red Tory can celebrate his empty little "triumph", because once again, I'll do what he won't: admit that this time, he was right.

In the meantime, however, the rest of us will be waiting for evidence that the individual wearing those boots is actually a police officer, not a Black Bloc protester who happens to have bought the same brand of boots.

Oh, He's So Angry

Holy shit, he's gonna blow

After spending all day salivating over the "conclusive evidence" that CEF president Dave Coles promised on his claims that police officers were trying to provoke riots at the Montebello protests, Canadian Cynic seems to be more than a little bit disappointed.

Now he apparently can't swallow the inconclusiveness of whatever evidence remains.

"Those yellow things on the soles of their boots really do look more like triangles, and the boots of the protestors are clearly different from those of the arresting officers."

Perhaps Cynic will accept an invitation to take a second look at the photograph.

Or perhaps, take a perusal of some of his fellow "progressive" (let's face it, Cynic could never be accurately described as progressive) bloggers:

Big City Lib:

"This marking on the boots of both riot police and faux protesters at the Montebello summit is the trademark of "Vibram", an Italian company that produces rubber outsoles for footwear. They appear on the Matterhorn assault boot pictured left as well on many other makes and models. So the "protesters" and police are not necessarily wearing the same boot."

And from Cynic's fellow panic-stricken feeb, Red Tory:

"CEP union leader Dave Coles’s “proof” goes splat. Turns out it’s just a re-iteration of the allegation about the markings on the boots worn by the “protesters” being the same as that of gear worn by the police."

Sometimes it's nice to get a little help from someone else's friends.

Unfortunately, any hopes of anyone conjuring a better quality photo of the integral boot in question (that of the suspect) seem slim, as most of the boot is blocked by an officer's arm. The sole of the suspect's left boot is also pictured, but doesn't offer a clear view of the tread.

Perhaps it's time to bring all this around to the point: we're still waiting for some conclusive evidence over here. If Cynic can't conjure any, it's probably best that he gets back to telling the mothers of dead soldiers to fuck off.

I'll also give Cynic full permission to start a blog about my blog. Given that his blog his typically about other people's blogs, I'm not sure how that'll be any different than what he does now.

Semi-Related Story - Ouch. This one had to have hurt. But I don't condone that. Really, I don't...

Inventing a Scandal: Police Accused of Trying to Provoke Riots at SPP Summit

”Circumstantial evidence” suddenly conclusive

Given everything at stake at the recent Security and Prosperity Partnership summit at Montebello, Quebec (both rhetorically and politically), everyone paying attention to the summit just knew that those opposed to the SPP weren’t going to allow the summit to close without some sort of ensuing scandal.

If they don’t have a genuine one, a person had to realize they were going to invent one.

And they have.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada have released a video which they claims provides conclusive proof that the Quebec police force were using agents provacateurs to provoke riots as a pretext for breaking up the protest.

In the video, three masked men are shown hovering around a protest. One of them has a rock in his hand. CEP President Dave Coles is confronting them, trying to drive them away from their peaceful protest, comprising mostly of grandparents. One of them has a rock in his hand.

In a statement earlier today, Coles announced “We have proof that the three individuals who were 'arrested' after being exposed as 'agents provocateurs' were, in fact, members of the Quebec police force."

In hindsight, however, it’s a good thing that Coles is a union boss, not something a little more powerful like a federal prosecutor.

As proof, Coles and the CEP presented a still image taken from the video, wherein yellow triangles can be identified on the boot soles of not only the protesters, but also the police officers arresting them.

“I think the circumstantial evidence is very powerful,” says Kevin Skerrett, a member of Nowar-Paix, another group protesting at the summit.

Apparently, this “very powerful” “circumstantial evidence” consists of the following photograph:

The presence of the yellow triangles on the boots of the protestors has led some individuals to conclude they were police officers.

Yet, upon any further investigation, these individuals would have discovered that the yellow triangles are certification markings identifying the boots as a “class 2 toe cap with a puncture resistant sole”.

The argument that the yellow triangles on the boots identifies them as "police issue boots" falls pretty flat once one considers that these are very common boots, used by policemen and construction workers as well as miscreants who want to cause a good deal of damage at a political protest and not break their toes.

Unsurprisingly, the extreme lack of conclusiveness of the evidence presented hasn’t stopped the general hysterists of the blogosphere from trying to portray the seeming arrest of a violent protester as oppression by a police state.

Then again, it isn’t as if protesters had never before turned up to a political summit with the goal of turning peaceful protests violent. Take, for example ”Black Bloc” tactics, wherein a group of anarchists dress in black and vandalize local property.

If a Black Bloc participant throws a brick at a store window and runs into the Bloc, she will easily blend in with everyone else. However, if a person wearing normal street clothes happens to throw a brick and run into the Bloc, chances are that she will have been filmed or photographed and later caught by the police.

The men shown on the video offer a mediocre example of Black Bloc tactics (for one thing, there are too few of them), but an example nonetheless, one that has been present at summits ever since 1999’s famed Battle of Seattle.

It isn’t at all outside the realm of possibility that the alleged protesters were, in fact, police. If this turns out to be the case, then this is a very serious matter indeed, especially seeing that the protest being targeted consisted mostly of elderly people – “grandmothers and grandfathers” as Cole identifies them in the video.

But this is something that will have to be proven with actual evidence, not a poorly-filmed youtube video revealing base similarities between the boots worn by police and the alleged protestors arrested.

Until that proof is present, however, the ensuing moral panic over “oppression” and “police states” is entirely misplaced, and the scandal merely a political invention.

UPDATE - He's not a lawyer, is he?

Fresh from Canadian Cynic, we get a good idea of what passes for "evidence" in his opinion.

Then, to add to the hilarity, Dennis Moore weighs in:

"Looks to me like Vibram soles, specially designed for fire/police work:"

To which Cynic responds:

"Why, yes ... yes, they do. And what are the odds of that?"

But do they really?

Hmmm. Those ever-conclusive yellow triangles must have fallen off at the factory, or something...

But one supposes it just goes to show you: in Canadian Cynic's mind, it isn't just Canadian soldiers who are considered guilty until proven innocent, it's Canadian police officers, too.

UPDATE - CTV news has corrected the "yellow triangles" claims to note that the markings on the boots (of the officers, at least) look more like yellow octagons, similar to the Vibram boots logo.

This being said, the yellow markings on the bottom of the suspects' boots really do look more like triangles. Also, a closer examination of the photograph makes the treads ont the boots appear very different from that of the police officers, as the suspects' boots don't appear to have the circular treads on the pad of the sole, although this could be due to poor image inhancement on the enlarged portions of the photograph.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What the Fuck!? Files vol. 3 - Jelly Beans Apparently Integral to Canadian Sovereignty

Yes, you read that right: fucking jelly beans

Apparently, the domestic-politics-starved media have jumped on an offhand comment about Jelly Beans as some sort of political story.

Apparently, one of the great revelations of the Montebello summit regarding the Security and Prosperity Partnership was that Canadian and American jelly bean makers have to meet two different sets of regulations regarding jelly bean ingredients. Apparently, the rest of us are supposed to suddenly give a flying fuck.

Apparently, there may be a need to standardize jelly beans, and some people seem to be very concerned about that.

“'Is the sovereignty of Canada going to fall apart if we standardize the jelly bean?” Prime Minister Stephen Harper mused. “You know, I don't think so.”

No. Shit.

It’s at times like this that one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at what often passes for political concerns vis a vis national sovereignty.

It’s not exactly as if jelly beans are an integral issue to national security. At best they’re a tasty, sugary, unhealthy, and delightfully addictive snack.

So if we need to standardize jelly beans (and one would think the word “need” would fall under very loose operation in this sentence), put your Nikes on and just do it.

At least the good people who make Jelly Bellies will be pleased to know we may be moving toward narrowing the jelly bean gap with fucking Candyland.

Jean Charest the Leader Stephane Dion Isn't

Jean Charest goes against Liberal grain to defend Afghanistan mission

Following the death of private Simon Longtin, the first member of the Royal 22nd Regiment (The Van Doos) killed in Afghanistan, one could expect that Quebec’s Liberal premier, Jean Charest, would find it politically convenient to denounce Canada’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

With “entrenched” public opinion in Quebec (according to University of Montreal political scientist Pierre Martin) staunchly against the war in Afghanistan, one could almost understand if Charest found it necessary to denounce the war for political purposes (that is, understand it, but not respect it).

One could even understand if Charest gave in to such political pressures after being reduced from a majority to a minority government.

After all, it is what his federal counterparts have deigned to do (although they were reduced from a minority government to the official opposition).

But even if one could understand if Charest caved in, one must applaud him for showing the courage and conviction that he has opted for instead.

“We, as citizens of Quebec, have a duty to support the men and women who are there and who are doing this work in our name and are making the biggest sacrifice that can be asked of a human being,” Charest recently announced.

“We have to continue. We must not politicize [our] presence in Afghanistan. We must, on the contrary, especially at this time, remind all the soldiers that Quebecers are behind them in the mission they are conducting in our name in Afghanistan.”

Even Stephane Dion had supportive words in the wake of private Longtin’s death. “Today's loss serves as a reminder of the very real challenges the men and women of the Canadian Forces face every day as they undertake this mission, and I speak for all Canadians when I say that we greatly appreciate their sacrifices to help the people of Afghanistan and bring stability to the region."

Yet when compared to Dion’s overall stance on Afghanistan, this statement can’t help but come across as disingenuous. In fact, Dion wasn’t even yet Liberal leader when he announced his opposition to the mission, insisting that the mission was “ill-conceived and misguided”.

He has also indulged himself in polarizing this actually non-partisan war. “It is really sad what happened because Mr. Harper last spring played the macho the one who will be able to carry us out of Afghanistan. He copied the speeches of Mr. Bush, I think President Bush should request copyright from these speeches,'' Dion said in 2006.

Dion even found it in himself to criticize Stephen Harper for doing what the preceding Liberal governments wouldn’t, in giving parliament a say in extending the mission. “This decision belongs to the executive branch of government. Government must be accountable for it.”

Dion has more recently insisted that the consensus necessary to continue the mission (at least in its current form) will never exist. "This consensus will never exist," Dion insisted. "The prime minister should say to NATO right away that the combat mission will end in February 2009."

When one considers the fact that it was the Liberals who committed Canadian forces to Kandahar to begin with, it all comes across as very insincere, and tantamount to cannibalizing his own party’s foreign affairs record.

Apparently, such partisan politics seem to be below Charest, who has been steadfast in his support of the mission, and seems willing to pay the price politically, if necessary.

Stephane Dion, however, apparently knows a good divisive wedge issue when he sees it, and hasn’t been afraid to exploit it.

Dion’s stance on Afghanistan has given the Conservative party all the ammunition they’ll ever need to question whether or not Dion is a leader. Jean Charest, on the other hand, has proven himself to be precisely the kind of principled leader the Liberals could really use.

Stephane Dion is not a leader. Fortunately for Quebec Liberals, Jean Charest is.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Three Cheers for Keith Martin

Liberal MP offers good advice for Defense Minister Peter MacKay

In a letter in today's National Post, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP and former parliamentary secretary to former Minister of Defense Bill Graham, offers some timely and good advice to current Defense Minister Peter MacKay.

Martin begins:

"The recent Cabinet shuffle by Prime Minister Harper presents an opportunity for the Conservative government to address three significant shortcomings with respect to our mission in Afghanistan."

While all too many of his colleagues would be taking the opportunity to lob typical partisan shots at the Conservatives, Martin keeps his letter very low-key, and instead offers three ways Canada can improve its fortunes in Khandahar.

"1. Canada should immediately repair, rebuild and re-equip the Mirwais General Hospital, the only medical facility in Kandahar accessible to the average Afghan. Its dilapidated condition is a constant reminder of our failure to effectively help those most in need in this beleaguered country and a political symbol that can be used by those who seek to increase dissent against us."

Martin makes an excellent point. Refurbishing the Mirwais Hospital would be an excellent "hearts and minds" exercise for Canadian forces in Khandahar. And while this would require a full-time, full-scale security effort from Canadian forces, it would also present them with a new resource for helping not only the Afghan civilians in the area, but also wounded Canadian soldiers.

"2. Canada should work with NGOs and our allies to redirect Afghanistan's opium production towards the manufacture of legal, pharmaceutical-grade narcotics. This would destroy the insurgency's financial underpinnings and give farmers, and the country, a value-added industry. The U.S.-led poppy eradication program has proven to be an unmitigated disaster."

With his second point, Martin strikes a gold mine in terms of addressing what has become a very serious dilemma for Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan, one that has reportedly come to pose a risk to Canadians.

To make this an even more preferable solution, medical pharmaceuticals would offer the average Afghan poppy farmer a greater share of the profits for their crop, as they would be able to cut out the networks of criminal middlemen, including the Taliban and non-Taliban insurgents.

"3. Canada should lead an all out effort to increase the training, funding and equipping of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and especially the Afghan National Police (ANP). In the end, southern Afghanistan's security will be dependant on the ability of the ANA and ANP to provide security and stability in that region."

With this particular point, Martin has completed the natural hat trick. While fairly academic in nature (it's obviously preferable to have native Afghans fighting the Taliban rather than having them depend on NATO forces to carry the fight), it's simply good advice. And while Canadians would have to go to great lengths to ensure that weapons provided to Afghan security forces don't suffer the same fate as weapons provided to Iraqi security forces, this is simply a good common sense suggestion.

And Martin is right, "The future of Afghanistan and the success of our mission relies on the implementation of solutions that, to date, have been neglected," and one can hardly accuse him of white-washing the Liberal party's failure to utilize these sorts of tactics, one that the Conservative party admittedly shares.

Most admirably of all, however, Martin understands the very point of the Afghanistan mission.

"Adopting these initiatives will truly be supporting our troops and will enable the Afghan people to achieve the peace and security they richly deserve."

And he says all of this with nary a partisan word. Which is fitting, considering that Afghanistan is a non-partisan war.

It's a shame that the Liberal party's defense critic, Denis Coderre, can't seem to find anything as constructive to say. Perhaps the Liberal party -- and Canada as a whole -- would be better served by a defense critic that isn't afraid to rise above petty partisan politics and contribute constructively to the war effort in Afghanistan.

Three cheers for Keith Martin. He may not be the Liberal party's defense critic, but he should be.

Afghanistan/Iraq: Twin Case Studies for Partition

In recent months, many interested people have pondered solutions for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of those who are familiar with the two conflicts recognize that there will be no such thing as a miracle cure for either case. Yet, in ignorance of the most basic facts of each case, some people have dreamed up such a miracle cure:


Some observers have, over the past few months, been advocating for the partition of both Iraq and Afghanistan; Afghanistan to be split between Pashtun and non-Pashtun regions, and Iraq to be split between Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish regions.

The partitioning of a state cannot possibly come without serious consequences.

While similar in many regards, there are also numerous differences that make Iraq and Afghanistan compelling case studies in proposed partition.

Afghanistan: Excising the cancer?

Similar to Iraq's Sunni/Shi'ite division, Afghanistan is divided amongst a Pashtun majority, and assorted minorities.

This has historically divided Afghanistan, as only 47-50% of its population (the aforementioned Pasthun majority) favour centralized government, while the rest have historically tended to resist it. Even the Taliban never managed to set up a centralized government in Afghanistan, as it was stringently opposed by the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, also known as the Northern Alliance, who comprised mostly of Tajiks, Hazra and Uzkbeks.

Historically, these factions were accustomed to fighting one another, but formed the Northern Alliance in order to resist the Taliban.

In the aftermath of the Taliban's ouster, the various factions comprising the Northern Alliance have come to favour centralized government, so long as that doesn't entail domination by a Pashtun majority.

A geographical anaylsis of Afghanistan's ethnic distribution reveals that the Khandahar and Helmand provinces that are currently the hotbeds of conflict in Afghanistan, are largely Pashtun regions.

The Taliban is largely a Pashtun group, although it has benefited from an influx of internationally-based Islamic fighters who favour the reestablishment of the Taliban as an Islamic theocracy, or the establishment of an Islamic theocracy in general.

Yet there has been a degree of tension between the Taliban and some of its pro-theocracy allies, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently declared a cease fire, angry at the Taliban for its targeting of civilians.

The Taliban had previously banished Hekmatyar from Kabul when they overran it in 1996. Hekmatyar bunkered down in the north, and refused to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government.

Partitioning Khandahar and Helmand could prove to be an expedient method of exploiting the long standing tension between Hekmatyar and the Taliban. Provided with a southern territory to establish a theocracy over, Hekmatyar and the Taliban may well turn on one another. There would likely be very little protest in northern Afghanistan, as Afghan nationalism has always been a historically weak force.

There are numerous problems with this tactic. First off, it's a very Machievellian tactic, condemning southern Afghanis to live in a state of civil war while the engineers of that civil war retire to the north to rebuild in comparative peace. Negotiating with Hekmatyar to recognize his faction as the legitimate government of southern Afghanistan could pose problems in future should his regime become a threat to the North.

Frankly, there is no guarantee that Hekmatyar could be convinced to live in peace with a neighbouring secular Afghan state.

Should the Taliban manage to defeat Hekmatyar (who would likely refuse any western aid in the conflict), and take control of southern Afghanistan, the problems posed by the partition would only be worse. It can pretty much be guaranteed that the Taliban will refuse to live in peace with a neighbouring secular Afghan state.

Allowing the Taliban to establish centralized control over southern Afghanistan would only allow it to return as a stronger force. While this could buy the Kabul government the time necessary to develop its own strengths, it would only underscore the risk of future warfare, with no guarantee that nothern Afghanistan would be able to defeat its antagonists.

If Hekmatyar (a fellow Pashtun) could be wooed to the side of NATO against the Taliban in exchange for the opportunity to establish the theocracy he so desires, then the partition of Afghanistan would be a very viable option.

But because he likely can't, partition is probably best considered a moot tactic.

Some would likely view the partition of Afghanistan as excising a cancer from the Afghan state. However, if one metaphorically considers Afghanistan as akin to a siamese twin, it really only represents the ill-concieved separation of one twin from the other.

Iraq: Everything old is new again

Iraq, on the other hand, is very much the quagmire that Afghanistan isn't. While partitioning Afghanistan (at least temporarily) could narrow the scope of the conflict, potentially confining it within Khandahar and Helmand provinces, partition does not offer the same hope for Iraq.

This is ironic, because the partition of Iraq may actually be the most natural thing in the world.

Consider the case of Kurdistan, described by some as "the Iraq that works". Since the end of the 1992 Gulf War and the establishment of the no-fly zone over northern and southern Iraq, Iraq's Kurds have actually managed to meld Iraqi Kurdistan into a secure, stable and functioning state.

In Blood and Belonging, Michael Ignatieff portrays the Kurds as a defacto nation state living on the edge, already practically partitioned both from Iraq, but also from Kurdish regions of Iran, Syria and Turkey.

As such, officially partioning Kurdistan from Iraq as an independent state could potentially broaden the conflict, increasing regional and global tensions with Iran, Syria and Turkey, possibly introducing new players into the Iraq war.

In fact, the case against partitioning Iraq (at least south of the Kurdish region) is very strong. This was tried once by the British in the 1920s, when they tried to meld Basra, Baghdad and Mosul into a merchant republic.

This has little in common with the current proposal of separating warring sects of Sunnis and Shi'ites. The original partition attempt was a multi-ethnic movement, involving Arabs, Persians, Jews and Indians.

In the end, the entire movement was deep-sixed by a weak Iraqi central government, not much unlike the one that exists there now, that was incapable of containing a Basran youth movement that opposed the partition. Nationalism, the same thing that separates Kurds from Iraqis, was the same thing that bound Iraq together.

So while the partioning of Iraqi Kurdisan may seem perfectly natural (although purely a gambit in terms of Iraq and the United States' relationships with Iraq's neighbours), partition simply does not solve the problem of the civil war raging between Shi'ites and Sunnis in Iraq, with which the Kurds are almost entirely uninvolved.

While still able to identify their sectarian enemies due to their religious differences, Iraqi Shi'ites and Sunnis still identify themselves as Iraqis. Disrupting that sense of nationalism could prove very foolhardy indeed, as both groups would likely unite just long enough to protect that sense of nationalism, before turning on one another again.

Like the case of Afghanistan, partitioning Iraq offers no guarantee of success. Unlike the case Afghanistan, however, it offers a near-guarantee of failure.

For all their differences, Iraq and Afghanistan share one key similarity: in neither case can the government assert control over its territory.

Many of those who oppose the partition proposals oppose them because they are seen as a threat to the sovereignty of each state. Yet sovereignty only exists where it can be asserted. The ability of western-backed governments in Kabul and Baghdad to assert sovereignty over the total span of their territory is obviously not complete.

In the end, the partition of Iraq and Afghanistan may turn out to be inevitable. However, it's clearly preferable to allow that partitioning to unfold under "natural" historical processes, rather than as an ill-defined act of political engineering.

If Iraq and Afghanistan are to be partitioned, it will have to be Iraqis and Afghans who make that particular choice.

In the meantime, those other global powers engaged in each country will simply have to make do.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Michael Byers: Politicizing the Non-Partisan

Foreign affairs "experts" come pretty cheap these days

Almost anyone with a decent handle on the subject and a shred of intellectual honesty should be able to recognize that Afghanistan is a non-partisan war.

Initiated and escalated by the Liberals (without parliamentary consultation) but extended by the Conservatives (albeit with a parliamentary vote), no one party can be credited with sole credit, or blame, for the mission.

Don't tell that to Michael Byers.

In fact, in terms of politicizing non-partisan Afghanistan mission along partisan lines, Michael Byers has been a one-man dynamo.

"This is Stephen Harper's war," Byers insists.

Yet in a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Byers clearly demonstrates that not only does he have no idea what's going on in the Canadian government and little idea what's going on in Afghanistan, but no idea whatsoever of what's been going on in the world as a whole.

Byers tries to pin the blame for the mission of Stephen Harper, ignroes the various signs of progress in Afghanistan, and misrepresents the events unfolding in Darfur, particularly as they relate to a possible UN peacekeeping mission.

"The need for developed-country, force-multiplying peacekeepers is very real in Darfur and elsewhere," Byers says. "[Retired Lieut.-General Roméo] Dallaire reported that the UN was looking to Canada [for a Darfur peacekeeping contribution] because Canada was not a geopolitical player in northern Africa. It didn't have any stake in the oil fields in the Sudan."

Yet, it would seem that Byers is forgetting about Calgary-based Talisman Energy, a company that formerly held interests in Sudan's Heglig and Unity oilfields. In 2001 it was revealled that the Sudanese army was killing and relocating civilians from around Talisman's concessions in the two fields.

It's also important to challenge Byers on his definition of what makes a country a "geopolitical player". Canada has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars per year in foreign aid for developing countries, a significant portion of which are in Northern Africa. Canada has also been involved in peacekeeping operations in Rwanda, Somalia and Sierra Leone, among other places.

Given that peacekeeping is very much a geopolitical act -- it pressures and encourages combatants to maintain their peace agreements -- Byers is flirting with misconceptions at best, and outright misrepresting facts at worst.

"Canada was seen by the UN as the optimal developed-country middle power to lead a UN mission to Darfur," Byers continues. "Had Canada stepped forward and said, 'Look, we're ready to lead a mission,' we would have seen a serious UN peacekeeping force in Darfur long before now."

Again, simply not so. It wasn't until 5 May 2006 that the Khartoum government and Minni Mannawi signed a peace agreement. Howeer, Mannawi was only the leader of the largest faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement. Other factions refused to sign the agreement.

Aside from the fact that any peace agreement in Sudan is incomplete and less than a year old, none of the delays are the result of a lack of a Canadian commitment to lead the mission. In fact, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has refused to accept UN peacekeepers, both immediately following the mission, even today. He reportedly insists that the proposed UN peacekeeping mission is really intended to protect Israel, partition the Sudan, and pirate its oil resources.

It's a common UN practice to secure the consent of all combatants before sending in peacekeeping troops. With some of the Sudanese Liberation Movement factions holding out, there is no deal on the table that falls within UN requirements for peacekeeping.

The only option vis a vis peacekeeping would actually have to be modelled after the 1992 Unified Task Force in Somalia, wherein the United States organized a task force to go in and forcefully pacify the region so UN peacekeeping operations could take over.

The 1992-93 mission, organized by the United States and mandated by the UN was actually more akin to warfare than actual peacekeeping.

With no agreement for UN peacekeeping in place, an independent (albeit UN-mandated) task force is the only real option on the table for Darfur. Then again, this is all beside the point. Despite what Michael Byers claims, the lack of UN peacekeeping operation in Sudan is not Stephen Harper's fault -- it's al-Bashir's.

Byers only reinforces his ignorance of the fact when he insists that "the lack of developed-country willingness to step in has been covered up by smoke and mirrors about how Khartoum isn't consenting and how the African Union wants it to be an all-African force."

Yet, the Khartoum government isn't consenting. Beyond this, Byers is wrong when he claims there's no developed-country willingness to step into the Sudanese void. Both Britain and the United States have supported UN peacekeeping operations in the Sudan to the extent that they have threatened sanctions against the Khartoum government.

Byers only cotninues to back himself into a rhetorical corner when he insists questions need be asked, "on whether the mission is succeeding. And realistically on what are the prospects for success and how do we measure success? And is it worth the cost inclusive of Canadian soldiers' lives?"

It isn't hard to determine whether or not Canadian efforts in Afghanistan are finding success. Consider the following figures: four million more childen in schools; 3.5 million refugees resettled; collection of 11,000 weapons; reconstruction efforts in 11,000 Afghan villages.

Furthermore, Byers is indulging himself in the same method of rationalization that allowed the peacekeeping failure in Rwanda, when American officials noted that 500,000 Rwandans would have to be killed before a single American life was worth risking.

Byers also advocates a cost-benefit analysis of the Afghanistan mission. Yet, such cost-benefit analyses would inevitably have to be focused based on whether or not Canadian foreign policy interests were being serviced. In Afghanistan, numerous interests -- participation in NATO, the elimination of states that harbour terrorists, the liquidation of terrorist networks -- are being met. In Sudan, Canada has few interests at stake (which is ironically why Byers feels so strongly that Canada should participate). In terms of cost-benefit analysis, Afghanistan is definitely the preferable mission.

When asked about what he considers success or failutre in Afghanistan, Byers is apprently perfectly happy to focus on what he cosniders the failures: "We certainly haven't managed to pacify the tribal areas up against the border with Pakistan, and as far as we know, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are still happily ensconced in northern Pakistan."

Byers does have his fair share of reasonable criticisms. "there are certainly components of the government of Afghanistan associated with atrocities committed prior to the Taliban coming into power," Byers notes. "I'm speaking here of the so-called warlords."

This is a fair criticism. Afghan warlords have historically funded their anti-Taliban operations from Opium profits, and have been implicated in new atrocities in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. It's hard to refute the Taliban's human rights abuses while in bed with groups that have dabbled in the same.

This is something that the Canadian government will have to address with the Karzai government.

In the end, it becomes apparent that Byers simply can't break himself of the meaningless peacekeeping/war dichotomy, when he notes that, "I think what we were doing in Kabul for a number of years was a quite appropriate mission, providing security and stability in the national capital in what was essentially a peacekeeping mission."

"But now we've moved into this counter-insurgency, aggressive search-and-destroy mission in Kandahar, and what, effectively, we are trying to do is secure centralized control over the entire territory of a country that's never been subject to centralized control before, and I think that's a fool's errand," Byers says.

But in the end, Byers fails to properly distinguish between peacekeeping and war. While peacekeeping at least flatters the aesthetic vanity of individuals such as Byers, it is, like war, an armed interventionalist foreign policy approach, and missions such as in Somalia and Rwanda show just how quickly a peacekeeping mission can transmute into a fully-fledged war.

Most revealing, however, is his inability to reconcile his partisan rhetoric with the realities of the mission.

"I am proud of our soldiers because they're doing their damnedest, but the decision as to whether they should be there is not their decision, and it's not a decision that should be a political partisan electoral decision," Byers insists.

This coming from the same individual who insists Afghanistan is Stephen Harpers war, despite the role of two different Prime Ministers from Harper's competing party, the Liberals, in putting Canada into both Afghanistan and into the Khandahar mission.

Byers has worked very hard indeed to politicize the war in Afghanistan along partisan lines. He has often resorted to outright misinformation in order to do this. He even, during an appearance on Mike Duffy Live tried to claim that General Rick Hillier negotiated the Canada/Afghanistan prisoner transfer agreement. The document, while signed by Hillier, was actually negotiated by then-Liberal party foreign affairs minister Bill Graham.

During the same appearance, Byers insisted he didn't want to take part in a partisan discussion. Yet, his rhetoric on the Afghanistan mission has been little if not batantly partisan, and it makes it difficult -- if not impossible -- to take him seriously.

Michael Byers has turned out not to be the non-partisan commentator he claims to be. Which is fair enough. He's turned out to not be half the expert he's supposed to be.

Canadian Cynic's Hilarious Hypocrisy for Today

Sunday, August 19, 2007, 6:49 AM:

"Awwwwwww ... that's so cute ... Blogging Tory and utter douchebag Brian Lemon deleted the two comments I left yesterday on this post which, if they hadn't been unceremoniously tossed, would have appeared between nomdeblog's and zorph's submissions.

And what kind of unspeakable, trolly ghoulishness could your humble scribe have written that would have driven poor, sensitive Mr. Lemon into such a paroxysm of anti-free speechitude? I'm so glad you asked.

In the first comment, I took issue with all of the swooning, complimentary fawning over his principles by taking Brian to task for apologizing for MaryT when it was MaryT who should have been doing the apologizing, and suggesting that MaryT grow up and take responsibility for her own writing since that's sort of what "accountability" and "personal responsibility" means, at least the way conservatives whine about it annoyingly all day long.

Saturday, July 21, 2007, 5:02 PM:

"Serial annoyance Patrick Ross has simply become tedious, so he's been shown the door.

The shrieks of "censorship" should be starting any minute now ...

What were the "offending posts" deleted? One of them was a suggestion that Canadian Cynic apologize to Wanda Watkins.

But then again, apparently censorship is only censorship when you're the one being censored.

Bonus hypocrisy: One wonders if Liberal party supporter Jim Harris was told "fuck you and the neo-con propaganda train you rode in on", too. No? OK, then.

Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego vol. 6 - Lt-Col Malcom Bruce

"Militant" environmentalist or consumate professional?

It's been known for quite a while that Canada's natural gas reserves are diminishing.

That being said, every commodity is limited in its value. Natural gas is no different.

At the same time, there are some things that are unlimited in value. Rare plants and endangered species can be counted among this.

It's on this note that one has to consider the absurdity of the conflict between Calgary-based EnCana energy and the Canadian Military over the protection of the Suffield National Wildlife Area, a stretch of grassland that is home to endangered species such as the burrowing owl and kangaroo rat.

Yet one has to also consider the absurdity of the position that Lieutenant Colonel Malcom Bruce has found himself in. As the commanding officer of CFB Suffield, a Canadian Forces training base in the area, Malcom has been charged with the protection of the Suffield National Wildlife Area. This despite the fact that it shouldn't be his job.

"I am mandated, if you will, to look after the environment down here," Bruce said. "It's part of our departmental responsibility as assigned by Environment Canada, and therefore I set it as one of the highest priorities in the base."

Apparently Environment Canada has the authority to assign the military to do something that is Environment Canada's job. Only in Canada.

This being said, one has to admire Bruce for a quality that one so seldom finds outside the military. Perhaps protecting the Suffield National Wildlife Area shouldn't be his job. But he does it anyway.

Bruce's commitment stems from the commitment shared by his predecessor, "my predecessor Dan Drew has quite frankly re-established the need for us to get more involved and more proactive. He was very vocal about it and he put us back on the right road."

As it stands, CFB Suffield is noted to have done a fantastic job of training in the area while avoiding any negative environmental impact. "Military activity on the range has minimal impact because we do stringent environmental assessments so we know when is the best time to train on different areas at different climates."

Naturally, as a user of the area, CFB Suffield is responsible for the environmental impact of its own activities, and the onus in on them to ensure they minimize environmental impact.

But Environment Canada should be responsible for the protection of the area the rest of the time, even if that entails coordinating their activities with the military on the live-fire training base.

As for EnCana, they, like any other respectable energy company, are known for the lengths they go to to minimize their environmental impact. However, if the operation of 1,300 new gas wells could be planned around the seasons and the behaviourial habits of the area's wildlife, it could be justified. Because these operations -- the monitoring and servicing of the wells, in particular, can't be planned as such, it simply isn't worth the risk.

There are other -- albeit more expensive -- options available to EnCana, such as directional drilling from outside the protected area. While this would necessitate the drilling of fewer wells, it would at least offer EnCana the opportunity to tap these reserves.

As for Lt-Col Malcom Bruce, his dedication to something that shouldn't be fully his responsibility is admirable, perhaps even -- dare one say it -- heroic.

As such, Lt-Col Bruce should be allowed to take his rightful place among the ranks of the eco-heroes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

No Gun No Funeral Reveals Holes in Election Law

Story raises interesting questions about what should and should not be considered campaign material

The quiet controversy surrounding the No Gun No Funeral website became a little bit clearer yesterday, as Michael Bryant admitted that he is, in fact, the man behind the site.

"It's my pharse; it's my idea; it's my website," Bryant admitted.

Ontario elections anwered an inquiry submitted by Martin Gobin, a candidate for the Libertarian party, by notifying him that the website doesn't meet the definition of political advertising because it doesn't directly promote Bryant or the Liberal party.

Bryant explained that no constituency resources were used to develop the site.

Yet with the Ontario provincial election coming up, the handgun ban just happens to be an issue Bryant has been campaigning on.

While the website may not be officially part of his campaign, it just happens to be a website that Bryant started that also just happens to help his campaign by reinforcing his message.

As such, the website is part of Bryant's campaign, if ony unofficially.

Bryant's website clearly falls into a deep grey area of election law. While it's true that it never mentions Bryant or the Liberal party, it's solidly connected to a campaign that Bryant himself has been running, and has admitted to running, in conjunction with his election campaign.

If one unquestionably accepts Bryant's site as a part of his campaign despite its obvious unofficial status, it opens up a pandora's box of issues that election law has yet to address. For example: the question of whether or not all websites that address an issue that a politician is campaigning on should be considered campaign advertising.

If so, this would categorize a wide variety of websites, from independent advocacy groups, many of whom would pre-date the election call, to blogs.

Consider the definition of third-party advertisers, which are required to register with Elections Canada if they spend $500 or more. While individual blogs certainly fall under the $500 mark, larger blogging groups like the Blogging Tories or Liblogs could certainly qualify, depending upon how much it costs them to maintain their servers.

Consider also that many bloggers don't become officially involved in the campaign, and as such remain unofficial commentators.

Then again, there is a difference: Bryant's website isn't being run by an independent advocacy group, or unofficially involved commentator -- it's being run by himself and the Liberal party. It isn't being run in the mere interest of increasing the profile of a particular issue -- it's being run with the intent of helping to win the election for a specific candidate who is already campaigning on that issue, whether or not that candidate and his party are explicitly mentioned at all.

One can also raise the question of where the funds to maintain and develop the site have come from. While they may not have come from the constituency, they have come from somewhere.

While No Gun No Funeral may not be officially part of Bryant's campaign, it's certainly a political entity. If Bryant and his colleagues are funding the site out-of-pocket that is one thing. But if they're accepting donations from the public for, or donating their own funds to, a separate "No Gun No Funeral" political entity, then they should be subject to the $1,100 contribution limit. If they've already contributed that money to another candidate or organization (perhaps their own), they could find themselves subject to an even greater legal quandry, one that seems ill-defined under current election law.

Whether or not unofficial side campaigns should be considered part of a candidate's election campaign will be an issue for Elections Canada and parliament to decide.

In the meantime, Bryant has managed to find a fairly serious loophole in election law that he's exploiting rather shamelessly, all in the name of deception and disinformation.