Friday, June 26, 2009

The In-laws

"Family's always embarrassing isn't it?" said Ford to Zaphod as the smoke began to clear.

Ford Prefect to Zaphod Beeblebrox
The Restuarant at the End of the Universe

Lewis Lapham

A son of Lewis A. Lapham and his wife, the former Jane Foster, Lapham was born and grew up in San Francisco. His grandfather Roger Lapham was mayor of San Francisco, and his great grandfather Lewis P. Lapham was a founder of Texaco. He was educated at the Hotchkiss School, Yale University, where he joined the literary society St. Anthony Hall, and Magdalene College, Cambridge.

In 1972, Lapham married Joan Brooke Reeves, the daughter of Edward J. Reeves, a stockbroker and grocery heir, and his wife, the former Elizabeth M. Brooke (formerly the wife of Thomas Wilton Phipps, a nephew of Nancy Astor). They have three children:

Delphina (married Prince Don Bante Maria Boncompagni-Ludovisi)
Andrew (married Caroline Mulroney, a daughter of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney)

Harper's Magazine
Lewis Lapham served as editor of Harper's Magazine from 1976 to 2006 (with a hiatus from 1981 to 1983). He was managing editor from 1971 to 1975, after having worked for the San Francisco Examiner and New York Herald Tribune. He is largely responsible for the modern look and prominence of the magazine, having introduced many of its signature features including its famed Harper's Index. He announced that he would become editor emeritus in Spring 2006, continuing to write his Notebook column for the magazine as well as editing a new journal about history, Lapham's Quarterly. Lapham has also worked with the PEN American Center, sitting on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own Award. This February, he will be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame.

Brian Mulroney

Martin Brian Mulroney, PC, CC, GOQ (born March 20, 1939) was the eighteenth Prime Minister of Canada from September 17, 1984, to June 25, 1993 and was leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1983 to 1993. After retiring from politics, Mulroney resumed his earlier career as a lawyer and business consultant. In May 2009, he testified before the Oliphant Commission called to investigate cash payments from Karlheinz Schreiber which are related to the earlier Airbus scandal.

Early life
Mulroney was born in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, an isolated lumber town in the eastern part of the province. He is the son of Irish Canadian Catholic parents, Benedict and Irene (O'Shea) Mulroney. Benedict Mulroney was a paper mill electrician. The family had six children who survived infancy. Since there was no English Catholic high school in Baie-Comeau, Mulroney completed his high school education at a Roman Catholic boarding school in Chatham, New Brunswick operated by St. Thomas University (in 2001, St. Thomas University named its newest academic building in his honour). Money was very tight in the family. Benedict Mulroney worked extra shifts and ran a repair business on the side to earn extra money to fund his children's educations, and he encouraged his oldest son to go to university.

Mulroney would frequently tell stories about newspaper publisher Robert R. McCormick, whose company had founded Baie-Comeau. Mulroney would sing Irish songs for McCormick, and the publisher would slip him $50. He grew up speaking English and French fluently.

On May 26, 1973, he married Mila Pivnički, the daughter of a Serbian doctor, Dimitrije Mita Pivnički, from Sarajevo. The Mulroneys have four children: Caroline, Benedict (Ben), Mark and Nicolas. Ben is a CTV media personality and the most recent host of Canadian Idol.

In 1991, Frank magazine ran a satirical ad for a contest inviting young Tories to "deflower Caroline Mulroney," the then-Prime Minister's oldest child. The magazine took the position that they were simply saying in a satirical fashion that Mulroney was using his daughter as a prop. Many groups and commentators joined Mulroney in denouncing the ad as an incitement to rape, although it did not advocate using force to accomplish the act.

On September 16, 2000, Caroline Mulroney married Andrew Lapham, the son of Harper's editor Lewis H. Lapham. Among the 400 guests were many dignitaries and business leaders, including former US President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush, Queen Noor of Jordan, Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and his Greek-born wife Katherine, Dino Goulandris, Galen Weston and Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Hilary Weston, former talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, and media magnate Ted Rogers. She is currently associate director of the Stern School of Business at New York University, having graduated there with a law degree.

Mulroney is the grandfather of Lewis H. Lapham III, and twins Pierce Lapham and Elizabeth Theodora Lapham.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fisking the BBC


"The blogosphere term fisking refers not to Fisk directly, but to what is done to those who, like him, are being challenged — the fisker begins by copying text from the fiskee, and then produces an interlinear critique pointing out flaws and raising doubts. "The fisker can without too much trouble make the fiskee look ridiculous." The term originated from partisan attacks on Fisk's credibility, but has been extended to others, even the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Making friends with the Taliban

By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Pakistan

The desert sun beats down on us as we slip through the gate of a compound in Tank, a small but important town in north-western Pakistan.

We are here for an appointment that we know has already been cancelled.

The compound, formerly a city inn, houses the central office of a group of Taliban militants led by Qari Zainuddin Mehsud.

But Mr Mehsud was murdered by one of his bodyguards on Tuesday, soon after the Muslim pre-dawn prayers and hours before his appointment with us for an interview.

A sombre-faced Taliban guard with long hair and an assault rifle meets us inside the compound.

He says he cannot invite us into the office because there is an emergency situation and all leaders of the group have left for Mr Mehsud's funeral.

Some 200m away, in an alley across the street, is the district office of the ministry of religious affairs which handles charity funds for the poor.

At least this is what the sign on the building says.

But actually, it houses the headquarters of another militant group, led by Haji Turkestan Bhittani.

This place is also deserted. Everybody has gone to the funeral, say a couple of armed foot soldiers left behind to guard the premises.

These groups are seen by many in Tank as the army's new "allies" in the impending military operation in South Waziristan, about 60km (37 miles) to the northwest.

Top Pakistani officials say the operation will target Baitullah Mehsud, feared Taliban commander who heads the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an alliance of regional militant groups fighting the army in the north-western regions of Waziristan, Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur and Swat.

Analysts say a military offensive in South Waziristan, if successful, can break the back of Islamic militancy in Pakistan.

Analysts??!! What "analysts"??!! Who are they and how did the BBC happen to seek their opinion? What is "Islamic militancy", as opposed to say, a war of independence?

But they also point out that the assassination of Qari Zainuddin is evidence that Baitullah Mehsud's supporters still have the capability to strike at his enemies at will.

The Pakistani army started increasing troop numbers in South Waziristan in February, and accelerated the build-up in early May.

The army has reoccupied most positions it abandoned following a 2005 truce with Baitullah Mehsud. It has faced little resistance so far.

And what is the "army" in tribal composition? How many Pashtuns are in the "army"?

“ Militants are protected by quarters that are beyond accountability, and the ensuing anarchy has opened many avenues of corruption for officials both in the police and the administration ”
Dera administrative official

OK, so the Pakistan central government is in fact accountable, and there are no "avenues of corruption", even among the supporters of Mr. Ten Percent, or among the Bhutto clan, who spend most of their time in Oxford and both Cambridges.

But before launching a major ground offensive, the army appears keen to soften up the enemy.

Enemy? Define "enemy".

Its helicopter gunships and fighter jets have been bombing areas under Baitullah Mehsud's control, driving thousands of people out of their homes.

At the same time, it has been patronising the two Tank-based militant groups who have publicly opposed Baitullah Mehsud, accusing him of "un-Islamic" activities.

The army apparently wants to use these groups as their proxies in the war in South Waziristan.

The people of Tank interpret this as a strategy designed to eliminate Baitullah Mehsud, not Islamic militancy.

They have been living under Taliban control since 2006 when militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud walked into town and overpowered the local administration.

Since mid-2008, the Turkestan and Zainuddin groups, backed by the army, have gradually replaced Baitullah Mehsud's writ in Tank region.

Differing tactics

One Tank resident explains the difference between then and now.

"Baitullah's men would snatch only government vehicles, but the new groups don't make such distinctions. If they like a car, they will take it, no matter who owns it."

And Tank is not the only town under threat.

Some 60km south of Tank, the city of Dera Ismail Khan is in deep trouble, a top administrative official says.

"Militants are protected by quarters that are beyond accountability, and the ensuing anarchy has opened many avenues of corruption for officials both in the police and the administration," he says.

I thought we did this one.

Dera is the winter home of most tribesmen from South Waziristan, and sits on the only road out of that region.

Since 2007, it has received several waves of refugees displaced by militant conflict in South Waziristan.

Aid workers believe more than 50,000 people are again on the run ahead of the new operation, and most of them will end up in Dera.

But extremist influences have undermined its sectarian relationships.

Define "extremist".

Since 2007, more than 500 people have died in what appear to be tit-for-tat killings between the Shia and Sunni sects.

The fact that the conflict has gone on for so long has led some in Dera to suspect that it might be fuelled by "those elements in the government who benefit by perpetuating extremist views".

Islamabad has long been accused by local and international observers of using Islamic militants to achieve its strategic aims in India and Pakistan.

Three years ago, the army helped the militants of Mullah Nazir chase groups opposed to the army out of Wana region in South Waziristan.

People say they are witnessing a repeat performance in the Mehsud region of South Waziristan now.

This is clearly evident in Tank.

The main commercial street in Tank reverberates with the sound of boots and the cocking of guns whenever an army patrol vehicle runs into a road jam.

The purpose, apparently, is to scare away any potential suicide bomber among the public.

But no soldier turns to take a second glance at the man behind a light machine-gun planted on a tripod in the middle of the street, just outside the alley where the office of the Turkestan group is located.

And the conclusion is...?

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/06/24 15:23:19 GMT


The madness of Antonio Maria Costa

UN wants 'flood of drugs' in Afghanistan to devalue opium, Monday May 25 2009
Jon Boone in Herat

United Nations officials in Afghanistan are attempting to create a "flood of drugs" in the country intended to destroy the value of opium and force poppy farmers to switch to legal crops such as wheat.

After the failure to destroy fields of the scarlet flowers in Afghanistan's volatile south, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says the answer is to stop the drugs from leaving the country in the first place.

"Manual eradication is incompetent and inefficient," UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa said during a visit to the western Afghan province of Herat. "So we want to see more efforts to stop the flow of drugs across Afghanistan's borders and the hitting of high-value targets to create a market disruption.

"We want to create a flood of drugs within Afghanistan. There will be so much opium inside Afghanistan unable to go out that the price will go down."

UN report shows fall in opium and cocaine production
Duncan Campbell, Wednesday 24 June 2009

Drug use should be treated more as an illness than a crime, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said as he claimed a decline in the production of cocaine and heroin worldwide.

"People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution," said Antonio Maria Costa, director of UNODC, calling for universal access to drug treatment. Since people with serious drug problems provided the bulk of drug demand, treating this problem was one of the best ways of shrinking the market.

His call for international law enforcement to target traffickers rather than users came as it was announced that there is a worldwide growth in synthetic drugs.

Friday, June 19, 2009

AfNam 2

"So the battle raged. Krulak immediately jumped Phillips. Phillips was putting his judgment ahead of General Harkins', a senior military official, a man of seasoned judgment who had more people working for him, more information at his disposal, and who knew how to evaluate military reports. He, Krulak, would take General Harkins over Phillips any time (the implication in his voice was that Phillips was very young, thirty-three yeas old, at best a captain, and captains should not challenge generals). With Krulak going after Phillips, Harriman went after Krulak: Harriman said he was not surprised that Krulak was taking Harkins' side — indeed he would be upset if he did not. Harriman said he had known Krulak for several years and had always known him to be wrong, and was sorry to say it, but he considered Krulak a damn fool. When this storm had passed, Phillips finished: he wanted to say that despite what Krulak felt, the war was not being won militarily, and it was going badly. Any anyway, he emphasized, you could not talk about it being won militarily, it was above all a political war.

"With that, with the government as badly split as before, the meeting broke up, but the military estimates had been seriously punctured. In addition, in the turning around of Phillips, a bench mark had been passed. It was a symbol of Lansdale turning as well: the people who had invented Diem [Karzai] were now leading the assault against him. Too, it was a sign that the Good Guys, the Americans who thought there was a right way, a middle way of dealing with Vietnam [Afghanistan] if we had the right programs and did the right things, and who believed that the Vietnamese [Afghans] wanted us there, were beginning to despair. If they failed, and they were failing fast, desperate now to find, eight years later, some last-minute substitute for Diem [Karzai], then there was a chance that American policy in Vietnam [Afghanistan] would be directed by people who felt we ought to be there whether the Vietnamese [Afghans] wanted us or not, whether we helped them more than we hurt them, that the answer lay not in the right people handling the right programs, but simply in superior force."

"The Americans in Vietnam, long frustrated by the ineptitude of their ARVN counterparts, and by the fact that ineptitude guaranteed career advancement, had come up with a slogan to describe the ARVN promotions system: 'Fuck up and move up.' They did not realize that by now the slogan applied to their own Army as well."

David Halberstam
The Best and the Brightest
pg. 279-281

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AfNam. NATO's endless land war in Asia....

Part 1. Lyndon Johnson on AfNam

"If we get into this war I know what's going to happen. Those damn conservatives are going to sit in Congress and they're going to use this war as a way of opposing my Great society legislation. People like Stennis and Gross. They hate this stuff, they don't want to help the poor and the Negroes but they're afraid to be against it at a time like this when there's been all this prosperity. But the war, oh, they'll like the war. They'll take the war as their weapon. They'll be against my programs because of the war. I know what they'll say, they'll say there not against it, not against the poor but we have this job to do , beating the Communists [terrorists]. We beat the Communists [terrorists] first, then we can look around and maybe give something to the poor."

David Halberstam
The Best and the Brightest
20th Anniversary Edition
Ballantine Books New York, pg. 507

Bringing the Violence Back Home

From The Toronto Star:

The Federal Court of Canada and "national security"

Federal Court flexes muscles on security
By: Janice Tibbetts

15/06/2009 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

OTTAWA -- The Conservative government's national security agenda has been set back by a steady losing streak in the Federal Court, a trend that analysts attribute to an emboldened bench that is finding its voice and growing out of a tendency to defer to lawmakers as it did in the early years after 9-11.
In the last two months, the traditionally cautious court has issued stinging decisions ordering the government to repatriate terror suspect Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay and bring Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik home from Sudan.

Judges have also issued three biting critiques of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, accusing the spy agency of possibly lying to the court about its intelligence information and being complicit in torture of Canadians abroad.

"It's the end of the honeymoon period -- when national security trumped everything," said Michael Byers, a civil libertarian and a political scientist at University of British Columbia. "Judges are now fighting back."

The 38-year-old court, based in Ottawa, toiled away in relative obscurity on federal issues such as immigration, competition law and trademark until it was thrust into the spotlight eight years ago as the adjudicator of the war on terror in the post 9-11-era.

"There was a learning process," said Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland, who once got into trouble with the law society for publicly stating that the court "kisses the government's ass" on national security matters.

Copeland, who has defended non-Canadians detained on government security certificates out of suspicion that they pose national security threats, believes that as the events of 9-11 become more distant, the courts are invoking the Charter of Rights to hold the government to account in justifying its actions.

"I think there has been a shift," he said, noting that the same court, several years ago, upheld the federal security certificate regime, which permits the government to hold non-Canadians indefinitely without charge. The Supreme Court of Canada later struck down part of the federal power.

The court's scathing ruling on Abdelrazik, which lambasted Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon for being "nonsensical" in turning his back on the stranded Canadian, who has spent time in and out of detention in Sudan, was written by Justice Russel Zinn, one of only two Federal Court judges appointed by the Harper government. Zinn, in his June 4 ruling, ordered the government to bring Abdelrazik home to Montreal within 30 days.

Abdelrazik was arrested while visiting his mother in Sudan in 2003 and for the last year has been living at the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum. His passport has expired.

The RCMP and CSIS, Canada's spy agency, say they have no information linking him to criminal activity.

"What we're seeing emerge is the power of the charter when it comes to testing Canadian civil rights protections," said Wark.

"What's new in the post-9-11 period is that the charter is being tested in a national security context."

-- Canwest News Service

Find this article at:

New Labour Does Nuremberg

Iraq war inquiry to be in private

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/06/15 21:25:26 GMT

Friday, June 5, 2009

I love my country....

The CBC's Hockey Night in Canada has the Stanley Cup final live streaming in Punjabi.

What's not to like?