Monday, June 28, 2010

Stephen Harper's Weekend


"It was black vs. black on the streets and no one asked why"

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ducks Unlimited

OK, so they're not pelicans.

G8 Communiqué Wordle

It's interesting to compare security with law.

Monday, June 21, 2010

NATO, Ship of Fools

Osama bin Laden must be ecstatic. The most recent stats are (roughly) 1000 American dead in Afghanistan, 300 British dead, and 150 Canadian dead. Canada has some kind of weird bragging rights because our casualties per capita are greater than anyone else’s. I’m talking deaths here, not the wounded which is a far greater number and much more expensive. And there’s no end in sight.

Osama, if indeed he was responsible for 9/11, managed with 20 guys, boxcutters, and half-assed flight training carried out in plain sight, to lure the United States into a land war in Asia, and – unexpected bonus unless Osama is actually more of a genius than he appears – the US was lured into a preliminary land war in Asia (Iraq) that has already practically bankrupted the US. And there’s no end in sight.

Even better – if you’re Osama bin Laden – insane military adventures are occurring in Pakistan, particularly in the Pashtun tribal belt, with extrajudicial assassinations being carried out without any kind of legal basis – in fact, war crimes – and almost no accounting for who actually was killed, how many civilian casualties were incurred, or who in fact is responsible other than Obama. You know, Obama is starting to remind me of Tiger Woods: a smooth-talking black guy of impeccable credentials who, ironically, is conducting a snow job on the American population. And there’s no end in sight.

I used to call it the Curtis LeMay Syndrome: if bombing doesn’t work, use more bombs. Uri Avnery is more poetic about it: if force doesn’t work, use more force. Here’s a news flash for ISAF Public Affairs:

1. Force won’t work in Afghanistan (ask the Russians).
2. Osama bin Laden is being successful beyond his wildest dreams: 9/11 is achieving its objectives in full measure.
3. The Taliban won’t negotiate anything about anything until NATO leaves Afghanistan.
4. The Russians made a dignified exit, unlike Saigon.

And there's no end in sight.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's snowing in the United Nations Security Council

Kabul in winter
Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 40 of resolution 1917 (2010)

Now there's an innocuous title. Who would know this report was about Afghanistan? And even if you did, and if you knew where to look, it's difficult to find the relevant paragraphs. So, here are a few of the relevant 81 paragraphs:

18. Overall, the number of security incidents increased significantly, compared to previous years and contrary to seasonal trends. This is attributable to an increase in military operations in the southern region during the first quarter of 2010 and to significant anti-government element activities in the south-east and eastern regions of Afghanistan. The military focus remained on the southern region, with operations in central Helmand and Kandahar. Extending the reach of the Government remains the primary goal. The success of this approach is predicated on timely implementation of efforts to strengthen governance and service delivery linked to longer-term development. This requires increased and systemic cooperation between the Afghan National Security Forces and non-security ministries, as well as coordinated, coherent and inclusive support from the International Security Assistance Force and the international community.

47. During February, 27,700 people were displaced by military operations in Helmand Province. Line ministries and United Nations implementing partners registered the displaced and provided food and non-food assistance to 88 per cent of the displaced families. The World Food Programme (WFP) provided 494,912 metric tons of food in the form of family rations to the displaced families. By April, the pace of return of the displaced was slow, owing to continued military operations in the area, the high numbers of improvised explosive devices and the population’s concern about new power structures. The United Nations and partner non-governmental organizations continue to monitor the situation, update contingency plans and replenish pre-positioned stocks. A review of the humanitarian response to the Helmand operation revealed three principal strengths: improved coordination and information-sharing among agencies, adequate pre-positioning of supplies and successful implementation of the joint system for registering and verifying assessments. This contributed to a more rapid and effective distribution of assistance.

71. Since my previous report (A/64/705/-S/2010/127), the overall security situation has not improved. Indiscriminate anti-Government element attacks against civilian targets, Government representatives and international military forces continued. The
alarming trend of increased improvised explosive device incidents and the occurrence of complex suicide attacks persisted. Military operations also intensified.

78. Despite the considerable growth and reform plans for the development of the Afghan National Security Forces, the security environment remains unstable. A comprehensive approach on security sector reform needs to be supported by effective governance and progressive advances in the political process, to counterbalance concentrated military efforts. UNAMA continues to call upon all parties concerned to put the safety of civilians first.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game Seven, Sudden Death Overtime


And it's me, Ron MacLean here with Don Cherry on House of Commons Night in Canada. Grapes, the Stanley Cup is finally over...


...yeah, the death of a thousand Luongos ...


...and the Cup is safely in Chicago, but meanwhile the House of Commons is still trying to rise from its sitting position...


Tell me about it...


...and there is as yet no consensus on the Afghan prisoner documents...

DON CHERRY would be expected...




...because Harper is a weasel. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Harper is a weasel: you can't take your eye off him.


But the Liberals and even the Bloc have signed off on this new agreement, which leaves the NDP as the principled, yet isolated - some would say intransigent - dissenters.


Yeah, well, so what? Intransigence is what wins the Stanley Cup.


So how do you see this playing out?


So here's the thing. The Speaker's in a terrible position: he's desperate to get to his place in The Thousand Islands and have a few well-earned beers. On the other hand, we have a government completely oblivious to the history and traditions of Parliament, and thinks governing Canada is like BP in the Gulf of Mexico: deny everything, make up a story, suck up the spoils of war, and congratulate themselves as being the Strong, the True, and the Brave.


So how do you see the Speaker playing this?


OK, so the NDP is the canary in the cage: they're saying to the Speaker, this deal is not in the spirit or the letter of your ruling. And the Speaker is going to have to listen to that. However much he wants to get out of Ottawa for the summer - and let's face it, there's a stampede for the exits - he's got an unalterable respect for the rule of law, and he's got Rob Walsh talking in his ear. This isn't going to go away in a nice tidy package for the G8. There's gonna be blood.


So that's it for your somewhat exhausted team at House of Commons Night in Canada...


I'm indestructible now, Luongo can't kill me.


Your suit is certainly indestructible.


You have a problem with the Magna Carta?


Only printed on purple corduroy.


Hey, Fabricland had a special.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two views of the Dahla Dam

From the Eighth Quarterly Report to Parliament, June 13, 2010

"This type of support contributed to the advancement in this quarter of a Canadian signature project, the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and irrigation system, located in the fertile Arghandab district. The January-March dry period enabled the start of physical work on the irrigation system, and the removal of 85,000 cubic metres (enough to fill 34 Olympic sized swimming pools) of silt and other materials from the main canal, improving downstream water flow to Kandahar farmers."

On the other hand, we have this report from Mitch Potter at the Toronto Star, June 9, 2010:

Canada’s International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda went so far last month as to wave panoramically during a helicopter press tour and proclaim the green expanse of the fertile Arghandab River valley below as the early signs of Canadian success.

But a three-week Toronto Star investigation, including interviews with more than 20 private contractors, government officials, Afghan tribal leaders and others knowledgeable about the project, shows a disaster in the making.

Foremost among the setbacks, insiders say, was a dramatic confrontation on Feb. 20, when rising tensions between Canadian security officials hired to oversee the project and members of Watan Risk Management, a group of Afghan mercenaries with close ties to the Karzai family, culminated in a “Mexican standoff” — the guns hired to protect the project actually turned on each other in a hair-trigger confrontation.

“That was the day Canada lost control. The thugs from Watan won, and the Canadian security managers involved were put on the next plane home, lucky to be alive,” a witness to the standoff told the Toronto Star on condition of anonymity.

“Ever since, the project has been basically held hostage by the Karzai mafia, who are using ‘security concerns’ to stall the work. They are able to put fear in the heart of the Canadian contractors, telling them ‘There is evil outside the gates that will eat you.’ The longer they delay, the more money the Afghan security teams make. The Canadians have good intentions but that is the reality.”

The Toronto Star has confirmed the identity of the private Canadian security officials who fled for their lives: Curtis Desrosiers, who served as a contracted security manager for the Dahla Dam project, and his deputy, Mike Hill.

Now back in Canada, Desrosiers and Hill say they are reluctant still to divulge all they know of the security fiasco, citing concerns for the safety of their families. But others familiar with their story say both men feel “abandoned by and disgusted with” the Canadian government, SNC-Lavalin and the Canadian military for allowing the Afghan company to muscle them out of the country.

“We were run off for doing our jobs, which was to provide Canadian oversight,” Hill said in an interview Tuesday.

In a separate interview, Desrosiers said, “I don’t dispute any of the facts you describe. I did the right thing and I can still look myself in the mirror. I believed in this project . . . and now I’m reluctant to tell you how I feel.”

Monday, June 14, 2010

A chill wind from The Hague

"Body recovered from exhumation site clearly showing blindfold and arms tied behind the back"

"The prosecutions so far have focused at least as much on detention and transportation arrangements prior to the actual killings of the civilians seized at Srebrenica, but that is just as the language of the Convention–recalling the experience of World War II–anticipates. What happens to prisoners, including how they are moved, is particularly significant because it provides evidence of formal government intent and purpose, moving legal culpability up the chain of command."
- Scott Horton, Genocide Convictions at The Hague, Harper's Magazine online June 11, 2010

I don't think this just applies to genocide. Canada's Crimes Against Humanities and War Crimes Act, 2000, states the following:

Breach of responsibility by military commander

7. (1) A military commander commits an indictable offence if
(a) the military commander, outside Canada,
(i) fails to exercise control properly over a person under their effective command and control or effective authority and control, and as a result the person commits an offence under section 4, or

(ii) fails, before or after the coming into force of this section, to exercise control properly over a person under their effective command and control or effective authority and control, and as a result the person commits an offence under section 6;

(b) the military commander knows, or is criminally negligent in failing to know, that the person is about to commit or is committing such an offence; and
(c) the military commander subsequently
(i) fails to take, as soon as practicable, all necessary and reasonable measures within their power to prevent or repress the commission of the offence, or the further commission of offences under section 4 or 6, or

(ii) fails to take, as soon as practicable, all necessary and reasonable measures within their power to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution.

Breach of responsibility by a superior

(2) A superior commits an indictable offence if

(a) the superior, outside Canada,
(i) fails to exercise control properly over a person under their effective authority and control, and as a result the person commits an offence under section 4, or

(ii) fails, before or after the coming into force of this section, to exercise control properly over a person under their effective authority and control, and as a result the person commits an offence under section 6;

(b) the superior knows that the person is about to commit or is committing such an offence, or consciously disregards information that clearly indicates that such an offence is about to be committed or is being committed by the person;
(c) the offence relates to activities for which the superior has effective authority and control; and
(d) the superior subsequently
(i) fails to take, as soon as practicable, all necessary and reasonable measures within their power to prevent or repress the commission of the offence, or the further commission of offences under section 4 or 6, or

(ii) fails to take, as soon as practicable, all necessary and reasonable measures within their power to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution.

Conspiracy, attempt, etc.

(2.1) Every person who conspires or attempts to commit, is an accessory after the fact in relation to, or counsels in relation to, an offence referred to in subsection (1) or (2) is guilty of an indictable offence.


(3) A person who is alleged to have committed an offence under subsection (1), (2) or (2.1) may be prosecuted for that offence in accordance with section 8.


(4) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1), (2) or (2.1) is liable to imprisonment for life.

...and finally, as stated in the report of the Somalia Inquiry.

However, we must also record with regret that on many occasions the testimony of witnesses was characterized by inconsistency, improbability, implausibility, evasiveness, selective recollection, half- truths, and plain lies. Indeed, on some issues we encountered what can only be described as a wall of silence. When several witnesses behave in this manner, the wall of silence is evidently a strategy of calculated deception.

Perhaps more troubling is the fact that many of the witnesses who displayed these shortcomings were officers, non-commissioned officers, and senior civil servants - individuals sworn to respect and promote the values of leadership, courage, integrity, and accountability. For these individuals, undue loyalty to a regiment or to the institution of the military - or, even worse, naked self-interest - took precedence over honesty and integrity. By conducting themselves in this manner, these witnesses reneged on their duty to assist this Inquiry in its endeavours. In the case of officers, this conduct represents a breach of the undertakings set out in their commissioning scroll.

Evasion and deception, which in our view were apparent with many of the senior officers who testified before us, reveal much about the poor state of leadership in our armed forces and the careerist mentality that prevails at the Department of National Defence. These senior people come from an elite group in which our soldiers and Canadians generally are asked to place their trust and confidence.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sampling errors in the Gulf of Mexico

NOAA samples three sites; NIUST multiple sites. NOAA results available, with horrendous variability. NIUST results....unavailable.

"A billion barrels of oil in the well, a billion barrels of oil*..."

"...and if one of those barrels should happen to spill,
nine hundred and ninety nine million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine barrels of oils in the well...." etc.
- traditional Cajun shrimping song

"The ultimate number will come when BP captures all the flow, as it's been instructed to do, according to Marcia McNutt, who heads the US Geological Survey as well as the flow-rate technical group.

"With that number in hand, "we'll go back to all of these groups, take a look at what their estimates were," she says, and see what adjustments need to be made in using these techniques.

"We will learn so much more about measuring oil in the ocean that we will be able to do a much better job next time measuring the release of oil," she says."

Next time?!

Who is this person and who is paying her off? For that matter, who silenced the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology oil spill updates that are almost a month old? And where is the United States Navy? You know, for an organization that was hanging around in the Sea of Okhotsk twenty years ago laying bugs on Soviet undersea cables, you'd thing they could have four submarnines camped on the floor of the Macondo blowout, taking high resolution video, sonar, whatever, for use by the American government in the public interest, but in fact the US Navy seems to be nowhere near the Gulf of Mexico, unless at Guantanamo, and as it turns out, the US Coast Guard is a branch of Homesland Security, not the Navy. Is the Coast Guard one of the five sides of the Pentagon? If so, has there been a change in ownership?

*billion = American unit defined as 1,000 million

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why DID Johns Sims resign?

Harper takes dive in fake lake.

By Juliet O'Neill, Canwest News Service June 8, 2010 2:41 PM

Don smells a weasel....


So it's me, Ron MacLean, here with Don Cherry on House of Commons Night in Canada. Don, we're still in the thick of the Stanley Cup, and we're still in the thick of the House of Commons that has yet to rise for the summer, the outstanding issue being an agreement between the government and the opposition on the terms for reviewing documents about Afghan prisoners...


What'd I tell ya? What'd I tell ya? It ain't over till it's over and there's no way Harper was gonna acquiesce...


...that's a long word...


...acquiesce on this deal, despite making nice in Parliament for the benefit of the Speaker, and let's face it, avoiding an election in the midst of the G8/G20 meetings where Harper wants to look good. I mean, that's his agenda anyway: he wants to look good. The opposition should pay attention to that because making him look bad is where they're going to score.


..which brings us to the Fake Lake...


Don't get me started. If they wanted to have a lake in Toronto they should either bring in the Black Flies to make it realistic, and have the Youth Summit Global Vision kids pretend to swim in the lake, drink beer, have a barbeque, and get pregnant, or they should freeze the thing so the G20 can play pick-up hockey. I think you know my preference...


...but let's go back to the Afghan prisoner deal, which seems to be falling apart while the press is worrying about outhouses in Muskoka...


Tell me about it. So here's how I see it. Nicholson's trying to wear two hats and make it look like there's one, it's a new kind of magic trick.


...this is Rob Nicholson the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada...


...and like I said before, a Junior B lawyer from Niagara Falls...


Aren't you afraid you're going to get in trouble again?


First of all he's representing the government making the case why it shouldn't release documents to the Afghanistan Committee under Section 38.01 and 38.02 of the Canada Evidence Act, documents that need to be seen by Parliament who want to know that Canadian soldiers and their civil and political bosses were in compliance with their obligations regarding prisoners taken in Afghanistan. That's what the whole thing was about with Speaker Milliken who was unequivocal. The government can't provide its own oversight, that's what the Magna Carta was about, and what the Bill of Rights of 1689 was about.


You never cease to amaze me...


In addition to all that, the Attorney General is trying to pretend he's acting as lawyer for members of the Canadian Military Police, who need access to documents in proceedings before a tribunal, the Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission. Now the government is arguing that the relevant documents are in a container parked somewhere in central Asia, and it would be terribly inconvenient to get them.


Well couldn't it...?


First thing is, we know that the government is going to pull this solictior-client wheeze because they did it before with Richard Colvin, and they were talking about it holding up the negotiations with Speaker Milliken's deal with the Afghan Committee. Then, when nobody's looking, everybody's at the cottage including the G20 bozos who are at the cottage in a concrete barn in Toronto, they're going to try to schlep this by the Speaker...


You think it'll work?


Kids, don't do this, OK? It's a dive. I don't thing the Speaker will go for it, but he probably wants to be at his summer place in the Thousand Islands like any normal person would be.


So we'll leave it there for now. It's me, Ron Maclean with Grapes here...


I heard Kenora's mayor has a bet with Winnipeg's about where they're gonna go finshing after the Stanley Cup.


What's your preference?


It depends who's got the better gazebo.


There's more to life than a gazebo.


I'm not so sure.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rock 'em, Sock 'em, House of Commons

It's me, Ron MacLean, here with Don Cherry on House of Commons Night in Canada. Don, it's been a long, long season.

Tell me about it. Luongo's golfing and I'm having heart attacks.

But we're not done.

Absolutely not. Philly's home's gonna be war.

Speaking of which, we're not done in the House of Commons, either.

I know. Speaker Milliken thought he had a deal, and now it looks like he's got a fake lake.

So what's your take on that?

Harper's pulling a dive, another weasel move.

How so?

So, the Speaker thinks he's got a deal, a Memorandum of Understanding, subject only to final negotiations to work out the details, establishing the supremacy of Parliament, as was established in the Magna Carta, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, Harper is cruising around Europe while John Baird is pretending to be Byfuglien in the Commons. Now, three weeks later, there's no deal, and Harper is pretending it doesn't matter.

Does it matter?

Of course it does! What could Bill McCreary say?

So you think we're headed for a constitutional crisis?

ABSOLUTELY! Derek Lee isn't gonna take this one lying down.

So we'll have to leave it there on House of Commons Night in Canada.

What did you think of Whitehorse?

The bugs were excellent. Luckily, they were attacked by your suit.

You're lucky I wasn't wearing my Orange Blossom Special.

I feel grateful.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Big Oil, Big Science, Bullshit

You know, if the Obama administration was really committed to science, they would have been all over the Gulf Oil Spill from April 20. They would have had every last US Navy and NOAA Oceanographic Service vessel out in the Gulf making measurements and broadcasting them in real time along with live reports from the British Petroleum "Incident Room", as would be the case for, say, Apollo 13.

Instead, we have this yawning silence. Thad Allen, American Coast Guard Admiral and "point man" for the administration, seems to be a PR flak for British Petroleum, whose CEO, Tony Hayward, is a Tony Blair-like pathological liar of credulous sensibility.

We also have NIUST, perhaps an independent assessor of Gulf damage, that has gone strangely silent after May 15, 2010. And we have the head of the NOAA, who is unable to provide any sort of assessment of the amount or location of oil in the Gulf after 6 weeks of uncontrolled blowout. Furthermore, we have Stephen Chu, Obama's Secretary of Energy, Nobel Laureate in Physics, who has disappeared without trace in Texas.

"Houston, we have a problem."

blair-like figure

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tarring and Feathering the British Petroleum Board of Directors

"When my dad put up his new office building in Lafayette, he told me this at dinner, it was going to cost just over three million dollars. But they'd have to remove a live oak that was about a hundred and fifty years old. So my dad had the plans changed. He built his office at right angles, sort of around the tree, and it cost him another half million....What do you think that says about him?"

It was quiet in the room. Jack could feel the vodka, a good feeling in the soft lamplight. He liked the fit of the deep-cushioned wicker chair; he could fall asleep here. Lucy waited, not far away, on the end of the sofa close to his chair, legs crossed. She leaned forward now to reach her sherry. He thought of ways to answer, moved only his arm, slowly, to raise the glass, and gazed at banana trees before taking a sip.

"He loves nature."

"Is that why he's contaminating the Gulf?"

"I thought he leased helicopters."

"He's in the oil business. He's been in the oil business all his life. My mother calls him Texas Crude. Men in her family wore white linen suits and owned sugar plantations in Plaquemines."

"I'm not good at environment," Jack said. He could fall asleep by closing his eyes. "Or, what's that other word, ecology. I'm weak in those areas."

"You see my dad as a nice guy."

"I think he works at it some. Wants to give you that impression, one of the boys."

She said, "Then you know he's not just good old Dick Nichols, he's Dick Nichols Enterprises. He sings Cajun songs, eats squirrel and alligator tail, but he's also been to the White House for dinner, twice. He loves nature as long as he and his pals can suck oil out of it and he doesn't give a damn about that tree. He's using it. He's the guy at the Petroleum Club with the live oak that cost him half a million dollars."

- Elmore Leonard, Bandits.

We have the tar - God knows there's no shortage - and we certainly have the feathers, already pre-tarred, pelicans being an obvious source, but not the only one from "The Pelican State". You have to wonder what the boys over at Morgan City are thinking of the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival at this particular moment in time. I mean, if you throw a shrimp on the barbeque, would it be safe to eat, or - more to the point - be a neighourhood fire hazard?

The board
Carl-Henric Svanberg
Carl-Henric Svanberg's biography
Tony Hayward
Group chief executive
Executive member of the BP board of directors
Tony Hayward's biography
Iain Conn
Chief executive, Refining and Marketing
Executive member of the BP board of directors
Iain Conn's biography
Robert Dudley
Managing director
Executive member of the BP board of directors
Robert Dudley's biography
Byron Grote
Chief financial officer
Executive member of the BP board of directors
Byron Grote's biography
Andy Inglis
Chief executive, Exploration and Production
Executive member of the BP board of directors
Andy Inglis's biography
Paul Anderson
Non-executive director
Member of the chairman's and the safety, ethics and environment assurance committees
Paul Anderson's biography
Antony Burgmans, KBE
Non-executive director
Member of the chairman’s, the remuneration and the safety, ethics and environment assurance committees
Antony Burgman's biography
Cynthia Carroll
Non-executive director
Member of the chairman’s and safety, ethics and environment assurance committees
Cynthia Carroll's biography
Sir William Castell, LVO
Non-executive director and senior independent director
Chairman of the safety, ethics and environment assurance committee, member of the chairman's and nomination committees
Sir William Castell's biography
George David
Non-executive director
Member of the chairman's, the audit and the remuneration committees
George David's biography
Ian Davis
Non-executive director
Member of the chairman's, the audit and the remuneration committees
Ian Davis's biography
Douglas Flint, CBE
Non-executive director
Chairman of the audit committee, member of the chairman's and nominations committees
Douglas Flint's biography
Dr DeAnne Julius, CBE
Non-executive director
Chairman of the remuneration committee, member of the chairman’s and nomination committees
Dr DeAnne Julius' biography
David Jackson
Company secretary
David Jackson was appointed company secretary in 2003. A solicitor, he is a director of BP Pension Trustees Limited, and a member of the Listing Authorities Advisory Committee.