Monday, October 30, 2006

Straight outta Compton

Remember Cheney's flip 'no-brainer' comment about water torture? Turns out some of the WH press corps wanted to follow-up on that comment last Friday:
Q: One follow on this, because what you said in the morning was, 'You think Dick Cheney is going to slip up on something like this?' Is it possible that he's not slipping up at all --
Q: -- but that he's winking to the base and saying --
Q: -- 'of course we water board, and of course we'll do anything we need to to get the information because he knows that what they do --
MR. SNOW: I think you just won the cynical question of the year award. No, I don't. Let me put it this way. You got Dick Cheney, who had been head of an intelligence committee. He's been the secretary of defense. He's been the vice president. He's not a guy who slips up, and he's also not a guy who does winks and nods about things that involve matters that you don't talk about for political reasons. Sorry.
Q: To say that Vice President Cheney doesn't make mistakes like this, he did go up and curse a senator to his face on the Senate floor, and accidentally shot his friend, so he's not perfect. (Laughter.)
That last comment was brought to you by Ann Compton, ABC News. Excellent, excellent work, Compton.

h/t to Dan Froomkin for the catch & for ID'g Compton :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Harper's firing squad: PM cans photographer

Promise me one thing, willya?
Make me look pretty?

"PM 'critic' sent packing: Photographer bumped from job at 24 Sussex; Was supposed to shoot for Mercer's TV comedy" [Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star]
An Ottawa photographer was hired, then un-hired to work with TV comedian Rick Mercer in a sketch at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's residence. He was let go from the assignment, he was told, because he'd been "critical" of Harper. The photographer in question, Dave Chan, also worked for Liberal prime minister Paul Martin and the incident revives the ongoing tension over how Harper's office has handled journalists seen as unfriendly to the Conservative government.
[...] Chan, an award-winning freelance photographer and husband of Martin's former press secretary Melanie Gruer, was hired by Mercer's crew to assist in a shoot at 24 Sussex Saturday morning.
But an hour or so after he got the call on Friday evening, Chan got another call from Mercer's producer, John Marshall, and was told that Dimitri Soudas, Harper's press secretary, had vetoed his presence on the assignment. Chan was told the Prime Minister's Office flatly objected to him as a critic of Harper.
[...] Soudas would neither confirm nor deny on the record that he'd passed that message along to the Mercer show. Instead, Soudas sent an email on Saturday evening, simply saying: "The Prime Minister had a great time with Rick today. We agreed to provide many pictures to the Rick Mercer Report and we'll be doing so on Monday (today)."
The inference, apparently, is that Chan's photos weren't needed because the PMO would supply its own. This issue, in fact, was at the root of an earlier dispute with the press gallery — the PMO's bid to supply its own photos for use in the media rather than allowing photojournalists to take them.
[...] Chan, who does work for all the major national papers and is a member of the press gallery, says he is not a member of the Liberal party and has never been blacklisted for participation in an assignment in his 20 years as a photojournalist. He doesn't see how his experience disqualified him from working with Mercer on the weekend.
Now this is interesting...
Last summer, Chan was quoted in a newspaper report about Harper's emergency detour from Paris to Cyprus, carried out so the government plane could be used to rescue Canadian citizens who had been evacuated from war-torn Lebanon.
Harper removed all media from the plane but kept a seat for his official photographer. Chan was quoted as saying that he would not have done the same in that position.
"If I had an option, I would have given up my seat for one of the evacuees," Chan told The Globe and Mail in July. "I could have got back from Paris easily."
Et tu, Mercer?
Mercer said immediately afterward that he wouldn't respond to the shot, but then added, in an email: "Never heckle a comedian."

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Torture 'homework'

From Monday's WH presser:
Q I wanted to talk about the bill the President will sign tomorrow.
[WH press secretary Tony] SNOW: Yes.
Q It makes him a final arbiter on torture.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Does he have any guidelines, does he have any advisory group? And how will he know?
MR. SNOW: What I've actually -- Helen, in response to your question, I called White House legal counsel --
Q Can you repeat the question?
MR. SNOW: Yes, how will the President know when it's torture and when it's not, and avoid having torture.
Q And how will he approach these cases?
MR. SNOW: And how will he approach the cases.
The White House Office of Legal Counsel is actually putting together a paper so that -- I knew that this would come up. What they will do is help me describe to you, as accurately as possible. It's a very complex series of issues, but there are definitions that outline what constitutes torture, and I will be happy to share those. And I'll get them for you tomorrow.
Q When are you going to release those?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to release it. I'll share it with you tomorrow. It's not like a formal release, it's just me trying to do my homework, and I don't have it done yet.
Your homework isn't done yet?! Hmm...maybe the dog ate it.
Oh, right...the dogs are for scaring the living piss out of prisoners. My mistake.
(H/t to Dan Froomkin over at WaPo)

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Oh it's *on* baby! goes live!

Woohoo! Pam and Audra have launched a site dedicated to preserving Status of Women Canada.
Go now! And tell your friends.

If you haven't been tagged yet for the meme, consider yourself a-tagg'd :) What has feminism done for you? If you're too shy or you don't have your own blog (yet), feel free to contribute anonymously to H&O. I still allow anonymous comments.

And my favourite satirical slogan so far? It has to be this one from April Reign:
It appears to be inspired by This Hour has 22 Mins (h/t to Scott Tribe).

Got any photos or art that you'd like to share with the gang? has a flickr page.

Read on, MacDuff!

Desperate sex work and the decline of Afghanistan

We've all heard it by now: Afghanistan is a corrupt state run by warlords, druglords and these guys formerly-known-as Taliban. Poverty is so pervasive and wrenching that farmers are loath to give up lucrative poppy crops for the paltry sums exchanged for pomegranates etc.

By no means do I mean to sound flip but we have heard all of this heartbreaking stuff before. At least, that was my initial reaction to the opening passages of Christian Parenti's latest piece in The Nation until I stumbled across this...
Women working in government offices--beyond the control of their husbands but still crushed by poverty--often double and triple their paltry $30 a month salaries through casual prostitution. "Cellphones make it very easy," says an Afghan driver. "The woman I am seeing has just two or three friends. I pay her a month's salary for an hour in the back room of my friend's store."
"Closing the Chinese brothels was a joke," says a friend of mine who contracts for a major Western intelligence service and has access to the highest levels of government in Kabul. "The palace is the biggest brothel of all--half the female screeners in the presidential guard engage in prostitution."
It is clear from even the most cursory analysis of the news that women are not faring well in Afghanistan. Marginal improvements here and there but even then, these are only as durable as security and the trust that they don't have to bet on the Taliban to keep them safe. Overall it's been much-too-little, far-far-too-late and obviously low-priority for the coalition. Here is Human Rights Watch's report from earlier this year:
Women and girls continue to face severe discrimination and suffer the worst effects of Afghanistan’s insecurity. Conditions are better than under the Taliban, but four years later progress has been inadequate and too slow. Women who are active in public life as political candidates, journalists, teachers, or NGO workers, or who criticize local rulers, still face disproportionate threats and violence.
Women and girls are subject to both formal and informal (customary) justice mechanisms that fail to protect their rights. Violence against women and girls remains rampant, including domestic violence, sexual violence, and forced marriage. Authorities often fail to investigate or prosecute these cases. Dozens of women are imprisoned around the country for “running away” from abusive or forced marriages, or for transgressing social norms by eloping. Some are placed in custody to prevent violent retaliation from family members. Women and girls continue to confront tight restrictions on their mobility, and many are not free to travel without a male relative and a burqa.
In mid-April 2005, a twenty-nine-year-old woman was beaten to death by her own family for adultery in Badakhshan province. And on May 4, three women were found murdered in Baghlan province with notes attached to the bodies warning women not to work for nongovernmental organizations or Western aid agencies.
The most recently available figures show that in Afghanistan, one woman died every thirty minutes due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal mortality claims 1,600 women per every 100,000 births in the country. According to the most recently available figures, only 35 percent of girls of school age attend classes, with only 10 percent of girls attending secondary school. In five Afghan provinces in the south, at least 90 percent of school-age girls do not attend school.
So much time wasted. So much trust lost. Is there any time left? Here's Parenti again:
On one of my last nights in Kabul I retire to the spacious home of my acquaintance the intelligence contractor. Particularly fascinating is his insight into the mindset of Western diplomats and military officers. "Mention defeat and they say, 'It is unthinkable!' Well, it is coming, so you better well start thinking about it," says the contractor. He guesses the West's project in Afghanistan has between three and five years, and he thinks negotiation with the Taliban is its "only hope" for a graceful exit.
Surprisingly, that view has gained traction in several countries with ISAF troops. British Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Howells suggested that talks might be useful, and some in the Canadian New Democratic Party have agreed. Then, in early October, US Senate majority leader Bill Frist said the war in Afghanistan could "never" be won militarily and suggested that some Taliban be allowed into the government. One rumor in Kabul was that the Taliban's military commander, Mullah Dadullah, might be offered the Defense Ministry.
But a few posts for some top leaders won't end the war. There are already many ex-Talib in the Parliament and ministries, and they push the Afghan government in fundamentalist directions. As for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, few believe he would settle for anything less than ruling Afghanistan himself. And what about the Al Qaeda network operating on the border northeast of Kabul, in Nuristan and Kunar? It's hard to imagine the Bush Administration placating these champions of international jihad with the offer of an Afghan ministry.
Negotiations may help the West save face as it disengages, but it is unlikely they will do more than that. Ultimately, the US-built state in Afghanistan seems unreformable, and its future looks calamitous.
For further reading see Stephen Zunes' piece in Foreign Policy in Focus, ex-NPR journo Sarah Chayes' interview on DNow, and anything written by the Torstar's Mitch Potter in the last few months. I would particularly recommend Potter's interviews with young women in Kandahar. I'll leave you with an excerpt:
"It was so easy in the beginning because everyone was against the Taliban and they were removed very quickly and easily. But so many mistakes have been made. People were promised education and good government and prosperity and an end to corruption and they have seen very little of these things. So a big distance has grown between the people on one side and the government and international community on the other side.
"And the distance is growing. We still have hope. But it is fading."

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

655 000 Iraqis gone

It's too much for words.

Almost the equivalent of the entire population of Steeltown. Gone.

John Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health has updated their epidemiological survey of extra-normal deaths in Iraq since the invasion (deaths above and beyond what would be expected in 'normal' Iraqi circumstances):
Researchers spoke to nearly 1,850 families, comprising more than 12,800 people in dozens of 40-household clusters around the country.
Of the 629 deaths they recorded among these families, 13% took place in the 14 months before the invasion and 87% in the 40 months afterwards.
Such a trend repeated nationwide would indicate a rise in annual death rates from 5.5 per 1,000 to 13.3 per 1,000.
The researchers say that in nearly 80% of the individual cases, family members produced death certificates to support their answers.
The survey suggests that most of the extra deaths - 601,000 - would have been the result of violence, mostly gunfire, and suggests that 31% could be attributable to action by US-led coalition forces.
The proper journal article will be out this Thursday ( This is peer-reviewed data.

Thinking of it in its excruciating depth--one death, one funeral, 10-20 relatives grieving X 655 000 is too much.

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Who's "the best asshole who knows about the world"?

Why it's Bandar Bush. Aka Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia.

But "best asshole" will also do in a pinch:
George W. pulled Bandar aside.
"Bandar, I guess you're the best asshole who knows about the world. Explain to me one thing."
"Governor, what is it?"
"Why should I care about North Korea?"
Yeah, man...why should you have cared about those foreign lookin' dudes on the other side of the world? I mean, you didn't even have a primary on the Korean peninsula, so WTF man?!

And, like, don't tell me they asked you to read about those fuckin guys...oh, S-nap!
"Hmmm," Bush said. "I wish those assholes would put things just point-blank to me. I get half a book telling me about the history of North Korea."
Oh yeah, I almost forgot the money-part. Here's Best Asshole's sage wisdom for Shrub viz North Korea:
"Now I tell you another answer to that. You don't want to care about North Korea anymore?" Bandar asked. The Saudis wanted America to focus on the Middle East and not get drawn into a conflict in East Asia.
"I didn't say that," Bush replied.
"But if you don't, you withdrawl those troops back. Then it becomes a local conflict. Then you have the whole time to decide, 'Should I get involved? Not involved?' Etc."
Nice work, asshole. Some of your 'best,' really.

Coming up Next? Bandar explains where babies come from.

H/t Scott Tribe (via Rox Populi via Woody's State of Denial). It's meta-meta day for this lazy blogger!

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bush to NK circa-2002: here's $95 Mill...get yerself somethin' nice

April 3, 2002 (BBC News):
The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country's own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused.
Under the 1994 Agreed Framework an international consortium is building two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and providing fuel oil for North Korea while the reactors are being built.
In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors.
H/t to Sam Seder.

Update [2:25 PM, Oct 9th]: FurGaia (of The Cylinder fame) contributed the following regarding the 1994 'Framework Agreement' in the comments...
In 1994 Bill Clinton committed to the "Framework Agreement"; a deal which promised to provide food, fuel and 2 light-water reactors in exchange for North Korea’s abandoning its nuclear weapons programs. The North agreed to these terms but the United States has never honored its obligations. These facts are unchallenged by anyone familiar with the history of U.S.-North Korea relations, but they are scrupulously withheld from coverage in the media.

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I missed my own anniversary!

No, not my wedding-anniversary (that would've been bad-mojo). I missed the 1 year anniversary of my own blog! I can't believe it's been a whole year.

Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed to this silly-thing-I-do. Thanks for offering your 2-cents, your arguments, your ideas, and for just stopping by and settin' a spell :)

And with that out of the way, I bring you: the return of the cutest.cartoon.turkey.ever!

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

(graphic courtesy of

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mallick: it's Big Picture time for women

"We are women. We are half the human race. Are we considered equals of the other half? Don't get too smug."--Heather Mallick, CBC Viewpoint [October 6, 2006]

This week's 'Viewpoint' piece by Heather Mallick asks us to all get a grip; remember what's really important. Par example: {links have been added to the following}
The past two weeks have been disastrous for women. They began with the murder of Safia Amajan, the women's rights minister in Afghanistan. She was shot to death by the Taliban, not that this seems to have greatly distressed President Hamid Karzai or indeed U.S. President George W. Bush.
Then Canada's Stephen Harper did his own Bush copycatting and cut funding to the Status of Women Canada secretariat and to the Court Challenges program that funded citizens and groups fighting laws they believe violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now only the rich will have their day in court.
But the overall reaction was muted. We may never know if this encouraged the prime minister to take the next step. This week, the Tories killed all funding for women's groups that do advocacy, lobbying or research, essentially telling disobedient types to shut up.
Harper even removed the word "equality" from Status of Women Canada's mandate. Are we still "persons"? Not equal ones. The goal now is to "facilitate women's participation in Canadian society." I think he means the feds will shovel ladies' sidewalks, but who knows? Right-wing jargon is just as blinding as left-wing stuff.
Now here's the part that caught me off guard:
If Harper waited a week or so after his initial cuts to see what the reaction would be, feminists were wasting precious time that could have been spent alerting Canadian women. No wonder Harper managed to slip this through. Feminists have had far lesser things to worry about. For instance, I spent that week being attacked online by feminists for bad language.
Mallick goes on to tell us that she was 'chastised' by the moderator of this discussion board and that she was even presented with a 'guide on "preferred language."' That had to be devastating to someone like Heather (and I gather from her column that it was initially pretty upsetting). Now? Now I think she's pissed and would like everyone to get a grip: no more bullying, extremism, or purity tests (you know what I mean...when we opt to 'eat our own' instead of finding common cause?):
Look, I am a feminist. I use the unfashionable word because I hate bullying and women are bullied more than anyone on the planet. But I won't be told to shy away from vivid, evocative words and I don't like seeing English literature betrayed. [...] For the first time I understood why some women don't want to call themselves feminists. They see feminism as a kind of humourless GroupThink that excludes them. But the women slamming me for my English are extremists, the kind of people always to be avoided wherever they stand politically. Feminism is about equality. [...] On the weekend I flew to Ottawa for a conference where I gave a speech urging feminists to work with other feminists around the world to fight brutes and bullies. We had to ignore what I call "tiny sorry-ass First World problems" (see above) and concentrate on the essentials.
[...] So listen hard, women. The religious right is taking its place in our government, as Marci McDonald writes in this month's Walrus magazine. Be afraid. Abortion rights are next. Can we spend less time arguing about minutiae and more time fighting for the welfare of our daughters, please?
Mallick is right: if it wasn't GoTime before, it certainly is now. Harper, Oda et al. have managed to do more damage than even I thought possible in a very short period of time. Pay close attention, Mesdames et Messieurs: keep the heat-on and watch this space.

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Harper shows his cards: "Equality" isn't one of them

Via Scott Tribe at ProgBlogs: "Tories to cut funding for womens' advocacy work" (Canadian Press)
OTTAWA -- The federal Conservative government says it will no longer fund women's groups that do advocacy, lobbying or general research, leaving some to wonder what's left.
The drastic change to the mandate and operation of Status of Women Canada also drops the word "equality'' when listing the agency's goals.
Previous objectives such as helping women's organizations participate in the public policy process and increasing the public's understanding of women's equality issues have been eliminated from government literature.
Harper's message: Shut up, ladies before I really give you something to cry about! I don't have time for every little boutique or ghetto 'cause.'
Organizations that receive funding from the Trudeau-era agency were stunned.
"When you look at this Conservative government's policy it's like, `Be good girls, be quiet.' It's shocking really,'' said Monica Lysack of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada.
Under the new funding guidelines, SWC groups are no longer allowed to participate in discussions with the government; they can't lobby or speak on behalf of their member groups.
Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of the Muslim Women, argues without the funding the government provided her group, it would never have successfully struck down the use of Muslim shariah law in Ontario family court cases.
"That makes it very difficult, because if you don't lobby and you don't advocate, you're not going to make systemic changes,'' said Hogben.
"A majority of us are new immigrants, we don't know all the systems, we have to struggle with adaptation . . . to say we're going to get money, or any large sums of money to do this work is just not reasonable.''
No, it's not reasonable. It's fucking heartbreaking. I can't believe how quickly this came to pass. And during Women's History Month!

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, October 02, 2006

5 things that Feminism has done for me

October is Women's History Month! As you may know, the folks at ProgBlogs have started a "meme"-around to commemorate the festivities and to fight-back against the attacks on the Status of Women Canada. As such, I've been tagged by the brilliant Polly at Marginal Notes. Here goes...
  1. I work and earn enough to take care of myself. Right now I am a postdoc in medical physics (alas, still mostly a "XY" type of profession, but we'll gripe about that another day).
  2. I am 32 and my family consists of me, my husband and a middle-to-later aged cat: thanks to feminism, that's as big as my family's going to get (sorry, Mom)!
  3. Eyes-wide-open: thanks to feminism, I am better equipped to identify the oppression of "the other" and I try my best to be as inclusive and sympathetic/empathetic as possible. I want the same equality-of-results for others that I have gained through feminism (through the hard work of the women and men before my time!)
  4. I'm a surviving member of the "6%" that Polly mentioned. I won't elaborate here yet (way too painful).
  5. My partner in life: my amazing husband is a proud feminist. He stuck by me through the agony of gradschool and even put his own dreams on 'pause' while I finished. He is now 36 and starting his own PhD.
Thank you for reading :) I will echo Polly and beg that you go over to Pamusement's site and read her op-ed. Then go visit the other wonderful entries at ProgBlogs.

Thanks so much to Scott Tribe, Jeff and Pamusement for really getting the ball rolling on this one. I've been kind of down-for-the-count lately and some of these entries have brought tears to my eyes. Honestly!

Read on, MacDuff!