Is this good hypocracy?


Saw this article today: U.S. tells Ottawa to ban ‘inhumane’ baby seal hunt.

Part of me says “Ok, that’s nice to be trying to use your influence for animal rights.”

The other part says “Excuse me? Talk to us about animal rights after you can claim any respect for human rights. After you stop killings tens of thousands of Middle Easterners per year. After you stop torturing them. After you stop denying people basic rights to attorneys and at a minimum the knowledge of what charges they face.”

Again, what’s hypocritical about this isn’t that it’s the wrong thing to do. It’s because the US has lost almost all credibility to “do good” throughout the world because of their recent abuses and foreign policy. Losing credibility or “goodwill” throughout the world is not considered a bad thing in neo-con planning, but this is just one small symptom of it.

What should I think about Afghanistan?


I have to admit I’m on the fence about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. As a very “liberal” person I’m naturally against any kind of military conflict, as I think there are very few cases where it’s morally acceptable to end another persons life.

I also have to admit I’m confused about the position of the Liberal party on this. They were the ones who originally signed us up for the mission and now they’re asking for it to end. I really hope there’s more involved than “oppose anything put forward by the ruling party,” which is the normal operating procedure in the US.

But I’m also a pragmatist. While I think it is very useful to debate the historical reasons (ie: the US supporting the Taliban, then not, etc) leading to the current circumstances, that’s mostly irrelevant to the decision at hand. But, that debate will hopefully ensure we never end up back here again.

Whether Canada should stay involved in Afghanistan comes down to a simple question: Will the people of Afghanistan be better off if we leave or stay? There are other variables like whether we can afford to stay, but this is whether we “should.”

The points in favour of staying I can think of:

  • If NATO leaves the Taliban will surely regain control, if the mainstream-media can be believed on this point.
  • The recent election there was not won by a hard-line Islamic party so I have to assume Afghanis are not craving what’s offered by the Taliban.
  • I also haven’t noticed any reports of the population wanting NATO to leave.
  • NATO destroyed a lot of their infrastructure as part of the war, and I think that entitles the Afghanis to some support.

The points against staying I can think of:

  • Canada itself had very little interest in seeing the Taliban removed from power, aside from wanting to be a cooperative NATO member. Canada was not attacked directly or indirectly by the Taliban. While most Canadians disagree with the positions of the Taliban, that’s not by itself a good enough reason to overthrow a government.
  • Canadians are sacrificing to clean up somebody else’s mess.

Again, looking at the reality of the situation I can’t see how a full pull-out is in anyones best interests. I think debate on what our exact role should be is useful, like if we should eventually pull back to a non-combat role and just support and do peacekeeping.

Please let me know of any points I haven’t considered, as I’d like to achieve a well-informed opinion on the subject.

War by remote control


The US military is in the process of deploying a new version of that unmanned surveillance airplane “the Predator,” and this one is called “the Reaper.” As you can guess by the name, this one isn’t just for surveillance – it carries bombs. The plane is controlled remotely by an operator, many thousands of kilometers away.
Story on DailyKos: Grimmer Reapers.

This progression was obvious after seeing the Predator but its ramifications are enormous. The US can much more easily wage war without risking the lives of their own people. They’ve had precision cruise missiles for a while but I don’t believe they’re as accurate and I think they’re much more expensive.

I think this makes the US an even larger threat to global peace and security, when it chooses to be. In a democracy, war-fatigue is the only real force limiting the government militarily. Just think how detached Americans are from their wars right now. It’s an abstraction seen on TV, consumed the same way as blockbuster Hollywood movies and reality TV shows. Americans don’t even have to sacrifice directly for their wars – they even get tax cuts at the same time! (I say direct sacrifice because they will suffer in the long term for their aggressiveness, they’re just looking too short term.)

Just think how detached they will be when they don’t even have to put their own people in harms way. It will be like their military is playing a big video game, except the “things” on the screen being blown up are actually real people from other countries, not just a computer creation.

Water found on an extrasolar planet

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This is important: Water, water everywhere – on an extrasolar planet

A key to determining how likely life (as we know it) occurs on other planets is to know how often water occurs. This is the first time it has been found on a planet outside our solar system.

In other space news, have you seen the black spot on Mars?

Believers or infidels


Interesting article: I was a fanatic… I know their thinking, says former radical Islamist

This part is especially interesting:

And though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslim across the world, what drove me and many others to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain and abroad was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice.

If we were interested in justice, you may ask, how did this continuing violence come to be the means of promoting such a (flawed) Utopian goal?

How do Islamic radicals justify such terror in the name of their religion?

There isn’t enough room to outline everything here, but the foundation of extremist reasoning rests upon a model of the world in which you are either a believer or an infidel.

I’m very curious how representative this view is by the extremists. I’ve never believed the neo-con claim that the extremists “hate our freedoms and way of life.” That’s not true and is more of a political fear-mongering ploy. If what the ex-Jihadist above says is true, it’s not our freedoms they hate it’s our lack of Islamic law. If we lived under a brutal but secular dictator, they’d still be able to justify their aims.

It is really educational to read more about Islam on Wikipedia here and about the division between believers and infidels here.

It doesn’t seem like a good answer to blame the religion though. All religions have been interpreted, throughout history, to imply consent to kill people. It likely has to be a societal or cultural influence as well.

I don’t believe all of their conclusions, but this is one possibility: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature. Eventually get to the point about “Most suicide bombers are Muslims” but don’t skip the earlier points because they build on each other.

Maybe impeachment is the only answer for Americans


Keith Olbermann has turned into a very eloquent political critic. Watch or read his special comment from July 3rd: video, transcript.

I used to think impeachment would hurt the Democrats more than help. I’m starting to think it’s necessary, even if that were to be true. Bush has set a very dangerous precedent for what is acceptable behaviour by a President and not impeaching him validates that behaviour.

I don’t take that point of view lightly. I’m not American but I did live there for several years and still follow the politics very closely, so I understand how tough an impeachment would be. But, when I think of how I would feel if my own Prime Minister had done even a quarter of what Bush has done, I end up at this conclusion.

Just think – it was “OK” to impeach Clinton for having an affair and trying to cover it up. Note an affair is not illegal. Bush has now been proven to have covered up the exposing of a CIA operative, which is very illegal. Also don’t forget that’s just the latest on the list. You don’t even need to remember all his other crimes.

One more way to think about it: you could just ride out the rest of his term and hope he doesn’t commit too many more crimes. But, by enabling and validating his behaviour, what do you think the next few Presidents will be like? What incentive will they have to follow the law, given there’s no accountability?

We dress well for the cold

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Listened to a CBC interview with the US ambassador to Canada on the way to work this morning. Mildly entertaining was the ambassadors response to the question: “What can Americans learn from Canadians, and vice versa?”

His answer to the first part was (paraphrased) “You dress well for the cold, we could get better there.”

Ok, that’s fine, so when he got to the second part I’m expecting a similarly light-hearted answer. After a preamble about not wanting to tell Canadians how to be more like Americans he said “What could Canadians learn from us? Our ingenuity, work ethic and generosity.”

It’s funny in a “Wow you obviously suck at your job” kind of way. Part of an Ambassadors job is to make the people of the other country like him or her. But, he’s a friend of Bush so the attitude is expected.

Also entertaining was his response to the question “Why do you think Bush is so unpopular in the US? He’s below 30% approval rating now.” He replied “It’s the media. They say he’s got such low approval ratings, but just as an example I had someone walk up to me the other day and say ‘You tell the President to keep it up!’ I can’t believe what the media says when a real person comes up to me and says that.”

This guy seems to have about the same logical reasoning capabilities as his buddy Bush. What do you think is a better way to judge the attitude of 300 million people? a) Calling thousands of randomly selected people and asking them, or b) Counting how many people walk up to me personally and voice their support?

Didn’t you know you could prove the existence of a liberal media bias if there exists at least one person who supports Bush?