June 30, 2002



Arab News repeats the "Sharon-Oz" interview hoax as fact. This website pretty much debunked that canard, which is actually related to one of Israel's great journalistic mysteries, back in May.

Posted by BruceR at 09:54 AM



Add Windtalkers to that list of movies (headed, most recently, by A Beautiful Mind, U-571 and The Patriot) to the list of Hollywood products I will never view, nor tolerate being viewed in my presence. It's my money and my time, and I won't waste either on paying even as prodigious a talent as John Woo to lie to me.

Lying about history is evidence of a culture that hates itself. No more, no less. (Link from Joanne Jacobs).

Posted by BruceR at 02:17 AM



No one who has read anything about the conduct of the Crusades, or the motivations of the Crusaders, can seriously think they were defensive wars. Still, it doesn't stop that ludicrous argument from cropping up now and again, or Glenn Reynolds giving it his imprimatur.

Howard Owens' argument that captivates Glenn? That they were a defensive response to the Muslim conquest of Andalusia... 350 years before... no, really. Read the linked piece yourself. And that Pope Urban called for the conquest of Palestine because it would help get the Muslims out of Spain... no, really.

You know, we all have laughed at those who claim American acts in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. in the last few years, cannot possibly be seen as "root causes" justifying terrorist atrocities against the West. That means though, if we're talking atrocities our culture and our values are inextricably linked to, well then we have to dismiss the "root cause" argument even when it serves us too, you know.

Posted by BruceR at 12:42 AM


Gotta go with Jonah Micah on the Bush speech. It would have been entirely just to demand of Arafat that he allow the honest election he promised the Palestinians for 1999, before any further negotiation. It would also have been fair to say Arafat must go before any further negotiations, and leave it at that. But to split the difference and say Arafat must go, in an election Arafat calls, is both naively unrealistic (no fair vote could ever result from such a demand) and smacks heavily of colonialism. Peres, in an apparently unguarded moment, was right... it can only increase Palestinian despair and Muslim anger, not douse it, and without any countervailing U.S. gain to show for it, unless giving the Israelis a little more room to maneuver counts, I guess. (Sullivan has it right, too, but he doesn't push his convictions to their logical conclusion... I agree if Arafat did happen to win victory in a fair election that would be an acceptable outcome, too, in that it would at least clarify the Palestinian position... so why then call for his removal as well as new elections and risk being seen as a meddling imperialist for your troubles?)

UPDATE: As usual, Daddy Warblogs says it better than I could:

Shrubya [Bush] basically said one of two things: either "I am ignorant of the real situation in the Middle East and am indulging in a colossal act of wishful thinking by trusting to the will of the Palestinian people" or "I am quite frankly f*cked off with the whole situation and won't even bother to talk to the Palestinians until they elect someone I and the Israeli government find acceptable." The former is massively stupid, the latter is an expression of a desire to 'disengage' from the situation and let it run its own course. Neither of them is anything like what one could call 'a plan.'

Even without that succinct analysis (more succinct than the Den Beste term paper taking the contrary position anyway), Daddy's post would be memorable for his asking, only semi-jokingly:

Should we all just go home and cut our own heads off in despair?

You first, Big Daddy... I just bought a new hat, and I'd hate to see it go to waste.

Posted by BruceR at 12:29 AM

June 29, 2002



I'd link to the eight-page executive summary of the Canadian Forces board of inquiry on why 4 Canadian soldiers were killed by an F-16 pilot in Afghanistan, but there's really nothing we didn't know the first week there. The push within the U.S. Air Force to let the killer get off without any disciplinary action, however, is already in full swing. The air force official line... that it was the 101st Airborne's fault for creating a live fire range on the edge of their base:

"Never in the history of warfare do you have a live-fire range underneath active airplanes flying," [the anonymous Air Force officer] said. "You've got to be kidding me? That's a mistake. To enable that to happen, that's a mistake."

(The article never says the Airborne mind you, but one has to remember from previous reports that the Tarnak Farms firing range Maj. "Psycho" Schmidt decided to bomb that night was established by the local American brigade commander, from the 101st Airborne, for use by all the units in his command, Canadians included.)

The same unnamed Air Forcer also gives the line Maj. Psycho's lawyer has been spinning to anyone who will listen:

"If you feel threatened ... and you can eliminate that thing that is threatening you -- that's risking your life and others among you -- you use every means available to stop that," he said.

As I have been saying since the incident, given the pilot's flight profile, cruising at 23,000 feet over Kandahar, he cannot possibly have had a reasonable fear of being threatened. Not even shoulder-mounted SAMs, let alone any kind of ground fire, could have reached Maj. Psycho's plane at that altitude. There was no known weapon that possibly could have been in unfriendly hands in all of Afghanistan that was a threat to him at that height.

Revealing here, also, is Maj. Psycho's initial request, to go down to very low altitude and engage the muzzle flashes he saw at very close range with his 20mm cannon, rather than just use bombs... exactly the opposite response any level-headed fighter pilot would have if they thought there was any real groundfire threat (for that attack profile, unlike bombing, could conceivably have brought him within harm's way of the groundfire).

The flight leader, Major William Umbach, requested co-ordinates of the ground fire from a surveillance aircraft. His wingman, Major Harry Schmidt, requested permission to fire on the location with a 20-millimetre cannon, but he was told to stand by, and later, to "hold fire."

Moments later, Maj. Schmidt declared he was "rolling-in in self-defence" and released a 225-kilogram laser-guided bomb.

Translation: denied his request by higher command, Psycho decided to take the judgment into his own hands (not even consulting with his own squadron commander flying alongside him) and drop a bomb on those muzzle flashes he'd seen, anyway, figuring he could get away with calling it self-defense, 'cause it was probably only some ragheads down there anyway, right? You know that's what he was thinking, he knows it, and now the high command knows it. There is no reasonable doubt here. The Globe and Mail's account concurs:

After spotting the weapons firing, [squadron commander] Major Umbach immediately tried to determine the precise source of the shooting, while Major Schmidt requested, and was denied, permission to fire his 20-millimetre cannon in that direction.

Then, Major Schmidt was asked to describe the "fireworks" on the ground, and specifically told to "hold fire." But within a few minutes, flying at 23,000 feet, he declared that he was "rolling-in, in self-defence," swooping down to 10,000 feet and dropping a 250-kilogram laser-guided bomb on 100 soldiers with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Let's be clear: the claim of self-defense in this case is a palpable, unbelievable lie. For the Pentagon to let it ride is to say that U.S. Air Force pilots shall never be at fault, whatever they do or whoever they kill on the ground. Now the Americans are saying it will be nine months after the incident, if not more, before a decision is made whether disciplinary action is warranted... do you really think it would have taken so long if those had been American Airborne lives lost?

NB: Some bloggers have previously suggested Maj. Psycho acted out of panic. That was not ever really believable... never mind this man's high state of training, and long career as a Top Gun instructor, etc. His own words, as relayed by the Canadian inquiry, now rule that out... for his first response was not to drop a bomb because those muzzle flashes far below him looked threatening. No, his initial response was to actually ask his air controller to let him descend to ground level... where ground fire really could be dangerous to him... to do a little strafing. (Strafing successfully requires your plane be at most only a couple thousand feet from the ground.) That fact alone conclusively rules out the panic defence. He didn't want to avoid the flashes, or neutralize whatever it was on the ground and then get on with his mission... he wanted to finish it off... even if it was only a thousand yards from the Kandahar perimeter and so, if he'd allowed himself a few moments' deduction first, easily could have been U.S. Airborne, Special Forces, Afghan allies... or as it turned out, Canadians. Doesn't it look like he only ended up dropping a bomb 'cause those damn AWACS guys had vetoed his plans for a little nighttime 20-mil target practice? Those soldiers... they died out of pique, it seems.

Posted by BruceR at 11:38 PM

IS NOTHING SACRED? Seems Lebanese-Colombian


ShakiraSeems Lebanese-Colombian pop star Shakira just can't help being dragged into the world political crisis of the moment. First her engagement to an Argentine political heir contributed to that country's breakdown. Now apparently there's an email hoax out there alleging she hates Israel, one the JDL has now definitively debunked.

A Palestinian sympathizer who wanted to conscript this particularly attractive (but particularly un-Islamic) Levantine to their cause? Doubt it... more likely someone who hates those of Lebanese descent on principle that just wanted to sink her singing career by tying her to anti-Semitism. Not that we'll ever know.

Posted by BruceR at 10:48 PM



To start with... this woman should not be allowed to render judgment on toothpaste flavours, let alone criminal cases.

Posted by BruceR at 09:50 PM

June 26, 2002



Dear Sir,
I have an Iradium Copper Metal which pulls rice towards itself.
It weighs 6.5 kgs. and it's pulling power is 22 inches.
If this metal is of any use to you,please contact me.

**army work continues apace... should be done Friday night... obviously lots to yack about. See you then. --BR**

Posted by BruceR at 08:44 AM

June 19, 2002

23,000 FEET It appears ANG

23,000 FEET

It appears ANG Maj. Harry "Psycho" Schmidt was out for blood that night four Canadians died. As the New York Times correctly notes, at 23,000 feet he was completely immune to any and all fire from the ground. But he dropped a bomb just outside Kandahar's main gates anyway. It could have been Marines he killed, it could have been 101st. But it was Canadians.

Needless to say, no one in Canada has the slightest faith that Maj. Schmidt will ever see the inside of a U.S. brig for what, in the U.S. military's own analysis, now appears just a shade short of outright murder... the U.S. has a long tradition of protecting its own in these circumstances, going right back to Lt. Calley. With allies like the Americans, one wonders whether anyone really needs enemies some mornings.

Posted by BruceR at 08:37 AM

June 15, 2002



Off on a course... back in two weeks. I may post while I'm away, but likely only in the case of extreme irateness. :-) See ya.

Posted by BruceR at 10:40 PM

June 14, 2002



Warblogger Watch's Grady Olivier draws an obvious but telling comparison between the ravings of modern Muslim cleric-fanatics and a sixteenth-century German one. The obvious corollary... that the Muslim Middle East is still stuck in the 1500s, intellectually speaking... appears lost on him.

Posted by BruceR at 11:08 AM

June 13, 2002



The Federation of American Scientists has set out to establish itself as the experts on these "dirty bombs." Their line is that the bombs are unlikely to cause damage, but even a small 10 lb explosive with a couple missing medical gauges strapped on could deny the United States its landmarks, even its cities, for decades. What they expect to achieve by this is a good question, but their approach seems alarmist.

Read through their report here. Sounds scary doesn't it? According to FAS, a one-foot tube or irradiation-plant cobalt blown up in Manhattan would force a permanent evacuation:

It would be decades before the city was inhabitable again, and demolition [of Manhattan! -ed.] might be necessary.

Which would all be impressive, until you work out the math. Citing the EPA Linear No Threshold model of cancer causation by radiation, they come up with vast swathes of urban America devastated by a suitcase bomb. But it's just not so. Here's the problem. The LNT model assumes that the relationship between cancer and radiation is, as the title implies, linear. Your risk of dying of cancer, it assumes, is 4 per 10,000 per rem (a unit of radiation) received. The average American lifetime radiation dose is about 27 rems, more or less. That means that, of the approximately 20 out of every 100 Americans who die of cancer, less than 5 per cent of those cancers was due to just natural radiation (the others being due to smoking, chemicals, spontaneous mutation, etc.). If you get one more rem than the next guy during your life, your personal chance of dying of cancer theoretically goes from x per cent to (x+0.0004)%.

(None of this is proven, of course. Scientists have never been able to determine any effects on an individual who received less than an additional 5 rems on top of normal background. It's even possible additional exposures of less than 5 rems may have some beneficial effects. The model is derived by taking the more or less linear relationship between radiation and death that one sees at 20 rems additional dose or more (ie, as seen in Hiroshima survivors), and extrapolating for microdoses. But never mind that for now.)

Each of those FAS maps shows three ovals, showing the increased rate of death due to cancer, equating to 1 in 100 extra cancer deaths, 1 in 1,000, and 1 in 10,000. They don't apparently account for any attempts at remediation (ie, sandblasting buildings, removing soil, etc.) and appear to be calculated on whole lifetime risk (ie, if you lived within that given circle one's whole life). Based on the LNT model, we can calculate they equate to 0.5 rem, 0.05 rem, and 0.005 rem per annum additional radiation exposure. (In the first one, for instance, the largest circle, encompassing the entire U.S. Capitol area, would be the 0.005 rem per annum circle.)

Here are those numbers, thrown into a little context:

Outer circle +0.005 rem/year
Living in a brick house +0.007 rem/year
EPA standards for Yucca Mtn +0.015 rem/year
Living in Denver +0.025 rem/year
Middle circle +0.05 rem/year
Maximum allowed normal workplace exposure +0.1 rem/year
Living on Bikini Atoll +0.3 rem/year
Inner circle +0.5 rem/year
Maximum nuclear worker workplace exposure +2 rem/year (Canadian); +5 rem/year (American)

Now, I know we're all scared of radiation around here, but if in the FAS's worst possible scenario, where Manhattan is irradiated, even without remediation of any kind, the city ends up only as radioactive as Bikini today (where you are allowed to live now, you just can't eat any food that's grown there), I'd suggest the demolition of the city may not be necessary (you could even be allowed to work, but not live downtown, wear radiation badges etc., and do other things to limit your exposure, which would be hell, but not the end of New York as we know it.) As for their two less-than-worst scenarios (ie the more likely ones), as one can see the 0.5 rem/year oval (to my mind, the only one that really would force significant dislocation) is less than a city block. If your terrorist places his explosive carefully, he could deny the American public access to about one major landmark with each of these smaller-type bombs that he has, which only require fairly small and common radioactive sources -- the kind he could get from breaking into hospitals, etc. -- but that's about it. But forcing the mass evacuation of city cores would require more significant quantities of radioactive material. That suggests that we don't need to panic just yet about the sort of minor radiation sources found in medicine, oil drilling, etc., so much as the significantly larger ones found in food irradiation and the nuclear industries. Indeed, a strategy of increased security on this relatively small number of domestic points of theft, combined with radiation security on border entry points, could be sufficient to avoid catastrophic results from "dirty bombs."

(One should add at this point that there is no way of knowing whether any given fatal cancer was caused by radiation, or by any number of other causes. Other than the LNT model, there is not even any evidence that x per cent of human deaths are due to natural background radiation... a number that would at worst only double even among any population that chose to live, eat, sleep and die in a thoroughly Irradiated Manhattan. Among the at least 20 times as many non-radiation-induced cancers in that population, those deaths would still be just statistical noise.)

NB: Yes, you read right. If you live in brick houses your entire life, due to the increase in natural background radiation your chance of dying of cancer increases by about 0.015 per cent over what it would be otherwise, according to the LNT model. Feel free to amend your homebuying choices accordingly.

NB#2: It bears repeating here that, as one can deduce from above, the risk of a radiological weapon (assuming you're not in the immediate, flying debris blast area) is slow-acting. There will no doubt be radiological weapon threats in our lifetime, both true and hoax. The real lesson these numbers tell is that, unlike say, an anthrax attack, you don't need to panic, or push the old lady down the stairs to evacuate the downtown when you hear about one on the radio. Your chance of survival is probably improved by taking a couple hours or days to put your affairs in order before trying to leave any lightly contaminated area in such an instance. So take it easy, listen to what the cops tell you, and don't start running down the street screaming, for pete's sake. If there was a radiological weapon threat in Toronto right now, I'd still take the subway home... and sleep in my bed tonight, too.

Posted by BruceR at 03:40 PM



My recent close involvement with Warblogger Watch has its upsides, like an introduction to some writers I haven't read before, such as John and Antonio. They have a nice essay on jingoism here, which I'd love to agree with if it wasn't for their complete dismissal of the "useless death" of World War One:

[A war] fought over nothing important in particular and which wiped out a whole generation of the best, fittest European young men...

Now, I've read and appreciated revisionists like Niall Ferguson, too, but I still have to say that, by the point at which Britain (and Canada) had to choose whether to get involved in the widening war, it wasn't being fought over "nothing important" any longer. Germany HAD invaded a neutral Belgium. Britain had promised Belgium it would intercede. If resisting the subjugation of neutrals and honoring one's treaty commitments are to be seen as "nothing important," then there is very little reason any country should ever go to war... as the bad guys in the international system would then effectively have complete carte blanche (If you want to question whether Russia should have activated the grand alliances and thrown the world into war by intervening in yet another Austro-Serbian border spat, well, that's a whole other argument, though.)

I would add that the implicit assumption that all the (presumably Western Allied) combatants in the Second War fought with a sense of righteous purpose, and that their counterparts in the First fought with nothing but a sense of futility (the reasoning behind the writers' dismissal of novels about the Second World War like Catch-22 as being inferior to Remarque et al,) is not based in good history. See again Ferguson, and his collection of accounts of soldiers writing from the Flanders trenches who were actually enjoying themselves immensely.

If nothing else, one would expect the writers, who go on to praise the current conflict for our lack of impact on Afghan civilians, would recognize that in that particular respect, the First World War (with reasonably fixed battlelines and safe rear areas) was far superior to the total war of the Second.

Posted by BruceR at 10:52 AM



TNR's got the goods. At some point, Americans are going to wake up and realize that their government has created a New Bastille, rounding and locking up increasing numbers of alleged terrorists for indefinite confinement without charge or trial. (Trouble is, they can't really reverse course on Padilla now without raising questions about the even larger injustice of Guantanamo. So they probably won't.)

UPDATE: The Post does an even better job:

The question is not whether the government can detain an enemy combatant bent on doing America great harm but whether it can designate anyone it chooses as such a person without meaningful review... the government refused to let [second American Taliban Yaser] Hamdi meet with a federal public defender interested in representing him. And when that lawyer sought to file a case on his behalf anyway, the government then contended in a Kafkaesque twist that, having had no prior relationship with Mr. Hamdi, the lawyer could not do so.

The idea of indefinite detentions of Americans who have not been convicted of any crime is alarming under any circumstances. Without the meaningful supervision of the courts, it is a dangerous overreach of presidential power. If such a thing were happening in any other country, Americans would know exactly what to call it.

Posted by BruceR at 10:11 AM

June 12, 2002


My old colleague in game writing, Arcadian Del Sol, takes the Boston Phoenix (which he has a little trouble spelling, to school over linking to the Daniel Pearl video. While I still object to the Wall Street Journal using the FBI to intimidate ISPs on this score (see below), Arc's absolutely right in taking apart the Phoenix's "public has a right to know" hypocrisy:

...immediately beneath the 'Daniel Pearl Died for Our Freedom' editorial [on the Phoenix website] is an obituary for one Elizabeth Knapp who passed away on Monday the 3rd of this month. She was at one time, a well liked and well respected staff writer for the Boston Phoenix, and in their online obituary, they praise her work ethic and her love for others. What they dont do in this article is post pictures of her dead body.

So I sent them a letter and requested that they publish the photographs of her corpse being prepared by a mortuary for embalming. I feel that it is important that I fully comprehend what a loss it is to have had Ms. Knopp pass away and unless I see her chalky white cadaver draining blood into a floor drain in the basement of a funeral home, I feel I might just dismiss this as just another dead woman who contributed nothing. What better way to make her death mean something and to change the world than to show us the video of her mouth being stapled shut and her skin being spraypainted an eery shade of beige. (emphasis added)

Right f*ckin' on.

Posted by BruceR at 05:22 PM



An unnamed justice of the peace has forbidden anyone to tell the name of the Canadian policeman charged with murdering a bookkeeper yesterday. This comes the same day as judge Eleanor Schnall forbade any press coverage of a child protection case involving a fundamentalist Christian family in St. Thomas, Ont., preventing the press from reportin ghe number of children or even their age range.

You know, I've had about enough of this crap. The increasing trend toward ever-more-secret trials in Canada is a serious threat to public oversight of the judicial system. We are regressing to a sixteenth-century standard of jurisprudence, and not enough people are standing up to say enough is enough. These judges are no longer instruments of justice, but obstacles to it.

Posted by BruceR at 04:54 PM



Resourceful Canadian detective David Jorgenson closed the 30 year-old cold file on the only-ever Canadian airplane hijacking by typing the hijacker's name into Google, and finding one Patrick Critton in New York. Today the judge sentenced Critton to three years. (He had previously served time for the crime in Cuba, where he'd landed: no one was injured in the course of his crime.) (from the Globe and Mail).

Posted by BruceR at 04:40 PM



GroupAction, the Quebec marketing company at the center of the government's corruption scandal, took the Department of National Defence for $17 million this year for work of no apparent value, the Southam news agency is reporting (no link available). Among the tangible results were a new, rejected logo, which looked like someone was taking aim at the Canadian flag, and a major ad campaign in the fall of 2000 with a tag line saying most Canadians have a "uniform fetish." (In both cases, focus groups shot the idea down before it saw the light of day.) It goes without saying that if we'd had that $17 million maybe we could have stayed in the Afghan war a little longer.

Groupaction is closely linked to the Liberals, with some senior members having worked for the party during federal elections, and the company having donated $112,162 to the party since the Chretien government took power.

By contrast, the well-known series of U.S. Navy ads directed by Spike Lee cost a total of $2.5 million U.S. ($3.7M Cdn) (source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 11 Jun/99).

Posted by BruceR at 09:46 AM



In other news, the judge also ruled a "sneaker" is not a "shoe", and so Richard Reid could not have committed the crime he was accused of at all. (link)

Posted by BruceR at 09:26 AM

June 11, 2002



Sir, you twist your own words in defending them. You did not say originally that "the majority" of Taliban/Al Qaeda fugitives were still at large. You said "nearly all." As I pointed out, even as of January, 20 out of 56 were (in most cases, rather permanently) accounted for; that number has since climbed. No, when you said "nearly all" you were wrong, and you just don't like to admit it now.

(On the aside about Zubaydah, you miss my point. Like the rest of those on that list, by any reckoning he was unprosecutable, by Jordan, America, or anyone else, so long as he could hide with the Taliban. To say, as you did, that his capture after he was forced to flee to Pakistan was strictly a matter of good police work and not in any way a byproduct of the war effort is both disingenuous and illogical.)

Setting an upper limit of 1,500 dead civilians in Afghanistan due to errant bombing IS a determination, possibly the best that will ever be possible in a country without census data or good municipal records. Hence saying an "undetermined number" of Afghans have been "blown apart" is also disingenuous, whether you like it now or not. You can challenge that determination if you wish, but it exists, is based on a variety of sound methodologies, and is no doubt challengable on that basis, if you dared to try. I suppose it's just easier to ignore all that work, though.

You didn't originally "readily translate" Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami as saying "no such offer [of 97 per cent of the West Bank] was made to the Palestinians." No, you lied to your readers, telling them that Ben-Ami had "laughed at" the "ridiculous and thoroughly discredited idea" that the Israelis had really offered 97 per cent at Taba (ie, the figure on offer was actually much less, and the blogger in question got his fact wrong). As I have pointed out, your linked quote does not support your "laughed at" contention in any way. Come on, you know you made that part up... and now so does everybody else.

Congratulations. On strict factual challenges, Warblogger Watch is now 0 for 6.

Posted by BruceR at 11:26 PM



Our handy dandy discussion forum Flitters has seen some interesting repartee this week, as Warblogger Watch's Philip Shropshire takes issue with my saying he favoured the "forcible expulsion" of the Israelis. The Shropshire quote in question, again (lifted from Pejman):

As far as the moving idea, I actually am serious about that. For one thing, you've murdered too many Palestinians to ever ever be safe. If I had a wife and coupla of daughters in Israel then I would seriously consider moving them. Actually, in terms of compensation, I don't think that would be impossible.There was talk of creating an Alaskan homeland for the Jews at one point. Personally, I'd pick 50 or 60 square miles of New Zealand. Or I'd even consider a third of Mars if we had a halfway decent space program.

Shropshire is vociferously demanding a correction, saying that's not the same thing as forcible expulsion. But I'm rather give him his equal time in Flitters, instead.

Posted by BruceR at 03:41 PM

June 10, 2002



Marshall's having a lot of fun with the Chandra Levy remains story, where a leg bone turned up several days later. It's very reminiscent of the Christine Jessop murder investigation north of Toronto, where the victim's FAMILY actually found several bones at the murder scene five months after the Durham Regional Police forensics team had been through. That case, of course, resulted in the acquittal, second trial, wrongful conviction and subsequent second acquittal (once DNA testing had advanced enough to give a conclusive answer) of Guy Paul Morin.

The simple fact is that police forensics teams don't expect to find full skeletons of bodies long dead (Jessop had also been missing for some time when her remains were found), largely due to animal activity. It is also true that bones can "reappear" months or even years after an initial search. Forensic experts as a result don't automatically assume that a particular bone's absence or reappearance is necessarily a material fact related to how that person ended up a corpse. What seems to have happened in Washington is the police chief tried to answer the narrow question of why no alarm bells went off at the missing bone, and twisted it into what sounded like an excuse for an obvious and undeniable failure of the team doing the searching. Someone is not giving him good PR advice. Here's the talking point I would have written for him, if I was his handler:

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a sad fact of our business that sometimes after death important evidence or even human remains can go missing, if the body is not found quickly enough. This can be due to animal or human activity, weather, or other causes. Our forensic investigators learn in their training not to make too much of it when a particular bone or other piece of evidence that otherwise should be there is missing from a crime scene. To do so would be bad police procedure, and could easily lead to false conclusions. As a result, it's fair to say that the fact some of the Levy remains were initially missing would not and should not have necessarily raised any alarm bells. That does not excuse the strong ability of human error here, however. The best any investigator can do is make the most thorough and detailed search of a crime scene possible, and work with all the evidence that is collected. In this case, clearly the search may not have been as thorough as it should have been: we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures for crime scenes accordingly. Allow me to extend our apologies, to the Levy family and the people of Washington if that proves to be what happened. However, it is important to remember this we will not let this become a material setback to this important homicide case. We are continuing to gather evidence, and no one should have any doubt that we will catch the person or persons who committed this terrible crime.

Posted by BruceR at 01:26 PM



Layne was wrong. This is very, very funny.

Posted by BruceR at 11:12 AM

THE COBAIN EFFECT Christopher Caldwell


Christopher Caldwell asks in the Standard why he hasn't heard of rapper R. Kelly, and why the mainstream press is spending so much ink on a "niche celebrity." (Selena and Aaliyah being his other more morbid examples.)

Personally, I think it's the Kurt Cobain effect. Newspeople around the continent got pasted (and, I still believe, rightly so) for all but ignoring the Nirvana lead's suicide the day it happened. I actually watched the biggest Canadian national news program that night, and it was nowhere to be seen. I remember well the stark cognitive dissonance between what people of my generation were talking about that day, and what the news programs were. I know that one event confirmed for a lot of young people I know (now a few years either side of 30) that mainstream news had nothing to say to them. (One wonders if the cumulative impact of such instances won't deserve a note in the History of Blogging, when that book is finally written by Columbia University's Drudge School of Journalism co-deans Ken Layne and Matt Welch.)

The big news organizations, meanwhile, have been overcompensating ever since, afraid they'll miss the next big youthful thing. That's not all the reason R.Kelly's getting the press he is, but it's part of it. (To be fair, I think the big press did an okay job on the Tupac in memoriams... trouble is, they still have a lot of trouble getting the modulation of the signal right, due to the age and power imbalances inherent in most news rooms.)

Posted by BruceR at 10:06 AM

June 07, 2002



I'm ashamed to say, I laughed reading this. Very few people have the unique combination of lack of self-awareness and stupidity that allows this loan officer to both be a complete idiot, and tell the world about it. Among other conversational gambits Mohammed Atta tried to help get his loan approved:

"He [Atta] asked me what would prevent him from going behind my desk and cutting my throat and making off with the millions of dollars in that safe."

Throughout the interview, he continued to refer to Bryant as "but a female," and Bryant said, "He would say it with disgust."

Posted by BruceR at 03:07 PM

June 06, 2002



Yesterday's IDF raid on Ramallah was both disproportionate and pointless. It is not possible for any rational observer to draw a connection between a bus bombing by Islamic Jihad, and an attack on what is left of the Palestinian Authority. If anything, further damaging the Authority's ability to operate only improves the environment in which IJ can operate unfettered. It is the Israeli equivalent of the Clinton bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant in response to the African embassy bombings, and deserves to be held in as much contempt as the former.

While the world waits for the American or Israeli governments to grasp the nettle on this one, Steven Den Beste seems this close to an aneurysm over it. Switch to a better brand of decaf, Cap'n... the world needs its engineers.

Posted by BruceR at 12:41 PM

OH, COME ON Joe Clark's


Joe Clark's Conservative party and the Toronto Star oppose the revived Canadian anti-terrorism bill because it... may limit the air travel possibilities of non-terrorist suspected felons.


As Bart Simpson said when he caught Skinner and Edna, "That's the best you can do?" If that was the worst thing one anyone could say about a new law I'd personally have passed it before I finished my low-fat yogurt this morning.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has yet to explain why a cattle-rustling computer geek who decorates the rec room with purloined driftwood should be snagged by an anti-terror net.

Translation: why should someone accused of three felonies (stealing cattle, stealing drift timber, and unauthorized use of a computer) not be free to board a plane without fear of being arrested? Oh, I can think of a few reasons. What if it was three car thefts? Or three rapes?

The best line:

Terrorists, meanwhile, will take the bus.

And DRIVE it into a skyscraper? Hey, Joe, call me brave, but that's a risk I'm willing to live with.

(It should be added this bill has a lot of very sensible provisions, such as making sure reservists don't lose their jobs if the government calls them out to serve in a national emergency. It's already been held up over six months, however, by this kind of nitpicking crap.)

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Lileks expresses his frustration at other anti-terrorism measures being thwarted across the border. It's good he can take comfort in his civil-liberties-over-public-safety adversaries being so stupid, I guess. Maybe it takes a little edge off the annoying fact that they're winning now, and winning consistently.

Posted by BruceR at 09:57 AM

June 05, 2002


Those guys at Warblogger Watch have got a good game going. If you choose to be anonymous online, like "Godless Capitalist" or "Asparagirl", they hammer you for hiding your identity from your readers. (Never mind that their founder, "Eric Blair," does exactly the same thing, reportedly because he's afraid of police harassment... as if.) IBut i you are forthright about who you are and abandon any shred of privacy to the Gods of the Web, they make fun of how you look. The number and volume of ad hominem attacks -- Chris Hitchens is a "simian," Joanne Jacobs needs a "tit f*ck," Lileks is a "ghoul" etc. -- bespeaks at best a lack of focus by its many and growing number of contributors (how many people does it take to put out a blog, anyway?)... at best a lack of coherent counterarguments.

Not to mention that at least one of the contributors ("Dr. Menlo") seems out-and-out deranged, as witnessed by a contextless posting, oblivious to the connotations that would have seemed obvious to the historically aware, of a famous Capa photo that Daddy Warblogs and Lileks both rightly called them on... to which the aforementioned Menlo responded in a post so wildly yawpish it might best be regarded as the web equivalent of castrati singing.

I support criticism of other websites, of course... that's what half Flit's posts are... but those posts come out of what I hope is a reasonably coherent worldview, the hidden aspects only being such because they haven't been teased out yet. Criticism purely for the sake of criticism (ie, we hate you whether you tell us your name, or if you do) is an empty and pointless exercise to me. What's even more remarkable is that Warbloggerwatch almost never takes on those people it hates on factual inaccuracies... only on the manner and style of their opinions, their skin colour etc. I agree with Daddy Warblogs that facts aren't everything... two people can look at the same reality far differently... but surely one camp which at least tries to have a factual underpinning to their rhetoric has to be given SOME advantage in the judging.

A brief survey: only two of the last 20 posts on Warbloggerwatch actually challenge a factual claim of a blogger they dislike... the rest are all just ad hominems and other vituperations. And remarkably, in both cases they try, the facts are still not on their side. In the first, an attack on Hitchens and Sullivan, Grady Olivier claims an "undetermined number of civilians" have died in Afghanistan... then links to the L.A. Times piece which determined it pretty comprehensively to be 1200 or less... it's fair to say we have a greater degree of accuracy on civilian deaths in Afghanistan to this point than we do for any recent disaster in any country lacking things like good census data and municipal birth registries. Olivier also claims nearly all the "bigger names" among the terrorists are still "unaccounted for"... for the record, as of 15 January, one third of Pentagon's 36-odd Taliban most wanted, and 8 of its 20 Al Qaeda most wanted, had been reported dead or captured, according to Carl Conetta. (That's before the recent capture of Zubaydah in Pakistan... a success for police work, it should be added, that was only possible once the war had rendered him a fugitive.)

In an earlier attack on blogger Bill Herbert, Olivier could only find one actual error he thought he could pick on, amid a sleetstorm of ad hominems... the claim that the Taba offer amounted to 97% of the West Bank ("So ridiculous and thoroughly discredited... Shlomo Ben-Ami laughed at it.") His evidence: a Times quote by Ben-Ami, dug up from the linked article and reproduced below:

The pressure of Israeli public opinion against the [Taba] talks could not be resisted.

That's not only not "laughing" at anything... that's not even on the same subject.

So Grady's 0 for 3 on his factual challenges... but at least he tries, which is more than any of the other Warbloggerwatchers have attempted to do in recent weeks, satisfied to stick to their playground insults instead. I suppose if the facts are never on your side, maybe insulting the way people look is the only thing left for you to do...

NB: Mr. Blair and friends recently invited in one Philip Shropshire, who is on record calling in all seriousness for the forcible expulsion of all Jews from Israel and return of the land to the Palestinians, and resettlement of the survivors in an uninhabited area of Alaska, New Zealand, or (more fancifully) Mars. If such advocation of genocide lies at the center of the rest of its participants' worldview as well, then their surrender to the Dark Side seems more or less complete, I'd say. As a result, anyone who gets a Warbloggerwatch-driveby should feel almost... sanctified by the experience. (Me? I haven't had the pleasure.)

Posted by BruceR at 06:30 PM

June 04, 2002



Professor calculates humanity faces genetic extinction in 3 million years. (link)

Posted by BruceR at 09:02 PM



Map of the "Blogosphere"

Posted by BruceR at 03:25 PM

GUCKENHEIMER RETRACTS (See previous story)


(See previous story) Pte. Matt Guckenheimer of the 10th Mtn Div has retracted his quotes in the Ithaca Journal (courtesy The Comedian):

If those [Afghan] women and children showed hostile intent, we were ordered to kill them as hostile forces, just like any other hostile force we encountered.

This is, of course, completely different from his original quote:

We were told there were no friendly forces... If there was anybody there, they were the enemy. We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them.

Posted by BruceR at 12:06 PM



What's interesting about the Canadian military medal system is there's no medal equivalent at all for the U.S. Bronze Star (or Purple Heart for that matter). All the Canadian "valour medals" (as opposed to the MSC and OMM, which are generally given for leadership on a grander scale) are given not for just pure superb military competence, but only for putting one's own life in extraordinary danger to some military end (saving the lives of your squad mates, knocking out a machine gun nest, etc.). Just getting wounded (or killed) in the Canadian system doesn't get you a medal... nor does just a superb act of soldiering, if it doesn't also put your life in much greater jeopardy than those of your comrades.

This is obviously a problem for soldiers, like artillerymen or snipers, who tend to kill at a distance. Never seeing the whites of the enemy's eyes means their accomplishment often goes unrecognized. This is the real problem between the U.S. offer of Bronze Stars to several Canadian snipers who served, and by all accounts served well, in Afghanistan. Our defence department would like to give them some matching recognition... unfortunately, what they did under the existing Canadian rules might not qualify them for anything, medal-wise.

However, obviously they are going to do something. Basically, they've got two choices. They give the first-ever awards of the Medal of Military Valour (MMV) to some or all of the Canadian Bronze Star recipients. This would be unusual, for the reasons outlined above. As well, awards tend to be defined by those who first receive them... there is likely some discomfort about defining a new medal by these soldiers' actions. Alternative #2 is to do what would have been done 50 years ago, when we were more sure of ourselves... that is to note the soldiers as being "Mentioned in Dispatches" (the closest equivalent to the Bronze Star). It sounds archaic, but being Mentioned is still a recognized honour... soldiers so honoured wear a special clasp on their service ribbon for the theatre in question. The trouble is, after the negative press in the National Post and elsewhere about DND hesitating to honour these soldiers, it may not be seen as enough.

ADDENDUM: The CF bravery medal system ethos is best summed up in another section of the Canadian Forces Administrative Orders, section 18-26: "All who remain steady in their duty in the face of gunfire or other active combat hazards are courageous. Military Valour Decorations, therefore, recognize those who are the bravest of the brave, who knowingly sacrifice themselves for others, or who set an extreme example of devotion to duty." Hence no Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars, Yellow Diamonds or Green Clovers. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) The force in Kandahar may also be hobbled by the restriction that in general only 1 soldier in 750 in a combat theatre can be awarded a military valour medal (MMV or SMV) in any six-month period. Since the Canadians only had around 800 soldiers in Afghanistan, if they follow the rulebook they only have one medal to give out... and several snipers are up for an American Bronze Star. Likewise, they have a ceiling of about 3 mentions in dispatches (1 per 300 soldiers is the maximum recommended), assuming only ground troops are counted in the total... if the thousand-odd sailors and airmen doing Arabian Sea duty are counted into the total of Canadians in theatre, however, those numbers obviously go up proportionately.

SECOND ADDENDUM: Option 3 for the government is to give the snipers a non-combat Meritorious Service Medal, of course. That would just mean convincing the Governor General these are the best examples of Canadian soldiery, not so much suicidally brave as just a great credit to the organization (the equivalent in the old British system would be the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)). Don't rule out that possibility either as the tie-breaker.

Posted by BruceR at 09:16 AM

June 03, 2002



Fascinating summary of the U.S. air force decoration system, from Sgt. Stryker.

Since we're on the topic, here's the Canadian Forces decoration system:

1) Victoria Cross (last given WW2);
2) Star and Medal of Military Valour (created 1993; never given);
3) Cross of Valour (around 20 ever given, including civilians);
4) Meritorious Service Cross and Medal (Military) (c. 60 ever given);
5) Star of Courage (c. 400, civilians included);
6) Medal of Bravery (around 1200, civilians included; works out to about 50 a year);
7) Order of Military Merit (maximum 100 annually, divided between 3 levels);

Needless to say, you don't see many of those, except the last one, which still far less than 1 per cent of soldiers ever get.

After that you have the service ribbons (only six months of UN and NATO service abroad counts); then the Canadian Forces Decoration (or CD, denoting 12 years service). That's basically it. The vast majority of soldiers, right up to colonels, end their careers with a CD and if they're lucky a tour ribbon or two.

The exception is in Royal Celebration years, where approximately 5% of soldiers, allegedly judged on merit, receive a commemorative gong. There have been three of these in living memory: 1967 (Centennial), 1977 (25th Jubilee), and 1992 (125th Anniversary of Confederation). The fourth (Queen's 50th Jubilee) is going out this year, 2002, leading to a lot of jostling and shoving in the ranks these days: for a lot of soldiers without the prospect of a tour, it could only be the second medal they ever receive. But given a choice between that system and the Air Force one the sergeant outlines, I'll keep ours, thanks... less sewing and polishing.

Posted by BruceR at 05:13 PM

THAT'S TWO The Palestinian "courts"


The Palestinian "courts" have acquitted the second of the Ramallah Six... the terrorists being held in Jericho under Anglo-American wardens as the main precondition of ending the siege of Arafats' headquarters last month. Arafat paymaster Fuad Shabaki, behind the Karine A arms shipments, was cleared of all charges in May. Now Ahmed Saadat, ringleader of four of the six accused of assassinating an Israeli cabinet minister has also been let off. The others should follow shortly.

Posted by BruceR at 04:23 PM



Tim Blair has raised concerns over a piece in the Ithaca Journal claiming war crimes by the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. The source itself is not credible, but not for the reason you're thinking.

As a former editor of a small newspaper in a part-military town, I'm the last person to say the Ithaca Journal itself deserves to be discredited. After all, the Somalia crimes Canadian soldiers committed were uncovered by one of the rival papers in my area (not at the time I was editor), the Pembroke Observer... about the smallest viable daily paper in Eastern Canada. Good military reporting can be done at small papers, by conscientious journalists. It helps if you have familiarity with the subject matter, of course... at one time both the lead local politics writer for another rival tabloid and I were in the same reserve air defence troop, as sergeant and officer... I'm not sure we said as much as we could have about the army at the time, but what we said was undeniably accurate. But I digress...

I still don't believe Ithaca Journal writer Kandea Mosley. And that's got less to do with my knowledge of journalists than my knowledge of Google. For Ms. Mosley... the first journalist to quote an actual U.S. soldier saying war crimes were committed... is simply not credible.

To save you the googlification: Kandea Mosley graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1993, making her, I'd guess, about 27 now. She then went to UCLA, where she became the chairwoman of the African Student Union in 1996-7, and then ran for student president as the Students First! candidate, which opposed Nike on campus and the ending of affirmative action in California (Proposition 209), and won. The protests in her year as president took various forms: she was quoted as saying:

Our opposition to Prop. 209 ... is not a result of a skewed perception of affirmative action as a cure-all for all of our communities and the racist, classist violence perpetuated on our people daily. Rather, the reasons behind raising a political struggle in this university is created out of our understanding that organized struggle ... is necessary on every level.

At the inauguration of the new UCLA chancellor that spring, a web report notes:

Inside USA president Kandea Mosley delivered a speech decrying the end of affirmative action and then sat down on the stage for several minutes, her fist raised in protest.

Graduating in 1998, Mosley then returned to New York, covering the Green Party for the Village Voice (!!) during the 2000 elections. And now for the last few months, she's been upstate, working as a beat reporter at the Ithaca Journal. I'm sorry, but I just can't believe someone with those credentials is going to come to the question of U.S. actions in Afghanistan capable of clear-headed judgment. So I don't believe her story.

Update: Nick Marsala has been researching the other half of the cabal, Pte. Matt Guckenheimer.

Posted by BruceR at 02:55 PM



The PM fired his right-hand man yesterday, finance minister Paul Martin, allegedly because he was campaigning to replace him in secret. (Again, as a courtesy to our American readers, the closest possible political analogy in the American system: if Clinton had fired Gore for conniving to replace him after one term). The Canadian papers are full of the story, of course, as Parliament Hill turns more obviously into the travelling road show of Macbeth it always was. It does show a couple things: our national leader's increasingly shaky grip on reality (the Diefenbaker parallels are unmistakable), and the degree to which the Chretien years were due to Martin. There isn't a single Canadian who believes Chretien would have balanced the budget and cut taxes if anyone but Martin had been finance minister for the last nine years.

The question no one I'm reading is answering, however, is why now? Why, that is, did Martin court the PM's wrath this week? The guy's been not-so-secretly campaigning for NINE years... but something actually happened this week that knocked over the equilibrium they'd established. They had no substantial differences on policy: Martin wanted fiscal responsibility, and Chretien wanted votes and popularity... not mutually exclusive by any means. Certainly they've never quarreled in public over policy.

Given that we've seen a week or more of patronage-based scandals, however, it warrants a guess. Martin or his supporters must have been taking a much harder line behind closed doors on the Chretien favourites who so far have been shielded from repercussions by the PM (Coderre, et al.). I believe Martin wanted the Liberals to be seen to be cleaning house more vigorously (and knock off a few Chretien loyalists while he was at it). Using allies in the press corps, his subordinates started a small internal anti-corruption campaign. The PM had to react to preserve his unquestioned authority after the grumbling got too loud.

Posted by BruceR at 09:17 AM