June 26, 2003


Regardless of what Steven thinks, most British historians would date a recognizable modern British government's origins to the Reform Act of 1832, passed under William IV, not Victoria (along with the emancipation of Protestant dissenters in 1828 and Catholics in 1829). Minor quibble, though. I'm not sure what Steven means by "active rule," but the last time a monarch effectively thwarted the wishes of an elected British parliament would have been William's second-thought attempts in May, 1832 to halt the Reform Bill's passage (in the end, he only managed to delay it). After that, figurehead status was inevitable, and the PM's supremacy generally assumed. (The last gasp of monarchy would have to be when William tried to undo what he had done in 1834, when he summarily appointed conservative opposition leader Robert Peel as PM, but Peel had to concede he could not govern without a majority in the reformed Commons, and further direct royal interference in British politics after that point would effectively cease... Victoria, who was crowned in 1837, and her successors, would have to find other means of leverage.)

Posted by BruceR at 05:30 PM


Great piece this. I love crazy historical theories. (from Rand)

Posted by BruceR at 03:21 PM


Harry Schmidt's going for total victory in the Kandahar bombing case.

From the Star, today:

"A police officer at night who finds himself facing down a gun isn't required to ask first whether it is a real gun, whether it is a loaded gun or whether the guy is a good shot," [Schmidt's lawyer Charles] Gittins said. "The police officer is entitled to use the force he thinks is required to kill the person with the gun. That is exactly the situation Harry Schmidt found himself in."

No, it's not. From his position, Schmidt was immune to all conceivable fire, and given an absence of preconceptions and a rational decision-making process, can only have concluded that. So that analogy falls apart. Here's the proper police analogy:

Hypothetical: A police sniper is headed home from work with his rifle and his cell phone in his car. He sees what looks like a hostage situation in progress, with police on scene surrounding a building. He scales a building across the street, and, unobserved by anybody, finds a position, then calls in to his own station, says he's at the hostage situation at Front and Main, and asks for permission to engage. His squad sergeant orders him to hold fire until he figures out what the heck he's talking about. The police sniper then believes he hears shots, or a threatening gesture, and shoots to kill a person he sees brandishing a handgun. A few seconds later, the station gets back on the line and tells him to stand down, he's actually shooting at a realistic police training drill the sniper hadn't been told about before, and the gun-waving man he just killed was a cop from the next town over, participating in the drill. QUESTION #1: What, if anything, do you charge the sniper with?

QUESTION #2: The sniper's defence, taking a leaf from Schmidt's book, comes in one of three flavours:

a) The police sniper probably deserved to be informed of all police activities in the local area in advance, so that this kind of mistake couldn't have happened.
b) The sniper believed the gesture or shots he thought he saw or heard were directed at him, and so had a right to self-defence... even though the criminal's handgun demonstrably did not have the range to hit him except by fluke accident, and there was no other indication anyone else had even seen him yet.
c) The sniper had just come off a long shift, and had drank a lot of coffee, and his judgment may have been impaired as a result.

Would any of those be grounds for acquittal on the charges you chose?

QUESTION #3: The local DA tries to plea out the sniper on a no-time endangerment-type misdemeanor, with a high probability of follow-up administrative action that would see him removed from the sniper squad. The sniper refuses the plea, and demands a full trial. Given that the policemen in the next town over are understandably upset about this officer walking away without any punishment, what should the DA do now?

Answers to Flitters, please. I think it's a pretty close analogy, although you might want to read some of the background here if you don't agree. (And thx to SDB for keeping me apprised of the American news coverage, btw.)

Posted by BruceR at 10:00 AM

June 25, 2003


From Bani Sad:

Grant has only 35 soldiers -- just 16 of them civil affairs personnel -- for the entire province, which has 1.4 million people. Cromarty is the only officer assigned to Bani Sad and the surrounding areas, which are home to about 186,000 people.

In Majar-al Kabir:

The violent demonstration - the second in two days - apparently was sparked by soldiers' searches for heavy weapons in villagers' homes, said Abu Zahraa, a 30-year-old local vendor.

In Qaim:

Rumsfeld provided little additional information about the attack, refusing to say whether U.S. forces crossed the Syrian border or explain why five Syrian border guards injured in the fighting remain in U.S. custody. "Borders are, you know, not always distinct in life," Rumsfeld said.

Posted by BruceR at 12:56 PM

June 24, 2003


[Accused child killer Michael Briere's] former wife told reporters she thought he was "brilliantly funny." They met at a training workshop at Second City, the comedy group. On June 22, 1994, they married in Las Vegas at the Chapel of Love... the marriage fell apart after she discovered he was actually a couch potato addicted to action films and Final Fantasy, a violent computer game.

Jan Wong, in the Globe and Mail. There's no point in trying to deal with this kind of prejudice too much, but for the record:

If Mr. Briere was playing a Final Fantasy videogame (not computer game... there's a difference, and Globe copy editors of a certain age should know it) it would probably have been Final Fantasy VI in 1995-96. (Final Fantasy IV, the previous in the series as far as the North American audience is concerned, came out in 1991... the next volume, Final Fantasy VII, the first title after the series jumped ship from Nintendo consoles to Playstations, didn't come out here until late 1997. The progression is complicated by North American and Japanese numbers being somewhat different... what was originally released here as the third volume in the series was the sixth in Japan until the company, Squaresoft, finally concluded the whole thing was too confusing: I'm using the current "official" or Japanese titles throughout.) That's a typical screenshot on the left. Violent stuff, I admit. Of course, some of the CGI animated movies that broke up the action were, as was typical for the whole series, ahead of their time visually, but mostly the game looked like this when you played it... again, on a Super Nintendo console, not a computer. The ESRB, which age-rates games for retailers, gave it an "E" (for "Everyone," the equivalent of a Disney movie).

FF6 was famous at the time as one of the first console games to introduce "adult" themes as story elements -- no, not what you think: specifically the pain of losing someone you love (with a couple riffs on teen pregnancy and suicide thrown in). The game also showed significant improvements in in-game music, and non-linear game play. Composer Nobuo Uematsu's Italian-language Aria de Mezzo Carattere probably introduced more young people to the magic of opera than a year's worth of PBS specials. It was an important step in videogames growing up. To write it off with the one word "violent" is a hatchet job no reporter of my generation (or Briere's) could put their byline to.

(Note: Never played the game myself, btw. I was always a PC gamer.)

Posted by BruceR at 06:25 PM


Apparently the Iraqi smugglers have started using the Afghan trick of using American airpower to settle old scores by whispering "Saddam." And a one year-old died, and a few dozen more Iraqis vowed revenge on the U.S., no doubt. Oh, well. In other news, a 12 year-old girl opened fire on some Americans. Wonder who she was avenging?

UPDATE: Jim Henley pronounces: "This is... the callous policy of an evil government."

Posted by BruceR at 12:36 PM


Apparently American pilot Harry Schmidt doesn't just want a no-time walk on the charges of disobeying orders and killing 4 Canadians as a result. Now he wants to be declared entirely innocent, with no reprimand whatever. Well, if you've got your governor to collect you a massive legal defence fund, might as well use it for something, I suppose. The lawyer's already bought and paid for, after all.

Posted by BruceR at 12:18 PM

June 23, 2003


Gabriel Gonzalez, at Winds of Change:

"What all of this hardcore truth-seeking lacks when compared to the original is that it overlooks an important fact about "heroes" like Jessica Lynch and her rescuers: They are supposed to have mythological status. They are symbols. Jessica Lynch is our Athena or Joan of Arc, and that symbolism is more important than the grubby little details of camera angles or the exact wording of a CentCom briefing. Even better, Private Lynch is the perfect modern heroine: She is a woman. She represents our strength and courage, as well as our vulnerability. She is our sister, our daughter, and with a couple more years, she could be a mother. She also represents our need for encouragement, a timely morale booster when it looked like the chips were down. Her rescue is our salvation... I much preferred the original version, guns ablazing and all, and think it comes much closer to any notion of "truth" that has any real meaning. I hope it comes out on DVD"

Maybe, just maybe, I could see a sports victor described thus and not wince. To describe the activities of real-life soldiers like Jessica Lynch's rescuers, and presumably the rest of the Anglo-American victorious army (for what line would demarcate one from the other?), as mythological and necessarily to be exalted above any skepticism or second-guessing is deeply authoritarian and fascist by definition. What I really can't understand, though, is the scare quotes around "heroes." In context, it sounds like the author considers even that word an insult, and would prefer that America's soldiers be regarded instead as gods.

Posted by BruceR at 12:40 PM


The disgraced Tom Jakobek campaign for Toronto mayor is using the ad window in the free version of Opera for a campaign ad. He's a horrible man, but I gotta admit that's original. The European-based browser company must be localizing its advertising, too, which is also kinda interesting... I wonder how granular they're going with it (even a provincial audience would have little interest in Jakobek... it must be Toronto IPs, only). If someone wanted to send an ad to one or two specific known IPs ("Hey BruceR. You're an idiot." or some such), would Opera allow it? How much would they charge?

UPDATE: About $0.0005 US an impression, apparently. (Minimum price, $99). And they don't claim to localize below the "metro area."

Posted by BruceR at 10:38 AM


Slowly the truth comes out.

Posted by BruceR at 09:42 AM

June 20, 2003


Penny Arcade, today.

Posted by BruceR at 01:39 PM


There's really nothing left on the Schmidt-Umbach reprimands that I haven't said before. It was a predictable outcome, one which I fear will not give the next cowboy pilot sufficient pause before he recklessly disregards the lives of allied soldiers below. But there was a hearing, and all the facts are out, and people can draw their own conclusions about what should be, at the least, a cautionary example. The one open question -- to what degree Canadian participation or lack thereof in American military adventures affected the final outcome -- will never be answered.

Here's some of Flit's earlier work on the subject:

Canadian media credulity watch, vol 56
Well, they're certainly getting a favourable trial by media
If you throw enough of it, something's bound to stick
Perhaps a telling moment
Two errors of note
A BM-21? He thought he was being fired on by a Katyusha?
Tarnak Farms revisited
Psycho Schmidt defence takes new turn
Schmidt's lawyers keep gnawing away at American sentiment
Give it up, George
What was going through Psycho's mind?
Couple interesting things in the American report, too
The full transcript: 'Stand by for the microscope.'
It's devastating
Mark Steyn goes to 23,000 feet
23,000 ft, part 4
23,000 feet over Kandahar
The psycho and the screwball
The Kandahar range bombing: the Washpost's view
'We know exactly what happened: the pilot is the only one who can answer why'
More known about Afghan accident

Posted by BruceR at 11:53 AM

June 19, 2003


This is what you get when you blog while high, apparently. Don't bogart the keyboard, now, Colb.

Posted by BruceR at 12:34 PM

June 18, 2003


The CIA has wisely pulled its report claiming two Iraqi trailers the Americans found were bioweapons laboratories. Until recently, it was available for public reading here. For those who didn't read it in the time allotted, it said the trailers were "the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological-warfare program" and an "ingeniously simple, self-contained bioprocessing system."

Fortunately John Pike and his crew mirrored it, so you can still read it anyway.

UPDATE: Turns out they just changed the URL for no reason. Silly CIA.

Posted by BruceR at 06:12 PM


The trolls at LGF are understandably perplexed by today's self-immolation of members of an Iraqi-supported Iranian resistance group, now being suppressed by all sides postwar. The one thing they do seem to agree on is that so long as only Muslims are dying, it can't be a bad thing.

On the other hand, this was funny.

Posted by BruceR at 04:44 PM

June 17, 2003


We got lost and a couple of blocks from where the two missiles had hit in Baghdad there was a Scud missile launcher with a Scud on top. We then realised the Iraqis were hiding Scuds in residential areas. If I'd said that I think we would have been thrown out the next day.

--Australian journalist Lindsey Hulsum. Blair and Currie are calling for her head. A couple things to note, however:

1) There is still no firm evidence that the Iraqis were lying when they said all their long-range missiles prohibited by the UN from the last Gulf War were destroyed. Wastern intelligence agencies, doing the math on pieces that could be reliably traced, at most said perhaps half-a-dozen were still unaccounted for. Given that the Al-Hussein missiles were made by welding two Scuds together, however, they admitted there was a large margin for error in that number, and the Iraqis could well be telling the truth.
2) If there was still a Scud or two left this spring, they almost certainly would have been in a position at the start of the war where they could hit something, like, say, Israel. A Scud in Baghdad would only have the range to hit other targets in Iraq, making Hulsum's entire story highly questionable. I deeply doubt Lindsey Hulsum would recognize a Scud if she saw one (as opposed to, say, a shorter range Ababil missile, or even a SAM-2 anti-aircraft missile).
3) There is no corroborative evidence to support her claim.

So would it really have been best for her to throw an uninformed, almost certainly incorrect allegation of an Iraqi war crime out in the middle of a war? Her reasoning for her silence was contemptible, but the truth was better served by it.

By the way, Angie Shultz and others commenting in Blair's item assume that putting a surface-to-air installation in a city is against the Geneva Conventions. I challenge anyone to show me the citation they base that on. (And please don't cite the First 1977 Protocol... neither Iraq nor the U.S. is among the signatories to that one.)

UPDATE: Bill Herbert comments. My point to be clear, based on my work a former air defence artillery officer, is that siting SAMs to defend a city pretty much implies putting the SAMs IN THE CITY. The 1977 Geneva protocol (which Canada HAS signed) cannot be interpreted to rule out ALL proximate deployments of troops to civilians. Sometimes putting troops in a city you're attempting to defend is legitimate. If this Scud was a SAM, then definitionally there can be no harm, no foul: it's a defensive system. The problem is that, every time Western militaries accuse lesser countries of placing weapons in mosques, schools, culturally sensitive locations, city streets, etc., it adds to a weight of argument that can only constrain their own deployment options down the road, for fear of criticism by their own sensitized civilians. To argue that putting even a full SAM installation in Baghdad is a war crime is to say it is when Stinger-tipped Hummers ring the White House, as well. Yes, I know that's an absurd comparison. That's the point.

One more thing re "corroborative evidence." I was actually referring more to the reporter blurting out her Scud story now. The Americans have had the run of the place for two months... they haven't found a Scud yet, not even an inoperative one. I was a reporter, too. If it was my story, and I knew that, it would certainly lead me to question my own belief that I might have seen a Scud in a Baghdad market: I would certainly at least question the other explanations. For her to say that with such asssurance now that she and only she saw the only Scud in Iraq is a sign of either colossal ignorance or deep twitdom.

Posted by BruceR at 07:19 PM


So, let me get this straight. Johnny Cash's stepdaughter, Carlene Carter, a well-known country music singer, had a boyfriend who died in a car crash. Said boyfriend was then cut up on the autopsy table for a Learning Channel documentary series, and although attempts were made to keep his identity private, his tattoos were recognized and people commented on the program to his grieving family. Meanwhile, Carlene was arrested for forging said boyfriend's identity, in order to score some tranquilizers. I really have to start watching more country music... Best quote: "'Do we need to carry around a little card in our wallet that says we don't want to be cut up and viewed on TV? Is that what it's going to come to?"

In other news, the Kennedys are fighting the tyranny of wind power.

Posted by BruceR at 06:08 PM


[British gulf war commander Brian] Burridge confirmed that British military commanders were expecting - on the basis of intelligence - that the Iraqi army would offer to help US and UK troops maintain law and order after the invasion.

--The Guardian

Posted by BruceR at 05:57 PM


The Poor Man figures out the solution to the Weapons of Mythical Disposition riddle:

Hillary ate the WMD. I heard she's gay.

Posted by BruceR at 05:14 PM


Steven Den Beste, on Americans training the native armies in their new protectorates:

There are also major cultural problems. We have to break them of their unwillingness to fail, or to admit failure; we have to instill in them an American attitude towards admitting mistakes so that they can be corrected.

Apparently, in actual American practice, in Afghanistan, at least, instilling American attitudes is seen as best done by avoiding paying the sepoys yourself and borrowing your actual instructors from... wait for it... the French:

Col. McDonnell says that when he first arrived from Fort Bragg, N.C., he had no money to pay the salaries of Afghan recruits. France, responsible for officer training at the center, stepped in to cover a monthly payroll of around $22,000.

Posted by BruceR at 04:34 PM


You see, when you hire someone purely on the basis of his mother's reprehensible involvement in a presidential impeachment scandal, this is the kind of indepth understanding of American literature you're likely to get.

(Yeah, yeah, I know, it's from last year. I just found my way to it now.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:00 PM


We're within one or two iterations of having "the facts" now on the Lynch issue, I'd say.

Posted by BruceR at 01:27 PM

June 16, 2003


Just a couple things in my life recently deserving of kudos:

*The Animatrix. Just got it on DVD... definitely worth seeing if you haven't. Striking images, and once the canonical stuff at the beginning has been done away with, half-a-dozen neat little manga riffs on the Matrix universe.

*ASUS PC motherboards. Once again, I did something rather stupid messing around with my computer's guts last Thursday, that evidently played temporary havoc with the voltage... the Asus motherboard just bent like a reed, leaving the videocard to bear the brunt, blowing it out in fact. Basically, the system failed as planned, which is always refreshing to see. I have never, ever, been disappointed by an ASUS product. I can't say that about many hardware companies, if any, to date.

Posted by BruceR at 09:44 PM


If Maurice Baril actually said what he's paraphrased as saying here, he's a damn fool. (He's going to merge the militias into a national army? Those would be the cannibal militias? By himself?) And does that "10,000 troops" number have a basis in any reality more tangible than the usual cockeyed UN optimism?

Posted by BruceR at 04:59 PM


Back to square one.

Posted by BruceR at 02:27 PM

June 12, 2003


Celebrity obsessive Greg Packer is now a celebrity himself, apparently. Here's a good writeup on the guy who's quoted everywhere.

Posted by BruceR at 05:42 PM


The Toronto Star had a good piece on the Sept. 11 medals I wrote about last year. Good on them.

Posted by BruceR at 05:36 PM


...to purchase your very own copy of the July issue of Computer Games magazine, with my interview with the extremely cool gamer-economist Edward Castronova, out on the stands this week.

Posted by BruceR at 12:19 AM

June 11, 2003


A little more on French rules of engagement in the Congo, from the Guardian.

The French are only being sensible, of course.

Posted by BruceR at 01:45 PM

June 10, 2003


Congo: While it's always uncertain when the French get involved in Africa (they tend to write their own rules of engagement, and like the Americans with their own force protection firmly in mind), it's important to remember that the sole mandate for the small UN forces in Eastern Congo right now, before the French arrive, is protection of other UN personnel and assets, including humanitarian relief ones, in the region. So to describe them as "trying to maintain peace" is probably inaccurate. "Trying to keep from getting hacked to death" might be a little closer to the truth.

Afghanistan: Good piece by Scott Taylor in the Globe today, I thought. It's another brigade-sized organization, with a limited mandate, but I do think it's fair to say that ISAF's presence in Kabul, whatever its other virtues, is freeing up a U.S. brigade for somewhere else more useful. Something even Americans should be able to appreciate. The remarks at LGF yesterday exulting at the deaths of German peacekeepers are going to be no less unfortunate when those are Canadian bodies, I fear.

It's going to be interesting, by the way, to see how the calls for greater American national mobilization go over. Americans are already paying over twice as much per capita as nearly any other nation for defence, and have a military participation rate far above, say, Canada's. At least Canadians get the satisfaction of having a still pretty-damn-good social welfare net, to compensate for the whole undersized military thing. (Still there's no doubt America's in a bit of a fix in Iraq at the moment, and predictably so... it was something I believe I pretty extensively covered back in February).

Posted by BruceR at 08:51 AM

June 09, 2003


The Camp X Historical Society is trying to get a museum started at the currently vacant site of Camp X, near Oshawa, Ontario, the headquarters for the British/Canadian intelligence organization in the Americas in World War Two (led by William "Intrepid" Stephenson). I wish them luck.

Posted by BruceR at 01:09 PM

June 03, 2003


The 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division has now been in Iraq for nine months (the rest of the division a little less). Canadians have generally concluded that peacekeepers start losing their edge after six. Just noting.

Posted by BruceR at 01:56 PM


"Now it seems certain that media accounts of [Lynch's] ordeal were distorted -- and the Pentagon did little to set the record straight."

Time magazine's conclusion this week. Sounds about right.

Posted by BruceR at 01:46 PM


Doonesbury is doing a week on a Palestinian martyr-to-be character. This should be interesting.

Posted by BruceR at 01:40 PM

June 02, 2003


Iraqis allowed to keep their automatic weapons.

Posted by BruceR at 01:17 PM


Email correspondent James M. points out that the 19,000-ton Colossus-class CVL HMS Vengeance is back on the auction block, for $4.5 million US or best offer... the Vengeance is a sister ship to Canada's historic aircraft carriers, HMCS Warrior and HMCS Bonaventure. One of the last of the late WW2 British-model light carriers floating, she was recently sold for scrap by the Brazilians, who had named her the Minas Gerais (Brazil had bought the French light carrier Foch to replace it.)

So if the Canadian Alliance wants to have an aircraft carrier almost exactly like the one the Canadians retired in 1970 in fact, apparently there's now one for sale. Just phone up "French Creek Boat Sales." (Ask for Merle.)

Posted by BruceR at 12:53 PM