Saturday, March 28, 2015

Some Thoughts About "Blue Velvet"


"Blue Velvet"  was a 1986 film by David Lynch that served as a comeback film for brilliant actor/brain-damaged-right-wing-druggie Dennis Hopper. It's what's known as a "cult film."

THIS POST HAS SPOILERS FOR ANYONE WHO HASN'T SEEN THIS THIRTY YEAR OLD FILM YET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some women I knew HATED the film and the villain (played by Hopper) of Frank Booth. Some guys LOVED Frank Booth because he was so fucked-up and evil.

TRIGGER WARNING: DESCRIPTIONS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE TO FOLLOW

In the film, the character of Frank Booth has somehow had an affair with lounge singer Dorothy Valens, who likes rough sex. She's married though, with a son, so in order to keep her for himself, he kidnaps her husband and child and threatens to kill them if she doesn't continue to satisfy his desires. When she begins to wilt, he slices off her husband's ear as a warning. He throws the ear in a field near the downtown of their small town of "Lumberton, USA" where it's found by young Jeffrey Beaumant, back from college to be with his father who has had a terrible stroke (or something). Beaumant finds the ear while crossing the field on his way to the hospital to visit his father.

He takes the ear to Detective Williams of the Lumberton police, but becomes obsessed with who it might belong to. With the assistance of Sandy, the police detective's daughter, he finds out that Dorothy Valens has something to do with it. He manages to hide in Valens's apartment one night and witness one of Frank Booth's visits.

Frank Booth has a very ritualized sexual life. Before he has sex he's referred to as "Daddy." In order to have sex, candles lit beforehand have to be put out so that it's dark. He then becomes a creepy "Baby" who no one must look at. He breaths a mysterious gas from a mask connected to a small tank* and proceeds to act like a perverted child with "Mommy" (Valens), striking her if she looks at him or if he simply loses control. Upon penetration he becomes "Daddy" again, and, upon climax, is filled with disgust and loathing for himself and Valens, striking her again. Eventually he regains his composure and leaves, first telling Valens to "stay alive" and "Do it for Van Gogh" (her husband with the missing ear).

Beaumant and Valens begin an affair. (Beaumant is also having an entirely innocent affair with high school student Sandy.) At one point though, Valens asks Beaumant to hit her and when he refuses she angrily tells him to leave her bed. Beaumant hits her out of anger and frustration, and when she's clearly aroused, does it again. When he is leaving her apartment after this encounter he and Valens are horrified to see Booth and his goons outside her apartment door.

Booth takes Valens and Beaumant to his friend, Ben's place, where Valens' husband and child are being kept. Valens is traumatized by the visit and Beaumant is subjected to intimidation from Booth and his friends. It's also clear that Booth is deeply attracted to Ben, but unable to deal with this. He hides his homosexual longings under a pastiche of male heterosexual bravado. "I'll fuck anything that moves!!!" Back in the car, Booth breaks out the gas mask and then notices something in Beaumant and sneers at him: "You're like me!" Enraged by Booth's treatment of Valens, Beaumant lashes out and punches Booth in the face. Infuriated, Booth has his men drag Beaumant from the car, goes through a weird, ugly, homoerotic ritual and then punches the shit out of Beaumant, who is restrained by Booth's men.

The next day, Beaumant revives and makes his way back to his parents' house and wrestles with his conflicting feelings of guilt, remorse, and disgust. (He juxtaposes hearing Valens' pleading behind the closed door at Ben's place, trying to tell her son that "Mommy loves you!" with his own hitting her and having sex with her.)

The film has a love triangle with the "dark" Dorothy Valens, and the "innocent" Sandy Williams competing for Jeffrey's affections. There is a llarger plot involving Booth and crooked Lumberton police. The whole story has the feel of a film from out of the 1950s, but it's clearly set in the present (the 1980's). The scenes at the Williams' or the Beaumants' have a calculatedly artificial innocence about them. At times, Frank Booth is a cartoonish 1950's style villain.

Besides it being my first exposure to David Lynch's weirdness (I would later find "Eraserhead" to be terrifying) I also enjoyed the movie for Dennis Hopper's portrayal of Frank Booth. Because you forget you're watching an actor and you think you're really observing this psychopath. And because I've so rarely had a movie villain I loved to hate as much as Frank Booth. He was a pathetic piece-of-shit. He really had so many issues. (It's possible he was molested as a child, given his whole "Mommy, Daddy, Baby" shtick.) He's a closet case. He's a blustering bully. He's a monster. He brutalized Dorothy Valens. He wouldn't be so tough without all his goons with him. I watched it on VHS tape with a friend, and when Beaumant punched him in the face I clapped and cheered.

We did get a laugh out of his use of the word "fuck" while at Ben's place:
Frank: Where's the glasses? That beer's gonna get warm. One thing I can't fuckin' stand is warm beer. It makes me fuckin' puke!
Ben: Darling? Where's the glasses? Here, Frank. Here are the glasses. Here are the glasses.
Frank: Raymond, where's the fuckin' beer man?
Raymond: It's right here Frank. You want me to pour it?
Frank: No, I want you to fuck it. Shit yes. Pour the fuckin' beer.
Given the fact that he was such a sexual screw-up, his determined over-use of the word "fuck" had an element of deep stupidity to it.

Oh yeah, and we knew Booth wouldn't respond kindly to Beaumant's taste in beer:

"HEINEKEN??? FUCK THAT SHIT!!! PABST! BLUE! RIBBON!!!!!"

(I wonder if that's one of the reasons hipster youngsters are drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon nowadays?)

But for the most part, I HATED him. I wished he didn't die so quickly.

I guess if he was the victim of sexual abuse as a child, Frank Booth is somewhat of a tragic figure. Putting that aside, if he could only have embraced his attraction to Ben (besides complimenting him on being "suave") he might have been happy. He wouldn't have subjected Dorothy Valens to that nightmare.

And Jeffrey Beaumant should not have hit Valens in anger. And he realized that. As did she. She wasn't crazy. She knew the difference between right and wrong.

(* The gas was supposed to be helium, that would make Booth's voice high and squeaky while he was "Baby." But nobody on the set could stop laughing when he used it so they kept the tank and the mask but got rid of the helium. Brilliant. Just like the lamp that "Ben" (Dean Stockwell) lip-synchs into. They needed a microphone prop during a rehearsal and a stage hand gave Stockwell the lamp to use. Stockwell turned it on and Lynch decided to incorporate that for the final product.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

harper Goes Completely Insane


The big guy has been losing weight. He's probably been throwing-up. I really think that harper is an almost hopeless situation politically, and he knows it. he's probably a nervous wreak. Worse than the stress of the first prorogation crisis, when he almost started crying in public. Not as bad as when he exposed himself as a craven, cringing coward during the attack at Parliament Hill, but that event still eats away at his insides and this situation is far more extended.

harper is the guy who thought it was a good idea to decorate a lobby in the Parliament Building with endless pictures of himself. This is a guy who thinks the taxpayer-funded propaganda shlop "24-7" makes him look cool, instead of a low-budget ego-maniac who nobody cares about. Look at how he preens and struts on the world stage! This lump of mediocrity sees himself as a "statesman." of historical significance.

This is a man who loves power. And the idea that this power is truly slipping away from him is crushing. Nausea-inducing. his hold on his caucus is based on his being able to deliver power to them. To give them the idea that they're imposing their imbecilic, retrograde "values" on the rest of the country, and, probably more importantly, giving them access to whatever corrupt favours they can give or receive based on their being in the government party.

So, how can he hold on to power when his sleep-walking economic policy can't deal with a drop in resource prices, when the trials of his various crony-appointees is going to disgrace him, and he really has nothing positive to show for all his years in office?

He's doubling down on his anti-Muslim hysteria. To galvanize the racist voters' base that he latched on to since the beginning of his career. But this is going to eventually disgust more and more Canadians, and some of them might be "independent" voters who might have voted for him. He'll whip-up hysteria about terrorism. But when he does that, any subsequent terrorism that occurs will appear all the more terrible and it will have happened under his watch. And there's a chance we might see a couple of these pin-prick attacks on us as a result of his last option; playing the war card.

At present, far too many Canadians are still drinking the GBWT kool-aid, and believe that not only is it a major threat, but the way to destroy it is to join yet another US-American "crusade" against them in the Middle East. Too many Canadians haven't figured out that the GBWT is a ruse to justify more military spending and oil-based foreign interventions. And too many Canadians haven't made the connection between the US military presence in the Middle East and the rise of fundamentalist terrorism. Or the connections between major US ally Saudi Arabia and these fundamentalist whack-jobs.

But wars have a way of spinning out of control. Anger against harper's anti-Muslim bigotry and his participation in military occupations of Muslim countries has been behind all the "Islamic terrorism" we've experienced lately. (I hesitate to call the tragic murders perpetrated by mentally-ill individuals who might have gotten help earlier if neo-liberal austerity policies hadn't gutted our health care system as "Islamic terrorism." And I don't know how to use the word "terrorism" since our shit-head justice minister Peter MacKay calls running over someone with a car "terrorism" but a mass-shooting at a mall by neo-nazis wouldn't be.) So, as I said, we might suffer more such terrorist attacks, and there's a good chance that a public kept in fever-pitch about this, and having been told that harper could "keep them safe" will respond badly and condemn him for failing to protect them.

But this is all he's got. So of course harper announces that he's determined to become a war criminal and will drag Canada into the crazy, fun-house mirror maze of the Syrian Civil War. Canada will, under the pretext of bombing ISIS/ISIL in Syria, also be targeting the resources of the Assad regime. All of our air-campaigns, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, have involved the bombing of civilian infrastructure, and the killing of civilians. Canada will now be expanding this to Syria.

That this is being announced by harper as if it's a done-deal, as if he needs neither the UN, nor the Canadian Parliament to give him this permission is outrageous and disgusting. At the same time as the Canadian Forces are entering the murky world of Kurdish and Shiite retaliation for the crimes of the Sunni ISIS/ISIL in Iraq, we'll find ourselves involved in the snake-pit of the various insane rebel factions and the monstrous Assad dictatorship in Syria, and our ludicrous defense minister Jason Kenney will be stammering like a mad-man against Russia's Putin in the Ukraine crisis.

harper has gone completely insane and he will drag Canada down into the abyss with him.
 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Public Opinion Shift on C-51 Shows Importance of Parliamentary Debate

I've just been thinking over the past couple of days about how the declining public support for harper's totalitarian police-state Bill C-51 as a result of greater information about it, shows the importance of democratic debate. (Forgive me if that sentence is incoherent. My eyes are blurry with sleep and I'm still on my first coffee.)

The point is, democratic discussion, hearing from experts, etc., is what Parliament is all about. We become informed through our representatives. (And, when I have gone and read debates online at the Parliamentary website, I'm often impressed by the caliber of the discussion. Another reason why the buffoonery of men like Paul Calandra is so disgusting.)

This is why harper hates Parliament, and treats it with contempt (and makes a corrupt stooge like Paul Calandra his spokesman there). This is why he had a manual written on how to sabotage the work of Parliamentary committees when he was in the minority. The fact is, harper is a con-man. harper is the sort of guy who hurries you along, telling you not to read the fine print. The guy who tries to make you distrust your friend who is cautioning you about signing the deal.

Also, someone should fill in the Liberal Party of Canada on how Parliament is supposed to work. Supposedly they dislike C-51 as much as the NDP does. They will amend it just like the NDP says it will. (I have read competing versions as to whether C-51, which amends several other pieces of legislation can simply be repealed, or whether amending it is the only way to effectively nullify it. I don't have the technical knowledge to be able to have an opinion.) The Liberals say they are just trying to avoid the inevitable "soft on terror" accusations they would incur should they vote against this bill.

But if they think the bill is unacceptable in its current form, would they vote for its passage in a minority government situation? No. They would force changes to it in committee. Or would they then, in this hypothetical situation, STILL pass the bill, because they'd be afraid that harper would call them "soft on terror" and force them into an election. (This sounds like Michael Ignatieff all over again.)

Do they think they're soft on terror themselves? Do they think that criticism of this bill makes them soft on terror? If not, they should stand up and face these accusations squarely. Or is it their hope that by allowing harper to set the terms of the debate (terms they claim to disagree with) and by pretending to act just like him, they'll win the support of many of harper's current supporters, and form a government, and then they'll be able to tell us what they really believe?

Unless, that is, they find themselves in a minority situation. And then they'll try to "neutralize" the expected criticisms of the right-wing yap-dogs by not straying too far from the terms set by them. Which is how the Democratic Party USA became such a useless sack of shit. And the Liberals, being the Canadian version of the Democratic Party USA, this is exactly what you could probably expect from them. A combination of the worst sorts of corporate-imperialist delusions, enough sanity to recognize when something is completely bonkers, but too cowardly and corrupt and evil to make much of a difference.

The harpercons don't need the Liberals' votes to pass this abomination. If they don't agree with it, they should stand up and say so. Like Elizabeth May did from the very beginning and the way the NDP has been doing for weeks now.

Stand up and defend us against an overreaching, authoritarian-minded government by democratically opposing it in Parliament!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Books About Canadians in Afghanistan




As part of my dedication to promoting awareness of Canadian literature, I'm presenting some books I've recently become heard about.

It all started here, at the website "Harper's Crimes" with the page "Lying About the War in Afghanistan." They mention a 2010 book by Captain Ray Wiss (with a forward from stephen harper) entitled A Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar:
In his 2010 book A Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar, which included a foreword by Harper, Captain Ray Wiss, praised Canadian troops as “the best at killing people … We are killing a lot more of them than they are of us, and we have been extraordinarily successful recently… For the past week, we have managed to kill between 10 and 20 Taliban every day.” Apparently, Canadian special forces are participating in highly unpopular nighttime assassination raids.

Here's a review of it at Quill & Quire:
While there is no doubt that Wiss is a hero, like all heroes he is flawed. Though candour is something to be admired in a diarist recording his truth, the reader’s opinions be damned, Wiss often strays from frank honesty to cringe-inducing bravado in the entries illustrating his status as combat veteran and warrior. Further, his rather disingenuous position that the long-term solution in Afghanistan is educating the locals in the value of liberal thought bears shades of mission civilisatrice, a position unbecoming of a self-proclaimed social justice activist.
A couple of reader reviews at Amazon-dot-C-A:
Dr. Wiss was exposed more to, and sought out local Afghani's more on this mission. The stories he tells are of the Afghani people. When I read this book, I felt that I was privileged to get a window into the lives of human beings that otherwise would be unknown to me. Whether you support the CF mission in Afghanistan or not, it is well worth the read. This is Dr. Wiss' belief: We are privileged to live in a country where dissenting opinions are allowed. Our responsibility is to be informed and engage in active debate on such issues. This is what makes our country great, in stark contrast to the Afghani people.
...
Captain Wiss, is not only a compassionate Canadian Forces medical surgeon and officer, but also a tough infantryman --so he knows not only of the realities of the camp emergency operating room, the bravery of medics in the field, but also the demanding life of a combat soldier. He takes us along on his adventure on his second deployment to Afghanistan. Through his almost daily diary entries, spanning from May 31st to September 27, 2009, he gives us unique perspectives on the contributions that remarkable Canadian men and women warriors are making to bring a better life and future to the people of Afghanistan. This richly illustrated book is not only about Canadian warriors in combat, but also those in every kind of support role and line of duty. It is about the Afghan people and culture that Captain Wiss and other Canadian warriors have come to know through their humanitarian-military mission
That link brings other books to your attention. For instance, Wiss's first book FOB Doc: A Doctor on the Front Lines in Afghanistan - a War Diary.
Fob Doc is written by Captain Ray Wiss MD, a highly regarded Emergency Physician from Sudbury, ON. (General Hillier wrote the forward.) Dr. Wiss has taught Emergency ultrasound to thousands of Canadian ER docs. This book is the end result of the diary he kept detailing his time as a military doctor in active combat zones in Afghanistan. He tells stories of his comrades, of patients that he has cared for and gives an eyewitness account of the lives of our soldiers and the average Afghani citizen. Whether you agree with the mission or not, this book is still a very worthy read. As Ray says "what makes us different from the Taliban is that we are free to discuss our opinions and disagree without having to fear for our safety if we don't agree". Read this book, discuss Canada's role in Afghanistan and try to imagine how wretched are the lives of the Afghani's. Whether we can help them, I'm not sure, but at least I understand what our military is trying to accomplish.
There's a veritable plethora of books by Canadians apparently!

Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of Its Participants

A truly beautiful book!

This is a collection of 17 unconnected stories from the Afghanistan theatre; as told from letters, diaries, memoirs etc. of Canadian personnel (soldiers, nurses, carpenters, doctors etc.). Some of these people did not make it back to Canada alive. Some stories are recent, other cover areas back as far a 2001.

There is something that transcends normal story telling here; mainly because the stories told are true ones. The quality of writing makes you feel the anxiety of leaving home, smell of the garbage and sewers in Kabul, feel the heat and boredom of an Afghan summer and appreciate the fear and tension of firefights in a hostile country (especially at night). Truly writing at its best.

Three things really stuck with me about this book...

1.)how virtually all participants of this book felt so much empathy towards the Afghan people and their plight.

2.)the chapters were arranged in such a way as to make you aware that some of the contributors to this book actually knew and spoke about some of the other writers (whose letters where also used in this book), who had already died or would be killed later on. I find it hard to express in words just how much this moved me when I came across one of these few occurrences.

3.)and finally, this book could easily be described as a set of 'snapshots' of how the war has changed (for the worst) over the last couple of years. And although, to a man, the writers of this book feel that they are doing some good over there, you begin to realize that with the paltry number of forces (NATO) that have been sent there, they have almost no chance of making any substantial difference in this tribal based, sectarian country.

Conclusions:
1.)A book that will make you stop reading and think.

2.)This is a book about war participants that have the qualities of good, caring human beings; who demonstrate all the emotional strengths and frailties that go with this distinctive attribute.

3.)The quality of writing, the telling of their tales will absolutely leave you stunned; but for all the right reasons.

5 Stars...more if I could

R.Nicholson

No Lack of Courage: Operation Medusa, Afghansitan 

Operation Medusa was NATO's first major battle in Afghanistan and Canada's largest combat offensive since The Korean War. Prior to telling its tale, Horn sets the stage starting with September 11th through to Canada's response and the events which led to Medusa in 2006. The Canadian Forces (and the Government back home) soon found out that Kandahar was a province at war so peacekeeping doctrine and many of its tactics were irrelevant (ironically, many Canadians drew on training originally meant for engaging the Soviets). The fighters encountered were not "farmers". They were experienced fighters well versed in small unit tactics and tenacious in combat.

The author shares the frustrations and challenges in fighting within a coalition covering national agendas, different operating procedures, communications, languages, and inadequate resources. All of which had an impact on the frontline soldiers who were struggling with their own issues like trying to determine who were Taliban amongst the local population.

The battles and firefights are well described with Horn dropping the reader into the action while ensuring the overall strategy and context remains clear. Canadian Forces fought well and experienced significant casualties such as five killed and over forty wounded on Labour Day Weekend alone. Horn captures the anxiety and adrenalin in each fight, provides interesting material like the benefits of the LAV III, and how simple innovations like employing bulldozers helped in operations (akin to the drive through Normandy's hedgerows in 1944).

The Patrol: Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan

Ryan Flavelle has written an extraordinary account of what the war in Afghanistan looks like from a foot-slogging infantryman. His account brings us with him almost every step of the way as his company, from the Canadian army's Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, makes a seven-day patrol into the heart of Taliban territory in Panjwayi district of Kandahar province. From his journal and from his incredible memory, his narration allows us to follow him and his inner thoughts from the time he first puts on his full kit and cleans his weapon in Forward Operating Base Ma'sum Ghar, until he collapses on reaching Patrol Base Mushan. Most military memoirs end up being like diaries with no feeling presented; Flavelle lets us feel the pain of carrying a 70-kilogram load on his back, the sweat dripping down from his helmet in the heat of a pitch-black night, and the sudden fear he felt when insurgents opened fire on the column. A truly personal and informative account of a young soldier at war in the 21st century.  

...

OK read, rather dull. Like a book written by CBC.

Felt like I was reading a novel about hiking as the book spends 90% of it's pages in regards to walking/falling/sweating/sore shoulders/rehydrating/sweating/smoking cigarettes/watching out for danger. No firefights, few IED's, little action on anything really too exciting. Did I mention that if felt like a book written by CBC?

I expected more. No character development at all. Just anther war story and not an interesting one even if he is Canadian. A letdown.

 

What the Thunder Said: Reflections of a Canadian Officer in Kandahar

Quill & Quire

What the Thunder Said, Lt.-Col. John Conrad’s account of his six-month tour in Kandahar, introduces us to new perspectives on the Canadian experience in Afghanistan, and contains the foundations of a better understanding of that experience. Conrad was the commander of the logistics battalion supporting Canada’s Kandahar-based Task Force Orion during the hard-fought summer of 2006. Every day, he and his 300 soldiers ran the harrowing gauntlet of IEDs and ambushes to deliver ammunition, fuel, food, repairs, and a myriad of other supplies to the Task Force. Although a logistics officer’s perspective on these matters is unique in Canadian military writing, what truly elevates this particular book from other, similar works is Conrad’s startling ability to capture the many layers of dissonance inherent in being a Canadian at war in Afghanistan. Conrad recalls being “shocked” by news of the aggressive deployment to war-ravaged Kandahar, and reflects that Canada’s dreams for Afghanistan are “almost un-Canadian in their boldness.” He and his soldiers find themselves in an environment utterly alien, fighting a war fundamentally different from the 20th century Weltanschauung of the Canadian Forces. The fact that Conrad is in logistics, historically somewhere between soldier and civilian, in a war where such distinctions are largely irrelevant, adds another surprising layer to his account. Conrad brings to the book a raw storytelling talent and an introspection yet unseen in the canon. Passages in the book soar to the sublime. Is What the Thunder Said Canada’s answer to Michael Herr’s classic about Vietnam, Dispatches: the definitive description whereby we will come to understand our national experience in Afghanistan? Perhaps not: on a line-by-line basis, Conrad lacks the technical writing skill to match his storytelling ability. Nonetheless, Conrad has done us all an inestimable service by putting his story on paper, and for that alone his book is worth reading.

And, then there's this one from Canadian Globe & Mail journalist, Graeme Smith's The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan

I picked this up in a book store, as I knew exactly to what the title referred. Unfortunately Graeme Smith is an awful reporter! I read the chapter related to Op Medusa, where Smith was embedded with my unit. His relating of what actually happened is terribly inaccurate. The taliban were not "baited" with bodies. In this case, two insurgents engaged our men, and my unit returned fire. The insurgents were killed. Personnel moved forward to the bodies, it was confirmed that they were dead, and everyone pulled back. Before leaving, chemlights were attached to the bodies, so that anyone coming to move the bodies could be seen. At night dogs came and ate them. Nobody is moving into enemy held areas to wave off dogs. That is ALL that happened. Recce Platoon was not involved (it was also not "a" Recce Platoon, there is only one Infantry Recce Pl per Battle Group, Recce Squadron operates in "troops", and are armoured). Reconnaissance platoons are not the ones who lay in ambush even if that were the intent. It is going to be a hell of a mess when the media gets a hold of this book, and somebody inevitably starts talking about "war crimes"- rather than the fact that we didn't move enemy bodies after they attacked us (where we were supposed to put them I don't know- the Afghan Army was there as well and I have never seen them move bodies of insurgents they don't know).

Through this whole time we were short on manpower for the operation we had to undertake (which is why Op Medusa was so difficult). If we had trippled the numbers it would not have been so difficult, but sometimes that's how the Army works.

I also take issue with Smith's regular use of "a" person. He will use a specific name in a quote, then shortly thereafter refer to "a" Major/Warrant Officer etc, but I happen to know that they are often the same person he quotes multiple times. I recognize the circumstances in his quotes, and can pick out with 99% certainty who said them. He should have had all the names in his notes as he was only embedded with ONE platoon during this time. Each company only has one major, and each platoon only has one warrant officer and three sergeants. If he couldn't be bothered to write down the names (which I find hard to believe, I think it is an attempt to seem as though he had a much wider ranging experience than he did), it would have been VERY easy to speak to anyone who was there and confirm the details.

Be very suspect of what is written in this book, it appears to be an attempt to show off about his "wide ranging" knowledge. I only bothered to read this chapter in the book store, then put the book down and will not waste any of my money to read the rest. I can't verify or contest anything else he wrote, but as for this chapter he failed to report accurately or responsibly.

 A review from the LA Times:

Smith arrived in Kandahar full of optimism and a sense of the "nobility" of the mission to oust the Taliban. He admits that at first being in a war zone provided a kind of coyote-howling fun. ...
In the beginning he followed Canadian troops for his newspaper, the Globe and Mail. On repeated trips back to Kandahar he began to explore, among other things, the condition of prisoners in Afghan jails where brutality was common and Western officers — often Canadian — looked away and pretended not to know what was happening.  ...

"Over and over, in separate conversations, the men [former prisoners] described how the international troops tied their hands with plastic straps, covered their eyes and handed them over to [Afghan] torturers. They described beatings, whippings, starvation, choking and electrocution."
Smith wrote about torture for his newspaper, careful to report only those cases that could be documented: "One prisoner, for instance, said he was shoved into a wooden box and tormented with boiling water; I didn't publish that anecdote in the newspaper because I couldn't cross reference it."

 

Finally, it ain't Canadian, but it was strongly recommended on CounterPunch, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal:

“Gopal’s book is essential reading for anyone concerned about how America got Afghanistan so wrong. It is a devastating, well-honed prosecution detailing how our government bungled the initial salvo in the so-called war on terror, ignored attempts by top Taliban leaders to surrender, trusted the wrong people and backed a feckless and corrupt Afghan regime. . . . It is ultimately the most compelling account I’ve read of how Afghans themselves see the war.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Astonishing stories. . . Such investigative reporting is very rare in Afghanistan, where foreign journalists have been targets since 2001. Gopal pursued his stories into the most active centers of the insurgency. He learned Dari and—more difficult—Pushtu. He won the trust of insurgent leaders. But his real genius lies in binding all these sources together and combining them with thousands of hours of interviews. . . . All this allows him to bring life to figures who have hitherto been caricatures.”
—The New York Review of Books

Note: "Operation Medusa" was mentioned here at the Schoolyard a few times before. Here are the links with the quotes. 

One:

Warmaking trumps "reconstruction" In early September, the 2,300 Canadian troops in Kandahar launched a massive ground assault in Panjwaii district, code-named "Operation Medusa" and backed by U.S. troops and airpower. Residents were warned in advance of the offensive to leave their homes and villages.

The assault was declared a huge success several weeks later. "More than one thousand" enemy fighters were said to be killed. But reporters saw few bodies of resistance fighters.


Canadian and NATO authorities admitted that fighters had staged an orderly retreat and appealed for more troops into the area. Canada quickly dispatched several hundred more soldiers, and for the first time it will be deploying tanks. Deadly attacks on Canadian and other NATO forces resumed within days of the "victory."


Meanwhile, some 20,000 residents were made homeless after their homes, villages and crops were destroyed in the fighting. Winter is approaching and they face an uncertain future.

Two:

One notorious incident took place during the summer of 2006 in Panjwaii District, a volatile area just west of Kandahar city. A predominantly Noorzai district, Panjwaii is a lush river valley crisscrossed by thick orchards and mud-walled compounds, and it provides an excellent springboard for attacks on Kandahar city. During the course of the summer, Taliban fighters had infiltrated the valley, and eventually the district governor, an Achakzai, called in Abdul Razik’s border force.

What followed was a debacle. The Noorzais, fearing their tribal enemies, rose up and joined forces with the Taliban. Razik and his men responded to the unexpected resistance with brutality. “They were killing women and children,” said Ustaz Abdul Halim, a Noorzai and former mujahideen commander who lives in Kandahar city. “After that, everyone was with the Taliban.”

Capitalizing on the tribal dynamics, the Taliban installed a Noorzai, Mullah Rauf Lang, as their commander in Panjwaii District. Later that fall, newly arrived Canadian troops in the area would launch Operation Medusa, a large-scale assault that killed hundreds of fighters and scores of civilians in weeks of close combat and withering bombardments. Today, the area remains one of the most violent in Kandahar Province—the Canadians suffer many of their casualties there and have recently abandoned two untenable forward operating bases in the area—and anti-government sentiments still run high.
Well, that's today's link-fest.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Saudi Arabia spends $67 billion annually on its military, making it the 4th-biggest military spender in the world. Canada spends $22.6 billion on the military, placing us as the 14th largest spender world-wide.

So what is Saudi Arabia's contribution to the fight with ISIS?

It is conducting air-strikes against targets in Syria and training anti-Assad rebels. Which could mean just a continuation of the same policies that helped produce ISIS in the first place.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why is Jason Kenney Lying?

Jason Kenney is blatantly lying when he says Russian jets buzzed a Canadian frigate. NATO doesn't back him up. The frigate captain isn't speaking out because to do so would be to contradict the defense minister.

Kenney is lying because he's shameless. He doesn't care that sane Canadians know that he's lying or that other NATO leaders, or anyone else in the world community thinks he's an idiot. Kenney is lying because it will help him win the Ukrainian-Canadian fascist vote. Kenney is lying because there is no accountability in this country and he knows he can get away with it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

harpercons' Ignorant Ravings About War Again


The last time was when harpercon scum, right-wing ignoramuses, and other assorted idiots condemned Thomas Mulcair for having the effrontery to ask why a Canadian soldier was killed on the front-line when harper had stated that we would not be sending ground troops to fight in Iraq.

Well, there was more of the same when Mulcair came right out and said that harper had lied.

"Well here's the problem. Mr. Harper has not told the truth to Canadians. That's the nicest way to put it. In the fall, I asked him ... it's not something I read about or saw on tv, ... I asked him, will Canadian troops be spotting, painting targets for air-strikes? Categorical answer, and I asked him twice: 'No.' Will Canadian troops be involved on the front-line? Will we accompany the Iraqis to the front-line? Categorical answer from Stephen Harper in the House: 'No. They're going to train and advise.' 

We know that that wasn't true, that they had been painting targets for air-strikes. We know that wasn't true. They had been accompanying Iraqis to the front-line. In fact, we've actually had someone killed on the front-lines. So Stephen Harper didn't tell the truth in the fall, so I'm quite concerned that patterns going to repeat itself.

They do say that truth is the first casualty of war. The problem is that when our prime minister comes into the House of Commons, Canadians are allowed to have the truth. So they didn't get the truth in the fall. So, unfortunately with Stephen Harper, you can never know."
Damned serious stuff. All of it true. harper lied, a soldier died.

Let me just share some of the pearls of wisdoms from Mulcair's critics that I've encountered on the web.

Total dipshit. Go live in a Muslim getto Muclair. You're a traitor and a lier.

It's not clear what part of Mulcair's statement this person has a problem with. It's probably the whole thing I suppose. I get a sense that there's a smidgen of racism behind the "Muslim getto" advice. And I've no idea at all where the "traitor and a lier" accusations come from. Perhaps this person is just a complete shit-head racist asshole? 
Let Mulcair and Trudeau go over there and hand out warm care packages and why is the left so angry all the time...
Unlike the writer of this comment who just wants to kill people.
Give up, Mulcair. You're about as far up the political ladder as you're going to be.What kind of a moron wants the Prime Minster to stand up in parliament and explain how many, where and why our forces are deployed when they're on an extremely dangerous mission. Thank God, Harper is our Prime Minister and not you or Trudeau. Of course, we all know you never told a lie in parliament. You're a pathetic joke.
This ridiculous person appears to think that telling Parliament that you will be sending troops into combat is akin to leaking details of troop movements to the enemy. This person is making up misdeeds to satisfy their own prejudices and delusions.

Why is it too much to ask that our government tell us whether we're going to war or not?

And now, for the main event:

People think they want to hear the truth. When INFACT you want to believe that Canada is the safest place and that no one will ever hurt you in your own country. We the soldiers are trained to close width and destroy the enemy. Canada is the way it is because we walk in the shadows keeping you safe. Canada has soldiers in places you as Canadians don't need to know. For the safety of those soldiers the government is not responsible to divulge where they are or what they are doing. We as a country are not like Americans every country in the world know we are not warmongers or trouble makers. We are not peacekeepers we are the Canadian ARMED forces.
Let's go through this in a bit more detail, shall we?
People think they want to hear the truth.
Right. Will Canadian troops going to Iraq be involved in combat?
When INFACT you want to believe that Canada is the safest place and that no one will ever hurt you in your own country.
Um, I'm sorry. That wasn't the question. The question was, "Will Canadian ground troops being sent to Iraq be involved in combat operations?" With regards to your statement, ... Canada is a fairly safe country. But I don't think anyone thinks that they'll never be hurt here. I assume you're talking about the scourge of terrorism in Canada. Recently a mentally-ill man shot and killed a Canadian soldier, before being killed himself in a ludicrous attack on Parliament Hill, and another person of undetermined mental problems ran over another soldier with his car. I suspect you have thoughts about this that you'd like to share, but I'm sure your thoughts would be incoherent and unhelpful.
We the soldiers are trained to close width and destroy the enemy.  
I thought as much.
Canada is the way it is because we walk in the shadows keeping you safe. 
That's a pretty tall order! So, we're bilingual because you like to hang around in the dark? Our health care system is under assault because you're lurking in the shadows? I think you were trying to say that Canada is a safe place because of the work you do. (Note, people, I'll assume this person really is with the Canadian Forces, and not a weirdo wannabe with a facebook account of other people's pictures.) But what "Islamic" terrorism we have here in Canada appears to be the goddamned RESULT of your stumbling around in the shadows! (That plus the harpercons' slavish devotion to Israeli imperialism, which they place above the safety of their fellow Canadians.) The terrorists have condemned us for our presence in Afghanistan and our racist contribution to the Great Bullshit War on Terror. Propping-up the corrupt, brutal, rapist, narco-gangster government of Afghanistan didn't contribute to Canadians' safety and its difficult to imagine how it ever could have.
Canada has soldiers in places you as Canadians don't need to know. 
Uh-oh! Sounds like we've got a new topic for a government inquiry here! Actually, dip-shit, ... not only do Canadians NEED to know where there troops are working, they have a fucking RIGHT to know. This is called "Democracy 101."  This person is positively insane if he thinks the people paying the bills, the people in whose name he's working, the people who he SERVES, don't need to know what he's up to. 

And what is this idiot talking about anyway? Our contribution to the disastrous coup against Aristide in Haiti? Torturing teenagers in Somalia? Siding with the fascists to try to start a nuclear war in the Ukraine? If this person isn't a complete liar, his outburst is very troubling.
For the safety of those soldiers the government is not responsible to divulge where they are or what they are doing.  
Um, yes it does you lunatic.

And jesus-fucking-christ! Has this moron forgotten that a Canadian soldier is DEAD because harper sent him into combat? For a person supposedly willing to eviscerate Canadian democracy for the safety of Canadian soldiers, to be defending the lies that were used to get his comrade killed, ... it's astonishing!
We as a country are not like Americans every country in the world know we are not warmongers or trouble makers.
I'm not sure why this non sequitor is there. It has nothing to do with the topic at hand and is even a contradiction of his claims that the CF is currently at work doing secret things that he can't tell us about. It sorta (but only sorta) makes me doubt he's an actual soldier. It's just feels like the witless canuck patriotism that right-wing wannabes in this country tend to spew.
We are not peacekeepers we are the Canadian ARMED forces.  
Yeah. A lot of soldiers, and right-wing warmongers absolutely hated the idea of being peace-keeprs. Even when we did a lot of it they tried to dismiss the importance and the significance of it. The vast majority of Canadians were proud of the idea that there were Canadian tough guys standing between armed and dangerous opponents and preventing them from starting conflagrations that would kill innocent civilians. But I recall hearing and reading lots of CF and military historians saying it was often tedious, nerve-wracking, frustrating, sometimes seemingly futile work. If you could get any of these complainers to honestly compare it to getting one's legs blown-off to defend a narco-pedophile government in Afghanistan, I wonder how they'd try to rationalize their preference for combat.

If there's one thing that quote reveals, it's how and why so many military types will continue to vote harpercon even after all the harpercon incompetence and deliberate mistreatment of wounded veterans. It's because some of them aren't very fucking bright and their thoughts are rambling, disconnected, ignorant, dangerous lunacies.

Finally, we have this tender soul:
Kudos to Stephen Harper praying Gods wisdom and protection over him always he is the best man for PM. 
Well, there's no God, wise or not, you ignorant simpleton. This clusterfuck in Iraq is the opposite of wisdom. It's a tragic farce, but there's so many deluded, stupid people like you around, that we're mired in it nonetheless.