Sunday, August 27, 2006

Live Blogging Chicago

Well today I get to test all the new super-secure airport security measures. I am currently sitting at the 'Senate Chambers' Bar and Cafe near Gate 12, awaiting my 16:41 flight to Chicago.

14:15 : Well, luckily I got to YOW about 2.5 hours early. Still, with only 3 people ahead of me, it took nearly 40 minutes to get my tickets and get through security. And yes I had to take my shoes off - but I wore my old socks, bastards, smell that! Its been said before, but I'll say it again, thank god he wasn't an underwear bomber.

Now, time for a beer and some waiting for my flight to Chicago.

15:27: One beer down, another on the go. The Jays won on a Grand slam. There are a bunch of poor bastards here at Ottawa airport who are desparately trying to get to New Jersey and every 20 minutes their flight keeps getting delayed, postponed. There are a lot of angry people around me right now.

Other observations:

Wifi cost $10 CA for 24 hours. Of course I'll only be here for another hour or so so it really is't a great deal.

Whatever you do, don't try to fly standby today. The women sitting next to me has been here for 4 hours and the airline person that spoke to her informed her that they may not be able to get her on a flight today. She seems quite resignd to her fate. I suspect I'll see here back here at the bar when I come back on Thursday night.

More later, hopefully before I leave.


I don't do "Live blogging" very well...see above

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jason Kenney must resign

Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj resigned his post as deputy foriegn affairs critic after he suggested that perhaps Hezbollah should not be on our terrorist list and that maybe it would be a good idea to negotiate with them in order to try to bring about peace in the region. He said all this while in the devastation that was Lebanon. Despite this sentiment being echoed even by Conservatives around the world, he was quickly denounced and attacked, even by memebers of his own party.

No one was more agitated and vocal about this than perennial blowhard CPC MP Jason Kenney. From the CTV article:

"At a news conference Tuesday, Tory MP Jason Kenney, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, blasted Wrzesnewskyj, calling his comments nothing short of a sign of support for terrorist groups."[emphasis mine]

Kenney went further, comparing Hezbollah to the Nazis and implying that those like Wrzesnewskyj and NDP MP Peggy Nash were anti-semitic by extension. He indicated that the Canadian government should not talk to terrorist groups on the terrorist list. Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed with him.

So if Wrzesnewskyj had to resign because he suggested that perhaps we should talk to Hezbollah, an organization on our terrorist list, then Kenney must not only resign his Parliamentary Secretary position, he should also resign his seat, because of this:

"The Toronto Star reports a photograph of Kenney appears on the website of the National Council of Resistance of Iran; the political arm of an Iranian rebel group, which Ottawa has declared a terrorist organization."[empahsis mine]

This is the picture:

Kenney is not suggesting we talk to this banned terrorist group, he is actually talking to them. He is, in fact, speaking at a rally for them. Unlike Wrzesnewskyj, Kenney is actually a member of the Government and a direct representative of the Prime Minister.

Enough spin and hypocricy. If Wrzesnewskyj had to resign for suggesting it, Kenney must resign for actually doing it.

I wonder if the Jason Cherniak and the Blogging Tories will be all over this? Yeah, I doubt it too.

Next Week: Pierre Poilievre entertains the Tamil Tigers (interesting that all the pictures of that trip with Pierre meeting member of the Tamil Eelam have disappeared from his website...)

(h\t to Buckdog and Catnip)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Plot Unfolds

As the week has dragged on, it is starting to appear that the UK terror plot was not nearly as imminent or as dangerous as it was made out to be.

First, it appears that this plot was not even close to the advanced stages it was being made out to be.

"None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms."[empahsis mine]

Further, it appears that the police in Britain wanted to delay the arrests much longer to gather more evidence (SOP from their experience with the IRA), but were pressured to arrest early by the US Government.

"British officials knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner."
You don't suppose this has to do with Dick Morris predicting a 10-point jump for Bush because of this do you?

It now seems that the details of the plot are not holding much water either. The claim of "liquid explosives" is becoming very implausible when examined by those who know about these things

"Now, they could of course mix up their oxidizer in advance, but then finding a container to keep the stuff in that isn't going to melt is a bit of an issue. The stuff reacts violently with *everything*. You're not going to keep piranha bath in a shampoo bottle -- not unless the shampoo bottle was engineered by James Bond's Q. Glass would be most appropriate, assuming that you could find a way to seal it that wouldn't be eaten."

The comments at the above link have provide even more reasons to be skeptical.

"To the person with the elaborate ideas on how to make TATP on board in spite of the various problems associated with it -- congratulations on ingenuity, but you've neglected the real problem, which is that you need to mix the materials very slowly and gently or they'll blow up long before you have enough explosives made to bring down the plane, and that you need to mix the materials under cooling -- even ordinary ice isn't really optimal though terrorists have done that in home bathrooms anyway, sometimes blowing themselves up in the process. Given that airport security is incapable of detecting pre-made acetone peroxides in the first place, why risk your reward of 77 virgins by trying to go for the "movie plot" when you can just take the stuff on pre-made? It isn't like the precursors are invisible and the manufactured material is easily detected -- in fact, the precursors are far easier to detect than the product, since almost everyone knows what nail polish remover smells like and the other chemicals are irritants."[emphasis mine]
In short, we have a plot that was not going to happen anytime soon, by people that had not yet made any actual explosives, purchased plane tickets or had passports. They were planing on making highly unstable explosives that take 24 hours to produce in an airplane washroom with easily detected precussor materials and they were going to coordinate all of this unlikely activity across 10 airplanes. All while they were under surviellence by the UK police.

Given all this - that the plot was never likely to get off the ground in the first place - why am I banned from bringing my shaving bag and a bottle of water in my carry-on for a trip from Ottawa to Chicago?

You don't think its to keep us scared and jittery, do you? I'm sure its a coincidence that this all happens the same week that the 9/11 tapes are released and a mere two months before the US mid-term elections?

The politics of fear for domestic political gain? Never.

Commenter 'Deathwind' put it best at Schneier's blog:

"Problem these days is that terrorists win both ways :

if their plot succeeds, they win blowing up some people,

if their plot fails, the security measures introduced reduce our freedom, make air travel a nuisance and everybody is more afraid thanks to media frenzy and overreacting. In short, even if they don't succeed, we become more terrorized.

And thus they win as terrorism is all about spreading fear and terror not really killing people.

We have to try as much as possible to stop them from succeeding but we must try not to let them win even when they don't succeed."[emphasis mine]



Its not like this is new. Keith Olbermann has an interesting top 10 list. I'm sure its all just coincidence. (h\t to Janet)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Conservative Hypocricy, continued

Fresh of his recent victory to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, done to protect youth who are not mature enough to be capable of making descisions for themselves regarding having sex, Justice Minister Vic Toews is now proposing that we lower the age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 10, becasue 10-year-olds are ceertainly mature enough to make decisions for themselves regarding crime.

Just let that sink in now. Toews thinks a 10-year-old can be culpable for theft and can appreciate the consequences of his or her actions, but a 15-year-old can't decided to have sex with his or her partner and can't appreciate the consequences of his or her actions.

This is one of the more bizarre, though not entirely unexpected (look for Myron Thompson, about 1/2 way down the page), changes the Reform...uhm I mean the Conservatives have proposed. I have even seen comments at various blogs by Conservative supporters, questioning this.

As a former Children's Mental Health worker in Toronto, let me assure you that no 10-year-old, not matter how violent and troublesome (and I worked with the top 2% of behaviour disorders in North America) really appreciates the reality of crime.

This is a resounding mistake and I hope all sensible MPs, including those that may be in the Conservative Party, soundly defeat this idea.

Go on and Bleed has uncovered more of the Tories plans for our kids, which are equally as well thought out as this is.


Chris Selley over at Tart Cider sums up this stupidity even better than I could have dreamed of. What he said.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

From the real experts on security

On tonight's A-Channel news:

"It is easier to find suspicious people than it is to find supsicious liquids" - Isaac Yeffet, former Israeli Secret Service member, Director of Security of Operations for the Israeli foreign Ministry, former Head of Security for El Al.

In other words, instead of banning liquids and submitting passengers to personal searches and long lines, which are have dubious value from a security perspective, we should do the following:

"Current technology cannot possibly identify all kinds of explosives," he said. "You need to have a profile system. It will save the lives of passengers."

Yeffet envisions an El Al-style system in which passengers are asked a series of simple questions based on factors including their nationality and travel plans.

Highly trained security officials ask the questions -- Where are you traveling? Where have you been? Why did you buy a one-way ticket? -- and determine whether the passenger requires more extensive questioning or inspection of their luggage.

"Through simple questions, you can come to tell if there is something wrong with a passenger," he said. "Without profiling, I tell you, we will be sorry. They will come to attack us."

"Highly trained security officials" is quite different than what we currently have in the US and Canada - TSA and CATSA jobs at airports have few security professionals and a lot of low-paid grunts for luggage checking and asking you to remove your shoes.

The added beauty of this approach is that it works on drug dealers, money launderers, illegal immigrants and other criminals, as well as terrorists. And the innocent traveling public are subjected to the least intrusive, most effective means of security. Resources are able to concentrate on actual threats, instead of being bogged down looking at water bottles and worn out Nikes.

Considering the record El Al has with hijackings and airline bombings, we should heed this advice. I'm sure El Al is not banning water or iPods...

The downside of this approach is that there is no real "visible" signs of the security (which is what most airport security is - a PR stunt. Checking shoes and banning water is very poor from a security perspective, but is a visible way to show the public that you are doing something, to make them think they are secure, but to scare them at the same time) and thus no way to make us afraid.

After 5 long years, I think we can live with that.


Gwynne Dyer hits one out of the park:

"Maybe it was those explosive “liquid chemicals” they were planning to smuggle aboard the planes. After all, it’s only 160 years since nitroglycerin was invented. It’s a mere eleven years since Al Qaeda associate Ramzi Yousef plotted to blow up 12 airliners flying across the Pacific at the same time with nitro carried aboard in contact lens solution bottles. Who could have foreseen this? Quick! Bring in new security measures! They really aren’t that stupid. They have been checking liquids that people want to carry aboard flights at airport security checkpoints for years.

There would be no need for drastic new security measures even if the alleged British terrorist ring were still on the loose. This is all hype, designed to frighten the British and American publics into supporting the wars of their deeply unpopular governments (and the war of their Israeli ally as well). Or am I being too cynical? Maybe they’re just stupid. I really don’t know any more."



Bruce Schneier weighs in as well:

"The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It's reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details -- much of the "explosive liquid" story doesn't hang together -- but the excessive security measures seem prudent.

But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-ons won't make us safer, either. It's not just that there are ways around the rules, it's that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition."[emphasis mine]


"Security measures that require us to guess correctly don't work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It's not security, it's security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer."[emphasis mine]

And, best of all

"The goal of a terrorist is to cause terror. Last week's arrests demonstrate how real security doesn't focus on possible terrorist tactics, but on the terrorists themselves. It's a victory for intelligence and investigation, and a dramatic demonstration of how investments in these areas pay off.

And if you want to know what you can do to help? Don't be terrorized." [emphasis mine]

Amen, Bruce. Again, this is what the experts say. Remember that George Bush, Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day and the other members "101st Pants Wetting Brigade" are not security experts and have a vested interest in keeping you scared.

Don't buy it. Listen to the real experts.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Only traitors try to make us afraid of terrorists

When you are done readng about this, read this (warning PDF).

Any politician that tries to use this as an excuse to give the police more powers, to expand out military adventurism or to curtail our rights is a liar and a traitor and needs to be treated as such. Don't let the hand wringing a few and coffee-can coloured "warning" signs lull you into a "false sense of insecurity."

Find more commentary here and here.


Both Gwyne Dyer and Greg Morrow made great analysis and observations about the real threat of terrorism when our 17 plotters were caught in June. Now, as then, the plot was foiled not by draconian laws taking away our rights and freedoms, not by repressing minorities and not by cowering in fear, but by good police work and intelligence:

"An undercover British agent infiltrated the group, giving the authorities intelligence on the alleged plan, several U.S. government officials said.

The men had not bought plane tickets, the officials said, but they were in the process of perusing the Internet to find flights to various cities that had similar departure times."[emphasis mine]

That's how terrorism is defeated - good policing, good intelligence, freedom and refusing to live in fear and with hatred. (h\t to macadavy in the comments)

Anyone that tells you different is a coward.


Glad to see KevinG agrees. Where is that buddy with the Guy Fawkes mask when we need him?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Prophet Speaks

From September 6, 2003:

"It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming. From the window you can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Traveling on the fast highway that takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem's northern edge to Gilo on the southern edge, a 12-minute trip that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it's hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied."[emphasis mine]

But Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

"Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.

We could kill a thousand ringleaders and engineers a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below — from the wells of hatred and anger, from the "infrastructures" of injustice and moral corruption."[emphasis mine]

But Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

"We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world's only Jewish state — not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish."[emphasis mine]


These are the real principles that should be touted in the Middle East, not those that condone more bloodshed and violence or excuse war crimes on both sides.

Ah, but I guess by agreeing with this 'prophet', I am as anti-semitic as he is.

At least I am in good company.

(h/t to Eugene)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Question

Juan Cole asked it and I'm curious about the answer:

"The wholesale destruction of all of Lebanon by Israel and the US Pentagon does not make any sense. Why bomb roads, roads, bridges, ports, fuel depots in Sunni and Christian areas that have nothing to do with Shiite Hizbullah in the deep south? And, why was Hizbullah's rocket capability so crucial that it provoked Israel to this orgy of destruction? Most of the rockets were small katyushas with limited range and were highly inaccurate. They were an annoyance in the Occupied Golan Heights, especially the Lebanese-owned Shebaa Farms area. Hizbullah had killed 6 Israeli civilians since 2000. For this you would destroy a whole country?

It doesn't make any sense."

So forget all the rhetoric about Israel fighting for their existence (they aren't), forget whether the two Israeli soldiers were captured in Lebanon on operations or kidnapped from Israel (it makes little difference really), forget about the idiocy of calling anyone who criticizes the current Israeli government position on the war "anti-Semitic" or "anti-Israel". Answer Prof. Cole's question: Why would you do this?

(Juan Cole entertains a Syriana-like scenario that even I have not fully bought into, though it is possible.)

More importantly, from a strategic, military point of view, Isreal's actions make no sense. As Martin Van Creveld, a military historian at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, speaking initially of the Iraq situation, says:

"In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old,– even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife, will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces, whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on, things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.

In other words, he who fights against the weak, and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed,– and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat;"(h/t to The Galloping Beaver)

This exactly describes the current conflict in Lebanon and Gaza. One has to ask then why, why in the face of the lessons of history, any country, let alone one with the military know-how of Israel, would make such a colossal mistake in judgement?

None of this is anti-Israel. Indeed, in wanting to ensureIsrael doesn't make terrible mistakes which strengthen its enemies, I am being more pro-Israel than all the nattering, yes-men on the right who will happily allow Israel to walk into its own destruction. A true supporter is one who is not afraid to tell you when you are wrong.


Dave tries to give some answers to tIsraelIsreal miscaclulated and relied on faulty intelligence. They have tried to make up for bad intelligence with a less than accurate air campaign and a ground campaign that was not trained or ready for the job. Now where have we heard that before?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lessons From History

For those who currently think that the leaders of organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah can't or won't negotiate or pursue peace, let me remind you of a little relevant history:

"On 22 July 22 1946, one of the most dastardly and cowardly crimes in recorded history took place. We refer to the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Ninety-two persons lost their lives in that stealthy attack, 45 were injured, among whom there were many high officials, junior officers and office personnel, both men and women. The King David Hotel was used as an office housing the Secretariat of the Palestine Government and British Army Headquarters. The attack was made on 22 July at about 12 o'clock noon when offices are usually in full swing. The attackers, disguised as Arabs, carried the explosives in milk containers, placed them in the basement of the Hotel and ran away."

"As head of the Secretariat, the majority of the dead and wounded were my own staff, many of whom I have known personally for eleven years. They are more than official colleagues. British, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Armenians, senior officers, police, my orderly, my chauffeur, messengers, guards, men and women - young and old - they were my friends." - Sir John Shaw, Chief Secretary of the Government of Palestine

On July 22, 1946, the King David Hotel was blown up by Jewish terrorists killing 91 and injuring 45 - mostly British and Arabs. The attack was ordered by the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary terrorist organization which was the precursor to the IDF. The actual attack was caried out by the group Irgun under the leadership of Menachem Begin, later the Prime Minister of Isreal.

60 years ago, a group fighting for its people committed horrific atrocities against the British "occupier" and the Arab community in Palestine. These people, many considered heros in Isreal and around the world, acted exactly as the leadership of Fatah, Hamas and even Hezbollah are acting today. Yet it was this very leader, Menachem Begin, that signed the first peace deal with an Arab state in 1979 and started the first real efforts to bring peace to the region.

Had the British acted in 1946 as the Isrealis are acting today, there would be no Isreal, only a history of more bloodshed and death. Yet the British continued with efforts to secure the peace, rather than sink into more violence.

The lesson is that today's terrorist can be tomorrow's statesman if given the opportunity and a fair shake. Peace cannot happen otherwise.

**Note: It is another bitter irony that many right-wing Isrealis blame the British for the deaths in the bombing, claiming that they didn't evacuate the hotel when warned. The British, after denying they received a warning, stated they did not receive it in time. Regardless of any warning, 91 people died because of a terrorist attack and the terrorist should not be excused of their culpability because of issuing a warning. The more things change, the mre the reman the same, sadly.