Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ex-Bush admin official: Many at Gitmo are innocent

AP – In this June 6, 2008 file photo, reviewed by the U.S. Military, a guard stands at a gate at the Camp …

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday. "There are still innocent people there," Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."

Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting on Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a "mosaic" of intelligence.

"It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance," Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather "sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified."

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said vetting on the battlefield during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was incompetent with no meaningful attempt to discriminate "who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation."

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on Wilkerson's specific allegations but noted that the military has consistently said that dealing with foreign fighters from a wide variety of countries in a wartime setting was a complex process. The military has insisted that those held at Guantanamo were enemy combatants and posed a threat to the United States.

In his posting for The Washington Note blog, Wilkerson wrote that "U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released."

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because "to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership."

Wilkerson told the AP in a telephone interview that many detainees "clearly had no connection to al-Qaida and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head."

Some 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002, and 240 remain. Wilkerson said two dozen are terrorists, including confessed Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006.

"We need to put those people in a high-security prison like the one in Colorado, forget them and throw away the key," Wilkerson said. "We can't try them because we tortured them and didn't keep an evidence trail."

But the rest of the detainees need to be released, he said.

Wilkerson, who flew combat missions as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and left the government in January 2005, said he did not speak out while in government because some of the information was classified. He said he feels compelled to do so now because Cheney has claimed in recent press interviews that President Barack Obama is making the U.S. less safe by reversing Bush administration policies toward terror suspects, including ordering Guantanamo closed.

The administration is now evaluating what to do with the prisoners who remain at the U.S. military base in Cuba.

"I'm very concerned about the kinds of things Cheney is saying to make it seem Obama is a danger to this republic," Wilkerson said. "To have a former vice president fearmongering like this is really, really dangerous."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Complaint Department

Definitely the best thing about having the video version of my rants on YouTube is that it's really easy for people to comment on the videos. Sometimes this is a generic compliment, sometimes it's a neat idea that I hadn't thought about before, and sometimes it's just vile moose crap. So, naturally, we're going to be wrapping this season up with some of that. But not all at once. Here's a look at some of the notes I received, in the last couple of months on "Bored on the Corner".

In "Psychotic Hatreds", where I first went on about my personal pet peeves, I mentioned that I strongly despise people who call themselves Christians, yet apparently go out of their way to not follow the Gospel at all. Specifically, I talked about the conceited and intolerant views that they often have -- getting on a soapbox and saying that their faith is the only right one, that The Bible is true just because it says it is God's Word, an oddly selfish and greedy lifestyle that Jesus Himself shunned, and so on.

Well, a fellow named "Chaos1286" said "I dont agree... You shouldnt talk about things you dont understand... by this im talking about are certainly entitled to your opinion as an atheist."

Let me start this response very simply: Chaos, I never once said that I am an atheist. Pay attention. If you can't even get such a basic detail as THAT right, you already look like you're yanking my chain. Second, what exactly do I supposedly not understand? Everything that I stated about Christianity comes from actually reading verses from The Gospel, and observations I've made of some of the "truly devout". So if you can show me where Jesus said that being peaceful, modest, and humble is wrong, by all means do so. Good luck.

While it wasn't for the "Smell Test" rant, I did get a bit of flack elsewhere, for criticizing Israel during the Gaza invasion a while back. So first of all, let me make one thing clear: criticizing Israel is not being Anti-Semitic. Anyone who says otherwise is either an idiot or a bully. I'll explain it this way: criticizing Sudan isn't being Anti-Black, criticizing North Korea isn't being Anti-Asian, criticizing North America and Europe isn't being Anti-Christian, so what in the hell would criticing Israel be Anti-Semitic?

The second issue: I don't dispute that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself. However, no one has yet explained to me why it is acceptable for Israel to bulldoze and bomb homes in places that don't belong to it, blow up schools, hospitals, ambulances, and humanitarian missions, and kill three or four times as many women and children as they kill terrorists; yet, Hamas fires a few badly aimed rockets that have killed about a dozen people, and is considered a grave threat to civilization in the Middle East. Please.

The third issue: if you're going to argue with me on this, don't bother presenting anything that comes from the Israeli Defense Force, Israeli Government, Jewish Defence League, or any other blatantly Zionist group. Why? Because they're never going to be honest about what they're doing. I'm amazed to have actually needed to explain this to grown adults, but during a war, people always make this stuff called "propaganda". It consists of half-truths and bald-faced lies, designed to make the author's side look more heroic than it really is. This isn't that strange of a concept; whenever one of us is caught doing something wrong, what's the first thing we do? Make an excuse! Usually a variation of "He started it!"

While we're at it, I also got some comments on my Omar Khadr video from last year, protesting his being beaten and seemingly railroaded, on charges that he threw a grenade at a US Army medic in Afghanistan. I say "railroaded", because the evidence against him is flimsy at best. But, because his family is tied to Al Qaeda, a lot of people seem to think that Omar is already guilty, and basically deserves to be fed to the dogs. Well, the last time I checked, under International Law, Khadr is entitled to a fair trial, due process, presumed innocence until guilt is proven and to not be beaten or tortured by his captors. As soon as we throw that away, we're no better than the animals in the Taliban that we're supposedly wanting to stop.

Furthermore, when the people condemning him on my YouTube page, refer to Afghans as "towelheads and boyfuckers", it's pretty clear what they're really after. Further, I can't help but notice that the sort of people who, like them, refer to those of us with a conscience as "bleeding heart liberals", are invariably sociopaths who don't have hearts in the first place. After all, they never care about helping families leave war zones, or really care about civilians that are killed by white Western armies. Nor do these same people care about the homeless in their own hometowns. So bite me. I'd rather have a "bleeding heart" than a dead soul.

Regarding Prime Minister Harper's chest thumping over passing the stimulus package... Considering that his government has a track record for sneaky, illegal and unconstitutional behaviour, it has absolutely zero right to demand that Parliament just rush the package through without any questions asked. That's like giving someone a baseball bat, a way to lock you in the room with him, and then closing your eyes to pretend everything's alright.

Regarding the school in New Brunswick that is no longer allowing anyone to sing "O, Canada" -- first of all, since making the first video on that, I've been contacted by Canadian citizens, by birth, who refuse to sing the anthemn for moral reasons. Why am I mentioning this? Because naturally, some of the comments I received on that assumed that indignant immigrants are to blame. I'm just pointing out that that's not necessarily true. Anyway, some of the other comments came from people who refused to even stand respectfully for the anthemn. Once again, I ask "Why are you here, if you have such a low opinion of where you live?"

When I went after Bell Canada for holding its customers responsible for hacked phone lines, one of the comments I had on the Comedy Network was to the effect that the customers are to blame, for not keeping their lines secure. First of all, one of the developments of that is that customers who do change their passwords often, are still being hacked and billed. In any event, this person conveniently missed my point: not only is it unconscionable for Bell to bill customers for calls that it knows with absolute certainty that they did not make, but since Bell is directly profiting from a crime wave, then the managers responsible should probably be arrested. That position stands.

When I critcized the RCMP for taking FOREVER to admit that its officers are a little trigger happy with tasers, I got an interesting comment from a gentleman in Ottawa, who supposedly works with the Mounties, and took great offence to the fact that I have an opinion on a high-profile issue, that is being reported all over the media and Internet. I don't care particularly if the man thinks newspapers and TV news constantly lie -- even if that is really foolish and sweeping -- but the fact is that my opinion on Robert Dzekanski's death is based on the UNCUT video that has been on YouTube and several other web sites for the last two years. The video that clearly shows the man was barely armed, not threatening the four heavily armed officers at all, and yet was shot repeatedly with the taser without warning. The last time I checked, I have a right to an opinion in this country, especially one that is based on facts that I've actually bothered to research.

Finally, I've saved the best for last. My most popular rant this time, by far, was my tirade on the controversial show "Toddlers and Tiaras". Many of the comments I received agreed that it was exploitive, but a lot of others said that these sandbox beauty pageants are harmless. To be fair, not all pageants are created equal, as "wvpageantmom" was kind enough to point out. In other words, some are more subdued than others. However, to say that parading little girls around in skimpy clothes, having dance provocatively, sending them to tanning salons, and so on, isn't warping them, is pretty naive if you ask me.

Then, there was "pageantsisterX14" who took it a step further by saying this: "my lilttle sister does glitz pageants nd they SHOULD NOT be illegalized. nd guess wat toddlers and tiaras may film my sister. my little sister is perfect. u just dont like them because u r r ugly nd look like a geeks. so suck it nd dont watch the show if u dont like it! who cares about inner beauty? i dont. it doesnt matter the slitest bit. nither does skool spelling or grammer. only plp who r UGLY care about tht stuuf. an example is u!"

My dear, even I lack the casual brutality, to say what I really feel about you, so I'll defer to Brian Griffin of "Family Guy".

"I think I have a theory about why you're such a bitch. You see, Connie, you're popular because you developed early and started putting out when you were 12, but now, you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror because all you see is a whore. So you pick on Meg to avoid the inevitable realization that once your body is used up by age 19, you're gonna be a worn-out, chalky skin, burlap sack that even your stepdad won't want. How's that? Am I in the ball park?"

One last thing, and then I'm splitting for a few weeks: some people have noticed that I've started using a different sign-off; "That's it for me", rather than "Enough said". That's because some have suggested that it came off as trying to shut out feedback, but since then some have said they miss the old one. So between now and April, how about you tell me which one you prefer? Whichever one wins, I'll start using in Season 4. See you then.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Situation Normal -- All Fucked Up

So the government has finally admitted, what the rest of the world already knew: we are in a recession. What's more, it's affecting everyone. That's particularly evident in Hamilton, where one of our steel mills has shut down for the possibly first time ever. They say that it's only temporary, but strictly speaking that can mean anything from just a week, to over a year. We are definitely in the worst financial shape, since the Great Depression, and what is our government doing about it? Sweet fuck all.

Locally, we still have councillors, citizens, and special interest groups griping about the new stadium that now we pretty much have to build. Now look, here are the facts: the stadium we have right now, is falling to pieces. So unless Hamilton wants to have no outdoor sports at all, we need to build a new one. It has to go somewhere, and no matter where we put it, someone's going to be pissed. That's a fact of life, that you have to live with. More importantly, though, in case no one's noticed, this whole city is going to be a slum very damn quickly, if we don't give the steel mills some kind of business. What better, than to build a stadium in their home town? Oh right, I forgot, Hamilton doesn't believe in taking pride in itself.

Provincially, things aren't much better. At least Premier Dalton McGuinty is trying to invest in an infrastructure, but for some bizzare reason the construction work is being farmed out to places OUTSIDE of Ontario! What the fuck are these guys thinking? We have an auto industry that is bleeding to death, and McGuinty wants our buses to be built in Europe?! AGH!

Then of course, we have the cold-hearted, soulless assholes in Ottawa, otherwise known as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party. After needing to have their arms twisting into doing anything at all about the economy, they've decided to spend most of their time and taxpayers' money, financing a slush fund that has no strings attached at all -- which probably means it's going to mainly go out to Conservative interest groups. Oh, and making ads that attack the opposition -- outside of an election -- accusing them of not being up to the job. That's a little like an emo putting down a schizophrenic, isn't it?

Anyway... when the Stelco plants shut down in Ontario, this was the time for the Harper government to show Canada some leadership. Instead, we have an Industry Minister, who never has any idea what our industries are doing, and a Human Resources Minister who doesn't believe in putting anyone on unemployment insurance. She says that the people ought to be finding work, but what Marie Antoinette doesn't seem to understand is that there is no work. Interestingly enough, the Minister, the Dishonourable Diane Finley, is the Member of Parliament for one of the towns that will be hurt by the steel shut downs. It would be verrry interesting to see what she says now.

It's at times like this, that it's very frustrating to be a Canadian. Every other week, we hear about leaders in third-world countries being overthrown for exact this kind of incompetence and indifference, yet in this country most people can't even be bothered to vote. When are we, as a people, going to find the balls to stand up for ourselves? If we just keep trusting these idiots and lunatics to run things themselves, the Canadian people will die a very slow death. That's it for me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Identity Crisis

(can you tell I struggled with that title?)

There's a man in St. Catherines, named John Fulton, who's in a really sticky situation right now. He owns the Exclusively Women's Fitness Centre in Guelph, and a couple of years ago was approached by a pre-op transsexual, who wanted to join. After some consultation, which I'll elaborate in a minute, Fulton refused, and has found himself before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

Personally, I'm very unsure about how to treat this. On the one hand, if someone does genuinely identify themself as the opposite sex, and they're not allowed to live as such, then it begs the question of which change room, bathroom, etc. he or she is supposed to use. However, if we are to loosen the gender requirements to a matter of personal identity, it doesn't take a genius to see that this can be abused by any predator willing to cross dress, and get a fake ID. The line has to be made clear, for the sakes of all concerned.

That leads me to the specific cause of the uproar here. Mr. Fulton was told by the Human Rights board, that he had to admit the transsexual client. However, they would not tell him, if the other women in his gym could sue him for that. That's ridiculous and completely unfair, in my mind. If the government is going to force someone into a position, they should be firm and clear about that. Otherwise, they shouldn't bother taking a stand in the first place.

So now, Mr. Fulton has been dragged through the mud, for trying to protect himself and his clientele. The transsexual who instigated this, has since gone through the sex change operation to become a woman. And no surprise, the government isn't allowing anyone to discuss the proceedings. It's easy to make a cheap joke here, but this situation is far too serious for that. Everyone needs to be a lot more accountable and honest than they have been. Period. That's it for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Psychotic Hatreds II

This is a follow-up to a few of my previous rants; namely, pet peeves and corporate sillyness. Yes, I know I've done a lot of both lately, but to be honest they're problems that just aren't going away... and thank goodness, because I wouldn't have much of a show. It all goes under what my friend Rich would call a big clusterfuck: companies and their employees having incredibly bad judgement.

I'll start with one that I just ran into the other day: bad maps. I was at the Royal Ontario Museum on the weekend, and got seriously fucking turned around in the place a lot, partly because the odd time that they bother with an in-room map, it pretty much only shows you the area that you can already see. In other words, in a pair of long, rectangular galleries, you might only be able to see two boxes, and it will only show you one that seems to be a lot bigger than the one you're in. My group's first thought was, we're going the wrong way. It turns out the map is really talking about things lurking in blind corners. How the hell are you supposed to tell where you are, on a map like that?

Another thing that grinds my gears, are some of the snack stands at movie theatres. I'm trying not to paint all of them with the same brush -- after all, even though they're expensive, they at least give you a lot of bang for the buck, most of the time. But, is it really too much to ask, that they don't pile on a lot more popcorn or french fries, than the cup can ever hold? Does it honestly not occur to these people, that I'd like to actually eat my snack, instead of spilling it all over the floor?

Finally, I'd like to say something about the graphics, on CHCH's newscasts -- and thereby destroy whatever chance I had at ever getting a job there. I know that nobody's spelling is perfect, and sometimes you have to rush a story on the air, but is it really too much to ask that whoever makes the station's captions, know how to spell things like "Weekend"? Or "Tonight"? Even a spellchecker will catch things like that, for crying out loud! Is it even too much effort to turn that on? Or, here's a wacky thought, they could hire someone who at least passed High School English in the last ten years.

So look, this stuff might or might not make a difference, because little of it is going to hurt the bottom line. But honestly, why would anyone want to run a company that makes such sloppy mistakes like that? I can only assume that they're either off their rockers, or have a strong enough sense of humour to be able to live with this. Actually, now that I think about it, that's not such a bad thing. Whatever drugs you're on, where can I get some? I'm just kidding of course, but that's it for me.