Child Soldiers 'No Bar' for US Aid

After just prosecuting Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr for war crimes, is it any wonder that Obama isn't trying to stop the use of child soldiers. Peacenik fully expects the age for joining the U.S. Military to soon drop to say 10 or 12 years of age. I mean if you can sentence a 10 year old to life in prison, they should be able to handle a couple of tours of duty in Afghanistan. The civilized world is in full retreat, and the U.S.A is leading the way.

Obama administration decides to continue funding to Chad, Yemen, Sudan and DRC though they use children in armed forces.

In a decision critics say has undermined a powerful new law, the United States has decided to turn a blind eye to four countries that use child soldiers in their armed forces.
[Rebel groups like Sudan's Justice and Equality Movement, shown in  this video frame, use child soldiers. The United States will exempt four  governments from penalties for doing so. (Al-Jazeera)]Rebel groups like Sudan's Justice and Equality Movement, shown in this video frame, use child soldiers. The United States will exempt four governments from penalties for doing so. (Al-Jazeera)
In a brief and little-noticed announcement on Monday, the White House said Barack Obama, the president, had decided to exempt Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and Yemen from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which prohibits funding for foreign governments' militaries if they recruit or use child soldiers.

On Thursday, Foreign Policy magazine posted online a nine-page memo from Obama to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, that linked the continuation of funding to US counterterrorism efforts in some of those countries.

Read on...


Dude: Where's Punditman's Country?

punditman says...
Antiwar.com's Jason Ditz yesterday said it "ought to be shocking to Canadians" that their government issued a "collective yawn" regarding the Omar Khadr confession, and that "some reports had Khadr pleading guilty in the hopes of being returned to Canada instead of spending the rest of his life in military prisons." He thinks that this government "would generally act as an advocate for its citizens when they get detained by a foreign power..."

Ditz, a well-meaning American, is perhaps a tad naive when it comes to assessing the mindset of the Harper government, or perhaps, the country in general right now. Punditman suspects, unfortunately, that the Harperites are not alone in their yawns. The problem goes beyond the Omar Kadre case. It is cultural and crosses party lines.

In fact, there is a rather disturbing trend when it comes to the erosion of human rights in Canada in general. It has been happening for years but culminated in the appalling abuse of power and anti-democratic measures imposed by the Ontario Liberal government and the police and security forces hired during the G-20 last June. This spawned the travesty of justice that is the Alex Hundert case, and the ludicrous case of "Officer Bubbles" trying to sue people on Youtube for expressing their opinions about him being...well...a jackass!

That's an opinion by the way. Does punditman now get sued as well? How have we allowed this alarming erosion of our rights to happen?

Punditman is afraid the answer may be that many Canadians are actually cheering this anti -civil liberties trend that appears to be infecting the populace like a nasty viral infection. That's what a permanent War on of Terror does. First it turns citizens into cowards; then it sickens the body politic itself. Are basic human rights and free speech that fragile? Dude, where's punditman's country?


Wikileaks Files Show 'Truth' On Iraq: Assange

Well the Wikileaks files on Iraq are getting some media attention. But between NFL football, MLB playoffs and the start of the NHL season Peacenik hasn't noticed much coverage on the television. And of course the corrupt CNN would rather talk about false charges against Julian Assange than actually discuss the files. Move along, nothing to see here. Just a few thousand war crimes. And a bunch of propaganda.>

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks during a news conference about the internet release of secret documents about the Iraq War, in London October 23, 2010. Wikileaks released nearly 400,000 classified U.S. files on the Iraq war on Friday, some detailing gruesome cases of prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces that the U.S. military knew about but did not seem to investigate.

LONDON -- WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange said Saturday that hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents leaked by the website showed the 'truth' on the Iraq war.

"This disclosure is about the truth," Assange told a news conference in London after WikiLeaks released 400,000 documents which give a grim snapshot of the Iraq war, including showing the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.

"The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends," Assange added. Profile of the WikiLeaks founder

"We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded."
Read on....

Child Soldier, Omar Khadr, Pleads Guilty in Plea Agreement

Peacenik doesn't understand why a child soldier is being charged with anything. But when the U.S. is making the rules anything can happen. Disgusting. As is the Harper governments silence. Time to bring the troops home now. And Omar Khadr

[Khadr's defense team say he was pushed into fighting the US by his  father, said to be a close associate of Osama bin Laden. Human rights  defenders have criticised Barack Obama, the US president, for seeking to  prosecute Khadr.]

Khadr's defense team say he was pushed into fighting the US by his father, said to be a close associate of Osama bin Laden. Human rights defenders have criticised Barack Obama, the US president, for seeking to prosecute Khadr.

A Canadian prisoner in Guantanamo Bay has pleaded guilty to killing an American soldier while he was a young teenager as part of a deal that will allow him to avoid a war crimes trial.

Omar Khadr on Monday pleaded guilty to five charges, including murder, for throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan in 2002. He was just 15 at the time of the incident, which occurred during a fierce firefight at an al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan.

Khadr, now 24, also admitted to planting improvised explosive devices and receiving weapons training from al-Qaeda. His defence lawyers say that because Khadr was a child when the offences occurred, he should not be tried for war-crimes.

Read on...


The Man in Black

punditman says...This is one of punditman's favourite songs to listen to and play on guitar. Listen to the song carefully. It is soulful and timeless. Poverty, sickness, injustice, charity, drug addiction, war -- they are all there.  This part always makes punditman choke up:
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,

Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.
 Punditman just noticed a headline that said 10 US marines were killed in Afghanistan last week. Many of the issues JC sang about are even more relevant today than in 1971. Listen to Johnny Cash. It is good for you. Have an inspiring weekend. 

WikiLeaks near release of secret US war documents

Peacenik seems to recall that the Pentagon Papers were credited with changing the public's perception of the Vietnam War. The New York Times published them. Major news. Peacenik thinks the mainstream media's coverage of new WikiLeaks will be minimal. The media has been totally neutered and co-opted. Western mainstream media has become Pravda. And the media doesn't care. And the public doesn't care. Peacenik wonders if anything can light a fire under the anti-war movement. At least the French haven't lost their ability to protest. Of course those protests don't warrant much coverage by the mainstream media either. The U.S. population must watch news reports of French riots uncomprehendingly. Just as they watch news reports of Wall Street corruption, war crimes, unemployment, fraud and violence in the U.S. Uncomprehendingly.

File - The Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington, in  this March 27, 2008 file photo. The WikiLeaks website appears close to  releasing what the Pentagon fears is the largest cache of secret U.S.  documents in history _ hundreds of thousands of intelligence reports  compiled after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In a message posted to its  Twitter page on Thursday Oct. 21, 2010, the organization said there was a  "major WikiLeaks press conference in Europe coming up." (AP  Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
File - The Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington, in this March 27, 2008 file photo. The WikiLeaks website appears close to releasing what the Pentagon fears is the largest cache of secret U.S. documents in history _ hundreds of thousands of intelligence reports compiled after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In a message posted to its Twitter page on Thursday Oct. 21, 2010, the organization said there was a "major WikiLeaks press conference in Europe coming up." (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) (Charles Dharapak - AP)

LONDON -- The WikiLeaks website is poised to release what the Pentagon fears is the largest cache of secret U.S. documents in history - hundreds of thousands of classified intelligence reports since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

U.S. officials said Friday they were racing to contain the damage from the imminent release, while NATO's top official told reporters he feared that lives could be put at risk by the mammoth disclosure.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said any release would create "a very unfortunate situation."

"I can't comment on the details of the exact impact on security, but in general I can tell you that such leaks ... may have a very negative security impact for people involved," he told reporters Friday in Berlin following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Read on....


Obama administration defends Bush era abuses of power

punditman says...Here's Keith Olbermann interviewing Jonathan Turley about the Obama administration's Department of Justice protecting former Bush administration officials like Attorney General Ashcroft against liability for their War on Terror abusessuch as arbitrary detention of Muslim immigrants. It gets worse: the present administration wants to enshrine in law their ability to do exactly the same things. In the words of Turley, "This precedent will bare a horrible fruit."


Britain Details Radical Cuts in Spending, Citing Debt

Coming to a country near you. Maybe even your country. Sovereign debt levels are unsustainable. The black hole of debt that Peacenik has been watching for years is sucking economies and societies into it, faster and faster. The Brits are even going to cut military spending and of course welfare. Ireland has just about disappeared down the drain. The French are at the abyss.

And what about Canada? Canada is facing record debt levels, a collapsing economy, soaring unemployment and the pricking of a U.S. style housing bubble. Peacenik wonders how Canadians will respond to the inevitable British medicine. Peacenik wonders how you will respond. Peacenik wonders how Peacenik will respond.

LONDON — Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled the country’s steepest public spending cuts in decades on Wednesday, sharply reducing welfare benefits and eliminating almost half a million public sector jobs over the next four years as the country seeks to free itself of crushing debt from the global financial crisis.

“Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink,” George Osborne, the Chancellor, told Parliament.

“It is a hard road but it leads to a better future,” he said, but “to back down now would be the road to economic ruin.”

He said that 490,000 public sector jobs would be lost over the four-year savings program and the size of government departments in London would be cut by one third. Public spending would be cut by a total 83 billion pounds, or around $130 billion, by 2015.

Read on....


New generation lacks 'cohesion' of the 1960s, iconic folksinger says

punditman says...Wondering where the antiwar movement is? According to Joan Baez, it is dispersed amongst 400 other issues, that's where. And when you dilute something, it loses its potency. Punditman also thinks Bush was such an easy target, that once he was gone, peace activists sort of melted away. But still the war drags on...

The gentle urgency of Joan Baez's stunning vibrato on "We Shall Overcome" turned the song into an anthem for the antiwar movement on the 1960s. Back then, it seemed possible for music to galvanize a generation into calling for peace. 

That was a long time ago, observed the legendary folksinger during a recent phone interview, and things have changed. In addition to the war in Afghanistan, today's youth have to deal with everything from environmental catastrophes to economic ones.

"It isn't like a community of people working for the same thing," Baez says. "The only thing that's missing is the feeling of cohesion. By circumstances, that's what you had in the '60s and early '70s. It was a perfect storm. It was by chance that I was there and involved in it, but now without the antiwar movement being the central issue, with 400 issues instead, it's very difficult for people to feel that cohesiveness."

Even the optimism she felt when U.S. President Barack Obama was elected is beginning to slide, largely because of the U.S troops in Afghanistan, "which makes absolutely no sense from any angle" Baez can see.

Keep Reading...


Do the Harperites even care they lost UN bid?

punditman says... 
Punditman agrees with the sentiments expressed below in Peacenik's post.  If you go against key UN initiatives, don't expect to win a seat on the UN Security Council. Actually, while watching the news last night, Punditman got the distinct impression the Harper gov't didn't really care about getting a UN Security Council seatif you consider their lame, last minute lobbying efforts compared to that of Portugal's. And when you view their policies as a whole, it begins to look like a clear strategy to lose international goodwill. Aside from the reasons for failure listed by the Council of Canadians below, here are a few others, courtesy of the Creekside blog: 
It would seem that such international policies as:

1) unstinting support for everything Israel
2) actively undermining the Copenhagen summit climate talks
3) delaying debt relief to Africa to advance the interests of a Canadian mining company
4) flip flopping hostility to China
5) snubbing an International Aids Conference held in Canada
6) cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
7) refusal to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and
8) blowing off UN talks on nuclear proliferation, global peace and climate change in favour of a photo op at a Tim Hortons
do not ultimately translate into votes for a seat on the Security Council at the UN after all. Who knew? In his UN defeat speech, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon graciously blamed the failure on Michael Ignatieff - three separate times. Wanker.

For Immediate Release
October 12, 2010

UN Security Council loss a direct result of Harper’s policies, says Council of Canadians

Ottawa – The Council of Canadians is blaming the Harper government for Canada’s loss in its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council today.

The organization argues this historic loss is a direct result of the Harper government’s refusal to recognize the human right to water, being virtually alone in not signing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and consistently undermining action on climate change in Canada and internationally. For the past 18 months, the Council of Canadians has argued that Harper government must reverse its position on these key issues in order to demonstrate that it deserves a seat on the Security Council.

“The Harper government has been the only government in the world to be consistently against these major UN initiatives and worse, has been actively working to undermine these treaties and efforts,” says Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow. “With the Security Council vote the other 191 member states have sent a clear message that these positions are not in alignment with UN norms and that Canada cannot deny its UN obligations and still expect to be welcomed onto the Security Council.”

The Council of Canadians hopes that this vote will be a wake-up call for all Canadians that after almost five years in power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has diminished Canada’s international standing to the point that what is normally a rubber-stamp for Canada to take our regular rotation on the Security Council has become a national embarrassment.

“Mr. Harper has let Canadians down in this historic loss, but he should not retreat to the G8 as his preferred body for decision-making,” says Council of Canadians director of campaigns and communications Brent Patterson. “We hope that Mr. Harper takes from this defeat a recognition of the need for real action on Indigenous rights, the right to water, and climate change to begin to regain the world's trust, and commit to these issues through the UN.”

In May, the Council of Canadians hand delivered a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing concerns about positions the Harper government has taken on water, the climate and Indigenous rights. In September, the Council of Canadians faxed a letter to the 192 permanent missions at the United Nations outlining these concerns.


For More Information:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685


Canada loses bid for UN Security Council seat

Peacenik can only chuckle and shake Peacenik's head. Our great neo con Prime Minister, Stevie Harper, humiliated at the U.N. Nine years of ass kissing in Afghanistan and the U.N. slaps Canada's face. Good for the U.N. Unfortunately this will probably inspire Harper to redouble our warmaking efforts. Let's add some useless tanks, and some weapons of mass destruction to Canada's arsenal, then maybe Canada will get the respect Harper so clearly desires. Fiasco. Boondoggle. Fuck up. Bring the troops home now.

OTTAWA - In a stunning swipe Tuesday at Canada's foreign policy shift under the Conservative government, United Nations voters rejected Canada's bid for a seat on the prestigious Security Council.
After trailing in two rounds of balloting at the UN General Assembly in New York, Canada withdrew its bid for a Security Council seat.
As recently as two weeks ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pitched Canada's candidacy for the Security Council to the 192 member countries at the UN.
But despite depositing bottles of maple syrup on the desks of voters Tuesday and bringing in some uniformed Mounties as part of a last-minute pitch for support, UN voters soundly rejected Canada's bid for a seat.
Read on...

Wall Street May Break Pay Record -- Again

Peacenik says this story about record Wall Street compensation. The too big to fail banks and Wall St. firms are bankrupt. They only exist by phony accounting rules. Their executives should be in jail. But wait. Another story heralds the rise of the GOP. The same lying, incompetent, corrupt, warmongers who led the world into this mess are about to take over congress. But wait. The Washington Post reports progress in Afghanistan. Of course this is simply propaganda. But nothing is too preposterous for the neo con pages of the Post. The United States is going crazy. Is crazy. It is a symptom of collapse. The death rattle of a society. And unfortunately it will be the tea partiers, the birthers, fascists, and the kooks who will emerge to start something new. And something very bad.

Wall Street is on track to pay its employees $144 billion this year, breaking a record for the second year in a row, the Wall Street Journal reports. Despite financial reform intended to curb compensation, and a steep decline in trading volume, pay in the financial services industry has shown few signs of fading.
Pay is expected to rise at 26 out of the 35 firms according to the WSJ. According to it's analysis, the $144 billion overall figure is a 4 percent increase over last year's $139 billion. Revenue on Wall Street grew only 3 percent this year, the WSJ says, but, unlike at some businesses outside the financial sector, employee compensation remains a high priority.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, passed in July, gives regulators the power to write rules governing executive pay. But it remains to be seen how effective -- or restrictive -- those rules will be. Last month, regulators from the SEC, the FDIC and the Federal Reserve testified before the House Financial Services Committee, to explain how they intended to curb executive compensation. But as the rule-making is still in progress, the conversation included few specific strategies or numbers.

Read on...


Salutin gone, punditman boycotts

punditman says...It could be said that young Punditman began his media monitoring and citizenship development by reading his Dad's Globe and Mail. Granted, young punditman started by checking NHL scores and standings in the paper's sports section, but, hey, every media critique has to start somewhere.

Sadly, punditman's decades-old Globe and Mail buying and reading spree has come to an abrupt end. Since finding out that they "fired" left-leaning and thought-provoking columnist, Rick Salutin, punditman now officially refuses to buy their rag.

"Fired"? What for? It can't simply be that the old warhorse didn't suit the paper's redesign and new look (arrghh, it's ugly!). After all, there are plenty of other oldsters still on G&M staff who could just as easily be put out to pasture (think Wente here, who, when she steps outside her comfort zone of whiny personal tales, irritates even the most jaded corporate media monitor). Whatever you think of any particular column she writes, it will almost always escape the label of being "too intellectual."

And isn't that just what the corporatist media moguls and their elitist overseers want? Don't think. Don't question. Don't ask deep questions about Harper's ideology or the expansionist/occupier/oppressor role that Israel has towards the Palestinians or the Rob Ford mayoralty candidacy, all of which Salutin did with great insight. Though he could be considered part of what Bruce Cockburn once labeled the "non-specific left," Salutin is not the Stalinist ideologue that his dim-witted critics claim. Far from it, he  is something much more threatening: an independent thinker. Part of a dying breed.

To add insult to injury, Salutin's employer  of twenty years cut the last paragraph of his last column, about the Rob Ford phenomenon, apparently because the paper doesn't allow "audience farewells." How petty. How mean. How very Harperesque. Fortunately, the complete column can be read at rabble, over here.

Why was Rick Salutin fired? Punditman says boycott the Globe and Mail now. Punditman says Rick Salutin is a great Canadian.


Canadian pullout could threaten Afghan mission, senior NATO officer says

Shouldn't all these military types just shut their collective pie holes. Peacenik thought civilians ran the military. Peacenik has lost track of how long NATO has been in Afghanistan. One day was one day too many. Canada's departure could threaten the Afghan mission. What mission was that? There is no mission. There never was a mission. Just one big boondoggle. Bring the troops home now.

Canada's plan to bring its troops home from Afghanistan next year has the potential to hurt NATO's chances of success in Kandahar, a senior officer with the coalition said Wednesday.

Col. Dave Bellon, who is the chief of operations for NATO soldiers in southern Afghanistan, indicated that the United States would be left picking up the slack after the Canadian withdrawal.

Canadian soldiers are scheduled to begin returning home in July 2011, which Col. Bellon said would be at a critical juncture in the mission.

Read on...


Ayn Rand Conservatism at Work -- Firefighters Let Family's House Burn Down Because Owner Didn't Pay $75 Fee

Yep, society don't need no social safety net. And by the way this is the type of conservatism that Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty believe in. Kids dying of abscessed teeth within shouting distance of the White House. Kids starving all over America. Tent cities. Hobos. Health care? What that? And the goofballs voting these jerks into office are the same ones who will bear the brunt of Ann Rand conservatism. They'll call it freedom. Peacenik calls it stupidity.

Talk of limited government is appealing until you see what it actually means in practice: a society in which it's every man for himself.

Thanks to 30 years of right-wing demagoguery about the evils of “collectivism” and the perfidy of “big government” -- and a bruising recession that’s devastated state and local budgets -- we’re getting a peek at a dystopian nightmare that may be in our not-too-distant future. It’s a picture of a society in which “rugged individualism” run amok means every man for himself.

Call it Ayn Rand’s stark, anti-governmental dream come true, a vision that last week turned into a nightmare for Gene Cranick, a rurual homeowner in Obion County, Tennessee. Cranick hadn’t forked over $75 for the subscription fire protection service offered to the county’s rural residents, so when firefighters came out to the scene, they just stood there, with their equipment on the trucks, while Cranick’s house burned to the ground. According to the local NBC TV affiliate, Cranick “said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.”

Read on...


Is this the start of the Cyber Wars?

punditman says...Is the Stuxnet computer worm the start of the Cyber Wars? As Iran tries to stop a mutating virus that is damaging their industrial infrastructure, punditman wonders if we are heading towards A Taste of Armageddon. Our future may well imitate science fiction.

TEHRAN - Iran suspects that a foreign organization or nation designed "Stuxnet," a quickly mutating computer worm that has been infiltrating industrial computer systems in the Islamic republic, a high-ranking official said Monday.

"We had anticipated that we could root out the virus within one to two months," Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's Information Technology Co., a part of the ministry of communication and information technology, told the Islamic Republic News Agency. "But the virus is not stable, and since we started the cleanup process three new versions of it have been spreading," he said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the worm and no entity or country has been definitively identified as its source.

It is the first known case of malware designed to sabotage an industrial control system. "We've never seen anything like this before," said Liam O'Murchu, a researcher with the security firm Symantec. "It's very dangerous."