Thursday, April 20, 2006

Drug War Hypocrisy

The war on drugs is one of the main sources of hypocricy. Never mind the Oxycontin-addicted bloviater Rush Limbaugh. How about this?

As you may know, Canada has a much more liberal attitude towards soft drugs, and has been a hair's breadth away from legalising marijuana on several occasions, most recently in the last couple of years. In every instance, pressure from the U.S. has caused the Canadian government to cancel legislation to decriminalise or legalise this harmless substance. In the most recent case, the American ambassador threatened trade sanctions, claiming that border security would have to be increased, and all truck traffic across our mutual border inspected. With the majority of Canada's foreign trade being with the U.S., this would have been devastating for Canadian businesses.

During this period, U.S. drug enforcement authorities targetted Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery, arranging for his arrest and extradition to the U.S., where he faces hard time.
Only months before Emery's arrest, another prominent case involving Canadian relations with the U.S. was in the news. That was the story of Illinois Air National Guard Major Harry Schmidt. Schmidt, you may recall, disobeying direct orders from controllers, attacked a Canadian contingency of troops near Kandahar in Afghanistan, killing four soldiers and wounding eight more. A military court investigating the incident gave Schmidt and his wingman, Maj. Umbach a mere slap on the wrist for this tragic and deadly error in judgement.
The reason for the court's leniency? Schmidts responsibility for his own reckless behaviour was diminished by the fact that he had been issued amphetamine 'go pills' before the mission, which clouded his judgement and made him act in a more aggressive manner.

Judge for yourself between these two cases:

Marc Emery, charged with selling marijuana seeds over the internet, faces possible life imprisonment.

Harry Schmidt was charged with four counts of manslaughter, and eight of aggravating assault, as well as dereliction of duty. All charges except the dereliction were dropped. The dereliction charge was then move from criminal to a 'non-judicial' forum (I don't really understand what that means, not being familiar with U.S. military legal procedures). Scmidt's case was resolved in July, 2004. Harry's eventual punishment for killing 4 and wounding 8 was the loss of 2 months pay, about $5700 and a reprimand.

This from Wikipedia:
The letter of reprimand, written by Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, 8th Air Force Commander, said Schmidt had "flagrantly disregarded a direct order", "exercised a total lack of basic flight discipline", and "blatantly ignored the applicable rules of engagement."
On July 8, 2004, Schmidt's lawyer Charles Gittins announced plans to appeal the ruling and to file a lawsuit against the Air Force over the public release of documents in the case.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bear Attacks Sub

During the ICEX 2003 naval exercises near the North Pole, the American submarine Connecticut (SSN 22) poked its sail and rudder through the ice. The sub surfaced in an area of polar ice between Alaska and the North Pole. Subs in the arctic have long ago learned to look out for polar bears, especially if some of the crew are allowed out on the ice. In this case, a large (700-800) pound polar bear was seen approaching the sub. For about 40 minutes, the bear loitered around the subs rear rudder.
It took a bite out of the rudder and, finding it inedible, stayed around the area of broken ice around the rudder for a while, apparently thinking a seal (the bears favorite food) might use it as an air hole. The bear finally left when he heard the noise of an approaching helicopter. When an officer first looked around outside via the periscope, he noted that his sub was being stalked by a hostile polar bear. The periscope cam was turned on, and these photos of a polar bear chewing on the subs rear rudder resulted. The damage was said to be minor. The SSN 22 is a Seawolf class boat, one of the navy's newest submarines. It wasn't designed as a polar bear snack, but that's how life is sometimes.

The bear that represents me on my blogger profile is named Barney. He is also representative of my opinion of the Canadian military. If you're old enough to remember the Andy Griffith show from the 1960's, Barney Fife was Andy's inept deputy. So inept, in fact, that he was only allowed to have one bullet for the pistol he wore. On top of that, he was not allowed to actually load the bullet into the pistol, but carried it buttoned up in his shirt pocket. The Canadian military is a lot like Barney Fife. Except, without the bullet.

Oh, almost forgot the attribution:
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