Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Amir Taheri meets with Bush

Editor of the Iranian state newspaper under the Shah while he was clinging to power by his fingertips with death squads and torture chambers working around the clock, still a droolingly obsequious monarchist after all these years and of course, the author of the "Iran's going to make Jews wear yellow badges JUST LIKE THE NAZIS DID!' fraud, Amir Taheri met with Bush Tuesday.

He was there as a representative of the 'Iranian opposition' which ignores that the Iranian people, as much as they have come to hate the Mulluhs don't have fond memories of the Shah's regime either.

Taheri has said the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would be for Israel to simply 'declare victory' over the Palestinians and thinks the Iraq war is going swimmingly.

With this kind of advice it's easy to see why Bush's foreign policy is going so well.

Geneva Convention

Newsnet and the Globe and Mail just announced that Canadian troops will not be applying the Geneva Convention to any prisoners in Afghanistan because it's not really a war.

Well number one, this is an idea that's worked really well for the Americans isn't it?

Number two, the whole point of the Convention is self protection. How can we expect or at least hope for Convention appropriate behavior if any of the various forces fighting in Afghanistan ever take Canadian forces prisoner?

Number three, considering how alienated the Afghanis are towards the selfless folks 'protecting' them, doing something like this will likely contribute to that. Currently coalition forces are dodging rocks and mobs as Afghanis rage against coalition forces after a lethal traffic accident. They've been complaining for awhile over the American habit of barreling down narrow streets at high speed ignoring traffic laws. Coalition officers claim it's a security measure, to the Afghanis in the street it looks like contempt for their lives.

Number four, weren't all the pundits, military reps and government MPs making a big point a few weeks ago about how this operation wasn't peace keeping, that our forces were at war? Now we aren't, when it might require following international norms in the treatment of prisoners.

This is just an astonishingly bad idea.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad interviewed in Der Spiegel

Conducted by Der Spiegel in Tehran and translated and re-published in Salon.

He ducks and weaves, dodges questions he doesn't like and tries very hard to appear reasonable and relaxed with the German reporters when he'd clearly seems like he'd enjoy getting them in a dark cell with some pliers and getting medieval on their asses.

He seems to have decided that the Holocaust was a myth cooked up to justify stealing Palestinian land. And if it did happen than it was Europeans fault and Europeans should supply Jews with a homeland in Europe. His unwillingness to accept that Israel is a fact and uprooting millions of Jews is simply not going to happen is a sign of a mystical, even millenarian mind-set. The whole waiting for the Twelth Iman, Muslim apocalypse idea is very compatible with the way he talks here.

The Iranians actually have a lot in common with Americans right now: A liberal secular population, an unpopular extremist government, and a leader with apocalyptic religious beliefs and a contempt for the 'reality based' community willing to flout international human rights norms.

One particularly interesting section:

Spiegel: The Palestinians have long gone a step further than you and recognize Israel as a fact, while you still wish to erase it from the map. The Palestinians are ready to accept a two-state solution, while you deny Israel its right to existence.

Ahmadinejad: You're wrong. You saw that the Palestinian people elected Hamas in free elections. We argue that neither you nor we should claim to speak for the Palestinian people. The Palestinians themselves should say what they want. In Europe it is customary to call a referendum on any issue. We should also give the Palestinians the opportunity to express their opinion.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has suggested, or more accurately threatened, the same thing but Hamas desperately wants to avoid it, as current polls suggest something like 80% of Palestinians would vote for a two-state solution implicitly recognizing Israel's right to exist.

The success of moderate forces among the Palestinians of course, would be seen as a worst case scenario to Iran's Mullahs, but also to an Israeli government who see an opportunity to commit a massive land grab under the pretext of having no one to negotiate with. Speaking of the occupied territories to Congress Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said:

"I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land."

The more radical and violent the Palestinians can be painted, the better Israel's chance of keeping almost all of it and imposing unconnected, non-viable bantustans, with no travel or water rights on the millions of Palestinians crammed into them.

And a nice high wall to hide their suffering.

Apparently Apotex Inc decided it might be nice to own a Prime Minister

C'mon, lots of teenagers want to contribute over $5000 to aging Liberal Party hacks.

It would take a very devious mind to find something unsavory in twenty Apotex directors, executives and various family members, including four children collectively donating over $100,000 to Joe Volpe's leadership campaign, over 70% of his total war chest.

You're cynical, that's what you are.

The three expressions of Guy Goma

From Piece O Plastic, by way of the Toronto Star:


For those who haven't heard the story, Guy Goma was at the BBC offices applying for a tech job. At the same time, an expert on music and copyright law, also with the first name Guy was there to be interviewed - you can probably guess what happens next as Guy realizes what he thought was his job interview is going out live...

Neo-Hollywood-Colonialism

Am I the only one who finds the way Brangelina basically dictated terms to the sovereign country of Namibia a little icky?

Granted between the two of them they probably have a bigger GDP than the entire impoverished African nation -median income: $2,400 per year- which is precisely what's so creepy and exploitative about the pathetically eager willingness of Namibia's government to cater to their every whim rather than have them leave. Including throwing out all the media rather than have the blessed event of their child's birth in any way intruded upon.

Granted they donated tons of cash to local hospitals, there will be some Namibian children better off because of their visit, but it's a little toxic isn't it, that their celebrity gets them treated like deities?

Does the global economy now have an aristocracy of mega-celebrities who literally constitute the power and influence of huge international corporations? Will the new status symbol in Hollywood be a third world nation falling at your feet?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Haditha.

The US military are turning inward in Iraq, holing up in 'superbases', the FOBs. The Forward Operating Bases dot the Iraqi outback. Almost invisible just a few miles outside of cities but within easy deployment range . The bases aren't what you'd expect, encircled khaki-clad small town America with main streets, theatres and fast food joints. The young soldiers have taken the suburban wasteland with them into the Iraqi wasteland.

The FOBs make it clear that the US has no intention of going anywhere.
There will be a withdrawal, probably sooner rather than later, but a core of several thousand American soldiers are going to be a permanent presence in Iraq. Indefinitely.

Haditha is a small river town in the heart of the Sunni triangle. It's the kind of town occupying soldiers hate. The insurgents rule and you don't know who they are until you're already bleeding.

Marines are de-humanized, as a matter of policy, in basic training. The explicit stated goal is to break young men down, break them to discipline, break the visceral human empathy and learned morality that will keep them from doing their jobs. From Killing.

Combat files away even more of the human, but interacting with the prisoner population - that is, everybody - is the ultimate de-humanizing phenomena. Nothing else even comes close.

People become blurs. Watched only for weapon silhouette or bomb vest bulkiness. Become gooks or ragheads. Not human.

What's left after all the human is taken away?

Haditha.

Twenty-four dead civilians. Men, women, children, murdered on their feet and on their knees. Then in the final act of contempt their lives swept under a rug by commanders and investigators. Whatever credibility the US government thought they had in Iraq is gone.

Hence, the heavily armed feudal castles dotted among the restive serfs.

The greatest foreign policy disaster in American history continues.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The National Post's hidden apology

The original disgraceful story was on the front pager under a pandering photo of a Jewish couple in occupied Europe wearing the yellow stars. It was available on-line and in it's online form probably had millions of hits.

The insulting weasel-worded retraction by contrast is hidden behind a subscriber window, and buried deep in the site. Following in the footsteps of Canadian Journalist I'm presenting the whole 'apology' here.

Wednesday May 24 2006

Our mistake: Note to readers

Douglas Kelly
National Post

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Last Friday, the National Post ran a story prominently on the front
page alleging that the Iranian parliament had passed a law that, if
enacted, would require Jews and other religious minorities in Iran to
wear badges that would identify them as such in public. It is now
clear the story is not true. Given the seriousness of the error, I
felt it necessary to explain to our readers how this happened.

The story of the alleged badge law first came to us in the form of a
column by Amir Taheri. Mr. Taheri, an Iranian author and journalist,
has written widely on Iran for many major publications. In his
column, Mr. Taheri wrote at length about the new law, the main
purpose of which is to establish an appropriate dress code for
Muslims. Mr. Taheri went on to say that under the law, "Religious
minorities would have their own colour schemes. They will also have
to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-
Islamic faith."

This extraordinary allegation caught our attention, of course. The
idea that Iran might impose such a law did not seem out of the
question given that its President has denied the Holocaust and
threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." We tried to contact Mr.
Taheri, but he was in transit and unreachable.

The editor who was dealing with Mr. Taheri's column wrote to Rabbi
Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles. The Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human
rights organization that keeps a close watch on issues affecting the
treatment of Jews around the world, and maintains contacts in many
countries, including Iran. Asked about the specific allegation that
Iran had passed a law requiring religious minorities to identify
themselves, Rabbi Cooper replied by e-mail that the story was
"absolutely true." When a reporter spoke to Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean
of the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a short while later, Rabbi
Hier said the story was true and added that the organization had sent
a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking him to take up the
matter. (Rabbi Hier has since said that, contrary to the
understanding of the reporter, the Wiesenthal Center had not
independently confirmed Mr. Taheri's allegation.)

The reporter also spoke with two Iranian exiles in Canada -- Ali
Behroozian in Toronto and Shahram Golestaneh in Ottawa. Both said
that they had heard the the story of the badges from their contacts
in Iran and they believed it to be true.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department did not respond to questions
about the issue until after deadline, and then only to say they were
looking into the matter. After several calls to the Iranian embassy
in Ottawa, the reporter reached Hormoz Ghahremani, a spokesman for
the embassy. Mr. Ghahremani's response to the allegation was that he
did not answer such questions.

We now had four sources -- Mr. Taheri, the Wiesenthal Center and two
Iranian exiles in Canada -- telling us that according to their
sources the Iranian law appeared to include provisions for compelling
religious minorities to identify themselves in public. Iranian
authorities in Canada had not denied the story. Given the sources,
and given the previous statements of the Iranian President, we felt
confident the story was true and decided to publish it.

The reaction was immediate and distressing. Several experts whom the
reporter had tried unsuccessfully to contact the day before called to
say the story was not true. The Iranian embassy put out a statement
late in the day doing what it had failed to do the day before --
unequivocally deny such a law had been passed.

The reporter continued to try to determine whether there was any
truth to the story. Some sources said there had been some peripheral
discussion in the Iranian parliament of identifying clothing for
minority religions, but it became clear that the dress code bill,
which was introduced on May 14 and has not yet been passed into law,
does not include such provisions.

Mr. Taheri, who had written the column that sparked the story, was
again unreachable on Friday. He has since put out a statement saying
the National Post and others "jumped the gun" in our characterization
of his column. He says he was only saying the provisions affecting
minorities might happen at some point. All of the people who read the
column on the first day took it to mean the measure was part of a law
that had been passed. Mr. Taheri maintains the zonnar, or badges,
could still be put in effect when the dress code law is implemented.

On Saturday, the National Post ran another front-page story above the
fold with the Iranian denial and the comments of the experts casting
doubts on the original story.

It is corporate policy for all of CanWest's media holdings to face up
to their mistakes in an honest, open fashion. It is also the right
thing to do journalistically.

We acknowledge that on this story, we did not exercise sufficient
caution and skepticism, and we did not check with enough sources. We
should have pushed the sources we did have for more corroboration of
the information they were giving us. That is not to say that we
ignored basic journalistic practices or that we rushed this story
into print with no thought as to the consequences. But given the
seriousness of the allegations, more was required.

We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused
not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the
story. We take this incident very seriously, and we are examining our
procedures to try to ensure such an error does not happen again.

Douglas Kelly,

Editor-in-Chief


Copyright © 2006 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest

Evil GOP bastards

Wow.

What can only be called, as entertaining as I find it, an anti-Republican hate site. Think you hate the shrub? You don't hate him as much as these guys do.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Police State Top Ten

The Beast is running the top ten reasons America is slipping into a police state. Agree or disagree, it's a scary collection when viewed in one place.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Harper VS the media

The ongoing cold war between Harper and the media has escalated to a shooting war.

The media's adamant refusal to accept Harper's insistence on changing the established press conference rules could easily be mistaken as a temper tantrum by spoiled media elites - Harpers apologists in the right wing press would certainly like you to come to that conclusion.

But it's worth noting that Harper's 'I'll decide who gets to ask questions' policy is the same policy that has turned the White House press corps into the balless scrotums so effectively skewered recently by Stephen Colbert at the White House correspondents dinner. It's what has kept Helen Thomas, the last real reporter covering the White House side-lined, never called upon because she has a nasty habit of asking real questions. It's what allowed Republican Party plant and occasional male prostitute Jeff Gannon to pose as a real reporter because he could always be depended on for a pro-administration softball question.

Given a choice about who gets to ask questions, will the PMO ever call on a real reporter who asks tough questions? Or would the folks at home come to think the only reporters in Ottawa work for The National Post or Global Television?

Harper is afraid of tough questions, and that's what this is all about.

Da Vinci's real secret?

Warren Ellis wonders how it took them this long...

'Angry' leftists?

Glen Greenwald effectively demolishes the hypocrisy behind right wing vapours over 'angry leftists.'

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Marijuana cancer link debunked?

To the shock of the researchers doing the study, even heavy marijuana use over long periods did not seem to increase the chance of cancer. The same study found a 20-fold increase of cancer for long term tobacco use.

So let's see, while habit forming, marijuana unlike tobacco isn't physically addictive.

Unlike physically addictive alcohol you can't overdose on marijuana. Unlike physically addictive caffine use, marijuana doesn't cause digestive or circulatory system damage, and unlike physically addictive nicotine, marijuana does not appear to lead to cancer.

The legal status of marijuana gets less justifiable all the time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What, you took me seriously...?

Amir Taheri now says it's all a misunderstanding about the difference between a news story and an opinion piece. Others just 'jumped the gun.'

Contrast what he said then and what he's saying now and decide for yourself.

Now:
I have been informed of the ideas under discussion thanks to my sources in Tehran, including three members of the Majlis who had tried to block the bill since it was first drafted in 2004. I do not know which of these ideas or any will be eventually adopted. We will know once the committee appointed to discuss them presents its report, perhaps in September.
Then:

The law … envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean)…

Although the final shape of the uniforms is yet to be established, there is consensus on a number of points… Religious minorities would have their own colour schemes. They will also have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths. Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes while Christians will be assigned the colour red. Zoroastrians end up with Persian blue as the colour of their zonnar.

Um... you were a lot more definite four days ago Amir.

NSA Telco whistle-blower uncut

Wired posted the raw content behind the USA Today story today. As a former Telco employee I can attest to it's aura of accuracy, both in technical details and it's description of the telco corporate culture, notoriously one of the most toxic industries. If you want to refer to these documents later, I'd recommend saving them - this publication could be challenged.

A minor point that I found arresting was the linkage between spying and union busting:
The NOC referred to is in Bridgeton, Missouri, and controls WorldNet operations. (As a sign that government spying goes hand-in-hand with union-busting, the entire (Communication Workers of America) Local 6377 which had jurisdiction over the Bridgeton NOC was wiped out in early 2002 when AT&T fired the union work force and later rehired them as nonunion "management" employees.) The cut-in work was performed in 2003, and since then new circuits are connected through the "splitter" cabinet.
I've been wondering how our own security services interacted with the Telcos - The more union jobs replaced with management or contract positions, the easier to hide something like this. Canadian telcos have down-sized thousands of full time jobs, and replaced them with automation, temps and contract workers, and frequently with management.

People looked at the vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric of Gwyn Morgan and thought the Calgary corporate Oil culture it revealed must be the most right wing in Canada. Compared to the Calgary telecommunications culture the oil guys are fluffy bunnies.

A bizarre mix of Ayn Rand and Maxim magazine, the gold chains and power ties crowd running the telcos have a scary level of open contempt for their employees, it's a very incestuous community - possibly because no one else will have anything to do with them. The bonds of family, marriage and less formal arrangements network the telco management class like a modern day Byzantine aristocracy.

The phone companies and cable operators are locked in a life or death battle for control of the pipe entering your home. It's perhaps instructive that public phone company Sasktel was off the mark and providing IP TV - digital TV though the phone line as a full-fledged product literally years before the private phone companies who are only now getting off the starting block.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Open-source movie financing

Always wanted to make a movie but never thought you could rake up the cash to do so? Some aspiring film-makers are turning to the internet for financing.

The makers of The Fix have a prospectus, a treatment and illustrative photos for an LA road story about drugs and brotherhood. They offer a deal where contributors get a vote on the filmaker's next project in proportion to their contribution to this one.

The makers of horror film Worst Case Scenario promote their film with a moody, atmospheric promo, production DVD sales and a promise to give supporters bit parts.

What's worse than zombies? Zombies with the power of flight of course.

Put these people with the folks starting open-source on-line loan sites, and the cheapness of animation and film editing software and serious feature film-making ceases being exclusively an occupation of elites. DIY was the real lesson of the punk ethos in music, a similar approach to fim-making is more of a practical option than ever.

A tale of two laws

As I write this, some on-line are still defending the accuracy of the original report of the so called 'badges for Jews' law in Iran and are denouncing as 'liberal appeasers' or even 'anti-Semitic' those who pointed out how goofy it was. At the same time the fake Iran story was exploding, an Israeli law that arguably constitutes ethnic cleansing was virtually ignored by the media.

Many embraced the Iran story fiercely, as re-enforcement for a narrative that's been strongly promoted and were unwilling to relinquish it.

The real follow up we should all be doing to this story now, is to take a long hard look at those promoting that narrative, such as Mr Taheri, the Benador Associates group and The National Post and it's own history of distortion and bias. The Post was founded by Conrad Black who also owned the equally right-wing Jerusalem Post. It is currently owned by the Asper family business Can-West.

In the same week this story of a false racist law in Iran blew up into a huge media fire-storm, a real law was approved, albeit barely, by Israel's Supreme Court that splits up marriages and destroys families and has been denounced as a racist law both inside and out of Israel.

While the fake Iranian law was front-page news all over the world, the real Israeli law garnered only a fraction of the false story's attention.

There's an old saying that 'a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still getting it's boots on.'

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Iraq now has it's My Lai?

In November 19 of 2005, 24 Iraqi civilians died in the town of Haditha. Initially the marines involved told their command, and the Navy believed, that the civilians died when their bus was destroyed by a roadside bomb that also killed Lance Corporal Miguel (T.J.) Terrazas, 20, from El Paso, Texas.

In fact, it now appears that the civilians were killed when Lance Corporal Terrazas' enraged fellow soldiers went on a killing spree after his death, breaking into homes near the road and riddling men, women and children with bullets.

Exactly four months later Time Magazine broke the story, reporting a death toll of fifteen civilians and sparking an investigation with the evidence they provided the Pentagon.

On May 17 Congressional Representative Jack Murtha, a senior House Democrat with close ties to the military said "It's much worse than reported in Time magazine." describing overwhelmed soldiers committing mass murder in "cold blood". Murtha was attacked by the usual suspects among the braying mouthpieces of the right-wing media. A cacophony of hatred, including demands for charges of treason and execution.

Now House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is holding oversight hearings over the military's two investigations. Hunter denounced Murtha's claim of overwhelmed marines cracking under the pressure, but raised the death toll from Time's initial fifteen civilians to twenty-four.

The Navy's investigation has found evidence that explicitly contradicts the marine's version of events.

My Lai was 500 murders that were deliberately covered up, Haditha is 24 suspicious deaths that are apparently being seriously investigated. The effects on public opinion both in America and abroad can be expected, in the current climate of opinion, to be just as destructive to the government's narrative of progress and victory.

Friday, May 19, 2006

National Post strives for the standards of Fox News

Curiouser and curiouser.

The Post seems to have crossed the line. They have become blatant propagandists, willing to believe any clearly bogus claim that fits the story-line they're committed too. Even now they are reduced to, "well, it might be true..."

Most mind-blowing section:

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, acknowledged that he did not have independent confirmation of the requirement for Jews to wear badges, but said he still believes it was passed.

"We know that the national uniform law was passed and that certain colours were selected for Jews and other minorities," he said. "[But] if the Iranian government is going to pass such a law then they are not likely to be forthcoming about what they are doing."”


This is one of the most embarrassing things I've ever read - The Post should be ashamed of printing such pandering, arrant nonsense.

How do you enforce a secret law? How would Iran think they could do such a thing without the world knowing? This is just gruesome slobbering crap that should make anyone reading it feel like they've been spat on. The utter contempt for truth and the intelligence of their readers is just stunning.

This has to be answered. The National Post has to run a real retraction rather than this mealy mouthed horseshit. The Americans let their media degrade to the degree that something like Fox News could seem reasonable. Without public shaming on a massive scale the Post will have just taken a giant step towards O'Reilly Land.

Iranian dress-code story questioned

The National Post story on non-Muslims in Iran being forced to wear identifying ribbons set off a fire-storm today. Questioned on it at their joint press conference today Prime Ministers Harper and Howard both deplored the report, but both frequently appended the qualifier 'if true'.

It's beginning to look like that might have been a wise precaution, as the story is already being challenged.

The current hard-line Iranian government has certainly given the impression of being capable of such a move, but the story seems to be based entirely on the word of Iranian exiles living in Canada, which seems a bit like uncritically accepting reports about Cuba from Cuban exiles in Miami.

Again, the story may indeed be true, but uncritically accepting it at this point seems premature.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

National Post to police: we know what you need better than you do.

I read the National Post editorial so you don't have to.

Today's Don Martin column on the gun registry contained this bon mot:
How should a police officer approach a suspicious house whose owner doesn't appear in the registry? Very, very carefully. No officer can have confidence in a tracking system Fraser has twice audited and found so seriously wanting.

Well that sounds convincing, except for being such utter nonsense. How else would a police officer approach a 'suspicious house' except 'very, very carefully'?

The Canadian police use the registry 5000 times a day, shutting it down is strongly opposed by the police, mayors and other officials.

If Don Martin wants to pontificate about what the police should have confidence in, maybe he should get their opinion first.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Clinton: American healthcare system 'insane'

Never really warmed to the guy. Slick Willie always seemed like a really apropo nick-name and the more liberal he sounded the more conservatively he legislated.

Of course, having now seen the alternative, the Clinton years now have a fuzzy golden glow about them with puppies, dot-com IPOs and hummers for all.

You know he would have been on the ground in New Orleans the day after Katrina hugging everybody in sight and under Clinton, Fema was getting high marks for efficiency, competence and the directorship was a cabinet position with full support and access to the President. It didn't take Bush long to turn it into a crony ridden mess.

And give Clinton credit for what he said about the US healthcare system today:

"It is insane," said Clinton. "It is a colossal waste of money. Don't go down that road. Don't do anything that will lead to increased administrative costs."

Clinton was pointing out that Canadian healthcare administrative costs are only 19% of total spending compared to 34% for the American system. He explicitly warned of letting the financial side of healthcare wag the dog over the medical side.

As to the privatization advocates who will frantically hype Clinton's mention of Sweden as an argument for private sector solutions - keep in mind that Sweden's privatization schemes were rejected by the Swedish voters and Sweden is very much returning to the public model for it's efficiencies.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gift to the Gun Lobby

Canadian police officers use the Gun Registry over 5000 times a day.

The last seven murders of police officers in Canada were with rifles. Owners of rifles just became exempt from the Registry's oversight.

I'm angry at the Conservatives for turning their back on their faux law and order rhetoric, removing the weapon responsible for the deaths of so many police officers including so tragically and recently here in Alberta.

I'm furious at the Liberals for the mismanagement and malfeasance that gave the Conservatives the cover they thought they had here - though I believe they may have misjudged the Canadian public on this issue.

The Gun Registry needed to be fixed not killed.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

One in Five

In 2005 twenty-two US soldiers killed themselves in Iraq, making suicide the cause of one in five non-combat deaths of US soldiers last year. This is directly linked to a recruitment crunch forcing the Army to ignore little things like severe mental illness.

The dearth of young American boys willing to plunge themselves into the meat-grinder of Iraq has also led to terrifying recruitment abuses, such as the recruiter who told one teenager he'd be jailed for backing out of a meeting, and the severely autistic boy recruited for the dangerous cavalry scout job. One potential recruit trying to back out was even threatened with a firing squad.

At the same time as one general after another has retired and immediately called for secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to resign for incompetence, among the troops on the ground in Iraq, 72% say the US should exit Iraq within the year.

If the American people really want to support the troops they can bring them home rather than continue feeding them into the hungry maw of the neo-con's imperial ambitions.

Last chance to raid the cookie jar?

Pulitzer nominated journalist Stephen Pizzo elucidates how the Republican congressmen and Senators know they have only a few months of looting time left 'until they're dragged, kicking and screaming, away from the till'.

As Karl Rove, chief Republican mid-term election strategist and the man known as Bush's brain faces the humiliation of felony indictment, and the only people with lower poll numbers than Bush himself are the GOP congressmen and senators, Democrats speak openly of what happens after they retake the House.

Will it happen? More precisely, will the Republicans allow it to happen? Through gerrymandering and the incumbent advantage the Democrats start the race several lengths back. Then there's the electronic voting machines. The largest manufacturer Diebold is run by a Republican who once promised to deliver votes to the Republican Party. Exit polls could tell a very different story from final results on election night.

Even if the Democrats re-take the House and Senate, Bush will still have the White House for another two years. The Democrats have made it clear they won't attempt to impeach him. Sure he may not control the legislative branch, but he's already made it clear though signing statements nullifying laws he doesn't like that he regards his Imperial Presidency as above the petty bounds of anything as crude as 'democracy'.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Impeachment 'off the table'

It may be to simply to eliminate a Republican talking point bugaboo but The Democrat House leader has apparently stated that the Democrats won't gun for Bush if they get control of the House in November.

Frankly I hope that's simply politics talking. The fact that the message was delivered through an aide gives her some deniablity. Criminals should be prosecuted and if Clinton deserved impeachment for lying about an Oval office hummer, Bush has certainly earned it for...well where to start?

Repeatedly lying? Incompetance? Drastically damaging the seperation of powers? War crimes?

Impeachment isn't enough, he should have to do the perp walk with the jacket over his wrists thing that fools nobody.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The better Angels of our nature?

I live a block away from Calgary's biggest outdoor drug market. Useful I suppose, if you're looking to score a dime bag of cheap skunk from a scruffy teenage entrepreneur, less so if you're stepping over dead-eyed crack heads on the way to the train.

But now a new gang has hit town, with the support of our mayor and apparently our police.

Curtis Sliwa, far right radio commentator (he once described Richard Nixon as a socialist) and founder of vigilante gang the Guardian Angels visited Calgary recently. Sliwa's come a long way since the days when he was making up stories of Guardian Angels crime-fighting heroics. A formal alliance with Rudy Giulliani as the Mayor of New York turned the city into a police state, and now a popular Fox radio show, and Sliwa is a 'respected figure' these days.

I admit to being less than thrilled at the thought of swaggering thugs in red berets 'patrolling' my neighborhood. I'd much rather see more police, you know, the crimefighters paid for and accountable to the public.

It was a unique and fascinating creature, so we shot it.


Grizzly/Polar Bear Hybrid found.
It's happened in captivity, so scientists knew Grizzlies and Polar bears could mate and that the offspring are in fact fertile. This appears to be the first time it's happened in the wild and speaks volumes about the effect global warming is having on multiple habitats.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Vellacott quits before he can be fired

Just announced on Newsworld.

He lobbied publicly for the job, got it despite publicly supporting police officers accused of behavior that had previously caused the deaths of natives and ultimately lost it for wing-nut right wing slurs against a judge, putting words in her mouth she never said.

Adieu Maurice, enjoy the rest of your career in the back benches.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The mysterious medicarestories.com...

Over at blogs Canada I discovered this reference from poster Kelly T. Konechny to a site called medicarestories.com.
I have come across one site in Canada that is asking for users of the system to record these stories for submission to the federal and provincial governments.
Medicarestories is also mentioned at right-wing blogs Canada Turns Left and Politiks Can and at Digg.com. Each time as a fortuitous discovery by the poster, implied to be someone else's site and recommended as a way for medicare users to share their experiences.

All of these sources seem to have one thing in common.

Kelly T. Konechny.

He's the only name, contact or affiliation on the medicarestories site itself, the helpful poster sharing his discovery on blogs Canada and on both right wing blogs Canada Turns Left and Politiks Can, both seemingly run by the same person, an e-mail free personage going by the initials KTK or SZM on older pages - which also happens to be the name of the design company listed on medicarestories.com. Update: Just noticed that the listed e-mail for Kelly T. Konechny at Canada blogspot is ktk@szm.ca. Politiks Can is on the blogging dippers ring.

Now, I'm certainly not ascribing a motive or specific ideological approach to the medicarestories.com site. But considering Canadian conservative figures like Preston Manning have called for a stealth campaign of high-lighting 'medicare horror stories' in an attempt to wean Canadians away from their affection for the Public System - any project such as this should perhaps be a bit more open about it's agenda and backers.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The danger in seeking the center

Jack Layton wants the NDP to become the center-left alternative to the Conservatives and the Liberals to fade away to a shadow. He wants, in other words, to bring Britain's political dynamic to Canada.

In England the two parties viewed as having any realistic chance at government are the Tories and Labour, to be precise, New Labour. The Tories in England are still in a position analogous to the Progressive Conservatives after Kim Campbell. They're in the penalty box and only severe incompetence by, or public disenchantment with the Labour Party will keep them from staying there for a generation.

Under Tony Blair the British Labour Party became Thatcherite-lites. It's arguable how necessary such a transition was, given the severe disenchantment the public had reached with the Tories. Neo-liberal economics and slavish obedience to the White House seems designed to appeal more to the Elites than the public.

The price of such political expedience is an electorate that views Blair and the Labour party as unprincipled and scandal driven. Without guiding principals and yes, an ideological under-pinning, New Labour is directionless and rootless. As Mick Hume put it today:
But the politicians are not innocent victims of a 'meejah conspiracy'. New Labour has asked for this. What we are witnessing is not so much the power of the press as the weakness of the political class. It is New Labour's fundamental lack of firm political foundations that has left it so vulnerable. And its panicky, near-paranoid responses to media pressure always ensure that things get worse. At root, the government's wounds are self-inflicted. The media are merely the messengers, delivering the news about how shaky New Labour has become.
And this is the political path Jack Layton seems to want to take the NDP down.

In a quixotic quest to become the established left of center alternative in the Canadian political environment the NDP risks becoming completely irrelevant. There already is a vaguely left of center party that supports social spending to ameliorate the worst excesses of capitalism while offering no substantive critique or alternative to Capitalism. They're called the Liberals.

If retaining our principles, let's be clear, socialist principles, means that the NDP is always a perennial third choice to the Canadian electorate is that necessarily a terrible thing? Does it in fact even follow that would be the case? There's a whole generation of progressive young people fighting elite guided globalization and elite benefiting global trade policies that frankly view the NDP as irrelevant. At the same time that global mass movements were mobilizing against a global order designed to benefit the elites at the expense of the rest of us, the NDP was abandoning a substantive critique of Capitalism and seeking to take over the Liberal role of supporting a 'market economy but not a market society.'

If we abandon substantive ideals based policy in exchange for a vague situational liberalism, why should someone vote for us instead of the Liberals? If the Liberals and the Torys go even further right, does the NDP lurch even further to the center in response? Given the apparent global shift away from the Washington consensus and elite guided globalization is the NDP about to find itself on the wrong side of history?



Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mexican about-face

Mexico has publicly ceded even the appearance of being an independent nation. Under intense criticism from the American Government, President Vincente Fox bowed to the pressure and sent Mexico's new drug de-criminalization bill back to congress.

Irrespective of the law itself, what does it say about the US/Mexico relationship that their very laws are now publicly dictated from Washington?

And what does it say about what would have happened had the election gone differently here and the Liberals had actually tried to implement their de-criminalization law? Are we as independent as we like to think?

In the long run, upcoming elections are likely to turn Fox's pro-US government into a lame duck as part of Latin America's historic surge to the left and away from America's influence. Meanwhile here in Canada, Stephen Harper's softwood sell-out makes it clear servile deep integration can be expected to accelerate as our government ties us ever tighter to the staggering giant bleeding out before our eyes.

Vatican about to approve condoms?

In an 'Only Nixon could go to China' moment, arch conservative Pope Benedict may be about to sign a document permitting married couples where one has a disease such as AIDS to use condoms. Benedict back when he was just Cardinal Ratzinger was known as Pope John Pauls 'enforcer'. As head of the Doctrine of the Faith (Formerly known as the inquisition.), he steadfastly supported the most conservative possible interpretation of all the Church's teachings.

If this small step of admitting an uninfected married woman can protect herself against her husband's infection seems like a rather timid move considering over 40 million people world-wide and 25 million in Africa alone are thought to be infected with HIV, by the standards of the Catholic church and this Pope it's revolutionary. It may also be a response to recent comments from Cardinal Martini, who had been Ratzinger's leading competition from the Vatican's liberal wing in the recent papal succession, and who recently spoke out in favour of condoms to protect against HIV.

With the Laity, particularly in North America, increasingly coming to moral and ethical positions different from the Vatican Hierchy and the harsh portrayal of the hard right laity organization Opus Dei in the media and in a certain popular novel and Tom Hanks movie, the next Pope may come from the Progressive Vatican II tradition of the church.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Did everyone have a happy 'Loyalty Day'?

Just when you think the Bush Junta can't get scarier, stupider or more Big Brother-ish, they come up with something crazier. Turns out though, that American Presidents have been pushing this Loyalty Day schtick since the witch-hunt days of 1959. What an unreal co-option of Labour's day.

Stephen Harper eats babies

You get an opportunity to justifiably print a headline like that you take it - even if someone else beats you to it.

In completely unrelated news, armed Immigration officials stormed schools, siezed children and told their parents they had half an hour to turn themselves in. Then parents and children were locked into a dentention facility with barbed wire and bars.

Minister responsible Stockwell Day has denied he or his govenment had any prior knowledge of the Immigration Officials actions, but given all the tough talk on crime and immigration from this government it isn't hard to believe some exuberant Immigration officials felt they had been given carte blanche to engage in such tactics.

There is a lack of context in the immigration debate and the NDP has been woefully lax in their duty to provide it. The free pass Capital has been given by elite guided Globalization has created enormous economic pressures on populations across the Southern hemisphere. NAFTA wiped out small communal farmers in Mexico and has had similar negative effect everywhere. Giving Capital unrestricted freedom of movement across the globe would only be fair if Labour had the same freedom. Since it doesn't, Canadian elites complaining about illegal immigration when the same elites are making huge profits from the Capital freedom of free trade that causes the dislocation and devestation that leads to illegal immigration is the height of hypocricy.

Too many of the neo-cons and neo-liberals who prate about freedom are talking about the freedom of money, not people.

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