Monday, July 31, 2006

False Assumptions and Wishful Thinking

The best argument against the tactics of Israel's current Lebanon campaign is simple coldblooded pragmatism. Real Realpolitik if you like.

They won't work. The tactics are based on false assumptions about the nature of Hezbollah and the nature of the Lebanese people. The campaign itself is based on naive wishful thinking that the Lebanese will turn their anger on Hezbollah rather than on Israel.

Before the war began, Hezbollah's appeal was primarily confined to Shiites. Poor Shiites. Mainstream middle-class Lebanese who were Christians or Druze or Sunni didn't believe Hezbollah's claim that Israel would attack and invade Lebanon again. Israel has done an excellent job of convincing these mainstream Lebanese that Hezbollah was right all along and turned many who had harshly opposed the group into Hezbollah partisans.

And a whole new generation of young people is growing up with the memory of terror, pain and dead loved ones at the hands of Israelis radicalizing them for the next round of bloodshed.

Juan Cole has a thoughtful post about the true nature of Hezbollah and the current conflict.

South Dakota voters reject abortion law

Recent polling suggests SD's voters are on track to defeat the state's draconian new abortion law by a big margin come November.
The Mason Dixon poll sampled 800 registered voters and found that 47% plan to vote No on Referred Law 6 in November, while 39% of respondents would uphold the abortion ban.
The law has been nick-named the Napoli Law after the clueless, and rather sickening Senator Bill Napoli, who has some... interesting ideas about who would qualify for an exemption under the enormously restrictive law.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

UN to Lewis Mackenzie: You don't know what you're talking about

BigCityLib links to the Mackenzie slapdown from EDWARD MORTIMER, director of communications, executive office of the Secretary-General, United Nations. He offers a stinging rebuttal to MacKenzie's biased interpretation of a week old e-mail with the facts of what really happened and was really reported the day of the attack.

Give war a chance - What could possibly go wrong?

At least 57 refugee civilians, mostly women and children huddled in a basement in Quana died early this morning under an Israeli Airforce bombardment.

These deaths can be directly laid at the feet of the world powers that made the cold calculation of letting Israel draw some blood for a week or two before allowing a ceasefire. And the cringing bootlickers among world leaders sacrificing decades of honest broker status and international respect to suck up to their Neo-con idols.

Naming no names.

Updated: Billmon explains why the show must go on.

Oscar Peterson being harassed

CTV Newsnet just did an interview with 80 year old Jazz Giant Oscar Peterson in his home in Mississauga. He's been dealing with an escalating pattern of abuse from a pack of racists harassing him in his home.

Jesus Christ!

Is this Mississauga in 2006 or Mississippi in 1956?

Updated with link.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mako 1934 - 2006

You remember him as the old wizard who also does the opening voice-over in Conan. He broke down a lot of barriers and did the all time greatest cartoon opening voice-over ever.

For a long time I wanted to put "Shapeshifting Master of Darkess" on my business card.

Gerard Kennedy?

I think James Laxer is right here. Kennedy is the real threat to both the Tories and NDP. I also strongly agree with his post's last sentence.

Is it Chinese that uses the same ideogram for both crisis and opportunity?

The climb down begins?

Both sides underestimated the other side's beligerance and capability. Neither side had an exit strategy if things hyper-escalated, which they did... and now:

'OK, we'll all let go together on the count of three...'

Um... We'd like off this ride now please....

Saturday link blast

Friday, July 28, 2006

Shameless and Despicable

The Tories are actually trying to cash in on the suffering in Lebanon.

Lewis MacKenzie or the man's wife - who do you believe?

Lewis MacKenzie offered his interpretation of Major Paeta Derek Hess-von Kruedener's beliefs about the presence of Hezbollah militants using the UN post for cover - while failing to mention that he was the keynote speaker at a pro Israel rally the next day.

The Major's wife on the other hand, has flatly stated that she believes the assault was intentional. Israel is investigating the incident and refuses to allow the UN to be involved in the investigation.

Ireland's government has proven considerably less credulous than Canada's;
Defense Minister Willie O'Dea and Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern have made it clear they flatly don't believe the attack was accidental. Ireland has pulled back it's UN troops, as has Australia.

The four monitors, who belonged to the UN Truce Supervision Organisation, were not the first UN peacekeepers to die during Israel's bloody attempt to stop Hizbollah militants firing rockets across its northern border.
A Nigerian member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) was killed in Housh, a suburb of Tyre, when his house was demolished by an airstrike.
But while the death of the peacekeeper in his home angered the UN, the attack on the well-known bunker marked clearly on military maps available to Israeli forces left peacekeepers seething.
The entire Unifil presence in Tyre has withdrawn to the force headquarters a few miles south along the coast at Naqoura but yesterday a few peacekeepers who used to be based in the city went to recover personal possessions. "The guys who died were my friends," said a Belgian captain. "The situation is crazy."

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister was even blunter:
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, who served with the Australian Army in the Vietnam war, blamed rogue elements in the Israeli military for the escalation of violence.
"There is a rogue element in the Israeli military machine and it's about time the world called a spade a spade and recognised that that element has been there for several years and continues. "
In 1996 the Fijians, the poor old Fijians, maintaining a UN compound in exactly the same area, took a hit which killed 104 people sheltering in the UN compound."
Must be nice to have a government that stands up for it's people and stands behind it's troops.

In Israel, the penny drops

From Haaretz:
It is an illusion to hope that the 700,000 Lebanese refugees will direct their fury at their government, or that the population that still remains in place will evict the Hezbollah members from among it. As far as the population is concerned, responsibility for its catastrophe lies entirely with Israel, and failure to cooperate with whoever fights against Israel would be considered national treason. It was foolish to assume that the Lebanese political elite would dare to confront Hezbollah and use force against it. And anyway, who was even capable of using force? The Lebanese Army, whose bases were bombed as well?....

There is no military solution for this situation. IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has already implied that the solution is political. The prime minister, who bears overall responsibility and will be required to give an accounting in the future, would do well not to lag behind the person who in any case will pass him the hot potato.

And a word about the price of American support. Sometimes it seems as if U.S. President George W. Bush wants Israel both to destroy Lebanon and to sustain painful losses. That way, Israel provides him with an excellent alibi for the war in Iraq: The fight against terror is global, the blood price is the same, the methods of operation and the means are identical, and the time needed for victory is long. The Israeli vassal is serving its master no less than the master is providing for its needs.
Emphasis added

The 'Hiding among Civilians' myth

Hezbollah fighters - terrorists if you prefer - have a policy of avoiding civilians. Not for any humanitarian reason, just because hiding among them is a guaranteed way of getting turned in by collaborators.

updated to fix clumsy phrasing spotted by commentator

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ann Coulter continues her descent into insanity

Bill Clinton is gay see, because he really likes to sleep with women.

In Ann Coulter's world this makes perfect sense.

All the King's Horses...

Peter W. Galbraith was the United States ambassador to Croatia, so he has a fair amount of experience with irredeemable failure of policy and unstoppable collapse. He points out that the American Iraqi mission is already over, it's just politically impossible to acknowledge it.
WHAT is the mission of the United States military in Iraq now that the insurgency has escalated into a full-blown civil war? According to the Bush administration, it is to support a national unity government that includes all IraqÂ’s major communities: the Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. O.K., but this raises another question: What does the Iraqi government govern?
And yet the Neo-Cons are now desperately grasping at the straws of the hope that the Israeli invasion of Lebanon will provide them with a proxy victory over Iran and Syria and pull the whole Neo-Con Middle-Eastern redemption fantasy out of the fires of humiliating defeat.

Can the world survive these naive utopian fantasists until 2008?

Chicago forces Big Box retailers to pay living wage

By a vote of 35 to 14, the Chicago city council yesterday approved a new ordinance requiring large retailers in the city to phase in a living wage for their employees of $10 per hour plus $3 per hour in benefits-- the highest minimum wage established for any industry sector in the country. If signed by the mayor, the law would raise pay for tens of thousands of workers in retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Lowe's and Home Depot. A broad coalition of organizations including ACORN, labor unions and church groups worked together for its passage.
Municipalities, provinces and states are beginning to catch on to the externalization game whereby companies offload the costs of their employees basic survival needs onto local governments, public health systems, foodbanks and social services. Catch on and finally start calling such companies on their ways.

Of course the predictable suspects have shrieked like branded calves at this requirement to pay their employees enough to survive. They claim it will destroy their profit margin and keep them from building any more stores in Chicago. Of course after Santa Fe created a living wage of $9.50 per hour for large employers, Wal-Mart asked for approval to build a new Supercenter.

It isn't over yet, Mayor Daley who opposes the ordinance could still veto it. However the vote was a fairly veto-proof margin in favor and it would be his first veto in 17 years and it would be on behalf of Walmart. The optics would suck.

Did David Kelly really kill himself?

It was 2003 and Western governments were savagely lashing out at anyone questioning the pretexts for the rush to war with Iraq. In October, Robert Novak was used as the stalking horse by the Bush administration to punish Joseph Wilson for his public critique by outing his wife Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, endangering her and her entire network and ending her career. Earlier in the year, in the UK, the Blair government had maliciously outed weapons inspector David Kelly as the source for a BBC story alleging the case for war had been 'sexed up'.

Within days he was dead.

And very quickly the death was ruled a suicide. Very, very quickly. Now however the case for Dr Kelly committing suicide is collapsing like a house of cards.

How far were some forces willing to go to protect the march to war?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Disgusting Cringing Bootlicker

Asked about UN head Kofi Annan's statement suggesting Israel had targeted the outpost, Mr Harper said: "I certainly doubt that to be the case".

"The government of Israel has been cooperating with us in our evacuation efforts, in our efforts to move Canadian citizens out of Lebanon and also trying to keep our own troops that are on the ground, involved in the evacuation, out of harm's way," he said.

And my favorite piece of blame the victim, defensiveness:
At the same time, he questioned why the UN had manned the outpost in Lebanon near the Israeli border as bombs exploded all around.

"We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals," he said.

"Bitch shouldn't have been wearing those 'come fuck me' pumps after dark in that neighborhood. It's her fault and she probably wanted it."

Because it's their job jackass. Specifically it was their duty to monitor Israel's departure from and respect for Lebanese territory after the last time this happened.

But we encourage you not to draw any logical conclusions from that Steve, you toadying neo-con starfucker.

Want to do that poll again CanWest? I suspect the Canadian people have some exciting new numbers for you.

Update: The UN outpost contacted the IDF ten times over six hours begging them to stop shelling them:

The base near Khiam came under intense Israeli fire 21 times Tuesday — including 12 hits within 100 metres and four direct hits — from 1:20 p.m. until contact was lost with the four peacekeepers inside at 7:17 p.m., Jane Lute, assistant secretary general for peacekeeping, told the UN Security Council in New York.

Officials in the outpost called the Israeli army 10 times during those six hours, and each time an army official promised to have the bombing stopped, according to a preliminary UN report on the incident, which was shown to an Associated Press reporter.

Once it became clear those pleas were being ignored, the force’s commander sought the involvement of top officials in New York, a senior UN official in New York said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation of the incident was not yet complete.

Israeli officials had told the United Nations that the bombing around the base was part of an “an aerial preparation for a ground operation,” said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

UN officials said the observation position was well-marked, and a picture the world body released today showed the three-storey building was painted white with the letters “UN” emblazoned in large black letters on all sides, and a light blue UN flag hung from a nearby flagpole that was roughly 15 metres high.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Classic CanWest Distortion

Almost two-thirds of Canadians believe Israeli attacks justified

This is the late afternoon Calgary Herald online headline for the CanWest news service story. The headline for the same story in the Calgary Herald's hardcopy edition this morning - and presumably other CanWest outlets - was even less ambiguous:

Two of three Canadians back Israel, says poll

Well, that seems fairly clear, doesn't it?

But wait, the actual results are that "Almost two in three Canadians believe Israel's military action in Lebanon was either somewhat or completely justified"

Well immediately after Hezbollah crossed an internationally recognized border and abducted two soldiers I was prepared to believe some kind of military response was justified. Very, very quickly the disproportionate scale of the response passed my line for what was justified. So technically I could be described as thinking Israel was somewhat justified, at least on the 20th, which we don't discover until the eighth paragraph in, was when the poll was taken.

Some 'shit', to use a word recently popularized by the leader of the free world, has happened since then.

Can it be accurately said, that someone who on the 20th was feeling enough reservations to think Israel was only 'somewhat justified' could on the 25th be baldly stated to be backing Israel? Obviously not. It was bad enough that even the unspeakably lousy Calgary Herald felt it necessary to change the headline in it's online edition to make it slightly less objectionable.

Bottom line: the Israel right or wrong crowd at CanWest only plays these kind of sleazy distortion games when they think they have to. The real state of Canadian opinion on this subject scares the hell out of them. Enough to want to distort it in the hopes of changing it.

At least now that they've dropped the CP and are using their own news service they don't have to re-write other service's wire copy to make Israel look better and all Arabs look like savages.

Calgary One Million

Calgary's population hit the one million mark - arbitrarily, as of midnight. Whether the one millionth arrival first appeared at the maternity ward or at the Greyhound station off a bus from St. John's is unknown.

We have an infrastructure for about half our current population, and while yes, the jobs really do grow on trees out here, the apartments don't. We've all heard the stories of the folks making $25 plus an hour, and living in a shelter. A one night count back in May pegged the homeless population at 3,436. This was a very conservative lowball number.

Here's a housing aid link to pass on to anyone you know thinking of coming to Cowtown, they provide stuff like low interest damage deposit loans, credit counseling and emergency utilities help.

I have to go cram myself into a packed train now...

Monday, July 24, 2006

GOP Senator: People who believe in Global Warming are just like Nazis!

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) believes that the theory of Global Warming is equivalent to the Nazi big lie.

What a coincidence. That's what I think of the Global Warming denial industry.

Who reads the Western Standard?

Apparently people like this. Be sure to read the comments.

Spotted by Cerberus and picked up by Antonia Zerbisias.

Conservatives turn on Bush

When both Buchanan and Buckley turn on you, as a Republican President you're in trouble.

Ian Welsh's 7 Types of Conservatives
had already identified both Buchanan's Paleo-Conservative wing and the Libertarians as sometimes represented by Buckley as being off the reservation. Now the two 'intellectual' strains of Conservatism have turned furiously and openly on the Neo-Cons and specifically Bush. In the American media George Will has exorcaited the Neo-Con's public spokesman Bill Kristol and by extension the whole Weekly Standard crowd.

The really depressing thing is that the currently dominant strain in Canadian Conservatism is the Neo-Conservatism that the American Conservatives seem to be finally draining like puss from a wound.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fighting for Better Journalism - a movement yet?

Two Freelancers for the Can West Victoria Times Colonist have resigned in protest after a Tourism writer was fired for the crime - in the eyes of the local tourism industry - of high-lighting free attractions in Victoria.

South of the border the public responded in fury to the owner of a local paper firing staff for reporting unflattering news about her friends:
500 people, apparently citizens, protested this week outside the Santa Barbara News-Press against control of the news room and alleged manipulation of news stories by new owner billionaire Wendy McCaw.
Here in Canada Adbusters has started a campaign to challenge the domination of the Media by a cartel of interests represented by CanWest:
One of the biggest challenges in the battle for media democracy is winning the legal right to walk into our local TV station, put down our money and say, “Give me 30 seconds of airtime, I’ve got something to say.” Right now, regular people can’t do it. Why? Because the private networks controlling our publicly owned airwaves won’t let us. They decide what gets on and what doesn’t; if your message doesn’t fit their political or commercial interests, they’ll simply refuse to air it. They're the world’s most powerful censors.One of the biggest challenges in the battle for media democracy is winning the legal right to walk into our local TV station, put down our money and say, “Give me 30 seconds of airtime, I’ve got something to say.” Right now, regular people can’t do it. Why? Because the private networks controlling our publicly owned airwaves won’t let us. They decide what gets on and what doesn’t; if your message doesn’t fit their political or commercial interests, they’ll simply refuse to air it. They're the world’s most powerful censors. Adbusters readers know that this is why we’ve launched the Media Carta Legal Battle in Canada’s courts.
Richard Littlemore relentlessly counters the desperate spin from the energy industry and it's apologists in the press with the real facts about the global scientific consensus about the human causes and true extent of global warming at DeSmogBlog.

The National Post appears to be on it's last legs as disgusted readers desert it in droves.

At some point here, it might be time to start calling this a movement.

The History of Context

Acknowledging that the Palestinians got a lousy deal and had good reason to fight back, not defending methods but not denying cause, David Ben-Gurion first leader of Israel was no weak sister, but he was honest about the injustice he helped cause:
"Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?" (David Ben-Gurion quoted in "The Jewish Paradox" by Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress.)
Blunt, uncompromising with the truth, Ben-Gurion knew Israel had been founded by terrorism. Born in the blood of 92 people dead in the Hotel King David, as the sickened Brits washed their hands of the whole mess. Ben-Gurion ruthlessly crushed the various gangs of Zionist gunmen who didn't swiftly submit to his authority - leading to the long political duel with Menachim Begin, leader of the gang that bombed the King David - against Ben-Gurion's objections - and later leader of Likud.

Ben-Gurion was no softy on Arabs - he supported ethnic cleansing - what he called transfers - to clear out Arabs. But he didn't try to pretend it was just.

Ben Gurion didn't even trust the fanatically religious among his own people and would have seen the care and feeding of radical Islamists to counter-balance secular Palestinian resistance for the crackbrained idea it was. He was dismayed by the dangerous fanatics the Jewish religious schools he had reluctantly supported produced - Yitzhak Rabin another Labour Prime Minister would be murdered by one, decades later - Ben-Gurion would have seen the rise of something like Hamas as the obvious result of supporting such currents in Islam.

What would he have thought of the Lebanon invasions, the last one, and the one about to commence? He was a pragmatist who probably would have seen the long term blowback such disproportionate over-reactions would inevitably cause.

He would have made a cold-blooded, possibly even brutal calculation, but one that acknowledged reality, and conceded his enemy's right to their anger.

And to their basic humanity.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Cosmic Justice?

Jim Fix the jogging guru, died at the age of 50 of a heart attack while jogging. Harry Olivieri the inventer of the Philly cheesesteak made it to 90.

Iraq: Much, much worse.

Iraqi officials have resigned themselves to the inevitability of civil war and are now calling for the sectarian division of Baghdad into Sunni and Shia enclaves in a bid to reduce the coming casualties as much as possible.

"Iraq as a political project is finished," one senior government official said -- anonymously because the coalition under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains committed in public to the U.S.-sponsored constitution that preserves Iraq's unity.

One highly placed source even spoke of busying himself on government projects, despite a sense of their futility, only as a way to fight his growing depression over his nation's future.

"The parties have moved to Plan B," the senior official said, saying Sunni, ethnic Kurdish and majority Shi'ite blocs were looking at ways to divide power and resources and to solve the conundrum of Baghdad's mixed population of seven million.

"There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into east and west," he said. "We are extremely worried."

Faced with this kind of pessimism, mirrored in unusually frank assessments of how bad things have gotten from Military and intelligence sources on the ground in Iraq even Republicans are having trouble denying the truth.

The collapse of Yugoslavia and the subsequent hell of civil war only really got rolling when the various ethnic groups started streaming thousands of refugees into separate enclaves. Iraq has long since entered this phase.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Buh-bye National Post?

From Ottawa Watch by way of Antonia Zerbisias:

The National Post has about six weeks left. CanWest's bonds are under review. They are already at junk status. A reduction in rating from BB would drive up the interest rate on any new bonds or any that expire and must be refloated. That is a fatal situation for a company as heavily leveraged as CanWest. Since CanWest is made up of a TV network, the National Post and some zero-value Internet properties, there's only one place to cut to satisfy the bond raters. Six months ago, I thought the NP would shrink back to a tabloid Financial Post. Now, CanWest doesn't have the money for a re-jig or to take that risk.
Always sad to see journalism jobs disintegrate and the already tight journalist job market tighten even more, but other than that consideration, my only reaction if this is true is - good.

Crap paper. Let me repeat for the cheap seats, Really, REALLY CRAP paper.

The National Post exists only to provide Canada with a broadsheet equivalent to Fox News. It is virtually the official Conservative Party newsletter, as well as having the actual journalism quality of a mimeographed junior high class project.

The 'Iran's going to make Jews wear yellow badges JUST LIKE THE NAZIS DID!' debacle was the last nail in the coffin of the Post's already close to non-existent credibility.

The National Post's very existence lowers the standards of Canadian journalism, show me a grave and let me get my dancing shoes out of storage, oh and Macleans? Don't ask for whom the bell tolls...

Poland's creepy new overlords

THE far right Kaczynski twins, childhood stars of the movie 'Those Two Who Would Steal the Moon' are now the President and Prime Minister of Poland. They're homophobic, xenophobic, finish each other's sentences and pick up the phone before it even starts ringing when the other calls. They're ultranationalists and former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has expressed concern with their paranoid 'conspiracy theories'.

These guys inexplicably remind me of another film about some cute moppets with big plans...

Rightwing Israelis celebrate terrorism

AS ISRAEL wages war against Hezbollah “terrorists” in Lebanon, Britain has protested about the celebration by right-wing Israelis of a Jewish “act of terrorism” against British rule 60 years ago this week.
The rightwingers, including Binyamin Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister, are commemorating the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of British rule, that killed 92 people and helped to drive the British from Palestine...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I need an adult! I need an adult!

Observe the Alpha male chimp, showing his dominance with unwanted physical groping that most people feel helpless to stop.


Seriously though, is there any workplace in the civilized world where this couldn't be prosecuted as sexual harassment? This crap would creep me out and I'm not even female.

Or black:


Umm, isn't this kind of, I don't know, juvenile offensive fratboy idiot behavior for the leader of the free world to engage in?

Many commentators have also pointed out that in German culture particularly this kind of unwanted invasion of personal space is particularly offensive. Way to represent your nation Georgie, oh you don't mind if I'm familiar and call you Georgie right? And if we were to meet would you mind if I cupped your testicles instead of shaking hands? Or would a Secret Service officer blow me away?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ghost World

Unexamined Assumptions

Everybody knows that Hamas and Hezbollah are puppets of Iran and Syria. How do we know these things? Because we are told constantly that everybody knows these things.

Of course everybody knew that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Eric Margolis is one of the most respected foreign correspondents in journalism and one of the few reasons to read the Sun chain. He's been on the ground in the Middle East and specifically in Lebanon for much of their most tragic recent history. He is by no means a blinkered idealist or an activist for any side in the current hostilities. He challenges what everybody knows:

Hezbollah, from my experience, is no mere cat's paw of Syria and Iran, but a fiercely independent-minded movement that is Lebanon's dominant political and military force. Though backed by Tehran and Damascus, Hezbollah pursues its own local interests, sometimes in opposition to its allies.
What 'everybody knows' just happens to support rhetoric about an 'axis of evil' and the drumbeats for regime change in Syria and Iran. What 'everybody knows' makes it easier to turn a blind eye to mass civilian deaths in retaliation for the capture of a handful of soldiers.

The occupied territories and Lebanon are two of the few democratic states in the Moslem world - what we say we want to happen. Now the Palestinians are being punished for voting the wrong way and Lebanon, an urbane secular democracy is being pounded into gravel.

Coincidently just as it's economy was starting to recover enough to make it a competitor to Israel.

But everybody knows that this whole mess is all Iran and Syria's fault, so not to worry.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Defining the Center

Just a quick note about a post on TalkLeft found at Daily KOS. Talkleft suggests the real lesson of FDR for modern Democrats isn't claiming the center it's defining where the center is. An obvious insight in retrospect but one well worth exploring. It's certainly an insight reactionary forces have taken onboard and incorporated into their strategies.

The challenge for Progressives both in the US and Canada is re-framing the debate and re-defining the terms and positions.

Unacceptable dinner-table conversation Part One - Open Thread

The three biggies you aren't supposed to bring up in polite conversation are of course: Sex, Politics and Religion.

To which many people, including me, have asked, 'What else is there worth talking about?'

Politics is discussed here fairly often, but I'll be re-addressing it at some point in the context of this series - I might make this a weekly event - this will also be an open thread albeit with my usual rule against anonymous posters.

Today's subject is religion, more specifically the idea that ethics and morality can only derive from God and Religion. I'll be presenting the contrary view.

It's a common argument we've all heard, sometimes very forcefully, that ethics, morality - the basic ideas of good and evil derive exclusively from God and Religion. Among the many problems with this idea is the inherent assumption that if you are an atheist or agnostic you are incapable of being ethical and moral - or if you are, you learned it from a religion you no longer have the foundation of.

The other problem of course is that you also cannot be ethical or moral in the eyes of some, but by no means all, of the faithful if you're following the wrong religion. This kind of thinking of course leads us down the path towards viewing anyone not of the same tribe as not even really human.

So first: the idea that ethics and morality derive from God and Religion and that without them humanity can have no notion of Good and Evil.

Studies of pre-verbal infants and primates have shown empathy and co-operation are inherent, instinctive even biological traits. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as cooperation may have taken a back-seat to competition in most peoples understanding of the principals of evolution but it's there and for fairly obvious reasons an important species survival trait.

It's really not hard to discern the path from instinctive feelings of empathy and cooperation to human constructs of morality, ethics, law and of course basic good and evil. Feeling what others feel and wanting to help others takes you more than halfway there already.

Are there humans without any sense of empathy or cooperation? Certainly, they're called psychopaths and seem to be exclusively the result of severe childhood trauma. You have to beat empathy out of someone almost from birth to get rid of it. The tribalism that allows a group member to view all or some non-group members as less than human and not deserving of human protection can be described as large scale psychopathic ideation. Often the result of religion as any study of history clearly shows.

There are excellent arguments for morality, ethics and purpose coming from within ourselves rather than any structure or entity outside ourselves. Equally as good if not better than those promoting the opposing view.

If you want to be really provocative, you can make an argument that the ethical agnostic has superior morality to the ethical believer; 'I don't do good because I'm afraid I'll go to Hell if I don't and I hope I'll go to Heaven if I do, I do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.' Of course many thoughtful believers would make the same argument that good and evil exists independently of fear of punishment or hope for reward, but part company with humanists only at the source of the ideas of right and wrong and good and evil.

So much of our ideas of good and evil, ethics and morality are bound up with ideas of God and religion merely as a result of human history coming to a point of codifying such ideas at a time when religion was the dominant actor in human society. The religious do not have an exclusive license on these concepts and the idea that they do is frankly having a stunting effect on human moral development.

Discuss.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Kidnapping 'a systematic practice' by US troops in Iraq

Salon has documents showing that kidnapping and abusing innocent women and children in order to get to their insurgent husbands or fathers was, and possibly still is, a routine tactic employed by US troops.
Provance said, interrogators grew frustrated when the boy's father, Zabar, wouldn't talk, despite a 14-hour interrogation. So they stripped Zabar's (16 year old) son naked and doused him with mud and water. They put him in the open back of a truck and drove around in the frigid January night air until the boy began to freeze. Zabar was then made to look at his suffering son.

"During the interrogation, they could not get him to talk," Provance recalled. "They said, 'OK, we are going to let you see your son.' They allow him to see his son in this shivering, freezing, naked state," Provance said. "That just totally broke his heart and that is when he said, 'I'll tell you what you want to know.'"

Provance said the boy was timid and afraid. "He was so skinny and so frail, and he was scared out of his mind," Provance remembered. "He was so skinny the handcuffs would not fit securely on his wrist. I had to put this green sandbag on his head. I just felt like a horrible person doing this."

Hearts and minds.

Alberta Government: Liars or Incompetent?

There really aren't any other options. The government's surplus is consistently, year after year, underreported by billions of dollars. An average of $4.3 billion per year or 20% to 25% per annum. The 2005/2006 fiscal prediction was off by a staggering 35%. Over Forty billion dollars of low-balling over the last decade.

Predictions about program costs, claims of government poverty to avoid sufficiently funding necessary programs and politicized taxes like the Health Premiums, all use the deliberately faulty fiscal predictions as a justification.

This is a massive act of fraud and a display of contempt for the Alberta public.

Ann Coulter: Blood in the water

Now she's only getting face time to be smacked around.

Don't thrash Ann, it'll just make it worse.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Power of the Stink! The Mysterious Medicarestories.com part D'oh

Heh. Apparently the vast powers of my tiny little blog can taint a sweet little website that's just minding it's own business. I put my dark whammy on it and www.medicarestories.com never recovered.

The whole sordid story happened in the far distant days of May of 2006, I had uncovered a bit of a mystery surrounding a website called Medicarestories.com and a blogger on the Blogging Dippers ring who seemed to be a bit to the right of Stephen Harper, much less the average New Democrat. Here's what I discovered and how it all shook out.

Apparently Kelly Konechny has seethed about this for the last few months, and blames the cratering stats of his site on my 'union-hugging' ass. Here he is venting on a rightwing podcast blog:
I also wanted to write and ask a favour of you. I recently started a website (www.medicarestores.com) MedicareStories.com that gives Canadians, users of this oh so freakin' wonderful system we pay through the ass for, the ability to record their experiences with the system. Good, bad or otherwise I would like to start building a database of recorded experiences so that the grass roots, users of the system, could for once speak to the feds and offer real stories that may help push real change. Ask anyone you know, they will have a story to tell about the use of the system.

The problem I'm having is promoting the site. I have tried promoting in (sic) on blogs only to be smashed down by some union hugging dude who accused me of working on behalf of Preston Manning! Read on.

Anyhow this guy has put the stink on the site and we have been getting nothing, which is serving his union, public loving medicare (sic?) ass just fine. I'm asking you for a mention, that's all. If you could mention the site the next time you start into a medicare chat it would rock.

The second thing I wanted to ask was could you start doing two shows a week ; )

Talk on!
Kelly
That's some fine puckering there Kelly, truly epic suckage. Was the trip to podcast guy's lower colon nice?

I'm flattered you think my little blog is capable of killing your visitor stats - I suspect any stink hanging over it was there before I arrived, but thanks for the credit.

I'm amused by how you no longer even pretend medicarestories.com was anything but a partisan exercise by someone with a specific ideological axe to grind. Had you been as open on the site itself about your disdain for unions, public healthcare and your ambitious goals for 'real change', I probably never would have taken any notice of it at all. It was the deceptive nature of the site and your questionable methods of promoting it that got my attention.

Even now you misrepresent what I wrote - while linking to it at the same time, which is an impressive display of cognitive dissonance. Particularly as you've essentially confirmed my whole post here.

I needed a chuckle dude, thanks.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ann Coulter's clock is ticking...

14 minutes and 57 seconds Ann, times almost up...

Another hot summer

On our drive back from Whistler we saw not one but two forest fires up close.



Ironically I was driving through BC in the summer of 2003 too. We got to the border, spent the night without power or water in Valemount when the car over-heated and then had a choice of turning back or heading north and going to Vancouver in a big loop through Prince George and down 99. Beautiful long drive following the fires on the radio. It hit one town an hour after we went through.

It seems dryer and hotter this year.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Prisoner of Texas

George W. Bush never traveled much before he became President, and less than most Presidents during his term. The next two years may be his last chance to safely see the world.

Anywhere he travels after losing the effective immunity of leadership he will face the very real possibility of prosecution for war crimes.

Even within the US the Geneva Convention is also US law, a law bolstered by last week's Supreme Court ruling, additionally there is the War Crimes Act, which worried White House counsel Alberto Gonzales enough to argue for the policy of exempting prisoners in the war on terror from legal protection - a policy completely destroyed by the Supreme Court last week.

Bush and other key members of the administration like Cheney and Rumsfeld will spend the rest of their lives with the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over them.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

And now for something completely different...

Found a short Mystery/Suspense story I wrote about six years ago and got published in a little Mystery/Suspense e-zine called Nefarious. I'd almost forgotten it, a little narrative monologue experiment that came out better than I'd expected. I re-read it and didn't cringe like I expected to.

I might dig out a few more of these fiction experiments in between the rants about corporate hegemonic power and the dick jokes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Warren Kinsella gets Punked

This is probably old news for a lot of you but I was away for awhile and just spotted this over at Progressive Bloggers. Canadian Observer is in the ongoing process of taking obnoxious poseur Warren Kinsella to the woodshed. Well deserved and fun to watch.

It's Official: George W. Bush is a War Criminal

On June 29th the US Supreme Court utterly destroyed The Bush administration's case for opting out of the Geneva convention and by extension the theory of the War paradigm and the Imperial, or Unitary, Executive.

The inevitable conclusion, particularly from Reagan appointee Justice Kennedy's written decision is that the Bush Administration is guilty of war crimes.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to file charges, he helped create the legal edifice the Supreme Court demolished last Thursday. Short of the highly unlikely prospect of a Special Prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald deciding to go after Bush or a Democrat takeover in November - and even then the Democrats have already stated they won't pursue impeachment - Bush will face no judgment but that of history.

History's judgment is likely to be severe.

Dramatic weather

I live in downtown Calgary, after weeks of unrelenting heat the weather just broke, as I type this a torrential downpour of hail the size of marbles has been coming down for fifteen minutes and shows no sign of letup. Every car alarm in the city seems to be going off but the obnoxious pre-Stampede partiers seem to have fled indoors, so it's a mixed bag.

Jesus, it's getting thicker - at least the heat has broken.

The Hammer's Last Scam Backfires

Tom Delay won the Republican Primary for his congressional district and then dropped out of the race a month later as the lobbyist scandal tainting the GOP began to explode. It's widely believed he never intended to run, knowing he couldn't win as the charges piled up, but wanted the local GOP to be able to hand-pick his successor without any of the messy democracy of a primary. However they may have been too clever for their own good.

It seems this last piece of cynical manipulation has turned around and bitten them on the ass, as a Federal Judge just ruled that Delay cannot be replaced on the ballot now that the Primary is over - which effectively hands the seat to the Democrats.

Live by the perversion of democracy, die by the perversion of democracy.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Terrifying Message about An Inconvenient Truth

For those who can't wait till 2008 for a new dose of Futurama, here's Al Gore's head, and the rest of him, shilling his movie and trying to scare the crap out of you.

I'm Back

Well after all the pissing and moaning and working class posturing, Whistler was lovely, everyone was exceedingly nice, the ceremony on the top of Whistler Mountain was held in breath-taking surroundings and there was an open bar. I don't remember much after I discovered that, and that they had Brazilian Brahma beer, but I'm told I had a good time.

The trip was beautiful, I drove up in a van with five of my girlfriend's relatives including her ten month old nephew and her mother who I was meeting for the first time - 16 hours and not a single cross word that I remember and that's despite having to turn off the air conditioner while doing the twisty mountain pass before Whistler so the van's engine wouldn't overheat.

Ridiculously beautiful scenery, absurdly good albeit hot weather and good company. The whole trip and stay went off without a hitch and now I'm back home while my girlfriend goes on to visit family in Saskatchewan for a week.

Sleepy now. More ranting after I get caught up with the world.

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