Thursday, May 31, 2007
Being able to walk into the negotiating room and dictate your terms is. over.
Even if you could jam concessions down your worker's throats, you'd just be slitting your own throat as your employees shrug and take the five or ten minutes cursory search necessary to find five other employers down the street who are more realistic.
Welcome to the worker's market. You have to worry about recruitment and retention now. If you aren't prepared to make your employees happy there's plenty of other fish in the sea.
Oh, and if you're wondering if we're feeling at all sore over decades of enforced concessions, undisguised contempt, 'management rights', a steadily slashed inflation adjusted wage, attacks on our benefits, abusive management practices and a steadily eroding standard of living while executive compensation got more and more obscene - nahhhhh, not at all.
But the free ride is over, and all the guest workers you can import won't cover your ever increasing manpower shortfalls. Even in the class war, God is on the side with the most artillery.
And for the foreseeable future, that ain't you.
Public and private sector employers in Alberta need to wake up
Strike actions in Edmonton and Calgary provide object lesson
EDMONTON, May 30 With Alberta facing a growing number of labour disputes, the Alberta Federation of Labour said today that it's time for employers to take a reality check before they enter negotiations.
"We face the prospect of two strikes in the province this week," notes President Gil McGowan, "a public sector strike by transit workers in Calgary and a private sector strike by brewery workers in Edmonton."
"In both cases, the employers have come to the table looking for thinly disguised concessions from workers. At Molson it's two-tiered wage and benefit systems, and in Calgary it's a shift towards lower paid shuttle bus jobs," says McGowan.
McGowan says employers have to get their heads around the idea that concession demands won't fly - and don't make sense - during economic boom times.
"The Alberta economy is booming, inflation is seriously eroding everyone's earning power, employers everywhere are saying how hard it is to attract and retain new staff - but both the Molson Coors Brewing Company and the City of Calgary pretending the new economic realities of Alberta don't count at the bargaining table." "Employers across the province should take a long look at the consequences of living in that kind of dream world," says McGowan. "Both CAW Local 284 at the Molson Edmonton brewery and ATU Local 583 representing Calgary transit workers are either taking strike action or are on the verge of taking strike action - with the full support of the province's labour movement."
"I urge these employers to take their unrealistic concession demands off the table and to begin negotiating the level of settlement workers need and deserve in an economy with a 5% inflation rate, an unemployment rate at 3.4% and no end to the boom in sight," concluded McGowan.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Liberal blogosphere is full of great whining and gnashing of teeth at the vicious 'undemocratic' trade unionists being mean to poor Stéphane. Suck it up, buttercup. When you screw somebody, don't be surprised if they're a little pissed about it.
Update: Devin explains why he was booed and why he deserved it.
Liberal true colours
See Strike coming Friday
UPDATE: The membership accepted the deal. The dispute is over.
The council's Emile Therien told CTV News that one possible result could be the "major evacuation of a major urban area ... and all the attendant cost that goes along with that."This has personal resonance for me as I have a family cabin literally about 40 yards from the site of the CN Wabamun disaster in the summer of 2005. 40 yards uphill from it fortunately, or I probably wouldn't have a cabin anymore. As it is, tons of tarry Bunker C oil poured into the beautiful lake that my family has considered our second home since the 1930's.
We had to force CN to take the accident seriously and start cleaning the damage - once they had cleared the tracks enough to resume train passage they showed no urgency about dealing with the rivers of oil sludge flowing from the shattered tank cars into the lake. I was locked out and on the picket line in front of my Telus office when I got a phone call from my mother, who had been the first person on the scene dialling 911 on her cell after the accident nearly tossed her out of bed in the pre-dawn hours.
When she called me the next day this 'tough old lady' as she calls herself, who was still recovering from cancer treatments at the time, was sitting in a deck chair on the tracks along with dozens of local residents, members of the local native band and several other cottage dwellers, sweetly telling the blustering, furious CN cop ordering her to clear the area that she wasn't moving until CN began a clean up.
By the time I'd gotten up the highway from Calgary to Wabumun, which is about a 40 minute drive west of Edmonton, CN had found out that half the retired lawyers in Edmonton seemed to have cabins at Wabamun and had begun to realize that they were in trouble. Clean up had begun, hasty meetings were being called, experts flown in.
They tried to get us to sign away our rights for a quick check once, repeatedly downplayed and diminished the scale of the damage and their own liability, delayed and deferred any kind of accounting or recompense and failed to tell us for over a week that along with the comparatively non-toxic Bunker C, a tank full of wood preservative - basically turpentine - had also burst and had been pouring into the local water table for days.
The cleanup, such as it was, concentrated on the beaches and what floating tarry scum could be easily soaked up. Supposedly the oil sludge will naturally decompose, eaten by lake bacteria but still washing up on beaches or bubbling to the surface as tar balls for years, possibly decades. Trees that had been there all my life are gone and the light is harsh and strange on the beach I've been swimming, playing and sunning on since I was in diapers.
I'm told that 'Wabumun' is Cree for looking glass.
We had all noticed that the trains were longer, heavier and much, much faster in the years leading up to the disaster. At that time there had already been three serious derailments over just the previous ten years in the district. The only thing that seemed to change was that the trains got even heavier and faster.
We heard from CN employees after the accident that the company had downsized safety inspectors, sped up and overloaded trains, abusively hounded staff to meet tighter and tighter schedules and emphasized 'efficiency' over safety.
And now we have the Canada Safety Council recommending the amazing and novel idea that maybe there should be some government oversight over the railways that ship millions of tons of chemicals, gasses and toxins across our country every year before another one overturns in the middle of a major city. We also have a W5 story that makes a convincing case that Deregulation has left safety on Canada's railways a hair raising shambles.
Outside my window tonight, 26 floors above the core of downtown Calgary, heavy trains rumble and crash as they couple in the night.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
TORONTO, May 29 /CNW/ - As California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger begins a three-day visit to Canada, The Fraser Institute, Canada's leading think tank, has issued a report warning the governor of the consequences of implementing a Canadian-style health insurance system in his home state.Presumably industry's favorite PR firm with pretenses to grandeur is trying to convince Americans of this nonsense now because they know Canadians simply aren't buying. The usual Fraser Institute funny numbers, logical contortions, deceptive rhetoric and blatant falsehoods are on display as they fight a rear guard action for their paying clients in the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries.
A bill currently before the California legislature, the Universal Health Insurance bill (SB-840), calls for California to implement a statewide universal health insurance system similar to Canada's. Under the proposal, private health insurance would effectively be banned and replaced with a health-insurance monopoly owned and run by government. Schwarzenegger vetoed an earlier version of the bill in 2006 but the legislation has since been reintroduced.
"Canada is currently witnessing the failure of its own single-payer health insurance system. Faced with this example, why would Americans want to
adopt such a system for themselves? The fact is that the Canadian model is an example of what not to do in health care," said Brett Skinner, The Fraser Institute's Director of Health, Pharmaceutical and Insurance Policy Research and author of the study, California Dreaming: The Fantasy of a Canadian-style Health Insurance Monopoly in the United States. "If Governor Schwarzenegger wants to avoid saddling California with a less efficient, less effective health care system and unsustainable costs, he must again use his veto and kill bill SB-840."
Remember in PR, facts are just challenges, not obstacles. Simply stating the opposite of reality in a loud enough voice while forcefully promoting yourself as an 'independent think tank' can be enough to introduce doubt based on a wilful flight from reality.
Expect today's release of the Fraser Institute's latest whacko pronouncement on healthcare to get heavy coverage in California's right wing press, uncritically repeating the Fraser Institute's humble and helpful self description as Canada's 'leading think tank'.
Canada's leading PR whores pretending to be an independent think tank to promote their client's interests doesn't have quite the same zing.
UPDATE: As expected the right wing press in the US has leaped upon the latest Fraser Institute hackery with glad cries. This is 'Der Institute's' role now: To provide bogus but official sounding reinforcement for the forces in America who think fighting to leave millions of children without health coverage is a sacred mission.
The Masters of Mendacity
The debate isn't over
Lies, Damned lies and Fraser Institute Studies
Private Healthcare stunts your growth
Monday, May 28, 2007
After the coup failed would the government shut them down immediately? Jail those involved? Throw them in Gitmo?
...wait five years for the station's license to publicly owned and regulated bandwidth to run out, and then decline to renew it - but still allow the station to continue by web or satellite if it can or will?
Imagine if American politicians had the same cultural tradition of death before dishonor. Would the endless parade of devastating testimony from the likes of Attorney General Gonzo on down even happen or would the Bushies take a bullet for their leader?
So the city could be said to have something focusing their minds on a solution before Friday - hopefully they'll start getting serious. I depend on the C-Train for work so I will be braving whatever management scabbed transit service can be arranged on Friday, but I won't be horribly upset if slowly moving picketers are crossing in front of the train at every intersection.
I also won't be terribly surprised if the city responds to this 24 hour job action with a full lock-out, they show every sign of playing from a labour relations play book from 10 or 20 years ago. However, even if they had the leverage to make the union suck it with a crap settlement - which they frankly don't - they already have serious recruitment and retention problems so it would be the definition of a Pyrrhic victory.
This will be interesting to watch; Calgary is less than a decade ahead of the hardcore employee market curve the rest of the country will be facing as the boomers all begin to retire or die at once.
It's interesting isn't it, how the bosses worship the untrammeled purity of the free market - until it begins to favour workers. Then they're the first in line to demand a thumb on the scale, whether it's a super exploitative guest workers program, community abandonment through overseas outsourcing or in extremis, demanding deliberate employment suppression through artificially raising interest rates.
Remember to big business interests, low unemployment is a bad thing.
Update: Due to the 72 hour notice being faxed when it had to be hand delivered, the 24 hour strike will now begin at 12:30 PM Friday. So I'll be able to get to work but may have some trouble getting home. Yay.
Update 2: As of 5:30 PM Wednesday May the 30th, CBC Calgary is reporting the union and city have come to an agreement - pending acceptance by the union members there will be no strike.
See: Calgary alderman wants union strike power banned
Sunday, May 27, 2007
If a Democrat had been responsible for endangering America in this fashion, the Republicans would have impeached him by now. If a Democrat has lost a war as obviously as this president - a war, moreover, that he has described as an existential struggle for our survival - the Republicans would long ago have Carterized him. Look how the Israelis have held Olmert accountable for his feckless war in Lebanon. Compared to Bush, Olmert is Churchill. If Bush's record in this war is "offense," then the only sane response is: so was the charge of the light brigade.
- Safe Injection site reduces disease and addiction levels -
Screw the facts, says Harper 'Drugs bad! Drugs bad!'
- The coolest mofos on or off the planet, circa 1960 -
Mercury astronauts on survival training.
- The three most vacuous women on Earth are all facing jail time at once -
Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and now Lindsay Lohan could all be behind bars simultaneously. I approve of this trend.
- Demographic tipping point -
As of Wednesday the majority of the human population now lives in cities.
- The Weekly American editorial cartoons - from Bob Geiger.
- The Fred Flintstone Museum -
Where else are you going to find cavemen hanging out with dinosaurs?
- Disaster by the numbers -
Bush was warned of every post invasion threat, and did it on a shoestring budget anyway. Who supports the troops again?
- Grief counselling does more harm than good? -
Did our grandparents have the right idea about a stiff upper lip in the face of trauma?
Saturday, May 26, 2007
But what is happening to the Republican party -- the transformation of its base from Falwell/Robertson social conservatism obsessed with abortion and gay rights into a macro version of the Little Green Footballs comment section, obsessed instead with, literally excited by, detaining and torturing people, maximizing government domestic surveillance, starting still new wars in the Middle East and being far more brutal with the current ones ("doing what needs to be done") -- is too extreme to ignore.This is what a right wing party going fascist looks like. This is a well trod path the Americans are on.
Ignoring Santayana is always a mistake.
Update: An American Vet says the same thing.
What most liberals have so far failed to understand — because they tend to be people with kind hearts and sensibilities — is that the Republican Party has been commandeered by Nazis. They are not just the opposition party anymore, they are evil. This has been building for years, and I have been alive long enough to have witnessed much of it. There was the John Birch Society, and Watergate, and Iran-Contra and now this.
As a veteran, Memorial Day takes on increasing importance to me every year. That's probably because the sh*t goes on and on. Twice in my lifetime I have seen our leaders betray the nation and especially the war-fighters by concocting phony reasons for wars of occupation — wars that were doomed to failure because they were wars of occupation. What they can't understand, these armchair heroes, is that the Injuns shoot back. It happened at Little Big Horn, it happened in Vietnam and it's happening now.
I mean, for Christ's sake, if there were a foreign army kicking down doors in LA, we'd all be f*&king insurgents. Duh!
And I need to remind my progressive friends that the last time a narcissistic a**hole from Texas with links to Halliburton used lies to launch a hopeless war, it was a Democrat.
When I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in USAF Officer Training Class 67-E, I took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." I have come to regard the Bush Administration and their supporters as domestic enemies. I hope the Democratic Party gets that, before it is too late for democracy.
Because it sure as hell can happen here! As for me, I think it already has.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Apparently showing up for work at Microsoft with an iPod in your ear is a career limiting decision. This is not behaviour that suggests product confidence.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Because of poverty and the healthcare advantages of socialized medicine and a decent social safety net Europeans have gained six centimetres on Americans.
For years, researchers have been wondering why Americans stopped growing. US citizens were among the tallest in the world up until World War II. But since then, heights have stagnated while Europeans have been getting taller and taller, with the average American now between two and six centimeters shorter.Hat tip to Boing Boing
The correlation between wealth and height has long been understood, the most recent example coming as Eastern Europeans shot up following the collapse of communism. But why, in the richest country in the world, should growth rates be stagnating?
A new study published in the current issue of the Social Science Quarterly by researchers from Princeton University in the US and the University of Munich in Germany indicates that the difference may have to do more with politics than biology. Specifically, the study, which involved the statistical analysis of demographic and health data collected between 1959 and 2002, concludes that the spotty US health-care system and weak welfare net could explain why Americans have stopped growing.
"We surmise that the health systems and high degree of social security in Europe provide better conditions for growth than the American health system, despite the fact that the system costs twice as much," said study co-author John Komlos from the University of Munich in a statement. "There are also indications that American diets are deficient in several areas."
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
19-year-old Mark D. Uhl, a student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University came to the fallen televangelist's funeral armed with gasoline detergent bombs to use on protesters.
He's now in custody, any bets that this clean cut, religious white kid will soon be getting water-boarded in Gitmo with the other terrorists?
Yeah, I wouldn't put any money on that horse either.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
- Static polls, exhausted parties
Only the NDP can point to real gains in The West while the Bloc regained some of their support in Quebec. The Cons slump as the necessities for governing in a political and ideological minority requires compromises that cost Harper more and more of his base, while never giving him lasting gains beyond it. The Libs simply tread water with the same anemic levels, Dion blinking owlishly into the cameras, as the house sullenly draws to a temporary prorogued cease-fire.
- Simpson 400 tonight
Even with a slight dip in quality of late, The Simpsons have consistently held onto the best half hour of television for a ridiculously long time.
- The Fall of Musharraf?
Margolis on why we better start really worrying about Pakistan.
- The Saturday Cartoons
The weekly American editorial cartoon roundup from Bob Geiger.
- Carter jumping on the grenade?
Al Gore's book comes out this week, is Carter deliberately being a lightning rod for the right wing noise machine to give Gore some cover?
- 3D Pulp
Art out of a musty yellow-paged alternate world.
- Elite Links
I get a whiff of Moonie style news off the main site, but this link page will be porn for public policy nerds - I should know.
- And speaking of Porn...
Calls for The Bible to be declared obscene literature.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
A three-week wave of massive cyber-attacks on the small Baltic country of Estonia, the first known incidence of such an assault on a state, is causing alarm across the western alliance, with Nato urgently examining the offensive and its implications.
While Russia and Estonia are embroiled in their worst dispute since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a row that erupted at the end of last month over the Estonians' removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn, the country has been subjected to a barrage of cyber warfare, disabling the websites of government ministries, political parties, newspapers, banks, and companies.
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.The response from Republican National Committee spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson, essentially boiled down to 'Oh no you DINNINNNT!':
"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said. "But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."
"The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion," Carter said. "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one."
"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," she said.Heh. I love lectures on the subject of 'recklessness' from Republicans. Cognitive dissonance so pronounced it's a wonder her eyes didn't cross.
With a transit walkout looming, a Calgary alderman wants the province to look at eliminating unions' right to strike unless workers' safety is in jeopardy.
Ald. Craig Burrows said the necessity of allowing workers to strike has outlived its usefulness and only creates a confrontational atmosphere around labour negotiations, a prime example being the city's current impasse with the transit union.
"The days of unions having strikes doesn't make sense any more -- you shouldn't have the right to strike just because you want more money," he said.
"I'm not saying let's abolish unions -- what I am saying is let's abolish strikes if it has nothing to do with workers' safety."
Which would in one stroke, heavily radicalize previously relatively content workers and make the strikes - which to be clear, would still happen illegal. Such a law would not make strikes cease to exist, just vastly increase the odds that they would descend into bloodshed.
This is the province, where two years ago a manager at a meatpacking plant deliberately drove a union official off the road. A plant where people were, among other things, striking for a first contract to get break times so that they didn't have to piss themselves at their work-stations.
This is a province where a corporate CEO deliberately encouraged conflict on the streets by organizing a rally of scabs against a rally of locked out workers - to the horror of watching city police.
This is the province, one of the few places in the world, where farm workers are legally prohibited from even trying to form a union - and not surprisingly are exploited, frequently injured, and even murdered by their bosses.
Does this sound like a place where unions are no longer needed? Where their power should be diminished rather than strengthened?
Just as outlawing abortion would simply make the abortions that would continue to take place illegal and dangerous - outlawing strikes would simply make the strikes that would continue to happen illegal and dangerous.
That an elected civic official does not comprehend such elementary social arithmetic is deeply troubling.
Another factor Alderman Burrows has clearly not considered, is that all industries under federal labor law would continue to have their strike rights, even in the hopefully brief period before the courts returned them to provincially regulated employees.
So if Burrow's deeply ill-considered idea ever actually became law, was enacted, and survived the inevitable court challenges, it would simply create first and second class citizens in Alberta.
Employees would have legal strike rights if they worked in telecommunications, railway or federal public service among others.
Everyone else would be facing jail for picking up a picket sign.
Alderman does the term 'recipe for chaos' mean anything to you?
Pope Benedict was always on the far right of the unofficial Vatican ideological divide - remember, back when he was just Cardinal Ratzinger he led the department that had evolved out of the Inquisition. His latest remarks are a harsh reminder of just how completely the reactionary elements of the Catholic hierarchy have swung the church away from the ...ahem... aborted progressive leanings of Vatican II in the sixties.
Chavez's criticism of the Pope's statements will doubtlessly be hyped as a breathless fire-breathing radical's attack on the Pope, but in fact it's fairly mild and considered.
It is more than a little disturbing that a religious leader in the 21st century is justifying, even lauding, a policy of forced conversion, minimizing the moral nightmare of slavery, torture and murder, and in effect suggesting the victims of cultural genocide should be thanking their tormentors. The theological thinking only implied in Mel Gibson's anti-Mayan polemic Apocalypto with it's final shot of Spanish Galleons come to rescue the poor natives out of darkness is front and center in the Pope's remarks.
Chavez, who regularly clashes with the Catholic Church in Venezuela but had not directly criticized the Pope before, accused the Pontiff on Friday of ignoring the "holocaust" that followed Christopher Columbus's 1492 landing in the Americas.
"With all due respect your Holiness, apologize because there was a real genocide here and, if we were to deny it, we would be denying our very selves," Chavez said at an event on freedom of expression.
While the consequences of the church doctrine (Not - I hasten to add - just Catholic) of enforced assimilation can still be seen in living survivors of Canada's residency school kidnap factories - and similar programs all over the world - Pope Benedict chooses justification and minimization over any real attempt at reconciliation.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Yesterday Stephen Harper complained that the opposition parties were solely responsible for the committee paralysis gripping the Hill. Today Don Martin described the 200 page procedural dirty tricks guide distributed to Conservative committee chairs that had been leaked to him.
Among it's contents:
• That the Conservative party helps pick committee witnesses. The chairman "should ensure that witnesses suggested by the Conservative Party of Canada are favourable to the government and ministry," the document warns.The government's defense for this deliberate abuse of procedural combat as articulated by Government whip Jay Hill:
• The chairmen should also seek to "include witnesses from Conservative ridings across Canada" and make sure their local MPs take the place of a member at the committee when a constituent appears, to show they listen and care.
• The chairmen should "meet with witnesses so as to review testimony and assist in question preparation."
• Procedural notes tell the chairmen to always recognize a Conservative member just before a motion is put to a vote "and let them speak as long as they wish" - a maneuver used to kickstart a filibuster as a stall tactic.
• Chairmen are told to notify all affected ministries prior to a motion being voted upon. "Communicate concerns with the Prime Minister's Office, House Leader or Whip," the document insists. "Try to anticipate the response of the press and how party could be portrayed."
• The guide says a "disruptive" committee should be adjourned by the chairman on short notice. "Such authority is solely in the discretion of the chair. No debate, no appeal possible." By failing to appoint the vice chair to run the meeting, the adjournment will last until the chair is ready to reconvene the committee.
"Canadians elected a Conservative minority government, not a coalition of opposition parties."Yes Jay, a minority government, and one of the well known features of a minority government is that it needs to make alliances to survive. And if it's ideologically and pathologically incapable of cooperating with any of the other representatives of the more than six out of ten Canadian voters who didn't vote Conservative?
Then you can't govern and shouldn't complain when other people try to take up the slack.
But Ralph is gone and times have changed.
Even in his last election, the bloom was off the rose. The Conservatives lost several seats in Calgary to the Liberals, came close to losing more and saw a big drop in their province wide support. This time his fading radiance isn't there to offer any protection to those who remain.
And some of the local elites seem to have finally soured on the Tories. Our Mayor's war of words with our distant rural focused new Premier over infrastructure funding, egged on by populists in the local media led by Rick Bell at the Sun has cast some doubt onto the Conservative's aura of inevitability. The thing to remember about Alberta's famous political mono-culture is that every forty years or so, like the shifting of magnetic poles there's a millenarian scale change and the dominant party is wiped out by the opposition, who then hold on for another forty years.
I'm hopeful that our massively changing demographics might have begun to bring some political maturity to my province and we can break the dynasty habit.
Both the Libs and the PCs have picked their candidates for next month's by-election. The ANDP is holding a contested nomination between Al Brown & Garnet Wilcox next week.
Listen closely and you might hear the first pebbles of the Alberta Conservative dynasty beginning to slide down the mountain. The symbolism of losing King Ralph's old fortress would certainly accelerate the process.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Two senior White House officials, Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales, were headed to Ashcroft's hospital bed, despite the instructions of his wife that there would be no phone calls or visitors. They wanted Ashcroft to sign off on the secret National Security Agency wiretapping program, a program that Ashcroft had already decided to reject before falling ill.
Comey was determined to stop them. "So I hung up the phone," Comey told the committee, and I "immediately called my chief of staff, told him to get as many of my people as possible to the hospital immediately. I hung up, called [FBI] Director [Robert] Mueller and -- with whom I'd been discussing this particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week -- and told him what was happening. He said, 'I'll meet you at the hospital right now.' [I] told my security detail that I needed to get to George Washington Hospital immediately. They turned on the emergency equipment and drove very quickly to the hospital. I got out of the car and ran up -- literally ran up the stairs with my security detail."The story gets better at this point. Comey's testimony reads like a detective story. Minutes later, there is a showdown in the hospital room. Ashcroft, buffered by his wife and three of his senior deputies, faces down Gonzales and Card and refuses to sign off on the spy program. Gonzales and Card storm out of the room. Card calls Comey and demands that he come to the White House, but Comey refuses to go until he can get Ted Olson, the solicitor general, to accompany him. "After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness," Comey tells Card.
Update: The testimony
I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.
Monday, May 14, 2007
CALGARY (CP) -- A second accident at a work site where two foreign workers were killed last month has members of the Alberta Federation of Labour calling for government action.
Delegates at the federation's biennial convention voted unanimously Sunday for a resolution calling for the immediate shutdown of the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. tank farm site 70 km north of Fort McMurray.
"We have between 10 and 12 other tanks that are being constructed by exactly the same contractor with the same building materials, with the same construction practices," he said of the contractor, Sinopec Shanghai.
"Workers may be putting their lives at risk by being there Monday morning."
Witnesses said a roof support structure inside the tank -- which is among several incomplete structures on the tank farm -- gave way around 6:30 p.m.
"I can't believe that this has happened three weeks after a similar tank roof crashed and killed workers," said Tim Brower, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 424.
"We're just very thankful that nobody was killed or injured."
Barry Salmon, also of the electrical workers' union, said employees at the Horizon site reported there weren't enough wires to hold the tank upright.
Ordinarily, 40 cables are placed around a huge oil container under construction, Salmon said, adding that workers on the site said this one had less than 20.
A spokesman for Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. could not be reached for comment.
It's true that China produces close to the lion's share of the worlds greenhouse gasses and many other pollutants as well - see the rankings list in the comments. What's not true is the contention that they are doing nothing about it.
It may have taken driving right up to the edge of environmental Armageddon - and yes, maybe over the edge - but China has begun a massive and unprecedented transformation - environmental consciousness is strong and growing among China's elite and beginning to trickle down to the public at large.
The same authoritarian central control that allowed them to rapidly transform from a developing agrarian society to a massively industrialized one - a transformation that took centuries in the West took decades in China - is now being directed towards the massive environmental damage this rapid transition caused.
It's still one of the most poisoned countries on Earth, soon producing the most CO2 of any country with its vast network of dirty coal power, and will be for quite a while, but there seems to be a growing recognition that they can't stay that way.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
- Who facilitated the environment to make torture a debatable issue?
- Who permitted Bush administration officials to boast of the Taliban’s defeat in Afghanistan long after clear evidence showed otherwise?
- Who allowed the Pentagon and the White House to scapegoat a few low-level grunts for the entire Abu Ghraib scandal even though documents clearly show that torture and its foundations were sanctioned at the highest levels of our government, from then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to torture architect Alberto Gonzales to President Bush and Vice President Cheney?
- Who focused round-the-clock coverage on the arrest of John Mark Karr and death of Anna Nicole Smith yet barely batted an eye at the Military Commissions Act, one of the most alarming anti-democratic laws in our nation’s history, which made torture permissible, whacked habeas corpus, and granted the president sole power to detain and disappear any American citizen he alone deems an “enemy combatant”?
- Who even sat on their hands while this White House threatened their very livelihood, their basic right to report the facts, as in the case of New York Times editor Bill Keller, besieged by threats of treason and execution for breaking the story of the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping of American citizens (despite the fact The Times had sat on the story for a year)?
- Canada's Industrial retreat -
The central argument for lowering even further the corporations already shamefully low share of the country's tax burden is that they will re-invest these savings into our economy. How's that working out? Well....
- Whistling past the graveyard -
Contrary to all observable evidence its the Democrats in trouble not the Republicans. Yeah, that's the ticket.
- Texas Justice -
The 14 year old white girl gets probation for burning down the family home. The 14 year old black girl gets seven years in jail for shoving a hall monitor. Same Judge.
- Tuesday the end-game for Wolfowitz -
Several European nations are openly threatening to remove funding if Wolfowitz stays, No Confidence means no chance.
- Locked in her home for months -
Then they found out the TB test was an error and she didn't need to be terrified about infecting her family or be poisoned with high dose antibiotics.
- Zero tolerance for terrorists -
Um, unless they attacked Cuba.
- Iraq an Empire killer? -
The Soviets thought Afghanistan was no big deal at first too.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
One who did understand is Matthew Parris, the former Tory MP. Before the 2004 presidential election he said he wanted Bush re-elected: his presidency was halfway through an "experiment whose importance is almost literally earth-shattering" and should be played out to its inevitable failure.
But that failure must be demonstrated beyond contradiction. "The theory that liberal values and a capitalist system can be spread across the world by force of arms... should be tested to destruction ... The president and his neoconservative court should be offered all the rope they need to hang themselves."
His wish has come true; neocons are dangling all around us. In a flicker of self-knowledge, Wolfowitz told a recent World Bank meeting: "I understand that I've lost a lot of trust, and I want to build that trust back up." But it's too late, for him and all the other courtiers. They never really enjoyed the trust of most Europeans, let alone Africans and Asians, and they have now lost the trust of the American people.
All the readings on the barometer and the wind gauge say the same thing. The perfect storm is gathering. Unfortunately the collapse of the neocon project comes at a very heavy cost, not only to the people of Iraq but to all of us.
Pointed out by my friend Ian.
Listen, nothing's going to change in September, no matter what the Republicans are trying to convince the media of. In September, they're gonna say "the plan needs more time to work." SSDD. And Democrats waiting for the mass defections from Republican ranks are going to be left holding the bag. Which is fine. If the GOP really wants to jump off the bridge with Bush, then so be it. Just be prepared is all I'm saying. There's no defection coming.
Kabuki. Pure and simple.
Did any one of those 11 back up this "grave unease" with their votes yesterday? The answer is no. All 11 voted straight party line with Bush.
"But wait," you say. "Straight party line? I thought at least that two Republicans crossed over to vote with Dems yesterday?"
Yeah, they did: Wayne Gilchrest and Walter Jones.
But they weren't invited to the White House to express their "grave unease."
No, the whole thing was a put-on, just like everything else. Nothing but a gaggle of Republican props who have been dining out on their "moderate" credentials for years, shuffled out onto the stage to put on their "maverick" show, then shipped back to their day jobs to vote no, like always.
September. Means. Nothing.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Canada is set to raise the amount of maximum pesticide residues allowable on hundreds of fruits and vegetables, reports the Ottawa Citizen, as part of "an effort to harmonize Canadian pesticide rules with those of the United States."
The differing standards are a "trade irritant," we are told.
Apparently our desire to not be poisoned is a trade barrier.
Will America respect the Iraqi democracy they say they invaded to create?
On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media (my emphasis), more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.
It's a hugely significant development. Lawmakers demanding an end to the occupation now have the upper hand in the Iraqi legislature for the first time; previous attempts at a similar resolution fell just short of the 138 votes needed to pass (there are 275 members of the Iraqi parliament, but many have fled the country's civil conflict, and at times it's been difficult to arrive at a quorum).
The wheat flour appears to have been deliberately contaminated. The melamine gives wheat flour the apparent nitrogen content of more costly wheat gluten - which is what the product was labeled as.
Skretting Canada, a major producer of salmon and trout feed, said in a new release Tuesday that it hadn't received any complaints related to "unusual fish health issues," but was voluntarily recalling all feed related to the shipment.No word which Canadian fish farms have used the meal contaminated with the product and where. Any BC based bloggers want to take a run at this?
A second Vancouver-area fish meal producer, Westaqua Commodity Group Ltd., is also believed to be linked to the contamination, but wouldn't comment Tuesday.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Ottawa — The federal government's new clean air plan will exempt Alberta's oil sands — alone among all sectors of heavy industry in Canada — from a requirement to cut emissions of two smog-causing pollutants.Here in Calgary with it's presumed monolithic ideological support for the Conservatives and assumed visceral rejection of any restrictions on the behaviour of our oil industry - there's a strong sense of embarrassment from the majority.
The majority of Albertans already believe in the existence of global warming, accept that humanity is the cause and specifically accept that in Canada we in Alberta are disproportionately producing the greenhouse gasses that produce it. Bullshit 'intensity' targets were already designed to cater to Alberta's oil and gas industry - this latest news just confirms the Conservative Alberta-centric bias to the rest of Canada.
Dion won't have to win the next election, the Cons are doing a good enough job of losing it.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lloyd's of London, the world's oldest insurer, offered a gloomy forecast of floods, droughts and disastrous storms over the next 50 years in a recently published report on impending climate changes.
"These things are fact, not hypothesis," said Wendy Baker, the president of Lloyd's America in an interview on Monday. "You don't have to be a believer in global warming to recognize the climate is changing. The industry has to get ready for the changes that are coming."
As long as there were large numbers of uninsured, Burd reasoned, there would be no solution to his company’s — or the country’s — problems with affordable care. And that, he says, is when it finally dawned on him: Maybe this was a problem the company couldn’t solve on its own. If he wanted relief from employee health costs, the government would have to help.
Indeed, Mr. Burd’s corporate partners are in the same boat, seeking universal health care “not so much out of social solidarity as out of financial necessity,” Mr. Cohn said.Of course they're still pitching some kind of Frankenstein patchwork that leaves the huge insurance and HMO gangster lobbies their obscene profits - but at least they're starting to see the point of universal coverage.
This morning on CBS’s Face the Nation, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
advised fellow conservatives not to talk about President Bush’s record. “President Bush is not the future. He’s not a solution. He doesn’t solve Social Security. He doesn’t solve Medicare. He doesn’t solve the economy. He doesn’t solve the environment. He doesn’t solve education. He’s a current fact,” Gingrich said.
It’s also a “current fact” that the conservative agenda has failed to “solve” these important issues over the past six years.Gingrich went on to say that conservatives “have to say, this is not what we want to debate. It’s not in Baghdad, it’s not in Katrina, it’s not at Walter Reed, it’s not with the U.S. attorneys, but I have a better plan for a better solution that fits your values.” When Host Bob Schieffer suggested that Gingrich seemed to advocating steering clear of President Bush, Gingrich responded, “Well, I think that’s clear.”
Monday, May 07, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Played this tune a lot when I was walking on the line.
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead
In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
We've often been told to keep up with the times
For our skills are not needed, they've streamlined the job
And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed
We're the first ones to starve, we're the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And we're always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat's about
And when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
Who's given a gun and then pushed to the fore
And expected to die for the land of our birth
Though we've never owned one lousy handful of earth?
All of these things the worker has done
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
We've been yoked to the plough since time first began
And always expected to carry the can
- Interview with Linda Mcquaig -
The author Conrad Black once said he wanted to horse-whip has a new book out.
- Weekly US editorial cartoons -
From Bob Geiger.
- You're going to look good in orange -
Horrible thing happens to horrible person.
- Impeaching Richard B. Cheney -
Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency.
- Walmart VS Nuns -
You can tell a lot about someone by their enemies.
- "You've got till September George." -
The House Republicans warn the White House they'll need a success story by Fall - Now we just need to keep an eye on the definitions of success.
- Historical Ending -
Neo-con off the reservation, Francis Fukuyama calls defeat in Iraq inevitable.
- Universe -
A stellar graphic model for news data.
- Training the Afghan army -
How achievable are our definitions of success?
Saturday, May 05, 2007
WASHINGTON In a survey of U.S. troops in combat in Iraq, less than half of Marines soldiers said they feel they should treat noncombatants with respect. Only about a half said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.
More than 40 percent support the idea of torture in some cases, and 10 percent reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians, the Pentagon said Friday in what it called its first ethics study of troops at the war front. Units exposed to the most combat were chosen for the study, officials said.
This is not the first time Taheri has been associated with a media controversy. In May 2006, the Canadian daily The National Post published an article by him on the significance of Iran's having passed a law to impose an Islamic dress code.
"I speculated about what they were then going to do about religious minorities," Taheri explained to Jerusalem Post editors. "Then I went back to history - how Jews were distinguished; how Christians were distinguished; how Zoroastrians were distinguished. The Canadian paper presented this as a news story - as though it had already happened [as though Jews were going to be forced to wear the equivalent of the Nazi-imposed yellow star] - and everyone started attacking me [for giving false information]. It was really a big, big misunderstanding."
Then, in his own words:
The National Post doesn't deserve a pass for their credulity, but they got out of Taheri's article exactly what he intended them to. This was a stunningly blatant neo-con psy-op, as The Nation revealed.
"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."
Both the police and some of the immigration protesters reported things started getting ugly when a group of masked anarchists began taunting and pelting the police. There were claims that they numbered up to a hundred and used sophisticated skirmishing tactics.
Police Chief William J. Bratton initially said that as many as 100 anarchists touched off Tuesday's clash by throwing rocks and bottles at officers. He later described them more generally as "the agitators or the anarchists as they are more commonly called."But the same article concedes that the organized anarchist presence in LA has fallen dramatically from a high in 2000 and along with other sources pointed out that so-called anarchists are often used as an excuse by the authorities to justify brutal suppression tactics. Other witnesses said the numbers of putative 'black bloc' masked protesters were much smaller than reported and that it was the police who initiated the conflict.
Bratton said news video showed that they were "more organized than we are in some respects," as they approached the police in triangle formation, backed by a line of projectile tossers.
Dana Ward, a political psychology professor at Pitzer College and an anarchist, said Tuesday's turmoil does not sound like the work of those active in the Southern California movement.
"There would be no advantage to starting trouble at a march dealing with immigration," said Ward, who maintains an archive on the history and theory of anarchism. "It would just bring bad publicity."
He also said the police often use the anarchist label as a "propaganda tool."
Ward placed the L.A. anarchist census at a few hundred to a couple of thousand, the vast majority of them devoted to nonviolence.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Oda financed her campaign with giant, unseemly donations from the entertainment and pharmaceutical companies -- many of them US-based -- and was then embarrassed when it was revealed that she planned a $250/plate fundraiser, while in office, just two weeks before a major review of Canada's broadcasters.Hat tip to Boing Boing
Oda agreed to return the money, but it has just been revealed that she lied about this and cashed the cheques anyway. Oda is promising to bring down a Canadian version of the US DMCA, the law that is at the center of the AACS debacle, in which a consortium of anti-copying vendors threatened hundreds of bloggers, educators, and news-publishers over their reportage of a crack to the restriction software built into HD-DVD.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
But, here’s the other shoe dropping, we are at war, and we’ve got to make sure that we do not let go 50 terrorists who will go out and plant a bomb in London and kill 20,000 people in order to protect that one person who we arrested accidentally because his name was the same. That’s the type of unfortunate consequence.
Well, I hope it’s your families, I hope it’s your families that suffer the consequences. Mr. Chairman, I will be very happy to talk to everybody afterwards if you want to talk to me, but in terms of the hearing, I’d like to make my points without having it animated. One person — if we let, if in order to protect the rights of one or two people, or five people or ten people, who are mistakenly abducted because their names were the same or because they went to a mosque that they didn’t know this thing was going on in the back room, if 10 of those people suffer those consequences, but in order for us to take 90 other people off the street who are intent and involved in plans that would slaughter tens of thousands of our citizens, I’m afraid that’s the price we pay in a real world. And the United States, we’re not ghouls. We’re not, we don’t, we’re not, we don’t want to torture somebody because he has a bad name. We want to get information from somebody that we think might want to kill our children and kill your children. And if you doubt our motives, you’re welcome to, I know there’s a lot of people who hate America, but when the pressure’s on, quite frankly, we have known all along that at times America has to go it alone, and people will try to find fault with us rather than trying to at least understand our morality.
The Wall St. Journal online has today published a lengthy and truly astonishing article by Harvard Government Professor Harvey Mansfield, which expressly argues that the power of the President is greater than "the rule of law."
All sorts of the most political influential people in our country -- from Dick Cheney to Richard Posner to John Yoo and The Weekly Standard -- believe and have argued for exactly this vision of government. They literally do not believe in our constitutional framework and our most defining political values. They have declared a literally endless War which, they claim, not only justifies but compels the vesting of unlimited power in the President -- "unlimited" by Congress, the courts, American public opinion and the rule of law.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
- It won't get better. It will get worse. And it will keep getting worse until you do something.
- You have to be very honest with yourself about what voters think. It may not be the same as what you think. Confusing these two things is very easy. Untangling them is vital.
From the start, the processing of prisoners entailed some grisly practices. When Captain Carolyn Wood assumed control of the prison in the summer of 2002--she ran it until taking over Abu Ghraib a year later--interrogation tactics came to include beatings, anal violation with sharp objects, blows to the genitals, and "peroneal" strikes (an incapacitating blow to the leg with a baton, a knee, or a shin). We know about these tactics because an internal Army investigation into two prisoner deaths was obtained by The New York Times. These detainees--a 22-year-old taxi driver and the brother of a Taliban commander--were found dead and hanging from the wrists by shackles. A coroner's report said the two men died after being subjected to dozens of peroneal strikes. According to the coroner's report, the "pulpified" legs of one of the corpses looked as if they had "been run over by a bus."
During these early years, one of the most notorious figures at the prison was Private First Class Damien M. Corsetti, known in turns as the "King of Torture" and "Monster." Corsetti tattooed an Italian translation of the latter moniker across his stomach. In the end, a military tribunal cleared Corsetti of all charges. His lawyer successfully argued before the tribunal that the rules for detainee treatment were unclear: "The president of the United States doesn't know what the rules are. The secretary of defense doesn't know what the rules are. But the government expects this Pfc. to know what the rules are?" But, in the course of proving his innocence, Corsetti revealed several damning details. One of the prisoners he called to testify on his behalf told the military judges that a Saudi detainee recounted how Corsetti had threatened to rape him. He had even taken out his penis and yelled, "This is your God!"
It's not that Bagram has entirely escaped scrutiny. Army investigators have recommended criminal charges for 27 alleged Bagram-based torturers. But, of these 27, only four soldiers have been sentenced to prison time--for no more than several months. The alleged abusers have evaded punishment largely with the help of, among others, Donald Rumsfeld, who approved a December 2002 memorandum that permitted the use of stripping, dogs, and stress positions in interrogations. In fact, many of the top brass who presided over Bagram have done more than escape punishment. Despite the many accounts of Captain Wood's encouragement of torture--Amnesty International has called her a "torture architect"--she has received two Bronze Stars.
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