Thursday, November 29, 2007

How do you shoot someone in the back of the head in self defense?

Paul Kennedy, chair of the commission for public complaints against the RCMP has concluded that Constable Paul Koester's story that with his face down in a couch cushion and a six foot 187 pound Ian Bush on his back throttling him, he was able to draw his weapon, reach behind his back, behind Ian Bush and shoot him in the back of the head is the truth.
Koester, who stands 6-4 and weighs 180 pounds, insisted the six-foot, 187-pound laborer was atop his back choking the life out of him when he managed to free his gun. In a physical feat even RCMP investigators conceded was worthy of a contortionist, the Constable got the gun behind his own back, up to the back of Bush's head and shot him. He refused to reenact what happened for investigators and the coroner's inquest that was held earlier this year.
The RCMP seem mystified as to why anyone could have any doubts in this version of events, firmly believe they have no image problem with the public and indignantly reject Kennedy's call for video and audio equipment in all areas where prisoners are dealt with as 'unnecessary'.

UPDATE: Gary Mason, behind a paywall, flatly says he doesn't believe the RCMP and Constable Koester's description of the death of Ian Bush:
Like many others, I don't believe his version of events. I just don't see how he could have hit Mr. Bush three times in the back of the head with the tip of his gun and then shot him, all the while being face down on a couch and with Mr. Bush lying on top of him.
The fact that Constable Koester refused on the advice of his lawyer to be part of a re-enactment at the inquest into the shooting only confirmed my doubts. Personally, I believe Constable Koester was on top of Mr. Bush, hit him three times in the back of the head with the tip of his gun and then hit him a fourth time when his gun accidentally went off.
However, in a demonstration of institutional schizophrenia, the Globe's editorial board disregards the opinion of the reporter covering the story since the beginning. They accept the RCMP version unreservedly. They call the Kennedy report that Mason dismisses as fatally compromised 'persuasive' and claim Constable Koester is 'entitled to respect and a fresh start.'

I submit that Constable Koester's fresh start should be in the neighborhood lived in by the Globe and Mail's editors dealing with their children in unmonitored RCMP backrooms.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Canada about to become Big Media's copyright bitch?

The new copyright legislation the Conservatives will be bringing to parliament in the New Year is expected to be a draconian gift to huge American media conglomerates. Stuff they couldn't get away with in the US or any other country, restrictions on fair use, parody and personal back up rights that wouldn't fly anywhere else on Earth.
Gear up for a fight in the New Year. The American record labels, in particular, are said to be well organised and ready to push this through on a fast track (even though they've abandoned DRM in the rest of the world, they view Canada as a weak sister they can push around).
It's expected the legislation will open the floodgates of American style music industry hunting of fans, blaming their failing business model on technical innovation and suing music lovers rather than accepting that technology and the market requires they adapt to how they serve them. This is legislation paid for and designed by frightened reactionary old men who hate the technological changes to their market - and by extension their customers using new technology - both of which that they literally seem incapable of understanding.

All this despite ample evidence over the years that file-sharing is being falsely blamed for killing the music industry and can actually help sell music.

Michael Geist's 30 things you can do missive from last year still applies. Start fighting back now against the American media lobbyists and their pet legislators in Canada's Conservative government who want to turn back the clock on innovation and criminalize their customers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wade in the Water

Judy Henske

Sunday Linkblast - Nov 25

Friday, November 23, 2007

Suddenly Huckabee

It's a convincing indication of how weak the line up Republicans will choose their presidential candidate from is, that at this late date a former Arkansas Governor, economic populist and religious extremist has vaulted from the obscurity of the polling basement to the front ranks in the Iowa primary.

The Mormon suit who's positions change depending on the audience? The former mayor, the 'small man in search of a balcony' with liberal views on abortion and gays? The hawkish Arizona senator, baffled at his fall from grace? No, the focus of attention this week, the new Republican 'It Girl' as Matt Taibbi puts it, is Mike Huckabee.

Libertarian Iraq war opponent Ron Paul aside, Huckabee is one of the oddest candidates in the Republican line-up: He's an economic moderate and even his opponents believe he's sincere about his concern for the poor which has severely alienated the big money wing of the GOP. He's open to having his mind changed. What some commentators decry as flip-flopping, observers have called a willingness to be convinced of alternate points of view. He's opposed the Republican orthodoxy on racist immigrant bashing, global warming and trade.

He's also an extreme Christian fundamentalist who believes the world is only 6000 years old, angrily opposes the teaching of evolution and once tried to block a mentally handicapped child raped by her stepfather from getting an abortion.

He has some serious ethical skeletons in his closet, including a pattern of grasping nickel and dime money grubbing while Governor that seems to stem from his televangelist roots. But his worst scandal is probably how he pandered to the Clinton conspiracy nuts by releasing a man from prison supposedly framed by the Clintons who went on to commit rape and murder - he's tried to run away from it but that's the decision that will come back to haunt his candidacy the most. Additionally his 'Fair Tax' policy was inspired by the Scientologists as part of their war with the IRS and has been panned by serious economists from across the political spectrum.

He's become the choice of the Christian Right of the Republican Party and has the potential to merge their base with the dwindling economic moderates in the party. As Taibbi puts it 'Make no mistake, Huckabee can win this thing.'

The general election? That's another story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Selling destruction

The product - war with Iran - has now gone to the focus groups to finalize the packaging and will be ready for wide release sooner than you think...

Laura Sonnenmark is a focus group regular. "I've been asked to talk about orange juice, cell phone service, furniture," the Fairfax County, Virginia-based children's book author and Democratic Party volunteer says. But when she was called by a focus group organizer for a prospective assignment earlier this month, she was told the questions this time would be about something "political."

On November 1, she went to the offices of Martin Focus Groups in Alexandria, Virginia, knowing she would be paid $150 for two hours of her time. After joining a half dozen other women in a conference room, she discovered that she had been called in for what seemed an unusual assignment: to help test-market language that could be used to sell military action against Iran to the American public. "The whole basis of the whole thing was, 'we're going to go into Iran and what do we have to do to get you guys to along with it?" says Sonnenmark, 49.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Linkblast - Nov 18

Friday, November 16, 2007

CLAC cracked?

The Christian Labour Association of Canada, not to put too fine a point on it, is a fake union. They're an association with no standing in the Canadian Labour Congress. They oppose Wage Equity and anti-sexual discrimination campaigns because they believe they “undermine the foundations of such institutions as marriage and the family.”

CLAC, is the bosses favorite union. Employers bring them in to keep real unions out.

But CLAC has been having a bad couple of months:
EDMONTON, Oct. 18 /CNW/ - In an important and strongly-worded decision released yesterday, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned a controversial Labour Relations Board (LRB) decision which allowed Finning International in 2005 to rid itself of a union collective agreement by establishing a new company for part of its operations. At the time the decision was considered by many to fly in the face of available evidence.
"This is an important decision by the three Justices of the Court of Appeal," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "It reverses a terrible decision by the Alberta Labour Relations Board (LRB). Finning had created a new blueprint for union busting, and the LRB was letting them get away with it. Thankfully the Court of Appeal saw through it and has stopped it."
The unanimous decision pertains to a dispute in 2005, in which Finning International created a new entity, OEM Remanufacturing, to take over Finning's component rebuilding operations. In the transfer OEM evaded the existing contract with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and instead signed a contract with the Christian Labour Association of Canada CLAC).

ABBOTSFORD, BC, Nov. 14 /CNW/ - The BC Labour Relations Board will grant the United Steelworkers (USW) the legal right to be the bargaining agent for more than 150 workers at Dynamic Windows and Doors in Abbotsford. Workers decided to join the USW, removing the previous certification by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). USW Local 2952, based in Burnaby, will represent the workers who are currently covered by a collective agreement negotiated by the CLAC. That agreement expires on April 30, 2009.

Two hundred and fifty health care workers at two privately-operated care facilities in the Kootenays have voted to join the Hospital Employees' Union. In Nelson, more than ninety care staff - employed by Advocare at Mountain Lake Seniors' Community - joined HEU as part of a joint campaign with the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) that also included some of the company's operations in Kelowna and Penticton.
The facts about CLAC have been getting out to workers thanks to groups like The Truth about CLAC and the IWW's CLAC Attack! campaign. Additionally important rulings have been won against them. The Alberta Appeals Court ruling was a major blow not just against CLAC but against the flimsy shreds that were left of the Alberta Labour Board's credibility. Losing a challenge before the courts is so unprecedented, it highlights just how grotesque the decision by the Labour Board's five person 'super panel' to overturn the board's original ruling was.

On the negative side, CLAC has hitherto been denied access to Saskatchewan. Any bets on how long before Saskatchewan's new 'business friendly' government decides to change that?

Yep, there's an election coming

After their farcical claim that the treasury cupboard was bare was greeted with almost universal hooting, the Alberta government has now bitten the bullet and bought labour peace with the teachers.

There are many complex details to the deal-in-principle that Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach did with Alberta Teachers Association president Frank Bruseker yesterday over pensions and wages.

It's a pact so important it had Education Minister Ron Liepert pulling an all-nighter back from Japan, where he was on a jolly junket, so he could get some quality podium time with Ed and Frankie.

But in raw Alberta political terms, it means Steady Eddie can tick off another big box on his to-do list as he ramps up to the spring election.

And while the royalty review was tough - and the municipal stability initiative proved it was not exactly a piece of cake to give away $11 billion -the ATA deal could have been a greater problem than all of the above.

That's due to the pension issue - the hole in the teachers' pension fund is a problem going back to the Peter Lougheed days.

Even though the unfunded liability could have cost Alberta taxpayers $45 billion to wipe the red ink off the books and pay the interest costs over the next 50 years, it's nobody's hot-button issue.

The danger is the mayhem that Bruseker and some of the ATA hotheads could cause in March, April or May when Stelmach is expected to pull the pin on the present legislature and seek his own mandate. With large numbers of ATA local contracts already up, Bruseker has been talking strike since last summer.

So-called 'fiscal responsibility' doesn't mean risking angry parents during a campaign. Remember this the next time the Alberta government claims poverty to avoid social spending: If there's an election in the offing they'll find the money somewhere.

Hat tip to Eugene.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Innovation Myth

One of the most cherished arguments of the opponents of public health care, is that medical innovation comes from private medicine. 'Look at America', they pronounce smugly, 'the world leaders in medical innovation and it's all thanks to the free market!'

Not so fast. Turns out, yet again that public enterprise is the real innovator:
The single biggest source of medical research funding, not just in the United States but in the entire world, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Last year, it spent more than $28 billion on research, accounting for about one-third of the total dollars spent on medical research and development in this country (and half the money spent at universities). The majority of that money pays for the kind of basic research that might someday unlock cures for killer diseases like Alzheimer's, aids, and cancer. No other country has an institution that matches the NIH in scale. And that is probably the primary explanation for why so many of the intellectual breakthroughs in medical science happen here.
Market forces can actually squelch innovation: A longstanding drug treatment for metabolic disorders has been discovered to be one of the most exciting potential cancer treatments to come down the pike in years, but big pharma refuses to do the clinical trials necessary to put it in the treatment pipeline.

Because it's a longstanding drug treatment it can't be patented as a cancer treatment and make them billions - in fact the more effective it turns out to be the more it might cut into the profits from the compounds - most much more toxic and very possibly much less effective - that they can patent, so cancer victims suffer and die because the profit motive discourages innovation.

It's not the only example either. When a cheap cancer drug in really cheap quantities turned out to be a cure for macular degeneration, the drug company behind it tried to stop the affordable treatment of blindness so that they could split off the compound responsible and sell it for a hundred times more.

So another of the dwindling arguments for profit driven medicine down. Next?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Linkblast - November 11

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bush League Economics

It's worth reading Joseph Stiglitz's whole piece 'The Economic Consequences of Mr Bush' in Vanity Fair this month or online here. Even for non-economists it's a devastating indictment of the worst record of reckless mismanagement in Presidential history.

It's also worth remembering that, although conservatives are scurrying away from his pestilent shadow and there's lots of pronouncements about how Bush is a special case who doesn't represent real conservatism - this is simply not true.

George W. Bush simply took political conservatism and economic neo-liberalism to their illogical extremes. The same pattern of authoritarianism, abandonment of the social contact and wealth distribution upwards can be found in mainstream conservatism and liberalism these days - just at a slower more sub-rosa scale.

The crumbling infrastructure, devastated middle-class and shredded social contract of America today lie at the end of the roads both Stephen Harper and St├ęphane Dion want to take us down - paternalistic so-called 'anti-poverty' plans notwithstanding.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Two-Tier Health Care kills

Avi Lewis has an excellent piece in today's Globe and Mail about how two-tier health care in Ireland murdered a woman named Susie Long. It's behind a firewall unfortunately, so here's the whole piece cross-posted at Common Dreams, thus losing The Globe and Mail Internet readers who could have added advertising revenue. Learn from the Gray Lady guys.
Susie Long couldn’t believe it. Sitting in the clinic, waiting for her dose of chemotherapy, she’d been making small talk with the wife of a fellow patient. The man’s doctor had recommended a colonoscopy, and just three days later, he was having the procedure. That day, Susie finished her own treatment, went home and turned on the TV. The first commercial was from the Ministry of Health: Beat colon cancer with a timely colonoscopy! And that’s when Susie Long lost it. She had waited seven months for her colonoscopy, and it came too late. Now she was 39 years old, and she was dying of colon cancer.

So when Dr. Brian (profit over people) Day and the usual suspects at the Fraser Institute wax rhapsodic about the benefits of two-tier health care, without of course ever admitting that's what they are proposing, remember Susie Long, 39 and mother of two, dead because the Irish system now lets you buy your way to the front of the line.

This is what lies at the heart of calls for private sector 'innovation' in our public system.

Saskatchewan's new government

It happens. Even when you're running a clean, efficient government and overseeing a burgeoning economy, after 16 years in power voters can decide it's time for a change.

That's in a politically mature province. Alberta is another story.

The NDP will be back in Saskatchewan. Unlike the last time a right wing party left power there, the NDP don't have almost half their caucus facing jail time. They aren't leaving power under a cloud of scandal and malfeasance that will require them to change the party's name and wander in the political wilderness for more than a decade. They will be a large, effective opposition voice in legislature.

The Saskatchewan Party had to swing significantly leftward, publicly at least, to win this victory. That means even in defeat the NDP still moved the political center significantly down the left side of the playing field. If Wall and the Saskatchewan Party begin to act on the hidden agenda the NDP accused them of, the public will be watching.

This is what happens when the dominant paradigm is a left wing and a right wing party, with the left wing party as the default: the whole political agenda shifts leftward.

Something to consider as we watch the federal dominant paradigm of a hapless 'center left' mushy middle party lurch inexorably rightward.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Devil went down to Georgia

The Primus Version

More 'No Comments' Follies

Bloggers own their blogs and are absolutely within their rights to exercise controls from the minor to draconian, up to and including barring comments altogether. I used to moderate my comments section because blogger had a fairly severe comment spam problem. When they dealt with that issue and the comments about penis enlargement pills awaiting my approval dried up, I took off moderation and now my comments field is wide open - although I of course reserve the right to remove actively illegal or libelous material. That's my choice, other bloggers have the right to choose other approaches.

However the other side of that is that the nature of those blog's controls are fair game for comment on the blogs of others. When Green Party blogger PolitiqueVert repeatedly used her blog to fire cheap shots at the NDP without offering any forum to respond, Eugene exercised his right to point out how gutless that was at his place. Other blogs show a similar MO, such as Liberal blogger Impolitical, who frequently attacks the NDP but is apparently afraid to allow any response.

In the same category but perhaps even more problematic, there are blogs that allow comments, but only if they agree with them. Lib blogger Woman at Mile 0, who I've linked to in the past, for example. I responded to her post attacking Jack Layton and the NDP's position that the Senate should be abolished with this comment at 11:57 AM MST- it would have been the first comment to her original post:

The essentially undemocratic and elitist nature of the Senate should be a progressive issue - the fact that it’s elitist, undemocratic nature has been and continues to be an advantage to the Liberal Party doesn’t change that. All of the environmental issues you mention have been tirelessly pursued by the NDP through minority conservative and minority and majority Liberal governments - all of which have treated them with neglect either benign or malign.

Suggesting that it’s now the NDP who is distracting attention from them is ahistorical and disingenuous.

As of 4 PM MST one comment agreeing with her original post and posted after mine, has been approved and posted. Mine remains in moderation limbo.

This, while her sneeringly dismissive comments on the same subject elsewhere are duly posted with no interception.

It is absolutely her right to decline to post comments on her blog that disagree with her.

And absolutely my right to point out that she is doing so.

UPDATE: Unless of course, her Wordpress blog automatically holds all first time posters for moderation, which would make my self righteous rant fairly ill-advised...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Calgary Sun's evolution

Time was that the Calgary Herald was the city's center right paper and the Sun was the wingnut daily. Right-wing and right-wingier.

Things have changed over the years, the final straw for me with the Herald was during the Lakeside Packers strike when the Herald's agriculture columnist did a piece about how the perfidious UFCW was taking advantage of the 'naive and gullible Africans' working at Lakeside. This was the strike that the workers eventually won a first contract with after one of the plant's management drove a union executive off the road. Although the Canwest chain has shown some discomfort with the Harperites of late, and the plummeting numbers of their flagship the National Pest appears to be delivering a message about the appeal of it's far right editorial consensus, they are still reliably neo-conservative, even if they are more sub-rosa in promoting it.

The Sun has been dipping its toe into working class populism for quite awhile as represented by the columns of Rick Bell (For Edmonton readers, he's our Neil Waugh equivalent.) and the moderate to progressive stance of Bill Kaufman, who I studied Journalism with at Mount Royal College.

Most recently they tossed Ezra Levant overboard after his disgusting attempt to use the death of a child in a tragic school bus accident for anti-Muslim racial pandering - within weeks of the Standard closing its doors in fact which taken together may represent a welcome distancing of mainstream conservatism from Levant's repugnant views.

And today the featured editorial from the hitherto reliably right-wing Licia Corbella harshly condemned Stephen Harper's government for turning away from Canada's long-standing policy of opposing the death penalty in all cases where Canadians face it in other countries.

I slam the mainstream media in Canada for failing to adequately represent the mostly centrist to center left nature of the Canadian public. When they show signs of doing so, particularly in the stereotyped right wing utopia of Calgary they deserve praise for it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

She's baaack

Canada's Ann Coulter wannabe, cute as a bug serial stalker Rachel Marsden was too off the charts - shall we say 'quirky'? - for even Fox News. They walked her out of the building after on-air comments about Pakistani hygiene and too close for comfort editorializing on false rape allegations - a subject she should probably avoid considering her own troubling record.

Now she's turned up on CNN describing deliberately torturing people by repeatedly bringing them to the point of drowning as 'CIA swim lessons'. Crazy-head callousness of this order apparently fitting some CNN marketing knob's idea of the kind of rodeo clown antics Americans have come to expect from their talking heads. It got the attention of Crooks and Liars who did the only minimal amount of digging necessary to find out just how radioactive Marsden is.

There's a limited market for leggy provocateurs of the Coulter school of deliberate outrage - one would hope that it's saturated enough to leave our Miss Marsden with her button nose pressed longingly up against the MSM's window, but for some reason they keep putting her on the air.

The subject of the semantic torture VS swim lessons game (Swim lessons being another subject Marsden should probably avoid considering the associations with her own past.) came up in a discussion over Attorney General candidate Michael Mukasey's inability to say the simple words 'water-boarding is torture' which one would think would be a minimum requirement for the job of being in charge of the American Justice system.

If the new US government position is that it isn't torture - they may owe an apology to the families of all the Japanese soldiers they executed for doing it after World War II.

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