Monday, March 31, 2008

MOMMM!!! Jack Layton keeps picking on me!

It's not the underwhelming leader, not the obsequious deferral to Stephen Harper creating a de facto coalition government of the Conservatives and the Liberals. It's not that they have no real governing philosophy beyond the bland certainty that they should be in charge, it's not even that Quebec was finally sickened beyond bearing it any more by the naked, corrupt avarice revealed by the sponsorship scandal and their party's electoral chances in La Belle Province are beyond flatline for probably a generation.

Nope, the Liberals real problem is that the nasty old NDP keeps picking on them.

With no evidence to support it and ample evidence to disprove it, they continue to whine that Jack Layton and the NDP are going easy on the Conservatives and concentrating on attacking the Liberals (Don't they understand that the needs of the Liberal Party come first?) never mind that this silly and rather snivelling complaint is easily disprovable.

They're even still moaning about the fall of Martin in 2005. It wasn't their fault that they were caught engaging in grotesque and venal criminality, it's not that the voters wanted to punish them, it's not that Martin was unwilling to make a simple commitment to protect universal healthcare. Despite the fact that with or without the NDP they would still have lost that final confidence vote, somehow it's the NDP's fault.

Do Liberals really think that Canadians are looking to vote for the whining party? The party of 'Everyone's responsible for our downfall but us'? The party that after all the extremist behaviour of Harper's government, gathers the spinal fortitude to vote no confidence... in the other opposition parties for giving the Canadian people an opportunity to vote them out two and a half years ago?

But seriously Libs, please do keep whining about being picked on while choosing to eat dirt in parliament over one Harper atrocity after another. It really seems to be working for you.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

For Profit Healthcare = Runaway Costs

Health care costs as a percentage of GDP:But of course, what we really need to do is increase the profit component in our health care system, because that's clearly working so well for the countries that have done so.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bill Maher takes on the Catholic church

Bill Maher causes the internet to crack in half and makes that pulsing vein in William Donohue's head just explode like a geyser.
When Barack Obama didn't hear Reverend Wright say those awful things about America, he still should have rushed the stage, smite Reverend Wright with the cross, and left the church. If there's anything the right wing can agree on, it's that. And that gays are going hell, right after they suck them off in the airport bathroom.
But it raises an obvious question, one that I haven't heard asked, which is strange because it's so obvious: If you leave a church when the head of the church says bad things about America, what do you do when your church hierarchy is caught up in a systematic and decades-long sex abuse scandal? And did I mention the people being sexually abused were children? Hundreds of them?

Cutting through the Spin

If you want to figure out what's really happening in Iraq right now the American mass media is worse than useless. Here's Alternet with a good starting point.
Heavy fighting has spread across Shia-dominated enclaves in Iraq over the past two days. The U.S.-backed regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered 50,000 Iraqi troops to "crack down" -- with coalition air support -- on Shiite militias in the oil-rich and strategically important city of Basra, U.S. forces have surrounded Baghdad's Sadr City and fighting has been reported in the southern cities of Kut, Diwaniya, Karbala and Hilla. Basra's main bridge and an oil pipeline connecting it to Amara were destroyed Wednesday. Six cities are under curfew, and acts of civil disobedience have shut down dozens of neighborhoods across the country. Civilian casualties have reportedly overwhelmed poorly equipped medical centers in Baghdad and Basra.
Spotted at Crooks and Liars

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Censorship in Indiana

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) has blasted a new Indiana law that requires bookstores to register with the government if they sell what is considered "sexually explicit materials." The new law, H.B. 1042, was signed by Governor Mitch Daniels on March 13, and calls for any bookseller that sells sexually explicit materials to register with the Secretary of State and provide a statement detailing the types of books to be sold. The Secretary of State must then identify those stores to local government officials and zoning boards. “Sexually explicit material” is defined as any product that is “harmful to minors” under existing law. There is a $250 registration fee. Failure to register is a misdemeanor.

ABFFE spokesman Chris Finan said the law is the only one of its kind currently on the books in the country. Calling it "clearly unconstitutional," Finan said ABFFE will urge the Media Coalition to challenge the law at the organization's next meeting on April 9. H.B. 1042 does not go into effect until July, by which time Finan is hopeful the lawsuit will be filed and an injunction issued by the court.
And yes of course it is unconstitutional and yes the booksellers will get both their injunction and eventually the whole law struck down by the courts, its fairly clearly prior restraint among other reasons. But it's still a win-win for the right wing ideologues behind the law because they already knew that.

They wrote it, voted for it and signed it knowing the courts would stop it - so from the far right Indiana legislator's point of view if the courts go completely wacky all of a sudden they get a shiny new piece of authoritarian social control - or far more likely, when the courts rule against the law, they get an opportunity to rail about 'judicial activism' in fundraising appeals to their wing-nut base.

The people of Indiana get to pay for an expensive and almost certainly doomed legal battle. Lucky them.


Spotted by my girlfriend, thanks honey.

He's baaaaaack

The Freidmanites thought they had stuck a stake in the heart of Keynesianism for all time - but John Maynard Keynes is making a comeback.
Eclipsed by the ascendancy of Milton Friedman, laissez-faire's most determined antagonist is back in fashion.

Early Wednesday afternoon, economist Mark Thoma recommended that his readers take the time to absorb the entirety of the John Maynard Keynes essay "The End of Laissez-Faire," originally published in 1926. He posted the essay to his blog, Economist's View, where he has been heroically synthesizing, tracking and analyzing just about anything of merit that anyone, anywhere, writes online with respect to economic affairs.

At this particular juncture, when, depending upon your inclinations, you might be either celebrating or bemoaning the "high-water mark" of free market capitalism, Keynes' views are as relevant as ever, and his essay is both a masterful lecture in the origins of laissez-faire thought as well as a sweeping denunciation of it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Temptation of Adam

Josh Ritter on how he learned to stop worrying.
Yeah, he appears here a lot, really love his stuff.

300...

...days until a village in Texas gets it's idiot back

...if we can last that long...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why not? You've already accepted two-tier labour contracts.

TORONTO, March 25 (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union will not accept a U.S.-style two-tier wage deal when it meets with the "Big Three" automakers this summer for contract negotiations, union President Buzz Hargrove said on Tuesday.

"We are not accepting second-class workers in our workplaces," Hargrove told reporters in Toronto.

Lest we forget...

Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, is now attacking the very foundations of an independent union. He has proposed an agreement with Magna International that denies workers exactly those powers that underpin the right of collective bargaining, namely the right to strike and to elect their own shop stewards. Workers have achieved some control over their lives and places of work precisely because they have won those rights. Without them, in the significant imbalance of power that exists between management and labour, "dignity, liberty and autonomy" become hollow words.

Mr. Hargrove's proposal eliminates worker-selected shop stewards. Instead, he proposes "employee advocates." Management would play a key role in selecting these "advocates."

The proposal also gives Magna what they want even more: a denial of the right to strike. Having completely defanged the power of working men and women, in language that can only be described as Orwellian doublespeak, Mr. Hargrove actually says his proposal offers "maximum worker participation." It is hard to imagine what "participation" means if it excludes the most basic democratic right to select your own representatives.

Mandatory voting follow up

So I did a piece about mandatory voting in the bitter days just after Alberta's embarrassing provincial election - less than half of the eligible population voted and about half of them voted for the PCs, so we're being governed by a party that less than 20% of the adult population voted for.

A few days later when far right columnist Lorne Gunter wrote a dismissive piece in the Calgary Herald about how undemocratic the idea of mandatory voting was I felt the need to correct his elementary factual mistakes. Didn't bother checking to see if they published my letter till today - and they did, more than a week ago.

It's almost enough to make me read the Herald more regularly than just when they're trying to boost their circulation numbers by handing out free copies to commuters.

...

Nahhhhh.

Monday, March 24, 2008

None of your business

You may believe that Tasers are a weapon of second to last resort for the police. That the RCMP and municipal forces are only supposed to be using them in lethally dangerous encounters where the only options are 50,000 volts or a bullet.

You'd be wrong.

Don't be embarrassed, it's not an unreasonable belief. Ujjal Dosanjh former Attorney General of BC certainly believed that was the use model intended when BC adopted them. It was only after the tragic death of Robert Dziekanski that he was flabbergasted to discover that the RCMP considered the high voltage electrocution weapon an 'intermediate tool' like pepper spray or physical restraint and are increasingly using them on "clearly non-combative" people that the police would just rather not take the time and effort to talk down or restrain physically. Pressing a button and unleashing instant agonizing pain and the clear risk of death is easier than engaging in what used to be considered basic police work.

When this zap first model was revealed in the tragic case of Robert Dziekanski, an agitated and frightened, but clearly non-threatening visitor to our country shocked multiple times only seconds after the police confronted him, the RCMP seized and tried to withhold from the public the video that revealed their willingness to skip any kind of engagement and go straight to the electric torture.

Now we discover that they are still attempting to keep the details of their ever increasing use of the device from the Canadian people. It's none of our business apparently.

OTTAWA - The RCMP is stripping crucial details about Taser firings from public reports as use of the controversial stun guns skyrockets across the country.

A joint investigation by The Canadian Press and CBC found the Mounties are now refusing to divulge key information that must be recorded each time they draw their electronic weapons.

As a result, Canadians will know much less about who is being hit with the 50,000-volt guns, whether they were armed, why they were fired on and whether they were injured.

Taser report forms obtained under the Access to Information Act show the Mounties have used the powerful weapons more than 4,000 times since introducing them seven years ago.

Incidents have increased dramatically, topping 1,000 annually in each of the last two years compared with about 600 in 2005. The overwhelming majority of firings took place in Western Canada, where the national force often leads front-line policing. Information stripped from the forms includes details of several Taser cases the Mounties previously made public under the access law. In effect, the RCMP is reclassifying details of Taser use - including some telling facts that raised pointed questions about how often the stun guns are fired and why.

A Canadian Press analysis last November of 563 incidents between 2002 and 2005 found three in four suspects Tasered by the RCMP were unarmed. Several of those reports suggested a pattern of stun-gun use as a handy tool to keep drunk or rowdy suspects in line, rather than to defuse major threats.

But the Mounties are now censoring Taser report forms to conceal related injuries, duration of shocks, whether the individual was armed, what police tried before resorting to the stun gun, and precise dates of firings.

It is legal to film the police anywhere they are performing their official duties, although it makes them very unhappy and making armed people who've have a tendency to electrocute first and ask questions later unhappy has it's risks. There's a growing movement worldwide to have multiple cameras aimed at the police whenever they're in sight.

This is beginning to seem like simple self defense.

Spotted at Larry Hubich's place.

Calgary Nazis. I hate Calgary Nazis.

I missed this unfortunately, and they marched their waterheaded selves right past my building too, which gives you an idea how deeply I sleep in on a holiday weekend. It's a shame too, I would have enjoyed 'Sig Heiling right in Der Feuher's face'

Already in the bag

When Manley made his 'tough' recommendation that the Afghanistan mission continue if, and only if, another NATO country ponied up a thousand additional soldiers, the government already knew they were getting them.
A senior Liberal MP says, however, that the Americans were prepared to send 1,000 reinforcements to assist the Canadians even before the Manley commission recommended such an arrangement. The Conservative government, with the help
of the Liberals, recently approved a motion to extend the mission in Afghanistan to 2011 on condition that another NATO country send 1,000 troops to assist the Canadians in Kandahar. That was the recommendation of a commission led by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley which issued its report in January.

Ever get the feeling that you're being subjected to carefully orchestrated manipulation? Have another beer, it will pass.

Google VS Privacy

It seemed the ideal solution; rather than spend more than a million dollars replacing their antiquated and unstable computer system Lakehead University in Thunder Bay simply adopted Google's pack of online tools for free. But there was a downside.

U.S.-based Google spotlighted the university as one of the first to adopt its software model of the future, and today Mr. Pawlowski boasts the move was the right thing for Lakehead, saving it hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual operating costs. But he notes one trade-off: The faculty was told not to transmit any private data over the system, including student marks.
The U.S. Patriot Act, passed in the weeks after the September, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, gives authorities the means to secretly view personal data held by U.S. organizations. It is at odds with Canada's privacy laws, which require organizations to protect private information and inform individuals when their data has been shared.
As well as violating privacy law the Google deal also violates the university's labour contract with their faculty staff requiring the institution protect it's employee's privacy. The matter is currently in arbitration.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday Linkblast - March 23

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pablo Picasso...

...was never called an asshole.
The Modern Lovers with their great track from the classic Repo Man

Deregulation and the shadow banking system

Paul Krugman explains how we're partying like it's 1929, having forgotten all the lessons of the Great Depression and slowly but surely erased or circumvented all the safety measures put in place to try to keep another crash from happening again.

Wall Street chafed at regulations that limited risk, but also limited potential profits. And little by little it wriggled free — partly by persuading politicians to relax the rules, but mainly by creating a “shadow banking system” that relied on complex financial arrangements to bypass regulations designed to ensure that banking was safe.

For example, in the old system, savers had federally insured deposits in tightly regulated savings banks, and banks used that money to make home loans. Over time, however, this was partly replaced by a system in which savers put their money in funds that bought asset-backed commercial paper from special investment vehicles that bought collateralized debt obligations created from securitized mortgages — with nary a regulator in sight.

As the years went by, the shadow banking system took over more and more of the banking business, because the unregulated players in this system seemed to offer better deals than conventional banks. Meanwhile, those who worried about the fact that this brave new world of finance lacked a safety net were dismissed as hopelessly old-fashioned.

In fact, however, we were partying like it was 1929 — and now it’s 1930.

"It's just rude to keep harping on how utterly wrong we were."

Glenn Geenwald has been marveling at the fifth anniversary self justification and hurt reproach at their critics of those who supported the war with Iraq.
Anne-Marie Slaughter -- a supporter of the Iraq invasion, a member of the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party Foreign Policy Community, and the Dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs -- has written an amazingly petulant and self-pitying piece at The Huffington Post that is worth looking at because her mindset is now the norm for our political and media elite.
Petulant and self pitying were the words that came to mind when Michael Ignatieff wrote his 'OK I was wrong, but at least I wasn't a dirty fucking hippie' mea culpa for his Iraq war support. The operating premise of the Bush cheer-leaders, Neocons and Neolibs is that yes, they fucked up massively, but gee, it wasn't actually their fault, and of course they're the only ones who can be trusted with the situation now and harping on how utterly wrong they were then just isn't helpful. Plus all the people who were right, were right for the wrong reasons - so that's almost the same as saying they were wrong...er...yeah that's the ticket...

And that's the point. This plea that we all just forget about the unpleasant past -- stop trying to figure out who was responsible for the Iraq War -- has become the principal self-defense weapon of the pro-war political establishment. That's their only hope for evading responsibility for what they've done. It's also the central hope on which the entire McCain campaign rests -- that we should just all forget about the painfully wrong and misleading things John McCain said and did in making himself into the prime cheerleader for the most disastrous and unpopular war in American history, and focus instead on how he (somehow) has the experience and judgment to lead us to glorious Victory.

But why would we, and why should we, just ignore the question of who spawned this disaster? In trying to determine what to do now, isn't it rather important to know whose judgment and knowledge can be trusted and whose should be considered worthless? From the perspective of their own-self interest, the demand by war advocates like Slaughter and McCain that everyone forget about what they said and did in the past is understandable -- it's natural to hope that one's own wretched and destructive conduct would be forgotten -- but for the country, doing that would be completely irrational.

Imagine if you went to a hospital to have an operation on your knee, and your surgeon completely botched it, permanently shattering your knee instead of fixing it and, in the process, needlessly removed your healthy kidney and recklessly damaged your heart and lungs. Then, as you tried to decide what you should do to rectify the damage -- and you sought out the advice of doctors who presciently warned you not to have that doctor operate -- the guilty surgeon insisted that he be allowed to operate again to fix it and that you listen to him regarding what should be done.

And when you screamed at the guilty surgeon -- as every sane person would -- to stay as far away from you as possible and that he was the last person from whom you wanted advice, he kept telling you: "Oh, forget about the past. This isn't about assigning blame. What matters is figuring out what to do now, how to fix this." You would think such a person insane for that line of thought. But that's exactly what war advocates like Anne-Marie Slaughter -- and John McCain -- are insisting that we do. That's how the establishment can insist that the Iraq War is an asset for John McCain even though Americans overwhelmingly think that his support for it was a grave mistake. "Forget the past."

Some of the war advocates have been a bit more humble in their apologias, Andrew Sullivan deserves credit for recognizing that he was 'unspeakably condescending' in his attitude and behavior towards the people who turned out to be right. In response to Sullivan's more recent follow up to this theme, John Cole goes even further:
I thought I would list what I got wrong:

Everything.

And I don’t say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of have to face facts. I was wrong about everything.

I was wrong about the Doctrine of Pre-emptive warfare.
I was wrong about Iraq possessing WMD.
I was wrong about Scott Ritter and the inspections.
I was wrong about the UN involvement in weapons inspections.
I was wrong about the containment sanctions.
I was wrong about the broader impact of the war on the Middle East.
I was wrong about this making us more safe.
I was wrong about the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq.
I was wrong when I stated this administration had a clear plan for the aftermath.
I was wrong about securing the ammunition dumps.
I was wrong about the ease of bringing democracy to the Middle East.
I was wrong about dissolving the Iraqi army.
I was wrong about the looting being unimportant.
I was wrong that Bush/Cheney were competent.
I was wrong that we would be greeted as liberators.
I was wrong to make fun of the anti-war protesters.
I was wrong not to trust the dirty smelly hippies.

I mean, I could go down the list and continue on, but you get the point. I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004
Now is the time to toss the so called 'serious people' who still blindly follow the same operating premises and unexamined assumptions over the side and start listening to those who were right from the beginning or have acknowledged how completely wrong they were from the beginning without defensiveness or excuse. That means the 'dirty fucking hippies' who were saying 'this is a spectacularly bad idea' in 2002/2003, that means the people who have repudiated not just their decisions then, but the ideas underpinning them, and yes, that means the single remaining contender for the Office of the Presidency who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, not, like Hillary Clinton, just as a tactical decision in the last year when she was running for the office in an anti-war polling environment.

We're all of us, the whole damn world, in a huge mess here. The people who got us into it deserve to be mocked, shunned and ultimately ignored. What they do not deserve, what the rest of us emphatically do not deserve, is for them to get yet another chance to fuck things up even worse.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'll Fly Away

By Allison Krauss, from the O Brother, Where art Thou? Soundtrack, the best depression era re-enactment of Homer's The Odyssey ever filmed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Coffee, tea or 20,000 volts?"

Lamperd, a "firearm training system" company, has patented a bracelet that delivers debilitating shocks when remotely triggered. Their killer app for this is aviation safety: they're proposing that the TSA could force everyone who flies to wear one of these and then flight-attendants could zap us into a stupor if we turn out to be Al Quaeda.

Will Liberals abandon immigrants?

When the only alternative is to stand up to the Conservatives and -shudder- face the voters? Bet on it.
OTTAWA -- The New Democrats are preparing to force Stéphane Dion's Liberals to take the country into an election or vote for a bill that lawyers say will strip transparency from the immigration system and deny basic rights to foreigners hoping to come to Canada. Olivia Chow, the NDP Immigration critic, said yesterday that she will introduce an amendment to omnibus 136-page budget legislation that includes two pages of changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act - a law bought in by the Liberals in 2002.Because they are included in the budget bill, the proposals won't get separate debates, nor will they be examined by a Commons committee. But they will be considered a matter of confidence.
Voting against the bill - or voting for Ms. Chow's amendment - would plunge the country into an election.

American interrogators: child rapists?

MIAMI (Reuters) - A young Canadian prisoner held at Guantanamo said in legal documents that U.S. interrogators repeatedly threatened to rape him and Canadian government visitors told him they were powerless to do anything.
...
Later at Guantanamo, Khadr said an Afghan with a U.S. flag on his pants threatened to send him back to Afghanistan unless he cooperated, telling him: "They like small boys in Afghanistan."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

CN charged over Wabumun spill

This environmental disaster took place about 40 yards from my cabin. The concussion nearly knocked my mother out of bed, she was the first on the scene in her housecoat in the predawn hours dialing 911 on her cellphone.
In the aftermath CN was evasive, arrogant and sneaky. Mom and other residents had to blockade the rail line in the face of enraged and blustering CN rentacops to get them to start a cleanup. They tried to diminish, disregard and wheedle local residents into signing their legal rights away. I hope the court nails them to the wall.
EDMONTON - The federal government has laid three charges against CN following a lengthy investigation into the August 2005 derailment at Wabamun Lake that saw hundreds of thousands of litres of oil spilled.
CN is charged with one count under the Migratory Birds Convention Act for allegedly depositing a substance harmful to migratory birds in water frequented by birds, and two charges under the Fisheries Act for the alleged harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. The company will make its first appearance in provincial court today in connection with the charges laid by Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The accident spilled about 700,000 litres of bunker C fuel oil and 88,000 litres of pole-treating oil into and around the lake, about 60 kilometres west of Edmonton. People living near the spill were evacuated. Oiled birds died and dead fish washed up on shore.

Truth, Justice and the American Way

Oh, Hell yeah.

Voter ID means Voter Supression

The results in Northern Saskatchewan, where new voter ID laws are partly to blame for the staggeringly low turnout, aren't an unintended consequence of voter ID, they were the explicit goal.
Liberal campaign officials were left shaking their heads Monday night, wondering where their support had gone. In the 2006 election, they won a narrow victory with slightly more than 10,000 votes. As turnout plummeted to 25 per cent in the riding, they took only 3,287 votes, compared with 4,996 for Mr. Clarke. They blamed their poor numbers partly on complacency among supporters who thought their candidate, former NDP cabinet minister Joan Beatty, had the riding sewn up, and on new election regulations that complicated the voting process for people on reserves. They say hundreds of people may have been prevented from voting because they didn't have photo ID and couldn't present proof of a civic address.
Don't weep for the Liberals, they mostly dug their own grave with Ralph Goodale's jealous knee-capping of David Orchard - another indicator, if anyone still needs one, of which side the Liberals are on now. Orchard had a built in campaign machine that could have got out the vote for his candidacy. His decision to sit the election out, and local anger at local democracy being over-ridden by arrogant party elites lost the Liberals what could have been a byelection clean-sweep.

But the real story is how the new photo-id and address requirements disenfranchised huge swaths of the rural voters of Northern Saskatchewan. The law should face a charter challenge, it so disproportionally affects natives and the poor.

By the numbers

Five years, four thousand dead soldiers, a million dead Iraqis.

306 days before Bush is out of office

Biff Bang Pow!

Furnaceface covering the classic by Mod rude boys The Creation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Uh, oh.

Nation, it’s tempting to say that our economy is in the crapper. But I think that’s unfair. It is past the crapper, down the tubes, out the illegal runoff pipe into the ocean where lobsters are feeding on it. - Stephen Colbert's writing team.
When economists start going from morose to panicky and from avoiding using the 'R' word to avoiding using the 'D' word, when elderly and respected lending institutions have to be bailed out by the government because of bank runs, when sub-prime victims start setting up Hooverville style squatter camps and when money changers in Amsterdam refuse to take American dollars because they don't trust them, the only sane response is...

uh, oh
.

Of course none of this is a surprise, some people started hearing the rumbles and noticing the gathering clouds years ago. If anything this whole mess might be overdue - which might end up making it worse as the breaking strain has built up even more pressure.

Hold tight folks, thanks to the breath-taking irresponsibility of it's breathtakingly blind stewards who couldn't fix this mess if they knew how or were ideologically willing to even try, the economy is about to take us all on one hell of a ride.

"My God, it's full of stars!"

Arthur C. Clarke enters the luminous at age 90.

Too many of my heroes are dying lately.

Obama on breaking the stalemate

It's available all over the place, but when an American politician gives the best, most honest speech about race in America in decades it deserves to be. Here's the text version.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Milestones

I started this blog two years ago this month. Sometime in the next few weeks I will post my thousandth post and register my 40,000th hit.

Not bad for something I began as a lark because my beautiful girlfriend had started one for her crochet projects and suggested I might enjoy playing with blogger too.

Drop by and say hi folks, this is an open thread and if I can be forgiven the arrogance, if anyone has some favorite posts from the last few years of my ranting, feel free to post a link.

Here's a few of mine:
  • The same weight to a lie
    My obligatory blog rant about the flaws of the MSM

  • Masters of Mendacity
    One of my more representative runs at the Fraser Institute

  • Montebello protesters stop blatant police provocateurs before they can engineer a riot
    The post that got more hits - by the hundreds! - than any other I've done.

  • For Profit Healthcare claims another victim
    My mom is a former nurse and hospital administrator and I've grown up my whole life around the health care system. I consider those advocating a return to the bad old days of private for profit care to be little more than vandals and nothing enrages me more than the outright falsehoods they use to advance their goals. This post is one of very many, but is representative in how no subject I blog on gets more push back - even from supposed progressives! - then defending public single-payer care. Bottom line, if the proponents of more health care privatization have to make up or massage their facts to make their case, and they do, they probably don't have a great case, do they?

  • Liberal MPs show their true colours
    A year ago the Liberals gave us a taste of what to expect from their non-existent opposition to Stephen Harper and demonstrated once and for all whose side they were on. This isn't a minority government we're in right now, it's a coalition government of two center right parties. This post also covers one of my main themes here, organized labour.

  • Canada's Railways a disaster waiting to happen
    My family has had a cabin on the shores of Wabamun Lake since the 30's. No matter how often we moved or where we moved to the one concrete piece of stability was summers spent there. CN Rail's emphasis of speed and profitability over safety, with the help of government oversight reduced to almost nothing, destroyed that piece of my childhood, perhaps permanently. I might be a little bitter.

  • Homelessness and mean spirited Calgary
    This piece got re-printed in Alberta Views an excellent magazine that puts the lie to the idea of a politically conservative Alberta monoculture.

All the subjects covered on this blog are also linked by labels - feel free to browse by subject.

Two candidates, two pastors

One candidate, the Democrat, firmly and clearly repudiates and condemns a few snippets of intemperate but not particularly inaccurate comments taken out of context from past statements by his former pastor. Another candidate, the Republican, actively courts the endorsement of another pastor who has repeatedly and on the record made horrifically bigoted statements about Catholics and Jews, women and minorities.

So which one has the media talking heads outraged?

Yeah.

A family tradition...

...of believing the law only applies to the little people?

TORONTO -- Just weeks after Conrad Black began serving a six-and-a-half-year prison term for obstruction and fraud charges, Toronto Police have charged his son, Jonathan David Black, with four charges related to a hit and run Thursday evening.

Along with careless driving, the 30-year-old was charged with failure to stop after an accident, driving while under suspension, and operating a motor vehicle without insurance.

Police accuse Black of ramming his Infiniti into the back of a stopped vehicle in downtown Toronto and then fleeing the scene.

Jonathan is one of Conrad's three children from his first marriage.

He will appear in court April 28.

Friday, March 14, 2008

House of cards

In a real courtroom this case would already have been dismissed by now.

A defendant who was by any reasonable definition a child at the time of his alleged crime, shifting stories, action reports that clearly show someone else threw the fatal grenade being re-written months after the fact to implicate Khadr, and now it comes out that the injured fifteen year old Canadian boy was almost exclusively interviewed by a US army interrogator later convicted for torture and murder of detainees.

The movie Taxi to the Dark Side is about an innocent Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by the same army officer who interrogated the severely injured child Omar Khadr. The statements he elicited from Khadr are the basis of the case against him.

Calling this a kangaroo court is an insult to kangaroos.

Of course even if by some miracle Khadr was found not guilty, and the chief prosecutor at Guantánamo was quoted as basically saying that only convictions were acceptable results, the US has indicated that Not Guilty rulings will not necessarily result in releases.

And our government stands by silently as Australia and Britain secure the release of their citizens from the dungeon of Guantánamo, as a child is interrogated by convicted torturers and as his trial descends into farce.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Abdul Hamid Al-Ghizzawi: Murder in slow motion

Read about a seemingly innocent man held without charge in Guantánamo for six years and denied medical care as he slowly dies of liver failure, and consider that a child soldier and Canadian citizen is still languishing in this chamber of horrors while our government does nothing.

So why did military doctors, after learning of Al-Ghizzawi's liver problems in fall 2006, fail to start treating him properly, and instead move this ill man to the isolation of Camp 6? The answers to these questions remain unknown. But Reichen, the expert on liver disease, said in an affidavit submitted to the court on Feb. 19, "It is evident that [military doctors at Guantánamo] withhold information without any military value, misinterpret it and try to withhold treatment from Mr. Al-Ghizzawi."

I continue to visit with Al-Ghizzawi every other month for two days at a time, and monitor his dying. In our meetings we talk about his legal case and his family, but mostly we discuss his deteriorating health. Al-Ghizzawi has become weaker and weaker and at times he is barely able to talk. Each of the last few times that I saw Al-Ghizzawi I thought I would not see him alive again. Our most recent meeting was on Feb. 26 and 27, after which I filed a memorandum updating the judge about his ill health.

To date, five men are known to have died at Guantánamo. One died recently from cancer. The military claims that the four other deaths were suicides, including the death of Abdel Rahman Al Amri, a Saudi man, whose death in May 2007 the military referred to as an "apparent suicide." But the military refuses to release the results of their investigations into those deaths.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Logic of Prohibition

Glenn Greenwald precisely delinates the logical postulates of all social authoritarianism:

* Sometimes, people get drunk and drive, or get drunk and abuse others. Therefore, we should outlaw all alcohol (rather than just outlaw drunk driving and assault).

* Sometimes, the media libels people and destroys their reputations. Therefore, we should outlaw all freedom of the press (rather than just proscribe libel).

* Sometimes, children get a hold of cigarettes or pornography. Therefore, we should outlaw all smoking and pornography (rather than just outlaw the act of selling cigarettes or porn to minors).

* Sometimes, men rape women or molest minors. Therefore, we should outlaw all sex (rather than just outlaw rape and child molestation).

* Sometimes, people use drugs (prescription or recreational), get addicted and then steal or act violently. Therefore, we should outlaw all drugs (rather than just outlaw theft and violence).

* Sometimes, people force women against their will to work as prostitutes. Therefore, we should outlaw all prostitution (rather than just outlaw forced prostitution and human trafficking).

* * * * *

Things I learned over the last 48 hours

* It's possible to eliminate recreational activities that people have engaged in privately for thousands of years simply by making it illegal and then imprisoning the people who do it. Thus, we criminalize prostitution and drugs to ensure that nobody does those things.

* People who work at an unpleasant job in order to support themselves, rather than because they enjoy it, are the functional equivalent of brutalized, exploited slaves and therefore should be barred by others from choosing that job -- when the job in question is prostitution, but not when it's factory work or fast food cashier or large corporate law firm associate or massage therapist or porn actor.

* Sometimes, adults make choices for their own lives that other adults perceive to be bad choices. When that happens, the adults who know better have the right to step in, pass laws to restrict the bad choices, and even make the bad choices criminal -- all for the good of the adults who don't know what's good for them.

* People who respect the judgments which adult women make about their own lives and believe in their right to choose for themselves how they live are sexist and even misogynistic. People who believe that adult women don't really know what's good for them and need to have choices made for them by others are the people who respect women.

* The way you protect someone who is doing things you don't like is to turn them into criminals and force them to do it underground.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Another imprisoned Canadian abandoned by our government

There's no evidence she's committed any crimes, her boss who was imprisoned for fraud says she had nothing to do with it and the Mexican authorities arrested and imprisoned her with no interpreter. How many of us would be in prison if we were held responsible for the actions of a corrupt employer? And could we count on our government to protect us if we were?

Apparently not
.

BELLEVILLE, Ont. — Brenda Martin, a Canadian woman imprisoned for two years in Mexico, has been moved into her prison’s hospital room for her own safety, supporters said Sunday.

Martin, who was recently placed on suicide watch, is now under 24-hour guard, said friend and advocate Debra Tieleman.

“That’s to ensure that Brenda doesn’t hurt herself ... this is actually a good development for Brenda, given her state of mind.”

Tieleman and Martin’s mother, Marjorie Bletcher, said Martin’s mental and physical health have been deteriorating as she waits for a new ruling in the Mexican courts.

Martin, who has never been convicted of any crime, has been imprisoned in connection with a fraud scam operated by her former boss, who is now serving time in an American prison.

Martin has always maintained her innocence; a claim backed up by her former boss.

Toronto lawyer Guillermo Cruz has said Martin’s human rights were violated during her arrest and that she was never given a proper interpreter.

Though a Mexican judge was expected to rule on Martin’s case Friday, no decision has been released, friends said.

Now, they fear Martin may not be able to hold on any longer.

“She’s quite drugged, she’s quite slow when she talks, sort of drifting off,” said Tieleman.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government has done little to help Martin, supporters said.

“What’s wrong? What does that tell you? They don’t care,” said Bletcher.

Tieleman said Helena Guergis, Canada’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, must send a message that “Canada is serious“ about Martin’s case.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Info Dump

I may be on the road for most of the weekend - waiting for a call to determine precisely that - so here's today's compendium of things that make me go hmmm....

-Honkytonk Dragon mourns the passing of Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax and lauds the AD&D character alignment graph that was many young gamers first exposure to complex ethical philosophy:
Looking at it again resolved something that had been tickling in the back of my brain ever since I first encountered the Political Compass system, a complex four dimensional economic and ideological matrix that provides a much deeper portrait of someone's political thinking than the stale old two dimensional left/right axis.I'm Chaotic Good by the way, so down around the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela apparently - or at least I try to be. I now have to wonder though, if the creators of the Political Compass were gamers?

-The creators of the HBO TV series The Wire call for widespread jury nullification to try to put the brakes on America's insane war on drugs. Jury Nullification of course, helped end prohibition as jury after jury refused to imprison their fellow Americans for having a drink and the laws against alcohol became unenforceable.

Many judges try to preempt jury nullification by falsely instructing jurors that they have no choice but to decide on the facts and only the facts of the case before them. Of course the option of saying 'screw the law, let the guy go' is the whole point of the jury system in the first place, the last defense of the public against unjust laws. And yes, this applies to Canada too, we're heirs to the same legal tradition.

-The greatest inventor you've never heard of, Dr. Yoshiro NakaMats, often called Japan's Edison, not least by himself, claims to hold the world record for patents, over 3000 including the basic concepts behind such items as Cinemascape, digital watches and even floppy discs (IBM claims to hold the patent on the floppy disc but admits to a financial relationship with NakaMats going back decades.) among many others.

He's the classic eccentric 'mad' scientist. He's been filming and examining minutely every meal he's had in the last 35 years and counting, plans to live to 140 and is a perennial candidate in Japanese elections. When asked recently where he gets his ideas he firmly gave credit to something that sounds an awful lot like auto-erotic asphyxiation!

Is there a secret to becoming an inventor? How do you come up with new ideas?

I am teaching philosophy at the University of Tokyo. The base for everything is a strong spirit, followed by a strong body, hard studies, experience and finally leads to a “trigger” experience. You “trigger” a bullet which contains spirit, body, study and experience - and finally that releases the actual invention.

How do you “trigger” an invention?

A lack of oxygen is very important.

A lack? Isn’t that dangerous?

It’s very dangerous. I get that Flash just 0.5 sec before death. I remain under the surface until this trigger comes up and I write it down with a special waterproof plexiglas writing pad I invented.

Do you do that a lot? Putting yourself in that kind of situation to come up with a new invention?

Of course. This is the Dr. Nakamatsu method.

-New definition of the term 'eyetooth'. An Irishman blinded by being splashed with liquid aluminum at a recycling plant has had a new eye constructed from a lens installed in a tooth donated by the man's son and implanted in his eye socket. Yes, it works.
The surgery, Osteo Odonto Kerato Prosthesis (OOKP),

involved fitting a living canine tooth with an optical cylinder and transplanting it into the eye cavity.

Speaking at his home in the village of Bellaghy on the Sligo/Mayo border yesterday, Mr McNichol said that given his age, it was decided that a donor with younger gums would be more suitable.

"All of my kids said they would donate. They even wanted to donate an eye to me, if it meant I could see again," he said.

Friday, March 07, 2008

NAFTA: The real numbers

Rick Salutin's new column should be shouted from the rooftops. It's in today's Globe and Mail but they're still choosing a bloody stupid pay wall over advertising revenue so fuck 'em. Here's the crosspost link from Rabble. And here's the meat of the piece:

Take Canada. According to economist Bruce Campbell, under NAFTA, the Big Three auto makers shrank their work force here by more than 50 per cent and increased revenues by 70 per cent. Employment declined in manufacturing and rose in the lower-paid service sector. Wages haven't grown at all since the original free-trade deal in 1988. That's a first.

Productivity has continued to rise, but, in the past, wages always rose "in tandem." Top CEOs in 2005 made 237 times more than the average wage, doubling the gap before NAFTA. Wages as a portion of the economic pie declined while profits rose. The top 0.1 per cent of earners doubled their income to $1,641,000; the bottom 95 per cent saw their share of the pie decline.

As for public goods, such as health care and education, we were told these would thrive under trade deals; but our governments have slashed social programs by 26 per cent. Oh, please don't toss us outta the NAFTA patch.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Laying blame

The Liberal Party has revealed that their next opposition day motion will condemn the irresponsible and selfish actions of the people most responsible for the installation of Stephen Harper's government: The Canadian people.

"These self righteous beer and popcorn gorging voters need to be put on notice." fumed a Liberal Party spokesman. "They put their selfish desire to punish the Liberal Party for looting a few tens of millions of dollars from a unity fund over our rightful place in government. How opportunistic can these people be, putting their own revulsion at a little petty criminality over the needs of the Liberal Party?"

The Liberals further revealed that they plan to vote to condemn the media for reporting on the multitude of scandals that plagued the Chretien and Martin governments and also the democratic system that allowed the opposition to usurp their comfortable offices in government block.

The spokesman went on to say that "We're putting these people, institutions and concepts on notice that they are all responsible for Stephen Harper's reign of terror, and they should all be very, very ashamed of themselves."

Changing the Math

The Clinton campaign wanted the Michigan delegates to count at the Convention. Michigan lost its delegates after defying the party by staging their primary early in an effort to increase their prestige in the process. Hillary won Michigan, but did so almost by default as she was the only major candidate who's name was even on the ballot. As with Florida which is in the same position, there was never any chance that delegates picked by such a flawed and unfair process would be seated.

But now the equation changes:

A member of the DNC's Rules And Bylaws Committee--the committee that stripped Florida and Michigan of its delegates for moving their primaries before February 5th--told me that Michigan plans to get out of its uncounted delegate problem by announcing a new caucus in the next few days.

"They want to play. They know how to do caucuses," the DNC source said. "That was their plan all along, before they got cute with the primary."

Obama, of course, has shown that the caucus format treats him very, very well. Clinton may come to regret pushing for Michigan's delegates to be seated.

It's Bad You Know

R. L. Burnside - music only

Whining little maggots

Hoping to distract the public from the servile and gutless enabling act that has turned this minority government into a de facto coalition government, the Liberal Party will bring forth a new motion to silence their critics.

The motion, hereafter to be referred to as The Whining Little Maggots Act of 2008, will condemn the NDP and Bloc for bringing down the Martin government in 2005.

That's right, they aren't prepared to challenge the government of Stephen Harper, or indeed display any vestige of a spine in any way shape or form today - but they want you to know that they're very indignant that the NDP and Bloc voted to give you the public the opportunity to vote them out almost two and a half years ago.

And they wonder why they can't catch a break from the polls...

Shouldn't believing in the concept of government be a prerequisite to governing?

The essential theme, raison d’être and primary message of movement conservatism is 'Government bad. Government always bad.'

So when movement conservatives like George W. Bush or Stephen Harper come to power providing good government is not just unnecessary, it is explicitly not in their interest as doing so would under-cut their entire justification for their existence.

After every grotesque failure of administration such as Hurricane Katrina, soaring health care waiting lists and bungled responses to one wholly predictable crisis after another - the conservative politician just shrugs and says 'What did you expect, I told you government was no damn good.'

Of course all they've really proven is that their government is no damn good, unsurprising, as anything else would taint their essential brand message.

So when Tom Flanagan chortles about how Stephen Harper has managed to incrementally achieve Grover Norquist's dream of shrinking government to the size where it can be easily be drowned in a bathtub and George W. Bush oversees huge deficits that literally bankrupt government with the explicit goal of handcuffing any future progressive governments to small government policies, they are being deliberate vandals with the express and stated purpose of destroying the structure that they have been entrusted with.

We can't be surprised; if someone tells you that your house is better off burned down, why would you entrust them with it?

Congratulations. Enjoy your lower taxes as you stand in the ashes.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Kiss of death

Chimpy just endorsed John McCain.

Will it help him or hurt him? It's worth noting that the Democratic Party is so eager for the American people to hear about this gold standard endorsement (Strangely dropped into the mid-day news dead zone.) they made a point of posting the entire press conference on their front page.

As Bush chattered away like a squirrel on biker meth, assuring the compliant press corp and the American people that his chosen successor can be counted on to continue all of his policies McCain stood behind him looking like he wanted to chew off his own arm.

Mandatory voting?

Alberta covers over 661,000 square kilometers, about seven percent of the land mass of Canada and is bigger than almost any half dozen European countries combined. On Monday only 41% of it's eligible voters participated in the election and less than half of them voted for the PCs. Yet due to our first past the post electoral system, that barely 20% of voters meant an overwhelming majority for Stelmach's government.

"Many of my acquaintances who lean toward the policies of the Green, NDP or Liberal parties have ceased voting. They say their votes would be wasted under the current first-past-the-post system." Edmonton voter Richard Rehman said.

"Had the seat count been determined by popular vote, we would see: PCs 44; Liberal 21; NDP 8; Alliance 6; Green 4. This would be a much more representative government," he added.

The low turnout was particularly stark among young voters, Alberta has a serious democratic deficit and it's only going to get worse.

In Australia's last election on the other hand, and in fact in all it's elections since 1924, voter turnout has averaged 94% to 96%. 1924 was when voting was made mandatory in Australia. Failure to vote results in a $20 to $50 fine.

It should be pointed out the law can be satisfied by showing up at the polling station, being handed your ballot and then handing it right back and asking it to be marked refused. For that matter nobody is going to follow you into the polling both and watch you write in Mickey Mouse as your candidate. You still have the freedom to deliberately not participate if none of the options presented seem palatable.

But democracy is popular in Australia with big election night parties and full pubs raucously following the results on the big screen the way Canadians only get excited about Stanley Cup Finals. Even the Calgary Sun endorsed the idea.

With mandatory voting and a mix of proportional and first past the post in the electoral system, combined with some much needed redistricting to address the deeply unfair advantage of rural votes over urban and Alberta's democratic deficit could be completely reversed.

Don't hold your breath.

Hope and Fear 2008?

Clinton is hinting at a unity ticket of her and Obama in the general - but she wants to be on top.

Yeah, I don't like that mental image any more than any of you do. Here's some mind wash:Jonathan Alter runs the numbers: In the most unlikely best case scenario imaginable for Clinton in every race coming up, Obama's run of landslides on and after Super Tuesday still leaves him ahead in the pledged delegate count. She would have to count on the super delegates overturning the democratic will of the voters in order to win, and to get there she would have to run ultra negative from here on out and poison Obama's candidacy utterly in the general - which would certainly poison hers as well. She's already given McCain enough road-tested negative messages and quotes to seriously damage Obama going forward.

Never underestimate the Democratic Party's preternatural ability to pull humiliating defeat from the jaws of overwhelming victory.

Monday, March 03, 2008

China, Cuba, North Korea, Alberta

All proudly one party states for decades. All hail our dear leader!

Signing off from one of the few non-Tory ridings left. If I blog any more tonight I will write something I will regret.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What's the appeal?

Is it the psychopathic glint in her eye? The promo picture with her head photo-shopped onto Julia Roberts' body? The far right politics with a dash of racism? The long (long, long) chain of false rape claims, harassment accusations, restraining orders and ruined careers?

Why do guys still date Rachel Marsden
, knowing the relationship will likely end in tears, court action and news stories where they're running to a car with their coat over their heads?

Figure it out guys, nobody, no matter how questionably hot, is worth waking up with a boiled bunny in your bed. At this point she has enough shell-shocked Ex's to form their own support group.

Run away!

See: A timeline of madness, starting with this latest glimpse into the seething abyss and going backwards.

Jeff Healey RIP

Oh this really hurts. Seen him live a bunch of times, loved See the Light the way I loved very few albums.
Jeff Healey. Goodbye.

Sunday Linkblast - March 2

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Where is this Love?

From 1983 The Payolas, easily one of the best of the 80's New Wave, New Romantics bands and kings of the early 80's Vancouver scene when I lived there - at the time I was more into local punk bands like DOA and SNFU, but I could see the appeal. They should have, would have been huge but their name made American radio A&R guys recoil like vampires from holy water - naming your band after an infamous pay for play radio scandal, bad career move for future reference...
Where is this Love from Hammer on a Drum - still only available on vinyl or cassette was a gripping meditation on domestic abuse. Try to get past the hair.


Bonus: Another from the soundtrack of my youth, The Payolas again with Eyes of a Stranger

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