Thursday, July 31, 2008

$89,133

In the last 60 seconds, Exxon made a profit of $89,133.00.

Apparently... that just isn't enough.



How well did you do in the last minute or so of our oil-dependent economy?

(Posted by Matthew from The Church Of Mothra, Cliff is on vacation, and (to the best of my knowledge) isn't busy making an obscene profit while destroying the environment)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

John McCain: Holdin' It Down On The Boring Old White Guy Tip, Yo

Supporters of John McCain (largely, employees of Fox News, it seems) are currently reacting badly to the new song "Obama Is here" by Ludacris, who Obama mentioned in past was one of his favourite hip hop performers. Here are the lyrics...

Hillary hated on you, so that bitch is irrelevant
Jesse talking slick and apologizing for what?
if you said it then you meant it how you want it have a gut!
and all you other politicians trying to hate on my man,
watch us win a majority vote in every state on my man
you can't stop what's bout to happen, we bout to make history
the first black president is destined and it's meant to be
the threats ain't fazing us, the nooses or the jokes
so get off your ass, black people, it's time to get out and vote!
paint the White House black and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified
McCain don't belong in ANY chair unless he's paralyzed
Yeah, I said it cause Bush is mentally handicapped
Ball up all of his speeches and I throw 'em like candy wrap
cause what you talking I hear nothing even relevant
and you the worst of all 43 presidents
get out and vote or the end will be near
the world is ready for change because Obama is here!
'cause Obama is here!
The world is ready for change because Obama is here!

Of course this has everyone worked up in exactly the way you'd expect from them, (Rush, you used to at least have a sense of humour about things) and of course Obama has distanced himself from this, as any decent politician would. But, y'know what I'm sayin', y'all. You know what I'm sayin'.





(Posted by Matthew from The Church Of Mothra, filling in for Cliff, who's on vacation where the livin' is phat, packin' bitches in his Chevy and a clip in his gat.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sen. Ted Stevens Is Going Down A Series Of Tubes

Buried amongst today's headlines about the Los Angeles earthquake and the howls of outrage over people not being able to play Scrabble on Facebook comes word that Senator Ted Stevens... he of "big truck/series of tubes" fame... has been indicted for accepting a quarter million dollars or so worth of freebies from a company called VECO.

He's a Republican. He's from Alaska. Of course VECO is an oil company. It was either that or a logging company, what with Ted being such a big fan of cutting down old growth forests. Or perhaps an engineering firm, given Ted's liking for bridges to nowhere. Or possibly abacus manufacturers, given the Senators notorious "series of tubes" bungling, and his staunch defense of America's public school students from the horrors of Facebook, Myspace, and that hotbed of online predators: Wikipedia.

(Hey, these are kids in U.S. public schools... you know they aren't on Facebook to play Scrabulous. The kids can't spell. Besides, if the little darlings start looking up Ted's record on Wikipedia, they might get all cynical and assume their country is being run by ignorant greedheads.)

Ted is only the 11th sitting U.S. Senator to ever be indicted. Given that alone, you would think that American Media would be all over this. Most of the attention at the moment is going to the standard-issue beating-to-death of the earthquake story.

As of this writing, Rush Limbaugh's big news appears to be what he calls "The Messiah Obama's" and his "dual race strategy." Bill O'Reilly's big issue at this hour is Obama's Evil Plan to undo some of Bush's tax cuts for the obscenely rich, and Ann Coulter? Who cares. Even I'm tired of kicking The Queen Skank Of Scarecrows around. But she hasn't issued a pronouncement on the indictment either.

It appears that America's not-very-liberal media have gotten so used to ignoring Republican wrongdoing that they've become completely blind to it. Besides... people are so easily distracted from the important issues.

And dammit, I miss my Scrabulous.

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(Posted by Matthew from The Church Of Mothra, filling in while Cliff is away. He's currently loafing around on a porch somewhere, far from the hassles of life in the real world, drinking and ignoring the daily realities of life in The Internet Age. I think he called it "Republican Camp"...)


Monday, July 28, 2008

U R Getn Scrwd: Bell and Telus To Charge $937.50 Per Mb Of Text

Get a calculator and you can see for yourself the screwing Canada's two biggest cellular phone companies are going to be handing out, starting in August when they begin charging customers without monthly plans 15 cents to receive each text message that someone else already paid to send.

An SMS text message uses a maximum of 160 bytes of data. A Megabyte (Mb) is one million bytes of data. Therefore, it takes 6,250 text messages to make 1 Mb of data.

Fifteen cents times 6,250 equals $937.50.

Put another way: Bell and Telus want to charge customers over sixty times the cost of uploading the same-sized video from a cell phone with Terracom, the major carrier in Rwanda.

Bell and Telus justify their screwing of Canadian customers by pointing out that most U.S. carriers are screwing their customers the same way. "Charging for incoming text messages is a standard practice in North America with most of the major U.S. carriers charging for incoming and outgoing text messages" sayeth Telus. What Bell and Telus don't tell you is that said American carriers are currently the subject of a a class action lawsuit over their text message price gouging.

Fortunately, Canadian customers have overcome their traditional passivity and are now launching a class-action suit of their own over the matter.

Let's hope this latest cash grab ends before it begins.

(Posted by Matthew from The Church Of Mothra, filling in while Cliff`s away... just like that time Bruce Wayne got Alfred to dress like Batman to cover his secret identity so he could attend The Penguin`s Republican fundraiser.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Linkblast - July 27

(Hello, it’s Matt from The Church Of Mothra. Cliff has been sent to a Swiss boarding school for a week or so, and will return played by a teenager.)

  • Is Iraq Safer Today Than It Was Before The Invasion?
Um... no. Not even if you're an American soldier taking a shower in a building cheaply slapped together by Halliburton, it isn't. Thirteen electrocution deaths and counting. And remember... that count doesn't include civilian contractors either. Does suing the bastards embolden the terrorists...?

  • Unreality Television
The next edition of Germany's Big Brother is going to take things to the next level: an entire artificially-assembled town where contestants will "...live there for years; falling in love, going to school, even getting married." Just like real life, except even phonier!

  • Make Your Own News From The Future!
Build your own diorama of Fox News fans reacting in terror at the upcoming Obama landslide, I hope I hope I hope...

  • Voters Declare "Dark Knight" Best Movie Ever
In other news, The Best Meal Ever was that sandwich I had half an hour ago. Take that, Iron Chefs!

...Finally, a tune for The Aryan Guard, who are willing to pay the damage deposit for any Nazis moving to Calgary, here's Hava Nagila, as performed in a Bollywood film, with subtitles in Hebrew and Russian.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Rusty Idols: Outsourced!


Hello. I'm Matthew from The Church Of Mothra. I'm here to help keep the cat fed and kids off the lawn while Cliff seeks treatment for his long-term exposure to Calgary.

First, an apology: I wanted to start off with something informative and entertaining, so for the first time in my life I sat down to watch several hours of Fox News.

And I couldn't.

God help me. Greta Van Susteren harped on about a murder case where the husband has barely been questioned as a suspect, but he cheated on her. She cheated on him too, maybe. In other words, a typical ugly divorce interrupted by a murder, so naturally it was a chance to stare into some (probably innocent) guy's personal life for an hour. Somehow, it qualified as news. Then came Bill O'Reilly. His show consisted of interviewing Fox hirelings as if they were independent experts. The subject of the conversation? Why are so many people turning against Barack Obama.

It's official: if Bill O'Reilly says the sky is blue... it ain't.

This was followed by Hannity and Colmes. By that point my brain felt so much like an abused six-year-old on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" that I could barely think. All I could notice was how how empty-eyed Colmes is, and how much Hannity looks like that jerk who was always picking on the handicapped kid in Grade Seven.

And as Mothra is my witness, I couldn't go on with it. Not for all the blogs in the world. Having now actually seen it at length, I can safely report that a sustained dose of Fox News is pure self abuse, and not the fun kind either. It's like making out in the driver's seat of an Austin Mini with Cthulu. It's like being a lab rabbit at a cosmetics company in 1958, testing new mascara formulas. It's a power enema with broken watch springs.

It's the "Turistas" of TV news. Jesus. I wanted to take out my eyes with a shrimp fork.

Fortunately, I can report none of it filtered down into my subconscious, and I have not been influenced to change any of my basic beliefs at all. So I guess America's non-stop exposure to this propaganda hasn't done any harm at all to them, just as it hasn't changed me.

Now, a public service announcement:




Friends helping friends

Remember how just before - and I mean just before - the 2006 US midterm elections gas prices at the pump dropped by over 80 cents? And then they started rising again immediately after the election? Seemed kind of convenient didn't it?

It would take a cynical and untrusting soul to suggest that the oil sheiks and the oil companies consider the Republican Party to be their homies and the Democrats with their talk of windfall profit taxes and opposition to permanently occupying every patch of Middle Eastern sand as their enemies - and price their product accordingly.

Oh look, with just months to go before an election that the Republicans look likely to be trounced in - primarily over domestic pocketbook issues - and oil prices have started dropping again.

Hmmmmmmm...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Holy crap!

So, random ambulatory paranoid schizophrenic says aliens are real, have been visiting for years and the government has been covering it up - not a story.

Former astronaut and one of the few living moon walkers says the same thing? That's a story.
FORMER NASA astronaut and moon-walker Dr Edgar Mitchell - a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission - has stunningly claimed aliens exist.And he says extra-terrestrials have visited Earth on several occasions - but the alien contact has been repeatedly covered up by governments for six decades. Dr Mitchell, 77, said during a radio interview that sources at the space agency who had had contact with aliens described the beings as 'little people who look strange to us.' He said supposedly real-life ET's were similar to the traditional image of a small frame, large eyes and head. Chillingly, he claimed our technology is "not nearly as sophisticated" as theirs and "had they been hostile", he warned "we would be been gone by now". Dr Mitchell, along with with Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard, holds the record for the longest ever moonwalk, at nine hours and 17 minutes following their 1971 mission.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Housekeeping

Once or twice a year this blog goes dark for a few days or weeks as I am bundled off to the countryside to take the rest cure. That time is fast approaching again, I'll be heading off to my cabin on Friday for a week and a half of difficult and intensive lying on the deck and drinking.

In my absence instead of Rusty Idols going updateless, my good friend Matthew has kindly offered to help keep the guttering flames of Fort Ranty McHatey burning by taking time away from his vital mission of spreading the good news about Mothra to guestblog here.

Never fear, Matthew and I have been sympatico for years. We were Shop Stewards together in the bowels of Mordor and worked the picket line together. More importantly we have similarly twisted senses of humor; when we went to see the Dark Knight together this weekend we both thought 'the amazing disappearing pencil trick' was blackly hilarious.

Matthew will be keeping an eye on the bastards for me (you know who you are.) and doubtless giving some attention to things I wouldn't have been inspired to write about and ignoring other things I would consider vital, and this is right and proper and a great way to tear down some of the cobwebs.

I will probably have a few more posts out between now and heading off to enjoy my vacation, then it'll all be Matthew.

I'm almost positive this is a good idea. ; )

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Linkblast - July 20

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Iraqi PM kneecaps John McCain

Hudson: 'That's it man, game over man, game over!'
-Aliens, 1986
Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq just endorsed Barack Obama's 16 month timeline for American troops to leave Iraq.

From Reuters:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.

In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

I agree with Josh Marshall, this basically firebombs the McCain campaign for the presidency. The economy is an across the board disaster as a campaign issue for the Republicans and McCain was banking on his old white POW cred carrying him across the finish line with the traditional Republican advantage on security.

But it was always up against a headwind of anti-war sentiment and now McCain's neo-con determination to pursue long term occupation of the Middle East has been renounced by the Democratic government of Iraq the Republicans have lauded so highly.

He's been left with a limply deliberate misrepresentation of Obama's position and Maliki's statement:
ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, McCain 2008 Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Randy Scheunemann issued the following statement:

"The difference between John McCain and Barack Obama is that Barack Obama advocates an unconditional withdrawal that ignores the facts on the ground and the advice of our top military commanders. John McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground. Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly affirmed the same view, and did so again today. Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor, which is of no apparent concern to Barack Obama. The fundamental truth remains that Senator McCain was right about the surge and Senator Obama was wrong. We would not be in the position to discuss a responsible withdrawal today if Senator Obama's views had prevailed."

Shrill, disingenuous and more than a little desperate. We may be about to watch one of the truly epic political meltdowns in American political history.

UPDATE: From a Republican Party McCain advisor: "We're fucked."

Universal Music: 'The law only applies to the little people, not us.'

Virtualy the only element of the DMCA, the American copyright law Harper's Conservatives are so eager to inflict on Canada too, that is designed to protect consumers is that there are legal consequences to rights holders for an illegally applied takedown notice. Now Universal Music argues that one protection was never supposed to be used against them.
SAN JOSE, California -- Universal Music told a federal judge here Friday that takedown notices requiring online video-sharing sites to automatically remove content need not consider whether videos are protected by the "fair use" doctrine.

The doctrine permits limited use of copyright materials without the owner's permission.

This is important, as takedown notices have been illegally used to suppress criticism of public figures like Pastor Hagee trying to hide video of his bigoted and extremist remarks and corporations like Telus suppressing criticism from its workers and customers.

If, as Universal is arguing, the one portion of the DMCA designed to limit their power to suppress speech does not in fact do so, than this is the very definition of privilege: Private law.

Friday, July 18, 2008

RUSH on Colbert

While it lasts here's the interview and most of Tom Sawyer

McCain says they're better off being orphans

Although he later tried to muddy the water a bit, John McCain has joined stalwart social conservatives like this guy in opposing allowing gays to adopt children.

Once again McCain cautiously dances between his wingnut base and more moderate independents, both of whom he needs if he has any hope of winning, and leaves nobody happy.

Steve in Accounting will be determining your treatment

The South Carolina legislature just passed a law, over-riding the Governor's veto, basically saying that determining whether a medical treatment is necessary or not isn't a medical decision. So for example if your doctor determines you need a liver transplant say, whether or not you got one wouldn't be up to a doctor, it would be up to an insurance company bureaucrat. The Governor's overridden veto can be read here.

Well I don't see how anything could possibly go wrong with leaving that kind of decision up to the insurance companies.

The law was originally designed to force insurance companies to pay up faster - it's an ongoing struggle for patients and doctors in the US to get insurance companies to pay up what they owe - and make them justify their decisions in front of the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. After being hijacked by the Republicans in the statehouse it now does the exact opposite.

The insurance industry by the way, is one of The Fraser Institutes most generous sugar daddies, helping to pay for Der Institutes long battle to convince Canadians that what our healthcare system really needs is more of the private sector.

Meanwhile the American healthcare non-system, the most expensive in the world, just scored almost dead last, 15th out of 19 industrialized countries in health outcomes, quality, access and efficiency.
Americans waiting longer to see doctors and more likely to die of preventable or treatable illnesses than people in other industrialized countries, a report released on Thursday said.

Americans squander money on wasteful administrative costs, illnesses caused by medical error and inefficient use of time, the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund concluded.

"We lead the world in spending. We should be expecting much more in return," Commonwealth Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen told reporters.

The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation, created a 100-point scorecard using 37 indicators such as health outcomes, quality, access and efficiency.

They compare the U.S. average on these to the best performing states, counties or hospitals, and to other countries. The United States scored 65 -- two points lower than in 2006.

This is the system that, despite all their denials, the proponents of more private sector involvement in Canada's system seek to emulate.

UPDATE: In California Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the residents of Los Angeles against Blue Shield, claiming the insurer routinely looks for flimsy excuses to deny care.
The suit also accuses Blue Shield of falsely advertising its coverage, alleging that the company often reneges when its members need substantial medical care.Dr. Richard Frankenstein, (No, really - Cliff) president of the California Medical Assn., and Dr. Robert Bitonte, president-elect of the Los Angeles County Medical Assn., praised Delgadillo's efforts to stop the practice known as rescission."Having health insurance does not mean you will receive healthcare when you need it," Frankenstein said. "Insurance companies may promise you the moon and a thousand doctors, but if you really need your medical care you can bet they will be looking for a way to deny treatment or cancel your policy."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Least Well Thought Out Metaphor Award goes to...

Senator Larry 'Wide Stance' Craig:

Americans need off-shore oil drilling so foreigners can't "...jerk us around by the gas-nozzle."

No really, I shit you not, there's video. By the way, the jazz hands are just fabulous, Larry.

The NDP has been calling for Khadr's return to Canada all along

In response to POGGE's question: Where they've always been. Standing up for justice and human rights.

POGGE promptly updated the post when I provided some examples. Here they are again, and yes they should be on the front page of the NDP homepage:

NDP Human Rights critic Wayne Marston calling for Khadr to be recognized as a child soldier and victim. Here's the video. Here's a Toronto Star article about it.

Here's Joe Comartin doing the same.

Here's the entire NDP caucus calling for his return to Canada.

The virtual media black out the NDP faces has been a long term frustration for Dippers. So the question isn't why isn't the NDP standing up for the rights of a tortured Canadian child soldier languishing in an American gulag - it's why haven't you heard that they have been all along?

Standing up for Gitmo

Lawrence Martin in the Globe today, continues the ongoing scolding from the establishment press of Stephen Harper's inexplicable defense of the gulag at Guantanamo Bay. Harper is playing to the base here - and it's an unpleasant base as anyone who ever waded into the comment swamp at The Western Standard's Shotgun blog could tell him.

He's got the redneck vote already and playing to them with his robotic intonation of the same transparently ridiculous line about 'serious charges' and how 'There is a legal process in the United States. He can make his arguments in that process' over and over again simply makes him look ever more Borg like.

At this point the deficiencies of the Gulag show trials at Gitmo barely need repeating. A chief prosecutor who said flat out that the process was designed to produce nothing but convictions, the specific judge in Khadr's case pulled off the case because the Bush administration didn't like his rulings, battle reports re-written after the fact to conceal that Khadr wasn't the only fighter alive when the grenade was thrown, statements derived from the torture of a badly injured child and the fact that at this point the Bush administration is only going through the motions with an extra-judicial process unlikely to out last Bush's less than 200 days in office.

Britain and Australia got their citizens repatriated and they weren't 15 year old child soldiers at the time of their capture.

Steve, isn't about time to stop letting George W. Bush use your mouth as a cock warmer?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Somebody's getting rich (But it aint you.)

Over at the Church of Mothra, Matthew notes a Globe and Mail article attempting to explain the seemingly inexplicably glum mood among those working in the oil and gas sector - a ubiquitous bunch here in Calgary. Although the original article pins the sour mood on regulatory uncertainty and price volatility, Matthew thinks the blame lies elsewhere.
I believe there's another reason for the frowns and worry lines crossing the faces of oil and gas people here in Calgary. The same article, written for the Lifestyles section of the paper, would have an entirely different spin. Yes, there is a dark mood brewing among the people who work in the petrochemical business here. I've seen this mood a lot, having recently had the chance to work among a large number of Calgary's oil and gas people. And, for the most part, I don't believe any of it is directly caused by any of the above stated reasons.
Matthew points out that while the price of a barrel of oil has increased by 580% in the last twenty years, the 99% of the people working in the industry who aren't taking the elevator to the executive floors aren't seeing anywhere near that kind of an increase in their pay.

For those who think Calgary is nothing but fleets of Hummers travelling from mansion to board room and back again, think again. As of May Calgary's homeless population surged to over 4000 people living in shelters or the streets and that is almost certainly an under count missing a lot of couch surfers.

Some of whom are working in the oil and gas industry and desperately trying to put together the security deposit and first and last months rent to get a place of their own.

They're war criminals and they know it

The Bush administration, their hangers on, fellow travelers and useful idiots have repeatedly scoffed at accusations of criminality. 'Crude partisanship from people suffering from Bush derangement syndrome' they sneer. Of course 'Bush derangement syndrome' as the die hard Bush supporters define it, is now suffered by 75% of Americans and the Bush administration is in its final months.

And behind the scenes they've been getting nervous.
The reaction of top Bush Administration officials to the ICRC report, from what I can gather, has been defensive and dismissive. They reject the ICRC’s legal analysis as incorrect. Yet my reporting shows that inside the White House there has been growing fear of criminal prosecution, particularly after the Supreme Court ruled in the Hamdan case that the Geneva Conventions applied to the treatment of the detainees. This nervousness resulted in the successful effort to add retroactive immunity to the Military Commission Act. Cheney personally spearheaded this effort. Fear of the consequences of exposure also weighed heavily in discussions about whether to shut the CIA program down. In White House meetings, Cheney warned that if they transferred the CIA’s prisoners to Guantanamo, “people will want to know where they have been—and what we’ve been doing with them.” Alberto Gonzales, a source said, “scared” everyone about the possibility of war crimes prosecutions. It was on their minds.
One of the most successful and hard nosed criminal prosecutors in America flatly calls for the prosecution of George W. Bush for murder, but as Glenn Greenwald points out, the Democrats are so compromised by collusion with this criminal regime, we probably can't expect them to do their duty.

On the plus side, members of the Bush administration will never be able to travel outside of America again after Bush leaves office, without looking over their shoulders.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Working Class Hero

John Lennon.
Well after all I'm a Lefty blogger who periodically posts music videos. It was only a matter of time.

Reign of Error

With only 188 days left of Chimpy's grubby fingers on the levers of power in the US, it's worth noting that the single most accurate and prescient article published at the very begining of the Bush regime was from The Onion.
January 17, 2001
WASHINGTON, DC–Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."
"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."
Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.
During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

Vertical farming

I first read about - and blogged about - the idea a little more than a year ago. It seems to be gaining some traction.

The idea, which has captured the imagination of several architects in the United States and Europe in the past several years, just caught the eye of another big city dreamer: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president.

When Mr. Stringer heard about the concept in June, he said he immediately pictured a “food farm” addition to the New York City skyline. “Obviously we don’t have vast amounts of vacant land,” he said in a phone interview. “But the sky is the limit in Manhattan.” Mr. Stringer’s office is “sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm,” and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months, he said.

“I think we can really do this,” he added. “We could get the funding.”

Dr. Despommier estimates that it would cost $20 million to $30 million to make a prototype of a vertical farm, but hundreds of millions to build one of the 30-story towers that he suggests could feed 50,000 people. “I’m viewed as kind of an outlier because it’s kind of a crazy idea,” Dr. Despommier, 68, said with a chuckle. “You’d think these are mythological creatures.”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Random TV musings

The Frank's Red Hot TV pitchman is a reactionary tight ass. Get the hell out of the guy's house and let him wave his freak flag high! Plus you stole your look from Drew Carey.


Why yes I have been drinking, why do you ask?

Even the right wing press turn on Harper over Khadr

Both the Sun and CanWest chain call on Harper to repatriate Omar Khadr:

From the Sun:

He's believed to have tossed a grenade that killed an American Special Forces soldier.

He was 15 at the time.

Old enough to know better, many would say, but raised in a world far removed from ours -- mentally, at least.

It would be easier to condemn Khadr and condone any brutal treatment had he been linked to 9/11 or another clear act of terrorism rather than being on the wrong side of the war.

But even then, atrocity is atrocity no matter how you justify it.

Given his twisted family background, which is deeply rooted in sympathy and alleged support for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, it's easy to see how Khadr is one messed up young man.

He's not your typical Canadian by any stretch of the imagination.

It seems he was never given the chance and that window has closed forever.

Yet he was born in Canada and hence the dilemma.

From The Calgary Herald, who more honestly acknowledge the severe weaknesses in the case against Khadr and the abuse he's suffered in American hands:
In Khadr's case, specific mistreatment includes denial of timely medical treatment and pain relief for bullet wounds in the chest, long periods of solitary confinement under bright lights and cold temperatures, and sleep deprivation. At one point, prison guards terrorized Khadr to the point where he urinated himself. They then dipped him in disinfectant and used him as a human mop to wipe up his own urine. He would have been 17 at the time.

Now we know, thanks to disclosure ordered by the Federal Court, that Canadian officials were aware of the abuse while it was happening.
...

Six years after Khadr was taken into detention, it recently came to light the report identifying him as the combatant who threw the grenade originally identified another combatant (executed on the battlefield) as the perpetrator. The report was altered after the fact.

We know evidence obtained by torture and cruel or degrading treatment will be admitted at trial. We know the original military commission judge assigned to hear the case was sacked and replaced after making a procedural ruling that the Bush administration considered unfavourable. Finally, we also know the Bush administration announced that, even if Khadr is acquitted of the charges against him, he can be detained indefinitely anyway.

Can anyone believe there is any merit to letting such a process run its course as a prerequisite to seeking Khadr's release?

UPDATE: Christ. Even The National Pest gets it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stampede selfishness

My buddy Matt, AKA Chironboy, AKA the most holy Hierophant of the mighty Church of Mothra has a piece up about the changing face of Calgary in Stampeding season:
I moved here about twenty years ago and, like many newcomers, I was fascinated by the tradition of "the Stampede Breakfast," in which various sponsors -- businesses, mostly -- would serve up free pancakes and sausages and juice packs to all who were willing to show up early in the morning and stand in line. I was intrigued by the concept. It was nice to know that the people making money in this town, back when oil was an outlandish $20 a barrel or so, were willing to share a little something with everyone else, even if it was only a tax-deductible token gesture.The whole notion of Calgarians being better or more generous people than others because they come from "a Western tradition" or because "they're cowboys at heart" is a lie of course, but some lies can be ennobling. And I admit I am a sucker for free food.Twenty years later, the Stampede Breakfast concept is still going strong. I've seen five of them in the last three days. Hardly anything has changed.Except that since I got here some twenty years ago, the average person's real income adjusted for inflation (in this town where everyone works so frantically) has gone down about 50 bucks a year. The banks and oil companies who usually host Stampede Breakfasts? Their profits are setting records. And now oil is $145.00 a barrel.Put another way: a barrel of West Texas Intermediate is now worth about six months income for one of the Chinese slaves made to stitch the Wal-Mart purchased boots and shirt of every faux cowpuncher lined up for those free scrambled eggs.One more thing that's changed? The five Stampede Breakfasts I've seen in the last three days have all had big "PRIVATE FUNCTION" signs posted in front of them. That, and security guards to keep away the homeless, the wage slaves, and the riff-raff.

America's Original Sin

The Founding Fathers hold a place in American history and mythology akin to the place prophets and martyrs hold in some religions. They are cited, quoted, revered and lionized as no other figures in American history have been.

And fair enough, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are brilliant, radical documents that raised the bar for human liberty immeasurably and enshrined human rights in a legal context in way they never had been before.

Of course at the same time they were writing and enacting these radically egalitarian documents the American Founding Fathers were condoning, supporting and participating in a program on a gigantic scale of abducting people from their homes, beating, molesting, torturing, mutilating and murdering them until they were too numb with horror to resist and then turning them into livestock. They engaged in behaviour with the women and children among these abducted prisoners that nowadays would get them labeled as psychopathic sex criminals.

Slavery is America's original sin, blighting all the fine talk of liberty and fundamental human rights with hypocrisy and cruelty and abuse right from the start. Along with the systematic program of genocide against America's native inhabitants the effects linger to this day socially and economically.

The election of Barack Obama could be a major step in finally expiating that sin.

In terms of policy Barack Obama is a centrist, vaguely progressive American politician. There were candidates in the Democratic primaries including John Edwards and yes, Hillary Clinton, who were further to the left with better policy prescriptions. Although many of Obama's most energized supporters have been shocked and bitterly disappointed by his support for wiretapping and right wing framing of issues like abortion they wouldn't be if they'd actually been paying attention to what he was saying all along.

Of course even a centrist Democrat is miles to the left of the far right cabal currently nesting in the White House and Obama is certainly a better option in terms of policy to John McCain and his promise to continue the policies of Bush, but Obama isn't the progressive saviour some of his more overheated supporters thought he was.

He is however, a game changer for how the world looks at America and how they look at themselves. His election would be the kind of transformative event that would divide American racial politics into two periods: Before Obama and after.

Of late the Republicans almost seem to have conceded the race; John McCain recently bitterly attacked Social Security - often called the third rail of American politics - essentially, for being social security:
McCain said this:
Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.
As anyone who knows anything about Social Security understands, "paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers" is pretty much the functional definition of Social Security. Always has been. That's what John McCain is calling an "absolute disgrace."
So don't expect an AARP endorsement John.

Then his chief economic advisor Phil Gramm referred to Americans concerned about America's stumbling economy as 'whiners'.

On top of telling Americans completely soured on the Iraq War that he wants troops to stay there for a hundred years and making jokes about killing Iranians McCain seems completely out of touch with the zeitgeist. Faced with a choice between an economically clueless rich old elitist warmonger promising more of the same as Bush reaches polling levels below even Nixon just before he left the White House and an inspiring black centrist promising Americans a total break from their recent past and the words 'President Obama' seem more and more inevitable.

And America's promise of equality of opportunity for all that much closer to reality.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Market Failure Roundup

From the housing crisis and the meltdown of the financial derivative sector, to the widespread hunger created by the big business/big government bio-fuels scam, to runaway global warming it isn't a good time for the free market ideologues and defenders of the Washington Consensus. Their smug certainty in the unfettered genius of the unregulated market has brought us all only huge disaster and even huger chasms between the winners of their zero sum game and the losers.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists concludes that the Stern Report was right and :
Climate change is the result of a colossal market failure. At least, that is one way to view the unimpeded dumping of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere. In the case of climate change, the cost of carbon dioxide emissions, measured as damage to the biosphere, has not been factored into the price of energy. The failure to account for these hidden costs encouraged the overuse of carbon-emitting technologies and has led ultimately to the market failure known as global warming.
And after ripping into a big chunk of the Globe and Mail's comment section today, its only fair to point you to Joseph Stiglitz's masterful dissection of the utter failure of neoliberal economics.

The world has not been kind to neo-liberalism, that grab bag of ideas based on the fundamentalist notion that markets are self-correcting, allocate resources efficiently and serve the public interest well. It was this market fundamentalism that underlay Thatcherism, Reaganomics and the so-called “Washington Consensus” in favour of privatization, liberalization and independent central banks focusing single-mindedly on inflation.
For a quarter-century, there has been a contest among developing countries, and the losers are clear: Countries that pursued neo-liberal policies not only lost the growth sweepstakes; when they did grow, the benefits accrued disproportionately to those at the top.

Margaret Wente: Selective defender of hate

Margaret Wente rides in to the rescue of a white supremacist mother who's kids were taken into protective custody after sending her seven year old to school with a swastika drawn on her arm.
Some people are applauding the child-protection service. Parents have no right, they say, to send a kid to school inked with symbols of racism and hate, where she will doubtless frighten other little tykes and spread her poison everywhere. These people have a point. But couldn't the school just send her home and tell her not to return until she washes it off? One hates to side with Aryan Nation, but the mom is right. Simply teaching your children odious and creepy beliefs is not enough to lose them to the state
Unless of course your name is Khadr and you're teaching your kids to become child soldiers.

If you are a white supremacist, a group noteworthy for acts of domestic terrorism in North America, violence and yes, systematic child abuse, then Wente is concerned about your civil rights and thinks the state has no place even investigating how you are raising your child.

If you're brown and Muslim you are an unequivocal threat to all that is good and decent and Margaret Wente will clutch her pearls and spin the human rights excesses of the War on Terror with the best of them.
Even after controversy erupted over the situation last month, the Harper government was evasive and unco-operative, dismissing detailed reports of torture as mere "allegations of the Taliban." This dismissive approach was echoed by Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente who made clear that her sympathies lay with Canadian military leaders, not with Afghans who reported being hung upside down and punched so hard their teeth fell out.
"I have deep sympathy for our military leaders," wrote Wente, explaining what she saw as the difficult bind our generals are in. "They can fight a war. Or they can babysit `our detainees' ..." To Wente, ensuring that our detainees aren't tortured – a requirement of the Geneva Conventions, which Canada has signed – is the equivalent of "babysitting" them.
Update: Good Lord. Even the National Pest sees the connection.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fueling starvation

The ethanol scam has been pretty much recognized for the big agri-business snow job it is by all but, well the political and business elite still driving it.

Now a secret World Bank report has been leaked that drastically re-asses the effect the fad of turning food into fuel has had on global food prices.

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.
The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.
The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil. Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

...

"It is clear that some biofuels have huge impacts on food prices," said Dr David King, the government's former chief scientific adviser, last night. "All we are doing by supporting these is subsidising higher food prices, while doing nothing to tackle climate change."

Seriously? You didn't see this coming?

Elizabeth May seems surprised that making her party an obsequious flunky to another party costs the Greens influence and support.

Elizabeth May has had her thunder stolen. Call it the great green robbery. Carbon tax? Green shift? They were hers - until the Liberals moved in. Now green plans are the talk of the country. But no one's talking about her party.

"I mean, every time I open up a newspaper, I see green, green, green," she said. "But where is the mention of the Green Party?"

Why should anyone mention you Elizabeth? You've made it quite clear that you view the Green Party as a Major Domo to the Liberals, a dogsbody if you will. You've taken the potential relevance, influence and credibility of the Greens and put them to work propping up another party. Why on Earth should anyone give you their support when you're flat out telling them to support someone else? And as for what you'll get for all that assiduous application of political capital...

She has been cozy with the Grits since St├ęphane Dion promised more than a year ago not to run a Liberal candidate against her in the riding, Central Nova, she is contesting in the next election. On Mr. Dion's green shift, Ms. May feels she was the inspiration. "Yes, I think so. I'm not just saying this in a foolish or naive sense. But we won over the Liberal Party from a policy point of view."

Oh that's so cute. She still believes Liberals keep promises when they aren't forced to.

"If you're asking me if the Green tax shift, which is our idea, has been stolen by the Liberals for the election, I don't know and I don't really care. As a party, we're at a point in our evolution that's not far off where Tommy Douglas was when Canada got health care, as advocated by a party not in power."

Actually Elizabeth, the circumstances were quite different, involving the NDP holding the balance of power in a minority government and never being naive enough to think the Liberals could be counted on to do the right thing without being forced to. Tommy Douglas wasn't swooning over that dreamy Lester Pearson.

So Greens, tired of being considered a cheap date yet?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Greenwald on FISA

He's been battling it now for what seems like years. The deliberately false consensus on wiretapping of America's policy elite. With his latest coldly furious evisceration of yet another parrot like defender of executive lawbreaking it all comes to a kind of ragingly precise crescendo that is a joy to read.
Our Congress, with the political and media elite cheering, is about to violate every one of these principles. They are taking away from the judiciary the power to adjudicate allegations of lawbreaking. They are creating a two-tiered system of justice in which our most powerful corporations can break the law with impunity and government officials remain immune from consequences. And they are, in unity, spewing rank propaganda to the commoners -- who continue to be subjected to the harsh punishment for violations of the law and one of the world's most merciless justice systems -- in order to convince them that granting license to our political and corporate elites to break the law is necessary for their own Good and for their Safety.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Dream of Picasso

Lot of great songs about Pablo, here's Caroline Lavelle with an atmospheric piece of Enya-ish chill out. Something to help ease into the last day of the work week. I'm off to brave the Stampede Parade crowds to get to my train.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Deadly delay

The proponents of incrementally dismantling Canada's public healthcare system have seized on wait lists in recent years. Although the problem has been massively exaggerated, and is actually an argument for more investment in the public system the usual suspects at the Fraser Institute and the Can-West chain think they have a winning argument for abandoning the public model.

Except that wait times are as bad or worse in the American healthcare non-system, disproportionately affect patients based on race and income and are dangerously concentrated in emergency care due to patients not being able to afford the preventative care that would have helped them avoid a visit to an emergency room.

And the 'innovative private sector solutions' the usual suspects promote to solve Canada's wait list problems have been a grotesque, hugely expensive failure everywhere they've been tried. Wait lists increase as doctors cherrypick easy lucrative cases and patient care and access has suffered. Oddly enough, introducing the profit motive into multiple new levels of the healthcare system also ended up drastically increasing costs.

Plus, when have you ever heard this kind of wait list story in Canada?:
Video footage has emerged of an American woman dying on the floor of a New York City hospital as workers failed to help for more than an hour. Esmin Green, 49, who was said to have suffered a mental breakdown, had been waiting to be seen at Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, for some 24 hours.

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