Friday, January 30, 2009

John Yoo: Ass Clown

Shorter John Yoo:

"America will never be safe again unless our enemies believe we are prepared to drown them, bury them alive or torture their children by crushing their testicles."

Where's it all going? Part D'oh!

Two years ago I asked Albertans to think about where exactly all the huge wealth generated by 'the Alberta advantage' was actually going. Bill Kauffman at the Calgary Sun (!) lays out the numbers from Stats Can and the Parkland Institute to answer that question as the fevered haze of the boom lifts and we all blearily stagger around post wild party Alberta trying not to step on any bottles.

From 2002 to 2006, Alberta's GDP fairly exploded, with energy construction expenditures ballooning from $13.3 billion to $33.1 billion. Alberta's labour productivity in 2005 was tops in Canada.

Yet 57% of those workers said their wages weren't keeping pace with living costs spiked by the boom, with the stats bearing that out.

We've been sweating harder to simply tread water.

With things better than ever, Alberta in 2007 hosted the largest per capita population of working homeless in Canada, and 27.7% of those using food banks were employed.

While the energy industry was ascendent and the province was rolling out its biggest budget to date in 2007, say the Parklanders, our grade schools weren't even allocated a cost of living increase and post-secondary tuition fees increased.

Boomtime Alberta had the lowest rate of social assistance for single employables.

Alberta still hasn't replaced the hospital beds it lost during the 1990s cutbacks and with the province hitting a fiscal brick wall, doing it will be that much harder.

Where'd all the money go?

Predictably, not so much trickled down. Instead, it geysered up to the top executive suites in the form of spiralling multi-million dollar salaries and stock options -- or left the country.

Petroleum sector revenue under foreign control in Alberta was 56% in 2003. From just 10 large corporations surveyed, the study determined 55.9% of dividends, or $1.3 billion, left the country in 2005.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Big Three Killed My Baby

OTTAWA — The Canadian Auto Workers union, which has long resisted offering concessions, said Thursday that it would begin special contract talks with the automakers based in Detroit.

The union’s change of heart is related to the Canadian government’s offer of bailout money to those companies’ subsidiaries in Canada. Tony Clement, the minister of industry, has said the government would give money only if Canadian wages and benefits matched those paid by Honda and Toyota in Canada.

The federal and Ontario governments have pledged about 4 billion Canadian dollars ($3.3 billion) in emergency loans to the industry.

“Labor costs clearly did not cause this worldwide crisis in the auto industry, and labor concessions cannot possibly solve that crisis,” Ken Lewenza, the union’s president, said in a statement. “But we can’t ignore the precarious financial state of these companies, the extraordinary government offers of aid and our need to remain fully competitive for future investment.”

The union’s members are in the first year of three-year contracts with the Canadian units of Chrysler, Ford Motor and General Motors.

The Canadian labor agreements provide wages of 34 Canadian dollars an hour.

Toyota’s main Canadian plant in Cambridge, Ontario, pays a median wage of 33.25 Canadian dollars an hour.
In other words, like their Republican counterparts south of the border the Conservatives view the crisis facing the auto industry - almost entirely due to executive incompetence - as just another opportunity to attack workers based on insultingly spurious arguments.

I still remember visiting MPs on the hill when I was lobbying for my then union the TWU. Liberals were gushingly polite but their hearty handshakes and empty smiles promised nothing. The NDP invited us to a full caucus meeting, gave us a standing ovation and brought our issues to the house. The Conservatives... well I still remember sitting open-mouthed across the desk from a Conservative MP as he ranted about 'union mischief' until the spittle flew.

After the fiscal update's declaration of their desire to strip rights from public sector workers and their all but unanimous support for the Liberal's betrayal of labour on anti-scab and now this sleazy attempt to lay all the auto industry's troubles at the doors of their workers because of a 75 cent labour cost difference it should be clear to everyone that the Conservatives just hate any workers who band together to protect their interests.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Alberta's surprising health choice

It's the kind of thing that just makes you rub your eyes in wonder: Alberta's Conservative government just hired Stephen Duckett, a fiercely articulate critic of private and two-tier health care systems... to run Alberta's health care system.

Yeah, that's what I said, but read this:
...in Australia, a prominent private system exists alongside the public system. In 2003/04 about 40% of all hospital admissions were to private hospitals. About 43% of the people residing in Australia have private health insurance. This dual system has deleterious implications for the equity and efficiency of the health care system, and similar ill effects could occur if Canada were to follow the Australian path of health care organization.
Mr Duckett is harshly critical of the huge increase in costs and the inequitable results of expanded private sector involvement in the health sector and alarmed by the growing political power of the private health lobby in Australia.

After the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the government's musings about 90's style cuts earlier this month this appointment may just represent Stelmach's eagerness to avoid any more fights about health care and of course Mr Duckett will be administrating policy, not making it, but regardless its a surprising and welcome reminder that Ralph Klein is gone.

Playing chicken?

So without the NDP's support either the Conservatives accept, indeed vote for, the Liberal's humiliating probation amendment or they refuse it and Iggy's choice is to swallow his pride and vote for the budget anyway or... not.

Even two months ago I would have had no doubt about Harper's response to the Liberals dictating terms to him, now...

I guess we'll see won't we.

UPDATE: Well that settles that.
OTTAWA - The Conservatives are expected to support a Liberal amendment that would require the government to provide regular updates on the implementation and cost of the budget, Canwest News has learned.
"The budget already required reporting, so we see no reason to oppose this," a government official close to Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Canwest News on Wednesday
In other words, the Tories have every reason to believe that their probation officer won't be a strict one and will be doing the equivalent of moving in across the street from the elementary school and missing their appointments with impunity.

Iggy's tight leash on Stevie

Sigh. Well there goes the coalition for now. The Liberals will support the budget, but only after including an amendment that puts Harper in a dog collar.

11:20:02 AM Alright, so we’ve got the statement - which is short if not particularly sweet, and the upshot of which is that the Liberals will introduce an amendment to ensure that the government is “held accountable for its promises” - and adds, “We are putting this government on probation.” Yes, your guess is as good as mine as far as what that means, but here’s the nugget of ooh, that may actually be clever: regular reports to Parliament - in March, June and December - any of which will be a confidence motion.

It's designed to put the political timetable for the rest of the year in the hands of the Liberals and not incidentally, to utterly humiliate Harper - I don't see him doing anything but biting his lip and accepting it though. Might be worth tuning into CPAC to see that little vein pulse in his forehead.

I think its a mistake. I agree with Scott Reid's argument from a month and a half ago, that given an opportunity to remove Harper from Canadian politics permanently it's folly to pass it up and tax cuts still make lousy stimulus, so that's 20 billion wasted with the added downside of restricting future progressive governance when interest rates and deficits start rising in tandem again.

But Liberals got a honeymoon poll bounce from their leadership change - the prospect of a leader who can out-bastard Harper appeals to some - and have acquired some beer muscles. Ignatieff still talks about the coalition as if it were one more weapon in his arsenal of threats to be kept on standby as long its useful to the Liberal Party - it's up to Layton now to make it clear that isn't the case.

The only question now is if Harper will accept the humiliation of being forced to behave like he has...horrors!...a minority rather than a defacto majority.

UPDATE: Jack won't support the amendment and it can't pass without the NDP. Will Ignatieff accept the budget without the leash?
12:09:13 PM Okay, so the upshot is: No, he won’t support this amendment, and it is a ’sad day’ what with Ignatieff providing a ‘fig leaf’ to the government.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Heh.

It's Obama's inauguration day and TCM, the classic movie channel is playing Guess Who's Coming to Dinner tonight.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Too bad...

...that you had to get caught,
That's not like you to lose face.
So sad that you're not as smart,
As you thought you were in the first place.

Conrad Black has lost a bid for clemency from outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush.

In his final acts of clemency Monday, Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer ignited fierce debate about illegal immigration.

Mr. Black didn't make the list, and although Mr. Bush technically has until noon Tuesday, when president-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office, to exercise his executive pardon authority, presidential advisers said no more were forthcoming.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

And so it goes

The Israeli cabinet is set to back an end to offensive military activities in the Gaza Strip, three weeks after attacks began, the BBC understands.

Israel's leaders are expected to approve a ceasefire at a meeting later on Saturday, after which PM Ehud Olmert will address the nation, sources said.

The sources said the ceasefire deal did not involve Hamas.

The images that have been going through my head uncontrollably the last few weeks, are the assault on the ghetto sequence from Schindler's List.

There's no possible correlation of course, no heavy artillery and white phosphorous shells for one thing.

Gaza has been a war, conducted in the context of shadowy and contradictory movements from a political leadership who are simultaneously in the process of running against each other in elections. Okay critics of coalition governments may have a point, at least as it applies to the conduct of a war of aggression.

This is the future as Israel sees it: 'We say there's no one to negotiate with, so no attempt will be made. The West Bank will become an Israeli suburb, one settlement block at a time. Gaza will continue to be a huge fenced in outdoor prison and there will be the occasional punitive assault to crush any resistance from the prisoners. Forever.'

And political and media elites in the West will continue the full-throated support for Israel that has one inescapable underlying premise: White lives are worth more than brown lives.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stelmach's PCs dare Albertans to stop them.

EDMONTON — Economic storm clouds are forming over Alberta, forcing one of Canada’s wealthiest provinces to look at trimming spending and possibly cutting jobs.

“You cannot just blindly go on spending if your revenue streams continue to drop,” Treasury Board President Lloyd Snelgrove said in an interview. “Our only other realistic opportunity is to cut spending.”

Snelgrove says once Albertans signal that they’ve had enough of spending cuts, then tax increases may be considered.

“We have to get to the point where Albertans will say to us, `We want this level of service and we are prepared to pay more,”’ said the minister.

The ideologues of the Progressive Conservative government of Alberta know better. Forget that we've all just watched the free market absolutism of Movement Conservatism burn the world financial system to the ground and we can all see the chickens of Reaganism coming home to roost.

Forget that Finance Ministers, CEOs and Nobel laureate economists are arguing that the old conservative one note monetarism stops working when interest rates are already zero and people are too scared to do anything with tax cuts but hide them under their mattresses.

Alberta has a severe infrastructure deficit, crying need for lower income housing for its cities, increased support for the rural poor and yes, more funding for a healthcare system that hasn't even come close to keeping up with the surging population that has been driving Alberta's wealth.

Deficits are bad and to be avoided when possible. Worrying about deficits in the current economic environment is like worrying about a sprained ankle when you have a pumping head wound. Conservative economics got us into this mess, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

We can spend the kind of stimulus necessary to keep our economy afloat and yes build a deficit - essentially at zero percent interest - or we can go into a self induced death spiral because Stelmach and the PCs have the vapors when anyone says the 'D' word.

They've just told us that a massive negative response from Albertans is the only thing that will stop them from throwing Alberta's economy and citizens under the bus to save their campaign slogans.

Still have your Friends of Medicare signs in storage folks? You had to know you were going to need them again.

UPDATE: Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason calls out Premier Stelmach for 'Hooverism'.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Make You Feel My Love

Adele

Great voice, great song, cool video and a young female singer who isn't built like a severe malnutrition victim. Love it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Canada's next great completely apolitical Prime Minister

The leading contestant in CBC's Next Great Prime Minister game show has been disqualified for being the kind of person who would actually want to be Canada's Next Great Prime Minister.
A P.E.I. woman is considering legal action after she was cut from the CBC game show Canada's Next Great Prime Minister because she has previously run for Parliament.
Camille Labchuk ran for the Green Party in New Brunswick in 2006, which is against the rules of the contest. Labchuk said she knew about the rule, but after receiving an email from the CBC encouraging her to apply, she decided to inquire further.
The show producers told her the run for Parliament would not disqualify her, so she went to work doing what she could to win the contest. She took two months to do research and create a video. She also held a public event, but now she has been told she is disqualified because of her 2006 campaign.
So wait, to qualify as a contestant to be 'Canada's Next Great Prime Minister' an essential characteristic is never having actually been engaged in Canadian politics before?

As one commentator points out, its like the Dragon's Den requiring that you have never tried to start a business before or Survivor that you've never visited anywhere tropical.

Are Canadians really looking for a Great Prime Minister...who's never shown an interest in politics before until there was $50,000 on the line?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Daddy's Girls

Think you already know just what depths of emotional manipulation and sickening, saccharine sentiment Madison Avenue will sink to in order to get you to buy their wretched things? You really don't.

Just saw it on TV. I can't be the only one suffering like this. Sorry about that.

Now I have to go wash out my eyes with Listerine.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Rule

Any time anyone connected to the Cheney Bush administration says that something was completely impossible to predict and no one could have reasonably seen it coming - it was something that practically everyone saw coming.

As ThinkProgress detailed, Cheney deflected blame for the calamity on Wall Street and the deepening recession by declaring, "nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure that out" and "I don’t know that anybody did." Then, Cheney magically converted failure into a virtue and ignorance into a shield in explaining away the Bush presidency:

"No, obviously, I wouldn’t have predicted that. On the other hand I wouldn’t have predicted 9/11, the global war on terror, the need to simultaneous run military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq or the near collapse of the financial system on a global basis, not just the U.S."

At every turn, of course, voices both inside and outside the government warned a Bush administration asleep at the switch.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Everybody knows

Check out this Howard Schweber piece that effectively demolishes some of the more pernicious 'everybody knows' about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians:

Claim 1:
Israel disengaged from Gaza and removed its settlements. In response, the people of Gaza elected a Hamas government and since then rockets have been continually launched into Israel. By the same token, when Israel left Lebanon, Hezbollah moved in. This proves that Israel had no choice but to attempt to destroy or substantially weaken Hamas on the ground in Gaza, and demonstrates the futility of trading land for peace.

Response:
The assertion that Israel has ended its occupation is extremely debatable; among others, it is debated by Human Rights Watch. Israel controls Gaza's northern and eastern border crossings, its access to the sea, and its airspace. Israel has shut down Gaza's port and destroyed its airport, ended its fishing industry, and controls the flow of electricity and oil, food and medicine, and even money into the territory. With the cooperation of Egypt, Israel continues to control who enters and exits Gaza; since the election of Hamas Israel has used that power to place Gaza under a state of siege resulting in dire humanitarian conditions in an already impoverished territory that has struggled for decades under the burden of absorbing huge numbers of refugees from Israel. Even prior to the siege, the Israeli Air Force demonstrated its continued ownership of the skies over Gaza by sending jets to produce sonic booms over Gazan cities, a gesture apparently with no purpose other than to harass the local population (also used in Southern Lebanon following Israel's "withdrawal"), a gentle reminder to people on the ground that they sleep at night only if Israel chooses to let them do so. People say that Israel "withdrew" from Gaza as though Gaza had been left autonomous and independent and free from Israeli control and interference; nothing could be further from the truth.

Moreover, to describe a "withdrawal from Gaza" is to artificially divide the Palestinian territories. The withdrawal of the settlements from inside Gaza was accompanied by massive acceleration of settlement construction in the West Bank; most observers have concluded that Sharon's motivation was precisely to free up resources for that purpose. Israel has been absolutely relentless in the expansion of those settlements, along with everything that goes with them; the checkpoints, "whites only" roads, the military incursion in 2002, and the separation wall.

From the Palestinian perspective, the statement that Israel withdrew from Gaza and was not rewarded with peace is almost incomprehensibly dishonest; Palestinians and Arabs in other countries I have spoken with assume that people making that argument are speaking with utter self-awareness of the cynicism of their argument. If you stick a knife in my chest and another one in my foot, then you pull out the one from my foot but drive the one in my chest even deeper, do not expect me not to kick you with my foot that is still bleeding from the wounds you have inflicted. Peace between Israel and Palestine may indeed come through a series of steps, but the framework of understanding cannot be one that separates Gaza from the West Bank, as though being allowed free access to Khan Younis somehow makes up for being cut off from Jerusalem.

Claim 2:
Israel has been subject to constant rocket attacks. What would you (addressed to an American) do if rockets were falling on your city? And what about Gilad Shalit, who has not even been allowed to be seen by visitors? What would you do if this had happened to America?

Response:
A fair point, to be sure; rocket attacks are an act of war, and Israel has a right to defend itself. The problem is that Israel's blockade of Gaza is also an act of war, and Palestinians have the same right of self-defense. To focus only on the rockets coming into Israel is like describing the Battle of Britain as "British planes attacking German planes"; it's not technically inaccurate, but as a description it is incomplete to the point of complete distortion. When we are asked "what would you do if rockets from Canada were landing in Minnesota" we should also ask "what would you do if a foreign power - or two foreign powers, acting in cooperation -- had cut off all access to your country and was slowly starving your population in order to compel you to get rid of your elected government?"

Ending the siege has been Hamas' main and constant demand. When the truce began on June 19th Israel permitted increased importation of food, but still only to about 20% of normal levels. The UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Robert Falk, has reported levels of hunger inside Gaza that rival those of the poorest sub-Saharan nations and has called the Israeli siege a "crime against humanity." In November, Israel launched two military attacks that effectively ended the truce and led to the resumption of rocket attacks; nonetheless in December Hamas offered to extend the truce if Israel would only lift the siege. Israel was not interested; thereafter Hamas increased the intensity of the attacks, culminating in a barrage the week of Christmas that prompted the initiation of Operation Cast Lead (although, as I have pointed out in an earlier post, that operation had been planned for months).

The point of the siege all along was to inflict misery on Gaza in order to turn them against their government, an act of collective punishment designed to turn Gazans against their government. In 2006 Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, was quoted in The Guardian explaining the plan: "the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet." The technical name for a strategy of imposing fear and misery on a people until they turn against their government is "terrorism"; to repeat myself, Palestinians have the same right of self-defense as Israelis. Nor is the blockade Israel's only act of aggression in Gaza. Throughout the period since the supposed withdrawal, Israel has launched thousands of artillery and rocket attacks into Gaza, along with periodic military operations. In the four years prior to Operation Cast Lead, those attacks resulted in 1,339 deaths among Gaza's people. How would we Americans react to those figures, or their proportional equivalents?

But it is probably the appeal to the case of Gilad Shalit that rings the most hollow, and sounds most completely cynical to Palestinians. According to B'Tselem, Israel currently holds more than 8,200 Palestinian prisoners, many of them arrested and held without charge, others tried in military courts on the basis of secret evidence that the "defense" is not allowed to see in "trials" that may last five minutes. According to Defense of Children International, in 2007 alone, Israel imprisoned some 700 children, in violation of international law. And Israel frequently denies visiting privileges to its prisoners.

Ten years ago Ehud Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israel's history, famously observed that if he had been born a Palestinian he would have been a terrorist. That was long before the siege of Gaza; for a Gaza resident who has lived through the past year, taking up arms against Israel and supporting violent resistance is not only entirely understandable, it appears positively reasonable. Would Americans really overthrow our own government -- even a government we might initially have opposed -- to end a siege or the threat of attack by a more powerful enemy? Is that how Americans, and Israelis, have responded in the past?

There's more and it's all worth reading.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire in December

WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (IPS) - Contrary to Israel's argument that it was forced to launch its air and ground offensive against Gaza in order to stop the firing of rockets into its territory, Hamas proposed in mid-December to return to the original Hamas-Israel ceasefire arrangement, according to a U.S.-based source who has been briefed on the proposal.

Serving Notice

I've resisted. I've bit my tongue - for the most part - and kept my powder dry about the arrogant, aristocratic neocon now running the Liberal Party because of the faint and fading hope that the Coalition will still happen. As the courtesy due to an - at least theoretical - coalition partner I would prefer to leave criticising their leader to Liberals themselves for now - Far and Wide has stepped up to fill that roll nicely:
I guess this will be my first critical post of Ignatieff, since he took the helm, but I think he blew it with his comments on Gaza today. Nothing Ignatieff said wasn't true, or didn't accurately present some core Liberal tenets regarding Israel. But, on a day where we've seen outrageous actions that seriously challenge international law and basic human rights, I found the lack of balance very disappointing.What Ignatieff completely missed in stating the case for Israel, it really isn't about Hamas anymore, it's a human tragedy that's completely morphed into something else, well beyond positions, policy or ideology. The fact that Ignatieff, who has championed human rights, an impressive pedigree, can't articulate some nuance here and argue a forceful case for the immediate concern, is simply not good enough. All the comments read like a robotic script, borne of misguided political correctness. In trying to put of the message that Liberals support Israel, Ignatieff ends up sounding as rigid as Harper. And yes, when we finally get a whiff, that the new American administration will return to a more balanced perspective, to hear Ignatieff is even more bothersome.
But here's the bottom line: If Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are still in power the day after the budget is released and it's obvious that the coalition is really dead, then the ceasefire is over. I will be back to harping on the difference between Liberal rhetoric and Liberal action, reminding my readers of the miserable record and suggesting that progressive Canadians should support an actually progressive party.

Here's hoping that instead I'm watching a mix of Liberal and NDP MPs getting sworn into cabinet.

Neo-Nazis for Israel

No, really.
While much of the neo-Nazi fringe remains opposed to the existence of Israel, the whites-only British National Party recently declared its full-throated support for Israel's attack on Gaza. The shelling of Gaza City by Israeli forces has brought joy to the heart of BNP head of legal affairs Lee Barnes: "This sort of 'disinfecting' process whereby Israel is required to sterilise areas of radical Islamist support ... is what all nations have to do in order to eradicate Islamist cells who have managed to take over territory either within or on the edges of their borders," Barnes wrote on his blog on January 4. He continued, "Get used to the casualties -- for without them any nation so infected with Islamism will surrender, rot away into liberal apathy and then dies as it is taken over."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Open Doors

Josh Ritter

Robert Fisk: Counting the lies and the dead.

The Sabra and Chatila massacre was committed by Israel's right-wing Lebanese Phalangist allies while Israeli troops, as Israel's own commission of inquiry revealed, watched for 48 hours and did nothing. When Israel was blamed, Menachem Begin's government accused the world of a blood libel. After Israeli artillery had fired shells into the UN base at Qana in 1996, the Israelis claimed that Hizbollah gunmen were also sheltering in the base. It was a lie. The more than 1,000 dead of 2006 – a war started when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on the border – were simply dismissed as the responsibility of the Hizbollah. Israel claimed the bodies of children killed in a second Qana massacre may have been taken from a graveyard. It was another lie. The Marwahin massacre was never excused. The people of the village were ordered to flee, obeyed Israeli orders and were then attacked by an Israeli gunship. The refugees took their children and stood them around the truck in which they were travelling so that Israeli pilots would see they were innocents. Then the Israeli helicopter mowed them down at close range. Only two survived, by playing dead. Israel didn't even apologise.

Twelve years earlier, another Israeli helicopter attacked an ambulance carrying civilians from a neighbouring village – again after they were ordered to leave by Israel – and killed three children and two women. The Israelis claimed that a Hizbollah fighter was in the ambulance. It was untrue. I covered all these atrocities, I investigated them all, talked to the survivors. So did a number of my colleagues. Our fate, of course, was that most slanderous of libels: we were accused of being anti-Semitic.

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we'll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We'll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we'll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn't. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians
Hat tip: Rolling back the Tides of Extremism

Polygamy and abuse

I have no great love for hierarchical, authoritarian religious leaders using religion to build their own harems, but I still find the polygamy charges against the Bountiful sect troubling.

There can be no doubt that some of the individuals and leaders in the splinter religious groups in the US and Canada that practice 'celestial marriage' have engaged in unambiguously illegal and morally reprehensible behaviour involving minors. Both young girls compelled into relationships with much older men and young boys driven out of the only homes they've ever known under flimsy pretexts with no resources or idea how to survive in the outside world, all to reduce the competition for older men among the limited supply of child brides.

But there can also be no doubt that not all polygamous relationships follow this pattern, perhaps not even most of them. Even polygamy's fiercest critics must concede that loving non-coercive polygamous relationships started and continued exclusively with consenting adults do exist.

I'm reminded of Glenn Greenwald's logical postulates of social authoritarianism that include such examples as:
  • 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).
Add to this list, Sometimes polygamous relationships involve unacceptable, coercive, abusive compulsion of underage females - therefore we should outlaw ALL polygamous relationships (rather than just enforcing existing laws against abuse, coercion and statutory rape against the polygamous relationships that include these crimes).

I find this an unpersuasive argument.

Prove that Winston Blackmore married girls when they were fifteen years old and I have no problem with him facing serious jail time for statutory rape. But simply proving that someone has an unorthodox relationship with multiple women who were all over the age of consent when the relationship began however, does not pass the smell test for proving a crime to me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Are we all 'loonies' now?

So Cherniak proudly points to Kelly McParland reprinting his whole 'official Liblog position' screed. Nothing gives Jason a greater tingle down his pant leg than validation from the MSM - even if it's just the National Pest.

McParland throws a lot of pejoratives around like 'loonies', 'nutbars', 'anti-Israeli' lib bloggers 'spewing venom' and 'hate messages'. This btw is the Kelly McParland, as LeDaro pointed out, who proudly copped to re-writing Reuters wire copy for CanWest to insert anti-Palestinian, pro-Israeli messages - causing CanWest to be sternly warned to desist by Reuters.

So criticism of the massively disproportionate slaughter of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces must be far out of the mainstream of Canadian thought to be such 'Loony nutbar venom and hate' right?

Right?

In the US a recent poll by Rasmussen Reports found that Americans were closely divided on Israel's attack on Gaza.
Forty-four percent (44%) say Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, but 41% say it should have tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problems there, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.
Does anyone want to seriously argue that Canadians are likely to be more supportive of Israel's attack on Gaza than Americans? During Israel's Lebanon adventure back in 2006 as many Canadians thought Harper was too supportive of Israel's attacks as thought his support was appropriate.
It said 45 per cent agree Harper's position is "fair and balanced and completely appropriate," while 44 per cent say it is "decidedly too pro-Israel and is not appropriate." Eleven per cent say he has not supported Israel strongly enough.
The latter 11% by the way pretty much boiled down to the staff of the National Pest, Ezra Levant and Jason Cherniak.

I find it interesting that CanWest hasn't repeated the polls into Canadian views into Israel's latest military adventure that gave them results last time that they found so disturbing they felt the need to actively distort them.

This is why so many of Israel's apologists try so hard to dismiss any and all criticism of that nation's actions as 'antisemitism' or 'looniness'. It's desperation on the part of elites to try to cover over the fact that the Canadian public refuses to unreservedly support the bombing of women and children with white phosphorus when we are told to.

The 'Official position of Liblogs'

Jason Cherniak took his ball and went home, quitting his personal blog after his candidate went down in flames (Cherniak proudly referred to himself as a 'Dion Liberal' more than once.) and his slimy campaign of slander against the NDP resulted in only his own party losing a candidate to antisemitism allegations. It can be fairly assumed that there is no future for him in the current backroom power elite of his party - pretty clearly his long time ultimate goal.

But he hasn't been able to resist ramming his views down everyone's throat. The Liblogs aggregate is still his personal property - at least as far as he's concerned - and he has been using his power to silence anyone not toeing his personal 'Israel right or wrong' line and using his bully pulpit to put a permanent post at the top of the aggregator to pronounce 'the official position of Liblogs on the fighting in Israel and Gaza'.

I'm not kidding those are literally his words. There are no comments allowed in response to his bully pulpit piece which lays out his own extremely idiosyncratic and biased view of the timeline of events leading to the slaughter now taking place in Gaza. (UPDATE: Only a few minutes after I posted this and now Cherniak's 'official position of Liblogs' statement has vanished. Did Cherniak think better of it or has one of the other Liblogs admins stepped in?)

He does munificently concede that 'Individual bloggers are free to disagree as long as they do so in a mature and civil manner' - as defined by Jason naturally. That's not really a demonstrated judgment I'd be comfortable with, but its up to Lib bloggers if they are comfortable with Jason's benevolent dictatorship.

To date several Lib bloggers have harshly criticized Jason's behaviour including his censorship, bully pulpit control of the top of the aggregate's page and misuse of the Liblog's email list to send out his own screeds, including Le Daro, And ScottRoss while others have gone off the reservation by leveling harsh criticisms of Israel's actions and a few have started to demand they be taken off Liblogs altogether. And of course there's James Curran being pilloried by the unholy alliance of Warren Kinsella, Cherniak and Ezra Levant.

Curran and I have tangled in the past, I find him to be a loudmouth and a bit of a snide douchbag - combative and hyper partisan if you prefer - but I don't believe for a second that he's an antisemite and allegations that he is are deliberately disingenuous attempts to chill criticism of the behaviour of the state of Israel in the Canadian blogosphere.

At this point I find it unimaginable that any Liberal bloggers with any integrity, self respect or pride whatsoever find Cherniak's iron fisted control over the Liblog aggregate at all tenable. I will be shocked if this whole situation doesn't lead to alternate Liberal blogger aggregators being set up to offer them an alternative.

Counting the minutes

Monday, January 05, 2009

Goin' Down South

R.L. Burnside (with Lyrics Born)
One of my favorite blues men with one of my favorite rappers.
It doesn't get much better than this.

Perspective

The truth behind this is that Israel must always be allowed to do as it likes even if this involves scorching its supremacy into Arab bodies. This supremacy is beyond discussion and it is simple to the point of madness. We have the right to abduct. You don’t. We have the right to arrest. You don’t. You are terrorists. We are virtuous. We have sovereignty. You don’t. We can ruin you. You cannot ruin us, even when you retaliate, because we are tied to the most powerful nation on earth. We are angels of death. - Yitzhak Laor

"Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?" (David Ben-Gurion quoted in "The Jewish Paradox" by Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress.)

The truth about the modern pirates of Somalia

Excellent article providing perspective on the 'evil' pirates of the African coast.
Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Putting an end to putting a premium on Healthcare

As of yesterday Albertans are no longer paying healthcare premiums.

The tax never went to healthcare going instead into general revenues to pay for tax cuts for oil companies and expensed three martini lunches for cabinet members. It never 'paid for healthcare' representing about 10% of actual healthcare costs.

It was a deeply regressive tax, you paid the same no matter your income - except you didn't, because the higher your income the more likely that your employer made paying it part of your benefits, like many of the ivory tower conservatives pompously bloviating about how the premiums helped people realize that healthcare came with a cost.

In fact it likely increased costs. Many low income Albertans defaulted on the premiums - sometimes rent and food takes precedence - and then avoided getting the medical care they needed in the mistaken fear that it would be refused because they hadn't been paying their premiums. In fact healthcare cannot be refused to anyone for not paying healthcare premiums, but I personally know Albertans who let medical conditions fester sometimes leading to emergency room visits and acute care that ended up being a lot more expensive than timely preventative care would have been.

And the fear will continue, the government indicates they plan to continue trying to collect unpaid premiums. We know that Alberta's oil companies adroitly avoided paying billions owed even under the industry giveaway royalty plan in place for the last several years - will the Alberta government be spending the time and money dunning them the way they will continue harassing low income Albertans?

Hollow laugh.

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