Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Evolution of Palin?

Sarah Palin writes off the Tea Party candidate in Alaska and quotes a shout-out for evolution.

It seems unlikely that Palin is aware that Darrow was a big wig at the American Civil Liberties Union given her penchant for scoffing at...civil liberties. And one wonders whether Palin knows that, in the Scopes trial, Darrow defended John Scopes, who violated Tennessee law by teaching evolution. But there you have it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Deep Cover

Dr Dre's title track for the brilliant 1992 crime film Deep Cover.  Introducing a rapper who called himself Snoop Doggy Dogg at the time. NSFW as fuck.



I review Deep Cover and the Jarmusch classic Ghost Dog over at the other side of my blogging brain Bourbon and Bongwater.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How they got suckered. Us too.

Myriam Miedzian has an excellent piece at Huffington Post for all those who are continually baffled by working class people who vote against their own interests to protect the tax breaks of multi-millionaires.
In his recent book, After Shock, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argues that the economic downward mobility of American workers, has "to do with power...income and wealth in fewer hands." Apparently, many working class Americans want to keep it that way. A recent SEIU poll reveals that, 38 percent of American voters are opposed to rescinding Bush's tax cuts for the 2 percent who earn $250,000 or more annually. 2 or 3 percent of taxpayers probably earn close enough to $250,000, to think they might be affected someday. This leaves about 33 percent voting against their self-interest -- higher taxes on the wealthiest would reduce the national debt, facilitate spending on levies, bridges, schools, healthc are, and create jobs. Similarly, an AP-GfK poll found that in the upcoming election, 58 percent of white working class Americans favor Republicans who opposed rescinding the Bush tax cut, and fought every Democratic bill benefiting low income earners including extending unemployment benefits.
On the other hand, a 2005 study by Dan Ariely of Duke and Michael Norton of Harvard, reveals that when presented with unlabeled pie charts representing wealth distribution in the U.S where the richest 20 percent control about 84 percent of wealth and Sweden where the top 20 percent control 36 percent, 92 percent of respondents -- who reflected U.S. ideological, economic, and gender demographics -- stated they would rather live in a country with Sweden's wealth distribution.
"Why don't more Americans -- especially those with low incomes advocate for greater redistribution of wealth?" the authors ask. Their answer: Americans drastically underestimate the disparity between the very rich and the rest of the population, are overly optimistic about social mobility, and there exists a disconnect between their attitudes toward inequality, their self-interest and public policy preferences.
And they didn't get to the point where they drastically underestimated that disparity by accident:
Instead, as Reich points out "rich and powerful think tanks, books, media, ads" were designed to convince Americans that free markets "know best" and operate in the interest of working people. They also convinced them that their enemies are not the heads of large corporations and the Republicans who represent them, but rather the Ivy League quiche eating, Eastern elite -- people like Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, outspoken supporters of policies beneficial to working class Americans. This has fed into a "Real Men Vote Republican" reaction among many white male blue collar workers.
Lest you conclude we are immune  to such mythology here in Canada, remember that organizations like the Fraser Institute have the unambiguous goal of making us just as ignorant about where our best interests truly lie.  If they weren't having great success at that project would we have the government we have now?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quality Journalism

The Calgary Herald's idea of an unbiased News headline:


The article itself is adoring hagiography about Harper's jaunts about Europe repeating stale announcements about past initiatives.  Much is made of his 'blunt, highly symbolic message' during his visit to the Ukraine where he played to the Ukrainian Canadian community concerned by the Moscow tilt and authoritarian tendencies of their new President Viktor Yanukovych - but it was a trade visit and he still announced $36 million in aid to the same government.

'She should apologize for attacking my boot with her head.'

Tim Profitt, the Rand Paul supporter behind the white sneaker that notoriously stomped on a MoveOn activist's head in Kentucky, sought to play down the importance of the incident Tuesday, and went so far as to ask the victim for an apology.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal," Profitt told WKYT. "I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you."

UPDATE: Sister Sage points out that the goon who tackled the victim in the first place, identified as one Mike Pezzano pretty unambiguously also sexually assaulted her on camera.

UPDATE 2:  That video probably has the perpetrators consulting lawyers and hoping to avoid sexual battery charges.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sour Grapes

The Calgary Herald's Mark Milke thinks Naheed Nenshi only won because of right wing vote splitting:
On the first phenomena, Nenshi should be congratulated. He ran a smart campaign, albeit occasionally negative (few are not), and he used social media to thump front-runner Ric McIver and the big blue federal Conservative machine. That was no small task in a Tory town. Still, Nenshi won with 40 per cent of the vote. McIver scooped 32 per cent and Barb Higgins won 26 per cent. That McIver-Higgins total of 58 per cent was arguably drawn mostly from Calgary's centre-right voters. Thus, had the centre-right vote not split (as it regularly does in local politics), the headlines this past Tuesday morning would have been starkly different.
Except Higgins was endorsed by, among others, CUPE and the most left leaning candidate Bob Hawkesworth when he dropped out.  Blogger and Rabble columnist David Climenhaga, who no one will ever mistake for a conservative argued a vote for Higgins might be the best way to keep hard right candidate McIver out and was by no means the only one making the same argument.

The percentage of Higgins votes that were of the 'anybody but McIver' motivation rather than the desire to vote for a mainstream moderate conservative would be instructive here, and fatally undermine Milke's argument.  Add in those who only voted for her for reasons ranging from wanting to vote for the sole female candidate or just because she was a local TV celebrity and it becomes purely ludicrous.

Bipartisanship Tradeoff

Andrew Sullivan has a post, citing a post by Yglesias about the differences between the British and American political systems, more specifically the way the British parliamentary system differs from the American federalist system. 
[T]he system they have in the UK where you can simply sweep opposition objections aside is actually the right way to do bipartisanship. Call it bipartisanship by alternation. When Labour wins the election, Labour has the chance to implement a bold agenda creating and expanding programs in a way that they think will make Britain a better place to live. Then when the Tories come in, they’re able to be brutal in their efforts to pare back or eliminate things that they think aren’t working. Over the long term, you get a trajectory where programs survive if and only if they’re so widely regarded as successful that no mainstream party would dare abolish them.
Yes, in the parliamentary system used by the Brits and of course us, given a majority, a stable coalition or a toothless opposition afraid to oppose, the government can ram through its ideas and bipartisanship is purely a matter of the opposition being able to do the same thing four years later if the party in power over-reaches and government changes hands.

Of course in Canada the so-called 'opposition' Liberal Party is ideologically the twin of the British Liberal Party that has so easily and comfortably joined the Conservatives in a program of massive cutbacks that predominantly affect the poor and protect the rich.  If the NDP was like Labour, a real and likely governing option for the voters to choose from, we would see the same alliance between our Conservatives and Liberals to keep them out of power.  We already see something similar provincially in BC and Saskatchewan where the various strains of neo-liberal and conservative leanings have merged together into default right wing parties.

Proportional Representation would probably be the best way to merge the best features of both systems and truly reflect the wishes of the majority, which explains why the elites oppose it so bitterly.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Enemies List

They tell us laws against drugs are about stopping the pushers - but lots of people committing no other crime are jailed for possessing or using drugs.  Supposedly prostitution laws are aimed at the pimps, but its the sex workers facing the worst consequences from their legal non-status.

This government claims their full court press about 'migrant smuggling' is about punishing the smugglers not the refugees, and yet...
Migrants entering Canada with the help of human smugglers would be denied permanent residency and face mandatory jail time and reduced health coverage under a proposed law to combat human smuggling.
Mean spirited, racially charged petty policy sadism, from this government?  Shocking.

Also certainly in violation of international law and the Charter - as well as basic standards of decency.

Perhaps we should start making a list of the groups the Conservatives seem to have in mind to fill all these new prisons we don't need for crimes that aren't being reported:
  • Drug addicts:  They oppose Vancouver's inSite program and by extension any attempt to shift the public policy approach to addiction from the failed model of criminal sanctions to a rational harm reduction public health paradigm. 
  • Sex Workers:  Confronted with a legal decision that states flatly that the current approach to prostitution laws leads inexorably to the marginalization of sex workers and massively increases their odds of being abused or murdered and they insist they will appeal the overturning of this failed and oppressive legal structure
  • Protesters:  Political opposition, demonstrating, protesting - clearly anyone engaging in such activity is some kind of subversive anarchist and should be beaten, imprisoned in the pouring rain in intersections for hours on end, jailed and even if released ordered by the court to give up their rights to free speech and freedom of association. 
  • Environmentalists: The Harper government isn't in the pocket of the oil industry, That would imply that they are in any way two separate things.  They regard anyone  pointing out  the devastation of the Alberta Tar Sands as existential enemies.  It's personal.
  • 'Separatists and Socialists': What, just because a significant percentage of Canadians voted for them they think they have a role in public policy and potentially even government?  Traitors!
  • Immigrants: The Harperites were big fans of Australia's right wingers, amusingly known as the Australian Liberal Party, and Prime Minister Howard's 'barb-wire encircled desert prison camp' approach to immigration.  They could probably fill at least a few of their expensive new prisons with the huddled masses yearning to be free.

    Studied to Death

    "There's nothing new here," said Romanow. "If this task force ever gets going, it's an exercise in rehashing issues that have been studied thoroughly. It's been studied to death by academics and others."
    Romanow said he's not worried that some people, such as Mulroney, are talking about the need for a thorough review of medicare. This "pops up about every 10 years or so. You can't escape this debate, and you should welcome this debate."
    But he added that it's critical to remember that if there is another review, it should revolve around a single, fundamental question.
    "Essentially, this is a values-of-Canada debate. Namely, is health care a social good which is to be provided through the common wealth of governments — federal/provincial — in order to make sure everybody is covered? Or is it going to take on more and more the concept of not a common good but an individual responsibility? That means user fees and more privatization."
    Of course elite privatization proponents keep calling for more studies.; the dozen or so that have already been done that weren't blatantly stacked with Tory insiders and/or insurance company executives like the Mazankowski or Kirby reports keep coming to the same conclusions. That any more erosion of the wholly public model would be more expensive and less equitable.  That a lot of the most popular private schemes that have been foisted on the system like P3s or private clinics contracted to perform public procedures have turned into expensive boondoggles. That in fact, the best long term cost savings plans would be to expand rather than retract public healthcare, for example through pharmacare and major expansions of long term care.

    These aren't the results that market worshiping politicians, neo-liberal media figures or private clinic chain entrepreneurs want, therefore we need more studies until we get the results they do want.  Results that will let them manufacture the consent they need to override the public's unflinching support for publicly funded, publicly delivered health-care and dismiss the idea that medicine is a public good rather than a profit generating private cash cow.

    Remember, we aren't being 'mature and reasonable' or willing to 'take a tough honest look at the debate' unless we first accept their terms of discussion and concede that we should allow more privatization.  A sleazy rhetorical trick that gets trotted out daily.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Sometimes first impressions...

    I know a little Calgary bashing is to be expected in the progressive blogosphere.  My home town is the center of gravity for the Conservative Party and the Oil industry - to the extent that those are in any way  two different entities.  It's where Stephen Harper calls home - or at least where his riding is.  Ezra Levant, Rob Anders, the Calgary School...shit, you've got me convinced, I'm living in one giant tea party rally in the shape of a city.

    Oh yeah, and it looks like we just became the first major Canadian city to elect a Muslim as Mayor. 

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Medieval Cruelty

    Every year the bandits leave their fortified nests on the hilltops and steal the farmer's harvests violently attacking any who resist.  When they're done stealing the harvest they burn the trees.

    The police watch.
    8 hours ago
    FARATA'A, Palestinian Territories — Thick black smoke billows from the olive grove under the gaze of Israeli soldiers as Palestinian farmers use branches to try to beat out the fires lit by Jewish settlers.
    It's olive harvest time in the occupied West Bank.
    The firebombers swooped down from Havat Gilad, a wildcat Jewish settlement unauthorised even by the Israeli government.
    Encircled by barbed wire, the makeshift dwellings glower down on the surrounding Palestinian olive plantations from a hilltop in the northern West Bank.
    "We were gathering the olives when the settlers arrived. One of them started a fire," says olive grower Shaher Tawil.
    He points to a bearded man wearing a T-shirt and a Jewish kippa or skullcap, now safely behind an Israeli military barrier.
    "When we saw the flames, we called the fire service but the soldiers wouldn't let them come any closer to prevent clashes with the settlers," the old man says.
    The young Israeli conscripts, visibly embarrassed and restricted by their uniforms in the oppressive midday heat, finally let the fire-truck through after about an hour, by which time the flames have already been well-fanned by the wind.
    At last the fires are put out, as again the soldiers look on.
    Tawil says that last week settlers from Havat Gilad harvested the fruit of 800 trees belonging to his family.
    "Every year they steal our olives and burn our trees," he says.
    The Havat Gilad settlers are among the most hardline in the West Bank and believe they have a God-given right to land they know by its Biblical name of Samaria.
    For them, the villagers in whose midst they have set up home are not "Palestinians" with a right to a state alongside Israel but "Arabs" who are interlopers on Biblical Jewish land.
    The settlers are wont to quote a saying by one of their spiritual and ideological gurus, the late rabbi Mordechai Elyahu.
    "This land is the birthright of the people of Israel. If a gentile plants a tree on my land, the tree and its fruit are mine."

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Stop Bullying in Canadian Schools

    My friend DJ and some of his friends have turned the anguish and pain of the recent horrifying spate of bullying related suicides into a website resource to try to change things:  www.StopBullyinginCanadianSchools.com

    It's early days, but they plan to expand it a lot.  I contributed a guest post.
    My name is Cliff Hesby, I'm a writer with a lefty political disposition who's been active in politics and the trade union movement. I've been blogging for the last five years at www.rustyidols.blogspot.com.

    I grew up in small town Alberta and like many visiting this site I have experienced bullying. I know the pain and fear and shame and sheer helpless rage.

    When I was ten we were in a car crash that broke my mom's back, just after she had been offered a job in Vancouver in fact. Her new employer promised to wait for her and she stayed behind in Alberta for a year recovering while my brother and I moved in with our aunt and uncle in North Vancouver and started school...(Continued...)

    Alienating Everybody

    Harper wants to blame Ignatieff for losing our Security Council seat?  Maybe he should take a look at how much our relationship with our biggest ally has deteriorated.
    In fact, U.S. State Department insiders say that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn’t campaign for Canada’s election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weeks leading up to the heated contest. With no public American support, Canada lost its bid to serve. That gives the EU more than 25% control of the body and a strong voting block to ensure EU priorities become global priorities.
    And yes, I know the source is dubious, and the paranoid anti-Euro pro Harper stridency is obnoxious, but assuming that 'insiders say' lead has any truth to it at all, it would suggest a certain coolness from the Obama White House, towards the Harper government.

    The angst must be intense in Harper land.  Obsequious genuflection to the US is, and always has been a cornerstone of what passes for Conservative foreign policy.  So many thundering denunciations of the Liberals for alienating our dear American friends, or showing insufficient enthusiasm for the latest American military endeavor (Although the Martin Liberals tacked toward Conservative ideas on foreign policy before the end) or not following every tax cutting and public sector gutting innovation that bubbles up south of the border - and now they're in power and after a few blissful years with their ideological soul mates in the Bush White House they have Obama.

    And it probably didn't take him long to figure out that the Canadian government he was inheriting from Bush was made up of the same kind of tea-baggers who are baying that he's a  Kenyan born Muslim socialist.

    I'm quite serious about that description by the way, it isn't hyperbole.  This is how they behave in a minority.

    This is how they behave when they have their first date smile on and they're trying to make a good impression posing as technocratic prudent managers while keeping the craziest members of the Conservative Reform Alliance family shackled and gagged in the basement.

    In other words Ministers like Jason Kenney, Helena Guergis and Maxime Bernier were the ones they thought were ready for prime time.  What does this tell you about the talent pool they have to work with in this caucus?  They need barely competent, barely presentable faces of the government who can be trusted not to get caught with a dead girl or a live boy or bay at the moon in public.  

    Sky high standards that they still keep failing to meet.

    Bullyboy Bluster

    Stephen Harper keeps saying "My way or the highway."

    The response keeps being "Ok then, the highway it is."
    By most accounts, Stephen Harper and his government were humiliated Tuesday at the United Nations, losing a coveted Security Council seat to Portugal. The defeat is still the buzz of official Ottawa and political spin doctors have been working overtime.

    Cabinet ministers and even the Prime Minister's own communications director, Dimitri Soudas, are blaming Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for torpedoing the deal. This, after he publicly declared Canada did not deserve the seat because of the Harper government's foreign policy.

    The Liberals, meanwhile, are blaming Mr. Harper and his international policies for the loss. Mr. Ignatieff has accused the Conservatives of ignoring the United Nations.
    Potentially having even more dire consequences than the Security Council seat loss is the recent dust up with the United Arab Emirates, where the government's tough guy, 'take it or leave it' bluster ended with Canada having to walk away from a multi-million dollar air base and featured Canadian government ministers being banned from entering a putative ally's airspace - all to protect the business interests of a private corporation.
    Ottawa's eviction from a Mideast military base has exposed a rift within the Harper cabinet over how far Canada should go to satisfy its Arab hosts: an internal debate in which Stephen Harper cut Defence Minister Peter MacKay out of negotiations.

    Canada is set to vacate Camp Mirage, a once-secret military installation, by Nov. 5 after failing to reach an agreement with the United Arab Emirates over what would amount to compensation for nine years of accommodation near Dubai.

    The UAE has been seeking additional lucrative landing rights for two state-backed air carriers at Canadian airports, and Mr. MacKay was one of several ministers, including Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, who had favoured doing more to help the Arab ally, a senior Conservative MP said.

    The Prime Minister ultimately cut these ministers out of negotiations, the official said, favouring the forceful arguments against big concessions advanced earlier this year by former transport minister John Baird.

    The loss of the base has left some cabinet members frustrated and angry at how Mr. Harper handled it.

    "[It's] all gone because of a fit of pique and a hard [core] position that is truculent and unreasonable against Canada's short- and long-term interests," the MP said.
    'Out of touch, arrogant and dictatorial' are by now well established descriptions of this, the most secretive and PMO dictated government in Canadian history.  We knew that Harper's machivellian scheming always has a tendancy to slam up against his own bitter hatred of dissent and opposition, his bully boy need to 'stick it' it to anybody who challenges him. 

    He'll never learn and we can expect further sudden reversals as those he deals with refuse to take having sand kicked in their faces lying down.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Milestones

    Didn't even notice. Sometime last week my blog bounded over the 100,000 hits mark and half way to 101,000. 

    Less impressive perhaps, when you factor in that I've been blogging for five years.

    "What the parliament does, the street can undo"

    Progressives, union activists and the anesthetized majority in North America can only look at the agressive and confident activism of the engaged French citizenry with envy and awe.  If we stood and fought with these kind of numbers and this kind of determination we'd be living in a different Canada today.
    PARIS - Hundreds of thousands of French workers, students and functionaries walked out on strike Tuesday and paraded through the streets in what labor unions described as the beginning of a long-term showdown with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    Air and rail service throughout the country was disrupted by the protests - the fourth in a month.
    They were aimed specifically at reversing a new law requiring people to work until age 62 rather than 60 before receiving their retirement pensions. But they also were a platform for broader-based political resentments that have been building among France's salary-earners, many of whom view Sarkozy's government as callous and too close to big business.

    In the souring atmosphere, union leaders declared many of the strikes that on Tuesday nearly crippled the country would continue indefinitely or recur on an irregular schedule. The result could be gasoline shortages, curtailed rail and air travel, chaos at schools and perhaps even power cuts in France's main cities, they warned.

    "We are going to continue," vowed Bernard Thibault, secretary general of the General Labor Federation. "The mobilization is not going to stop just because the senators have voted."

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    This is what you want, this is what you get

    I want to vote for Bob Hawkesworth for Mayor of Calgary.  I need to vote against Ric Mciver.

    I'm a progressive, with the exact opposite social and economic positions from the far right extremism of Mciver, I'm a trade unionist and  Mciver has unambiguously expressed anti-union views, I'm a worker at the city owned utility company that Mciver has explicitly threatened with breaking up and selling.

    With Hawkesworth polling in the single digits a vote for him becomes a protest vote, certainly not the first I've cast, but the same polls show that Higgins, a moderate compared to Mciver is easily within striking distance of a win.  Nenshi is polling a distant third and at least some of his supporters and those of the other trailing candidates can be expected to throw their support to Higgins come election day - while the supporters of far right candidate Craig Burrows, thankfully crashing and burning as he deserves, can be expected to defect to Mciver.

    David Climenhaga makes the case for a strategic vote for Barb Higgins, and much as I may wish otherwise, he makes it well.

    UPDATE: Bob concedes that he can't win.

    UPDATE 2: Bob endorses Barb Higgins.

    A legal approach I'd like to see here in Alberta

    BUDAPEST — The managing director of the company whose reservoir unleashed a lethal torrent of red sludge on three villages last week has been arrested, the Hungarian prime minister announced before Parliament on Monday.
    He will be charged with criminal negligence leading to a public catastrophe, and if convicted could face a sentence of up to 10 years, according to a government spokeswoman.
    Flashback:

    Oilsands giant Syncrude was found guilty Friday on both environmental charges it was facing in connection with the April 2008 deaths of 1,600 ducks in one of its northern Alberta tailings ponds.
    Syncrude was charged under the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act with failing to protect migratory birds from a toxic tailings pond.
    In a decision delivered to a packed courtroom in St. Albert, Alta., provincial court Judge Ken Tjosvold said Syncrude didn't exercise due diligence in preventing the birds from landing on the water.
    "I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Syncrude could have acted lawfully by using due diligence to deter birds from the basin, whether or not it was successful in its attempts at deterrence, and it did not do so," Tjosvold said in his written decision.
    The judge pointed to evidence presented during the trial that showed Syncrude had reduced staff responsible for its bird deterrent systems because of retirements and had scaled back the number of deterrents it used in the years before the ducks died.
    If you followed the link looking for how many years the corporate board of Syncrude will be serving in prison, you didn't miss it, it wasn't there.  Nobody thinks for a second they'll face any punishment other than financial, and that not to any degree that will cause any actual pain to anyone responsible.  We have carefully established corporations as responsibility free zones here in North America.

    The only thing that can get an executive even limited prison time here is stealing from other rich people. 

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Discrimination and the State

    Two stories today, of discrimination and the state's response to it. One of the principled use of force to protect civil society and the rights of an embattled minority and the other a complete capitulation by the state and in fact complicity in the state sponsored support of discrimination.

    One of the most affecting moments from the riots by far right Serbian groups against marchers in Belgrade's Gay Pride Day, is this picture of a civilian, either a bystander or one of the marchers helping an injured police officer.

    For progressive Canadians right now, it's hard to visualize the police as defenders of a dissenting civil society or any kind of progressive movement like that of gay rights rather than persecutors.

    And that's a shame, isn't it?

    I honestly don't think it reflects the wishes of the majority of Canadian police.  I know a Canadian police officer who was at the G20 protests in Toronto, and was disturbed by some of the things he saw and the behavior of some of the officers involved.  I still believe that the majority of police officers became police because of a sincere desire to serve and protect the public.  It would be willful blindness though, to ignore that some were power tripping thugs looking for a job that would give their thuggery license and some started out with good intentions and were coarsened by a job that understandably can carry a heavy psychic toll.

    The problem is a government that treats accusations of police misconduct as something to be defended and justified and accusers attacked rather than treating such incidents with the oversight they call for.

    The other story is Israel's cabinet agreeing to a 'loyalty oath' requiring citizens to swear fealty to the majority religion of the state or be considered traitors.

    Even within the cabinet the decision has been criticized with language so harsh, here in Canada repeating it probably risks being accused of antisemitism:

    Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) also skipped the meeting, as he was abroad on a business trip.  Herzog told Haaretz late Saturday that the resounding support for such an amendment showed that "fascism was devouring the margins of society."
    "We are on a most dangerous slippery slope," he warned.
    Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned on Sunday the cabinet's approval of a controversial proposal requiring non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
    "What we have seen today is politics at its worst. The sensitive issue of Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state has become subject to political horse-trading.
    ...
    Writing in today's Haaretz, liberal commentator Gideon Levy said: "Remember this day. It's the day Israel changes its character ... From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country."
    Even some members of the hard line Likud Party opposed the law as dangerous and counter-productive.

    So one state struggling against its own bigoted fringe and the other capitulating utterly to the most hateful and exclusionary urges of its far right wing.  One that the whole world united against in the last decade and came out if it striving to regain a role in the community of nations, and the other that has been enabled, excused and defended against its own interests and given every reason to believe that even such an odious piece of racism by the state will continue to be enabled, excused and defended.

    The state is either the defender of civil society and inalienable rights against any who would attack them or is itself complicit in those attacks.

    There is no middle ground.

    None of us are free

    Saturday, October 09, 2010

    Ignoring the Contradictions

    Roger Ebert tweets:
    Virginia Thomas wants to return to our constitutional roots, which once denied her and her husband citizenship or the right to vote.
    The context:

    RICHMOND, Va. — As one of the keynote speakers here Friday at a state convention billed as the largest Tea Party event ever, Virginia Thomas gave the throng of more than 2,000 activists a full-throated call to arms for conservative principles.

    For three decades, Mrs. Thomas has been a familiar figure among conservative activists in Washington — since before she met her husband of 23 years, Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court. But this year she has emerged in her most politically prominent role yet: Mrs. Thomas is the founder and head of a new nonprofit group, Liberty Central, dedicated to opposing what she characterizes as the leftist “tyranny” of President Obama and Democrats in Congress and to “protecting the core founding principles” of the nation.

    Thursday, October 07, 2010

    Quote of the Day

    Dry understatement from the New York Times on how Goldman Sachs is lobbying against bank reform by arguing it would slow growth:
    Growth based on risky banking has a tendency to prove illusory.

    Tuesday, October 05, 2010

    Today's Cognitive Dissonance Moment

    Prostitution, while a permanent, ineradicable and arguably even necessary accessory to communal life, is an ignoble line of work and inherently unworthy of social respect. Legalization won’t change that. -Barbara Kay
    Barbara Kay insists that the dirty little whores must continue to be treated like dirty little whores by the law, even if prostitution is  'a permanent, ineradicable and arguably even necessary accessory to communal life' and even if the laws struck down have been found to seriously endanger the health, safety and lives of the people engaging in this 'permanent, ineradicable and arguably even necessary accessory to communal life'

    She's also very concerned that she will soon no longer be allowed to look down her nose at the dirty little whores.
    Speaking of consequences, I’m taking the opportunity to call prostitution a dehumanizing and morally degraded behaviour now, because I think my right to do so won’t long continue. Since activists are already using the vocabulary of other “rights” and “equality” battles, I predict we’ll soon have to watch our judgmental language on this front. Once prostitution has been legally/morally airbrushed by the SCC, it will be deemed “offensive,” “excluding” and “intolerant” to hurt the feelings of prostitutes. Don’t be surprised if the next time you call a whore a whore, you’re hauled up before a Human Rights Commission for prostitutophobia.
    Yes Barbara, your right to spit contempt at those you disapprove of is far more important than their right to not have the law endanger their lives while they are engaging in a legal activity.

    See:
    Barbara Kay clutches her pearls and

    Before and After

    UPDATE: Susan Clairmont show's us how to write a non-hysterical, well reasoned piece based on the realities of the many ways the status quo of prostitution laws contribute to the brutalization and murder of sex trade workers.  But its Barbara Kay, whose primary contribution to the debate is 'Whores are icky!' who has the national column.

    UPDATE: Legal or not, prostitution continues, but an Australian study shows that decriminalization does increase safety for sex workers.

    Monday, October 04, 2010

    Cartoon banned for not showing Muhammed

    Yesterday's Non-Sequitur cartoon was replaced with a re-run by several papers, for making the point about how fearful that newspapers are by NOT including a picture of the prophet Muhammad (Peace be unto him).

    In the comment section of his strip, when one reader complained that the Boston Globe has run a different cartoon, Wiley responded saying;

    "Yours along with many other papers across the country were afraid to run this cartoon. In doing so, it is rife with irony, as it is obviously satirizing the paralyzing fear in media of anything regarding Islam. Cowards indeed.


    For those of you whose paper ran the alternate edition, I strongly suggest you contact the editor and voice your opinion on the matter. They are the ones who need to hear it, as they are the ones who made the decision."

    Saturday, October 02, 2010

    Class and the lack thereof

    Rick Salutin's classy final words to his readership cut by the heartless shmuckery of corporate news.  But they forgot he cross-posts to Rabble, and they didn't cut it, and now we all see what kind of people run the Globe and Mail.
    Since I began these columns, now in their 20th year, I've tended to think of each as the last, which is now the case. I'm glad to end with the reasons for the Ford phenomenon, since I've always felt that saying what one thinks is cheap and easy. It's more useful to describe why one thinks it and, even better, how one thinks. 
    It's been a pleasure to (try to) share that experience with you.
    Most of this article was originally published in the Globe and Mail.

    Moderate Muslim leader banned by government for something another Muslim said

    But Defence Minister Peter MacKay has cancelled the imam’s planned appearance after learning of it Friday. His office issued a statement saying the Canadian Islamic Congress has a record of fomenting hatred and has no place at an event honouring Muslim contributions to this country.
    Mr. Delic has previously been cited for efforts to help Muslims integrate into Canadian society. He was one of 13 Canadians included in a 2009 book, The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, penned by Islamic studies scholars at Georgetown University. One of the book’s editors called Mr. Delic “a scholar who writes about how Muslims can integrate into Canadian society.”
    Mr. MacKay’s office cited incendiary comments that were made in 2004 by a then-president of the Canadian Islamic Congress as the reason for its decision.
    So extending the logic of the government's decision here, this means the Conservative Party remains responsible and culpable for everything ever said by any leader of the Conservative Party or its precursors the Reform Party and the Alliance Party?

    Are they sure this is a principle they really want to establish?

    Neil Reynolds pants himself again

    Back again after they briefly pulled it back to be sure of their numbers, Progressive Economics points out again that when it comes to economic criticism The Globe and Mails resident dishonest libertarian crank Neil Reynolds appears to have the math skills of a marmoset with a head injury.
    I’m not clear on where Reynolds gets his per capita spending numbers from, but there is no evidence of government spending growth in excess of income (GDP) growth per person over the past 30 years or so

    If we look at the period from Reynolds base year of 1982 to 2009, real per capita GDP grew by 52%. So if Reynolds numbers are correct, government spending growth lagged growth in GDP per capita.

    Moreover, Statistics Canada data show that, between 1982 and 2009, total current spending by all levels of government in Canada fell from 47.7% to 42.1% of nominal GDP. (Calculated from data in Tables 1 and Table 3 of the Historical Statistical Supplement to the Canadian Economic Observer.)

    Government spending has been falling rather than rising relative to income over the period chosen by Reynolds, and this would show up in even more dramatic form if we took the early 1990s (when government spending topped 50% of GDP) as the base.

    The Revolution

    J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science feat. Lyrics Born and The Mamaz

    Friday, October 01, 2010

    Barbara Kay clutches her Pearls

    Memo to Barbara Kay:  Your distaste for the sex trade and your fretting that changing the laws detracts from treating those in it like the cheap little sluts that they are is insufficient reason to leave them to the tender mercies of the Picktons of the world - which is what the status quo amounts to.
    Being a prostitute is a shameful, indecent activity, and any sex worker who demands respect as a matter of course is fooling herself. She is not respectable. Politically correct people will say she is, but she isn’t. The danger will continue, the pimps will still control the desperate girls and society as a whole will think less of itself. And all because nobody really takes a good look at the word “harm” and asks themselves what a healthy society looks like, and what kind of newly designated “normal” behaviours, stamped kosher by the courts, bring harm to that healthy body.
    So Babs isn't planning on getting a happy ending massage any time soon, we get it.  Can I say that I'm very, very glad that its the Charter of Rights and Freedoms not Barbara Kay's idea of 'what a healthy society looks like' that is the law of the land?

    UPDATE: Only fair to point out that while the National Post published the most bone stupid reactions to the court ruling, with a lot of ignoble competition from the Globe and Mail (New slogan: Pretty and dumb), they also printed one of the best pieces. Dan Gardner wonders how politicians and the media utterly refuse to even address that the laws struck down directly cause the brutalization and murder of women.

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