Thursday, August 31, 2006

Potential President Mark Warner holding a press conference in Second Life today.

Mark Warner is the guy who the Democrats are counting on in 2008 if Hillary steps in front of a bus, either politically or literally. Conceivably he could benefit from an anybody but Hillary swing in the Primaries, but they're the same kind of establishment, technocrat New Democrats at heart.

Warner's very presidential looking Avatar will be addressing the press and public at
The Second Life New Globe Theater, a virtual version of the proposed New Globe Theater this afternoon Thursday, August 31, at 3:30pm ET that's 1:30 PM by mountain time which I'm on so I won't catch it.

This is interesting. Political process junkies should look at this closely, it has possibilities. It's also a lovely example of Marshall McLuhan's, 'The medium is the message.'

Monday, August 28, 2006

Alberta government fights for legalized discrimination

MLA and Alberta Conservative Party leadership contender Ted Morton continues his efforts to legislate bigotry and hatred. His latest piece of arrant hate-mongering is Bill 208, stalled by the opposition in the legislature today, which would allow Marriage Commissioners to refuse to perform gay marriages as well as protecting such discriminatory behavior as firing someone, or refusing to rent a home to them based on their sexual identity.

"I'm in favor of his bill, because no one should have the ability to make anyone do anything against their will," said blotchy irony deficient leadership no-hoper MLA Lyle Oberg, "Nobody should be able to litigate against people who choose not to do something." So logically this means he believes Marriage Commissioners, public servants appointed by the Alberta government, should be allowed to refuse to marry two people of different races or religions if it offends their personal beliefs?

To those already typing the inevitable outraged comments about how this isn't the same thing, it's exactly the same thing. The arguments against gay marriage are an almost identical replay of the arguments for making inter-racial marriage illegal not too many decades ago.

The same thing as a pharmacist who doesn't want to prescribe birth-control or Plan B pills because it offends his (because its always his, isn't it?) moral beliefs. In both cases we're talking about government licensed positions. If you don't want to sell legal medications, don't become a pharmacist, if you don't want to perform legal marriages don't become a marriage commissioner.

I'll point out here that I agree with the exception for churches. I agree that religious freedom trumps marriage rights here, plus being a priest or pastor isn't, and shouldn't be, a government licensed position.

''Critics of 208 should take a reality pill,'' said Ted Morton ''Same-sex marriage is not a basic human right. It's a social experiment, and I personally think it's a dangerous social experiment.''

Actually Ted, being allowed to marry the person you love is, in fact, a basic human right, and it's a legally protected one in Canada. Once again the Alberta government caters to the reactionary right, while Alberta tax-payers will pay for the inevitable, and inevitably losing charter battle - its particularly scary that even Ralph Klein realizes this.

I don't want to hear any more bullshit about sky-rocketing public health costs from politicians willingly wasting my money on this pandering hateful nonsense.

When the levees broke

One year ago today Katrina came to New Orleans. As I type this Ernesto is bearing down on Haiti. By the time it steamrolls over that sad battered island and reaches the American Gulf coast it may have gathered enough power to be a Category Three hurricane just like Katrina.

Will George W. Bush say nobody could have predicted it?

The American Society of Civil Engineers highlights here what the ideological obsession with making government as small and ineffectual as possible has led to, and makes you wonder if New Orleans will ever be re-built.

But you can't bring hair gel on an airplane, doesn't that make you feel safer?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Katrina: One year later

Monday is the one year anniversary of the American government allowing a major American city, for all intents and purposes a black city, to die. Bush has gone so far as to tell the American people not to make a big deal about Katrina one year later. The Republicans would much rather everybody gear up for the 9/11 five year mark coming up. This may be a mistake as polls are showing Americans losing faith in the GOPs performance on security and terrorism and making a big deal about 9/11 just reinforces that Osama is still out there.

But Katrina's anniversary highlights that a year later people are still living in temporary shelters without power, huge districts of New Orleans are still in ruins and the conditions that caused the destruction in the first place haven't been fixed. Another storm would cause even worse destruction now with major chunks of wetlands completely gone.

There's a call for a blog swarm on Monday to draw attention to an anniversary that Bush would just like to ignore. Seems like a good idea to me.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Screwing over hatemongers

I imagine this won't work for long but Warren Ellis has a post on how to score some free stuff and get Christianist televangelist haters right in the wallet at the same time. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Amnesty International accuses Israel of deliberate war crimes.

Israel deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure and committed war crimes during the month-long conflict in Lebanon, according to an Amnesty International report.

The report said strikes on civilian buildings and structures went beyond "collateral damage" and amounted to indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks under the Geneva conventions on the laws of war.

The Guardian piece quoting the report goes on to point out that government and military officials in Israel were quite open during and before the war happened about wanting to make the Lebanese public suffer enough to turn on Hezbollah.

The Amnesty report said Israeli military policy seemed directed at destroying Lebanese popular support for Hezbollah, a tactic prohibited by the Geneva conventions.

"The widespread destruction ... In addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hezbollah," it said.

The numbers are ghastly and make any suggestion that Israel's responses were in any way proportionate absolutely obscene.

Israel launched more than 7,000 air strikes against Lebanon during the 34-day war, and naval vessels launched 2,500 shells, the report said.

Around one third of the 1,183 people killed in Lebanon were children, while 4,054 people were injured and 970,000 displaced.

Lebanese estimates suggest that 30,000 houses, along with up to 120 bridges, 94 roads, 25 fuel stations and 900 businesses, were destroyed.

Two hospitals were destroyed and three others severely damaged, while 31 "vital points" - such as airports, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, and electrical facilities - were also completely or partially destroyed.

The overall cost of the damage amounted to $3.5bn, the report said.

In comparison: "Around 4,000 Hezbollah rockets were fired at northern Israel during the conflict, killing around 40 civilians. Up to 300,000 people in northern Israel were driven into bomb shelters by the fighting, and 117 soldiers died."

As to the argument that this latest round of bloodshed started when Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers, it's inherent double standard for behavior is revealed here in Israel's most respected daily paper Haaretz.

Remember Israel still has many Lebanese prisoners, most taken during the first illegal occupation, although they admit to only a handful. Someone who bashed in a child's head with a rifle manifestly belongs behind bars, others are more problematic. As well they hold thousands of Palestinians. Many are held without trial or even charge and held for years incommunicado. Calling them hostages really doesn't strain the word.

Amnesty has promised a separate report dealing exclusively with Hezbollah crimes during the conflict. I'll link it when it comes.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bush: Leaving Iraq now would be a disaster

"A failed Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will provide safe haven for terrorists and extremists. It will embolden those who are trying to thwart the ambitions of reformers.

"In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales."

Umm don't they already have every. single. one. of those things?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Link Blast

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alberta government's Healthcare privatization by stealth

Quietly and without fanfare the government posts it's extremely unpopular plans to further dismantle public healthcare. They were clearly hoping nobody would notice. The NDP did.

Albertans need to come to terms with the fact that our government is ideologically committed to destroying public healthcare. Publicly and openly didn't work, which simply means doing it quietly and clandestinely, not giving it up.

Public healthcare will not be safe in Alberta as long as the Conservatives are in power.

Pierre Berton: A National treasure

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Winner of the unintentional irony award of the century

"It is terrible that the president of Iran is trying to take advantage of this tragedy," David Welch, a senior State Department official, said.

Both Iran and Syria are "trying to pile on popular emotion and anger at a time of tragedy for their own selfish advantage," the assistant secretary of state said at a news conference.

"I think it is a sad situation when leaders of other countries can stand on this rubble" that is the aftermath of the war in Lebanon and proclaim their vision, Welch said.

Yeah, isn't it awful when that happens?

UK terror plot turns out to be complete bullshit

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.
So based on a confession to Pakistani interrogators probably spat out between bloody broken teeth by a guy who left the UK years ago, we have mass arrests and a huge security clampdown that results in close to 30% of all commercial flights in/out of British airports being cancelled for a week.

The UK suspects had been under close observation for over a year without a hint of this supposed plot. This whole thing has been based on a confession almost certainly extracted through torture and therefore almost certainly useless.

Are you feeling scared and compliant yet?

"Let's you and him fight"

Part of what made this Israeli military adventure so damaging for Israel and the rest of the Middle East was that the US abdicated it's traditional role of restraining Israeli pugnacity. Bush even egged on Olmert to widen the conflict by attacking Syria.

Contrast this irresponsible stewardship of the US's favorite client state with Bush Sr, asking Israel NOT to participate in Gulf War I - or even strike back when Saddam's rusty scuds sputtered across the Israeli border.

The scariest thing about George W Bush is that he makes his father look like a sane and responsible leader by contrast.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Living in Second Life

So I've recently discovered and become mildly obsessed with Second Life, a virtual environment accessible via the web. Like an online game environment, but without yahoos blasting away at you..., mostly.

It's free and rather fascinating. Warren Ellis has suggested that it may be the kernel of what will replace the internet and I can see how that could be possible - the great science fiction novel Donnerjack by Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold predicted something similar.

You can spend hours just creating the avatar that represents you, I went for something that more or less looks like me:

Really. It's a spitting image.

Second Life already has politics, economics, crime and punishment. And apparently a lot of sex. Very, very strange sex. Your Avatar doesn't have to look human, so it's a haven for, ick, furries. To each his own, consenting adults and all that, but I stand by my Ick.

It's an interesting place nonetheless and worth exploring as a glimpse of what may be to come in surfing.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday Link Blast

Friday, August 11, 2006

Yitzhak Laor on the IDF

You Are Terrorists, We are Virtuous

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.

Olmert accepts the UN deal.

Israel gets absolutely none of the things they got into this mess for in the first place. Not the destruction or even significant weakening of Hezbollah, the group has more support among the Lebanese public then ever. Oh and the UN will have to get approval from a government that includes two Hezbollah Ministers before attacking Hezbollah.

This war has been a disaster for Israel and will end Olmert's career.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Israel suspends advance as UN reaches breakthrough. Generals rage.

Israel has suspended any major push in it's ground war in Lebanon due to a ceasefire talks breakthrough at the UN. The proposal, agreed to in principal by both France and the US, calls for a progressive Israeli withdrawal with the Lebanese army backed by UN forces redeploying in areas as the IDF pulls out of them.

Israeli Generals are said to be furious
, demanding the opportunity to keep fighting and achieve 'a significant military achievement'. Haaretz, the respected Israeli daily, hawkish up till now, has harshly criticized Olmert and called for his resignation over the Lebanon campaign's 'humiliating defeat'.

The most dangerous result from the whole misguided affair has been the death of the myth of overwhelming Israeli military supremacy over any Arab forces. The whole Middle East has seen that despite massive saturation bombing and apparent callous disregard for civilian casualties by the IAF and IDF, Hezbollah never stopped firing rockets into Israel. This is a worst case scenario for a campaign with ambitious goals and no real exit strategy.

Expect major political shake-ups in Israel and reverberations from this to continue for decades throughout the Middle East.

The Globe and Mail censors Dilbert!

In the Globe and Mail today 'mildly retarded consultant' is changed to 'Generic Consultant'. More politically correct I guess but it cripples the joke.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Joe Lieberman loses Primary, says he'll run as Independent

Lieberman lost to Joe Lamont by a 10,000 vote margin. 50% of the Democratic Party membership voted, an unheard of turn-out for a Primary. By running as an Independent Lieberman is showing his contempt for the Democratic Party and the Democratic process.

This bodes ill for incumbents across America, and the Democratic Party is about to tack sharply to the Left. Which the Beltway Washington pundit class to the contrary, will bring them closer to the views of the majority of the American public.

What's he building in there?

Tom Waits feels the fear.


IDF threatens to fire on UN Peacekeepers

Lebanese officials said there were many reports of other casualties throughout southern Lebanon but rescue workers were not able to reach the sites because of continued Israeli airstrikes. Israel also threatened to attack UN peacekeepers if they attempted to repair bomb-damaged bridges in southern Lebanon. UN officials contacted the Israeli army to inform them that a team of Chinese military engineers attached to the UN force in Lebanon intended to repair the bridge on the Beirut to Tyre road to enable the transport of humanitarian supplies.

According to the UN, Israeli officials said the engineers would become a target if they attempted to repair the bridge.

Senior UN officials reacted angrily to the destruction of a temporary causeway over the Litani river overnight. "We must be able to have movement throughout the country to deliver supplies. At this point we can't do that," said David Shearer, the humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon. "The deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure is a violation of international law."

Jon Stewart: Make Jerusalem an International City

Jon Stewart has always kind of shied away from applying the same bracing snarky truthiness to Israel that he does to virtually everything else. But last night he suggested something that harks back to the 1948 proposals for peace between Jews and Arabs. The International City idea has been talked about before, it has the combined charm of being possibly the only way to achieve lasting peace, while simultaneously being unlikely to the point of impossible to implement.

We're on a path in the Middle East that leads almost inevitably to mushroom clouds, whether through suitcase bomb terrorism or military adventurism. We can all see it coming like the light at the end of the tunnel that turns out to be an oncoming train's headlight.

Maybe it's time for some new ideas, since the current paradigm is such an utter failure.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Terrorism is over-rated

The conservative Cato Institute has produced an exhaustive report that basically says you have a better chance of being hit by lightning while scratching a winning lottery ticket and getting fellated by Paris Hilton than dying in a terrorist attack.

Too far with the Paris thing? Too soon? Never mind...

This is the thing that is being used to control us through fear. This is the thing that the Elites think should define our concerns, our expectations and indeed, our very existence. Terrorism that is, not Paris Hilton, though I suppose an argument could be made.

Are we finally at long last back full circle to the simple pragmatic understanding that terrorism is a law enforcement problem and in some cases a festering injustice problem? Start dealing with it in ways that don't just create more of it?

Can we finally start acting like sensible grown-ups again?

Americans have veto over report into friendly fire death of Canadian soldier.

From the Recorder by way of Canadian Journalist.
A closed-door investigation into the possible friendly fire death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan has concluded, but the board of inquiry's final report won't be released. The board investigated the death of Pte. Robert Costall, who was killed last spring during a fierce firefight between coalition forces and insurgents at Sangin, west of Kandahar. American special forces, U.S. National Guard trainers and Afghan troops also took part in the battle. The inquiry's terms of reference, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, order Brig.-Gen. Chris Davis, the board president, to "determine what information, including any that has been received from coalition partners, is releasable under Canadian law." The April 13 document also confirms testimony from the inquiry has been designated as secret, and U.S. and Afghan officials have a veto over the release of what they consider "classified" information.
What information can they veto? Whether it was one of their Special Forces guys who fired the shot? Should Canadian troops be involved in a mission where the circumstances of their death can be subject to another nation's discretion?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday Link Blast

UNIFIL will stay in Lebanon

The Israeli government has backed down on a demand that NATO rather than the UNIFIL provide the stabilization force in post cease-fire Lebanon. In the new French plan the existing UN observers will be beefed up to provide a credible force.

Do you know why they're there now, Steve?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bush Administration support melting away

Everywhere they look the Bush administration sees their allies are falling away or falling from power.

Joe Lieberman, Bush's biggest enabler in the Democratic Party seems about to pay for providing the administration with cover and support. He's heading for a humiliating primary defeat against an anti-war challenger in a vote that could help define the right wing boundary line of the Democratic party.

Tony Blair's poodle-like support for Bush has cost him authority and prestige within the Labour Party and the UK public. Since he made it clear he would be stepping down as leader he's become a lame duck at an almost breath-taking pace.

The American right wing movement, already an uneasy merging of multiple strains of conservative tendencies and ideologies is splitting along fault-lines of economic, ethnic and fiscal philosophy. Bush has offered no coherent philosophy of government or power other than power itself.

In Israel, a perception is growing that the currently dominant Neo-Conservatives in the White House are too compatible with the Old Likud ideologies to provide Israel with perspective or an exit strategy. The Neo-Cons are explicitly anti-stability, and their naivete about the cultures and imperatives of the real Middle East is becoming more and more evident. Reportedly, even the President's father now opposes the unilateralist approach of his son.

The inherently millenarian and apocalyptic worldview of the theocratic Christianist movement and the disturbing influence they have over policy has seriously turned off more realist and moderate strains of American conservatism, while an increasing awareness of the realities of global warming has begun to alienate them from the Corporatist wing as well.

The pace of the break-up of what was an overwhelming right wing consensus has left the administration angry and disoriented. People keep asking them uncomfortable questions and challenging their bland assurances. They aren't used to it and find themselves floundering with only four months to go till mid-term elections.

The way incumbancy has been gerrymandered into undemocratic aristocracy may actually allow the GOP to retain power in both the House and the Senate, but this would just highlight the contradictions between national consensus and actual political power even more. If the Democrats do manage to win one or both houses in November the real story will be the disgusted Conservatives who stayed home and didn't vote.

The American people were traumatized and manipulated after 9/11. They are beginning to realize it.

Wiped off the Map

Beirut, before and after. By way of Juan Cole

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