Saturday, September 30, 2006

Better to light a candle...

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah

More bad news on Iraq, Abramoff details, wiretap loss and sex scandal as Republican Congress ends and campaign begins

The Republicans were feeling smug. The elaborate pantomime of idealistic Republican rebels facing down the President over torture seemed to have worked. The Republican congress had managed to have their cake and eaten it too, by loudly opposing an unpopular President while in actuality giving him exactly what he wanted - seemingly under the very noses of a dozey and compliant mainstream media.

Gas prices dropped, improving sullen voter's moods.

The word of Rove was once again to go after Democrats as being cut and run bad for security social deviants who wanted to tax away all your money. The groundwork was being laid and the narrative constructed by Disney owned ABC television and the trained monkeys disguised as journalists at Fox:

Turns out it was all Clinton's fault after all.

Even though 9/11 happened eight months into Bush's watch, even though Clinton had a left a detailed terrorism fighting plan ignored by the Bush administration, even though the Republicans had fought tooth and nail against Clinton's terrorism fighting in Somalia and Sudan and Afghanistan - despite all that: Clinton had been the one to be distracted from terrorism, had passed up chances to kill Bin Laden - directly refuted by multiple witnesses - and generally worried more about stains on dresses than security.

Never mind that this is recent history and everybody remembers the truth, some political operatives study Machiavelli, Sun Tzu or Musashi. Karl Rove studies Orwell. And Goebbels.

Then over the course of a few days the whole increasingly rosy picture fell apart.

Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida Co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus apparently sent suggestive e-mails and pornographic IMs to teenage male pages. The Republican leadership knew about it, hushed it up, even kept it from the Democrat on the Ethics committee that 'investigated' the matter. It was revealed that Foley was known for such behavior and Pages were warned to avoid him

Before that could even begin to sink in, excerpts from a book by Bob Woodward, partially redeeming some truly epic White House asskissing over the last few years, began to be released. They describe a President and a White House reducing every decision to politics, missing opportunities in Iraq and the war on Terror. The excepts reveal that everybody was calling for Rumsfeld's head, including the First Lady but Cheney told Bush to keep him rather than admit at all that mistakes had been made.

Reports confirmed extensive contact between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House.

A Republican Congressman from South Carolina called for the sterilization of the parents of law-breaking youth.

They ran out of time to ram through wiretapping legislation.

The National Intelligence Estimate proved stubbornly resistant to being obfuscated away. The conclusions were clear and unavoidable.

The polls ticked slightly upward for the GOP buoyed by low gas prices but later polls showed huge numbers of Americans believe the lower prices are politically orchestrated by the Oil companies and will be raised again after the elections.

It's been like a perfect storm for the GOP.

Even if the GOP were to hold on to one or both of the houses - still a distinct possibility when the incumbency aristocracy advantage, more money, lower gas prices, a compliant mainstream media and Diebold voting machines are taken into account - there are experts in both party's saying losing might be a blessing.

Its going to be a nasty couple of years. Military estimates predict Iraq will get even bloodier, the slow deflation of the US housing market is building steam and oil prices will rise again, don't kid yourself.

Whoever is in control, no matter how nominal a majority they have will be the focus of the public's anger as things spiral from bad to worse. If November isn't the GOP's Waterloo, 2008 may be their Armageddon.

Assuming Bush is willing to wait that long

Friday, September 29, 2006

The myth of out of control health costs revisited

The Tyee has an excellent article about BCs Liberal government's highly deceptive claim that health costs are out of control and will soon devour the majority of the provincial budget. The same applies to similar deceptive alarmist rhetoric coming from Alberta's government prevaricators.

With a straight face, (BC Finance Minister) Carole Taylor warned that exploding health expenditures will soon threaten the viability of other government outlays.

In a decade, she claimed, health spending could consume nearly three-quarters of Victoria's annual budget. With education taking up the remaining quarter, nothing would be left to fund children's services, welfare, transportation, the police, the courts, environmental protection, debt servicing or other valued programs.

"You can see what I'm trying to impress upon everyone," Taylor told the assembled scribes, referring to a chart that showed health costs rising from 41.6 per cent of last year's budget, to 71.3 percent in 2017-18. "This is an issue that we all have to get our heads around."

On top of that, so as to bring a sense of urgency to the looming catastrophe, B.C.'s finance minister also disclosed that the province's six health authorities recently requested an additional $1 billion-plus over the next three years to deal with unidentified cost "pressures."

Why, money is just flying out of the provincial treasury to pay for out-of-control health care. Action is needed, now!

But there is just one, tiny problem with Taylor's bleak forecast, and the underlying premise of Campbell's desire to introduce dramatic reforms to B.C.'s public health system.

There is no fiscal crisis.

Reports published by the finance ministry -- readily available to the public, and the news media, too -- show that provincial expenditures on health have not exploded, nor are they expected to do so in the foreseeable future. Taylor's warning of a looming fiscal crisis caused by skyrocketing health spending is contradicted and refuted by her own department.

Olberman. Kicks. Ass.

I linked to a download of this. I love it so much, here it is now that its been youtubed:

The Hallmarks of a Civilized Society

The Onion has a Scoop:
WASHINGTON, DC—Led by a bipartisan group of senators critical of White House policy on suspected terrorists, the Senate passed a bill Thursday that prohibits interrogators from exceeding 100 amps per testicle when questioning detainees. "Even in times of war, it counterproductive and wrong to employ certain inhumane interrogation techniques, and using three-digit amperage levels on the testicles of captives constitutes torture," said Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who has also supported reducing the size of attack dogs and the height of nude pyramids. "Using amperages of 99 and lower, with approved surge protectors on the jumper-cable clamps, are the hallmarks of a civilized society." The legislation did not address amperage restrictions on suspected terrorists' labia.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bottom Line

This is what should be airing on every channel in the States leading up to the election.

The news too tough for Americans

Newsweek's cover story for its international editions is a picture of an armed Jihadi and titled 'Losing Afghanistan'.

In it's stateside edition the same issue's cover is a profile of a celebrity photographer.

The American people are being treated like milk-fed veal and told no unpleasant truths that might affect their digestion - or their vote.

This is what we can expect from the American media with an election in the offing: Iraq vanished from the news, any negative stories about the Bush administration soft-pedaled, flat-out lies like 'Bush loses torture fight' and if all else fails, an October surprise that makes Bush look like a winner.

Expect some new celebrity scandal media frenzy to push the real news off the air, something involving Brad Pitt or a runaway bride maybe.

Come on Americans please snap out of it and show the rest of us you haven't really become such sheep.

Because it's later than you think.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Olberman points out that the Emperor is naked

Holy Crap.

I didn't think the American Media was even allowed to tell these kind of truths anymore.
You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people.

Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be the textbook definition… Sir, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.

That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair — writing as George Orwell — gave us in the novel "1984."

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power…

"Power is not a means; it is an end.

"One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

"The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power… is power."

Canada's Free Trade Deals: A record of grotesque abysmal failure.

Our first free-trade agreement (with the United States in 1989) has been studied to death. But the next four deals with Mexico, Israel, Chile and Costa Rica have hardly been studied at all. They should be, because they indicate that, where free trade is concerned, Canada is getting worse with practice.

These agreements spur dramatic increases in trade volumes on average by 200 per cent across the five deals, over their first 10 years. But in each of the later four deals, Canada's imports grew far faster than our exports: by 275 per cent after 10 years, versus 86 per cent for our exports. Collectively, our deficit with those four countries worsened by $9-billion under free trade. Only with the U.S. did exports grow as fast as imports.

Even more incredible, under each deal (including the U.S. one), Canada's market share in the imports of our trading partner actually declined. A free-trade agreement is supposed to provide preferential market access. Yet every time we've signed one, our market share has shrunk....

How Democrats can win

Fight the Class War
If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, crying “class warfare” is the last refuge of wealthy elitists. Yet, inexplicably, this red herring emasculates Democrats in Washington. Every time pro–middle-class legislation is offered, Republicans berate it as class warfare. Worse, they get help from corporate factions within the Democratic Party itself.

But as countless examples show, progressives are making inroads into culturally conservative areas by talking about economic class. This is not the traditional (and often condescending) Democratic pandering about the need for a nanny government to provide for the masses. It is us-versus-them red meat, straight talk about how the system is working against ordinary Americans...(cont...)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday Night Link Blast

And Now, on a...ahem...lighter note:
Dave Matthews - Gravedigger

Last Trumpet

Yeah I'm featuring a lot of music lately -
When you're blogging about torture almost non-stop, you need some balance.

Here's Lyric's Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker, collectively Latyrx
laying down some truth.

US Democracy slipping away

I'm not the kind of leftist who routinely throws around words like fascism or tyranny. I've criticized those who do, and I cringed a bit at Hugo Chavez calling Bush 'the devil' thinking it was unhelpful and demagogic.

But the fact remains that tyranny doesn't usually happen overnight with tanks on the streets and a sudden transition from the rule of law to the 2 AM banging on the door. It happens gradually, bit by bit under the guise of national pride, law and order and protecting us from appalling foes.

The United States is now a nation of torturers and abettors of torture. Rick Margolis correctly identified the trend as the Sovietization of the US. As Digby points out, all those years of railing against The Soviet Union it turns out the Republicans were only really upset with Soviet economics not the totalitarianism they now so eagerly embrace.

Waterboarding, which Americans once prosecuted Japanese war criminals for, is now an acceptable tactic. From this point on the Republican Party is the Torture Party and the Democrats are the Accessories to Torture Party.

Democracy has been so subverted and warped in America that its citizens barely blink at transparently flawed and corrupt voting machines, seemingly designed to miscount votes. Most Americans don't know that, almost alone among democratic nations, they have no constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, a fact used by Republican lawmakers to disenfranchise poor and minority vorters at every opportunity. Republicans now openly brag about disenfranchising black voters. When The US imposes a constitution on conquered nations like Japan or Iraq they always insist on a right they themselves don't have.

And as the Maher case showed, America's descent into tyranny is followed in lockstep by our Conservative government here in Canada.

The desire to avoid irresponsible rhetoric is a positive one, but it's time to call a spade a spade and a fascist a fascist.

While we still can.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pride and Joy

Stevie Ray Vaughan Unplugged

Republicans perfected their torture techniques on American Children

Bush rewarded one of his loyalists with the ambassadorship to Italy -- despite his past as the founder of a cult-like teen rehab clinic.
For 16 years, Sembler, with his wife Betty, directed the leading juvenile rehab business in America, STRAIGHT, Inc., before seeing it dismantled by a breathtaking array of institutional abuse claims by mid-1993. Just one of many survivors is Samantha Monroe, now a travel agent in Pennsylvania, who told The Montel Williams show this year about overcoming beatings, rape by a counselor, forced hunger, and the confinement to a janitor's closet in "humble pants" -- which contained weeks of her own urine, feces and menstrual blood. During this "timeout," she gnawed her cheek and spat blood at her overseers. "I refused to let them take my mind," she says of the program. The abuse took years to overcome."It sticks inside you," she told Williams, "it eats at your soul."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mad World

'Cause it is.

The United State of Torture

If you are arrested by the US on suspicion of terrorism, their government's representatives now have a firm legal foundation to:
  • Handcuff you naked in a meatlocker for hours until hypothermia has been induced.
  • Force you to stand in place through clubbings and kicks for hours.
  • Threaten to track down your family, your children, and torture or kill them.
  • And of course, tie you to a board and hold your head underwater until you believe you are drowning.
Most of these methods were perfected by the KGB in the Soviet Union's network of gulags.

I'm embarrassed that I thought Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John McCain were going to hold out in a principaled opposition to betraying everything the USA stands for. In fact they were just grandstanding and passing the buck. George Bush's administration now has legal protection for the crimes they have committed and the ones they plan to. It's actually being called the 'torture compromise'.

Watching one of the world's biggest most inspiring democracies slip away is immeasurably sad and immeasurably terrifying.


Easing into the weekend: 'One' covered by the incomparable Johnny Cash.
Audio only.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bush Supporters For Torture

Unambiguously, unapologetically, unashamedly for torture.

When the first American serviceman is tortured to death by a country selectively interpreting the Geneva Conventions and using this as their precedent, will these vicious sheep feel shame then?

Do they even know what the word means?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Big Picture Week Two: THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL?

Avi Lewis's second week of brick throwing provocation (He said approvingly) on The Big Picture brings us Richard Dawkins and THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL? The film companion piece to his book The God Delusion. Its a fun polemic that starts with Resolved: Religion is the root of all Evil.


The film is a sarcastic and full throated attack on mysticism and the religious impulse and equally robust defense of the rationality of Atheism. Well, religious faith gets a whole TV network here in Canada, and an entire government south of the border, its not unreasonable to devote a couple hours on Newsworld to the alternative viewpoint.

I discussed panel guest Charles Mcvety President, Canada Christian College and the Canada Family Action Coalition here. He argues that Christians are under attack and everyone should just show more tolerance to the religious.

Mcvety first came to prominence, of course, for cyber-squatting the names of pro-gay rights Members of Parliament and redirecting web hits to his rabidly anti-gay site.

Other guests and subjects of the film argued that only the faithful can be moral or ethical because only faith in God can be a basis for morality. I address that idea here.

Another great segment of a program rapidly becoming my favorite CBC offering.

Troublemaker Gotta go!

© Maria Dunn, 2004 SOCAN

Inspired by more recent struggles in the lives of working people in Alberta. Get in touch with your inner troublemaker!


They call me a troublemaker 'cause I'm finally saying "no"
I've been working hard and yet my pay is still so low
But when I spoke my mind they said:
"Troublemaker's gotta go"
Troublemaker, Troublemaker

They call me a greedy worker 'cause I want my rollback back
In my employer's time of need I tried to help them get on track
But when I asked to share the profits they said:
"Troublemaker's gotta go"
Troublemaker, Troublemaker

They call me a troublemaker 'cause I walk that picket line
Telling this new contractor they've taken what is mine
But when I walked where I'd be seen they said:
"Troublemaker's gotta go"
Troublemaker, Troublemaker

They call me scaremonger because I won't agree
To someone making profits from the healthcare that we need
But when I asked who's making money they said:
"Troublemaker's gotta go"
Troublemaker, Troublemaker

They call me a troublemaker 'cause I'm gonna demonstrate
And make sure human rights don't take a back seat to world trade
But as I blocked their logging road they said:
"Troublemaker's gotta go"
Troublemaker, Troublemaker

They call me an idealist because I want to close the gap
The poor are getting poorer in Alberta's ample lap
So next time I cast my vote I'll say:
"Troublemaker's gotta go"
Troublemaker, Troublemaker

Maria Dunn vocal · Shannon Johnson harmony vocal ·
Dawn Anderson harmony vocal · David Ward harmony vocal

Ding Dong the Premier's retired

Ralph Klein formally announced his retirement today officially launching the long since started Tory Leadership race.

I've written a lot of words about this man who has led my province for thirteen years and my city for many years before that. I've called him insane, a liar and an unpleasant old man.

But now as he gently ambles off to ill-earned retirement I've mellowed about the old reprobate a little, and to quote Jon Stewart speaking of Robert Novak: "I only said those things, because I sincerely believe you're a terrible person."

Goodbye and Good Riddance.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"It is unacceptable to think..."

George W. Bush just declared that Colin Powell is guilty of thought crime. Olberman calls him on it.

Open Revolt in the Republican Party over Torture

The number of GOP Senators willing to openly oppose the White House has grown. The Administration is getting a pre-midterm taste of actual principled opposition. It's particularly note-worthy in light of the pundits arguing that with the convenient dip in gas prices the GOP's odds are improving with less than two months to go.

There are now conservative Republicans openly saying it would be better if the Democrats won in November.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Amnesty: Hezbollah committed war crimes

I posted when Amnesty International reported that Israel committed war crimes in the recent conflict. They promised a follow up dealing with Hezbollah's actions and I somehow missed it when it ran last week. They have concluded that Hezbollah committed repeated war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian areas with rocket attacks over the course of the war.
Hezbollah fired several thousand rockets into northern Israel, killing 43 civilians, including four who died of heart attacks.

The victims, among them seven children, included Jewish and Arab Israelis. Many other civilians were injured.

Sunday Link Blast

And finally Angry Chimp throws poo:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Big Picture: The Human Behavior Experiment

First, Full Disclosure: I was approached by the promoters of The Big Picture by e-mail and asked to blog about it. I might have been inclined to do so anyway but I was asked. I have been offered no incentive other than having my posting appear on the CBC site devoted to the special. Nice, but not an envelope of cash under the table.

I'd previously heard about several of the social experiments and authority related incidents related in the film, dryly yet affectingly narrated by David Strathairn of Good Night and Good Luck. It's a compelling examination of how humans respond to authority. I'd read about the Milgram Experiment and the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment which eerily fore-shadowed the nightmare of Abu Ghraib and Canada's own shameful Somalia incidents.

Alan Moore mentions the Milgram Experiment in the book V for Vendetta - which is vastly superior to the competent but uninspired movie it spawned. Moore saw the lesson of the Milgram experiment, and the way normal people would commit atrocities if ordered to, as an indictment of the very concept of authority. That as an idea, authority is inherently corrosive to human empathy and spiritual growth.

Another interesting example of bizarre experiments with authority with possibly horrifying consequences later on, is Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber who was experimented on in Harvard by a researcher with ties to the CIA. The experiment involved hours of screaming verbal abuse from an authority figure and possibly the use of drugs. Family and friends have said that Kaczynski was never the same after Harvard and had a growing pathological fear and hatred for authority, with well known results.

I've addressed here before how toxic and dehumanizing authority can be, this film is an excellent over-view of the subject. The Big Picture itself looks like an interesting and more interactive companion to the Passionate Eye. If you missed it, it's re-running Sunday on Newsworld and the line up of documentaries for the show for the rest of the fall looks like the much cited but rarely real 'must see TV'.


Mayor of Chicago vetoes big box minimum wage law

Mayor Richard M. Daley used the first veto of his seventeen years as Chicago's mayor to protect Walmart and other big box retailers from having to pay a living wage.

I posted about this when the law was first passed, I thought that the original vote was veto proof and that Daley wouldn't want to spend political capital using the first veto of his career against Chicago's workers. It turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Daley has been muscling councilors since the original vote and apparently a mix of threats and patronage promises got him the turncoats he needed. However the aura of invincibility he's cultivated in almost two decades in power has slipped and the consequences of a mayoral challenge by Jesse Jackson JR may spell the end of his reign.

Supporters of the big box living wage law promise to keep fighting , including a possible city-wide referendum.

Devastating summation of the Bush presidency

Salon publishes the introduction to Sidney Blumenthal's book about the presidency of George W. Bush. It's clear, informed, and absolutely horrifying. This is the cap-stone for the worst presidency in American history.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Softwood deal creates slush fund for Bush?

Just to add to the hit parade of downsides of this deal - number one of course being, why should we even sign trade agreements with a country that will only follow them when convenient - the deal apparently gives the Bush White House a completely unaccountable pre-midterms slush fund of $450 million.

More here.

Olberman savages Bush

Olberman considers the Twin Towers site symbolic of the unity squandered by George Bush for partisan purposes.

Bush took a unified country and unprecedented international support and pissed it away, undermining the war on terror to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq, and making a naked attempt to use America's tragedy to grab absolute power at home.

The Bush administration and it's supporters worldwide are never more shameless and hypocritical than when they try to accuse others of using 9/11 for partisan gain.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday Link Blast

Saturday, September 09, 2006

American Left actually fights back this time.

Again and again for years now we've seen the pattern; Clinton hounded by vicious attacks culminating in an impeachment for a blowjob, Kerry swift-boated and the very word 'Liberal' turned into invective. The response, to quote a great line from 'The West Wing' has been for - 'American Liberals to curl up in a corner and whimper, 'Please stop. Don't hurt me.''

From the perspective of Canada, where we have a robust and frankly dominant progressive majority and a far more civil political environment, it's been exasperating to watch.

Now, with the farcically propagandistic right-wing fantasy of ABC's The Path to 9/11 the American Left including the previously somnolent Democratic Party have risen up and said no.

No to blaming 9/11 on Clinton and giving Bush a pass. No to using 9/11 for despicable partisan gain. No to outright lies, distortions and fictions designed to impugn real people like Madeline Albright. Just... no.

Crooks and Liars is giving this the kind of coverage Fox or CNN gives run-away brides or murdered beauty pageant toddlers or even Paris Hilton. This time the Swift Boaters are being called on their lies.

The American political season has just heard it's starting pistol. Expect the invective and fury and political ads on American channels that make you want to throw stuff at the TV, to start

At least this time it looks like it won't be the one-sided bitch-slapping it's been the last few years.

Update: Gazetteer makes an excellent point about how this whole situation makes the argument for an effective arms length public broadcaster.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

George W. Bush believes holding someone's head underwater until they think they're going to die isn't torture.

I give credit to former supporters Bush who recognize they made a mistake. Andrew Sullivan went from an unabashed supporter of Bush and the Iraq War (While for obvious reasons opposing his social agenda) to becoming one of his most caustic critics.

He's been savaging Bush's human rights record and his recent admissions of the existence American Gulags and farcical denials of torture have engendered some of the most furiously, coldly sarcastic condemnatory writing I've seen from him.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Collapse of Empire

Boing Boing did separate photo-gallery posts about the aftermath of Katrina and the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. They were polite enough to separate them and not draw any obvious connections. I'm not.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Autism linked to age of Father

This is interesting. Women who choose to have children later in life take a lot of flack for the increased risk of birth defects, particularly mental handicap. Now it seems sperm doesn't age any better than ovum.

Will men choosing to father children in their forties or later now face the same kind of stigma and sniffy disapproval as women making the same choice?

Insert hollow laugh here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labour Day Link Blast

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Saturday Soul with Roy Buchanan

Crooks and Liars found a Roy Buchanan treasure trove at youtube - be sure to check his luminous Sweet Dreams cover as well for some smooth lazy saturday morning singing guitar lovliness

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