Monday, December 31, 2007

Clueless music executives Part Infinity

Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,'" she said.
I blogged about this a few weeks ago but this quote was so cluelessly, crudely offensive that it deserves another kick with a hobnailed boot.

Jennifer, your expressed legal opinion not only makes me want to immediately grab up a stack of my CDs that I paid vastly inflated prices for and 'steal them' by burning them to my computer - Hell, it makes me want to come to your house and steal some of your stuff.

It's up there for sheer kleptocratic robber baron disdain and arrogant entitlement to your customer's business as the TV executive who said people using Tivos to avoid advertising were stealing TV. You see what I mean? The kind of stuff that makes you want to burn cars and go looting in these people's neighborhoods. We're the consumers, digital serfs nothing more, and any bright idea in our little heads that we actually 'own' anything needs to be beaten out of us.

When radio broadcasting began in Australia back in the 1920's, the bright idea the business and government elites had for a business model was sealed sets. You paid your license allowing you to be officially sanctioned to receive radio waves then you picked a radio station and bought their sealed set, with it's broadcast tuner preset to that radio station and only that station.

Building your own radio or breaking the seal on your preset one and taking control of the tuner were illegal. You were stealing if you did this and were condemned as a thief.

Does anything seem, I don't know, familiar or applicable about any of this?

The whole model collapsed in a few years of course. How could you keep people from building their own radios or adapting the ones they had? Plus, almost nobody bought the deliberately crippled technology of the sealed sets.

So it goes.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday Linkblast - Dec 30

Last Linkblast for 2007! Four years to singularity! Woot!

Privacy and freedom watch

Privacy International has released their 2007 International Privacy ranking. The US has been downgraded from an extensive surveillance society to an endemic surveillance society. This puts them in the same ranking as China, Russia and Malaysia.

Don't be too smug though, Canada dropped two rankings in one year. We are now in the 'Some Safeguards but weakened protection' category.

Looking south, we can see where this gradualist decay leads, the only question remains if we want to go there - or is it that we're being driven there?

Here comes the crass partisanship: The NDP are legitimately the most libertarian mainstream political party in Canada. Left wing libertarianism that believes its more important to make people free than capital.

The Greens? The Greens are now a political adjunct to the Liberal Party. Their political allegiance and ideology - such as there ever was - are now in service to the political destiny of Stephane Dion.

Who's Liberal Party was in power and was himself in cabinet when Maher Arar was kidnapped and tortured. When Security certificates, preventative detention and compelled testimony became law. Yes the Liberals opposed extending the most egregious elements past their sunset date - does anybody believe they would have done so if they had been in power rather than in opposition?

And as for the Conservatives, they fought to keep the provisions past their sunset period and have flirted with the religious war terminology of their ideological soul-mates south of the border. They've responded to important and substantive queries about human rights protection in Afghanistan with hysterical and borderline eliminationist rhetoric about 'Taliban sympathizers'.

Privacy and freedom along with the environment, pocketbook issues and Afghanistan will be the election issues - shall we say late spring? None of them will reflect well on either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Worst of the worst

The Beast presents The 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007:

10. Alberto Gonzales

Crimes: The most truckling, amoral flunky to ever serve as Attorney General. A jurisprudent organelle, he manifests no concept of the law independent of its expediency to the president. Would smilingly accuse himself of providing material support to al Qaeda at President Bush's request, hurriedly plead guilty, sign his own death warrant and flip the switch himself. His testimony before congressional committees is to public service what cholera is to the small intestine. As first Hispanic Attorney General, Gonzo typifies the self-betrayal and ethical compromise necessary for minorities to become successful Republicans. Been felching sweet approval from Bush's lily-white ass since Texas. A conscienceless, memo-drafting, loophole-crafting liar for hire, pushing for all the worst administration policies, including nixing habeas corpus, denying and then defending rendition, torture, political firings, and a ton of other evil stuff. He even visited a seriously ill and disoriented John Ashcroft at the hospital, attempting to coax him into reauthorizing a clearly illegal wiretapping program. The only Attorney General who ever could have made John Ashcroft a sympathetic character by contrast.

Exhibit A: "The fact that the Constitution -- again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away."

Sentence: Death by dull guillotine, head bent by Beckham.

9. You

Charges: You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism -- it's nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears' children. You think buying Chinese goods stimulates our economy. You think you're going to get universal health care. You tolerate the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques." You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching CNN makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can't spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don't want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy's doing well. You're an idiot.

Exhibit A: You couldn't get enough Anna Nicole Smith coverage.

Sentence: A gradual decline into abject poverty as you continue to vote against your own self-interest. Death by an easily treated disorder that your health insurance doesn't cover. You deserve it, chump.

Someone should do this for Canada...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bush broke the cardinal rule: Don't screw with the CIA

...and the NIE estimate that says Iran has no nuclear program which neatly knee-capped the neo-con's campaign to conquer Iran leaving them enraged and sputtering? It's best understood as what Watergate conspirator Donald Segretti used to call a good old fashioned 'ratfucking'

Gin up intelligence and blame us when the lies are discovered? Humiliate us publicly, hell, expose and endanger one of our undercover agents destroying her career to publicly punish someone for pointing out your lies?

The CIA's been accused of killing Presidents for less.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. President," hissed the men in cloaks as they plunged a dagger into George Bush's back.

America's spooks finally had their revenge. After being forced by the White House in 2002-03 to concoct a farrago of lies about Iraq, and then take the blame for the ensuing fiasco there, the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies struck back this week.

U.S. intelligence chief Mike McConnell made public a bombshell National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report that concluded "with high confidence" Tehran had halted its rudimentary nuclear weapons program in 2003.

If restarted, Iran is unlikely to produce any weapons before 2015.

The new NIE is a devastating, humiliating blow to Bush, Dick Cheney and the neocons who have been fulminating for war against Iran. Only two months ago, Bush warned Americans that Iran's secret nuclear program threatened to ignite World War III.

Christmas in New York

Actually I'm spending Christmas with my wonderful girlfriend in Calgary but this gem has the irreplaceable Oscar Peterson on piano. Rest in Peace Oscar.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Meaningless Presidential Predictions

A useless exercise, but fun. At this late date I re-examine the parallel Republican and Democrat campaigns for President and offer my picks for the likely survivors.

On the Republican side, while I sympathize with Andrew Sullivan's hope that the Huckabee surge propels him to the nomination so that he can get massively spanked in the general and break the fundys power over the party, I think the surprise come from behind winner will be...John McCain.

All of the successive Republican 'it girls' who have bobbed to the top of the midden in the past few months have sunk again as Republicans come to terms with the incredibly weak lineup of grinning waterheads they have to choose from. Huckabee is just the latest flavour of the moment as Giuliani and Romney were before him. The GOP establishment have the knives out and the media only built him up in the first place to have an obligingly bobbing pinata to tear down.

McCain has been quietly fighting a rope a dope game letting the front-runners bloody each other while his ground troops maintain the networks he's built up over years. My prediction is that he comes from behind and steals back the nomination people used to think was his by default.

Of course every polling indicator suggests that the Republican nomination will be a poisoned chalice in the general - particularly for an unabashed Iraq war supporter like McCain.

On the Democrat side - John Edwards. Massive discipline of message and campaign, a growing base missed by the campaign press focused on the Clinton/Obama show and that 'handsome liberal southerner' thing that has been very good to Democrats at the ballot box in the past will all come to a critical mass if he pulls off a win or even a respectable second place in Iowa -a place where he's been waging an impeccable crowd pleasing campaign and is remembered fondly from past races. He's who I'd be voting for were I an American.

He's the best case scenario for Democrats in terms of policy and winnability and considering the intriguingly gentle treatment the Edwards and Obama campaigns have given each other, with either we might get the other as a VP bonus.

Of course I might be completely wrong, it wouldn't be the first time - but I reserve the right to crow if I'm not.

UPDATE: Three days later and now CNN says the same thing.

Bill Hick's on the New World Order

Very definitely NSFW - he's talking about George Bush SR and Clinton mostly, but it's a great collection of his political rants and all more true than ever - plus some extended rants on unelected elites from others - gets a little paranoid by the end.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday Linkblast - Dec 23

Saturday, December 22, 2007

For Profit Health Care claims another victim

Nataline Sarkisyan, 17, dead because her insurer Cigna HealthCare's profit margin is dependent on finding excuses to deny the care it's customers pay their premiums for.

After first approving the liver transplant she needed to survive her illness, on the medical advice of her doctors, Cigna then claimed the procedure was 'experimental' and said they wouldn't pay for it. Nurses at the hospital where Nataline was being cared for rallied for her care, the story spread across the blogosphere and Cigna facing a tidal wave of fury over their callousness relented.

Too late. Because of the time wasted fighting the insurance company Nataline died 6 PM Thursday at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center only hours after Cigna relented and finally approved the treatment the Sarkisyan family's insurance covered and her doctor's said was necessary to save her. They had managed to stall long enough to avoid the lifetime of expensive care Nataline would have required.

Presidential candidate John Edwards was clearly furious, speaking about the case yesterday:
"Are you telling me that we're gonna sit at a table and negotiate with those people?" asked a visibly angered Edwards, challenging the health care companies. "We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again."
It is my fervent hope that letting Nataline die will ultimately cost Cigna many thousands of times as much as keeping her alive would have. In a just world their corporate board would spend the rest of their lives in prison.

This is what the 'free market solutions' that people like the Fraser Institute and the Conservative Party push for Canadian health care would mean.

Another day, another 'Rachel Marsden acts like a psycho' story

Spotted at Scott's Dia Tribes:

Rachel Marsden, serial stalker, Anne Coulter wannabe, former Fox News personality fired for being too crazy for even Fox news (!) and ongoing raving train wreck is being investigated for criminal harassment again.

From the Toronto Star story:

A right-wing former Fox TV pundit is being investigated for criminal harassment after accusing an ex-boyfriend of leaking Canadian anti-terrorism secrets.

Rachel Marsden, prominent in the late 1990s for accusing a Simon Fraser University swimming coach for raping and stalking her, says OPP anti-terrorism Const. Tony Backhurst fed her top-secret papers.

"I don't know why he (gave me the documents)," she said yesterday in an email response to an interview request, "other than perhaps he was too cheap to buy me jewelry and figured state secrets would be a good substitute."

She denied harassing the officer.

"I live in NYC," she wrote. "If I was going to 'stalk' anyone from that kind of a massive distance, it sure wouldn't be that loser.

"Anyone who reads my blog or column knows it would be (French President) Nicolas Sarkozy!"

Yeah, any French Secret Service agents out there? One would hope darling Rachel would set off some alarms if she ever tried to disembark at de Gaulle Airport.

The Star story has a concise run down of Rachel's long history of, lets be circumspect and call it eccentricity:
  • Marsden grew up in Port Coquitlam, B.C., and was enrolled at Simon Fraser in 1995 when she accused swimming coach Liam Donnelly of sexual harassment over a 16-month period and date rape.
  • In 1997, prominent feminists took up her cause.
  • Donnelly was fired. Two months later, he was exonerated, paid compensation and rehired, and the university president resigned over mishandling the case.
  • In 1999, Marsden was warned she would be evicted from campus residence unless she agreed to stay away from Donnelly and SFU criminology professor Neil Boyd. Both complained she was stalking them, although no charges were laid.
  • In 2002, Marsden was charged with criminally harassing former Vancouver radio host Michael Morgan after being warned to stay away from him. In 2004, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.
This list doesn't include items like racist on air comments about Pakistani hygiene, describing water-boarding as 'CIA swim lessons', working for soon to be disgraced Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal under a fake name, oh and photo shopping her head onto Julia Robert's body for one of her many provocative website photos.

Too crazy even for Fox
She's Baaaack

Friday, December 21, 2007

Teh Crazy, it goes away?

Back at the beginning of November I wrote about the Calgary Sun inviting Ezra Levant 'to seek other opportunities' and other startling displays of editorial rational thought like their critique of Harper's flip-flop on the death penalty.

In the comments of the post I reassured a fellow blogger concerned that The Calgary Sun's turn away from the entertainingly psychotic would mean a dearth of blogging material that 'while Ted Byfield and Paul Jackson still have columns - the crazy well will never completely run dry'.

I really need to watch what I say, Byfield hasn't had a column in the Sun since November - and fair enough, he's dealing with a family tragedy - and now it looks like Paul Jackson's reactionary run is over.

While I was off celebrating the season with family, PC apostate Craig Chandler decided to drag Jackson down with him. As Ken Chapman relates here, Jackson flip-flopped on his support for far right soul mate Chandler's run for the Calgary Egmont PC nomination. After Chandler called him on it, Jackson e-mailed him that he wrote the column opposing Chandler after 'a call from the Premiers office' asking him to support Chandler's opponent. Then he apparently realized that he hadn't recognized the callers voice, never got his name and hey, maybe it wasn't the Premier's Office who called after all.

Sun Editor Jose Rodriguez now says Jackson has some 'splaining to do before his column runs again, hitherto no such explanation seems to have been offered and Jackson is apparently hiding out in Mexico complaining that Chandler has ruined his credibility and his career.

Some weird stuff going on in the Sun's newsroom...

UPDATE: FFWD's rundown of the story.

The MPPA's torturous reasoning

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) determined that the three posters above for torture porn horror movies were acceptable and “suitable for all audiences”. The one on the right for factual documentary 'Taxi to the Dark Side' about an innocent Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by American troops was ruled“not suitable for all audiences.” and they have banned it's use to promote the film.
Fake torure and mutilation of nubile young women for the amusement of jaded horror fans is just fine. A poster using a real photo of troops leading away a prisoner with no violence displayed to advertise a documentary about real torture is not.
Makes sense.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

First thing we do...

Let's kill all the advertising executives.
New Yorker Alison Wilson was walking down Prince Street in SoHo last week when she heard a woman’s voice right in her ear asking, “Who’s there? Who’s there?” She looked around to find no one in her immediate surroundings. Then the voice said, “It’s not your imagination.”
That’s right — some bunch of fuckheads have invented street ads that beam their vocal pitch right into your goddamn head:
The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an “audio spotlight” from a rooftop speaker so that the sound is contained within your cranium.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Huckabee: Women should submit to their husbands

Spotted at Crooks and Liars:
“A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

You don't own the music you've paid for

The Recording Industry Association of America, the organization primarily responsible for the DMCA, the American copyright law and it's Canadian clone the Conservatives just blinked on, is now arguing that it is illegal for someone to copy CDs they've paid for to their computers or mp3 players.
The RIAA's brief makes the novel contention, contradicting its lawyers' arguments at the Supreme Court in MGM v. Grokster, that making personal copies of songs from one's CD onto one's computer is an infringement.
Silly consumer. Thinking that just because you've paid a hugely inflated price for a CD that you actually own it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

Provocative proof

When protesters said that the Quebec police had gone undercover during the summit of North American leaders at Montebello as Agent Provocateurs trying to provoke violence, the Quebec provincial police denied the armed masked men in the video were police officers.

When that farcical claim crumbled under the overwhelming video evidence - video has not been the friend of Canadian police officers this year- the Police finally admitted that the men were in fact undercover officers, but claimed they were there to stop violence not to provoke it.

Masks, rocks and witnesses who said the men tried to provoke violence aside.

But now the high definition video replay reveals one of the undercover police officers struck a uniformed officer on his face plate.

For those who don't belive that the police will ever deliberately create violence or excuses for violence, will video satisfy you?

Spotted at Engaged Spectator

Huckabee's rape and murder problem

I briefly profiled surging Republican candidate Mike Huckabee a couple weeks ago and said then that he would face his biggest challenges over his release of a rapist and murderer to cater to Clinton conspiracy fanatics when he was governer.

That didn't take long.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

They can't claim they didn't know

The international community may have as little as a decade to bring greenhouse gases under control or risk catastrophic global warming that places millions of people at risk, warns a group of the world's leading climate scientists.
In a declaration released today in Bali, Indonesia, where representatives from about 180 countries are attending a UN conference on climate change, the scientists say emissions need to peak and then start to decline within the next 10 to 15 years as a first step, and then be cut in half by 2050 from the level prevailing in 1990.
If releases aren't curbed soon, "millions of people will be at risk from extreme events, such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms; our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels; and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction," the scientists say in their declaration.
More than 200 leading researchers - many of the world's pre-eminent climate scientists, including seven from Canada - endorsed the statement. Its release was timed to put heat on the negotiators at the Bali climate-change talks.

Add this to the long list of evidence, findings, studies and unequivocal and stark declarations by scientists, and the gang of three at Bali, The US, Japan and of course our own Conservative Canadian government are knowingly committing crimes against humanity with their opposition to real curbs on greenhouse gasses.

There is no real significant dispute among the scientific community, this isn't a long term problem, economic growth is not just as important as greenhouse gas reduction and regardless greenhouse gas reduction will be necessary to reduce massive long term macro-economic costs - see the Stern Report. Intensity reductions are not reductions and the consequences of blocking real action will have these governments remembered in the history books as shortsighted, reckless and corrupt. They will not be able to claim they didn't know the consequences of their actions and in light of the scientific consensus their inaction is criminally irresponsible.

Criticising the former Liberal government's dismal record on climate change (As Harper and his Ministers do at every opportunity) is fair. Not including the context that the Conservatives and their predecessor party The Alliance - the same individuals - in opposition fought tooth and nail every day to keep the Liberals from doing anything on climate change is not. Not providing the context that up until very recently the members of this government were publicly siding with industry owned hacks and incompetent wackos against the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is real and human caused is based on an insulting assumption that Canadians can't remember their words and deeds of only a few years ago.

Calling out China, India and other developing nations for inaction on global warming is fair. Not providing the context that their significant contributions of greenhouse gasses began decades after the developed world and that their per capita greenhouse gas emissions are still only a fraction of ours is not.

Canadians used to provide leadership, not whine that 'everyone else is getting away with it, so we should too.'

The Conservatives regional fealty to the oil sands at the expense of Canada's international standing and our species long term survival is a shocking and despicable abdication of responsibility.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A proud tradition of ignorance

When George W was running for President the first time back in 2000, he was interviewed on the radio by a DJ who started quizzing him on Foreign Affairs 101: 'What's the name of the President of North Korea?, What's the name of the leader of Iran?' That kind of stuff. How did Georgie do?


So the reporter was excoriated, both by partisan Republicans and by other, so-called, journalists for having engaged in a sneak attack ambush. 'It wasn't fair to expect Bush to know this stuff' went the whining at the time 'he'd have people around him as President to know it for him.'

And we all know how well that worked.

So Mike Huckabee, who some think has a very real shot at the corroded brass ring of the Republican nomination, was just asked his opinion of the new NIE report stating that Iran hasn't had a functioning nuclear weapons program since 2003. His response boiled down to 'Huhh?'

As Crooks and Liars put it: imagine if one of the leading democrats had demonstrated this kind of cow-eyed ignorance about a foreign policy issue that had been front page news for days. It would have dominated the news cycle and been presented as part of the narrative that only Republicans are serious on security and foreign policy issues.

Expect the story of Huck's charming befuddlement to disappear without a trace.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


And another one sourced from WarrenEllis. com - The Westboro Baptist Church-goers being their usual charming selves.

If you actually can make it to the end of the gut-wrenchingly grotesque video, the last twenty seconds or so are the kind of thing that will make you want social services to kick down doors and seize children.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jesus, what balls!

George W. Bush actually has the gall to complain that Senate Democrats are using a procedural trick to keep him from using a procedural trick.

President Bush Monday welcomed back Congress by criticizing Democrats for their priorities and blasting the Senate for using a procedural maneuver to prevent him from making recess appointments.
“In a political maneuver designed to block my ability to make recess appointments, congressional leaders arranged for a senator to come in every three days or so, bang a gavel, wait for about 30 seconds, bang a gavel again, and then leave,” Bush said. “Under the Senate rules, this counts as a full day. If 30 seconds is a full day, no wonder Congress has got a lot of work to do.”

For those who don't know, Bush has in the past used recess appointments to give power to psychotic far right wingers who he knew the Senate would not approve. He is literally, petulantly complaining that the Senate is preempting one of his orgies of right wing nut-bar enabling by deliberately circumventing their constitutional duty to vet his choices.

It's like a mugger complaining that his potential victim was engaging in a mean-spirited campaign of staying in well lit crowded areas.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Facebook: Privacy rights are double plus ungood

After intense criticism, Facebook publicly claimed they would allow opting out of their controversial Beacon system to sell web surfing information to advertisers, but Internet experts discover that the system still tracks users movements even when Facebook is off line.
Beacon will report back to Facebook on members' activities on third-party sites that participate in Beacon even if the users are logged off from Facebook and have declined having their activities broadcast to their Facebook friends.
"It can happen completely without their knowledge, unless they are examining their network traffic at a very low level," Berteau said.

Sunday Linkblast - Dec 2

Saturday, December 01, 2007

America asserts the right to kidnap anyone, anywhere, any time

AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

They have their own offshore, extrajudicial gulag, don't believe strapping someone down and slowly drowning them constitutes torture and believe they have the right to kidnap anyone in the world.

Do you feel safe living in the same world as America?

Spotted at Warren Ellis's place.

Chandler purged


Stelmach and the Alberta PCs have clearly seen which way the wind is blowing in Alberta - and it isn't from the far right - hot air aside.
RED DEER — An ugly internal dispute over sex, religion and violence erupted within the Alberta Conservative party Saturday, ending up with a candidate being ousted and Premier Ed Stelmach saying the reasons for the "difficult" decision must remain confidential.

Mr. Stelmach presided over a private meeting of his party's 40-member executive committee, which voted not to endorse the nomination of a candidate who founded a group linked to an anti-gay letter.

Mr. Stelmach emerged from the closed-door session to announce that Craig Chandler's nomination in Calgary-Egmont was "not in the best interests of the party."


Mr. Chandler said he felt like the clock had been turned back 50 years and he was being grilled in front of the anti-communist hearings in the U.S. led by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

"(They asked) 'Are you a right-winger? Are you a social conservative? Do you believe in Jesus Christ?"' Mr. Chandler told reporters.

He used the word "Christ-o-phobic" at one point and said there is a "growing intolerance" within the Tory party.

This from the man who has called gays as bad as murderers and said anyone not willing to vote conservative wasn't welcome in Alberta.

It was a surprising display of rational self interest on the part of the provincial Tories - Calgary is right wing, but it's a pro business, socially moderate and urbane right wing. Chandler would have cost the party Calgary-Egmont - not that they're guaranteed to keep it anyway - and thousands of votes province wide.

His ouster will cost them some psycho reactionary support split off to Alliance and Wild Rose, the split on the right in Alberta has always had more effect than the left wing split that Alberta Liberals whine about whenever New Democrats get votes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How do you shoot someone in the back of the head in self defense?

Paul Kennedy, chair of the commission for public complaints against the RCMP has concluded that Constable Paul Koester's story that with his face down in a couch cushion and a six foot 187 pound Ian Bush on his back throttling him, he was able to draw his weapon, reach behind his back, behind Ian Bush and shoot him in the back of the head is the truth.
Koester, who stands 6-4 and weighs 180 pounds, insisted the six-foot, 187-pound laborer was atop his back choking the life out of him when he managed to free his gun. In a physical feat even RCMP investigators conceded was worthy of a contortionist, the Constable got the gun behind his own back, up to the back of Bush's head and shot him. He refused to reenact what happened for investigators and the coroner's inquest that was held earlier this year.
The RCMP seem mystified as to why anyone could have any doubts in this version of events, firmly believe they have no image problem with the public and indignantly reject Kennedy's call for video and audio equipment in all areas where prisoners are dealt with as 'unnecessary'.

UPDATE: Gary Mason, behind a paywall, flatly says he doesn't believe the RCMP and Constable Koester's description of the death of Ian Bush:
Like many others, I don't believe his version of events. I just don't see how he could have hit Mr. Bush three times in the back of the head with the tip of his gun and then shot him, all the while being face down on a couch and with Mr. Bush lying on top of him.
The fact that Constable Koester refused on the advice of his lawyer to be part of a re-enactment at the inquest into the shooting only confirmed my doubts. Personally, I believe Constable Koester was on top of Mr. Bush, hit him three times in the back of the head with the tip of his gun and then hit him a fourth time when his gun accidentally went off.
However, in a demonstration of institutional schizophrenia, the Globe's editorial board disregards the opinion of the reporter covering the story since the beginning. They accept the RCMP version unreservedly. They call the Kennedy report that Mason dismisses as fatally compromised 'persuasive' and claim Constable Koester is 'entitled to respect and a fresh start.'

I submit that Constable Koester's fresh start should be in the neighborhood lived in by the Globe and Mail's editors dealing with their children in unmonitored RCMP backrooms.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Canada about to become Big Media's copyright bitch?

The new copyright legislation the Conservatives will be bringing to parliament in the New Year is expected to be a draconian gift to huge American media conglomerates. Stuff they couldn't get away with in the US or any other country, restrictions on fair use, parody and personal back up rights that wouldn't fly anywhere else on Earth.
Gear up for a fight in the New Year. The American record labels, in particular, are said to be well organised and ready to push this through on a fast track (even though they've abandoned DRM in the rest of the world, they view Canada as a weak sister they can push around).
It's expected the legislation will open the floodgates of American style music industry hunting of fans, blaming their failing business model on technical innovation and suing music lovers rather than accepting that technology and the market requires they adapt to how they serve them. This is legislation paid for and designed by frightened reactionary old men who hate the technological changes to their market - and by extension their customers using new technology - both of which that they literally seem incapable of understanding.

All this despite ample evidence over the years that file-sharing is being falsely blamed for killing the music industry and can actually help sell music.

Michael Geist's 30 things you can do missive from last year still applies. Start fighting back now against the American media lobbyists and their pet legislators in Canada's Conservative government who want to turn back the clock on innovation and criminalize their customers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wade in the Water

Judy Henske

Sunday Linkblast - Nov 25

Friday, November 23, 2007

Suddenly Huckabee

It's a convincing indication of how weak the line up Republicans will choose their presidential candidate from is, that at this late date a former Arkansas Governor, economic populist and religious extremist has vaulted from the obscurity of the polling basement to the front ranks in the Iowa primary.

The Mormon suit who's positions change depending on the audience? The former mayor, the 'small man in search of a balcony' with liberal views on abortion and gays? The hawkish Arizona senator, baffled at his fall from grace? No, the focus of attention this week, the new Republican 'It Girl' as Matt Taibbi puts it, is Mike Huckabee.

Libertarian Iraq war opponent Ron Paul aside, Huckabee is one of the oddest candidates in the Republican line-up: He's an economic moderate and even his opponents believe he's sincere about his concern for the poor which has severely alienated the big money wing of the GOP. He's open to having his mind changed. What some commentators decry as flip-flopping, observers have called a willingness to be convinced of alternate points of view. He's opposed the Republican orthodoxy on racist immigrant bashing, global warming and trade.

He's also an extreme Christian fundamentalist who believes the world is only 6000 years old, angrily opposes the teaching of evolution and once tried to block a mentally handicapped child raped by her stepfather from getting an abortion.

He has some serious ethical skeletons in his closet, including a pattern of grasping nickel and dime money grubbing while Governor that seems to stem from his televangelist roots. But his worst scandal is probably how he pandered to the Clinton conspiracy nuts by releasing a man from prison supposedly framed by the Clintons who went on to commit rape and murder - he's tried to run away from it but that's the decision that will come back to haunt his candidacy the most. Additionally his 'Fair Tax' policy was inspired by the Scientologists as part of their war with the IRS and has been panned by serious economists from across the political spectrum.

He's become the choice of the Christian Right of the Republican Party and has the potential to merge their base with the dwindling economic moderates in the party. As Taibbi puts it 'Make no mistake, Huckabee can win this thing.'

The general election? That's another story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Selling destruction

The product - war with Iran - has now gone to the focus groups to finalize the packaging and will be ready for wide release sooner than you think...

Laura Sonnenmark is a focus group regular. "I've been asked to talk about orange juice, cell phone service, furniture," the Fairfax County, Virginia-based children's book author and Democratic Party volunteer says. But when she was called by a focus group organizer for a prospective assignment earlier this month, she was told the questions this time would be about something "political."

On November 1, she went to the offices of Martin Focus Groups in Alexandria, Virginia, knowing she would be paid $150 for two hours of her time. After joining a half dozen other women in a conference room, she discovered that she had been called in for what seemed an unusual assignment: to help test-market language that could be used to sell military action against Iran to the American public. "The whole basis of the whole thing was, 'we're going to go into Iran and what do we have to do to get you guys to along with it?" says Sonnenmark, 49.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Linkblast - Nov 18

Friday, November 16, 2007

CLAC cracked?

The Christian Labour Association of Canada, not to put too fine a point on it, is a fake union. They're an association with no standing in the Canadian Labour Congress. They oppose Wage Equity and anti-sexual discrimination campaigns because they believe they “undermine the foundations of such institutions as marriage and the family.”

CLAC, is the bosses favorite union. Employers bring them in to keep real unions out.

But CLAC has been having a bad couple of months:
EDMONTON, Oct. 18 /CNW/ - In an important and strongly-worded decision released yesterday, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned a controversial Labour Relations Board (LRB) decision which allowed Finning International in 2005 to rid itself of a union collective agreement by establishing a new company for part of its operations. At the time the decision was considered by many to fly in the face of available evidence.
"This is an important decision by the three Justices of the Court of Appeal," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "It reverses a terrible decision by the Alberta Labour Relations Board (LRB). Finning had created a new blueprint for union busting, and the LRB was letting them get away with it. Thankfully the Court of Appeal saw through it and has stopped it."
The unanimous decision pertains to a dispute in 2005, in which Finning International created a new entity, OEM Remanufacturing, to take over Finning's component rebuilding operations. In the transfer OEM evaded the existing contract with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and instead signed a contract with the Christian Labour Association of Canada CLAC).

ABBOTSFORD, BC, Nov. 14 /CNW/ - The BC Labour Relations Board will grant the United Steelworkers (USW) the legal right to be the bargaining agent for more than 150 workers at Dynamic Windows and Doors in Abbotsford. Workers decided to join the USW, removing the previous certification by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). USW Local 2952, based in Burnaby, will represent the workers who are currently covered by a collective agreement negotiated by the CLAC. That agreement expires on April 30, 2009.

Two hundred and fifty health care workers at two privately-operated care facilities in the Kootenays have voted to join the Hospital Employees' Union. In Nelson, more than ninety care staff - employed by Advocare at Mountain Lake Seniors' Community - joined HEU as part of a joint campaign with the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) that also included some of the company's operations in Kelowna and Penticton.
The facts about CLAC have been getting out to workers thanks to groups like The Truth about CLAC and the IWW's CLAC Attack! campaign. Additionally important rulings have been won against them. The Alberta Appeals Court ruling was a major blow not just against CLAC but against the flimsy shreds that were left of the Alberta Labour Board's credibility. Losing a challenge before the courts is so unprecedented, it highlights just how grotesque the decision by the Labour Board's five person 'super panel' to overturn the board's original ruling was.

On the negative side, CLAC has hitherto been denied access to Saskatchewan. Any bets on how long before Saskatchewan's new 'business friendly' government decides to change that?

Yep, there's an election coming

After their farcical claim that the treasury cupboard was bare was greeted with almost universal hooting, the Alberta government has now bitten the bullet and bought labour peace with the teachers.

There are many complex details to the deal-in-principle that Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach did with Alberta Teachers Association president Frank Bruseker yesterday over pensions and wages.

It's a pact so important it had Education Minister Ron Liepert pulling an all-nighter back from Japan, where he was on a jolly junket, so he could get some quality podium time with Ed and Frankie.

But in raw Alberta political terms, it means Steady Eddie can tick off another big box on his to-do list as he ramps up to the spring election.

And while the royalty review was tough - and the municipal stability initiative proved it was not exactly a piece of cake to give away $11 billion -the ATA deal could have been a greater problem than all of the above.

That's due to the pension issue - the hole in the teachers' pension fund is a problem going back to the Peter Lougheed days.

Even though the unfunded liability could have cost Alberta taxpayers $45 billion to wipe the red ink off the books and pay the interest costs over the next 50 years, it's nobody's hot-button issue.

The danger is the mayhem that Bruseker and some of the ATA hotheads could cause in March, April or May when Stelmach is expected to pull the pin on the present legislature and seek his own mandate. With large numbers of ATA local contracts already up, Bruseker has been talking strike since last summer.

So-called 'fiscal responsibility' doesn't mean risking angry parents during a campaign. Remember this the next time the Alberta government claims poverty to avoid social spending: If there's an election in the offing they'll find the money somewhere.

Hat tip to Eugene.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Innovation Myth

One of the most cherished arguments of the opponents of public health care, is that medical innovation comes from private medicine. 'Look at America', they pronounce smugly, 'the world leaders in medical innovation and it's all thanks to the free market!'

Not so fast. Turns out, yet again that public enterprise is the real innovator:
The single biggest source of medical research funding, not just in the United States but in the entire world, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Last year, it spent more than $28 billion on research, accounting for about one-third of the total dollars spent on medical research and development in this country (and half the money spent at universities). The majority of that money pays for the kind of basic research that might someday unlock cures for killer diseases like Alzheimer's, aids, and cancer. No other country has an institution that matches the NIH in scale. And that is probably the primary explanation for why so many of the intellectual breakthroughs in medical science happen here.
Market forces can actually squelch innovation: A longstanding drug treatment for metabolic disorders has been discovered to be one of the most exciting potential cancer treatments to come down the pike in years, but big pharma refuses to do the clinical trials necessary to put it in the treatment pipeline.

Because it's a longstanding drug treatment it can't be patented as a cancer treatment and make them billions - in fact the more effective it turns out to be the more it might cut into the profits from the compounds - most much more toxic and very possibly much less effective - that they can patent, so cancer victims suffer and die because the profit motive discourages innovation.

It's not the only example either. When a cheap cancer drug in really cheap quantities turned out to be a cure for macular degeneration, the drug company behind it tried to stop the affordable treatment of blindness so that they could split off the compound responsible and sell it for a hundred times more.

So another of the dwindling arguments for profit driven medicine down. Next?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Linkblast - November 11

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bush League Economics

It's worth reading Joseph Stiglitz's whole piece 'The Economic Consequences of Mr Bush' in Vanity Fair this month or online here. Even for non-economists it's a devastating indictment of the worst record of reckless mismanagement in Presidential history.

It's also worth remembering that, although conservatives are scurrying away from his pestilent shadow and there's lots of pronouncements about how Bush is a special case who doesn't represent real conservatism - this is simply not true.

George W. Bush simply took political conservatism and economic neo-liberalism to their illogical extremes. The same pattern of authoritarianism, abandonment of the social contact and wealth distribution upwards can be found in mainstream conservatism and liberalism these days - just at a slower more sub-rosa scale.

The crumbling infrastructure, devastated middle-class and shredded social contract of America today lie at the end of the roads both Stephen Harper and St├ęphane Dion want to take us down - paternalistic so-called 'anti-poverty' plans notwithstanding.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Two-Tier Health Care kills

Avi Lewis has an excellent piece in today's Globe and Mail about how two-tier health care in Ireland murdered a woman named Susie Long. It's behind a firewall unfortunately, so here's the whole piece cross-posted at Common Dreams, thus losing The Globe and Mail Internet readers who could have added advertising revenue. Learn from the Gray Lady guys.
Susie Long couldn’t believe it. Sitting in the clinic, waiting for her dose of chemotherapy, she’d been making small talk with the wife of a fellow patient. The man’s doctor had recommended a colonoscopy, and just three days later, he was having the procedure. That day, Susie finished her own treatment, went home and turned on the TV. The first commercial was from the Ministry of Health: Beat colon cancer with a timely colonoscopy! And that’s when Susie Long lost it. She had waited seven months for her colonoscopy, and it came too late. Now she was 39 years old, and she was dying of colon cancer.

So when Dr. Brian (profit over people) Day and the usual suspects at the Fraser Institute wax rhapsodic about the benefits of two-tier health care, without of course ever admitting that's what they are proposing, remember Susie Long, 39 and mother of two, dead because the Irish system now lets you buy your way to the front of the line.

This is what lies at the heart of calls for private sector 'innovation' in our public system.

Saskatchewan's new government

It happens. Even when you're running a clean, efficient government and overseeing a burgeoning economy, after 16 years in power voters can decide it's time for a change.

That's in a politically mature province. Alberta is another story.

The NDP will be back in Saskatchewan. Unlike the last time a right wing party left power there, the NDP don't have almost half their caucus facing jail time. They aren't leaving power under a cloud of scandal and malfeasance that will require them to change the party's name and wander in the political wilderness for more than a decade. They will be a large, effective opposition voice in legislature.

The Saskatchewan Party had to swing significantly leftward, publicly at least, to win this victory. That means even in defeat the NDP still moved the political center significantly down the left side of the playing field. If Wall and the Saskatchewan Party begin to act on the hidden agenda the NDP accused them of, the public will be watching.

This is what happens when the dominant paradigm is a left wing and a right wing party, with the left wing party as the default: the whole political agenda shifts leftward.

Something to consider as we watch the federal dominant paradigm of a hapless 'center left' mushy middle party lurch inexorably rightward.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Devil went down to Georgia

The Primus Version

More 'No Comments' Follies

Bloggers own their blogs and are absolutely within their rights to exercise controls from the minor to draconian, up to and including barring comments altogether. I used to moderate my comments section because blogger had a fairly severe comment spam problem. When they dealt with that issue and the comments about penis enlargement pills awaiting my approval dried up, I took off moderation and now my comments field is wide open - although I of course reserve the right to remove actively illegal or libelous material. That's my choice, other bloggers have the right to choose other approaches.

However the other side of that is that the nature of those blog's controls are fair game for comment on the blogs of others. When Green Party blogger PolitiqueVert repeatedly used her blog to fire cheap shots at the NDP without offering any forum to respond, Eugene exercised his right to point out how gutless that was at his place. Other blogs show a similar MO, such as Liberal blogger Impolitical, who frequently attacks the NDP but is apparently afraid to allow any response.

In the same category but perhaps even more problematic, there are blogs that allow comments, but only if they agree with them. Lib blogger Woman at Mile 0, who I've linked to in the past, for example. I responded to her post attacking Jack Layton and the NDP's position that the Senate should be abolished with this comment at 11:57 AM MST- it would have been the first comment to her original post:

The essentially undemocratic and elitist nature of the Senate should be a progressive issue - the fact that it’s elitist, undemocratic nature has been and continues to be an advantage to the Liberal Party doesn’t change that. All of the environmental issues you mention have been tirelessly pursued by the NDP through minority conservative and minority and majority Liberal governments - all of which have treated them with neglect either benign or malign.

Suggesting that it’s now the NDP who is distracting attention from them is ahistorical and disingenuous.

As of 4 PM MST one comment agreeing with her original post and posted after mine, has been approved and posted. Mine remains in moderation limbo.

This, while her sneeringly dismissive comments on the same subject elsewhere are duly posted with no interception.

It is absolutely her right to decline to post comments on her blog that disagree with her.

And absolutely my right to point out that she is doing so.

UPDATE: Unless of course, her Wordpress blog automatically holds all first time posters for moderation, which would make my self righteous rant fairly ill-advised...

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