Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Copyright Blacklist is a badge of honor

It means we've resisted being bullied into signing on to industry written laws like the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act designed to criminalize thousands of otherwise law abiding Canadians.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration added Canada Thursday to a notorious blacklist of countries where Internet piracy flourishes, reflecting a new, tougher line in Washington over the Harper government's chronic failure to deliver on promises of new copyright laws.

“Canada has never been put on the priority watch list before,” said Stanford McCoy, assistant U.S. trade representative for intellectual property and innovation as he released Washington's annual report or offenders.

Canada now joins a group of countries designated as being especially lax in protecting intellectual property, including Algeria, China, Russia, Pakistan, Indonesia and Venezuela. No other advanced Western democracy is on the list and Canada is regarded as a lawless hub for bootleg movies, ripped-off software and pirated chips that bypass copyright protections.

“The decision was not an easy one but we believed that high standards are appropriate in Canada,” Mr. McCoy said. It was clear that Washington's patience with Ottawa's repeatedly broken promises has run out, perhaps also a reflection of the greater status and power of the digital and entertainment sectors in the era of the net-savvy Obama administration.

In fact this is all smoke and mirrors, Canada is in fact meeting it's international copyright obligations as Michael Geist explains.
The move is not unexpected, given recent comments from Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Congressional panels as well as the demands from U.S. lobby groups. Those same groups will now dust off their press releases that lament the "embarrassment" of being included on the list (never mind that countries that represent more than 70 percent of the world's population are on the list) and the failure to introduce U.S.-style reforms (never mind that Canada enacted anti-camcording laws in 2007, introduced C-61 last year, is an original negotiating partner in the ACTA negotiations, joined the U.S. as a third party in the WTO copyright complaint against China, etc.).

Hopefully, the Canadian officials will similarly dust off their advice to the Minister, which for the past few years has stated (as obtained under Access to Information):

The Government is disappointed with the United States' decision to include Canada in its [year here] Special 301 "Watch List." Canada does not recognize the Special 301 process due to its lacking of reliable and objective analysis, and we have raised this issue regularly with the U.S. in our bilateral discussions."
So in other words, we may not be as abjectly servile to the giant media conglomerates as they believe is called for from the peons, but we are hardly the hotbed of piracy suggested by today's events. Don't forget the attitude behind this:
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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


"War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, 'I was just following orders,"- former president George W. Bush reiterating core American principles, 2003.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Private Medicine, Calgary style

Where the Alberta Advantage includes paying extra for clean medical equipment.

No, really.
The body that regulates doctors in Alberta has ordered a Calgary clinic to stop charging patients for sterilized medical instruments.

In March, the Richmond Square Medical Centre implemented a fee of $5 for fewer than five sterile instruments and $10 for five or more that are used on patients during their visits. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta ordered the practice stopped after inquiries by CBC News.

"Having sterile instruments is such a fundamental need in health care that I'm surprised. What are they going to be doing, charging us for cleaning rooms?" patient Kathie Booth said Tuesday.

UPDATE: So they got rid of the sterilized instruments renaming it a 'tray fee'.

As my friend Matt put it, what the debate about healthcare in Alberta really needs is more torch wielding mobs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Enter Sandman - Cello Trio Style


T-Shirts designed to make teenage girls cry.

Keep an eye on this

The Mexican flu outbreak has me crossing my fingers and hoping it isn't what it really looks like.
"Most of Mexico’s dead were young, healthy adults, and none were over 60 or under 3 years old, the World Health Organization said. That alarms health officials because seasonal flus cause most of their deaths among infants and bedridden elderly people, but pandemic flus — like the 1918 Spanish flu, and the 1957 and 1968 pandemics — often strike young, healthy people the hardest."
Massive dislocation and migration caused by an ongoing economic crisis, extensive tourist activity and globalized travel, and a predatory influenza mutation that hits the human immune system the way 1918 or 1957 or 1968 did. This could potentially really, really suck.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Confirm our cherished propaganda myth...

...or we'll keep torturing you.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. No evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that intelligence agencies and interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubeida at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Meme Watch Bulletin

The currently popular 'The NDP are unprincipled opportunists' meme will be seamlessly replaced with the classic standby 'The NDP are impractical woolly headed idealists' meme in time for the next election. From the same irony deficient clueless cognitive dissonence sufferers shouting the opposite right now.

For now Dippers, just practice twirling your mustache and cackling about selling orphans for soup.

This has been your meme watch bulletin.

Bush and Clinton in Toronto

To John Ibbitson, it's just another opportunity to express utter contempt for the idea that people who commit war crimes should be held accountable for doing so.

So Mr. Clinton was impeached for abasing his office after lying about an affair with an intern.

And the wild-eyed are still trying to get Mr. Bush and his vice-president, Dick Cheney, tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity for their handling of the war on terror.

The meter doesn't exist to measure the time and energy that has been wasted on all of this.

Oh yeah, those are absolutely applicable correspondences you elite fellating, living example that Canada can produce clueless beltway insiders too.

Do you think Ibbitson understands that this stuff has been proven? People tortured to the point of madness, long after anyone thought they had anything useful to disclose. People threatened with the rape and murder of their loved ones, repeatedly brought to the point of agonized death by drowning hundreds of times over the course of weeks.

People were tortured to death, like the innocent taxi driver dragged to Bagram Air Base, hung up by his wrists and savagely beaten with a stick until his leg was basically pulped bone hanging in loose skin and then left to die. By the same officer who was in charge of the interrogation of Canadian Omar Khadr. Bagram, which President Obama's administration argues should continue to be a Guantanamo Bay style legal black hole.

High officials and lawyers in the Bush administration presented written legal position memos stating that anything short of being tortured to death wasn't, in fact, torture. The response from the legal community left wing, right wing and neither has been an outpouring of contempt for legal pimping designed to work backwards from the White House committing the crimes it wanted to, to finding legal justifications for the crimes retroactively.

But John Ibbitson thinks anyone who argues that there should be legal sanctions for planning, justifying and committing crimes against humanity are tiresome time wasters.

This is why newspapers are sinking into the tar pits.

Happy 4-20

Bag o' Weed
Family Guy
(Song Only)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alberta Healthcare: Here we go again

Yet again Albertans have a reactionary right winger eager to start cutting away at health spending in Alberta, another dull eyed incurious ideologue who mistakes casual policy sadism for political toughness.

Ron Liepert, Alberta's mince-no-words health minister, tells the Sun the province won't keep doling out dough for all the medical services it now covers and is working on what's in and what's out and what will have to be covered by private insurance.

"The reality of it is, with a six percent budget increase for Alberta Health Services, we can no longer cover everything we've been covering. You're going to see a continued movement towards publicly-funded health care not being everything for everyone," says Ron, who wants "to cover the necessary essentials."

"We, 3.5 million Albertans, can't afford to cover what we've got right now."

"We've got to have a more clear definition of what the basic health-care system covers and what it shouldn't cover. We've got to be more clear on what we're providing. You break your leg, we should be looking after you. You want to go get physiotherapy, maybe you should be on your own."

I had a sleazy manager once who loved the phrase 'The reality is,' he invariably used it when he was lying through his teeth, a verbal tick I've come to notice more and more.

Never mind if all the evidence shows that funding physiotherapy saves the system from the long term costs from injuries and aggravation of injuries that the lack of decent physiotherapy can cause. We have to justify blowing billions on phony carbon sequestration technology somehow. We all have to do our parts to ensure that the oil and gas companies can make the maximum profit with the minimum participation in the social contract possible.

The new health superboard running the medical system will also have to come up with a plan to pay down $500 million or so they're in the red. He figures keeping the board to a 6% hike in their budget will force some "real discipline" on their spending and "that's always a good thing."

A 6% hike in their budget, but a 25% in the board's salaries, now how will we pay for those huge executive raises?

Rockin' Ron says this is the "test year" to see efficiencies in the health system. He thinks the contract with nurses, up in March 2010, is a "horrible" deal and wants more nurses working full-time to cut heavy overtime costs. He doesn't mind pushing for changes even if it "creates some angst among the union leadership."

"For the last two or three nurses' contracts, it seemed as though the government was at a disadvantage. At the end of the day, we have to realize we're in a different world. I don't think there's any appetite out there for huge wage increases or even maybe the existing contract."

Got that? The various oil men and American private health corporation representatives on the Alberta Healthcare Superboard deserve their 25% raises, despite the sharp decline in healthcare since the board came online. The front line nurses holding this decaying system together with a huge percentage of them heading for retirement age took undue advantage of the poor mistreated government when they negotiated their last couple of contracts in a fiscal boom and a labour crunch.

Just because they're the backbone labour force of medicine, cleaning up messes most of us couldn't stomach doesn't mean they actually deserve to make a decent living and have some time for their families after all. How Liepert thinks he's going to force an aging workforce to work even more hours while disincentivising new nurses from joining the profession even more is unclear.

And of course, what would a conservative politician attacking Canadian healthcare be without the Fallacy of the Golden Mean:

In health care, Ron looks at the American system and the one in this country, thinking "there's got to be something between their system and our system that works."

All the extensive evidence to the contrary just being an example of what Stephen Colbert described as 'Reality's well know liberal bias.'

And, for what he's planning, he knows he'll get heat.

"One of our difficulties is nobody has had the courage to take this on. It will show what mettle we have to resist some of the pressure."

Got that? If they manage to ignore public will to protect and maintain our public healthcare system that's a sign of 'mettle' rather than contempt for the democratic will of Albertans.

Every sane economist on Earth says now is the time to increase social spending as a counter-cyclical response to an economic crisis caused in the first place by greed and the erosion of the public sector. Alberta's PC government is ideologically incapable of taking the steps necessary and try to make a virtue of blind unthinking rigidity.

Get your Friends of Medicare signs out of storage folks, you'll be needing them soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spector, right after the verdict.

Manson didn't look this scary, and he had a swastika carved into his forehead.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Linkblast - April 12

Friday, April 10, 2009


It's all fun and games, until somebody loses an eye.

And then, just to complete the circle of life irony, there's the Tea Party protesters who actually have a decent reason for protesting:

BOSTON, MA - On April 15th, thousands of same-sex couples across the United States will be reminded of their second-class status when they file their federal tax return form. Despite living in committed relationships, same-sex couples--even those married in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California--must file as individuals, forgoing over 1,100 federal rights granted to heterosexual married couples.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Above the Law

Our streets are plagued by a uniformed gang who threaten and assault witness to their actions.
The Canadian Press
April 7, 2009 at 4:53 PM EDT
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association wants Vancouver police reminded that they can't just seize photos and videos from witnesses.
The association said there have been three incidents where police have tried to seize cameras and video cameras — all three in cases of police-involved shootings.
In a complaint to board chairman Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, association executive director David Eby outlined his concerns that police officers are interfering with the rights of those taking pictures or video.
The police department doesn't have adequate policy on when police can seize cameras, so officers are making mistakes, Mr. Eby said Tuesday.
“What's particularly troubling to us is that the three high-profile allegations ... all involve police using lethal force against citizens,” he said.
The most recent of the complaints involves a newspaper photographer whose arm was twisted behind his back by an officer when he refused to give up his camera outside a police shooting on Sunday. (Emphasis added.)
Just how unaccountable are these police going to get? Threatening and assaulting witnesses to lethal force, erasing evidence and as the Braidwood Inquiry showed, blatantly lying when called to account.

It's beginning to seem like the only sane response is aiming cameras at the police at all times that they are in public view.

Just remember the mantra: "No officer, I have a right to photograph you and you do not have the right or my permission to seize my camera."

Just because he was right doesn't mean he was, you know, RIGHT

ROME (Reuters) - Earthquakes like the one that killed more than 200 people in Italy this week are still impossible to predict, and a local scientist's claims to have done so should be treated with caution, geophysicists say.
Gioacchino Giuliani is at the center of a debate about the limits of seismology after Italian officials shrugged off his warnings last month that a devastating earthquake in the central Abruzzo region was imminent.
In fact Giuliani, who works at the National Institute of Physics, was even reported to police for spreading panic.
While many Italians are now more than ready to listen to whatever Giuliani has to say, geophysicists in Europe and the United States remain skeptical of his claims to have discovered an effective early-warning system.

Mr Garrison would love it

A solution to the world's urban transportation problems could lie in two wheels not four, according to executives for General Motors and Segway.
The companies announced on Tuesday that they are working together to develop a two-wheeled, two-seat electric vehicle designed to be a fast, safe, inexpensive and clean alternative to traditional cars and trucks for cities across the world.
The Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, or PUMA, project also would involve a vast communications network that would allow vehicles to interact with each other, regulate the flow of traffic and prevent crashes from happening.
All kidding aside, I live in the downtown core of my city, I would actually get one of these.

They killed Kumar? You bastards!

Kuttner I mean, I'm sure I was one of many House fans (Club motto: 'It's not Lupus!') who was shocked and stunned by Kal Penn's abrupt departure from the show last night via suicide. Did he ask for too much money or something?

Turns out he got a new job.

I understand it was your decision to leave House. True?

KAL PENN: Yes. I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House. I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign.

OK, as reasons go, not a bad one, but suicide? Completely out of character. Even House doesn't buy it and for a few vertiginous moments it seems like they might apply the House format to crime solving, but no.

Here's hoping, as rewarding as his new career will doubtless be, that he feels the need to come back to acting occasionally.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

NATO to Peter MacKay: We're just not that into you

Up until just a few hours ago it looked to the adoring Canadian right wing press like he still had a shot, but now NATO has invited Peter MacKay to seek other opportunities and chosen Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to head NATO.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, was selected the next secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in a surprise reversal of an awkward political deadlock Saturday afternoon.

“We all agree and are unanimous in this nomination,” said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the current secretary-general.

Hopefully he's used to rejection by now...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Racist Betrayal of a Canadian Citizen

Abousfian Abdelrazik has been cleared by the RCMP, CSIS and The Sudanese authorities (after months of torture) of any involvement in terrorism. He has clearly been determined by the Canadian Embassy in Sudan to not be a threat or presumably they wouldn't let him live there.

The Canadian government itself attempted unsuccessfully to have his name removed from the UN no-fly list but now use it as justification for breaking their promise to provide him with the documentation he needs to fly home. This after saying he could only get that documentation if he had a plane ticket - along with a threat of criminal charges against anyone who actually provided him with said ticket. After hundreds of ordinary Canadians defied those threats and raised the funds necessary to buy Abdelrazik a ticket home, the written promise was broken and the goal posts shifted again.

This should be front page news in every paper and the lead item every night on the news. If the Canadian government can so utterly betray this Canadian citizen they can do it to anyone, even you.

Though you are probably safe if you have white skin and don't belong to a religion that the Conservatives disapprove of. There can be little doubt anymore, that the real reason for this farrago of lies, broken promises and shifting justifications is simple racism.

Here's one of the many places where you can find the contact information for your MP. Be polite but make it clear that you are angry, and write, call and visit their constituency office repeatedly.

This can not, must not be allowed to stand.

The London Riots and the Judgement of History

Johann Hari writes:
When this hinge-point in human history is remembered, there will be far more sympathy for the people who took to the streets and rioted than for the people who stayed silently in their homes. Two global crises have collided, and we have a chance here, now, to solve them both with one mighty heave - but our leaders are letting this opportunity for greatness leach away. The protesters here in London were trying to sound an alarm now, at five minutes to ecological midnight.
Many commentators seemed bemused that the protesters focused on the climate crunch as much as the credit crunch. What's it got to do with a G20 meeting on reviving the global economy? Why wave banners saying 'Nature Doesn't Do Bail-Outs' today? Because both crises have their roots in the same ideology - and both have the same solution.
I think Hari is getting added to my regular must read list and I'll be adding him to my blogroll soon.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Inertia Creeps

Massive Attack

Justice Down Under

Apr 2nd, 2009 | SYDNEY -- Australia adopted the U.N.'s declaration of indigenous rights on Friday, reversing its earlier opposition in what officials said was an effort to "reset" relations between white Australians and Aborigines.

The support for the nonbinding declaration is a largely symbolic step, but extends a dramatic shift in policy on Aborigines since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was elected 17 months ago.

"In supporting the declaration Australia takes another important step toward resetting relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians," Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said at a ceremony in the national capital, Canberra, that was broadcast nationally.

Australia was one of just four nations that voted against the U.N. declaration when it was adopted by the General Assembly in 2007. The United States, New Zealand and Canada were the other opponents, while 143 countries voted in favor and 11 abstained.

We're now in a shameful club with only two other members.

And then there was one

As the Liberals and Greens self destruct, progressive Albertans are left with only one viable left of center party to support. Just as the NDPs financial analysis is born out by events.

Only one party has the models to explain what has happened to the world economy, and policies in place to deal with it.

Expect a big growth in support for the Alberta NDP in the next provincial election.

Also see Tiny Perfect Blog: The Future of the Left

UPDATE: See Lawrence Martin's rather condescending but basically accurate take on why the NDP have the answers ready for this crisis and have been prophetic about the economy but don't seem to be getting any polling traction anyway. Particularly surprising was the candid admission that the right has big media behind it in Canada fighting a holding action against the kind of economic policies the NDP propose and the NDP are stagnating due to our ideas being locked out of the public sphere. I agree with his central premise that the NDP needs to be more aggressive about making inroads into the fourth estate.

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