Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Skin tone terror

Christopher Hitchens quite accurately describes Glen Beck's Washington event as a soggy 'Waterworld of white self pity' and places it in the same zeitgeist of resentment and uncertainty raised by the worldwide changing of demographics.
In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention.
The Shakespearean line 'The lady doth protest too much, methinks.' has become a frequently misquoted cliche for a reason.

Lest any Canadians are beginning to feel smug and superior at this point consider our own recent outpouring of fear and hate directed at persecuted refugees who braved a terrifying journey in a ship's hold in hopes of escaping the unambiguous life of terror that is the lot of a Tamil in Sri-Lanka these days. A major Canadian newspaper despicably recommended mass murder in response and was not greeted with the mass outrage it should have been.

Then there's the latest 'Terrorpalooza' event, with mass arrests, dubious sources reporting dubious details and a passel of screaming headlines that if history is repeated are going to look very silly and overblown in a few months when the real probably far more innocuous facts about inept nonentities mouthing off to their buddies on the Internet begin to dribble out. By then of course the damage is done and the hoary old 'enemy within' motif has been heavily subsidized for those looking to have their prejudices reinforced.

One hopes, that a younger generation used to being around people with different skin tones, accents and practices is mostly mystified watching this tight-lipped panic among the older generation, but fear and hate are infectious so maybe not.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Linkblast - Aug 29

I'm back from vacation and returned to shed the light of my wisdom - or my random blather, whichever. Here's some stuff getting my attention today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Come To America. Bring Irony.

Hi -- it's me your friendly neighborhood astrologer, Matthew Currie. Once more Cliff has taken off for a while and left the keys in his blog, so I'm going to drive it around for a few days.

You know, I've thought of all the things I could tell my Canadian friends about my year in America... the big and the little cultural differences and such... but I doubt I could tell you anything new that you hadn't already figured out.

The one big thing to keep in mind when you're down here? Everyone is afraid. All the time.


The Fountainhead in 5 Seconds

It's still too long.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Just a little something to tide you over until Rusty Idols returns to it's regularly scheduled blogging


Plenty more historical events translated for the Facebook addicted here

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do you think I like hitting you?

Shorter Ross Douthat:
"Minorities should be grateful to bigots for prodding them into becoming better Americans."


It's that time of year again. I will shortly be decamping to the countryside for my annual rest cure. Two weeks at my cabin far from work, the maddening crowd, and Internet access.

While I'm gone my buddy Matt has been invited to file reports about life as a Canadian expatriate in San Francisco, his perspective on American racial and immigration related insecurities and anything else he wishes to explore.

I don't leave till Wednesday morning so there might be one or two more updates before then and then I'm back in September tanned rested and ready to to get back to kicking against the pricks. Think of me as you trudge to your daily grind, stretched out on my deck drinking in the sun.

I'm doing it all for you.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In a time of Universal Deceit

Eric Margolis uses his last column at the Sun now that he's been purged for thought-crime to defend PTE Manning and Wikileaks.
George Orwell wrote: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

A true journalist’s job is to expose government wrongdoing and propaganda, skewer hypocrites, and speak for those with no voice. And wage war against mankind’s two worst scourges: Nationalism and religious bigotry. Not to lick the boots of government.

I’ve always felt kinship for free thinkers, rebels, and heretics.

That’s why I am drawn to the plight of Pte. Bradley Manning who apparently believed Ernest Hemingway’s dictum: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”

The 22-year-old U.S. Army intelligence analyst caused a worldwide furor by releasing to WikiLeaks secret military logs that exposed ugly truths about the brutal conflict in Afghanistan, including widespread killing of civilians.

To again quote Orwell: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Goin' Down South

R.L. Burnside and Lyrics Born.
My favorite bluesman with my favorite rapper. The internet brings me gifts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Exploitation Capital

The Fraser Institute waxes rhapsodic about doing business in Alberta

'Its great, they don't care about the environment, you don't have to lay out money for death squads like the other places Canadian mining companies have to do business. They just roll over the opposition, inconvenient First Nations communities, labour - the public are so anesthetized you can get away with anything!'

Alberta has been named the most attractive jurisdiction for mineral exploration and development in the world, according to a new report from the Fraser Institute, released Wednesday.

This ends a three-year run for Quebec as the top choice, according to the Survey of Mining Companies: 2010 Mid-Year Update.

The survey of international mining executives was conducted between June 1 and June 30. It is based on the opinions of mining executives representing 429 mineral exploration and development companies on the investment climate of 51 jurisdictions around the world.

Alberta, which had been ranked fourth in the previous survey moves to the top spot and Finland, which was third, moves into second.

Overall, the top 10 jurisdictions are Alberta, Finland, Quebec, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Chile, Newfoundland and Labrador, Botswana, Alaska, and Nevada.

The bottom 10 scores went to Ecuador, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Russia, Colorado, Indonesia, and Tasmania.

"After ranking Quebec as the best place in the world for mining investment for three years in a row, it appears that miners' confidence in the province has been shaken by increases in mining taxes which were announced without consultation in Quebec's spring budget," said Fred McMahon, co-ordinator of the survey and the institute's vice-president of international policy research.

'You don't need to worry about the local government trying to get some benefit for its citizens from the resources you're extracting - they're ideologically opposed to the very concept of the public good!'

There's a really simple rule: If the Fraser Institute thinks you are doing something right, it is literally the worst possible thing you could do.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A gentle reminder from the service economy workforce

Dedicated to former JetBlue employee Steven Slater:

Take this job and shove it!

The harassed hordes of the low wage service economy have a new patron saint:
The airline industry's latest headline-maker didn't help land a plane safely or tackle any terrorists. According to police reports, he cursed out a passenger, grabbed a few beers, abandoned the plane using its emergency chute, then called it a day. But that hasn't stopped many – including thousands of supporters on the Internet – from labeling JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater a hero. He "did what everyone always wanted to do but never did," says the "Free Steven Slater" Facebook page – one of many overnight shrines for the 39-year-old, who quit his job in dramatic fashion on Monday. Slater, fed up with a passenger who refused to apologize for allegedly hitting him on the head while retrieving luggage from the overhead bin, reportedly used the PA system to unleash a torrent of curse words before ditching the jet at New York's JFK International Airport.
Anybody working in customer service - which is an increasing percentage of us in this bold new post industrial world - can tell you horror stories about abusive customers who view the people who serve their meals, explain their bill or help them deplane as faceless serfs who aren't owed the basic human courtesy of decent treatment. There's elitist classism behind the contempt and abuse: "How much do you make?" in a sneering tone that implies that since that harassed clerk makes less than they do, treating them with respect is uncalled for.

You don't have to condone or repeat Slater's actions to understand the "Fuck this, that's all I can stand and I can't stand no more!" moment he experienced. It's interesting the beaming, peaceful smile on his face in every photo since the incident - even with his hands behind him in cuffs being led into court. The blissful smile of unbearable tension broken and relaxing free fall begun. If you don't understand that smile, you've never worked in customer service.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Linkblast - August 8

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Helicopter Stories

The Canadian military announced today the downing of a Canadian Chinook helicopter in southern Afghanistan on Thursday but insisted that it had been downed by small arms fire.

The helicopter was brought down by small arms fire from insurgents, the military said at a briefing at the Kandahar base.

The small arms fire "caused a fire in the fuel line below the helicopter, forcing it come down," said the CBC's Cameron MacIntosh, who attended the briefing.

"When it landed, it burst into flames and the helicopter basically burned to the ground," he said.

Investigators went through the wreckage and found evidence that the chopper had been hit by small arms fire.

A senior military officer described it as "an extremely lucky shot," MacIntosh said.

Yes, that's a spectacularly lucky shot, we can't really call it a one in a million shot though because lucky shots like it have been happening with troubling regularity. Compare this display of military message control to this one from 2007:

But if American and British commanders were worried about the missile threat, they downplayed it in public – to the extent of ignoring their own pilots' testimony. The CH-47 Chinook was shot down on 30 May 2007 after dropping troops at the strategic Kajaki dam in Helmand where the British were leading an anti-Taliban drive. Witnesses reported that a missile struck the left rear engine of the aircraft, causing it to burst into flames and nosedive into the ground. All on board died, including 28-year-old Corporal Mike Gilyeat of the Royal Military Police.

Later that day Nato and US officials suggested the helicopter, codenamed Flipper, had been brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade – effectively, a lucky hit. "It's not impossible for small-arms fire to bring down a helicopter," Nato spokesman Major John Thomas told Reuters in Kabul. A US official said it had "probably been brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade [RPG]".

In both cases the Taliban claimed the helicopters were shot down by shoulder mounted rockets, and in both cases NATO denied it. We know from the Wikileaks data dump that NATO has been aggressively trying to downplay any suggestion that the Afghan insurgents have any such capability - mostly due to the historical context.

Shoulder mounted smart rockets ended the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and likely sped up the end of the Soviet Union itself. Its easy to see why NATO is committed to the narrative that the Taliban don't have access to them.

The legendary ability of small, shoulder-born missile launchers to transform the fortunes of otherwise crudely armed insurgents is one of the most alarming threats to emerge from the Wikileaks archive.

Soviet troops discovered in 1986 when the CIA decided to put heat-seeking Stinger missiles into the hands of the otherwise low-tech Afghan resistance, such weapons can make life impossible for modern armies.

As depicted in the Tom Hank's film Charlie Wilson's War, bearded warriors were able to stand on hilltops and blast the dreaded Russian attack helicopters out of the sky, ultimately forcing them to fly far higher, to much less effect.

That image still haunts Nato commanders who are all too aware of how much they rely on thousands of transport planes, helicopters and drone surveillance craft to kill insurgents from the air and move troops around an increasingly hostile theatre of war.

It has long been the international coalition's claim that whilst the Taliban might try to acquire technology capable of shooting down aircraft they had failed to do so, and were unlikely to ever succeed.

Right, because what are the odds that anybody could get access to 1980's technology?

The great benefit of the Wikileaks release is that perhaps now these bland assurances of a long series of one in a million 'lucky shots' will be read with a bit more of a critical eye.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Run out of town

Christie Blatchford continues her long running series 'Scheming, Violent Dark People and the Pure and Innocent White People they Abuse' today with a remarkably one sided opinion piece presented as a news story on page 8 of the Globe and Mail.
The entire Ontario Provincial Police detachment at the remote Pikangikum First Nation was marched off the reserve five weeks ago by a rock-throwing mob of elected councillors and residents.
The stunning forced departure of 11 OPP members from the isolated community, reached in summer only by air or water, went publicly unacknowledged by the force until now.
It was also almost entirely unreported, with only a couple of small stories, none with any detail, appearing locally about a week after the June 30 incident.
It isn't until more than halfway through the piece, 14 paragraphs in, that she even addresses the reason for the angry mass eviction, the OPP beating of a disabled elder, and then she only presents the OPP version that the deaf/mute elder was trying to grab the officer's gun. This is the classic accusation to justify police over-reaction, one that we've seen most recently as the lame defense of a Vancouver officer caught on video shoving a disabled woman to the ground and then walking away as if nothing had happened.

Context matters, and the context is that Pikangikum First Nation is a community repeatedly described as a third world hellhole, underfunded, disrespected, and abandoned. The context is that they've been calling for a local independent police force staffed by First Nation officers for some time.

But Christie Blatchford never saw a complex situation she couldn't reduce to 'Dark People abuse white people and don't respect the law'.

CMA returns to advocating for public health instead of private profits

They're still buying into nonsense framing about unsustainability but this years public statement is a welcome return to fighting for patients instead of insurance companies and private clinic entrepreneurs.

Also frustrating is the CMA’s assertion that the public health-care system is unsustainable. This is a Chicken Little claim that has been repeated so many times it risks becoming self-fulfilling. The truth is that Canada’s health-care system is less expensive than those of several other wealthy nations. In fact, we spend less public money on the health-care system as a whole than most comparable countries. We are richer than we ever have been. If our government can afford $16 billion for fighter jets, it can certainly afford to pay for a reasonably decent and humane health-care system.

But perhaps even more importantly, the debate over sustainability is a false one. We are going to pay for health care, whether we pay individually or through our taxes. If governments download costs onto citizens in order to make the public system more “sustainable,” we will end up paying more for the same services out of pocket or via private insurance. A few wealthier Canadians would then have better access than the rest of us, and we would be right back where we were before the passage of the Canada Health Act.

What isn’t sustainable is the status quo because Canadians deserve a health-care system that continually gets better. Like everyone who works in the system, doctors are not exempt from the need to change. While doctors play a crucial role in the health-care system, the CMA’s report falls short of recognizing the extent to which we also contribute to our system’s challenges — by ordering too many expensive tests, prescribing medications unnecessarily, contributing to the lack of coordination in the system, and sometimes failing to embrace necessary change when it puts our power or our established ways of doing things at risk.

The CMA’s apparent shift away from privatization, and toward a more constructive dialogue with Canadians about how to improve medicare, will be welcomed by many physicians and our patients. Now that the CMA has recognized that the principles and values of the Canada Health Act provide the most efficient framework for delivering accessible and quality health care, on to the hard work of improving medicare!

Dr. Danielle Martin is chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, and Dr. Irfan Dhalla serves on the board of directors.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Benefiting from Civil Rights makes you ineligible to judge them

Fox News wonders why a known queer was allowed to judge a gay rights case:
The neglected bias in the Prop. 8 trial has instead to do with the fact that – as reported in The Los Angeles Times last month – Judge Walker “attends bar functions with a companion, a physician.”
If (as The Times suggests) Judge Walker is in a stable same-sex relationship, then he might wish or even expect to wed should same-sex marriage become legally available in California.
This raises an important and serious question about his fitness to preside over the case. Yet it is a question that received almost no attention.
When a judge is obliged to withdraw from a case due to a conflicting interest we call it “recusal.”
Federal law requires that, whenever a judge knows that he has “any other interest [ that is, besides a financial interest] that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding” at hand, or when “his impartiality might reasonably be questioned”, he must recuse himself.
I am not saying that Judge Walker should have refused himself in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
I am not saying so because nowhere (as far as I know) has Judge Walker volunteered or been made to answer questions about how the outcome of that case would affect his interest (whatever it is) in marrying, and thus his interest in the manifold tangible and intangible benefits of doing so.
So extending the logic of this position, Thurgood Marshall should never have been allowed to judge any case involving racial civil rights, Sandra Day O'Connor or any other female judge should never be allowed to judge sex discrimination cases and no member of a minority religion can ever rule on a religious discrimination case.

On all of these issues, Fox News apparently believes only straight white Anglo Saxon Protestant males can be trusted to be impartial and fair. After all they have no benefit on the line except the maintenance of a status quo that puts them at the top of the social justice peak.

That whole 'Don't be evil' thing? Never mind.

WASHINGTONGoogle and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.

The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.

Hope you enjoyed net neutrality folks, because that was it exiting the stage.

UPDATE: Google denies.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Shorter conservatives: Government bad unless somebody is getting hit or shot

Liberals romanticize government in every area other than law enforcement and defense, to which they apply a healthy skepticism. Conservatives suffer a mirror-image version of that myopia. They're incurable romantics when it comes to generals, policemen or spies - Gene Healy

I've never really met any liberals or leftists who 'romanticize' government - just ones who pragmatically understand that with public ownership comes more public control via the democratic choice of who will manage that public ownership and how.

Conservatives with their constant fear mongering about intrusive government reveal a lack of confidence in democracy and its institutions.

Or perhaps their fear is that democracy is too effective. That as the will of the public is in so many things and on so many subjects not what they would wish it were, a government that actually reflects that will is in fact their enemy. After all, its always conservatives who are trying to reduce the electoral franchise isn't it? You never hear right wingers complain that not enough people are allowed to vote but that too many - or at least too many of the wrong sorts are exercising their democratic rights. It's from right wingers in the US and Canada, through various vote suppression strategies like taking the franchise away from felons even after they serve their time or voter ID laws that disproportionately take the vote away from the poor or non-white that the franchise is restricted.

It's neo-liberals and neo-conservatives who in the last few decades have been democracy proofing the economy by treating trade agreements like 'corporate bills of rights' restricting the democratic rights of citizens from taking any action that big business doesn't like. For example, Canada had to water down our restrictions on toxic fuel additives and toxins on fruit and vegetables because they were a threat to the business of American producers of toxic fuel additives and toxin covered vegetables.

Rhetoric about 'big government' and 'state control' is about restricting the power of democracy and the rights of individuals in opposition to the rights of big business.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday Linkblast - Aug 1

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