Thursday, January 20, 2011

The more things change...

A memorial is erected to one of the most shameful moments in Canadian history:

George Orwell described in his novel 1984 a bleak vision of the future as “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The author had been left shaken by totalitarian violence made possible by bland bureaucrats and fanned by hateful ideologies.

It’s those underlying factors that Daniel Libeskind says he was seeking to highlight as he designed a memorial to the St. Louis that is to be unveiled on Thursday in Halifax. The ship carrying nearly 1,000 refugees, mostly German Jews, was turned away from Cuba, the United States and Canada before returning to Europe in 1939.

Mackenzie King, Canada’s prime minister at the time, was urged by government bureaucrats not to accept the refugees. The rejection forced the ship to return to Europe and condemned hundreds of passengers to death.
It would be nice to think that things have changed and 'Never Again' is something more than just empty words, but consider the Toronto Sun Editorial of Aug 18 2010 in reference to a boatload of Tamil refugees:
If the MV Sun Sea were carrying 500 "migrants" from Afghanistan, home base for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, would we be allowing it to enter Canadian waters, or would we put firing a shot over the bow with a message that the next would be midships?
Lock and load would be our approach.

And this case is no exception.
A mainstream Canadian newspaper calling for the mass murder of a boatload full of traumatized refugees. 

The more things change...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Option A or Option B

Ronald Reagan's conservative son Michael has harshly attacked his liberal son Ron JR for suggesting Reagan starting showing symptoms of Alzheimer's while still in office.

Nancy Reagan has not publicly commented on the claim made by her son, but the former president's eldest son, Michael Reagan, did. On Saturday he sent a message on Twitter reading, "Ron, my brother was an embarrassment to his father when he was alive and today he became an embarrassment to his mother."
Reagan, author of the new book "The New Reagan Revolution: How Ronald Reagan's Principles Can Restore America's Greatness" (Macmillan), admitted today that it was a strong statement but that "it needed to be a strong statement."

On CBS' "The Early Show" this morning, Reagan, a political consultant for the Reagan Group, said, "All these years I've listened to people like Bill Maher and other people on the left who inferred my father had Alzheimer's when he was President of the United States to somehow discount the great job my father did as president.

"So now for one of his sons to come out and in fact say, 'Yeah, he might have had Alzheimer's or he had Alzheimer's during that time,' just gives credence to people like Bill Maher and others. It absolutely offends me that somebody would say that when there's no evidence anywhere on the planet to back it up," he told anchor Erica Hill.
Of course he did robotically repeat the words 'I don't recall' or 'I don't remember' over 200 times during the Iran/Contra hearings in 1987, but lets put the best possible light on that and give him the benefit of the doubt; 
Maybe he was just a lying criminal committing multiple acts of perjury.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Just a quick note that this blog may be a little sparse in the near future - the comics and pop culture news site Newsarama had or still has a search redirect trojan on their main page or their adserver.  Search 'Newsarama, virus' for details.  The virus was nasty and undetectable by all my various anti virus and anti-malware software.  I fought a holding action against it for the last few weeks and finally Malware Bytes did an update that detected and killed it - but since it had replaced an essential system file ms.dll the result was a dead computer.

So I'm using my girlfriend's machine but I don't want to monopolize it.  Therefore expect a slightly diminished output until I get a new machine - probably in the next week or so.

The first thing  I'll be doing on the new machine is adding the NoRedirect and NoScript addons to Firefox - two useful security features I wish I'd had all along that I strongly recommend you all add to your own browsers.

Carry on.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Blow to Carbon Capture Boondoggle

The claim that polluters could minimize or reduce their carbon footprint through carbon capture and storage has always been a laughable 'green' fig leaf to anybody who actually crunches the numbers.  Now its not even that.
A Saskatchewan farm couple whose land lies over the world's largest carbon capture and storage project says greenhouse gases that were supposed to have been injected permanently underground are leaking out, killing animals and sending groundwater foaming to the surface like shaken-up soda pop.

Cameron and Jane Kerr, who own nine quarter-sections of land above the Weyburn oilfield in eastern Saskatchewan, released a consultant's report Tuesday that claims to link high concentrations of carbon dioxide in their soil to the 8,000 tonnes of the gas injected underground every day by energy giant Cenovus in its attempt to enhance oil recovery and fight climate change.

"We knew, obviously, there was something wrong," said Jane Kerr.

Cameron Kerr, 64, said he has farmed in the area all his life and never had any problems until 2003, when he agreed to dig a gravel quarry.

That gravel was for a road to a plant owned by EnCana — now Cenovus — which had begun three years earlier to inject massive amounts of carbon dioxide underground to force more oil out of the aging field.

Cenovus has injected more than 13 million tonnes of the gas underground. The project has become a global hotspot for research into carbon capture and storage, a technology that many consider one of the best hopes for keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

By 2005, Cameron Kerr had begun noticing problems in a pair of ponds which had formed at the bottom of the quarry. They developed algae blooms, clots of foam and several colours of scum — red, yellow and silver-blue. Sometimes, the ponds bubbled. Small animals — cats, rabbits, goats — were regularly found dead a few metres away.

Then there were the explosions.

"At night we could hear this sort of bang like a cannon going off," said Jane Kerr, 58. "We'd go out and check the gravel pit and, in the walls, it (had) blown a hole in the side and there would be all this foaming coming out of this hole."

"Just like you shook up a bottle of Coke and had your finger over it and let it spray," added her husband.

The water, said Jane Kerr, came out of the ground carbonated.

"It would fizz and foam."

Alarmed, the couple left their farm and moved to Regina.

"It was getting too dangerous to live there," Cameron Kerr said.

In 2006, Cameron Kerr said, the province's New Democrat government agreed to conduct a year-long study to find out what was going on. That government fell to the Saskatchewan Party in the subsequent election and the year-long study was never done.
Carbon Capture has never been a realistic option. the numbers make it clear that even if it worked the expense to make any kind of real reduction in CO2 levels meant it was never a viable option.  It's purely about stalling on real action on climate change with the pretense of a solution that will allow companies to avoid making the real painful and difficult changes necessary.  Now we know it doesn't even do the limited job its theoretically supposed to.

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Inevitable Outcome

Saskatchewan's right wing government is given the legal judgment anybody with basic reading comprehension skills and a copy of the Charter could have predicted:
The Saskatchewan government says it will not appeal a court ruling that says marriage commissioners cannot refuse to wed same-sex couples on religious grounds.

The province had asked the Appeal Court to rule on proposed legislation that would have allow commissioners to cite their religion in saying “no” to gays and lesbians.

The court said the law would be unconstitutional and would amount to discrimination against same-sex couples.
Justice Minister Don Morgan says the government will take some time to review the decision so it can decide how to proceed.

But Justice Morgan adds that the Appeal Court's analysis was thorough and he will not recommend that the government appeal.
At least one marriage commissioner who was an intervener in the case says he may give up his role over the ruling.
Any number of people, including yours truly, warned them that this ruling, that government licensed marriage commissioners cannot discriminate based on their own bigotry, was inevitable.  The right wing Saskatchewan Party government chose to waste hundreds of thousands of Saskatchewan tax-payer's dollars on a legal battle they knew they would lose in order to pander to the most intolerant and bigoted core of their base.

The people of Saskatchewan should be asking why their money was knowingly wasted on this hateful nonsense.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Coming American Civil War heats up

The insane hatred and violent rhetoric of the American Right explodes into violence again.
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, was shot today at a public event outside a grocery store.
A spokesman for the Pima County sheriff says that at least 12 people were shot. The Tucson Citizen reports that Rep. Giffords was "shot point blank in the head."
Rep. Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was first elected to the House in 2006. She represents the state's 8th Congressional District.
This is what happens when healthy partisanship mutates into a relentless drumbeat of ideological eliminationism.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin literally put a cross-hairs target on Congresswoman Giffords head.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Greyhound Stranding Working Canadians

An unhappy company full of unhappy employees dedicated to making their customers just as unhappy.
CALGARY — Frustrated passengers pulled into Calgary on Tuesday morning after being stranded on a Greyhound bus in northern Ontario for 14 hours with no explanation of why they'd been left.
Paul Hitchin, 29, was to report for work in Calgary on Monday morning.
Everything seemed fine as he travelled from Barrie, Ont., by bus until around 3 a.m. Sunday, when the bus stopped in a parking lot in White River, Ont. — a community of about 1,000 people about 390 kilometres east of Thunder Bay.
"The bus driver said, 'Looks like bad weather. Sit tight,' and then he just left," said Hitchin.
Passengers in the packed bus found themselves waiting from 3 a.m. Sunday until around suppertime before they were moving again.
In that time, Hitchin says they had next to no word from the bus drivers or Greyhound on why they'd been abandoned, nor were they given any place to sleep or anything to eat.
"They didn't even offer us a bottle of water," Hitchin said, adding passengers had to walk half a kilometre to the nearest fast food restaurant to eat and were forced to sleep on the bus not knowing when — or if — it would get going again.
"They didn't offer us nothing. They said because it was weather related was the reason they didn't do anything," he said.
Greyhound spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said poor weather conditions shut down local roads, causing the delays, but acknowledged the situation could have been handled better.
"There was a definitely lack of communication between Greyhound employees and the passengers, and for that I very much apologize," said Richmond.
Disgruntled passengers are urged to contact Greyhound at 204-949-7341 to discuss the incident, said Richmond, who couldn't say if they would be offered any compensation for their interrupted journey.
"I realize it was extremely upsetting and caused a lot of concern and inconvenience for the passengers," she said.
Hitchin said he doesn't believe the bad weather excuse.
He said weather reports indicated the roads reopened within 45 minutes of arriving in White River — not 14 hours later.
Having been on the receiving end of some of the grim seething contempt from Greyhound employees, the wearied scorn for those who've had luggage disappear and the Victorian prison atmosphere to their stations in cities and Texas Chainsaw Massacre tone to their rural stops this story does not surprise in the least.

I've gone from a regular user of their service as a lifetime non-driver, to switching to a smaller alternative service that charges a little more but provides a lot more comfort, respect and efficiency.  The last time I used Greyhound, to a location the other company didn't serve, the bus broke down in one direction and was oversold in the other which meant an hours long wait for them to rent a tour bus and get it to the station. 

The deeper, more important element of the story is that Greyhound Canada is essentially the only travel option for a lot of Canadians across the country, primarily though not solely for rural and lower income Canadians and this and past incidents have shown that the ongoing decay of Greyhound service disproportionately affects First Nations Canadians.  The company has used this monopoly to let service quality slide and labour relations become toxic, and they've used it to stick up governments like Manitoba for huge subsidies on threat of withdrawing mobility to huge swathes of the population.

October 28, 2009 - A short-term deal between Greyhound Canada and the Manitoba government has been reached that will keep buses running along rural routes in the province and northwestern Ontario.But a future reduction in service is likely, Ron Lemieux, the Manitoba infrastructure and transportation minister, said Wednesday.
 In a release, Lemieux said the bus company and the province met Tuesday and agreed to continue working on the development of short-term "options" to maintain service. Specific details were not provided.
Greyhound had recently decided not sell any tickets past Nov. 2 along rural routes, which it said are unprofitable. Lemieux said the company has agreed to quash that deadline as a "gesture of good faith."
Greyhound said Sept. 3 that unless it received $15 million in government aid, it would cease passenger service in the region.
Federal Transport Minister John Baird has accused the company of trying to bully the provinces by announcing service cuts, and said the company was being "heavy-handed" in an effort to get subsidies.
They probably even have a case that those routes are unprofitable.  Not necessarily for lack of customers as much as fuel costs over vast distances.  Not a cost likely to decrease over time.

We live in a vast country with an insufficient and inequitable transportation infrastructure.  Governments cannot allow ongoing decay or massive withdrawal of critical infrastructure services with hugely deleterious effects on the economy and the social contract.   But none of these facts lead to governments ponying up massive subsidies for vast private corporations whenever they want to stick them up as the best and most economical approach to the problem.

We've made the decision as a society that certain essential services should be publicly owned and administered.  One of the big advantages of publicly owned essential industries is that they can lose money if necessary.   It's not a bug, its a feature.

The ability to travel in a country as large in Canada, to follow the jobs, or be with family or escape disasters should be considered  a critical national priority and an essential human right.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Off the Leash

The downside for duplicitous politicians like Premier Ed Stelmach to pinning his own budgetary crimes on a convenient scape-goat like former AHS Head Stephen Duckett, is that once he's cut loose he can, cut loose.
In a farewell speech to senior medical leaders this month, ousted health super-board boss Stephen Duckett accused politicians of being short-sighted and the provincial government of stoking ER woes by neglecting investment in seniors care.
Duckett has not spoken publicly about his Nov. 24 departure from the helm of Alberta Health Services, a government-created organization responsible for delivering medical care. However, in his speech, delivered in Edmonton to top-level AHS officials 12 days after his dismissal, Duckett was sharply critical of the province, former health regions and the media.
He noted Alberta spends more money per capita on health than other provinces, but gets less.
Duckett also condemned how that money has been spent, saying Alberta has overemphasized investment on acute care at the expense of ailing seniors.
"Is it any wonder that our acute facilities had to become de facto seniors housing, contributing to the systemic problems that have created the problems in emergency care?" Duckett stated in a copy of his Dec. 6 speech, obtained by the Herald.

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