Sunday, September 30, 2007

When the billionaires start getting noisy you know they're worried.

So, the billionaires have decided to take on with a group of their own.
Freedom’s Watch, a deep-pocketed conservative group led by two former senior White House officials, made an audacious debut in late August when it began a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush’s troop increase in Iraq.
It debuted with a $15 million campaign.
Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.
How is this different from FOX News or the Washington Times? And they're into policy. Sounds like another organ of the American Enterprise Institute.
With a forceful message and a roster of wealthy benefactors, Freedom’s Watch has quickly emerged from the crowded field of nonprofit advocacy groups as a conservative answer to the nine-year-old liberal, which vehemently opposes the Iraq war.
And who are these cats?
One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. Raising big money “will be easy,” the benefactor said, adding that several of the founders each wrote a check for $1 million. Mr. Blakeman would not confirm or deny whether any donor gave $1 million, or more, to the organization.

Since the group is organized as a tax-exempt organization, it does not have to reveal its donors and it can not engage in certain types of partisan activities that directly support political candidates. It denies coordinating its activities with the White House, although many of its donors and organizers are well connected to the administration, including Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary.

The "Fat Cats".

For years, the group’s founders lamented MoveOn’s growing influence, derived in large part from its grass-roots efforts, especially on the debate about the Iraq war. “A bunch of us activists kept watching MoveOn and its attacks on the war, and it just got to be obnoxious,” said Mr. Sembler, a friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. “We decided we needed to do something about this, because the conservative side was not responding.”
These guys have yet to figure out that the "conservative side" has been wrong about absolutely everything for the past seven years. Notwithstanding, the members of Freedom's Watch are probably the greatest benefactors of the continuous string of Bush administration screw ups.

Mr. Blakeman and Mr. Fleischer said they intended to turn Freedom’s Watch into a permanent fixture among Washington advocacy groups, waging a “never-ending campaign” on an array of foreign policy and domestic issues. They also hope to build an active, grass-roots support network.
Grass-roots.... billionaires. Yeah right! And there are enough right-wing mouth-breathers who are dumb enough to buy into the idea.

Mr. Pariser, of MoveOn, said his group’s grass-roots membership — it claims 3.3 million members — was the envy of Freedom’s Watch. “I think people see that Freedom’s Watch is a few billionaires, and not a large, mainstream constituency,” he said.

Mr. Blakeman denied the accusation that Freedom’s Watch is a White House front group. “I don’t need their help,” he said of his former colleagues at the White House. “I don’t seek their help. And they don’t offer it.” Mr. Blakeman is a long-time friend of Ed Gillespie, the new counselor to Mr. Bush who succeeded Dan Bartlett. Mr. Blakeman said that he speaks with Mr. Gillespie, but that they are careful not to discuss the activities of Freedom’s Watch.

That's a conversation I'd really like to hear.

Mr. Fleischer said Freedom’s Watch was not coordinating with the White House and had an agenda beyond the Bush administration. “On Jan. 21, 2009, what will these critics say when we are still here, doing the same thing?” he said. “We will still be here after George Bush is gone.”
That could be wishful thinking at its finest. But more importantly, someone should remind Ari Fleischer that he isn't working for the Bush/Cheney administration anymore - he can stop lying anytime now.

I love it when the neocons try to figure out grass-roots. The concept seems to be lost on them. Grass, to take root, needs fertile ground.

Grass won't grow on a toxic waste dump.

Oktoberfest just ain't what it used to be

Cathie lists a number of reasons why it's just not safe to... well, do almost anything right now. But the killer is this one.
A German man who had been drinking heavily at Munich's Oktoberfest beer festival got stuck in a chimney for 12 hours while trying to climb into a friend's apartment, police said Friday.
What happened to the Oktoberfest chimney patrol?!
After finding his friend was not at home, the 27-year-old climbed on to the roof of a neighboring building at about 2 a.m. Thursday and headed for what he thought was a gap in the wall between the two houses.

He found himself sliding almost 30 meters (98 feet) head first into a chimney, a spokesman for Munich police said.

In the old days, if you found your friend wasn't home, you'd go back to the beer garden.

"Miraculously, he was only slightly injured in the fall, sustaining just grazes and bruising," police said. The man was taken by helicopter to the hospital, where he is being treated for hypothermia, they added.
OK. So it's a miracle. The big thing here though is that they've added helicopter rides to Oktoberfest.

Mrs. Mills does Manhattan

The young Manhattanite was in a dilemma. Thanks to Mrs. Mills, she's not anymore.
My husband and I are an attractive, affluent couple in our early forties, with three children. He is a romantic, thoughtful man who always puts his family first. I have no complaints about him, save one: I would like to have sex several times a week (I’d settle for twice), while he seems content with twice a month. He is handsome and physically fit (as well as healthy), and looks closer to his early thirties. What can he do to stimulate his libido, or, conversely, what should I do to dampen mine? There is no information on the internet on how to decrease sexual desire. I am beginning to fantasise about having sex with a good-looking, muscular young football player, but I am not the cheating type (Catholic upbringing, dedicated mother and so on). Do you have any advice for me?
No messing about here. Mrs. Mills cuts right to the chase.
Good grief. Either your husband is weird or he’s having an affair. By the time they reach their forties, most married men can’t be bothered with their appearance (they’ve pulled, so what’s the point?), and as for being romantic and thoughtful – only when trying to wheedle their wife into bed. Demand your conjugal rights now, and if he jibs, press him further on what he gets up to when you’re not around.
Now, wasn't that easier than writing to some therapist with his own television show and having your whole family appear on nation-wide TV while you are over-analyzed between commercials?

Of course it was.

Read the rest of Mrs. Mills advice this week in the TimesOnline. Don't miss the dandy one about the chairman of a residents' association in Maidenhead complaining about how the secretary violates propriety in the way she slices cheese.

Of some interest to readers may be that Mrs. Mills has written a book entitled, Mrs. Mills Solves All Your Problems. Some interesting, entertaining and illuminating extracts can be found here and here.

High School of the Americas

In case you don't read Jesus' General (and if not, why not? Are you some sort of pinko subversive?) you may have missed his letter in response to this this article about a magnet high school for kids that want to be Homeland Security brownshirt when they grow up. Both are must reads. I can't even take credit for the title of this post, it belongs to the General, whom you should get down on your lousy stinking knees and thank (in a purely manly, heterosexual way, of course) --I am but his vessel.

On Sock Elves and Gremlins

Sadly, No! points out the inanity of Mark Noonan's (Blogs for Bush) contention that those of us who demand evidence over superstition are simply fearful of having our "faith" questioned.

What Noonan, blinded by his religious dogma, is not able to understand is that, in pursuing evidence based science, "faith" has nothing to do with it. Unlike Noonan's adherence to his god and the assertion that, despite a lack of empirical evidence, such a "being" exists, actual science is held to a much higher standard. For example, if you suggest that today's birds are direct descendants of presumably extinct dinosaurs you have a long way to go from there to here to fill in the necessary data and produce the necessary evidence to support such a hypothesis. Even after many of the blanks are filled in the scientific community will exercise a healthy skepticism, always aware that new evidence can change outcomes and that assumptions are always subject to challenge.

Noonan simply holds the view that no matter what science produces in terms of evidence, somehow religious Creationism is solidly affirmed and needs to be included in the pursuit of science.

Why? Well, according to Noonan, just because we can't see it doesn't mean it's not there. And we will all come to realize that even during our period of "non-belief" (as though it's some sort of phase) his god was doing us all kinds of favours.

In my view, it is because the people who have rejected a role for God in creation are simply deathly afraid of questions to their faith - and faith it is, because there is no way to falsify the concept that the universe wasn't created by God. This fear stems from the realisation that if God, indeed, had a hand in creating the world, then it stands to reason he has a purpose, and thus the people who live on this world must, as far as possible, conform themselves to the purpose of the Creator.
Un huh. And then BSR puts Noonan's assertion into its proper perspective.
Know what else is unfalsifiable? The concept that invisible elves live in your dryer and steal your socks when you aren’t looking. Go ahead, Mark, try to find them. I triple-diggity-diggity-underdog dizz-are you. What’s that you say, Mark? You can’t see them?

Well duh, old chap, they’re invisible! This only proves that you have a deep-seated fear that if the Sock Elves do exist, then if stands to reason that they have stolen your socks, and thus people who are afflicted by Sock Elf infestations must go out and buy a new pair.

I would leave it there. Most of us, after all, have had a problem with Sock Elves.

Except that Cheryl found a point on which to disagree.

"They're not Elves," she said. "They're Gremlins. Everybody knows that."

"Elves, Gremlins, so what?" I shrugged.

"Yes. There is something in the dryer stealing socks, but it's not Elves - it's Gremlins," she asserted. "Further, having been raised with the certain knowledge that the creatures in the dryer stealing socks are Gremlins, people who believe that they are Elves are, in fact, heretics!

"People who continue to believe that Elves possess the same power as Gremlins when it comes to stealing socks should repent immediately. I'm right. If they do not repent they will be forever relegated to a perpetual spin-cycle of the washing machine.

"You can argue all you want. You can't prove that it isn't Gremlins stealing socks, therefore that is what is doing it. I'm willing to go to my death to support my belief."

And so it goes.

A tale of two elections

With only 11 days to go until the Ontario election, John Tory seems to have been hoisted by his own petard. He tried to go the Karl Rove route and "energize the base" by pandering to religious fundamentalists and promising to fund their schools. He managed to chase away the remaining Bill Davis Tories and non-ideologues, most of whom will now either stay home on election day, or worse (for Tory) hold their collective nose and vote for the Liberals.

Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, who entered the campaign more or less even with John Tory, has done the smart thing and A)Connected Tory to Mike Harris whenever possible, B) Pointed and laughed at Tory over the religious school funding question and C) otherwise kept his mouth shut. It has been a winning strategy, as far as it goes.

If Howard Hampton can convince blue-collar industrial workers worried about job losses to vote in their own interest and back him instead of a corporate shill, the NDP could pick up some seats in the 905 zone around Toronto.

As the campaign come into the home stretch, the Liberals are widening the gap in their lead over the Tories and it looks like another Liberal government, perhaps even a majority.

On the electoral reform front, according to the Star, people are at least becoming more aware that there is a referendum and what it is about. According to the linked article from last week's paper, 6 in 10 voters now at least know about the referendum, up from a paltry 8 percent in June. What's more, 40% of them claim to understand the MMP system (a feat no more difficult than counting to ten with your hands behind your back) compared to the 54% who claim to understand our current system (a feat that ranks with counting to ten on your fingers and getting it right the second time.)

Accord to an Angus Reid poll taken two weeks ago, support for the MMP was at 26%, with 33% backing the current system and 38% undecided. Since MMP needs 60% to pass, things are not looking good.

A more recent poll published in the Mop&Pail reveals that while only a little more than half of voters claim to know anything about Mixed Member Proportional representation, those that do know something about it are slightly more likely to vote in favour of it than vote against it. Which is nice, but the bar to pass the change to MMP requires a 60% supermajority, with at least half the votes in 60% of the ridings. I am not optimistic that good sense will win out and we will have a change, but its never too late to shill, so all you Ontario readers get out there and vote early and often for MMP.

In terms of a possible federal election Stephane Dion, having not exactly proven himself a firebrand thus far, might be well advised to follow McGuinty lead: point out all the thing that the Harper government promised, but has not delivered (start here: Remember those 125,000 day care spaces he promised by 2010? so far zero progress); Link Steverino to his buddy George W. Bush as often as possible and point out all the egregious overreaches that have pissed non-conservatives off (the softwood sellout, sidelining Status of Women Canada, trying to back out of Kyoto, failure to set a date to leave Afghanistan, undermining of democracy through appointment of unelected cabinet ministers and 'local go-to people" etc etc etc) and sit back and let Stephen and Doris and Petey shoot themselves in the foot with every new promise and otherwise keep his mouth shut.
The Liberals and the Cons are neck and neck now. Harper thinks he can out campaign Dion, but I think a little campaign judo will allow Dion to eke out a minority government. Harper can't run as an untested opposition leader now, he's an unlikeable incumbent stuck defending his woeful record to an unimpressed populace. Plus there's that whole baby eating thing.

cross-posted from the Woodshed

Afghanistan, oil, Unocal and the Caspian connection

The next person who says we're in Afghanistan for the women needs to read this.

West End Bound puts a finer point on it.
This easy-to-connect-the-dots synopsis of the lead-up to a major fiasco is great. It reads like a Michael Moore expose of insider ulterior motives. Even Alan Greenspan is now verbalizing it was all about the oil.
All about the oil? How can that be? Afghanistan doesn't have any oil that we know of.

The truth is, it was about putting oil in the right hands and giving the US and UK big oil companies control of oil coming out of the Caspian Basin. To do that, they needed Afghanistan and they couldn't get it as long as the Taliban was in control.

Richard W. Behan's article at Alternet is a compelling piece. It puts together the pieces that make it clear Afghanistan was on the target list of PNAC and the Bush administration from the start. A weak country with a tribal government, the Bushites were more than willing to bomb it out of existence. What becomes very clear is that whether 9/11 had happened or not, Afghanistan was to receive US military attention.

There are portions of Behan's assertions which I have some difficulty with. The Karzai/Unocal connection is still questionable, however, there are two points which easily dismiss that loose connection and point clearly at the fact that the US, the multinational oil company Unocal and the US oil lobby were slathering over the route through Afghanistan for an oil pipeline which would guarantee control of the delivery of the Caspian Basin oil reserves.

The first point is that Unocal had clearly stated, as early as 1998, that Afghanistan was the prefered route for an oil pipeline from the Caspian oil producers, but that they could not pursue it as long as the Taliban remained in control. Unocal vice-president, John J. Maresca, who would later become the the special US ambassador to Afghanistan, made Unocal's desires clear during US congressional hearings.
[A] route through Afghanistan appears to be the best option with the fewest technical obstacles. It is the shortest route to the sea and has relatively favorable terrain for a pipeline. The route through Afghanistan is the one that would bring Central Asian oil closest to Asian markets and thus would be the cheapest in terms of transporting the oil.

Unocal envisions the creation of a Central Asian Oil Pipeline Consortium. The pipeline would become an integral part of a regional oil pipeline system that will utilize and gather oil from existing pipeline infrastructure in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The 1,040-mile-long oil pipeline would begin near the town of Chardzhou, in northern Turkmenistan, and extend southeasterly through Afghanistan to an export terminal that would be constructed on the Pakistan coast on the Arabian Sea. Only about 440 miles of the pipeline would be in Afghanistan.

This 42-inch-diameter pipeline will have a shipping capacity of one million barrels of oil per day. Estimated cost of the project -- which is similar in scope to the Trans Alaska Pipeline -- is about US$2.5 billion.

There is considerable international and regional political interest in this pipeline. Asian crude oil importers, particularly from Japan, are looking to Central Asia and the Caspian as a new strategic source of supply to satisfy their desire for resource diversity. The pipeline benefits Central Asian countries because it would allow them to sell their oil in expanding and highly prospective hard currency markets. The pipeline would benefit Afghanistan, which would receive revenues from transport tariffs, and would promote stability and encourage trade and economic development. Although Unocal has not negotiated with any one group, and does not favor any group, we have had contacts with and briefings for all of them. We know that the different factions in Afghanistan understand the importance of the pipeline project for their country, and have expressed their support of it.

The second point is that the US had conducted face-to-face meetings with the Taliban government of Afghanistan and threatened them with a US military incursion before September 11th, 2001.
Christina Rocca, Director of Asian Affairs at the State Department, secretly meets the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, apparently in a last ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. Rocca was previously in charge of contacts with Islamic guerrilla groups at the CIA, and oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujaheddin in the 1980s.
If there is a third point, it is this: Argentina's Bridas had signed a deal with the Taliban to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. The effect was to effectively cut of US and British oil companies from access to oil originating in the Caspian Basin. The only way to change this was to effect a military takeover of Afghanistan, toppling the Taliban regime and render any deal they had made null and void.

And a fourth point. The oil from the Caspian Basin producers was not OPEC. If the oil from the Caspian Basin could be secured by way of delivery to market through Afghanistan it would put a crimp on OPEC. In terms of busting OPEC completely, directly securing one of the largest oil reserves in the world would serve that purpose nicely. The one country which had large reserves, was producing well below its potential and was governed by a leader the world at large would be happy to be rid of was, Iraq.

Behan's assertion that Afghanistan was targeted by the Bush administration before 9/11 makes complete sense when the history is reviewed. He doesn't however, go quite far enough. When Unocal was pleading with the US government to find a way to get rid of the Taliban in 1998, they stated that the alternative route to deliver Caspian Basin oil was through Iran. A toppling of that regime with a US erected government would provide the oil companies with access to huge untapped oil reserves and a secured tap on Caspian oil. In short, a double knock-out.

Everyone might want to review why NATO and Canada are in Afghanistan. You can spread a "values" argument around as much as you like. It doesn't wash.

We are in Afghanistan for the same reason the Bush administration is in Iraq. Both are connected.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

And Now We're Charging Human Rights Workers With People Smuggling

I will now remain seated for the playing of Oh Canada. I feel shame at being a Canadian citizen that I have never before felt or even anticipated feeling.

A 65 year old human rights worker named Janet Hinshaw-Thomas has been arrested and charged with human smuggling for trying to help 12 Haitian asylum seekers, 7 children and 5 adults, enter Canada.

That's the kind of country we are now.

Tax Dollars Going to Blackwater and The New War On Drugs (tm)

"The Canadian Forces are using a controversial private security firm to train some of its troops sent to Afghanistan.
Select Canadian soldiers have been sent to Blackwater U.S.A. in North Carolina for specialized training in bodyguard and shooting skills. Other soldiers have taken counterterrorism evasive-driving courses with the private military company now at the centre of an investigation into the killings of Iraqi civilians and mounting concerns about the aggressive tactics of its workers in the field."


"Health Minister Tony Clement will announce the Conservative government's anti-drug strategy this week with a stark warning: "the party's over" for illicit drug users."

I truly hope I'll be able to avoid events where the national anthem is played. I'm not sure I could stand for it.

Hamid Karzai wants to make a deal...

.... with detestable murderers and scumbags who detest our freedoms, detest our society and detest our liberties.

This isn't the first time Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has suggested that negotiation, with what constitutes an enemy force in Afghanistan, is possible. In fact now, he's saying he'll go to them.
President Hamid Karzai offered Saturday to meet personally with the leader of the Taliban for peace talks and give the militants a position in government. A suicide bomber wearing an Afghan army uniform detonated his explosives while boarding a military bus, killing 30 people in the latest violence claimed by the Taliban.

Strengthening a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency the last several weeks, Karzai said he was willing to meet with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and factional warlord leader.

"If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me, I'll personally go there and get in touch with them," Karzai said. "Esteemed Mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?"

It's time NATO forces, including the Canadian contingent withdraw to their bases and wait to see what it is that Karzai wants. Pleading that Canada stay in Afghanistan to provide a fighting force to quash someone he is willing to allow into government is muddying an already unclear situation. And we shouldn't be shedding Canadian blood unless we're absolutely clear where we want things to end.

Karzai is obviously desperate. Beyond that, however, we have a problem. No one wants to be the last person to die in a lost cause.

H/T Buckdog

That pesky old Pledge of Allegiance again

I've never understood the need for the Pledge of Allegiance in US schools but then, most Americans probably wouldn't have been able to fathom a classroom full of Nova Scotia first-graders singing God Save The Queen in the moments after the first bell of the day.

A group of high-school students in Boulder, Colorado have taken steps to have the Pledge of Allegiance removed from class-time and shifted to a voluntary period.

They've also rewritten the pledge to better reflect the values they think should be demonstrated, including removing the line "under God".
Waving signs and American flags, Boulder High School students this morning will stage the first of what could become many Pledge of Allegiance protests in the school courtyard.

Members of the activist Student Worker club are inviting their peers to leave class every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. — when the pledge is recited over the intercom — and meet in the courtyard to say a revised version of the pledge that doesn't reference God.

Club President Emma Martens, a Boulder High senior who's leading the protest, wrote this new version: "I pledge allegiance to the flag and my constitutional rights with which it comes. And to the diversity, in which our nation stands, one nation, part of one planet, with liberty, freedom, choice and justice for all."

Members of the student group say they have three main gripes with theway the traditional pledge is read at the start of second-period classes: It takes away from school time; it's ignored or disrespected by mocking teens; and the phrase, "one nation, under God," violates the separation of church and state.

Clearly, these kids could be teaching civics lessons. Emma Martens' version is actually closer to the original than most people might think.

For one thing, there was no Pledge of Allegiance until it was created by Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy in 1892, almost 116 years after the American colonies had declared their independence from Britain. Bellamy was asked to write the pledge by Youth Companion magazine which was selling flags to schools. In fact, the pledge written by Bellamy was part of an advertising campaign.

The original version was somewhat different than it is today. Despite being written by a Baptist minister there was no reference to God in it. Bellamy was going to include the words equality and fraternity in it but withdrew that idea because it would have offended the racists and misogynists.

So the original was I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, and would have been I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty, justice, equality and fraternity for all.

It changed in 1892 to correct a grammatical fault and in 1923 to clear up which flag the school children were pledging to. It was felt immigrants were confused.

It wasn't until 1954 that under God was added, at the insistence of the Knights of Columbus and Presbyterian minister George Docherty.

It's been steeped in controversy ever since. The reference to God has been the subject of many legal challenges and has more often than not been struck down as violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Today, when kids actually do recite the Pledge of Allegiance, (and in many jurisdictions they cannot be compelled to participate), they place their hands over their hearts while reciting the entire pledge. It wasn't always that way.

The original version included a salute which started with hand over heart and then was elevated with arm outstretched and palm open in the direction of the flag. Known as a "Bellamy salute", it was very "Roman" and, by 1939, very Nazi. By 1942 the majority of pledgers were not raising their arms, by 1943 the practice had all but disappeared, the Daughters of the American Revolution being the last hold outs.

Considering that this pledge was originally an advertising campaign that somehow found its way into Title 4 of the US Code, used to be accompanied by a salute which fascists adored and became a constitutional controversy after being altered by religious fanatics, the students at Boulder High in Colorado have more than a point. They have tradition on their side. The thing changes and it is, after all, their country and their flag.

Now, if someone could work on Hail to the Chief....

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hurricane Lorenzo. Tropical Storm Karen. Hurricane season continues.

You probably didn't hear about Hurricane Lorenzo. It blew ashore on the Mexican coast earlier today packing 75 mph/120 kmh/65 knot winds and some intense localized rain. It was, by all standards a small, very local cyclone, but one must be careful here. A hurricane is a hurricane and the localized effects are devastating. The fact that Lorenzo developed quickly, rose in intensity in a very short time and then move ashore speaks to the conditions in the area.

Lorenzo went from Tropical Depression to Tropical Storm to Category 1 Hurricane in a matter of hours with pressure in the centre dropping as fast as 3 millibars per hour. As small as it was, it caused flooding in areas around Tuxpan and accompanying winds and rain as far south as Vera Cruz.

This is the fourth hurricane of the 2007 season to make landfall on a Mexican coast.


This little beast is Tropical Storm Karen. So far, it remains a tropical storm and, because of high wind shear, appears likely to remain disorganized.

All that said, the forecast confidence at the National Hurricane Center is very low and with a high pressure ridge building, this system has the distinct possibility of surviving and becoming a hurricane. Much depends on what happens around the storm. Right now, no one is able to make an accurate prediction. If it survives two possibilities exist: 1. With a ridge of high pressure to the north and some development Karen could move towards Florida or the Caribbean. 2. A series of troughs in the ridge could send Karen into landfall on the New England coast.

A small bit of oddness is that almost all the computer models are showing another system forming off the Carolinas. If this interacts with Karen, no one is sure what would happen. (There are some ideas, but why engage in "scare" meteorology?) This system deserves close watching.

And no... hurricane season is not over because the "Back to School" sales have ended.

It was a Conservative election promise. Pay no attention. That was then. This is now. (The embarrassment of riches edition)

Do you remember this little bit of information? (Yes. I've added emphasis because it was spoken with great emphasis at the time.)
In the spring of 2004, the Liberal government told Canadians that the 2003-04 surplus would only be $1.9 billion. In fact, it was $9.1 billion. In 2004-05, the Liberals spent about $9 billion at the end of the year to reduce their surplus to only $1.6 billion. Just this year, the 2005 Budget estimated the 2005-06 surplus at $4 billion, a number no reputable economic forecaster accepted. In the economic update only nine months later, this estimate had ballooned to $13.4 billion. Governments cannot be held to account if Parliament does not know the accurate state of public finances.
That final line is so true. When a government is swimming around in excess cash, way more than they told you they intended to collect, some of it is going to, well, perhaps just go missing.

Perhaps more importantly, it's not their money. It's yours, mine, ours. So the government is duty bound, as the statement above says, to accurately present the whole picture of public finances. Coming up with more than they said they would collect means their hands were far too deep into your wallet.

Where did that quote come from? Oh yes. Sorry. It's on page 11 of this document. That would be the Conservative Party of Canada Federal Election Platform 2006.

Of course the problem of inaccurate budget projections was solved with legislation which created a Parliamentary Budget Officer, a part of the Conservative promise to provide accurate budget forecasts. Well... sort of. There doesn't seem to be one of those PBO things yet.

So, given that Harper and Flaherty have announced an unforecast budget surplus large enough to run some small countries in the black, you'd think they'd be falling on their own swords having violated their principles and gouged Canadians for more money than the government needed to operate.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a higher than expected surplus from last year's budget and said paying down the national debt would remain a priority.
And then Harper went on to announce that the entire surplus would be given to the banks to pay down the national debt.

But wait.

The 2006 Budget Plan has completely different language.

From page 154:
For 2005–06, the federal surplus is currently estimated at $8 billion, based on monthly financial information through February 2006. The final result will reflect developments in March and year-end accrual adjustments.

Starting this fiscal year, the Government is planning on achieving annual debt reduction of $3 billion.
So, to follow what Flaherty said he needed to achieve the goals set out in the 2006 budget, he was looking for an $8 billion surplus, $3 billion of which would go to reduce the federal debt.

Instead the Harperites have almost $14 billion in excess cash. Taking $3 billion to debt repayment and $5 billion to tax reduction (the Conservatives don't do social programs, so forget even thinking about it), that leaves almost $6 billion which Harper tells us will go to debt repayment, essentially because it's windfall money, there was no plan for its use and debt repayment has always been a first priority.

Oh. Hold it. From page 11 of the 2006 Budget Plan:
The Government will examine the possibility of allocating a portion of any surplus at year-end larger than $3 billion to the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan, in order to make them more equitable for young Canadians and improve economic competitiveness.
Examined and apparently dismissed. Because what that says is that the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans could have received a boost of almost $11 billion or a portion thereof.

Those plans didn't receive a penny of that excess cash.

Lying con-men, in the worst sense of the term, and proud of it.

Council for National Policy Meets Again

Now that The Council for National Policy is meeting again, this time in Utah, I thought it would be a good time to refresh our memories as to the nature of that organization and the connections that many members of our current government have to it, including the Prime Minister.

Here is the pdf detailing Conservative members links to the Council and it's offshoot groups.

Here is the text of Stephen Harper's 1997 speech to them.

Here is the Source Watch page on them.

And if you have a driving need to damage yourself here is the link to their site.

I wonder how many Conservative MPs are attending this year.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It Was a Conservative Election Promise. Pay No Attention. That Was Then, This Is Now.

It's getting hard to keep track now.

The Canadian Newspaper Association has conluded that "The Harper government is allowing the continuing practice of blocking the media from obtaining material through the Access to Information Act while the information commissioner's office is frozen in inaction..." and "...the Harper government has failed to bring in legislation strengthening the Access to Information Act as promised in the 2006 election." (Emphasis added)

No blaming Liberals for Conservative promise breaking.

That would be, let me see? Craven? Duplicitous? Mendacious?

Problem is that those are adjectives that are applicable to each and every member of our entire political elite, right across the fucking spectrum.

Mostly these days I despair.

It was a Conservative election promise. Pay no attention. That was then. This is now.

Remember this little promise from Harper back in December 2005?
The Conservatives' two-part plan includes money to help create child-care spaces as well as the $100-a-month "choice in child-care allowance."

With the new allowance, families would receive $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six.

Yes. That's part one. It doesn't take a rocket-scientist, an economist nor a tax accountant to quickly realize that the families which benefit the most from this little vote-purchasing measure are those who have a stay-at-home parent. And there is the little issue of causing an increase in the taxable income of anyone with children under the age of 6.

But then there's part two of Harper's plan. (Emphasis mine)

The second part of the Conservative plan calls for $250 million a year to be set aside for investment in community child care. The money is meant to increase the availability of child care by offering tax credits for capital investments in child-care spaces.

Harper predicted the plan would create 125,000 spaces over five years.

And he predicted it with some confidence, if you remember. Confidence.

Well, Harper's government, awash with excess cash, seems to have a problem. Early childhood development is going the way of Status of Women Canada.

A much-touted promise by the federal Conservatives to create 125,000 new child-care spaces may not be doable, suggests Social Development Minister Monte Solberg.

The Conservatives have been slammed by critics who say the government's approach won't create nearly that many spaces over five years.

"We have to be realistic," Solberg said Wednesday when asked if an election vow made 18 months ago can be kept.

Solberg went on to lay it all at the feet of the provinces. The same provinces which had a deal with the previous Liberal government. And of the spaces that were created during the Harper government?

Martha Friendly, executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, has lost her $250,000 budget since the Conservatives came to power.

"My resource library's in boxes," she said from Toronto.

And she provides a comparison.

Friendly noted that Canada ranks well below European countries of less wealth that are doing much more for young families.
Friendly is correct and that's the problem. Harper doesn't like European countries. In fact, he doesn't like Canadians who look longingly at anything European. He said so.

Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.
Confidence. Harper is a lying con-man in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.

Buckdog has more.

Greenwashing, now with extra spin!

Dear Canadian media :
Please stop printing crap like this about Patrick Moore's opinions on the nuclear power renaissance :
"A popular Canadian environmentalist said Tuesday it's silly for Saskatchewan to benefit from uranium exports but not from nuclear energy.
Speaking in Saskatoon at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Patrick Moore, former president of Greenpeace Canada and founder of Greenspirit, an environmental consultancy firm, said ..."How ridiculous is it for a province that supplies uranium to 441 nuclear plants around the world to have an anti-nuclear policy at home?"
Moore admits he was opposed to nuclear energy during his Greenpeace years, but changed his mind after researching the power source. The environmentalist hopes more people take a closer look at nuclear energy, saying general uncertainties about the fuel comes from concerns over nuclear waste, meltdowns and proliferation, all of which are not likely to happen or cause damage."
unless you are also willing to follow the money and mention that Moore's speaking engagement at that Chamber of Commerce luncheon was hosted by two Canadian uranium mining companies, that Moore's current cross-Canada tour is sponsored by TEAM CANDU, and that Moore is being paid to support nuclear power by the US Nuclear Energy Institute.

Thank you.
Cross-posted at Creekside

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mystery Quote

"Of all the people I've met internationally, he reminds me more of the style and the approach and the decisiveness of Ronald Reagan than anybody else...".

Quick now - who said that and about whom?

The Decider, Commander-Guy. Out there...

On a cold, frail limb, all by his lonesome self.

His first team has disintegrated. The end was in sight, so they left... to be with their families, to pursue opportunities in the private sector, to write speeches about things other than the "Axis of Evil".

They left him there without the overwhelming machinery of support needed to make a moron look competent. From Cernig yesterday:
George Bush gave a rare insight into his struggle with pronunciation yesterday when the White House mistakenly released an unedited script of his speech to the UN General Assembly.

The President, famous for mangling the pronunciation of “nuclear”, coining words such as “misunderestimate” and once forgetting the name of President Musharraf of Pakistan, gets a phonetic guide to key foreign names, the text reveals.

Mr Bush is coached not only on far-flung foreign places such as “KEYR-geez-stan” but also the name of his new French ally, President “sar-KO-zee”. He received no aid with the pronunciation of the Burmese opposition leader, and duly stumbled when he tried to pronounce “Aung San Suu Kyi”.

David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, told The Times that all presidential speeches contained phonetic guides, but passing the unedited version to the press was an “oversight”.
Other pronunciation guides in Bush's speech (on which, more shortly) were Mugabe (moo-GAH-bee), Harare (hah-RAR-ray) and Mauritania (moor-EH-tain-ee-a). Fer Chrissakes - he's met Sarkozy! People keep saying Bush isn't a total moron - which can only indicate a lazy arrogance in not bothering to learn or remember how to pronounce a major Western ally's name properly.
And then today, the president who would be king, the man who some prominent conservatives believed was a genius, caused elementary school teachers to cringe as he mangled, once again, the simplest forms of his mother-tongue.
During his first presidential campaign, Bush -- who promised to be the "education president" -- once asked: "Is our children learning?"

On Wednesday, Bush seemed to answer his own question with the same kind of grammatical twist.

"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured," he said.
Of course, if you get the official transcript from the White House, they've cleaned it up.
The White House opted to clean up Bush's diction in the official transcript.
Ahh... it makes one pine for the good old days when Bush wore a wire and was receiving instructions on what to say and how to say it. "Read the teleprompter s.l.o.w.l.y, Mr. President. Very, very slowly." The old staff surrounding Bush would never have allowed phonetic transcripts to leak and would never have let Bush use a multi-syllable word like "children" in public.

It's what happens when all that's left is the second team. With no one sending the plays into the huddle and having lost all the stars in the line, the quarterback can't even call an audible.

The next 14 months should be unbelievably entertaining.

Guess who's not listening the to the spin...

Mother Nature, physics, the atmosphere and the oceans.

From our friends DeSmogBlog:

It's called farting against thunder.

Game on!

Ontario is already going to the polls in October, but it looks like we may be facing a winter election in the Great White North. I guess Steverino thinks that its time to strike while the iron is hot in Quebec.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blitzer's moment of national self-awareness

I had an afternoon of listening to various offerings on satellite radio today. In an act of self-immolation, I ended up listening to Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room and his take on the speech at the UN by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I have no use whatsoever for Ahmadinejad. Would that he could be completely ignored. However, what makes him dangerous is that he is being faced down by an utter moron. Bush vs. Ahmadinejad is a battle of two idiots, both without the mental awareness of anything beyond their own egos.

Ahmadinejad's speech was nothing out of the ordinary for him. It was the usual rhetorical garbage. What did catch my attention, however, was Blitzer and his immediate reaction to Ahmadinejad's words.


"Unfortunately human rights are being extensively violated by certain powers, especially by those who pretend to be their exclusive advocates.

"Setting up secret prisons, abducting persons, trials and secret punishments without any regard to due process, extensive tapping of telephone conversations intercepting private mail... have become commonplace and prevalent."


"So the president of Iran speaking now for about 38 minutes, just under 40 minutes before the United Nations general assembly, lashing out at the United States, albeit with some diplomatic code words, but making it clear he considers the United States a bullying power on a path of arrogance with obedience to Satan."

Umm. The nasty little prick (Ahmadinejad) didn't mention the United States directly. The translation came out as "certain countries".

So, I wonder what code words Blitzer recognized from the above Ahmadinejad quote as being those which defined the United States?

At the going down of the Sun, and in the morning...

With respect and condolences to the family and friends of Corporal Nathan Hornburg, the King's Own Calgary Regiment. Killed in action, 24 September, 2007.


Downright Morons and Despair

Joe Galloway writes for the McClatchy papers in the US. A couple of days ago he wrote "It took just eight decades but H.L. Mencken's astute prediction on the future course of American presidential politics and the electorate's taste in candidates came true:

On July 26, 1920, the acerbic and cranky scribe wrote in The Baltimore Sun: " . . . all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily (and) adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

Today, in the National Post we learn that Stockboy is considering placing Iran's Revolutionary Guard on our very own terraist list, following the lead of the Bush administration yet once more.

And, if that weren't enough, a growing cholera problem is infesting Iraq. This is unconnected to Halliburton's splendid new water treatment plants of course.

Stevie and Stockboy and all the minions of the Canadian conservative movement move us ever closer to being the Bush administration's favorite middle power bumboy.

Mostly I despair these days.

Monday, September 24, 2007

SPP : Tom Flanagan vs Naomi Klein

Tom Flanagan, US poli-sci prof at the University of Calgary; Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute; and all-round 'eminence grease' to Stephen Harper, this Tom Flanagan, writes in Saturday's G&M :
"In times of perceived crisis, a conservative party can win by positioning itself further to the right, as shown by the victories of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ralph Klein, Mike Harris, and Gordon Campbell."
G&M, Saturday Sept 8 :
"In Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine : The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, she argues that an idea that began with Chicago School economist Milton Friedman has determined much of the course of recent history – that a time of crisis, whether a war or a hurricane, offers a strategic opportunity to overwrite the resulting “blank slate” with market privatization and corporatism."
She also argues that such a crisis can be a man-made destabilization of public infrastructure.

Flanagan too has a book out : Harper's Team : Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power.
I'm guessing it isn't going to be "behind the scenes" enough for us though, so I thought we'd have a look at a 2003 policy paper from the Fraser Institute, the think tank where Flanagan is a Senior Fellow.
All the following are direct quotes from the first five pages :

Mandate for Leadership for the New Prime Minister
Bank of Canada : Create a currency union modeled after the European Monetary Union through agreement with the United States and Mexico.
Exchange Rates : Remove the Bank of Canada’s power to set interest rates and leave as its main responsibility the convertibility of Canadian into US dollars at par.
Environment : Withdraw from Kyoto protocol
Labour : Increase flexibility in labour market by, for example, introducing worker choice legislation for those covered by federal labour laws.
Int Trade & Foreign Aid : Remove Canadian regulations that restrict free trade (unilaterally if necessary), such as the Wheat Board.
Health : Repeal or change the Canada Health Act to remove limits on provincial autonomy over health care, as recognized by the constitution. Allow competition in health-care delivery, including, private insurance, for-profit and non-profit hospitals, and private surgery and other treatment facilities.
Defence : Work for inter-operability with NATO and US for air, naval and ground forces.
Judiciary : Abolish the Court Challenges Program to discourage special interest groups from bypassing the political process to obtain special privileges.
Aboriginal Policies : Restructure aboriginal policy to empower the individual, not band elites.

And skipping down a bit :

"When Canada did not agree to take part in the US ballistic missile defence (BMD) program, the US worked around it, locating the necessary radars in Alaska and Greenland. Space-based assets have made Canada’s geographic position less important than that of Poland or Rumania.

All of these issues (and there are many others) must be addressed in the very near future. They all point in the same direction: Canada can preserve its sovereignty and its prosperity only by a closer relationship, particularly in military and security policy, with the United States."

Gosh, those all seem so familiar to us now, don't they?
From Flanagan and the Fraser Institute's lips to Harper's ear.
And he who has the ear of the king is more important than the king, yadda, yadda.

Actually the above disaster capitalism wish list is so complete a description of Harper's SPP policies, I'm somewhat disappointed to find no mention in it anywhere of the infamous jelly beans.
Cross-posted at Creekside

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Clowns for all seasons

St. Thomas More, the man for all seasons, was entirely correct when he said "The devil, that proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked"
Not bad for a bunch of clowns. I'm told in the comments that the link is not so reliable, so here's the whole thing from Neatorama:

Here’s an excellent example of pwnage: when the white supremacist group VNN Vanguard Nazi/KKK tried to host a hate rally in Knoxville, Tennessee, they were foiled by … clowns!

Unfortunately for [VNN] the 100th ARA (Anti Racist Action) clown block came and handed them their asses by making them appear like the asses they were.

Alex Linder the founder of VNN and the lead organizer of the rally kicked off events by rushing the clowns in a fit of rage, and was promptly arrested by 4 Knoxville police officers who dropped him to the ground when he resisted and dragged him off past the red shiny shoes of the clowns.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”

The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”

A hat tip to Cowboys for Social Responsibility, second home of the Ponoka police blotter.

Death to all violent extremists!

I agree with Pete King, but not in the way he might think.
He says:There are too many mosques. Imagine the shitstorm that would ensue if one were to replace "mosques" and "muslims" in his remarks with "churches" and "christians" or "synagouges" and "jews." Personally, I think we have too many of all three, especially of the fundementalist sorts, who refuse to cooperate with the state, send their children to public schools or abide by the law of the land regarding tolerance for those whose lifestyles or beliefs they disapprove of. Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion so quit knocking on my door to try to get me to take a copy of the Watchtower when I'm too hungover sleepy to argue with you. And stop trying to get the secular state to teach your addled, scientifically comic notions of where we come from alongside accepted, rational, emperical science. Believe what you like at home, but keep it to yourself, 'nuff said?
If there is one thing I can't stand, it is intolerance.
crossposted from the Woodshed

Listen and repeat: Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

Branch closings dim Nova's future
The Yomiuri Shimbun
English-conversation school operator Nova Corp.'s planned closure of about 50 branches at the end of this month is indicative of the severe business climate the company faces, following a number of student contract cancellations and an order from the government in June to partially suspend its operations.
The firm, the largest of its kind in the nation, has delayed paying some foreign teachers' salaries.
Nova plans to reduce costs by cutting personnel after the branch closures are completed. However, Nova's prospects remain uncertain.
According to the company, Nova had 418,000 students as of March 31, a more than 10 percent drop from the same time last year, due to former students filing a series of high-profile suits demanding the firm refund their tuition fees after they canceled lesson contracts.
Nova has also been hampered by a decline in the number of new students, following the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's order in June to partially suspend its operations.
Nova listed revenues of 9.2 billion yen from April to June in fiscal
2007, a 31.9 percent drop from the same period last year. The firm had an after-tax deficit during the same period of 2.4 billion yen.
The firm's delay in salary payments to some foreign teachers has caused a great deal of anxiety. "I'm worried about what's going on," a foreign Nova teacher in Osaka said.

Lesson plan for level four advanced students
Target Language: Use of tags for emphasis and as interogatives.
Intro: Discuss students' past experience with renewing lesson packages and using all point before contract expiration. (Alternative: Speculation "What would you do if this school closed?" "What would you do if your company failed to pay your salary?"
Drills: Listen and repeat - Nova has had some problems lately, haven't they?
Nova has been cheating its students, haven't they?
Nova hasn't paid its teachers this month, have they?
Substitution drill: This school is in a fiery tailspin/up shit creek without a paddle/ neck deep in the big muddy, isn't it? (explain idioms as needed, get students to speculate on possible meanings or supply own metaphors)
This was only a matter of time/bound to happen/simple karma wasn't it?
This school is run by thieves/wankers/the yakuza, isn' t it?
Role play: A Nova teacher has not been paid and has no money. They are complaining to a Nova manager and demanding their money. The manager must come up with excuses not to pay (ie: the ministry of consumer affairs ate our account books, didn't they? The corporate jet needed repairs, didn't it?) and the teacher must come up with examples of what will happen to them or to the manager if they aren't paid. (ie: I'll be thrown out of my apartment, won't I? You don't think you'll get away with this, do you?)

(see if you can guess where I used to work and how I liked it)


Many have tried over the years to craft the perfect response to the stunned cunts who complain about bad language and incivil invective on the interweb tubes. This magnificent bastard has at last succeeded.
I hate offended people. They come in two flavours - huffy and whiny - andit's hard to know which is worst. The huffy ones are self-important,narcissistic authoritarians in love with the sound of their own booming disapproval, while the whiny, sparrowlike ones are so annoying and sickly and ill-equipped for life on Earth you just want to smack them round the head until they stop crying and grow up. Combined, they're the very worst people on the planet - 20 times worse than child molesters, and I say that not because it's true (it isn't), but because it'll upset them unnecessarily, and these readers deserve to be upset unnecessarily, morning, noon and night, every sodding day, for the rest of their wheedling lives.
I nominate him for spiritual leader of the month

crossposted from the Woodshed

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Where Have All the Leaders Gone ? ? ? ?

Earlier I noted there was nothing to blog about today, and then I found this on yesterday's New York Times editorial page:

Editorial - September 21, 2007
In Search of a Congress

If you were one of the Americans waiting for Congress, under Democratic control, to show leadership on the war in Iraq, the message from the Senate is clear: “Nevermind.” The same goes for those waiting for lawmakers to fix the damage done to civil liberties by six years of President Bush and a rubber-stamp Republican Congress.

The Democrats don’t have, or can’t summon, the political strength to make sure Congress does what it is supposed to do: debate profound issues like these and take a stand. The Republicans are simply not interested in a serious discussion and certainly not a vote on anything beyond Mr. Bush’s increasingly narrow agenda.


We support the filibuster as the only way to ensure a minority in the Senate can be heard. When the cloture votes failed this week, the Democrats should have let the Republicans filibuster. Democratic leaders think that’s too risky, since Congress could look like it’s not doing anything. But it’s not doing a lot now.

The country needs a lot more debate about what must be done to contain Iraq’s chaos and restore civil liberties sacrificed to Mr. Bush’s declared war on terrorism. Voters are capable of deciding whether Republicans are holding up the Senate out of principle or political tactics.


Democrats and Republicans who oppose the war have a duty to outline alternatives. Those who call for staying in Iraq have a duty to explain what victory means and how they plan to achieve it. Both sides are shirking an obligation to deal with issues that must be resolved right now, like the crisis involving asylum for Iraqis who helped the American occupation.

Congress is the first place for this kind of work. Right now, it seems like the last place it will happen.

(Emphasis above mine.)

That's our Congress: Workin' hard to accomplish zilch, nada, zero, absolutely nuthin' . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)

NAWL...going down...

This is the Victoria BC office of the Status of Women Action Group. As you can see, it is a 7x7 foot storage locker. While they do have the use of a donated voice mail, they no longer have any federal funding. No swag for SWAG.
H/T to F-email Fightback who blogged about this back in July.

One year ago the federal Conservative government announced it would no longer fund women's groups that do polling, advocacy, lobbying or general research. Perhaps the most drastic change to the mandate and operation of Status of Women Canada was also dropping the word "equality'' from the agency's goals.

So it wasn't much of a surprise this week to learn that NAWL, the National Association for Women and the Law, an advocacy group promoting equal rights, pay equity, legal access and education, is closing its doors due to those very changes to the criteria for funding. Like the two women in the storage locker in Victoria, they will continue their work, but as volunteers.

At the time of the budget cuts, Gwen Landolt of REAL Women, the traditional-values group which has spent the last 25 years fighting against equal rights for women, explained that groups (like SWAG) are no longer needed because "women are equal now".
I somehow doubt this line of reasoning would much impress the woman in the wheelchair working at the storage locker, given that a woman working full-time makes 73 cents as compared to the dollar made by a man in the same job. I also suspect this leaves little free time for advocacy but Gwen is unfazed : "If a group can't support itself and its lobbying activities across the country, then it just isn't a grassroots organization and shouldn't be funded by the taxpayer."

She is inordinately proud of the fact that REAL Women does not receive a single penny in federal funding and professes not to see why anyone else should, neglecting to mention that REAL Women has in fact applied for federal funding, but was delisted in 1999 for not having any actual programs that furthered the main objective of Status of Women Canada, which, as you will recall, used to consist of programs and advocacy for women. Gay bashing and anti-abortion propaganda evidently did not count as credits.

Gwen was interviewed on CBC's The Current yesterday.Anna Maria Tremonti asked her if she didn't think that pay equity, paid maternity leave, and a national daycare plan were things that Canadian women wanted. Landolt explained that women were different from men and that if women had wanted a national daycare plan, they wouldn't have voted for Harper.
I do hope, women of Canada, that you are taking notes. You will recall that in an effort to appear to have outgrown his nutty Reform roots, Harper campaigned on a promise not to attack funding for women. Nonetheless, Landolt, along with Charles McVety, met with Harper his very first day in office.
Landolt was also very exercised about Canada having been censured by the UN group CIDA for not having done enough to promote women's rights. CIDA attacked Harper, she explained, because of what the feminists told CIDA about him.
Do you really think that was what turned them off, Gwen? Or do you think it might have been that the office of your associate at REAL Women, Sharon Hayes, a Reform MP and also a board member of Focus on the Family, circulated a press release claiming that the Chinese perform ritual abortions in order to eat the fetuses? Just a guess here.
Josee Verner was also on The Current but mercifully the sound of her going round and round in circles blended so well with the sound of the washing machine that I only caught a couple of her cycles.
Roughly paraphrased :
JV : NAWL didn't get funding because they didn't apply for it.
AMT : What, given the new mandate, could they have applied for?
JV : Well they didn't apply. That's why they didn't get funding.
AMT, brightening up : So if they do apply now, could their funding be restored?
JV : Murmer, murmer. At just that point, Josee's spin cycle clicked in so I didn't hear a satisfactory answer. Gosh, she's so nice though, isn't she?
Really, it would be churlish to ask anything more from her.
Go listen to both of them, along with two NAWL advocates, here.
Also : Impolitical, and JJ, and Hope and Onions

Friday, September 21, 2007

Peter MacKay performs the Flypaper Ceremony

Peter MacKay was in Washington yesterday to observe the annual Canadian Defence Minister's homage to Bush's flypaper strategy.
"If the job is not done in Afghanistan, if countries like Canada leave, the Taliban can follow them,'' MacKay told Canadian reporters here.
The tradition began in October 2004 when President Bush, aka Crusader Bunnypants, addressed reporters in Greeley, Colorado:
"We have defeated the Taleban..."
Wait, that's not it...just a sec...scrolling down...ah, here we go :
"We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities." (Applause.)
Canada failed to observe the flypaper strategy ceremony in 2005 for some reason, but here's Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor in April 2006 :
"Fighting terrorists in Afghanistan is better than waiting until they show up in Vancouver, Montreal or Ottawa, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor told the Commons on Monday."
MacKay slipped in a small coda of his own yesterday when he added a reference to the Battle of the Bulge, saying he wanted to "look into the whites of the eyes'' of the members of other NATO countries.
Canadian reporters were puzzled but they wrote it all down anyway.
And did I call this one back in July? Why yes, yes I did.
(Cross-posted at Creekside)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Cockiest Guy" . . . .

And not in a good way.

From Reuters today:

(Profiles in courage)

Bush is "cockiest guy I ever met": Mexico's Fox
Thu Sep 20, 2007 6:46pm EDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - George W. Bush "is the cockiest guy I have ever met," former Mexican President Vicente Fox says in an autobiography that pokes fun at the U.S. president's bad Spanish and false cowboy bravado.


"My first impression of George W. Bush was one of total self-confidence. He is quite simply the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life," Fox wrote, according to an advance copy of the book.

Except, perhaps, when it came to language skills. Fox said Bush was "a bit sheepish as he tried out his grade-school-level Spanish" at that meeting in Austin, Texas.


Fox, who often wore a trademark cowboy hat, was unimpressed when Bush turned down his offer to ride his favorite horse, a big palomino, during the Mexican ranch visit.

"Even now, George will be the first to admit that he's a "windshield cowboy," more comfortable driving his pickup truck around Crawford than he is on the back of a horse," Fox said.

As I've asked before:

Who's gonna to talk to this crowd after they're finally out of office ? ? ?

(Cross-posted from Moving to Vancouver)