Saturday, February 28, 2009


This is going to wrench the guts right out of you. If you are overly emotional it might be best if you read no further.

Dr. Smak is a primary care family physician in a small town in the U.S. When she started her blog it was a diary of her daily encounters with patients and life in general. From a Canadian point of view it was a bit of insight into the views of a doctor dealing with a medical system we often don't see outside the hyperbole provided by the media.

Then her life changed. In mid-October 2007 her three-year old son, Henry, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.

Dr. Smak changed the focus of her writing and it became a real-time chronicle of her son's struggles, her pain, the fear and the love which would form the path of her life and the life of Henry. She wrote all that with poise and an unbelievable grace. It will reduce you to tears.

On Thursday, February 26th, 2009, Dr. Smak provided her readers with the worst news possible.

Goodbye, Henry.

The Debators

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK — wonderfully funny! If you aren't listening regularly, you should. Marvellously funny, irreverent humour. CBC doesn't seem to offer it as a podcast, but the page has playback of the shows. A wonderful antidote for Stevie and "Wingnut" MacKay.

And now ... Pete "Airshow" MacKay ....

A little musical accompaniment to Dave, Boris, and Ed's posts yesterday on DEFCON 4.2 Pete "Airshow" MacKay and the timely fashion in which he, um, scrambled Canadian jet fighters to save Obama from the Russkies in, um, international airspace, um, three days before Obama even arrived here.

The Star :
It's not clear why Canada chose yesterday to draw attention to what is a fairly common occurrence.
A senior government official said highlighting the mid-air meeting was a good way to show the worth and relevance of NORAD while its commander, U.S. Gen. Victor Renuart, was visiting Ottawa.
It's also a good way to "get some ink" for Canada's contribution to continental security, the official said.
As Dave said - Awesome.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Friday, February 27, 2009

Immune Molecule That Attacks Wide Range Of Flu Viruses Discovered

SCIENCE NEWS IS A RESPITE from Stevie and the RCMP and Tasers and the rest of the lunacy. This news is especially good to know. The discovery of the molecule, an antibody known as CR6261, is good news for researchers who hope to design a flu vaccine that would give humans lifelong protection against a majority of influenza viruses. The antibody also has the potential to treat those who are unvaccinated and become infected with the flu.
In the new research paper, the scientists, composed of a team from Scripps Research and the biopharmaceutical company Crucell, in the Netherlands, show that the CR6261 antibody attaches to the virus that caused the devastating 1918 "Spanish flu" and to a virus of the "H5" class of avian influenza that jumped from chickens to a human in Vietnam in 2004 The scientists at Crucell previously demonstrated in laboratory experiments that this antibody can neutralize common, seasonal flu viruses.

Welcome Crooks and Liars readers! Do stay and have a look around. (Cookies are served at 10 a.m. PST)

Callsign for Pete

Haloscan seems to be a little messed, so I'm turning my comment into a post.

Minister MacKay seems to be well into machoneering with military folks, incoming mortar fire (no helmets for him!), fighter-interceptors, and big Russian bombers. To hear him talk, you think he'd personally piloted a lone CF18 back in time into the maw of massed Soviet air defences and personally saved the precious bodily fluids of the future US president, denizens of Ottawa, and free world generally.

In light of this extremely gallant and courageous flight of rhetoric, above and beyond the call of duty of a Conservative cabinent minister, I think it's high time we accord him with his own callsign.

The obvious starter might be Peter "Weepy" MacKay. Or maybe Pete "Airshow" Mackay. Pete "Mad Russian", Pete "Bomber"...Peter "Bear"? Petey Bear (with apologies to real bears)? List yours in comments and/or on your blog. If we get enough, perhaps we'll have a vote.

Petey's Plane

WIKI has an article on the TU-95 that gives you a good description of the lumbering giant. It is also one of the LOUDEST aircraft in the world, because of the turbo-props. The propeller speeds go supersonic, and the noise at take-off is said to be ear-shattering. The Wiki page has a nice big versions of these pictures.

Actually, Petey, the coincidence was your news conference... UPDATED

Something James Curran grabbed onto right away.

Peter MacKay must be feeling left out of the limelight after the Obama visit. So how to capitalize on the afterglow and prove he was "on the job"?

Hold a press conference and spread the word! He was busy fighting off the Red Russian menace. (At least that's what it said on the briefing note.)
On the eve of Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa, a Russian jet approached Canada's Arctic air space and had to be turned away by Canadian warplanes, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Friday at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

With Obama poised to leave American soil for the first time as U.S. president on Feb. 19, the joint Canada-U.S. aerospace command, Norad, detected the Russian plane. Two of Canada's CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept one Russian aircraft, MacKay confirmed.


But, despite the faulty reporting, it wasn't a "jet". It was Tu-95MS "Bear" - a propeller-driven Soviet-era platform also known to NATO as a Bear-H.

And "the eve" of Obama's visit? Yeah, well in conventional language the "eve" of a given date is the night before. This advance to the polar frontier occured three days prior to Obama's visit.

Peter MacKay said he wasn't accusing Russia of deliberately timing the flight to coincide with the visit — when Canadian security was focused in Ottawa — but he did call it a "strong coincidence."
Why? Because it fits MacKay's agenda? These flights are nothing new. The Russians announced that they were resuming Bear patrols in August 2007. In fact, Canada was heavily involved in responding to the resumption of those flights... as recorded right here.

MacKay then pulls out the "hotshot" line.

"It was a strong coincidence which we met with … CF-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business," said MacKay.

"[The pilots] sent a strong signal they should back off and stay out of our airspace."

Oh? Like what?! Let's put MacKay's bravado in some perspective here. Not to diminish the risk involved to fighter pilots in making a close approach to a large bomber, the arrival of fighter interceptors was fully expected by the Russian Bear crew. The presence of Canadian aircraft alone was the only message they were looking for. Looking for? Yes. I'll explain further on, but as for "strong messages", there is a long standing protocol that Russian gunners keep their weapons pointed away from any intercepting aircraft and NORAD/NATO interceptors do not illuminate the Bears with fire-control radars. It helps prevent the outbreak of something nasty - like a world war. And keep in mind that the entire event takes place in international airspace. The Bears (they used to travel in pairs) approach North American airspace; they don't enter it.

"It's not a game," said MacKay.
And that, Junior, is where you are dead wrong. It is a game, albeit a dangerous one, and it becomes more of a game when some self-serving politician starts to try to make political hay out of what is essentially a well-rehearsed, close-quarters stand-off. Those Bear bombers don't enter Canadian airspace; they enter the North American Air Defence Identification Zone, some considerable distance from anything near or over Canadian territory.

The purpose of every Bear flight which approaches the frontiers or over-flies a naval force at sea is to elicit a reaction. The expected response is a like action, normally involving some form of fighter scramble. The threat is taken to the limit of being able to say, "I'm in international airspace. If you take the first shot, you are responsible for starting the next war." If the expected response doesn't happen confusion can easily ensue. A Bear patrol approaching the North American polar frontier fully expects to be intercepted. If such an interception did not occur they would be faced with something of a dilemma. It may be that they have orders not to enter territorial airspace and, in the unlikely event that they do not possess such instructions, they would need permission from their operational command to do so. Of course, once inside some country's territorial airspace without permission, the likelyhood of being shot down rapidly approaches 100 percent.

In 1992, with the collapse of the Soviet Union (and due to a severe financial crunch) the Russian Bear patrols came to a virtual halt. In August 2007, Vladimir Putin announced the resumption of permanent Bear bomber patrols, although random flights were being intercepted, including some by the Canadian Air Force, as early as 2002. That makes the statement by Canadian CDS General Walt Natynczyk a little curious.

Friday morning, Natynczyk told reporters that the incursions started about one and a half to two years ago "when we had not seen anything for decades."
Umm... no. Decades would be wrong. At best, one decade which ended in 2002.

Canada doesn't get to play "angel" in this game either. Lest Peter MacKay forget that his father was a senior cabinet minister when the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney sent the Canadian navy on a risky and totally unnecessary task group mission through the back door of the Aleutians to arrive a few miles off the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula on the morning of a Soviet national holiday. The Soviets were kind enough to respond with regimental-strength air forces and frigates which could have chewed the Canadian task group to ribbons with a minimal effort. But then, that was all a part of the "game".

But, so it goes. Petey gets his news conference and gets to talk tough, despite the fact that no one held a news conference for the 13 May, 2008 incursion into the Canadian ADIZ. Using the formula he used today, the "coincidence" would have been Stevie Wonder's birthday.

A little more from Mattt


Oh... isn't this special! You may notice in my post above I mentioned that Russian Bears usually fly in pairs.

Four Canadian and U.S. fighter jets were scrambled to meet a pair of Russian bomber planes found flying on the edge of Canada's Arctic airspace hours before President Barack Obama arrived in Ottawa for his first foreign visit, Canada's defence minister said.
Ahh! So the alert interceptors from both Canadian and Alaskan bases responded to this patrol as would usually be the case. Funny how that part took so long to come out. I guess the fact that Elmendorf scrambled their fighters didn't fit the MacKay script. But the interesting part is that there were, as usual, two Tu-95MS bombers.

MacKay initially said there was a single Russian bomber but a NORAD spokesman and the minister's officer later said there were two.
Jeez! No shit?! How is it, asks the reader, that Dave had a better grip on that little piece of detail than Harper's defence minister?

Beats me!!! But, without MacKay's briefing notes, (which he obviously cannot read), I was wondering why a lone Bear-H was patrolling.

If you want to know why the Russians never let their bombers patrol alone I'll be happy to explain in the comments section... once Haloscan is fixed.

In the meantime, MacKay can take his puffed-up macho mentality down to the library and see what happens when someone tries to mix fiction with a known reality.

Viva Palestina!

According to the map, they're more than half way there.
On Valentines Day, British MP George Galloway and a mile long convoy of over 100 donated vehicles packed with practical aid for Gaza left the Houses of Parliament in London to drive 5,000 miles through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
The convoy includes a fire engine donated by the Fire Brigades Union, 25 ambulances, 2 buses, a boat, and trucks filled with a £1-million of medicines, cash, tools, clothes, blankets, and shoe-boxes filled with gifts for children, all donated to the people of Gaza. Thousands of dollars in donations have also come from the U.S.
As my arrow shows, they are currently in Tunisia and by tomorrow will reach Libya. The plan is to cross the border at Rafah into Gaza in early March, donate their booty and vehicles, and then fly back to their countries of origin.
What a remarkable undertaking.
There have been, as you might imagine, adventures ...
Nine volunteers together with their cargo and vehicles were arrested under anti-terrorism laws before they even left the U.K. Six were released the following day, 3 on the following Wednesday, and the police detachment which made the arrests provided financial assistance to help them catch up with the convoy.
They all attended a rock concert in Madrid.
The border between Algeria and Morocco, closed for 15 years now, was specially opened to allow the convoy through. Algeria donated their fuel and Morocco their food and lodging.
Read more at the Viva Palestina! website or the daily blog.
And sign their petition for more media coverage! For shame that a multi-faith, multi-national effort of such tremendous goodwill should not be making headlines.
A big hat tip to Lagatta at Bread and Roses.
Cross-posted at Creekside

Ryanair's business plan to survive the economy

You may remember Irish airline head Michael O'Leary's press conference in Germany when he announced that economy class long haul flights would be available for as little as 10 Euros and that business class would cost around 4000 to 5000 Euros. He even gave Ryanair's business class a unique name - which denigrated his cabin crews and easily entered the realm of misogyny on several different planes. (Yes... that deserves a quarter in the bad pun jar.)

O'Leary said then that in economy class, a passenger would pay for every service while business class patrons would get everything for free.

Apparently the economic crunch has hit Ryanair too. Aside from giving his employees a "reverse bonus" for Christmas he's decided it may be time to cash in on the in-flight loo.
Chief executive Michael O'Leary told the BBC that the Dublin-based carrier was looking at maybe installing a "coin slot on the toilet door".


"One thing we have looked at in the past, and are looking at again, is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door, so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in future," he told the BBC.

He added: "I don't think there is anybody in history that has got on board a Ryanair aircraft with less than a pound."

But Rochelle Turner, head of research at Which? Holiday, said: "It seems Ryanair is prepared to plumb any depth to make a fast buck and, once again, is putting profit before the comfort of its customers.

Interesting idea. Of course, since economy passengers are paying for everything, including bottled drinks, it would serve O'Leary good and right if passengers were giving them back at the end of the flight - full.

Republican profiles in courage - Rick Santelli

It looks like the would-be general of the gate-storming stock-broker army just soiled his trousers and is now running for cover.

Don't look back, Santelli. Nobody's chasing you.

Ain't leadership a bitch?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Harper really needs to ditch the Republican line

Y'know, I don't think you'll hear too many people putting up too much of an argument over the idea that the perpetrators of organized gang violence should be the subjects of stiffer sentencing.

Some might put up some reasons why it won't work and to be honest, they're worth listening to. You never really know who has a better idea - or what it is.

So, when the Conservatives put forth legislation which will make gang hits first degree murder and those convicted of drive-by shootings subject to four to 14 years in prison, the reaction of the political opposition is about where it should be:

A. They support it;
B. It's a good first step, but it's not enough.

Enter Steve Harper:
"The truth of the matter is, those who say that the tougher penalties on perpetrators will not work don’t want them to work because they don’t believe in his kind of approach," he told reporters.

"We know that we’re going to hear these critics, and we know that we’re going to hear the opposition parrot some of these critics because they all believe in soft-on-crime policies."

The little prick just couldn't resist, could he? That's an impetuous little pre-emptive strike from a minority government leader and it is reminiscent of:

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.
Whereupon Bush the Younger, Harper's hero, proceeded on a path which resulted in the leader of the group which actually attacked the United States remaining at large to this day. Not to mention invading another country based on shoddily manufactured intelligence, razing it to the ground, failing to rebuild it and then shrugging when people asked why it had all gone to hell in a handbasket.

So, Steve, it must really irk that your political opposition didn't come out railing against a policy that even the (gasp!) NDP intends to support.

That's called stepping on your own dink. You must really miss your role model.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RCMP testimony

There's a scene in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown that I can barely watch. You don't see any blood or gore laced with black comedy as with much of QT's stuff. Instead there's just this utterly sobering banal sociopathic violence.

So when I read RCMP Cpl. Robinson's and Cst. Rundel's testimony (see Dr. Dawg and Alison for links and analysis) at the Braidwood inquiry into Robert Dziekanski, my mind went right to this scene.

I haven't got words enough for how fundamentally rotten the RCMP appear now. I want to vomit.

Sure, there might be good cops out there humiliated by this whole insane mess, as blogger Chimera
states in comments over at Dawg's, but we don't see them. We just get a bunch of chiefs closing ranks around some lethal plastic and wire contraption, and the handful of sociopaths who use them. If there are these "good cops", if there remains any honour and integrity left in the red or blue serge, I'd say this is one of those times where their's is a moral duty to stand-to and speak out. Because right now, all the voices of the police in Canada sound like psychotic fiction.

Facebook racists

PSA: There's a Facebook group run by some dim little thug called Roma Kondrashov who affiliates himself with the University of Toronto and is very into being Russian and white.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever"

I'll confess I don't read the entire Washington Post every day. In fact, I usually only scan the front of their web page for the headlines, read the pieces that interest me, maybe check the occasional column or editorial. Since, however, my newspaper carries their Sunday "Outlook" - albeit a few days late - I always get to read their main weekly opinion "think piece section.
Sometimes it's a good read, sometimes not and while it has slowly become more conservative over the last half-dozen years, this week had a piece that really made me think very, very hard--"Yes, We're Out of Power. But I'm Still Starstruck" by S. E. Cupp. Not having previously heard of the author, I really couldn't decide on the merits of the article itself whether it was a staggering work of brilliant satire, an inside joke, life imitating McSweeny's or just what the hell it was, but read some of these bon mots and see what you think:

See, in my world, stars don't come any bigger than Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Mitt Romney and Mike Pence (if there were a congressional version of Teen Beat, the Indiana congressman would be on its cover every month). Michael Steele, Mike Huckabee and John Boehner are the Jonas Brothers of conservative celebrity.

You see my confusion - that last comparison will mean different things to different people. On the surface, I suspect conservatives will see comparing Steele, Huckabee and Boehner to the very popular teen idol popstars as an endorsement of their star quality, their charisma and penchant for success. All of which ignores the truth that lies only nanometers below that surface - the Jonas Brothers are a trio of talentless pretty boys assembled in a Disney PR laboratory to appeal to a group of very unsophisticated, uncritical consumers - preteen girls. They, and others like them, are the personification of all that is wrong with America. (Now, I know dear reader, you are dying to ask "who does he mean 'they'? Is he talking about the pop stars or the politicians?" To which I can only answer "Yes.")

Obviously, something like "And doesn't everyone want to have "Breakfast with Phyllis Schlafly"? Just me?" can never be anything but ironic, but just how deep is the irony intended to penetrate? And what are we to make of this vision of hell:

"I'm also looking forward to drinking boxed wine with such friends and colleagues as Tucker Carlson, Stephen Baldwin and Andrew Breitbart during the forced socialization of conference happy hours...And, yes, I just totally name-dropped."

The article ends with same kind of awkwardness that one might experience upon walking into the men's room and seeing Ann Coulter emerging from a stall.

And let's not forget the thrill of the unplanned and unexpected. The environment at conferences like CPAC is ripe spectacle -- the hilarity of an inebriated speaker, the hysteria over a surprise guest, or an awkward moment between you and that woman you met last year whose name you've completely forgotten.
Last year a disheveled-looking man sat on a street corner near the hotel all four days, pan-handling. He held a cardboard sign that read, "Bush is Bi." I'm not sure what he meant by that -- I have a feeling he didn't know, either -- but I really hope he'll be there again. Who needs star power when you have memories like that?

Having checked out Ms.Cupp's website, I'm still undecided - she's either the nee plus ultra example of the "sassy young conservative sex bomb pundit" right down to the librarian glasses and the guns-and-nascar fetish or she's mining the same territory as Stephen Colbert but in a much more subtle and undercover way.

Crossposted from The Woodshed

Support Abdelrazik on Facebook

Yesterday at Creekside I posted about the plight of Abousfian Abdelrazik and the new catch-22 conditions our government has seen fit to impose on his return to Canada :

"Mr. Abdelrazik must present a fully-paid-for ticket home before "Passport Canada will issue an emergency passport," the government said in a Dec. 23 letter to his lawyers. But Mr. Abdelrazik, who is living in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, is destitute and the government has warned that it could criminally charge anyone who lends or gives money for a ticket under its sweeping anti-terrorist regulations."

Sumeet Jain, a member of BASAS, the British Association of South Asian Studies, left me this comment at Creekside . BASAS, according to their website, is "the largest UK academic association for the study of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and the South Asian Diaspora."

"See the facebook group I have set up to support Abousifian.

I am asking everyone to send him a token donation to get a ticket home and to protest the Canadian government’s stand that anyone who supports him is a supporter of terrorism."

Quite right. Both Sudan and the RCMP have already cleared Abdelrazik of suspicion :

"The RCMP conducted a review of its files and was unable to locate any current and substantive information that indicates Mr. Abdelrazik is involved in criminal activity,"wrote Mike McDonell, the force's assistance commissioner for national security criminal investigations, in a Nov. 15, 2007, letter that formed the basis for the government's request that Mr. Abdelrazik be taken off the UN blacklist.
However, that request was blocked by at least one member of the UN Security Council – presumed to be the United States."

It is appalling that this has been allowed to drag on for more than five years, leaving Abdelrazik destitute and living in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum. If he is guilty of anything other than being on a no-fly list, bring him home and charge him.

Mr. Jain's facebook link above. Go.

Previous posts on Abdelrazik

Update : Dr. Dawg sends a letter.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Braidwood Inquiry : First RCMP testimony today

Today the Braidwood Inquiry heard from the first of the four RCMP officers involved in the Vancouver airport death of Robert Dziekanski in 2007. The transcripts will not be available for a couple of days yet so here's some of what the media have reported. It is the first time the officers have spoken in public.

Constable Gerry Rundel, who was not carrying a TASER™ that night, testified that he feared "for my safety to a certain degree" although he was not clear on why.
Dziekanski did not appear to shoot any staples at the officers, Rundel agreed.

Global :

Rundel said he knew from the police radio that a fellow in the international arrivals area was "throwing objects" and breaking glass and was likely intoxicated.
(In fact, Dziekanski had thrown a small table but did not break glass or threaten other passengers. Toxicology reports after his death showed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system.)"

Rundel said Const. Bentley first spoke in a "calm, friendly" manner to Dziekanski, but the incident escalated swiftly after that. Dziekanski gestured toward his luggage but was told "No," by Const. Kwesi Millington.
Dziekanski complied with the request and moved away from his bags.
At that point Dziekanski threw up his hands and turned away from the officers in what Rundel interpreted as a "to hell with you guys, I'm out of here," stance.
"Within split seconds the Taser was deployed," said Rundel.

Pressed repeatedly by commission lawyer Patrick McGowan to say what specific command Dziekanski had disobeyed, Rundel became flustered but insisted that Dziekanski had moved away from his luggage, as he was commanded to do so by Cpl. Robinson, but then became "non-cooperative" or "non-compliant."

"Non-compliance" triggers the Taser deployment in the RCMP's training and use-of-force regulations, Rundel said.

The Star :

"He appeared to not be behaving like a normal person would behave," said Rundel. "It was all part of my observation formed by opinion."

A criminal investigation conducted by the RCMP into its four members' conduct, which was given to crown counsel late last year, determined that the officers' actions were not criminal.

Dziekanski died Oct. 14, 2007 after getting hit five times with shots from the Taser gun. He fell screaming in anguish to the ground and the officers piled on top of him. Within seconds, he had stopped breathing.

The inquiry had heard earlier testimony from firefighters who later attended the scene that the RCMP officers appeared to do nothing to help the man.

In other news, RCMP in B.C. plan to buy 40 new Taser weapons. The force is budgeting $50,000 for the new model X26E Taser guns..

Cross-posted at Creekside

Sunday, February 22, 2009

There's dead right and then there are the wingnuts

Over here Canadian Cynic is expending valuable energy addressing the entirely flawed hypothesis of a Blogging Tory in which the BT repeats the fallacious arguments of CNBC mouthpiece Rick Santelli and the emperor of the mouth-breathing US right-wing, Rush Limbaugh.

The argument? That people who are unable to make mortgage payments on the houses they purchased during the US housing bubble are the sole cause of the global economic meltdown. In short, (and directly quoting Santelli and Limbaugh), losers. (Why do I get this niggling feeling that they left something out of the extreme ignorance of their rants?)

All this brings to mind something that happened two and a half years ago.
On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The audience seemed skeptical, even dismissive. As Roubini stepped down from the lectern after his talk, the moderator of the event quipped, “I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that.” People laughed — and not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation remained low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing, despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market. And then there was the espouser of doom himself: Roubini was known to be a perpetual pessimist, what economists call a “permabear.” When the economist Anirvan Banerji delivered his response to Roubini’s talk, he noted that Roubini’s predictions did not make use of mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a career naysayer.
Except that Banerji was completely wrong and Nouriel Roubini was completely right. In fact, when a majority of economists were calling Roubini "Dr. Doom", Roubini was continuing to look outside the computer models for more information. What he found was terrifying. The picture he saw forming was that of a simultaneous pair of train wrecks: one brought on by sub-prime mortgage lending coupled with under-capitalized banks and the other being an enormous US federal current account deficit.
[W]henever optimists have declared the worst of the economic crisis behind us, Roubini has countered with steadfast pessimism. In February, when the conventional wisdom held that the venerable investment firms of Wall Street would weather the crisis, Roubini warned that one or more of them would go “belly up” — and six weeks later, Bear Stearns collapsed. Following the Fed’s further extraordinary actions in the spring — including making lines of credit available to selected investment banks and brokerage houses — many economists made note of the ensuing economic rally and proclaimed the credit crisis over and a recession averted. Roubini, who dismissed the rally as nothing more than a “delusional complacency” encouraged by a “bunch of self-serving spinmasters,” stuck to his script of “nightmare” events.
And Roubini was making it clear where the fault lay: With predatory mortgage lending, securitization of debt and rating agencies which were clearly in conflict-of-interest. In short, a lack of regulation, a "wild west" mentality and derivative financial instruments which were so complicated and being sold back and forth in so many different forms that almost no one could make any real sense of them. In fact they were so toxic that they were less than worthless.

Now, thanks to Ron Beasley, we find Roubini on the pages of Forbes magazine issuing an analysis of the problem and providing another dire warning. If the regulations aren't tightened up considerably, this whole thing will just keep getting worse. And, far from the "loser" hypothesis of Santelli and Limbaugh, Roubini makes it clear that the US government has to step in:
... two elements, both key to avoiding a near-depression, which are still missing: a cleanup of the banking system that may require a proper triage between solvent and insolvent banks and the nationalization of many banks, even some of the largest ones; and a more aggressive, across-the-board reduction of the unsustainable debt burden of millions of insolvent households (i.e., a principal reduction of the face value of the mortgages, not just mortgage payments relief).
Note, the lack of "loser" connotation when referring to insolvent households. That's because Roubini knows the fault doesn't lay with those households - it lays with the system which got them there: The Reagan/Thatcher Laissez-Faire capitalism.

Make no mistake, Roubini believes in capitalism; just not the unregulated form that is responsible for the worst financial mess since the Great Depression. In other words, you can have a free-market but not a free ride. And if you are a bank, you're going to learn to play by the rules or be booted off the field.
[T]he self-regulation approach created rating agencies that had massive conflicts of interest and a supervisory system dependent on principles rather than rules. In effect, this light-touch regulation became regulation of the softest touch.

Thus, all the pillars of the 2004 Basel II banking accord have already failed even before being implemented. Since the pendulum had swung too much in the direction of self-regulation and the principles-based approach, we now need more binding rules on liquidity, capital, leverage, transparency, compensation and so on.

He's been right too many times to ignore.

The wingnuts, on the other hand, will continue to whine and cry like a bunch of gut-shot coyotes and try to blame anyone who isn't them. And they will continue to be wrong on orders of magnitude we can only imagine.

The Anti-Bono

MAYBE IT"S THE SHADES THE DUDE PERSISTS IN INFLICTING UPON US, but the concept of the "Anti-Bono" has a certain appeal. That's the title of this Sunday New York Times interview of Dambisa Moyo by Deborah Solomon, and even if she is Bono-shades deficient, Dambisa seems to have a clear POV.

Q: As a native of Zambia with advanced degrees in public policy and economics from Harvard and Oxford, you are about to publish an attack on Western aid to Africa and its recent glamorization by celebrities. ‘‘Dead Aid,’’ as your book is called, is particularly hard on rock stars. Have you met Bono?

I have, yes, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year. It was at a party to raise money for Africans, and there were no Africans in the room, except for me.
Q: You argue in your book that Western aid to Africa has not only perpetuated poverty but also worsened it, and you are perhaps the first African to request in book form that all development aid be halted within five years.

Think about it this way — China has 1.3 billion people, only 300 million of whom live like us, if you will, with Western living standards. There are a billion Chinese who are living in substandard conditions. Do you know anybody who feels sorry for China? Nobody.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Aftermath of 9/11 Legacy of a moron

Here's something to chew on for a while. (Emphasis added)
Terrorism sows terror, and many States have fallen into a trap set by the terrorists. Ignoring lessons from the past, they have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses, introducing an array of measures which undermine cherished values as well as the international legal framework carefully developed since the Second World War. These measures have resulted in human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances, secret and arbitrary detentions, and unfair trials. There has been little accountability for these abuses or justice for their victims.


... the consequences of pursuing counter-terrorism within a war paradigm ...
From something like The Shock Doctrine?


But it does provide more than a modicum of support for Naomi Klein's theory. In fact, it is a vindication.

It is written, not by a novelist or an activist, but by a panel established by the International Commission of Jurists.

You need to read the whole thing, but if you are rushed for time, satisfy yourself with at least chapter three of the report. And if you want just a quick snap, go directly to the Conclusions & Recommendations: war paradigm on page 64 (pdf 77).

H/T matthewgood

Neocon tries to vanish himself - fails

A conservative audience was entertained by one of their own doing what he has always done best - spew out a line of toxic lies. Only this time, he was lying about himself.

This has caused no end of incredulity in the American progressive blogosphere.

Spencer Ackerman suggests a different approach: Ignore the sonofabitch. If you're not going to put him on trial for war crimes then consign him to irrelevance.
Treat Perle like you treat the men in colorful robes who stand in front of the subway claiming to be the lost tribe of Israel, because he’s just as foolish and conspiracy-minded.

Conservative groups looking for entertainment might do better hiring a real comedian. At least the routine is closer to the truth than anything they're ever going to hear out of the sewage that didn't get flushed with the Bush administration.

In fact, while we're at it, perhaps this is a good opportunity to send a message out to the entire field of toxic waste that remains from an eight year orgy of immoral military adventurism, malicious abuses of political power, the intentional and utter disregard for the economic destruction being meted out by an unregulated ponzi scheme and a complete failure to plan for anything save another Crawford vacation.

Nothing they can say can be of interest to anybody. Attending a lecture to try to find out "how their minds worked" is a waste of time. What is plainly obvious is that the neocons pulled themselves into the desk lacking some basic human traits. They left their minds and morals at the door while they pursued a flawed ideology.

So, on dates like 17 March 2009, in places like Calgary, the message should be, nobody's interested putting Bush's next "get rich quick" scheme where it properly belongs.

Selling dead donkeys

Just in case you think Edstock's analogy is off the mark, you need to read this.

The French Cheese Wars

HERE IN NORTH AMERICA, we tend to be consumed by Stevie and his pictures, and Barack and his struggles with the hard-of-thinking, so it's easy to forget about what's really important. Here's a gem from Der Spiegel, by Ullrich Fichtner.


It was a typical globalization-era war that pitted tradition against profits. A large cheese factory wanted to change the Camembert recipe and began a dirty fight against small producers. This time, though, tradition emerged victorious.

The bitter dispute began in March 2007, when Lactalis and the Isigny Sainte-Mère dairy co-operative announced, in a coordinated move, their intention to halt the large-scale production of raw milk Camembert. It may not sound like much, but this was the first shot in the Norman cheese war, a thundering, unexpected explosion.

Suddenly the world's most famous cheese was in jeopardy. It was a severe blow to French national pride. This was about France's culinary splendor, which like the beret, the bottle of wine and the baguette, is as much a part of the French self-image as it is a time-honored cliché. 

Banking crisis explained

Young Chuck moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. 

The next day he drove up and said, 
'Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.'

Chuck replied, 'Well, then, just give me my money back.' 

The farmer said, 'Can't do that. I went and spent it already.' 

Chuck said, 'OK, then, just bring me the dead donkey.' 

The farmer asked, 'What ya gonna do with him? 

Chuck said, 'I'm going to raffle him off.' 

The farmer said 'You can't raffle off a deaed donkey!' 

Chuck said, 'Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead.'

A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, 'What happened with that dead donkey?' 

Chuck said, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and made a profit of $898.00.' 

The farmer said, 'Didn't anyone complain?' 

Chuck said, 'Just the guy who won. So I gave him back his two dollars.'

Chuck now works for the BANK.

A Creative Revolution

is featuring what must be the most evocative photo from the recent Obamarama fest.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

g.w. bush = "An Icy Smile with No Blood or Spirit" . . . .

You've got to put yourself in the journalist's shoes (pardon the expression, please) to appreciate the emotions of the moment.

Per McClatchy's report today on the trial of the Iraqi charged with assaulting a foreign head of state:

Iraqi shoe thrower angered by Bush's 'icy smile'

McClatchy Washington Bureau
Feb. 19, 2009
Trenton Daniel | McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD — When Iraqi journalist Muntathar al Zaidi took the stand Thursday, he said that he hadn't planned to hurl his shoes at President George W. Bush, but the sight of the smirking leader at a Baghdad news conference got the best of him.

"He had an icy smile with no blood or spirit," said Zaidi, who was enclosed in a wooden pen. "At that moment, I only saw Bush, and the whole world turned black. I was feeling the blood of innocent people moving under his feet."


Since the December news conference, many Iraqis have hailed Zaidi a hero. An artist built a monument in his honor and lawyers throughout the Arab world volunteered to represent him.


When guards escorted Zaidi into the courtroom, his brother Dhergham jumped to his feet and applauded. Zaidi's other siblings and their supporters began chanting, "May God be with you!"


When it was Zaidi's turn to speak, he recalled the day with clarity, speaking for about 90 minutes. He said that Bush wasn't an Iraqi guest when the U.S. commander in chief boasted of his administration's accomplishments. "I don't know what kind of achievements he was talking about," Zaidi said. "I just saw seas of Iraqi blood."

Personally, I think Muntathar al Zaidi speaks the truth, unlike members of the bush administration . . . .

President Obama visits

"When you walk in the door, all you see are pictures of Stephen Harper. I'd say between every window, in every available space of the wall, at eye level, every available space has a photo of Stephen Harper."
Cross-posted at Creekside

Hats off to BC Mary at The Legislature Raids

She not only scoops Big Media on this one ; she drives it.

From Ian Mulgrew at the Vancouver Sun :
Drug dealer linked to legislature raid imprisoned
RCMP oddly silent about key victory against cocaine ring :
"The key figure in Project Every Which Way, the organized crime investigation that triggered the raid on the legislature half a decade ago, has been convicted and sentenced to nine years' imprisonment.
This significant event went apparently unreported until it appeared on citizen journalist Mary Mackie's blog [The Legislature Raids] and was brought to my attention Monday.
I was surprised no one in the federal prosecutor's office or the RCMP had issued a statement since this is the organized crime connection that led to the raid on legislature offices Dec. 28, 2003."

Does anyone still expect a Basi Virk trial anytime before Gordo retires?
Mary does. Vehemently.
She's been covering it almost daily ever since she noticed no one else was, save Tieleman and the Tyee, and she has been dogging media types to report this for months.

As she says in comments at The Gazetteer :
"Hard to believe that the guy whose activities had launched the raids on the BC legislature, had been on trial - in Victoria - and 3 months later, nobody had noticed?? I posted the details under a clear headline: Jasmohan Singh Bains sentenced to 9 years -- so that Google couldn't miss it. I thought it would be news. Real news.
But apart from my own wonderful commentors, it seemed that nobody noticed.

I was so sure that the Bains trial and evidence were important to the BC Rail issues, I kept mentioning it, wherever an opportunity presented itself. Such as during that crazy week in Victoria when Dave Basi was in Supreme Court on charges of A.L.R. bribery ... and he was in another Supreme Courtroom on matters relating to BC Rail -- and still NOTHING in the newspapers!

I kept talking to the CanWest journalists; I kept saying "Don't let this be like the Bains trial where nobody knows ..." But that's pretty much what happened ... nobody would have known about that either, except for Bill Tieleman's blog and mine.

Why was I so determined? Because I have never forgotten that press conference, the day after police raided the BC Legislature, when RCMP Staff Sgt John Ward explained it by talking about Organized Crime being a cancer at all levels of society. I figured he was talking over the heads of our leadership, telling us things he knew nobody else would willingly tell us. I still believe that. So, apparently, does Ian Mulgrew.

So one day a week or two ago, I was writing to Ian to compliment him on a column he had just written. I added, "I just wish you'd been assigned to the Basi Virk case, then we might've heard about the Bains trial ..."
Next thing I knew, Ian Mulgrew's story was in Vancouver Sun.
Ian -- alone of all the West Coast journalists -- not only realized the significance of the Bains trial, but barrelled right past his CanWest handlers and got his story into print."

Backgrounder :
The busted drug dealer here is Jasmohan Singh Bains, cousin to Dave Basi.
Basi was ministerial assistant to then BC Finance Minister Gary Collins.
Bob Virk was ministerial assistant to BC Transportation Minister Judith Reid.
An anonymous informant tipped off the RCMP that Basi was laundering money for Bains.
A subsequent RCMP wiretap on Bains led to both Liberal aides being charged with fraud, bribery, breach of trust, and accepting money in exchange for info on the sale of the Crown corporation BC Rail in November 2003.
Another cousin, government media analyst Aneal Basi, is accused of money laundering for allegedly accepting cheques and transferring funds to Basi from a partner at Pilothouse, the lobby firm for one of the US bidders for BC Rail.
Constable Ravinder Singh Dosanjh, now suspended from the Victoria police force, is charged with obstruction of justice in connection with this investigation.

And now, after six friggin years, there will be yet another one year delay in the trial while the Supreme Court decides whether defense lawyers may be shown the sensitive boondoggley government documents identifying the informant.
Good to know Mary will be on it.
Updated to include Mary's comment at The Gazetteer.
Cross-posted at Creekside

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I don't want you to believe in what I believe....

And I won't believe in what you believe simply because you don't believe in that which I don't believe...

Via JJ and ultimately Miss Vicky, we get this little gem.
“I don’t think we should be demeaning people in advertising at OC Transpo,” she said. “I think the words are offensive to everyone who believes in God, regardless of what religion they are. To me, as a Christian, it is demeaning. It grates on me.”

God? Who's god?

Ohhhh!!! YOUR god!

Your Christian god!!

Thanks for clearing that up for the rest of us.

Oh yes.... If you show up on the pages of a nationally accessible newspaper spouting your religion, expecting people to accept your superstitious belief as the "word", you have joined the ranks of Pat Robertson.

Bring on the trials

Unless it wants to become an isolated international pariah with which no other nation will sign agreements of any kind, the United States had better collect its excrement into a single place and start prosecuting people for torture. It has a legal obligation under several international treaties to do so and unless it plans to repudiate its treaty obligations, and thus invalidate all international treaties it has signed, it must fulfil those obligations.
I am not a lawyer, but Glenn Greenwald is.

The U.S. really has bound itself to a treaty called the Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994. When there are credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture, that Convention really does compel all signatories -- in language as clear as can be devised -- to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Art. 7(1)). And the treaty explicitly bars the standard excuses that America's political class is currently offering for refusing to investigate and prosecute: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture" (Art. 2 (2-3)).

(crossposted from the Woodshed)

When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout

Two thoughts on this video clip:

First, I see this kind of behavior every week. At my office, where some people need to work on their interpersonal skills and at the pool where I take my kids for swimming lessons, there is a bank of vending machines that sell canned coffee and soft drinks, bottles of cold green tea, water, sports drinks and, everyone's favorite -- ice cream. The room is stuffy and overheated and I'm there for a couple of hours along with all the other parents and the little brothers and sisters of the kids who are in the pool. I take my ipod and sit facing the ice cream machine and watch a succession of toddlers completely and utterly misplace their feces (occasionally this literally happens, but the diaper-throwing story is one for another day). I'm talking about two-, three- and four-year-old kids who see the ice cream machine and upon being denied a frosty treat, go straight to defcon 5 and launch the mother of all tantrums.

The duration record so far this year is held by a three-year-old girl who, being told she could not have a second ice cream, launched into a 35-minute fit of floor-pounding, screeching, purple-faced rage that culminated in running across the room and repeatedly kicking her mother (the kid, not me) before actually falling asleep/passing out from lack of air mid tantrum.

The intensity record was set by a three-year old boy who after jumping up and down hollering for a few minutes, ran straight into a concrete pillar in the center of the room and bloodied his nose, which seemed to calm him down a bit.

For the record, my kids, while they might occasionally whine, never threw tantrums when they were little. In fact, with one notable exception when I had to take my son outside and explain that no, he could not go to karaoke in the bar adjoining the restaurant and crying at the table wasn't going to get him anywhere, they have always been extremely well behaved where ever we go.

Second, the woman in the video is in the airport in Hong Kong. Its a good thing she's in a country that respects human rights as much as China. Imagine what might have happened if she had carried on like this in certain other places.

crossposted from the Woodshed

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dear Iggy,

This is why you don't ever flinch with a goon like Harper. Via impolitical's link:

The Opposition leader has been banished to an airport hangar. The TV cameras are being kept away from Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean. And the involvement of cabinet ministers remains a state secret.

The logistical arrangements for Barack Obama's Canadian visit have relegated all Canadian actors to the sidelines save for one: Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


The meeting will take place at the military airport hangar where Obama will be arriving, and access to that spot will require grabbing a shuttle bus hours before the session.

Teneycke said the Prime Minister's Office has no problem with the president meeting the Opposition leader. He noted that ex-president George W. Bush met with Harper when he was Opposition leader.

Unlike this airport encounter, that 2004 meeting took place in Parliament's main building.

A Liberal official says the schedule has been co-ordinated by the Prime Minister's Office, and that it keeps changing.

The Liberal said Ignatieff was originally supposed to get 30 minutes with the president, but that was whittled down to 20 minutes and, finally, 15 minutes.

Let's take stock a frakking minute. You, being too clever by half, thought you could avoid the coalition nonsense and pwn Harper's goolies by getting the Cons to put together a Liberalish budget that you could support. Maybe because you were gaming on buying time to see your party's poll numbers go up enough to give you a shot at what Dion never became. But what happened? You got your precious budget, and then when the hot new US prez from your previous peer group comes dashing his dashing way up to Canada, you get relegated to shaking his hand as he moves from Air Force One to his slick new heated armoured limo to meet the man whose tackle you thought you had in a box on your desk.

What does Canada's head of state get? A little better. At least she'll be warm. Hangers in winter, as you'll soon find out, are freezing, breezy caves reeking of hydraulic fluid that none but the fitters seem to enjoy.

What does the Canadian public get? All Stephen, all the time. Again. Thanks to you. Because you let him stay up there. Because you couldn't get over yourself enough to bring the man down when you had the chance. Now you're going to pay for it. Because you just had to have yourself a monogamous phallus fight with the biggest prick in Ottawa. Now we're going to pay for it because we get to keep watching The Stephen Harper Cult of Stephen Harper national embarrassment freakshow continue until the Dippers win. Not that that's a bad thing and something I wouldn't mind seeing someday, but I really don't want to see Canada reach the point of Conservative governed economic and social dysfunction where an NDP win would really be likely.

Where does this leave you Michael? It leaves you in the unflattering position of suddenly finding yourself with your shorts around your ankles holding yourself in front of everyone. You can get out of this. You simply have to ignore the jeers, pull up your trousers, go directly and smartly to Gilles and Jack, place yours in a small wooden box, and hand it them for safe keeping whilst apologising profusely for your bout of I-really-don't-know-what-the-hell-I-was-thinking, and then maybe, just maybe, you'll get a do-over. And you had better not pooch that one.

Or, if you just can't bring yourself to do that, simply turn the keys to Stornoway over to Bob Rae.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A personal message to the worst admiral... ever

I swear, as your god, whatever it may be, is my witness, I have never been more ashamed to wear a uniform even close to that which you represent.

You, Admiral Mike Mullen, are no compatriot of mine.

I am a sailor, a member of a brotherhood and sisterhood of seafarers... and you make me want to puke.

I give you....

...Dmitry Orlov commenting on Conservative males superpower collapse and the effects of radical socio-economic change (my partner got a good laugh out of this quote: it validates a thesis she probably shares with many about some men):

This is because when times get really bad, as they did when the Soviet Union collapsed, lots of people just completely lose it. Men, especially. Successful, middle-aged men, breadwinners, bastions of society, turn out to be especially vulnerable. And when they just completely lose it, they become very tedious company. My hope is that some amount of preparation, psychological and otherwise, can make them a lot less fragile, and a bit more useful, and generally less of a burden.

Women seem much more able to cope. Perhaps it is because they have less of their ego invested in the whole dubious enterprise, or perhaps their sense of personal responsibility is tied to those around them and not some nebulous grand enterprise. In any case, the women always seem far more able to just put on their gardening gloves and go do something useful, while the men tend to sit around groaning about the Empire, or the Republic, or whatever it is that they lost. And when they do that, they become very tedious company. And so, without a bit of mental preparation, the men are all liable to end up very lonely and very drunk. So that's my little intervention.
On a serious note, looking at our major institutional responses to the financial crisis, I see a lot of attempting to prop of the status quo and keeping the game alive, and little overt recognition of the idea they're playing a different sport now. I suppose we shouldn't expect more, and we may find our tattered system has some life in it yet (which does mean it is necessarily a good thing; all the problems of globalisation will still be there if they fix it), but on some deeper level, we and our elites ought to be thinking about the implications of the possibility the old city has fallen for good.

We haven't hit bottom yet, and we can't even be sure we know where bottom is. Once we do, and the indicators stablise, we'll at least have a baseline to work with.

(h/t Global Guerillas)

Taking the "public" out of public transportation

I sure hope nobody ever sees an anti-abortion ad or religious message on an Ottawa bus.

When The Geneva Conventions Were Thought to be "Quaint"

Just when you thought we'd hit the bottom of the barrel on the revelations of torture, abuse and crime under the Bush regime, you realize that buried under this barrel is a whole other barrel of festering evil.

"Third, the Nelly account shows that health professionals are right in the thick of the torture and abuse of the prisoners—suggesting a systematic collapse of professional ethics driven by the Pentagon itself. He describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic–the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking. " (emphasis mine)

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, it hasn't just been the big companies like Haliburton and Blackwater that have made a fortune shafting the taxpayer and the Iraqi people. It appears some of America's Shiny Perfect Heroes in Uniform aren't so shiny after all.

In one case of graft from that period, Maj. John L. Cockerham of the Army pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $10 million in bribes as a contracting officer for the Iraq war and other military efforts from 2004 to 2007, when he was arrested. Major Cockerham’s wife has also pleaded guilty, as have several other contracting officers. (emphasis mine again)

What the heck is Obama waiting for? He won the election. He has the votes he needs in the House and Senate even if every Republican decides to walk out on the vote. He has the public support. Is he afraid the truth will make bipartisan baby Jebus cry or something? Bring on the trials!

Crossposted from the Woodshed

Public conveyances. Public is the key word.

Personally, I never believed that an advertisement was necessary. I'm happy to let people believe in whatever they wish as long as they don't try to foist that belief on me without my seeking it out.

And that would be the problem. There isn't a month goes by where there isn't some outfit employing whatever means available to persuade me to give up my life (And money. Don't forget the money. Salvation ain't free, y'know) to whatever religious ponzi scheme they happen to be promoting.

And I suppose if the ad on the side of a bus was offensive... like if it was calling everyone who subscribed to religion or superstition a bunch of weak minded dorks, there would be cause for concern.

But it doesn't attack anyone nor does it single out any one group. It simply states a view and it states it quite weakly to boot.

So, when some city mandarin does this:
The ad, which says “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life,” was rejected based on a clause in OC Transpo’s advertising policy that states, “Religious advertising which promotes a specific ethic, point of view or action that might be offensive to users of the transit system is not permitted,” said John Donaldson, the city’s program manager of transit, marketing and customer service.
You can expect the paper to start moving and the courts to get involved.

What makes it easy for a plaintiff is when the mandarin exposes the defence of his actions by adding this:
“Just because of the advanced publicity on this campaign, we already know that people will be offended,” Donaldson said.
That's prejudicial, pure and simple. And if he can get away with that, well, do we have news for you bus ad managers.

By the way: This is good reading and this is even better.

NAFTA has made us patsies

This week the Canadian American Business Council will be running this full-page ad in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the National Journal, in advance of Obama's visit to Ottawa. The purpose of the ads, according to CABC, "is to remind Americans about how important Canada is and how intertwined our interests have become."

The ad prominantly features a famous quote from John F. Kennedy during his visit to Canada in 1961 : "Geography has made us neighbours ... economics has made us partners "

and states : "Canada is poised to securely supply even more oil and natural gas to the U.S"

The chairman of the CABC advisory board is the current Canadian ambassador to the U.S. and former NAFTA negotiator Michael Wilson.
Canadian ambassador Michael Wilson explained his position on Canada/US relations in this speech from June last year, courtesy of the Government of Canada website :

Advancing the North American Economic Area
"Economic integration is happening. Our businesses and consumers are making it happen"
"Building a competitive North American platform is essential"
"to engage the world as a North American economic powerhouse."
"a strong, dynamic, and increasingly integrated North American economy."
"we need to continually position ourselves better — position North America better"
"the North American economic partnership is working"
"developing a sectoral approach to improving North American competitiveness"
"committed to keeping the North American supply chain running smoothly"
"we must stake-out a strategic position for North American companies"
"We [Canada] are champions for improvements to the infrastructure that our North
industries depend on."
There's lots more quotes about the importance of North American economic integration from our Canadian ambassador to the US/chairman of the CABC advisory panel but you get the general idea.

There are of course dissenters ...

Thomas Walkom writes in The Star that Harper, abetted by Iggy, is using the budget implementation Bill C-10 :
"to introduce measures to weaken environmental laws affecting rivers and lakes, limit federal oversight of most foreign investment and scale back some of Canada's few remaining restrictions on foreign ownership."

Two days ago a coalition of unions and religious, environmental, student and social justice organizations sent a letter to Harper urging the renegotiation of NAFTA. It specifically calls for the elimination of the energy clause requiring Canada to continue to export oil and natural gas to the U.S., even in times of crisis, and the scrapping of the Security and Prosperity Partnership which "has excluded Parliamentary oversight, lacked any consultation with civil society, and led to further deregulation that has benefited only corporations."

On Tuesday Bruce Campbell, director of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, will also call for a revamping of NAFTA :
His report, titled The Obama Effect, urges Ottawa to, among other things, work to exclude water from NAFTA and ban bulk water exports, as well as putting more emphasis on ensuring basic public services like medicare and education can be expanded without risk of NAFTA challenges from foreign investors.
Without those NAFTA changes and the scrapping of the now even more secret SPP corporate advisory panels, that ad from CABC actually reads more like this :

Expanded from yesterday's post at Creekside

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Fairness Doctrine woes...

And slicing through the fog with the best line of the day.

For those who aren't fully aware, the Fairness Doctrine (in abbreviated form) is this:
The policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission that became known as the "Fairness Doctrine" is an attempt to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair. The FCC took the view, in 1949, that station licensees were "public trustees," and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance. The Commission later held that stations were also obligated to actively seek out issues of importance to their community and air programming that addressed those issues. With the deregulation sweep of the Reagan Administration during the 1980s, the Commission dissolved the fairness doctrine.
Keep in mind, that's a very abbreviated explanation of a policy that has been thoroughly examined, criticized, lauded and has been adjudicated upon by the US Supreme Court several times. The elimination of the "Fairness Doctrine" by the Reagan administration was done essentially on the precept that it violated the right of free speech guaranteed under the 1st Amendment of the US constitution, (a view with which the US Supreme Court did not agree), particularly with respect to licensed broadcast stations.

So, when the notion of reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine starts to move around inside the Beltway it's not surprising that those making the loudest noises complaining against any such reintroduction all come from a particular corner - the mouthpieces of the Republican party. And it's not that there is recommended legislation laying about waiting for debate, it's that the conservative punditry wants a definitive answer as to whether the Obama administration is even considering it.

The answer to that is that it doesn't matter. And Cathie cuts right through the issue to the core of what is actually going on:
They're going to chatter about something, so it actually doesn't matter whether Obama wants to reinstate this or not, as long as right-wing radio remains afraid that he might. And the more they emote and weep and wail about it, the more they are admitting to their listeners that they AREN"T actually fair.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Paradox of Military Technology

THE NEW ATLANTIS SITE has a very interesting piece, The Paradox of Military Technology, by Max Boot, that looks at today's military milieu.
“With the possible exceptions of night-vision devices, Global Positioning Systems, and shoulder-fired missiles,” writes retired Major General Robert Scales, a former commander of the Army War College, “there is no appreciable technological advantage for an American infantryman when fighting the close battle against even the poorest, most primitive enemy.”
That's the Kalshnikov Scourge, folks. Going great guns in the Congo, these days.
"Information technology is central to American military dominance. Not all of the changes wrought by the information age are obvious at first glance, because the basic military systems of the early twenty-first century look roughly similar to their predecessors of the second industrial age—tanks, planes, aircraft carriers, missiles. "
That's IT and digital electronics data links and phased array radar and gun computer systems.

It may be the RFID that may be of future consideration:
The most important challenge for the U.S. armed forces and their allies in the post-9/11 world is to “leverage” their advantage in conventional weaponry to deal with today’s unconventional threats. Information technology can be an important part of this task. Embedded microchips can track the 18 million cargo containers moving around the world and help prevent terrorists from using them to smuggle weapons.

As well, P. W. Singer has an interesting take on robotics, with Military Robots and the Laws of War :
When U.S. forces went into Iraq, the original invasion had no robotic systems on the ground. By the end of 2004, there were 150 robots on the ground in Iraq; a year later there were 2,400; by the end of 2008, there were about 12,000 robots of nearly two dozen varieties operating on the ground in Iraq. As one retired Army officer put it, the “Army of the Grand Robotic” is taking shape.