Sunday, January 31, 2010

Prorogation vs Canada's Pro-Democracy Movement

From The Real News Network : an excellent summary of the issues behind Steve's latest prorogation of democracy and how Canadians are pushing back.

Meanwhile, south of the 'longest undefended border in the world', Chris Hedges discusses 'inverted totalitarianism' in Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction .

How successful the Harpercons are at quietly shifting the state of democracy in Canada from the tenuous grasp described in the first link to the 'useful fiction' of the second is entirely up to us.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


THE GLOBE HAS AN INTERESTING TAKE on the Supreme Court's decision, and Stevie isn't gonna like it . . . according to Kirk Makin,

In an 9-0 ruling this morning, the Court said that Canada violated Mr. Khadr's Charter rights by participating in illegal interrogation methods which included sleep deprivation.

It stressed that the constitutional breach is ongoing and “continues to this day.”

However, the court said that before stepping in to dictate a Canadian response on a sensitive question of foreign policy, the federal government must be given a chance to rectify Mr. Khadr's plight.

But should the government fail to act, the court warned that it has the power to move more overtly to aid Mr. Khadr.

It's not easy, being Stevie.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Security vs Security. VANOC fuck ups. Vol 1

So, I'm flying home. No big deal. It's just that the "company" picked the wrong date to return me to the world. 29 January, 2010. Olympic security kicks into full court press.

"Picture ID please, Sir."

"Don't have any which I haven't paid for. I'm a Canadian, in Canada flying between Canadian points. If you want to see my picture look up the "outstanding warrants" poster or pay to see that which I personally paid for."

"We can deny you passage."

"No. You can't. Read the existing legislation."

"I'm just doing my job."

Goddamnit! I weakened. She was telling the truth and I buckled. I gave her the weakest of my photo IDs... and I shouldn't have done it.

"Where do you live?"

"It's on the card."

"We need your permission to transmit this information to the RCMP as a part of the Olympic security system."

"Really?! Then I want an assurance that the RCMP will provide a detailed report as to where and when this information was used and a certificate that it was destroyed when it served no purpose outside the duration of my flight."


Once again I gave in to the desire to simply "get home".

"Just give me the fucking boarding pass."

Security screening was a whole new experience... at least in Canada.

The normal over-the-top "we're protecting you" x-raying of everything you're carrying evolved into "I am going to do a secondary search of your baggage.... Sir." The "sir" was added to present an illusion that this was still Canada.

The security person, someone to whom I wouldn't have given a graduation certificate of an Ordinary Seaman Under Training, proceeded to open everything. Everything. Including documents.

When that person got to the PROTECTED B documents, I protested.

"You have no authority nor the requisite clearance to look though those. Read the markings."

"We're allowed to look at everything," she demanded.

"Not without the permission of the person that classified them, you're not," I told her.

By the time I had finished protesting, she had ripped open the sealed envelopes and had read the names, dates of birth, professional IDs and home addresses of persons who believed their personal information was secure in my custody.

She had made sure my paper was not a bomb. She had also violated Canadian law.

When I asked for her ID (so as to report the breach of PROTECTED B documents) she refused to provide it. Adamantly.

I obeyed the law. The security system flaunted it.

Welcome to the Olympics. 2010 Vancouver. 1936 Berlin.

Same rules. Same outcome.

You got it, Toyota

OH, WHAT A FEELING. Sometimes, though, even the "best" drop the ball.  Some 25 years ago, an engineer friend of my dad's had the air-conditioning shut down in his Mercedes. Problem was, the car shifted to FULL HEAT. This was in July.

It was a new model, and the parts dep't. didn't have a replacement, and none were to be found anywhere else in Canada. Dad's friend pointed at the same model on the floor and said, "Take the part off that car." The service rep refused.

Dad's friend, Len, asked, "You say your cars are engineered the best in the world, right?". The rep agreed.

"Well, what does it say about your engineering that when a system fails, it doesn't go to neutral (fresh, ambient-temp air), it goes to the full opposite of what the control was supposed to do?".

They took the part off the showroom car.

Dear Supreme Court of Canada,

What the effing hell is this supposed to mean?

The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned lower-court orders that the federal government must try to repatriate Toronto-born Omar Khadr from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

However, the top court agrees his human rights have been violated and continue to be violated by Canadian officials.

In a unanimous decision released Friday, the court declared that Canadian officials breached Khadr's right to life, liberty and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, it concluded that ordering the government to ask the U.S. for Khadr's repatriation to stop the continuing violation of his rights would interfere with the government's jurisdiction over foreign relations.

Because to me it sounds like you're saying the Charter rights of Canadians apparently cease to be when they might interfere with Canadian government's foreign affairs. It sounds like you're in effect giving the government permission to violate Charter rights if said government deems said rights an obstacle to the conduct of its foreign relations. THIS government of all possible governments?

Please explain to me why I'm wrong.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Bullshit from Rideau Hall

While it may just be the latest shiny object to be dangled in front of the public to keep them distracted from Stephen Harper's prorogation shenanigans and the response from both the electorate and the opposition until the big Burning Stick Festival in Vancouver next month, I still think this is unfair, hypocritical and just plain mean-spirited.

Cancer runner Steve Fonyo stripped of Order of Canada
The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — He finished Terry Fox's run across Canada and raised millions for cancer research, but in the two decades since then his life has been marked by run-ins with the law.
Now Rideau Hall has revoked Steve Fonyo Jr.'s membership in the Order of Canada, one of the country's highest civilian honours.
Fonyo, an amputee like Fox, was awarded the order in 1985 after raising more than $13 million. It was recognition of his 14-month, 8,000-kilometre trek on an artificial leg along the Trans-Canada Highway, completing the epic journey Fox had planned from St. John's, NL, to Victoria.
Owing to a slew of criminal convictions, however, the 44-year-old was stripped of the award on Dec. 10. A notice of the revocation appeared in the Canada Gazette on Jan. 23.
Fonyo, then of Vernon, B.C., was named The Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year in 1985, but his stretch of inspirational stories eventually took a negative turn.
The one-time hero, who lost his leg to bone cancer at age 12, battled cocaine addiction and depression.

The story goes on to describe Fonyo's various convictions for petty drug offenses, assault, check-kiting and drunken driving. CTV ran a response from Fonyo a day later - he spoke to them by telephone from jail.

Admittedly Fonyo has not lead an exemplary life since he was awarded the Order at age 18, but he was not given the award for the life he was going to lead or for his ongoing contributions to Canada - he was given the award for finishing what Terry Fox started, running across the country on an artificial leg to raise awareness of and money for cancer research.

Compare his case to this one:

Mountie who admitted sexually assaulting teen will receive bravery

The Governor General's office says an Alberta Mountie who has admitted sexually assaulting a teenage girl will still receive a national award for bravery.

By Calgary Herald
September 4, 2008

CALGARY - The Governor General’s office says an Alberta Mountie who has admitted sexually assaulting a teenage girl will still receive a national award for bravery.
Guy Armand Raes of Airdrie was recently named a recipient of the Governor
General’s Star of Courage award.
On Wednesday, a week after the announcement, Raes was in front of a provincial court judge pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a teen he befriended through an RCMP investigation. He will be sentenced next week.
Raes, 50, helped rescue a young couple and guided other residents to safety during a massive row house fire in Airdrie, a residential community just north of Calgary, in August 2005. The court case has no bearing on Raes’s award, according to the Governor General’s office.
“He is being recognized for an act of bravery that happened in 2005,” said Marie-Paule Thorn, spokeswoman for the Governor General’s office.

Now, to be honest, I think that Mr. Raes should keep his Star of Courage award. As the GG's spokewoman says, the award is about a specific deed that he performed in 2005 and no matter what he did afterwards, that deed stands alone. The same could be said to be true for Steve Fonyo - as an 18 year old he set out to run across the country and raise money for cancer research, finishing the job Terry Fox could not. He spent 14 months of his life accomplishing this astonishing feat, raised nearly $14 million dollars for cancer research and inspired the nation. Has he lived an exemplary life since then? No. So what? His troubled life since then does not in any way diminish his accomplishment and it is for that accomplishment the Order of Canada was awarded.

So, what about this guy?

Or this guy:

Whoops, both of them are in jail over illegal deeds they committed in the area for which they were given the Order of Canada, and one of them renounced his citizenship to accept foreign honors just a decade after he was named to the order- why haven't they been stripped of their awards the way fellow fraudster Alan Eagleson was?

There are only two other people who have been stripped of the award:

Aboriginal leader David Ahenakew lost his membership in 2005 after being convicted of promoting hatred against Jews. He was later acquitted of the charge after an appeal.

*Lawyer and race-relations advocate T. Sher Singh lost his membership in 2008 after the Law Society of Upper Canada found him guilty of professional misconduct and revoked his license to practice law.

Chief Ahenakew's conduct was appalling and he was revealed to be an anti-Semite even though he was convicted of the charges against him initially, he was aquitted on appeal. T. Sher Singh was never even indicted for any crimes as far as I know, simply disbarred for professional misconduct, a far cry from being jailed for committing fraud in the course of the very thing for which one is being honored.

The GG's office is technically within its rights to strip Fonyo of his award, but if they do so, Black and Drabinsky had better be immediately stripped of theirs too, along with a number of other people who may have brought dishonor to the Order, or is accepting envelopes full of cash in hotel rooms and selling your influence an acceptable practice to the GG?

They just don't get it

When I was a recruit, the military training staff would periodically designate one trainee as "section senior"* and sometimes "platoon senior"**. The designated individual would wear a brassard with sergeant's rank insignia and was responsible for communicating the wishes of the directing staff to the section and ensuring these were followed. This did not mean the section/platoon senior was actually a sergeant or had any authority beyond what the staff instructed them to do. The appointment was temporary and rotated daily through the rest of the members of formation. It was used essentially to take the burden off the staff, give recruits a limited sense of the leadership tasks, and assess candidates for leadership potential which in turn would be reflected in their assessments. This was clear and obvious to all of us, save one.

In my platoon, we had one particularly 'special' individual. Unique he was in the sense that he took quite a bit of time to grasp simple instructions, and further, just didn't quite get how things functioned in that highly structured environment. If you asked him to pick up an object at point A and move it to point B, he would become confused and ask for clarification. Several times. And then he'd get the thing and bring it to point F. If there was an easy way and a complicated way of doing something, he would invariably do it the complicated way, sometimes to great mirth in the rest of us (and at times self-injury to him). Other times, well, let's just say we did a lot of push-ups on his behalf. It was odd that we all sort of adopted him, despite this. I nearly snorted my coffee recalling some of his antics.

Which brings me to the point of my story. One day in the field, with all of us standing watching our arcs in the stage 4 trenches we'd spent the day digging and reinforcing, something possessed the instructors to make this man platoon senior. Oh dear. Suddenly, in the dark of night, Pte. ____ was heard to scream, at the career infantry sergeants and warrant officers running the show, something like the following: "NO! I'M IN CHARGE! I'M PLATOON SENIOR! YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT I SAY! I'M IN CHARGE! YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!"

Then this morning I read Dawg and CC referencing this special little utterance by Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan:

For him, prorogation is an opportunity for the Conservative government to concentrate on the economy by implementing the next phase of its economic stimulus program and prepare a new budget. If parliament was in session then the opposition parties could vote non-confidence and force an election before those tasks are complete.

“That’s what we don’t want,” said Cannan.

And it dawned on me that the Conservative Party and a great number of its supporters are simply incapable of understanding parliamentary democracy. Harper, I believe gets it and just doesn't like it. But the rest of them have a severe issue of cognitive impairment. Then I wondered if we should feel a little sorry for them, because it means Harper is clearly taking advantage of the slower kids.

*a 'section' is a formation of 8 to 10 soldiers (in the infantry). A platoon is usually a little over 30. 3 sections generally make up a platoon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Colorado Nazis adopt a highway

KDVR DENVER has a report by John Romero that a Colorado neo-Nazi outfit, the National Socialist Movement, has done the adopt-a-highway thing. The Anti-Defamation League decided to hold its nose and not oppose the application:

"Courts around the country have allowed white supremacists to sponsor highway signs," says Anti-Defamation League Director Bruce DeBoskey. So although the Anti-Defamation League couldn't be more opposed to the Nazi movement, it advised the state to put the application through.

A mystery

IO9 has a fascinating report by Ed Grabianowski, on the latest discoveries concerning a mystery device, called the Antikythera mechanism:

X-rays and advanced photography have uncovered the true complexity of the mysterious Antikythera mechanism, a device so astonishing that its discovery is like finding a functional Buick in medieval Europe.

Using nothing but an ingenious system of gears, the mechanism could be used to predict the month, day and hour of an eclipse, and even accounted for leap years. It could also predict the positions of the sun and moon against the zodiac, and has a gear train that turns a black and white stone to show the moon's phase on a given date. It is possible that it could also show the astronomical positions of the planets known to the ancients: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The Antikythera mechanism wasn't just a scientific tool – it also had a social purpose. The Greeks held major athletic competitions (such as the Olympics) every two or four years. A small dial within the Metonic dial showed the dates of these important events.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I got your class war right here

Give a man a fish and he'll eat it, teach a man to fish....and he may starve to death waiting to get a bite.

There has been a lot of asinine talk lately about the evils of creating dependence among the poor by...well, y'know, making sure that they don't starve to death. My previous favorite were entitlement-crazed assholes like these on the right who felt that sending money to Haiti would just encourage people there to remain poor. It's funny that no one thought of how the Haitians were encouraging the French to be poor while they were paying reparations for freeing themselves from slavery between 1804 and 1947.
But my new favorite in the "I hope one day your car breaks down in the slums you helped create" sweepstakes is South Carolina Lt. Gov. and gubernatorial hopeful Andre Bauer who thinks the poor are a bunch of ungrateful layabouts breeding like the vermin he thinks they are because of school lunch programs.

GREENVILLE - Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistanc to "feeding stray animals."

Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, made his remark during a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn that included state lawmakers and about 115 residents.

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better," Bauer said.

In South Carolina, 58 percent of students participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program.

Yes, Mr. Bauer, by all means deny aid to the children of irresponsible poor parents, that will teach them a lesson! And if little Johnny and Janey can't attend school because they are out dumpster diving to get enough to eat or can't concentrate at school because they didn't have breakfast and can't afford lunch, well then I guess they will learn not to be poor -- certainly it won't reinforce the cyclical nature of poverty and make more poor people. That would be unthinkable in a state as prosperous and egalitarian as yours

  • According to statistics collected by the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, (cribbed from the comments but tracked down to the linked source above)

    South Carolina ranks 45th in overall child wellbeing today.
    26% of children under the age of 6 years old lives in poverty.
    1 in 10 children live in extreme poverty.
    In 2006, 38% of babies were born to mothers who lacked adequate prenatal care.
    Infant mortality: 47th

    High school grad: 48th

    Obesity: 45th

    Infectious diseases: 42nd

    Violent crime: 50th (highest)

    Lack of health insurance: 37th

    Premature deaths: 46th

    Mental health: 41st

    Per capita income: 45th

    Underemployment: 46th

And what is this little tidbit of info?

hmmm, maybe the U.S. federal government should stop feeding South Carolina?


ERIC CLAPTON is now shilling for T-Mobile and Fender. Eric, don't you have enough money, already? If you can't get a decent sound out a plebeian Mexican-made Strat, the megabuck Clapton model isn't going to make you sound any better.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Duct Tape

During a private "fly-in" fishing excursion in the Alaskan wilderness, the chartered pilot and fishermen left a cooler and bait in the plane. And a bear smelled it. This is what the bear did to the plane: 

The pilot used his radio and had another pilot bring him 2 new tires, 3 cases of duct tape, and a supply of sheet plastic. He patched the plane together, and FLEW IT HOME !

Duct Tape ? Never Leave Home Without It.

Vancouver Rally For Democracy photos

Pix from me and West End Bob -click 'em to enlarge
Canwest : Thousands turn out for Vancouver rally to protest PM Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.
"Thousands", says Canwest, with 25,000 nation-wide.
Look at all those handmade signs!
Very upbeat mood throughout, passing cars honking their support, people cheering us on out of office windows. Felt great to be out on the street with Canadians who give a damn.
Notable that of the speeches given at Victory Square, the loudest and most sustained applause greeted Fair Vote Canada Shoni Field's call for electoral reform.
Many thanks to University of Alberta grad student Christopher White who started the whole thing rolling with just a page on facebook, now numbering over 213,000.

And to all those talking heads who assured us nightly on the snews that Canadians could care less that a single MP who happens to be the PM dismissed parliament via one phone call to the GG - you helped more than you know.

All in all a great day for democracy in Canada.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"No Prorogue" Day

Canadians can win at numbers game
"It was Woody Allen who said that 80 per cent of success is showing up.
As CBC's Rick Mercer, who gets it, ranted Tuesday, "Yes, we (Canadians) are apathetic but, the minute somebody tries to use our apathy against us, suddenly we start to care – big time."
Canadians will show up.
See you there. Back later with pix.

Friday, January 22, 2010

'No Prorogue' Rally For Canada Tomorrow!

Meet up on Georgia St. and march to Victory Square
Bring a Canadian flag !
And cookies - I quite like cookies.
each one with its own wee facebook page of info.
Boots in the streets, people.
Update : And for heaven's sake don't forget about this!

Vancouver police beat up a guy; media coverage blows

Vancouver's finest responded to a domestic dispute call by going to the wrong suite at 2am and beating the crap out of the guy who answered the door. They were in plain clothes. Yao Wei Wu does not speak English. He said he did not resist because the men had guns.

"Mr. Wu was taken to hospital where he was treated for bruises to his head, waist and knees and fractured bones around his left eye."

Vancouver Police chief Jim Chu has personally apologized to the 44 year old man. There will be an investigation.

It's horrible I know. But I wanted to point out the media headlines.

MetroNews : VPD arrest wrong man on domestic dispute call

CTV : Vancouver police apologize for arresting wrong man

Van Sun : Vancouver police apologize for wrongful arrest

NaPo : Vancouver man injured during mistaken arrest

Notice anything about those headlines? What they all imply is that it's the wrongful arrest that's the problem, not the fact the Vancouver Police beat someone up regardless of whether they thought he was the right guy or not.

CBC : Vancouver police apologize after man beaten

Thank you, CBC. And to commenters below the story, mostly all 300 of whom seem to get it.

Meanwhile, we're still waiting to find out if anything will be done about the off-duty cops who beat up a newsie a whole year ago.

Update : This is cause for a wee bit of hope ... VPD actually admits first response was to spin it :

VPD spokesperson Jana McGuinness stated yesterday that the man, who was not involved in any crime and was mistaken for someone else by police, “resisted by striking out at the police and trying to slam the door.”

Today, VPD Chief Jim Chu stepped back from those allegations, saying, “I want to make it perfectly clear this morning that we do not stand by that statement.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Crazy by any other name is still crazy

Amid Haiti's decent into Hell, we see our old friends Pat "Gays caused 9/11" Robertson and Rush "Take the bone out of your nose" Limbaugh once again overflowing with the rancid milk of compassionate conservatism.

From CNN:

Robertson, the host of the "700 Club," blamed the tragedy on something that "happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it."
The Haitians "were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever," Robertson said on his broadcast Wednesday. "And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.' True story. And so, the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' "
Native Haitians defeated French colonists in 1804 and declared independence.
"You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Video here

Not to be outdone, Limbaugh, the secular Tweedledum to Robertson's Tweedledee, said the whole Trying-to-save-some-lives-Haiti thing was just a political stunt by Barack Obama:

From TPM

Limbaugh, on the other hand, suggested that the Obama administration would use contributions to the Red Cross to gather information about donors.
"Would you trust that the money is going to go to Haiti?" Limbaugh said. "Would you trust that your name is going to end up on a mailing list for the Obama people to start asking you for campaign donations for him and other causes?"
He also said Obama was so quick to begin assistance to Haiti in order to boost his "credibility with the black community, in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."

Now, I've calmed down sufficiently since first reading these comments that I no longer advocate nailing Pat Robertson's testicles to a plank and nailing the plank to a slow moving train crawling through Port-Au-Prince, though I think the Rude Pundit might be onto a good way to make the gruesome twosome of some use.

I've argued elsewhere (comment 32) that everyone has their role to play in society, even if only as a bad example - In the case of Rush Limbaugh for instance, we at least have a walking, waddling, talking, bloviating, living specimen of the perfect braying asshole, a textbook example of the kind of person you can point to and say to your kids, "Don't ever be like that."

Reasonable people can disagree as to whether Rush's mouth should, in the immortal words of Wammo, simply be filled in with cement -- I know, there's that whole "freedom of speech" thing to consider, but in the case of Pat Robertson I have to ask: If his constantly hyperoffensive comments weren't couched in religious terms, wouldn't he be in an institution by now?

How crazy does someone have to be before the authorities come around and throw a net over them? If he were blaming the earthquake in Haiti on giant cockroaches from Venus or claiming the voices in his head were those of the mole-people living under Idaho communicating with him telepathically, he would have been put away by now in a little room and dress in a nice white coat with extra-long sleeves. But since he ties all his crazy to Jesus and has managed to convince a bunch of idiots to send him a lot of money, our society doesn't consider him mentally ill.

It seems as long as you claim it's a matter of religious belief, you can pretty much do or say whatever you want, whether it's marry a half-dozen 15-year-olds, beat your spouse, refuse to eat pork, eschew the use of technology, keep and handle poisonous snakes or wage war to ethnically cleanse a patch of desert you claim is promised to you in your holy book. No one dares to call you crazy, no one is allowed to snicker at your heartfelt belief that the position of the entrails of the dead bird foretell the future or that the bread and wine magically become the body of a long dead teacher.

As long as you can tie your particular brand of crazy to a religion, you aren't a fruitcake, you're a "person of faith."

Don't misunderstand me, I don't necessarily think that anyone who believes in a god or gods is necessarily crazy or that all religious belief must be stamped out - I'm merely questioning why the western notion of religious freedom that originally meant that the state would not dictate
which church you wouldl be forced to attend or ban minority religions has somehow come to be a free pass for all manner of anti-social behavior. I don't care if your religion tell you not to eat shellfish or get an abortion or have your body put up on a pillar to eaten by vultures when you die, but as soon as your beliefs start to impinge on others, whether through denying blood transfusions to children too young to make a properly informed decision or harrassing people entering Red Lobster (or Planned Parenthood) or banning books from libraries because they contain words or ideas that offend your religious sensibilities or burning "witches" --your right to religious tolerance ends.

Do you think Al-Quaida would be able to recruit people to blow themselves up for purely secular reasons? Would society have put up with an organization that protected serial child-rapists if that organization had been a network of peewee hockey leagues instead of the Catholic Church? Why is it that celebrity pastor Rick Warren's megachurch doesn't have to pay taxes whether it makes a profit or not, but the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders must prove they aren't turning a profit in order to keep their tax-free status?

Some would argue that religious organizations of whatever denomination or affliation offer spiritual and emotional comfort to people in their lives, but, I would argue, so do distilleries, movie theaters, brothel and the Grateful Dead. Why should churches get a tax break?

If some guy in the park tell you he gets radio messages in his head from the 23rd dimension or that he hears the voice of Nicolai Tesla or Napoleon in his head telling him to do things, or that he can give people he doesn't like cancer just by thinking about it or put a curse on you, you rightly assume that he is probably schizophrenic or suffering from some other form of mental illness. But George Bush, the Pope and Pat Robertson - and thousands, if not millions, of others - all claim to that god has spoken to them and that He has answered their prayers or guided their actions or cured someone's illness at their request and they are respected, even lauded, for their faith and piety.

It is enough to make one question our societal commitment to science and reason.

"One man's theology is another man's belly laugh"
-Robert Heinlein

Still, it is reassuring to see that some people have their priorities in order. What a fiend we have in Jesus!

Banana Republic of the United States of America

Remember this? Well the good ol' US Supreme court just formally gave corporate capital the constitutional right to bankroll whatever political party they choose.
The Supreme Court today overturned a century-old restriction on corporations using their money to sway federal elections and ruled that companies have a free-speech right to spend as much as they wish to persuade voters to elect or defeat candidates for Congress and the White House.

In a 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said corporations have the same 1st Amendment rights as individuals and, for that reason, the government may not stop corporations from spending freely to influence the outcome of federal elections.

The decision is probably the most sweeping and consequential handed down under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. And the outcome may well have an immediate impact on this year's mid-term elections to Congress.

Until now, corporations and unions have been barred from spending their own treasury funds on broadcast ads or billboards that urge the election or defeat of a federal candidate. This restriction dates back to 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt called on Congress to forbid corporations, railroads and national banks from using their money in federal election campaigns. After World War II, Congress extended this ban to labor unions.
Whatever was left of US democracy just officially went to the highest bidder.


Murder at Gitmo

HARPER'S MAGAZINE has a frightening report by Scott Horton, titled 'The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle'. According to Scott, the interrogation of 3 prisoners resulted in death by asphyxiation. The U.S. media has been ignoring the problem, but it's not going away, and it's going to turn into one hell of a spicy meatball:

Furthermore, new evidence now emerging may entangle Obama’s young administration with crimes that occurred during the George W. Bush presidency, evidence that suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously—and may even have continued—a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006.

Late on the evening of June 9 that year, three prisoners at Guantánamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantánamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. They were being held in a cell block, known as Alpha Block, reserved for particularly troublesome or high-value prisoners.

So far, Slate has picked it up, and a growing number of independent US bloggers, as well as the European press. The cover-up reads like a bad Murder She Wrote script. Meanwhile, Omar sits there . . .

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Civil Rights and Wrongs

THE INTERNATIONAL FREE PRESS SOCIETY is a spin-off of the Danish Free Press Society. They took their name from the Society that was established in 1835 when the adherents of free speech feared encroachment by the State. The old Society was dissolved in 1849 in recognition of Denmark’s first democratic constitution that guaranteed the freedom of expression. Today, however, free speech is again being threatened, primarily by religious and ideological interests and international pressure groups. For this reason they have found is necessary to re-establish the Society. They have a policy statement for your perusal, here.

Well, their site notes the start of the trial of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders on charges related to his political campaign to stop and reverse the Islamization of the Netherlands. The article, titled "The Trial of Geert Wilders: A Symposium" has the opinions of an array of legal experts, authors and journalists to reflect on this momentous event.

Maybe Mr. Wilders is guilty of being a sumbitch bigot, maybe he's not. Personally, I thought the cartoons were hilarious, and the idea that in the 21st century, that some people feel entitled to visit mayhem upon the cartoonists is an obscenity, and an obscenity worse than anything that could be drawn by a pen. Maybe the wogs really do start at Calais.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For Edstock

Hmmm, what about .577 Tyrannosaur?

Christopathic gunsights

Biblical references on weapon sights.

Coded references to biblical passages are inscribed on gunsights widely used by the US and British military in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has emerged. The markings include "2COR4:6" and "JN8:12", relating to verses in the books of Corinthians II and John. Trijicon, the US-based manufacturer, was founded by a devout Christian, and says it runs to "Biblical standards".

The email adds: "Everyone is worried that if they were captured in combat that the enemy would use the Bible quotes against them in captivity or some other form of propaganda."

MRFF president Mikey Weinstein says the inscriptions could give the Taliban and other enemy forces a propaganda tool.

"I don't have to wonder for a nanosecond how the American public would react if citations from the Koran were being inscribed onto these US armed forces gunsights instead of New Testament citations," he said.

A Trijicon spokesman told the BBC the company "has been working to provide America's military men and women with high quality, innovative sighting systems for the weapons they use".

"Our effort is simple and straightforward: to help our servicemen and women win the war on terror and come home safe to their families.

"As part of our faith and our belief in service to our country, Trijicon has put scripture references on our products for more than two decades.

"As long as we have men and women in danger, we will continue to do everything we can to provide them with both state-of-the-art technology and the never-ending support and prayers of a grateful nation," the spokesman added.

The company states on its website: "We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals."

The lunatics are running the asylum.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Holding the bully's coat in Haiti

The Haitian government has signed a memorandum of understanding formally transferring control of the Port-au-Prince airport to the US. From the Guardian :

"Flights seeking permission to land continuously circle the airport, which is small, damaged and with a single runway, rankling several governments and aid agencies. "There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti," Jarry Emmanuel, air logistics officer for the UN's World Food Programme, told the New York Times.

"But most of those flights are for the United States military. Their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed. We have got to get those priorities in sync."

France ­protested when an emergency field hospital was turned back.
The foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said the airport was not for the international community but "an annexe of Washington", according to France's ambassador to Haiti, Didier Le Bret.
Brazil was also indignant when three flights were not allowed to land.

The Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières complained about flights with medical staff and equipment which were re-directed to the neighbouring Dominican Republic."

Obstructing assistance from other countries, sending in the military, ... right about now I'm guessing you're remembering the US relief efforts in New Orleans following Katrina.

Toronto Sun : Canada to take lead building 'New Haiti'

On January 25th, given he has nothing else to do til the Owelympic photo event, Steve is hosting a Haiti 'reconstruction' conference in Montreal for leaders from 16 countries which make up the Group of Friends of Haiti . While you're at it, here's something you guys can reconstruct ...

"In 1995, the IMF forced Haiti to cut its rice tariff from 35% to 3%, leading to a 95%increase in rice-dumping from the United States. As a 2008 Jubilee USA report notes, although the country had once been a net exporter of rice, "by 2005, three out of every four plates of rice eaten in Haiti came from the US."

During this period, USAID invested heavily in Haiti, but this charity came not in the form of grants to develop Haiti's agricultural infrastructure, but in direct food aid, furthering Haiti's dependence on foreign assistance while also funneling money back to US agribusiness."

Six years ago Canadian troops held down the Port-au-Prince airport while US troops deported the democratically elected Aristide to Africa. Apparently our preferred government for Haiti consisted of former Tonton Macoutes.

Peter Hallward in The Guardian :

The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate military purpose.

Proposals to divert some of this "investment" towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked, in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the distribution of international "aid"."


Saturday, January 16, 2010

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

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Sergeant John Faught, the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Killed due to enemy action.


driftglass and blue gal podcast

South o' th' bord'r bloggers Blue Gal and Driftglass have a...podcast?

Starry, starry night

MICHAEL YON is an enterprising and intrepid reporter who has been out in Afghanistan for a number of years, covering that sorry situation that the troops are contending with. A few months back, I posted his coverage of British troops in their efforts to pacify their assigned areas. Currently, his site has some astounding pictures of U.S. artillerymen working their 155 mm howitzer beneath the stars.

This is not just simple barrage-work:

Calculations for shots are extremely complex and include dozens of factors, such as windspeed, barometric pressure, humidity, altitude of the gun and the target, temperature, and the earth’s rotation, and the specific lot number of the ammunition. Every gun is different and so the calculations for one gun would lose accuracy in another. The guns are brutal and rugged, but also high-tech, precision machines that took centuries of science, engineering and experience to reach the current state.

Sometimes missions are pre-planned, while at other times crews must wait close to the guns for hours, even days, without a break. There was some base in Iraq—I went there with CSM Jeff Mellinger but have forgotten where it was—and the base was taking rocket or mortar fire on a frequent basis from a certain area. And so the cannoneers slept just next to the guns, and finally the enemy fired and was killed because the guns were pointed at the exact predicted firing point. The cannoneers just loaded and counter-fired and finished them. Probably few people on base realized that the “cannon cockers” had conducted an ambush-by-howitzer. (Maybe the crew who was there will recall this and set the facts straight.)

Sometimes the crews fire “H & I” or “terrain denial” missions. Harassment and Interdiction missions are fired at terrain known to be used only by the enemy at certain times, and so anytime the enemy feels like rolling the dice, they can move into that terrain. Such missions also provide influence for “shaping” the battlefield. If the commander is trying to flush the enemy into a blunder—maybe an ambush—or maybe to cut them off from an escape route, he can have the guns pound into a gorge, say, that is used as an enemy route. Or maybe he just tries to persuade the enemy to take a route where we have sniper teams waiting. The battery can be used in many ways that do not include direct attacks on enemy formations.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bamboo Bikes

DER SPIEGEL has an interesting article on bicycles that are greener than average, because their frames are fabricated from bamboo and hemp fibers and resin. Originally big-buck high-tech enthusiast items, they are moving to the third world as a cost-effective method of manufacture.

Carbon fiber and aluminum are so 2009. This year's best bicycling model is made out of bamboo and hemp. A new generation of manufacturers are coming up with some of the most environmentally friendly transport yet. Lighter, stronger, more comfortable and these bikes have also got a much smaller carbon footprint.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at Work

OH, HOW I LOVE THE NFB. Stevie probably hates it, but what the hell does he know? Anyway, the good folks at the NFB have posted The Cat Came Back! Cordell Barker is so brilliant.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Freedom of Speech

A MODEST CONSTRUCT is an interesting blog I just found. Created by Ben Gunnink [a.k.a. Heliologue] who proclaims that he lives out the phrase “specialization is for insects,” with interests ranging from literature to computer science, linguistics to physics, music to philosophy. 

Anyway, he has a very interesting video clip of Christopher Hitchens, defending free speech, taped at a debate at Hart House, in 2006.

Worth listening to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dear Vatican,

I take issue with your simple dogmatic and doctrinaire construction of a judgemental and vengeful sky-god. Given what we now know about everything from quarks to black holes, and the fact we mere humans are made of the same matter as stars, your belief in an emotionally fraught deity seems to be a little simple minded. I also find your psychological thuggery of worship or go to hell, don't fuck or go to hell, say your Hail Marys or go to hell, to be at complete odds with the sort of all encompassing compassion idea that Jesus (much like Buddha et al) actually suggested. Not to mention being more indicative of a personality disorder than any sort of all forgiving divine master. Further, I find your raw, naked abuse of two millenia of amassed power, resulting in rivers of blood, suffering, and recently the despicable defence of the paedophiles amid your troops, to be worthy of the hell you threaten so many others with if they do not heed your 'teachings'.

And now, as we humans discover that several centuries of blood-soaked planet-rape that began largely when Church married early European colonial-capitalism to promote, nay, provoke its scare-doctrine, is actually threatening human survival, you come along to tell us to nevermind all that because your skygod gets jealous and might feel left out.

It is obvious that it's not your God who is jealous. It is you, his self-professed terrene representatives, because you find yourself increasingly irrelevant as the human species matures, like a child into adulthood, beyond the need for parental gods and devils and moves into the space where it understands that it is master of its own fate. And builds the confidence to proceed as such.

Please do keep rendering yourself irrelevant. We'll all be much better off.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Facebook Wars - by the numbers

Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament - 155,000
Canadians Who Don't Care if Harper is Proroguing Parliament - 163
I Support the Prorogation of Parliament and the Prime Minister of Canada -713

Stephen Harper - 29,452
Michael Ignatieff - 28,822
Jack Layton - 27,697

and just to be a cow about it :
Canadians Against a Liberal/NDP Coalition Gov't - 126,681
When Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament started up on Facebook last week, supporters of last year's Canadians Against a Liberal/NDP Coalition Gov't were all very dissy about it : We got 127,000 members in less than a week - crowed BloggingTory Stephen Taylor - the largest Canadian FB group evah!
Of course now that CAPP membership has topped 155,000, they've gone all 'well fuck facebook then', with the National Post plumping for the 163 Canadians Who Don't Give a Rat's Ass About It.
As CC has already pointed out, it's the prorogue FB support group that are of course the actual competition to CAPP and not the old anti-coalition group, but Susan Delacourt highlights an important difference between anti-prorogue group and the anti-coalition group for us anyway (h/t Dammit Janet) :
"This new Facebook group is counting on people to educate themselves about parliamentary tradition, practice and principle. The old Facebook group was organized around the notion of 'never mind parliamentary rules about majority/minority and confidence, this thing is wrong.'

In other words, you have to understand basic rules of Parliament to understand why this prorogation is unusual; you had to ignore parliamentary rules to argue the coalition was wrong."
And right there Susan Delacourt nails the basic difference between progressives and the ReformaTories.
Well, that and the lying.

EDIT : Perhaps the Con supporters happily joining the Don't Care FB group should take another look at the Admin's statement. I hadn't and have now edited this post accordingly, taking out my snarky renaming of his site as "Don't Give a Rat's Ass About Democracy".

Why have a Parliament anyway?

Roy MacGregor, while largely acknowledging that Stephen Harper seem to have little but contempt for Parliament, insists that no one but Parliament Hill reporters and opposition MPs much cares about prorogation, which is hard to pronounce and just plain boooooring. Few people care about what Parliament does at the best of times, opines MacGregor, Canadians have "tuned out."

Gee, Roy, should we even bother with having a Parliament? Tell us, is it good for anything?

"What, one panel asked the other night, if there was "a national emergency"? Well, depending on what that may entail - a big snowfall in Toronto? Denmark invading Hans Island? - presumably they would get back to work and do whatever might be necessary.
An argument can be made, on the other hand, that this country runs quite smoothly when Parliament is not in session. Rare indeed is the Canadian political crisis that comes along in summer or over the long Christmas break - or, for that matter, during prorogations.
It can even be suggested that the country runs best under a prime minister who treats it as a part-time job."

"A national emergency in Canada? That's unpossible!"

Yeah, forget that Canada has almost 9% unemployment, that the economy is in dire shape, that we are mired in a pointless war halfway around the world with no end in sight or that the government ordered our military to hand over prisoners to be beaten and tortured - especially that last part. No one cares but a bunch reporters and nerds on the internet!

Besides, burning stick soon come!

MacGregor should stick to what he's good at-- writing about hockey--and leave the political commentary to people that understand that democracy is not a just a minor inconvenience that takes up valuable space in the newspaper that could be used for sports stories.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


IN A WORLD OF STEVIE, OCTO-MOM AND THE BALLOON BOY, Jessica Watson is delightfully refreshing. She's an adventurous sixteen year-old who is sailing round the world solo, to set a record for the youngest to do so.

Roger Sandall is a Sydney writer, with a perspective on her attempt, following the efforts of Joshua Slocum, 1844–1909, who was the first to circumnavigate solo. Even today, with GPS, and better boats, it's still no walk in the park.

Jessica’s plainly a nice kid and having a great time — but is she well-advised? When New Zealand-born mum Julie said on television that sailing around Cape Horn was no more dangerous than crossing the street (or did she say that crossing the street was more dangerous?) you began to wonder. Is there something in the water? Or is it just the Antipodal Mind?

Then there’s Sir Francis Chichester. Both a solo flier in the 1930s and a solo round-the-world sailor in 1966-67, he wrote that the thought of Cape Horn “not only frightened me, but I think it would be fair to say that it terrified me. The accounts of the storms there are, quite simply, terrifying… I told myself for a long time that anyone who tried to round the Horn in a small yacht must be crazy. Of the eight yachts I knew to have attempted it, (this was back in 1966, RS) six had been capsized or somersaulted, before, during, or after the passage…”

Not a picnic. Not like crossing the road.

Jessica has her own blog, and thanks to satellites, keeps us posted:

Thursday, January 7, 2010
Closing on the Cape
Thanks for being patient waiting for the next blog. My great shore team will always post an update when I don't have the time to.

The wind hit 40 knots again on Tuesday which kept life interesting and a little bouncy. Since then it's steadily dropped off to my current 8 knots today, which is really only just enough to keep us moving, slowly!

In typical Southern Ocean style, the visibility hasn't been great with almost constant light, misty drizzle and not the slightest hint of a clear sky. But no complaints from me. Like I've said before, in its own way it's just as pretty as sunshine and blue water. Looking at it another way, you could always say that at least the low visibility means that you can see very little of the bad weather!

The good news is that I was able to fix the little problem with the mainsheet block easily. But the bad news is that despite spending yesterday morning trying to fix the heater, it still won't play nice! Oh well, on the scale of things the heater not working really isn't much of a problem, just one of those optional extras.

I'm really starting to get pretty excited about Cape Horn as we're getting so close now, with just over 500nm to go!

That's going to have to be it from me today as my fingers as are pretty keen to slip back into some nice warm gloves!

You go, girl!

True Believers

The two thousand member Baptist church was filled to overflowing capacity one Sunday morning. The preacher was ready to start the sermon when two men, dressed in long black coats and black hats entered thru the rear of the church. 

One of the two men walked to the middle of the church while the other stayed at the back of the church. They both then reached under their coats and withdrew automatic weapons. 

The one in the middle announced, "Everyone willing to take a bullet for Jesus stay in your seats!" 

Naturally, the pews emptied, followed by the choir. The deacons ran out the door, followed by the choir director and the assistant pastor. 

After a few moments, there were about twenty people left sitting in the church. The preacher was holding steady in the pulpit. 

The men put their weapons away and said, gently, to the preacher, "All right, pastor, the hypocrites are gone now. You may begin the service."