Sunday, November 30, 2008
Fisking the Tory talking points
I was quite interested to see the Tory talking points that were mailed out to their loyal supporters in order to have them not only phone up talk radio, but also use identical arguments. I'm very grateful to the Montréal Gazette [http://tinyurl.com/5qcgby] for getting a copy of this document and running it for the rest of Canadians who don't happen to be members of Steven Harper's Foot Soldiers TM.
Unfortunately, Harper doesn't do his foot soldiers and any favors when it comes to making them look smart. The "arguments" that he furnishes them with are, by and large, either pointless, pure propaganda or dependent on a logical fallacy. Let's have a look.
1. "Is anyone else outraged by what the opposition parties are doing in Ottawa?"
Pure propaganda, no logical content.
This line item exists for the purpose of linking "outrage" to the words "Opposition Parties", in order to imply that the Opposition has been doing something outrageous.
2. "We are not even two months removed from the last election, and a group of backroom politicians are going to pick with the prime minister is. Canadians didn't vote for this person. We don't even know who this person will be."
Propaganda, presenting the idea that backroom manipulations are circumventing the democratic process. Considering that Harper's Conservatives are under extraordinarily rigid control, considering that Harper put an unelected official into the Senate quite happily when he was first elected, and considering that last month's Tory convention in Winnipeg was hermetically sealed even to many party faithful, he has no right to accuse the opposition of using these tactics -- and in actual fact the opposition is using perfectly legitimate parliamentary procedure.
3. "Not a single voter voted for a liberal -- NDP coalition. Certainly not a single voter voted for the Liberals to form a coalition with the separatists in the block."
Pure nonsense. A coalition wasn't part of the voting process, so no one could have voted for it. However, quite a number of people declared themselves to be ABC voters, which at least implies a willingness to support a coalition.
A second element of this paragraph talks about the Bloc Québecois as "separatists". The talking point covertly dismisses the Bloc, and thus Quebecers, as being un-Canadian. This can hardly be soothing to the 1.3 million people who voted for the Bloc. Does Harper want to be reminding the Bloc that they're seperatists?
4. "(Add to the above)... what's worse the Liberals even promised that there wouldn't be a coalition with the NDP --. this is all about power, all about money and they don't even want to face the voters.”
Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot. Harper's Conservatives, the youngest political party in Canada, exists at all because of a broken promise. Harper himself has shown no hesitation in breaking promises without a backward glance. (For instance, the taxation of income trusts.)
As far as the phrase “…this is all about power, all about money and they don't even want to face the voters.” This is an example of the Republican tactic of accusing your opponent of precisely the thing that you yourself are doing.
The federal funding of political parties was put in place to somewhat separate monied interests from the political process, and as a trade-off for the corporate dollars lost through restrictions of those donations. I have not heard the Conservatives mention lifting those restrictions along with the lifting of the federal money. Considering how expensive a political campaign is, especially the travel and the advertising, the amounts being paid to parties are woefully inadequate, and are dwarfed by the cost of the election itself -- which the taxpayer also shoulders. This last election cost each and every Canadian about $10 apiece. To add $1.95 per voter (not per citizen) to that tab in order to support the party that a voter actually voted for hardly seems exorbitant.
5. "This is what bothers me the most. The Conservatives won the election. The Opposition keeps saying that the Conservatives have to respect the will of the voters, that this is a minority, and so on."
This argument lays out a false dichotomy. Unlike the United States, there are not two parties in Canada, the Conservatives versus the Opposition. There are, in fact, lots, of which five are big enough to to run with the big dogs. By a large margin, most Canadians did not vote for the Conservatives.
And by the way -- in a parliamentary system, unlike the American system, the Conservatives really do have to respect the will of the voters, and also the will of Parliament. They have a minority government, so they get to stand up front for the overripe fruit and rotten eggs, but don't get to do anything they please. Harper gets to have dinner with the Queen but this does not mean he is the Leader of the Pack.
6. "... how about Liberals, NDP and Bloc respecting the will of the voters when they said "YOU LOSE"."
Unlike the American system, the Canadian system elects MPs, and when those MPs are counted up, the result indicates who gets the overripe fruit. Each constituency elects one MP, and that MP legitimately wins on his or her own merits. In Canada, at least at the time of writing, the Conservatives have only 37% of MPs, while "the Opposition" has the rest. In light of this, it's difficult to see how Harper can say that the voters said "you lose" to everybody except him.
7. "And what's this going to do to the economy. I'm sorry, I don't care how desperate the Liberals are -- giving Socialists (Jack Layton) and separatists (Gilles Duceppe) a veto over every decision in government -- that is a recipe for total economic disaster."
Several layers to this one, first labeling the Liberals as desperate. This actually might be true -- the first truth we have run across in this dissection. However, just because someone is desperate does not mean that their policies are incorrect. It's a separate issue.
Secondly, the unnamed writer of these talking points doesn't seem to understand Canadians very well. In the United States, "socialist" is a dirty word. In Canada, it's a way of life. And as far as Duceppe and the Bloc are concerned, things are comparatively peaceful in Quebec at the moment, and unlikely to get worse unless Mr. Harper keeps poking at them with cultural pointed sticks.
And finally, the unnamed writer invokes total economic disaster. True, Canada is unlikely to escape the backwash of a foundering USA. However, we are in far better shape than almost any other developed nation, although over the past few years the surplus that Paul Martin left behind has been somewhat eroded. Times may be tough over the next two or three years -- they are unlikely to be catastrophic.
However -- if Harper (or his talking-point manufacturer) really believes that Canada is on the brink of " total economic disaster" then what the hell is he doing playing petty politics?
8. "Here is what is bothering me about all of the back room opposition coalition talk..."
Again with the word "back room". Does the unnamed writer of these talking points really expect anyone to believe that politics is done without consultation behind-the-scenes? Particularly Harper’s Conservatives, who seem to do everything far away from the public eye -- even their campaigning?
9. "Sure it bothers me that parties Canadians rejected are trying to seize power through the back door"
As noted above, the Canadians did not reject these parties, these are all parties that ran lots of candidates and earned large numbers of Canadian votes. And secondly they are employing perfectly legitimate procedures in considering a coalition.
10. "But how much more phony could these guys be?"
I don't know, as phony as a fuzzy blue sweater on a shark?
11. "I mean, I follow the news, virtually every single day you have Harper or Flaherty out there telegraphing exactly what they plan to do with the economy. And not once do you hear the Liberals, NDP or separatists talking about toppling the government in response."
Parts of this are partly true. Certainly until now it has only been the more fiery members of the un-Conservative parties who have speculated about a coalition, although plenty of bloggers have. Until now, Harper has skillfully walked a tightrope between the greater or lesser smelliness of his legislation and the nuisance of voting no-confidence and heading for an election. But now, I think that the non-Harper parties have finally snapped and gotten completely fed up with having Harper yank their chains on a constant basis, while losing weeks out of the limited working time of the 40th Canadian Parliament.
The other part of this talking point concerns the constant telegraphing of Conservative plans for the economy. Perhaps I have missed it, or perhaps it is being telegraphed in Morse code.
12. "No --- do you know what set this off. When Flaherty said he was going to take a taxpayer-funded subsidies away from the Opposition. Now there is a reason to try and overturn an election -- because the Conservatives have the audacity to say "hey, it's a recession, maybe you should take your nose out of the trough."
First, no one has mentioned Harper wants this defunding to take place retroactively. I wonder how many bills remain to be paid by parties who had planned their campaigns with this money in mind? Changing the rules after the cards are on the table is hardly a fair procedure, especially considering that vote-based funding was the law of the land (and still is) when Harper ignored the spirit of his own election law and pushed Canada into a entirely uncalled for $300 million election.
Secondly, $30 million really is small change, compared to the huge numbers needing to be juggled. All three of the cuts in the mini-budget dealt with penny-ante concerns which would annoy a very large number of people while saving a very small amount of money.
And Harper has not said how that money is going to be replaced -- in the absence of big donations from labor or from corporations. Perhaps what all the parties should do is raise money until an election is called, put it into a pool, and then split that money five ways among them.. After all, wouldn't it be fair if all parties started from the gate with no differences except the quality of their candidates and their policies?
13. "And I wish the media would be more clear on this point -- the Opposition aren't being singled out by this fact the Conservatives stand to lose the most money of all. The only difference is that Canadians are voluntarily giving money the Conservatives so they don't need taxpayer handouts. The only reason the Opposition would be hurt more is because nobody wants to donate to them. They should be putting their efforts towards fixing that problem"
We should all know the word "disingenuous". This unknown writer is stating that the Conservatives will lose the most money of all in scrapping this funding. While true, they hardly need it this time around, since they have barrels of money.
Again we see the squishing together of all the non-Conservative parties into one big "Opposition" party, and then the suggestion that the Opposition Party doesn’t have money because they need better fundraising.
Of course, that taxpayer funding comes directly from the voters, and in direct proportion to the number of votes they cast for that party’s candidates. Thirty million Canadians, $30 million dollars. That’s hardly a burden on the nation.
14. And finally -- "I don't want another election. But what I want to even less is a surprise back room prime minister whom I never even had the opportunity to vote for or against. What an insult to democracy."
What I want to know is, where are these "back room's"? Again we have the implication of something shady, like smalltime gangsters meeting in the back room of a pool hall. I am sure that at the moment the opposition parties are meeting everywhere except pool halls -- most likely convention rooms in hotels, just like all other legitimate associations.
The unnamed writer again shows he is unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure. Hammering together a coalition is one of many permissible ways to run Canada. Doing it privately is permissable, probably wise, and certainly not out of line with Harper's modus operandi.
As for insulting democracy, I have a real problem with the Conservatives running campaign attack ads for months, and then forcing an actual election, therefore escaping a big chunk the election spending caps that are imposed on all the other parties. What an insult to democracy. Right?
On a Web and a Prayer . . . .
If You Post It, They Will Pray
By ALLEN SALKIN - November 30, 2008
LET us pray that Steve will be receptive.
On the Web site prayabout.com, Steve’s wife, whose online profile notes that she is a Catholic from St. Charles, Mo., asked other users of the site to submit prayers that her husband will listen to his psychiatrist. She also asked for prayers that the psychiatrist will “see that my husband has major issues that need to be worked on ASAP.”
The post received 19 prayers in response. Jaqueline1712
from India asked Jesus to heal Steve’s broken spirit. A user from Kentucky, whose profile photo shows her hugging a baby, prayed that God would take away Steve’s anger.
“Give this family hope!” wrote Mr.Dan2, of New Mexico.
Prayer has found a home on the Web. Sites such as prayabout.com and ipraytoday.com have recently joined longstanding toll-free telephone services that allow anyone to request, for free, that strangers pray for them.
The most common prayers are for physical healing, Ms. Brown said. The second-most requested prayer is usually for inner peace, but, unsurprisingly, there has been a major uptick in the last few months in prayers about financial concerns.
The economy is clearly on the minds of users of prayabout.com, which made its debut a year ago and is not affiliated with any religion (although an advertiser is a Christian dating Web site).
One user, mmlgallow, requested prayers for his family business. “Please Father let our business pick up enough to pay our bills and break even so that we do not lose our home. I would also like to pray for the employees that we had to lay off that business picks up enough to bring their jobs back.”
Not everyone is playing nice. “There have been a lot of attacks on the site from militant atheists,” Mr. Desai said. “They have tried to exploit the site to spread their message.”
Instead of answering prayers, the atheists point to the Web site Godisimaginary.com. The site urges nonbelievers to spread the word by posting links to Godisimaginary on forums, blogs and news groups.
Paige Maurer Wheeler, the founder of ipraytoday.com, said the idea for the Web site, which she started last year from her home in Phoenix, came to her in a dream. “I told my husband, ‘I’m going to start a prayer Web site and we’re going to show the power of prayer.’ He said, ‘O.K.’ ”
Ms. Wheeler said she now has thousands of registered users and a stock of testimonials.
“We had a 78-year-old woman fall off a stool,” she said by telephone. “She was paralyzed. Her friend wrote in and said, ‘Pray for Marsha.’ And there she was, the next day, walking.”
MS. Wheeler said the stock of testimonials would be deeper, but her Web site programmer lost a lot of her data.
Which proves the old maxim true: "Garbage in, garbage out" in 'puter land . . . .
(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)
Blog award update
Faster Pussycats, Kill! Kill!
I don't expect much to come of it, since the Liberals are stuck in leadership race mode for the next several months. The idea of a coalition is a nice one, but highly unlikely to come about. I think it would take weeks of negotiating for the leaders of the three opposition parties in Parliament to agree on what to get on a pizza, but now that they seem to have forced Harper to take a small step back, who knows?
As much as I'd love to see the opposition gang up on Harper and send him out to pasture and back to the right-wing think tanks where he belongs, I think the political rhetoric has gotten a bit out of hand when people start talking about "killing" the prime minister, even in a metaphorical sense. I'm not being a "civility" concern troll either, as far as I'm concerned Harper is an ongoing disaster for Canada and should go pound sand, but imagine the screeching if Small Dead Animals titled a post this way. I'm not disagreeing with the stated goals here, I just have a very minor quibble with the terminology being used.
I'm sure the Blogging Tories will make much hay from it once they find someone to read it to them and explain the big words.
I don't know if we are going to have another election or a new coalition government or what -- probably "what"--but I love that such things are possible in the Canadian system. Ol' Dead Eyes campaigned telling us the financial situation was good and never mentioned trying to take fair public funding out the political system and leaving in place the tax credit system, which tends to favor the party with the biggest donors as opposed to the most public support. He lied, plain and simple, so if he goes down in flames because he managed to be such a rat-bastard that he got the Liberals and the Bloc to team up, well, boo-fucking-hoo Steverino, it's a contact sport. Guess whose idea it was in the first place?
If we do end up with a coalition government, does this mean that Stephan Dion goes from "loser" to "master of political ju-jitsu"?
crossposted at the Woodshed
A blacker Friday than most
On the bright side, I suppose a few people saved a dollar and a half on singing statues of Santa Claus and 5-pound bags of holiday M&Ms. People actually complained that the Walmart store was closing temporarily (just for a few hours) because one of the staff was trampled to death.
At least that death was accidental, out in California, they are having shootouts in the Toys R Us.
You are all getting coal this year.
crossposted from the Woodshed
Saturday, November 29, 2008
They buy stuff, too
The only thing I really have to say at this time, is that all a coalition would have to do is stick together long enough for the CPoC-soon-to-be-sack-of-rabid-orcs to stop twitching. Maybe poke it with a stick once in a while.
Oh, and I wonder if Harper has had his 'moment' yet:
[you know, someone out there with tech savvy could resubtitle this little scene...]
We, the undersigned citizens from C.R.A.P.,
have received our talking points from Con Party headquarters :
- On October 14, Canadians gave our Conservative government a fresh mandate ...
- the Opposition parties are interested only in power and entitlements ...
- They want to replace the elected government with a backroom deal ...
- Liberals want to seize power with only an endorsement from only the socialists and the separatists.
And via Elizabeth Thompson at The Gazette : a handy C.R.A.P. list of outraged opinions listed in bullet points plus the phone numbers of appropriate talk radio call-in shows.
Ye gods, I can hear them blowing their brains out in crayon on national radio from here.
Update from the PMO : "Use every tool at your disposal". Heh.
Same talking points for you, "All Conservative Members of Parliament" from Guy Giorno, Chief of Staff.
Cross-posted at Creekside
We, the undersigned citizens of Canada,
1. Recognize that the NDP, Liberals, Bloc Quebecois, and Greens have enough in common to form a coalition government that will better reflect the values of the majority of Canadian voters than the Conservative minority government.
2. Call on the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois to ask Governor General Michaëlle Jean to form a coalition government.
3. Call on the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois to govern by working together on areas of common interest and by including counsel from the Greens.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Non-Confidence Motion and Coalition Proposal
"In light of the government's failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada's economic situation and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons."
A source says the opposition parties have agreed that Liberal Leader Stephane Dion would lead the government for the next few months.
A combative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Friday the government won't back down on a single measure, despite the opposition threats.
"We're staying on track," Flaherty said in Toronto.
"This is the financial plan of the government of Canada. This is a matter of confidence."
My god, Jim, I think you've finally got it!
CPAC Live for interviews in the foyer...
Ok, everybody get that?
Steve says the opposition wants to install Dion and a coalition government using the support of a party that wants to destroy Canada when he got the mandate. He got it, I tell you, with his 32% of the vote.
Bottom line - To avoid the non-con vote, he's postponing ways and means and opposition day till Dec 8.
Further Restraining Restrained Times
On the financial horizon nothing is in motion anywhere. In market based economies health is built upon movement. Money must be in motion. Credit must be fluid. Stocks must be bought and sold within a trustful environment.
But money, credit and stocks are all restrained.
So what do responsive governments around the world do?
They attempt to induce motion. They inject capital into frozen credit markets. They spend money to attempt to make money move again. They become involved in supporting the viability of the stock markets if not the outright buying and selling of stocks.
Every country in the world is engaged in this endeavour to try to head off the worst financial meltdown since the 1930s and the first truly globalized financial meltdown.
Every country in the world except Canada.
What does Canada do?
Canada imposes more restraints.
Alone in the world Canada implicitly says that it trusts that the markets will sort things out.
The partisan hack job was to be expected. As I've said before the Conservatives see no difference between policy and politics although this is perhaps the clearest example they've flung up so far.
The likelihood of the Liberals and the NDP forming a working coalition government is somewhere between zero and zip.
We'd best prepare ourselves for the probability of Canada's economy going so deeply into the tank that no level of government will any longer have the fiscal capacity to pay for anything at all.
The Conservative pipe dream.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Let the kid keep the little pony
The kid's single mom has paid you the $1145 you apparently require to consider letting her keep the pony. Yeah, we read all about your worries regarding setting legal precedents in your local paper. How about setting a precedent to allow a severely challenged kid to have some joy in his childhood? Don't mess this one up.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
$7.7 trillion bail-out? Holy crap!
Earlier today I saw this handy click-to-enlarge pie chart at Boing Boing from Voltage Blog
The pie on the right includes the Marshall Plan, the Louisiana Purchase, the moonshot, the S&L crisis, the New deal, NASA, and the Korean, Vietnam, and Iraq wars, for a total of $4.6 trillion.
On the left we have the somewhat larger 2008 bailout pie.
But then tonight I read at Bloomberg : Nope, it's not $4.6 trillion, it's $7,700,000,000,000.
At $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the US, it could pay off more than half their mortgages.
Bob Eisenbeis, economist for the Atlanta Fed for 10 years, on the lack of government oversight : "They got snookered."
But these are just loans, right? The companies will pay the taxpayers back when ... when ....
Holy crap! Isn't this the part in the movie where the seasoned old cop/FBI/CIA guy tells the anxious victim not to submit to blackmail/ransom/terrorist's demands because they will never stop their demands no matter how much you pay them and besides if you give in they're just gonna kill you/your wife/your country afterwards anyway?
Commenter Frank W at Boing Boing : "Money is a meme. It consists of the belief in it. That does not mean it does not exist, just that it consists of the belief in it. So, here's a pretty picture of a unicorn."
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
No-fly list nonsense continues
Glenda Hutton, a 66 year old retired elementary BC school secretary, never arrested, has joined the ranks of 5 year olds and US senators whose names have mysteriously appeared on some international security no-fly list or other, preventing her from fulfilling her lifelong retirement dream of world travel with her husband.
Apparently her name resembles that of someone else on a list, although she cannot find out which one.
As Julie Morand of Passport Canada explained to her, "In fact … you should always be questioned since a name similar to yours appears to be on an American list."
Excuse me? A similar name on an American list?
An Ottawa Citizen article, no longer available, from Sept 2006 reported that :
"Air Transport Association of Canada uses the US Homeland Security no-fly selectee list to screen passengers even on domestic flights from one point in Canada to another. They do this despite Transport Canada's statement that there is no requirement for them to do so. There are reportedly 70,000 people on that list."
And that was two years ago.
Thirteen months after Glenda Hutton was stopped while boarding a domestic Air Canada flight from Comox to Calgary, Transport Canada, the Dept of Foreign Affairs, the Dept of Public Safety, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have all for their various reasons been unable to help her.
Note to actual terrorists choosing a name to buy an airline ticket : Don't use Glenda Hutton. Or Glenda Button. Tutton is probably out...
Cross-posted at Creekside
Canadian Blog Awards
Monday, November 24, 2008
About those Tar Sands...
CBC News has obtained a government document that says reducing greenhouse gases from Western Canada's oilsands will be much more difficult than some politicians and the industry suggest.
The ministerial briefing notes, initially marked "Secret," say that just a small percentage of the carbon dioxide released in mining the sands and producing fuel from them can be captured.
The oilsands are the fastest-growing source of CO2 in the country, set to increase from five per cent to 16 per cent of total emissions by 2020 under current plans.
Capturing the gas and pumping it underground has been the key public strategy for reducing the oilsands industry's contribution to global warming.
The briefing notes, obtained by CBC under freedom-of-information legislation, are based on the findings of a joint Canada and Alberta task force on carbon capture and storage.
Not concentrated enough
Little of the oilsands' carbon dioxide can be captured because most emissions aren't concentrated enough, the notes say. For efficient capture, there must be a high concentration of CO2 coming out of a smoke stack.
"Only a small percentage of emitted CO2 is 'capturable' since most emissions aren't pure enough," the notes say. "Only limited near-term opportunities exist in the oilsands and they largely relate to upgrader facilities."
The Canadian and Alberta governments are spending about $2.5 billion on developing carbon capture and storage, and the oilsands generally come up as the first reason for spending the money.
In March, when he repeated a $240-million federal commitment to a project in Saskatchewan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "This new technology, carbon capture and storage, when fully commercialized ... will collect carbon dioxide emissions from oilsands operations and coal-fired electrical plants and seal them deep underground."
In other words, the government knows there's not much to be done about Tar Sands emissions but they lie about it all the same.
David Keith, a professor of petroleum and chemical engineering at the University of Calgary, was the lead scientist on the task force.
He says he's frustrated that politicians and the industry keep focusing on the oilsands when there are sources of greenhouse gases to capture more easily and at less cost, including coal-fired power plants.
Rational people shouldn't focus on reducing emissions in the oilsands through carbon capture and storage, Keith says.
"The actual content of the briefing note is a pretty fair summary of the technical situation we have," he told CBC News.
Nice work, CBC.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Things to be concerned about
- Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
- Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
- InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
- ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
- Seizing War Protesters’ Assets
- The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
- Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
- Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
- Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
- APA Complicit in CIA Torture
- El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror
- Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind
- Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
- Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste
- Worldwide Slavery
- Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights
- UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights
- Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers
- Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction
- Marijuana Arrests Set New Record
- NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option
- CARE Rejects US Food Aid
- FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs
- Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror
- Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer
Ironically, American political leaders and the media once cast aspersion on the regimes of Guatemala and Argentina, which used cattle-prods on prisoners. Cattle-prods only deliver 25,000-volt shocks, half that of the Taser.
Guantanamo helped condition the American public. It raised the threshold of what Americans consider reasonable in violating personal space by the state - or by its private contractors, like Halliburton, which has built parts of Gitmo, or Lockheed Martin, which has provided professional interrogators.
The transfer of violations from Guantanamo to the US "Homeland" might be one purpose behind Guantanamo in the first place. After all, hardly any real terrorists were convincingly exposed at Guantanamo, and even some federal authorities wonder aloud that more than one-third of the detainees might be entirely innocent. By and large, Gitmo was populated with taxi cab drivers, goat herders and even teenage students, most having been delivered to US forces by bounty hunters and opium warlords."
Andrew Bosworth : Taser Nation
Saturday, November 22, 2008
effing nazis (updated)
My view: I put the BNP in the same category as paedophiles and serial killers. Out them. Humiliate them. Banish them. They are a danger to the peaceful, tolerant society. No quarter given, especially if they hold public office. Rights arguments do not apply to these people as they pursue an agenda that when allowed to manifest in the past, has led to a genocidal absence of rights. They do not get to claim the protection of the very things they seek to destroy.
Update: Blogmate Rev. Paperboy draws attention to the General's Inner Frenchman. The General contacted some US members of the BNP and found:
I've seen a bit of work on the life histories of skinheads. Many have had unstable, impoverished, and abusive childhoods, finding community and someone to blame in joining hate movements. Others, no doubt, are just inherently nasty people. But it is interesting, although not surprising, to see the first phenomena emerge where the educated middle-class actively participates in the BNP for the same reasons.
I expected to find crazed supremacists, but instead found victims. Many of the responses were like this one:
...I was abused and suffer from PTSD. White Nationalists target the abused, hurting and vulnerable and they offer them help and friendship. They slowly suck you in and like many cults you find yourself saying things you don't really mean. One day I woke up and that is why I started to back away.
This is also something to keep in mind as we move into a severe recession or depression. Organised hate thrives in uncertainty because people are vulnerable and therefore targets of these movements. The spectrum of rightwing organisations already content to point fingers at gays, Muslims, "liberals", and others may find their ranks swell.
More on failures of imagination
...When rapid systemic change happens, the established institutions fail to respond accurately in part because they are products of the failing system. The mental monoculture of our neoliberal, US-focused leaders means they may well wake up to sudden irrelevance in the coming months. There's irony in the idea that the people who credit themselves for economically vanquishing Soviet Socialism should find themselves in the same position as their former foe - by their own hand.
In the U.S., the Bush administration, in its last chaotic hours, is just hoping the bad movie will go away. In Ottawa, Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty (whose first instinct was to sell the CN Tower) are praying that Canada’s oil patch will save them (haven’t they noticed that the U.S. economic crash has already hit Fort McMurray between the eyes.) They want to play the old game of competitive deflation in which Canada lowers labour costs and government spending in the expectation that we can still export enough to the U.S. to keep our economy humming.
The Harperites don’t realize that this downturn is not like the others. It is, at bottom, the outcome of the shrinking role of the United States in the global economy. This time the U.S. market is not going to save us. The Americans are awash in red ink that is spreading in all directions----governmental, corporate and personal.
Canada needs its own large scale and coordinated governmental strategy for staving off collapse. Time is of the essence
Pure Insulin-producing Cells Produced In Mice
These pure insulin-producing cells, which according to electron microscopy studies, have the same sub-cellular structures as the insulin-producing cells naturally found in the pancreas, were highly effective in treating diabetes in the mouse model.
None of the diabetic mice involved in the transplant experiments developed teratoma, which are a type of tumour often associated with ESCs and which could complicate their use in human therapeutic treatment.
Furthermore, the pure insulin-producing cells managed to retain their insulin-production and glucose-sensing capacity over time. The Singapore researchers' achievement provides proof of principle that this strategy could be applied to human ESCs to obtain similar pure insulin-producing cells.
Harper and Uribe shake hands on Colombia free trade deal
The handshake that would allow Colombia "to pay a token monetary amount into a ‘cooperation fund’ when a Colombian trade unionist is murdered".
Some of these companies have even supplied the necessary military equipment.
There, with President Uribe at his side, he explained his position :
"When we see a country like Colombia that has decided to address its social, political and economic problems in an integrated way, that wants to embrace democracy and human rights, then we say, 'We're in,' he said."
"We are not going to say fix all your social, political and human rights problems and only then will we engage in trade relations with you. That's a ridiculous position," Harper said.
"A Canada-Colombia free-trade agreement was announced Friday shortly after Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Peru.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said the deal “builds greater trust among investors.”
The agreement lifts tariffs on 98 per cent of Canada's exports to Colombia, including wheat, barley, lentils, peas, beef, paper products and machinery and equipment.
In their free-trade deal, Canada and Colombia agreed their laws must adhere to principles set out by the International Labour Organization. If Canada or Colombia violates the labour organization's principles, they will have to pay into a fund aimed at strengthening workers' rights."
Not even Bush could get this one past Congress.
Cross-posted at Creekside
Friday, November 21, 2008
This Guy GETS It -- Stolen Comment of the Day
Nabbed shamelessly from comments in Hullabaloo:
Trust me, Digby - those of us in Michigan are doing more than holding our breath. We're in complete panic, and frankly dumbfounded at how Washington DC is managing - or, shall I say not managing - this crisis.
Republicans in Congress are beating up Detroit because it's their last chance to feel any sense of power. When the new congress is sworn in, they may very well be facing a majority that they can't filibuster.
Their lack of action and sudden "concern" about financial matters has nothing to do with moving up the already approved loan money to the domestic auto companies. It has everything to do with busting unions. They have spread ridiculously false lies about the pay rate of union workers, and bury stories about how the unions have given up HUGE concessions. The unions are taking over the healthcare costs in the next contract - this will save the corporations millions of dollars. The auto companies need the loans to get through this dreadful economic market, where they can't get the regular lines of credit they used to, and they have slowing sales due to a horrific Bush economy and growing expenses due to our terrible healthcare system.
I really don't think people outside of this region understand how the Big Three touches every single family here. I personally don't know one person who doesn't have a family member whose employment isn't tied to the auto industry. And, those of us who aren't directly tied to the industry will see our companies fail due to the collapse of the middle class.
This is a last-chance for the Republicans to stick a dagger into the union movement and cripple millions of middle class workers.
I agree wholeheartedly with Treebark and cynick above. And, shockingly, I even agree with freaking Pat Buchanan from yesterday's Hardball. (I'm glad I was sitting down when I typed that). This was a crisis that is being "managed" in a way that is counterintuitive to American business, to our future prosperity, to our national security, to the health of our economy.
The Republicans want to cripple Obama and the middle class, and destroy the union. Their troops burning down the city as they retreat.
LandOfTheFree | 11.21.08 - 1:44 pm | # , responding to Interregnum Interruptus, by digby 11.21.08
Somali Pirates in Discussions to Acquire Citigroup
"The Somali pirates, renegade Somalis known for hijacking ships for ransom in the Gulf of Aden, are negotiating a purchase of Citigroup.
The pirates would buy Citigroup with new debt and their existing cash stockpiles, earned most recently from hijacking numerous ships, including most recently a $200
million Saudi Arabian oil tanker. The Somali pirates are offering up to $0.10 per share for Citigroup, pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said earlier today. The negotiations have entered the final stage, Ali said.
"You may not like our price, but we are not in the business of paying for things. Be happy we are in the mood to offer the shareholders anything," said Ali.
*WILL REQUIRE ALL CITI EMPLOYEES TO WEAR PATCH OVER ONE EYE
Oh sure, yuck it up, G&M, when there are much more serious matters at stake.
How, for instance, is this sudden rise in the number of pirates going to affect the global average temperature?
Didn't think about that, did you?
Arrrgh, maties. RAmen.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I for one welcome our new Chinese corporate overlords
As a private company, Chrysler is not required to disclose the salary paid to its execs and CEO Robert Nardelli has offered to reduce his salary to $1 till business "picks up", but don't feel too sorry for him - Home Depot just paid him $210 million to piss off last year.
Chinese May Buy GM and Chrysler :
"Chinese carmakers SAIC and Dongfeng have plans to acquire GM and Chrysler, China’s 21st Century Business Herald reports today. The paper cites a senior official of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology– the state regulator of China’s auto industry– who dropped the hint that “the auto manufacturing giants in China, such as Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and Dongfeng Motor Corporation, have the capability and intention to buy some assets of the two
crisis-plagued American automakers."
"As of September, the U.S. Treasury owes China $585b. With GM’s market cap now standing at a pocket change rate of $1.35b, and getting cheaper by the minute, China could buy 433 General Motors with their T bills alone."
Cross-posted, more or less, at Creekside.
Update : Heh. Great minds google images alike.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Ending torture should be painless
Obama advisers: No charges likely vs interrogators
Nov. 17, 7:32 PM (ET)
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
WASHINGTON (AP) - Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration.
Two Obama advisers said there's little - if any - chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.
The article goes on to say that even if the Obama administration wants to investigate and prosecute those responsible for torture, the whole question may be rendered moot by a stroke of the presidential pardon-signing pen by the Torturer in Chief, George W. Bush. I fully expect Bush will spend the last month of his term fighting writers cramp as he pardons just about everyone he's ever worked with. So, no, no one is likely to end up in jail, but that doesn't mean that the Obama administration shouldn't be trying to send them there.
Like I said, there are certain minimums expectation that must be met if Obama is going to have a successful presidency. By successful I don't just mean managing to get through four years without turning large portions of the planet into radioactive glass, having Texas secede from the Union, boiling the Great Lakes or having gas prices climb over $10 a gallon -- I mean delivering some of that change we can believe in. One of those expectations is that he live up to his promise of ending the use of torture by the United States.
Most political issues are not as black and white as politicians make them out to be on the campaign trail, that's one of the reasons politics is the art of compromise. Torture is not like farm subsidies or school vouchers or even abortion -- it is not something on which reasonable people can disagree, it is just plain wrong. Torture is what the bad guys do that makes them bad guys.
Leaving aside the clear and obvious moral argument, consider the practical aspects. The experts agree torture does not work because information gained through torture is unrealiable. People being tortured will tell their interrogators whatever they think the guy with the pliars and the blowtorch wants to hear. Enough waterboarding and you'd could make Dick Cheney say that not only did he plan 9/11, but that he flew all four of the planes himself. Leave a prisoner in a stress position long enough and he will eventually confess to killing not only the Kennedy brothers, but McKinley and Lincoln as well. And spare me the ticking bomb scenarios and Star Trek quotes about the "needs of the many outweighing the need of the few." Real life is not an adventure novel and "24" is not a documentary. Torture will make anyone talk, but it also makes anything they say all but useless.
The reprehensible actions of the United States at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and an unknown number of secret prisons around the world have done more damage to the nation's reputation and standing in the world than a dozen ill-conceived invasions.
It may well be that Bush will pardon anyone remotely connected with anything untoward that occurred in the last eight years, but history and the world court of public opinion will judge him for it. If Obama decides to let bygones be bygones and not seek to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent of the law, then he will be seen as complicit and the reputation of the United States as a violator of human rights, as a torturer and oppressor, will be cemented. Bush will go down in history as the first U.S. president to endorse torture, but Obama has a choice of going down in history either as the guy who put a stop to it or as a "good German."
Politically, Obama has nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing prosecutions. He gets to look good on the world stage for doing the right thing and at the same time stick it to his political opponents. All he has to do is announce that he will be pursuing the matter to the fullest extent of the law and then the ball is in Bush's court. Bush can either preemptively pardon everyone from Dick Cheney on down to the lowliest CIA contractor-- in which case he goes down in history as being on the side of torture--or he can leave his friends to twist in the wind, in which case we get to watch Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and a parade of lesser shitbirds get frogmarched off to prison and possibly even Dubya himself in the dock. My money is on the pardons, I'll even give 10 to 1.
There is no downside to this for Obama. He can use the bully pulpit he has to frame any discussion of the issue in terms of "You are either with us, or with the torturers." The only people who are going to oppose him are the 15 to 20 percent of the population who still think the sun shines out of Dubya's ass and consider Obama a muslim terrorist in the first place. Those people lost the election and deserve to be driven into the political wilderness pemanently.
Of course, the cynic in me says that if Dubya is delusional enough to think that the country is behind him and approves of what he did and he decides to take his chances and not pardon everyone, Obama will probably do it for him for the sake of "putting the past behind us" and "bridging the partisan divide" -- At which point the last of the lights in that "shining city on the hill" will go out and the Canadian immigration authorities will have to double their printing order for residency visa application forms.
This is not just about Obama's place in the polls or the history books, this is about the future of the office of the president. If Obama wants anyone any where in the world to ever believe anything the president of the United States says ever again, this is the one thing he has to keep his word on. Other promises, like ending the Iraq war or establishing universal health care or fixing the economy, might not be fulfilled due to circumstances beyond the president's control, but ending torture is something he can do January 21, 2009, -- before lunch. All it will take is an executive cease-and-desist order and a phone call to the Justice department telling them to throw the book at anyone who breaks the well established rules.
Progressive, liberals, lefties and sane people everywhere need to make a lot of noise about this and steer the Obama adminstration away from squandering its moral capital and authority for the sake of reaching across the aisle to appease a group that will stab them in the back the first chance it gets. Forgive the barrage of cliches, but we need to draw a line in the sand and hold Obama's feet to the fire and remind him to dance with the one that brought him. He and his people must be told that banning torture is not negotiable and that unless the administration is seen to make an effort to prosecute those responsible for such appalling deeds, such a ban will be seen as not only meaningless by hypocritcal by the international community.
crossposted from The Woodshed
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A parliament of potty mouths
"I agree that decorum has gone down somewhat,"admitted Speaker of the House Peter Millikin, in what must be described as an underunderstatement.
"We want to be very serious," pledged Jay Hill, the new Conservative House leader who took over the position from Peter Van Loan, famous, along with his compatriot Pierre Poilievre, for his fondness for using sign language in the House.
Gone will be the parliamentary practise of responding to the opposing party's arguments by making an L on one's forehead with thumb and forefinger. Never again will Con MP Royal Galipeau, himself a contender for Speaker of the House up till a couple of hours ago, storm the Liberal backbenches to grapple with Lib MP David McGuinty.
Personally I think this proposed civility thing is a big mistake.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The Manning Centre for Building Democracy for Cons
"Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and a small group of friends have raised an initial $10-million from wealthy Albertans to launch a new non-political institution designed to promote conservative ideas in Canada...The aim of those supporting the Manning centre is to have conservative political forces win two of every three elections by changing the way Canadians view public issues, instead of losing two out of three, or three out of four, as conservative parties have done throughout Canadian history."
"Calling all students: Learn the effective practices for campus activism, and how to plan for political participation.
The intention is to ensure each participant develops the social and intellectual skills to realize their respective goals, and be an asset to Canada’s democratic-conservative tradition.
You will hear from some of our country's most respected politicians, campaigners, strategists, journalists, and activists."
They also support an online journal, C2C, featuring the writing of many of those mentioned above, plus David Frum, Tom Flanagan, Kenneth P. Green of the American Enterprise Institute, Christopher Sands of the Hudson Institute, and a not altogether surprising number of familiar newspaper editors and columnists from across Canada.
Do stop by the photo gallery to see Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien, Joseph Ben Ami, Dave Quist of the Institute of Marriage and Family, the guy doing up his fly, and, of course, Steve.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Corporate welfare fraud
Naomi Klein :
"Washington's handling of the bailout is not merely incompetent. It may well be illegal.
According to Congressman Barney Frank, one of the architects of the legislation that enables the deals, "Any use of these funds for any purpose other than lending -- for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions, etc. -- is a violation of the act." Yet this is exactly how the funds are being used."
American International Group Inc. got an expanded $150 billion government bailout this week, and is setting aside $503 million in compensation for executives.
Bloomberg : "The Treasury has committed $290 billion of the $350 billion already allocated through capital injections to banks and AIG. The four attending members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on domestic policy accused Treasury of picking "winners and losers'' by giving loans to healthy banks to use in buying smaller ones."
"This administration wants to privatize Wall Street’s gains and socialize Wall Street’s losses," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs. ~ Thomas Jefferson, 1802
CON³ cranks up the anti-abortion wurlitzer again
legislation to make assault causing harm to fetus a separate crime - PASSED
"A delegate from the East Coast bravely makes the argument that this would, indeed, open the door to fetal rights - which gets a cheer, and then boos when she indicates that this would be a bad thing."
"The “Protecting Pregnant Women” policy resolution passed by a narrow margin despite warnings to Tories from abortion rights advocates that it was part of a “slippery slope” to criminalizing abortion.Ok, Mr Justice Minister, apart from the rather awkward cheering on the convention floor that would indicate this is, indeed, an effort to attack the right to abortion, what was that previous "similar legislation" for?
Mr. Nicholson said the Harper government would move as it promised in August to enact similar legislation to the passed resolution. He repeated earlier Conservative pledges that this was not an effort to attack the right to abort."
Ken Epp, author of C-484, via We Move To Canada :
"Because we want to recognize the humanity of that unborn child. Whether that child was killed three months before birth or three months after birth, it was still a child, there was still a loss of life. The other side might wish to deny the humanity of that unborn child, but we want the law to recognize it."Alrighty then - that's pretty clear. As JJ says : Bring it.
Cross-posted at Creekside
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency
Grenades are thrown at popular gatherings. Mutilated corpses flood the morgues. Heavily armed gunmen blast police to shreds with high-powered automatic weapons. Just another day in Iraq or Afghanistan? No-all of the events described occur regularly in Mexico. Our southern neighbor is imploding under the weight of a criminal insurgency just as dangerous any crew of bomb-tossing jihadists–an insurgency that may soon envelop our borders.
What's the difference
BETWEEN A MOOSE AND A BLUES BAND?
Well, with a blues band, the horns are in the back, and the asshole is in the front. Budda-boomp.
Well jump up and sing!
Paul Krugman passes on a choice piece of good news via his blog:
November 15, 2008, 7:27 amWarren has been researching and documenting why the middle class has been taking it on the chin for 20 years. That's you and me, folks.
Change it’s hard to believe in...
...because it’s such good news. Elizabeth Warren, expert on personal bankruptcy, crusader against credit card industry lobbyists, and founder of the extremely useful blog Credit Slips, to be a member of the bailout oversight board.
Elections have consequences.
Distinguished law scholar Elizabeth Warren teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law at Harvard Law School. She is an outspoken critic of America's credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class. Series: "UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures"Her must-see online talk "The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class", is entertaining as well as sobering. If you view it by way of Miro (a very good video portal) you can save a copy for yourself and your friends. Have them over for popcorn and pizza, make a night of it.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Framing Harper: A National Portrait Contest
ART THREAT IS A BLOG about politics and the arts. They're not happy about Stevie's decision about the Portrait Gallery. So, "we decided to create our own in his honour. We’re inviting artists to submit their portrait of Canada’s Prime Minister for inclusion in the Stephen Harper Portrait Gallery, and their chance to win (minor) fame and riches!"
"Our favourite entry will win a minimum of $1000! Runners-up will also win loot, with other prizes to be announced shortly. There is no entry fee, and we encourage everyone to participate."
You were saying?
(h/t John Robb)
The Real Morning in America . . . .
A good friend from California sent this, and it's worth sharing:
One sunny day in 2009 an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'
The Marine looked at the man and said, 'Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.'
The old man said, 'Okay' and walked away.
The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'
The Marine again told the man, 'Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.'
The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.
The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U. S. Marine, saying 'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'
The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, 'Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?'
The old man looked at the Marine and said,
'Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.'
The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, 'See you tomorrow.'
Gotta love it . . . .
(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)
"OK, coffee break's over. Everyone back on your heads!"
Fetal rights, marriage is the union of one man and one woman when religionists say so, the notwithstanding clause, cutting back student loans and don't mention childcare, one North American perimeter - nothing was considered too Reform/Alliance/wack to be cobbled together in what it pleases them to call their "proposed policy amendments".
Yesterday Steve showed up with some advice for ConCon '08 - see post title.
Cross-posted at Creekside