Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year End Cleanup . . . .

Some end of the year cleanup is in order, and how fitting it is to feature the bush administration.

From Bob Herbert of the New York Times we get:

Add Up the Damage
By BOB HERBERT - December 30, 2008

anyone know where George W. Bush is?

You don’t hear much from him anymore. The last image most of us remember is of the president ducking a pair of size 10s that were hurled at him in Baghdad.

We’re still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel is thrashing the Palestinians in Gaza. And the U.S. economy is about as vibrant as the 0-16 Detroit Lions.

But hardly a peep have we heard from George, the 43rd.

When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country.

This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job.


The catalog of his transgressions against the nation’s interests — sins of commission and omission — would keep Mr. Bush in a confessional for the rest of his life. Don’t hold your breath. He’s hardly the contrite sort.

He told ABC’s Charlie Gibson: “I don’t spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history. I guess I don’t worry about long-term history, either, since I’m not going to be around to read it.”

The president chuckled, thinking — as he did when he made his jokes about the missing weapons of mass destruction — that there was something funny going on.

Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel prize in economics, also of the New York Times now weighs in:

Looking for a word
December 31, 2008

Unusually, I’m having a vocabulary problem. There has to be some word for the kind of person who considers his mild discomfort the equivalent of torture, crippling injury, or death for other people. But I can’t think of it.

What brings this to mind is this from Alberto Gonzales:

"I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror.

This reminded me of Laura Bush’s remark on carnage in Iraq:

"And believe me, no one suffers more than
their president and I do when we watch this."

Remember this. And remember, too, that for long years these people were considered heroic patriots, defenders of the nation.

And now it is time for them to go away . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Would someone like to sing "Do they know it's Christmas?"

From Dec 27 to 29, 2008
Israelis : 5 dead, 31 wounded
Palestinians : 375 dead, 1500+ wounded
Haim Ramon, the deputy to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert :
"The goal of the operation is to topple Hamas. We will stop firing immediately if someone takes the responsibility of this government, anyone but Hamas. We are favourable to any other government to take the place of Hamas."
In 2004 Hamas won a majority in a democratic election.
In 2006 Israel jailed one third of the Hamas cabinet
Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad official, on the economic blockade :
"It has not manipulated Palestinians into hating Hamas, but has probably been counterproductive. It is just useless collective punishment."
Haaretz :
"Israel has always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over."
Robert Fisk :
"One and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza."
Center for Strategic and International Studies via the G&M:
"Israeli leaders synchronized their retaliatory attacks to the political calendar in the U.S., thinking it was better to strike before President George W. Bush left office on Jan. 20 because they weren't as sure about what president-elect Barack Obama's reaction would be.
The governing Labour and Kadima parties are believed to want to improve their odds in coming national elections, demonstrating that they are as tough as hawkish Likud Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently ahead in the polls."

Monday, December 29, 2008

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

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Private Michael Freeman, Sergeant Gregory John Kruse and Warrant Officer Gaétan Roberge.

Pro Patria     Ubique    Je Me Souviens

Con MP inexplicably goes on and on about auctioning off kidneys on eBay...

and issues a challenge ...
"Mr. Bruinooge said that it is illegal for an individual to have a kidney removed and auction it off on eBay.
"The bottom line is that people like myself are not going to stop until, at the very least, unborn children have more value than a Canadian kidney," he said.
"Your kidneys have more protection than an unborn child until the moment it is out of the woman," Mr. Bruinooge said. "I challenge anyone to debate me on that point, because I don't think you can. It is very true."

Ooooh, pick me, Mr Bruinooge, pick me.
It is not permitted to auction off kidneys on eBay.
It is not permitted to auction off fetuses on eBay.
Therefore kidneys do not have more protection than fetuses on eBay.
In addition to his preoccupation with kidneys, Mr Bruinooge, recently elected to head a secret "pro-life" caucus of federal Lib and Con MPs, would also like to see the abortion debate reopened.
Hell, why not? And what about slavery? Has anyone seriously debated the pros and cons of slavery recently? Because I'm guessing eBay doesn't allow slave auctions either.

Kidney watch blogroll : Hysperia, Impolitical, deBeauxOs, Cathie, JJ, LuLu, Antonia, and Scott
Cross-posted at Creekside

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"SPP : Kill it, recast it, or rebrand it"

is the recommendation of Sarah Ladislaw, member of the North American SPP Energy Working Group and fellow at CSIS - the Center For Strategic and International Studies. She was speaking at a CSIS book promo/discussion group in Washington DC last week for The Future of North America 2025 : Outlook and Recommendations, edited by Armand Peschard-Sverdrup who also chaired the Dec. 17 meeting.

You'll recall the public outcry up here in April last year when the CSIS NA2025 panel convened in Calgary and director Armand B. Peschard-Sverdrup was quoted as saying :
"It's no secret that the U.S. is going to need water. ...
It's no secret that Canada is going to have an overabundance of water.
At the end of the day, there may have to be arrangements."
According to comments made last week, the panel does not appear to have changed its position on that.
"Canadians have no water management, " said co-author Bill Nitze, adding that while "North America is water-rich, southern California and Mexico are not."
He recommended setting up "water markets and water banking", plus expanding the powers and budgets of the International Water Commission(US/Mexico) and the International Joint Commission (US/Canada) to "manage water in all three countries".

Noting that "the SPP has gotten a bad name on the centre-left in Canada" where it is "seen as a vehicle for business interests to exploit resources, including bulk water exports from Canada", he further advocated the importance of "a game changer" and "giving it a different flavour" by "getting people to talk differently".
In a recommendation from the floor, Diana Negroponte (wife of John) of the Brookings Institution suggested adopting the word "coordination" in place of "integration" and panel members duly noted her advice to "avoid the word integration".

Answering a question about the current stagnation of the SPP, Ladislaw advised expanding the focus from the federal to the state/provincial level, a tactic we have already seen in groups like PNWER and Atlantica.
"Based on the EPA experience," said Bill Nitze, "if you provide money, lots and lots of money, for local needs, then you can get co-operation. Federal governments have enough money to make this happen".

This easily ranks up there as the most boring and alarming hour and a half I have ever spent, so you guys out there owe me big time. Conjure up, if you will, a discussion of Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938 considered entirely from the point of view of making the trains run more efficiently and you won't be far off.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Friday, December 26, 2008

Steampunk Fusion

M. Simon Rockford has a fascinating site, IEC Fusion Technology, with a report about a new approach to achieve fusion by General Fusion . It might just work, Steampunk and all.
The use of low-tech pneumatic rams in place of sophisticated high power electrical systems reduces the cost of the energy delivered to the plasma by a factor of 10 making such a power plant commercially competitive. Because the fusion plasma is totally enclosed in the liquid metal, the neutron flux at the reactor wall is very low. Other fusion schemes struggle with a high neutron flux at the wall that rapidly damages the machine and also produces some radio-active material. Frequent robotic replacement of the then radio-active plasma facing components is a costly problem for many fusion machines.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Radio Woodshed is on the air!

At least for Xmas day anyways. Tune your browser to 

or try

and click "listen" in the bar at the top of the page and enjoy the best of seasonal podcasts and music -seasonal and otherwise- from a dramatization of "A Christmas Carol" from 9 in morning on the East Coast of North America straight through to holiday storytime starting around 7 pm EST featuring stories from Dylan Thomas, Stuart Mclean's Vinyl Cafe, Paul Auster, Tom Waits, Dr. Seuss, Steve Martin, David Sedaris and others and lots of music. And no cursing or punk/heavy metal/free jazz during prime time, I promise.
Stay tuned for more in the new year, there could be a weekly show/podcast coming.

My Favorite Christmas Story

and it has the added benefit of being true.

This song always brings a tear to my eye.
Merry Christmas - peace on earth and goodwill toward all mankind, even conservatives.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And the little kid gets to keep his pony

Remember this? Little kid with cerebral palsy, his pony Emily, and the asshat neighbour complaint?
Hello all,
I want to thank each and everyone of you for your love and support, your letters, petitioning, fundraising came through today.
Short after 1pm this afternoon Sam and I appeared before The Caledon Committee of Adjustments and plead our case, the out cry of support from everyone across the world was heard loud and clear by everyone there. It was determined that Emily could stay here on the property with Sam ...
Letter from mom Antonia Spiteri continues at RC Rublik.

Caledon councillor Annette Groves : "While you have to enforce the rules, there are times when you have to use discretion and remember that you’re a human being and have to have some compassion."
With thanks to Dawg and PSA at Canadian Cynic for linking.
A round for ponies for everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

News Flash -- MB minimum wage reaches 1976 levels, small business association aghast

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer has, as a bit of a Christmas present, finally returned Manitoba's minimum wage to 1976 levels -- an inflation-adjusted $9:00 per hour. He's been boosting it steadily since he came into office in 1999. In the new year, a minimum wage earner working full time, 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, will make around $18,000 a year, before taxes.
[Table nabbed from here and augmented to suit.]

Predictably, the Great and Might Oz .... sorry, the small businesspeople are upset.
CFIB Urges Caution On Minimum Wage


The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is hoping the Manitoba government exercises caution as it determines what will happen to the minimum wage.

CFIB spokesman Shannon Martin says eight consecutive increases to the minimum wage have resulted in a 42 percent increase, well beyond the 19 percent increase in the Manitoba consumer price index.
Martin says just as the government is counting its pennies during these challenging economic times, so are businesses.
The Chamber of Commerce is upset, too.
But the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce laments the decision to boost the minimum wage.

Chamber spokesperson Chuck Davidson said the rate just went up and another pair of hikes are a lot for small business owners to handle.

"The direction the economy is going, this isn't the perfect time for small businesses to have the extra pressure put on them," he said.

There are about 28,000 minimum wage earners in Manitoba, the government said in a news release, adding the 2009 levels will put Manitoba near the middle of the minimum wage rates among Canadian jurisdictions.
The 50 cent per hour increase, if a person worked full time, (and how many minimum wage earners work full time?) would afford him another pre-tax $1000.

A rep for the Chamber was on radio bemoaning this increase, and made the quaint argument that lower wages would allow small business to "help" more workers. He didn't actually say they would fire people because of the increase, but the possibility floated in the air, like grease in the alley air vents behind a MacDonalds.

But, could they? I assume that if a business in these trying times could get by with fewer hands, they would have nipped the extra hands already.

But there's another problem: a lack of customers.

A depression happens when business weakens, lays off workers, the workers stop buying things, making business sales weaker, making business lay off more workers, etc etc etc. A business might get by for a while if it's understaffed, but not if it is undercustomered.

And where do customers get their money? From the money tree my mom used to tell me about? No, they get it either from outside sources (welfare, pensions, insurance, inheritance, armed robbery, etc) or from paid work.

Business has been busily sawing off the limb it's sitting on for the past thirty years. They have worked hard lobbying and using PR offensives to get government to reduce taxes, reduce social services, and reduce wages. And now to cope with "the direction the economy is going", they want to reduce all these things even more.

Each of them wants some other business to pay the good wages -- water the garden in order to cultivate customers for them. This does not work. Will they figure this out?

Well, they haven't figured it out yet, and they are highly trained (and paid) perfessionals.

In a perfect world...

... it would not have been necessary for Stephen Harper to eat a baby...
And yes I have stolen Ottawonk's entire site logo here but he's off on Perogies and besides I'll put it back before he gets home.

Tim-berrrrr! New Year Contest, Step One!

Which promise will be broken next? You could win big prizes!

There are places where a random event is used to sell tickets to a charity raffle. For instance: a cow is put into in a field that's marked with a grid -- which square will get the first cow pie? Or, an old car or ice-fishing shack is put on a frozen lake or river -- what day will it fall through?

Harper has shown us that for him, breaking promises and trampling cherished policy goals is a chosen strategy, not just a regrettable necessity. After a snap election, a prorogue, a new Supreme Court justice and a Solstice Senate sent marching on their way, it's not a coincidence any more -- it's a way of life.

So for Step One of the New Year Tim-berrrrr! Broken Promise Contest, is to list as many of Harper's promises and cherished policy goals as possible.

Step Two, once the list is complete I will post it as a new post, and we can each lay claim to one or more of these. The winner is the first to have their one promise (or BOTH of two, ALL THREE of three, and so on) broken before June 21 (a solstice-to-solstice contest.)

The prize will be a lovely plush beaver, bearing in his teeth an authentic beaver-chewed branch. You could win this classy Canadian prize, so let's get going.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Stalin Joke

Two men meet on a Moscow street corner in 1951.

Ivan asks, “Comrade, how are you?”

Igor answers, “Better than tomorrow.”

The Chicago Tribune has an interesting article on Uncle Joe revisionism.

'Ya Just Can't Believe steve . . . .

Others more informed and educated than I on Canadian politics will no doubt give excellent commentary and analysis on harper's Senate appointments today.

To point out one glaring untruth in the press release from the Prime Minister's Office, however, check this out:

Harper said in the news release that the vacancies had to be filled “in order for the Senate to transact legitimate government business.”

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Senate an integral part of Parliament? And, with the Parliament prorogued at stevie's request, just what the hell is the "legitimate government business" stevie's referring to?

Question for those more educated on Canadian government than I: Can the Governor General refuse to confirm harper's nominations based on the fact that Parliament is prorogued ? ? ? ?

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Plenty more where this came from over at the Woodshed with more being added daily by the international Santa conspiracy elves straight through to the 25th

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Reading

LOYOLA COLLEGE has a great website called Strategic Intelligence. It is a compendium of links to just about every place of importance in the world of spooks.

One of the links is to the CIA, and its publication, Studies in Intelligence. Many interesting articles and book reviews.

Another link from the Loyola site is to The Canadian Intelligence Resource Centre, a private site run by an enterprising chap, Jérôme Mellon.

Steve's CTV Christmas Special

I tuned in ten minutes late for Steve's hour long CTV Christmas Special , just in time to catch him messaging his redneck firewall base with a little Bloc bashing :
"There's no justification for trying to suggest that Canadians would put into power a coalition where the Bloc Quebecois would have a veto over the affairs of the country."
"Having the Bloc Quebecois have a veto over the decisions of a national government would be very dangerous for the long run interests of the country."
"Government cannot function if it is always looking over its shoulder to see if the Bloc Quebecois will veto."
"Canadians did not vote for the Bloc to have a veto over the government."
Dear Steve :
Allow me to quote from the Coalition's Accord, signed by the three opposition party leaders including Gilles Duceppe on Dec 1:

"The [Coalition] Government will not request a dissolution of Parliament during the term of this agreement, except following defeat on an explicitly-framed motion of nonconfidence presented by the Opposition ...[that would be you, Steve]... or any vote pertaining to the speech from the throne; or on a budget vote at on any stage in the House; or on any bill to implement a budget at any stage in the House; or on any motion in the House to concur in, restore or reinstate any Estimates; or on any supply bill at any stage in the House.

The Bloc Québécois will neither move nor will it support any motions of nonconfidence in the Government during the term of its support for this agreement, and will vote in favour of the Government’s position with respect to all matters referred to in the immediately preceding paragraph."

Could that be any clearer? The agreement actually binds the Bloc to vote with the coalition on all matters of confidence and to support all budgets, throne speeches and money bills.

Steve knows this of course, but he went on Corporate Television Vehicle and bullshitted the Canadian public about it four distinct times in five minutes anyway. Fucking appalling. And neither of the two hosts, Lloyd Robertson nor Robert Fife, called him on it.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to War We Go!" . . . .

Per Reuters today:

Up to 30,000 new U.S. troops in Afghanistan by summer
Sat Dec 20, 2008
- By Golnar Motevalli

KABUL (Reuters) - The United States is aiming to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Saturday.

Washington is already sending some 3,000 extra troops in January and another 2,800 by spring, but officials previously have said the number would be made up to 20,000 in the next 12 to 18 months, once approved by the U.S. administration.

"Some 20 to 30,000 is the window of overall increase from where we are right now. I don't have an exact number," Admiral Mike Mullen told reporters in Kabul.


U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged a renewed focus on Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001 after the September 11 attacks.

The United States now has some 31,000 troops in Afghanistan.


Mullen said beefing up U.S. forces in Afghanistan was linked to winding down in Iraq.

"Available forces are directly tied to forces in Iraq. As we look to the possibility of reducing forces in Iraq over the course of the next year, the availability of forces to come here in Afghanistan will increase," Mullen said.


Mullen said the attacks by Islamist militants in Mumbai last month showed the need to reduce Indian tensions with Pakistan and that would help bring stability to Afghanistan.

"That's another big piece of the strategy, what I would call regional focus to include Pakistan, Afghanistan and India ... leadership in all three of those countries to figure out a way to decrease tensions, not increase tensions," Mullen said.

Well, yes, that's perfectly clear.

We'll just pump MORE troops into a volatile area. THAT should "decrease tensions", huh?

Is there an end to this lunacy in sight ? ? ? ?

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quote for the political season

Recalling Calgary Grit, here is NN Taleb:
"Why is it that an economics degree make people stupid, dangerously stupid?"

"Here's how we fix Canada's political mess"

is an article by Preston Manning in today's G&M, in which his advice is to "dissolve the coalition" and "prepare for the next election" to "give Canada the broadly supported majority government it needs in times like these."

But first, let's review some quotes from a book Preston wrote with Mike Harris just last year, published by the Fraser Institute and "guided" by the Montreal Economic Institute, with help from Michael Hart, member of the Task Force on the Future of North America. You can read the whole thing yourself online :

International Leadership by a Canada Strong and Free :

~ Deepening integration with the US economy must be on the agenda as the best way for Canadians to increase our trade, prosperity, and leadership potential.

~For Canada, Mexico’s presence at the NAFTA table is no reason to avoid action on our urgent national interest in pursuing a formal structure to manage irreversible economic and security integration with the United States.

~The 2005 Security and Prosperity Initiative adopted by Prime Minister Martin and President Bush and confirmed by the Harper government a year later laid a promising foundation. Both governments now receive regular status reports on its implementation. The earlier Smart Border Accord gave security and access to the United States a higher priority than before September 11. Both, however, operate within existing laws and policies and are therefore limited in scope. Extracting the full benefit of deeper integration requires a more ambitious initiative.

~ The federal government should revisit the decision not to participate in the Ballistic Missile Defence program

~The central importance of good US-Canada relations to Canada’s interests across virtually every domestic and international issue requires that the federal government make that relationship its highest international priority.

~ In order to facilitate the integrated coordination of their two economies, the two governments need to create a customs union involving a common external tariff, a joint approach to the treatment of third-country goods, a fully integrated energy market, a common approach to trade remedies, and an integrated government procurement regime.

~Government has no place in the decision-making of Canadian consumers, importers, or exporters.

~If Canadians wish to contribute to global peace and security they can only do so effectively as partners with the United States.

~There is much to be said for Canada and the United States developing a North American energy security accord that looks at the best way to develop and distribute the continent’s resources to the benefit of people on both sides of the border.

Thanks, Presto, for coming out so clearly for Steve like this. As his political mentor, I'm sure he appreciates your continued support in today's G&M.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Man of Steel vs. the Incredible Shrinking Mandate

One of the crowning glories of Steve's original Five Priorities Four Pillars Three Little Pigs Accountability Act was his paean to Canada's Gnu Government transparency - the creation of a Parliamentary Budget Office to provide independent analysis of the national economy and the government's fiscal position.

First budget officer Kevin Page, or "Man of Steel" as Jennifer calls him, has produced two reports since March, both critical of the government.
The first, released during the election, calculated that the cost of the Afghanistan mission not including military equipment will be about $18.1 billion by 2011.
The second, published shortly before Diamond Jim Flaherty vowed there would be absolutely no chance of a deficit next year, projected a deficit for next year.

"In his economic statement, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty projected a budget surplus of $100 million for 2009-10 based on the sale of about $2 billion in assets that he didn't identify."
Mr. Flatulence has since reluctantly come around to Kevin Page's assessment, predicting a $15-billion deficit, only to be promptly contradicted himself by Steve who is now calling for a $20 to $30-billion deficit.

So it won't come as much of a surprise to hear that in the matter of the Department of Finance vs the Parliamentary Budget Office, old Kev has had his budget frozen -( h/t Far and Wide ) - presumably because accurate financial forecasts are a dime a dozen lately in Steve's Fiscal Funhouse.

Actually it's a testament to Mr. Page's perseverence that he has got this far. Both Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella and House Speaker Peter Milliken want him reined in, arguing that the "budget office is simply an extension of the services the Library [of Parliament] already offers."
"The parliamentary library operates on a solicitor-client basis. This means any research the library collects for MPs and senators is "privileged" and can be withheld at their request. As an adjunct of the library, Mr. Page's reports would be done for MPs and committees who then can could use the information as they want."

Privileged. Witheld at their request. As they want.

In 2006 a document at the Library of Parliament outlined the various forms the Parliamentary Budget Office could take and decided it should not be granted the same independence enjoyed by the Auditor General. Evidently no one bothered to inform the Man of Steel.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Goodbye George" from McClatchy . . . .

McClatchy's Washington Bureau bids an early farewell to george bush today.

Commentary: Bush makes a farewell tour. Good riddance
Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers

December 18, 2008

We've been treated to a real spectacle this week as President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney limped into the home stretch of their Magical History Tour, employing distortions, half-truths and untruths in a final, desperate attempt to pervert or somehow prevent history from judging them accurately.


The great gray eminence himself, Dick Cheney, of no known address, went on national television pleading guilty to committing a war crime. Yes, Cheney said, he participated in the White House discussions on the use of torture in the interrogations of suspected terrorists. Yes, he said proudly, he approved the use of such outlawed practices as water-boarding, the simulated drowning of bound and helpless prisoners to make them talk. So what?

Photo credit: Kevin Seirs of the Charlotte Observer


Over in the White House, the president was busy signing a flood of executive orders opening the gates to oil drilling on massive chunks of previously protected public lands in the West; protecting big corporations from lawsuits in state courts when their products harm or kill innocent Americans, and generally giving his fat cat friends one last shot at looting a national Treasury of any remaining table scraps.

The president and his spinmeisters keep talking about how, with the passage of time, historians will come to judge his presidency a huge success, much as history has come to judge the administration of Harry S. Truman.

Balderdash. Or as I much prefer to say in situations like this: Bullshit!


Bush told his War College audience that of all the things he loved about the job, he was proudest of all of his role as their commander-in-chief.

Why then did he and his minions oppose virtually every attempt to reinforce their numbers and shorten the time they spent in Hell? Why did they oppose virtually every attempt to increase their pay and their benefits, and those of millions of American veterans of these and other wars?

How could so proud a commander sit idly by while soldiers and Marines were sent off to war without the armored vehicles and body armor they so desperately needed in this new kind of war?

How could his administration pinch pennies when it came to funding and manning the military hospitals that treat the thousands of wounded troops flowing home from his wars?

How can this man talk about making the world a safer and freer place by his actions when so much innocent blood has been shed by civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? When millions have been turned into homeless refugees inside and outside Iraq? When America is left with far fewer friends and allies among the nations of the world?

The only good news left to us this gloomy, cold December is that we only have to put up with this wretched spectacle for another 30 days or so.

George W. Bush should make a hurry-up call to his architect and see if it's not too late to substitute firing slits for the ground floor windows in his new Presidential Library in Dallas.

Good-bye George, and good riddance.

Well done, Mr. Galloway.

Well done . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Hello, soldier

A Canadian infantry soldier in Afghanistan has been posting on the leftie discussion forum Babble for the past few days, taking questions and answering criticisms.
His spelling and history mistakes notwithstanding - "geneeva" and confusing the stated reasons for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan - it's impossible to tell if he's posting on his own accord, whether its part of his "job", or if the whole thing is just psy ops.

Regardless, an interesting discussion.

Cross-posted at Creekside

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bail! Bail! . . . .

In honour of what appears to be an impending Big Three bailout, this ad may come in handy:

H/T Dana

How do you know?

Earlier this year I posted a series of three articles about challenges facing print media, and all media, and why we should be worried about this. They are linked at the bottom of this post.

In short, the problem is this: what you eat turns into you, right? You're careful what you put into your mouth, and will reject stinky food unless you're desperately hungry. You need complete nutrients, and enough calories to power you from day to day.

The same is the case with information -- as informed choice-makers we need a lot of information, on a daily basis, and with appropriate trace elements of international, science, philosophical and other news with fewer empty calories than the sports and entertainment pages, but crucial to complete understanding. If we consume empty or false information, our choices will necessarily be poisoned.

Which leads us to this interesting article on Vox [hat tip to Mark Thoma]:
Propaganda, human rights and the US media
Nancy Qian, 15 December 2008

Respect for human rights is gaining in importance in international agreements, but who is to judge human rights performance? This column discusses new evidence that suggests national governments are not good judges. It draws on evidence from the US, which has long tied trade preferences to human rights performance, which shows the US government systematically under-reported human rights violations by Cold War allies.


A recent study by Qian and Yanagizawa (2008a) finds that the US State Department systematically favoured its allies during the Cold War by under-reporting human rights violations. Hence, they infer a change in the otherwise unobservable strategic value of a country to the US by comparing reports of human rights violations from the US relative to reports from Amnesty International for US allies and non-allies before and after the Cold War ended. A well known example of this is Zaire (renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997). Its president, Mobutu Sese Seko (in office 1965-1997) was a strong supporter of the US during the Cold War. During a state visit to the US in 1983, US president Ronald Reagan praised Mobutu and said in response to the international criticism of Mobutu's human rights abuses that he was a "voice of good sense and good will". Immediately after the Cold War ended, the State Department began to criticize Zaire's human rights violations. And in 1993, Mobutu was denied a visa for visiting the US. He remarked at that time "I am the latest victim of the Cold War, no longer needed by the US. The lesson is that my support for American policy [now] counts for nothing" (Gbadolite, 2001).


On the one hand, there should be a significant effect. US policy is determined by democratically elected representatives whose choices should broadly reflect their constituents’ preferences. Empirical evidence suggests that Americans value good human rights situations in their trading partners and allies... this distortion in human rights reports by the US State Department could have serious political and economic consequences if it is conveyed to voters...

On the other hand, whether any supplier of primary information is able to distort a competitive media market such as the US is an open question. The ability of the free press to diminish distortions from primary sources is implicitly assumed by standard political theory and journalists in the US ... a news organization's ability to obtain the truth depends on its access to independent information.

...the relative meagre resources of media firms relative to the government, who has embassies and stable intelligence personnel in almost every country, means that the government will probably always be an important primary source of information for international news.

Foreign bureaus with permanent foreign correspondents that are knowledgeable in local customs, languages, and have good local connections are financially costly. Constable (2007) reports that a bureau costs approximately $250,000 per year on average, and can be as expensive as $1 million per year. For small metropolitan newspapers, the cost is prohibitive. Larger newspapers may be able to afford foreign bureaus but still need to consider the relative benefits of spending resources on foreign correspondents relative to other news coverage (e.g. sports, entertainment, domestic news) which are both presumably much less expensive to cover and more popular for readers (with the exception of large foreign events)...

It is not surprising to find out that most American news organizations have drastically reduced the number of foreign correspondents in the recent two decades so that only four newspapers have stable foreign offices today... even after 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq War, when Americans' demand for information about relatively unknown foreign countries were presumably at a peak, the number of foreign correspondents working for newspapers continued to decrease from 188 in 2002 to 141 in 2007 ... The number of television networks with foreign offices has also decreased, from fifteen during the 1980s to six in 2007.

As a substitute, news organizations have increasingly resorted to picking up stories from newswires, pack journalism, where all media firms rely on a single source, and parachute journalism, where reporters without much pre-existing knowledge or connections of a region are dropped in to report breaking news...


Adding to this concern is the possibility that even if the media were informed of the distortions in the government’s reports, it would knowingly allow its own coverage to be distorted. Qian and Yanagizawa (2008b) study the effect US State Department bias in human rights reports on coverage in the New York Times. They find that under-reporting from the State Department significantly reduces coverage of abuses.. Furthermore, the effect is equally large for countries where media has free access as for countries where media access is restricted. This latter result suggests that the distortion in media coverage is not driven by the New York Times’ inability to obtain the truth. Rather, as a profit making firm, it is probably just minimizing its costs and it is less costly to obtain information from the State Department than from other sources.

There seems to be much reason to doubt the ability of the Fourth Estate to mitigate government bias and provide the American public with accurate news. The problem resides both in the government’s manipulation of information and in the incentives of news organizations that knowingly allow their coverage to be distorted. Regarding the latter, Walter Cronkite described the concerns of many Americans when he said in a speech at Columbia University in January, 2007: "The need for high-quality reporting is greater than ever. It's not just the journalist's job at risk here. It's American democracy."
And I must add, all democracy. Not that democracy will cease if the fountain of truth is compromised -- the problem of correct and complete information is eternal, a battle to be fought continuously.

Still, in the reduction of independent and professional sources the battle is definitely in retreat at the moment.

The presence of news sources on the net is currently adjusting for some of this impoverishment, but the point remains -- experienced reporters and professional news agencies need to be paid, need equipment, need resources, and need a long span of time to assemble and codify their understanding of their specialty field.

Canada and the UK made a choice early in the last century to support nationally owned and funded media, the CBC and the BBC. These are NOT state-owned media in the traditional sense, but are supported by taxes and provide in return a buffet of news and cultural content, energy dense and full of trace nutrients and unusual flavours and spices.

Critics of the CBC complain that it "only" draws a Canadian audience of about 10% of the population. Critiquing the critics is a topic for another post, but briefly the impact of CBC coverage goes far beyond the actual ears and eyes of viewers, and the content, often maligned as "elitist", is necessarily so. It's job, conveying concentrated news and commentary to the people, is opposite to the job of commercial media. Commercial media exist to attract eyes and ears to advertising, and as the costs rise and ad income drops, it's hardly surprising that the bait used to draw those eyes becomes increasingly lower in quality and higher in artificial colours and flavours.

In the USA, self-styled home of democracy, the public resources are much more scanty and hard to access. Increasingly, their big networks are piggybacking their coverage on the publicly funded sources of foreign nations. But of course, which stories are selected even for this purpose is also related to the profit margin of the broadcaster in question.

So, how do we know things? We need awareness of the provenance of the facts we absorb, and intelligence to determine the difference between big stories that mean nothing, versus the column-inch on page D34 that signals a fundamental new fact or crucial shift of political power.

We do not, of course, need federally generated talking points that teach voters falsehoods about their own system of government. When anyone, whether political party or Shopping Channel advertiser, starts feeding us tainted information, we need to know they are not our friends anymore.


Part I, Get Out The Pipecleaners Part I : You Can Hear Your News Arteries Narrowing, is here.
Part II, Get Out The Pipecleaners Part II : Robbie the Robot Can't Do News , is here.
Part III, Get Out The Pipecleaners Part III : Your Ears Aren't Big Enough, is here:

Anti-Bush insurgency in its last throws

To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie: If one person does it, they'll think he's crazy and ignore him. If two people do it, they'll think you're both fruitckes and won't pay attention to either of you. But if 50 people-- can you imagine 50 people a day boxing up shoes and sending them to the White House? -- if 50 people a day do it, they may think it's an organization. And if 500 people a day do it - send a pair of smelly, raggedy-ass old shoes to George W. Bush -- then friends they may think it's a movement. And that's what it is: The Give Bush the Boot Anti-Massacre Movement. And all you have to do to join it is send your old shoes to:

President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington D.C.
USA 20500

Monday, December 15, 2008

I don't watch US television, as a rule, but I do get Media Matters for America in my email, watching the right-wing media's lies and slander antics. Here's their latest update on Sean Hannity's view of nutjob Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, (caught last week auctioning off the senatorship now that Obama's moved on) and Obama or his still-under-construction administration.

Hannity says, in part:
HANNITY: Well, Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney -- and I read a story about him, that when he's involved in a case, this guy won't take a break, won't even take a day off until the case is finished. So he's fairly relentless as he goes forward here. Now, I watched his statement the other day very, very closely when this all came out, and what he said was, "There's no allegation in the complaint that the president-elect was aware."

I found that as sort of almost like a parsing of words, because the word "president-elect" was mentioned -- what -- I think some 44 times, Karl, which I think is a pretty high, high number.
Ol' Sean doesn't mention that "In fact, with one exception, none of the 44 instances in which "president-elect" was used in the complaint actually mention any alleged conduct or statement by President-elect Barack Obama or his representatives, much less any conduct or statement amounting to wrongdoing. The one exception consisted of an allegation that Blagojevich complained that Obama would not give him anything other than "appreciation."

Gee, when I Googled "hannity" plus "slander", I got 77,300 hits, which I think is a pretty high, high number.

Oh, for bonus points, Hannity was chitchating with Karl Rove, who's currently working as a colour commentator for Fox News (and apparently still working behind the scenes with the GOP.)

George W. Bush looks into the sole of Iraq

"This is your farewell kiss, you dog!" shouted Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned Cairo-based TV station. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those were killed in Iraq."

Many will decry this lack of respect for the office of the presidency or the lack of professionalism on the part of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the man who invaded and destroyed a country for no good reason except that he could. Those people are wrong. Bush has already so defiled the office the presidency that it can't really sink much lower and sometimes even the most professional and objective observer must put their humanity ahead of their professional ethics. I'm sure al-Zeidi is now a national hero in Iraq and I'm almost equally sure he won't see the light of day or his family anytime soon.

Frankly, I think Bush is lucky it wasn't a grenade, or at least a bottle or brick. To be honest I'd like to see Bush pelted with shoes everywhere he goes for the next decade. I'd like to see about 4,200 pair of empty combat boots dumped on the White House lawn. I think people from around the world should mail him their oldest, smelliest, most dogshit-encrusted sneakers both en masse and for the rest of his miserable life so that he never, ever forgets.

Crossposted as usual from the Woodshed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

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

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Corporal Thomas James Hamilton, Private John Michael Roy Curwin and Private Justin Peter Jones, all of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Pro Patria

Energy Developments

That you should be aware of. When the price of oil skyrocketed, people all over the world started to investigate alternatives. This is still at a developmental level like that of aviation in 1914, but the future looks promising.

Taking Pulp to the Pump
Gasifying black liquor from pulp mills will accelerate second-generation biofuels. So people aren't buying newspapers like they used to, maybe they can make fuel.

Cheaper Cellulosic Ethanol
Qteros thinks its microbe could cut production costs.

Lean eating machines: These slender bacteria, called Q microbes, can dissolve cellulose into sugars and convert the sugar into ethanol, all in one step. Credit: Qteros

Bacteria Make Better Alcohol Fuels

Modified E. coli produce long-chain alcohol fuels that have advantages over ethanol and butanol.

By engineering the metabolic process of the common E. coli bacteria, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have coaxed the microorganism into churning out useful long-chain alcohols that have potential as new biofuels. The bacteria-produced biofuels have between five and eight carbon atoms, compared with ethanol, which has two carbons.

Saturday, December 13, 2008 the White Battalion.

I guess the RCMP now has a "OO" section

This outrageous ruling just gave the mounties the licence to kill anyone who loses their temper, no questions asked. It's funny no one ever dies of hysteria when the cops aren't involved. I have family friends who are in the RCMP - I don't think of them as killers, but these four don't pause for an instant to try to calm the man, they just kill him. 

Watch the whole video--I insist--and tell me this guy deserved to die or that the police acted in a reasonable way. He had been there for TEN HOURS, couldn't read the signs to figure out where he was supposed to go to get out to the arrivals lobby and he DIED FOR IT!

I hope someday these officers, the judge and crown attorney involved travel to some far off foreign land, say China or Pakistan or even, oh I dunno, Poland  -- and get lost in the airport for hours and hours and what with the jet lag and the lack of sleep and the confusion and frustration and the fact that no one seems to speak English, I hope they finally throw down their suitcases and just lose it and start shouting. I hope it doesn't cost them their lives because they deserve to live a long, long time with that poor bastard's needless death haunting their conscience every waking moment.

The four horsemen arrive at 6:12, at 6:40 they taser Robert Dziekanski, for the first time. By about 9:30 he seems to be dead, and the Mounties never even try artificial resuscitation, in fact they don't even seem to be in any rush to try to get medical help for the man they have just murdered.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Overheard today...

Several males, looking very under 21:

Dude #1:

"...she was all vegan and shit and even some of the girls were yelling at her."

then, #2:

"I was mad so I wrote an anti-feminine [sic] paper, and I got a B!" [one wonders how...]

I don't even know where to begin with this, other than to say I suddenly feel a great deal of empathy for some unknown undergrad who must've had a pretty rough go of it.

Budget 2009 : the Contest!

Via Maxwell's House, we learn that Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finangling, has thrown open the doors to all Canadians to contribute to Budget 2009 at the ministry website! Really. What's your pleasure?
Sure there's a handy list of suggestions but also a page to write in your own.

Sven at Fish Eggs has an idea :
"Every Canadian Citizen, will, for the next twelve months, receive a $2000 monthly payment. If you make more than $35,000 per year, it will be progressively taxed to ensure it gets to those whom need it the most. Simple.

This programme will run for one year only. Short.

As the lower income earners all know, this money would enter the economy almost completely, as there is little or no room for most to squirrel away their money. People could spend this money to buy a car, thus bailing out the auto industry. Or they could choose to spend it on housing, thus bailing out the housing industry. Or they may decide to invest in more education and go back to school, thus bailing out the education sector. What matters here is that the PEOPLE would decide where to put OUR hard earned tax dollars. The politicians would then be able to see where we chose to put our money and they could then craft legislation to reflect these investment choices made by Canadians. Effective."

Go for it, Sven.

Cross-posted at Creekside

No criminal charges for RCMP who killed Dziekanski

Dr. Dawg : "The four RCMP officers who killed Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport are going to walk."

As I said at Creekside : "Without Paul Pritchard's ugly and incriminating 10 minute video of the whole event and his threat of legal action against the RCMP to get it back from them, we wouldn't even know what happened because prior to its release the official RCMP story was that there were only two cops and perhaps Dziekanski was a "drug mule" or had "an underlying medical condition", that he was "armed", that they had to use stun guns because "the room was crowded".
And then there were the internal documents between the Canadian Border Services Agency, the RCMP, and airport officials on their own security tapes of the incident : "The material has been cleansed too much," read one.

Which presumably explains why "the Crown concluded there was not enough evidence to warrant charges."

As to CBC's recent report that "four out of 41 guns tested actually discharged more electrical current than Taser International says is possible."
Well good on ya, CBC, but this isn't exactly news, is it?
"In 2004 Robert Bagnell was killed almost instantly after being shocked by a Vancouver police Taser.
"Engineering firm Intertek tested the two weapons fired during the Bagnell incident. Their research found while one Taser performed within a normal electrical output, the other was 30 times higher.
Taser International, a U.S. stun gun manufacturer, later disputed Intertek's test results. Since then, the two Bagnell Tasers were sent to the Canadian Police Research Centre in Ottawa for further examination. That was two years ago.

Victoria Const. Mike Massine, considered one of Canada's foremost police experts on stun guns, says Tasers are not tested by police. "I'm assuming (Tasers) are tested at the factory," he said. "We don't have the mechanism to do that."
But this latest whitewash is about more than just TASERS™. Four RCMP dropped an unarmed man who was no danger to themselves or others and knelt on his chest until he passed out, then stood round doing nothing to revive him. And then they lied about it.

Dr. Dawg : "It's time to disband this "horribly broken" outfit. And it's time to break up the cosy little cliques that have developed between police and Crown attorneys. Lives may well depend upon it."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rumours of the coalition

From Iggy’s debut speech as the Liberal leader yesterday :
"I am prepared to vote non-confidence in this government. And I am prepared to enter into a coalition government with our partners if that is what the Governor-General asks me to do. But I also made it clear to the caucus this morning that no party can have the confidence of the country if it decides to vote now against a budget it hasn't even read."

Kady live-blogging the same event :
"This is kind of interesting - we the media don’t seem to know what to make of this. It’s going to be tough to spin this into another “coalition is dead” story, but I bet we’ll manage to do it somehow. We’re professionals."

Heh. Good one, Kady. Shouldn't be too difficult really.
AsperNation, aka CanWest Global, owns most of our nation's papers and many radio and TV stations.
David Asper endorsed and campaigned for Harper during the 2006 election.
Derek Burney, chairman of CanWest, was Mulroney's chief of staff and head of Harper's transition team to power.

David Asper, chair of the National Post, from The Georgia Straight's review of Peter C. Newman's new book "Izzy: The Passionate Life and Turbulent Times of Izzy Asper, Canada’s Media Mogul" referring to their journalists:
"We own the papers. We have the right to have the papers print whatever the hell
we want them to say. And if people don’t like it, they can go to hell. They can
leave, get another job."

And what papers does AsperNation, aka CanWest Global own again? A partial list :
National Post
Calgary Herald
Edmonton Journal
The Gazette
Regina Leader-Post
Ottawa Citizen
The StarPhoenix
Windsor Star
Vancouver Sun
Vancouver Province
The Courier
The North Shore News

Where are you getting your news from?

Do I like Iggy? No, not much. Is he capable of outflanking Harper? Yes. Do I think he would dump the coalition in a heartbeat if he didn't need it? Yup. Is the coalition still viable? Yes. Will it be accompanied by ponies and rainbows? Nope.

This coalition idea is going to take time to appeal to a public whose understanding of our governing processes is gleaned from American TV shows and a corporate media not afraid to describe it as "treason", "junta", "separatist coalition", and "deal with the devil".
So don't be sending your rainbow ponies off into battle and then mourning their imaginary deaths.
Write a letter to your MP, sign a petition, call an openline show, talk to your neighbours.
Fight back. This is your coalition - not Iggy's and certainly not the Aspers'.
Fight for it.

Thwap's Schoolyard : What part of "majority rule" do you not get?

Expanded from Creekside

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


President-elect Barack Obama will nominate Steven Chu, a Nobel physics laureate and advocate of alternative energy research, as his energy secretary, a Democratic aide said on Wednesday.
The laboratory's website said Chu was an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change and had guided the laboratory on a new mission to become the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy.
More Steven Chu, here, here, here, and here. The last is Wiki: see Dr. Chu's powerpoint on alternative energy linked at the bottom of that page.

I take issue with some of his thinking (eg. nuclear) but these details are nothing when compared to the much more urgent issue now of radically cutting carbon emissions before we cross the feedback threshold. Appointing Steven Chu to such a position, and giving him a wartime budget means we might have half a chance of saving ourselves from the worst effects of climate change. This literally means saving civilisation.

The Americans are getting serious.

Feeding the hand that bites you

So, after the rebellion of les autres last week, suddenly PM Harper is extending an olive branch, asking to work together with the Liberals (so soon?)

Frankly, after the past five years of becoming acquainted with Harper's modus operandi, if I were a Grit, I would be hesitant, at least without special gloves and a sleepy-dart marksman standing by.

A coronation if necessary but not necessarily a coronation

The puffin is a noble bird
He buries his own crap
But also Rae, Stephane Dion
And the coalition chaps.
No more a fan of torture
Or adventures in Iraq
He's been crowned by the Librulz
Just to fend off Gilles and Jack.
The rest of us are worried
What's hidden up his sleeve
But all will be forgiven
If he also buries Steve.

Meet the gnu boss

Apparently the Liberal Party of Canada, a party with which I long identified and which I long supported, has decided that the best thing for Canada is to keep Steven Harper in office for as long as possible and then replace him with someone who has almost exactly the same opinions, but wears red neckties and is twice as smart.
Not content to wait for January and keep the coalition together, defeat the government and be appointed to form a coalition government with the icky NDP, the Liberals started reading Conservative Party Press releases and accepting them as fact. One little bump in the road and they panic.
Splendid. I guess that was the revolution that wasn't. Fuck you very much Liberal Party for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory once again. In the last election 62% of the country voted against the Conservatives, so in answer to this you have decided that running even further to the right is the sensible option. Michael Ignatieff, for all his very impressive academic credentials supported the Iraq war until 2007.
In other news, when and if I ever move back to what used to be Canada, I will either be moving to Westmount in the Republic of Quebec and starting my own Anglo separatist party, Le Bloc Maudit Bloke, or to Vancouver Island in the People's Republic of Pacifica and opening a "Yo-Yo" frozen yohgurt stand/Yoga fitness centre/legal marijuana distribution centre.