Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! The infinity figure? That's called an analemma. It's a 37-shot composite. You can find out what it's about at Astronomy Picture of the Day. All the best for 2K11.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

They keep on trying . . .

ACCORDING TO THE INDEPENDENT'S Tony Paterson, in his article, "Five suspects arrested over Danish cartoon 'massacre plot'", there are members of the Umma who are still plenty chuffed over the Mo cartoons, five years after their publication.

Jakob Scharf, the head of Denmark's intelligence service, told reporters that the militants had apparently planned to storm the Copenhagen offices of Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which published the controversial Mohamed cartoons in 2005. Once inside, they planned to fire automatic weapons at random, he said.

There have been at least four plots to attack Jyllands-Posten and Kurt Westergaard, the artist who drew the most contentious of 12 cartoons, which were published by the daily in 2005 in an attempt to challenge perceived self-censorship. Mr Westergaard described the foiled plot as a direct attack on democracy and freedom of the press. In an interview with the German tabloid Bild, he said: "We may not and will not allow anyone to forbid us to criticise radical Islam. We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated when it comes to our values."

Ah, poor ol' multi-kulti: as much as the politically-correct would like to believe in it, multi-kulti never worked. It was dead from the get-go, as a decadent medieval tribal culture burdened with a fundamentalist, intolerant religion could never fit into mainstream Western culture. It's even a problem in secular Islamic countries, where their security forces are in a continuous, nasty struggle with various "Muslim Brotherhoods" which strive to make the world just like it was before their ancestors met Charlie Martel, aka "Charlie the Hammer" at Tours in 732.

Feel-good stories of the holidays

Via the always terrific Mock, Paper, Scissors we read of a health clinic in California that took the high road to helping the poor this Christmas. Christmas in that neck of the woods just got a lot merrier.

Hurrah for Pierre Karl Peladeau! Kinda reminds me of the last time Saddam Hussien was elected president of Iraq with 103 per cent of the vote

In other news, I'm sure you will be as shocked as I was to learn that the feds are looking into criminal charges against failed Senate candidate and attention whore Christine O'Donnell for using some of the more than $7 million in campaign funds she raised for personal spending, such as $20,000 she spent to pay rent on her Delaware town house. How long before she complains the whole thing is a witch hunt?

Crossposted from the Woodshed

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The mullahs are mad . . .

THE MAD MULLAHS OF QOM: Barney Henderson at The Telegraph reports in "Iranian soldier captured in Afghanistan" that

A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been captured supplying weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan for attacks on British and American troops.

It is the first reported instance of the capture of an al-Quds officer in Afghanistan.

But the hits just keep on comin' — these psychopaths have been sending weapons to Nigeria, according to The Telegraph's article, "Nigeria charges Iranian over arms cache". Check out the dude's picture, definitely a player of hardball.

A court in Nigeria on Thursday charged an alleged member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and three Nigerians over a shipment of mortars and rockets seized in the main port of Lagos last month.

A Spanish inquisition . . .

WIKILEAKS: according to Carol Rosenberg's article in the Miami Herald, "WikiLeaks: How U.S. tried to stop Spain's torture probe", there's a fly in the gazpacho. It seems there are five Gitmo prisoners that are of concern to the Spanish, and there's an on-going investigation to see how American neo-con Bushite government lawyers might be prosecuted for abusing human rights. Click on the link to get the details from Carol. This could blossom just in time for the US elections.

MIAMI — It was three months into Barack Obama's presidency, and the administration -- under pressure to do something about alleged abuses in Bush-era interrogation policies -- turned to a Florida senator to deliver a sensitive message to Spain:

Don't indict former President George W. Bush's legal brain trust for alleged torture in the treatment of war on terror detainees, warned Mel Martinez on one of his frequent trips to Madrid. Doing so would chill U.S.-Spanish relations.

Rather than a resolution, though, a senior Spanish diplomat gave the former GOP chairman and housing secretary a lesson in Spain's separation of powers. "The independence of the judiciary and the process must be respected,'' then-acting Foreign Minister Angel Lossada replied on April 15, 2009. Then for emphasis, "Lossada reiterated to Martinez that the executive branch of government could not close any judicial investigation and urged that this case not affect the overall relationship.''

The case is still open, on the desk of a Spanish magistrate, awaiting a reply from the Obama administration on whether it will pursue a probe of its own.

But the episode, revealed in a raft of WikiLeaks cables, was part of a secret concerted U.S. effort to stop a crusading Spanish judge from investigating a torture complaint against former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five other senior Bush lawyers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Canada at War in the 21st Century

Peel away the hockey and one sees Don Cherry as a loud man fond of violence and flamboyant suits. He wears outrageous costume as he advocates that fit young men wearing uniforms be allowed to commit public acts of violence against each other. He himself is not subject to that violence, yet he voyeuristically enthuses that others commit acts of brutality for his entertainment. Hockey and war.

Some would call that a fetish and wonder what sort of things are stored on his computer. Some would call him a coward, and wonder when he last had a fist connect with his own face. Some would call him psychotic and wonder why he hasn't been committed. Canadians apparently regard him as some sort of icon.

The other day, Christmas I think it was,  he got to fire a gun with a maximum range in the area of 40 kilometres. Like the hockey players pummelling each other on ice while he sits in his box, or Canadians sitting in front of their TVs, he won't see the impact of the round he fired. The army won't take him to see the bone fragments and lumps of flesh, a gut torn open by shrapnel and with the intestines splayed like noodles over the ground. He won't smell the putrifaction and the faeces, or see the flies buzz. He won't hear the screams of wounded, and observe the blood pouring out of their ruptured ears and limbs. He won't see the tears streaming down the faces of the soldiers assigned to clean up the mess or hear their deafening silence. He won't have their nightmares, or feel the pain of the loved ones at home as they try to understand why daddy spends all night drinking in the garage, or why mommy took them away to live with grandma.

If the round didn't explode right away and instead buried itself in a field, he won't meet the grieving family of the villager or child who disturbed it years later, long after we leave that place.

This man, Mr. Cherry, is three quarters of a century old. He was too young to volunteer for the Second World War, but old enough for Korea. He didn't go. Instead, like most of Canada since 1945, he spent a pampered and lucky life indulging in his fetish for chasing a small piece of rubber up and down a patch of ice. When he failed at leading these men to victory, he found a very well paying gig commenting on the skills of others. Millions of Canadians listen to his gaseous pontifications.

Somewhere along the way he decided he was a fan of the Canadian Forces. He whispered sweetly in their ear, told them they were beautiful, and they gave him an nice little award for his 'commitment' to them. He traded well on their laurels. They let him fire a gun and cheered his bluster.

Ten years ago, before Afghanistan, he was 66 years old. In ten more years if he's still living, he'll be 86 and quite possibly incontinent and senile. His stage-managed little blue pill with the gun is likely one of the last major acts in his charmed and cowardly little life. Canada, lazy and bloated on double-doubles and 60 years of peace and prosperity, looks on admiringly.

The lunacy . . .

Nick Kristof of the NYT has some ascerbic observations in his piece "The Big (Military) Taboo".

The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service.

Now, you know.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The future is chocolate . . .

IF YOU LOVE CHOCOLATE, listen up: according to Alasdair Wilkins' article in io9, "Newly sequenced chocolate genome reveals the secrets of better candy", the boffins have cracked the cocoa code, and they're starting to tinker . . . it actually might be a good thing, take a minute and check it out.

The chocolate tree genome has just been sequenced, revealing which genes are responsible for turning ordinary cacao crops into the finest chocolate. Now a little careful genetic tweaking could produce tastier, healthier, and more environmentally and economically beneficial chocolate.

Did the Canadian Forces and Airshow...[updated with Cherry flavour]

...just permit and encourage a Canadian civilian to kill Taliban, via a large field gun?

Hockey icon fires live shell at Taliban

Reading the Ottawa Citizen headline, one cannot help but think a Mr. Don Cherry,  ornery geezer and politically partisan celebrity hockey commentator, not a member of the Canadian Forces and legally recognised combatant, was permitted to fire the gun on an authentic fire mission intended to kill people. Clarification on this latest hobby war fuckery is absolutely necessary.

UPDATE, 0dark30h, Monday: via Moon Rattled comments, Don Cherry responds in confirmation to my question:
@MyPetGloat They sure did!!! It was a blast..Ha get it now put that in yur peacepipe and smoke it
Yet, in the Natty Po, Doug Schmidt ambiguously states that Donald fired an "explosive-laden training round." As I mentioned in the comments, the statement could mean a number of things. Cherry might have fired a training round, which are low explosive or inert rounds that mimic the ballistic properties of war rounds but save on cost. It could also mean he fired a live 155mm high explosive, illumination, smoke, or some fancier ammo on on a designated training range (eg under NATO control, no Taliban). Or, if Cherry read my post accurately, he is confirming (or lying) that he was allowed to fire a war shot on a combat fire mission.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa Tracker

At the time of writing NORAD is placing Santa Claus at Goose Green in the Falkland Islands. (Nice, just what I need.)

Follow NORAD's 2010 Santa Tracker here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What would Christmas be without a classic?

Christmas present from the CIA

Think Wikileaks is a big name?

Now it's a WTF big name. Courtesy of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

H/T Jill

Merry Holiday

This is the time of year when politicians work even less diligently in the public interest, scarf down gut-fulls of trough gobbling goodies and pose in a mockery of care as ever more constituents go without. I detest the snot of the season, the inescapable drone of saccharine muzak, the whine of cripesters, so sure their omnipresent festival of lies is being stolen away by the word holiday. But it would be a waste of the annoyance to let things just slide when I can spit back and blaspheme and have a laugh on the side. But who to lampoon, what victim to jape? There's a new Senator crying at his catastrophic fate, settling for wages that would feed a family or eight. No shortage of lies or liars to scan, like the munchkin of finance and his failed fiscal plan. Or what about Weepy and the billion buck planes, the reneged withdrawal and the torture and shame. But lo don't be honking the partisan horn for there's no lack of Liberals as worthy of scorn. There's the goalie come lawyer whose name is disgrace for advocating the punishment of civilians in that ol' Gaza place. Then there's Dalton the douchebag so provincial and twee who sold off all our rights for the cop riot spree. Too many, too many disgraces to share, I must pick just one to park in the chair. So how's an old fave with his handout degree, a queer hating bigot of extra-marital needs. Who better to lecture on family and mores than a bloated old gasbag, a churlish old whore. So good gentles indulge me as I fling about some muck, this season I celebrate a miserable fuck. Here is the fable of the eve of the day when adulterers visit by limo or sleigh...

'Twas the week before xmas, when all through Stephen's house

Not a Stockwell was stirring, half as bright as a mouse

Large silk stockings were stuffed down the back of the chair

Proof that old queen McVety had recently been there

The senators were nestled all snug in bought beds

While visions of gerrymanders danced in their heads

Lurleen in her kerchief and Steve in his suit

Shook hands like good white folk, not rutting like fruits

When out on the hill there arose such a muddle

Steve sprang from his bed in mid fuddle-duddle

Off to the window like a waddling badger

He hid in the drapes to conceal his old tadger

The moon on the bosom of the oil sand brown snow

Gave the lustre of dung to his caucus below

When, what to his piggie little eyes should appear

Bev Oda's limo full of frat boys and lite beer

With a greasy old driver, so oily and slick

He knew in a moment it must be Toews, Vic

More rapidly than a dachshund on a shin they came

And he slurred, and bellowed and called them by name

"Now Doris, now Clement, now Weepy and Duffy!

On Prissy, on Dimwit, on Fibber and Puffy!

To the top via Adscam, to the top via gall

Now smear away, smear away, smear away all!"

Like dry heaves that echo across Blogging Tory sites

When met with reality and other such slights

So up to the press gallery with the lobbyists they blew

With a sleigh full of boys and a bishop or two

And while Steve was tinkling, he heard on the roof

The prancing and preening of that Flaherty goof

Steve shook off a drop and as he turned round

Out the chimney Towes, Vic tumbled to ground

He was dressed all in fishnet, from his arse to his ears

With a catalogue of escorts of prominent rear

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back

Plugs and beads and a cinch for his sac

His eye - how they twinkled, a blackguard so merry

He sniffed for any sisters of takable cherry

His dull little mouth puckered like ass

The scruff on his chin of the lecherous class

A tiny blue tablet was clutched in his teeth

The stank of ol' musk he wore like a wreath

He had a slack face and a hanging of belly

That he rubbed to a glisten with a KY of jelly

Steve laughed when he saw him in spite of himself

He was creepy and plump, a values voting elf

A leer in his eye, and a twist in his head

Stephen as leader had nothing to dread

He uttered a grunt as he bent to his work

And soiled a few stockings with a filthy last jerk

And stabbing his finger deep in his nose

And clutching his knob, up the chimney he rose

He slunk to his sled and gave Ambrose a goose

And passed like the wind of a loosely bowelled moose

But Steve heard him exclaim, ere he squirmed out of sight

We'll be coming for you with the long knives some night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The train wreck that keeps on wrecking

The sale (OK 99 year lease) of BC Rail is still fresh in everybody's minds. Truthfully, it's smelly and the sudden turn of Basi and Virk to a guilty plea will never be something easily swallowed.

Somewhere, somehow, a deal was made, involving taxpayers money, at the eleventh hour, which kept Gary Collins from having to testify and becoming the subject of an intense cross-examination.

There will be head on a plate. If it's not Campbell's, then the next leader of the BC Liberals (not to be confused with real liberals) will be sufficient.

So, no, Ms. Clark. It isn't over and it hasn't been dealt with. It isn't and never was within your province to make that proclamation in any case.

another headdesk moment

I know it is only Wednesday, but this is going to be tough to beat for the stupidest thing I'm going to hear all week.

"The armies of other nations...could allow homosexuals to serve in their military because we didn't allow them to serve in ours...We will no longer able to bail out these other emasculated armies because ours will now be feminized and neutered beyond repair, and there is no one left to bail us out."
American Family Association's Bryan Fischer

A visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present

“Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land. (Deut. 15:11).”

I'm taking a lot of pictures for the newspaper this month this month of people donating to the local food bank, which is called on to feed entirely too many people. I don't remember there even being food banks in most communities when I was growing up, though I'm sure there were people in need at that time too. There just seem to be a lot more of them now and the food banks seem to have gone from being an emergency response to the recession of the 80s, to a fixture in virtually every town.
It is difficult to know at this time just what percentage of people in the Golden Horseshoe are living in poverty. Different agencies use different yardsticks to measure poverty and many who live in poverty are not counted, but ask anyone who works with the poor and the homeless and they all agree on one thing: there are a lot more people relying on food banks and other non-governmental charities for daily necessities than there were a few years ago, and a lot fewer donations coming in. Most recent estimates I've seen for the Hamilton area say between 15% and 20% live below the poverty line.

Charles Dickens was right.

``Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,'' said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, ``but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw!''
``It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,'' was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. ``Look here.''
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
``Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!'' exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
``Spirit! are they yours?'' Scrooge could say no more.
``They are Man's,'' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ``And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!'' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ``Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!''
``Have they no refuge or resource?'' cried Scrooge.

``Are there no prisons?'' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ``Are there no workhouses?''

When I started in the community newspaper business mumblty'leven years ago, most small towns didn't have food banks. Even in the big cities, they were a fairly new thing. Now, they are everywhere. I get a call at least once a week to cover a story about people collecting food for the food bank all year long -- at Christmas, I get ten calls like that a week.
I grew up in a middle sized industrial city, moved to the suburbs of a larger industrial city in high school and went to university in another middle-sized industrial town. Maybe I led a very sheltered life as a kid, but I don't remember ever seeing a homeless person when I was a kid and I spent a fair amount of time riding the buses downtown and hanging out on the main street. "Hobos" "bums" and "tramps" were something out of old movies that you dressed up as for Halloween. I didn't really see any homeless people until the early 80's and even then, it was only the occasional drunk. By the early 90's I was seeing homeless people living on the streets of small towns in Ontario. Now, they seem omnipresent and the working poor and people on welfare that are trapped in poverty seem legion. It used to be that every generation expected to do a little better than their parents. Now, most people my age have given up on that and seem willing to settle for a permanent, full time job that covers the rent.

I think it is terrific that people who have the means to do so are willing to contribute to the food drives and the winter coat drives and the blanket and sleeping bag drives for the homeless drives and give money to the Good Shepherd shelters and Mission Services and do all the other myriad things people do to try to mitigate the disease of poverty in our community, but I often wonder if anyone is doing anything about the root causes.
I think most would agree that improving access to education is a big part of fixing the problem as is the need for the school systems to teach life skills like money management. But I think there are some larger issues that people forget about, such as infrastructure and poor public transport.
For example, it is very expensive to be poor but much cheaper to be middle class or wealthy. Middle class folks can drive to the supermarket and load up on whatever is on sale that week, or even go and buy the giganto-enormo-family pack size at Costco or Sam's Club or whatever warehouse store you favor and store the excess in the basement or fill the freezer. Poor people can't shop there. The warehouse store are usually members-only, and people on welfare or without credit cards don't usually qualify. And they don't have the cars to haul the stuff home or the basement or the freezer to store the stuff in if they did.
There aren't even proper supermarkets in a lot of poor neighborhoods, so people wind up paying more for the bread and milk and other necessities they can get at the neighborhood corner store and have much more limited access to good, cheap, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Maybe they could take a bus from their home out to the suburban supermarket and haul the bags of groceries home on public transit once a week, but that takes hours they don't have if they are working and money for bus fare they don't have if they aren't. And that assumes you can even get a bus from where they live to where the big suburban stores are.
Those that are really struggling may live somewhere like a boarding house or a shelter where they can't
cook or at least can't store any significant amount of groceries.

As to the effect that poverty has on children, well, let me leave you with this, some responses from Grade 4 & 5 students in North Bay, Ontario, quoted in "Our Neighbours’ Voices: Will We Listen?" published by The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, 1998, James Lorimer & Co. Ltd. Toronto

Poverty Is...

Not being able to go to McDonald’s
Getting a basket from the Santa Fund
Feeling ashamed when my dad can’t get a job
Not buying books at the book fair
Not getting to go to birthday parties
Hearing my mom and dad fight over money
Not ever getting a pet because it costs too much
Wishing you had a nice house
Not being able to go camping
Not getting a hot dog on hot dog day
Not getting pizza on pizza day
Not being able to have your friends sleep over
Pretending that you forgot your lunch
Being afraid to tell your mom that you need gym shoes
Not having breakfast sometimes
Not being able to play hockey
Sometimes really hard because my mom gets scared and she cries
Not being able to go to Cubs or play soccer
Not being able to take swimming lessons
Not being able to afford a holiday
Not having pretty barrettes for your hair
Not having your own private backyard
Being teased for the way you are dressed
Not getting to go on school trips.

I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty for enjoying what they have this Christmas, but I do hope that those of us with the means to do so are contributing more than just the tax dollars the government takes. Just remember that most middle class folks in North America are one or two paycheques from away from losing their comfortable lives and slipping down the ladder into poverty. And every year it gets harder and harder to break out of the poverty trap. So keep collecting those canned goods, rice and pasta. Keep giving money to all the homeless shelters and keep volunteering. In a more just and equitable society, none of that would be necessary, but we don't live in that society right now. And we keep electing people who make it worse, but that's a post for another time.
For now, keep fighting the good fight and Merry Christmas.

(this post originally appeared as two posts on The Woodshed)

Seasonal treats

It just doesn't get any better than this. Kady gives us all a Christmas present.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Russian Method . . .

No Airshow here. The grandkids of the gang that dug 'em out of Berlin can still play hardball.

The video shows Russian Navy commandos on a Somalian pirate ship shortly after the pirates had captured a Russian oil tanker. The Euro Union navy that patrols these waters would not interfere because they feared there could be casualties.... So what are they there for?

All explanations are in Russian with a single exception of when a wounded pirate says something in English and the Russian soldier says, "This is not a fishing boat." All conversations between the commandos are in Russian. If you don't understand Russian, the pictures speak for themselves.

The soldiers first freed their compatriots and the tanker. Then the Russian Navy Commandos moved the pirates back to their own (pirate) ship, searched the pirate ship for weapons and explosives, and then they left the ship and exploded it with all the remaining pirates hand-cuffed to it.

The commandos sank the pirate ship along with the pirates and without any court proceedings, lawyers etc. by using the anti-piracy laws of the 18th and 19th centuries where the captain of the rescuing ship has the right to decide what to do with the pirates. In those days they were usually hung.

I would think from now on, Russian ships will not be targets for Somalia pirates.

Here there be weasels . . .

WikiLeaks has some cables pertaining to the murder of a former K.G.B. officer, Alexander V. Litvinenko, by Polonium poisoning. According to the NYT's Alan Cowell's article, "Cables Shed Light on Ex-K.G.B. Officer’s Death", a senior Russian official asserted that Moscow had been tailing his killers before he died but had been waved off by Britain’s security services.

The Russian assertion, denied by British officials, seemed to revive a theory that the British intelligence services played a murky role in the killing — a notion voiced at the time by some in Moscow to deflect allegations of the Kremlin’s involvement in the murder.

The cable, dated Dec. 26, 2006, and marked “secret,” was one of several in the WikiLeaks trove that tried to examine the still unanswered question of who exactly ordered the use of a rare radioactive isotope, polonium 210, to poison Mr. Litvinenko, leading to his death on Nov. 23, 2006. Russia produces polonium commercially, but the process is closely guarded and British investigators have concluded that the isotope could not have been easily diverted without high-level intervention.

WTF? Here indeed, there be weasels, even if it's just F.S.B. disinformation. For sure, it's a zinger of a tale.

I'm not sure how valid this is, but Putin and "Goodfellas" . . . hmmm. Putin: the real Teflon Don?

The point is, was the murder by isotope done by others than the FSB, the successor to the KGB? Does Vlad and the inner gang have a private "Murder, Inc."?

Le Carré 1

Le Carré 2

The above are podcast links to an interview with John le Carré, in which he mentions the state of espionage today. Our tax dollars at work. How I love the CBC.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Flaherty. An idea a minute.

It's just that we can't keep up to his ever changing timepiece.

Last June, the provincial and federal governments said they would look at a three-pronged reform: financial literacy, regulatory changes to give the private sector more freedom to offer low-cost savings options and gradually enhancing the CPP.

What Flaherty has done is to shift to the Bush model which was skewered by his own party and eventually died. The problem then is that most people were understandably skeptical of how it was being communicated and the fact that a complete moron was pushing the idea. 

That's a similar problem here. Flaherty is certainly no genius and we can easily suggest that he's "economics challenged". This is the same idiot who told us, in the slide to the financial fire-pit, that we weren't in a recession when the CPP Reserve Fund had already demonstrated a negative return in March of 2008.

So what caused Flaherty to shift from a widening of CPP to his "radical new idea", (borrowed from the worst presidential administration the US has ever known)? 

Same reason as Bush had for wanting to get out from under it. Exactly the same reason. The Harper government has incurred the most massive deficit in Canadian history and they borrowed against the Canada Pension Plan Reserve Fund. The same time that they incurred an enormous deficit the Canada Pension Plan suffered a negative return on investment of -19 percent losing 17 billion dollars in Net Asset Value in one year. 
In short, to keep CPP viable and on track with its current growth targets Flaherty and Harper would have to raise premiums and taxes. That would shatter their already tenuous base. Believe me, Flaherty will screw an entire generation of retirees if it means he can keep his job. 

Harper and Flaherty. The worst financial managers the Canadian government has ever encountered.


Impolitical has more questions and a copy of the surprisingly sparse framework on pension changes Flaherty is proposing.

Fred sums it up . . .

FRED REED has a bad feeling about the future of the U.S., in a rant, "Awaiting the Storm". He's really worried:

Flags. These are always a bad sign. Hardly a politician appears on television who doesn’t stand in front of an American flag, sometimes three American flags. A venomous nationalism now poisons the air, and grows. We are off and rolling.

The trappings of fascism spread. General David Petraeus, commander of the Eastern Front, poses with the President in the White House in combat fatigues. The country is now the Homeland, reminiscent of the Nazi Fatherland and the Soviet Motherland. We hear of American Exceptionalism, the ritual self-idolizaton beloved of pathological nationalism. Blood and Soil. The American Dream. Ubermenschen. All we need is a short Austrian.

We may get one. The times ripen for a man on a horse. (Or perhaps a woman: Twitler of Alaska looms.) An ignorant populaton, unread, unfamiliar with the outside world, focuses its anxieties on troubling dark things lurking abroad, the brown hordes from the south, the rising Chinese, inexplicable Moslems who want to kill all Christians. Sooner rather than later such a mob finds solace in an angry unity. From an unhappy lower middle-class spring Brown Shirts. Wait.

Check out the whole article.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

At the going down of the sun ...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Corporal Steve Martin, 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment, serving with 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group. Killed due to enemy action.

Je me souviens

It's official! The US military is entering a new century of personnel policy

Meaning they will have finally caught up to the rest of the modern world. Don't Ask Don't Tell is officially repealed in a Senate vote of 65 - 31 in favour of eliminating the policy.

The 65-31 vote came after an earlier procedural vote that brought the milestone in gay rights to the Senate floor. It also fulfilled a campaign promise by President Obama, who has been under attack from liberals in his own party for seeking compromises with Republicans on economic and tax issues during the lame-duck congressional session.
Don't anyone get too excited about this. The actual change in policy could take as much as a year. In that period of time you will hear a lot of dinosaurs howling about combat efficiency and "distraction".

Count on it.

So, the University of Maryland does a study ...

Which tells us something we pretty much already knew: Fox News intentionally spews political misinformation at a phenomenal rate. In short, they invent stuff and then peddle it as "fact". The whole entity is a propaganda machine. CNN and MSNBC fared a little better in the study, but the level of misinformation US voters took to the polls with them from those news sources was far from what could be considered accurate. Those voters possessing the most accurate information were regular viewers or listeners of public broadcasting.

Which would explain why the Harperites are hell bent on destroying the CBC. No different from their American mentors in the Republican party, Harper conservatives and accurate information don't mix. They would prefer instead to pelt Canadian voters with reams of propaganda from this. They're counting on large numbers of Canadians to swallow whatever is put in front of them, not because it's accurate, but because it's on TV.

Michael Clemente, the senior vice-president of news editorial at Fox News, who has his finger in every news broadcast produced by Fox attempted to dismiss the University of Maryland study with this.

“The latest Princeton Review ranked the University of Maryland among the top schools for having ‘Students Who Study The Least’ and being the ‘Best Party School’ – given these fine academic distinctions, we’ll regard the study with the same level of veracity it was ‘researched’ with.”
That might have been a solid rebuttal if it weren't for one thing: The Princeton Review didn't rank the University of Maryland that way at all.

The university ranked top as having "Students Who Study The Least" was the University of North Dakota, and the university ranked as the "Best Party School" was the University of Georgia. The University of Maryland was way down the list in both those categories, but it did receive top marks for "Best Athletic Facilities" and it continued to receive federal research funding from the National Institute of Health, NASA and the DHS.

So, Clemente, in keeping with the theme well-established by his very own Fox News, combated a report on high levels of misinformation originating in his office by providing even more misinformation. Some people would say he lied.

The problem is, in the US at least, is that it works.

Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Good morning, darlings -- a little Bugs Bunny with your coffee?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy 75th!

WIRED has an article by Jason Paur, "75th Anniversary of the Plane That Changed Everything". It's a commemoration of the first flight of the DC-3. The aircraft hit a "sweet spot" as a design, and changed how people traveled world-wide, and showed the airlines how technological improvements added to profits. Seventy-five years later, there are at least 400 still flying, and probably more that have escaped being counted. Some have been totally re-built, with the venerable radial gas engines replaced by kerosene-burning turbo-props — good to go 'til the centennial in 2035. The picture gallery is worth checking out.

The DC-3 first flew Dec. 17, 1935, 32 years to the day after the Wright brothers' first flight.

The DC-3 was a simple evolutionary advance from the DC-1 and DC-2. A pair of 1,000-horsepower Pratt & Whitney engines allowed the plane to carry 21 passengers 1,480 miles at 195 mph. Within a few years airlines had bought more than 400 DC-3s. The government bought more than 10,000 of them as military transports, the C-47.

Buffalo Airlines of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, operates the last scheduled DC-3 passenger service. The company mostly hauls cargo, but there are seats available for flights between Hay River and Yellowknife if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bennie's Bedazzled . . . .

Check out Bennie's leer at the 0:56 mark and tell me he's not having impure thoughts . . . .

A Collective Agreement... a collective agreement. It really is amazing how someone can read and lecture on power and class yet be so utterly blind to their own... /rant off

In which aspiration get followed down a dark alley by reality

and wakes up with a headache hours later in dumpster without their wallet, watch, cell phone or pants.

People wonder why reporters have a reputation for becoming cynical drunks...I wonder why more of us don't end up pouring scotch on our corn flakes every morning. Hell, even the New York Times isn't what it used to be.

A tip of the hat to lensman clzoomer for pointing us to this.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A question for Gary Lunn ...

Just exactly to what type of professionals would you suggest we entrust vast expanses of an unspoiled British Columbia central coast?

Decisions on the safety of supertankers transporting oil through B.C.'s northern waterways should be left to professionals instead of politicians muddying the waters, Gary Lunn, Saanich-Gulf Islands Conservative MP, said Tuesday.
"The people to do this correctly are the professionals, not a bunch of people trying to make political hay," said Lunn, a former natural resources minister. He has pointed out that a moratorium on northern tanker traffic, brought in by the previous Liberal government, is voluntary, not legislated.
Maybe oil professionals like, oh, I don't know, BP?
That worked well, didn't it?

And Enbridge has such a lovely track record. Just in case you haven't heard of their little incident last July at Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River....

I have an idea. Let's have the Minister of State for Sports practice what he preaches. Lunn could start by shutting his cake hole and staying out of the discussion altogether. He clearly doesn't have the interests of the people of that region as a priority.

Kim has more.

Harrods fires Santa Claus ...

Santa Claus retaliates.

The fashionable and famous London department store didn't like the behaviour of one of the employees dressed as Father Christmas in the toy department.

So, he was sacked.

He didn't take it well.

HIV progress . . .

NAM AIDSMAP is a site that proclaims its goal to be: "NAM works to change lives by sharing information about HIV and AIDS. We believe independent, clear and accurate information is vital in the fight against HIV and AIDS"

Anyway, they have a report that seems too good to be true: in Germany, a patient has been cured of HIV through stem-cell transplants. Check it out.

Financial truths . . .

An old Irish guy tells it like it is . . .

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The tough road is accepting your opposition at the table

Have you read James Travers yet?


Do it now.

I don't like coalitions any better than the next person, but if it guarantees anything, it guarantees that my vote actually has more impact.

Yeah. And what Montreal Simon said.


Sven Ortmann has an interesting site, Defence and Freedom, which he proclaims is "about the defence against external threats and about the defence of civil liberties. Most topics are about the art of war, military history or military technology." Anyway, Sven posted the bon-bon above.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Canada : Battleground for Israel

Avi Lewis : "There's no wave of anti-Semitism in Canada?"

Scott Reid : "No, no, no, no, absolutely not. It's funny I've heard people who have criticized us saying that we think this but there is absolutely no spike in the kinds of anti-Semitic incidents that I think appall us."

Con MP Scott Reid is Chair of Steering Committee of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism and vice-chair of the CPCCA's inquiry panel on domestic anti-Semitism.

Thanks, Scott. Good to know. It seems the US Anti-Defamation League agrees with you on that.

Perhaps the misconception about the rise of, you know, actual recorded incidents of anti-Semitism in Canada stems from the original CPCCA mission statement put out by yourself and co-chair Lib MP Mario Silva in June of last year :

"Recorded incidents of antisemitism have been on the rise both locally and globally."

Last week the phrase "rising tide of anti-Semitism" was used in the Ontario legislature to hysterically condemn a two year old MA thesis written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish Palestinian solidarity activist and one of the people interviewed in the vid above. Really reaching there, guys.

Meanwhile the World Zionist Organization announced the launching of a new hasbara program targeting students, and Canada was represented there :

"Dozens of students from 14 countries around the world joined together this weekend at a seminar in Paris that launched the World Zionist Organization’s new Global Network for Countering Anti-Semitism.

The students and others like them will be the soldiers on the ground who will report to the WZO about anti-Semitism in their countries and receive advice about how to tackle future incidents. To that end, the WZO launched a media room that will be in touch with activists around the world in several languages.

The global network’s media room will be ... in contact with students acting as antennas on campuses around the world. For instance, if there is a problem on a particular campus, the WZO can contact the university and ask for security or bring in other activists from close by to help counteract the problem.

Media room director Eitan Behar :
"With the right work of all our activists around the world and if we are unified, we can win the battle that is going on around the world for Israel’s image."

What is less clear is why Canada is so determined to spearhead it.

"Glenn Beck in sequins"

Sportwriter Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette is a national treasure. Numerically-challenged former hockey coach and professional loudmouth Don Cherry, not so much.

How to win friends and influence people . . .

Hardeep Puri was asked to remove his turban at airport security, Indian media report

THE BEEB has a delightful account on how the US insists on groping turbans worn by Indian diplomats who have diplomatic immunity to that kind of thing. This, after subjecting the Indian ambassador to a search earlier this year. And the war in FUBAR province continues . . . 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Democracy in action . . .

THE GUARDIAN HAS A REPORT, "WikiLeaks backlash: The first global cyber war has begun, claim hackers" that merits your attention. Next week should be of interest as Anonymous' cohort keeps at it. Can they get enough computers together to rattle Amazon, Visa and MasterCard?

Anonymous leaders began distributing software tools to allow anyone with a computer to join Payback. So far more than 9,000 users in the US have downloaded the software; in second place is the UK with 3,000. Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, France, Spain, Poland, Russia and Australia follow with more than 1,000. The 11th country embroiled in the attacks is Sweden, where WikiLeaks's massive underground servers are housed, with 75 downloads.

Sean-Paul Correll, a cyber threat analyst at Panda Security, who has monitored Operation Payback since its conception, said it was impossible to "profile" those involved. "They are anonymous and they are everywhere," he said. "They have day jobs. They are adults and kids. It is just a bunch of people." Middle-class professional members working alongside self-styled anarchists.

Slave beatings and lynchings to follow ...

This is jaw-dropping astounding. Unless you are like me and believe that the Tea Party is nothing more than an extension of this.

South Carolina is about to celebrate the fact that that state seceded from union with the United States because it was about to have slavery removed from its very slave dependent economic structure.

Never mind the "States Rights" claim that the rebel confederacy tried to spin to the world. That was done because they realized that abolitionist countries would not support their original purpose. There was little chance of garnering support from England, an absolute necessity once war had erupted, if the "cause" upon which the agricultural south fastened its casus belli was in any way about maintaining slavery. The shift from demanding the right to continue slavery to a more acceptable "right to secede" for any reason was pure propaganda. And it was propaganda which has survived to this day with the overly-simplistic and fervent rhetoric spewing from the gapes of  the Tea Partiers.

The "south" can claim anything they want to. They've rewritten history to make themselves look like the victim of a war they brought upon themselves. The southern rice barons were instrumental in starting the Revolutionary War with England; their successors on southern plantations were responsible for fomenting the bloody conflict that would become the US Civil War. The oft-repeated claim of a "War of Northern Aggression" is nothing more than confederate bullshit repeated by today's Tea Party faction of a long-soured Republican Party.

Yes, Virginia, there is proof of what I say. On December 24th, 1860, it was spelled out in black and white in a document known as the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.  In that document the so-called "States Rights" which became the mantra of the southern effort was focused on a solitary item - the demand to be allowed to continue to enslave and treat as less-than-human, an entire population of people. It was all about slavery then and it is all about slavery now.

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
And it continues:

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety. 

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States. 

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy. 

Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.
Make no mistake, there is a huge segment of that same successor population who are true believers in that document. Their forefathers feared the demise of slavery because they had inexorably linked the southern US economy to it. To lose it meant a loss of lifestyle and a reliance on a completely different economic model.

The Tea party is simply an extension of the whole fear and simmering hatred. They want their mint juleps back.

And they would go back to beating and lynching if they could get away with it.

Before you head out shopping today ...

And, if you're thinking of doing some seasonal shopping, in most places across the country you'll want to do it today and not leave it until tomorrow. The weather, in many places, is going to deteriorate, later in the day.

The west coast can expect a 995 millibar Low to move into Vancouver Island (and eventually the mainland) by mid-afternoon bringing heavy rain to the entire coast. The Fraser Valley will experience a severe drenching by Sunday.
Alberta will be clear, although temperatures are going to drop rapidly by Sunday. Same goes for southern Saskatchewan, although, according to the crystal ball, there will be blowing snow on Sunday and wind-chills in the -30+ range. (That's "stay-in-bed" weather).
Winnipeg will experience a normal day with wind-chill in the -30+ range, a bit of snow and then experience a sudden temperature drop by Sunday.
London, Ontario will have a clear day which will then turn messy on Sunday. As the temperature drops the east winds kick in, more snow is in your future.
Southern Quebec may have a problem. Today will be relatively clear, but as the winds rise and the temperature drops there is a very good chance of a minor ice-storm in around the Montreal area by Sunday.
The Maritimes will have some flurries or mixed rain and snow today. Overnight, however, the temperature will drop, winds will rise and everything will get icy.
St. John's Newfoundland will be positively balmy today. The daytime high will be -3 but it will be sunny and calm. By Sunday, expect the winds to rise, but then the temperature will too.

So, pretty much a normal winter weekend across the country with today being the better of the two days. Go shopping today and then button up tomorrow.

When you come back from your day at the bazaars, sit back and do a little reading. I know! Go take a look at Impolitical and then Far and Wide. That will warm you up. They will send you off to read David Pugliese which will cause your body temperature to rise even more.

You will then realize that all that comparison shopping you did, that concern for the effect of Christmas on your credit cards, the attempt to get just the right item for the very best price is how every purchase should be made, including those made by the Harper government.

Oh yes, for those special people who actually check out consumer reviews on big-ticket items before making a purchase, good on you. That's the way to make a proper assessment of expensive items. It means the item has to be on the market and available. Of course, you'll also be checking out the "return policy" of any place you shop.

Strangely, the Department of National Defence had pretty much the same policy when it came to buying military aircraft: Buy no aircraft which is not in operational use by an allied air force.

And then Harper hillbillies came to power. They look at the glossy brochure, check out the colours on the box and then blow the limit on your national credit card. They don't believe in smart shopping when it's them spending your money.

Cautionary note: Readers are advised not to make decisions based on the weather forecasting above. Despite the use of very accurate models from various sources, you should always refer to the official forecast issued by Environment Canada for your area. 

And for those who thought the weather was the most interesting part of this post ... check out Moderate Man

Friday, December 10, 2010

The best entertainment ...

Comes from those who believe so strongly in their lies that they can't recognize the propaganda they're pushing.

Take John Bolton, for example. This guy was the Bush administration's Pit Bull. Not that they needed one, but that's as good as he got. Dumber than the back end of a ball peen hammer, he was sent to the United Nations to square the place away and force them to get with the reality that there was only one superpower in the world and it was dictating the tune for the world choir. End of mission.

Blow the smoke off the barrels. And then the irritating asshole (two wars and over 100, 000 killed), was gone.

Luckily for Bolton, The Guardian, perhaps one of the best news sources in the world, is happy to make sure we did not misread Bolton. He gets to speak his piece all over again.  And he does it with such style. (Emphasis mine)

[Secretary of State, Hillary] Clinton is demonstrably incorrect in being preoccupied with defending the "international community", whatever that is.

Thanks, John, for reminding us that you were the worst choice for ambassador to the UN the 21st Century has ever known. There's a good reason why the US Senate failed to confirm you in your Bush Administration recess appointment to the job. You're an asshole. That, and you didn't believe there was a world worth saving beyond the precincts of Washington D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland. In short, you were too stupid to hold such a critical position.

And while the Conservative establishment always loves to heap "guts and glory" on Herr Bolton, let me remind you of the comment in his Yale 25th reunion book:

I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.
Funny about that. He banged the drum loudly until it was him that might have had to go. And when it was some other mother's son that was being sent off to die, he banged it again.

It's good that The Guardian gives Rush Limbaugh's soldiers space to vent. It reminds us of what they really are.

The Stud . . .

Two priests died at the same time and met Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.

St. Peter said, "I'd like to get you guys in now, but our computer's down. You will have to go back to Earth for about a week, but you can't go back as priests. What'll it be?"

The first priest says, "I've always wanted to be an eagle, soaring above the Rocky Mountains .."

"So be it," says St. Peter, and off flies the first priest.

The second priest mulls this over for a moment and asks, "Will any of this week 'count', St. Peter?"

“No, I told you the computer's down; there's no way we can keep track of what you are doing."

“In that case" says the second priest, “I've always wanted to be a stud.”

"So be it" says St. Peter, and the second priest disappears.

A week goes by, the computer is fixed, and the Lord tells St. Peter to recall the two priests.

"Will you have any trouble locating them?” He asks.

"The first one should be easy," says St. Peter, "He's somewhere over the Rockies, flying with the eagles, but the second one could prove to be more difficult."

“Why?” asks the Lord.

"He's on a snow tire, somewhere in Saskatchewan."

My people. My enemy.

The latest installment of the Harper party "Father Knows Best" endless onslaught to pull the chain on the rights guaranteed with Canadian citizenship.

The Harper government is bracing for a backlash over a border security agreement it is negotiating with the United States, anticipating it will spark worries about eroding sovereignty and privacy rights, a document obtained by The Globe and Mail shows.
Yes, and here's a little kicker.
“The Canadian public may underestimate the security threat to Canada,” the communication plan says.
On the other hand (that is "economist-speak") the threat to the United States is a dilemma of that country's own making. Not necessarily something any other country would be wise to buy into.

Of course, it would be really handy if the Harper hillbillies in Ottawa would take the time to articulate their assessment, real or imagined, of the "security threat" we are all supposedly underestimating. So far all we've ever seen or heard from the mandarins of the security establishment is paranoid musings of how grassroots defence of personal freedom gets in the way of creating a more powerful security establishment.

Actually, I got ahead of myself. They have clearly identified the threats to their security.

The communication strategy labels [federal privacy commissioner] Ms. [Jennifer] Stoddart as a “high risk” stakeholder who will “raise concerns re: information sharing and protecting private information.” It also anticipates criticism from civil rights groups and others such as Council of Canadians chairwoman Maude Barlow.
Got that? High risk. An officer of parliament.
Salient point:

The Canadian government is refusing to discuss the negotiations ...
You may begin to understand the problem. There is a threat, but they won't tell you what it is, except to tell you that the people appointed to protect the rights and privacy of citizens are a part of that threat. OK. Let's discuss it for them. In keeping with the spirit of the approaching season.
Greg has more.