Sunday, February 27, 2011

This afternoon of the Sunday, I works very hard... the vestiges of ideas left to me for two mark in essay formatting; by students of the second year. In University. Fearful do, for the furture of humanity's. as currently that misundergraduating people cannot writing.

I am now of, the understanding of who Nigerian; email - spam for the sum of 2.3 three millions US dollars currency is resultantly written, by.

The future that never was

PALEO FUTURE is a site that displays the prognostication of bygone days, from 1870 to the 1990s. Below, an ad from Hughes Aircraft Co., touting the videophone in your future.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday follies: Class War Edition

1. Canadian corporation SNC Lavalin is building a jail in Libya. The facility, according to SNC Lavalin, conforms to "international human rights standards". Does this mean the building comes with its own system of impartial human rights based jurisprudence? Dude, you're building a jail for a fucking dictator.

2. Shock Doctrine, Wisconsin. Paul Krugman lays it out.

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.
What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.
And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.” If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone.
3. Ian Welsh gets at an interesting question: What happens when there's an Oil Shock in the middle of a global recession spawned by a toxic mix of powerful interests who will use it to further enrich themselves (see number 2)?

Have we had enough yet?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Indiana Deputy Attorney General wants blood in Wisconsin

I learn via Jymn that the Deputy AG apparently tweeted for massacre:
"Use live ammunition." He went on to tweet: "against thugs physically threatening legally-elected state legislators & governor? You're damn right I advocate deadly force."


Dear diary,

All I ever wanted since I was a little boy was my own fashion house. I thought being a crazy evil dictator would let me do this. I mean, it worked for this guy!

Now they all hate me. Damn, damn, damn, damn. Damn it all. Hmmph.



Monday, February 21, 2011

Intervening in Libya?

What should the world do in the case of the Libyan and other Arab revolutions?

At Dawg's there's discussion of the intervening under the legal concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). This would likely mean the intervention by the liberal West, given that much of the rest of world doesn't subscribe to international liberalism of have it's socio-political history.

There are two big problems I see with intervening.

The first is purely practical. Libya is fast changing. It's only been a few days since things really began and the situation on the ground is very fluid. It takes time to form an effective intervention force. Even airstrikes on airfields and identifiably hostile military units (the armed forces appears divided at this stage) take a significant amount of logistical planning to be conducted effectively. If Libya has an effective air defence system, the task becomes more complicated. The dust may settle long before the first NATO fighter-bombers spool up. Or, the planning staff tasked with assessing Libya will determine that there is simply no effective means of intervening with a chance of success. An in and out mission sounds feasible in practice, but the recent history of such things is replete with retrospective magical thinking and long residencies by foreign armies.

The second is tricksier from a political economy perspective. R2P is a nice sounding idea but it is the product of a Western liberal internationalism that also relentlessly pushes neoliberal globalisation with a history embracing shock-doctrine methods to impose it on states in crisis. I do not trust the busybodies in the international community, if it turned out to be feasible to go in under R2P, to refrain from finding a way of imposing economic reforms and/or attempting an Iraq or Afghanistan do-over because they think they know what they got wrong in those places. Who do you think they'd hire to 'help' the Libyans transition? There's legions of experts now with experience helping a post-tyrant petro-state 'reform'.

Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia: these are their revolutions and so far successful ones at that. Yes there is blood, yes Gaddafi as proven himself monstrous despite Tony Blair's assurances. Yes, our humanitarian concern is valid. But until the West, even in decline as it is, can separate itself from its current ideological framework, we ought to refrain from inserting ourselves in someone elses revolution. Our intent may be pure, but our approach is neoimperialist neocolonial is heavily biased.

These are so far successful revolutions by motivated and fearless people. Blood though there is,  I do not feel that they are in need of anybody's help internally until they ask for it or until it looks like the regime maintains enough force of arms to crush it. After the last decade, the last thing any Arab or Muslim state needs is for the West to come galloping in to save them from themselves. If viable new states are now in birth from their own people, they ought to be able to own their origins and not have to put up with the old colonial powers forever patting themselves on the back for saving them as they sell them coca-cola and lift their natural resources.

We can help them in different ways. These revolutions are fundamentally about [in]justice. People aren't being gunned down in the streets of Tripoli because they want their state to be competitive on the global market and host the World Cup. They are dying because they've been living under a tyrant for forty years. They've been disappeared, beaten, tortured, bombed, and denied the opportunities that real freedom allows. The best thing that we in our liberalism can do is help them find justice in the aftermath. We can support actions through the International Criminal Court, honour extradition requests for fleeing ministers and generals, seize assets, and provide resources.

Sunglasses in Parliament?

All Odious Oda needs is a black Gibson 335 dot neck, and she's ready for Halloween . . .

Future imperfect . . .

MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! is an SF novel by the American ex-pat, Harry Harrison, published in 1966, that became the SF classic flick, "Soylent Green", where the world is running out of food.

Well, we might have a soylent future ahead of us. According to Alasdair Wilkins at io9, in an article, "Can humanity survive a population of over 10 billion people?", 2011 is the year that world population hits 7,000,000,000. Yup, seven BILLION people.

By the end of this year, the human population is expected to reach seven billion people, just twelve years after we hit the six billion milestone. But how much more crowded is our planet going to get? Will we keep on expanding indefinitely, or are we approaching the upper limit? The current consensus is that we'll reach our maximum population by around 2050 and then start to slowly decline...but that might be based on two critically flawed assumptions.

But life has its surprises, and maybe things might get crunchy a lot sooner for a lot of people. Why? Because we are fishing the world's oceans to the point of extermination of major food species. Kerry Sheridan, at the Sydney Morning Herald, has an article, "Food supply threat from overfishing, study finds", which points out that

Fewer big predatory fish are swimming in the oceans because of overfishing, leaving smaller species to thrive and double in force over the past 100 years, scientists say.

Big fish such as cod, tuna, and grouper have declined worldwide by two-thirds while numbers of anchovies, sardines and capelin have surged in their absence, University of British Columbia researchers said.

People around the world are fishing more and coming up with the same or fewer numbers in their catch, indicating that humans may have reached the limit of the oceans' capacity to provide food.

Sure am glad I happen to like anchovies . . .

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Maple Syrup Revolution Redux

Join Dr.Dawg and I tonight at 8 pm EST/ 5 pm PST for a hour of discussing Canadian politics. We will have a live virtual audience in Second Life in addition to broadcasting live on Blog Talk Radio (where the program will also be archived for you later listening pleasure)

Following Virtually Speaking Sunday: the Maple Syrup edition, the regular VSS program this week features Susie Madrak and Stuart Zechman. There will be snark; there will be critical thinking. Listen at

Visit Virtually Speaking at:

And as if that wasn't enough, tonight the Glorious People's Cinema Project presents The Canadian Conspiracy!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Perspectives . . .

"A Caligula can rule a long time, while the best men hesitate to do what is necessary to stop him, and the worst ones take advantage."

Aral Vorkosigan, "Cordelia's Honor", by Lois McMaster Bujold

Iggy, what are you going to do about it? Does anybody in the Liberal party have the balls? Doesn't look like it.

Parliamentary greenhouse

The mind initially boggles. I thought this was a joke when I first read it as it seems utterly bizarre.

The federal government has approved plans to build a magnificent $42-million glass dome on Parliament Hill as a new home for the House of Commons — a temporary one.
The Commons will be moved to the fancy new digs while the existing chamber on Parliament Hill is being renovated, a process expected to take about seven years.
MPs and their parliamentary seats will then be moved back to the current chamber, and the soaring glass dome renovated at further expense to house three parliamentary committee rooms. The federal Public Works Department claims the project will cost $42 million, but won't say what is included in that amount.
A number of experts familiar with the project have told CBC News that the temporary glass-domed Commons will almost certainly end up costing Canadian taxpayers well over $100 million. And the Senate wants its own glass dome during renovations to the upper chamber. Officials say that project would likely cost taxpayers as much as the temporary quarters for the Commons.

Now, having thought about it, the idea of a sunlit Lower House is a little appealling. Exposing the mushroom farm on the ground floor of the Commons to sunlight mightn't be such a bad idea if it were permanent. Exposure to direct solar energy, as we know, is essential to various biogeochemical cycles, and consequently the maintenance of healthy and diverse ecosystems. Perhaps exposing our 308 undernourished plants to sun might fertilise and diversify our political ecosystem and cause them to bear fruit. 

Put the glass roof on the Centre Block and make it permanent and I might support the idea of building a temporary palace. 

Fighting back . . .

THE CONSUMERIST has a delightful tale on one guy's effort to "stick it to the man". It seems that the Wells Fargo bank is not the easiest institution to deal with. Finally, Patrick Rodgers (below) had enough, so he "foreclosed" his local branch of Wells Fargo. That got the behemoth's attention . . .

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bahrain forces fire at protesters - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Bahrain forces fire at protesters - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Caution. The video is quite graphic in places.

Every time I see a report like this, I recall the G8/G20 and what the next one might look like in Harper's Canada.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Perspectives . . .

Starring someone I know very well

Tune in via Blogtalk Radio or join the live virtual audience in Second Life

THURSDAY Feb 17 - 6pm pacific |9 pm eastern

Interviews with scholars, authors, pundits and public officials: an eclectic sampling of established and emerging voices representing progressive thought in the contemporary, public conversation. DAHLIA LITHWICK , senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate, writes "Supreme Court Dispatches." She covered the Microsoft trial and other legal issues. Dahlia and Jay talk about Obama health care decisions, and the effect of partisanship on the current Court.

SATURDAY -  Feb 19 - 2pm pacific |5pm eastern
Virtually Speaking Liberally: What We Believe with Jay Ackroyd & Stuart Zechman discuss the nature of modern liberalism. Features include a 'this week in liberalism' segment;  statements of purpose and principle; and conversations about liberalism. 

SUNDAY FEB 20 - 5pm pacific | 8pm eastern

Canadian journalist Kevin Wood talks with bloggers, academics and other commentators, bringing a distinctively Northern progressive perspective and more than a little snark to North American and global politics among other topics.

Kevin Wood blogs at the Woodshed and the Galloping Beaver under the pseudonym Rev. Paperboy. A veteran print journalist, recently returned to Canada after a decade working in Tokyo for the world's largest daily newspaper, he has worked in the community press across southern Ontario. Rumours that he is the illegitimate son of Pierre Trudeau are entirely unfounded. His favorite spectator sport is U.S. politics, which is as fast and bloody as hockey or bullfighting, but without the zambonis or tight matador pants.

This week blogger, academic and union activist John Baglow aka Dr. Dawg joins Kevin as they examine the current state of Parliament. Listen on BlogTalkRadio.

SUNDAY FEB 20 - 6pm pacific | 9pm eastern
VIRTUALLY SPEAKING SUNDAYS - A Counterpoint to the Sunday Morning Talking Heads - The Gasbag atrocities are documented. Various news stories that arise during the Sunday shows are considered. There is often mockery, always passion and compassion.

This week: Susie Madrak and Stuart Zechman. Madrak , a former award-winning journalist, a writer, musician and working-class warrior, blogs at Suburban Guerrilla and Crooks and Liars. Stuart "Centrism IS an ideology" Zachman is a provocative member of the blog commentariat, most frequently posting at TIME's Swampland, Firedoglake and Avedon Carol's Other Blog. An entrepreneur and technologist, he brings those perspectives to a New Liberal analysis of policy and politics. Listen on BlogTalkRadio.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The liberation of Libya . . .

ACCORDING TO ALJAZEERA, "Libyan police stations torched ", "Clashes reported across the country, as security forces and government supporters confront demonstrators". Maybe, just maybe, it's Libya's turn. Khaddaffy Duck's gotta be worried . . .

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Glenn Beck Conspiracy Theory Generator

Fair and Balanced Paranoia, Delivered on Demand. Really. Lots of fun. (H/T to Helmut)

Perfidious Conservatives

Under Stephen Harper signed documents under ministers' signatures are mean whatever his regime says they mean. This may yet be a kiss of death from Harper, but given who they are I think that would be against odds.

If the Speaker and the House cannot hold the government to account over this, they're worth about as much as a Conservative minister's word.

What do we do with such a bunch?

Odious Oda . . .

MACLEANS.CA has a great piece by Scott Feschuk, "Bev Oda is trying SO HARD". Apparently Bev is doing The Weasel, and Scott is not impressed:

You have to admire the grade-school panache with which Oda tried to pull this off. The little up-arrow. The word NOT all in caps. SO ADORABLE. It’s just how the climactic scene of In the Loop would have played out if the brilliant British spin doctor had been replaced by an eight-year-old boy, or a clever parakeet. (Also: it’s weirdly endearing that she wrote – or had written – only the word NOT, instead of DO NOT. I not approve of her grammar!)

Yesterday, Oda said: “The way in which this case has been handled, including by myself, has been unfortunate.”

That’s a spectacular quote. It appears to be an apology of sorts, or at least an admission of… something. It’s benign enough that at first you pass right over it, accepting it for what it seems to be. But let’s parse it a little more closely.

“The way in which this case has been handled…”

Nice use of the passive voice there. Effectively distances Oda from responsibility even as she pretends to attempt to take it. The passive voice: the official voice of those up shit’s creek!

“… including by myself…”

Here’s the money clause. By saying “including by myself,” Oda again appears to take an element of responsibility. But wait: Isn’t this “case” ENTIRELY about herself?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day treat

People sometime ask me why I blog, if there is any money in it, does anyone read this stuff, do I really expect to change anything and just what am I doing here anyways? To which I can only reply "I came for the waters."
Or to twist another phrase, blogging is its own reward.
Yes, I know that in political terms I am preaching to the choir. So what? The choir needs to be preached to from time to time. Put another way, you wouldn't expect the coach to give his rah-rah speech to the opposing team, would you? Okay, so maybe I'm not the coach, maybe I'm more like the fourth line left winger or seventh defenceman who only gets icetime when the score gets lopsided and they don't want to risk the marquee players getting injured, but you get the idea.
Blogging was originally a way of keeping the writing monkey off my back while I did other things for a living. Then it became a way to blow off steam and say things in a public forum that I couldn't say in my day job. As I spent more and more time blogging and reading blogs and cross commenting, I got to know people by what they wrote. We exchanged comments, sometimes even emails. I got invited to contribute to a group blog and got to know the crew there and an even wider circle of online personalities.
Many of these acquaintences became friends, a trend that gathered even more steam when I started podcasting last year. The idea of the podcast, inspired by the excellent and entertaining work of two of my regular reads, Driftglass and Blue Gal, was to chat with like-minded people about Canadian politics, maybe get off a few witty bon mots and put the whole thing online to give us all something to blog about. The tricky part was that I really connected with those like minded people and the intended 30-minute podcasts turned out to be hour-long chunks of three hour conversations that would have gone longer had it not been the wee hours of the morning for one or the other of the people involved. (Flying Spagetti Monster only knows what it will be like when we start doing it with a live virtual audience on Sunday. No, really, we will start up again THIS SUNDAY, live!)
My blogging has been somewhat reduced in length and frequency lately due to work commitments and the need to hunt up a new job, but I like to keep my hand in because its fun and, like I said, sometimes the choir needs preaching to, but also because I miss the blogging gang if I stay away too long and I don't want you all to forget about me, either. The community of the blogiverse is a pretty wonderful thing, despite the trolls and the flamewars and occasional petty disagreements.
So what does this have to do with Valentine's Day?
There is big news in our little on-line community.
Last Friday, I downloaded my usual weekly fix of the Professional Left podcast with the aforementioned Driftglass and Blue Gal and listened to it while puttering in the kitchen on Saturday afternoon. A few minutes in, I got a goofy grin and then I got verklempt and needed a tissue. See, they had a little announcement to make. Many's the time I have rolled my eyes while listening to the two of them flirt and giggle while talking politics and thought to myself "These two don't need to get a radio show, they need to get a room."
Heh, from my interior monologue to Cupid's ear.
Listening to them announce on last week's podcast that they are getting married got me a little misty-eyed.
I've never met either of them, not even talked on the phone. We've exchanged a couple of polite emails. But I  check Blue Gal's site a couple of times a week and read Driftglass on my lunch hour pretty much daily. From reading what they write over a long period of time I get the feeling that I know them better than you know your favorite professor, writer, talk show host, actor, musician or other public figure -- or indeed, most of my neighbors and co-workers. What some people won't do for a killer workshop topic at Netroots Nation. Congratulations to you both. I'm not sure which one is luckier, but I think this is one of those "greater than the sum of its parts" kinda deals.
I don't think I've ever been so happy for two nearly total strangers.
That's the thing about this whole online community shared experience. Like the man said: Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy. (that's a science fiction reference, everybody drink!)

Happy Valentine's Day to you all.

Perspectives . . .

WASHINGTON'S BLOG declares: "The Founding Fathers Would Be Proud of the People of Egypt ... And Disgusted With the People of America". He's got a point, check out the rest of the article.

America's founding fathers stood up for their freedom, winning it from the British (with the help of the French).

The Egyptian people have stood up for their freedom, winning it from the Mubarak dictatorship (with the help of the army, which refused to fire a shot at the people, and may even have helped convince Mubarak to leave. See this and this).

The Egyptian people found their courage even when Mubarak's thugs flew fighter jets low over their heads, beat and murdered protesters, and otherwise threatened violence.

But the American people today have been cowed into passivity by an irrational fear of terrorism, laziness and mindlessness.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The man who would be President

Stephen Harper wants his own permanent prime ministerial widebody transport aircraft. This ain't no Challenger VIP but a dual use CC150 (Airbus), which can serve as a troop transport and as VIP aircraft. 

"A member of the PCO staff has again asked if CC150001 can be designated a VIP-only AC (aircraft) and be repainted in the GoC (Government of Canada) colours by June," says another internal document.
The staff were asking for a new paint job to be completed by June 10 last year, apparently to spruce up the aircraft in time for the G8 and G20 summits later that month in Huntsville, Ont., and Toronto.
MacKay's office again rejected the request, on April 15 last year, but the prime minister's staff persisted.

For the G8/G20? What, so the rest of the international political elite can marvel and envy at the posh aircraft the current resident of 24 Sussex has at his disposal? Or as the case may be, most of that cohort more impressed by competence than baubles.

I'd never thought I'd say this but kudos to Airshow if reports are true and he actually told the PM and PCO to get fucked. It is also nice to see in house resistance.
What next from our Stephen? Renaming his office to something more, regal sounding? Oh, when might we be rid of this insufferable man?

Ranking ranks . . .

OR IS THAT REEKS? David Segal has a fascinating article in the NYT, "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search", about the industry that has sprung up to try to game the Google search engine's rankarama, aka "Search Engine Optimization", or SEO. Outfits like BMW and J.C Penney have been caught trying to "juice" the system. Getting caught by Google has its penalties:

The company’s guidelines warn against using tricks to improve search engine rankings, including what it refers to as “link schemes.” The penalty for getting caught is a pair of virtual concrete shoes: the company sinks in Google’s results.

Often drastically. In 2006, Google announced that it had caught BMW using a black-hat strategy to bolster the company’s German Web site, That site was temporarily given what the BBC at the time called “the death penalty,” stating that it was “removed from search results.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Perspectives . . .

FABIUS MAXIMUS has an article worthy of attention. "A powerful story about America’s dealings with Pakistan, and how the news media hides the facts from us" tells about mysterious murders, and shows the difference between the US press and elsewhere. The murders are like an incident in a Len Deighton novel or a George Clooney flick, it's a hell of a story.

Summary: We remain ignorant about the world because we reply on the news media for information. Recent events provide a powerful case study illustrating not only how the US news media misinforms us but why the American government has a dark reputation in much of the world.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Bless Me, Father" - There's an App for That . . . .

But Bennie and his Jerks don't like it.

Via the New York Daily News:

Officials in Rome have declared that an app available on Apple's iPhones, iPads and the iPod touch cannot serve as a confessional.

"One cannot speak in any way of confessing via iPhone," Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman, said in a statement. "This cannot be substituted by any IT application."


It also keeps track of your sins and the time between confessions, information it keeps locked away via password protection.

Guess the Vatican figured it wouldn't aid in job security for their flock of shepherds* . . . .

*Numerous other descriptive words came to mind, but I opted to not use them. Feel free to enumerate a few in Comments . . . .

We have ways of making you talk

The Toronto Star reports that the officer involved here has pleaded guilty to uttering threats. How about armed assault? Abuse of authority? People swept up by the Toronto Police at the G8/G20 were charged with more serious crimes for a whole lot less. If soap bubbles can be considered assault, then how is this revolting threat of torture with a deadly weapon not aggravated assault?
We keep being told that Tasers are supposed to be a non-lethal alternative to guns, but again and again, we see stories of them being used as compliance weapons or torture tools.
As for the officer in question, he will be sentenced in June. Until then, he is on paid suspension and departmental disciplinary measures will not be decided until after the sentencing. As far as I'm concerned, the conviction should see him automatically dismissed from the police force and barred from doing any kind of security work.
The one bright spot I see in this case is that this gross misconduct came to light because another officer who was reviewing the in-car videos on another matter reported the offending officer to the department's professional standards branch, which handed the file over to the courts. Its about time the police started putting professional standards and proper respect for the law ahead of the unofficial thin-blue-line omerta that allows so much abuse to go on.

Street perspectives . . .

Vivian Maier (1926-2009)

VIVIAN MAIER WAS A STREET PHOTOGRAPHER, who photographed life in Chicago from the 1950's to the 1990's. Vivian's work was discovered at an auction here in Chicago where she resided most of her life. Her discovered work includes over 100,000 mostly medium format negatives, thousands of prints, and countless undeveloped rolls of film. John Maloof has a delightful tribute to her work here, as does Jeff Goldstein, who has a site devoted to her work here. (H/T to cousin Herb.)

Driven by her sequestered, private motivations, Vivian Maier captured our cities, suburbs and rural towns. A nanny for many years, herself childless, Maier revealed the beauties and complexities of domesticity. Her photographs demonstrate an intimate exploration of family life, as well as seemingly allegorical treatments of “home”—a space sometimes idyllic and whole, and sometimes troubled—as in her photographs of homes destroyed by tornadoes or street riots.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mubarak salts the earth

Hosni shoves back and sets his terms. He won't go without being burnt out. The revolution, if it is to succeed and political power Egypt wrested from his control and influence, almost certainly now requires that he be chased to the airport or the Sahara by the masses.

The problem is that this risks turning the revolution ugly. If the public doesn't keep the pressure up, the revolution's momentum may become uncoordinated, fractured, and thus lost. He's challenged the Egyptian public to follow through or go home, in effect turning it into a battle of wills. He kept them prone and obedient for 30 years, and perhaps he thinks he still might.

Perhaps he thinks that if they follow through, he'll go postal, and order his loyalists to draw as much blood as they can, thereby spoiling the chances for peaceful resolution and a coherence aftermath.

Or maybe he's just an old man trying to bluff his way to retaining power he's already lost.

The US has burnt its local strongmen before. Obama could do it again, and this time in a place where the local population is in popular uprising and holds the high ground. Those old neocons must be spitting acid.  Then again, we know what tends to happen when the Americans try to dick around in other people's governments.

Ultimately, this is up to the Egyptians

RIP Penlan

Via Far and Wide and LFR, I learn that Penlan has passed on.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Pretty little luxuries

This country is sick.

An NDP private member's bill to protect transgender people from discrimination was passed by the House of Commons, but could face a roadblock in the Conservative dominated Senate.
Of course it could. The Harper Cons and their supporters are a living hate crime. There are some days when the parochial privilege of this cossetted land of ours pusses to the surface more than others.

What a luxury it is to be able to sit on a soapbox and loudly pronounce some human beings more worthy than others of inclusion in [y]our society. Real Canadian, Québécois, Albertan, Conservative. What a luxury it is to be able to punish someone you don't know simply because they are different from you. What a luxury it is to not only have the right of free association, which also includes non-association, but to also ensure that people you don't associate with must have more difficult lives for it. What a luxury it is to have such a multicultural diversity of the other to scapegoat and victimise. We've even got an army to send over the sea, and a government to order them there, to feed this fetish for punishing the other.

Gaia forbid the day come when we might have to set aside these little luxuries or die

Canary in the supermarket

Paul Krugman's latest column describes part of the problem .
We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but they’re having a brutal impact on the world’s poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs...
But the evidence tells a different, much more ominous story. While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning...
And here (audio) Environmental sociologist Michael Carolan comes at it from a different angle, and describes the systemic unsustainability nature of how we produce and consume our food even without factoring climate change.

The food system is a critical to human survival, yet we treat food the same way we treat iPods and cars. To us, especially in the developed world, food is a consumer commodity, subject to the same laws supply and demand, innovation, growth, corporatisation, etc, that give us bits of metal, plastic, and electrons that we can't drink, eat, or breathe. They understand this in the global South and have understood this for some time.

Rogue scholar Mike Davis stitches the capitalist system of food distribution and the climate together in his deeply researched Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. Davis explains how colonial powers sought to commoditise every last scrap of indigenous agricultural staple to feed their markets. The result was the destruction of food security of the colonised populations around the world. Grain reserves in places like British India, traditionally kept for drought years, were put up for market sale and caused millions to starve in the next drought. Things haven't changed.

Way back, my Econ 101 prof called national defence an "unmet public good" because the private sector could not provide a reliable state level national security apparatus. Looking at the intersection of the food system with climate change and capitalism, it is a wonder that food isn't considered the same way...

Hell on Earth . . .

Women meet in Port-au-Prince to discuss ways to protect themselves amid growing sexual violence. Several women's rights leaders died in the January 2010 earthquake. (Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times / February 4, 2011)

THE L.A. TIMES HAS A SAD AND DISTURBING ARTICLE by Tracy Wilkinson, "Rape flourishes in rubble of Haitian earthquake". You don't need to read quotes, you need to read it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tuesday night...

Perspectives . . .

IT'S NOT EASY, SOMETIMES, to be politically-correct. Being part of the vanguard of the progressives requires a certitude of righteousness that can triumph reality on occasion. It's when reality bites back, that problems arise.

John Tierney's article in the NYT, "Social Scientist Sees Bias Within" is a fascinating look at this process by which the politically-correct bludgeon those with whom they disagree.

“If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.

“Moynihan was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist,” Dr. Haidt said. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have liberal sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.”

Similarly, Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, was ostracized in 2005 for wondering publicly whether the preponderance of male professors in some top math and science departments might be due partly to the larger variance in I.Q. scores among men (meaning there are more men at the very high and very low ends). “This was not a permissible hypothesis,” Dr. Haidt said. “It blamed the victims rather than the powerful. The outrage ultimately led to his resignation. We psychologists should have been outraged by the outrage. We should have defended his right to think freely.

Instead, the taboo against discussing sex differences was reinforced, so universities and the National Science Foundation went on spending tens of millions of dollars on research and programs based on the assumption that female scientists faced discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias. But that assumption has been repeatedly contradicted, most recently in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by two Cornell psychologists, Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams. After reviewing two decades of research, they report that a woman in academic science typically fares as well as, if not better than, a comparable man when it comes to being interviewed, hired, promoted, financed and published.

“Thus,” they conclude, “the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Thetan theatrics . . .

THE ELRONISTAS ARE CHUFFED, according to Lawrence Wright's account, "The Apostate", in the New Yorker. You see, Paul Haggis doesn't believe anymore, after climbing to the top of the Elronic dogma. Paul's not your average Elron, he's a 2-time Oscar winner, and the Hollywood Elrons are chuffed. Canadian, too. For more background on Elron, do check out The Bare Faced Messiah, which is an entertaining account of how Elron became a legend in his own mind. You can read it on-line here.

Remember, according to Elron, clams got legs.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Academy Shift?

Perhaps this is the same with each generation of PhD and masters grads who seriously considered a career in the academy, but I have yet to meet someone among my peer group who actually wants the job now.

Views such as those expressed here, and here, I find ring true among these newly minted and thoroughly disillusioned scholars. It's not just the lack of positions available in academia for new grads, it's the nature of the job itself.

Researchers are the means of production for the university which owns them. They are there to "produce knowledge", or "output" as I now often hear it called by way of successful grants and publications, ever more efficiently for the university. Efficient means for less and less cost, which equates to reducing resources, staffing, tenure track positions, and increasing the workload and expectations on professors and their remaining supporters.

A friend of mine, new tenure track prof, not long ago confessed to me the existential tragedy of finding herself in her mid-30s, working 7 days a week to publish the four to five papers a year and three or more undergrad course per term teaching load she required to ensure she'd get tenure. She had wanted a partner and children by now, but was dealing with the fact that this biological imperative was unlikely to ever happen. I cannot imagine what that must feel like.

It doesn't help matters when another friend reports a department head explaining that he doesn't hire female academics "because they all go on maternity leave."

Others, PhDs, expect to string together 5 to 10 years of postdocs, sessional and short-term contract positions before finding something relatively secure. This means frequent moving and highly disrupted personal lives. Is this worth it? For what often amounts to the lovely prize of adding a few lines to a CV (academic job lottery ticket?) a year, not likely. The game is rigged.

These aren't slackers saying this. These are the prize winning candidates with passionate, critical, and creative minds. In other words, these are the ones the academy wants.

My peers and I hear these stories often enough and seriously question that path which looked so appealing not so long ago. Balance is a term that frequently comes up regarding our expectations of life, and is something that appears staggeringly absent in the neoliberal academy. 

If these views are common among the present generation of new scholars, what does this mean for the future higher learning, teaching, and research? Might we see a quiet revolution (mutiny?) within the rank and file and new forms of academic and academy emerge?

Perspective change . . .

Multi-Kulti success story

POOR OLD MULTI-KULTI. It's been a hard winter. First, in October, Angela Merkel pronounces the death of that darling of the politically-correct, and now, David Cameron has delivered England's coup de gras on M-K: "State multiculturalism has failed, says David Cameron".

According to the BBC,

At a security conference in Munich, he argued the UK needed a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to all kinds of extremism.

He also signalled a tougher stance on groups promoting Islamist extremism.

The speech angered some Muslim groups, while others queried its timing amid an English Defence League rally in the UK.

As Mr Cameron outlined his vision, he suggested there would be greater scrutiny of some Muslim groups which get public money but do little to tackle extremism.

• • •

"Let's properly judge these organisations: Do they believe in universal human rights - including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism?

"These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations," he added.

• • •

He said under the "doctrine of state multiculturalism", different cultures have been encouraged to live separate lives.
'I am a Londoner too'

"We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values."

Building a stronger sense of national and local identity holds "the key to achieving true cohesion" by allowing people to say "I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Christian, but I am a Londoner... too", he said.

The knee-jerk on this is going to be delightful to watch, as the sanctimonious scolds come out of the woodwork at both ends of the political spectrum to flail and rail.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Finger-lickin' good . . .

MRE'S ARE GHASTLY, war is hell. Still life with serpent is a delight to visit, to get down to the yummy details. Be sure to check out the python; her name is Louise.

Uniforms and politicians: A study in priorities

There's your Conservative.

And then there's your Dipper

Which experience do you think might lead to an improvement in your life?

Hidden charms . . .

HAVE YOU EVER READ "The Works of the Earls of Rochester and Roscommon"? Me neither. It's an obscure volume of poetry from the 18th century — that was in-print continuously for a century. The secret of its, um, staying power, came to light with the discovery by Oxford University researcher, Dr Claudine van Hensbergen, of a series of erotic poems hidden in the back of the book.

Dr van Hensbergen said: ‘I had just finished entering details of poems typical of miscellanies of the period- satires, imitations and amatory verse, when at the end of the second volume a new title page announced the start of ‘The Cabinet of Love’.

‘To my surprise, ‘The Cabinet’ turned out to be a collection of pornographic verse about dildos. The poems include ‘Dildoides’, a poem attributed to Samuel Butler about the public burning of French-imported dildos, ‘The Delights of Venus’, a poem in which a married woman gives her younger friend an explicit account of the joys of sex, and ‘The Discovery’, a poem about a man watching a woman in bed while hiding under a table.

‘In later years, a celebratory poem about condoms was added, as well as several obscene botanically themed verses attributed to ‘a Member of a Society of Gardeners’ in which male genitalia is described as the ‘tree of life’.’

Friday, February 04, 2011

Nothing lasts...

Egypt, Tunisia, and possibly a number of other places long under the thumbs of old men and old interests are in the process of ending those regimes. What they are becoming is unknown at this time and there are great risks considering the context of their locale. But right now, there is room for hope and a generation seizing their own future.

We children of the Enlightment are not adept at recognising the perpetual dynamism of our lives and institutions. We look for endstates, perfect systems, perfect ideologies. Whether you are a diehard communist, ardent freemarketeer, theocrat, or aescetic, you have a vision of a perfect society that could exist if only everyone or everything were X, Y, or Z. So we create gods out of political parties and label ourselves Liberal, or CPC. Why anyone would want to align themselves so literally as to attain membership with an organisation bound by a rigid set of outlooks is beyond me and speaks to desiring an perfect conclusion. We recognise the process of ecological destruction that our system of production and mode of living produces, but then we invoke a term - sustainability - that implies there is static means of preserving the current system to befound. The perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect family, this orientation to the static, the stationary, the unchanging, is the Enlightenment utopia. Somewhat paradoxically, this also assumes that society should grow, but that this growth should fit with static parameters. We should expect an unchanging increase in microcomputer speeds, annual new cars, TVs, and other technological gadgetry, as well as market wealth, complexity, and production. Static, linear, progression ad infinitum. We don't recognise that things change. Rapidly. It isn't part of the historical and philisophical infrastructure of our society.

Dictators always have an expiry date. The exact time and context of their demise is unknown but their terms always come to an end.  Their rule is predicated on maintaining a complex balance of repressive power, fear, and mythology. They require secure channels of wealth, arms, and the consent of dazzled and terrified people, and supporters who either benefit in wealth and stature or believe the propaganda. Mubarak required the United States and a brutal police apparatus to maintain his position in spite of the will of especially the younger generation of Egyptians. This complex network of supports appears at first strong but the reality is that these regimes are extremely vulnerable for that complex support network is tense and grows inceasingly so as time moves on and the world outside and within the state changes.

At some point a shot might ring out, a foreign power cuts off support, a challenger rises, a heart attack, or the people will simply and collectively say, "enough!" and pour into the streets in the hundreds of thousands. Then the old order is gone and people set about creating the new, which in turn shall also have its time.

In that sense, what is happening now in the Arab world is broadly predictable. The nature of how it happens is not.

The big question isn't how it happened, although numerous academics and pundits will parse that to bits trying to find the secret ultimate recipe answer and some orientalist will come up with a theory of Arab revolutions, write a book, and get a sweet job advising occidental presidents and councils.

No, the question coming from Egypt is what next? There is opportunity for a remarkable peace or catastrophic war in the immediate uncertainty of the post-revolution, tense in the extreme because Egypt's fate won't only be decided by the Egyptians.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Hey Ottawa

Your cops are N/S and need to be replaced before your society seizes. Why anyone would want to report anything to that crowd now is beyond me.

RIP, Charlie . . .

CHARLIE KAMAN just died. Thanks for the guitars, Charlie, we'll miss you. Charlie pioneered the use of composites in building musical instruments.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Gender gyre . . .

THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT has a fine book review by Carol Tavris, "The new neurosexism", a review of "DELUSIONS OF GENDER", by Cordelia Fine. Apparently, a lot of recent literature on the mental differences between men and women is rather suspect. Tavris points out the book's importance:

Today we look back with amusement at the efforts of nineteenth-century scientists to weigh, cut, split or dissect brains in their pursuit of finding the precise anatomical reason for female inferiority. How much more scientific and unbiased we are today, we think, with our PET scans and fMRIs and sophisticated measurements of hormone levels. Today’s scientists would never commit such a methodological faux pas as failing to have a control group or knowing the sex of the brain they are dissecting – would they? Brain scans don’t lie – do they?

Well, yes, they would and they do. As Cordelia Fine documents in Delusions of Gender, researchers change their focus, technology marches on, but sexism is eternal. Its latest incarnation is what she calls “neurosexism”, sexist bias disguised in the “neuroscientific finery” of claims about neurons, brains, hormones.

“We have been here before, so many times”, writes Fine, with a sigh. No one disputes that the sexes differ physiologically, in hormones and anatomy, or that there are sex differences in the brain related to men’s and women’s different reproductive processes. The eternal question is, and has been, so what? What, if anything, do those differences have to do with work, love, success, ambition, talent, love of sports, and who does the housework? Perhaps they do, says Fine, but “when we follow the trail of contemporary science we discover a surprising number of gaps, assumptions, inconsistencies, poor methodologies, and leaps of faith – as well as more than one echo of the insalubrious past”.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Kiribati and Alberta: dancing with the devil

I happened across this item this afternoon on the UofA website. Kiribati is a small Pacific island state existentially threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change. Alberta is the tar sands, and thus a brutal climate change contributor.
An island nation threatened by rising sea levels from climate change is eyeing Alberta, and possibly the University of Alberta, as partners in relocating and training its people.
A delegation from the Republic of Kiribati, a chain of 33 low-lying islands in the South Pacific, visited Alberta and the U of A in late December to explore educational and training opportunities. More than 90,000 people are expected to be displaced from the island nation within 50 to 100 years, as rising sea levels contaminate their fresh water supply.
“We want our people to learn the expectations of other countries and vice versa,” said Tebao Awerika, secretary of Kiribati’s Ministry of Labour and Human Resource Development, who accompanied Minister Ioteba Redfern during the Alberta visit. “We don’t want to be classified as climate refugees. We want to migrate with dignity.”
While the country is implementing water-supply management strategies to stave off the threat, the Kiribati government acknowledges its people will be forced to relocate and resettle. That’s why the government is developing offshore education and employment linkages now, so citizens can migrate more easily in the future.
Kiribati already has workers abroad in countries such as Germany and Australia. The country has also developed an Australian educational link where students complete an 18-month nursing diploma at the Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE, a vocational institute in Queensland. Upon completion, students will have the option to complete a one-year work placement in Australia or matriculate into the Griffith’s bachelor of nursing program.
The visit to Alberta stemmed from a conversation between Awerika and the High Commission of Canada in Wellington, New Zealand, plus a chance meeting with an Alberta engineer who mentioned the labour shortage in Alberta’s oilsands. The delegation met with private industry in Fort McMurray before meeting with officials from the U of A.
While no formal commitment could be extended, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (International) Britta Baron said the U of A is open to exploring opportunities with the Kiribati government, such as sponsored student agreements for qualified graduate students.
“This university feels very strongly about sustainability and responsibility, not only in our own environment, but also globally,” said Baron, adding the U of A could have a role in an overall Alberta response.

The irony that Kiribati is looking at binding itself to the very place and the very businesses that are responsible for its demise is staggering. Or part of an elaborate vengeance plot...

Then there's hockey . . .

ACCORDING TO BILL MAHER, football is socialist, baseball is not:

Because football is built on an economic model of fairness and opportunity, and baseball is built on a model where the rich almost always win and the poor usually have no chance. The World Series is like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. You have to be a rich bitch just to play. The Super Bowl is like Tila Tequila. Anyone can get in.

So, you kind of have to laugh - the same angry white males who hate Obama because he's "redistributing wealth" just love football, a sport that succeeds economically because it does exactly that.

Fred's perspective . . .

FRED REED CALLS 'EM THE WAY HE SEES 'EM. His article, "Darwin Was Right" is a pithy and concise description of the chronic inability of the US to get it right.

Pondering Whither America, I reflected on a story, probably apocryphal but which I am going to believe because I like it, about catching monkeys. Tribesmen somewhere craft a heavy pot with a hole in it large enough that a monkey could insert an open hand, but not withdraw a closed fist. They then put monkey food in the pot. The monkey reaches in, grabs the food and, refusing to let go when the hunters approach, is caught and eaten.

Here we have our politics in a paragraph. The American national monkey can’t let go. The party is over, boys and girls, but we aren’t going to adapt.

The reasons are many, but Fred nails it: "The American national monkey can’t let go."