Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chicken Wings


5 questions a day! Stephen Harper's Election Campaign Airplane should be called 'CHICKEN WINGS'.

Paranoid and afraid...

I'm not sure how much of this indicates an allergy to democracy. I suspect it goes much deeper. I think we're watching a control freak lose control. Elections, democracy, difference all that create uncertainty which probably alarms Harper on a very deep level.

He's trying to manage his election campaign like he manages his government: total control and hiding from those uncomfortable areas like one-on-one debates and media questions. The ONE THING you don't do on the campaign trail is piss off the media following you around and he's gone and done it. And it's made him appear - probably much closer to the authentic Stephen Harper - paranoid and afraid.

It is fascinating to watch such an apparently banal personality display such a paradoxically rich psychological drama. 

Stifling minds: a pettiness of academies

My university is a bit of a Frankenstein. It can be loosely split into two groups, one being comprised of traditional disciplinary departments and faculties (e.g. philosophy, sociology, English, etc) and the other an often unwieldy cluster of "interdisciplinary" faculties containing objectively interdisciplinary departments. They don't. They are simply departments containing scholars of different disciplines who do not necessarily work together. For example, it is very hard to get a neoclassical economist fond of calling sociologists "Leninists" to work with one, or vice versa. Or to watch another respected scholar invited to a panel discussion after a guest lecturer critical of their orientation, show up late (missing the guest lecturer), and loudly and rudely dismiss the guest and refuse even to engage the material.

I've got a very bright friend. She is a natural and instinctive intellectual, is quite literally leaps and bounds ahead of her masters level peers and has at times a much better grasp of the material than some of her professors. But she's stuck. She's moved disciplinary departments twice so far because her thinking began to challenge the intellectual climate of her previous department. For example, she got her hand slapped in _____ because she started linking the abstract dead white guy material to contemporary 'real world' issues, and attempted to bring in dead Asian guy and living person material. "That's not what we do here," they told her before returning to their abstracted circular debates about Kant and Nietzsche. So she moved on to another humanities department and is finding herself in the same boat: "This is not ___" she is being told once again. In the midst of all this, she has managed acquire two to three times the course requirements for thesis based masters, and at least the requirement for a course based masters. She really ought to be doing a PhD, but a PhD at this university in that sort of environment would wreck her. Me too for that matter.

If she wants to move again, the new department will likely make her take all their course requirements, and then complete a thesis which basically means starting a whole new masters. They won't count her baker's dozen 500 to 700 level courses and her perfect GPA. They will tell her she doesn't qualify by their metrics and extract money and mind from her while indenturing her to their department. She is competent enough that she could challenge most courses at better than par if they gave her a week with the assorted syllabi.

At heart, I might describe my friend as an interdisciplinary theorist. The sort of person who is intuitively able to recall and draw on a rich and vast knowledge of social and philosophical theory, describe the linkages, and apply it with nuance to real-world challenges.

Unfortunately, my university, which seems to make great hay about the need for interdisciplinary thinkers and attracting the brightest minds does not practice what it preaches. Graduate school, which ought to be an enriching home such people, is beset by the credentialist mindset which, through course work and other formalities, seeks to equalise the playing field (and I suspect fund itself). This state of affairs, sadly, caters to the average and the brighter students suffer. There is no flexibility built into the system, and the academic culture seems to thrive on maintaining anachronistic boundaries of thought. For example, I know of a highly specialised department in what must be its 2nd or 3rd multi-year attempt at securing a name change reflective of what that department actually does. Past attempts have been quashed by the traditional departments which saw this is some sort of threat.

I recently presented at a very fulfilling interdisciplinary conference in the US attended by world class scholars (e.g. a recent Nobel economics winner) and the top minds in my field.  I was struck at how open the natural and social scientists were with each other. We attended each others paper presentations, commented, challenged, and questioned each other, but no one stood up and told anyone they couldn't say something because they weren't a ___ologist. No one said "that's not what we do here". I was surprised at how, as the only social scientist speaking at one of my sessions, the natural scientists engaged my material and I was approached by several later. That wouldn't even happen in my own department!

The contrast between the institutional climate my friend and I live in, and the vision espoused by places like Arizona State University, couldn't be greater:

Knowledge knows no boundaries. The core disciplines are but one element of our intellectual identity. The traditional disciplinary organization of universities may not be the optimal way to organize knowledge, or to organize the institution itself, or to teach students, or to solve the social, economic, and technological challenges confronting institutions in the regions in which they are located. Accordingly, I encourage teaching and research that is interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary. I encourage the convergence of disciplines, where appropriate, a practice that might more accurately be described as intellectual fusion. Programs that involve multiple departments and schools, that bring together scholars from different disciplines, have unique strengths. In order to overcome the limitations inherent in traditional scholarship, I would like to see ASU undertake strategic recombinations of complementary academic units to create programs that both maximize core strengths and facilitate the creation of new knowledge. ASU already has a number of such programs and schools, and has built a tremendous base of convergence, particularly in the sciences and the arts. These programs represent intellectual fusion at its best. The motivation in creating interdisciplinary programs is not to eliminate disciplines as we know them, or to transform core fields, but rather to advance knowledge in the face of its rapidly changing nature, the explosion of new knowledge that characterizes the academy in recent decades. It is no longer adequate to neatly equate disciplines with departments. Rather we must think in terms of programs comprised of disciplines construed across departments and schools.
I recently heard a member of our political science faculty lament that no other department of political science can “out-Michigan Michigan.” In response I would suggest that we would rather wish to “out-ASU ASU,” and to build a department with its own unique strengths, and its own connections with other disciplines at ASU, focused on problems of regional importance. By encouraging intellectual fusion, both core departments and interdisciplinary programs at ASU will become greater than the sum of their parts.
Unfortunately, such a vision needs people with open minds willing to embrace it. Not petty, jealous, and often rudely condescending professors who view other modes of thought with contempt.  It needs people willing to transgress disciplinary in-group boundaries. People willing to thwart the gang mentality that others those not like them. People open to challenge and willing to drop the jargon that acts as a boundary to understanding. People willing to read widely, and go where the thought and data take them. People willing to take someone like my friend and say, "yes, wow, that's amazing, we need people like you!" instead of telling her she's not wanted because she doesn't fit some archaic and rigid institutional paradigm.

Hard to find these people here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

House Wars

Red versus blue, two wankers go head to head, mano a mano, deploying sabres of rhetoric in political mortal combat. The dark side calling out the grey, the epic continues.

I wish our election didn't have to reduce itself to two rivals dropping their trousers and whipping out the measuring tape, but it should at least be entertaining.

Lets hope Iggy doesn't jump the gun and wind up living his own Empire Strikes Back. He might want to ensure his Solo Rae is nearby. Hmm, in that case, I wanna know who plays Leia?

Is it just me or is this election, barely a week old, already getting weird?

Irony is not only dead, but its corpse had been desecrated

The young girl has a lovely voice, yes, but seeing Stephen Harper sing this song is like watching David Duke sing "We Shall Overcome." Someone who was disappointed we didn't get to play in the Iraq sandbox and is destroying our fiscal security to buy unnecessary stealth fighter jets should not be singing peace anthems. It is not merely distasteful,  it is hour-long-shower-scrub-with-a-wire-brush disgusting. Maybe this is his energy plan, to hook John Lennon's coffin up to a turbine and provide free electricity to the entire American continent from the resultant spinning.

He says he has his own lyrics for the song - I'll bet. Something along the lines of "Imagine there's no Liberals..." no doubt.

Personally, I'd have thought he'd be more into a different Lennon tune from a year or two earlier, though again he'd have his own lyrics... "You say you want a coalition..." or perhaps "Can't buy me Love."

Crossposted from the Woodshed

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Useless plane, useless party

Well, first there was parliamentary budget officer.
It will cost close to $30 billion to buy and maintain 65 F-35 fighter jets according to Parliament's budget watchdog — billions more than estimates given by the Conservative government.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said in a report Thursday that his $29.3 billion estimate covers the purchase price and sustainment costs for the fleet over 30 years. The budget officer said the "total ownership" cost estimate from the department of national defence over the same period amounts to $17.6 billion based on his calculations.

Now there's this coming out of the US.

New fighter jets Canada plans to buy will be more than $100 million each — at least $25 million more per plane than government estimates — according to a top U.S. budget watchdog.
Conservative government officials have said 65 new joint strike fighters being built to replace Canada's F-18 jets will cost about $75 million each, about $9 billion with training and an additional $200-$300 million a year in maintenance.

These Cons are pathological liars. There's not an honest impulse in their deviant little minds. Nothing they say or do has a grain of integrity.


This week on Virtually Speaking

Coming up this week on Virtually Speaking:

• Stuart Zechman | Jay Ackroyd on VS A-Z. Ongoing rants and explorations of  liberalism. This week: the Disinformation Regime|Listen live here, on Thursday, March 31 @ 8pm edt|5pm pdt | Listen here after midnight Friday, April 1.
• Evolutionary Biologist PZ Myers on Virtually Speaking w/Jay Ackroyd:  Expect current developments in science, secular society and squids. Listen live here, beginning Thursday, March 31, March 31 @ 9pm edt|6pm pdt

Also, you may have missed these excellent programs live, but you can still get them as podcasts:

• Avedon Carol and Culture of Truth on VS Sundays: a counterpoint to the Sunday morning talking heads. (What they're really saying when they're saying what they're saying):   Listen here, on or after Sunday, March 27 @ 9pm edt|6pm pdt
• Caltech astrophysicist George Djorgovski, this week on VS Science with Cosmic Log's Alan Boyle and Space Studies Institute's Robin Snelson. They'll discuss topics ranging from black holes and dark energy to the use of Second Life for science, and the future of virtual worlds. Listen here, beginning Tuesday, March 29.
• PageOne blogger Mike Rogers comes to VS Susie to talk with Susie Madrak about closeted Republicans and why he outed them. Listen here, on or after Monday, March 28 @ 9pm edt|6pm pdt

And of course, stay tuned for the big show on Sunday as Virtually Speaking Sundays:Maple Syrup Edition returns with Kevin Wood and John Baglow aka Dr. Dawg getting down and dirty to talk about the Canadian election - we will be using all the dirty words: Coalition, contempt, separatist, tax increase, Senate reform, proportional representation, sweater vest festishes and all the other assorted perversions that accompany a good discussion of Canadian politics. There will also be a feature interview with Our Man in Abiko about the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis and the Twitter-spawned publishing sensation that is #quakebook.
We will be on Sunday from 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern but you might want to tune in a little early for the opening band - Glenn Greenwald (yes, that Glenn Greenwald) will be talking with Daniel Ellsberg  aka The Most Dangerous Man in America about Wikileaks and the torture of Bradley Manning beginning at 4 pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern. Listen to them Sunday night or later here.

Inspiration . . .

AKA Dinner For One. Ya gotta love black velvet paintings . . .

Sunday, March 27, 2011

At the going down of the sun ...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Corporal Yannick Scherrer, 1er Battalion, Royal 22e RĂ©giment.

Killed due to enemy action.

Je me souviens

Relay via sat

So exquisitely tacky . . .

Elvis Presley Illuminated Guitar Collector Plate Collection

you say impeachment, I say contempt of Parliament

Let's call the whole thing off!

Apparently there are those who interpret Parliamentary law as saying that Stephen Harper is now barred from holding office due to having been found in contempt of Parliament. I'm not sure this is the case since the confidence vote was held before acceptance of the committee report finding the government in contempt could be voted on by the House of Commons. Still, a such a finding even at the committee level is significant. Certainly, the report would have been confirmed by the House, although I suspect the Conservative-dominated Senate would have sent it back to the house.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Syria becomes serious . . .

OL' BASHAR'S BASHING his citizens, who are fed up with some 40 years of single-party (the Ba'ath party) corruption and police state. According to The Guardian's Katherine Marsh, in Damascus, they're killing people. That's Bashar, below. He's used to causing pain.

Last night there were reports that at least 23 people had been killed, some of them in Damascus, hitherto unaffected; the reports could not be independently verified. Amnesty International put the death toll around Deraa in the past week at 55 at least.

This may not cool down. There's an interesting Syrian site, ALL4SYRIA. Whoever runs it has a number of articles worthy of your attention. One, "Syria’s coming revolution?" makes the observation that

By taking to the streets, even in fairly small numbers, Syrians have crossed a ‘red line’ with their regime.

The revolution that was sparked in Tunisia has given birth to a new pan Arab-movement, a “neo-Arabism”, which privileges freedom and democratic participation of the people over ideology, sectarianism and the interest of dictators.

As we witness a rebirth of a revolutionary neo-Arabism that has infected millions from Morocco to Bahrain, we cannot ignore the birth-place of the original pan Arab movement of the past century – Syria.

A forty year old red line has been crossed and there is no turning back.

Election call

Well, here we go. Finally. Unless of course the man formerly known as the prime minister decides simply to not go to the GG - you know he's probably considered it. Either way, the Harper Government(tm) is no more at least for the next few weeks, and perhaps even nevermore.
After the vote, Speaker Peter Milliken addressed Stephen Harper as a member of Parliament rather than as prime minister when Harper rose to move the House adjourn. Conservative MPs left the House chamber quickly for a caucus meeting.
That said, I'll make no predictions about outcomes at this point. The polls today mean little with this much blood in the water.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Considering Libya

Some things that come to mind when considering Libya.

First, nothing is carved in stone, and despite narratives about moral obligations and the clearly detestable foe, Libya is in civil war. Gaddafi does have his supporters and some of them are clearly willing to die for the cause. As we've seen in Afghanistan, intervening on behalf of one side in a civil war is does not necessarily mean that things will work out to our advantage.

Second, no matter how clear cut the cause seems and how many times Western forces declare that they won't put boots on the ground (minus the special forces already there)  and limit their involvement air support, these exercises tend to creep.

Third, it is probably best to consider the immediate halt of Gaddafi's advance by airstrikes as a much needed but temporary reprieve for victims of his onslaught. All that the coalition jets have done is prevent a massacre by Gaddafi's forces, but the country is still in civil war and these things move in non-linear fashion. Another week or twenty, and circumstances might change. A major component of destroying an opposing army involves the destruction of critical infrastructure such as power grids, highways, phone systems, airfields, docks, etc. We saw what happened in Iraq after the bombers were done and there's nothing to suggest the destruction of Libyan infrastructure, a key driver of social stability, won't also lead to a humanitarian emergency and/or an exacerbation of the conflict.

The ever critical Robert Fisk elaborates.
And what if we are simply not in time, if Gaddafi's tanks keep on rolling? Do we then send in our mercenaries to help the "rebels". Do we set up temporary shop in Benghazi, with advisers and NGOs and the usual diplomatic flummery? Note how, at this most critical moment, we are no longer talking about the tribes of Libya, those hardy warrior people whom we invoked with such enthusiasm a couple of weeks ago. We talk now about the need to protect "the Libyan people", no longer registering the Senoussi, the most powerful group of tribal families in Benghazi, whose men have been doing much of the fighting. King Idris, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969, was a Senoussi. The red, black and green "rebel" flag – the old flag of pre-revolutionary Libya – is in fact the Idris flag, a Senoussi flag. Now let's suppose they get to Tripoli (the point of the whole exercise, is it not?), are they going to be welcomed there? Yes, there were protests in the capital. But many of those brave demonstrators themselves originally came from Benghazi. What will Gaddafi's supporters do? "Melt away"? Suddenly find that they hated Gaddafi after all and join the revolution? Or continue the civil war?
And what if the "rebels" enter Tripoli and decide Gaddafi and his crazed son Saif al-Islam should meet their just rewards, along with their henchmen? Are we going to close our eyes to revenge killings, public hangings, the kind of treatment Gaddafi's criminals have meted out for many a long year? I wonder. Libya is not Egypt. Again, Gaddafi is a fruitcake and, given his weird performance with his Green Book on the balcony of his bombed-out house, he probably does occasionally chew carpets as well.
Then there's the danger of things "going wrong" on our side, the bombs that hit civilians, the Nato aircraft which might be shot down or crash in Gaddafi territory, the sudden suspicion among the "rebels"/"Libyan people"/democracy protesters that the West, after all, has ulterior purposes in its aid. And there's one boring, universal rule about all this: the second you employ your weapons against another government, however righteously, the thing begins to unspool. After all, the same "rebels" who were expressing their fury at French indifference on Thursday morning were waving French flags in Benghazi on Thursday night. Long live America. Until...

...It is all wearingly familiar. And now we are back at it again, banging our desks in spiritual unity. We don't have many options, do we, unless we want to see another Srebrenica? But hold on. Didn't that happen long after we had imposed our "no-fly" zone over Bosnia?

This is a complicated mess and far from over.


Monday, March 21, 2011

After all, they might spend the cash on pitchforks and torches

via Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars we learn that the northern wingnuts of Minnesota will not be outdone by the dairyland wingnuts of Wisconsin. Wis. Gov. Scott Walker is trying to crush unions and take away the constitutional right of working people to freely associate - hah! what a piker! a mere robber baron wannabe! Minnesota Republicans want to make it illegal for anyone on public assistance to have more than $20 cash!

On March 15, Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee testified  in front of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on  House File 171. Buechner told committee members, “We would like to  address the provision that makes it illegal for MFIP [one of Minnesota’s  welfare programs] families to withdraw cash from the cash portion of  the MFIP grant - and in fact, appears to make it illegal for MFIP  families to have any type of money at all in their pockets. How do you  expect people to take care of business like paying bills such as lights,  gas, water, trash and phone?”
House File 171 would make it so that families on MFIP - and disabled  single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid -  could not have their cash grants in cash or put into a checking account.  Rather, they could only use a state-issued debit card at special terminals in certain businesses that are set up to accept the card.

Which is a actually a partial surrender to all those Cadillac-driving welfare queens in Minnesota - the original bill would have barred those on assistance from getting any cash at all.
Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?
But remember, trying to get millionaires to pay an extra 2% in income taxes is Marxist class warfare by jealous communists who hate successful people who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. You know, scrappy entrepreneurs like Paris Hilton and all those hedge fund managers on Wall Street who earn every cent of their million-dollar taxpayer-funded bonuses.
I'm guessing the next step will be Oklahoma bringing back indentured servitude and debtor's prisons or Missouri passing the "Modest Proposal Act" requiring all families on public assistance to sell their children to the nearest rendering plant or perhaps the kindly burghers of Indiana will finally pass the "Work will make you Free" Act to provide a final solution to the poverty problem.

(crossposted, as usual, from The Woodshed)

Airshow's moral duty

Airshow comes out with a stunner today.

"We are compelled to intervene," MacKay said, both by a moral duty and a duty to the United Nations. "Canada's very fortunate to be in a position to respond."
We're bombing Libya because we can. It is as about a clear cut case for immediate intervention to prevent further massacres by a government against its people as we've seen of late. It is also, as Dyer points out, a comparatively low risk venture (at least in the very short-term) if one were to compare the capabilities of Libya's anorexic armed forces with those of Syria or maybe needed gas station Saudi Arabia.
So what about the Syrian regime? The same crude calculation applies. If it’s not too tough and powerful to take on, then it will not be allowed to murder its own people. And if it is too big and dangerous, then all the UN members will express their strong disapproval, but they won’t actually do anything. Consistency is an overrated virtue.
I wonder how Pete (contingent on the Cons overcoming their questionable morals here at home) will explain our moral duty toward Syria should the Bashar regime starts dropping 122mm high explosive on crowds of demonstrators. Perhaps he has other morals he could use.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Keep calm and carry on

When my smart phone chimed at 3 a.m. a week ago Friday in Ontario, bringing news of a massive eathquake in Japan, I woke Hiromi. She muttered something about calling her parents in Miyagi in the morning, and went back to sleep. We’d spoken to her dad via video Skype only a few hours ago. It could wait.
Morning came, and with TV images of cars washing under a bridge like ice floes on a spring river, fishing boats perched atop buildings, entire villages reduced to mud-covered rubble. We called and called to no avail.
We knew Oji-san would have been at home in Wakayanagi, far enough inland to be safe from the deadly waves, but Oba-san was supposed to go into Sendai to attend a lecture that afternoon.
The barrage of calls from family and friends began almost at once with my parents offering to cut short their southern vacation. No need, we told them, there’s nothing to be done but wait.
I went to work long enough to fill in my boss and was sent home to wait. Hour after hour, we watched the news channels hideous pageant of the damned, like rabbits on the highway at night, unable to look away from the oncoming headlights of doom. But for us that doom would never arrive, only constantly approach. All we could do was wait, chained by distance, helpless to act.
Dozens called and emailed to express concern, sympathy, horror and support. Was there anything they could do? Did we need anything? No, there was nothing. Only to wait.
Hours of anxiety stretched into days. The kids were fed at intervals and otherwise left in the care of Nintendo and Walt Disney. I cooked, monitored the news and answered the phone while Hiromi sat glued to NHK’s Internet feed and kept up the hourly ritual of dialing through to a recording in Japan telling us our call could not be put through. Appetitie and sleep became a distant memory. I’d give in to nervous exhaustion and medicinal vodka and doze fitfully for a few hours, rising to find her still maintaining her vigil the while the 24-hour cable news drumbeat of despair rolled on.
I stumbled through work, so preoccupied I could barely string a coherent sentence together. Wednesday came and went without contact, the constant worry and not-knowing like a trapped rat trying to gnaw its way out of your terrified soul. We did our best to stay composed, knowing that the least breach of the emotional dam would mean a flood of panic.
Returning from the office early Thurday, I sat down to try to work and noticed the cold grey lemon of my father-in-law’s Skype icon had turned to bright, friendly green. His computer was back online. They had electricity. I hollered to Hiromi and she dashed to the phone.
We called, and at long last, they answered.
The waiting was over.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The PM, the conman, the blonde hooker and the Colonel

While I've been a bit distracted this week with personal matters , I have been paying some attention to the non-Japan related news. Really, there seems to be no depth to which Stephen Harper will not sink. With the revelation that one of his former close advisors did time for fraud and is currently involved in a dubious lobbying effort to enrich his 20-something escort fiance, and the looming likelihood that his government will be found in contempt of Parliament, Stephen Harper is feeling a bit cornered. It is  doubtful that he will win his precious majority if an election is called this spring and so he has tried telling voters that the disaster in Japan was sufficient reason to delay a vote.
When we didn't buy that, he stepped up his campaign of parliamentary obstructionism (dropping over 1,000 pages of documents 15 minutes before the committee session ended, for example) to try to avoid having his government and ministers found in contempt of Parliament. Tune in next week when he tells us that us that the government being found in contempt of Parliament is an example of how Michael Ignatieff hates democracy and is just some Johnny-come-lately who is playing games with the economy and is the son of Russian aristocrats not a "real immigrant"and besides LIBYA! FREEDOM! Democracy! Whisky! Sexy! We are at War! Don't switch horses in midstream! 
And if that doesn't work, expect him to try proroguing the house again, just to "save it from itself" and delay the budget so that he can "focus on the economy and the war."

Now, having said all that, let me clarify a few things: While Stephen Harper is a lying, power-grabbing, egomaniac and he may or may not be doing it for the wrong reasons, I think he is doing the right thing on Libya.
Yes, mark the day on the calendar -- I agree with Stephen Harper on something.
I think the moral choice with regards to Libya is at this stage is intervention by the international community. Libya is not Iraq, it is not Vietnam, it is not Bahrain. The closest comparison I can think of is Spain in the 1930s. There is a brutal, corrupt, autocratic ruler. There is a viable democratic opposition engaged in a popular revolution that has shown it has the hearts and minds of the population behind it. The regime in this case is being propped up by superior military firepower. The loyalists in the Libyan armed forces are mostly mercenaries and those who have profited from their affiliation with the regime. There have been numerous defections from the military by those troops and commanders who have refused to attack their own people.
As it would have been in Spain, the moral thing to do here is to side with the people against an autocrat that would crush them and murder those who dare to dissent.
The right thing to do is to freeze all of the Colonel's assets abroad, deny him jet fuel, artillery shells and other munitions.
The right thing to do is level the playing field by arming the people in Benghazi and Tobruk and elsewhere to allow them to defend themselves.
The right thing to do is to prevent the Colonel from bombing his own people or turning his tanks and artillery on the people who seek to be free from his corrupt and brutal regime.
It isn't a matter of sending troops into a quagmire, it isn't a matter of sticking our nose in where it isn't wanted.
It is a matter of dropping a few bombs and firing a few missiles to avoid a genocide and another generation of oppressive, autocratic rule in Libya, by a man who has supported terrorism in numerous forms (the Lockerbie bombing, arming the IRA, etc etc)
Just because Stephen Harper supports it doesn't make it a bad idea.


No foolin'.

Duct tape and lies . . .

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stevie gets to strap on a .45 . . .

AND HEAD TO FRANCE for the big palaver about how to build a no-fly zone. According to a CTV report, Mike Blanchfield at The Canadian Press states

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will send CF-18 fighter jets to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, despite Moammar Gadhafi's ceasefire declaration.

Canada's six war planes will join an international effort authorized by the United Nations Security Council on Thursday night.

"If Col. Gadhafi does not comply with this Security Council resolution, Canadian armed forces working with other like-minded nations will enforce this resolution," Harper said.

The jets were to leave Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Quebec as early as Friday afternoon for an air base in Italy. About 150 support staff will be joining them.

There's something righteous about enforcing resolutions that chuffs the scolding fundamentalist psyche. Consider that the French and the Brits have way more than enough 3+ generation fighters to run the show out of Egypt, they've even got enough AWAC capability to manage the show, so they'll get along just fine without our 6 F-18's. But it's good to keep up our deployment skills, even if our presence is really only required for the self-desired Stevie display.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

But where's Verkuktastan?

RETHINKING SCHOOLS has a fine little game about all that North African geography which has been in the news as of late. Go visit and play: drag and drop Kyrgyzstan where it should be.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Purple Haze . . .

THE CREATOR OF "OWSLEY PURPLE", Owsley Stanley (born Augustus Owsley Stanley III), has died, age 76. According to David Pescovitz at boingboing,

Augustus Owsley Stanley III, AKA the "Bear," died in a car crash in his adopted home of Queensland, Australia today. He was 76. Between 1965 and 1967, Stanley homebrewed more than one million doses of LSD in the San Francisco Bay Area fueling a revolution in consciousness, music, art, and the counterculture. The recipe came from a copy of the Journal of Organic Chemistry he found in the UC Berkeley library. The Grateful Dead's first sound engineer, Stanley also pioneered several technologies for live sound.

According to Wikipedia, Owsley traveled with funny people:

In September 1965, Stanley became the primary LSD supplier to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters; by this point Sandoz LSD was hard to come by and "Owsley Acid" had become the new standard. He was featured (most prominently his freak-out at the Muir Beach Acid Test in November 1965) in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a book detailing the history of Kesey and the Merry Pranksters by Tom Wolfe. Stanley attended the Watts Acid Test on February 12, 1966 with his new apprentice Tim Scully and provided the LSD.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reach out and touch someone . . .

THE TELEGRAPH has a book review by Toby Harnden of an account of the British trials in Afghanistan, "Dead Men Risen". This column is about the snipers.

Operating from a remote patrol base in Helmand, two British snipers were responsible for killing 75 Taliban fighters in just 40 days. In one remarkable feat of marksmanship, two insurgents were dispatched with a single bullet.

Apparently, the twofer is known as a "Quigley".

The Waiting

It has been, in the sense of the old Chinese curse, an interesting weekend.
The earthquake and tsunami that struck north-eastern Japan on Friday and the subsequent nuclear crisis are frightening events that hit very, very close to home for me and mine.
As many of you know, I spent many years in Japan and Mrs. Rev. Paperboy is a Japanese national. Furthermore, Sendai is pretty much her hometown and her parents live in a nearby village in Miyagi Prefecture, well inland from the city. Neither of us has had much sleep since Friday and we still have not received any word about her parents.
We are grateful for the outpouring of concern among friends and family and we thank you for your emails, phone calls, tweets, visits and other expressions of support. Pardon us if we don't respond swiftly or at all for the moment, we appreciate your kindness.
But we are still waiting.
At the moment there is still no electricity or telephone service in the affected area and we are still trying constantly to get through via telephone and email to our family there. Meanwhile, we are doing our best to keep calm and carry on.

The best thing you can do to help us right now is give money to the Red Cross (click the link or  text the word ASIA to 30333 to make a one-time donation of $5) or go out and give blood.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Before and after . . .

ABC NEWS FROM OZ has a report organized by Andrew Kesper, that shows Google satellite pics, with a slider to see the before-and-after. Wow.

Perspectives . . .

IMGUR is an interesting ad-hoc collection of pictures. "Monstrous Discrepancies" is worthy of attention.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sun News gots ICBMs !

David Akin wants to know what we think of the new Sun News theme and on-air graphics.

Well, let's see ... there's kind of a storyline to it, isn't there ...
An ICBM smashes into the centre of Canada and Sun News rises up out of the ashes like a .... giant 70's gyro disco ball ... which then splits the country in half, leaving the provinces to float in a grey limbo.

Did I get that right? I'm not too good with media subliminal messaging.


I say West End Bob, I think the Lady has reappeared!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Crazy Years . . .

WHEREVER HE IS, Robert Heinlein must be ROTFL, because the Crazy Years must surely have arrived, as according to Gail Collins' article in the NYT, "School of Glock", there are disturbing things afoot:

Well, in Florida, a state representative has introduced a bill that would impose fines of up to $5 million on any doctor who asks a patient whether he or she owns a gun.

But wait — it gets better:

The nation’s state legislators seem to be troubled by a shortage of things they can do to make the National Rifle Association happy. Once you’ve voted to allow people to carry guns into bars (Georgia), eliminated the need for getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon (Arizona) and designated your own official state gun (Utah — awaiting the governor’s signature), it gets hard to come up with new ideas.

This may be why so many states are now considering laws that would prohibit colleges and universities from barring guns on campus.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Governor Walker and our Cons are the same species.  More after the live stream.

Watch live streaming video from theuptake at

Sometimes I think the best description of 'capital' is that of a pathogen. It afflicts the compassion and empathy centres of the brain like an encephalitis. Something happens to normal, caring people when they're put in power and have control over money. They seem to lose any sense of concern for the welfare of their fellow beings. Some have the excuse of finding themselves born into a life of class privilege. Others come from the ranks, pick up the infection and then turn on their former comrades.

The afflicted don't seem to understand resistance to their measures. When you take away the protections around someone's livelihood, whether they're a floor-mopper, a teacher, or anyone else, you're committing an act of cruelty and putting that individual into a situation from which they might not recover. It takes a sick mind to do that to someone without dire cause.

Stephen Harperreality

You know, I was thinking earlier today that Stephen Harper might be the Canadian prime minister to leave a legacy of election fraud and contempt motions.

The contrast between the Stephen Harper in the video voice-over above, and the Stephen Harper, master of a den of liars, theives and charalatans is in some realm of galactic-class hypocrisy. You just have to stare and blink.

I don't know, maybe he once believed his own bullshit about how he could do it better, and Reform that crowd in Ottawa. Maybe not.

What is devastatingly apparent however, is that he started shitting his bed from his first winnable election. His party, now with him at the helm had to cheat at their at their first inaugeral league win. Over the past few years under his leadership they've since lied, misled, refused, and then shut-down parliament. Twice on that last one. And more times on the others than I can recall without google. And nevermind all the wars, riot cops and cages, and brown Canadians in foreign dungeons. 

I mean, you couldn't be paid to write worse political drama. Nobody would believe that Harper's government could be so antithetical to what they campaigned on. One thing after another. Perhaps we've moved the Overton window so far that we've normalised the blackhole of basic reason and logic, let alone ethics, that is our Cons.

Think back. Five years ago if someone had shown you a crystal ball and said in 2011, Stephen Harper was in serious trouble after his gang were caught cheating on an election, forging documents, creatively editing contracts, refusing to hand over the account books, thrice found in contempt of parliament, and renaming the government after himself, you'd have laughed yourself to tears.

Sometimes I'm beyond outrage. I have to stop and wonder if what just happened, actually happened. It is so far beyond the improbably absurd that you could power a starship with it. I mean, I seriously have to wonder if this man with the grey helmet hair, the creepy blue stare, and the cadaverous complexion actually came from one.

If our Harper stood up tomorrow and said so-long and lifted off into space on rocket made of very concerned live kittens, I mightn't bat an eye.

If this is Canadian hyperreality, I'll take Disneyland.

Boogity boogity twang . . .

A 1948 Gibson guitar once played by Eric Clapton, being held by Alicia Scalera at the auction house Bonhams in New York. Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

THE NYT ASKS, "Why would someone pay $959,500 for a used guitar?" Apparently, ol' Slowhand is parting with some choice equipment at auction. The market forces at work may be spurred by quirks of the psyche:

Fortunately, social scientists have been hard at work on the answers. After conducting experiments and interviewing guitar players and collectors, they have just published papers analyzing “celebrity contagion” and “imitative magic,” not to mention “a dynamic cyclical model of fetishization appropriate to an age of mass-production.”

Bunch of raving nutters. A decade or so ago, I ran across this gem:

The Industrial Revolution:

Making you Malthusly redundant for 250 years. Paul Krugman starts to get it.
Computers, it turns out, can quickly analyze millions of documents, cheaply performing a task that used to require armies of lawyers and paralegals. In this case, then, technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers.

And legal research isn’t an isolated example. As the article points out, software has also been replacing engineers in such tasks as chip design. More broadly, the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date.

The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.

Monday, March 07, 2011

International Women's Day 2011

[For those unfamiliar, that's current James Bond, Daniel Craig and the voice is Dame Judy Dench, current M.]

Conservatism and cowardice

Whether it's nature or nurture, or some mix of both, the protective imperative  is a powerful thing with deep cultural resonance. There's a thousand films and stories out there about men putting themselves through all sorts of ordeals to save women from some fate or another. The patriarchal heteronormative family structure with the man is provider and safeguarder , popular with conservatives of varying stripe, indefensible in its inequality, nonetheless harbours an a moral code whereby the male is compelled to drive themselves into the ground to protect and provide for his family and offspring or consider himself less than a man. Setting aside the practical and long-term dysfunctionality of that arrangement, the intention behind it isn't terribly negative and I would argue related to, but substantively different from misogyny. There is within an ethic of responsibility that says 'do not harm' and 'protect at all costs'.

Somewhere however, a few boys got it terribly wrong. Hegemonic heteronormative patriarchy in these weaker men instills not an ethic of responsibility, but a crass and vulgar misogyny that has a police officer and a judge, supposed men dutybound to protect, unforgivably blaming women for their own rape. 

These beastly enablers of one of the most heinous violations of mind and body ought to face the same punishment as would normally suit the rapist. Perhaps worse, as it requires distinctly a sick mind to use a position of authority to rationalise defilement. How did it come to this?

It is no surprise that the judge in the court case is a Conservative donor and appointee if one considers what contemporary conservatives are: Intolerant of difference, punitive, bullying, tribal, and dishonest. Women are different, difficult to understand, yet attractive and compel an emotional reponse. Does this, I wonder conjur anger in a mind socialised by ideology to frown on soft feelings? It's been said before that today's men respond to emotional pain with anger and resentment. Is this what happens when a mind like that encounters beauty and sex? Do they feel vulnerable and soft, and respond with anger and aggression?

Is this why when they hold office, they set about destroying any and all institutions that extend some form of compassion or care to other human beings? Sure, they construct elaborate political, social and economic theories and philosophies about human nature and behaviour. These are usually rooted in some notion of the individual, either in denial of society or in pursuit of the ultimate society free of anything they don't understand or control. Yet, at the end of the day they are just spinning the destruction of their fellow humans into an ethical legitimacy because it's better copy than acknowledging primal rage response to human diversity, and feelings of empathy, compassion, and affection.

Peradventure, this encourages a culture of individual irresponsiblity no matter how much they make claims about 'personal responsibility'. Responsibility for oneself  means taking responsibility for your actions when they impact others, which also means cultivating an awareness of the potential outcomes of your actions and acting accordingly. There were once conservatives that embraced their class and power, yet understood that with this noble privilege came obligation. Society is complex and composed of many unequal parts. Some of these dinosaurs might have understood that maintaining a sustainable balance between these parts was necessary for a society that allowed them to maintain power and position. Too much inequality, and problems develop. This is social physics; there are stress limits to society. Exceed those and you burn.

The present generation of acute conservatives have forgotten this. They rule their own lives, and the lives of others from the emotional centre and lizard brain. Their social brand of selfish misanthropy does not easily encompass nuance. They aren't interested in what their opponents might think is fair, only what allows them to out-manoeuvre and dominate that opposition. 'Opponent' of course means anyone or anything incompatible with a misanthropic rage complex masking as a political ideology.

No wonder that this perspective is now seen as legitimate in present socio-political discourse. Popular media now conveys an ethical message where such actions are legitimised. Big Brother, Survivor, and Jersey Shore, hugely popular examples of the evermore aptly named genre of 'reality TV' all have individuals lying, cheating, double-crossing, and otherwise manipulating their peers for personal gain. And then you have Lost which takes reality TV and replaces the unscripted action with actors and special effects.  I'm still unsure about which is more fantastical in nature. Or, take the hugely popular The L-word and its cast of grown women behaving like a sophisticated incarnation of hyperperforming Jersey Shore thugs. I'm sure an analysis of these shows would show similar levels of skulduggery for sex, power, and privilege over friends and associates. And similar examples of complete irresponsibility for one's actions.

In all cases only the subjectively well styled, chiselled, waxed, gelled, highlighted, and permed exemplars of the species are shown to audiences. The association of physical beauty with sociopathic behaviour couldn't be more apparent (why do I think of Jason Kenney and John Baird when someone mentions Jersey Shore?). This association is far more complex and insidious than beer ads and hot women.

No wonder then that we see these qualities represented in our conservative political class, and accepted as legitimate by enough of the public to get them elected. Break the law with Elections Canada? Fuck you, it was a difference of interpretation. Break the law regarding prisoners and don't want answer questions about it? Fuck you, we'll shutdown the government. Opposition starts talking about coalitions? Fuck you, fuck parliament, and if need be fuck the Constitution and Governor General. Climate scientists tell you something you don't want to hear? Fuck them and their funding.

Find yourself investigating or judging the indefensible crime of rape? Well, fuck that cockteasing bitch for dressing like that.

Whatever they used to be, today's Canadian conservatives are consumate cowards, ruled largely by uncontrolled self-indulgent anger and the possibly consequent utter lack of any sense of responsibility for themselves and their actions.

The irony of course is that this cowardly class wields such occupations of duty - judges, police, and military - as their weapons of negligence. "Projection" is the word I think the experts use.

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Just getting ready to host Virtually Speaking Sunday:Maple Syrup Edition by drinking a nice piping hot cup of maple syrup. Join Lindsay Stewart and I at 8 EST 5 Pacific

Multi-Kulti BS . . .

Kanwar Mahfooz

THE POLITICALLY-CORRECT ARE BECOMING TIRESOME, and the sooner we can slap some sense into their darling little minds, the better. According to Licia Corbella at The Calgary Herald, there is lunacy in Winnipeg. Apparently a number of Islamic families are upset and demanding changes to the Winnipeg public school curriculum to make it more like a fundamentalist madrassa.

About one dozen families who recently immigrated to Canada are demanding that the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg excuse their children from music and coed physical education programs for religious reasons.

The families believe that music is un-Islamic - just like the Taliban believe and then imposed on the entire population of Afghanistan - and that physical education classes should be segregated by gender even in the elementary years.

The school division is facing the music in a typically Canadian way - that is, bending itself into a trombone to try to accommodate these demands, even though in Manitoba, and indeed the rest of the country, music and phys. ed are compulsory parts of the curriculum.

Officials say they may try to have the Muslim children do a writing project on music to satisfy the curriculum's requirements. The school officials have apparently consulted the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and they have also spoken to a member of the Islamic community suggested by those very same Muslim parents.

In any event, the school district is trying to find a way to adapt the curriculum to fit the wishes of these families, rather than these families adapting to fit into the school and Canadian culture.

So, we have these politically-correct aparatchiki in the Winnipeg educational establishment who cannot do enough to get rid of our Canadian social values. Well, Mahfooz Kanwar, a member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, is really upset with these weasels:

"I'd tell them, this is Canada, and in Canada, we teach music and physical education in our schools. If you don't like it, leave. If you want to live under sharia law, go back to the hellhole country you came from or go to another hellhole country that lives under sharia law," said Kanwar, who is a professor emeritus of sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

That might be putting things a little more forcefully than most of us would be comfortable with, but Kanwar says he is tired of hearing about such out-of-tune demands from newcomers to our country. "Immigrants to Canada should adjust to Canada, not the other way around," he argues.

Kanwar, who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan via England and then the United States in 1966, says he used to buy into the "Trudeaupian mosaic, official multiculturalism (nonsense)."

He makes it clear, that like most Canadians, he is pleased and enjoys that Canada has citizens literally from every country and corner in the world, as it has enriched this country immensely. But it's official multiculturalism - the state policy "that entrenches the lie" that all cultures and beliefs are of equal value and of equal validity in Canada that he objects to.

"The fact is, Canada has an enviable culture based on Judeo-Christian values - not Muslim values - with British and French rule of law and traditions and that's why it's better than all of the other places in the world. We are heading down a dangerous path if we allow the idea that sharia law has a place in Canada. It does not. It is completely incompatible with the idea and reality of Canada," says Kanwar, who in the 1970s was the founder and president of the Pakistan-Canada Association and a big fan of official multiculturalism. Kanwar says his views changed when he started listening to the people who joined his group. They badmouthed Canada, weren't interested in knowing Canadians or even in learning one of our official languages. They created cultural ghettos and the Canadian government even helped fund it.

"One day it dawned on me that the reason all of us wanted to move here was going to disappear if we didn't start defending Canada and its fundamental values." That's when Kanwar started speaking out against the dangers of official multiculturalism. He has been doing so for decades.

Well, if Mahfooz can figure it out, what's the problem with the weasels in Winnipeg?

Nasty bitch . . .

MUAMMAR'S "GO-TO GAL", is a middle-aged matron by name of Huda Ben Amer, aka "Huda Al-Shannaga – Huda the executioner". No job too dirty or nasty. This bitch is a real piece of work. According to The Telegraph, she got her start in the regime when she grabbed the legs of a man being hanged, who was strangling on the gallows. Really. Can't wait to see her head on a pole. :)

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Demotivators . . .

PUNDIT KITCHEN is a division of the I Can Has Cheezburger empire. Delightfully irreverent.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Theo and Liam . . .


Tune in, turn on

Sunday, March 6

5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern


This week host Kevin Wood speaks with blogger and performing artist Lindsay Stewart aka PSA about copyright, the Canadian federal budget and the likelihood of a federal election in Canada this spring. Listen live or check the archives

6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern
The Sunday media panel returns with Marcy EMPTYWHEEL Wheeler and Eve  NYCEVE Gittelson.

Monday March 7


Two  journalists who share a passion for music -- Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News and Charles Pierce of the Boston Globe talk with writer Susie "Suburban Guerilla" Madrak about the ten CDs they would take if they were stranded on a desert island. Be sure to call in with your top 10 desert island discs!

Listen to all the Virtually Speaking shows right here
and find Kevin Rev. Paperboy Wood's chat with Dr. Dawg from two weeks ago here

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bringing Out the Vote

In the land of hard calls and second worst options these are the choices we're offered. A lot of months have passed since I started saying the LPC needed to reset, retool and rebrand. They couldn't wait to undo Dion, who in retrospect looks like four times the leader for all his many failings. The long knives held by the back room brokers were drawn for poor Stephane from the moment the last convention ended. Sadly, the entire nation pays for those long knives and the harm that the corporate cracker club does by their wielding.

The LPC will give Harper another minority if they are lucky. If they aren't lucky, we'll see Harper installed in his long awaited majority like Gollum finally clutching his precious. The party of the sneering middle managers isn't up to beating the party of the inbred preachers kin. We no longer choose from those we best trust but rather from those whom we hold in least contempt. We now hedge our bets against the lesser of damage vectors. The LPC have been playing a losing hand for years running and they haven't learned a damn thing or gained back a lick of trust or respect.

Perhaps having the Kim Campbell moment is the best we can hope. Perhaps it'll wash the sordid dregs of the old party out for once and finally. Perhaps the raw lesson of a Harper majority and having no more illusions about hidden agendas, denials and whispers... perhaps that's what we need to begin to reclaim this country and steer it back towards moderation and common sense. Toward humanity, dignity and peace. Successive Liberal and Conservative (Progressive or otherwise) governments have driven the ship of state up onto the rocks. It is no one group or person responsible. It is the culmination of a political climate that has grown more petty, more greedy and more lazily corrupt. So here we sit with parties that speak to our worst instincts of avarice and fear, led by pissy little people grubbing and sneaking from every aisle and angle.

We are now a nation that can countenance the false arrest, beating and abuse of a thousand of our fellow citizens in the streets of our largest city. We retreat to our lcd screens and prepared foods and turn our blind eyes to crimes against humanity not just abroad but here at home. We share our complicity by the happy glow of Dancing With the Stars as we light up the internets with celebrity sex & death gossip at a pace that defies all logic. We willingly burn off our energy squealing at adolescent confections and shopping with a maniacal fervour. We feed our need to ignore by drowning in a sea of the forgettable.

Perhaps we've gotten the governments and leaders we deserve. It will take more than a charismatic long shot to undo the damage that's been done and that threatens. We're a people asleep or as someone once said, we're amusing ourselves to death and we're desperate to distract ourselves so we don't have to notice. Maybe that's the only way we can face ourselves when we've become a nation that can wink at the rule of law. Maybe the bigotry that dwelt in some of our hearts has metastasized and now one can applaud for tiered justice and selective applications of human rights and not be a pariah. We can as a nation, break our treaties and covenants regarding the fundamental underpinnings of our civilization and rationalize it through cultured fear and weaponized ignorance.

On maximum leaders...

In the theme of recent events, a study of a familiar brand of madness run wild:

Bullshit, Pierre


Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is being called on to resign after his office sent out a letter to Conservative MPs asking for fundraising help to mount an ad campaign aimed at bolstering Conservative support among ethnic communities.
According to documents obtained by the NDP Thursday and released to the media, the Conservatives have hatched a media strategy that would specifically target South Asian and Chinese communities in the Greater Toronto Area.
The advertising plan is branded "Breaking Through: Building the Conservative Brand" and details of it were sent along with a letter on Kenney's letterhead seeking funds to support it.
I do like this bit. 
The materials ended up in the hands of NDP Linda Duncan but were more likely intended for Conservative MP John Duncan...
A little rich, Pierre, given that your party's leader seems to have named the entire Government of Canada after himself.
"The minister has said that it was a mistake for the letterhead to appear on this particular letter," Poilievre said, adding that Kenney has referred the matter to the Ethics commissioner.