Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rest in Peace, Rod "croghan27" MacLean

I'm sad today to learn from Dr. Dawg of the recent passing of Rod MacLean, known to readers as the erudite commenter "croghan27".

Please visit Dawg for further details.


LFR highlights another example of the Party of Harper's political partisanisation of the Canadian Forces (and federal departments. and scientists. and whatever else they can control that might sit a few degrees off of whatever magical bearing they're following that day.) In this case, it seems the NDP member might actually talk to the troops and hear tales of woe that counter the narrative parroted by the ruling party.

The Conservative inability to recognise the disconnect between reality and their rhetoric will have consequences. They might control much of the message, but things out there in the material world actually can and do start fail in ways that no amount of spin can counter.

Up, up and away . . .

KEN COUCH has a great hobby: lawn chair flying. According to GIZMODO, last week,

he hitched 105 helium balloons to a lawn chair and set out on a nine-hour adventure that took him to a height of 13,000 feet, traveling 193 miles from his home in Bend, Oregon, all the way to the other side of the state.

The thought occurs, maybe a lawn chair with 210 balloons might be a great way to get rid of some of our politicians . . . just duct tape 'em into the chair, and let 'em fly away — far, far away. (H/T to Cubby.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pillage . . .

THE LENS is an investigative site that looks at life in Louisiana. Matt Davis has a disturbing article, "Overmedicating young inmates called chemical restraint". It seems that state Governor Bobby Jindal has cut back on facilities for teens with psychological problems that require long-term treatment.

Part of a trend that has pushed mentally ill children into adjudication rather than medical care, New Orleans lost its last public mental health beds for juveniles in 2009 when Gov. Bobby Jindal closed the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital. The nearest comparable facility is now across Lake Pontchartrain at the Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville.

“Just before we closed we had five clinics, a crisis service, outreach teams, and we only had about 15 beds, down from 124 in 1991,” said Dr. Martin Drell, the Adolescent Hospital’s clinical director for 19 years. “Bobby Jindal not only closed the hospital, but with it, he closed the outpatient system, which is what people I don’t think realize.”

The hospital’s closure has placed more pressure on local juvenile facilities, said Captain Andre Dominick, director of the St. Bernard Parish juvenile detention center.

So the kids in detention have to stay in detention. Problem is, the detention centers don't have the medical staff, or budget, and there has been a reliance on heavy-duty anti-psychotic drugs to keep the little darlings under control. In a way, it's the by-product of the Ritalin Revolution of parenting.

Both at the local and state level, the patchiness in mental health care means there is a greater likelihood that physicians will rely on medication to simply calm down disruptive juveniles, Harrell said.

“There are some youth who should receive medications who aren’t,” Harrell said. “But there’s also kids who are being medically restrained. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with disruptive kids by drugging them, than doing anything else.”

In a psychiatric emergency, the response can be ad hoc and sometimes quite primitive. For example the Florida Parishes juvenile detention center still keeps a restraint chair in storage, in case a child becomes suicidal and nothing else can be done immediately. Before the center had the chair, which has not been used in four years according to a center manager, it used to rely on a football helmet to prevent suicidal juveniles from smashing their heads into the floor and walls.

Prescription drugs administered to juvenile inmates ran the gamut of those available on the market, but with a disproportionate use of so-called second-generation atypical antipsychotics.

These drugs originally developed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are administered four times as often as the conditions actually crop up among incarcerated youth in the facilities studied.

• • • •

Seroquel, the brand name for quetiapine, is a second-generation atypical antipsychotic. Other such drugs include Risperdal (risperidone), Abilify (aripiprazole), and Zyprexa (olanzapine), and all are being heavily ordered by youth facilities.

Records show the Swanson Center for Youth, a state facility in Monroe, stocks 400-milligram dosages of Seroquel, a hammer to the head easily four times the standard dosage. And even smaller dosages are often unwarranted. A juvenile at the Youth Studies Center in New Orleans was being given a 100-milligram dose of Seroquel, despite having a simple diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A spokeswoman for the city pointed out that the drug had been prescribed before the juvenile arrived at the facility.

Atypical antipsychotic drugs limit psychotic episodes among schizophrenics and patients with bipolar disorder by abating the transmission of dopamine from within the brain. But they also block transmission of serotonin, another important brain chemical, and can have a numbing effect.

“I could tell a kid had gotten on these drugs because of the vacant expression,” Faunce said. “They were like little zombies.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Doesn't flounder . . .

ARKIVE is a site devoted to life on earth. An amazing BBC video of an osprey doing what ospreys do so well.

ARKive - Osprey video - Pandion haliaetus - 00

The Encyclopedia of Life is another great site, too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hold your breath . . .

IF YOU DRIVE THROUGH NORTH DAKOTA, keep the windows rolled up, and maybe change the air filters in the HVAC system, if it has them. Why? According to Annalee Newitz at io9, those roads can kill. Her article, "The roads in North Dakota are giving people cancer" is worth checking out.

In Dunn County, North Dakota, the roads can kill you. In fact, anything you do to disturb rocks in the area, like driving or even sweeping, can kick up naturally-occurring particles that lodge in your body and give you a rare kind of lung cancer up to 30 years later. Dunn County, you see, is home to a lot of rocks containing erionite, an asbestos-like substance that's highly toxic. Unfortunately, nobody knew that until very recently. And so at least 300 miles of roads in North Dakota are paved with the stuff.

What do you do when you discover that you've built your county out of poison rocks?

Folk wisdom . . .

WHEN YOU'RE HOLDING A HAMMER, everything looks like a nail. Written by Bryan Glover, a Tennessee middle school football coach — who got fired for writing it. I don't like the Obama-bashing, but the lyrics are entertaining.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Christian terrorism . . .

WILLIAM SALETAN has a fine article in SLATE about the massacre in Norway, "Christian Terrorism", where he asks a cogent question, "If Muslims are responsible for Islamic terrorism, are Muslim-bashers responsible for the massacre in Norway?"

On Friday, anti-Islamist blogger Pamela Geller pounced on news of a massacre in Oslo. "Jihad in Norway?" she asked. She posted a second item—"You cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad"—and linked to a previous one: "Norway: ALL Rapes in Past 5 Years Committed by Muslims." As the Oslo body count grew, she piled on: "if I hear another television or radio reporter refer to muhammad as 'the Prophet Muhammad,' I think I am going to puke. He's not your prophet, assclowns."

Then things went horribly wrong. It turned out that the suspected terrorist in Norway wasn't a Muslim. He hated Muslims. And he admired Geller.

Pamela's quite a piece of work:

Four days before Breivik opened fire, she posted an item headlined, "Moderates vs. Radicals—What's the Difference?" She joked that "one straps one on, and the other covers for jihad." She concluded that "there really is no difference between muslims and radical muslims."

Geller has pursued this line of attack most aggressively against Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who wants to build an Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. Abdul Rauf, accused of radicalism by Geller and Republican politicians, has done everything possible to refute the charge. He has denounced al-Qaida as un-Islamic. He has said, "I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism. And Hamas has committed acts of terrorism." He has invited the U.S. government to vet potential funders of his center. He has rejected the idea that Sharia overrides civil laws. And when U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, the imam declared: "I applaud President Obama for his resolute efforts in the war against terror, including bringing Bin Laden to justice."

Despite these statements, Geller continues to depict Abdul Rauf as a terrorist sympathizer. Her evidence is a series of secondhand, thirdhand, and nonexistent connections.

• • • •

And the hypocrisy doesn't end with Geller. It permeates the Republican presidential field. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich agree with Geller that no mosque should be built near Ground Zero. Herman Cain, in the style of George Wallace, just went to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to support local bigots who want to stop the construction of a mosque there. Rick Santorum told a Christian school audience: "The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical."

ALJAZEERA has a fine, thoughtful editorial by Ahmed Moor, "Norway's attacks reveal world of hatred" that is a worthy read. Ahmed observes that "Initial reactions to the attacks in Norway showed a "clash of civilisations" exists, but not in the way many understood." His editorial points out that there is a built-in mind-set of "blame Islam", even by non-right-wing journalists and politicians. He feels the New York Times has a key part in this, and he has a point, IMHO.

Blame for the Western media's panting pursuit of a non-existent Muslim triggerman quickly focused on the feckless, credulous, overeager and inept source of the NYT's journalistic failure. Will McCants - proclaimed by one of his acolytes to be at the top of a "list of five terrorism experts you can trust" - was quickly discredited. In his defence, he only sought to affirm the confirmation bias that he and the editors of the NYT suffer from. The meme that underpins their worldview goes something like this: "Muslims are bad. When bad things happen, Muslims are responsible." This is a mainstream view in the US today; it cuts across party lines.

Shaping both sides of the narrative

That the purported American left maintains this bigoted outlook is an indication of how successful the right has been at constructing the stage upon which public debate is conducted. Two main anti-Muslim talking points are now taken for granted in this country: First, all terrorists in the West are Muslims; second, we are in the midst of a global civilisational war. These are the dual planks upon which Uncle Sam squats in his Afghani outhouse.

Objective sources have done an excellent job of discrediting the first of the two claims that inform the 21st century American experience. The second point however - that we are engaged in a war of civilisations - is one that I agree with. But the combatants are not Islam and the West. Instead, the war is between the normal, sane people of the world and the right-wing zealots who see doom, destruction, hellfire and God's Will at every turn.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Take out the garbage . . .

NOW, THAT'S FIREPOWER. John Moses Browning would be so pleased with the design's reliability and simplicity. I wonder if they make a 10-gauge, for heavy-duty garbage removal? Then again, like the video shows, you can carry two of 'em for maximum expression of your point of view, so a 10-gauge probably isn't necessary, even if a two and a half ounce slug might be a good idea. Peace . . . through superior firepower.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Interesting times . . .

LIKE DIRTY HARRY SAID, "A good man has to know his limitations". That's good advice, but unfortunately, politicians of all kinds ignore it, because it constrains the ego, as we see in Stevie and his orcs, and especially in the Chinese ruling elite.

You see, the Chinese have a Taiwan fixation — they want it under their control. Problem is, like the Arabs and their Israeli problem, they just don't have what it takes. Unlike the Arabs, the Chinese are doing their best to acquire what it takes, and this is going to lead to an arms "race" that is a reprise of the contest for naval supremacy between England and Germany in the early 1900's.

Back in the late 1880's, after firing Bismarck, Kaiser Willy decided that the Kriegsmarine would rival the Royal Navy, and commenced building ever-larger and more capable vessels, after enlarging the Kiel canal. It was a time of great engineering and technical advances: the advent of "exotic" high-strength steel alloys (like the first-use of vanadium steel alloy in mass production with the front axle of the 1908 Model T), optics (range-finding), radio ("electronics") and chemistry (cordite, high explosives).

Well, the Royal Navy decided to answer the challenge with a revolutionary approach to battleship design, HMS Dreadnought in 1905. It was an "edgy" time, as Admiral Togo had just blown the Russian Navy out of the water in the world's first modern naval battle, at the Straights of Tsushima, in 1905, to the total surprise of anyone who didn't work for Vickers, who had built most of the Japanese fleet. The Dreadnought made everything before it obsolete, which forced the Germans to start all over again.

Well, the Chinese have this problem with the US Navy, and specifically with its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers — as long as they can survive in the western Pacific, the Chinese can't invade Taiwan, which they are bound and determined to do, eventually.

So, what to do? Richard Fernandez has a blog, Belmont Club, and a fascinating article about this problem, "The Day of the Dreadnought", that is worth pondering.

Change itself can be destabilizing because it devalues the impact of earlier investments which have been leapfrogged by new developments. Aviation Week has more details on China’s antiship ballistic missile system which can sink US carriers from firing positions far inland and can cover the whole of the South China Sea. However the missile is still in development. “It is a high-tech weapon and we face many difficulties in getting funding, advanced technologies and high-quality personnel, which are all underlying reasons why it is hard to develop this,” according to the chief of the Chinese General Staff.

So, how does the US Navy deal with this challenge? Currently, the USN is developing megawatt shipboard lasers and electro-magnetic rail-guns with a 300 km range, and they should be deployed before the end of the decade. Will they be able to counter the Chinese anti-ship missiles? Are they the only way? Or can they take out the incoming warheads with nuclear-tipped Standard missiles in the sky above the fleet, or intercept the Chinese nukes from orbit, nuking the warhead in its boost phase over China ? Messy, but effective: with nukes, close counts.

There might even be civilian benefits from this arms race, like the weather satellites that inadvertently emerged from the surveillance satellite development effort started by Eisenhower. You see, the USN has been quietly funding research into fusion as a source of the necessary megawatts of electrical power, and making significant progress with Polywell's approach. Time will tell.

Urk . . .

The recession has hit everybody really hard...

• My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

• CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

• Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

• I saw a Mormon with only one wife.

• If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," you call them and ask if they meant you or them.

• Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America.

• Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children's names.

• My cousin had an exorcism but couldn't afford to pay for it, and they re-possessed her!

• A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.

• When Bill and Hillary travel together, they now have to share a room.

• The Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.

And, finally....

I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., I called the Suicide Hotline. I got a call centre in Pakistan, and when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The scourge continues . . .

THE BBC HAS A DISTURBING REPORT on Somali Islamofascists, "Somali Islamists maintain aid ban and deny famine".

Somalia's al-Shabab Islamists have denied lifting their 2009 ban on Western aid agencies and say UN reports of famine are "sheer propaganda".

The UN on Wednesday said that parts of Somalia were suffering a famine after the worst drought in 60 years.

Sounds like something Stalin would have done, considering what happened to the poor Ukrainians. Ironically, this is a product of the "Kalashnikov Scourge", the carpeting of the world with freedom-fighting AK-47's and RPG's by the Soviets and Chinese.

Most Western aid agencies quit Somalia in 2009 following al-Shabab's threats.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was one of those banned.

It says it is planning to airlift food into the capital, Mogadishu, in the coming days to help the thousands of malnourished children who face starvation in the country.

Some 10 million people are said to need food aid across East Africa but Somalia is by far the worst affected country, as there is no national government to co-ordinate aid after two decades of fighting.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jason's 1800

Immigration minister Jason the Kenney announces Ottawa will revoke the citizenship of 1800 "fraudulent" Canadians. This might be fair practice if it were any other entity than Mr. Kenney of Harper-government as people do attain citizenship through fraudulent means and when caught ex post facto, should have their citizenship reassessed.

But 1800 all at once? And by Jason "barbaric cultural practices" Kenney? Jason "anti-Semites under the bed" Kenney? Jason "keep the battered brown women out" Kenney?

We'll soon find out how this little man defines "fraudulent" and just who might be on his list.

Tu quoque . . .

WITH ALL THE ARGUMENTS that float around the web, take a minute to check out Tu quoque.

Water power . . .

Yesterday, in Montreal . . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rupert Murdoch is not a banker

Mr. Murdoch is a media mogul. He doesn't hold sway in the global financial system like the folks at Goldman Sachs, or any of the houses responsible for the crash in 2008. He isn't someone of import to the economic ideology of political leaders. Especially since his papers have spied on said political leaders (among other more important people). In that context, he might actually be seen as expendable for very practical reasons.

Virtually everyone but the fanatic right stands to gain from his disenfranchisement. There is blood in the water now. This could be really interesting.

Only men

A couple observations regarding the Day of Murdoch.

1. Watching and listening to father and son in front of British MPs, one can't help but sense the physical personification of the transnational corporatism and private power they represent and enable. Their accents are literally off-shore, with each sounding Australian, British, and American all at once. You couldn't easily place them if you didn't know where they were from.

2.They mightn't go to jail, or see their media empire crumble, but there they were, brought to heel by a state. All their wealth and power couldn't keep from a deeply embarrassing grilling by MPs. There was Rupert mumbling his way along, clearly very much wishing all this would go away and he could get back to whatever it is ancient billionaire moguls do with their time. And James, trying to be both humble and evasive all at once, obfu-chattering his way through simple questions like a student caught cheating but still thinking they might get away with it. 

All their wealth and power was set aside for a day and we got to see them as they are: Cowardly men caught in embarrassing scandal and making every excuse they can to avoid responsibility. 


You know, as we may well be watching the collapse the Murdoch empire, the regional uprising against old regimes in the Middle-East, the potentially catastrophic default of the US debt...I wonder if we will look back at this time in a few years and describe it as the beginning of the end for these old regimes.

If there is one common theme between left and right, public and labour on their leadership and masters, it is a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo. The system is destabilising across time and space.

There's a synchronicity to these things.

The head weasel speaks . . .

SCANDAL ABOUNDS, and Rupert says he's not responsible. Yet the dead-carp smell continues to grow, engulfing Newscorp in a miasma, and there are signs that it might even make it to the US, to become Fox's worst nightmare. Jeremy Kinsman has a fine op-ed comment on the CBC site, "Don't cry for Rupert Murdoch": it's a nice overview of how the whole brouhaha started, and the implications for all the weasels involved, and for us. Like Jeremy says, "The press tycoon broke all the codes essential to a democracy".

Way out of Africa . . .

ACCORDING TO IO9, homo sapiens got hooked-up with homo neanderthalensis on the way out of Africa. The proof resides on a chunk of the X chromosome of non-african h. sapiens.

Neanderthals, one of the last extant hominid species other than our own, left Africa somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 years ago and settled mostly in Europe until they went extinct 30,000 years ago. Early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago, meaning they overlapped with Neanderthals in time and place for at least 20,000 years. On an evolutionary time scale, that's not a ton of time, but could it be enough to leave lasting evidence of human/Neanderthal interbreeding?

According to Dr. Labuda, the answer is an emphatic "yes." Back in the early '00s, he and his team had identified a particular piece of DNA in the human X chromosome that seemed out of place with everything else, and they wondered whether it might have originated from a non-human source.

That answer came with the first sequencing of the Neanderthal genome last year. Dr. Labuda compared 6,000 chromosomes from all over the world to the corresponding part of the Neanderthal sequence. With the exception of people from sub-Saharan Africa - whose ancestors would have been unlikely to come into contact with Neanderthals, since their territories didn't overlap - every chromosome featured evidence of the Neanderthal sequence.

Might help explain why the Republican party has a mastodon as its symbol.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sexual politics . . .

FOREIGN POLICY'S TURTLE BAY BLOG has a fascinating article by Colum Lynch, "The Whistleblower: The movie the U.N. would prefer you didn't see". It's a movie review of "The Whistleblower" with Rachel Weisz as a U.N. policewoman who stumbles into the sordid world of Balkan sex trafficking and finds her fellow U.N. peacekeepers implicated in the trade. Love Rachel, and I can't wait to see it.

It constitutes perhaps the darkest cinematic portrayal of a U.N. operation ever on the big screen, finding particular fault with top U.N. brass, the U.S. State Department, and a major U.S. contractor that supplies American policemen for U.N. missions.

The subject matter is familiar territory for Turtle Bay. A decade ago, I wrote a series of stories on U.N. police misconduct in Bosnia for the Washington Post, including a detailed account of U.S. police abuses and this piece documenting U.N. efforts to quash an investigation by a former Philadelphia cop, David Lamb, into allegations that Romanian peacekeepers participated in sex trafficking.

It sure is a sorry part of the world. Science-fiction author John Ringo has a series of thriller novels about a modern-day Georgian tribe known as the Keldara, who contend with the above. The second novel in the series, situated in the Balkans, "Kildar" is available on-line as are all of them. (Warning: not for the politically-correct or "useful idiots", as Lenin remarked, so don't get a wedgie, but the author goes into a lot of depth about conditions, including UN involvement in nefarious activities that might not be so fictional, after all).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Aesthetics and morality . . .

PERUSING THE SUNDAY NYT, ran across an ad for "Muslim Swim Wear". Such a disturbing denial of feminine freedom, and an insight into the cultural oppression the Umma has to contend with as it lurches further into the 21st century. Contrast that nasty, neurotic mindset with the exquisite Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, with sloth, from last year's Pirelli calendar, a classic sprite tenderly holding one of God's critters. That is one happy sloth. On the left, the daring Alsharifa Laguna, on the right, we have the Alsharifa Sportiva. Oh joy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Start 'em young . . .

Judge for yourself . . .

SUITE101.COM is an interesting site that covers a whole range of human endeavours. Their history section has a fascinating article by Rupert Taylor, "Matthew Begbie: British Columbia's "Hanging Judge"". It's a look at Begbie's time as the first judge of the new colony of British Columbia. These were tough times, in the new colony.

At the age of 39, and unmarried, Begbie arrived in Victoria in November 1858. It was a rough and tumble place with the Fraser River Gold Rush drawing thousands of prospectors and hangers-on.

And, biographer Sydney G. Pettit describes him as, “Fearless and incorruptible, he made his name a terror to evil-doers who, rather than face his stern and impartial justice in the Queen’s court, abstained from violence or fled the country, never to return.”

• • • •

He told one ill-fated wretch standing in the prisoner’s box and seeking the right to appeal his sentence, “It will take six months or more for the colonial secretary to deal with the matter and months more before we learn of his decision. But you will not be interested in what he decides, for you are to be hanged Monday morning.”

Another convicted murderer complained he had not received a fair trial, to which Judge Begbie responded “I shall send up your case for a new trial - by your Maker.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rube would've loved this . . .

LOVE A GOOD RUBE GOLDBERG, and there's this creative bunch, OK GO, who have an incredible RG set-up, "This Too Shall Pass". Worth the watch. Love the TV and the piano, myself.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Perspectives . . .

Monica Joshi, 22, kills some time before her graveyard shift at a Gurgaon call center.

MOTHER JONES has a great article by Andrew Marantz, "My Summer at an Indian Call Center".

Lessons learned: Americans are hotheads, Australians are drunks—and never say where you're calling from.

Every month, thousands of Indians leave their Himalayan tribes and coastal fishing towns to seek work in business process outsourcing, which includes customer service, sales, and anything else foreign corporations hire Indians to do. The competition is fierce. No one keeps a reliable count, but each year there are possibly millions of applicants vying for BPO positions. A good many of them are bright recent college grads, but their knowledge of econometrics and Soviet history won't help them in interviews. Instead, they pore over flashcards and accent tapes, intoning the shibboleths of English pronunciation—"wherever" and "pleasure" and "socialization"—that recruiters use to distinguish the employable candidates from those still suffering from MTI, or "mother tongue influence."

In the end, most of the applicants will fail and return home deeper in debt. The lucky ones will secure Spartan lodgings and spend their nights (thanks to time differences) in air-conditioned white-collar sweatshops.Every month, thousands of Indians leave their Himalayan tribes and coastal fishing towns to seek work in business process outsourcing, which includes customer service, sales, and anything else foreign corporations hire Indians to do. The competition is fierce. No one keeps a reliable count, but each year there are possibly millions of applicants vying for BPO positions. A good many of them are bright recent college grads, but their knowledge of econometrics and Soviet history won't help them in interviews. Instead, they pore over flashcards and accent tapes, intoning the shibboleths of English pronunciation—"wherever" and "pleasure" and "socialization"—that recruiters use to distinguish the employable candidates from those still suffering from MTI, or "mother tongue influence."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

PSA Dep't.

Dear World,

Please stop freaking out about 2012. Our calendar ends there because some Spanish dirtbags invaded our country and we got a little busy, OK?


The Mayans

Silicon Valley . . .

EVERYBODY KNOWS SILICON VALLEY, it's the heart of our solid-state digital world, where all of our goodies originate. A lot of people have no idea of its origins.

Well, there's a video on YouTube that is worthy of your attention.

In this lecture, renowned serial entrepreneur Steve Blank presents how the roots of Silicon Valley sprang not from the later development of the silicon semiconductor but instead from the earlier technology duel over the skies of Germany and secret efforts around (and over) the Soviet Union. World War II, the Cold War and one Stanford professor set the stage for the creation and explosive growth of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. The world was forever changed when the Defense Department, CIA and the National Security Agency acted like today's venture capitalists funding this first wave of entrepreneurship. Steve Blank shows how these groundbreaking early advances lead up to the high-octane, venture capital fueled Silicon Valley we know today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taking Rosie to the movies

In the theme of the last post, I have posted clips from film for Ms. DiManno. It's a war film about those "wars in distant lands" she's so fond of.


Rosie DiManno's Glorious Imperial "Vestigial Tic"

Sometimes I read thwap, and sometimes thwap draws my attention to things that I'd rather not have read. Today it was the Star's shack-rat Rosie DiManno, in which she bludgeons her rhetorical way through the unapologetically liberal-imperialist, war-mongering, Canadian epitaph for Afghanistan.

It's hard to follow her reasoning. Early on she tells us war is part of human nature, apparently because she read some bunker graffiti somewhere Afghanistan.

“War is in your blood. It’s who you are . . . God is never going to make that go away."...War is part of the human condition, a vestigial tic. It will never be erased from our DNA, despite conflict resolution classes for school yard squabbles and UN mediation diplomacy for combatant states. As long as there’s a bully with an army or an oppressed constituency yearning for freedom, kinetic confrontation is inevitable.
My appendix was a vestigial bit and it nearly did me in a couple of years ago. Nuclear weapons might well do us all. . The difference is that the construction of my appendix is encoded in my DNA; the creation of nuclear weapons, and all wars and weapons before and since the first proto-human raised a club to smash another, are not.  The latter is a choice. Those who believe otherwise tend to be the ones who start wars.

The rest of the op-ed involves an incoherent and sneering dismissal of any of the anti-war or more humanitarian sentiments of this country in relation to Afghanistan. You can read on the link because I won't have that much drivel polluting my post. Near the end though, she engages in a such a contortion of moral reflection that I really do believe she wrote this with her head actually jammed in her colon.
Disaster is still as likely as success in Kandahar, even in the narrowed area of operations, Panjwaii, where Canadians have effectively focused their counter-insurgency efforts since 2009. This last Roto conducted 3,000 patrols, 130 operations, 900 shuras, found 300 weapon caches and 250 IEDs.
Americans have now swarmed into that terrain, assuming responsibility for all of Kandahar province. But it’s alarming to hear Gen. David Petraeus, as he takes leave of the Afghanistan overall command, talk about a shift eastward in the coming months, from Taliban strongholds in the south to the lawless border where insurgents have close ties to Al Qaeda and other militant organizations, in what is an undeclared but intensifying war with Pakistan.
Some have snidely opined that Canada has tried to put a veneer of victory on its operations in Kandahar, just as the Americans are now doing to justify Obama’s drawdown of troops. Yet it’s even more mendacious to proclaim a veneer of defeat.
Further, the equation is not only what did Canada do for Afghanistan but what did Afghanistan do for Canada?
Off the top it laid to rest, forever, the dewy-eyed concept of peacekeeping. A blue beret military had its place, an honourable one, in history. But that era has passed, unlikely ever to return.
From the ashes of tacit demobilization, a robust Canadian Forces arose, Phoenix-like — a military fit to stand on guard for righteous wars in distant lands.
Something that was lost has been found.
They are soldiers.
DiManno breathlessly declares the war questionable and mismanaged but also tell us this isn't really important. What is of such esteem according to her, is that all that our apparently "honourable" past of international peacekeeping was too metro for her the Canadian Forces, making them limp and emasculated. Ten years of blood in Afghanistan however, has apparently made them tough and hard, rising, to read between her lines a little,  like a great erection fit to fuck anyone anywhere on the great globe. More blood she is asking for. More wars for the greater glory of the  some abstract idea of Canadian values, the sentiments of a young member of a forward unit,  and the Freudian fantasies of her own mind, and the rhetoric of politicians and cowards across the country.

I'll tell you what's soft, Ms. DiManno. Soft is a country with a soil untouched by war for 65 years. Soft is a country suffering little hardship yet increasing its material wealth to a point unseen in history. Soft-headed is a country that feels  it must send its youth to distant lands to kill and be killed so newspaper columnists and rightwing partisans who've grown-up in such a lucky place can find meaning in their flaccid little lives of Don Cherry and beer.

If this is what passes for comment on the draw down of Canadian combat units in Afghanistan from the national press, then participation in that war has made us ugly and wretched.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

A thoughtful Canadian . . .

KAI NAGATA QUIT HIS JOB. He was CTV’s Quebec City Bureau Chief, based at the National Assembly, mostly covering politics. In many ways, a dream job in Canadian news broadcasting, especially for his age.

I quit my job because the idea burrowed into my mind that, on the long list of things I could be doing, television news is not the best use of my short life. The ends no longer justified the means.

Kai goes on to outline his discontent. He has interesting observations:

TV news is a curious medium. You don’t always know whose interests are being served – or ignored.
• • • •
Consider Fox News. What the Murdoch model demonstrated was that facts and truth could be replaced by ideology, with viewership and revenue going up. Simply put, you can tell less truth and make more money.
• • • •
People like low-nutrition TV, too. And that shapes the internal, self-regulated editorial culture of news.
• • • •
I admit felt a profound discomfort working in an industry that so casually sexualizes its workforce. Every hiring decision is scrutinized using a skewed, unspoken ratio of talent to attractiveness, where attractiveness often compensates for a glaring lack of other qualifications.

Worth the read. H/T to Bruce and Scanner, parts of the ad hoc civilian intelligence network, so to speak.


"Solastalgia" is a term coined by Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht (2010:45, Albrecht et al. 2007)*:

Solastalgia has its origins in the concepts of ‘solace’ and ‘desolation’. Solace is derived from solari and solacium, with meanings connected to the alleviation of distress or to the provision of comfort or consolation in the face of distressing events. Desolation has its origins in solus and desolare with meanings connected to abandonment and loneliness. As indicated above, algia means pain, suffering or sickness. In addition, the concept has been constructed such that it has a ghost reference or structural similarity to nostalgia so that a place reference is imbedded. Hence, literally, solastalgia is the pain or sickness caused by the loss or lack of solace and the sense of isolation connected to the present state of one’s home and territory.
Solastalgia, in contrast to the dislocated spatial and temporal dimensions of nostalgia, relates to a different set of circumstances. It is the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault (physical desolation). It is manifest in an attack on one’s sense of place, in the erosion of the sense of belonging (identity) to a particular place and a feeling of distress (psychological desolation) about its transformation. It is an intense desire for the place where one is a resident to be maintained in a state that continues to give comfort or solace. Solastalgia is not about looking back to some golden past, nor is it about seeking another place as ‘home’. It is the ‘lived experience’ of the loss of the present as manifest in a feeling of dislocation; of being undermined by forces that destroy the potential for solace to be derived from the present. In short, solastalgia is a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home’.
Any context where place identity is challenged by pervasive change to the existing order has potential to deliver solastalgia. New and powerful technologies have enabled transitions to occur to social and natural environments at a speed that makes adaptation difficult if not impossible17. While some might respond to such stress with nostalgia and want to return to a past state/place where they felt more comfortable, others will experience solastalgia and express a strong desire to sustain those things that provide solace. Solastalgia, as opposed to atavistic nostalgia, can also be future orientated, as those who suffer from it might actively seek to create new things or engage in collective action that provides solace and communion in any given environment. Solastalgia has no necessary connection to the past, it may seek its alleviation in a future that has to be designed and created.

I thought might resonate with what some readers are feeling in this Canada and World.

*Albrecht, Glenn. 2005. “Solastalgia: a new concept in health and identity.” PAN: Philosophy Activism Nature 3:41-55.
Albrecht, Glenn et al. 2007. “Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change.” Australasian Psychiatry 15(s1):S95-S98.

Friday, July 08, 2011

An oldie . . .

BUT GOODIE. Oh my, yes. From Dan in Algiers, this stunning gem of how to march a conversation, as some telemarketer's mind implodes.

Is it the water?

ALEX MIGHT HAVE A POINT: “Your people, sir, is nothing but a great beast”. Looking at the latest from People of Wal-Mart, Hamilton was probably being considerate.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Self-portrait . . .

ISN'T SHE MARVELOUS? More at the Daily Mail, with explanation. Her expression reminds me of Wallace and Gromit, somehow. Anyway, check out the full-size pictures.

Blue Balls . . .

NATURAL NEWS is a site devoted to health and nutrition. They have a very interesting report on blueberries: "Blueberries faked in cereals, muffins, bagels and other food products". Apparently all those "blueberries" found in cereals and muffin mixes are artificial confections.

Where did the blueberries go?

They certainly didn't end up in Total Blueberry Pomegranate Cereal. This cereal, made by General Mills, contains neither blueberries nor pomegranates. They're nowhere to be found. But the cereal is made with red #40, blue #2 and other artificial colors. And it's even sweetened with sucralose, a chemical sweetener. And that's in addition to the sugar, corn syrup and brown sugar syrup that's already on the label.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Army 2040 in the other universe

MoS draws our attention to the UK climate secretary's comments regarding the threat of war from climate change. This comes in the wake of recent reports and scenario planning, highlighted by our Alison, from Canada's military describing similar threats to security posed by climate change.

The critical problem with the military's scenario planning is that it implicitly assumes an economy strong enough to support the current rate of technological progression and the consequent influences on the Canadian Forces. If you click through some of the links here, or even just consider the generational advances in oh, say fighter aircraft in the past 50 years (the F-35 we are told is 5th generation, the CF-188 fourth, and so on back to 1st generation Sabres and such), you'll note the hegemonic assumption of infinite linear technological progress that underpins so much of civilian modernity. We assume the that in a few months there'll be a newer, more powerful personal computers, flashier smartphones, more efficient cars, etc. The military likewise assumes more hi-tech kit.

However, if you, or the military for that matter, actually looks at what the implications of oil depletion and climate shifts imply for the that sort of technological progress mean for us and them, then we start to see a different picture.

Oil prices and climate change will collapse economies, and that means aside from massive social disruption, the end of the economy that supports the military-industrial complex which permits the continuing development of incredibly expensive and complex weapons and other martial systems. It also means the ability fuel, repair, and maintain existing systems will be under severe strain as subcontractors and suppliers go bankrupt. It may even have an effect on the morale of military personnel who are, like the rest of us, accustomed to high wages and flashy toys. A government attempting navigate climate and oil crises induced economic and social disruption may not have the revenue base to support feeding, arming, and paying the military at rates they've grown accustomed to, let alone deploy them overseas. The idea that Canada might have the economic and public support to meaningfully commit the CF in an international crisis might be as fictional as the Zefra scenario they came up with.

Further, if one looks at the past few years of CF deployment, one can see a distinction between optional deployments and necessary deployments. The optional deployments have been the overseas interventions. Afghanistan, Haiti, etc, while politically expedient, posed no direct challenge to Canada and thus, frankly, did not objectively require Canadian participation. The necessary deployments are those more in keeping with the Canadian Forces primary mission of defending Canada.

Excluding the Arctic sovereignty exercises and routine intercepts of Russian bombers, virtually all of these type of operations have been tactical responses to extreme environmental events of the sort expected of climate change. In the late 1990s we saw troops deployed for Manitoba flood relief. We had the largest mobilisation of the CF since Korea or WW2 in the 1998 Ice Storm in Ontario and Quebec, involving 15 000 regular and reserve troops (I was one of them). There have been forest fires. And this year again there was military flood relief in two provinces. Thus, the defining role of the armed forces in coming years might well be in these sort of operations, termed "aid to the civil power": multiple concurrent natural disaster relief efforts across the country involving anywhere from several hundred to more than ten thousand troops. While they may not be regular rotational operations like UN peace support or the current war in South Asia, they will require significant and random very short notice logistics support.
On the security side, the North American strategic situation bears consideration. If the US were any other country, the boffins might be assessing it in something like the following terms.  
Canada borders a militarily and economically superior state entering social and economic crisis. The political environment is paralysed, with the two major parties increasingly unable to reconcile their ideological differences enough to effectively resolve growing socio-economic disparities. Climate change too has become an ideologically divisive issue. Recently, several very right-wing populist-nationalist candidates have emerged as credible presidential contenders. Resource rich Canada presently maintains friendly ties with this country, and is economically dependent on its markets. However, if instability continues and the political environment fails to thaw, the nature of this relationship may change to Canada's detriment.

As a footnote to this last comment, Canadian politics and business includes influential players who appear ideologically beholden to the United States and are actively seeking to deepen Canadian economic and military integration with the US despite the latter's increasing instability. There exists potential for the emergence Canadian nationalist groups that resist integration efforts with violence. Violent resistance groups are not unknown in the Canadian context as similar activity has occurred subnationally in the past with Quebec and Aboriginal armed resistance to federal policies. The nationalist traditions and culture of the Canadian Forces means that these groups could attract membership with military experience. Moreover, depending on the policy approach adopted by Canadian politicians, serious issues may emerge within the CF membership.

In sum then, Canada's armed forces in 2040 may find itself in circumstances very different to the ones envisioned by contemporary planners. The global digital army of the future might well remain in the text and images of commissioned science-fiction and PowerPoint slides. Instead, we might find ourselves with an armed forces that must accommodate acute shortages of materiel, a less than stable and possibly hostile southern border, as well as providing aid where possible to victims of frequent domestic floods, fires, and droughts.

Demographic distortion . . .

FOREIGN POLICY is an interesting site, with an interesting article by Mara Hvistendahl, "Where Have All the Girls Gone?". You may be aware of the problem, but there are something like 160 million women MISSING from the population in Asia.

How did more than 160 million women go missing from Asia? The simple answer is sex selection -- typically, an ultrasound scan followed by an abortion if the fetus turns out to be female -- but beyond that, the reasons for a gap half the size of the U.S. population are not widely understood. And when I started researching a book on the topic, I didn't understand them myself.

Now, observers have been assuming that the cause of this is the patriarchal societies predisposition for male heirs. Well, it seems that there are other influences.

I thought I would focus on how gender discrimination has persisted as countries develop. The reasons couples gave for wanting boys varies: Sons stayed in the family and took care of their parents in old age, or they performed ancestor and funeral rites important in some cultures. Or it was that daughters were a burden, made expensive by skyrocketing dowries.

But that didn't account for why sex selection was spreading across cultural and religious lines. Once found only in East and South Asia, imbalanced sex ratios at birth have recently reached countries as varied as Vietnam, Albania, and Azerbaijan. The problem has fanned out across these countries, moreover, at a time when women are driving many developing economies. In India, where women have achieved political firsts still not reached in the United States, sex selection has become so intense that
by 2020 an estimated 15 to 20 percent of men in northwest India will lack female counterparts. I could only explain that epidemic as the cruel sum of technological advances and lingering sexism. I did not think the story of sex selection's spread would lead, in part, to the United States.

From the cornfield . . .

A classic. Makes me think of Stevie . . .

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Fireworks . . .

WIRED has a great piece on DIY fireworks. It seems that there are those who find commercial fireworks dull and banal, and some have resorted to making their own.

Essentially all public shows will use mass-produced factory fireworks, mostly from China; competition and regulation have largely snuffed out U.S. makers. These fireworks are cheap and abundant, great for post-barbecue reverie but unsatisfying to discerning eyes.

“In municipal displays you’ll see quantity over quality,” said Niesen, a member of Northern Lighter Pyrotechnics. “For something really spectacular, the public should come to the conventions of fireworks clubs.”

Fireworks clubs? Somehow, I don't think there are very many Canadian hobbyists. With the extreme firearms paranoia of urban Canadians, I bet the purchase of all the firework fixin's is prohibited.

Anyway, check out how BIG some of those fireworks are! AWESOME!

George Michael at Toronto Pride march?

Oops, my bad! I'm told that's just Toronto city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (above) indulging his creepy and very peculiar fetish (well, one of them anyway) for lesbians who support justice for the Palestinians.

Questions for the Boat People . . .

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS IS UNIMPRESSED. And he has some hard questions for these well meaning mariners. To read all about them, click on the link.

The tale of the Gaza "flotilla" seems set to become a regular summer feature, bobbing along happily on the inside pages with an occasional update. A nice sidebar for reporters covering the Greek debt crisis: a built-in mild tension of "will they, won't they?"; a cast of not very colorful characters but one we almost begin to feel we know personally. Such cheery and breezy slogans—"the audacity of hope" and "free Gaza"—and such an easy storyline that it practically writes itself. Since Israel adopts a posture that almost guarantees a reaction of some sort in the not-too-distant future, and since there was such a frisson of violence the last time the little fleet set sail, there's no reason for it not to become a regular seasonal favorite.

It seems safe and fair to say that the flotilla and its leadership work in reasonably close harmony with Hamas, which constitutes the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. The political leadership of this organization is headquartered mainly in Gaza itself. But its military coordination is run out of Damascus, where the regime of Bashar Assad is currently at war with increasingly large sections of the long-oppressed Syrian population. Refugee camps, some with urgent humanitarian requirements, are making their appearance on the border between Syria and Turkey (the government of the latter being somewhat sympathetic to the purposes of the flotilla). In these circumstances, isn't it legitimate to strike up a conversation with the "activists" and ask them where they come out on the uprising against hereditary Baathism in Syria?

Only a few weeks ago, the Hamas regime in Gaza became the only governing authority in the world—by my count—to express outrage and sympathy at the death of Osama Bin Laden. As the wavelets lap in the Greek harbors, and the sunshine beats down, doesn't any journalist want to know whether the "activists" have discussed this element in their partners' world outlook? Does Alice Walker seriously have no comment?

Hamas is listed by various governments and international organizations as a terrorist group. I don't mind conceding that that particular word has been used in arbitrary ways in the past. But what concerns me much more is the official programmatic adoption, by Hamas, of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This disgusting fabrication is a key foundational document of 20th-century racism and totalitarianism, indelibly linked to the Hitler regime in theory and practice. It seems extraordinary to me that any "activist" claiming allegiance to human rights could cooperate at any level with the propagation of such evil material. But I have never seen any of them invited to comment on this matter, either.

Of course, Hamas and Hezbollah have a vested interest in things as they are. Look at all those men with their RPG's and AK-47's, strutting around and being macho — beats working for a living, don't it? After all, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is the fact that the Arab world just doesn't have what it takes to off Israel. They tried in 1948, 1967, 1973; they've tried German rocket scientists and Pakistani/North Korean atomic scientists, without result.

Then again, a lot of "progressives" aren't known for depth of analysis or historical perspective. The silence of all the Left on the horror show of Bashar Assaad and the Syrian oppression is disgusting, but par for the course.

Monday, July 04, 2011

"The Freedom Ride of this era"

Toronto Star reporter Jim Rankin is filing live reports from Greece onboard the Canadian boat Tahrir carrying 19 Canadians, two of whom have been arrested and held without charges. The Tahrir is taking on water, having been slammed into a cement wall while being detained by Greek authorities.

So, other than Jim Rankin, are any other Canadian media interested in the Canadian boat in the Freedom Flotilla currently being illegally detained by Greece? Or are we going to have to get all our news of it from The Jerusalem Post and  The Guardian :
"Spiros Spirou, the provincial official in charge of the Ionian islands, told the Guardian that he "admires and supports the activists' struggle" and said he would make no attempt to stop the ship if it left harbour. "Greece loves peace, but at this moment it can't confront more powerful economic forces," claimed Spirou, adding that official attempts to tie the flotilla up in bureaucracy and paperwork were merely a pretext to preventing it from sailing at all."
h/t Antonia Z.  #flotilla2

Fixed : Link to The Star's Jim Rankin

Sunday, July 03, 2011

It is staggering...

...that the most liberal, rights inclined, democratic states in the world, states with armed forces drilled from recruit school on the Geneva Conventions regarding prisoners of war could so completely fail to find a coherent policy on the treatment of prisoners of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Australia this time:

Australia went to war in Afghanistan without a clear policy on how to deal with enemy detainees, according to secret papers that reveal one of Canada's military allies was just as fraught over what to do with captured militants.
When a policy was adopted, the then chief of the armed forces expressed reservations about the legality of the agreed approach.
The documents also show that the public was never told about the death of an Iranian man captured by Australian troops in 2003.
The papers, obtained under freedom of information laws by the Sydney-based non-profit Public Interest Advocacy Centre, reveal utter confusion at the highest levels of the Australian government and the Department of Defence over how to deal with enemy detainees.
On Feb. 25, 2002, as Australian troops fought in Afghanistan, armed forces chief Admiral Chris Barrie wrote to the country's then defence minister complaining his commanders were being put at risk.
"There is currently no clear government policy on the handling of personnel who may be captured by the ADF," the Australian Defence Force, Barrie wrote. "Defence and in particular ADF commanders are currently accepting the risk flowing from the lack of government policy."
Maybe it all went south early on when the Yanks created that offshore military prison complex and started fiddling with the semantics over categories of combatant. Maybe it was the idea that we were helping one side in a vicious civil war, and making too much hay about prisoner standards would cause problems. Perhaps this confused their allies and created the potential for political problems should, say, Canada or the Aussies hold too close their own decades-honed standards and procedures regarding prisoners.

In any condition, the mess goes on.

Pictures of the past . . .

Today's Inspiration is an interesting blog devoted to illustrators. Some of 'em are Canadian, eh. But check 'em all out, glorious work.

After Franklin Arbuckle, Rex Woods was probably Maclean's magazine's most prolific cover artist during the 50's. Some have called Woods "the Norman Rockwell of Canada".