Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Conservapedia is Back

It's like when they put Family Guy back on the air, I am ready for more laughs! I guess this means that the Schlaflys were not poseurs secretly ashamed their base, just cheapskates unwilling to pay for appropriate bandwidth.


Another Canadian Held by The US Government

I had heard about this case vaguely, but to hear this family's plight on the radio tonight was something else. The story to recap is one of an Iranian couple and their Canadian born son (who is therefore a Canadian citizen) being held in some detention centre by the US Government.

From what I can gather, the family does not know why they are being held and they are being detained in separate quarters. What have these people done to deserve such shabby treatment. Moreover, if this is what is happening, where's Harper and his "stand up for Canada" rhetoric. Stop bending over for Bush and stand up already.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

3 = 1 or Peter Kent's Middle East Non-Solution

Jason Cherniak has been talking about how Peter Kent, a likely Tory star candidate in the next election apparently endorsed a three-state solution to the whole Israel-Palestinian kerfluffle. Jason unpacks the utter lack of appeal that this would have here.

I want to go one step further, a three state solution would be a de facto continuation of a single state with some territories under occupation. What could keep two sovereign states from uniting? Even if they did not formally unite into one Palestinian state, then for all intents and purposes they could act as one. What would Kent block? Could the two states have free trade? A customs union? What about a common currency?

Moreover, who would enforce such things? I don't see the UN doing it. I don't see NATO doing it. Really, only Israel could stand in the way of a united Gaza and West Bank. In effect then, neither of Kent's two ministates would have independence of any real sort.
Picture: Peter Kent once thought he was Howard Beale

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The Conservapedia Post-Mortem

It's now been over 24 hours since I've been able to load up Conservapedia. I'm not alone in not getting it to work. My only question now is, did it jump or was it pushed? I.e.: was it taken down out of embarrassment or were the servers overloaded?


Monday, February 26, 2007

What if Pakistan was Iran?

It seems as though Pakistan is getting a fairly free ride on the issue of capturing Al Qaeda (remember those guys, with the airplanes and the buildings and stuff). What I wonder is, what if Bin Laden made Iran his home at least part of the time? (Something he is almost certainly doing with Pakistan.)

This would undoubtedly be used in the current attempts at building war fever. So to recap, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and is probably the home of Bin Laden's tree fort or whatever he lives in. Iran is years away from a bomb and none of the terror groups they support can hold a candle to Al Qaeda. (Remember kids, Iran does NOT support Al Qaeda, it's a Sunni-Shi'a thing.)

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The Conservapedia Meme

Conservapedia has gotten itself an awful lot of attention, and now I can't get it to load. Either it's been taken down out of embarrassment or its servers have been overloaded by gawkers.



Martin Scorsese got his Oscar.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is this what the early 1970s were like?

I had a hell of a time finding a gas station that was actually open today. There was a fire or something at a refinery and so gas is in short supply around here. When I did get to a station, I found that the advertised price was bullshit as they only had premium gas left. Is it legal to post the price of regular when you only have premium? I felt ripped off.

Incidentally, the article I linked to mentioned that this was Esso's second fire since December. Some one better tell them that gasoline is flammable, sheesh!


Is This a Parody?

I'm just wondering, because, well, Conservapedia seems so much like, say,

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Unanimously Against Indefinite Detention

The Supreme Court has come out unanimously against security certificates.

Q: What does it all mean for Harper's government?

A: He's got a lot of work ahead of him stacking the courts if all of the Supreme Court Justices are in favour of basic rights for the accused.

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Where Would Harper Fit On This List?

Or would he fit here at all? As far as I know all he's said is that he would not have committed troops. Has he ever formally said that he now thinks Iraq to have been a bad idea for the US and its coalition.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Questions for Lewis Mackenzie

Now that Macleans has selected 50 Leading Voices to comment on their stories, we get to read what Lewis Mackenzie thinks about Afghanistan and our mission there:
"It's too bad we have to 'sell' helping 95% of a population that through no fault of its own has been brutalized for over three decades and is now on the slow road to recovery. Whatever happened to the majority of Canadians wanting to 'do the right thing'?"
Interesting, but Mackenzie doesn't understand the problem that many people have with this mission.

First of all, is it even possible to do anything that approaches "the right thing" in Afghanistan? This is a nation that is resistant to the aid of outsiders, and operates with a profoundly different social system than anything we'd recognize. There is a long history of tribal strife in Afghanistan. Moreover, the folks running the place now are hardly Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Is the current mission, described by Gen. Hillier as being one of killing "scumbags" the way to do the "right thing?" Why do we need Leopard tanks - designed to fight a Soviet tank assault on the plains of Europe - rolling around taking out one or two guys with a mortar or a band of young men with AK-47s?

Is this the right "right thing" for us to be doing? You know the rest of the world is not exactly hunky dory these days. Why not send troops to keep the peace in Lebanon or try to make a difference in Darfur? What about Haiti, in our own backyard, that place needs some help, maybe not soldiers, but something.

To portray those questioning the current Afghanistan mission as being disinterested in global good citizenship is intellectually dishonest.

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Steyn vs. Bloom's Taxonomy

Once again, Macleans hasn't posted his column online (send me the link if they do). This time he asserts that George Bush recommended a book to him. Additionally Steyn asserts that Bush is very widely read in comparison to "powerful congressional committee chairmen." Which ones Mark? Did you ask all of them? Who are the powerful ones anyway?

Anyway, Bush, in this description asked Steyn if he had read the book. Does this mean that Bush read it? I ask people all the time if they have read books, some of them I have read and I am looking to recommend (as Steyn assumes), in other cases I am looking for a recommendation.

But maybe I'm being too mean to Steyn, maybe he edited down some more revealing detail of the conversation. I don't know that anyone has seriously accused Bush of illiteracy, the reliance of modern political figures on teleprompters means that Bush probably can read without having to sound out too many of the words.

What sets Bush apart and what makes all this alleged reading all the more appalling is that he seems to have learned nothing from it. His war is a mess and there were plenty of historical predictors. I don't even need to say the "V" word either, there was the British experience in Iraq, there was the American experience in the Philippines, the French in Algeria. The planning for Iraq considered none of this. Bush should have done something prior to firing Rummy in 2006. Knowledge is the lowest form of learning (if you believe Bloom). Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation - all of these are higher levels of learning. Bush may read, I'm not sure that he comprehends.

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Mark Steyn Again

I hope that this is the close of "Mark Steyn, WTF?" week but then you never know with that guy. Anyway, Steyn's central argument is something about how Europe is doomed because the Muslims in Europe have a higher birthrate. Steyn seems alarmingly comfortable with genocide but stops short of advocating it because it wouldn't work in his estimation. Or something like that. Anyway, I'm fairly sure that Dennis Perrin's post today is a parody of Steyn. Read it for yourself and judge.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Quotes: Galbraith and Strummer

Here is something from the opening of The Affluent Society:
“Wealth is not without its advantages and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive. But, beyond doubt, wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding. The poor man has always a precise view of his problem and its remedy: he hasn’t enough and he needs more. The rich man can assume or imagine a much greater variety of ills and he will be correspondingly less certain of their remedy.”
Which reminded me of this bit from London Calling's "I'm Not Down":
"If it's true a rich man leads a sad life
That's what they say, from day to day
Then what do the poor do with their lives?
On judgment day, with nothin' to say?"

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I am shocked! Shocked that anyone would call Harper "far right"

I was reading Cherniak's post about Stephen Taylor's little pants-wetting over CTV's use of the term "Far Right." Cherniak makes the point that Dion is allowed to characterize Harper as he sees fit. Fair enough. What I want to know though is why the Conservatives are so cowed by the term "far right" all of a sudden? Oh wait, they want a majority. Anyone serious examination of Harper's connections should scream "far right" - or at least to the right of mainstream Canadian politics. From the National Citizens Coalition to his stance on Iraq, Harper has lots of far-right credentials.

Oh, and one more thing, Taylor makes the point that CTV needs to address the "issue" of kid gloves. Issue? Please, Harper won't speak to anyone who doesn't treat him with kid gloves. Ask the National Press Gallery.

The Conservatives like to talk tough. They talk tough about terror and law and order, but really, what a bunch of wusses. One soft interview - ON A MORNING SHOW and they start crying in their milk. No one mentioned that either. They probably put Dion in between some guy with zoo animals and a child xylophone prodigy. It's softball TV.

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Our Own MacArthur?

That's how Michael Byers decribes Canada's top general, Rick Hillier. Hillier seems to see his roll in part as being the trash-talker in chief. He also thinks it's his job to "sell" the war to Canadians. But beyond that, it seems as though Hillier is trying to tell us all what the scope of the mission is:
The Martin government also assumed Canada would contribute to the combat mission for a limited time only. But Hillier changed his tune shortly after Stephen Harper was elected: "From NATO's perspective, they look at this as a 10-year mission, right? Minimum. There's going to be a huge demand for Canada to contribute over the longer period of time."

Hillier promised Martin that the combat mission would not preclude Canadian participation in UN peacekeeping missions elsewhere. He's since broken that promise, ruling out troops for Lebanon and Darfur on the basis that Canada is fully committed in Afghanistan.

Sorry Rick, this is a democracy, the military gets marching orders from its civilian masters, it's not the other way around.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Steyn on Genocide

Andrew Sullivan has discovered that Mark Steyn is a bit too comfortable with genocide. Dinesh D'Souza and others have admitted that sometimes it is a strategy of the right-wing noise machine to take ultra-extreme views, views that they may find abhorrent, but do so to push the "middle ground" rightward.

The question is, do we give Mark Steyn that much credit? The fact that Steyn describes what Milosevic and his generals did as a "cull" of Muslims ought to give us all pause. This man is sick and will do anything and say anything to promote his completely disturbing view of reality. As a Canadian I am embarrassed by his words.

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Nerd Fight!

Torontoist points out that someone has gone and carved an apple shape out of Windows Vista ads at the King and Queen subway stations. (Incidentally, until I made this post, I had no idea that each Toronto subway station had a Wikipedia entry.)

I wonder if this is the work of an Apple partisan or just desperation on the part of someone fed up with the Vista marketing blitz hitting Toronto. Jam did you do this?

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Do As I Say...

It's a statistic that I've seen in a variety of places, and repeated yet again here. Those in the Bible Belt of the US and those who identify as evangelicals are more likely to be divorced. For what it's worth the stats cited in the above post were compiled by George Barna, a born-again Christian. All the focusing on the family and the attempts to "defend" marriage seem to not have been paying off. Why?

I have a few ideas of my own, but for now, it's too late to get into them.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

More on Harper's Kangaroo Courts

It's behind a firewall here, but the Globe had a great editorial yesterday about what is wrong with Harper's judicial selections.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Geocentrism is the New Creationism?

We've had half a millenium of assuming that the earth goes around the sun, and now there are some folks that want to refight Copernican and Galilean understandings of the universe?

These aren't just any people either, one of them is a Texas state congressman. Apparently they have a website espousing these views (along with some of that old-time anti-Semitism). It sort of reminds me of the time cube site to be honest, except they seem to be more serious.

What are the geocentrists thinking? Is it a sort of test of faith that you should be able to swallow a very absurd view of the natural world?

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Canadian Law For Dummies or Why Police Should Not Pick Judges

I've now seen another voice trying to assure me that police picking judges is okay. In this case it's from the right-wing hacks who pass as the editors of Macleans:
Nor do we have a problem with Mr. Harper's inclusion of a police representative on the JACs. It is only natural that lawyers and judges would want to monopolize the process, but the community is better served by a multiplicity of informed viewpoints.
Is the view of one group - cops now a "multiplicity?" What they - and everyone who supports this stupid plan - fail to see is that Canada's courts (like those in most industrialized nations) are adversarial in nature. The police are typically on the side of the prosecution. This manner of selecting judges is tantamount to letting the crown put a finger on the scales of justice. It doesn't matter whether we trust cops or think that they are nice or good people or whatever, in criminal law they are not a disinterested party. Watch one episode of Law & Order and you can figure whether or not the cops want to convict the accused. They are, for better or worse, part of an adversarial system.

Picture: Craig Bromell, do you want this man picking your judges?
Video: The Clash - "Police On My Back"

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fantasy Reading

No, I'm not talking about the section your bookstore where every paperback cover has one of either a dragon, a wizard, or some kind of dude with pointy ears. Rather, here's what the Pentagon thought it would take to transition Iraq into some kind of functioning democratic, pluralistic state. This sort of "planning" was so amateurish that future generations studying this time period may well develop some kind of theory that Rumsfeld wanted to lose in Iraq, just because his plans for winning were so unrealistic.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

John Manley Is Wrong About Anti-Terrorism Laws

Apparently Manley's comments on Macleans' new site have caused a stir. I think Manley is dead wrong, here are a couple particulars that stand out to me:
"I believe that Cabinet and Parliament got the balance right in 2001-02. And I do not believe that anything has changed to make that balance inappropriate today."
In 2001-02? At that time we were still in collective post-9/11 freakout mode (and understandably so). We thought (at least I did) that we'd be averaging one or two terror attacks in North America on a 9/11 scale every year. We have now the advantage of distance to understand that maybe some laws were draconian.
"I believe there are adequate checks on the use of these powers, such as mandatory judicial review, to ensure that they are not abused."
Apparently Manley hasn't been following Harper's plans for the courts.
"And the most important civil liberty is freedom from fear of harm on the part of the civilian population, without which our other liberties mean very little."
Yeah, just ask Maher Arar about how fearsome Syrian prison is. Arbitrary arrest and/or rendition is something to be afraid of too. I can't help but get the sense that when someone with the kind of privilege that Manley has as a former cabinet minister says stuff like this, his assumption is something like "Oh well, arrest and rendition could never happen to me, John Manley, or my buddies in government and industry." He cannot conceive how these laws might be frightening to those less politically connected.

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Guided By Voices

I just bought GBV's best of, Human Amusements at Hourly Rates at Soundscapes today. Wow. I really should have gotten into this band sooner, they are awesome.

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Profiles In Tastefulness: Blogging Tories Edition

It's all over the news, but in case you missed it, there was a bomb attack on bus full of elite Iranian soldiers. Such tactics are often decried as illegal or immoral, particularly by conservatives. However, when such tactics are used on the Iranians, at least one Blogging Tory finds it hilarious! Get a load of this zinger:
"Things haven't been so Sunni lately."
It's funny because it plays on the word "sunny" and the name of one sect of Islam. Did you see how that works? Oh what laughter!

Wait a sec, Sunni extremists in south-eastern Iran? Doesn't that border on Afghanistan? Hey isn't that where Canadian soldiers are locking horns with those Sunni extremists known as the Taliban? I wonder how the Blogging Tories would feel if it came out that the bomb used in Iran was of a similar design to those used in Kandahar. Kind of ruins the joke, eh?

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From reading Dostoevsky's The Eternal Husband:
"The most monstrous monster is the monster with noble feelings"

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What the Attack Ads Say

Paul Wells has posted several interesting observations on the Conservative attack ads as they appear in Quebec. Notably, he critiques the mention of Chretien:
"When I see an attack ad based on Chrétien and Dion, I think: the Liberals' best two years in Quebec in the past 15 were the ones when that old bleu, Lucien Bouchard, was fuming about Chrétien and Dion."
I think that Harper may believe his own propaganda about Chrétien. I think he perceives Chrétien as a really awful Prime Minister and would like nothing more than to be able to continue dragging his name through the mud.

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A Message for John Boehner

Apparently the distinguished gentleman from Ohio got all choked up talking about how the troop surge was going to really really help things in Iraq. Some have pointed out that this is a textbook case of crocodile tears. I have to agree given that I can't figure out what exactly Boehner himself has sacrificed in this war. Anyway, since he's crying like a little girl, I think a song directed at Britney Spears might be an appropriate response:

Awww, feel better now?

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The Only Way to Run Iraq

According to reports on a new security plan, apparently the place only functions as a police state. Here's a quote that wouldn't look out of place in Saddam's own playbook:
"[Lt.-Gen. Abboud Gambar] said the government would break into homes and cars it deemed dangerous, open mail and eavesdrop on phone calls."
The choice in Iraq now is really between partition and dictatorship. I cannot see any other options being viable.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Let's Give Criminals Weapons and Combat Training

That was probably too cheeky of a title for this NYT article (via HuffPo) that informs us that the US Army is giving more and more people with criminal records waivers to sign up.

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What a Computer is For

Nathan linked to an article by some guy in The Guardian. Apparently the Guardian guy doesn't like Macs. Here is his principle reason for preferring PCs:
"PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC)."
By "people" I think he means IT types, gamers, or others with an almost preternatural understanding of computers. I am not one of them, when I was a child I was convinced that computers understood conversational English. In the dark days of DOS they clearly did not. Apparently the sort of person who can easily customize a PC also understands what in the hell "the Tardis" is. I have vague memories of Doctor Who, but what is a Tardis? A time machine? A robot? A vacuum cleaner? All of the above?

I would point out that you can also build an automobile from scratch, and customize it into oblivion. Why don't people do that? Well, they realize that in a modern society there is a division of labour, unless you work on cars for a living (or can afford it as a hobby) it's just not worth your while. We also don't build our own furniture or hunt and kill our own food (unless again, that is your profession or hobby, in which case I thank you for my nice desk and delicious steak).

I once raised this point with a Microsoft-certified IT guy and he maintained that customizing PCs is easy. He then gave an example using words like "registry" and "formatting" to show me that this is a simple task. I think my confused face was the most substantial rebuttal that I could have delivered.

Macs aren't perfect, I think even Mac-heads admit that. But the customization argument is a sort of red herring for 90% of computer users who buy a Dell or an HP off the shelf. If we are to be sensible in this debate we must argue on merits like reliability, software availability, speed of processing and the like.
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A Miracle Drug

If it wasn't for the whole reefer madness thing, that's what we'd call pot by now. More evidence here. It will probably be regarded by future historians as an act of cruelty that we did not act faster to give people access to pot for medicinal purposes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Just wondering...

Is this what happened to this money?

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What would you do with US$2300?

That's what the Iraq & Afghanistan conflicts will have cost every single American by 2008. The rest of Eric Margolis' column basically documents how badly that money was spent. I have to admit that I skimmed, because it's just too depressing to read in detail. Considering that things are going so badly in Iraq, maybe Bush would have been better off just lighting cigars with $1000 bills or something.

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The Kids are Alright

So says a Fraser Institute report that was quote by BlogTO. Every time I've mused about taking a teaching job in the GTA, someone says something about how kids in the "city" are gun-toting psychos with severe retardation. Sorry, but you're wrong, put away those stereotypes and shut up.

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Stacked Crooked

That's the way the courts are going to be (apologies to The New Pornographers). By the way, now apparently the cops get to pick judges. These are courts of law, not an international figure skating contest. I can't wait for the Fantino court...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lord, Save Me From Your Followers

...reads a popular bumper sticker. Jeremy Duncan posted this under the heading "Embarrassed to be a Theist." Me too, Jeremy me too.

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Here We Go Again

Remember how everyone said that they wouldn't buy another war being sold by Cheney and company on false pretenses? Well, it's happening again, only this time with Iran.

The only question now is whether Stephen Harper will take us along for the ride. Remember his words on Iraq:
"Today, the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet Prime Minister Jean Chretien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations.

This is a serious mistake. For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need."
Once again, I believe this to be one of Chretien's better legacies.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Love Will Tear Us Apart

This is probably the most covered new wave/post-punk song, I've heard it every which way you can imagine. Nonetheless, John Sakamoto found a great version by Susanna and the Magical Orchestra. Enjoy.
Picture: Ian Curtis

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Lying Liars

Juan Cole has an excellent post on the Pentagon's attempts to cherry-pick intelligence in order to foment war fever. In it he disassembles the lies told by Douglas Feith in a CNN interview. Reading the whole thing is informative, but here's the money quote:
Former No. 3 at the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, has been found guilty by the Inspector General of "inappropriate" behavior in setting up a rogue unit inside the Pentagon to cherry pick intelligence so as to get up a war. Of course, the Inspector General was careful to say, this treasonous activity was not "illegal." Lying about sex is illegal. Lying the country into a war that kills or wounds 25,000 US troops is just "inappropriate."
This group of charlatans is probably not going to get taken down like the Nixon administration was, and yet the more that is revealed about how the operate the more I think they are going to leave a taste of Watergate cynicism in our mouths.

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Go Ahead and Make Me

That's the underlying sentiment behind Harper's stand on global warming - especially the way Dana of the Galloping Beaver sees it. It seems that Harper was ready to declare the problem solved when he appointed a Very Angry Man (and a very clueless one at that) to the environment portfolio. When pushed to actually do something, Harper won't, his approach on the environment is all sound and fury signifying nothing.

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Friday, February 09, 2007


I flipped between CNN and BBC World this morning, here's an example of what I found:

CNN: A fashion show for new Army uniforms followed by anxious anticipation of a press conference on Anna Nicole Smith's autopsy.

BBC: An extended report on whether Rwandan President Paul Kagame was complicit in war crimes.

I know that the Beeb is far from perfect, but given the alternative...

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Vickie Lynn Hogan

At least that's what Anna Nicole Smith's birth name was. Anyway, celebrity deaths aren't really my concern here, but the wall-to-wall media coverage is disgusting. It wouldn't be much worse than if they just played this on the air:

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The Good The Bad and The Queen

Great album, possibly the worst band name ever.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why Does Stephen Harper Hate Toronto's Waterfront?

Aside from enabling professional city-wrecker and all-around asshole Robert Deluce to make his stupid airline here, now the feds want to put in new regulations that would cripple ferry service to the Toronto Islands. I suppose to be fair, Paul Martin started this trend, but here I thought that the Tories wanted smaller government.

Here's an idea, instead of taking away the popular wheat board that most farmers want, how about taking away your stupid Toronto Port Authority that no one wants (other than Robert Deluce). Stop regulating and ruining Toronto's waterfront.

You may file this under the "mismanagement" section of Conservative waste, mismanagement, and corruption.

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Is There a Cookout? Because I Smell Pork!

Jeff Jedras has posted on a nice little gift that the Tories are giving to the tobacco industry in a Conservative riding. Say it with me: Conservative waste, mismanagement and corruption.

Edit: Eugene Plawiuk has an interesting take on the same story.

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Farewell to a Blathering Idiot

Since my local cable provider has switched out CNN Headline News in favour of BBC World, I guess I won't be subjected to any more of the rantings of Glenn Beck. It was nice to peer into the world of far-right talk radio for a bit and see how bizarre these demagogues really are. Now it's nice that this idiot is gone. Good riddance.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More Embarrassing Quotes

Juan Cole has another zinger from one of the Iraq war architects, Douglas Feith as he conversed with an unnamed State Dept. Official:
State Dept. Official: "Doug, after the smoke clears, what is the plan?"
Feith: "Think of Iraq as being like a computer. And think of Saddam as like a processor. We just take out the old processor, and put in a new one--Chalabi."
State Dept. Official: "Put in a new processor?"
Feith: "Yes! It will all be over in 6 weeks."
State Dept. Official: "You mean six months."
Feith: "No, six weeks. You'll see."
State Dept. Official: "Doug."
Feith: "Yes?"
State Dept. Official: "You're smoking crack, Doug."
Feith: "Oh, so you're disloyal to the President, are you?"
This is pathological, this is beyond optimism, this is beyond wishful thinking. Feith was (is?) in some completely other dimension. He thought that he could pull off this whole thing in six weeks?! Most mail-order places tell you to allow four to six weeks for shipping. The other striking feature about this was that Feith seems utterly unconcerned with this whole democracy in the Middle East thing - just replace on thug with another - it's nice to know that freedom was just a marketing thing. I feel sick for every soldier sent to Iraq, for everyone living there.

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How to Tell Someone is Not Prime Minister

They promise to allow MPs more independence. Paul Martin made the "democratic deficit" his cause and wanted to restore the supremacy of parliament. Stephen Harper promised more free votes. Now Garth Turner is assuring us that Stephane Dion has made this issue a priority. I'm not say that Dion can't or won't do as he says, I'm just sayin'...

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Just Wondering...

But has anyone else found Firefox really buggy this morning?


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Turner & The Liberals: A Marriage of Convenience?

I know that lots of people in the Liberal camp are excited about getting Garth Turner on board. In a minority situation, every seat in your column helps - so I can certainly understand the feeling. That said, Turner's maverick rep and his small "c" conservative position on a variety of issues might make him a troublesome fit with the Liberals. I cannot shake the feeling that both sides need each other for pragmatic reasons more than they have suddenly discovered some deep ideological commonalities.

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Minorities Everywhere?!

Minority governments that is - at least if you live in Ontario and believe the polls that Ian Urquhart believes. (An aside: everyone goes on and on about how polls are untrustworthy and how they ignore them, and yet millions of column inches are devoted to reading the polling-data entrails.)

If you do buy into this whole thing, it does bode well for moderately progressive politics in Ontario. Unless there is some unexpected change in the political landscape, it would be almost certain that the NDP would hold the balance of power in a minority. Suddenly Cheri DiNovo's minimum wage bill isn't a maverick stunt by a rookie, but rather something that could actually go somewhere if a minority government needed NDP support.

Moreover, the same article suggests that John Tory is eager to cast himself as "a new type of Conservative leader, a Progressive Conservative leader" in the words of his campaign boss. This may be hype of course, since this is still the party of people like Frank Klees, but it does seem like the province is turning away from Mike Harris' style and policies.
Picture: Cheri DiNovo might still get her way at Queens Park

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Some Friendly Advice to Jason Cherniak (and Other Libloggers)

I have rather enjoyed the parodies/responses to the Tory attack ads that you posted here and here. It's really not that difficult to dig up embarrassing quotes on Harper and the environment, but kudos to you for putting them in video form.

There is one thing though that I fear you may be overlooking: the attacks on Dion seem like classic Karl Rove tactics. You know this one, hit your opponent's strength. Dion ran on the environment, so that's where Harper hit him. The trap that the classic Rove move sets for you though is that you hit back in the same place. That's the desired effect - at least I think it is.

Here's why: In 2004, one of the principle perceived strengths of John Kerry as a candidate was his distinguished military service in combat (versus Bush's somewhat spotty record in the relative safety of the Texas Air National Guard). So what do to, attack Kerry's military record (by proxy of course). Sure, the Dems could hit back in the same way, but in the end, what Rove did was nullify military service as a dimension of the campaign. Partisans knew whose military record they liked better, but the general public was confused.

In the same manner, I think Harper's people want to nullify the environment as an issue. Most Canadians probably already consider Harper only slightly better than the Exxon Valdez on the environment. By confusing people on who has a good environmental record though, the Tories take it off the table as a way of differentiating between parties. Sure, nerds like me who read political blogs will know what's up, but Joe Voter just gets the vague sense that neither leader is a darling on the environment.

So here's what I'd do, make sure to respond to attacks, but also attack the CPC's perceived strengths.

Here's an example:
The Tories are trying to cast themselves as anti-corruption/cleaner government/more accountable, well, look at every government procurement. Harper's new defense spending should make this easy. Every maintenance contract that ends up in a cabinet minister's riding should get a mention. Every time you mention Gordon O'Connor, say "former defense industry lobbyist Gordon O'Connor" even if it is a mouth-full. Does anything stink about O'Connor's contacts in the industry and the C-17 contract?

See where I'm going? Don't just hit Harper where he hits you, hit him where he thinks he's stronger.

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Practice Makes Perfect

Meanwhile in Iraq (remember that place?) the insurgents have gotten better at shooting down helicopters, having downed four military choppers and one belonging to mercenaries civilian security guards in recent weeks.

Remember, despite the denials now, Canada would have probably sent forces to Iraq if Harper was in charge in 2003. If there's one Chretien legacy that we all ought to be thankful for, it's keeping our soldiers out of Iraq, thank you Jean.

Monday Morning

While I try to decide whether or not I want to use WordPress to pimp out my blog, here are some other goings on:

Here is another reason not to switch to Vista: it won't work with iTunes.

Somehow I missed the fact that the New Pornographers played Toronto last week. Damn. Damn. Damn. Twin Cinema has probably been my favourite album of the last couple years.

Cyril Sneer types would probably be pleased to know that the Fraser Institute thinks the whole global warming thing is nothing but hype.

That's all I got for now...

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Gordon O'Connor's New Toys

Well, I don't think it was a great surprise, but us Canadian taxpayers now own four brand new Boeing C-17s.


Before we were evidently able to rent this sort of heavy lift capability just fine. I mean, how did our tanks get to Afghanistan? I guess that's not good enough for Gordon O'Connor and/or Rick Hillier. Why?

Harper wants to radically increase military spending over the next couple years. But as this article points out, this is being done in a policy vacuum. We should not just be buying stuff because O'Connor (a former lobbyist) and Hillier think that it's cool. We have to ask what we want our military to do and how to do it in the most affordable way. Absent this sort of policy debate, we'll end up with more embarrassing scenarios like when the Navy ran out of money.

These are not toys, and yet I get the impression that O'Connor, Harper, and to a lesser extent, Hillier view military procurement in a way similar to a kid collecting army toys:

This is not how taxpayer money should be spent.

Just Asking

So how's Wordpress? Should I switch?

Why Were Wait Times Forgotten?

Listen, I don't aim to sound like a conspiracy nut or anything, but I do have a theory about why health care wait times have been ignored by the federal government.

Recall the 2006 election, Stephen Harper won that one on the back of his five priorities:
  • Clean up government by passing the Federal Accountability Act;
  • Provide real tax relief to working families by cutting the GST;
  • Make our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime;
  • Help parents with the cost of raising their children; and
  • Work with the provinces to establish a Patient Wait Times Guarantee.
Where did the wait times thing go? Well, fast-forward to this post on Buckdog - it's largely based on an article in the Georgia Straight. You should go read the whole thing, it is a great exposition on Harper's close ties to far-right organizations in Canada. One of the things that caught my eye though is that it does mention is health care. Here's the quote:
In a major Fraser Institute publication in 2005, Fraser fellows Preston Manning and Mike Harris proposed eliminating the federal role in health-care management and financing. Harper has opposed Medicare for two decades. But he responded to the Harris-Manning recommendations by saying, “I could not imagine a proposal that is more a non-starter than that one.” The Conservative party “supports the evolution of the health-care system within the framework of the Canada Health Act”.
Wow. That would be a very radical alteration to health policy in Canada. You would have an overwhelming majority of Canadians up in arms as a result of such a development. Of course, if health care was improved by a reduction in wait times, there would be even more outrage. If health care remains underfunded and if Harper doesn't get along well with the provinces, well that's a great way to set the stage for this kind of dismantling.

Harper (especially if he has a majority) will simply tell the provinces that things are busted and that he's taking it all apart. Reducing wait times gets him no closer to that goal, so why would he? It was a great election promise that he's hoping people will forget.

Defending the Warlords

It's nice to see that Afghanistan's warlords have voted themselves immunity from prosecution. These are the people that are running the Kabul city council Afghan parliament so I suppose it's easy for them to do that. What this article reminds me of though is that one of the questions we need to ask is whether Canada's and NATO's presence in Afghanistan is really just protecting one set of war criminals (assorted warlords) from another (the Taliban).

Should Canadians be fighting and dying for the future of a country that will not deal with its own past?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Contradictions of Canada's Hawks

Jack Granatstein has a new book about Canada's military and Canada's role in the world. According to Andrew Preston's review in the Globe, Granatstein's book operates from two basic premises:
  • Canada needs to have a robust military to protect Canada's national interests at home and abroad.
  • Canada needs to safeguard its relationship with the United States.
So Granatstein tells us that to defend our national interests, we need a strong military. Granatstein also tells us that our interests are mainly about staying friendly with the US. But wait, the US has a strong military. If there's one thing that the US does not need help with, it's military power. So what's the point Jack? One wonders if Jack's wish for Canada to be an eternal junior partner in some one else's foreign policy is something akin to Arthur Meighen's affection for British imperialism in another generation (see above).

Friday, February 02, 2007

Minimum Wage, Maximum Greed

This was something that caught my eye in the Star: a downtown Toronto restaurant, Joe Badali's, apparently attempted to claw back the new minimum wage hike. According to the article, such a move is illegal - and yet here we have a business attempting to screw over its workers. I suppose that the management was hoping that the wait staff would keep quiet and accept this policy. Kudos to them for speaking up.

Ootes' Stupid Trailer Park

Over on Spacing, it is revealed that Toronto City Councillor Case Ootes wants to turn Toronto into a magnet for RVs. What? I'm not an expert on RV culture, but somehow, all the other major cities I've been to in North America seem to attract tourists with installing large RV parks. To my knowledge no one has proposed using Central Park as an RV park.

This is the dumbest idea I've heard of to attract tourists. I thought the point of RVs or trailers or whatever was to take them to scenic areas that were remote from modern amenities, like the Grand Canyon, or Florida. (Why else are you traveling with a built-in stove and toilet?) Toronto, I'm pleased to announce, has running water, flush toilets, stoves, refrigeration facilities, and comfortable mattresses. RV owners, if you wish to see Toronto, you need not drag all those things here with you. We have them already! Just pack your clothes and your toothbrush, though if you want, you may buy those items here too!

"Democracy" and Other Blunt Objects

Andrew Sullivan engages in a bit of oversimplification today:
"But here's the thing: the same neocons who persuaded me that Arab culture was simply impossible when it came to the Palestinians were the same ones who reassured me that Iraq would become a democracy easily, that sectarian divisions were not that deep, that not all Arab societies are politically dysfunctional, and so on. So which is it? Are the Arabs just desperate for democracy? Or are they doomed never to experience or even want it? I wish they'd make up their minds."
Oh dear. Here we have the problem of using two fairly blunt terms in a nuanced situation. What is the situation here with "the Arabs" and "democracy" in the Middle East? Too often we in the West have used the word "democracy" when we've really wanted to say "pro-Western" or something to that effect. Democratic elections in the Middle East hold, in many places, the possibility of electing profoundly anti-Western leaders.

Hamas won free and open elections in the occupied territories, the Muslim Brotherhood would probably do the same in Egypt if Western-puppet and dictator, Hosni Mubarak would let them run. The West has a very paradoxical view of democracy among Arab states. Many of them have authoritarian leaders that are either sympathetic to the West or at least not openly hostile. In the short term, that would be lost in a number of countries if the people were given the opportunity to vote in wide open elections.

The reality is that many Arab states may well suffer from a great deal of political dysfunction (for a variety of complex historical reasons involving colonialism and cold-war remnants).That does not mean, however, that the masses in these places do not desire self-determination.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Is It Time?

I read this article a few days ago, but I haven't really had time to comment on it. Apparently Windows Vista is going to be the MPAA's bitch when it comes to copyright and fair use issues. Additonally, it's attempts to protect users from malware, viruses, phishing, et cetera seem a tad draconian.

So now I have to ask, is it time to switch to Apple? Were all the Mac cultists right? If not, are they right now?

My Dell running XP has been fine thus far, but if Vista is going to be garbage, then it may be my last PC. I'm sure that Jam is smiling somewhere as I post this.
Picture: The Mac in an earlier incarnation

Silence & Killing

I've not posted much of anything this week. Why? Well, life goes on outside of blogging, I guess that's the short answer. I've also been a loss for much to write about. I read Mark Steyn's column in this week's Maclean's, and while his stupidity, extremism, and really lame attempts at wit usually give me some inspiration. This week though he can be dispatched with this condensation of his his column: Dinesh D'Souza says we should censor our culture to appease the Muslims, Mark Steyn says we should censor our culture to appease Mark Steyn.

Of course I can't really link to Steyn's words because, as usual, both Steyn and Maclean's are dreadfully inconsistent about posting Steyn's columns online. Perhaps one or both parties are embarrassed by them.

Now that I've explained the silence, what about the killing? Well, one thing that every cat-owner knows is that most cats (those under, say, 20lbs) are really just cuddly killing machines.

Except that they aren't.

Every cat owner really knows that they are cuddly torture machines. Have you ever seen a cat with a mouse? As much as I am not a fan of indoor mice, what cats do to them seems inexplicably cruel. Once captured, the mouse is paraded around for a bit in the cat's jaws, there is this game of letting it run, stomping it, letting it run, et cetera. It can go like this for over ten minutes (an eternity for the mouse). I cannot figure out an evolutionary advantage to torturing your prey, but then I am not a biologist.

Anyway, last night, since a certain cat would not kill, I was the one who had to. This is not the first time that a cat has forced me into this sort of unenviable position, but this time all I had to work with was a running shoe. It's a hell of a way to go, but better than the alternative I suppose.

Anyway, that is what I did instead of blogging last night.