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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Animal love 

Meet Lucky:

Here's a great story for New Year's:
. . . Tuesday morning . . .a pair of passersby spotted the calico cat while crossing a footbridge and called for help. Missoula firefighters arrived minutes later, donned wet suits and launched a rescue boat. Someone had put the animal in a cage, along with a rock weighing about 16 pounds, and tossed it into the Clark Fork River. But instead of landing in the water, it bounced several times on the ice and then became stuck. It's unclear how long the cat had been there. Firefighters took it back to the fire station, dried it off and fed it leftover Christmas turkey and a dish of milk. "It was really skinny, nothing but skin and bones, and had collar marks where a too-small collar had rubbed the fur off its neck. But it was really friendly," firefighter Philip Keating said. Firefighter Josh Macrow decided to keep the cat. After his shift, he took it to a vet and then home to his 12-year-old daughter. "It's the sweetest cat," Macrow said. "It sits on your shoulder when you drive down the road and it curled up with my black Labs this morning." Naming the animal was easy, he said. "We call her Lucky."

And Tommy:
. . . when an officer walked into an apartment Thursday night to answer a 911 call, an orange-and-tan striped cat was lying by a telephone on the living room floor. The cat's owner, Gary Rosheisen, was on the ground near his bed having fallen out of his wheelchair . . . He also wasn't wearing his medical-alert necklace and couldn't reach a cord above his pillow that alerts paramedics that he needs help. Daugherty said police received a 911 call from Rosheisen's apartment, but there was no one on the phone. Police called back to make sure everything was OK, and when no one answered, they decided to check things out. . . . Rosheisen got the cat three years ago to help lower his blood pressure. He tried to train him to call 911, unsure if the training ever stuck. The phone in the living room is always on the floor, and there are 12 small buttons — including a speed dial for 911 right above the button for the speaker phone. "He's my hero," Rosheisen said.
And Mademoiselle Giselle:

who adopted a baby squirrel, Finnegan.

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The Horse Sex Story 

Thanks to Editor & Publisher for explaining why the Seattle Horse Sex Story was so popular this year. I guess otherwise we just couldn't have figured it out.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Office Assistant -- die, damn you, die! 


Oh, if only I had this choice!
I stole this from Canadian Cynic, who also linked to the original article. I don't know if I agree with this author's anti-Word rant, but I do just love this graphic.
I use Word all the time, and I just HATE its automatic formatting -- I have as much of it turned off as I can, but still sometimes the document thinks I'm typing a header or some dammed thing and all of a sudden it bounces into 16 point bold Helvetica.

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CTV is reporting that there were leaks 

Updating my earlier post, now CTV is reporting that emails about Goodale's announcement were buzzing around the Toronto investment community on the afternoon of the Income Trust announcement. Sounds like this is a lot more than just an "unconscious" leaker. And it sounds like some people made some serious money:
Several people in the investment community told CTV they got the heads up that news was coming that day, and that the information originated from Liberals in Ottawa. Jim Leech, a Vice President who manages the Ontario Teacher's Pension Fund, says he heard definitively that afternoon, from several sources, that the announcement would come after 4 p.m. "I got a bunch of emails (and calls) around 2 p.m. saying for sure that he (Goodale) was making an announcement after the close," said Leech.
Don Drummond, Chief Economist for the TD Bank, says he got the first email sometime around 2 p.m., from a media contact who had heard from "Liberal Party and government sources that he (Goodale) was going to make an announcement at 5 p.m." Drummond's contact did not seem to know exactly the announcement would be, just that it would happen that day. Drummond says he got similar information from a source within his bank, also before 4 p.m. (when the markets close). He believes the original sources of the information were "definitely" not within Goodale's office, but elsewhere in the Liberal government. "I heard it secondhand, but not from Finance," said Drummond. "Liberal strategists were the sources ... from Ottawa. A lot of people seemed to know there was an announcement (coming) and some people seemed to know what it was," he added.
Another fund manager, Sandy McIntyre of Sentry Select Capital Corp, said he was tipped off twice, by phone, by two traders who work for two of Canada's major banks. The first call came before noon that day. McIntyre said the trader who called was told by "an individual well-connected in the Liberal Party" that Goodale would be making his announcement after the close of trading. According to McIntrye, the second trader was also tipped off by a Liberal from Ottawa, who said, "The announcement coming that day would be positive." At 3:04 p.m. that day, McIntyre then sent this email to sales staff, with the subject heading "Goodale": "There is a strong rumour out of Ottawa that Goodale is going to pronounce after the close today re his trust solution. The rumour indicates the results will be benign. Hope my sources are right!" The following day, November 24, McIntyre sent another email -- this time to his contact at the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) -- calling for an investigation.
McIntrye wrote to the OSC: "I feel the events of the past 24 hours should not go unexamined. Starting at yesterday morning persistent rumours began to circulate out of Ottawa that Minister Goodale was going to make an announcement concerning the trust issue. The tone of the rumours was that the news would be positive. By mid-afternoon there was confirmation that he would make a statement at 5 p.m. Heavy buying came into the sector in advance of the statement and substantial windfall profits accrued to those who were in receipt of advance notice that a positive decision had been made. Selective disclosure of this nature is unacceptable in the private sector. Why should the public sector be immune?" McIntyre says the OSC then asked him if he wanted to file a formal complaint, but he declined.
It was that spike in trading activity on November 23, though, that first raised questions about a possible leak from government.
The activity also raised questions about who bought stock that afternoon.
CTV found one of the people who invested heavily that day was the CEO of the company that runs the Toronto Stock Exchange, Richard Nesbitt. The details of Nesbitt's purchases are filed on a public website, sedi.ca, where insiders must register any personal stock purchases. Nesbitt's file shows he purchased six blocks of stock in TSX Group Inc., the company he runs, on November 23. Nesbitt bought a total of $759,242.00 worth of stock in the hours before Goodale's announcement. It was the first time he purchased stock in TSX Group Inc, since becoming CEO in 2004. TSX Group Inc. stock then jumped by more than 10 per cent -- the day after Goodale's announcement -- making Nesbitt a paper profit of close to $100,000.00 in one day. The value of TSX Group Inc. stock has continued to increase since. Al Rosen, a forensic accountant with Rosen and Associates, points out TSX Group Inc. benefitted from Goodale's positive news for investors, because it increased confidence in stock in companies listed on the TSX.
Rosen is troubled by Nesbitt's purchase, especially because Nesbitt also sits on the board of Market Regulation Services Inc., the organization which monitors and regulates trading on the TSX. "The person's (Nesbitt's) position as CEO is troublesome, because in a sense, it (the TSX Group) is a regulatory organization."
CTV asked for an interview with Nesbitt, but he was out of town. The TSX Group Inc. sent a statement, which said, in part: "Mr. Nesbitt had absolutely no advance notice of the announcement made by the Department of Finance on November 23." The statement then went on to explain that Nesbitt bought that day because it was within a one week trading window, given to all TSX Group Inc. employees. "It was his last opportunity to add to his core holding in TSX Group Inc. before the end of the calendar year."
Gee -- just lucky, I guess, that he picked that very afternoon . . .
And if it is true that the leaks came from greedy "Liberal strategists" -- people who pushed Goodale to make the announcement and then tipped off a few dozen of their closest friends and party loyalists -- then they have likely just cost Paul Martin the election.

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A strange remark about 'unconscious' leaks 

So I'm reading CP's Income Trusts RCMP investigation story and CP quotes Tom Caldwell, chairman of Caldwell Securities Ltd, saying something strange:

"Whenever you're working on a big event and there's a time lag, there's always the possibility of leaks, conscious or unconscious," perhaps through casual chatter by low-level workers. "Remember, this is emanating from Ottawa, so there are people there, maybe working on this, who might not have the wildest idea of the market impact of a misplaced statement - this is just a hypothesis."
Sorry, but EVERYONE who works for the federal Department of Finance knows better than to talk about tax policy announcements. Or should have known better . . .
Enter Rumour, painted full of tongues.

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If you work in public service . . . 

. . . haven't you wanted to do something like this, just once? Airbus pilot maroons drunken passenger on desert island

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

"We are selling our souls for dross . . . " 

In a remarkable display of what blogs can do now, Daily Kos is publishing the British torture memos today.
These memos were written by the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. He has written a book describing how the UK and US governments are justifying torture in Uztekistan, which Murray says is not only immoral but also useless. Bloggers in UK, and Daily Kos in the US, are publishing the memos simultaneously today, to stymie attempts by the UK Foreign Office block their release.
Here is some of what Murray wrote in July 2004 -- and no wonder the UK government did not want anyone to read it:
CONFIDENTIAL . . . TO IMMEDIATE FCO . . . SUBJECT: RECEIPT OF INTELLIGENCE OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE . . . I understand that the principal argument deployed [to support use of the information obtained by torture] was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true – the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.
I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in an organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact . . . On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."
Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.
I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.
At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services . . .
Note in particular Murray's observation that the intelligence services are seeking "highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat". That's not surprising.

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If a soldier dies in the forest . . .  

Hmmm. If a soldier dies in the forest, does his death matter if nobody knows about it?
Adding up the deaths reported in Today in Iraq it appears that at least 18 US soldiers have been killed by insurgents in Iraq over the last week, since Thursday, Dec. 22.
Did anyone see any US news coverage about these deaths? Well, at least the Irish Sun has reported on eight of them .

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Great lines of the year 

Canadian Press has published a round-up of the year's best lines. Here are ones I liked:
"I know a lot of you are going through separation anxiety... but there's nothing I can do about getting a Tim Hortons in Kabul," brigade commander Col. Al Howard to troops leaving for Afghanistan.
"A significant shock to the system." Lt.-Col. Dave Anderson, missions chief of staff of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, on their switch to American army rations.
"This is a typical day in a lawless country. It's Dodge City without a sheriff." Former Canadian diplomat Ken Taylor on the hostage-taking of two Canadians in Iraq.
"Guns turn punks into killers." Toronto Mayor David Miller.
"The right to bear handguns is not a Canadian value." Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant.
"I don't want people to think I am someone who is dangerous who will do something to their children." Karla Homolka on her release from prison.
"Being cloistered with nuns could be a very good option." Anna Campagna, executive director of Centre Generation Emploi in Montreal, on Homolka's job prospects post-prison.
"I don't treat my dog like that. I buried my dog." Daniel Edwards on an elderly woman who lay dead in a wheelchair at the New Orleans convention centre three days after Katrina.
"They play hardball. There's no point in us playing some kind of Nerf ball here." NDP Leader Jack Layton on the debate with the U.S. over softwood lumber.
"Gomery put the scandal back in scandalous." Prof. David Docherty of Wilfrid Laurier University on the Gomery inquiry into federal sponsorships.
"If we do not do something about the BlackBerrys, we will have to develop a spray for them," Liberal Senator John Bryden on the technology that disrupts Parliament's electronics.
"The country they left to us has become a place of infinite possibilities." New Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean on the Fathers of Confederation.
"Somebody might check your wallet before they check your pulse." Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh on privatized health care.
"Come hell or high water, there's no frigging way I'm going to let one ovary bring the government down." An ailing Independent MP Carolyn Parrish on her efforts to get to a confidence vote in Parliament.
"It's like the thief who cries fire in a crowded restaurant." Stephen Harper on the Liberals criticizing the Tories.
"We have to start thinking that Hannibal Lecter is running the government and they'll do anything they have to do to win." Deputy Tory leader Peter MacKay on the Liberals attempt to hold onto power.
"It was the night of the election of the next loser." Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew on the election of Andre Boisclair as Parti Quebecois leader. "It's maliciousness, it's arrogance, it's smugness." BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe in response to Pettigrew.
"I think I'm ethically entitled to the entitlements which I believe are owing to me." David Dingwall, who resigned as head of the Canadian Mint after a fuss over his expenses, on whether he should get a severance package.
"We are talking the full range of various states of undress, and the more startling thing is we get people right down to starkers." Richard Mahoney, Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre, on door-to-door campaigning.
"They've been dating for quite a long time; now they've decided to get married." McGill University business professor Robert David on the merger of beer giants Molson and Coors.
"The man's 63. He's going to die in jail. How much sterner could you get?" A pleased Gino Cavallo, who lost retirement money in the WorldCom scandal, on former boss Bernard Ebberss 25-year prison term for leading the largest corporate fraud in U.S. history.
"This has been one massive smear job from A to Z, and it will have a surprise ending." Fallen print baron Conrad Black on accusation he stole more than $80 million US from Hollinger International Inc.
"You know the outcome of an unsuccessful situation. I am talking about a complete splat." Judge James Farley on the never-ending Stelco Inc. restructuring talks.
"These are tough times for General Motors, but we've got to fight like hell to save them from themselves. Not putting in a new product in your best plant is not the greatest strategy to revive North America." CAW president Buzz Hargrove on the news GM planned to shut an award-winning plant in Oshawa, Ont.
"You generally find, in terms of fiscal performance, the laziest, sloppiest governments in the world are the ones that come up with these silly charges." Robert Milton, chairman of Air Canada, on governments that impose fees on airlines.
"He'll keep his clothes on." Charles Coplin, the man the NFL put in charge of the Super Bowl halftime show, on performer Paul McCartney.
"They are about to go over a cliff together on a Zamboni." Former Ontario deputy labour minister Victor Pathe on the NHL lockout.
"I drink a lot - I'm a curler - but I don't do drugs." Ontario curler Joe Frans on testing positive for cocaine at the national men's curling championship.
"Lord thunderin' Jesus, it feels awesome. I tell you I could swim to Italy right now." Curler Russ Howard after his Newfoundland team won a Winter Olympics berth.
"It allows us to feel like were contributing to society other than great tunes and great dancing." Tyler Stewart of the Barenaked Ladies on performing in the Live 8 concert for Africa.
"There's only so much T-A you can do within the confines of an intelligent, issue-driven story." Peter Simpson, producer of The Eleventh Hour, on the cancelled but award-winning CTV series.

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Great line of the day 

From the Comments for a Daily Kosdiary: "Mr. Bush, you have managed to royally piss off Bob Barr and Burt Bacharach. Do you have any idea how spectacularly shitty you have to be to do that???"
It will be interesting to see what happens when Congress resumes in January -- the senators and congresspeople will have been getting an earful from their home districts about the NSA eavesdropping and the Islamic government in Iraq, along the lines of "What is Bush DOING -- and what are YOU doing to STOP it?" And the usual response of "Nothing to see here, folks. Move along, move along" isn't going to cut it.
UPDATE: Welcome, Sideshow people -- thanks, Avedon Carol, for the link. To see my whole blog, click here.

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News and new links 

Over on the right you may notice some new and revised links.
For the New Links in this go round, I have added a link to my son's page -- he is running for the Greens this election and making a film about it. The Greens will be releasing their platform early in January, so I will be blogging about it then.
Also in the New Links section is a variety of other sites which I now click on or which I think I will refer to frequently. I moved many of the old "new links" into their appropriate sections, but deleted some that I found I wasn't using.
I consolidated the old "group blogs" into the "blogospheres" section. And I have switched the other sections into alphabetical order, to make it easier to find stuff.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Great lines of the day 

From James Wolcott's Headhunters, about how warbloggers are entranced with the idea of cutting off our heads. It reminds me of Wonderland's mad White Queen - "Off with their heads!" -- but Wolcott thinks it represents a secret obsession with death porn:
It's no accident that it is the rightwing bloggers and pundits who have been avid about defending the use of torture against suspected terrorists. Nor is it an accident that many of them pooh-poohed Abu Ghraib, sluffing it off as no more harmless than fraternity hazing. But what their decapitation odes reveal is that what they'd really like to do is permit torture closer to home. Domesticate it. Trivialize it. Completely destigmatize it as a tool of the state.
I don't worry about this being actually implemented, though I worry fractionally more every day. I'm interested in it more as a pathological rash afflicting the more rabid warbloggers. It's a sign of impotence, this lurid fury of theirs. It bugs the hell out of them that those of us who opposed the war have turned out to be right. It thwarts the hell out of them that Ward Churchill still has tenure, that they couldn't convict Sami Al-Arian down in Florida, and that their latest purple-finger festival fizzled out so soon. If postwar Iraq swirls down the drain, they'll be looking for someone to blame, and since they never blame themselves for anything (a bedrock neoconservative trait), they leaves nobody here but us chickens. I dread to think of the imaginary punishments they'll devise for us appeasers, turncoats, and traitors; I'm sure they'll be quite vivid.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, Katrina survivors! 

These news photos and their cutlines show how the survivors of Hurricane Katrina are doing Christmas this year -- with courage and determination and good humour. Admirable people, all:


Gregory Scott stands on his porch amidst his tent and Christmas decorations in New Orleans . . . Other than three weeks he spent on a median on the Orleans Parish border, he says he never left New Orleans or his damaged home since Hurricane Katrina. At left is his friend Myron, no last name given. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Kim Newton walks with her dogs Boots and Rocket in front of her FEMA trailer which is decorated for Christmas in front of her home that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in the St. Bernard Parish town of Chalmette, La. just outside New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Children homeless from Hurricane Katrina cheer as a man dressed as Santa Claus arrives on a fire engine for a toy giveaway at Camp Premier, a tent city for people displaced from the storm in Chalmette, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


A weathered Santa wearing a toxic mask stands in front of a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in Chalmette, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)




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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Shut up, and watch your poll numbers increase 

Here's the Politics Canada poll chart again:


And isn't it interesting -- the lates story is that the Tory campaign is failing to gain traction with voters:
Stephen Harper's policy-heavy election campaign is no better at capturing voters' imaginations than the Liberal effort, according to a new poll that also finds less gloom about the direction of the country than when the election was called . . . Allan Gregg, chairman of The Strategic Counsel, said a strategy of not focusing on criticism of the Liberals may be contributing to the Tories stall. "[The Conservatives] have to get that general protest sentiment back up there," Mr. Gregg said. "The cornerstone of any opposition party is unhappiness with the status quo. It's the oldest cliché in the book, but it's true. Governments defeat themselves."
Mr. Gregg said the Liberals may have found their game simply by fighting back every time the Tories lay out a policy proposal. "They're not doing much on the initiative front, but they're very effective in their counter-punching," he said.
The results appear to run against the grain of some commentators who have criticized the Liberals for running a relatively quiet campaign focused on their record rather than announcing new policy ideas. The Tory campaign has announced almost daily policy prescriptions, while the Liberals have criticized them for being too ideological.
This confirms my own thinking -- which I didn't blog about because I didn't think I could possibly be right -- that Martin was getting better traction NOT making policy announcements than Harper was getting by making them.
The problem for Martin with just about any policy announcement, of course, is that the response would be -- well, why didn't you do this already? Harper is not so constrained -- but, on the other hand, when a political party announces armfuls of goodies day after day after day, eventually people start to wonder whether anyone has added it up and whose money will be paying for it.
And Harper's latest one, the Arctic sovereignty thing, is just stupid -- he's trying to counter Martin's winning anti-Bush strategy with a little flag-waving of his own, but Canadians know we have better things to do with billions of dollars than harass a few US submarines.
Harper's deeper problem, however, is that he simply cannot describe how he could manage a minority government.
Canadians aren't stupid -- we know reality. We know that if the Bloc maintains their vote in Quebec, then they will prevent either the Conservatives or the Liberals from achieving a majority government. We know that to form a government, either Harper or Martin would have to ally with either the NDP or the Bloc. We don't want the Bloc to get any stronger than it already is, so we would prefer that they NOT be the deal-breaker party.
We know that Martin would ally with the NDP. And we're OK with that. But we don't know what Harper would do.
No wonder the poll numbers are dropping -- all those policy announcements, yet he hasn't announced the one thing that Canadians would want to know.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Festivus 



Hey, December 23 is Festivus, the holiday billed as "for the rest of us."
We had the traditional red Festivus comfort-food meal tonight -- spagetti and meatballs (though I must admit the menu was accidental because I had forgotten all about it.)
Anyway, the other Festivus events are the traditional Airing of Grievances, which begins with "I have a lot of problems with you people" and carries on with a listing of the ways in which your nearest and dearest have disappointed you this year. Then there are the Feats of Strength, and the gathering around the alumnium festivus pole.
This all started as a Seinfield episode -- and has evolved to the point that there are now a number of companies which actually sell Festivus poles.
Obviously, a holiday whose time has come.

Oh festivus, oh festivus, your day is for the rest of us
Oh festivus, oh festivus, we'll tell you all the worst of us.
We'll wrestle and we'll genuflect
Around your pole and then we'll ...
Oh festivus, oh festivus, your day is really best for us.

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Well, great -- I have an "estate" now 

Hey, folks, if this is true, then divy me up! "A body could be worth about $150,000, according to Art Caplan, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania."
So make sure my family doesn't bury me or cremate me. Instead, I want them to make a few bucks and break me down for parts.
Will I care? Not at all.

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No votes for Chalabi 

Well, first of all, Chalabi's defeat couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy: "Preliminary results in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad indicate that Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress scored a minuscule 0.36 percent of the votes. Out of almost 2.5 million voters in Baghdad, only 8,645 voted for Chalabi. In the Shiite city of Basra, the results indicate he had an equally dismal showing of 0.34 percent of the vote. In the violent Sunni province of Anbar, 113 people voted for him."
But second, I wonder if, in the end, the iraq election will stand? US pundits seem shocked - shocked!- that Iraq has elected a Shiite fundamentalist government with ties to Iran. And I was shocked that they knew so little about Iraq that they would be surprised at this -- who did they THINK the Iraqi electorate would vote for? Anyway, now that Chalabi has hired a PR firm, we'll see whether the "vote fraud" story will be inflated to try to hamper, delay and ultimately invalidate the election result.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thanks, Bazz 

In Comments, Bazz from the Oi! Thump! blog, points us to this hysterically funny Onion story: U.S. Troops Draw Up Own Exit Strategy
BAGHDAD—Citing the Bush Administration's ongoing refusal to provide a timetable for withdrawal, the U.S. troops stationed in Iraq have devised their own exit strategy. "My marines are the best-trained, best-equipped, most homesick fighting force in the world," said Staff Sgt. Cornelius Woods. "Just give us the order, and we will commandeer every available vehicle to execute a flanking maneuver on the airstrips of Mosul. By this time tomorrow, we will have retaken our positions at our families' dinner tables in full force." In a striking rebuke of the assertions of the Pentagon and the White House that a swift exit is neither practical nor possible, soldiers of varying rank have outlined a straightforward plan of immediate disengagement, dubbed "Operation Screw This.". . .
Ah, was there every anything like the Onion? Even the Daily Show doesn't get quite as sharp as the Onion. Thanks, Bazz.

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Great line of the day 

In 'Cheney's cheerleading falls flat' on The Smirking Chimp, author John Nichols from The Nation describes the reaction of US soldiers to Cheney's visit to Iraq:
. . . the administration's talk about how the U.S. will stand down as the Iraqis stand up remains an empty promise. How empty? Consider a line buied deep in the AP report of the vice president's visit to Taji Air Base in Iraq: "U.S. forces guarded Cheney with weapons at the ready while Iraqi soldiers, who had no weapons, held their arms out as if they were carrying imaginary guns." For all of Cheney's cheerleading about how well things are going, those carrying the real guns recognize that they will not soon be coming home from a country where their 'replacements' are carrying imaginary guns.
Emphasis mine.

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Beware of paralegals 

Lawyers always have had a reputation, mostly undeserved, for being con artists. But it appears from this list of the year's best scams and cons from Insurance Bureau of Canada that paralegals are the people to watch now:
1) A Halifax man made 11 claims in which he pretended to be struck by cars backing out of parking lots.
2) A man exported his new vehicle to Europe and claimed it was stolen three months later.
3) A Toronto-area man who took his car to a body shop for repair of a minor scrape was surprised to see the enormous bill and list of unnecessary parts - including a front grille and cooling system - the shop sent to his insurance company.
4) A Quebec man earned the title Chop Shop King for running two bustling garages where police found 40 stolen vehicles being carved up for parts. The king was jailed six years and ordered to pay a $774,000 fine.
5) An Alberta man reported his high-end pickup truck stolen, collecting $68,000 from his insurer. Months later, investigators learned he had stripped the vehicle and sold the parts. He was charged with public mischief and fraud.
6) A Toronto-area paralegal recruited people to file more than $200,000 in claims for phantom injuries from supposed car crashes. The scheme was supported by a clinic that claimed to have assessed and treated the injuries.
7) Salespeople at a few Toronto-area car dealerships charged $500 to arrange insurance with a broker they said would save car owners lots of money on premiums. The scammers put bogus information on the applications so that customers would be put into a cheaper rate group, but that made the policies invalid.
8) A woman in the Toronto area persuaded friends and family to join her in staging car accidents and filing false claims. One annoyed neighbour was pestered once too often and secretly recorded her pitch.
9) The owner of a company that had several workers filing injury claims denied knowing any of them. It turned out that a paralegal had forged employment forms to boost the compensation claims of staged "victims."
10) A car crash victim seeking cheap legal advice from a paralegal was duped into signing a pile of legal forms that had the paralegal negotiate on the man's behalf with the insurance company. The paralegal then forged the man's signature on the resulting cheque and cashed it.

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Getting worse 

The thing about the Bush administration is this: its ALWAYS worse than it first appears.
With Clinton, it often turned out that nothing had happened -- the first news stories about all his scandals started out pretty awful, but then it just dribbled away and turned to dust as it gradually came out that nothing much had actually happened -- like Whitewater and Travelgate and impeachment for a blowjob.
But with Bush, its the other way around -- the first news stories start out pretty awful, and then it just keeps on getting worse and worse -- the Office of Special Plans, stovepiping, Abu Ghraib, rendition, CIA prisons, Fallujah, Guantanamo, torture, sabatoging the UN, firing civil servants, pouring government money into Christian Right organizations, Halliburton, losing billions in Iraq, politicizing scientific and technical policies, and now Big Brother-gate.
And then it also turns out that it isn't just accidental or coincidental or bad apples or someone misinterpreting the orders -- nope, it always turns out to be the newest US policy, ordered right from "the top" -- Rumsfeld, Cheney or Bush, happily implementing the Imperial Presidency as fast as they can.
When you think of all this stuff together, it seems pretty clear to me that there is a rough beast being born here. In this post on My Left Wing called :: Slouching Toward Kristallnacht Maryscott O'Connor quotes from Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933 - 1945. It is a chilling description of a civilized society sliding toward fascism, and its attributes are more familiar in America today than anyone could have believed just five years ago:
". . . one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to "go out of your way to make trouble." Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.
"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none . . . in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."
"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.
"But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.
"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in "43" had come immediately after the "German Firm" stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in "33". But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying "Jew swine," collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in, your nation, your people is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.
"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing) . . . You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.
"What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or "adjust" your principles. Many tried, and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to know."
I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say . . . "Once the war began," my colleague continued, "resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure to show it in public, was "defeatism." You assumed that there were lists of those who would be "dealt with" later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here, too. He continually promised a "victory orgy" to "take care of" those who thought that their "treasonable attitude" had escaped notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all uncertainty.
"Once the war began, the government could do anything "necessary" to win it; so it was with the "final solution" of the Jewish problem, which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its "necessities" gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany's losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it."
In America, the targets are liberals (anyone who disagrees with the Bush administration) and Muslims (who want to establish the caliphate, didn't you know?)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"It's a cookbook!" 

There is a Twilight Zone episode called "To Serve Man" based on a science fiction short story by, I think, Larry Niven. It was one of those stories with a twist ending. The aliens arrive on Earth and they're all very nice and friendly and they invite everyone to visit their planet. Well, our hero is suspicious, but the aliens win him over. Then his girlfriend finds an alien book titled "To Serve Man" and sets to work translating it. At the end of the episode, just as the hero is getting onto the spaceship to travel to the alien planet, the girl comes running into the spaceport and screams up at him "It's a cookbook!"
This is what I am starting to feel like with this NSA story -- that its not a question anymore about which individual people are being targetted and whose enemies they are. Rather, the question is whether there is anyone, anywhere, whose phone calls and email are NOT under surveillance?
Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall have assembled indications that NSA is spider-botting whole groups of people at once. Marshall says
. . . Perhaps they're doing searches for certain patterns of words or numbers, perhaps something as simple as a phone number. But unlike 'traditional' wiretapping, in which you're catching the conversations of a relatively small and defined group of people, this may involve listening in on a big slice of the email or phone communications in the country looking for a particular phone number or code or perhaps a reference to a particular name . . . you can see how this would just be a non-starter for getting a warrant. It is the definition of a fishing expedition.
And its also more than a little reminiscent of the "Big Brother is Watching", where everyone is guilty until proven innocent.
And suddenly we are back at the Supreme Court nominations, too. Everyone thought the questions about how Roberts and Alito would rule on Right to Privacy issues were related to birth control and abortion rights -- but that's pretty small potatoes, really, compared to the question of whether people all over the world have a right NOT to have their communications monitored without cause or warrant.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

O.J. Two 

Call it O.J. Simpson Two: G.W. Bush wants everyone to focus on the REAL criminal, that person who leaked the story to the New York Times!
Well, Bush and Gonzales and Rice and Rumsfeld and Cheney and the right wing bloggers can spin all they want, but the public knows what the real crime is.
In Bush's Snoopgate, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter writes:
. . . on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story . . . The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security . . . Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story . . . because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker.
They just can't explain why they didn't apply for warrants. There is no explanation, except for the obvious one that the people they felt to be such a threat to security were political targets like journalists and Democrats, and they knew no judge would ever give them a warrant to eavesdrop on these people.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas skirmishes 


Non-Sequitur

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Harper - Canada's Dubya 

Watch out for this guy Stephen Harper. He wants it his way, ALL his way. And that's all there is to it. The Imperial Prime Minister has spoken.
Just like Dubya, if Harper wants reality to twist in his direction, well, then...it will. HE doesn't have to work with actuall reality. Oh, no. If he wants a different reality, a Harper reality, why then -- magically -- that's the way it will BE!
It is a profound belief in creationism, to think that he can personally create a universe which is more to his liking. Its just the way your average four-year-old thinks.
Harper continues to insist that if he passes a law against same-sex marriage then it just won't be overturned by the Supreme Court.
Even though lower courts have ALREADY declared laws against gay marriage unconstitutional.
Even though the only way the Charter allows overriding of constitutional rights is use of the notwithstanding clause.
Nope. That's not the way Harper wants it to be. So that's not the way it will be. So he's going to deny reality, forcing everyone to go through years and years of expense and trouble and legal cases and court challenges, just to end up exactly where we are now, with same-sex marriage legal unless the notwithstanding clause is used.
"Harper appears to be living in a kind of legal Disneyland, as if you can wave a magic wand and thereby override" the Constitution, the courts and an act of Parliament, said Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. "The only way that Harper could possibly override all that is to use the notwithstanding clause and to suggest otherwise is either to be ignorant of the law or to be dissembling." He said lower-court decisions on the issue are constitutionally binding and the Supreme Court itself said the right to same-sex marriage "flows from" the Charter.
Remind you of someone? That guy down south, maybe? The one who keeps talking about how well things are going in Iraq, and how US authorities don't torture anyone, and how the economy is great and there is no such thing as climate change and Delay is innocent and . . .

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Chatter 

Anyone who gives this two seconds thought knows that the National Security Agency hasn't spent the last four years monitoring the phone calls and email of homesick Arab students.
This is a White House where every single thing is political, where the election of a Democrat was seen as a threat to national security. So they have, of course, been spying on all of those 10,000 people on the White House enemies list, plus Democrats and peace activitists and protestors and columnists and journalists and embassies and investment bankers and bank presidents and industrialists and Colin Powell and the State Department and, well, who knows . . . just about anyone or everyone. Remember those stories about John Bolton's abuse of NSA intercepts, when the White House refused to tell the Senate whose phone calls had been recorded, just accidently-like of course? Tip of the iceberg.
How many phone conversations have Bush's opponents or potential opponents had in the last four years with their mistresses or their lawyers or their bookies or their AA sponsors? Just about everybody has something they don't want to see spread all over the local newspaper.
And are we wondering which 'sensitive' security operations would have been endangered if this operation had been revealed a year ago? Likely the ones targetting the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry campaign.
People are wondering why the New York Times held this story for a year before publishing. Two reasons, I think. If the New York Times had published this before the election, it simply would not have been believed -- does anyone remember that a month before the election, when the New York Times revealed that Iraqi arms depots had been stripped of their weapons and the whole thing was brushed aside as partisan politics? And then after the election, the Bush administration had the media bamboozled that everybody just loved them, so again, the Times would have backed off the story again thinking that no one would believe it.
But now that the Bush administration is down, well, the media can finally kick them. The National Security Agency secret spying story has hit with even more impact than the secret prisons story.
Steve Gilliard writes:
Bush's war on terror has been a failure on most levels.
But why break the law?
Because Bush and Cheney think that there would be the magic bullet, that they could torture or violate their way to Osama, and didn't want the law in the way. And enablers like John Yoo were all too eager to help to subvert the law, human decency and common sense.
The short term solution was what Bush wanted. The whole idea behind Gitmo was to round up the truly dangerous, then the secret prisons, then holding Padilla. All short cuts to Osama, they thought. But it wasn't.
The short term solution war on terror will lead to the long term legal fights by its innocent victims.
Now, we're pushing into genuine impeachment territory. NO presidential finding can break the law. Bush seems to think the Constitution is an a la carte menu, when it isn't.
Emphasis mine.
Bush's Divine Right of Kings doctrine is finally turning around and biting him in the ass. I just hope it isn't too late.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Have you heard the good news? 

The freeway blogger has a list of the good news from Iraq these days. Here's some of the best:
Vast majority of Iraqi population still alive. Many unwounded, untortured . . . Scrap metal business literally booming. Lots of extra car parts . . . Many U.S. Soldiers not killed at all . . . Lots of surgical training opportunities . . . World opinion of United States gradually changing from hatred and fear to laughter and pity.
If there is one thing which the American electorate will be unable to forgive, it will be Bush making the US look ridiculous around the world. Even after Vietnam, the world saw the US as mistaken, but not silly or misguided.
But here is Canada -- little ole Canada, with the world reputation as everybody's dweeb cousin -- dressing down the American delegation at last week's climate conference and telling the American ambassador to STFU. And meanwhile John Bolton continues to open his mouth just to change feet at the UN. And Rice tours Europe pleading with them to stop their CIA investigations. And Bush has to hold a press conference today with John McCain to announce an "agreement" on the torture amendment -- the agreement being Bush's total capitulation to what McCain wanted.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Stunning 

Americans are pissed! Rasmussen reports that "Thirty-two percent (32%) of Americans believe that President George W. Bush should be impeached and removed from office."
This is a stunning figure -- so one third of the electorate thinks Bush should be impeached? Even during the height, or depth, of the Lewinsky scandal, only about a third of Americans thought Clinton should be impeached -- and this was after YEARS of the Mighty Wurlitzer right wing scream machine trashing Bill and Hillary Clinton every day and every night. Even during the worst of Iran-contra, I don't think a third of Americans would have thought Reagan should be removed from office.
Maybe the Freeway Blogger is having more effect than even he realized:




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Hang together or hang separately 

I don't speak French so I didn't watch tonight's debate, but this story doesn't surprise me at all:
It would be a stretch even to describe Thursday night's French-language televised election debate in Vancouver as an exchange of ideas. A new debate format, agreed upon by all four major federal parties, stripped the event of any spontaneity and reduced it to two hours of prime-time party platitudes . . . For all the leaders, the evening was about preaching to the converted, avoiding mistakes and sticking to the script. Harper acknowledged as much, in a roundabout way, after it was over. "I knew the format would be a bit dry," he told reporters. "But on the other hand I think it was much more informative for those who did watch it . . . . I'm not sure watching four leaders yelling at each other at the same time - while entertaining - really tells people very much." In the end, the first debate was less about mental agility than the perfection of cadence, pacing and language that comes from working with a good speechwriter. It may have made their handlers happy - and earned a bonus or a pink slip for whoever told Martin to gesture with his hands so much, depending on your point of view - but as a test of leadership in the crucible it did little to illuminate the candidates for Canadian voters.
So when it comes to the debates I guess we have a choice -- either the party leaders scream at each other, or they drone on and on with their individual spin points. Harper is right when he says that screaming at each other is more entertaining, though its a shame if voters chose the government of Canada based on which leader talks the loudest.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More jokes 

Well, my favorite cartoon source has changed how it displays its cartoons so that they can't be downloaded anymore to websites, but here just for fun are a few recent talk-show jokes:
"While speaking in North Carolina this week, President Bush said, the economy is strong, and the best is yet to come. Adding: Also, the war's going great, we don't torture people, I'm 11 feet tall, and if you don't believe me, you can ask my unicorn." --Tina Fey
"It's predicted that USC running back Reggie Bush will be the overwhelming vote-getter for the Heisman Trophy award. That's tomorrow, isn't it? It's also the first time the words 'Bush' and 'overwhelming vote-getter' appeared in the same sentence." --Jay Leno
"A rumor is circulating that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will retire next year. Today, Rumsfeld denied it, saying if you've seen my work in Iraq, you know I don't plan that far ahead." --Conan O'Brien
"For those of you who aren't Jewish, Hannukah is the celebration of when a tiny amount of oil lasted for eight days. Boy, sound's like a Republican's worst nightmare, doesn't it? A fuel-efficient device that doesn't use a lot of oil?" --Jay Leno
"President Bush lit the candles on the White House menorah. There was an awkward moment when Bush saw the menorah and said 'Cool, a flaming rake.'" --Conan O'Brien
"First Lady Laura Bush read 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' to a group of children. Unfortunately, the first lady was interrupted when Dick Cheney yelled 'Go Grinch.'" --Conan O'Brien
"There was so much snow in Washington, D.C. that Dick Cheney had to take the chains off a detainee and put them on his car." --Jay Leno
[On anti-torture legislation negotiations]: "It works like any negotiation. ... Both sides go in overreaching with their best-case scenario going forward, knowing they're probably not going to get exactly what they want. McCain has opened with no torture, any time, any place. The administration has countered with, we want to do whatever we want, whenever we want, to whomever we want, and we don't want anybody knowing about it. So they're not really that far apart. There's some wiggle room there. And if you know anything about torture, you do not want to spend any time in the wiggle room." --"Daily Show" Senior Human Rights Correspondent Jason Jones
"President Bush is being criticized by Christian groups because his holiday cards don't have the word 'Christmas' in them. In response, President Bush said, 'You try spelling it.'" --Conan O'Brien
"According to CNN, Donald Rumsfeld said the war in Iraq did not go according to plan. And President Bush said, 'What? We had a plan?'" --Jay Leno
"In a speech yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld criticized the media for casting the war in Iraq in a negative light. Yeah, he said they should focus on the light-hearted and fun aspects of the war." --Conan O'Brien
"Howard Dean said that we can't win in Iraq. And if anybody knows about not winning. it's the Democrats." --Jay Leno
"A lot of Bush supporters are very upset about the TV show the 'West Wing.' They say there are too many Democrats on the 'West Wing.' That'll even out when 'Prison Break' comes back, there'll be a lot more Republicans then." --Jay Leno

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Great line of the day 

Huffington Post blogger Marty Kaplan writes about the Washington Post's "its the truth that's liberal, not the columnist" controversy inJournalism's Slo-Mo Suicide:
. . . We have reached the point where instead of assessing the objectivity and accuracy of statements in public discourse, we are told by journalistic traffic cops to treat them merely as theological observations that flow from one's political religion. It's a symptom of the same disease that already causes spineless editors to force apparently defenseless reporters to pair every truthful "he said" in an article with a bogus "she said" in service of some nihilistic postmodern notion of balance . . . Froomkin’s boss’s idea – add a conservative blogger to the mix – is the journalistic equivalent of tattooing “Just Shoot Me” on his forehead. The “intelligent design” guerrillas want to subvert the credibility of evolution by forcing science classes to “teach the controversy” – that is, to put science and theology on morally equivalent footing. Instead of inviting readers to take seriously the troubling information that Froomkin assembles from some of the nation’s most highly-credentialed journalists, Brady wants to turn Froomkin’s content into infotainment: Dancing Bear Left, to be enjoyed alongside some Dancing Bear Right.
Emphasis mine. I have read a lot about the sticky, gooey details of this controversy here and there -- its always lots of fun to follow all the ins and outs of office politics combined with White House politics, especially the towering snits of White House reporters when someone else covers their beat better then they do. But I did think this Kaplan column summed up the most important issues of the story as far as newspaper readers are concerned.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Yawn! 

Well, its Decision 2006 and Canadians are on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting the first of the big debates . . . well, at least I guess we'll be watching. . . well, some of it ... or at least a little ....snarrrrrfffff.
Oops. Oh, sorry, drifted off for a minute there. Where was I? And in today's election news, everyone is still piling onto Scott Reid for his popcorn and beer remark. . . first interesting thing anyone has said yet so we have to make the most of it . . . then again, its really not THAT interesting . . . just a slip of the tongue really and . . . .snnooooorrrr.
Sorry, sorry. Did it again. Just can't seem to keep my eyes open. And now Harper wrote a letter to the Washington Times to say he really wasn't such a big fan of Bush's - or, actually, he didn't exactly say that, just that he was disappointed that Saddam didn't have any deadly weapons - what? He's "disappointed"? Like, does he mean that he WANTED Saddam to have horrible weapons? . . . Oh, well, I'm sure that wasn't really what he meant, just a slip of the tongue really. . . zzzzznnoooosssss!
Damnit, did it again. . . and now the NDP have a daycare policy too. Just. Can't. Keep. My. Eyes. Open . . . snnnnaaaarrrfffffttttt....
(with apologies to Paul Wells, who wrote an hysterically funny blog post on Inkless Wells last spring about falling asleep while covering Canadian politics.)

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Health Care Hold 'Em! 

Tories announce cancer plan
Well, I'll see your cancer plan, and raise you a diabetes strategy on the flop!
Take THAT for your diabetes strategy! We've got a public clinics initiative.
Fie on your public clinic initiative! I've got a Wait Times Action Plan and you'll see it as soon as the river card gets turned.
So looks like its pocket jokers now against a full house...

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Who's sorry now? 

So the American perception at the beginning of the week was that Condoleezza Rice was going to Europe to kick ass and take names -- as of Tuesday, "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was set to tell Washington's allies to fall into line as she began a four-nation tour . . . "
But by Friday, it was clear that it was Rice who was being kicked around. A State department spokesperson re-defined 'success' for the trip by saying "at least we stopped the cycle of self-referenced speculation" -- wow, what an achievement, guys! -- and Rice had been forced to announce a new US "torture" policy which "explicitly banned its interrogators around the world from 'cruel, inhumane or degrading' treatment of detainees" to try to get the Europeans to stop their investigations.
It didn't work.
AP reports today that "More than a half-dozen investigations are under way into whether European countries may have hosted secret U.S.-run prisons in which al-Qaida suspects were allegedly tortured, and whether European airports and airspace were used for alleged CIA flights transporting prisoners to countries where torture is practiced." And today an AP analysis noted that "Condoleezza Rice is now the public face of the Bush administration's promise to play by the world's rules when it comes to fighting terrorism. So if they're broken, her credibility abroad, and perhaps at home, could be at stake."
The world doesn't believe anything the US says anymore.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

The day the music died 




I know Don McLean was writing about Buddy Holly, but for me the day the music died was Dec. 8, 1980, when John Lennon was shot.
He wrote the music by which I have lived my life. Here's the best one
"There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain. All these places had their moments with lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living. In my life I've loved them all. But of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares with you, and these memories lose their meaning when I think of love as something new. Though I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before, I know I'll often stop and think about them, in my life I'll love you more."

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Great lines of the day 

Driftglass writes 'Oh God, how I miss the Commies' and provides this description of Republican talking points. Watch for them:
In the Battle of 2006 - the Year of 'Who Lost Iraq?' -- the talking points congealing on the Right are becoming familiar:
1. Even discussing how we found ourselves stranded in the Fecal Malebole of Iraq is Off Limits.
2. Hide behind Bill Clinton and the French when possible, and . . . Joe Lieberman when necessary.
3. Anyone who criticizes the Dear Leader is a traitor.
4. Anyone who asks any hard questions of Dear Leader's henchmen is a traitor.
5. Anyone who persists in remembering inconvenient facts is a traitor.
6. As the gangrenous reality of the Bush Lies, Bush War, Bush Coverups, Bush post-War Clusterfuck continue the seep through the Coulter- and O'Reilly-appliqu'd-bandages with the stink of failure and death, Turn Rush Up Louder!

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Kyoto statistics 

Well, you know what they say about statistics.
The CBC story 'Opposition leaders attack Martin's environmental record' says without attribution or reference: "The Kyoto Protocol calls for a six per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2012, but Canada's have so far actually risen 24.4 per cent, while U.S. levels have grown by barely half that amount. "
This is the type of statement newspeople make when they are talking about pure, proven, accepted facts, like that the sun rises in the east. But these statistics didn't make sense to me, so I looked further.
Well -- it turns out that the percentage statistics come from the press backgrounder . But when you look at the complete report, this is what you find, on pages 14 and 17:
Canada:
1990 greenhouse gas emissions: 595.86 (3.24 per cent of the world total)
2003 emissions: 740.21 (4.28 per cent of the world total)
Percentage increase 24.2 per cent
United States:
1990 emissions: 6,082.51 (33 per cent of the world's total)
2003 emissions: 6,893.81 (39 per cent of the world's total)
Percentage increase 13.3 per cent
As I suspected, there is a ten-fold difference in magnitude between the US and Canada. The US increase over the last 13 years is actually greater than Canada's total emissions.
In trolling through all this data, I also noted that because Russia only signed onto the Accord in February of this year, that is technically when Kyoto actually became official. The period targetted for emissions reductions doesn't actually start until 2008. As the press release at the beginning of the the Montreal conference stated "Under the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force 16 February 2005, more than 30 industrialized countries are bound by specific and legally binding emission reduction targets. As a first step, these cover the period 2008-2012." Remembering this is a world-wide effort, the release also notes that developed countries like Canada can earn carbon allowances by investing in other developed countries, "in particular central and eastern European transition economies", and also invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries.
So I think its a little premature, and a little misleading too, for the US or the media to be hauling Canada over the coals for missing any Kyoto targets. At least, not yet.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

One week 

Its the end of the first week, and the polls show a bit of movement:


From Politics Canada

After the 2004 election, I thought Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc would prop up the Liberals as long as they could, with Duceppe realizing that only Quebec anger over the sponsorship scandal had enabled them to elect 54 Bloc members to Parliament. However, I wonder if the recent Parti Quebecoise leadership race went to his head. Inspired by the leadership convention hoopla -- the exciting speeches, the cheering and flag-waving, the whole streamers-and-balloons atmosphere -- its easy to get carried away and start thinking your pary is on a roll. But sponsorship scandal aside, I don't think separatism is building steam in Quebec.
My prediction in 2004 was that the Bloc would be back down to 25 seats this election, and I haven't seen anything yet that would make me change my mind -- particularly if Duceppe continues to make the mistake of turning this into a pseudo-sovreignty referendum. Scott of Montreal notes that the Harper Conservatives aren't generating any traction in Quebec, and apparently aren't interested in doing so. About the Liberals, Scott says "we'll just have to see if Quebeckers' feelings are still as hurt next month as they were in 2004." I would doubt it, particularly when the Liberals will be making the case that a vote for the Bloc is a vote for separation. Quebecers may well join with Ontario on the one thing that both provinces usually agree on -- voting Liberal.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wolcott 

In Scenes from the War on Christmas, Wolcott writes: "Today this nice saleslady handed me the blue Tiffany box she had tied with a ribbon just so and, with a twinkle in her smile, wished me a Merry Christmas. So I socked her. "

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Teach your children well 


A child in Iraq signals V for 'victory' while watching a US tank burn.


A child in America shows off her dad's "Club G'itmo" tshirt.

Teach your children well
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell
did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks,
the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why,
if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them
and sigh
and know they love you.

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Circular files 

Read this, its funny. In "None dare call it Schizophrenia" World O'Crap describes the tragic tale of a Massachusetts Church Lady being persecuted by the Militant Homosexual Activists. When she tries to get the state Attorney General to investigate how the MHAs are going through her garbage and moving her stuff around, the AG isn't returning the phone calls. World O'Crap just speculates wildly here: "Her case probably got misfiled under 'nut job.'" Emphasis mine.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Marching against global warming 

From bears:


to buttons:

In Montreal today, thousands of demonstrators marched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is updating the Kyoto Protocol on lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
All photos from CP photographer Ian Barrett unless noted.

Here are some more photos:

Jacques Boissinot







We Canadians often chuckle about global warming -- "bring it on!" -- and for my part of the country, a longer growing season would be great. But, first, I'm not sure whether global warming would actually result in this change here on the prairies anyway. And second, any benefit we might get would of course be mitigated by the hurricanes, ice storms, tornadoes, blizzards, rising sea levels, etc which would inflict the rest of the continent . . . so, no thanks, don't want any global warming here.

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Palestinians demonstrate for the Peacemakers 

I hadn't heard of this ever happening before for people kidnapped in Iraq -- a demonstration by Palestinians calling for the release of the four Christian Peacemakers:


AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Also, sign the petition here -- 4000 people have already, including Cindy Sheehan -- and keep up with the latest news about the Peacemakers here.

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Bush cartoons and jokes 

First, the cartoons:


Cam Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen

RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch


Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

And a couple about Cheney:

RJ Matson, The New York Observer


RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch

And one more:

Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

Now the jokes:
-President Bush's approval rating now down to 35%. To give you an idea about how unpopular President Bush is right now, he wasn't even invited to the White House Christmas party. --Jay Leno
-President Bush spent the Thanksgiving weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. A lot of anti-war protesters showed up. On the news they said that 12 pro-Bush supporters were also there. Twelve? Really? That's it? That's pretty bad isn't it? Even Scott Peterson had more people than that waiting for him." --Jay Leno
-Bush's overall approval ratings have hit an all-time low ... If Bush's numbers don't improve, he could become the first president held back and forced to repeat his presidency. --Tina Fey
-President Bush was at the Mexican border yesterday. Apparently his poll numbers are so low that he was trying to make a run for it. --Jay Leno
-According to the latest poll, if George W. Bush were to run for president today he would lose to the Democratic candidate. And today George W. Bush said 'Again?' --Jay Leno
-President Bush was called for jury duty in Texas. Whew, finally some good news for Tom DeLay. --Jay Leno
-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he wants to be president. Well that's good, somebody will have to pardon his brother. --David Letterman
-The big White House Christmas tree arrived in Washington yesterday. This is President's Bush's favorite holiday tradition. Anything that involves cutting down a tree, Bush has a great time. --Jay Leno
-The big story from Washington today is that President Bush may have lied to investigators about the CIA leak. The theory is that President Bush may have been playing dumb. Well good luck getting anyone to believe that one." --Jay Leno
-In his speech President Bush said we need to rebuild Iraq, provide the people with jobs, and give them hope. If it works there maybe we'll try it in New Orleans. --Jay Leno
-For the first time ever, Republicans in Congress -- Republicans! -- are demanding to know the president's exit strategy from Iraq. Yeah, in response the president said I have an exit strategy, I'm leaving office in 2008. --Conan O'Brien
-It seems the Pentagon has been paying Iraqi journalists to promote a proWhite House view in Iraqi newspapers. See, luckily, we don't have that kind of thing here. We have Fox News. --Jay Leno
-Insiders say that if Karl Rove resigns, President Bush will not function effectively. Wait a minute, all this time he's been functioning effectively?" --David Letterman
-A chunk of marble fell off the facade of the Supreme Court building. Just fell off, boom. Engineers believe it may have fallen off because the building was leaning a little too far to the right. ... Here's the sad part, it didn't hit one lawyer. --Jay Leno
-[On freedom's progress): Here in Baghdad, freedom. In outer Baghdad, free-ish, gradually becoming liberatory. The southern regions, somewhat under-oppressed. The city of Umm Qasr, vaguely unshackled. The Western provinces, still a little kidnappy. --"Daily Show" correspondent Rob Corddry

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Scum 

That piece of inhuman scum named Rush Limbaugh thinks that it serves the Christian Peacemaker Teams right that they got kidnapped -- he thinks it is outrageous that they should evey try to achieve peace through, well, acting peacefully, when Georgie and the US of A is trying to achieve peace through war.
I guess he'd be even happier if they got killed. Boy, that'd really show them how wrong they were, I guess.
From Rush Limbaugh's show of Nov. 29:
LIMBAUGH: "Aljazeera has broadcasted an insurgent video today, shows four peace activists taken hostage in Iraq . . . Yeah, all right. Now, let's take this at face value just for a moment. This could all be BS. I mean, we've never heard of the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. This could all be a stunt, but let's take it -- well, let's take it both ways. We'll take it face value at first, then we'll look at it as a stunt second. I said at the conclusion of previous hours -- part of me that likes this. And some of you might say, "Rush, that's horrible. Peace activists taken hostage." Well, here's why I like it. I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality. So here we have these peace activists over there. I don't care if they're Christian or not. They're over there, and as peace activists, they've got one purpose. They're over there trying to stop the violence. . . . Fine, they get kidnapped. They get kidnapped at gunpoint. If that version of this is true, then -- OK, you've met the bad guys, and you tried your technique on them, and now you're blindfolded in a room with guns pointed at you and knives at your throat. I don't like that. But any time a bunch of people that walk around with the head in the sand practicing a bunch of irresponsible, idiotic theory confront reality, I'm kind of happy about it, because I'm eager for people to see reality, change their minds if necessary, and have things sized up.
Emphasis mine. Yes, as soon as these people get kidnapped, well, they'll turn into the same kind of scum that Limbaugh is himself.
Limbaugh, by the way, has on his website a whole Club G'itmo section, with photos from all his chickenhawk listeners who think they're contributing to the war effort by putting on their Club G'itmo hat and taking a photo standing in front of a Democrat's office. Wow, talk about putting yourself at risk! Why, those Democrats might actually come out and yell at them!
I guess Limbaugh thinks those Christian Peacemaker Teams should be doing stunts like this, instead of actually living their faith and risking their lives in Iraq and other war zones around the world.
And this is the kind of crap that the American military are listening to on their Armed Forces radio.
The Mennonites should demand an apology.
And when did Rush Limbaugh ever do one single charitable thing for any other American, much less for someone in another country? Never. Even his much-promoted "gift" to soldiers is a scam. It consists of getting donations from his listeners so that he will send the soldiers a 'membership' in his website plus a monthly newsletter. He says he's not profiteering because for every $50 donation for each subscription, he himself is "matching" this -- in other words, for each 'subscription' he is actually collecting $25.

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Hand Ignatieff his hat 

If he survives the nomination, I hope the voters of Etobicoke-Lakeshore hand Michael Ignatieff his hat.
This is NOT a fellow who should be sitting in our House of Commons, not at a Liberal at least. His writings may have been insulting to Ukrainians -- I'm not sure of the larger context for a sentence like "Ukrainian independence conjures up images of peasant embroidered shirts, the nasal whine of ethnic instruments, phony Cossacks in cloaks and boots . . ." so perhaps he can actually claim the benefit of the doubt -- but certainly his other writings are offensive to me.
This July, 2005 article "Exporting Democracy, Revising Torture: The Complex Missions of Michael Ignatieff" exposes the moral bankruptcy of this man.
Torture? Well, that's OK really, because its necessary, and its just human nature anyway:
"the issue then becomes not whether torture can be prevented, but whether it can be regulated". [Ignatieff] goes even further, and seems to like the idea that when the police need to torture a suspect they could apply to a judge for a 'torture warrant' that would specify the individual being tortured and set limits to the type and duration of pain allowed . . . "The problem is to . . . maintain the limits, case by case, where reasonable people may disagree as to what constitutes torture, what detentions are illegal, which killings depart from lawful norms, or which pre-emptive actions constitute aggression." . . . we know what torture is. From the Spanish inquisition, from the Nazi era, from Augusto Pinochet in Chile, from the apartheid police in South Africa, from Antonio Salazar in Portugal and Francisco Franco in Spain, from Mobutu Sese-Soko in Zaire and now from those digital snapshots of Abu Ghraib, all 'reasonable people' know what torture is. The United Nations charter and half a century of juridical development inside and outside the UN have showed us in detail what torture is, and the rights that we have and must protect. Ignatieff, apparently speaking from some distant world, tells us that, yes, the repressive instincts of the executive power and the security forces should be counterbalanced by the judicial system . . .
The Bush administration, the neocons, the Republicans in general? Just wonderful folks, really, because their hearts are in the right place:
He attacks Europeans as anti-democratic and selfish. He criticises John Kerry as a “risk-avoiding realist” . . . he enthusiastically praises Ronald Reagan, “who began the realignment of American politics, making the Republicans into internationalist Jeffersonians”. For him, “the emergence of democracy promotion as a central goal of United States foreign policy” started with Reagan. Somehow, the director of the Carr Center fails to mention the effects of the Reagan doctrine in Central America and Africa, the Iran-Contra affair, the illegal attacks on Nicaragua and the promotion of the freedom fighters in Afghanistan – a policy with powerful consequences in today’s terrorism. Ignatieff has no historical context. Fatally attracted by the style of instant journalism, he frivolously mixes history and propaganda. . . . Ignatieff does not even know about the country he lives in. He has “an imagined community” in his mind, a homogenous and coherent American society embodying Jeffersonian ideals. And he dreams of a fair and normal electoral process: “Judging from the results of the election in 2004, a majority of Americans do not want to be told that Jefferson was wrong.” US society, with its deep fragmentations and its millions of immigrants whose hearts and minds are in the Dominican Republic, Russia, Honduras or India, has a diversity that mocks such generalisations as “the American electorate seems to know only too well how high the price was in Iraq, and it still chose the gambler (Bush) over the realist (Kerry). In 2004, the Jefferson dream won decisively over American prudence.” It may be difficult to explain all the reasons behind last year’s presidential vote, but we can be sure of this: not many people voted for democratic ideals in the middle east. . . . Ignatieff chooses to applaud a government that goes to war in defiance of the Security Council, that actively promotes the failure of the United Nations, that refuses to sign international treaties, that opts out of international justice and that ignores human rights in prisons – a government that is violating rather than promoting the Jeffersonian dream. In his militaristic patriotism, Ignatieff is blind and wrong.
Please, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, save us from this guy. Or else we will all have to listen to him pontificate during Question Period day after day.
And he probably expects a cabinet post, too. Gag me with a spoon.

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