Friday, December 31, 2004

Great idea

I think this is a great idea -- Canada suspends debt for tsunami-hit countries. It is something Western governments can do immediately and directly, without even leaving their desks. Other countries should follow Canada's lead.

How stupid do they think people are?

Pretty stupid, I guess -- the Weekly Standard editorial, Negotiating with Himself thinks that Americans will accept Republican dismantling of Social Security as long as Republicans obscure the truth and don't tell anyone what they are actually doing, but rather "sell it" with feel-good phrases and focus-group-tested language. Will it work? Stay tuned.

Looking for a few good men

Bad day for Bonhomme Carnaval
"Journalists have been unable to . . . find out exactly what led to them forming a union."
My daughter worked as an advertising mascot on several occasions -- wandering around our exhibition in a Mario costume, if memory serves. She said it was hotter than hell in that suit, and she couldn't see where she was going, and 10-year-old boys would throw drinks at her and try to trip her.
No wonder the Bonhommes wanted a union. Mascots of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your latex heads.

Wondering if someone dropped the ball

Agency answers critics over no tsunami warning:
"Fifteen minutes after Sunday's quake near Sumatra, NOAA fired off a bulletin from Hawaii to 26 Pacific nations that now make up the International Coordination Group for the Tsunami Warning System, alerting them of the quake but saying they faced no threat of a tsunami. Fifty minutes later, the U.S. agency upgraded the severity of the quake and again said there was no tsunami threat in the Pacific, but identified the possibility of a tsunami near the quake's epicenter in the Indian Ocean. After nearly another half hour, NOAA contacted emergency officials in Australia as a backstop, knowing they would quickly contact their counterparts in Indonesia . . . 'The fact that the potential danger rose to the level of prompting a swift warning to two nations, while others could be faced with a potentially devastating impact, raises serious questions,' the Senate oceans subcommittee chair, Sen. Olympia Snowe, of Maine, said in a letter to Lautenbacher. Lautenbacher said there was only so much NOAA can do. "
Far be it for me to criticize, but I have wondered about this -- it took me less than five minutes to find the phone numbers for the US ambassadors to India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, etc. in the CIA Factbook. Even on Christmas Day, I think someone likely would have answered the phone . . .

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Paging General Miller - you have an urgent message on the white courtesy phone!

Having turfed the Geneva Convention and OKd torture of prisoners a year ago, the US government has now officially changed its mind --Justice Expands 'Torture' Definition.
Of course, this pulls the rug out from under all the military police and CIA types who can now be prosecuted for war crimes for torturing people at Gitmo and Abu Gharib and other undisclosed locations for the last two years.
But they're just a peck of low-level bad apples anyway.
The important thing, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, is that now Gonzales can announce during the upcoming hearings on his Attorney General nomination that all questions about the August, 2003 memo are "inoperative" because these were merely "preliminary conclusions" and no one actually intended that they be acted on, oh goodness gracious no.
The most bizarre sentence in this bizarre article: "It could be that this is not just a cynical ploy but a real sign of change" as spoken by Clinton administration Justice official Michael Greenberger.
Oh goodness gracious, of course its sincere -- they've all got religion now, I guess.

Some Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Stuff

So I was poking through my favorite blogs yesterday and read All Spin's post about the recent spate of Christian Right attacks on education and universities. The All Spin Zone: Warning - Too Much Education Causes (gasp!) Liberalism! At the end, All Spin raises the issue: "What is lacking is a coordinated effort to investigate what and who is behind this 'movement' to undermine public education. "
So I did some Googling.
The Counterpunch article quoted by All Spin mentions the Students for Academic Freedom organization as ringleading protests criticizing professors for being too liberal. So I checked their website and found that David Horowitz is apparently its self-appointed founder and president. Googling David Horowitz leads to this Chronicle of Higher Education article, Patrolling Professors' Politics, which described David Horowitz as president of the Centre for the Study of Popular Culture, which publishes FrontPage Magazine , edited also by Horowitz. This is a magazine which just named Swiftboater John ONeill as its Man of the Year and is full of articles attacking George Soros and Theresa Heinz Kerry's philanthropy and the democratic party's "radical agendas" and is also very concerned about immigration and Middle East politics -- ah ha! Now we're getting to it, coming full circle, as a matter of fact. One of the "watchdog" organizations on the FrontPage website is Campus Watch, which says it "monitors Middle East Studies on campus". The monitoring seems to consist of criticizing universities which let their Islamic students muzzle pro-Israel speakers (remember the mess at York and at Concordia?) and also seems to imply that left-wing faculty at universities are actually some kind of pro-Islamic fifth column in America. Many of the articles listed for reference on the Campus Watch site were published in -- you guessed it -- FrontPage magazine.
I also meant to Google some of the Intelligent Design and Creationist stuff but I just couldn't stand it. Maybe later . . .

Reaping the whirlwind

In Salon, Sidney Blumenthal describes recent personnel changes in the State Department - Neocons take complete control. He writes "Those Republican elders who warned of endless war are purged. And those who advised Bush that Saddam was building nuclear weapons, that with a light military force the operation would be a "cakewalk," that capturing Baghdad was a "mission accomplished," and that the Iraqi army should be disbanded, are rewarded."
Oh, isn't that just ducky? So much for the Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak diatribes before the election about how Bush was going to get rid of the neocons and get out of Iraq and return to true republican principles. Sure he was.
Particularly telling is Blumenthal's description of how the elder Bush supporters are now acting:
"Despite his belief that the younger Bush's policies were disastrous, Scowcroft publicly supported him for reelection mainly out of loyalty to the father . . . [but the administraion has now rejected both]Scowcroft and James Baker . . . In private, Baker is scathing about the current occupant of the White House. . . "
Well, well, well -- Scowcroft and Baker, a couple of true patriots. They could have spoken up during the election campaign, and helped send George and his neocon gang back to Texas, but no -- "loyalty" triumphs patriotism.
They will now reap what they have sowed.
I've been reading stuff on progressive blogs lately about whether Bush really has a "mandate" -- as if THAT would make any difference. Folks, stop living in the reality-based community -- Bush doesn't care, he simply believes he can do anything he likes and so do the 101st Fighting Keyboarders who blog support for his every flaw.
It doesn't matter what anybody else around Washington thinks, Dad included. George is not listening. Never has, never will. He just stuffs his fingers in his ears and chants "na-na-na-na-na" every time somebody is saying anything he doesn't want to hear.
Eventually, they just shut up.

No more excuses!

Well, I guess Canada can't be expected to just RESPOND to the Asia emergency by sending whatever we have on hand.
No, apparently that's not the Canadian way.
First we have to STUDY the issue. Then we have to CONSIDER what we could do, and CAREFULLY CRAFT the appropriately economical response. Then, AND ONLY THEN, should we actually send help.
And if, by then, another hundred thousand have died due to thirst, hunger and disease, well, them's the breaks.
I'm totally disgusted -- you see, Canada has this crack team of 200 soldiers, doctors and engineers called DART which was put together following the Rwanda cholera epidemic, specifically designed to be used for world-wide emergencies on 48-hour notice. And it has actually been used, twice, to great praise, in Honduras and in Turkey. But it costs $15 or $20 million to deploy it.
So since 1998, it hasn't been allowed off the ground.
The Globe, in reporting on Canadian tsunami aid - Canada commits $40 million for tsunami aid - notes in passing that we might send some or all of the DART team to Asia.
Or maybe not -- after all, DART can only be deployed, as Bill Graham qualifies it, "if it's going to be useful on the ground" -- it takes "four large planes" to move the whole team, he tells us.
First, apparently, we have to figure out how to make DART more "nimble". Now, we've had five years to study how to do this; regretfully, it apparently hasn't yet been done -- but hey, it was on someone's "to do" list, and its just too bad that no one actually got started on this until last fall.
Then we have to have an "advance reconnaissance team" to determine whether some parts of DART maybe could be sent to Asia.
The whole tone of Graham's reported remarks is that it just wouldn't DO, to act too hastily.
Well, knowing the way bureaucracies usually work, I suspect that the person who put DART together retired or quit about five years ago. And I suspect his successors, wanting to use the money for their own projects, have been trying to quietly kill it ever since.
But the people they're now killing are the people in Asia.
And DART could help, if the politicians and Ottawa military chiefs would just quit making excuses and SEND IT.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The night is coming?

Via Kos comes this article: Realists Rebuffed: A vulgarized neconservatism in the saddle Author Scott Campbell describes what is happening in America today --
"[We are] setting in full motion of an aggressive, reckless, militarized foreign policy, viewed as lawless by much of the world -- one whose almost inevitable outcome is nuclear war. While Pinochet and Franco and for most of his reign Stalin kept within their own borders, Bush has ambitions of global scope. Of course they are idealistic ambitions, beautiful ambitions. The spread of democracy -- especially if it springs up from a country's indigenous institutions and populace -- is a very good thing. But the Bushites now see democracy's spread as necessary for America's own survival. The world, particularly the Muslim world, must become democratic now, or we will perish. The neoconservatives in the administration believe that democracy will spread only if the president commits more and more troops to Iraq and topples the regimes in Tehran and Damascus. As alarming as the neoconservatism of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Danielle Pletka, and John Bolton is, more alarming is the spirit that has spread in its wake -- a kind of neoconservativism without a graduate degree. You see it on certain blogs and hear it in the rants of some of the most widely listened to right-wing talk-radio hosts. If the Arabs don't want to be democratic, we should nuke them. We have no choice but to nuke them for our own safety. It's a vulgarized neoconservatism -- no one from the American Enterprise Institute speaks like this (in public). But this talk is around in the heartland and growing, and it is wind in the sails of the new administration . . . How has the country changed? Two years ago, when National Review editor Rich Lowry said that an appropriate response to a WMD attack on the United States might be to nuke Mecca, there was a fair amount of outrage. But Lowry, recall, was imagining how the United States might respond to a massive terrorist attack. Now the American airwaves and blogosphere are rife calls to nuke those whom military invasion couldn’t turn into democrats."
I've noticed these horrifying comments on right-wing blogs, too, and didn't know what to make of them or how widespread this had become.
The same thing happened in Vietnam, if anyone can remember. I credit the Vietnam anti-nwar demonstrators, including John Kerry, for forcing an end to that unwinnable war before the US reached such a point of desperation that they would use nuclear weapons to try to win it -- there were also, in those days, some calls of "Nuke Hanoi" and "what else is the bomb for?" but the anti-war movement overwhelmed them.
If Iraq is Vietnam on crack, I am worried that we don't have enough time anymore to stop Bush.
Do not go gentle into that good night. Blog, blog against the dying of the light.

2004 Canadian Blog Awards

2004 Canadian Blog Awards Vote for your favourite Canadian blog here (and no, I'm not listed -- oh well, maybe next year)
Its worth checking just to find out about some great blogs, whether you vote or not.
UPDATE: Sorry - the link above is the wrong site. Here is the correct one for voting: Canadian Blog Awards voting site.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Family disaster plan

The news from Asia is devastating - 14,000 dead now, and rising.
We owe it to ourselves and our families to have our own Family Disaster Plan. Now, Saskatoon is not a particularly disaster-prone area -- we almost never get summer or winter storms bad enough to even close the airport, for example, much less lose our electrical power, and we are far away from earthquake zones -- but its still worthwhile to consider possible problems and plan for them. The website I linked to above has a number of good ideas -- its more comprehensive than the Red Cross guide (pdf).

Saturday, December 25, 2004

On a lighter note

Check this one out -- The year in pictures
Lots of stuff for news junkies, cat bloggers, extreme weather junkies and everyone else.

It's ba-a-a-ak!

Five killed by Vietnam War shell
And what do you think of this little factoid at the end of the story - "Since the U.S.-led Vietnam War ended, nearly 40,000 Vietnamese have been killed by leftover ordnance."

It makes the world go 'round

Isn't this a sad start to Christmas -- Lottery Winner's Granddaughter Is Buried. And there was a story this week in the Saskatoon paper about a $3 million lottery winner in MooseJaw who is broke three years later.
Now I, on the other hand, would make an excellent lottery winner! I would know how to handle it all -- fame, success, money, and all that. So why haven't I ever won? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas!

And an especially merry christmas to readers of this blog, who have given me information, insight and laughter (you know who you are, Frog!). Thank you for making my life richer.
I was searching for "good news" headlines to blog about this Christmas eve. Amid all the reports ot carnage in Mosul and massacre in Honduras and travellers buried in snow and found this -- Paper Prints Only Good News in Christmas Issue Well, I guess Christmas comes but once a year!

Fake tree but real bugs

Well, we thought about getting an artificial tree this year, but went with the real one again. Now, aren't I glad that we did -- Oh, Christmas tree!


What is the matter with this man? Williams declares flag war over equalization payments
So Newfoundland has been a have-not province for years, meaning it got equalization money from Ontario and BC, and now that it has the potential of becoming a "have" province, the rest of the country is just supposed to go F--- itself? Is that what Newfoundland is telling us all? Well, you know the reply to that one, don't you!

Looking for America

When I read this post at Seeing The Forest I was reminded of Paul Simon's America, written in 1968:
by Paul Simon
Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies
And walked off to look for America
Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America
Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said be careful his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field
Cathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

I'm not sure why I made this connection -- perhaps both are basically some sort of plea that America needs to live up to the best in itself, rather than the worst.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Talking sense about Iraq

A sensible report - What Can the U.S. Do in Iraq? International Crisis Group - with realistic observations and recommendations: "In Iraq, the U.S. is engaged in a war it already may have lost while losing sight of a struggle in which it still may have time to prevail. Its initial objective was to turn Iraq into a model for the region: a democratic, secular and free-market oriented government, sympathetic to U.S. interests, not openly hostile toward Israel, and possibly home to long-term American military bases. But hostility toward the U.S. and suspicion of its intentions among large numbers of Iraqis have progressed so far that this is virtually out of reach. More than that, the pursuit has become an obstacle to realisation of the most essential, achievable goal -- a stable government viewed by its people as credible, representative and the embodiment of national interests as well as capable of addressing their basic needs."
So what are the chances that anyone in the US government will listen?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Arar as Everyman

Peace, order and good government, eh? describes why the Arar case is so important for all Canadians -- "If it can happen to Maher Arar, it can happen to any of us. Certainly his religion and ethnic background made him a more likely target, but if the treatment he received remains even remotely acceptable, if it's seen as even remotely "normal", it increases the odds that it can happen to me. Or you. That's why this story is so important."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A "cultural choice" world

This post about China and India, on the road to surfdom blog, reminded me about something I had wanted to comment on last week.
CBC National News ran a couple of terrific stories in their Road Stories series, about multiculturalism in Vancouver. The city is beyond multiculturalism, really, moving toward a new "cultural choice" world that should be the model for us all.
First, there was the woman who described her boyfriend as half-Irish, just like she was. Her other half was Scottish; his other half was Chinese. She said her parents weren't happy about the relationship, refusing to be molified by the Irish connection -- an attitude she and all her friends did not comprehend at all.
Then there was the Chinese Canadian restauranteur Todd Wong, who runs the largest Chinese restaurant in the Lower Mainland (something like 500 seats). Every year for the last several years he has hosted a traditional 12-course Chinese feast -- in honour of Robbie Burns Day. And his trio entertains the crowd -- Wong himself (who says his nickname now is Toddish McWong) plays the accordian wearing his kilt, while the East Indian band member plays sitar and the Scottish band member plays the pipes, I think, or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, its terrific!

Not "what choice?" but "whose choice?"

With all of the discussion now about abortion and whether US democrats should be for it or against it, I wanted to do a post about what 'pro-choice" actually means.
I think a lot of people have forgotten -- the basic question is "whose choice is it?" not "what choice should be made?"
In Canada after 1969 it wasn't illegal to HAVE an abortion; rather, it was illegal for a doctor to PERFORM an abortion outside a hospital, without permission of a committee of doctors. In other words, it was the doctors' choice whether an abortion procedure was permitted or not. In 1988, our Supreme Court found this abortion law unconstitutional because it violated women's civil rights.
Ever since, it has been the woman's choice whether to have an abortion or not. Here, as in the United States, the Christian Right can disagree with a woman's decision to have an abortion, but its her choice to have it, not theirs. Even countries which still outlaw abortion usually have a "life or health of the mother" exception, which again makes the question "whose choice" rather than "what choice".
And that is still the issue. The so-called abortion issue is not whether abortion is moral or immoral. The issue is whether a woman has the right to make HER OWN DECISION, based on her own morality, about having an abortion, or whether a committee of doctors makes the decision for her.
Now in the United States, people keep saying that an anti-abortion Supreme Court would someday "make abortion illegal" again. But the Supreme Court cannot do this -- it can overturn Roe V Wade only by waiting for a state to pass an anti-abortion law, then supporting that law when it is appealed to them. I think it is unlikely that even an anti-abortion Supreme Court would support a draconian state law which simply bans abortion completely, thereby denying life-saving medical care to a woman whose pregnancy is killing her -- the Christian Right wouldn't like it, but chances are no state legislature would be able to pass such a restrictive law anyway. More likely, the Supremes would overturn Roe V Wade by supporting a law that restricted abortions unless a committee of doctors thought abortion was necessary to protect the life and/or health of the mother, or when the pregnancy resulted from rape.
So once again, we would be back to the committee decision, back to the "whose choice is it?" issue. Women who decided to seek an abortion would again be in a situation where a committee of doctors would be making the choice for her, evaluating whether her case to have an abortion was good enough.
Planned Parenthood defines pro-choice this way: "To be pro-choice is to believe that a woman has the right to decide for herself when and whether to have a child. It means believing that a woman can make that decision on her own, based on her personal beliefs, health, and life-circumstances, without government interference."
I agree.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Do you believe in magic?

Here's a random thought -- there are, I think, something like 4 billion people in the world now and, for 90 per cent of them or more, this story is absolutely and utterly incomprehensible -- Rice University Computer Scientists Find a Flaw in Google's New Desktop Search Program
Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark once said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

42 days

Iraq election has monitors worried reports on an secret international meeting involving Canada, Latin America, Europe and Middle Eastern states, held in Ottawa this weekend, trying to pull America's fat out of the fire by figuring out how to organize the Iraq vote -- which is supposed to happen in just 42 days.
Media weren't supposed to know about the meeting, apparently, and no results were announced. But I'll bet they spent the first half-day just venting steam at the Americans for getting us all into this mess. The world has been saying "you broke it, you fix it" to the Americans for the last year, but it has now become embarassingly clear that America is utterly incapable of fixing anything in Iraq, nor even of electing a president who could have turned things around. So the world now feels it has no choice, I think, except to step up to the plate and try to salvage this shattered country.
Liberal house leader Tony Valeri is quoted as saying "We may in fact send people to Iraq. But it certainly needs to be safe, and we need to ensure that Canadians are protected.”
Oh, come on -- there is no safety in Iraq for anyone who is perceived to be on the American "side" there. If we do send people there, they will be risking their lives to witness their faith in democracy, for the chance that our being there will somehow make things a little better for the suffering Iraqi people.
I can admire their courage, while cursing the stupidity that created the need for it.

From the "wouldn't touch them wirh a ten foot pole" department

comes this story (thanks to Antiwar for the link) Agencies warn Bush that U.S. isn't defeating Iraq insurgents, which ends thusly ". . . a vital effort to woo Sunnis... hasn't borne fruit. 'It all boils down to the aura of the former regime. I think there are a lot of people sitting on the fence. They don't want to be seen as collaborating,' one defense official said. "
Or maybe they just don't want to . . you know . . . actually collaborate? Did anyone think of that?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Saving America once again

Well, I think I have finally figured out why the Bush administration is hell-bent-for-leather on destroying Social Security while simultaneously driving up US federal deficits to unsustainable levels -- they want to Save America!
"Saving America" has been a constant Republican/Christian Right refrain for the last two decades -- on issues as diverse as abortion-on-demand, Hollywood movies, gay marriage, charter schools, government bureaucracy, civil liberties, judicial appointments, foreign aid, and job creation, the Republicans have been convinced since the early 1990s that America is going to hell unless 'something is done'. It must be stopped! American values must prevail!
And the fact that economic prosperity and social progress highlighted Clinton's administration, after the higher crime rates and wars and economic depressions during the Reagan and HW administrations, really infuriated Republicans -- how could it be that things were getting better under the Democrats? No, no - things were WORSE, WORSE I TELL YOU. Any right-wing radio host could chatter endlessly during the 1990s about how awful things were, how America was endangered and declining and immoral.
But after George was elected, objective reality intruded again -- the American economy went into recession, giant companies like Enron disintegrated, terrorists launched the most horrific attack in American history, jobs disappeared as manufacturing went overseas -- and things continued to decline, got worse even, after the Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress.
How could this be, that things were getting worse under the Republican watch? So they had to find things to fix, to Save America.
I have written before about the Republican tendency to think there are Magic Bullets -- its a human tendency, really, to believe there is one noble action or policy which will, when aimed at a problem, solve it easily and magically in a single stroke, making everything better all at once, without any need for further effort or focus or incremental steps.
So they passed massive expensive legislation -- No Child Left Behind, Medicare prescription drug benefits -- to save American schools and health care, and they promoted massive expensive wars -- Afghanistan, Iraq -- to save American democracy and bring peace to the world, and they ran up enormous expensive deficits to fund congressional pet projects across the country, and their social programs consist of one single act - the gay marriage ammendment - which somehow singlehandedly will save American morality and society. They even began to reject objective reality itself, promoting "faith-based" reality in which things were BETTER, BETTER I TELL YOU, regardless of the evidence.
So now here is Social Security, the most successful social program in American history. Democrats keep saying that Social Security doesn't need much fixing, that its basically OK for the next 40 years anyway, and that small-scale tweaks will keep it going after that. But for Republicans, that isn't good enough. The next Magic Bullet must be fired, and Social Security is in the cross-hairs. Democrats won't be able to stop it -- the Republicans are just too excited about it, too enamoured of another big, complicated, massive piece of legislation that will give them lots of ways to pontificate and to add more pork. And they are utterly convinced that destroying Social Security is their new opportunity to Save America!

Friday, December 17, 2004

War? What war?

In Thursday's front-page Globe story Klein turns up the heat in same-sex controversy Edmonton reporter Katherine Harding announces in her lead sentence that we are in the middle of a "national battle against same-sex marriage".
Really? Where?
I've seen this type of language frequently in the recent Globe stories on gay marriage -- apparently there is some sort of "national battle" going on about this "controversial issue". But where are the barricades? Who, other than Ralph Klein and his unnamed Alberta caucus, is manning them?
Note that the other people Harding quotes in the story are either dithering (two nonentity federal cabinet ministers) or critical of Klein (Peter MacKay). Pollster John Wright from Ipsos-Reid is quoted as saying that it is unlikely Klein's lobbying effort will change many minds on same-sex marriage. "There is a mood in the air for accepting equality rights."
So what is the Globe and Mail thinking by ginning up a controversy meme?
Maybe from Katherine Harding's perspective hanging around the Alberta legislature, there is some sort of national battle going on here. And she seems to think Klein is a "political heavyweight" nationally - she had described him this way in other stories.
And maybe the Globe editors know so little about any province other than Ontario that they actually think Klein has some credibility elsewhere in the west.
Here's a news flash, boys -- he doesn't. BC. Saskatchewan, and Manitoba think he is a buffoon, just like Ontario and Quebec and Eastern Canada do. Western Canadians all know that Ralph Klein has never lifted a finger to provide political, economic or social leadership in Western Canada, and he has never cared a whit about how Alberta's actions may have affected any other province. On the national stage, he opens his mouth only to change feet.
So nobody in the West gives a damn what Ralph Klein thinks about anything.

But George is such a truthful guy!

Krugman - Buying Into Failure - says "So the Bush administration wants to scrap a retirement system that works, and can be made financially sound for generations to come with modest reforms. Instead, it wants to buy into failure, emulating systems that, when tried elsewhere, have neither saved money nor protected the elderly from poverty. "
Yeah, well, that's what the Americans voted for. The 59 million who voted for George Bush knew exactly what they were voting for, because he told them what he would do.
The other stupid thing about this "personal accounts" idea is that in about 15 years, people will start clamouring to be allowed to withdraw "their" funds for things like house down-payments and college tuitions and health care expenses and paying off debts. So not only will today's so-called young workers in the US be retiring in 2055 with vastly reduced government pensions, their "accounts" will be so depleted that they won't have any personal pensions either.
Oh well, there's always Edward G Robinson's Solyent Green solution, I guess.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Snarling "Merry Christmas!"

at the top of their lungs! Christmas war of words in US Ah, those Christian Rightists -- striking the decisive blow for truth, justice and the American way. God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Grooming tips!

Even though I am far away from the New York scene he often writes about, I enjoy James Wolcott - he is one of those writers, like Garrison Kellior, whose writing is vivid and personal and truthful, a tremendously difficult thing to pull off.
Read this one for the New York sense of the Kerik thing. Bernie, We Hardly Knew Ye -- I particularly liked the parting shot at pandering Democrats: "I'm glad the press is having a dance party with this, because God knows the Democrats are frozen at the steering wheel. I just saw a segment on MSNBC . . . pitting a Republican strategist against a Democratic one, and the Democratic spokesman--who goes by the name of Michael Brown--seemed to have washed down his weeny pills with warm Ovaltine. Instead of kicking Kerik and Giuliana between the uprights for three points, Brown fretted that vetting process for cabinet candidates was 'going too far,' and that we were in danger of discouraging people from public service. Oh no, we wouldn't want to discourage philandering, pocket-lining, deadbeat no-show bully-boys like Bernard Kerik from having the opportunity to muck around with our civil liberties in the name of 'national security' and hold bigshot press conferences. I mean, if that sort of thing were to continue happening, people might start mistaking the Democrats for an opposition party and thinking that the press has an adversarial role to play, and we don't want that to happen, it might actually lead to signs of life in that mausoleum we call the nation's capital . . . I don't understand the self-emasculation of so many Democratic strategists, what they're afraid of, why they concede so much in advance. Give them an opening, and they close it like a silk kimono, ever so demure. What are they in politics for, the professional grooming tips? "

What's that smell?

Do I smell a wiff of grapeshot in the air? This column Sun Ottawa Bureau Columnist: Greg Weston - Thinking the unthinkable in the House - reads like a challenge -- OK, all you religious righters, its time to start with the pressure on all your MPs to vote against the same-sex marriage bill and maybe you can defeat the bill! Oh, and wouldn't Canada's religious right just LOVE to get energized over this issue, start the fundraising, run an ad campaign on TV and radio, get interviewed here and in the US media. And wouldn't the media just LOVE to have a controversy to write about.
Hurry up, Paul -- lets get this done!

So quit already!

Federal Minister threatens to quit over gay marriage bill - so quit already and don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Considering that everyone has known this legislation was coming for the last two years, its taken him a remarkably long time to make up his mind. "'I'm not going to say publicly what I'm going to do,' Mr. Efford told the CBC. 'I first owe it to the church leaders to meet with them and then I owe it to the Prime Minister to meet with him before I make any public statement.'" I guess talking to the CBC isn't "a public statement"?

Perfect timing

Isn't it nice that the Scott Peterson circus is over, so the media can now cover the Bernie Kerik circus -- The Missteps Cited in Kerik Vetting by White House. But don't worry, Bernie - something outrageous will happen later this week to send the flash crowds somewhere else.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Tampon tax? To the barricades!

My initial reaction to this story - MP takes on tampon tax - is: doesn't the NDP have more important things to worry about? What about those homeless people dying in Jack Layton's riding of whom we heard so much during the campaign? What about Aboriginal housing in the north? Or, come to think of it, in Winnipeg itself (Wasylycia-Leis' riding)?
I know the NDP are on top of social issues, but is THIS the burning social issue of the day? And if taxing women's products is discriminatory, well what about toys -- after all, they're used only by children! And wouldn't parents love it, particularly at this time of year, if there were no taxes on toys. And what about Mennen - used only by men, most likely! And Grecian Formula! And what about Centrum Silver, taken only by people over 55, so that makes this tax discriminatory, too. In fact, now that I am 55, I would like a law that exempts everything I buy from taxes -- yes, pass that one, Judy, and the NDP have got MY vote for sure!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The wrong side of history.

Klein pushes for same-sex plebiscite Ahh, Ralph -- marching firmly toward the wrong side of history.
The stupid thing about the referendum idea is that this ship has already sailed -- the courts have already ruled that gay marriage is a civil rights issue, and that gay people have the right to marry. So it doesn't matter what a referundum says, rights are rights, period.
Might as well try to have a vote on banning chinooks, Ralph.

True patriot love

Oh, Canada, I am so proud of you. The same-sex marriage legislation will be a shining moment in our history. The Toronto Star notes in What's traditional about marriage? Change that "Acceptance of homosexuality among Canadians has increased exponentially over the past 15 years, says Environics Research Group vice-president Keith Neuman. "Back in 1987, only 10 per cent of Canadians generally approved of homosexuality. It's now up to almost 50 per cent," says Neuman, whose group has conducted extensive polling on the issue. "We've seen a real sea change over the last 15 years towards something that was really stigmatized ... to something that most people are saying they're fine with." And this growing acceptance of gays and lesbians has translated into a majority opinion in favour of same-sex marriages, Neuman says. About 57 per cent of Canadians support the right of same-sex couples to marry, according to Environic's latest poll on the issue."
And all in just 15 years. PFLAG says that the best way to end discrimination against gays is when someone knows a person who is gay. So this is also a credit, and a tribute, to the Canadians who have 'come out' over the last 15 years, so that hundreds of thousands of Canadians will know someone who is gay. I think, also, that the Gay Pride Parades have made a difference -- the first such parade in Saskatchewan a few years ago was banned, as I recall. Now, politicians from all sides of the House march in them and everyone is proud of the Saskatchewan parade. They've been held alternate years between Regina and Saskatoon, but sometime soon I'm sure that both cities will have them every year.
Gay or straight, everyone is welcome -- our family marches in the Gay Pride parade every year, and my 90-year-old aunt waves from her balcony.

We wanna war!

IAEA Leader's Phone Tapped notes that the phone taps "show ElBaradei lacks impartiality because he tried to help Iran navigate a diplomatic crisis over its nuclear programs." Well, of course we can't have THAT, a peaceful solution, can we? Got to fire that guy.
The Bush administration is like the family with the bratty kids in the mall --
"We wanna war, Mom!"
"But you already HAVE a war, in Afghanistan. Remember?"
"Yes, but there isn't anything there, really. Its not much fun. We wanna 'nother one, a bigger one."
"Be quiet now, children, we really can't afford it just now."
"But Mom -- just one more, just Iraq, it won't last very long and it won't cost hardly anything, and Iraq is really scary, Mom. We HAFTA have a war with them. And Winston had one, and Franklin had one, so we want one too, wanna, wanna, wanna, wanna..."
"Oh, allright, allright, go ahead -- anything to keep you quiet. "
"What is it NOW?"
"Just one more, ple-e-e-ease, pretty please? This is the last one, really, we'll never ask you again, but we really ne-e-e-ed another war again."
"Now look, you kids, I've just about had it with you. You're already had two wars and they're costing me a fortune, and now you want another one? Aren't you ever going to be satisfied? Well, enough is enough, I'm really putting my foot down this time, the answer is NO!"
"But Mom -- those guys in Iran are going to beat us up if we don't go to war first!"
"But you said Iraq was scary, too, and . . ."
"But Mom, this is different. Iran is REALLY REALLY scary and none of us can even TRY to be friends with them."
"Now kids, is that true? Has anyone tried?"
"Sure we have, Mom, but they just pretend to listen, they don't really like us Mom. So we gotta have a war and you can't say no, you just can't! We gotta go to war, Mom, gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta . . . "
"Well, I guess . . . as long as it keeps you busy. But this is absolutely the LAST time, and I MEAN it . . ."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

And we'll have fun, fun, fun 'til FCC takes blogging away

The press consistently demonstrated both mystification and resentment of blogs and bloggers throughout the American election campaign, but this Blogs: New Medium, Old Politics takes the cake.
CBS 'chief political writer' David Paul Kuhn smears bloggers generally and Atrios in particular as "unethical" because they have both political opinions and day jobs. Then in passing he notes "Beginning next year, the F.E.C. will institute new rules on the restricted uses of the Internet as it relates to political speech. "
Well, I TOLD YOU SO -- welcome to China, everybody.
Atrios himself points out the inaccuracies and errors in this story. This reporter should be embarassed to have made so many mistakes. But he won't be. He has a larger agenda, you see, which is to put bloggers out of business.
He sets up a straw man, claiming that bloggers pretend to be neutral but are actually partisan. Well, excuse me, but the most popular bloggers, from Atrios to Kos to Instapundit to Powerline have NEVER been "neutral" -- large or small, we're all partisan from the get-go, and unashamed of it. Why blog at all, unless we have a point of view to promote?
But this, of course, cannot be allowed -- why, people might start thinking that freedom is on the march!
The US right wing has succeeded so well in cowing the mainstream media (except for Keith Obermann) that they frequently adopt pathetic circumlocutions and patently false equivalencies just to avoid any accusation of "being partisan" (read, Democrat). Remember how hard it was for any reporter during the American election campaign to ever state plainly that Republicans were actually lying in their election ads?
But the dreadful "partisan" accusation hadn't managed to stop the bloggers -- who are still doing outrageous things like questioning the Florida and Ohio votes. So now its the bloggers' turn -- and the press, which should be supporting both free speech and the freedom of the Internet, is going along with it. No doubt reporters are tired of getting hammered by both the right wing and left wing blogs for their cowardice and inadequate research, as well as being envious of how powerful some bloggers, like Atrios, have become in affecting American public opinion. And it was bloggers, after all, who not only succeeded in bringing down Dan Rather but also in stopping Clear Channel's Kerry-bashing broadcast.
So of course, bloggers must be stopped. It's only fair, really -- why should we have all that fun?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Buying themselves credibility

"Buying yourself a job" used to be something that was noted somewhat critically. If no business would actually hire you to work for them and no university would actually associate itself with your project and no organization would actually elect you to lead them and no denomination would actually call you to their pulpit -- if instead you just created your own high-sounding "institute/centre/council/church" and picked your own title as "the CEO/president/director/pastor" and rented a place and printed up your own letterhead and created your own website -- well, it used to mean that you didn't really have much credibility.
But I have noticed lately that a number of the "Christian Right" spokespeople in the US appear to have bought themselves their own jobs -- check out the Medical Institute for Sexual Health which is running the inaccurate abstinence programs that are being criticized now, and the Media Research Centre, Parents Television Council and Conservative Communications Centre which has auto-generated thousands of indecency complaints to the FCC, and the Grace Christian Church which recently published its anti-gay magazine in the Washington Post. Self-employment projects, every one.
They seem to be pretty well financed. And they don't seem to have any problem with credibility any more -- they speak before Congress, and get lots of media interviews, and no one asks them any questions about self-employment.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Living in a dream world

Kos points us to the Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication, published without any media notice in September.
Its content is pretty devastating -- it is filled with statements like "messages should seek to reduce, not increase, perceptions of arrogance, opportunism, and double standards" and "U.S. policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself" and "when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy".
Now that this report has reached the blogs, we can expect the NYT and Wash Post to pick it up and trumpet it, and its going to be difficult for the usual suspects -- talk show hosts, Christian rightists and Republican politicians -- to 'partisanize' and discredit this report.
But in the end, the report is really pretty pointless. It concludes: "Strategic communication . . . must be transformed with a strength of purpose that matches our commitment to diplomacy, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security. Presidential leadership and the bipartisan political will of Congress are essential."
Well, and what are the chances of THAT? Fugedaboudit -- ain't gonna happen!

I think we can now conclude

that there is already a civil war going on in Iraq, between the "insurgents" and the "collaborators". It just hasn't been officially announced yet.
Today in Iraq and Juan Cole report on the dozens of Iraqis killed by insurgent bombs in the last 24 hours.
Cole also notes the destruction of several Iraq cities by American bombing. This will result in hundreds of thousands of refugees wandering the countryside without resources - there aren't any aid organizations left in Iraq now who can help them.
So maybe those Pentagon plans for a humanitarian crisis will come in handy by Christmas, after all.
And yes, I often speak cynically in this blog about Iraq -- but in reality what is going on over there now makes me feel sick at heart -- not only what the poor Iraqi people are suffering but also what the American soldiers are going through. It just has to stop! Though America must continue to pour money into Iraq, they must get their soldiers out. There is no hope of peace there as long as the Americans stay.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Trashing the UN

So according to Google News, there are now 500 news stories about how awful the UN is and how Kofi Annan should resign - like this one / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / Annan is a symptom of UN's sickness...
So what provoked this sudden outburst of indignation at the UN -- from a press which has given the Bush administration a free pass on everything from the Saudi-911 connection to Abu Gharib to Halliburton?
Well, I think there are three reasons:
First, Kofi Annan dissed Bush when he described the Iraq war as illegal, and Bush will never forgive such a remark.
Second, the Iraq elections, if they are even held at all, are going to be a disaster. There will be so many problems with the vote that the UN will have a hard time accepting Iraq's newly "elected" leader as legitimate -- if it is, for example, our old pal Chalabis. So trashing the UN now will reduce its credibility in questioning of the Iraq "vote".
Third, and likely most important, the Bush administration is gearing up for war with Iran in 2005 or 2006. The Security Council is so far refusing to get suckered in to any sanction resolutions which the US could later use as justification for another preemptive war. So discrediting the UN becomes an important opening salvo in the PR campaign to convince the American public to go along with the new Iran war.
Depressing, isn't it.


This was in Yahoo News Technology section - Woman Auctions Father's Ghost on eBay
Well, I guess you could describe EBay as "technology" but I had never thought of "ghosts" in that category! Maybe there really are Ghosts in the Machines now. And if you believe this one, how about a grilled cheese sandwich that looks like the Virgin Mary? Naah, no one would ever believe that!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Wear the rainbow

MSNBC - Gay Americans see trouble ahead
It's time to show it. Anyone and everyone, gay or straight, who supports gay rights must show this now. Wear the rainbow!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Canadians still feel dissed

The fence-mending tour is over -- its interesting to realize that, for Canada, this was seen as Bush's attempt to mend fences (it wasn't), while the American media seemed surprised that there are any fences to mendhere.
Humourist Rick Mercer and U of T professor Mark Kingwell were interviewed about the Bush visit on PBS's NewsHour: President Bush Visits Canada and both made some good points about why Canadians don't trust George Bush and the Bush administration. Basically, we don't like being dissed.
Mercer noted: ". . . one of the big sticking points between Canada and the United States is that Bush never came here. . . and his ambassador would roll back and forth across the country for the last four years telling Canadians what to do and telling us, you know, what we were doing wrong and how we should run our country and what laws we should pass and should not pass. And, as a result, there has been an incredible amount of animosity building between the two nations and not just over trade, which is obviously very big, but this feeling that there is this attitude coming from Washington that Canada is, you know, is a state, essentially someone who should do just what they're told when they're told. And, you know, Canadians didn't buy into that. And, as a result, that's why you see George Bush being phenomenally unpopular in this country."
Kingwell was even stronger: ". . . there are fundamental rifts on what kind of liberalism each country is pursuing. And the reasoned objection to an unjust war, the legitimate claims of cultural independence in these trade disputes where we are simply protecting the interests of our farmers and ranchers and loggers have highlighted those differences. So I would say probably it hasn't been this bad for a long time . . . I think many Alberta ranchers are not going to be particularly pleased with the mockery that the president offered on the issue. This has been a serious hit to the economy of the prairies. . . many Canadians are wondering not just why Bush is here now, but why it took him three years to thank us for what happened after 9/11. This was a significant breach of diplomatic protocol when there was no forthcoming thanks at the time. And I think that was part of what made the relationship deteriorate, part of a general loss of faith in the American attitude after 9/11 . . . I also think that his defense of his actions in Iraq as being in accordance with the United Nations Security Council is disingenuous. The Bush administration has consistently failed to cooperate with the United Nations; something that Canadians have been urging all along as the real basis of any kind of legitimate international action. He has also refused to cooperate with the international criminal court with various measures which Canadian diplomats and thinkers have been spearheading to try to give a legitimate basis to international law so that we don't see the kind of rogue action that we have seen in Iraq."
This was also portrayed as a dry run for a Bush trip to Europe in the winter -- oh, that's going to be fun, isn't it?