Friday, June 30, 2006

Most of the US Supreme Court gets it, thankfully

George Bush might not know it, but yesterday's Supreme Court decision to declare the military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay illegal is good news for the US. It is not, however, good news for the Administration, but as many know and the Right is confused about, these are two very different things.

The decision forces the Bush administration to charge the prisoners either through civilian or military courts and it urges them to treat the prisoners as prisoners of war rather than "illegal combatants", as they have been declared. POW status allows the US to incarcerate the prisoners until the end of the conflict, however it mandates that they be treated well while in detention and that they be released without penalty at the end of the war.

This is good news because it is a declaration to the world that the current administration has stepped too far and that there are some checks in the system that can "reign it in". In the long run, the war against terrorism (if it is real) will only be won by demonstrating that the governance structures in the West are better than tyrannical theocracies anywhere. The judgement might be read as a defeat by Administration officials, and Bush sure does seem glum about it, but it is a political salvo over the bow of extreme groups that wish to attack the West.

The dissenting opinion unfortunately shows that some of the judiciary have partaken of the Bush Freedom Loaf (TM):
"this court [that] would hold that conspiracy to massacre innocent civilians does not violate the laws of war. This determination is unsustainable... We are not engaged in a traditional battle with a nation state, but with a worldwide, hydra-headed enemy, who lurks in the shadows conspiring to reproduce the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001."

To be existential, the difference between massacring innocent civilians intentionally and launching an attack against a populated area that will produce large numbers of known civilian casualties (like say, Falujah) is slim or nil. And I won't speak of a nation that will apply sanctions and embargoes on another nation knowing full well that it will result in the slow death of civilians.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

GIGO at CanWest

It appears that CanWest Global, or FoxNorth, appears to be ready to pull out of the CP consortium. As POGGE suggests, this oughta make for some fine, balanced coverage. Their announcement also states that they will be forming their own news service, in order to more efficiently bless the fertile grounds of the international media with their brand of, uh, fertilizer. This oughta be interesting - I fully expect to see expanded coverage of Canadian issues on Fox News and WSJ south of the border, now that they have their own ilk established here. (Does this mean they are going to dump Reuters, too?)

I can only assume that CanWest was what PMS Harper was referring to when he talked about going around the Ottawa press, so this plays nicely into his hands, and into the hands of the Right in the US that would love to be able to tell stories of the takeover of the Right in their erstwhile pinko neighbour to the north.

Oops...

It looks like the Tories might be getting caught in their own accountability problems. It looks like the Tories did not declare their convention fees two years ago, which amounts to ~$1.75 million in undeclared contributions to the party. John Baird, the minister in charge of the accountability act said that the party simply did not declare convention fees as donations and did not provide tax receipts.

This has bearing on the current leadership situation in the Liberal party, as they are charging $995 for entry into their leadership convention, which I believe is going to be in 2012. Apparently, they are planning justifying this price (which I presume includes free drinks) by making it a tax-deductible donation to the party. Since the new donation limits proposed in the accountability act limit personal donations to $1000, there is obviously a problem.

I am not really familiar with the ins and outs of campaign and party financing, so I will be following this one from the sidelines. It will be interesting to see how this all goes down.

[Update - there are indeed lots of people that know more about this stuff than me on this.]

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Will the Liberals jump early?

Citing Stephen Harper's craftiness, the president of the federal Liberal party, Mike Eizenga, suggested that the Liberals making plans for a fall election by preparing for a hasty early vote should the writ be dropped.

Some Tories figure that the Liberals are running scared, I presume after Harper has at least proven politically competent to the Canadian people (should there have been any doubt). In my mind the more likely reason is that the recent game of chicken over Rona Ambrose has the Liberals reconsidering the idiocy of spending an entire year looking for a leader. Bill Graham has tried to talk a good game, but everyone knows that his hands are tied and with every speech he seems even more pathetic - not even his own party seems to be paying attention anymore.

With the BQ scared and faltering in Quebec and the Liberals staring at their bound wrists, the NDP has stepped up and proven to be a real opposition to the Tories, the only real opposition. This is every bit as dangerous to the left side of the Liberal party as the Tories are to the right, and they can ill afford losing any more credibility. Jack Layton's performance the last few months may well be as much a factor in an early leadership convention as an actual election call.

Kinsella is right, a new leader will revive the party's spirits and free them to be able to challenge the Tories when challenge is required. Whether the new leader resonates with the Canadian voter is a different question, one that only time and an election or two will answer. The big question for me is not when the Liberals choose their leader or even who they choose, but how they react to the polls after the leadership convention.

I'm willing to bet that the convention "bump" they receive will be smaller than they hope for and will not last as long as they like; the stink of their performance this parliamentary session is going to take a little while to wash off.

Senlis Council report poo-pooed by Canadian military

The Senlis Council, an international "security and development thinktank" which has taken on the task of evaluating global drug policy, today published a report on the situation in Afghanistan. In it they claim that Canadian troops in Afghanistan are being seen as promoting and aiding the American government's efforts to remove the poppy plantations that are used to produce much of the world's opium and heroin. From the Afghan standpoint, the American policy results in the destruction of valuable crops with little or no compensation and no support for the development of profitable alternative crops. Farmers so pressured often enough are turning to the Taliban or other warlords for support.

While the Canadian troops are not involved in the US effort, the report maintains that this distinction is not being made on the ground and the result is an increasingly difficult and dangerous situation for them.

Naturally, Canadian officials involved in the Afghanistan mission downplay or deny the council's findings. Gordon O'Connor, the Defense Minister, maintains "it's fine for this think-tank to come up with these conclusions. However, our people on the ground see things otherwise." (Could this have come from the mouth of Stephen Colbert, or what?) That's what I like about politicians - when confronted by research and facts, instead of considering how these new facts or interpretations might affect the situation and perhaps developing alternative approaches or even a sensible denial, they just deny their validity out of hand and continue on. We aknowledge no mistakes, therefore there are no mistakes to aknowledge.

Meanwhile Lt. -Col. Ian Hope, speaking for the military, says that the report erroneously claims that the Canadian mission is being dictated by a foreign country, and is therefore wrong. If that is actually what the report said, this conclusion would be accurate, but it is not - the report states that Afghans themselves will see no difference and make no distinction between US-led Operation Enduring Freedom forces and NATO-led ISAF stabilization troops. Since it happens that the US is actively pursuing a campaign to destroy the poppy fields, which for many outside of the main cities is the only source of income, making this distinction is obviously critical for the Canadian military. Since I'm sure Col. Hope can read, I can only understand his statement as an intentional misrepresentation of the facts to damage the credibility of the rest of the report.

And why would he want to do that, I wonder?

The more things chage...

the more they stay the same. Despite the bluster about federal accountability, it appears that helping out with a political campaign is still the best way to line up for the trough political appointments. Richard Bell, former campaign co-chair for Harper's Tories (Harpies Terrors?) in New Brunswick has just been appointed a federal judge in the Moncton Court of Queen's Bench.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Screw supper, I'll just take the menu

Those that know me well, and others that just happened to be around when politics came up and I had a drink in hand will know that I don't like flags. I don't like flags and I don't like national anthems. I don't dislike these things because I hate Canada or because I think the world needs to or can be one big happy country, rather I don't like them because I distrust the side-effects of patriotism. I'm not sure if it's something I read somewhere or just something that developed, but as long as I remember I've felt that you can't use your head and wave the flag at the same time. Standing up before a hockey game and singing the national anthem (which should be Northwest Passage in my opinion) is all well and good, but nationalism shouldn't go a whole lot further than that.

As a case in point, south of the border we have the flag-waviest of countries going crazy and talking about limiting freedoms over something as idiotic as burning a flag. One would think that there has been a rash of these incidents or that there was a critical shortage of precious nylon that cannot be allowed to be destroyed, or that everything was going peachy keen and there was nothing else for the lawmakers to spend their taxpayer dollars on.

One would think.

Or, it might just be a time when, in the middle of an arbitrary and ill-defined war with just about nothing going per plan and a government busily constricting civil liberties while hurriedly stuffing the pockets of corporate friends, that the peeps need a diversion, a straw-man. And who can argue against protecting the flag? It's like... like... like protecting your mom. Who is going to argue against that?

Arlen Specter, one of the Senators pushing this critical debate argued:

I think of the flag as a symbol of what veterans fought for, what the sustained wounds for, what they sustained loss of life for...

Yes, Arlen, it is exactly that, a symbol; a symbol, and nothing more. If you asked a veteran what she fought for, she might say "the flag", but I bet she'd be more likely to talk about home, family, loved ones, community. And even if she said "flag", I'd be willing to bet that flag was simply a surrogate, a symbol, if you will, of all of these other things that make up her nation. The reason that patriotism is not limited to a single country is that it is intimately tied in with all of these other things that exist everywhere.

This is the crux of the argument of course, the place where the debate should start. Unfortunately, in this most flag-waviest of places in the most flag-waviest of times, this is where the debate also ends. It ends with the desire to protect a symbol, and allows the continued desecration of what that symbol represents. And it ends here because it is convenient for the powers that be that it end here - that the flag does not represent America, but that it is America, and to attack one is to attack both.

On a technical note, it is important for the Senate and the Administration that flag burning be made illegal and that it be made illegal through means that don't contravene or otherwise amend the Constitution. Again, to Mr. Specter:

I think it's important to focus on the basic fact that the text of the First Amendment, the text of the Constitution, the text of the Bill of Rights is not involved.
And why is this important? From a pragmatic standpoint, constitutional amendments are much harder to pass into law. Also, like the flag, the First Amendment is a symbol of freedom, the freedom to worship in the manner one chooses and the freedom to express one's views publicly.

And if it's one thing we don't want to do, it's to mess with symbols.

[Update: The Senate vote to ban burning the flag, and thereby overturning a 1989 Supreme Court ruling, missed the required two-thirds majority by one vote. There actually were two votes today on this. The proposal for a constitutional amendment was defeated, as was an end-run around it, an attempt to ban it through legal means alone, proposed by Hillary Clinton and Bob Bennett. Said Daniel Inouye;
"While I take offense at disrespect to the flag," he said, "I nonetheless believe it is my continued duty as a veteran, as an American citizen, and as a United States senator to defend the constitutional right of protesters to use the flag in nonviolent speech."
Thank you, Senator.]

Good cop, bad cop?

Sobey's announced (through an anonymous Halifax-area manager) that they are planning to continue opening their stores on Sundays. This despite the government's silly "protect Pete's!" law, designed specifically to stop the Superstore and Sobey's from opening on Sundays. Like most Haligonians, I'm happy to see Sobey's challenging the validity of the law, but unlike some, I smell a rat.

I think the Conservatives and Sobey's have some sort of gentlemenly agreement going on, and have worked out this plan in advance. The conversation probably went something like this:

Rodney: "I can't let you open on Sundays, my rural base would hang me by the balls."

Donald Sobey: "Well, how about this plan? We open for a couple of Sundays. You act all huffy and come up with a solution that will easily be struck down by a court challenge."

Rodney: "That sounds good in theory, but what kind of legislation could I introduce that would be struck down so readily?"

Donald (snaps his fingers): "George! Bring me the papers! Rodney, I've taken the liberty of drafting something up for you. Take it to the Legislature, won't you? It basically says 'anyone who's not Sobey's or the Superstore can continue to violate the spirit of the law in the same way as they always have. Tough titties to Sobey's, the Superstore, and anyone else who tries to mimic Pete Luckett from now on.' There's no way this will survive a court challenge. A mentally disabled monkey would be able to throw on a lawyer's smock and get this legislation tossed."

Rodney: "Cool! I get to look like I'm doing something, and keep my rural base happy. You get to stay open, and actually improve your standing as a corporate citizen in the various urban cores. It's win-win!"



Disclaimer: The above is a fictional representation of a conversation which may or may not have taken place during a round of golf at Fox Harbour. Any similarities to real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental (or perhaps the result of inductive reasoning), and should not be taken as the literal truth.

I would be very interested in seeing the answer to Kevvy's political contribution question below, if only to see whether Donald or Bob Loblaw are in bed with the provincial Conservatives. I do know that Donald supports the federal Liberals (specifically Scott Brison), but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Sobey's butters both sides of it's political bread. I suspect that such information is available long after the election, and only to a FOI request filed with Elections Nova Scotia, but I'd be ecstatic if I were incorrect, and the information were more readily available. I wonder if Frank Magazine regularly publishes a political donors list?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Need HTML help

If anyone knows how to properly link YouTube video to blogger, we could use some help. The code we're using appears to work fine in Explorer but not so fine in Firefox, my browser of choice.

Thanks.

I don't know if this is real or not



If it's not real, it's great satire, precisely because it is quite believable. For those who choose not to click, the video purports to be showing dive training camp for the Italian national team.

Edit: Actually, I'm wrong about this being the Italian National Team. It's reportedly Chelsea.

Here's one from your neck of the woods, Dan

Here's something for Conservative supporters who voted thusly to "clean up politics" to forget the next time we go to the polls: Conservatives are just as dirty as the rest of them. Linked above is the announcement from Newfoundland's Auditor General into the misuse of funds by one Edward J. Byrne, recent Minister of Natural Resources for Newfoundland and Labrador. It seems that the ex-Minister's office has run up excess constituency expense claims totalling $326,642 for the 2003 and 2004 fiscal years. The report also implies (without placing a concrete figure on) excess expenses prior to 2003.

This is the attachment to the Auditor's report, breaking down the payments by cheque.

Cookie jar, meet Mr. Hand.

Bill Gates - the new Superman?

What are the chances that the world's richest man might well become the world's most influencial and powerful?

Bill Gates' recent announcement that he plans to remove himself from day-to-day management of Microsoft by 2008 in order to spend more time administering the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for some might have sounded like a retirement announcement. However, it might mark the day that he moved from changing (and controlling) the way we use computers to changing how governments react to international crises. The Gates Foundation, which currently has an endowment of ~ $27 billion, is to be the recipient of about $31 billion from Warren Buffett, it was announced today. It will be the largest and doubtlessly most powerful, foundation of its kind. To put this in context, the Foundation will have more money than the GDP of the world's 60 poorest countries combined, and more money than the poorest 158 countries (also GDP).

The Gates Foundation will operate largely outside government oversight and control, which can be a bad or a good thing. It certainly will have enough muscle to leverage government action when necessary, which for the beneficiaries of the Foundation, will be a very good thing. The democrat inside me gets nervous about this, but I can't fault the Foundation for its goals or its past accomplishments. I only hope that it continues on the same path.

Use your power for good, Mr. Gates. Please!

A question...

Does anyone out there know how to access list of political party donors in Nova Scotia? They are made public, I believe, but how does one go about getting it?

Seriously, I'd like to know...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Politicians still interested in paper route money...

Robert over at myblagh has a post that somehow slipped under my radar on the fate of the suggested amendments to the Federal Accountability Acts that would limit the amount of money that children could donate to political parties. In light of the recent scandal surrounding Joe Volpe and the donations from the children of pharmaceutical bigwigs, one would think that the Liberals and Conservatives, particularly the latter, what with all their talk about accountability and all, would jump at the chance to be the ones to clean this mess up.

Not so.

The NDP member on the committee, Pat Martin, suggests that not only are the Tories to blame for rejecting the clauses, but the Liberals as well, as they submitted them in the first place and as written they would have also restricted donations from university students - which would not have been acceptable to anyone. Not that as a university student I would have had any money (or inclination) to donate to a political party, but I have to aknowledge that some would and they should be allowed. After all, they are allowed to drink, so why not let them piss their money away in a tax-decuctible manner as well?

Robert's entry and the links and comments therein are worth a read.

A solution for "simulation"

It's known as diving in hockey and simulation in soccer/football. Whatever it's called, it is poor sportsmanship, opportunism and a distortion of the spirit of sport. And what's more, it's pathetic. Watching a great match like yesterday's Argentina-Mexico second-rounder reminds me of the athleticism and grace of the "beautiful game", but seeing wincing prima donnas fall like they've been kneecapped by a baseball bat only to jump back into the game as soon as they get the free kick makes me want to scream. There has to be a solution.

Is it that there aren't enough referees on the field and you have to throw your hands in the air and face into the turf to draw a foul in order to get noticed? If that's the case, then indeed put another official on the field - it appears to be working in hockey. If this isn't a preferable solution, how about beginning to punish divers?

How would it feel to be booted out of a second-round match on a pink card violation?

More on Sunday shopping...

In the newest act in the ongoing Sunday-shopping saga, Nova Scotia's MacDonald government intends to amend the Retail Business Uniform Closing Act (formerly Lord's Day Act) to state that grocery stores that were not open before June 1 are not allowed to do so now. This arbitrary law, which takes away the (apparent) right for the stores to open as it exists right now and awaits a court challenge, as soon as Sobeys or Superstore attempt it.

Being no fan of the Conservative party, either provincial or federal, I can only feel remorse that silly decisions like this didn't happen during the recent election campaign - it might have turned the very close and otherwise dull affair. This open defense of Pete's Frootique's Sunday-shopping monopoly makes me wonder whether Pete Luckett is a donor to the Conservative Party.

WTF? Friday - The Saturday Edition

If there is anything a person deserves, both in life and in death - it's to be treated with decency. With that in mind, I have to say that this has to be the creepiest thing I've ever seen. Now, as my fellow 'Koggers will attest, I'm pretty much a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal, but if this was done to me, I swear I would haunt, for eternity, the person responsible.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nothing goes down like...

an Argentinian soccer player.

Just watching Mexico and Argentina play a very entertaining soccer match and felt the need to make one comment. Is it just me, or do other people think that Argentinian soccer players do dive training?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Looking backward and forward

The Conservatives have survived their first Parliamentary session scraped up a little, but more or less intact. Canadians now have an idea who they are and have had a glimpse of their agenda on issues both mundane and contentious. Politically, their strategy appears to be to rip the Liberals apart while they are leaderless and dare not fight back, and all the while approaching Quebeckers that are looking more like they want back into the political process and need only find someone other than the BQ to vote for. Of all the national leaders, Harper saw what was happening in Quebec first and deserves credit for getting at it quickly and consistently.

As a lefty, I view this as the opportunity for the nation to evaluate what centre, left, and right actually mean in this country, and where we as a nation fall in this spectrum. Most Canadians when asked this question would likely say "centre-left" and we have for the past few decades defaulted to a centrist Liberal government. Unfortunately for pinkos like me, the Liberals have traditionally talked a pretty good game, but have gone to bat for a pro-business agenda more often than not.

Ever since Brian Mulroney did for the Conservatives in the 80's what genital herpes did for casual sex in the 70's, the Left and Centre pretty much had the playing field for the greater part of the last 15 years. Unfortunately, this allowed the Liberals to remain in power regardless of what Canadians actually thought of them, for there is still a reluctance to embrace the NDP nationally as more than a peripheral party - pockets of strength here and there, but not enough broad-based support to really contend. Now that the Right is once again united and promoting a more coherent, if somewhat reactionary message, the Left and Centre find themselves in the position of having to reorganize. And the the NDP have an opportunity.

If the NDP ever had a chance at power nationally in my lifetime, this is it. This is the chance to win respect, and potential future votes, not from the hide of the slumbering Liberal Party, for it will awaken and those votes will fly away, but on its own merits. As the Rona Ambrose affair has amply indicated, the Liberals are a dormant political force. Dormant, but not dead - as bigcitylib mentioned in a comment on this blog earlier today, they will be a different party after December; of that I have no doubt. But right now, with the Liberals apparently set to nap for the next six months, this is the time for the New Democrats to become the real national opposition. Not an opposition in the sense of simply opposing anything that comes out of the government, rather one that reaches for better solutions when they see the need and supports the government when support is earned. If a responsible, mature NDP takes the stage now, it will have the spotlight and it will no longer be viewed as a fringe party.

I think Canadians really are a centre-left people, we really do believe that a market economy is important, but important for what it does, not for what it is. I have seen nothing in the Conservative agenda yet that leads me to believe that they understand that the economy has a purpose and its purpose is more than just to move money and goods around. Money and goods are just its engine, the social benefits and the jobs are its real purpose. The Liberals don't appear to understand that either - the growing concern over the fiscal imbalance is some indication of this.

If this session has shown me anything, it is that there is nothing intrinsically evil about the Tories or their agenda. I don't happen to agree with much of it, but there is little that they can do that can't be undone, though we do have to move quickly on environmental issues. Alas, on that count, the Liberals were every bit as dismal as the Tories - if I give the Harper crowd anything, it is that they are at least honest about it.

So here's to an interesting session of Parliament.

Please?

Rona Ambrose, who has managed to hold onto her job as Environment Minister, has interpreted the recent attack on her job as an attack on the government's stand on Kyoto. She is partly right, but only partly - the immediate concern was her refusal to appear before the House of Commons' environment committee, which she is supposed to do from time to time as minister. The fact that she has done nothing but cut existing programs and replace them with platitudes about "made in Canada" solutions surely doesn't help. Yesterday, instead of answering a question in the House, she challenged the Opposition to run an election campaign based on the issue of global warming. She actually said "Bring it on", apparently oblivious to the recent success of this phrase.

For his part, in commenting on things environmental, Stephen Harper said that his government's problem with the Kyoto Protocol is that it "does nothing to control smog". Big deal, it does nothing about cancer, either, but that does not mean we should get rid of it - it's purpose is to reduce the largest component of greenhouse gases, not cure all of our polution ills. It is part of a strategy, but only part.

If this is how well our current government understands environmental issues, yes, let us indeed run an election on environmental issues - we will soon be talking about the extinction of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Bring it on, indeed.

The most sensational den...

Javis Roberts found himself in front of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board again yesterday, defending accusations that he is illegally offering adult entertainment at the controversial Sensations Cabaret in Dartmouth. After having his license stripped last month, he modified the facility so that a second establishment "The Den" could operate in the basement. Upstairs, women would pole dance wearing lingerie while in the basement full-contact lap-dances would occur should appropriate monies change hands. The Den is not licensed to serve alcohol and thereby does not fall under the purview of the URB, so his argument goes.

His lawyer, Eric Slone, maintains that "anything that goes on outside the licensed premises is of no concern to this board." This is an argument designed to both remove The Den from URB decision-making and also to remove concerns of members of the community upset that such an establishment has moved in next door. The URB maintains that they can rule over what happens "on or about" the premises.

For his part, Roberts maintains that all he wants is clarity in the definition of the phrase "adult entertainment" so that he knows what he can and can't get away with, after all he "will not break the law knowingly". Dale Darling, the URB's lawyer suggests that he has a definition, but it is upset that it is one that won't let him do what he wants.

If he "will not knowingly breaking the law", he sure has a history of doing it unkowingly a hell of a lot of times, if his handling of his bus business, or paying his lawyers are any indication.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ann, You Ignorant Slut

You know, I was going to post a lengthy vitriol-filled diatribe about Ann Coulter's latest bit of idiocy, but frankly, this guy says it better than I could:
There is an irony buried deep under the vitriol, idiocy, slander, vileness, ignorance, stupidity and simply breathtaking inanity that passes for the contribution to the public discourse of an alleged carbon-based life-form that goes by the name of Ann Coulter.

Of course, you've heard about this vile life-support system for a mane of blonde hair. She's been all over the media, spreading her poison, the vaguely human counterpart of a Gila monster, except with colder blood. It's amusing that one of her complaints about what she calls the liberal media establishment is that it gives short-shrift to morons like herself who seek airtime to inflict a toxic stew of idiocies masquerading as ideas upon an unsuspecting public.
Read the rest - it's so nice to see a Master Craftsman at work....

Rona to king-4

There is much chat on the blogs the last day or so about the Rona Ambrose affair. That she is a disaster as Environment Minister is difficult to dispute, from cutting environmental programs like the One-Tonne Challenge to not appearing before the Environment Committee. And that is not even mentioning her stand on Kyoto, but since she is simply following party policy on this one, it's unfair to say that she's not performing her duties as minister. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) being minister means being a meat shield.

What really interests me here is not so much the fate of Rona Ambrose - the ministers in this government largely are interchangeable drones with a hole in the back for Edgar Harper to use when statements are required. Replacing her solves nothing and might serve as a moral victory for the Opposition, but the policies would remain in place. It might provide a little fodder come election time, but nothing that Harper couldn't avoid by simply dismissing her over the summer before it came to a Commons vote. That this is so easily dodged by Harper and instead he chose to play this little game has me intrigued. What interests me here is not Rona Ambrose, rather the political game being played out behind.

Harper responds to the threat by threatening to make the vote in the Commons a confidence motion, thereby triggering an election on the fate of a relatively minor minister. The gambit is obvious; the NDP have a lot to win and nothing to lose and the Liberals are forced to either back down with tail between legs and hope that everyone forgets this over the summer or risk going into an election with an interim leader. The situation is even worse for the leadership candidates - they would be forced to fight an election campaign looking as leaderly as possible, win their own seat in the House, and run a leadership campaign at the same time. (All this without mixing up the leadership campaign money and the election campaign financing - good luck with getting out of that without a bandage or two!)

The NDP certainly don't owe the Liberals any favours, but this was really a set-up from the beginning - a pass thrown just a little high and a little fast; one of those open-field ones where the Liberal receiver gets cleaned from behind by the Tory fullback as soon as he touches the ball. I don't mean to imply any collusion between the NDP and Tories, though they have been a little too cozy for my liking the last couple of months, but collusion would not have made this scenario any harder on the Liberals.

Brave faces and bravado aside, the Liberal party is in a heap of trouble right now, as this incident demonstates; trouble that they have brought on themselves, largely. They didn't need to declare a ten-month long leadership race, but they did. And all then needed to do in February was say that they were going to "try and make this government work", but no, Bill Graham had to show his big, brassy, pair and come out guns a'blazing. So now they still have six months before their leadership convention and they are pinned between Bill Graham's early bloviation and the reality that they would be screwed if an election actually was called. It puts them in the unenviable position of continually backtracking when they need to present a credible alternative to the Conservatives - they are the Official Opposition after all. What will be the next thing the back down on? Daycare?

Next time around, if the Liberals are not careful, they stand to lose a lot of credibility over the next few months. And when the election does come, the electorate might swing wildly and one of the possible outcomes would be a Tory majority with the NDP as Opposition. I am not sure how likely this is, a lot hinges on the competence of the new Liberal leader, but I'm sure that this very scenario is high in the minds of both Stephen Harper and Jack Layton.

Premier Rodney gets all Lockian on Sunday shopping

Rodney MacDonald has opted to twiddle his thumbs while the Sunday shopping issue solved itself by saying that his government is examining whether Sobey's and the Atlantic Superstore have stayed within the law in their recent Sunday openings.

For those that are unaware of the law here in Bluenoseland, Sunday shopping laws are loosely based on (Christian) scriptual stipulations but are really designed to protect small businesses by forcing large stores to remain closed save for pharmacies and the like. This is accomplished in the law by putting a maximum 4000 square foot limit on the size of stores that can be open on Sunday.

A decade ago, Pete Luckett opened Pete's Frootique in Bedford and incorporated the larger store into separate virtual "stores" to leverage this area loophole. For the shopper, there is no way to know that they are walking from one "store" to another, as they are not demarcated in any way and they all lead to the same checkout counters. Sobey's and Superstore have now followed suit by dividing up some of their stores partly to cash in on the Sunday shopper crowd and, I'm certain, partly to challenge the government into changing these silly laws.

So what does our glorious leader have to say about this mess? Ultimately he confuses the concepts of the word and the spirit of the law to such an extent that I'm convinced he has no idea what he is talking about:
I’ve always said from Day 1 that if you’re following the law and the spirit of the law, then we have no problem with it, but if you’re not, then we’ll make sure that the law is being followed.

If everything I've read on the topic is not totally wrong, Pete's Frootique, Sobey's, and Superstore have exploited a loophole in the law, which by definition means that they are obeying the word of the it (i.e. the law is being followed), but are not honouring the spirit of it (i.e. people are sinfully working on Sunday or the mom-and-pop shops are not being protected). In any case, unless the government wants to change the law, Sunday shopping is here to stay.

And if this is an example of the legal, political, and intellectual effectiveness of our newly-mandated premier, heaven help us. That is, unless He isn't too sore about the Sabbath thing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Give It a Rest...

Given the fact Sobey's has decided to join Superstores and Pete's Frootique in opening for business Sundays, the time has come for Nova Scotians to ask what purpose the Sunday shopping laws are serving besides making work for various legal departments finding loopholes around the law, and making the provincial government look ineffectual for having the laws in the first place. The one guarantee the present laws have is that there's so many exemptions in them, that it's impossible not to find a way around it.

Now, there are a variety of solutions the Provincial Government can use here:

a. do nothing - let's call this 'Sunday shopping by slow degrees' because more and more stores'll go in for this. Of course, the major chain's will be the ones that can afford to go through the legal process of incorporating different parts of their stores, so this'll be pretty hard on the smaller businesspeople, but that's okay - God forbid the government should actually have to look decisive.

b. Follow the Newfoundland example and just declare Sunday shopping an individual storeowner's decision. That won't please the anti-shopping crowd, because they don't want people to make individual decisions, they want everyone to live by their rules, because they're the only ones whose opinions matter.

c. Follow the New Brunswick example and make it an municipal decision. This'll please the Haligonians, who voted overwhelmingly for Sunday shopping in the last plebescite. As for the rural municipalities - surely if Rural Nova Scotians don't want Sunday shopping, they're not going to drive into Halifax to shop, so it's not like the businesses there are going to lose any profits, so this might not be a bad idea.

d. Adopt PEI's laws and make Sunday shopping limited to stores with a maximum number of employees rather than maximum space. This probably won't work, because the chains'll just adapt their tactics, so that each little department will have the required number.

e. Or, and this is my choice - have an honest vote - ask Nova Scotians what they'd prefer:

(1) Sunday shopping, or

(2) Everything non-emergency closed - no supermarkets, no bars, no convenience stores, no drugstores, no tourist shops, no restaurants, no Tim Hortons -because if it's wrong to make a Sobey's employee work on a Sunday, it's just as wrong to make a waitress or Tim Hortons employee work.

As for my personal preference? Well, I have to admit that quite a few times in the Reserves, I've been out in the field from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, so Sunday afternoon was the only time I could shop for groceries. As for the rest of you, here's a nifty little suggestion - if you don't like Sunday Shopping - DON'T GO SHOPPING ON A SUNDAY!!! If the stores don't get customers in, they're not going to stay open, are they?

Re-set your clocks: We're only 10 years behind...

I confess to being quite pleased with the Government of Nova Scotia this morning. I awoke to find that our next Lieutenant Governor is a well-known and well -respected Black woman, Mayann Francis. Her brief bio in the Chronicle Herald describes an incredibly intelligent, well-rounded individual, and, combined with the fact that she's from my old hometown, I'm very pleased.

On another front, it's National Aboriginal Day, when we celebrate the culture and history of the Inuit, Metis and First Nations peoples. It's a real opportunity to get to know the lives and culture of our Aboriginal neighbors, and it's a shame that it isn't publicized more - most of the conflict between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canada could be eased if we just listened, and tried to understand the way they look at the world, rather than trying to impose a dominant, yet different, value system. If you want to see a truly inspiring success story, check out Membertou (again, near Sydney), and the leaders who helped that community achieve success on their own terms.

Sadly, it's not all happy news - Canada is still trying to retain its paternalistic power structure by opposing the United Nations Aboriginal Declaration. The government states that agreeing to the declaration as it is currently worded would 'interfere' with the settling of land claims. Such a shame the nice, quiet Indigenous peoples of the world are discovering their rights to self-determination, isn't it? It's just so darned inconvenient, and might keep Mr. Harper from working on his hockey book uninterrupted.

In the grand scheme of things however, we may have to agree that in the case of Nova Scotia, any progress is better than none at all.

Harper as carny...

Robert over at myblagh posts that the Tories are lining up the Canada Pension Plan for future destruction and cloaking it as part of their effort to fix the federal/provincial fiscal imbalance.

It works like this. The Conservatives plan to reduce employer/employee CPP contributions and replace the lost dollars with money from the federal surplus, thereby reducing the federal side of the federal/provincial fiscal equation and at the same time linking CPP funding to the federal surplus. We all know that one of the problems that has lead to this federal/provincial "crisis" in the first place, aside from the Tory need to have something to beat the Liberals with, is in fact the size of the federal budget surplus. Therefore, any solution to the imbalance will result in money being transferred back from federal coffers to the provinces, shrinking federal surpluses, and (are you still with me?) limiting the amount of money that the feds can afford to prop up the CPP with.

This is an obvious fiscal crisis in CPP just waiting to happen, and unlike the demographic bomb that CPP has apparently dodged by increasing contributions under the Liberals in the 90's, this one will be unavoidable. Oh yeah, and optional, this one is optional.

We have seen this played out before south of the border in the Bush government's attempt to privatize Social Security, except they were not able to manufacture a real financial crisis in the program because competent governance in the 90's left it with an unassailable surplus for more than a decade. Instead, the administration used overly pessimistic economic forecasts to emphasize the cost of Social Security and stupidly good forecasts for the stock market to "demonstrate" how much better the public would be if they "owned" their own pension plan.

It hasn't worked there yet, and we should make sure to not let it happen here, either.

You Know...

Normally, I think violence should be the last resort, but in the case of these guys, I'd be willing to make an exception.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pucking accountability

When the Liberals did stuff like this Stephen Harper would forget his smile training and jump up and down in faux-rage with chants of "entitlement" and "accountability". Now that he is at the helm we are beginning to see that more than the rage was "faux", the substance of his argument was as well. It appears that Stephen Harper didn't just happen to be in Edmonton for Saturday night's Oiler-Hurricane game and he didn't go alone - he flew there on the government Challenger jet and attended the game with six other Tory MPs, four PMO staffers and his security detail. The MPs and staffers apparently paid for their own tickets up in the cheaper seats, but the PM sat in one of two pricey($390) seats bought by the PMO (which means me, I think), while the MPs took turns in the other; getting some face-time with the PM.

You're welcome, I guess.

His
excuse pretense reason? He was on his way to Vancouver and Edmonton was a convenient stop-over. Naturally, as CFSR points out, the Challenger can easily handle the whole distance without stopping and Edmonton is in fact, not really on the way.

And besides, "we make no apologies for cheering on a Canadian team", says his "communications" director Sandra Buckler. When there are no uniforms to hide behind, you can always grab a flag.

Go Play in Traffic!

I thought, since Mr. Pastis has decided to write about blogs again, that it was appropriate to mention how proud I am to see that we have some regular readers. Some agree with us, and some don't, but you're all welcome. It doesn't look like our writings will have to be shoved under the box anytime soon. Judging by the traffic to the site, somebody out there thinks we are doing something worthwhile. Thanks to this site, I have learned there are lots of people doing the same thing.
I appreciate and admire the work done by my more prolific compadres - I feel like I'm in good company. I hope to have more time and energy to devote to fulfilling my Social-Justice/Silly Rant role. Thanks to everybody out there, the debates and encouragement are appreciated.

End of gratutitous back-slapping. Get back to work.

Child care poll

If the Tory child-care plan does indeed "offer the best of both worlds", as Social Development Minister Diane Finley maintains, then Canadians aren't getting the message yet. An Environics poll has just shown that 50% of Canadians prefer the something akin to the national Liberal plan versus 35% who support the $1,200 per year family allowance proposed by the Conservatives.

Environics has yet to put the full results on their website, which apparently include a breakdown of how the respondents voted last election. This will be interesting to know, because the Conservatives are also hovering in the 35-40% mark in the polls, so it's tempting to interpret that support for this issue breaks down along party affiliation. This would not be good news for the Tories in the short-term, as they would like to see this issue peel away some support from rural and suburban Liberals but, as the G&M article linked points out, it is instructive.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sometimes, They Get It Right

The U.S. Episcopal Church has elected the Church's first Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori. This is good news for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is this quote from her biography:
As a scientist and an Episcopalian, I cherish the prayer that follows a baptism, that the newly baptized may receive "the gift of joy and wonder in all God's works." I spent the early years of my adulthood as an oceanographer, studying squid and octopuses, including their evolutionary relationships. I have always found that God's creation is "strange and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139). ...

The vast preponderance of scientific evidence, including geology, paleontology, archaeology, genetics and natural history, indicates that Darwin was in large part correct in his original hypothesis.

I simply find it a rejection of the goodness of God's gifts to say that all of this evidence is to be refused because it does not seem to accord with a literal reading of one of the stories in Genesis. Making any kind of faith decision is based on accumulating the best evidence one can find what one's senses and reason indicate, what the rest of the community has believed over time, and what the community judges most accurate today.

Whale burgers, anyone?

Umm, sorry for this, whales, but it appears that a majority just voted to say "fuck you".

Would you like fries with that?

It appears that several whaling nations would like to do to the whale what we did to the northern cod.

In a move earlier this week, these nations, led by Japan and Norway, have begun negotiating what is known as the St. Kitts Declaration at the International Whaling Commission. The declaration states that moratorium on commercial whaling was intended to be temporary and is "no longer valid".

Since the ban on whaling was adopted in the '70's Japan, Norway, and Iceland have used loopholes in the rules that allow for "scientific whaling" and have resulted in around 2,000 whales a year being killed and sold off to processing plants after serving their scientific purposes ("that harpoon was pointy, write that down Akiko, the harpoon with the tip was pointy"). Scientific whaling has long been thought of as a farce, but the IWC has been unwilling or unable to close the loopholes that allow it.

Today there appears to be enough whale meat floating around the Japanese market that they are concerned with having to get the younger generation into eating it. Concerned enough that enterprising "scientists" have developed the whale burger in hopes of clearing the tons of whale meat that hang uneaten in freezers each year.

This year's meeting could well be critical. The Japanese have spent decades buying the votes of small Carribean and South Pacific member nations through "foreign aid", which largely amounted to direct or indirect bribes to politicians or through the construction of fish and whale processing plants. These nations have now formed and effective voting block that has been slowly growing to the point that they now can threaten majority votes in the IWC.

That said, up to today, Japan has not seen the votes go its way, but not by much. That Japanese have made four proposals, which have all gone down to (too) narrow defeat;
1) to prevent the IWC from discussing dolphins porpoises, small and great whales,
2) to introduce secret balloting,
3) to allow Japanese coastal communities to hunt a limited number of whales (as I believe some Canadian communities can), and
4) to eliminate the Sourther Ocean Whale Sanctuary, which protects the Antarctic waters and where Japanese "scientific whaling" has been especially "effective".

In a side note, some Caribbean tourism officials are nervous that ecologically-aware tourists could boycott their nations as a way of protesting their support for whaling. Just saying...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fair and Balanced

One hopes all the right wing bloggers such as this one who used Steven Chand's former status as a military reservist as an excuse to conduct a witch hunt against all Canadian Forces soldiers who happen to be Muslim will look at this story and call for an investigation of all Canadian Forces soldiers who happen to be:

a. Caucasian, and
b. Drive motorcycles.

One hopes - but one also doubts. Of course, this wouldn't really be fair - the vast majority of Canadian Forces soldiers who ride bikes don't belong to outlaw gangs, and indeed are law-abiding citizens, but then again the same can be said for the Muslim soldiers.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The faces of democracy in Iraq

So... I was surfing my favorite Leftie news sites and I came across an article on motherjones.com. It's titled: "The Iraq War as a Trophy Photo" (http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2006/06/war_porn.html).

Within that artice I found the link above. If anyone ever doubted the old addage: "A picture is worth a thousand words".... its a good argument in the old wisdom's favor. I felt I should post something.... But I am uncertain as to what to say.... I am nearly speechless, almost numbed - due to the horrrifying images I found there. What are foremost in my mind are TWO WORDS, not a thousand. Those two words are "COLLATERAL DAMAGE" as the Bush Administration and US media like to refer to civilian casualties among the Iraqi people. The callous denigration and objectification of human beings and human suffering in that phrase is appalling, and as horrifying as the images themselves. I am dumb-founded as to how people who espouse a love of peace, a respect for human life and human dignity, and fairness for all can be so cavalier and show such a complete disregard for their fellow humans and spout such garbage. I am equally as dumb-founded as to how anyone can stomach such blatent propagandizing and false testimony on a continuing basis. I can only suppose the continuing support (although it is thankfully waning) for the Iraq adventure among US politicians and segments of the US populace is due to the complete disjoint between what is happening on the ground in Iraq and what the US people see of it. None of the americans I know personally would tolerate what Bush and his closet SS have done for long.

If you have a strong stomach - check out the photos. The afterdowningstreet site has galleries of civilians, wounded and killed, including children, scenes of how US soldiers treat the people they are apprehending for questioning, and a couple of galleries of trophy photos. These pictures are graphic in the extreme, and not for everyone to look at.

I used to wonder at how the "Insurgents" seemed able to move amongst the population, with seeming impunity, and not get reported. I wondered at how the Iraqi people could turn from cheering the arrival of US and British troops to universally distrusting them, and in many cases, outright hatred. Having had a small taste of what the Iraqis see every single day: horrendous "collateral damage", Iraqi bodies piled in the street and left to rot.... I can understand why some Iraqis have been horrified and angered into picking up a Kalashnikov or a rocket launcher. This is the the real effect of "shock and awe" tactics: people shocked and awed into a bloody rage, beyond reason. I think I understand now why so many experts say that the majority of guerilla fighters in Iraq are home grown resistance fighters, not foreign "insurgents". You can only subject people to so much "collateral damage", before the loss and/ or maiming of loved ones becomes a call to war.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Libertarian Left update...

Image updated - 18 June...
Yesterday I linked up to the Political Compass poll and expressed my satisfaction with my Lefty/Libertarian results. I put out a call for readers to take the test and pop their results here. To the right you'll see an image of the results to date for those that have submitted, without names. I can add them if you want, it's no matter to me. I will keep checking to see if new results get posted and will update this picture periodically.

There are still only a handful of respondents so far but I am seeing a couple of interesting things in the numbers. First, we all to varying extent tilt toward the Libertarian on personal rights and the perceived role of government. Secondly, I am seeing a general trend along a line 45° from the axes, implying generally that those that are further to the left also tend to be further to the Libertarian. I am proud to say that one of those two dots in SW corner is me.

As I said, there is only a few points here and while nothing scientific is planned for this little project, any trends would be clearer with more points of reference. If you would like to participate, just click on the image and away you go - it only takes a couple of minutes to do the quiz.

WTF? Friday

If, as previously noted on this site, FIFA allows Budweiser to become the official "beer" of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, what else will they do for money? I know, I know, "it's just too obvious", I can hear you saying.

Yes indeed, you can, for only $50 buy World Cup perfume/cologne.

It might be "the beautiful game", but like any other professional sport all you have to do is scratch the surface to find the filthy lucre that drives the operation.

h/t to Doug.

Waiting for Karl...

As many of you are aware, yesterday the US government announced another grim milestone in their effort to find and destroy WMDs take the fight to the terrorists establish a beacon of democratic hope in the Middle East try to torture the word "victory" into something that they can apply before the mid-term elections. The Department of Defense announced the 2,500th death to American service personnel in Iraq.

Naturally, after spending his entire first term wrapped in, or hiding behind the uniform, one would like to think that W would have something to say to honour the sacrifices. One would think.

Instead, in yesterday's press briefing, when asked whether the president had any response or reaction to the tally, Tony Snow replied:
It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something. The President would like the war to be over now. Everybody would
like the war to be over now...
He's right of course, it is only a number, the 2,499th soldier killed has family and loved ones left behind just like the 2,500th. However, even jaded me was taken aback by the callous response "every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something". It's as if the "people" were just an annoying kid tugging at your sleeve asking for Froot Loops while you're trying to steer the shopping cart down the aisle.

Further on in the same press conference, Tony was asked:
The President said yesterday, as you remember, that he and Republicans have a record to run on. With regard to Iraq, if you look at our recent poll, the public has in fact rendered judgment about that record. They think the war is a mistake. They trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the situation in Iraq, and they don't think things are going to get better. So does the President have to answer for that record?
The annoying kid in the supermarket has concluded that dad doesn't know what the fuck he's doing, in short. So how does Tony respond to this?
The President will always -- people will have to answer for the records when voters render their judgments, of course. But on the other hand, one thing as you look at the poll data, people want to win the war. They do not want the -- and the President wants to win the war.

The President understands fully what public opinion is, but he also understands what his obligations are as Commander-in-Chief, and he's said that all along. If you allow the polls to dictate, you're not always going to do your job, and what the President is doing is leading as Commander-in-Chief. And he knows that some of these things are unpopular, but he also knows that they are the right things to do.
The people and the President both want to win the war and He knows that it isn't popular. In short, Tony did not address the concensus that the war is a mistake, instead he laid out that old plum that the President wants to win it. I can almost hear him thinking "don't use the 'M' word, don't use the 'M' word"... "Oh yeah, it's unpopular but the right thing to do".

And besides, since (god)father Karl is free again, you'll see the polls turn around on this issue shortly anyway.

Shameless Promotion


This is the comic strip "Pearls Before Swine", available daily at comics.com. The author, Stephan Pastis, a former San Francisco lawyer, has got the most warped sense of humour I've ever seen, but boy, is it hilarious. He's a nice chap, too - I wrote to say hello and thanks for the laughs, and he actually responded.

Sign up for the free daily strip, you won't regret it. And buy the books - all of them.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I am a proud Libertarian Lefty

Now that I've let my Libertarian / Commie secret out of the bag, I might as well share some evidence of it to you all. You might have seen this quiz before and if not, doubtlessly you've seen some others like it. Clicking on the picture will take you to the site to do the quiz. Go ahead and do it, it only takes about 10 minutes and it's interesting.

Feel free to post your results as comments here, particularly the other 'koggers. I'd like to see just who we're dealing with here :) For what it's worth, the raw numbers for my score are (-8.75) for Left/Right and (-7.23) for Libertarian/Authoritarian.

A brave new world...

When it comes to politics, I have two voices inside me - my inner Commie and my inner Libertarian. They fight things out continuously and quite frequently disagree, thus on some issues I will waffle back and forth a fair bit depending on which voice currently has my ear, however on most things they come to peaceful settlement after a time.

And then there are times when both voices scream in unison so loudly that I have to react in some way, and commonly that means it's time to write something down or call Flash or Briguy.

A week ago I wrote about what I thought was an absolutely retarded idea being contemplated by the US Senate (I know, it's unheard of!) - injecting RFIDs into "guest workers" so they could easily keep track of their possessions employees and make sure they weren't off getting health care or a fair wage. In a comment to that article, Dan indicated that RFIDs are of great interest to the business sector as well as fascists, and this got me thinking about little antennas and transistors.

In today's Globe & Mail there is an article about just how useful and lovely these little RFIDs are for keeping track of documents and poker chips and whatnot. That "whatnot" got me thinking, documents and poker chips being of no interest to me, and it perked up the ears of both my inner Libertarian, who doesn't like giving up information without being asked for it, and my inner Commie, who knows that when business-types get this excited about something it is not going to be cheaper or good for me, no matter what they say. They agreed that it is probably okay for a company to sell me something with a RFID that prevents me from walking out without paying (if that's what they feel they need to do), but that is where it should end; when I walk out the door.

Naturally, my inner Libertarian asks "what guarantees are there that this is going to end when I walk out the door?" (A paranoic, is he.) As it turns out, there is absolutely nothing either legal or technical, that prevents these things from being activated at any time, provided the antenna is functional and still connected to the little chip.

Just think of the uses! In addition to putting them on items, you could put them into a card, say a debit or "loyalty" card, which could be scanned as you walk about the store and perhaps the sales clerk could fire up their little database and see if you're worth serving. Or maybe they could quickly look up a history of your past purchases and they could "spontaneously" suggest an item or upgrade that you might be interested in and voila, you are out a few more bucks.

A brave new world it is, indeed my friend.

So how do you get rid of, or disable these things? The first step is finding the little bugger, which might not always be easy because they can be shimmed in between sheets of paper, or even built into the soles of shoes. If it is accessible, these guys (who have a whole lot of information on the subject) suggest the best thing to do is to cut the connection between the transmitter and the antenna or microwaving it. Since they are usually mounted on a paper backing however, microwaving might be a good way to start a fire, so this should be the last resort. I wonder if it could be nuked in water? It is unfortunately not possible to kill them by hitting them with a magnet.

We can rest a little easier owing to the fact that if there is one thing we can rely on it is that there will be people out there that love nothing more than figuring out how to bust stuff. Here at Global Guerrillas, you will find an interesting discussion on how to create a portable HERF (high energy radio frequency) unit out of a cheap camera that can be used to blast these things.

A localized EMP in your hand - how cool is that? Just have to keep it away from the laptop and the pacemaker and we'll be fine.

What Happens in Vegas, or, Waiting for Khan

Folks, here's your chance to get in on the ground floor of a great investment. Forget the designer furniture or designer clothes, now you can have designer babies!

Yes, now the means are available to encourage the cultural prejudices that were, up until now, beginning to disappear. Some countries who value male children will have them, and other societies, such as Canada, will choose females. I think I'll start saving my pennies now to start the international matchmaking service in about 18-20 years.

Make no mistake, the avoidance of genetic diseases is an important technology, but it still raises some troubling moral questions about the relative value we place on human life. But not nearly as big a moral and ethical question as being able to genetically manipulate your progeny to your specifications for cash.

The attitude of the 'Doctor' who offers this service insists that he is "serving the marketplace and helping Nature, not playing God".

Uh, no. You are not helping nature, you are actively thwarting it. Yes, you are serving the marketplace, in that you are helping nacissistic clods who, when they have a child, will drive that child to the point of collapse, from the in-utero flash cards to the 18 weekly sport and music lessons these children will have to suffer through at 3 years of age. They are not after children, they are after possessions. Perfect little things, or at least, ideas of things that they can display with no sense of moral upset. But, once you've paid for them, can you return them?

Think about it - an unknown combination of genetic manipulations creates a generation of infants and children with debilitating, chronic illnesses. According to the rationale at work here, you have paid $20K for a defective product. Do you sue? Fine, I'd be surprised if they didn't. But, you still have this child that you will never love quite the same way as the one in the catalogue. Your own, imperfect reflection of you and your need to outdo your neighbors. Make no mistake, that's what this is about - you're not thinking about the good of the child, the child doesn't exist yet. You're doing what's best for you and you alone.

This is the type of ridiculously indulgent, unthinking, narcissistic behaviour that perpetuates the stigma that people with disabilities have to endure.

As any fellow geek may recognize, the title of this screed refers to everybody's favorite genetically-engineered superman, Khan Noonian Singh ("KHAN!"). Who, if you think about it, wasn't all that scary, since he was defeated by William Shatner.

Let's hope the legendary Montreal-born thespian stays around at least until these kids grow up. We may need him.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Now that's an interesting take...

The Globe and Mail opens their article on the results of last night's Nova Scotia provincial elections thusly:

The fiddler from Cape Breton pulled it off — barely. Rodney MacDonald won a minority government in Nova Scotia Tuesday, proving his party was right to pick a rookie cabinet minister to lead the Progressive Conservatives and the province.

This is an interesting reading of the results, particularly considering the Tory minority is thinner, and in order to win it he had to promise over $1 billion in new spending in a province that has already run up $12 billion in debt, much of which was accrued in electioneering promises exactly such as these.

Whether the party was right in picking him as leader remains to be seen, but the decision to call an election in retrospect looks more like a rookie mistake than a victory. It might be that he simply wanted a mandate of his own, but it now looks like calling the election in the early summer just after releasing a budget that the opposition already said it would support looks like politicking and was probably be understood as cynical in some eyes. That the budget reads more like a campaign plaftorm or wish list than prudent fiscal governing probably turned off conservative voters and the liberal electorate didn't seem to take it seriously.

Still, they polled 40% of the popular vote, which in places less extremely divided would have guaranteed an easy majority. Unfortunately for them that vote was distributed among the rural ridings, many of which they won handily, and they managed only 2 seats in Metro where they polled 30% compared to the NDP's 47%.

Whether the party was right in electing him leader will have to be decided later. For now, he has to handle a much thinner minority than he previously had and any further rookie mistakes will be that much more costly. And judging from his performance this month, mistakes can be expected.

Budweiser - the official chilled cat piss of the World Cup of Soccer

In what can only be described as a travesty, FIFA accepted $40 million (US) from Anheuser-Busch to make Budweiser the official "beer" of this year's World Cup. I could understand this if the World Cup was being held in the US or in a country that didn't actually know about "beer", but this is Germany, land of Bavaria and Munich, of Oktoberfest.

The only possible explanation is that FIFA is trying to cut down on drunken soccer riots by providing only half-malted cat piss in the stands. Or that it's trying to defang potential national rivalries by giving everyone in the stands something to hate that they can unite behind. Or, that it's simply all about the money. Oh yeah, there's that.

I guess it's BYOB - game on!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tories win narrow minority in Nova Scotia...

Or so the CBC predicts, with 70% of the votes counted. The numbers so far (with 2003 results in brackets) are:
PC - 23 (25)
NDP - 20 (15)
Lib - 9 (12)

For Rodney MacDonald, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, while he holds onto a minority government, this has to taste like defeat. He obviously wanted to ride his selection as John Hamm's successor and the largely positive press on his budget proposal into a majority and it appears that he will most likely instead have an even narrower minority.

For Darrell Dexter, this is also not entirely good news, for he gets to play second fiddle still longer, although in a somewhat stronger position. My quick reading of the results shows that most of the NDP gain came from inside and around Metro, so the party still has not managed to make the rural break that it needs.

If possible, this should make for even more cautious non-governance for the province.

Oh, and it looks like Francis Mackenzie, leader of the Liberals, has lost his bid for a seat. Does this presage the return of Danny Graham to provincial politics?

Those damn pacifists!

Rule number one about writing a Canadian-centred political blog: When at a loss for material, pick up the National Post.

Today's Pus runs an editorial on statements that James Loney, one of the members of the Christian Peacemakers Team that was kidnapped in Iraq and rescued in March of this year. They take offense that Loney still holds onto statements that imply the worst of the problems in Iraq are directly attributable to the presence of American and British military forces. This in spite of evidence that civilian deaths resulting from the post-invasion chaos have not decreased, and that reconstruction of the nation's infrastructure has lagged and stalled in most areas of the country.

Oustide of the "permanent camps" and the Green Zone, of course.

Also, the cowardly turds of the National Post still seem to harbour resentment that the hostages were not mistreated, aside from being chained and cooped up. What does this say about the writers of this screed? Could it be that the editors are comparing this report with what prisoners of Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib would say of their American captors?

The editorial then drifts into the farcical, suggesting that Loney and his co-hostages consideration of using non-lethal violence in order to free themselves demonstrates the "moral indefensibility" of pacifism. This is such a pretty lame argument. I think it suffices to say that a person's judgement after three months of forced separation from loved ones, regardless of the physical situation, would be hampered to some extent.

You'll Spend Hours, Trust Me...

So, apparently, in the 1970's, there was a live-action Spider-Man show in Japan. Neat things included Spider-Man's giant transforming robot.

Yes, you read that right.

Find some spare time and look around here, you'll be smiling before long - I know I was.

Typical...

As regular readers of the 'koggy goodness may know, I am a Sociologist. My job (in one way or another) is to look at the behaviours of human groups, in order to discover patterns. My particular branch of Sociology, Symbolic Interaction, primarily looks at the understanding and negotiation of individual, and therefore by extension collective, reality through the negotiation of symbols that convey meaning: words, gestures, dress, what have you.

Why am I telling you this? I'm glad you asked.

For some time, I have been dismayed at the level of generalization people are willing to undertake to describe fellow citizens whose ideology is different from theirs. A typical example, particularly in responses to posts, is "That's the problem with liberals". I've been guilty of it myself, at times - that annoys me even more. (As may be evident, this post has arisen from a recent discussion on this site.)

To describe the characteristics of a group by the activities of certain members is folly. To generalize, for example, that all men are muderers and rapists is insulting and inaccurate. According to new feminist writings I have become familiar with, so is assuming that all women are nurturing and kind. There are kind, supportive, nurturing men, and there are violent women. The minority they may be, but they exist.

The items presented here are opinion, and they should be understood as such. I often agree with what others have written here, but I sometimes disagree. I truly enjoy someone with a different viewpoint discussing their opposing views rationally. I have learned from things that people have told me, as I have also been guilty of reacting viscerally to a perceived insult. We are all human, after all.

What is missed in the grand scheme of things is that those of us who are characterized as liberals do not have the same opinions on every topic. We on the 'left' side of the world are not 'all' anything, nor are we immune from criticism because we feel we have the moral high ground. To use just one, perhaps inappropriate example: I am strongly opposed to rioting at global economic summits - it accomplishes nothing, and encourages the view that those involved are unreasonable. The conclusion that 'lefties' are unreasonable leads to 'righties' not making any attempt to reason with them.

Painting everyone with the same brush just provides us with excuses to ignore others we disagree with. That is irresponsible and intellectually lazy. If we, regardless of which 'wing' we identify with, do what we do every day to make the world resemble our individual ideas of a 'better place', then we can agree that we share good intentions, if we differ on methods.

Extremism of any sort is unacceptable to all of us, and we are all shocked and angered when terrible acts are perpetrated - all we do is differ as to the ultimate cause of the event - America's imperialism, the evils of Capitalism, permissive society, deviation from Biblical prophecy, not washing your hands after using the bathroom, or whatever.

Whether Canada is in Afghanistan legitimately or not, we're there, and the people who are there are doing the job they have been hired to do. Whether we agree with the reasons or the rationale is less relevant than agreeing that these people do a difficult and dangerous job because we ask them to, and we need to be thankful for that. And then stop there, and help them as best we can to fulfill their job descriptions.

Deciding what is moral and what is not is not the job of any individual or single group. Morality is negotiated collectively, and in the past, all too often decided by force. No one viewpoint should have the power to decide right and wrong.

Humanity has great potential, but it needs to lose the adversarial ADD and focus on what's important - seeing everyone as an individual with something to contribute, not as a representative of a group you hate because they say the world was created last Wednesday, and you're sure it was Thursday. Perceiving yourself as a victim of 'unreasonable belief X' doesn't accomplish anything either. What does accomplish things is education - learn to understand the opposing viewpoints, and you can build an effective argument. Understand objections, and you can present evidence to the contrary. Reasonable, rational discourse will always compare favorably to blind, unwavering faith in any form - be it patriotism or religion. By screaming, you confirm the worst thoughts about 'your' group. By talking, you confound expectation. That's always fun.

Polarizing the world according to 'us' and 'them' gets us nowhere - we spend more time fighting each other than fighting with the world's problems. As anyone familiar with optics can tell you, polarization splits things apart, it doesn't bring them together.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Javis, Javis, Javis...

It's one thing to piss off the neighbourhood by your refusal to close down your sleaze palace.

It's one thing to be continually running afoul of government regulations.

But, stiffing your lawyer for $115,000 of unpaid fees? That's just dumb. Especially when the lawyer in question is Eddie Greenspan!

Good luck finding someone to take this case for you, buddy!!!

The Conservatives announce the launch of silly season...

Silly season is soon upon us, people, with Harper insisting on re-opening the same-sex marriage debate in the fall. To that end, in order to inure you from the stupidity that is about to befall upon in the late summer (barbecue season out west, light rainy period here in the east), I think it's best to point you to the debate as it proceeds in the US. For those who think that a little foretaste will help stem the spread of the poison in your system, the Family Research Council has it's rosary beads in knots over the recent defeat of the bill in Senate and are spouting shit like "Today the U.S. Senate voted against marriage and against the American people".

I know that Stephen Harper has jammed his size-8 penny loafers in the mouths of his caucus and has managed to "control the message" til now. However, is it possible that he thinks he's going to be able to shut up the caucus through this doomed-to-fail "conscience" vote? Does he honestly think that no one is going to look like a reactionary idiot before this ends, and that the vote itself isn't going to become fodder for the opposition next election?

Or is he betting that Canadians are going to fall for this defense of family religious paranoia doctrine?

Naturally, down south the defense of the family only goes for family values, not the actual family, as the reaction of the self-same Family Research Council to the news of a vaccine for the Human Papilloma virus this week shows. The skinny on this one -> teenage girls will have more sex now that there is a vaccine for HPv because the reason they're not doing it now is that, ohmygod! everyone knows sex causes cancer.

Half of Americans still have head up ass

Or, is there another way to read the results of a Gallup poll taken last month that show 46% of Americans believe in a literal Biblical (tm) creation of mankind over only 13% that believe humans evolved over millions of years from simpler forms.

Words escape me - these people have the bomb. Lots of bombs.

Or is it that they have left me and I'm...

left behind?

h/t to beepbeepitsme.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Joe, Joe, Joe

It looks like the first sparks in the Liberal leadership campaign have flown between Joe Volpe and Michael Ignatieff. This week Ignatieff started the current this week by suggesting that Volpe's acceptance of tainted money has damaged the reputation of the party and, while not saying directly that Volpe should bow out, he said that he must "draw his own conclusions" as to what would be best for the party. Rather, "Party"; when these guys speak, you can actually hear the capitalization.

In response, Volpe attacked Ignatieff for being the only Liberal leadership candidate backing the Conservative government's stance on Afghanistan in the first all-candidate debate.

What is one to think of all this? Does any of it matter? What does it say of the leadership candidates? On the one hand, in a previous post on the Volpe/rich kids' allowance issue have attacked Volpe for essentially being an ignoble turd and the Liberals for being gutless in not turfing him sight unseen and in other pages, many other pages, I have attacked the Conservative/Liberal "Mission to Afghanistan" for being poorly thought out and potentially eternal. So where does that leave me now?

Naturally it does not matter, as I am not a member of the Liberal Party and therefore will not be casting a vote for a delegate at any point, but I have to score this one for Ignatieff. He has argued his position on the Afghanistan eloquently and it is well thought out. (I just don't happen to agree with it, but that's just me.) He stuck to his guns in the debate and, unlike the rest of the Liberal party, has not changed his mind on the mission because the Liberals are no longer in Sussex Drive and the public mood seems to have changed on the war.

(As an aside, I am not advocating a Bush-like certitude that does not change regardless of the facts - I want my politicians to change their minds as issues evolve and as reality reveals itself; doing otherwise is blind foolishness at best and can be disastrous at worse. However, as I see it, the facts around the war in Afghanistan have not changed appreciably in the last year or two, so those that change their minds on the issue had best do so with good cause or a rebirth of some kind. I am not convinced that the general consensus in the Liberal Party has changed out of a new interpretation of reality rather than a simple finger to the winds of public mood.)

Volpe however, sensing that the Liberal crowd is now against the war, chose to attack Ignatieff on the one issue that appears to differentiate him from the rest of the leadership hopefuls in what was otherwise a staid affair. Combine this little stab with the fact that in returning the illicit donations he chose to announce that he was going to set a new standard for "honesty and openness" somehow (kind of like the little shove and catch "saved your life" thing that teenage boys do to each other on curbs) I can now safely add "opportunistic" to the adjectives I assign to Joe Volpe.

The picture is becoming clearer... opportunistic, ignoble turd.

WTF? Friday - Early Sunday Morning Edition

Not only is there a National Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship, it's being televised.

Okay. I get it - The Omen, Poseidon, King Kong...There are no original ideas anymore. Of course, there haven't been since Shakespeare, since most things are variations on themes you find in his works, but the re-make has taken the place of the original idea.

Television, with rare exceptions, is worse. If I see one more beautiful woman/fat stupid guy sitcom, I'm going to snap, I swear. One response to the recognition of the complete lack of originality has been the reality TV craze. Other than for interesting subject matter on PBS or the News, the phrase 'reality television' is akin to 'military intelligence' - an oxymoron. Why do I need to watch people's lives on television, particularly people I wouldn't let into my house if they showed up at my door for real? Has real reality lost its luster? Do we so lack in imagination that we need to live vicariously through others rather than, say, reading a book? Books have always provided me with the best images, with very little effort. (And if we want to talk about living vicariously, I'd like to say that most heroes I read about look remarkably like me, only more...heroic.)

But come on, I mean, Rock, Paper, Scissors? If you're going to show a sport, show a sport. If you're going to show a competition that's not a sport, also fine - Spelling bees teach us a lot more than spelling, they're a sociological microcosm - but for goodness' sake, this barely qualifies as competition.

I eagerly await the results of the NHL playoffs, the World Cup, and the Coin-flipping or straw-drawing championships. Any contest (to use the term loosely) that can be used to determine who gets the last beer should not be the subject of a television program.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hate speech or satire?

You will either enjoy this or really, really be offended. It is Sarah Silverman doing what she does - is it hate speech or satire? Here's some more.

This is where hate laws get into trouble when applied to speech.

Hate laws...

The David Ahenakew case has brought hate legislation into view once again, and after having already made my thoughts on the case clear here, maybe it's time to open up a discussion on the legislation itself, as it pertains to the case. Note to readers - I am not a lawyer.

In a brief internet prowl (was their life before it?), I found the hate legislation located here. The two sections that might pertain to the case are 318 and 319, so I will pull elements of these out. The lead paragraphs are mercifully short and easy to read, so it should not be too painful.
318. (1) Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
I think that it is likely safe to say that section 318 does not apply to the Ahenakew case - it would be a stretch for anyone to argue that he was promoting or advocating genocide. Certainly for that to be the case, we'd have to hear the entire interview and see if Ahenakew's defense, that he was using the statement to comment on treatment of native peoples, is true.

319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of...

Section 319 (empasis mine) is where I think both Ahenakew's and the Crown's case rest. He knew he was being interviewed, therefore section (2) applies for the Crown and his statements were unlikely to lead to further crimes, section (1) for the defense. However, the results of the first trial were thrown because the original judge did not take into sufficient consideration that Ahenakew was involved in a heated interview with the reporter and that they were made in anger, when presumably the "idiot filter" would be operating below specifications. Therefore, I presume the defense is arguing that he did not willfully promote hatred, which was largely the point of my previous post on the subject. (A post for which I'm receiving surprisingly little abuse - go Canada!)

As I said, I am not a lawyer, but even I know that you do not have to be found guilty of all laws in order to be found guilty of a crime, so having countervened 319(2) is enough to find in favour of the Crown's position.

Also, the legislation goes on to identify various Defenses under which it is acceptable to utter statements that otherwise would be considered hateful.
319. (3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)
(a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;
(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious
text;
(c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or
(d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.
This is the section of the legislation that attempts to make it legal to talk about racism and other touchy issues while at the same time making the active spreading of hatred against an identifiable group illegal. And it is in here that Ahenakew's lawyers will also have to work. I have not actually read the interview in it's entirety, I've seen his comments and his comments on his comments afterward, so it is hard to exactly pin down how the law will be applied here. That said, he has stated that his comments were a means to another end and therefore perhaps one of these clauses will be in effect.

So after my reading of the laws as written, the legal argument appears to come down to whether or not a person is responsible for what they say when angry, at least in cases in which intent is a critical issue. And by the use of the term willfull in section 319(2) it looks to me that intent is crucial. I believe, I choose to believe, I really, really want to believe, that readers of this blog are savvy enough to understand how intent is used here and in other crimes like murder and manslaughter and that I won't have to get into that kind of discussion.

Because, as I said, I'm not a lawyer.

I'm interested in hearing from anyone that wants to weigh in on this, especially, but not only, if you can lend any insight on the hate legislation.