Tuesday, October 31, 2006

With the Democrats, nothing is in the bag...

With the Democrats a mile ahead in most polls and even Necropublican commentators on Larry King last night whimpering that anything short of a rout for the Democrats would make them seem like pathetic losers, John Kerry, oh yes, that John Kerry, finally gave the Necropublicans a talking point. If you haven't seen it, John Kerry answered a question about education today by inferring that if you don't get one, you end up in Iraq. Here's the video clip:

Natch, the Necropublicans, sensing blood in the water, and what's more, blood in the water involving their favorite fetish -> other people dying for them on foreign soil, have jumped on it. George Bush says:
Even in the midst of a heated campaign season, there are still some things we should all be able to agree on, and one of the most important is that every one of our troops deserves our gratitude and respect
which of course, on its face, is true. However if I was in the military, what I would ask for more than anything, even more than respect, is to not be sent to die in a foreign country except for very, very good reasons. Bush is as he was, a fraud, an eight-year-old playing leader.

And John Kerry, for his part, is as he was, probably well meaning, but stilted and ultimately ineffectual.

If Taylor Marsh is right, here is what he meant to say:
I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.

If Democrats take no other solace from this incident - it should effectively end a Kerry bid in 2008.

Update: I note that Taylor Marsh links to Kerry's "explanation" - an apology and an attach together. Not too badly done, actually.

Norman Spector: Asshole

I don't really care that he called Belinda Stronach a bitch, as she has proven that she can defend herself from piss-ants like him and Peter MacKay. However, Spector then went on to say that the MacKay remarks would not have been an issue for so long if it weren't for the fact that "half the Press Gallery now are women and women find this very offensive". So the real issue for him is that women are getting just a little too close to the Old Boys' Club; revealing comments from a political has-been.

It's fun to watch these low-self-esteem shrimp-dicks fall apart when faced with a strong, (apparently) capable woman.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm Going to Hide Under the Bed Now.

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article about the potential for nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
The only thing more frightening than a pyromaniac with a match is a pyromaniac with a can of gas, a box of matches, and no fear of dying.

Lynn and Wolf on Dick

Lynn Cheney and Wolf Blitzer here is worth a watch. The BS about her bad novel-writing at the end is garbage, but her obfuscations around Dick's water-boarding reference are fun to watch. See how if she answers the question.

Ahoy, Kaptain Karl!

In the last couple of weeks we've seen the SS BushCo, under the steady, if sweaty hand of Kaptain Karl, release the fear torpedo in an attempt to change the debate in the last weeks of mid-term campaigning from degenerate Republicans to fear of terrorists. With increasing military deaths in Iraq and a greater portion of the public finally beginning to understand that they've been hood-winked, it didn't go as planned.

The next phase of the operation has just begun to play itself out - fear of faggotry. Yup, in order to attempt to win back some of the eroding Christian Right that appears to be a little more reluctant to hop aboard the boat, the Kaptain and his mascot "Skippy" Bush, have traipsed out gay marriage (of all things) as their wedge-du-jour:

"Activist judges try to define America by court order," Bush told the crowd of 4,000 at Silver Creek High School, flanked by local Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., who is running for re-election. "Just this week in New Jersey, another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe marriage is between a man and a woman."

At that, the crowd went wild, members shouting "USA," stomping feet and shaking pompoms.

Setting aside the simplistic, not to say silly "doubts about marriage" comment, it appears that Karl's new tack is to conflate gay marriage with patriotism somehow. Go Karl!

The Necropublicans have arranged for constitutional ammendments (a favoured tactic these days) on gay marriage on the ballots in eight states. Enraging those easily enraged about such things will, Karl hopes, drum up the Republican voters in at least these eight states; a ploy that worked well in 2004. The real question is whether it will be enough for 2006. My bet is that over the next week we will also see Terri Schiavo raised as an undead minion of the Republican Party and maybe even Creationists getting a piece of the fun.

Even still, it might not be enough. The Christian Right has not received the treatment they had hoped for in 2000. Faith-based initiatives have gone under- or un-funded, gay marriage is not yet illegal, and abortions can still be had in many places. And dagnabitall, kids can still buy condoms without having to get a signature from their parents! This time around, they might well sit on their hands, if only to show the Kaptain that they can't be taken for granted.

Indeed, a low turnout in the mid-terms might well increase their strength and importance leading up to 2008.

And so it begins...

The Nova Scotia provincial government begins its fall sitting today, and it is bound to be a tumultuous beginning. Premier Rodney has a slimmer minority than last spring, the MLA's all have fatter salaries and there is a health-care strike in the offing. Just how these three forces play out against each other is going to be interesting.

First, the minority. Unless MacDonald does something really stupid, his government should be able to ride for at least a short time. The Liberal party is leaderless (I know, why should it be any different than during the last election campaign) and won't select a new leader until sometime next year. The analogy with the federal situation is direct - the Conservatives can soil themselves publicly and the Liberals will just pretend nothing happened. Probably. The only real difference is that unlike his federal counterpart, the interim leader of the NS Liberals, Michel Samson, is by all accounts capable. That fact alone might embolden the party to hold the Conservatives to task, so it might well get interesting. With important issues presenting themselves immediately, it will be easy to Samson's temperature quickly. As for Darryl Dexter, he will be anxious to demonstrate that the NDP are in fact a government-in-waiting and will try to show some space between NDP and Conservative policies. While the government might receive some support issue-to-issue from the NDP, they will not be able to rely on rope thrown from that direction indefinitely, and bowlines and nooses look similar when your thrashing around in panic.

An "independent" commission over the summer suggested that Nova Scotia MLA's should receive a 21% raise to bring them in line with other provinces. Which naturally, rejecting any accusation that the provincial government is in fact a financial basket case, they have accepted, and now they receive a base salary of ~ 80K.

It will be interesting to see how the current members of the assembly defend a 21% raise when they face a union of 6,600 healthcare workers demanding something on the order of one-tenth of that. Combine this with the fact that the real issue in the strike might not be salaries, but that the government has been skimming pension contributions for ten years (to the tune of $90 million now), this strike has the possibility of being ugly and long.

Readers will remember that Danny Millions in Newfoundland and Labrador faced a similar strike early in his tenure as premier. However Danny had the benefit of a majority government and balls. If Rodney had demonstrated the existence of the latter, he might well have one the former last spring.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Underfed rabbits from worn-thin hats...

But it's not a Necropublican electoral trick, honest:
Coalition naval forces in the Gulf are on watch for possible terror threats to oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Western naval officials said Friday.

However, if you read right to the very end of the article, you'll see it for the bullshit that it really is:
On Friday, light sweet crude for December delivery fell 10 cents to $60.26 a barrel.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Tap on the The Shoulders of Giants...

The New York Times reports:
In an unusual foray into electoral politics, 75 science professors at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland have signed a letter endorsing a candidate for the Ohio Board of Education.

In my opinion, this should be the norm, not the exception. Be it an election for a school board, a provincial or state government, or a federal race, scientists need to stand up and speak loudly about the vital importance of science.

When polio attacked the younger population of North America in the early part of the last century, science provided the means to halt the spread and prevent further infections. I don't recall whether Jonas Salk and his associates gave 'props to God' after their discovery of the polio vaccine, but I doubt it. Without science in this and many other cases, many more would have been killed or have suffered needlessly.

Scientists as a group have to make themselves known, and make themselves heard. The forces of irrationality are loud, but they are, I believe, a minority. There is an effort underway to create a moral panic - the labelling of a particular social group as deviant and dangerous - about science. There are those who declare science as the reason for the advent of communism, immorality and homosexuality, among other ludicrous claims.

I would see it differently - the advent of these movements, phenomena, whatever, are more indicative of a need for right-wing religious zealots to get their house in order, and start addressing some of the moral and emotional needs of those they purport to serve. Prior to the introduction and growth of the Positivist philosophy, that on which science is based, people were immoral. There were also those who were, perhaps more secretly, homosexual. The freedoms that gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, and/or two-spirited people have gained is a result of a moral shift and a growth of open-mindedness. Science has nothing to do with it, since morals are the playground of philosophers, not scientists.

The recent decision not to join the United Nations ban on bottom trawling is indicative of a reluctance to accept scientific findings on the part of our elected representatives and their advisors. What evidence exists that contradicts the findings that the practice is harmful? What will be needed to further convince elected officials that a burning bush is not necessary to decision-making? Even the U.S. near-theocracy has accepted the evidence. A small minority who obviously do not understand science and how it works should not be allowed to be the only ones providing advice.

One thing I would like to clarify: Science is not a belief system. A belief system is based on faith, and does not insist on confirmation. In fact, it is often damaged by any attempt at proof. Science is a method, distinguished by its systematic nature, and the ability to reliably predict natural events based on testing and re-testing of hypotheses. Science makes mistakes, and the history of science is replete with ideas that did not stand up to scientific scrutiny. That's what makes it great, though - any theory is subject to examination and refutation. The cumulative nature of science and the way scientific knowledge accumulates means that the ideas that work are kept, and those that don't get dumped. There is constant refinement - ideas build upon each other, and the acceptance of a newer theory does not mean that older theories are wrong. Einstein's physics do not in any way invalidate Newton's, they build on the ideas. The inability to either prove or disprove such ideas as creationism mean that they are faith, not science. And not particularly intelligent faith at that.

Debate is crucial to science's success. Evolution is accepted as fact, due to the confirmation offered not only by paleontology, but by physics, chemistry, cosmology, biology and many others. The mechanisms may be discussed and debated, but the fact of evolution is irrefutable. This spirit of debate needs to extend to the public arena - we need to be clear, focused and disciplined, and not give in to the emotional arguments of the opponents of science.

My point is that the apparent silence that most of us as scientists have kept in relation to politics has to end - we need to ask the hard questions about support for science and engineering among our elected representatives. Scientists don't study politics, but they are citizens, and as such, they have a responsibility to illuminate their areas of expertise so reason and rationality, rather than emotion, insults and fear, rule our governing institutions. If we don't ensure the progress of our society toward rationality, who will?

Oh, Wait...Was That Out Loud?

A man who told Canadian border agents he was visiting Canada to have sex with a 15-year-old girl he met over the Internet has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

I'm not sure what makes me more uncomfortable about this, his reason for crossing the border or the fact that when asked by authorities, he answered truthfully. Planning to have sex with a 15-year-old is pathetic and sick. I should think lying would be relatively easy by comparison.

Unfortunately, among a certain portion of the population, sexual contact with minors (yes, I know, 15 is over the age of consent in BC - that's presumably why he went trolling in Canada rather than Washington State) has become normative behavior. No longer are pedophiles isolated from one another, but they are able to form groups of like-minded individuals over the Internet. Constant reinforcement of your beliefs and desires by a select few who share your views will make any claimed belief or proclivity 'normal' behavior within a reference group. It is certainly possible to receive this reinforcement to the exclusion of all else - without any other human contact, we will adopt the norms of the group we belong to. So, pedophiles are isolated physically, but thanks to the Internet, they can find each other and associate virtually and ideologically. I think that would clearly fall into the category of the 'Law of Unintended Consequences'. Regular porn, you betcha. Kiddie porn, no freakin' way.

In my view, as un-liberal as it may seem, penalties for possession and distribution of child pornography, as well as child-luring, should be as harsh and inhumane and final as we can make them. Why governments and courts are accepting probations or a few months in jail as punishment is mind-boggling. 10 years, less time off for a few psychological sessions and good behavior, is nothing. In this case, the girl was not victimized, but in too many other cases, the children suffer for a lot more than a decade.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rush Limbaugh does it again...

Rush: Hey, is that my dick? [Stomp!]

As Billmon notes, Limbaugh's comments on the Michael J. Fox stem cell ad has changed the debate on stem cells by making it more human:
Rush, in his infinite wisdom, has now ensured that the issue isn't abortion. It isn't even stem cells. Now it's all about Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson's Disease -- which is exactly how you don't want it framed if you're the GOP candidates in those races (or a supporter of Missouri's proposed constitutional ban on stem cell research.)

I don't know where Limbaugh got the idea that telling scurrilous lies about one of America's favorite celebrities -- and someone who enjoys a huge amount of public sympathy to boot -- was a shrewd political move. But the Dems should be damned glad he did. Considering how razor-close the Missouri race appears to be, Rush may have just single-handedly booted away a Republican Senate seat.

For those that haven't seen it, here is the ad in question.

Monday, October 23, 2006

No longer in the rear with the gear?

Gordon O'Connor has been forced to backtrack on statements that have apparently come out of his ministry and the lips of Forces Chief Rick Hillier in recent days. Hillier suggested last week that, in order to meet ongoing committments in Afghanistan they might have to "look outside the box" to find more grunts. He suggested that they would look to retrain other trades to infantry, including those in the Air Force and Navy. Officials from "the ministry" said yesterday that it is also possible that they may look to extending the current tour rotation from six to nine months.

Either the grumbling from the trenches has gotten loud or officers in Ottawa began to worry that pencil-pushers might get hauled over to do real work and word got to Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor, because today he denied that Navy or Air Force personnel would be re-badged and that there was any consideration of extending the rotation.

Of course that means Army supply techs and admin clerks might be sleeping a little less well tonight. At least I would be.

Even the new GOP ad admits...

...that words fail.

As I mentioned last week, the Necropublicans are dipping into the old playbook for a last stand with their old standby - fear. Here is a sample of the first ad. As I find them, I'll post 'em.

'cuz they're funny.

This is a Strange and Disturbing Reality...

And apparently, in this parallel dimension, George Bush never said 'Stay the Course' - it must have been his evil twin, Skippy....

Friday, October 20, 2006

A boy and his dog...

Does anyone think McKay has the stones to have said it while Stronach was actually in the building?

Or better still, with Tie Domi in the building?

Didn't think so. He's a nutless wonder and an embarrassment to the province I am otherwise proud to call home.

Coming real soon to an ad break near you - Fear, Fear Itself

Gary Trudeau still has it. This week's Doonesbury he has introduced a new character to the Bush campaign, Fear Itself.

And right on cue, this weekend marks the launch of the Republican Party's series of campaign ads based on, you guessed it... terror attacks. It worked in '02 and '04, so Rove must be hoping it will be three times lucky. They really have little choice. With the ass completely out of the polls, the war in the tank, pedophiles running the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, appreciable chunks of the evangelical right turning their backs, and no single person to swift boat, only lunging past the brain stems of the voters can possibly work this time. Well, there are a few more tricks that they can pull out of their hats, but they're essentially riffing on the same topic.

Not that there is any real worry - they've always got Diebold in their corner. Does anyone know how many states are using them this time around?

The GOP breaks out their old buddy...

Gary Trudeau still has it. This week's Doonesbury has introduced a new character to the Bush campaign, Fear Itself.

Right on cue, with all else going to hell for the GOP, this weekend marks the launch of the Republican Party's series of campaign ads based on, you guessed it... terror attacks. It worked in '02 and '04, so Rove must be hoping it three times lucky. They really have no choice; being a mid-term election, there is no single candidate to swift boat this time, so only a broad-based lunge past the brain stem of the American voter will suffice. Desperate, yes! But there really is no other hope for the Republicans aside, except for few things from this list that Karl might actually have penned himself.

Not that there is any real worry - they've always got Diebold in their corner. Does anyone know how many states are using them this time around?

This week's installment of International Pariah Weekly

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, jealous that Kim Jong Il has been getting more than his share of the coverage in International Pariah Weekly these days, is back in the news singing the same old refrain about the Holocaust and death to Israel and yada yada yada. Frankly Mahmoud, this is getting boring; either get new material, build a nuke, sell oil in Euros or shut the fuck up. I tip my hat to your persistance and ingenuity in declaring it necessary for one of the world's leading sources of natural gas to develop peaceful nuclear power, but you can't be on the cover every week without new schtick. You have to face reality dude, every dog has his day. I mean, have you seen Jerry Seinfeld recently?

It is interesting that in this world of troubles and conflict we choose to obsess over one international pariah at a time. I think that might be the reason that Darfour and Rwanda aren't getting the attention that they deserve and require from the international community; the line-up for pariah-du-jour has been filled up for sometime with the likes of Osama bin HidingInPakistan, Saddam Hussein, and the current one-two punch of Ahmadinejad and Jong Il.



[murmer murmer murmer]

Wait a minute, the little voice in my head that I don't listen too very often is saying something. He thinks that maybe Rwanda and Darfour would get more attention if they were not so dark.

Ooh, that voice is silly, isn't he? I mean, lighting can't be the problem, can it?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bush, Howard, and Vietraq

You know what, let's just call it a draw and say fuck it.

John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia and staunch US ally in Iraq seems to be willing to do that in Iraq.

The Iraq invasion has been an interesting and painful lesson in the real-world effects of bafflegab and bullshit at the highest levels. Initially it was Saddam Hussein's relationship with al Qaeda and 911 (lie). Then it was the famously elusive weapons of mass destruction (a good gamble, but ultimately a lie). And for the last two years it has been establishing democracy in Iraq (fable, bullshit, and lie). In what undoubtedly signals a shift in the argument from justifying the rationale for going to war to manufacturing a means of declaring victory and leaving, Howard has suggested that we can leave:
When we are satisfied that what we leave behind will be relatively stable and democracy has a reasonable chance, if that is the wish of the Iraqi people, of surviving and developing.
Mealy-mouth bullshit and back-pedalling of the highest order. It would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that people were dying and billions that could have been spent on something useful was instead being pissed away down a deep, dark hole.
Relatively stable...
Reasonable chance...
If that is the wish...

Where the fuck was the wish of the Iraqi people three and a half years ago, fucknut? George? Tony? If this really was about the wishes of the Iraqi people, don't you think it could have been handled a little differently?

The United States government, those that elected it, the coalition nations that lent their support or at least tacit approval, and those that didn't fight this war hard enough before it got started, have painted themselves into a very dire corner. Hundreds of thousands have died, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, and the only thing to show for it is an ever-expanding hatred of the West (now in easier-to-justify blood flavour!), spriralling debt and a handful of troubled leaders around the world trying to backpedal out of their membership in the Coalition of the Duped.

With mid-terms looking to shift at least one house toward the Democrats, the next few months are going to be crucial. If the Democrats get some power and do not start the move to ending this stupid war, they will get part-ownership of it in 2008. And by that time it will be very hard indeed for them to bring it to an end. The Republicans have done everything they possibly can do to guarantee a Democrat victory next month, if the Democrats do not take this opportunity to not only revitalize this idiotic government but also bring this war to an end, it will drag on for years.

Oh yeah, even George is now admitting to some similarity to the debacle that shall not be named. Once that one got passed from Democrat to Republican, it poisoned everyone, too. And we know how well that one turned out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An American journalist's view of Harper

In his post on Rabble.ca (http://www.rabble.ca/politics.shtml?sh_itm=96ea8d831f53196ffbf2b536241afe53&rXn=1&)Richard Fricker offers a very stark (bleak?) warning about Stephen Harper and the rest of the GOP-wannabes of the Canadian conservative movement. This is one of the better stated, and more objective, explanations of why Harper seems to be imitating George Bush so often. There isn't anything here regular 'kogger readers haven't read or discussed before, but it is layed out in nice, easy prose. I think it is more poignant in that it is an AMERICAN observer ringing the alarm bell that more Canadians should be reaching for.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bush signs Military Commissions Act

George Bush has taken the war to that which apparently really does hate America - habeas corpus:
This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom.
There is really nothing much more ironic than those that have no idea what it is.


Frank McKenna demonstates another reason why I'm really happy he didn't accept coronation as Liberal heir: Canada should rethink missile defense with the US to better our chances of at least a reach-around or a kiss on the neck. His logic is almost Bushian. He says:
We must never forget that another 9/11, or a major event of a similar nature that resulted from a laxness with respect to Canadian security, would have a profound impact on trade between the two countries and, consequently, our national wealth.
Did you catch that? Apparently 9/11 would have been prevented with a working missile defense system! He's got Bush 911itis! Certainly we should protect ourselves against terrorists, but really, where does missile defense fit into this? Blow the billions on defending our goddamned ports and I'm sure our neighbours to the south would be far more pleased. Oh, except the greedheads at Boeing, but I bet even they could get a piece of the port pie, too. Anyway, he goes on:
Americans on this one just never understood our position. They thought it was poorly communicated and they couldn't understand why, when they weren't asking for anything from us, why we were so hostile to participating even in a dialogue about the defence of North America, including Canada.
Sooooo, maybe the problem Frank, is that we have to better communicate our position rather than change it? Nah, you're right, let's change it.

Stockwell Day still has his head in the same dark place...

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has discarded the conclusions of Howard Sapers report on aboriginal incarceration as being without empirical evidence. To quote:

I find there is no empirical evidence of systemic discrimination against aboriginals in the corrections system," he said. "I visited personally a number of federal institutions and have spent time with aboriginals themselves individually and in groups in the institutions.

I can only come to one of two conclusions from statements like this; either he is simply lying and would like to shelve the report without regard, or he is a complete idiot. So he's visited a prison or two, big deal! When a minister of the Crown decides to drop in on your place of work to check up, the first instinct for all managers and supervisors is to clean the joint up and arrange for a nice show, so there is no question in my mind that what Mr. Day saw was what managers who like their jobs wanted him to see. Does he believe that his little drop in visit (or visits?) adequately disprove the statistics presented in Sapers report?

Since he is a politician, I would normally off-handedly assume that he is simply lying, but with a man who famously believes (believed?) that dinosaurs and man co-existed a la The Flinstones and that showing up to a press conference in a wet suit while running for Prime Minister was a good idea, complete idiocy should not be so blithely discounted.

Truly, comedy sometimes simply writes itself.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ah nature, the bitterest of enemies!

I know war isn't funny, but that doesn't mean funny things can't happen every now and then. According to this article, the Canadian forces in Afghanistan are having difficulties battling Afghan troops hiding inside marijuana forests. First, I must pause for a moment at the image of such a thing...

There, I'm back. It appears that marijuana plants absorb a tremendous amount of heat and makes it difficult to detect people and vehicles by thermal signature. This is being used to great effect in some areas by the Taliban. Also, because plants are very green and hold a lot of water, they are difficult to burn, and when the troops did burn some of them, a group of downwind soldiers experience "ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action."

I wonder if the Tim Horton's in Kandahar has had a run on double chocolate?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

101st Pecking Chickenheads

Someone has finally put together a spoof of the self-spoofing 101st Fighting Keyboardists. In case you're not familiar with them, they're a bunch of armchair warriors, war fetishists, and general wankers that like to think they're "supporting the troops" by spouting shit from the comfort of their basements.

Now, I realize that I am doing nothing different than they - wanking publicly on political topics, however there is something both obsequious and frankly a little creepy about pretending to be in the military like these guys. I can remember doing it when I was 12 and it was kinda fun, but really?

Fight on, brothers in type set.

MacKinnon on Rona...

From today's Chronicle Herald:

Who Asked for Some Good News?

My Esteemed and Earnest Colleague Kevvyd recently bemoaned the lack of good news lately, so I thought I'd share some for him - namely, that the forces of light are making some headway, in places like
Michigan and Ohio where State Education Boards have rejected the notion of teaching Intelligent Design in biology classes. Quote
Gregory Forbes, a community college biology instructor, said it appears the “doors have been shut'' on those in Michigan who support the teaching of intelligent design as a viable scientific alternative to evolution.

“To suggest intelligent design is a scientific theory is inappropriate because it is not testable. ... It hasn't earned its way into the science classroom,'' he said.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Irony, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, or Just Plain F*cking Stupid?

On October 4, 2006, a group of Columbia University students who opposed the views of a scheduled speaker rushed the stage to prevent said speech from taking place. Violence ensued, and it is unclear who was responsible, but in any case it is an event that got me to thinkin'.

People who are metaphorically placed on the 'left' side of the ideological spectrum (also known as 'the yawning chasm') are generally referred to as 'liberal'. Depending on who is using the term, and whether they consider themselves members of an opposing philosophical viewpoint, this term can be used pejoratively or proudly. Those on the opposing side, as represented by the intended speaker that night at Colubia U., would be be referred to as 'conservative'. With me so far? Good.

Those that consider themselves liberal often berate those who are conservative, indicating that the current dominant societal influence has dictated blatant disregard for civil rights, not to mention any number of other inalienable rights. In particular, those of a liberal bent decry the absence of a voice, the absence of a forum to air their views, which differ from those of the dominant culture to a greater or lesser degree. The anger is particularly fierce when criticism of ideas is silenced, and when views other than conservative views are not given their due.

I'm sure it's clear where I'm going with this by now, but I'm going to continue anyway.

As some of you may recall, a 'professor' from Cape Breton University criticized the writers on this blog a few months ago for being dogmatically left-wing and unwilling to listen to opposing views. Notwithstanding my opinion that this statement is blatantly untrue in reference to Blevkog, this is an argument that is frequently used to categorize liberals generally as unreasonable fanatics, mired in left-wing dogma.

The actions of the students at Columbia University, no matter how well-intentioned, were incredibly ill-considered, and have provided ammunition for the critics of liberal tactics.

Justifiably so.

It doesn't matter how hateful or disagreeable what a person has to say is to you personally. Stopping a person from speaking because they disagree with you is the most fundamental violation of freedom of speech that can be committed. It is a hallmark of dictatorships and juntas the world over that the opposition will never be heard. The Columbia University students who participated in this action have single-handedly (or multi-handedly, as the case may be) proven the negative image of liberals as fanatics to be true. I have deliberately not made direct reference to the topic of the scheduled speech at Columbia; it is, in this context, irrelevant. All that matters is that the students disagreed, and staged their own reign of terror to prevent the speaker from airing their views.

I'm sure I will be the target of some ire for this item. I personally regard myself as educated and open-minded, and could be considered liberal. My perception of the correctness of the liberal viewpoint, however, does not mean that I hold this viewpoint as immune from criticism. Any time you start to feel:
  1. that your beliefs are more important or morally just than others,
  2. a lack of the ability to 'put yourself in the place' of others in an effort to understand them,
  3. that other views are always wrong by comparison to yours, or
  4. it's important, for the protection of others, to take the time to forbid people who disagree with you to speak,

you have crossed the line into Dogma. Dogma is unhealthy, Dogma is destructive, and Dogma will reinforce the negative stereotypes others have of your group. Let's have the moral courage to allow others with silly ideas to speak - that way, more people will realize how silly they are. Hold a debate, don't close your eyes and ears to other viewpoints.

The alternative is whacking one another with sticks, which sort of sets us back a few million years. If universities are supposed to produce the leaders of the future, I'm really hoping to die sometime prior to the Columbia University Alumni's arrival at my door with torches and pitchforks.

UPDATE: There is an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal from Oct. 11 on this issue. I don't necessarily agree with some of the generalizations the author makes, but this is me practicing what I'm preaching.

Spreading democracy, one dead voter at a time...

Johns Hopkins University researchers have just released a study that estimates civilian deaths in Iraq since the beginning of the war to be between 400,000 and 800,000. The study estimates the death toll based on interviews with nearly 2,000 families from around Iraq and extrapolates to the rest of the country. It may be inaccurate, it may be high, but as the article notes, now that the morgues are no longer allowed to give out mortality statistics, it is the only number we have to work with.

Now I need a hug.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Now We Know What's Keeping the Christian Revolution Back

It's all the fault of those Evil Republican Jews er... I mean gays!. God, I love conspiracy theorists, they're so much fun to play with - yeah, homosexuals have an agenda; it's called not getting beat up by pig-ignorant morons like this one....

kevvyd has media problems...

We were driving back from the South Shore yesterday, listening to the radio when my wife remarked about the Amish schoolhouse shootings of a couple of weeks back. I can't actually remember the context of the remark, though something must have come up on the news, perhaps a funeral or somesuch. In any case, just the remark started off a train of thought that is now arriving at this post.

I will begin, as did the train, with a question. Why should I care about what happened in that school that day? There is not a thing I could possibly have done to either prevent, produce, or exacerbate the situation. Therefore, why on earth should I care about it? I don't mean to be crass, and surely that is how this must sound, but if there is nothing at all that I could do about it, why indeed should I even know about it?

Of course I know why I know about it. I know about it because CNN and the other news agencies blasted it 24/7 after it happened, and the web was full of the "news". The purpose for the fine people at CNN to show it to me, of course, is to sell whatever tampon or, more likely, life-enhancing medication that I need to live life a full and active life, but how really do I benefit from knowing this?

Naturally, since the oldest of my two daughters is around the same age as some of the younger victims, my stomach fell a little when I read about it, but is that why I should know - for the rush of vicarious agony and sympathy? If there is really no reason for my knowing this terrible thing, what then, is the effect of it on me? Not of the event itself - to me it's just a show, a story totally divorced from my reality, but what is the effect of my knowing about it?

My benefit? Anxiety. It has increased my anxiety just that little bit more because I was able to internalize the event in some way, make it a little real by saying "Wow, she was Kate's age..." And every time some jackass kills his wife or offs his kids, I get to read about it and maybe see the tape in front of the house that looks just like mine and my anxiety gets notched up a little bit more, because I can internalize it, I can say "Hey, he's kinda like me - wife, kids, job..." And every time some guy gets in a car accident I say "Whoa, I just drove on that road last month"

Anxiety. The news. News about things that don't matter to me and in no way affect me, excepting their emotional impact. Useless news that has only the effect of putting me and others on edge to the point that we can feel personally involved and maybe even threatened by all of the world's ills, while at the same time experiencing none of it's joys. None of the joys, because joys are only broadcast in the form of travel brochures for things that you can't afford, and, well, I can't afford them. And until I can afford that 54" JVC 1080p LCD television, how can I possibly be happy?

Here lies the central problem; there is news that I need to know about and there is news that is not news - stuff that I do not need. Unfortunately it comes at us at such a rate that it's like trying to sip from a firehose and in an effort to keep up with things I think I need to know - like what are the Conservatives going to do on environmental issues and how bad is it getting in Afghanistan, I get anxious and depressed. We need the news media to tell us what's going on in our capitals so that we can produce opinions, generate ideas, and cast sensible ballots - that we can't turn off.

I guess it is just a matter of filtering the chaff from the wheat - pre-processing the data before it hits the grey matter. Something that I have to do a better job of.

But then I also get to watch the Republicans turn into NAMBLA and Mark Foley turn the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children into No Child Behind Left and I realize that there is in fact some entertainment to be had, even in the chaff.

A Tale of 1000 Arabian Nights....by Robert Fisk

Sometimes I really wonder at the arrogance, naivity(e?), and stupidity of those of us in the West. The fairy tales, told by both the Bush and Blair Administrations (and their attendants - the corporate media), have worn so very thin that I really cannot understand how, or why, anyone still believes their white-washed version of the situation in the Middle East. Check out this article by Robert Fisk posted on Znet. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=11153 .
It pretty much lays down the situation as it stands, how predictable the current state of affairs was, and why they are as they are. I'd like to make some deeply insightful commentary here, but I'd say Fisk already makes it in the article. Maybe Kev could come up with something clever to say..... but I am speechless, except for: "Yeah, what he (Fisk) said..."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

You know things might not be going so good when...

Could this be a Republican calling for negotiations with the Taliban?

Common sense can spring up from the strangest places.

A delayed approach to a plan

Rona Ambrose is taking hair-splitting and grammatical tricks to the extreme. Without having seen her new environmental "plan" or "approach", it is hard to tell exactly why, although I will admit to having a little sick-to-my-stomach feeling. As noted in several places (here for instance) part of the watering down consists of an emphatic change in terminology from "plan" to "approach", the former being a series of programmed steps toward a defined goal and the latter being somewhat fuzzier. In addition, today we have Rona Ambrose trying to cozy up to Kyoto just a little:

Our government has never stated that we would abandon Kyoto, never stated that we will not participate in the Kyoto Protocol process. What we have stated is that we need new targets
You see, we're not big, evil industrial meanies; we would just love to meet the Kyoto committments, but it's just so gosh darn hard now that we're just going to have to lower the bar a little bit. It's too bad the climate, that bitch, won't cooperate. You see, we will participate in the process, but we aren't really committed.

To head off the argument, yes I know the Liberals did precious little when they were in power, which was part of the reason I did not vote for them. However, it does not mean a stalling tactic is going to get us anywhere, and the Conservatives generally, and Ambrose in particular, have done nothing to indicate that they are doing anything but stalling. It is indeed noteworthy that Ambrose was not even on hand to comment on the release of the Environment Commissioner's report last week and in fact has not cared to address one of it's central findings that the current government continues to fail to confront the issue. A failure to confront a failure to confront is a real failure to confront.

I suspect the resonance of environmental issues with the Canadian public surprises the Harper government; after all, we meekly accepted Liberal near-inaction for a decade. However, things look like they have changed. Whatever brought on the current traction the issues have, whether it's Al Gore, or the public aknowledgement that we are might be forced to renege on an international deal (Kyoto), or a suddenly more effective opposition that sees an issue they can beat over the government's head, the Conservatives have to deal with this, and they have to do so decisively. Unfortunately for them, the current PM's predilection for doing everything himself and using his ministers as meat puppets means that everything gets done more slowly, and time really is of the essence. And in the meantime, there's poor Rona without a script, trying to buy time, come up with a plan, approach, intention, or policy (fuck, where's my thesaurus?), and at the same time not get in trouble from Big Boss Man, looking like a complete idiot.

If this issue is still hot when the Liberals choose their leader in December and that leader produces a coherent platform with environmental concerns at the centre, then the Tories might well find this to be the issue that brings them down. I don't know whether there is anyone in that Liberal bunch that can come up with a real plan, but it appears that Canadians want a government that is committed to the environment, not one that is simply participating in the process. Like the proverbial bacon-and-egg breakfast I hear about business seminars - the chicken is participating in breakfast, the pig is committed.

And the current lot looks like a bunch of chickens. Liberals take heed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sunday shopping coming soon to Nova Scotia...

I'm not exactly sure how long it will be before I can actually shop on Sunday, but the Nova Scotia Supreme Court has just struck down the Sunday shopping law as it is currently written. According to a press release just out of the Premier's office:

In response to a Supreme Court decision today, Oct. 4, regarding Sunday shopping, the province will amend regulations that restricted retail stores from opening on Sundays and holidays.

"The Supreme Court decision is clear," said Premier Rodney MacDonald. "We will not be appealing the court decision, and we will not be looking for other ways to enforce Sunday shopping restrictions in Nova Scotia."

The premier said regulations restricting Sunday shopping will be amended to be effective this Sunday, Oct. 8.

The province's decision means that retail store openings will not be restricted by the government.

Retails stores of all types may choose to open on Sundays and other holidays,
with the exception of Remembrance Day.

"If we are going to have Sunday shopping in Nova Scotia for grocery stores, we will not be drawn into a situation where government must decide what is a grocery store and what is not.

The rules will be the same for all retail outlets, creating a level playing field for all retailers in Nova Scotia, regardless of what they sell," said Premier MacDonald.
Protection for retail workers already in place will be extended to other workers affected by this decision.

"Government has gone to a considerable effort to maintain this unique part of Nova Scotia life. The court has made its decision, and in many respects, so have Nova Scotians, on this issue."

This will no doubt make some people unhappy, but not me.

Plausible deniability?

I just listened to the web cast of Mark Foley's lawyer and I'm amused at the tactic he's using. Here is the statement as everyone has heard it:
He reiterates unequivocally he has never had sexual contact with a minor

which might not be expressly true, if these comments made on the now-published internet chat session are legitimate.

However, if the lawyer actually said this:
He reiterates unequivocally he has never had sexual contact with a miner

at least he (the lawyer) can maintain plausible deniability later on.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is it just me?

Or do other people find it just a little too convenient that Mark Foley has checked himself into a rehab centre? I know that it's possible that people can be privately alcoholic and all, but this is just too unassailable a defense to be believed.

Karl Rove is worth his (considerable) weight in oil. Now all he has to do is keep the right-wingers from trying too hard to blame this dickhead's pedophilia on his homosexuality, at least until mid-terms are done.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Clear Verbiage Left Behind Act

I am really getting tired of this US administration's compunction to give names to things that are seemingly opposed to their purpose. You know, calling the de-regulation of emmission controls the "Clear Skies Act" or similarly, restricting funding to schools using something called the "No Child Left Behind Act". At some level of course this is pure salesmanship - the average voter is not going to vote for the party that brings them the "Choke and Die Poor Trash Act", but you would think that they would want to at least appear credible on the international scene.

Apparently not. The Senate has just approved a bill to restrict those that do business with Iran until it gives up it's "nuclear ambitions". And the title? The Iran Freedom and Support Act.

I will forego the discussion that the purpose of the bill is to punish companies that aid and abet Iran's nuclear program by doing business with them, as it would appear churlish of me to suggest that the reason the Iranians have a nuclear program in the first place is that the Americans (the Republicans, ahem) gave it to the Shah in the mid-70's.