Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Putting lipstick on a pig: A Commonwealth Games update

It's been a while since I've written about the Halifax bid for the Commonwealth Games, but that's not to say nothing is happening. No, it's just getting started.

The Halifax Council is holding its budget for the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid close to its chest until Thursday. Last night, council unanimously approved the unreleased number, which council has said in the past it hopes to be in the $1.5-million region. It's doubtless they'd like to put a little distance between the announcement of this number and the announcement that the city has posted a deficit on the year.

Meanwhile, Fred MacGillivray, head of the committee, flew business class to Qatar to spank the monkey on the municiple tit watch the Asian Games. Naturally, seeing how athletic events are held in the desert half-way around the world is of critical importance to HRM and its bid. Or something. All I can say is that it is a good thing for HRM that they have upgraded their propery assessment program so that now I get reassessed every year - someone's gotta pay for this shit, and it might as well be me. Any chance of a reach-around, Fred?

I just can't wait til the real bills start rolling in!

Does Sheila Fraser do municiple work?

Meanwhile, Halifax's downtown gets more and more violent. At least now the mayor appears to have noticed. It took the murder of a US sailor to prompt Him to get off His ass and at least discuss hiring more cops. I don't think I'm being too cynical when I suggest that the murder of locals is given a pass because it doesn't make CNN, and making CNN for murdering visitors just ain't good for the bid, is it Peter? Not as good as, say, slagging your competition for the very same thing?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm so Food Insecure I Could Eat a Horse

In my wide-ranging and often random travels through the world of the Internet, I came across a great story from the Santa Clarita Valley (California) Signal. A little article on the uses of Doublespeak.
The Dubya think-tank, in its incredibly finite wisdom, has eliminated hunger in America. Before you run out and cry, "Miniature American Flags For Everyone!", let me clarify : they've eliminated the word hunger from the government vocabulary. Now, instead of going to bed hungry, millions of Americans will be going to bed 'food insecure'. As if that makes it (pardon the pun or whatever) more palatable.

It's like I've discovered a new religion, and Georges Orwell and Carlin are the prophets. Can anyone with a modicum of intelligence actually believe that by changing how it is referred to that a problem will somehow seem better? It's an insult to the dignity of those whose reality includes an empty stomach and a bleak future.

That's the insidious part of Doublespeak, and it's conjoined twin, Doublethink. By limiting or changing how things are expressed, you can limit how things are perceived, and how they are understood. If those who oppose your ideas aren't progressive enough or politically correct enough, it makes us better than them, doesn't it? That's a tactic that may work if you limit opposition by making the opposite pole seem unreasonable or dangerous. One of the best rhetorical tricks ever was the labeling of the Anti-Abortion movement (which it is, no question) as Pro-Life...Which makes your opponent Pro-Death, or worse, Anti-Life. How can you support that?

How can you not want to War on Terror if the alternative is Making Terror Welcome with Milk and Cookies and Perhaps a Pair of Comfortable Slippers and a Pillow for its Terrory Head?

Language, by its nature, defines understanding. Limiting language limits understanding and reduces the freedom to interpret, which limits reasoning, which leads to accepting the word of authority about What's Best For Us. Questioning authority has never been more crucial to our survival as a species, and the movement is afoot to head that off at the pass. The easier it is for them to define reality as they see fit, the more they can make the unpleasant aspects of that reality disappear, and make the familar threatening.

We, each of us with the power to reason and question, is fighting the war on terror. The people creating the terror are not in some far-off land, however. They are right here, where we elected them to be.

Selling Our Souls, one Dollar at a Time....

Odd - one would think that an organization named the National Science Teachers Association would be more than happy to receive an offer of 50,000 free DVD's of Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth'. But apparently not - whatever reason would they have to turn down educational resources(something most teachers of my acquantence aren't exactly overly burdened with)? Oh wait, maybe this might explain it.
Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.

That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it. It has run ads in leading newspapers (including this one) questioning the role of manmade emissions in global warming, and financed the work of a small band of scientific skeptics who have tried to challenge the consensus that heat-trapping pollution is drastically altering our atmosphere. The company spends millions to support groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute that aggressively pressure lawmakers to oppose emission limits.
But Wait! There's more;
And Exxon Mobil isn't the only one getting in on the action. Through textbooks, classroom posters and teacher seminars, the oil industry, the coal industry and other corporate interests are exploiting shortfalls in education funding by using a small slice of their record profits to buy themselves a classroom soapbox.

NSTA's list of corporate donors also includes Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which funds NSTA's Web site on the science of energy. There, students can find a section called "Running on Oil" and read a page that touts the industry's environmental track record -- citing improvements mostly attributable to laws that the companies fought tooth and nail, by the way -- but makes only vague references to spills or pollution. NSTA has distributed a video produced by API called "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel," a shameless pitch for oil dependence.
Along with propaganda challenging global warming from Exxon Mobil, the curricular offerings included lessons on forestry provided by Weyerhaeuser and International Paper, Borowski says, and the benefits of genetic engineering courtesy of biotech giant Monsanto.
Maybe the NSTA should change their name - the American Association of Classroom Whores, mayhaps

Testosterone diplomacy

It is important to remember that when you send troops into a foreign country, the soldiers you send become your diplomats - the face that represents your nation and interests. Here is an interesting little clip of how American "diplomats" are conducting themselves in Iraq. Not grotesque, but disturbing.

h/t to Tom Tomorrow


This past week I sort of faded from the blogosphere and kind of fell out of touch with news in general. No single excuse - just busy. In any case, I come back to the real world to find that Stephen Harper has proposed a motion to "recognize the Quebecois as a nation", which then sailed through Parliament without anyone actually defining either of the words "Quebecois" or "nation".

To rephrase last night's motion:
We recognize people we can't identify as something we can't define.

Is anyone else as worried as I am about what this could lead to when lawyers get hold of it?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Expressing a desire for peace...

Is apparently a crime in some municipalities in the United States. Well, at least by certain Homeowner's Associations. First off, I can't understand how displaying a sign of peace as part of a Christmas decoration is a bad thing. And secondly, when they state that displaying a peace sign is offensive "when our country is at war", they will have to prove to me that their country is actually at war. Yes, the US military is at war - and 2.5 of their members are dying every day, but there is no way in hell that the nation is at war. Save for a few magnetic "we support the troops" bumper decals for their SUV's and a few poor people dying for Haliburton's profit margin, the nation is not at war. Hell, they are even getting tax cuts, that's how seriously they are at war.

No, the US is not at war and this is just another example of the self-imposed totalitarianism writ large across the soul of the United States. Well done, George, well done Dick.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Chad Vader... Day Shift Manager

This is good. Not political, for a change around here, but good...

Charles Rangel: Bring back the draft

There was a time when I thought that this was a bad idea, however I'm not so sure now.

The arguments Rangel make are good ones - the military needs more people and those that make the wars might be less likely to start voluntary imperial ones if they knew there was a decent chance of their kids finding themselves in the line of fire. The fact that he has proposed this twice in the last three years before now to have it rejected by the Republicans makes me suspicious that the latter reason strikes home in some.

Rumsfeld et al. have long defended the "all-volunteer" force without actually explaining that "volunteer" actually meant "for the poor with no other way out". The "all-volunteer" force effectively isolates the governing and ownership class from bearing personal responsibility for rash or poor decisions, so from my own way of thinking, in some ways a draft is not a bad idea.

It's not a bad idea, but it won't work.

Should a draft actually occur, many of the wealthy will naturally find cosy deferments as did Bush the Lesser and Cheney the Anal Cyst, and there is no reason to believe that many in Congress or the White House would actually have to face the tearful farewell Rangel threatens. Also, resistance to the draft is one of those touchstones that unites the youth in a way that I'm quite sure the government would like to avoid. Resistance to the draft galvanized American youth against the war in Vietnam because the consequences were very real for them and I don't think the Republicans, which at the best of times turns everything they touch to shit, wants to go near this issue with a barge pole, and I'd be really surprised if the rank-and-file Democrats would either.

As for the immediate problem, the under-staffed military, there is an easy solution staying within the framework of the all-volunteer force - raise interest rates a point or two. The actual fact is that there is nothing "voluntary" about the "all-volunteer" force - kids sign up when there is no other pay cheque available or when there is no other way to get to university or college. Raise interest rates and kill the economies of a few small towns and I guarantee the doors of the recruitment centres will swing wide and often.

Of course, the US economy is a precarious beast right now, and I'm not so sure that the effects of voluntarily raising interest rates would be controllable or even predictable. But then again, when did that ever stop these clods?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Freudian Slip?

Well, at least we know how George Bush handled the Republican loss last week...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A shorter Rona Andrews...

At the UN conference on global warming, Rona Ambrose told reporters that "there is no bad guy" on climate change. Of course she's wrong, there are lots of 'em. Everyone that does nothing to improve the situation, both in policy and at home is a "bad guy". A government that sets targets and then does precious little to meet them as did our Liberal government is a "bad guy". A government that cancels most or all programs related to cutting greenhouse gas emmissions and then redirects our efforts to smog is a "bad guy".

Says the Turd Sandwich to the conference: On the environment, the Liberals were a Giant Douche.

(Edited to remove dumb-ass misteak.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Truth and reconcilliation on Iraq

Dennis Kucinich, who I still think is a huge part of the future of the Democratic Party despite his loss in 2004, has suggested a Truth and Reconciliation commission of sorts to get to the heart of how the US military ended up in Iraq. I'm not big on the theory of psychological closure, but I agree with him that there is no way the US is going to be able to get past Iraq psychologically until all of the skeletons are out of the closet, closure or no.

As Jonathan Schwarz suggests here, the Democrats are split on whether they should go after the big Necropublican fish on this or whether they should simply try to end the war without considering how it began. This should not be allowed to happen - if lies started the war, then they must be revealed and those that started them must be fingered.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

George and God

George Bush's connection with the Almighty is becoming more evident in recent days. US State Department officials believe that Fidel Castro has cancer and French intelligence officials believe that Osama bin Laden might have died in August of typhoid fever.

Yep, George Bush: bringing the war on terror to America's enemies one natural cause at a time.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

When we want our candidates to have an opinion...

We'll give them one. Or, at least this seems to be the position of the Regressive Conservative party regarding their by-election candidate in London. Local candidate, Dianne Haskett, former mayor, has not made any public statements nor granted interviews to anyone. It's a little strange that it's the Liberal candidate bringing this up, but it's obvious that he believes that if she gets to answer questions publicly, her evangelical leanings will scare away more voters than it will attract.

PM Cartman's office refused to answer direct questions about her candidacy, however his bag man director of communications (*snicker*) said:
"Since taking office our government has consistently communicated our positions and fulfilment of campaign promises," Harper's director of communications, Sandra Buckler, instead responded by e-mail.

"Conservative candidates in the upcoming by-elections have an opportunity to communicate a clear message to the citizens of the ridings where the by-elections are being held. Vote for a candidate that will be a part of a government that gets things done for families and taxpayers."

In other words, Ms. Hackett is doing just as she's told. And so should you.

Just in case you thought Colbert was just goofing around

There are people that really think that the Democratic victory is a victory for the terrorists:
One basic question emerging from the midterm election is: to what extent did the terrorists win? We will have a lot to say about this over the days to come, but here are a few preliminary thoughts.
It's worth a read, really, just for the silliness of it.

And while on the topic of Stephen Colbert, the LA Times suggests that he (and John Stewart, by extension) are the big story in this election. It's difficult to argue seeing as the younger demographic showed up to vote in greater numbers in this mid-term than they have in a generation.

Give me meth and man ass

Ted Haggard gets the musical treatment.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Daily Show 11062006 - Ted Haggard story (complete)

Really, I think Jon says it best.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Frogs Will Fall from the Sky Any Moment...

I can't believe I'm the one breaking this on the 'Kog, but:

Rumsfeld just resigned?


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Little More than Kin, and Less than Kind

Stop me if you've heard this one:

The military travels to a foreign country. In doing so, members of the military, honourable sorts in general, attempt to keep the peace, and are killed for their trouble.

Somalia? No.
Afghanistan? Not in this case.
Iraq? Easy guess, but no.

Try Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Hull technician 1st Class Damon Crooks, 28, of West Palm Beach, Florida, attempted to break up a fight outside a Halifax bar, and as a reward for this effort, he is killed. He leaves behind an eight-months pregnant fiancee. Reports say that the fight was over a necklace. Oh, good, at least it wasn't something trivial.

Much is being said about what should be done to combat this violence, including, but not limited to, changing the hours the bars are open. Oh, good. Now we can get the fights over with earlier in the evening, so we can spread the casualty statistics out. No longer will Sunday morning be so deadly. There is some gradual awareness emerging, given this incident as well as another in which four young men were beaten not far from there, that the downtown area can become volatile when alcohol is added. None of the proposed measures, however, will necessarily prevent violence - it may change the time and the place, which would no doubt please the Downtown Halifax Business Association to no end, but it will not eliminate it.

But, for some, relocation is and always has been sufficient.

What none of the reactive policies will address are the incidents of stabbings outside the downtown core (two in Dartmouth last night alone), and other acts such as swarmings that are taking place almost daily.

The perpetrator of the sailor's murder was on parole - he had previously stabbed someone 14 times, and stabbed the victim's girlfriend when she tried to intervene on his behalf. Clearly, this man had issues. There is no way he should have been within two blocks of a drinking establishment or a knife. But, our justice system being what it is, we have to give people the benefit of the doubt. The system is flawed, but until it is 100% correct in arrests, convictions and paroles (an unrealistic expectation), someone will be dissatisfied, and people will get hurt, both innocent and guilty.

In a broader sense, the perceived increase in violence in this area is reflective of trends seen across North America. On the one hand, due to the actions of a few, young men and women are being disenfranchised em masse. Young black men in particular suffer from the stigma placed on them by popular culture, which ultimately prejudices people against them and denies them legitimate opportunities for advancement.

Young black and white men and women are in turn influenced by this popular culture to create a self-fulfilling prophecy: "You think we are violent, well, we'll show you what violent means." The glamorized and romanticized 'gangster' culture is sometimes the only template available to follow - the lure of easy money and respect arising from fear is alluring to someone whose opinions and aspirations are dismissed.

Now, of course, I don't blame popular culture for all of our societal ills - it is a reflection of society's wants, and we get what we deserve in many cases. The profit motive in entertainment takes precedence over public good, which is logical, given that creating and maintaining morality is not the job of popular culture. It is supposed to inform and entertain, and, despite critical flaws, it serves its' purpose. I wish it were that simple, that we could just reform the entertainment industry (snicker) and have all the problems solved. But, this is only one pillar in the structure of violence.

Parents are often substantially to blame. I know some parents, and my own personal experiences with them and their children leads me to believe that none of them will turn out to be serial killers. (Except for Kevvyd's youngest. I'm not turning my back on that 3-year-old anytime soon...)
I kid, of course. Some parents, however, for whatever reason, are physically or emotionally absent, and don't take the time to impart the 'rules' for civil behaviour. They rely on schools - which is fine except that schools impart knowledge, and some degree of self-discipline, but does not and should not impart morality. It's not their role.

The most troubling pillar of the 'violence tripod' is the lack of simple social interaction skills. We live in a society that is a great facilitator of the agoraphobic - it is possible to interact with generalized others while never having any physical contact. Even between friends, it is possible to maintain relationships without the burden of physical presence. This can't be good - we learn how to interact with others by actually interacting - trial and error, but at least we have examples to work from. In the absence of that, you do not learn how to deal with and respect others, nor they you, and violence can be the result. It's easy for someone to ask the question "What're you looking at?" when they legitimately don't know how to interpret body language and posture. Everything is confusing, nothing has rules, and reactions are visceral and violent.

I don't propose that I could fix any of these things. Nor will my going on at length solve anything or change the world. I simply want to point out that addressing the problem of violence at the end point will do nothing but move it elsewhere.

To truly make a difference, we need to rediscover what it means to act responsibly, and to be members of the community, and to make sure young people have their opinions fairly heard. A first step, no more.

They don't emerge from the womb knowing right from wrong, there is no 'goodness gene'. If we don't take the time to teach them, how can we blame them for not knowing?

To our American friends...

Please vote tomorrow, even if your polling station uses a Diebold machine that won't count your ballot.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Beauty is truth...

Sometimes life really is poetry. Today, the USS Intrepid, now a floating museum on the Hudson River, was to be moved for a refit. Senator Hillary Clinton, speaking before the move said:
The Intrepid stands for everything we believe in ... our freedom and our values
Then, just as the move began, the ship, our freedom and our values got stuck in the mud.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What do these military wanks know about war, anyway?
- Donald Rumsfeld, 2002

If the neo-con chickenhawks that fomented the Iraqi invasion had actually floated the idea across the military would have said this:
A series of secret U.S. war games in 1999 showed that an invasion and post-war administration of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, nearly three times the number there now.
Perhaps they did, but the head of the military, Donald Rumsfeld, who undoubtedly knew of these exercises, maintained that his streamlined force idea was going to work and that these idiots in the military that didn't manage to come up with creative draft-dodging options (anal cysts, rich dad, you know...) wouldn't know a military campaign if it bit them in the cyst. That he still insisted on a small force is a testament to hubris and idiocy on his part, and alone should be enough to get him thrown out of his job.

That he still has a job should be enough alone to get push impeached when the Dems take over next week. They won't try of course, but it would be nice just the same.

Saddam Hussein found guilty

And sentenced to die for Dujail. One of the defense lawyers, who were I presume paid money to not believe that the sentence was inevitable has already cast the first stone - "That's the American justice". As guilty as Hussein undoubtedly is, this trial is bound to be read, by those who wish to read it so, as just another imposition of the Americans on the Iraqi people.

Predictably, the verdict has already split the population. Oh joy!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A shorter Richard Perle...

"If only we'd known that Bush was an idiot back then..."

I'm starting to get a little tired of the "if only we knew then what we know now" arguments from the fucking idiot neo-cons that danced the US into Iraq. Just say you fucked up and that you're sorry, no if's and's or but's. And then never open your pie holes ever again.

I know it must really rot their scrota for us peaceniks to have been right all along, and it's for that reason that they have to couch their mea culpas in "if only's". If only the war had gone like we'd planned there would be roses and rainbows in Iraq. If only the war had gone like we'd planned, crystal streams of oil would flow for all eternity from artesian wells. The "if only" argument is just another way of saying "right war, wrong implementation" and I'm sick of it. The war was a farce from day 1 - Saddam had no WMDs and didn't have bin Laden in his Rolodex. And to boot, took the West's eye off of the ball in Afghanistan - which really did have a relationship with ObL.

It was a voluntary war started for expressly imperialistic means and it went really, really badly, as it was bound to do. A draft-dodging asshat like W was not ever going to be able to convince enough people to buy into his war president act and those neo-con prima donnas should have known it from the beginning. An outside observer like me saw it, why the hell couldn't they? Oh yeah, blinded by the Haliburton returns.

Dicks, every one of 'em.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

How can you play your fiddle with your head up there?

The more I read about Conserve Nova Scotia's new leader, the more angry I get. For those that haven't heard about this, Heather Foley Melvin, Rodney (The Fiddler) MacDonald's former chief of staff, was named to head up the new organization at a salary of $131K immediately after last spring's election. Before that she was the head of an environmental engineering firm, lead researcher in an energy conservation policy group regional manager for a car company.

Yesterday, it came out that not only does she have a handsome salary, but also a rather nice termination clause - nine months of salary plus one month for each year of service. A termination clause is not that unusual at this level, but what galls me the most is that she justified both her salary and the clause thusly:

Foley Melvin defended the termination clause in her contract by telling the committee she left a highly paid private sector job as district manager with Mazda Canada when she became chief of staff.
Did you get that? She deserves her salary and protection because she left a highly paid private sector job when she became chief of staff. Does this mean that she wouldn't have left the private sector for a four-month job working for Rodney? Does this mean that Rodney had to promise her something nice for afterward? If she deserves a nice plum for being chief of staff, then she should be given the plum as part of that job, not another one. This shows that Rodney has rolled the Conservative Party back to the days of the Buchanon pork-barrel in just a few short months.

Does this stink to high hell?

When asked if she would submit to an open competition for her job, she said:

No, I was offered this little plum fair and square - get your own sugar DaddyI was asked to head this agency, and that's what I am doing. Fuck you.

In the Legistature, Rodney went on to say that the NDP were being unfair and that they "should be ashamed of how they treated that individual." Indeed, Rodney, maybe we should all treat her as well as you have.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

If You Love Rainbows, You Hate America

Once again, I'm happy to share today's Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis. I'm sure one of my more knowledgeable counterparts here at the 'Kog could point out the exact moment when detecting logical flaws became unpatriotic.

Conservatives' conservation pork

Heather Foley Melvin was hand-picked right after last spring's election to head up Nova Scotia's new energy conservation agency by Premier Fiddler. She was in fact hand-picked without a formal competition, which under normal circumstances would imply astounding "lucky to have her at any price" qualities. In her case, that price is a $131,000 pa three year contract with the provincial government - pretty nice walkin' about change in a burg like Halifax. You might even be able to unpack your suitcase on the peninsula!

And the qualities? Well, it goes without saying that her background as a Mazda Canada regional manager makes her uniquely-qualified to run an energy conservation agency. I mean what do graduates from university that wasted their time studying public policy or the environment have to offer over a car salesperson?

Oh, and did I mention that she was also The Fiddler's former Chief of Staff? Yup, she helped him shrink his minority, a conservation effort of sorts, I suppose.

Rodney - word up: this is the kind of shit you pull when you have a majority government. Doing stuff like this makes it less likely that you're going to get the chance to find out, thankfully.

This Modern World: To the Slandermobile!

Something for 'koggers to mull over. Which of the defamatory duo is Cheney? Which is Karl Rove?