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Welcome to the Me Show.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
 
  • Psychoer and psychoer. Follow the link to the Kahr Arms corporate website and click the "Research&Development" link on the left. You'll find:
    Kahr's lead designer, Justin Moon, is a principal of the company, and an avid shooter and gun enthusiast. His revolutionary design and innovations, registered through six US patents, make the Kahr pistol unique.

    Yup, the Reverend Moon's son is a pistol designer and 'principal' of a gun manufacturer. What happens when "Justin" inherits his father's position as, well, Father?

    Via a comment at Gorenfeld's blog. The commenter, Tim Gueguen is a Canadian from Saskatoon, who's got a blog of his own.
     

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  • Wow, the Moonies just get psychoer and psychoer.
     

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  • You knew this was coming. Via Eschaton:
    The government needs to establish guidelines for canceling or rescheduling elections if terrorists strike the United States again, says the chairman of a new federal voting commission.

    Such guidelines do not currently exist, said DeForest B. Soaries, head of the voting panel.

    Soaries was appointed to the federal Election Assistance Commission last year by President Bush (news - web sites). Soaries said he wrote to National Security (news - web sites) Adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in April to raise the concerns.

    ...Soaries noted that Sept. 11, 2001, fell on Election Day in New York City — and he said officials there had no rules to follow in making the decision to cancel the election and hold it later.

    Events in Spain, where a terrorist attack shortly before the March election possibly influenced its outcome, show the need for a process to deal with terrorists threatening or interrupting the Nov. 2 presidential election in America, he said.

    "Look at the possibilities. If the federal government were to cancel an election or suspend an election, it has tremendous political implications. If the federal government chose not to suspend an election it has political implications," said Soaries, a Republican and former secretary of state of New Jersey.

    "Who makes the call, under what circumstances is the call made, what are the constitutional implications?" he said. "I think we have to err on the side of transparency to protect the voting rights of the country."

    Of course, one reason we all knew this was coming is that some kind of rules about what happens if an emergency seriously disrupts the election process are surely necessary, though we would want the rules to be very clear and, following with the American tradition of tyranny checks and balances, we would expect the decision to be in someone-other-than-the-incumbent's hands, as well as (like Soaries says) a high level of transparency. Of course, the possibility that the Madrid attacks influenced Spain's election is no argument in favour of such emergency rules. Voters have the right to make up their minds according to whatever criteria they like. The attacks, which occurred a few days before the Spanish elections, did not in any way hinder the electoral process. They, and the candidates' reactions to them, served as food for thought for the electors. Moreover, we should note that the two criteria for good emergency rules - that the relevant powers be placed somewhere other than the executive and that the process be thoroughly transparent - are anathema to the Bush administration. They like power where they can hold it and they like things about as transparent as mud (excepting, of course, your library records).
    Soaries also said he wants to know what federal officials are doing to increase security on Election Day. He said security officials must take care not to allow heightened security measures to intimidate minority voters, but that local and state election officials he's talked to have not been told what measures to expect.

    Draw your own conclusions.
     

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  • Here's an (old but) excellent interview with Greg Palast, the investigative journalist so well known for his coverage of the Florida election fraud of 2000. In it, he explains why he can only do what he does working for British, rather than American, media.
     

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  • Of badly written form letters:

    Dear [Dalai],

    Thank you for your interest! This is to confirm that we have received your application for the position of ..Are you looking for short-term temporary opportunities? - Apply here! -CAN00012.

    While all applications will be considered, only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.

    Please save this email and click here to review your candidate file at any time.

    Thank you again for your interest in the ..Are you looking for short-term temporary opportunities? - Apply here! position!

    Sincerely,

    CBC/Radio-Canada
    Human Resources
     

  • Tuesday, June 29, 2004
     
  • A friend in New York reports that the New York Times today completely failed to make any mention of a very important, very dramatic national election that was just held by the world's second largest country, which happens also to be the US's biggest trading partner. I will later write a nasty letter to the Times. But first, I want to bring you this bit of right-wing nuttery posted on usenet in 2000:
    In a bold move, Al Gore has disputed the results of Canada's election. He now claims the democrats have won a majority of seats in Canada, and that he should become ruler of Canada. When told that Canada has a Prime Minister, not a "ruler", Gore was heard saying "Not for Long".

    In the State of Florida, Gore has filed suit claiming that if ballots in Canada were fairly and accuratly counted by democrats, the results would show the democrats with a resounding win in Canada's election. Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien remarked that the democrats were not on the ballot, and weren't even Canadian! He is also amazed that Al Gore thinks that the State of Florida can enforce a decision in Canada.

    Al Gore responded to the claim saying that they had just registered a few minutes before the election and that a majority of Canadian voters had written their favorite democratic party members on their ballots, some even used democratic code names for their candiates like Micky Mouse, Goofy and Grinch. Al Gore has offered to send a crack team of democratic operatives to verify the election registration records in Canada. As to where he filed, Al only said "They ( Florida's Justices) know Canada's laws better than they do." Al was quick to point out that many Canadians were in Florida, so it's the best state to do this in.


    It's nice to be noticed, anyway. Now, here's an article from tomorrow's Times. The analysis is pretty good - they expect Martin's minority government to last a while - but, first, there's no reason they couldn't have covered the story the day after, instead of waiting two days, and, second, they might want to consider the implications of this election for Americans and for US-Canadian relations - something the article completely fails to do.

    UPDATE: You can also count on the boys at Pandagon to provide some Canadian coverage. Good for them. In fact, Jesse's post is very enjoyable indeed, quoting as he does from this Reuters UK piece:
    Canadians have gone to the polls in a federal election with a firm warning from election officials: Please do not eat your ballots.
    "Eating a ballot, not returning it or otherwise destroying or defacing it constitutes a serious breach of the Canada Elections Act," Elections Canada warns on its Internet site.

    The issue was of sufficient concern to warrant inclusion in the site's "Frequency asked Questions" section, above answers to such inquiries as "Why should I vote?" and "Am I registered?"

    Three Alberta men were charged with eating their paper ballots during Canada's last federal election, in 2000. The members of the Edible Ballot Society were protesting against what they said was a lack of real choice among candidates.
     

  • Sunday, June 27, 2004
     
  • Site Request

    Do you have any suggestions/comments regarding the appearance or style of this site? I'm thinking about colours, layout and so forth, but any other thoughts are more than welcome - postitive, negative, whatever. Content criticisms (helpful ones, I mean) are also welcome.
     

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  • Check out this really excellent site on research on Canada - including very good election coverage such as all of the most recent polls.
     

  • Saturday, June 26, 2004
     
  • Colour me Canadian, but something about this just offends my sensibilities:
    50,000 people or 10% of the 500,000 people in the U.S with cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis or hepatitis C will be eligible for a Medicare drug lottery for coverage of life saving drugs.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is using the lottery process to select these patients to receive the drug coverage more than a year before it becomes available to all Medicare beneficiaries in January, 2006.
    ...The lottery is being touted as a demonstration program for the Medicare reform law passed last year.

    So for the 450,000 other folks: well, in the lottery of life, you got cancer; in the lottery of drug coverage, you got nothing. Guess it sucks to be you.
     

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  • US to World: 'Fuck Yourself'
    or Dick's a Dick

    I've been closely following Wonkette's excellent coverage of 'Fuckselfgate' (here, here, and especially here). In case you haven't heard of this latest Bush/Cheney scandal, here's an account of Cheney's recent outburst on the Senate floor:
    On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

    "Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

    And, as with everything else the Bush administration does, there is a lot of irony here:
    As it happens, the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the "Defense of Decency Act" by 99 to 1.

    So now Cheney has more or less owned up to his use of the F word, citing it's magical therapeutic qualities:
    [He] said he did not regret it and added that he "felt better afterwards."

    Americans are pleased that Dick chose to show his 'human' side in this way and are especially pleased that this man has so much responsibility for their country's foreign policy:
    "It tells me Cheney is very human," said Dennis Lumphrey, a hospital worker from Moville, Iowa, who was in the crowd. "It also tells me he's not going to get pushed around. He'll fight back. A lot of people around the world want to tell America what to do. We need to have our own direction and priorities."

    To live in this enlightened democratic age, to be right next door to the world's greatest and most mature democracy, is truly a blessing.
     

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  • The mutant wars are coming...
    He's not quite Superman, but a genetic mutation has given a Berlin five-year-old muscles twice the size of other kids his age and about half the body fat.

    [He] can perform unusual feats of strength for his tender years, such as lifting three kilo (6.6 lb.) weights, according to Dr. Markus Schülke, a child neurologist who has been studying the boy since his birth.

    Turns out, the Superboy has a genetic mutation that blocks the production of a protein that limits muscle growth. It's the first known case of a human having such a mutation.

    Can superstrong mutants and weakling 'normals' live in peace and harmony? Will fear drive us to try and eradicate the genetically superior strains? Will the superbabies become ubermen and try to establish their natural dominion over us? Coming soon to a reality near you...
     

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  • Harper's new Risk-free Harper-free strategy: hide.
    Harper did not answer questions about why his approach has changed, but officials quietly confirmed the party could not afford slip-ups so close to the end.

    His strategists want to remind you how much you hate the other guy.
     

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  • Here's an enjoyable read from Roger Ebert on 'the accuracy issue' and Fahrenheit 9/11.
     

  • Friday, June 25, 2004
     
  • When Worlds Collide...

    For some time, the various US bloggers I read have been covering the Senate race in Illinois between Barrack Obama (Democrat) and Jack Ryan (Republican and, I suppose, named after the Harrison Ford character - he's certainly too old to be named after Ben Affleck). I've paid some peripheral attention, but I hadn't realized just how fun the story was getting.

    Ryan's campaign just "imploded" when a judge released the records of his divorce custody battle.
    The files, it turns out, contain extremely embarrassing accusations by Ryan's ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, that he pressed her to have sex in front of crowds at swingers' clubs in New York City, Paris, and New Orleans--including a New York club "with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling."

    Like, how great a story is this? A hot Borg drone, a Republican Senator from the South, and a fetish swingers' club?

    This needs to be noted of course:
    The accusations could all be false, since in the midst of a custody battle, some people will say almost anything in order to get custody of their children.

    The link is, again, via Eschaton.
     

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  • Truthfully, this defies the imagination. Via Eschaton, Kos has this excellent discussion on possible explanations for the EPA's new ads promoting home energy efficiency and lampooning the idea of saving energy and fighting global warming by making cars more efficient. From the New York Times:
    In a 60-second version of the public service announcement, a woman named Suzanne says she is concerned about pollution and global warming, but laments the homegrown efforts of her husband, Mark, to cut emissions from the family car. Mark - nerdy, pudgy, harried - is shown rigging up their car, first with a sail, then a microwave contraption using huge satellite dishes, and finally a helium tank with a bulbous hose.

    "The E.P.A. says the energy we use in our home can cause twice the greenhouse gases of a car," Suzanne says, adding that she has started buying energy-saving household products.

    ...In a shorter version of the ad, Mark's car sails down the road - literally - while a narrator says, "there is a practical way to reduce air pollution." Viewers are then directed to a Web site that lists energy- efficient furnaces, computers and dishwashers - in fact, just about everything but cars.

    Read Kos's analysis. It's really very good. The NYT also gives us a Canadian angle on this:
    Canada also appears poised for tougher auto regulations. This week, ahead of national elections next week, the Conservative Party joined a call by other parties for a 25 percent increase in Canada's fuel economy standards, which now mirror those of the United States.
     

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  • Ruy Teixeira, guest blogging at Talking Points Memo notes this oddity in a recent Gallup poll, which reminds me of an episode of the West Wing:
    Another interesting finding is that, while Bush has a modest lead (51-43) over Kerry in terms of who the public trusts more to handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief, the public expresses an identical degree of confidence in the ability of Bush and Kerry to handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief (61 percent in each case).

    So, when you compare them in a question, people trust Bush more; but when you don't compare them, people trust them exactly the same amount...
    Which do you prefer Chocolate or Vanilla?
    Oh, defniitely Chocolate.
    Is Chocolate your favourite?
    Yes, yes.
    What about Vanilla?
    Oh yes, that too.
     

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  • Michael Moore on Canadian politics:
    "You've got four days after it [Fahrenheit 911] opens, to get people out to the polls to make sure that Mr. Harper doesn't become your next prime minister," he said.

    "We're trying to get rid of our conservative, you know. We're going one way, you guys shouldn't be going the opposite direction," said Moore.

    Thanks to Mainja for the link.
     

  • Thursday, June 24, 2004
     
  • Damn.
    The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Thursday to require Vice President Dick Cheney to disclose records of a 2001 task force he headed that critics say secretly formed energy policy favorable to the industry.
     

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  • The US is not seeking another one-year exemption from the International Criminal Court. Recent US intransigence with regard to human rights has made it impossible for the US to gain enough support in the Security Council for its immunity. This means that either US soldiers could be subject to criminal prosecution for war crimes in future UN peacekeeping operations, or that that the US may refuse to participate in future peacekeeping operations for fear of prosecution. In other words, behaving badly is biting the US in the ass.

    Note that none of this applies directly to the case of Iraq, which is not a UN-authorized peacekeeping mission and anyway Iraq is not a member of the ICC. In Iraq, the US is unilaterally granting its soldiers and private contractors immunity from Iraqi law.
     

  • Monday, June 21, 2004
     
  • Wow, that's really, really gross:
    Forget deep-fried Mars bar. One of the unhealthiest snacks in the world can now be found in Ukraine.
     

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  • In Local News: Montreal is demerging. Montreal City Weblog notes the historical inevitability of a remerger.
     

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  • First privately funded rocket successfully carries man to space.
     

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  • Wondering why Putin seems to want Bush reelected? Kevin Drum probably has the answer.
     

  • Sunday, June 20, 2004
     
  • Greg sends us this Globe and Mail story on the Green party's right-wingedness. Scary-sounding stuff. The Greens have a rebuttal to what they call major-party propaganda. I'm currently travelling and can't do any analysis - so I'll leave that up to you to do in the comments.
     

  • Wednesday, June 16, 2004
     
  • Jesse has caught Samuel Huntington looking like an idiot:
    Unbelievers do not have to recite the pledge, or engage in any religiously tainted practice of which they disapprove. They also, however, do not have the right to impose their atheism on all those Americans whose beliefs now and historically have defined America as a religious nation.
     

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  • Still browsing through old(ish) news. I just learned that the country I study, Moldova, is a part of Bush's Coalition of the Willing. They have 41 military police stationed in Iraq.

    UPDATE: Apparently the US partially financed those troops and said it would provide for their security.
     

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  • The Moon in History

    I'm going through old news sources and I found this from January 03, 1991:
    UNIFICATION CHURCH ACTIVE AMONG SOVIET STUDENTS. Radio Rossii
    reported on December 23 that the Reverend Moon's Unification
    Church now has a Soviet branch. The establishment of the Church
    happened quietly and was at first hardly noticed in the USSR.
    The Church concentrates its activities on the press and on Soviet
    students. Groups of Moscow students are being invited to visit
    the USA at the invitation of the Reverend Moon; Radio Rossii
    reported that many of these students have signed up as Church
    members.
     

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  • Any thoughts on the debates?

    I saw I the first half of the french debate, and the second half of the english one, so I figure I'm up to date. I gather that the consensus view is that Harper and Duceppe were the most personally appealing. Layton was basically good - much better in English than in French. But he's creepy. Strangely enough, I think I've left the whole thing feeling vaguely more positive about Martin. Here's why:

    One of my major objections to Martin is my feeling that he's just a total political operator. One of the major pieces of evidence for this is his hedging and hesitation over gay marriage. Now, I'm not sure what I think regarding the role of the supreme court, but for the first time I felt tonight that Martin's desire to pass the marriage issue along to the supreme court might just be a principled stance. It might be that he's comfortable with this option because it allows him to avoid ever saying the words 'gay marriage', but he speaks rather well about the need to constrain majority rule. That being said, he seemed nervous and a little haggard this evening.

    And I'd like to say that I'm really glad we have more than two parties in this country. A four-man debate is just way more interesting. It's fun to see Layton and Duceppe agree on just about every point. Layton did a good job of offering the NDP as a real alternative to the right-wing and the kinda-right-wing parties. I was dissappointed there wasn't any real talk about environmental issues. Harper wants to pull us out of Kyoto. That's a major policy issue that was more or less ignored by this debate structure.
     

  • Monday, June 14, 2004
     
  • More Moore controversy:
    Lions Gate Films and IFC Films said Sunday that they will contest the R rating that the MPAA has awarded Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which will be released June 25.
    The MPAA issued the rating because of the film's "violent and disturbing images and for language." ... In a statement, Moore said: "It is sadly very possible that many 15- and 16-years-olds will be asked and recruited to serve in Iraq in the next couple of years. If they are old enough to be recruited and capable of being in combat and risking their lives, they certainly deserve the right to see what is going on in Iraq.''


    CORRECTION: fixed the early-morning posting problems...
     

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  • Powell on why the State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 report was so out of touch with reality:
    "It's a numbers error," Powell said on ABC's "This Week."

    "It's not a political judgment that said, 'Let's see if we can cook the books.' We can't get away with that now. Nobody was out to cook the books. Errors crept in."

    Does the word 'now' stand out to you in that sentence?
     

  • Sunday, June 13, 2004
     
  • To my mind, one of the more interesting legacies of Soviet "socialism" is this:
    Percentage of senior management positions in medium-size Russian companies that are held by women : 42
    Percentage of senior management positions at equivalent U.S. companies that are : 20
     

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  • Ah yes, the good ol' days. When the idiot who couldn't string two words together was the vice-president - and not the president.

    UPDATE: Corrected the link.
     

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  • And via Pretty Political, we find 51st State of the Union with good covereage of US and Canadian news. And via 51st State - this edited transcript of a "rare on-the-record session" between W. and the Christian right press. Makes you wonder how many 'off the record' sessions go on.
     

  • Saturday, June 12, 2004
     
  • Way too PC:
    A children's TV programme in Australia has stirred up controversy with a storyline featuring a young girl's visit to the fair - with her two mothers. ... One person not smiling was Communications Minister Daryl Williams, who said it was inappropriate for a pre-school show to feature a lesbian couple.

    "The government understands that parents would expect a programme like Play School to deal with issues which are appropriate for the age of its audience," he said.

    Children's Minister Larry Anthony said the state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which aired the programme, was becoming too politically correct.

    "When it comes to my children, when I want to explain about same-sex couples, it should be up to parents," he said.

    Can you imagine someone saying that about any other demographic? Yes, of course there are aboriginal people in Australia, but putting them on children's programming is just way too politically correct. It should be up to me to choose an appropriate time to break the news to my children - not some fascist kids' TV producer trying to "represent" society.

    Thanks to mainja for the tip.
     

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  • Via Philosoraptor, I've just discovered Happy Furry Puppy Story Time which has this excellent post about Reagan... er - Nixon. And via that post, I found this cartoon, which pretty much sums up this past week and which you should have a look at.
     

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  • ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
    The General has updated his list of "American values vs. evildoer values". The revisions are enlightening.
     

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  • They've found a whole new category of gene.
    Unlike other genes, the new one does not produce a protein or enzyme to carry out its function. But when it is turned on, it regulates a neighbouring gene.

    Add this to your list of reasons to be skeptical of commercially manufactured genetically-modified organisms: they don't know what the hell they're dealing with.
     

  • Thursday, June 10, 2004
     
  • Here's the Globe and Mail's Issue Backgrounder with details of party platforms for the four big Canadian parties. Do the NDP count as big? Anyway, maybe someone can explain this line from the NDP's platform to me:
    Tax loopholes for big business must be closed, and a 20 per cent excess profits imposed on rates of return by financial institutions that exceed 10 percent.

    It's from the Taxes/Fiscal Policy issue. I have to guess that it's actually a Globe and Mail mistake - because it doesn't make sense as a sentence. Is the NDP proposing some kind of 10% profit barrier for banks? I assume what's meant is a 20 percent tax on profits above 10%. I can't find any reference to it in the party platform (pdf file). In the platform I find this quite interesting:
    Paul Martin has:
    • Consistently enjoyed “larger than expected” surpluses throughout his time as finance minister, all of which were applied without any debate regarding priorities to the national debt.

    This is the first time I've seen this argument. We all know the Liberal's careful management strategy of lowballing expected revenue to create high surpluses - and the only criticism of it I've ever heard was the argument that it was a cynical political ploy, manipulating the numbers in order to look good to the voters. (Not unlike the US State Department did with last year's global terrorism figures...) But this argument seems much, much better. The claim is that underestimating the numbers was a way of (or anyway, had as a consequence) bypassing democratic, legislative control or debate over how to spend a portion of the country's money. Now, in our Westminster-style government, there really isn't much difference between the cabinet/executive and the parliament/legislature, given a majority government. As a result, a debate in the Commons about how to spend a (better estimated) budget, or an executive decision on how to spend a surplus comes down to pretty much the same key question: Where are the government's priorities. During the budget debates, the Liberal governments made it look as though paying down the debt was a lower priority (or contrarily, that other spending was a higher priority) than in fact it was. On the other hand, when it came to the surplus, the Liberals made it seem like paying down the debt was their biggest priority. It's a strange aboutface - especially when you do it every year. Clearly, it still just comes down to the old argument - it's just politicking. But it strikes me that perhaps it sets a dangerous precedent. In particular, if dealing with surpluses is a something for the executive, rather than the legislature, then with a minority government, or under a modified system such as we've been hearing about, with lots more power for ordinary MPs, a practice like this really would be quite undemocratic.

    Note that I haven't fact-checked the NDP claim. I don't really remember what happened when the surpluses came out - how much debate there was in parliament, etc. Maybe I'm way off base here with the whole 'who controls the money' angle. Let me know what you think.
     

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  • Josh Marshall's been finding all kinds of excellent reading these past two days. Clearly, you should be there reading his blog rather than mine. However, if you read nothing else, I'll recommend you to this tidbit from AP. It's probably not the most important thing he's covered recently, but it certainly struck me pretty hard. It's the story of Specialist Sean Baker, formerly of the 438th Military Police Company. As part of a training exercise, Mr. Baker posed as an 'uncooperative detainee' at Guantanamo Bay - and had the crap beaten out of him by four American soldiers. He's now considering suing the army for the brain damage and the seizures he suffers as a result.
    He said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.

    Beyond the pale.
     

  • Wednesday, June 09, 2004
     
  • A step forward?
    Turkey's state-run TRT radio and television network began airing programs in Kurdish Wednesday in a taboo-breaking move aimed at boosting the country's bid to join the European Union. ... The initial 30-minute television program was criticized for its poor content but Kurdish activists welcomed it as an important step forward in a country where speaking Kurdish was banned less than 15 years ago.

    The program, called "Our Cultural Riches," started with news and continued with a bizarre mix of Kurdish music and brief documentaries on nature, the development of civilization and technology. It was preceded by a similar radio broadcast early in the morning.

    In a sign of the haste with which the program was put together, the "news" was old material and did not match other television bulletins.

    Well, A for effort, I guess.
     

  •  
  • This is great fun: Whack the PM.
     

  • Tuesday, June 08, 2004
     
  • Fiji's government has a page all about the alternative vote system.
     

  • Monday, June 07, 2004
     
  • Read this post by Josh Marshall. It follows from a WSJ article regarding a confidential Pentagon report providing legal rationales and interpretations by which US personnel could use torture and methods of near-torture in contravention of various international treaties and US laws. Of particular concern, Marshall notes, is the report's claim that (quoting the WSJ here) authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president." Marshall objects:
    That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means -- a government of laws, not men, and all that.

    Go read the rest of it.
     

  •  
  • It was a good game. I was going back and forth between the TV and work, but I followed most of the last period. It looked like the Flames might be going to pull a rabbit out of their hat for a bit there, but alas Florida won this contest.
     

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  • Ah, Mr. Love:
    The Prime Minister's Office switchboard is legend here in official Ottawa -- renowned for its ability to track down anyone at any time. But it has its failings. Two years ago, Alberta Conservative Rod Love, the big, burly former chief of staff to Alberta Tory Premier Ralph Klein, was awakened in the middle of the night by the PMO switchboard, informing him that Princess Margaret had passed away. Huh? It seemed it was protocol to inform all provincial governments and Mr. Love was the Alberta contact, although he hadn't worked for Mr. Klein for four years. It happened again this week -- on Wednesday, the day before Mr. Martin was to make a significant child-care announcement. The PMO switchboard rang, asking him for the number of Alberta's minister of children's services. He told them to call back in five minutes. 'That gave me time to alert the Conservative war room,' he said, giving the Tories the tip that the Martin Liberals were on the move. The moral: Update your Rolodex.
     

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  • Once in a lifetime event tomorrow morning:
    In Montreal, when the Sun rises at 5:06 EDT, Venus will be more than two-thirds of the way through its passage across the solar disk. But the final portion of the transit will be the most interesting. From 7:05:18 to 7:25:18, the planet will cross the edge of the Sun � a total of 20 minutes. These times are referred to as contacts 3 and 4. During this time, the Sun will be 20 degrees above the horizon.

    Click here for a table with schedules for some other Canadian cities.
    And click here for a list of safe viewing methods - note that, like an eclipse, this is a risky phenomenon to go looking at.
     

  • Sunday, June 06, 2004
     
  • Aljazeera.Net:
    Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban that kept women from jobs in most fields in what analysts see as a way of fighting 'terrorism' and boosting the economy. ... Previously women could only open a business in the name of male relative, and religious and social restrictions excluded them from all but a few professions such as teaching and nursing. ... Women in Saudi Arabia have be covered from head to toe in public and cannot mix with men other than relatives. They are also not allowed to drive or travel alone.

    Not sure what to make of this. The Saudi's are trying to sell this as a security measure, saying it will help lower unemployment, a root cause of terrorism.
     

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  • Juan Cole has an excellent obituary of Ronald Reagan.
     

  •  
  • Like the Flames and the Lightning, the latest poll puts Martin and Harper in a dead heat. A note of caution about this poll, mind you: All figures reflect party support only among decided voters.
    The Conservatives now lead the Liberals in Ontario, 35 per cent to 32 per cent, with the NDP at 23 per cent. And in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois leads with 45 per cent, to 28 per cent for the Liberals. The survey had a sample of 1,000 people, and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. ... The Liberals remain well ahead in Atlantic Canada. The Conservatives are now ahead in Manitoba and Saskatchewan; they continue to dominate in Alberta, and the Liberals and Conservatives are within one point of each other in B.C.

    Also, I saw the new Conservative negative ad this evening (it's entitled "Carousel"). It implies that the Liberal government has wasted a lot of money, naming three issues the Liberals are vulnerable on and three associated prices.
    Sponsorship Scandal - 1/4 Billion
    HRDC Boondoggle - 1 Billion
    Gun Registry - Approaching 2 Billion

    The ad does not tell us what these figures really represent - i.e. the cost of the programs, or the cost of the associated waste. I think it's safe to assume the former. It's also ambiguous because it says "Sponsorship Scandal" - I assume that the 1/4 Billion price tag was for the (badly mismanaged) sponsorship program (which did indeed cost $250 million). I doubt the scandal per se has actually cost us all that much in money terms. But whatever, the ad is not badly dishonest and the tone is at least not vicious. But what irritates me about it is the question posed at the end:
    Can you really afford another four years of Liberal waste?

    Why four years? Under our system of government, parliamentary terms last up to five years. Maybe four is an average, maybe it's a worst-case scenario (since a fifth-year election call is seen as a sign of weakness), but I have to guess that the four is another indication of the seepage of the American political system. Canadians know the 'four more years' refrain. They know how the US system functions. What bothers me about the gradual slide towards US-style government is less that it's happening than how it's happening. It is an unconscious, unconsidered process of cultural change, when it should be a considered and deliberate political choice.
     

  • Friday, June 04, 2004
     
  • Interesting information on the death penalty in Canada, a cause celebre of certain members of the Conservative Party and another issue for which Harper would allow a free vote. "Allow a free vote" is code for "waste a lot of taxpayer's money and drag the country through an obnoxious and callow debate leading up to a vote - during which time, idiot parliamentarians will realize that Canadians will not suffer barbarians in office for long." There are good arguments to be made in the name of representative democracy in favour of more free votes in parliament. However, they also have this obnoxious other side to them. A party leader can create an air of plausible deniability for unpopular policies by calling them 'private members bills' and claiming to be a democrat rather than a jerk.
     

  •  
  • The Face of the Conservative Party.

    Harper should express his disgust that people who support him would rather hit an old man than have an open debate. There is no room for that behaviour in a self-respecting democracy.
    Bob Smyth of the group Canadians for Equal Marriage, right, is punched Thursday by a Conservative party supporter during a rally for Stephen Harper in Guelph, Ont.

    In Guelph, where Mr. Harper was unveiling part of his party's financial platform Thursday aimed at the overtaxed middle class — included phasing out the middle tax bracket and a $2,000 per child tax deduction —things got ugly. ... According to a statement from the protest group, Canadians For Equal Marriage, Mr. Harper had refused to give them a clear answer when asked earlier in Hamilton, so they brought up the issue again in Guelph.
    ”Mr. Harper seems determined to avoid answering the straightforward question of whether he would use the notwithstanding clause to take away the Charter rights of gay and lesbian Canadians,” said Laurie Arron, political co-ordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage, in a statement.
    Mr. Arron said he tried to get Mr. Harper to give a clear answer at a rally in Guelph, which he was attending with volunteer Bob Smyth.
    Mr. Arron was shouted down by cries of "shut up, shut up."
    Tory supporters then hit Mr. Smyth with signs and an elderly man punched him in the face before police intervened.
    "Stephen Harper needs to tell Canadians whether he still holds the same view as when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance Party – that it is acceptable for the Parliament of Canada to take away the Charter rights of lesbian and gay people," the group said in a release.

    Harper won't rule out using the notwithstanding clause to prevent homosexual marriages. Apparently, he also won't rule out organizing gangs of thugs to help him acquire power 'the old fashioned way' either.

    Thanks, greg, for letting us know about this.

    A quick visit to Harper's website brings us this "quote of the day" from the party leader:
    "We believe if you do the crime, you do the time. Those convicted of violent crimes, or repeat serious offences, will have to serve their full sentences, with no automatic eligibility for parole."

    From what I can gather, the maximum penalty for assault in Canada is 5 years in jail - 10 if the assault is with a weapon. Would Mr. Harper support sending Mr. Smyth's assailants to jail for five years - ten in the case of the folks with the signs?
    Email the Conservatives here. Or contact them:
    Conservative Party of Canada
    #1720 - 130 Albert Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1P 5G4

    Toll free:
    (866) 808-8407
    Phone:
    (613) 755-2000
    Fax:
    (613) 755-2001


    Here's a copy of the letter I just wrote the Conservative comments page:
    Today, several supporters of Mr. Harper hit a man by the name of Bob Smyth at a rally in Guelph, Ont. when he was trying to speak with Mr. Harper. This story was reported in the Globe and Mail. The link to the article is http://www.globeandmail.ca/servlet/story/
    RTGAM.20040603.elabort0306/BNStory/specialDecision2004/. When will Mr. Harper publically express his disgust at the use of violence in his name, and when will he respond to Mr. Smyth's question regarding the notwithstanding clause and gay marriage? The first responsibility of our political leaders is to keep us safe; political leaders must lead their followers away from violence and towards constructive dialogue. I had thought Canadians were better than this. Mr. Harper needs to make it clear that he wants them to be.

    A copy of these comments was forwarded to the Globe and Mail.

    CORRECTION: I tried to submit this letter, but the 'be in touch with us' page is not working. I did email it to the Globe and Mail.

    Maybe greg can provide us with more info?
     

  • Thursday, June 03, 2004
     
  • Not to be outdone by Moldova's liquid cigarette, "scientists" in Canada are testing maple syrup-flavoured cigarettes.
    Scientists in Canada have been experimenting with chocolate, alcohol, and maple syrup-flavoured cigarettes, according to a report.
    At an un-named independent laboratory in Canada, scientists commissioned by British American Tobacco have added hundreds of different ingredients to cigarettes.
     

  •  
  • Paul Martin, he's a...
    ...prisoner at a minimum security prison:
    A Message from Paul Martin

    ...teacher:
    A Strong Start

    ...medical researcher:
    Building a 21st Century Economy

    ...contestant on jeopardy:
    Canada in the World
     

  •  
  • Read this Atrios post wherein George W. Bush tries to deny spending any time Ahmed Chalabi and actually tries to make it seem like he's not sure who he is. What? Oh, you mean that Iranian spy...
     

  •  
  • Blink and see what happens... George Tenet has stepped down as director of the CIA for "personal reasons". Reuters writes it up thus:
    George Tenet, under fire for his agency's intelligence lapses in Iraq, has resigned and will leave in July, the Bush administration says.

    Of course, that's a load of crap. The CIA had a much better handle on things in Iraq than other agencies, notably the Department of Defense. So, who wins by Tenet stepping down? Last week, Gore called for Tenet's resignation - Atrios has labelled him Gore speech victim #1. Let's hope there will be others. But Tenet shouldn't have been the first to go - he was the last one on Gore's list, and the only one Gore expressed regret over. The others are: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and Condoleeza Rice. The problem with Tenet's resignation is it looks like an admission of fault by the CIA - when it is the other folks who screwed up. So, I'm inclined to think Tenet's resignation - unless it's followed by resignations from the Pentagon and/or White House - can only help the bad guys and their version of events.
     

  • Wednesday, June 02, 2004
     
  • Musings...

    We are told two distinct stories about the cumulative impact of small decisions, one of which is set in the "market" and the other of which is set in the "commons".

    The first story is utopic. Lots of small decisions expressing each individual's purchasing preferences produce the best possible system of production and distribution. (A very similar story is told about small decisions called "votes" in a place called a "polity".) The other story is a tragedy. Lots of small decisions expressing each individual's desires cumulatively destroy the common resources which individuals collectively rely upon.

    Why such a disconnect between these two stories - especially when many of the decisions in each story are probably the same?
     

  • Tuesday, June 01, 2004
     
  • The Philosoraptor just made me laugh:
    ...I suppose you’d have to contemplate something like the following scenario: you have been wounded and cornered, without hope of escape, by a ravenous tiger. You see it approach your [sic] for the kill…but, as you prepare to make peace with your maker, the tiger not only turns and runs away, but runs into the next county and eats somebody you really hate. Greater good fortune bin Laden could not have imagined.
     

  •  
  • Doing some unrelated research, I came accross this article by political scientist Jack Snyder, arguing aginst Bush's security doctrine. This line, in particular, caught my eye:
    Bismarck said that preventive war is like committing suicide from fear of death[.]
     

  •  
  • More good Ontario provincial news:
    The announcement that provincial elections will be held on the first Thursday of October every four years makes Ontario the second province to establish fixed voting dates. ... In the case of a minority government or for other reason that a government were defeated on a confidence motion, the Lieutenant Governor could call an election immediately.

    I wonder about the choice of four years rather than five, but so long as there can still be a vote of no confidence, I'm happy with a fixed-date arrangement.
     

  •  
  • On the face of it, at least the Ontario government's new urban sprawl proposals look really good. For instance:
    Municipalities would be required to set targets for intensification of already-serviced land rather than permit development in areas without roads, sewers and water supplies.
    Municipalities would be encouraged to clean up and redevelop so-called brownfields, often derelict lands in downtown areas that could be revitalized for new housing or industry.
    Municipalities would have to direct new development to areas already served by transit, with a local communities expected to set minimum levels of transit density.

    Development like this is obviously much better than sprawling out into untouched pastures - but it's also a lot more expensive, at least in the direct and usual sense of 'more expensive'. But the points listed above are all about 'target setting' and not actual requirements. Just a lot of hot air, then?
     




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