Tuesday, February 28, 2006

This Is What it's Come To: A Manifesto Against Islamism

Via the Jyllands-Posten (the Danish newspaper that printed the cartoon depictions of Mohammed) comes a manifesto against Islamism. Its word are stunning, extreme and fly in the face of religious tolerance. Its target is Islam - not the extremists who have hijacked the religion - but the religion itself. It's the equivalent of a western call for a jihad and it's unacceptable.

I will post the full letter here and the list of signatories. You can read their bios on the newspaper's site. As you read this, insert the name of almost any of the major religions - most particularly Christianity in its extreme forms - and see if the same criticisms cannot righteously be applied the them as well:

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. The hate preachers bet on these feelings in order to form battalions destined to impose a liberticidal and unegalitarian world. But we clearly and firmly state: nothing, not even despair, justifies the choice of obscurantism, totalitarianism and hatred. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject « cultural relativism », which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers.

We plead for the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas.

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Chahla Chafiq
Caroline Fourest
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Irshad Manji
Mehdi Mozaffari
Maryam Namazie
Taslima Nasreen
Salman Rushdie
Antoine Sfeir
Philippe Val
Ibn Warraq

I have absolutely no problem with securalism or with a call for seperation of church and state. A call for equality and basic human rights is what concerns me each and every day. I believe religious interference and influence in political affairs has caused tremendous damage and has destroyed many lives. However, to target only one religion, when many others promote exactly the same type of religious practices and at a time when radical Islamists have so polluted the religion of Islam by their actions and deeds, is reckless and dangerous.

I label it dangerous, not because of what the reaction of radicals might be, but because this proclamation serves to distort what is already unclear to many in the west: the true aims of Islam as a religion. And, as much as anyone may abhor the fact that some of those tenets promote societal inequality, the fact is that Islamic states have a right to exist.

We are all quite free in the west to disagree with the tenets of any religion, but to equate Isalm with "Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism" does nothing but set back what little progress has been made in recent years to urge the uneducated to practice tolerance and compassion of others beliefs. It inflames hatred and incites its own form of totalitarianism: the outright rejection of a religion with billions of followers who have the right to choose what they believe and how they conduct their lives.

Is one form of totalitarianism better than the other? Does anyone in the United States believe they don't actually live in a dictatorial state with a president who chooses which laws he will follow and which he dismisses with the stroke of a pen? The US is a secular country yet its president endorses torture, imprisons foreigners without any form of legal recognition indefinitely, sends innocents to be tortured in other countries in the middle of the night, imposes imperial spying powers with no checks and balances on its citizens, suspends constitutional rights on a whim, engages in a war whose basis is founded on lies, opts out of international treaties in order to protect its capitalistic and hegemonic interests, decides which countries in the world can possess weapons of defense and which are left defenseless, bribes other governments into accepting so-called American values and "democracy" and sets itself up as this century's imperial conqueror. That is secularism in the United States at this moment.

Is secularism such a high and mighty standard to defend that it must issue manifestos against religions which it labels as beneath its glorious philosophy?

When any group of people stand behind a belief and proclaim it to be an example of the best form of human behaviour, refusing to admit its tremendous failures and inequalities itself, it can only be labeled as one thing: hypocritical.

And, that's exactly what this manifesto is. Pure hypocrisy. Secularism, as a theory, has lofty and worthy goals. As it is currently practiced in the modern day, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find any country where those ideals are fully realized. And that is not the fault of any religion. It is the fault of societies to practice tolerance and compassion. This letter only serves to set that cause on a backwards course once again - leaving the beloved idea of true secularism just a dream. This manifesto will not strengthen the call for secularism. It will only further divide a fearful and distrustful world that is sorely in need of healing and understanding.

The fight for equal and civil rights must move forward. This is not the way to do it.

Klein's Third Way: Here It Is

Alberta's Conservative government, led by King Premier Ralph Klein has finally begun to release details of its long-awaited "Third Way" reforms to this province's health care system and, once unleashed, the criticism was fast and furious.

Klein's opponents have long suspected that the premier would move to more privatization of our public system - causing a larger disparity between the haves and have-nots - and that's exactly where his reforms are headed.

According to CBC Calgary, the proposed 10 point plan includes:
...patients paying for some surgeries and doctors working in both the public and private systems.

One of the biggest reforms is to allow patients to pay for hip and knee replacements if they don't want to join the waiting list for such surgery in the public system.
Other reforms propose to expand options for private health insurance on treatments that may not be covered in the future, including new technologies and drugs.

Following fireworks from the opposition in the legislature on Tuesday, the Alberta Liberal Party has yet to release an official online statement although leader Kevin Taft was outraged, as expected, during Question Period.

The New Democrats have the following reaction on their site:

NDP Opposition Leader said that the Klein government has no mandate from Albertans to proceed with the two-tier health care scheme unveiled today.

"I directly challenged the Premier during the November 2004 leader's debate to come clean on his government's health care privatization plans. He denied there was a secret plan, and promised to consult prior to considering changes. These were clearly lies," Mason charged.

The Friends of Medicare have been preparing for this fight for a long time and have action items on their site.

Needless to say, the left and all who care about our public system are incensed. Now that Canada's federal government is also Conservative, albeit in a minority government situation, there is growing fear that PM Harper will not force Alberta to comply with the Canada Health Act which exists to preserve our current public framework.

Watch for a huge fight from all fronts in the next few months as the Klein Conservatives try to ram this through. It won't be pretty and it will be extremely noisy. Grab those placards and be prepared to stand up for what all Albertans deserve: equal access to public health care.

Those interested in reading the Government's propaganda "framework" and in submitting comments can do so here.

Call Me Old School: Protests Matter

These young whippersnappers - thinking they can just discard tried and true expressions of political protest and reinvent the wheel.

Yes, that's the reaction I often have when I see comments like this from young "progressives" like Markos over at Daily Kos referring to the March for Women's Lives that was held in 2004 and attracted a staggering 1.125 million people:

Longtime readers are well aware of my disdain for protest marches. They are useless, obsolete artifacts of a bygone era. How much money and energy expended in that march could've been used for more effective forms of organizing?

And, to back up his "disdain", he quotes Jane Hamsher from firedoglake who wrote:

It shows just how behind the times these organizations are that they would put so much energy into something like the "March for Women's Lives" in this day and age when the impact of an action like that depends on the media's willingness to cover it, something they quite obviously haven't been willing to do for a good long while.

So, the rationale is that protests are useless if the MSM doesn't give them enough coverage.

Now, Markos is a money-man. He believes that money is the ultimate key to getting Democrats elected, so it's natural he would see organized protests as a waste of funds. What he fails to see, however, is that money does not guarantee anything in politics. Just ask Steve Forbes and Ross Perot - both billionaires who were never able to successfully buy their way into the political system.

And, as for the usefulness of protests, whether they receive wide mainstream media or not, they provide an excellent opportunity for networking and that is what matters in politics - not the amount of money you have in your bank account. They also provide a much-needed forum to stir and effect public debate. Even if not one camera or one newspaper records a protest, the ripple effect is often widely felt in the community hosting the event and the efforts of those involved to spread their message in any other way available to them is felt far beyond the actual geographic location.

Kos and I agree on one thing: all politics is local. The grassroots is the strongest element in any true democracy. Local gatherings and protests, therefore, are a vital tool for encouraging political change. The left cannot lay down and die - giving up some of its most useful political tools such as the power of protests - simply because we are not getting the media coverage we think we deserve. That is nothing but a cowardly surrender to the powers that be.

Just ask Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Syrians to Bush: We're Not Buying What You're Selling

The liberal opposition in Syria has refused to accept a $5 million donation from the US State Department - basically telling Bush and his bunch who think they can buy democracy around the world to take a hike.

(See? This is why I'm not a professional journalist. I'm just not polite enough.)

Now, back to the story:

The United Sates imposed several sanctions on Syria in 2004, accusing Damascus of supporting "terrorism." Two weeks ago it announced a $5 million grant to fund what it called "democratic reformers" in Syria.

A U.S. State Department official said the money was not aimed at opposition or political groups in Syria.

The funds are there to help civil society groups interested in promoting democracy at large. It is not a promotion of direct political parties or views," he said in response to whether Washington was disappointed with the Syrian opposition response.

Right. And Bush is the most brilliant president in the world.

The opposition's founding member was quite clear about why the money was rejected:

"Our project is nationalist, independent democratic change in Syria, not through occupation or economic pressure as we see the United states doing," he said.

At least someone has those good old-fashioned American values of hard work and honesty that seem to be lacking in the Bush administration. Take that, Condi! And, while you're at it, there are a whole lot of people down in the Gulf Coast area of your United States who went through a hurricane last year (remember that?) who could really use that $5 million. Then again, buying democracy (ie. complete subservience to the Bush cabal) down there isn't working all that well for you lately either, is it?

It seems that only 34% of Americans now support Bush. I wonder when Bushco will start handing over big bucks to the opposition Democrats so they can spread democracy in a country in which it is so sorely lacking as well: The United States.

Caution: Exploding Words Ahead!

Earlier today, one of my critics informed me of her reason for not visiting my blog:

"It's your word-explosion writing that I do not care for."

After my shock cleared up as I tried to dissect what that even meant, I decided to take a look at some of my past entries here. And, you know what? She's right!

Darned if my little mile of the information superhighway isn't infested with a veritable plethora of IEDs and fissile material - set to go off the minute my fingers hit my keyboard.

In fact, one of my pages actually looked like this:

Well - just call me Catnip bin Explodin' and colour me surprised!

So, I felt it was only fair to warn you: I will not be responsible for cleaning up the mess on your monitor when my words hit your eyes.

Now, to those of you who have decided to brave my pages: get those hard hats on, watch out for flying phrases and inbound metaphors and let's party!

Who brought the cheesecake?

NSA Spying Scandal Heats Up

Two developments on Monday have ensured that the controversy over the NSA spying scandal, in which Bush decided he could wiretap Americans without a warrant, will stay in the forefront of the news cycle for the time being.

The New York Times has sued the Pentagon:

The Times wants a list of documents including all internal memos and e-mails about the program of monitoring phone calls without court approval. It also seeks the names of the people or groups identified by it.

And, not to be outdone, the Democrats have requested that a special counsel be appointed to investigate the scandal:

In a letter released on Monday, 18 House of Representatives Democrats told Bush a special counsel was necessary because administration officials including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are too involved in defending the National Security Agency program to provide independent scrutiny.

The inspectors general of the Defense Department and the Justice Department turned down earlier requests from Democrats for independent probes into the program, which the White House acknowledged in December after it was revealed by the New York Times.

What's that sound I hear? Must be the popping of exploding heads in the White House.

PortsGate: Coast Guard Had Security Concerns

It's not an official scandal until it has the word "gate" attached to it, which is usually appended when the actual facts start pouring in showing that the Republicans have been lying - yet again.

So, here we are - in the middle of PortsGate. How many Bushco scandals are there now? I've lost count.

As it turns out, after being repeatedly reassured by Bushco since the deal was revealed that there were "no security concerns" involved, we now discover that not only was the Homeland Security department a bit skeptical - the Coast Guard was as well:

The U.S. Coast Guard said questions about foreign influence, employees and operations made it impossible to assess the threat posed by a state-owned Dubai company's purchase of a firm that manages some terminal operations at six U.S. seaports.


``There are many intelligence gaps concerning the potential'' for assets owned by DP World or London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. ``to support terrorist operations,'' says an undated intelligence assessment by the Coast Guard that was released at a hearing today of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The document wasn't given to an administration panel assessing the national security risks of the acquisition, but its concerns ``were addressed and resolved,'' Stewart Baker, an assistant secretary at the Homeland Security Department, said.

"Addressed and resolved"? How, exactly? Enquiring opponents want to know. In fact, we demand to know. We're all familiar with how the Bush administration has strong-armed people armed with facts in the past - like those pesky government scientists who dared to do things like "research". Everybody knows that facts aren't as solid as blind faith. Right?

When committee chairperson, Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked what happened, she was told that the information was classified. So, away they went to a closed-door session.

So let's see: there were security concerns before there weren't security concerns and those security concerns can't be discussed openly because there were no security concerns.

Just another day in DC.

Update: Susan Collins, upon leaving the closed-door session, said she's "more convinced than ever that the process was truly flawed".

Black Wednesday

Who was really responsible for the bombing of Iraq's Shi'ite Golden Mosque - the latest event that has fueled the possibility of an all-out civil war? It may not be who you assumed it might be.

One analyst provides an in depth look.

US Ports Deal: What's Democracy Got to Do With it?

The Dubai World Ports deal continues to be an albatross around the neck of the Bush administration with the new strategy being one of making everybody feel "comfortable" with the fact that a foreign state-owned company is geared to take over the management of six major US ports.

"Comfortable"? If Americans didn't believe they lived in a daddy culture before this, they ought to be able to see that reality now. Just how do dysfunctional daddies make their kids feel good about their questionable decisions? There's usually a condescending pat on the head and an "I'll think about that" involved - which means that they've already made up their minds and are just going to do what they want to anyway.

So it is with the DPW deal.

After facing staunch bipartisan opposition last week over the processes surrounding the deal, DPW has asked the US to further investigate in order to solidify its position. Note that this request did not come from the White House - which has completely mismanaged this issue - and which is exactly where many of the deal's opponents think it should have originated.

Regardless of this new review, the glaring New York Times headline of the day is "Review of Port Deal Will Leave Decision to Bush".

Once again, Americans are reminded that democracy in their country is a nice concept, but that the reality is actually quite different.

But Democrats balked, insisting on their original demand that Congress should have the final say over the deal. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who joined a bipartisan group of senators on Friday in calling for a quick vote on legislation requiring a 45-day review, said Congress, not the White House, should make the final determination.

"We still believe that the report also has to go to Congress, that as much of it as possible ought to be public and that we would have the right of disapproval," Mr. Schumer said in an interview. "That is part of our legislation. That is constitutionally valid; you can have the right of disapproval."

Oh c'mon Senator Schumer - daddy Bush gave you a pat on the head and told you he'd think about it. Isn't that good enough?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I'm a "Self-Righteous Attack" Diarist

I was a "front-pager" (a person with the privilege to post on the main section) at the American lefty blog Booman Tribune for a few months last year, until I realized that personal differences behind the scenes made it impossible for me to continue my role there. I said farewell, moved on and took a break from blogging until this month.

I stop in there now and then because I know it's a good source of information about current events. That's what I was doing on Feb 8, 2006 - trying to find out when the next NSA spying scandal hearings were to be held. That's when I saw an entry by one of the front-pagers with a picture of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban - the same picture I'd already seen as a result of the Danish cartoon controversy which was in the news at the time.

This picture had been posted on a flier and the front-pager, who had found it on someone else's site, expressed the following:

I'm with Dan. I consider this poster an objective example of real free speech. I.e, whoever posted it has the right to post it publicly. And we liberals should not -- NOT! -- self-censor ourselves if we object to some Muslims' over-reactions to these cartoons.

By the way, I found screenshots of the original cartoons via Wikipedia. As for the humor? To each his own. But they're nothing worth dying for.

I took exception to that call to action and wrote a diary titled, I Take Offense, in which I implored members to think about their responsibilities as liberals regarding the cartoon issue - to get beyond the free speech aspects. A discussion ensued. Later, the front-pager who had written the entry I took offense to apologized to the community and removed the offensive image. I moved on.

However - there's always a "however" when it comes to complex issues like this - the situation left some members of that very tight-knit community feeling unsettled.

Booman Tribune is a place where people make lifelong, real life friends; a place run by a man who is very sensitive to the concerns of his members - you'd be hard-pressed to find another political web community leader who is so in touch with his readers; a place that has a variety of people with global perspectives and a deep committment to setting things back on track in the US and in the broader world. It's not surprising then, because of those deep bonds, that an incident that shakes things up as this one had continues to be discussed there. And, that's what's been going on at BT the last couple of days.

In his latest entry about the divide in the community, Booman mentioned my name in reference to what I had written about Canada's hate speech laws:

I had written:

I'm proud to live in a country (Canada) that has hate speech laws so that those who choose to defame others to the extreme have no public voice. Let their hatred fester in their sick minds. It doesn't deserve a public forum.

That's what I believe and I stand behind it.

Booman wrote:

Personally, I find the laws as offensive as the cartoons, if not more so. I have been questioning my feelings about this after reading Catnip's Canadian take on hate speech and the observations of many of the people at European Tribune.

Perhaps it is my American upbringing but I can't countenence laws banning the printing of speech, hateful or otherwise.

I don't have a problem with that. We have differing opinions. No big deal. And I have to say that he nailed it when he wrote these words:

It is not for Anglo-Saxons to question the reasoning behind the cartoons or Rushdie's novel causing offense, it is enough that they do in fact cause offense. And to lament this fact, or to argue against it is to display arrogance, insensitivity, and a colonialist mindset.

That's the sentiment I wrote about in my diary.

Reading through the comments attached to Booman's diary, I found one person who thought my "I Take Offense" diary was a "self-righteous attack diary". Interesting - since I went back to reread the comments in my diary and found that, although the same person participated in that discussion - even posting a photo of the Buddhas demolished by the Taliban (weren't these cartoons just as offensive as that act?) - they did not express this type of angry sentiment towards me whatsoever. Suddenly, it's open season on catnip again. And for what?

Do I write "self-righteous attack diaries". You bet I do. Just read my entry on this blog about the new civil war coming to America over the new anti-abortion laws in South Dakota. I'm sure the person who accused me of writing an attack diary has also written things along the same lines when she's opposed the latest move by some wingnut Republican.

I am very clear about this though: The diary "I Take Offense" was in no way a "self-righteous attack diary". It was a call to people on the left to rise above the issues of free speech - to look at the broader implications in a world already so divided by fear and hatred. Was that an attack? I don't think so.

I was also accused of being "like Michael Moore" instead of George Clooney in my style. Like that should or would bother me? Moore has done more than many people on the left to expose the inanities of the Bush administration. I admire him. I like George Clooney too. Whether I'm like one or the other isn't the point - or it shouldn't be.

The point is that people on the left need to figure out where their values lie. Are they strict constructionists? Defending the Constitution as it's written with no room for interpretation? Or are they willing to engage in recognizing nuance? Didn't we just have a big debate over this when we watched the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito? Isn't that the same attitude that now threatens a woman's right to choose? It's not in the Constitution, after all.

The world is not black and white. And, we on the left don't want it to be, do we? We ought never make the mistake of standing on that imaginary "moral high-ground" because the first step off is a killer. We must, however, stand up for the marginalized and disenfranchised and we must stand on facts.

I'd ask any of my opponents to go back and read what I wrote in that diary. I'm a liberal. I expect certain things from others who label themselves as "liberals", "progressives" or "Democrats". My expectations were not met on that day. That's all.

I wish the Booman Tribune community the best. I do have a publicly available e-mail address for those who wish to discuss anything with me. I don't bite - not too hard anyway.

Kristol: War Effort in Iraq Not "Serious"

William Kristol, chair of the neocon think tank Project For a New American Century (PNAC), told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Sunday:

...we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq as opposed to laying the preconditions for getting out.

(see the transcript at Think Progress and the video at Crooks and Liars)

I wonder if Rumsfeld's head just exploded.

Define "serious", Mr Kristol. I'd especially like you to define "serious" to the families and friends of the dead coalition soldiers and the thousands of Iraqis who have perished in this frivolous war of yours. While you're at it, why don't you rush right over to Iraq and give a presentation to the many Iraqi children who have been irreversibly wounded and maimed for life so they can understand what a "serious" war effort is all about too?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

While You Weren't Paying Attention...

While everybody in the Real World(TM) is busy doing whatever they're doing this weekend: watching the Olympics (Canada Rocks!), going out to movies, laying around sick in bed with the flu (like me) or just generally taking time off from the insanity of the right-wing in whatever way they can, things are happening that you need to know about:

* Frist Caves on DPW deal opposition: Remember last week when he was so outraged about the Dubai Ports World deal? Well, all you need to do to change Bill's mind is feed him dinner, apparently:

My comfort level is good, but I have 99 other United States senators who need the opportunity to ask their questions," Frist told the Lexington Herald-Leader before speaking at a Republican dinner Saturday evening in Lexington, Ky.

"We're behind the president 100 percent," he added. "We believe the decision in all likelihood is absolutely the right one."

Flip-flopper. I wonder what Rove blackmailed him with.

* In the very same news article, we are informed that Chertoff's Homeland Security Department - the same Chertoff who said last week he didn't even know about the deal until he read about it in the newspapers - had concerns about the deal when it was proposed:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Homeland Security Department objected at first to a United Arab Emirates company's taking over significant operations at six U.S. ports. It was the lone protest among members of the government committee that eventually approved the deal without dissent.

Let's see...you head the nation's security department and there's a possibility that a huge proposed ports deal could compromise said security...you also just went through humiliating embarassment about a hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast that you horribly mismanaged and you still don't stay on top of things? In case I haven't made this suggestion before (and I'm pretty sure I have - several times): either fire the man or give him a Medal of Freedom. Make up your mind, Bush. This is getting really old, really fast.

* next on the weekend agenda, is it just me or isn't this headline just a tad overdue? FBI Puts al-Zarqawi High on its List. I don't really think I need to say much more about that one.

* in case you were counting on any soldiers you know over in Iraq coming home anytime soon, don't hold your breath: not only is the Iraqi Defense Minister warning of endless civil war, "The Pentagon said no Iraqi unit can fight on its own yet but about 40,000 troops could lead in combat with U.S. support."


The troops got a little mention in Bush's weekly radio address but, once again, he proved how ridiculously out of touch he is by yammering on about his prescription drug plan (which nobody understands anyway).

* there was a ricin scare in a Texas University on Thursday that's coming to light now, but since it probably doesn't involve al Qaeda (although they get a mention in this article because everyone needs to be reminded that they're the real terrorists), CNN didn't have anyone at the scene live to scare the pants off Americans like they usually do.

The terror alert level remains at Bert for the time being.

I think I need to lay down again now...

The Sunday morning talk shows should be a barrel of monkeys.

This Week's Honourary Canadian Citizenship Award

Welcome to the second installment of liberal catnip's Honourary Canadian Citizenship Award!

In case you missed it, last week's honouree was Cheney's latest hunting trophy, Harry Whittington, who exemplified the great Canadian tradition of apologizing for everything - even when it's not your fault.

This week's winner is a fine example of one of our best Canadian attributes: humour.

Yes, when Democratic State Sen. Robert Hagan of Ohio "sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents" as a protest to the Republican drive to ban adoptions by gay couples, he assured his selection as my latest Honourary Canadian.

To further lampoon Hood's bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

Canadians don't buy that old "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" cliche. We prefer "if you can't beat 'em, mock 'em until they get really mad and embarassed and smack you in the face so you can charge them with assault and sue them civilly - thereby making judges work harder for their money" philosophy. When you have unelected judges, you have to keep them on their toes and away from their Playstation(TM) machines somehow.

Canada has produced many great comedians: Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Howie Mandel, Dan Ackroyd, Stephen Leacock, Rich Little, Phil Hartman, Celine Dion (admit it - you know you laughed hysterically when you saw the pics of her outrageously pompous wedding for which I revoked her Canadian citizenship...we're a humble people, Celine: humble. I did restore her status, however, when she had a complete meltdown on Larry King's show over the slack aid response to the tsunami . I'm still waiting for the thank-you letter though, Celine.)

Anyway, as a new, honourary Canadian citizen, Senator Robert Hagan is now entitled to these rights:

1. The right to use a strategically placed, maple leaf-shaped whoopee cushion the next time you meet publicly with George Bush.
2. The right to emulate some of our best political satirists: Rick Mercer, the casts of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Royal Canadian Air Farce, and new Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. No - wait...I think he's actually being serious when he appears in public. It's so hard to tell sometimes...
3. The right to find even more uses for duct tape than any American can possibly imagine.
4. The right to replace Diebold voting machines with Canadian technology: pencils and paper. (Democrats will get the last laugh next time!)
5. The right to bring a TV into the next house session so you never miss another hockey game again.
6. The right to pound on your desk and yell "Hear! Hear!" whenever you feel like it.

As a bonus, you are hereby granted all of the rights allotted to previous award winner Harry Whittington (which are too numerous to list here and which I'm just too lazy to cut and paste. Plus, the Olympics are on and I'd be a bad Canadian if I didn't watch at least some of what's going on. Oh Canada!).

So, keep your tongue firmly placed in your cheek (whatever that means), Senator Hagan. We, in Canada, salute you!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Coming Soon: America's New Civil War

Droves of women in South Dakota were seen packing their bags on Friday and heading for the borders in a display of defiance unseen since the infamous Underground Railroad movement in which slaves fled from their masters to seek their deserved freedom.

No, that didn't actually happen - yet.

The Republican government of South Dakota has approved a ban on abortions effective July 1, 2006. The only exception is in cases where there is a medical threat to the mother's life.

Raped? Victim of incest? You will be forced by the Republicans to have your child. Only totalitarian barbarians would refuse women in such positions to continue their pregnancies under the force of law.

In response, Planned Parenthood released the following statement:

"This ban is an attack on women's fundamental right of privacy and their ability to make the most intimate and personal choice about when and whether to have a child. The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed time and again the constitutional right to make the private choice to have an abortion. South Dakota is entering dangerous territory with this ban.

"Across the country, state politicians are creating a gauntlet of anti-choice laws and regulations to make it more difficult for women to get the best and safest reproductive health care services. South Dakota's ban is the most sweeping abortion ban passed by any state in more than a decade. Planned Parenthood will go to court to ensure women, with their doctors and families, continue to be able to make personal health care decisions — not politicians."

Now that the US Supreme Court is firmly stacked with right-wing justices, I'm sure South Dakotan lawmakers feel secure that their new law will survive. Although Chief Justice Roberts stated that he believes Roe v Wade is settled law (which newly coronated Justice Alito refused to even utter during his confirmation hearings), the existence of stare decisis is not a guarantee that a law will not or cannot be changed.

Those who feared a gathering threat to the state of a woman's right to choose during the confirmation hearings of these two new justices have seen their concerns justifed. There is a very real possibility that women's rights will be set back to the dark ages of back-alley abortions with coat hangers - especially in South Dakota and perhaps countrywide - if the anti-abortion lobbyists have their way.

It's time for those all over the US who support a woman's right to live in privacy and to make her own medical decisions with her doctor to speak up now - louder than ever.

We've already seen what a theologically-driven federal government, led by their new prophet George W Bush, will attempt to get away with. From the push for the acceptance of "intelligent design/creationism" in schools across the country to a complete rejection of scientific facts, there is nothing stopping them now.

Choose your country, my American friends: BushWorld or The United States of America.

Friday News Roundup

- According to UPI, Dubai Ports World is actually taking over 21 US ports. And you thought the uproar over their proposed takeover of 6 ports was bad? Stay tuned...

- Saudis thwart oil refinery attack...or have they? While interviewing someone about this news item today on CNN International, CNN anchor Jim Clancy said he wasn't convinced that such an attack had even happened. Hmm...

- Emergency rule has been declared in the Philippines after yet another failed coup attempt.

Police used fire hoses and batons to disperse about 5,000 protesters, including nuns and priests, near a shrine that was a focal point of the anti-Marcos revolt and another in 2001 that ousted Estrada. The demonstrators fought back and threw stones.

- a curfew has been imposed in Iraq following the death of over 130 people as a result of sectarian violence. Is Iraq really just on the "brink" of civil war or has that brink already been breached? Who decides?

- Russian and Chinese officials are in Iran for talks, but neither country actually believes the talks will be fruitful. In the meantime, Bush spoke about Iran this morning in a speech to the American Legion that was probably just an old, recycled one about the dangers of pre-war Iraq with "Iran" pencilled into the appropriate spots. He truly is the greatest megalomaniac of our time:

We're committed to an historic long-term goal: To secure the peace of the world, we seek the end of tyranny in our world. Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time.

- H&R Block got its taxes wrong! Now, that's comforting for all of you who've used their tax service, isn't it?

- Canada's new Conservative government is canceling the day care deals made by the previous Liberal government. Canadian Premiers are not amused. Why do Conservatives hate children?

- blogger Thad Anderson reveals Rumsfeld's post 9/11 orders. Saddam, Saddam, Saddam...

- Blackberry service will continue. Keep those thumbs nimble.

Got more news? Leave me a comment.

Raimondo: "Arianna Huffington, Racial Profiler"?

Antiwar.com contributor Justin Raimondo takes Arianna Huffington and "her army of "progressive" blogger-harpies" to task over what he considers to be "racial profiling" in her analysis of and opposition to the Dubai Ports World deal in his latest column.

Even though Raimondo is a libertarian and our views don't always align, I have respect for his knowledge on many vital issues. But, this time, he selectively quoted a small portion of Huffington's post and held it up as the barometer for the left's reaction to this deal on the blogosphere - unwittingly falling into the very trap he alleges Huffington to have played a part in.

Here's a copy of the letter I sent to Raimondo after reading his article:

I have to wonder, Justin, if you would have labeled Huffington a "racial profiler" if this ports deal had been with China. After all, there are many issues to take into consideration when it comes to doing business with a communist government that has little regard for its citizens basic human rights and freedoms. I suspect that such a discussion would not involve pulling out the race card at all.

Yet, when bloggers raise criticism - and many are concerned with the flawed process around this deal, not with the race of those involved - you accuse them of racial profiling, just like those aligned with Bush on this issue when they attempt to respond to their critics.

Ironic, isn't it?

This charge of "racial profiling" is a canard and it muddies what ought to be real concerns about this entire fiasco - and there are legitimate concerns that have nothing to do with the nationality of those involved ie. the questionable (and possibly illegal) regulatory process and the failure to properly inform congress.

And, as I pointed out previously, the Bush administration shot itself in the foot over the "security" issues by releasing confusing statements. That was their doing - not their critics. They totally mismanaged the spin on this one and created a frenzy that infected the left and the right.

I don't exist to serve as an apologist for Huffington or progressive bloggers on any issue but, on this one, Raimondo's narrow view of the situation is unfairly skewed. If he believes this ports deal should go ahead, he's well-equipped to defend it without pulling out the race card. Bad form, Justin.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dubai Ports World Will Delay Deal

Just in via CNN: Dubai Ports World has agreed to delay its deal with the US government.

Apparently, MIA Bush administration architect, Karl Rove, stepped in and took control of the mess:

Via FOX News:

WASHINGTON — Making sure Congress is comfortable with the ports deal involving a United Arab Emirates-owned company is priority one, even if it means the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. is slightly delayed, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told FOX News' Tony Snow on Thursday.

And, just how will they make congress "comfortable"?

"Our interest is in making certain the members of Congress have full information about it, and that, we're convinced, will give them a level of comfort with this," Rove said, adding that regulatory rules abroad could also add a few days to a final sign off on the transaction.

"There are some hurdles, regulatory hurdles, that this still needs to go through on the British side as well that are going to be concluded next week. There's no requirement that it close,
you know, immediately after that," Rove said.

They wouldn't have to make anyone "comfortable" if they had properly informed congress and had actually followed the rules in the first place:

Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Carl Levin of Michigan, the vice chairman of the panel, alleged that officials in the 12-member U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States broke the law by not taking the full 45 days available to it to review the ports deal. They argued that the statute that defines the job of the panel requires a 45-day review. CFIUS approved the deal after 30 days.

This ain't over til it's over.

Canadian Complicity in Torture Flights?

The Associated Press reports Thursday that it has accessed documents under Canada's Freedom of Information Act that reveal 74 "CIA planes" have landed in Canada since 9/11. Were these planes part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" (torture flights) practices?

One memo dated Nov. 28 instructed officials to tell the media that there was "no credible information to suggest that these planes were used to ferry suspected terrorists to and from Canada, or that illegal activity took place."

A spokesman for the CIA in Washington declined comment on Thursday.

U.S. intelligence officials have said in the past that the planes are more likely to be carrying staff, supplies or Director Porter Goss on his way to a foreign visit.

Not only did the media use that "no credible information..." line, under repeated and unrelenting questioning during the 2005 fall session of the Canadian Parliament, then Liberal Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Anne McClennan, continually towed the line as well. It wasn't reassuring then and it certainly isn't now.

Can we trusted newly elected Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get to the bottom of this? Will he bring it up with President Bush? Now that the Conservatives are in power, will they open an inquiry into these CIA flights? I think it's time that all Canadians hold Harper's feet to the fire and demand that this be investigated.

Contact the Conservative Party and/or your Member of Parliament immediately and ask that they gather the facts about these flights. Canadians deserve to know if our country is complicit in US torture flights. We'll certainly never get any answers from the Bush administration.

(hat tip to The Galloping Beaver for the heads up on this story)

The State of Alberta

Well, Alberta's latest session of parliament has begun and it promises to be an interesting one considering the fact that the lefties (Liberals and NDPs) who made considerable gains in the 2004 election, will continue to pound Klein's Conservative monarchy government as hard as possible. Well, they'll try anyway...

This past Tuesday evening, Premier Ralph Klein appeared in his annual televised infomercial - a production which cost Albertans over $170,000 and which resembled enthusiastic presentations by similar masters like Ron Popeil.

While most of the public was holding its collective breath to hear details about Klein's mysterious "third way" (which is RalphSpeak for "American Way") reforms of our health care system, they were treated instead to Klein yammering on about putting funds into Alberta's Heritage trust (ie. Rainy Day) fund, a promise to fund cancer research and a push for clean coal technology (which critics swiftly attacked).

On Wednesday, Lt Governor Normie Kwong gave the Speech from the Throne - the most mind-numbingly boring and absolutely awful presentation of such a speech since, probably, the beginning of Alberta's legislature. These speeches are typically just propaganda celebrations that stand on frou-frou ceremony and tradition, but this one was so bad that it was tough for this liberal to even stay awake through the whole thing in order to effectively criticize it. Glad that's over! Hopefully, Kwong will join Toastmaster's before next year's speech so he can figure out how to keep us at least half-conscious while he speaks.

Today, the fun began in parliament. Along with the usuual questions about a lack of funding for, well, just about everything - considering Alberta is swimming in oil money - one opposition member caught my interest when he brought up the possibility that Alberta's privately run registries are mobbed up. No, I'm not kidding.

Government documents obtained by The Journal, and interviews with law enforcement and government officials, reveal that some registries have experienced chronic, serious security breaches.

- Organized criminals have exploited the lax security to gain access to false identification. Although the government ended the registries' authority to issue driver's licences in 2003, bogus licences are continuing to surface.

Ah...but everyone knows that privatization is a Good Thing(TM), right?

Just a note to my American friends: you think you have it rough under Bush? Alberta has been under Conservative rule since dinosaurs roamed free, died and became our now infamous oil reserves. We Alberta lefties are a lonely bunch. We can often be found wandering the streets, finding a convenient, hard brick wall and banging our heads against it to keep them from exploding as we watch these right-wingers with their unfettered power continue to make this place what it is: Conservative hell on earth. The best that can be said is that our government doesn't torture people - that we know of. But, living with this bunch is its own kind of torture. Send us bandages. We bleed - a lot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Kimmet: No Permanent US Miltary Bases in Iraq

According to this Monsters and Critics article, Brigadier General Mark Kimmet has said the US will not retain US military bases in Iraq, so the locals can take control of the situation.

Military strategist and angry, falafel lovin', right-wing pundit extraordinaire, Bill O'Reilly agrees:

Bill O'Reilly suggested that the United States "hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible" because "[t]here are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them." O'Reilly then claimed that the "big mistake" was actually "the crazy-people* underestimation."

*That's Pentagon lingo for "terrorists" or left-wing lingo for "the entire Republican bunch in DC".

Considering that Iraq is now on the brink of civil war, the right-wing is apparently embracing the "cut & run" meme. Remember that meme? The one they used to accuse any Democrat who suggested troop withdrawal - like that old, crazy Democratic fart who knows nothing about war: John Murtha - as being treasonous? One man's treason is another man's "new and improved Bush policy", it appears.

My guess is that this year's October Surprise will be a free ticket home for Christmas for a large number of US troops - just in time for Election 2006. Of course, according to the plan, that will mean that Iraq will have had to take better control of its security, but that shouldn't be a problem since the Bush government is blackmailing them by threatening to withdraw aid if they don't smarten up and do democracy the American Way - The Bush Way. (How else can Bush start to recover from the ridiculous amount of debt he's created? See? It's win/win. Of course, by then, Iraq will be hell on earth as it's ravaged by unrelenting sectarian violence, but hey - Bush gave them democracy and freedom - what else could they possibly want?)

UN Human Rights Commission Chief: Torture in Iraq is Ongoing

In an absolutely stunning revelation to The Times of Malta, former UN Human Rights Chief, John Pace, insists that torture is ongoing in "illegal detention places" and that the body count due to summary executions and torture have been staggeringly high - and he has proof:

In a frank interview with The Times, Dr Pace says photos and forensic records have proved that torture was rife inside detention centres. Though the process of release has been speeded up, there are an estimated 23,000 people in detention, of whom 80 to 90 per cent are innocent.

He says the Baghdad morgue received 1,100 bodies in July alone, about 900 of whom bore evidence of torture or summary execution. That continued throughout the year and last December there were 780 bodies, including 400 having gunshot wounds or wounds as those caused by electric drills.

Pace says that the US is definitely aware of the scene on the ground.

The Bush administration has consistently denigrated the work of the UN Human Rights Commission, as seen as recently as last week when the UNHRC released its report on conditions at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. US Secretary of Defense mocked the work of commission members when they called for the closure of the facility by stating that they hadn't even been there. UNHRC officials responded by revealing that they were not allowed access to interview detainees, which can only leave one to wonder what the US is hiding.

There has not been an official White House reaction yet to these statements about the ongoing torture of Iraqis by John Pace but, if he has photos and records, the White House will be hard-pressed to spin their way out of this potential nightmare: a nightmare that the public thought had ended with Abu Ghraib.

Repeat After Me: This is Not About Port Security

The Bush administration, in an attempt to deal with the firestorm over the recently announced Dubai Ports World deal, is doing a seriously horrible job of trying to calm the fears of opponents. It appears the WH spin machine is broken.

The meme is: this is not about port security.

Separately, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said port security would not be threatened. “This is not a question about port security,” Gonzales said. “This is a question about port operation.”

Bush released a statement on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2006:

And so, look, I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction. But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully. Again, I repeat, if there was any question as to whether or not this country would be less safe as a result of the transaction, it wouldn't go forward.

Scotty McLellan repeated the same line during Wednesday's WH press briefing, but went on to say:

"This transaction was carefully scrutinized to make sure there were no national security threats".

Scotty also stated that WH spinmeister, Karl Rove, did not look at this deal to consider the political ramifications. Perhaps that's why the White House has jumped the shark on the message and is now trying hard to clean up this mess.

So, there you have it: this is not about port or national security but it was about port and national security, so we made sure there were no port or national security issues, so if you think this is or ever has been about port or national security - you're just wrong.

Clear as mud?

Update: Via CNN and Raw Story- Dubai Ports World has hired Bob Dole to lobby on its behalf.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Open Thread

It's a thread. And it's open.

Talk amongst yourselves until I get back. (No eating cheesecake without me!)

Apparently Osama Bin Laden (remember him?) watches CNN's Larry King Live. I wonder if he enjoyed Monday nite's discussion about the hit(??) TV show, Dancing With the Stars?

On Organizing Canadian Liberal Blogs

There's a discussion going on over at Cerburus's blog about fostering a more visible Canadian liberal blog presence. I've invited some of the Conservatives who have piped up with suggestions like "stick to the facts" and "stop the name-calling" over here to continue along that vein if they like, because it's obvious that very few of them have ever actually read a Canadian liberal's blog. As if Conservatives are the guardians of The Sacred Personal Blogging Standards(TM).

I let them know that, if they really want to be helpful (not that I think we even need their help), they could actually talk about what's actually up for discussion: how to build web communities.

As a former community blogger at American lefty blog sites Daily Kos and Booman Tribune, I had a few things to offer - having gone through some of the growing pains. On the Canadian side of things, we also have the Progressive Bloggers community site, of which I am a member.

Herding cats is not an easy job, but it's crucial now - more than ever - that the Conservative Party, under the lead of new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has taken over in a minority government environment.

I'm opening up this discussion here with hopes that some of my American blogger friends, who have also been deeply involved in large web communities, can offer some of their wisdom too.

Have at it.

Coming Soon: Jesustown in Florida

Domino's founder, Tom Monaghan, is funding the development of a new Catholic town in Florida named Ave Maria.

Thinking about moving there? You'll have to stock up on contraceptives first (if you're one of those non-compliant Catholics) because Monaghan will not allow the sale of such items in his fiefdom.

I wonder if he'll have contraceptive-ring busting cop raids.

Frist Calls for Review of Port Security Deal

Via USA Today: Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, is now calling for a review of the port security deal made with a Dubai company which has "at least two ties to the White House". There is also pending legislation that was scheduled to be presented today:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Lawmakers planned to unveil legislation Tuesday that would block an Arab-owned company from taking over operations at six major U.S. ports.

The move comes amid increasing criticism of a deal that would see Dubai Ports World take over London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. P&O operates the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., scheduled a news conference Tuesday afternoon in New York to discuss a bill that would suspend the deal.


The deal, which is scheduled to close March 2, has been approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The committee, which is chaired by the Treasury Department, includes representatives from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and other agencies.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended the administration's decision to back the deal as he made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows.

"We have a very disciplined process, it's a classified process, for reviewing any acquisition by a foreign company of assets that we consider relevant to national security," Chertoff told NBC's "Meet the Press." "That process worked here."

Congresspeople on both sides believe the Bush administration has clearly jumped the shark on this issue and the outcry has been loud and furious. Chertoff, one of the least trusted people in America right now after the Hurrican Katrina fiasco, will have some serious explaining to do once this review is underway.

Perhaps if the Bush administration would actually fund national security like it had promised to so many times before, the US wouldn't be in this position. So, while Bush, his administration and Republican leaders attempt to blame the "middle-men" involved in making this deal, they need to take a look at their role in all of this as well. They failed. This is the result of that failure.

(Further reading: Time Magazine attempts to defend the deal, while it also adds this tidbit:

...it could get a good assessment of the workings of Dubai Ports World from its own current nominee for the post of U.S. Maritime Administrator — Dave Sanborn, previously a top executive at Dubai Ports World.)

Update: Predictably, Bush has threatened to veto any legislation that might stop this deal.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Iran War Hysteria

In the midst of very turbulent times in the Middle East, the Bush administration finds itself in, perhaps, a more tenable position to sound the alarm than it did prior to the fabricated Iraq WMD threat to pump up its anti-Iranian propaganda.

As Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com ponders, recent and seemingly unrelated international press releases that have inflamed the extremist Muslim communities in Europe and the Middle East (the Danish cartoon scandal, the publication of previously unreleased Abu Ghraib torture photos and the video of British troops beating Iraqis), have once again stirred up fury and fear in Westerners. I would also add to Raimondo's list the current stir over giving up port security to Dubai which prompted one CNN interviewer to ask a guest opposed to this turnover if he was "racist" because Arabs were involved. All of these events combine to stirring up more anti-Islam sentiment in the west.

While we're all busy discussion the free speech aspects of the Danish newspaper's cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, a deeper transition is taking place in those who can't see beyond the ensuing protests and riots which only serves to grow support for a war with Iran. Of course, the fact that Iran's president is full of weekly inflammatory rhetoric against the west isn't exactly helping his cause but he is, apparently, calling for a peaceful solution which will soon be dismissed by warmongers and critics as smoke and mirrors.

Regardless, the hysteria on all sides is detracting those concerned from delving into the facts about Iran's current nuclear situation. It's easy to justify a pre-emptive attack against a country, as we saw with Iraq, by simply appealing to emotions. Because of what happened with the flawed Iraq intelligence, one would like to think that we have become more discerning now. Have we? You decide.

Perhaps you've been less concerned about the possibility of Bushco attacking Iran because the US military is so overstretched. Think again. Bush holds all of the power this time. He alone can decide to use the US's nuclear capabilities as Jorge Hirsch explains and, when and if he does, there will be little the US congress can do. He's in his last term. If he were to act in 2006, the political fallout at home is currently fairly predictable: those supporters who have pulled support from the president over his misadventure in Iraq could once again stand proudly by his side and prop him up as a strong leader. His actions might even help the Republicans maintain control of all branches of government in this year's elections.

Many Americans, in shock from such a strong use of nuclear force by the US, might just grudgingly surrender to the commander in chief. The Democrats, on the other hand, would promptly be labelled as the dreaded "appeasers" for demanding actual facts. Bushco's habit of acting first and asking questions later which, with a Republican-led congress has become a continual exercise in futility, seems to be a winning strategy. The US public is still very divided and, although support for the Iraq war has slipped, the 2004 election showed that many are reluctant to switch horses in the midst of the apocalypse.

It's clear that the Democrats must be more vocal on the possibility of war with Iran. First of all, they need to convince Americans that the threat of nuclear action by Bush is real and, secondly, they must push support of the IAEA's ability to find the truth before such action along with pressuring the international diplomatic community to stand down until it can be shown that, this time, the intelligence is solid. There needs to be a broader discussion about China's increased interest and activity in Iran's oil patch and how this will affect US-China relations.

This is not a small matter nor is it an issue that can be held on the back burner while the press is obssessed with Cheney's hunting accident and the numerous other Bush White House scandals. We must be ever mindful of the neoconservative agenda that drives everything this administration does and the strategy needed to oppose it.

(For another perspective on neoconservatism, see Francis Fukuyama's NYT article, "After Neoconservatism")

1000+ Visits!

I started my humble blog last Thursday, Feb 16, 2006 and, thanks to links from The Daou Report and Crooks and Liars - two excellent sites - I've already reached over 1000 visits. Wow. That's certainly beyond what I expected when I added my voice to the millions of available blogs. I'll work hard to keep you coming back for more.

Thanks for stopping by!

I'm a Left-Brainer

Brain Lateralization Test Results
Right Brain (28%) The right hemisphere is the visual, figurative, artistic, and intuitive side of the brain.
Left Brain (60%) The left hemisphere is the logical, articulate, assertive, and practical side of the brain
Are You Right or Left Brained?
personality tests by similarminds.com

According to my results:

Left brain dominant individuals are more orderly, literal, articulate, and to the point. They are good at understanding directions and anything that is explicit and logical. They can have trouble comprehending emotions and abstract concepts, they can feel lost when things are not clear, doubting anything that is not stated and proven.

Yes, that's me. What are you?

(This is the kind of stuff you post when you haven't quite finished your first tea of the day in preparation for delving into the news.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Documentary: The Torture Question

In Canada this Sunday evening, the CBC is showing the documentary, "The Torture Question". This is an in-depth look at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, "extraordinary rendition" (torture flights) and the broader issue of the practice of torture as perpetrated by the US government, military and its coalition of the willing in their so-called "war on terrorism".

This was originally presented on PBS's Frontline. You can view the documentary in its entirety online (free) here as well as accessing much more information about these practices. You can also participate in their discussion forum.

Frankly, it's difficult to watch the apologists for torture as they justify their positions in this film. I would ask each and every one of them if they would a) submit themselves to the types of torture being inflicted and/or b) mete it out themselves. Only then might I give any creedence to what they might have to say. Although, I should point out that I'm extremely disappointed in Senator John McCain, a torture victim during the Vietnam war and a POW for 5 1/2 years, for not abandoning his president over this issue. When he stands next to Bush and endorses him, I have to wonder how he can even fathom being so near man who is his ethical opposite - who supports torturing helpless suspects - just as McCain once was.

This topic is maddening and it needs to stay at the forefront of the American layperson's consciousness. Simply stating that one is opposed to it is not enough.

Haloscan Commenting Added

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Please let me know if you find any quirks. Thanks.

What do the Democrats have to offer?

Head over to ManEegee's blog and see if you can answer this question posed by blogger DuctapeFatwa (nominated for 2 Koufax Awards this year).

The Democrats may have a lot to offer disillusioned Americans but, with the current state of the economy, a fiercely divided electorate that cannot seem to compromise, the lack of a clear Democratic agenda, the failure to get the message out, the hopelessness and lack of confidence so many feel about their elected representatives, and the continuing propaganda of fear trumpeted daily by Republicans everywhere, the Democrats may offer all they want. The question remains: will they be able to deliver?

Meteor Blades took this discussion one step further when he wondered aloud: "Should the Democrats Win in '06"?

French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy, also posed some hard questions in his article: "A Letter to the American Left", published in The Nation magazine last week.

One thing is definite: there are no easy answers.

Sidebar: Who are the great, contemporary American liberal thinkers? Who are the intellectual giants of the American left? Whose philosophy do you admire?

William Safire: Know Thine Enemy

In today's New York Times Magazine, old conservative fart columnist William Safire wastes space by trying to explain blogging terms in an article he titles "Blargon". How cute. And, how utterly, utterly boring. "Linky love"?? What the hell is that?

As far as I'm concerned, Safire's article could have saved the masses severe ennui and Your Eyes Glazing Over Dramatically Syndrome (YEGODS) by simply publishing one thing: a link to Blogossary. By practicing his own version of "linky love", he could have spared his latest jewel from ending up on the bottom of every NYT subscriber's bird cage. Do we bloggers have a term for bird sh*t? Maybe Blogossary can enlighten me.

Sidebar: Wes Felter over at Hack This Planet says, "Somebody needs to fact-check his [Safire's] ass" because he screwed up the origin of the term "blog". Oh, and by the way Mr Safire, the term "sidebar" as I have used it here, refers to this definition of the word. You forgot that tidbit in your article when you tried to explain how bloggers have desecrated the precious MSM's definition of the term.

David Emerson: Turncoat Extraordinaire

David Emerson, recently elected Liberal MP of the Vancouver Kingsway riding, who is now a turncoat extraordinaire after having defected post haste and accepting the position of Minister of International Trade in the new Conservative minority government just 2 weeks after the election, appeared on CTV's Question Period Sunday and, looking very haggard, proudly proclaimed:

"I was not a political person. I am still not much of a political person, as perhaps you can now tell ... But I got into public life because I wanted to serve my community, and serve my riding, and serve my province and serve my country."


"I am no different than any other aspiring politician."

Look, Mr Emerson: first of all, if you're not a "political person", you should have run as an independent. Your riding's Conservative party candidate only received 18% of the vote. Vancouver Kingsway has been a solid Liberal riding for a decade. How dare you use that advantage by getting elected under the Liberal banner and then, like a slimy snake in the grass slithering into the putrid Tory swamp, suddenly change sides?

Secondly, you are different from most other aspiring politicians. They actually have principles and stand by them by representing the party that best reflects those interests. You, on the other hand, railed against Harper's Tory policies and convinced your electorate that you had ethics - something they now know is very far from the truth.

Unfortunately, British Columbians who supported Emerson have no legal way to recall him after this fiasco. But, they've been out there on the streets protesting loudly every single day to have Emerson "de-elected" (true democracy in action) since this happened and they will push Emerson to resign sooner or later.

You'll never have lunch in Ottawa again, Emerson, once your constituents have their way. Not only that, many Tories who object to their dear leader's flip-flop on MPs changing parties mid-stream will also make it difficult for you to perform your duties. You're an outsider and you will fail. In the meantime, your portfolio is threatened at a time when Canada needs a strong international trade presence.

Thankfully, Canada is in yet another minority government situation, so this Tory dominance will be short and fleeting. The left will rise again and Harper and his cronies will be pushed into the history books as an annoying blip on the political radar screen.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Confirmed: UK Accepted US Torture Planes

Via The Independent:

CIA jets suspected of flying terrorist suspects to secret prisons for torture have landed at commercial British airports and received help from UK air traffic control, the authorities have admitted for the first time.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) confirmed that three planes with CIA tail numbers have travelled through Britain "on a number of occasions".

MPs last night seized on the letter as the first formal acknowledgement that British authorities were aware that CIA flights associated with "extraordinary rendition" have travelled through UK airspace.

So much for all of those denials when you said that you didn't help your buddy Bush send people to be tortured, hey Tony Blair?

It said the flights may also have used airspace controlled by the Ministry of Defence. Defence ministers have been criticised for refusing to answer questions put down by Sir Menzies about how often the CIA jets have landed at military air bases. Defence minister Adam Ingram said "the information is not recorded centrally".

That's the British version of RumsfeldSpeak which basically translates into: "F*ck you! It's all the media's fault".

Let's stop calling this practice "extraordinary rendition". They're torture flights. Period. They take helpless suspects overseas to be tortured.

Demand that Rumsfeld resign. Now. Today. Contact your congressperson and get it done. Protest at the Pentagon. Do something! Anything. This barbarism has got to stop. Don't be guilty of complicity by sitting back and doing nothing. You could be the next one sent to who knows where to be "rendered".

Update: According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon was forewarned that perpetrating torture could cause serious problems:

The Navy's former general counsel warned Pentagon officials two years before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that circumventing international agreements on torture and detainees' treatment would invite abuse, according to a published report.

Legal theories granting the president the right to authorize abuse in spite of the Geneva Conventions were unlawful, dangerous and erroneous, Alberto J. Mora advised officials in a secret memo. The 22-page document was obtained by The New Yorker for a story in its Feb. 27 issue.

Be sure to check out The New Yorker story once it's published.

There's more: These torture flights have been criss-crossing Europe using a bogus Canadian call sign.

(Sidebar: Interesting...just after I made this post, I had a visit from a company that monitors "internet risks". Read about Cyveillance's suspicious activities here. Are they monitoring your site too? If so, why? I'd sure like to know.)

This Week's Honourary Canadian Citizenship Award

Welcome to the first installment of liberal catnip's Honourary Canadian Citizenship Award!

This week's winner is American attorney and
buckshot-ridden Harry Whittington
who, as everyone in the world but perhaps some pygmy tribes somewhere in what's left of the rainforests knows by now, was shot by US Vice President Dick "I was so overwhlemed with emotion that my face cracked - once" Cheney.

In a solemn moment of true Canadianness, Whittington actually said he was sorry for what Cheney and his family had gone through as a result of his being mistaken for a quail. (video courtesy of Crooks and Liars)

Apparently, someone at the Chillicothe, Ohio Gazette aspires to be as Canadian as Mr Whittington, opining "Whittington can forgive, why can't we?" (along with stating that he should actually have apologized the day that it happened but "hindsight is 20/20". Yeah and buckshot kills. What's your point? Darn Whittington and his pesky, apology-delaying heart attack!)

Anyway, we Canadians are known for our apologies. We'll say "I'm sorry" for just about anything. When we catch non-Canadians doing the same, therefore, we must embrace them as our own - for a while, at least. It's in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities Freedoms.

This week's award comes with many rights:

1. The right to use "eh?" in as many conversations as possible.
2. The right to wear a toque instead of a hat.
3. The right to eat poutine and like it.
4. The right to demand service in French, even if you don't understand it.
5. The right to stay home every Saturday night and not be embarassed by it.
6. The right to declare that you live in a real constitutional democracy, not one of those wannabes.
7. The right to have a Canadian flag on your backpack. (Offer does not apply in Afghanistan).
8. The right to throw in the letter "u" whenever you feel like it ie. neighbour, humour, colour, labour.
9. The right to say "I'm sorry" as often as you like, whether you truly mean it or not.

Bravo, Mr/Monsieur Whittington, bravo! You've done us proud - not that we're a proud people...I'm sorry.

Stay tuned next Saturday for the next installment of liberal catnip's Honourary Canadian Citizenship Awards ceremony.

Update: Cheney's got a gun and Harry's got a blog.

Thank you, Peter Daou!

I'd like to thank Peter, of Salon's Daou Report, for choosing my humble new site as his Featured Blog today. I'm honoured!

Peter is a great writer who posts and comments on buzz from the left and right-wing each day. If you haven't visited his place, you're missing out.

I'm a former diarist at Daily Kos and former front-pager at Booman Tribune, so I've actually been around the blogosphere for a while now. I finally took the plunge and dove into solo blogging.

Welcome to all readers of the Daou Report. If I knew you were coming, I'd have made a cheesecake! I hope you'll find my blog compelling enough to bookmark. I'm a practical idealist who doesn't pull any punches and I believe in governmental responsibility, transparency and accountability - from all sides.

I've only just begun...

Feel free to leave a comment or two. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 17, 2006

19 Years Clean & Sober

Nineteen years ago today, while I very slowly trudged down the sidewalk on the way to my bank loaded up on Valium - feeling like I was just too damn tired of life to even take another step - I didn't "just say no", I said "f*ck this sh*t!".

I knew that day, as I had known for quite a while, that as a single parent who was stoned 24/7 on whatever was a handy escape from reality I could not provide anything like a decent life for my then 9 year-old daughter. She was troubled - deeply so.

I had no idea what it would take that time to pull myself together enough to admit my powerlessness and to give her the life she deserved, but I knew it was then or never.

It took many, many years to mend my disastrous ways and to rid myself of the guilt I felt for not fully being there for my only child - a child who deserved every ounce of love and support she could gather to make it through this tough world - but I got clean and did what I could. I committed to it and saw it through with a good support system. That system disappeared when I left my abusive ex-husband, so I had to make it on my own for many years, but I survived because of the solid foundation I had made.

My daughter still bears some of those emotional scars even though she has done her best to heal. I've not fully forgiven myself by choosing to believe that I had done the best I could at the time, as some others urged so strongly. But, I do see in her today a tough, discerning and smart woman whose past has made her so determined. She's a great mom and she's provided her children with her wisdom and strength. I'm very proud of her and who she has become. She's a testament to the fact that there's more to life than just surviving. She has thrived.

I'm fortunate to have counselled homeless addicts and alcoholics in my life before I became disabled by illness. Those clients taught me more than they'll ever know. I thank them quietly every day. Some are gone now; some have been clean for a while too; others are still living the hard, hard life that will either claim them or set them free. Only time will tell.

I'll say to you what I said to so many of them: don't give up. Every single day is an opportunity and this moment is really all you have.

As Andy in the movie The Shawshank Redemption said:

"Get busy living, or get busy dying."

It really is that simple. Sometimes, however, it just isn't that easy to do.

Arar's US Rendition Lawsuit Dismissed

Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was secretly "rendered" by so-called US intelligence agents to Syria to be tortured as he had been making his way back home from a vacation, has had his lawsuit against the US government dismissed.

In a ruling yesterday in New York, Judge David Trager said he can't interfere in the case because it's a matter of national security and foreign relations.

"The need for much secrecy can hardly be doubted," Trager wrote in his ruling.

"One need not have much imagination to contemplate the negative effect on our relations with Canada if discovery were to proceed in this case and were it to turn out that certain high Canadian officials had, despite public denials, acquiesced in Arar's removal to Syria."

In Ottawa, Arar called the decision "very disappointing, emotionally very hard to digest.

The judge dismissed the claim because it might implicate Canadian officials? Bullshit.

Let me tell you something Judge Trager (who, watch for it, is probably now on Bush's short list for the next Supreme Court vacancy), if this case happened to expose any complicity by anyone in Canada we'd deal with it and harming relations between our two countries wouldn't even be an issue. That's just a sorry excuse so you don't have to allow discovery to the defense of what Bushco's minions actually did: they sent Mr Arar to be tortured in Syria. We, here in Canada, don't care what nationality those responsible were. We want them brought to justice. End of story.

Mr Arar deserves to know the full truth about his horrendous experience. He deserves his dignity and his full rights to redress this grievance. The US government does not deserve to be protected when it sends people to other countries to be tortured. How much longer does Bush think he can hide under the banner of "national security" to keep his torturous policies private? It's falling down all around him as we speak and will continue to do so as long as he continues to flagrantly violate basic human rights.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the lawsuit on Mr Arar's behalf, will appeal this cowardly decision. Support them and send your thoughts to Mr Arar to help him through this long fight.

He must not be denied. Justice must be served. He and his family have suffered enough.