Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Very Definition of Obscenity

Via Willie Brown at the SFGate:

I went to an unbelievable dinner party at Charlotte and George Shultz's penthouse Monday night for retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, the new secretary of veterans affairs.

The party was a Stanlee Gatti tour de force, complete with fatigue-wearing servers, camouflage table cloths, extras dressed up as snipers and a full Marine color guard and band.

It was like being in Afghanistan.

All this for about a dozen guests. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was there with his wife, Maria Shriver. Gavin Newsom was there with Jennifer, and boy is she showing.

I was seated next to Arnold, and he seemed to be holding up pretty well, considering the nightmare going on up in Sacramento.

The dessert: a chocolate replica of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seal, surrounded with vanilla ice cream and the Golden Gate Bridge in chocolate on each side.

h/t Marisacat

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Abdelrazik is home - finally

Abdelrazik back in Montreal after six years

About 40 supporters carrying signs that read "We did it!" and "Oh Canada! Our home and Abdelrazik's" chanted "Welcome home," as he made his way towards them.

"I'm very glad to be here; I'm very tired," said Abdelrazik, 47, who has been labelled a terrorist by the United States. "Thank you so much for your support. Now I'm here," he said before being led to a vehicle waiting outside the airport to take him on the final leg of his journey - the six-hour drive to Montreal to see his family.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Quote du Jour: The Death of Michael Jackson

Today's quote du jour comes from Michael Lazzaro aka Hunter at Daily Kos:

I can imagine no worse curse to afflict someone, in America, than dying while famous.

And I can imagine no worse use of ridiculous hyperbole than that statement - one that minimizes any American afflicted with the agony of being tortured, maimed, murdered; affected by mental or physical illness, extreme poverty or so many other life circumstances that make the so-called "curse" of "dying while famous" the absolute least of all concerns.

I admit that there's no love lost between me and Michael Jackson. I appreciate his musical genius but stopped being a fan when he morphed (physically and emotionally) from being a cute little black boy to a crotch-grabbing, disco-loving (call it "pop" if you want to - I still found it nauseous), narcissistic, Peter Pan impersonating parody of himself.

Oh - but he was abused as a child - that's why he was so tortured. Well, guess what? So are millions of other people. At least he could afford therapy - a luxury many other sufferers don't have.

And don't get me wrong, I'm all for eccentricities, but when they include speculation (and a privately settled lawsuit) of child abuse on his part, the line from odd to unacceptable has been crossed.

Did he live a tough life? Sure. Could he have helped himself if he'd wanted to? Yes. The truth is that the cult of celebrity that he not only grew up with due to his parents' prodding but that he metamorphosed into an art form of its own with delusions of grandeur that led him to don epaulettes and a crown surely took on a life of its own. But wasn't he really above controlling it to some measurable extent? Was the roller coaster really as inevitable as some would have you believe? And how much does society demand those delusions that snowball so often into tragedy?

Some people online question if it's not too soon to "bash" the superstar. I'd respond that discussing the truth about his life is far more valuable for society than eulogizing him (as Lazarro did) as the ultimate tragic figure. When we do that, we minimize the suffering of those who have few or no options - unlike Jackson.

His death was certainly sudden and shocking but let's not dress up his life as he dressed himself - cloaked in images of royalty, pomp, and mega-importance. To do so only enables the blind star worship that elevates those who are famous as being more human than the rest of us.

As Bill Maher said of Barack Obama recently, "He's...not your boyfriend".

Neither was Michael Jackson.

And, for the record, I wasn't a big Elvis fan either. Make of that what you will.

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

- Henry David Thoreau

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Fun: The Don Newman DVD Box Set

  Courtesy of The Rick Mercer Report

Your brooooaadcasts will be missed, Mr Newman!

Quote du Jour: Crazy stories

From Thursday's Hansard:

Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government scrapped the national child care agreement. It scrapped the court challenges program. It scrapped the Kelowna accord. It made cuts to women's advocacy and literacy. It bargained away women's rights to pay equity. It took meaningful equality out of the mandate of Status of Women Canada and continued to defy international commitments. That does not sound like a government that stands up for the rights of women.

When are we going to see any real commitment from the government for the women of Canada?

Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC):

Mr. Speaker, it does not matter how many times the member makes up crazy stories, they are not believed by women across the country.

This quote brought to you by The Department of Irony.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Breaking: Abdelrazik is Coming Home

In response to a query by Lib MP Irwin Cotler during Thursday's Question Period about the fate of Abousfian Abdelrazik following the recent court decision that confirmed his constitutional rights have been violated by the government, so-called Conservative justice minister Rob Nicholson stated simply:

"The government will comply with the court order."

It's about damn time.

They only act when their backs are against the proverbial legal wall.

The message is clear: Don't leave Canada if you ever want to see your family and friends here again because your government has no interest in protecting your rights unless it's forced to by the courts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iris Evans Cures Mental Illnesses

I kid you not:

"The huge failure of Canadians is not to educate the children properly, and then why should we be surprised when they have mental illnesses or commit dreadful crimes?" she said.

This is why Easterners think Albertans are just a bunch of dumb hicks. (Not that we don't have our fair share of those here...)

Seriously, this woman is a trained nurse. And she's a former provincial minister of Health and Wellness. I kid you not (once again). Let's hope she never worked on a mental health ward. The stoopid. It hurts.

No wonder mental health services are so poor in this province. She probably thought that handing out flash cards with multiplication tables would automagically fix patients who needed help. On the other hand, she was too fucking cheap to even manage to do that.

And don't even get me started on this crap:

To raise children "properly" one parent should stay at home while the other goes to work, Alberta's finance minister suggested Wednesday.

In a tangent at the end of a speech on Alberta's economy to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, Iris Evans spoke about the importance of teaching kids about finances and how those lessons can be empowering.

After struggling with finances as a mother herself, Evans said, she made it her mission to teach her own children about money. Now, as adults with their own families, her kids have topped up RRSPs, live in good houses and have good savings, Evans said.

She also said good parenting means sacrificing some income to stay at home while kids are young, as her children have done.

"They've understood perfectly well that when you're raising children, you don't both go off to work and leave them for somebody else to raise," Evans said. "This is not a statement against daycare. It's a statement about their belief in the importance of raising children properly."

Iris Evans: Canada's Dr Laura. (And just as self-righteously annoying.)


Evans apologizes (but still stands by her cure for mental illnesses, apparently.)

No election - No surprise

Following the news today that Iggy has decided to commute the pending death penalty of Steve's government, BQ leader Gilles Duceppe was quick to say of Ignatieff that "he choked" and that "he looked in the mirror and saw Stephane Dion".

No doubt.

Not to be outdone in the department of flourishing rhetoric, Steve told that country via a press conference that if the Liberals decided to try to bring down his government in the fall, there would be "dangerous results for the country". Really, Steve? Do tell...

I guess if we have a fall election, the terrorists win. Or something.

Jack Layton, who missed the house shenanigans to spend time with his newly born granddaughter and whose recent poll numbers showed a bleak outcome for an election any time soon for his party anyway, was interviewed by Don Newman and stated the obvious: the fact that the new Lib/Con coalition (as Gilles called it) has decided to strike a committee to study EI reform this summer has just pushed any real changes for real people off into the sunset (my words, not his). We all know what happens when dreaded committees are sent off to study anything.

In my humble opinion, Ignatieff has blown it for his party. The latest numbers in Quebec and Ontario favoured a positive outcome for the Liberals. And with talk of this recession starting to possibly turn around by the end of this year, the Cons can coast through once again having by then picked up more support as the results of their stimulus package begin to kick in. (They surely have nothing to show in that department right now).

And, speaking of stimuli, she who should have been fired last week got the chance to try to rehab her reputation by announcing $1 billion for the pulp and paper industry today. Long overdue and an obvious move by the Cons to deflect that as a possible election issue had the campaigning actually begun at the end of this week.

When Ignatieff was anointed as party leader in May, he declared that the Liberals would release their policy agenda/platform in June. Where is it?

These guys are so quick to assert that "Canadians don't want an election right now" but, guess what? We're going to have to put up with months and months of their annoying partisan ads anyway, so what difference does it make? And when do Canadians ever really want an election?

Smoke and mirrors.

Ignatieff pretends he's The Uniter while leaving too many Canadians high and dry. I thought it was quite telling earlier this week when I saw him interviewed and he kept on using the word "I". "I" haven't decided if "I" will vote confidence in this government on Friday, etc. To use a well-worn cliché: there's no "I" in team. And there certainly isn't one in "party" either. The man is a self-centered ass.

This is what Ignatieff held the government to in January, 2009:

Text of the proposed Liberal amendment to the government's budget motion:

That the motion be amended by changing the period to a comma and adding the following:

"on condition that the government table reports in Parliament no later than five sitting days before the last allotted day in each of the supply periods ending March 26, 2009, June 23, 2009, and Dec. 10, 2009,

(a) to provide ongoing economic and fiscal updates;

(b) to detail the actual implementation of the budget;

(c) to itemize the actual effects of the budget with respect to the protection of the most vulnerable in Canadian society, the minimizing of existing job losses, the creation of the employment opportunities of tomorrow, the provision of economic stimulus in a manner fair to all regions of Canada, and the assurance that the government's deficit is not a burden to future generations or a detriment to economic recovery and finally;

(d) to provide details on any adjustments or new measures as may be required to benefit the Canadian economy."

Have the Cons held up their end of the deal?


So, why is Steve really being given a free pass?

Is it because there's no majority in site for Iggy? That he's not ready? That he really thinks he can cozy up to Steve and make things right for Canadians by doing so? Based on what, exactly?

He obviously needs to get out more if he thinks his new buddy isn't beyond stabbing him in the back whenever he gets the chance. But Ignatieff has chosen to play the lead role in Saving Stephen Harper - a performance that desperate Canadians won't be applauding any time soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Raitt Apologizes

Choking back tears, Lisa Raitt called a press conference to finally apologize for her incredibly insensitive use of the word "sexy" to describe the medical isotope crisis - citing as proof of her new-found sincerity the plight of her father and a brother who had been afflicted with cancer.

Too little. Too late.

Her display of defensive defiance during Tuesday's Question Period and accusations of "conspiracy theories" against opposition members who dared to challenge her showed that her first instinct was to protect her job - a stark contrast to today's public act of contrition. (Last week, she cried sexism when confronted by an NDP MP's question over the secret nuclear documents she had left at CTV.)

So the public is left to decide: who is the real Lisa Raitt?

I think they've already made that determination and that this PR effort to rehab her image will be seen as what she was accused of in the first place: more crass political opportunism. Crocodile tears.

Meanwhile, and on a more important front, what has she actually done to manage this isotope crisis besides trying to save her hide? That is the question.


CBC has Raitt's statement.

CTV has the video.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Baird Behaving Badly

Yes, I realize that behaving badly is John "Bully" Baird's natural state, but here's the fallout from his latest outburst:

Federal Transportation Minister John Baird apologized to Toronto Mayor David Miller this morning after Baird greeted the city's application for streetcar cash with a profane "f... off."


The request for money to buy 204 new streetcars — the city applied under Ottawa's $4 billion economic stimulus fund — was shot down yesterday by Baird who was in Whistler B.C.

In an unguarded moment, Baird told aides that Toronto stood alone in not meeting the technical criteria for federal cash, yet was complaining about Ottawa dragging its feet.

"Twenty-seven hundred people got it right. They didn't. That is not a partnership and they're bitching at us," he said.

Then Baird said: "They should f--- off."

Daddy Steve, who loves having absolute control over all of his ministers and Con party MPs, must be pulling his helmet hair out. It's been a very unruly day.


Baird covered up for beleaguered Lisa Raitt: NDP

Raitt on Tape

In the vast realm of what can be defined as having sex appeal, the topic of a radioactive isotopes crisis doesn't even make a faint blip on the radar screen - unless you're a self-serving, spotlight-seeking politician:

Roll the audiotape:

Ms. MacDonnell said the isotope issue is hard to control, "because it’s confusing to a lot of people."

"But it’s sexy," says Ms. Raitt. "Radioactive leaks. Cancer."

"Nuclear contamination," says Ms. MacDonnell.

"But it’s only about money," says Ms. Raitt.

An "unfortunate choice of wording" said PM spokespuppet Kory Teneycke this morning. "I don't think anybody would use a word like that to describe it in public. This was a private conversation," he continued.

No, Kory, nobody would use that word in public because it shows callous disregard for cancer patients and others who were suddenly faced with extended waiting periods for diagnostic medical tests as a result of the isotope shortage.

And nobody, Mr Teneycke, would dare say in public that "it's only about money" because they know that their fake, feigned, public displays of so-called compassion would then be seen for exactly what they were: shallow political opportunism.

On January 27, 2009, 3 days before this taped conversation, Lisa Raitt exclaimed publicly, "The health and safety of Canadians is always at the foremost of our concern," she said.

Now we know what a huge lie that was.


Baird covered up for beleaguered Lisa Raitt: NDP

Small hospitals to run out of isotopes this week

Friday, June 05, 2009

Can I get an amen?

Jeremy Scahill on Bill Moyers' Journal:

BILL MOYERS: Do you get discouraged writing about corruption that never gets cured?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I don't believe that it necessarily doesn't get cured. I think that I'm very heartened by the fact that we have a very vibrant independent media landscape that's developing right now. You know, to me, I once put on the tagline of an article that I wrote early on in the Obama administration that I pledge to be the same journalist under Barack Obama that I was under President Bush. And the reason I felt that it was necessary to say that is that I feel like we have a sort of blue-state-Fox culture in the media. Where people are willing to go above and beyond the call of partisan politics to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. This is a man- it's time to take off the Obama t-shirts. This is a man who's in charge of the most powerful country on earth. The media in this country, we have an obligation to treat him the way we treated Bush in terms of being critical of him. And, yet, I feel like many Democrats have had their spines surgically removed these days, as have a lot of journalists. The fact is that this man is governing over a policy that is killing a tremendous number of civilians.

You can add so-called progressive bloggers to that list of people who are more than willing to provide cover for Obama when he doesn't deserve it.

Searching for the truth is a lifelong task.

You can watch the interview and read the transcript here.

Quote du Jour: It's the Palestinians' Fault

Obama in Germany:

The Palestinians have to get serious about creating the security environment that is required for Israel to feel confident.

The oppressed must make the oppressors feel at ease.

Isn’t that kind of like saying if those slaves hadn’t been so uppity, things would have been a lot easier for everybody? Or if only black South Africans hadn't been so aggressive, they wouldn't have suffered so much under apartheid?

Think I'm being too tough on Obama? Check back here in a couple of years when we'll see exactly how much "progress" has been made in the so-called Middle East peace process, especially regarding the human rights violations the Palestinians will still be dealing with, and then we'll talk.


The Angry Arab - Obama Speech: Part Vapid and Part Sinister

UN hearings to be held on Gaza war crimes

Alexander Cockburn - Obama in Cairo: High Words, Low Truths

Robert Fisk - Words that could heal wounds of centuries

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama and "the Muslim world"

For weeks, the press has been previewing "Obama's speech to the Muslim world". Where is that world, exactly?

I've checked maps and even a small globe - nope - no "Muslim world".

Maybe it's somewhere near the Christian world, the Hindu world, the Buddhist world or the Jewish world because I couldn't find any of those either.

If Obama's speech was meant to reach the largest number of Muslims in one country, self-admittedly he should have stayed home.

In an interview with Laura Haim on Canal Plus, a French television station, Mr. Obama noted that the United States also could be considered as “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.”

Hmmm...according to the CIA Factbook there are fewer Muslims in the US than Buddhists - a whopping 0.6%. (The state department begs to differ.)

And did you know that "only 15% of Muslims are Arab"?

So, why is Obama in Egypt reaching out to "the Muslim world" again?

And while he's doing that is it too much to ask that he actually tell the truth?

Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.

America is very much "the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire" and until Obama grasps that fact, what's the point of trying to convince anybody else of his intentions?

It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Says the man for whom the Afghanistan war has now become a war of choice in which the Pentagon always immediately and steadfastly denies the killing of civilians yet is forced to admit the truth when it can no longer be covered up. The latest example: US military admits errors in air strikes that killed scores of Afghan civilians.

That's scores.

140 dead civilians.

Now, what was it Obama just said about cowardice? And exactly how does he expect to win the hearts and minds of Afghans and the so-called "Muslim world" again?

And after providing the same old lip service to the long-dead Middle East "road map" (does he really think Netanyahu will ever concede anything?), continuing on with the things he must talk about while he's over there, he played these word games:

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

Now, what kind of response can a realist have to that rhetoric beyond a simple "get real"?

Shorter Obama:

1. No nation can say who should have nuclear weapons.
2. The US says nobody should have nuclear weapons.
3. Iran must comply with the NNPT. India, Israel, and Pakistan (which already have nuclear weapons)? Not so much. (And raise your hand if you really believe the US will ever get rid of its nukes...)

Ergo, if I lived in the elusive "Muslim world", I'd be more than a bit skeptical when it's quite obvious that words still trump deeds in Middle Eastern affairs and how they're still being dealt with by the US government.

Lastly, I don't think I need to detail the obvious contradictions in this bit of flourish compared to Obama's record since he became president. (For those who remain clueless, simply read the writings of Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges, Glen Ford, Tom Englehardt, Andy Worthington and so many others if you're ready to give up this kind of adolescent girl-like fawning over Obama.)

No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

"True democracy" - has it ever existed in the United States according to that definition?

Stay tuned next week when Obama addresses the "Christian world" about violence against abortion providers and whoever else they might have their (gun) sights set on.

Or not.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No sex (ed) please! We're Albertans

Isn't it fun having fear included in a human rights code?

Alberta legislators passed legislation early Tuesday that will give parents the option of pulling their children out of class when lessons on sex, religion or sexual orientation are being taught. [I don't know if that wording is intentional or perhaps a Freudian slip - considering parents can now block their children from learning about pulling out if it makes them too squeamish. -catnip]


A clause in the bill, which is an amendment to the province's human rights legislation, requires that school boards give parents written notice when controversial topics are going to be covered in the curriculum. Parents can then ask for their child to be excluded from the discussion.

And let's not forget: wingnuts don't get "irony" -

The parental rights clause is included in a bill intended to enshrine gay rights in Alberta's human rights code.


Issues: Still waiting on the last 95 recommendations

Would You Slap Your Father? If So, You’re a Liberal

Should Raitt lose her job?

Yes. Not only because she is responsible for leaving secret government documents about Canada's nuclear policies at CTV's offices (the buck is supposed to stop with her - not an "aide") but because of the information contained in those papers that she has been covering up:

The documents reveal Ottawa has poured far more money into the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor than the public has been told.


In documents headlined "Background for discussion with chair of Atomic Energy Canada," the government lists funding for the Crown corporation at $351 million for 2009-2010. That figure was in the January budget.

However, it also lists $72 million to "maintain the option of isotope production." The public 2009 budget does not specifically mention funding for isotopes.

The documents also include a hand-written note that lists total funding for Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. since 2006 at $1.7 billion, and then a talking-point memo to characterize the spending as "cleaning up a Liberal mess."


Publicly, Ottawa has downplayed Ontario's interest in the sale of AECL's Candu division. But included in the binder is background information for a May 25 meeting with Glenna Carr, who chairs the board of directors for AECL: "The government continues to support AECL's bid in Ontario, but the announcement will probably raise questions about this support. We will have to manage this very carefully."

Other documents highlight cost increases for AECL that have not been made public. In one document headlined "Discussion with CEO Hugh MacDiarmid, CEO of Atomic Energy Canada," it lists $100 million in supplementary funding to keep it solvent.

That figure includes cost increases to refurbishing Ontario's Bruce Power reactors and cost-overruns at Candu reactors around the world, according to the documents.

And in papers headlined "Minister Raitt's Discussion with Ontario Minister of Energy George Smitherman," it appears that AECL is far behind schedule on refurbishing two of the Bruce reactors: "Bruce 1 reactor 324 days late," and "Bruce 2 reactor 433 days late."

Sidebar: Good thing the docs were left in a CTV office. If they'd been discovered at the CBC, the Cons would be claiming this affair was some sort of left-wing conspiracy to bring the government down and to expose Canada's nuclear secrets to terrorists (or something equally as stupid).

And, in other leaky nuclear news, US government posts sensitive list of nuclear sites online. Reaction from the gov't: nothing to see here...no big deal... but, of course, it was immediately removed from the site where it had been posted to make sure there was nothing to see there.


Raitt, who was acting supine and contrite during Question Period while continually repeating her prepared talking points (I offered my resignation; the aide resigned; move along now) actually cried sexism in response to a question by the NDP's Thomas Mulcair. Whoa there, Lisa. Don't even try to pull that canard. Feeling that desperate, are you?