Wednesday, October 31, 2007

If a pumpkin was US democracy... would look like this:

Save the pumpkin, save the world.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Flaherty's Mini-Budget

Poor People Suck.

Let's face it. It's time for Conservatives to be honest and come right out and say it. In fact, I think the Conservative party should just use that as their next campaign slogan.

And let me say this right off the bat too about Flaherty's neon green tie: Call the fashion police. there's been a violation. (And no, I don't care if some kid picked it out for him. It's still butt-ugly.)

Alrighty then, moving onto the business at hand - Flaherty gave what was supposed to be his "fall economic statement" today. What it turned out to be was a) a mini-budget and b) electioneering.

If you're too poor to pay income taxes (like me), here's your little gift: a 1% reduction in the GST on stuff you can't afford to buy in the first place but have to so you can survive. Big whoop.

If you're a big profitable corporation, you got a tax break too (albeit much, much more than the heathens - of course.)

If you're an average Joe or Jane, you got a mini-break. That'll get you a few extra apples at the grocery store.

If you're the Bloc or the NDP, you're voting against this nonsense when it's brought up in the Ways and Means committee this week.

If you're Stephane Dion of the Liberals, you're speaking against it (except for the corporate tax cuts) but you're not ready for an election because your party is wrapped up in internal scandals, so you're going to do a lot of bloviating about it but you'll still vote for it in the end.

If you're a voter, you won't be going to the polls for a federal election this year.

If you're the Conservatives, you just played another game of chicken with the Liberals and won.

If you want to look at the details, check out the Dept of Finance's site.

News related to the Poor People Suck Conservative philosophy: Alberta premier Stelmach vows to "eradicate homelessness" in 10 years. What could possibly be wrong with that, you ask?

1) Quick. Name one big city or Canadian province that's eradicated homelessness - especially one run governed by Conservatives. That's right - it's.not.gonna.happen.

2) 10 years? Like Liberal MLA Dave Taylor said in response to this announcement (paraphrasing): "We already know how to build houses. It shouldn't take 10 years to do that." And the kicker? This proposed "secretariat" won't even be formed til next spring and the government's not sure what powers it will have yet. That lost time counts against your "10 year" timeline, Eddie. I'll be doing the countdown (from whatever overpriced rental I'm living in because the waiting list for low-income housing in Calgary is always at least 2500+ people long and buying is absolutely out of the question.)

Let's get real here. My province and the feds have more than enough money to really help the poor. The fact is that they simply don't want to. They still believe in Reagan's trickle down economics. Apparently, none of them care that's there's been a drought down here in Povertyville for a helluva long time.

Who's the scariest?

According to a new poll, 37% of respondents think Hillary is the scariest presidential candidate - as far as Halloween costumes go.

Okay, I can see that.

But if they'd had Guiliani in drag as one of the choices, I'm pretty sure he would have won hands down.

Exhibit A:

Imagine opening your front door to that! AHHHHHH!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: The Economy of Fear

It was just a quick news blurb on CNN this past Friday morning: following Thursday's announcement by the former head of Chevron's public policy committee, Condi Rice, of tougher US sanctions against Iran - the freezing of bank assets and the delegation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity, the price of oil had risen to a 30-something year high of $92/barrel.

There's no doubt that Rice is an intelligent woman but when you add manipulation and a staunch right-wing ideological bent to that equation, as we've seen for years now, the sum is dangerous. And while conservatives and Republicans say they won't raise your taxes, they always find a way to make you pay in the end. Rising oil prices = increased taxes for the government. Rising oil prices = increased transportation costs = higher food and goods prices. Rising oil prices = increased heating costs. Pretty simple. Taxed to death by stealth while the top wage earners and biggest corporations get the tax cuts and business booms for the military-industrial complex. An ever increasing debt - well, you get the picture. And while Bush claims that the economy is supposedly doing "great", the average Joe and Jane sure aren't feeling it. Quite the scam they have going.

Anyway, back to Condi. When she appeared before the House Foreign Affairs committee last week, they really should have handed out bibs for all of the drooling that went on about the fact that she was actually there. One starstruck/dumbstruck congressperson was quite amazed that, having seen her on his teevee a couple of days prior in another country, she was there - right in front of him! I guess he's never heard of "airplanes".

As one who hasn't put much stock in all of these news reports about how Condi is on the outs with Cheney over his warmongering against Iran - that she acts as some sort of balance to keep him from going over the edge - I listened carefully to her answer to one question: what did she think of his "escalating rhetoric". Now, being the diplomat she is (that's where her intelligence comes in very handy - she's a master of blathering on without saying much of anything, obviously in love with her ideas and the sound of her own voice), she craftily said nothing against Cheney. She did say, however, exactly what I've thought all along: that she believes in "diplomacy with teeth". In other words, she and Cheney play good cop/bad cop to get what they want and she serves as a glorified messenger girl - delivering Cheney's "teeth" with a faux smile wherever she goes. This is important: she's obviously very much on side with Cheney's plans for Iran.

The White House has obviously gotten the opposite message out in an attempt to pretend that Condi is doing what a US secretary of state is supposed to do ie. encouraging intelligent discourse as opposed to bombing the hell out of a country. They've carefully constructed the illusion that Condi has reformed since her Iraq/smoking gun/mushroom cloud talking point days. There's still smoke coming from her these days though: smoke and mirrors. The only thing that's changed is her job title.

Let's take a look at a bit of a reality check from the IAEA's Mohammed ElBaradei about what's going on in Iran. (Rice didn't mention the IAEA once in her testimony this past week that I recall. No need to wonder why.)

Via the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Sunday he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating rhetoric from the U.S. could bring disaster.

"We have information that there has been maybe some studies about possible weaponization," said Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads the International Atomic Energy Agency. "That's why we have said that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks."

"But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran this month of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program. She said there is no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the IAEA about its intentions.
ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran's alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said he would welcome seeing it.

"I'm very much concerned about confrontation, building confrontation, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and inspection," he said.

"My fear is that if we continue to escalate from both sides that we will end up into a precipice, we will end up into an abyss. As I said, the Middle East is in a total mess, to say the least. And we cannot add fuel to the fire," ElBaradei added.

Meanwhile, Condi makes the slide into that abyss - Bush's WW3 - sound like a Sunday afternoon picnic at grandma's. They're on top of it. No big deal. Enjoy the popcorn. As an added bonus, all of this abyss talk excites those folks who anxiously await the rapture ie. Bush's base. They're pretty disillusioned with him and his party right now since they didn't get Roe v Wade reversed or a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. They need something to make them get out to the polls in '08, as do the wealthy industrialists and the big guns in the oil patch.

Ordinary Americans have already been screwed over six ways from Sunday and, since they haven't started a revolution in the streets to take down the government yet (when both major parties are being absolutely useless), what's another war? I don't even know what "American values" are anymore. Sitting around and watching the tube while your country is being destroyed before your very eyes? That's all I can come up with. As for so-called concerned congresspeople, I can count those on less than ten toes and the Pelosi "impeachment is off the table" caucus is a disgrace to democracy - unless you believe that democratic principles consist of running away and hiding whenever the nasty Republicans call you "weak on terror".

It's been predicted that $100/barrel oil might be a psychological breaking point. Really? It inches ever closer to that mark with every threat Cheney/Rice/Bush make towards Iran and I'm not seeing any inkling of panic on the streets yet. I imagine, when that news blurb comes, the majority of Americans will just once again grit their teeth and put up with it. I guess that's what happens when you don't live in an open democracy anymore. You just give up. For a while, at least.


Target Iran part 1
Yet More Condi Rice Diplomacy
Condi Rice, Imperial Cheerleader
Iran Adapts to Economic Pressure - Oil Market Could Help It Weather U.S. Sanctions (ah...the irony)

Update: This is encouraging but what will the follow up look like? Thousands in US anti-war protests

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stelmach's Oil Royalties Compromise

Here's how the Conservative party/government operates in Alberta. They set up panels, committees and traveling road shows to pretend to care about the opinions of the voters peasants and then they go ahead and do what they planned to in the first place, despite the input.

So, it comes as no surprise that "Steady Eddie" Stelmach, who had set up his own panel to study royalty revenues from the oilpatch, announced today that, contrary to what his experts advised, he's going to ask for half a billion dollars less than what they recommended. Who cares if Albertans have been ripped off for years now?

Broken down, the government forecast additional royalties in 2010 to be as follows:

* $470 million more for natural gas -- about $270 million less than recommended by the expert panel;
* $460 million more on conventional oil -- about $4 million more than called for by the royalty report;
* $470 million more for oil sands -- nearly $200 million less than recommended by the panel.

The expected $1.4-billion increase in royalties would hike Alberta's total 2010 royalty take to about $8.6 billion from $7.2 billion.

The oil lobby had been extremely vocal and threatening prior to this announcement stating that various companies might "have" to pull out of the province. In other words, if they couldn't continue raking in the megabucks on the backs of all Albertans, they'd take their toys and go home - to the US, to China or wherever they came from in the first place. Let's face it, can anyone in their right mind in this financial climate with oil at $90/barrel and projected to be at $70/barrel in 2008 expect the rest of us to believe that they'd actually suffer if they had to fork over more royalties? Poor them.

In the meantime, because of the oil boom in Alberta, our cost of living has skyrocketed and the influx of people looking for and finding work here has overstretched our (already underfunded) infrastructure. So, who's really suffering here? It's definitely not the oil patch.

And, just as an added perspective of exactly what this government thinks about "governing" in this province, it doesn't get much clearer than this, does it?

Meanwhile, Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, who was at the premier's press conference in Calgary, declined to comment on the report. Taft said it was "undemocratic" to freeze the opposition out of the technical and media briefing, which didn't give his party advance time to review the plan.

"We need time to study it, and will get back as soon as we can."

Albertans who keep electing these Conservatives, especially after the mess Ralph Klein perpetrated on our province, really need to get their heads out of their ideological bubbles. They, along with the rest of us, have been complaining for decades about people issues like the state of our health care services (why do Albertans still pay health care premiums??), the cuts to education, the inattentiveness to the needs of the poor, the refusal to actually listen to anyone but the sound of their own voices, the backwards attitudes towards civil rights etc etc etc. Yet those Conservative voters just can't bring themselves to kick the useless, arrogant bums out of power.

I've often said that, rewriting another popular saying, 1000 monkeys in a room with calculators could manage Alberta's economy just as well as these Conservative governments do. And they might even do a better job of it - especially during times like this when oil money is flooding the province.

So, I don't have any tears to shed for these oil companies and the fact that Steady Eddie caved to their whining shows that he's just as spineless and beholden to that lobby as Klein was.

I'll post more analysis of today's announcement as it comes in. From what I've heard so far, those who expected Stelmach to follow the advice of his panel are disappointed.


CBC's roundup of Alberta oil royalties news, background and reactions (includes video of Stelmach's press conference)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Video: Maher Arar

Maher Arar speaks about his experience:

Last week, some US legislators apologized to Maher Arar for his kidnapping and rendition. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Hawkish Asshole), who didn't even know that Arar had a family apparently, (that's how much he gives a damn) called it a "mistake" - a "serious error" - while at the same time defending the hardass tactics that the US uses because, after all, there are SCARY TERRORISTS out there everywhere.

You can watch that exchange here:

Rohrabacher should have gotten a big dose of STFU.

On Wednesday, when she went to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Condi Rice was confronted by a Code Pink protester who repeatedly called her a "war criminal" (video) as security "escorted" (ie. manhandled) a couple of other protesters out of the room. Ms War Criminal admitted during the hearing that Arar's case wasn't handled properly. Nice diplomatic words meaning that they fucked up severely but she would not apologize.

"We have told the Canadian government we do not think this was handled particularly well … and we will try to do better in the future," Rice said while testifying before the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee.

Do you get the sense she's talking about a man who was traumatized by torture at the US's behest? No. Neither do I. They'll "try to do better"? What a huge insult. They have no intention of "doing better". They're just sorry they got caught.

The ever gracious Arar was thankful for the committee's attention to his case but this isn't over yet. Arar is still on the US no-fly list and has a court case pending in the US that had previously been rejected on the grounds of "national security" - that handy catch all phrase that provides cover for everything illegal the Bush administration and its cronies have perpetrated.

When comedian George Carlin was interviewed by Keith Olbermann on Tuesday nite, he said of the US, "this country is finished" (video). I agree.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flux - Good news/Bad news

Good news: I'm moving on Nov 15th to a place where I'll have more privacy, a friendlier atmosphere and a bit more space. Trying to find a place for a sick lady and her 2 cats to live has been a huge challenge. If you're in good health, count your blessings - seriously.

Bad news: This will be my second move this year and I'm tired and sore, so I just want to get settled. It's also a bit more expensive because the market is crazy here due to the oil boom but I'll manage.

Good news: I have very little to pack since most of my stuff is still in boxes from the last move.

Good news: Shaw will have deemed me worthy eventually to have half a minute's worth of internet time to actually post this.

Bad news: Their customer service SUCKS. These connection problems have been going on for months and they still don't know what the hell is wrong (and at least now we know the neighbours are affected too so it's not specific to this house.)

Good news: I'm outta here Nov 15th and they don't have connection problems at the new place. I.can't.wait.

Bad news: One of my cats (the 16 yr old) is having incontinence problems. She's always been healthy so this is a big concern. I have to take her to the vet's which is an additional expense, especially when I have moving costs of top of that, so I'm accepting donations via Paypal to help out with the vet costs. Hopefully it's just something that can be cured with antibiotics. I would absolutely hate to lose her if it's something worse than that (like diabetes) since I've had her since she was a baby. I'll post an update when I find out what's wrong. Poor thing.

Good news: The cats will be much more relaxed at the new place where they'll have more space.

Bad news: I'm really behind on keeping current with the news.

Good news: I haven't missed Bush's blithering blathering.

Bad news: Cold weather sucks (but you already knew that unless you're one of those wintery outdoorsy type freaks.)

Good news: I'll be selling some books after I move - rare, first editions, autographed, old etc, I'd start that before I move but they're still packed because I didn't have enough room to take them out here. Stay tuned.

Bad news: Still pretty sick and in lots of pain. (What else is new??) Did I mention that cold weather sucks?

Good news: Life is lived just one day at a time, which makes it bearable.

Good news: I have some great, much-needed support and I'm actually using it. (I'm pretty damn stubborn.)

Good news: Things could be SO much worse. My heart goes out to everyone going through tough times. Hang in there.

Iffy news: I'll actually get this posted sometime within the next couple of days! (It's Monday nite now.)

Update: It's now Tuesday nite and I've been without access for about 30 hours. Grrrrr...can't WAIT to move.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

October 17th: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

But hey, it's not like there are actually any really poor people in North America or, if they do exist:

...(as we saw in Katrina) today's so-called poor, with their dependent/entitlement/victim mentality, are a threat to national security.

This coming from a so-called "Catholic" woman who lived on government disability benefits for 4 years for one of the illnesses I have: lupus. Ah but she's different, you see. If she was "poor" then, it's because she had a legitimate illness/reason which, according to her, no one else who's poor really does. On top of that:

In one of the most compelling essays in the book, she describes the frustration she felt while waiting for her first disability interview at a Family Benefits office in Toronto. “I hated that office,” she writes. “And as ashamed as I am to admit it, most of all I hated the shabby, beaten-down clients.... When my interview was over, I hoped for a sudden deus ex machina, a lightning-flash vision that would reveal, through my tears, Christ in the faces of the frozen, unblinking clients I was leaving behind. But instead of God’s voice, the only sound was the scratchy bellow of another client’s name being mispronounced over the loudspeaker.”

Now, I'm sure I don't need to get into a deep theological or psychological discussion here about how those clients were mirror images of herself - thus reflecting her own shame about being poor, sick and needy- but when someone like Shaidle (and she is hardly alone) rides with that self-hatred to the point where she can't even admit that poor people exist (and I urge you to read that first linked post to get into the mind of that right-wing "Christian" who would make Jesus* cringe), it's not hard to understand why there is still so much poverty on a global scale because the first step to eradicating it is for people to actually care about the poor. You won't do that if you're busy hating them and yourself while standing on your mile-high pulpit of self-righteousness. No wonder we're hardly getting anywhere.

Anyway, for more information about the significance of this day, visit the official UN site. You can also review the UN's Millennium Development Goals for the eradication of poverty and a September, 2007 update here.

For information about what's going on in my neck of the woods - Calgary, check out the Poverty Reduction Coalition.

Poverty is about a lack of opportunities and viable choices. That can change and we can all help - even those of us who are currently poor as well.

* If "Jesus" existed


Wars in Africa wipe out aid gains
Make Poverty History (Canada)
(UK) PM 'abandoned' child poverty pledge
Keep tax cuts, end 'disgrace' of poverty, union rally tells Harper
3 million expected to ‘Stand Up, Speak Out’ against poverty (Philippines)
More than one in 10 Aussies 'in poverty'
Father of microloans sees end to poverty
'1.3bn People Live Below Poverty Line'
Other bloggers writing about this day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's Throne Speech Day

Oh how exciting! Or at least it would be if we didn't already know exactly what this minority Conservative government had in store for we, the peons:

- more war in Afghanistan (this new "panel" is nothing but a sorry joke)
- the new & improved Canadian version of the war on drugs (how's that working for the yanks, by the way? Just say no to that idea.)
- "prudent" fiscal management (which means funding social programs as minimally as possible and/or gutting/cutting more of them while ensuring more tax cuts for corporations with a few pennies thrown out to the masses ie. "middle class" just to keep them and the National Post editorial board happy/deluded. (The media Cons are also pushing private health care. Give it a rest already. You want private health care? Move to the states.)
- no shades of Kyoto (of course).

You know the drill. They're Conservatives. They're predictable. zzzzzzzzzzzz

Meanwhile, the Globe & Mail's inside source says there will be "no poison pill" ie. something for the opposition parties to use to bring the government down. And why would there be? Harper's obviously enjoying being the Dear Leader.

Sources said Tuesday night's speech will be divided into five themes: sovereignty, the economy, the federation, criminal justice and the environment.

"federation" - codeword for trying to smack Saskatchewan premier Calvert upside the head for his recently filed lawsuit against the feds for messing with their equalization promises (which Gary Lunn labeled as being "nuts"). Also handy for jabbing the BQ - those anti-federalists. And a little shot to Newfoundland/Labrador's premier Danny Williams whom I'm sure Harper et al would just love to gag considering he's got a mouth and he likes to use it - against them. Unruly Conservatives should be seen and not heard. That's Harper's 11th commandment.

As for the possible backlash:

Speaking on background, several MPs said the notion of voting in favour of the Throne Speech has been ruled out. That leaves three options: voting against it in large numbers and defeating the government, voting against it in small numbers – with the rest abstaining – to avoid an election or abstaining en masse. The NDP is pressing Liberal MPs not to abstain, and some Liberals expressed strong discomfort with the idea Monday. Two MPs in relatively safe Liberal ridings said they would rather go the polls now than abstain.

In other words, nobody really knows what the hell is going to happen, but the Liberal party is in such disarray that it would be begging for major problems if its actions spurred an early election. At this point, it can't secure a majority and a re-election of a Conservative minority would just give Harper new moxy because he already believes that the opposition should just fall in line and shut up when it comes to his "mandate" (he loves that word - just like Bush).

So, basically: same shit, different day and it looks like we're stuck with the Cons for a little while longer.

Alrighty then, now that I've pumped up the show for you all that's left is for you to watch it. CPAC is carrying it live online with their coverage starting at 6pm ET. The actual speech (pomp & ceremony) begins at 6:30. (Apparently, Canadians are supposed to enjoy this new dinner hour time slot. Personally, I'll wait til it's done to actually eat my supper because I suspect it will be rather nausea-inducing which may result in my having to visit a throne of my own in the end.)

Related: Liberals in no hurry to call snap election
Income tax cuts among Conservative promises
CBC has some of the pre-speech leak details.

Stay tuned for the post-throne analysis.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today is Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day From the Blog Action Day site:
On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

Spread the word.

What's there to write about "the environment" as an issue that hasn't already been written?

Your unique perspective.

Here's mine.

Over the past several years, I've developed an odd fondness for ants - those busy little insects that get bad press for invading people's picnics and causing general mayhem in suburbia. Let me tell you how it started.

When I lived out in the country a few years ago, I'd often sit on my front step during the summer to enjoy the broad prairie view and the little flower garden I'd planted in the front of my cabin. It was then that I noticed the ants who'd congregated in that space.

As a former city slicker, my first instinct was to get rid of them - only knowing their reputation as tiny supposed weapons of mass destruction. But, as I spent more time just watching their daily activities, I discovered a new found respect for those little annoyances (as I had previously thought them to be) and found a certain meditative quality in just enjoying the oversight of their many travels and food gathering efforts around my sidewalk and garden.

Around the same time I had read a book about Buddhist monks in Thailand (if I recall correctly) who were involved in building a new monastery with the help of some westerners. The site they had chosen, as they were all soon to discover, posed one small problem. Once the ground was broken, the monks discovered a plethora of worms which, of course, they could not kill according to their belief in the sanctity of every living creature. So they decided, to the amazement of the westerners, to move the worms to a new location. Obviously, that was going to be a huge task. In the end, because of the enormity of such an undertaking and the construction delays it would cause, the decision was finally made to find a better location for the monastery - leaving the worms to their original home and satisfying all involved.

That attention to something so seemingly insignificant moved me.

I suppose if you could interview of a few of the ants I had the chance to oversee today, they'd say they remember this human as one who was a little too eager to be "helpful" ie. trying to rescue them after it rained by poking too many holes in their hills to free them from their freshly covered underground bunkers; attempting to hasten their food delivery efforts by pushing whatever they'd found to feast on just a bit closer to their doorways, leaving them confused in the process; opening vent holes after they'd already begun their fall hibernation. Not exactly the brightest spot in their daily lives at times. But I hope, if they were capable of thinking such a thing, that they would have seen me as a friend - not a foe - a creature concerned about their well-being while trying to give something back to them for the hours of serenity they had given me.

Fast forward a few years to life back in the city in a rental property where the owner is not one of those enlightened or appreciative of the presence of ants on his back patio and imagine my horror when the hills came under chemical attack at his hand. I had already spent my time with them, once again rescuing them after the rains (wiser about being more gentle this time around) and had found them to be a great distraction from the city's noise, pollution and general busyness around me. A welcome bit of nature in a harsh world.

When I told Chemical Landlord that I liked the ants, he said they were a nuisance for him because their underground activity caused his patio blocks to shift . Once again, I found yet another reason to admire them. Imagine the power of such a small, dedicated community that their work could actually move large pieces of concrete. Being a political junkie who had witnessed the crumbling of democratic principles perpetrated by the Bush administration and other right-wing authoritarians around the world, what struck me was the power a well-organized, cohesive and focused movement could have against our own huge blocks of human concrete - the stumbling blocks towards true progress and peace.

When there is little hope to be found and when hope has become overrated in these times, crushed by powers that seem invincible while being made a mockery of by those who have given themselves unprecedented authority over all of our actions, I was able to see at least a glimmer of what might be if the much vaunted idea of communal power could be harnessed. I say this while unfortunately observing that the massive amount of dedication and just plain caring needed to move those blocks in America just doesn't exist on the scale of what those ants could teach us if we really chose to emulate them.

So when I think about "the environment", although I'm as concerned as the next person about the large issues we need to tackle together and do what I can to take it easy on the planet, what I choose to take away from my relationship with the small environment that surrounds me is an appreciation for what others might tend to miss and what I ignored for too long: the power of small things that can have a huge impact on how I view how I live, the lessons I can learn from the habits and interactions of the tiniest creatures and how I can apply them to actually make a difference.

Our environment includes everything that surrounds us and we have a lot to learn from it if we choose to watch, listen and think. It is a reciprocal relationship. All we need to do is to appreciate how deep that goes, draw some inspiration and use that experience to save it - and us. And, when we do that, the attention realized by the give and take moves beyond simple actions like recycling cans, using less fuel and turning off the lights to something more profound and real: the realization that our environment has the answers. All we need to do is be mindful and act on what it is teaching us at all levels in our lives.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Torture Hasn't Ended

I'm on a bit of a hiatus. Might be back this weekend.

In the meantime, as the New York Times reported on Thursday, the Bush administration has been torturing people without apology or a sense of conscience - justifying the extreme procedures via secret legal memos whose existence have just been revealed and which two senate committee chairs are now asking for from a non-responsive White House.

Watch the Homeland Security torture spokesperson Fran Townsend in action as she attempts to deny the torture while justifying the need for it:

And about that claim that the US isn't using those secret CIA prisons anymore? Another lie.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tainted Blood Scandal Verdict: Not Guilty

An Ontario judge has acquitted those charged with criminal negligence in the first criminal trial in the tainted blood scandal (background).

The defendants include Dr. Roger Perrault, former national medical director of the Canadian Red Cross Society and two former Health Canada officials, Dr. John Furesz and Dr. Donald Boucher. The product's maker, U.S.-based Armour Pharmaceutical Co., and one of its former vice-presidents Michael Rodell are also on trial.

The victims who expected any sort of closure as a result of this trial have suffered yet another defeat.

In a press conference following the announcement of the verdict, an obviously angry John Plater of the Canadian Hemophilia Society said they'll take time to study the 60 page decision to determine what will happen next. I expect there will be an appeal.

Update:: The Globe & Mail has more on the verdict.

Plater took the most offense to this portion of the judgment:

“There was no conduct that showed wanton and reckless disregard,” Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto said in delivering her verdict.

“There was no marked departure from the standard of a reasonable person. On the contrary, the conduct examined in detail for over one-and-a-half years confirms reasonable, responsible and professional actions and responses during a difficult time.”

Perrault will also stand trial in Hamilton this year "where he faces several charges stemming from allegations that the Red Cross and senior officials failed to take adequate measures to screen donors."