Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Politically Canuck

According to this CBC story, a prosecutor in Texas is accused of using the word "Canadian" as a racial slur in a 2003 email. The prosecutor wrote in an email, "He overcame a subversively good defense by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."
There were no Canadians on the jury. But there were some African-Americans, and some are claiming the lawyer used the word "Canadian" as a racial slur against them.
The prosecutor defended himself by saying he had been led to believe that were actual Canadians on the jury, suggesting that somehow some Canadian nationals had slipped through the system designed to eliminate non-U.S. citizens as prospective jurors. He also said that other lawyers use the word "Canadians" to describe "liberals."

Monday, January 28, 2008

An Interview with Morgan Spurlock

in the Guardian. this guy bids fair to be as big or bigger than Michael Moore. this time, he's not after Mickey D's, he's after Osama bin Laden.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

These aren't the droids you're looking for

Check out the CBC website for the news... the RCMP have beaten up another Polish man in Greater Vancouver. I heard it on CBC Radio One.
They have issued a public apology. A couple of plainclothes officers found a man at a bus stop in Langley and mistook him for a fugitive. The Polish man doesn't speak English. They thought he was resisting arrest and beat him up.
Between this and the man who died after being tasered at the airport, well, if I were a Polish mother I'd be pinning a little card to my grown son's jacket, and written on it would be:
My name is_____. I do not speak English. I am not resisting arrest. Please phone xxx-xxxx.

935 Lies

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Homes cut off by power firms treble in two years

From The Guardian:

Power companies are cutting off heat and light to more than 176 homes
every week, with evidence that disconnections have trebled in two

Millions of householders have been stretched to breaking point after average annual bills rose above £1,000.

As a result, the number disconnections and power bill debts is spiralling out of control, according to figures published today.

This will only get worse over the next ten years. The Brits are seeing rises of up to 27% a year, putting power and natural gas for heat out of the reach of increasing numbers of citizens. Canada is almost out of natural gas, and what there is is earmarked for the oilsands. Things are going to get ugly.

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Couldn't Put It Better Meself

This from The Tyee:

The tar sands have quickly grown to become the most destructive
project on Earth. Their greenhouse gas emissions are the main reason
Canada's emissions keep rising, the main reason we cannot live up to
international agreements, the main reason we are becoming an
international pariah on the most important issue facing humanity.

By refusing to act aggressively on global warming, Stephen Harper
has ceded the field to the provinces. Some, like B.C. and Quebec have
stepped into this vacuum and given Canadians the action they want. But
Alberta has taken advantage of the vacuum to stomp on the gas pedal,
with exploding emissions from the tar sands being the result.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Going After the Real Power

There is also credible evidence that policies set in Cheney's office
authorized the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody, in violation of
three treaties the United States has ratified, as well as the U.S.
Torture Statute and War Crimes Act. The policies on the treatment of
prisoners emanating from Cheney's office triggered the abuse and
torture, according to Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State
Colin Powell's chief of staff
Yup, Cheny's getting closer to being impeached. An international war crimes trial would be better, but there you go....
There's more here.

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Three From the Guardian

The Myths of Fruit

Fresh fruit is good for us, we believe - so much so that sales of prepared fruit have almost doubled in the UK in the past two years. But are all those ready-sliced apples, mango medleys and 'superfood' smoothies really such a healthy choice? Aida Edemariam investigates

The Farce of Sovereignty

The coalition made
much of bringing democracy to the 'liberated' country by handing the
reins to the Iraqi government. But, as Jonathan Steele relates in this
final extract from his new book, it also ensured that it retained
complete control

Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike a Key Option, NATO told

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try
to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass
destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of
the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Good Kind of Globalization

Serious worldbeat. You really need to watch this.

This really is globalization at its best. Ideas are thrown up, race around the world, and are re-made into something new and exciting before coming home to blow preconceived notions apart. Sometimes the world has to kick your ass.

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It's like a mirror

Sunday, January 20, 2008

So I'm having trouble with this...

Okay, so between two and three men AND women out of ten still can't locate the clitoris with both hands, a flashlight and a road map. WTF? And funny, but it's three in ten women who can't locate it and 2.5 men who can't. But the numbers flip and get worse for questions like "[Is] the clitoris ...directly stimulated by (penis-vagina) intercourse [?]"
It would appear that the educational strides made in the seventies and eighties are being rolled (slowly!) back in the nineties and noughts. This information is available, but just having it available doesn't seem to be getting through to three in ten people. Yes, the talk is difficult to have with your kids--that's why publicly-funded sex education works. Professionals aren't as awkward or embarrassed to have The Talk. It becomes just another math lesson.
I remember attending the sex-ed talk at my elementary school with my Dad. We sat there, not talking, while an educator ran through the basics on sex at the front of the gym (lot of parents/kids there that night). The most memorable image was of the man picking up his suit coat from the back of his chair and saying that "the man's penis slips into the woman's vagina like my arm slips into the sleeve of my jacket." 38 years later, that image is as fresh as the day I heard it. A week or so later, I came home from school to find a paperback sitting on my desk--Answers to Teen's Questions about Sex or some damn thing. I read it cover to cover a couple of times (I was a reader after all). So when I saw the "split beaver" shots a friend had sneaked out of his Dad's collection, there wasn't the overwhelming sense of mystery that there might otherwise have been. More like "Oh, so that's what it looks like."
This sort of thing works. Teen pregnancy goes down, sexual health goes up, and with a little work, people talk about things like "where's the clit anyway?" and "you know, that's really not working for me". I love/hate reading about the studies that show time and again that "abstinence only" sex-ed increases the numbers of teens indulging in oral sex (usually female on male) and anal sex, because neither of those violates the basic premise of preserving virginity. Is that really what you want to have happen? I really want to smack some of these parents upside the head and say "sure you have the right to teach your kid about sex--but if you're going to do it, make sure you do it well! Dumb-ass! Otherwise you're making problems for all of our kids!"
In a world of AIDS and with the increasing failure rate of antibiotics, proper sex education is essential for public health. Better training for teachers so they can communicate better with our kids is the only sensible thing to do. Yes, parents need to talk about it, but they need solid, clear education from professionals to back them up and to fill in the blanks they inadvertently leave. More and better sex education is one of the best things we as a society, a community, can do for our children.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Are you ready?

One of Britain's biggest property funds was forced to shut its doors
to withdrawals yesterday after the slump in commercial prices triggered
panic selling by small investors.

The move prompted fears of a
Northern Rock-style run on billions of pounds invested in once
high-flying funds which many savers have seen as a safe haven for their
This is from the Guardian.
So the US, it is suggested, is already in a recession, the TSX has lost--in three days--all the gains it made in 2007, one investment house in the US has already written down over 25 billion in sub-prime mortgage losses. We all assume that tomorrow will be like yesterday, only more so. But it's not always the case, is it? Regardless of all the talk, I expect us to be visited by one hell of a recession. Figure five years before any real recovery starts and you won't be too far off. Gonna be a mess.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Don't Do Facebook

Just never struck me as a good idea.
Facebook has 59 million users - and 2 million new ones join each week.
But you won't catch Tom Hodgkinson volunteering his personal
information - not now that he knows the politics of the people behind
the social networking site.

I despise Facebook. This enormously successful American business
describes itself as "a social utility that connects you with the people
around you". But hang on. Why on God's earth would I need a computer to
connect with the people around me? Why should my relationships be
mediated through the imagination of a bunch of supergeeks in
California? What was wrong with the pub?

Another article from The Guardian Online.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Popcorn Lung?

Check out this AP report of a guy who's become sick apparently from the artificial butter in microwave popcorn. I wasn't even aware that the factory workers were suffering because of the artificial butter. We have to expect more and more of this from our industrial foods...

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't get me started

Ooops, I already am....
In the most recent issue of Health Affairs: The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere,Ellen Nolte and C.Martin McKee have written an article titled "Measuring the Health of Nations: Updating an Earlier Analysis". The abstract of the article reads:

"We compared trends in deaths considered amenable to health care before age seventy-five between 1997–98 and 2002–03 in the United States and in eighteen other industrialized countries. Such deaths account, on average, for 23 percent of total mortality under age seventy-five among males and 32 percent among females. The decline in amenable mortality in all countries averaged 16 percent over this period. The United States was an outlier, with a decline of only 4 percent. If the United States could reduce amenable mortality to the average rate achieved in the three top-performing countries, there would have been 101,000 fewer deaths per year by the end of the study period."

So one person dies every five minutes in the Amerika because of an unreasoning commitment to a failed health care delivery model.
Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee claims:

"Sometimes we talk about why we're importing so many people in our
workforce," the former Arkansas governor said. "It might be for the
last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would
have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized
abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973

WTF? 101,000 people under age 75 dying every year and Huckabee claims immigration is powered by abortion? And this screaming loon is a credible candidate for president?

Here, we've had the Romanow report (a pdf of which is available here and info about is available here) which encourages an extension of a health care system that is proven to work better than the American model and it can't get traction. And our current government--as well as the Alberta government--wants to move us more towards the American model. [insert Bernie's basic spittle-flying rant about money, empire, and a massive democratic deficit here. Don't forget the links between Brian "Why was my approval rating 13%?" Mulroney and Stephen "Fascism would be so much easier" Harper and the criminality of the "Chicago School" economists.]

As an aside, has anyone else noticed that Bush's approval ratings haven't yet fallen as low as Brian's did before he slunk away to lick his wounds? And of the two, Bush is probably the worse? WTF?

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Plain talk

Found a link to a video billed as the most terrifying video you'll ever see. Hey, I found it like any of dozens of conversations held over the last few years with my friends at Central Ganglion. If you're scared by it, don't come by for dinner and a chat! But this vid is clean, plain talk in an attempt to sidestep bafflegab and hysteria. I like how the narrator cuts to the heart of his idea: the naming of parts.

13 shots?

From The Guardian:

What is the most expensive drink at Starbucks?
A New York software engineer, Billy Chasen, decided to find out when he was given a voucher for a free drink of any variety. A venti white mocha is the priciest on the menu. He asked a barista at a Manhattan branch to squeeze as many extra shots and syrups into the cup as possible. The result? A 13-shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel. The cost was $13.76 (£6.97). His verdict? "It was very sweet and I'm still shaking a bit," he reported on his blog. "I didn't attempt to drink the entire thing, since I'd like to sleep tonight."

More on Starbucks and their current business model.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Yeah, we all knew the modified Fish Cheer, but later, when I heard the song, man I fell in love. It's appalling that it's still relevant.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day 2008

It's always something... Roseanne Roseannadanna

So New Year's Day is overcast, +7C, and there's a bit of wind. So at 10:00am Paula and I hit the Bay--me for a proper (brief!) swim, and Paula up to her waist . This is the second year that I've started the new year like this, and I'd already spent a couple of hours hitting the books planning a four day kayaking trip for May, but Paula (who was out without me last night until all hours of this morning) had only been up for a short while. But regardless, a swim in Cadboro Bay is a heck of a way to remind yourself that this a new year starting.

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In a queer twist of history...

Britian/the United Kingdom doesn't actually have a written constitution. It has instead a "gentleman's agreement" under which Parliament operates. George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian Online, explains how this quirk allowed Blair to go into Iraq with Bush--thus implicating British troops in the largest series of war crimes since the Nazis.

"If you doubt Britain needs a written constitution, listen to the
strangely unbalanced discussion broadcast by the BBC last Friday. The
Today programme asked Lord Guthrie, formerly chief of the defence
staff, and Sir Kevin Tebbit, until recently the senior civil servant at
the Ministry of Defence, if parliament should decide whether or not the
country goes to war. The discussion was a terrifying exposure of the
privileges of unaccountable power. It explained as well as anything I
have heard how Britain became party to a crime that may have killed a
million people.

Guthrie argued that parliamentary approval would
mean intelligence had to be shared with MPs; that the other side could
not be taken by surprise ("do you want to warn the enemy you are going
to do it?"), and that commanders should have "a choice about when to
attack and when not to attack". Tebbit maintained that "no prime
minister would be able to deploy forces without being able to command a
parliamentary majority. In that sense, the executive is already
accountable to parliament". Once the prime minister has his majority,
in other words, MPs become redundant.

full article

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