Saturday, March 8, 2008

America’s History of War in 2 Minutes



Here’s another one of those intriguing little map thingees, this time visually illustrating the various wars America has been involved in around the world since its inception up to the present as initiated by: 1) the Founding Fathers; 2) the Democrats; and 3) the Republicans.

“I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.” – John McCain

Empires of the Middle East



A quick visual summary of the major empires that have come and gone through the Middle East from the ancient Egyptians up to the present.

Ho, ho, ho...



Have fun digging!

Afghan Massacre – The Convoy of Death



Here’s a little tale about our Afghan “allies” that for some curious reason went entirely unreported by the media here.

Produced and directed by Irish filmmaker and former BBC producer Jamie Doran, the film tells the story of thousands of prisoners who surrendered to the Northern Alliance after the siege of Kunduz. According to the film, some three thousand of the prisoners were forced into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks for transport to Sheberghan prison. When the prisoners began shouting for air, U.S.-allied Afghan soldiers fired directly into the truck, killing many of them. The rest suffered through an appalling road trip lasting up to four days, so thirsty they clawed at the skin of their fellow prisoners as they licked perspiration and even drank blood from open wounds.

Witnesses say that when the trucks arrived and soldiers opened the containers, most of the people inside were dead. They also say US Special Forces re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried. Now, up to three thousand bodies lie buried in a mass grave.

The Office Values: Episode 2 (“Realising Potential”)

Why We Fight: Part 2

Clearification: Episode 5 (Nature/Naturalness)



“I wonder if any lumberjacks eat small breakfasts… because there seems to be an expectation for large breakfasts if you’re in that line of work.”

Friday, March 7, 2008

Yawn...



Sorry, but unlike some, I’m just not terribly keen to engage in the whole hand-wringing, emotional soul-searching and melodramatic Weltschmerzing that seems to be going on in certain circles about the current travails of the Liberal Party.

Given I haven’t been anticipating an election until the fall in any case, my sense of frustration certainly doesn’t match that of those who are eager to pull down the government at the first available opportunity on whatever pretext. After all, what would the objective of such a move be? Years of poll results would suggest another defeat in the offing, the only question being the order of magnitude. Um, and that would be useful… how, exactly?

Does anyone in their right mind seriously think that the Liberals could conceivably win at this point in time? Even if Team Dion somehow or other managed to eek out a minority… Nah, it’s not going to happen, so there’s no point speculating about how many weeks or possibly months that would last. I suppose you could say that another leadership contest might be a positive consequence of a losing outcome, but maybe not. Does the party really need more acrimony and division? On the downside of course, it could well provide Harper with a majority government until 2012 — something it’s safe to say that most “progressives” agree would be an absolute disaster.

Having said all that, it would be less than truthful to say that my party of choice hasn’t been a groan-inducing disappointment over the last year or so; what with its uninspiring leader, disturbing lack of policies, maddening penchant for spineless waffling, and most significantly, a curious inability to clearly articulate its own core values let alone credibly define an exciting or compelling new vision for Canada. Well, you can’t have everything, I guess.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think the Harper government has been all that monstrously awful. Far from the sky falling, for the most part they’ve governed from the middle of the road, and have carefully avoided steering too far to the right. In many respects, their governance has been indistinguishable from that of past Liberal governments. This naturally suggests the allegation made by the NDP that there’s no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Rubbish. Even though they can be hard to spot at times, there are very real differences between the two parties. Just because the Conservatives are pretending to be moderate centrists for the time being, this certainly doesn’t reflect their true sentiments or ideology. It’s only by virtue of finding themselves stuck in a minority position and their acute awareness that “scary” demonstrations of right-wing extremism would quickly lose them any realistic opportunity of attaining the majority they so desperately covet, that forces them to continue pandering to what Andrew Coyne derisively calls “the mushy middle” (i.e., traditional Liberal territory).

Although the Liberals’ performance in opposition has been immensely disappointing, I would argue that they don’t actually have to be terribly effective because their very existence as a credible government-in-waiting (a status the NDP has yet to achieve, I’m afraid) alone acts as a limiting effect on the Conservatives for as long as they’re in a minority position. Basically, Harper and the Conservatives aren’t going to upset the apple-cart unless it’s to their advantage to do so. In the meantime, so as not to alienate much-needed moderate voters, they’ll continue to hold their tongues and constrain their more socially conservative or ideologically extreme impulses for as long as they have to. And so it goes, as Linda Ellerbee used to say.

So, for the time being, colour me indifferent. The political dynamic isn’t a terribly happy one for any of the parties, certainly far less so for some than for others, and yes, it does get a little frustrating... now and again somewhat dispiriting even. I really can’t see the point in despairing utterly about it however, or getting furiously outraged into a tizzy at the supposed “failings” of the Liberals in view of the pragmatic realities of the situation. Neither of those reactions appear to serve much purpose if you ask me… which of course you didn’t.

Sienfeld-Superman: Episode 2

Snow in Toronto



In advance of the latest winter snow storm being forecast to wallop southern Ontario with a vengeance today and tomorrow (possibly the worst of the season), and the inevitable whining that will follow from a certain person

Oh, by the way, we’re expecting light rain here today, followed by sun and “variable clouds” with a high of 10C tomorrow. I’m sure there are daffodils sprouting as I write this… Bah, ha, ha, ha.

Clearification: Episode 4 (Demetri-The Subject)



In which our protagonist begins “Advancement Therapy”…

Do schools kill creativity?



In this brisk TED lecture, education reformer Sir Ken Robinson makes a compelling and highly amusing case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. With ample anecdotes and witty asides, Robinson points out the many ways our schools fail to recognize — much less cultivate — the talents of many brilliant people. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says.

Robinson feels that Western education is geared at training workers for the defunct industrial revolution instead of training young people to think critically.

“I’m sure people listening to this have had these experiences, being pushed away from doing certain things like art or music, because there is a belief that these things aren’t very useful for getting a job.”

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sienfeld-Superman: Episode 1



Part of an excellent series of online ads that were done years ago for American Express promoting their “Protection Plan” insurance. I remember trying to watch these when they first came out with my crappy computer and my lousy dial-up connection… ugh, it was a painful experience. Seems like eons ago.

Back to the Future?



Meet the Peel microcars! And you thought Minis were small... They must have seemed like a luxury sedan compared to these dinky cars. And who knew they made autos on the Isle of Mann in the 60s. Good example of evolution, I guess.

Why We Fight: Part 1 (“Prelude to War”)



Frank Capra’s classic propaganda film made for the Department of War’s Information Office (yes, it was really called that in the pre-Orwellian days of yore) at the outset of WWII for viewing by the military so they would have some grasp, albeit rather simplistic, of the ideological underpinnings of the conflict and, as the title suggests, the values they were fighting for. Imagine! What a quaint concept.

Clearification: Episode 3 (Electric Brain)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Shame! (Updated)



Following are the names of the Liberal MPs who voted with the government in favour of Bill C-484, the pathetic Trojan Horse, anti-choice legislation otherwise known as the Unborn Victims of Crime Act . Also included is a list of the spineless weasels (the alleged “leader” amongst them) who were conveniently absent from the vote. Neither the Liberals nor the NDP bothered to whip their votes.

Voting For: Raymond Bonin; Gord Brown; John Cannis; Hon. Raymond Chan; Hon. Roy Cullen; Sukh Dhaliwal; Hon. Albina Guarnieri; Hon. Charles Hubbard; Hon. Jim Karygiannis Derek Lee; Hon. Lawrence MacAulay; Hon. Gurbax Malhi; Hon. John McKay; Hon. Joe McGuire; Hon. Dan McTeague; Hon. Shawn Murphy; Massimo Pacetti; Francis Scarpaleggia; Hon. Raymond Simard; Lloyd St. Amand; Paul Steckle; Paul Szabo; Hon. Robert Thibault; Alan Tonks; Roger Valley; Tom Wappel; Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Absent: St├ęphane Dion; Bryon Wilfert; Joe Volpe; Scott Simms; Nancy Karetak-Lindell; Hon. Mark Eyking; Ujjal Dosanjh; Denis Coderre; Brenda Chamberlain; Gerry Byrne.

Way to score points with your base Mr. Dion! Bad move… very bad move.

To quote Garth Turner:

“Since an unborn child is not currently recognized as being distinct from the woman carrying it under current law, then this bill would change that, and open up abortion for legitimate review.”

The bill will do absolutely nothing whatsoever to prevent or minimize the egregious sorts of violent crimes it purports to address. In that respect, it’s utterly meaningless. Its sole purpose is deeply cynical and transparently obvious: to advance by stealth the cause of Christian fundamentalists and other “pro-life” (anti-abortion) advocates.

Update: BCL advises that this was misreported by the Globe & Mail the other day as being second-reading of the bill, whereas, in fact, it’s just the FIRST reading. I’m still disappointed in the way this vote was handled by the Liberals, but it does put matters in a somewhat different perspective. A terse rebuke is still in order for those who voted in support of this deeply flawed private member’s bill or who were conveniently MIA. You know where to find their contact info.

Update2: Now (also via BCL and better-informed commenters) it’s learned that the first vote is on the second reading, so the Globe was right after all. Whatever. My disappointment stands.

McBush Campaign Kicks Off



Yeah! Four more years...

I really like this new ad from AmericansUnited. A great way to handle Grandpa Munster. By the way, did you see the presser this afternoon? Stunning. Bush was really at his bumptious finest. “Let me start off by saying that in 2000 I said, vote for me, I’m an agent of change. In 2004, I said, I’m not interested in change — I want to continue as President. Every candidate has got to say “change.” That’s what the American people expect.” McCain could barely get a word in edgewise.

When asked where he he could best be employed to help the McCain campaign, after a bit of harebrained dissembling, Bush reminded reporters of his so-called day job: “I’m focusin’ on, ya know, protectin’ America. And succeeding in Iraq, and dealin’ with the North Korean. And dealin’ with the Iranian…”

At the end, when a heckler shouted a question about whether McCain would hold regular press conferences, Bush made a snippy remark about the rudeness of “some member of the fourth estate,” at which point the two turned tail and headed back indoors. Not an auspicious beginning.

Anonymous Message To Ralph Nader



Notwithstanding the above, seems Nader has some support.

The folks at Onegoodmove have the clip of him on TDS yesterday.

Shock Video: Vineyard Rufty!

Clearification: Episode 2 (Welcome to the I.A.P.)

The Office Values: Episode 1



A unique “training” video prepared for Microsoft U.K., featuring Rick Gervais and David Merchant in personae from the original U.K version of “The Office” series. Gervais is painfully hilarious as the David Brent character, now apparently graduated from Slough branch manager of Wernham Hogg (paper merchants) into a “management consultant” and disastrous motivational speaker, shamelessly angling to become the Managing Director of Microsoft. The last several minutes consists entirely of outtakes with the two actors uncontrollably cracking up.

Mechanischer Bush



It’s in German, but don’t let that put you off. It’s pretty funny.

By the way, just a note about today’s “Daily Snark” clip. I put it there so it wouldn’t get picked up by the Liblogs aggregator. It’s NOT “work safe” as they say. So… you’ve been warned.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

St. McCain: Over the Top

Clearification: Episode 1 (A Rare Condition)



A quirky little film apparently made for Windows Vista (go figure) by comedian Demetri Martin who does the “Trendspotting” bits (also called “Professional Important News”) on The Daily Show.

Jimmy Carr: Prank Classified Ads



Tempting...

Here’s one: “Incurable romantic seeks filthy whore.” Heh.

Songs of Praise (With Subtitles)



Translations of popular hymns for the hard of hearing, by the hard of hearing.

No News



If only...

Interference... Or Just Stupidity?



More here. Now playing internationally!

Bill Moyers Journal: Sarah Chayes



What an amazing woman. This really is an absolute must see. Straight talk about Afghanistan from someone who knows what she’s talking about. Some of what she has to say might possibly surprise you.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Alberta Election Prediction: Zzzzzzzzz!



Same old, same old... Nothing much will change. Nobody cares. End of story.

Update: What a blowout. A much better result for the PCs than I’d expected. Not quite the “change” Kevin Taft had in mind, I’m sure. Heh. Time to get a new leader and maybe even a new name…

Update2: Poor Dan. Must be disappointing. By the way, the turnout was a woeful 41%. See, I told ya... apathy always wins out in Alberta.

Dona Cadman’s Story



Sure… why not? Sounds about as believable as anything else concerning this shabby affair.

We have a winner!



Oh, and gee, look who it is… (I do so like being right — sometimes, at least.)

Congrats Annie! Nice work.

Meanwhile, inside the PMO...



Stephen Harper and his top legal adviser plot how best to diffuse troublesome allegations swirling around the “Cadman Affair”…

Disclaimer: The foregoing is not intended as an accurate representation of Stephen Harper, Richard Dearden, the Prime Minister’s Office or any other government body. Any reference to the so-called “Cadman Affair” (or “CadScam”) is made with due notation that it may or may not be a pack of specious lies retailed by the widow and daughter of a deceased politician who may or may not have been addlepated by medication during the terminal stages of cancer, or it may or may not be part of an effort to promote an upcoming biography of the aforementioned deceased politician.

Your Inner Soundtrack



Here’s an amusing “what if” kind of idea…

President Medvedev… Get Used to It



Why on earth are so many bobbleheads in the mainstream media claiming that his name is practically impossible for them to pronounce? Good grief, is this how witless these spokesbots have become? And at the same time we’re supposed accept their declaration that the Russian election was a fraud and “undemocratic”… Yeah, quite unlike the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq… and, for that matter, America! Give us a friggin break.

Buried lede bonus: “Russia, which has long competed with other powers for influence in Afghanistan, is seeking a greater role in economic projects there…”

Francis Bacon



If you have the interest and/or patience to wade through this dinky but curiously charming old LWT film, it provides some quite intriguing insights into what might be referred to as Bacon’s “insouciant habituations” and his rather petulant, bitchy disposition (quite amusing to see him get progressively drunk at some points — now there’s something you wouldn’t see these days.) His cheerful embrace of a paradoxically optimistic nihilism is also revealed here (although he’s half in the tank when he does so…) If nothing else, you’ve gotta love the intro with the Webber/Paganini Variation…

The Oldest Story in the World?



Seems to make sense to me, but maybe I’m missing something... (This is from the last presidential campaign, by the way... four long years ago.)

Patrick Ross: Caped Crusader! (Updated)



How interesting

“This isn’t about playing nice with people who won't play by the same rules — it’s about forcing them to, whether they like it or not.

We’ve already revealed a few of them. And if others don’t clean up their act, more will follow.”


Well goody then. I’m sure we’ll soon be seeing the full identities of many right-wing bloggers such as “Joanne” at “Blue Like You” and Fred over at “Gay and Right,” along with “Canadian Sentinel,” and the infamous “Neo” at the “Halls of Macademia,” not to mention a whole pile of others revealed for all to see and publicly scrutinize for whatever purpose seen to be fit, right?

Update: Well, here’s a brilliant new twist for you… In his latest attempt to feebly justify his wild overreaction, Mike Brock now contends that is was the fact that Beemer was using a “work computer” and posting from his place of employment that made him fair game for attempting to ruin his career. Apparently, that’s the “the nuance that everyone is missing.” Um, yeah. Whatever. Bad enough that he shifted the goalposts of his argument by suggesting there was a “contract” involved and, not only that, but an “implied contract” (just to vaguely fuzzify things a bit more), and then obfuscate about the way his new blog software handles “anonymous” comments so… you know… they’re not really anonymous and no sensible person in their right might should have ever taken his plain offer to comment anonymously at face value. And blah, blah, blah…

Also, while visiting Mr. Ross’ Toilet of Assholery, it’s learned that mentioning the act of fellatio is apparently somehow “homophobic” in nature. Way to miss the point by a few million light years. No, the vulgar allegation suggested by Beemer was clearly and quite obviously one of sycophancy; an expression that has long been associated with “sucking dick” because of the inherently submissive connotations common to both acts. Are these people really so profoundly ignorant as to not realize this simple relationship?

Number (1)

Queerer Than We Suppose



Speaking of Wilde’s proposition... Here’s a lecture from the wonderful TED conferences, by Richard Dawkins on “The strangeness of science,” in which he suggests that the true nature of the universe eludes us, because the human mind evolved only to understand the “middle-sized” world we can observe. As an unabashed admirer of David Hume, this is a concept that I find remarkably appealing.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

About That “Civility” Thingee…



From the very same bunch of people who routinely wring their hands in despair and moan so plaintively about the awful “name-calling” and the woeful lack of “civility” in our political discourse these days (blaming it all on the wickedly immoral, “potty mouth” moonbats of the “leftosphere” of course)... Just for fun, here’s a sampling of comments from a mere couple of threads over at Mike Brock’s blog. You know, the same fellow who thought it perfectly justifiable to publicly humiliate someone, destroy his reputation and ruin his career because he got so indignantly outraged about that person figuratively suggesting that he continuously fellates the Dear Leader.

Compiled from remarks made by his “conservative” commenters in the past day or so, herewith are some of the edifying descriptions of “liberals” (or as his fans often prefer to call them, “Leftards” or “Leftbots”) as well as others (hello, Moderates!) who don’t tow the party line:

Hateful; angry; offensive; hypocritical; bullshitters; asswipes; disgusting; stupid; morons; filthy; idiots; demented; wackos; racists; scummy; vicious; trolls; smug; juvenile; cowards; infantile; inarticulate; arrogant; homophobic, homoerotic; intellectually retarded; puss-filled; smear artists; perverts; vile; drooling sycophants; troglodytes; &etc.

I could go on... Doubtless one could mine through the comments of Mr. Brock for many more examples of such high-minded discourse. I must say, it’s more than a little funny how rather selective his sense of outrage and sanctimonious decency is.

This weekend reminded me in a very pointed way of what’s so nasty and off-putting about political blogging. It really does bring out the very worst instincts in some people.

Oscar Wilde is reputed to have said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Who knows... maybe at the heart of that pithy little epigram resides the critical difference between the Left and the Right.

Why Religion Sucks: Part LXVIII



Pastor John Hagee, the rotund, right-wing, Pentecostal televangelist, founder of Cornerstone Church, and JHM Ministries, who endorses John McCain, and who predicts in his book “Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World” that Russian and Arab armies will invade Israel and be destroyed by God. Israel will then be the site of a battle between China and the West which will be led by the Anti-Christ in his role as the head of the European Union, but then Jesus will return and… as if you haven’t already guessed… Win! Hallelujah!

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that we’re living in a world gone mad.

Why Religion Sucks: Part LXVII



And now… a message from the Wesboro Baptist Church.

Tales from the Service Economy: Pooper Scoopers



Worried about the impending financial tailspin? Err, wait… I mean “recession”… or should that be an “economic slowdown”? Well, whatever. That whole creeping rust-belt syndrome that’s hollowing out our manufacturing sector thanks to skyrocketing oil prices, tanking of the sub-prime housing market, the sinking dollar, the offshoring of jobs to the third-world and burgeoning communist superpowers like China… You know, all that scary stuff that Lou Dobbs incessantly rattles on about.

Well, stop your needless fretting unskilled worker bees, because there are plenty of jobs in the new “service economy”! No, not engineering, computer programming or complex stuff like that requiring education in science and the maths… I mean like the latest new growth industry in the amazing “World of the Future” service sector — cleaning up the turds left behind by the pets of busy-on-the-go professionals of our brilliant “asset class” who don’t have time to bother with pesky details like cleaning up their own dogshit.

Strange Bedfellows



Stop the presses! Hell has frozen over and rural Saskatchewan has been inundated with flying pigs. In other news, Kate McMillan agrees with Ted Kennedy! Yes, when it comes to wind farms, they both think that they’re an eyesore. Somehow related to this selfish NIMBY observation is a story about a recent temporary “electrical emergency” in Texas that was triggered by a drop in wind power generation combined with peak usage related to cold weather. Apparently, this is part of Kate’s ongoing campaign to deride and mock the notion of alternative energy sources at every opportunity. If a turbine fails during a torrential storm somewhere around the world, you can bet SDA will be on the case (with exciting video footage!) suggesting they’re infeasible.

Quite frankly, I find this reactionary attitude, not only with regards to dealing in any constructive sort of way with the effects of climate change, but towards dismissing any fossil fuel alternatives as viable potential solutions, to be quite puzzling. Does the fact that no less a corporate icon, arch-conservative and oil magnate than T. Boone Pickens is building the world’s largest wind farm not perhaps give folks like Kate pause for thought to consider that perhaps they’re backing the wrong horses when it comes to our long-term energy future…?

Real Time: 02/29/08 - Part 1 & 2 (Monologue & Cuban “Election” Results)





Good show with a great panel this week by the way: Harry Shearer, Shashi Tharoor, and Christopher Hitchens. Some interesting discussion about the election, religious belief (surprise!) and Obama’s unique appeal. Apparently, Hitchens is finding himself “a little queer for Obama” which I thought was fairly amusing.