Sunday, July 6, 2008

We’ve Moved: RT v.3.0

Babel Construction

The new Wordpress site is up and running now, so please drop by and visit.

Don’t forget to update your bookmarks.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Red Tory v.3.0 On the Way…


There won’t be any posts over the weekend as I’m moving over to Wordpress.

I haven’t been altogether happy with Blogger for quite some time and the recent problems with Haloscan (that I can’t figure out how to uninstall) have finally given me the impetus needed to make the switch. It may be for the better, or not… I guess we’ll see.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fireworks at Mt. Rushmore

Fireworks lit up the sky over the South Dakota landmark last night, kicking off a weekend of activities.

Fun With Torts: Misappropriation of Personality

Actionable Tort!

To clear up some apparent confusion amongst his readers, amateur sleuth and partisan muckraker Steve Janke says, “I happen to know, but I didn’t realize that it was not common knowledge, so I’ll explain” (Come on people, aren’t you all experts in tort law?) and then goes on to define the expression thusly: “Misappropriation of personality refers to taking someone’s image and using it for financial gain. So if sold widgets, and tried to boost sales by putting Bono’s face on the packaging, I could be subjected to a lawsuit for misappropriation of personality for having used Bono’s picture without permission.”

So, one has to ask the obvious question: When you take the picture of a rival political leader and utilize it in a prominent fashion as part of an advertising campaign attempting to scare voters away from that leader’s party and implicitly encouraging them through your negative, deceitful, and utterly fraudulent fear mongering to join or contribute to yours (thereby constituting a de facto financial gain for your party, one way or the other), how is that not a “Misappropriation of Personality”?

Cleveland's Next Top Model

Never before seen audition tapes!

I’m sure some people might find this offensive. Women, quite possibly. People who live in Cleveland, most definitely. So, in advance, sorry ladies and Clevelanders (is that the right term?)… but I couldn’t help laughing at this.

Links With Your Java


I’m kind of swamped with work today, so I’m going to try something a little different and go all Glenn Reynolds here for a little bit, with a series of quick hits in the same post that will be updated periodically as the day goes on. The title by the way is a shameless rip-off from Onegoodmove’s daily “Links With Your Coffee” feature. Maybe you can think of something better…

More legal troubles for the Libs as paper cup wholesaler Jennifer Wright “is moving closer to a full-blown lawsuit” over use of the generic name “Green Shift”… So should we deduce from this that her lawsuit is still just half-baked at the moment? I wonder if she’s found a pro-bono trademark lawyer yet.

The Tories come up with a new angle on the “in-and-out” campaign fund laundering scheme, claiming that Elections Canada changed the rules on them, citing as “proof” the fact that the handbook for candidates was updated a year after the election. Elections Canada says this was simply to account for provisions in the new Accountability Act. Apparently, this cockamamie argument makes sense to the Conservatives — sounds desperate to me.

The Telegraph publishes a world map showing which areas are most likely to be vulnerable to climate change — it could be a metaphor for cruel irony. Canada is shown to be “best to escape climate change.” Expect the usual suspects to say incredibly dumb things.

Editorials from papers across Canada weigh in on Morgentaler’s appointment to the Order of Canada with the tiresome complaint that it was unfortunately “divisive” — you know, as opposed to being innocuous and largely irrelevant is usually the case. Some silly people seem to think these fatuous opinions actually mean something. David Graham calls Rev. Lucien Larre’s returning of the Order “the height of arrogance.” Indeed.

What a great way to spend $3 million! Absent any way of conceivably blaming past Liberal governments for this egregious waste of money, expect to hear stunning silence from “fiscally conservative” Tory bloggers.

Well whattaya know, Ezra Levant was right (yes, it does happen; broken clocks and all that). His nemesis Mohamed Elmasry is, in fact, a stunningly clueless, blithering idiot.

TDTUC: The Way We Are (Part 1)

The Day the Universe Changed (TDTUC) is a British documentary television series produced by and starring science historian James Burke, originally broadcast in 1985. A companion book of the same title, also written by Burke, was published the same year, presenting the same general premise of the television series in expanded detail (highly recommended, btw).

The series’ primary focus is on the effect of advances in science and technology on western philosophy. The title comes from the philosophical idea that the universe essentially only exists as you perceive it; therefore, if you change your perception of the universe, you have changed the universe itself.

To illustrate this idea, much as he did in his previous series Connections, Burke tells the various stories tracing the development of important scientific discoveries and technological advances and how they fundamentally altered how western civilization perceives the world. The series runs in roughly chronological order, from around the beginning of the Middle Ages to the present.

Who Wrote the Bible? (Part 1)

This 2004 Channel 4 documentary about the Bible opens with images of George Bush – and Osama Bin Laden. The Bible, holy books and the religious faith they inspire are on the news agenda as they’ve rarely been before, and the presenter of the program, British theologian and Oxford lecturer Dr. Robert Beckford, is looking for good answers to what sounds like a simple question: Who wrote the Bible?

Happy Independence Day!

Surrender at Yorktown

To all my American friends, all the best for a very happy July 4th holiday!

The following is from an editorial in today’s Bangor Daily News and after that, an interview from a while back between Bill Moyers and Harvey J. Kaye, author of the book Thomas Paine and the Promise of America. By the way, I had wanted to run the last episodes of that excellent PBS series “Liberty” but unfortunately, they no longer seem to be available online. Anyway, cheers.
(Have a Sam Adams for me, eh?)

Two-hundred thirty-two years ago, representatives in the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and adopted their Declaration of Independence. It expressed frustration and anger with the policies of Great Britain and its king. It argued eloquently for the fundamental, universal rights of those who are governed. It emphatically conveyed the determination of the colonies to be free and independent states. Below is an excerpt from the document the Fourth of July holiday is about:

When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes, and accordingly all Experience hath shown, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Liberty: The American Revolution (Episode 4)

“Oh Fatal Ambition” 1777-1778

The “united” states remain in dire need of funds and military support. Congress dispatches Benjamin Franklin to France in hopes of creating an alliance which will provide both. Meanwhile, a British army marches down the Hudson River trying to cut off New England from the other colonies. After failing to link up with another army under Gen. Howe marching north up the Hudson, the British under Sir John Burgoyne are crushed by Americans at Saratoga, thereby prompting the French to enter the conflict on the American side.

The Most “Beautiful” City in Canada? (Poll)

Canada’s Most Beautiful Cities

In Quebec City today to celebrate the city’s founding at the arrival of Samuel de Champlain 400 years ago, Stephen Harper declared it Canada’s “most beautiful.” Perhaps he’s correct, although many surveys have suggested that Vancouver holds this title. So what do you think?

Not sure what’s up with the spacing on this Buzzflash poll, but it doesn’t seem very co-operative when it comes to modifying it. Oh well.

Update: That awful spacing was driving me bonkers (anal, what can I say?) so I’ve hived it off to the sidebar.

Thoughts on the Existence of God

We are unable to find such a god,
because a creator of the universe
must exist outside of it.
We would have to leave the universe
to find its creator.

So, if we do find a god in our universe,
that is surely not its creator.

Kind of a weighty subject for a Thursday afternoon.

I neither the time nor the patience to get into it with this sadly deluded fellow, although Lore Weaver (“The Atheist Conservative”) is making a valiant effort to knock some sense into the unfortunate Mr. Ball. It’s quite an entertaining discussion actually.

Update: It seems Mr. Ball is eager to propound a lot of misconceptions about atheists as well. For example, “Atheism at its core has a void and a blackness to it that is matched only by their worship of the Void as the ‘first cause’ of both the material universe and of life…” Yikes!

Bouncing Baby — Idiot Teenager

What teenagers do for “fun” in Lee County, Georgia.

According to the report “the video has been removed from YouTube…” Yeah, but we can watch it courtesy of MSNBC who happily play it over and over and over. Anyway, that just struck me as a little funny in an ironic kind of way. More on the story here.

As for the teenager, well what can you say? Load him up in a trebuchet and fling him into another county… see if he “bounces” on impact.

Steampunk: Computer Workshop

An online profile from The Wall Street Journal last year: Technophiles are tapping into a movement known as “steampunk,” where computers, keyboards and other gadgets are re-imagined as if built during the Victorian era.

Featured is a hobbyist called “Datamancer” and his “pixelo dynamatronic computational engine.” More at The Steampunk Workshop. I realize this isn’t exactly “new” — many have probably seen this elsewhere before — but it’s soooooo cool.

Riz Khan: Turkey & Islam

Interesting discussion with British author and newscaster Rizwan Khan and a panel of Turkish experts about the debate over the role of Islam in this secular Muslim country.

More about the “dangerously polarized” situation in Turkey from

McCain: “Double-Talk” on the Economy

Q: “You have admitted that you're not exactly an expert when it comes to the economy and many have said –

McCain: I have not. I have not. Actually I have not.

ABC News, Good Morning America, 7/2/08

As can be clearly seen in the video, Timm-eh! nailed McCain dead to rights on Meet the Press about his self-confessed lack of knowledge and expertise regarding the economy.

The expression “double-talk” seems far too generous in my opinion. How about just calling it what it is: bald-faced lying.

Today Now: Bush Tours America

Too funny.

h/t: The Wingnuterer

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

So-called Saint

What a sanctimonious phony. And boy, are we ever surprised!

h/t: James Curran

Funny, I didn’t know he had one.

Harper’s Megalomania

Ottawa — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has upped the ante in his $2.5-million defamation suit against the Liberals, claiming an additional $1-million for “misappropriation of personality.”

Update: Ah yes, the old double-standard. Ain’t it the truth?

Update2: Zing! And Pow! (Jeff is really on fire today.)

Update 3:
I’m sure it must have occurred to some bright sparks amongst “senior Liberals” that in “upping the ante” with this escalation of his ridiculous lawsuit, Harper may have inadvertently provided the Liberals’ with the best fundraising opportunity they’ve had in ages. You just know that if the shoe were on the other foot, the Conservatives would be running to their base, wringing their hands in agony, frantically bleating and whining about how the big, bad Liberals were attempting to drive the helpless widdle Conservatives into the poorhouse with their malicious, vindictive lawsuit. They’d be imploring supporters to urgently give $5, $10, $50 or more in order to help them defend democracy, motherhood, or whatever against the outrageous perfidy of Liberal meanies and their despicable attempt at subverting the justice system to serve their own nefarious purposes, &etc.

Update 4: Mark Francis at Section15 has a brilliant take on this lawsuit. “I would put little stock in the theory that Harper tried to bribe Chuck Cadman if it wasn’t for the mounting evidence that Harper plays so dirty.”

Iraq & Afghanistan Wars – What’s the Reality?

Rachel Maddow and former Asst. Sec. of Defense Lawrence Korb of the Brookings Institution, discuss the reality on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here’s the story they’re referring to about the American Army spying on their “allies” in Iraq.

Christopher Hitchens Gets Waterboarded

Believe Me, It’s Torture

What more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods, and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. The author undergoes the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist—not inflict—it.

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose.

Read the complete Vanity Fair article here.

Do “Conservatives” Tacitly Approve of Racism?

Dung Beetle & Tortoise

I ask the question because I’m genuinely curious in view of the fact that hardly, if ever, is a word of objection or protest uttered by any of the “Conservative” blogging community (most of whom are part of “The Blogging Tories”) whenever this highly popular right-wing termagant issues another one of her hateful, degrading screeds or smears a whole group of people with some calumnious insult or demeaning racist epithet.

Yesterday morning, for example, she started off the day by suggesting that segregation wasn’t so bad — “The back of the bus. Was it really so bad?” she asked. This question was posed in response to a jazz singer in Denver substituting the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which also is known as the “black national anthem,” at the local Mayor’s State of the City address — an act that was highly inappropriate, disrespectful and, quite frankly, dumb, but hardly anything that warrants the notion that the period of American history in which blacks suffered from sanctioned racial discrimination and disenfranchisement perhaps wasn’t “really so bad”…

Moving right along, in connection with the non-existent “outrage” in Scotland about the use of a dog in a public service announcement by the local police that had all the wingnuts up in arms, Shaidle said “Maybe [Muslims] ought to spend a bit of time thinking about how other people view them.” In other words, unnamed “other people” (including Shaidle, presumably) regard Muslims as unclean or even evil; quite literally hardly better than dogs. Or perhaps you can derive some different interpretation from her remarks. Subsequently, she accused moderate Muslims who expressed reasonable opinions about the controversy of “lying like they always do” and of having no balls.

Later in the day, stating more reasons “Why I hate my country (part of a continuing series)” in a post decrying the Court Challenges Program, she referred to homosexuals as “deviants” — an insulting term that most educated people should know hasn’t had any legitimate currency since 1987 — and just to add injury to insult, lumped them together with “criminals.”

Of course this is just scratching the surface, and indeed the examples above are actually fairly tame stuff by Shaidle’s standards. After all, a while back she wistfully pined for “the good old days” when reflecting on the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in which over a 1,000 unarmed Indian men, women and children were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. That was another shocking instance in which there was complete silence from the “Conservative” blogging community.

Now, I realize that “Five Feet of Fury” isn’t officially part of Stephen Taylor’s blogroll, but there’s no denying that she’s an ideological fellow traveler with the Canadian “conservative” movement, so there are definitely some issues of association there. Should the consistent and almost universal silence of the “Conservative” blogging community about Shaidle’s ongoing pattern of hateful racism be taken as perhaps speaking volumes about its own attitudes in this regard? Sad to say, but maybe there really is a widespread, tacit approval of the reprehensible sentiments routinely spewed by this acidulous midget. It’s difficult to arrive at any other conclusion.

From the Dept. of Unintended Consequences…

Economic Stimulus

Bush Boosts Porn Industry With Economic Stimulus

An unforeseen and surprising beneficiary of the Economic Stimulus Plan, a plan that George Bush contends will “boost our economy and encourage job creation,” has surfaced this week. An independent market-research firm, AIMRCo (Adult Internet Market Research Company), has discovered that many websites focused on adult or erotic material have experienced an upswing in sales in the recent weeks since checks have appeared in millions of Americans’ mailboxes across the country…

Afghanistan: Nothing to See Here…

Keystone Chaos


“You can ask yourself the rhetorical question, what if we find 100 fugitives in the fields?” Gen. Thompson said. “What is ISAF’s duty in that circumstance? Is it to go arrest people?”

The commander continued: “We’re not policing this country, right? It’s not our role to police this country. Our role is to stand behind our Afghan partners and assist them.”

But the Afghan forces stationed nearby did not consider themselves capable of standing up to the Taliban that evening, as police in three outposts around the prison hunkered down behind their fortifications and refused to intervene.


“I don’t see a factual basis for a commentary suggesting that this country is sliding into chaos,” MacKay told reporters during a teleconference call.

He said there is more evidence “capacity-building” is starting to take hold and pointed to the efforts of the Afghan government “to build a more functioning and more dedicated police force.”

MacKay was responding to an article in the widely read U.S. journal Foreign Affairs, which said that with the “Taliban resurgent, reconstruction faltering, and opium poppy cultivation at an all-time high, Afghanistan is at risk of collapsing into chaos.”

MacKay said there was a lot of “tangible proof” of improvements that have been made in Afghanistan, citing new schools, hospitals and roads, along with vocational training and microcredit programs to help develop the Afghan economy.

“All of this shows that the Afghan people and the government have moved ahead considerably,” he said. “And the pace, in my opinion, is only going to increase as we’re able to bring about greater stability — particularly in the southern region.”

British Empire in Colour (Ep.3 - Part 5)

BBC Horizon: Parallel Universes (Part 5)

Liberty: The American Revolution (Episode 3)

“The Times That Try Men’s Souls” 1776-1777

Days after the Declaration of Independence is signed, a British force of 32,000 men commanded by Gen. William Howe, supported by a powerful fleet under the command of his brother Admiral Richard Howe arrives in New York harbour. After a series of defeats, Washington and his troops are driven to New Jersey. With only a few days of enlistment left for many of his volunteers, a desperate Washington leads his army quietly across the Delaware River on the day after Christmas, 1776, to mount a surprise attack on a sleeping Hessian garrison of three regiments in Trenton.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Haloscan: Keep It or Dump It? - Poll

Haloscan seems to be on the fritz, again. So, should I keep it, or dump it in favour of returning to Blogger’s default comment system? You decide.

Note that seeing as the Haloscan is buggered at the moment, you can leave remarks if you want to at PollDaddy by clicking on the comments tab on the poll.

Liberty: The American Revolution (Episode 2)

“Blows Must Decide” 1774-1776

A total break from Great Britain remains hard for Americans to imagine, even after shots are fired at Lexington and Concord. Words push matters “over the edge” in 1776. Paine’s influential pamphlet Common Sense argues that it’s the natural right of men to govern themselves. The Declaration of Independence declares this same idea a “self-evident” truth. For Americans, there’s no looking back. There will be war with England...

Holland: No Smoking but Pot Still Okay

You gotta love love the Dutch.

For Stoners:

U.S. Deserter “Fully Welcome” Back Home

As reported by ABC News, “According to U.S. Army documents and officials, Glass was discharged from the California National Guard Dec. 1, 2006, four months after he arrived in Canada.” ABC quotes Major Nathan Banks a U.S. Army spokesman as saying, “He is not considered absent without leave. He is not considered a deserter. He is running for no reason. He is fully welcome in the United States. I cannot believe this is a big deal in Canada.”

It seems that, unknown to him, Glass was actually discharged from the U.S. Army shortly after he went AWOL in 2006. “I had absolutely no idea that I had been discharged,” said Glass when ABC News informed him of his status. “This is insane. This is so weird. There are no warrants? No one is looking for me?”

“The Army called my mother and told her I would be treated as a felon and never be able to find a job,” Glass told ABC News after learning he had been discharged. “But I never got anything official. I guess I never really asked.”

Well, that certainly puts a different spin on matters, doesn’t it? One has to wonder if the same situation applies to the other “deserters” (or “conscientious objectors” if you prefer)?

Leadership: A Study in Contrasts

Contrasts: Dion v. Harper

I haven’t had too much good to say about Stéphane Dion of late (even to the point of some accusing me of “hating” him — which I don’t, by the way), but I was quite impressed with his statesman-like response to the controversial appointment of Henry Morgantaler to the Order of Canada the other day. The contrast with Stephen Harper’s reaction, as pointed out with stark clarity by the always razor-sharp Impoltical, couldn’t be clearer in terms of the leadership qualities of both men.

Stéphane Dion called for politics to be put aside and asked Canadians to look at Dr. Morgentaler's contributions to society. “Dr. Morgentaler has stood up for a woman’s right to choose for his entire career, often at great personal cost and risk,” Dion’s office said in a statement. “The Order of Canada process has been designed to keep politics out of it and I think we should all respect and celebrate the decisions of the panel and the Governor-General.”

As everyone knows, Harper officially distanced himself from the issue with the following terse statement from the PMO: “The Conservative government is not involved in either deliberations or decisions with respect to which individuals are appointed to the Order of Canada.”

But Harper’s surrogate, Art Hanger, the Conservative MP for Calgary Northeast, was quick to blast the appointment. “I think it’s a sorry day when they give that man the Order of Canada … He’s not deserving of it. What has the man contributed to this nation?” asked Hanger. “Apart from providing a so-called service which I don’t believe should be even offered in the nation, but is unfortunately, because we dont have a law governing the taking of life of the unborn.” (Emphasis added.)

Now, some have characterized Hanger as straying off the ranch with his remarks. I beg to differ and in this regard would remind you of what Rick Mercer said about the Harper government some time ago: “The are no more Tory loose cannons. The days of the grassroots are long dead. Conservative cabinet ministers are not allowed to do any media in this country without the express permission of Sandra Buckler, the prime minister’s director of communications. Freedom of speech extends to Conservative MPs when Sandra says it does.”

You can be sure that Hanger’s artless remarks about abortion being “a so-called service” that shouldn’t even be offered in Canada came directly from the PMO and should be treated as such.

As well, it should be noted that notwithstanding Harper’s attempt to distance himself from Morgantaler’s appointment, as noted by The Globe & Mail ”…the advisory council does include the deputy minister of Canadian Heritage and the Clerk of the Privy Council, the department that reports to Stephen Harper.” The brazen mendacity of Harper never ceases to amaze — he really does think that his supporters are phenomenally stupid. Unfortunately, I’m inclined to generally agree with him on this particular point.

Married to the Sea: Time Traveller

Time Traveller

I’m a big fan of Married to the Sea, a website that simply defies description, although it’s been called “the champagne of comics” if that’s any help. It’s a bizarre mix of quirky, vintage cartoons, stock illustrations and found objects together with acerbic captions that belie a wickedly dry wit. Maybe not to everyone’s taste, but check it out if you’re unfamiliar with it. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Muslim “Outrage” of the Day

Rebel the Dog

Before the usual suspects flip out with predictable counter-outrage of their own about this, perhaps they might want to read this article from the Tayside and Fife Courier.

“I’ve not heard anything about that from members of the community,” Mr Sarwar said. “I was round some shops today and at the mosque and nobody has said anything about it.” Mr. Sarwar said that religious sensitivities would prevent him from displaying the postcard on a building of religious significance but there was nothing to stop them being displayed in shops.

“There is not a dog — it is just a picture,” he said.

Sorry to ruin all your fun there, BT’ers.

Oh, it does all get sooooo tiresome at times, doesn’t it?

Update: Oh yawn, how predictable. Behold Wingnuttia pissing itself silly,
right on cue: Atlas Shrugs, Little Green Footballs, Moonbattery, TigerHawk, protein wisdom, Neptunus Lex, Hot Air, QandO, The Corner and Pajamas Media. Hysterial, moronic fuckwits — each and every one of them.

Update2: Well at least Damian didn’t get fooled. Imagine that!

Update3: Bonus Hilarity from Five Feet of Fecal Matter™

Oh yeah, NOW they’re pretending they don’t care, and are shutting up/lying like they always do. Muslims typically bitch, moan and mumble, and do the ‘adult’ equivalent of holding their breath until they get their way. As soon as they sense a backlash, they lose their balls and wimp out. “Oh it wasn’t us.”

I don’t trust them either way.

LOL. This from the same people who are always claiming there are no “moderate” Muslims. And lo and behold, when they are shown to exist and they do make their quite reasonable views known, they’re brusquely dismissed as irrelevant, disingenuous, or worse... Which just goes to show what really motivates the rabid Islamophobia of such individuals; it’s racism and bigotry, pure and simple.

Update5: Semi-related… A Japanese television ad was pulled recently after numerous complaints (mostly from foreign bloggers it seems) because the company’s mascot, a monkey, was used in a context that invited comparisons to Barack Obama. E-Mobile apparently had absolutely no awareness whatsoever of the cultural sensitivities involved.

“We had no bad intentions, but this is a cross-cultural gap issue and we have to accept it,” eMobile’s chief executive, Sachio Semmoto, told Reuters. “There are African-Americans in Japan, so we decided to take prompt action and shut down the ad. For two years I’ve been saying Obama has the capacity to change America, the kind of capacity that Japan needs,” Semmoto said. It should be noted that monkeys are revered in Japan, and their image can be found at numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

Liberty: The American Revolution (Episode 1)

Seems like a fitting time to run this series over the next several days. This six-hour 1997 PBS documentary on the American Revolution covers the 25 year period from the passage of the Stamp Act (1765) through the ratification of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights (1789).

In addition to narration and interviews with historians, the series uses re-enactments of military engagements and excerpts from letters, diaries and other documents of the period, spoken by actors. I watched this several months ago. It’s actually quite a good treatment of the Revolution that dispels many of the popular myths and common misconceptions surrounding its causes and military events, as well as the war’s socio-economic and political underpinnings.

Olympian Stupidity


Homosexual didn’t get off to a particularly strong start in the first semifinal, but by the halfway mark he had established a comfortable lead. He slowed somewhat over the final 10 meters-nothing like the way-too-soon complete shutdown that almost cost him Saturday. Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: “A little fatigued.”

We had some laughs about this in the comments over the weekend, but in case you missed it, here it is again for your enjoyment.

The American Family Association’s OneNewsNow, a loony “Christian news” website (think Lifesite, but even kookier) has an auto-replace feature that takes news feeds and makes what the group considers necessary changes, such as changing the word “gay” to “homosexual.” Needless to say, that made for some comical reporting of the Olympic trials due to a runner named Tyson Gay.

Update: Mark at Slap Upside the Head has some fun with the holiday implications of AFA’s filtering. Thanks for the link Dr. Dawg.

Baxter’s World


Expelled: The RT Consensus

Expelled the Movie

The ratings on Rotten Tomatoes really don’t get much worse than this.


You may have seen this truly appalling story on CNN last night. A 49 year-old woman died on the psychiatric emergency room floor at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY earlier in June after being left unattended for almost an hour (she had been waiting for 24 hrs., apparently). CCT video footage showed people indifferently ignoring the woman sprawled out on the floor in front of them and security guards likewise paying no attention — one even stood at the doorway nonchalantly watching an overhead television as the woman lay directly beneath it. Afterwards, hospital staff falsified records to indicate that the woman had been mobile and alert during the period of time in question. People… go figure.

British Empire in Colour (Ep.3 - Part 4)

It’s difficult to watch this series with so much its attention focused on the issue of immigration and race relations and not reflect on how little attitudes have changed amongst certain more reactionary, hysterically xenophobic and, let’s face it, downright racist elements of our own society (case in point here).

BBC Horizon: Parallel Universes (Part 4)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Late Show: Avro Arrow’s First Flight

Produced by Avro Aircraft Limited for the first flight of the CF-105 Arrow interceptor on March 25, 1958, this film is a nostalgic look on the incredible lead Canada had in aircraft design and production in the post-war years. According to some, the Arrow was so advanced that its performance figures and concept were at least 20 to 25 years ahead of all the other countries that were producing such aircraft. Even today, 50 years after the Arrow first flew, Canada’s front-line fighter, the CF-18 Hornet, can’t match the top speed of the Arrow.

Update: The Avro Jetliner.

Avro Jetliner

Canada: Yours to Deplore!

Blogging Tory Women

I wasn’t going to post anything terribly political today in light of the holiday, but just out of curiosity I thought it might be fun to see what the perpetually angry and disenfranchised volk over at “Teh Blogging Tories” were up to on this day of national celebration.

Right on cue, faithful stenographers and utterly predictable wingnut parrots dr. roy and Jonathan Strong regale visitors with Stephen Harper’s thrilling Canada Day video greeting (that’s HM PM to you!). Polly, what a treat! Meanwhile, Gerry Nicholls takes a short break from “making sense” to fire off a spitball at Quebekers with a feeble joke suggesting that the provincial motto “Je me souviens” roughly translates as “We don’t celebrate Canada Day.” Boy, that Gerry… such a card.

Janet, the self-proclaimed “voice of reason” at the imaginatively named “Liberty is Good” draws inspiration from a group in Alabama that wants to “free the hops!” in order to rail at length against “governments’ stubborn dismissal of any attempts to liberalize alcohol sales laws.” After all, she concludes, “What would seem more Canadian than to celebrate July 1st with a trip to the grocery store to pick up some meat for the BBQ and a six pack or some coolers for the fridge?” You know, as opposed to being forced to make an arduous five minute side trip to the local Stalinist Beer Store or LCBO outlet (by the way Janet, we have private liquor stores here in B.C. — and Alberta too!).

The terminally confused individual at “The Canadian Republic” claims to be “fiercely proud of our little Dominion” and relishes the opportunity Canada Day affords him to reflect on the greatness of Canada and “what being a citizen of this country means.” Accordingly, “Fortitudine” boldly states: “I am proud of say [sic] without a moment’s hesitation that I am proud to be Canadian.” Wow! Talk about fearless conviction! But wait, there’s so much more. Being Canadian isn’t just about being proud of being proud of… urgh; it also “signifies a ruthless commitment to freedom and democracy”… Ruthless, I say! As it turns out, all this mawkish tripe is just a circuitous wind-up to decry “David Miller’s crusade against private citizens’ rights to purchase and enjoy the use of firearms.” So take a moment, won’t you to reflect on the “perfectly selfish love” associated with core Canadian values that include the right of everyone to have a gun club in their downtown neighbourhood.

Looking around patronizingly at all the immigrants with their quaint outfits and exotic foods, for some reason “Prairie Tory” just can’t help but think of Mark Steyn and bemoan the reproductive shortcomings of pastey white people like him that will result in the eventual destruction of Canada as we know it once all those fecund Mooslims have overrun the place. In a later post, in which he harks back to the days in which we were still a dominion of the British Empire, Prairie Tory vows continued “resolve to eliminate rackets like the Canadian Human Rights Commissions…” He isn’t alone in this sentiment; it seems to be a rather common theme amongst many of the BTs who are, as we know, quite incensed (here, here, here, and here) about having their ability to freely hatemonger against Mooslims and homosexuals curtailed by a bunch of pettifogging liberal bureaucrats.

Finally, over at “Blue Like You” gutless wonder and passive-aggressive scold “Joanne” weighs in with her usual assortment of “provocative” questions under the clever rubric of “Woe Canada” offering something of a convenient round-up of daily talking points for her gaggle of addlepated hens to peck over. “Are we being forced to be tolerant?” she asks. “Have they [being the dreaded Liberals and their perfidious minions at the HRC, not to mention that shoe-stealing cad Dalton McGuinty] really been successful in changing our thoughts, or are we just too afraid to open our mouths any more?” Joanne wants to know — even though she’s already seemingly answered her own question quite conclusively in the negative.

Well, that’s all I could take of the BTs’ interminable dreariness for one day. I’m sure there are plenty of other atrocities that will be happily documented by the usual suspects. But I’ll leave you with this parting thought from JoJo who, after earnestly beseeching people to “consider how much complacency and fear are threatening to destroy this beautiful country that we hold so dear,” asks with dimestore sincerity, “where is the outrage, Canada?”

Your Blogging Tories, ladies and gentlemen. Even on Canada Day, still a dismal bunch of insufferably boring, painfully tedious wankers — the proverbial Debbie Downers at any party.

Dudley Do-Right: Banned Episode

This episode featuring “Stokey” — a bear hypnotized into starting, rather than preventing, forest fires — was pulled from the series (never to be broadcast again) after one airing. The U.S. Forestry Service objected to what it saw as degradation of its mascot, Smokey Bear.

Mr. Canoehead: The Beginning

Once a mild-mannered insurance salesman, who while portaging his canoe through Algonquin Park, was suddenly hit by a giant bolt of lightning and had the canoe welded to his head. Thus, he became… Mr. Canoehead, Canada’s greatest aluminum crime fighter! Brother of Ted.

Bob & Doug: “Hosermania”

Good Canada Day, eh?

Enjoy this blast from the past CBC National report from 1981 with Barbara Frum.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Canada Day! • Joyeuse Fete Du Canada!

Captain Canada

Late Show: Sexy Canada Day Videos

Warning: Some people may find the content offensive. (Don’t expect me to care.)

Bill Moyers Journal: Slavery by Another Name

From last week’s program, Bill Moyers talks with journalist Douglas Blackmon whose new book Slavery by Another Name tells the unfamiliar story of “neo-slavery” — a system of de facto bondage that carried on long after slaves in the rebel territories had been ostensibly freed by The Emancipation Proclamation.

Blackmon first became intrigued by this episode of U.S. history while researching a story for The Wall Street Journal which documented how U.S. Steel Corp. relied on forced black laborers in Alabama coal mines. He discovered that under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations.

Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. It was a system that Blackmon found persisted in some areas until the early days of World War II.

Expelled: Flunks Out in Canada

Expelled Exposed

If someone believes in the Tooth Fairy, can they complain about not being taken seriously at dental school? — Jim Slotek, Sun Media Film Critic

As noted here and here, it seems that the crockumentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was less than a rousing success on its opening weekend in Canada. Total gross for the estimated 30 plus theatres across the country in which it played was a paltry $24,374! One estimate calculates it thusly: 36 movie theatres, at an average of three showings per day for three days would make for 324 total showings, or no more than $24,374 /324 = $75 per theatre, or about 7-8 people per showing. Ouch!

Well, as Stephen Colbert is fond of saying: the free market has spoken…

Eye of Science


EOS is a two-person team (a photographer and a biologist) that aims “to combine scientific exactness with aesthetic appearances, and thereby help to bridge the gap between the world of science and the world of art.” Very cool stuff.

Chomsky on America-Iran Relations

In this interview from November of last year, Noam Chomsky talks about how perceptions of the conflict with Iran are being shaped by a combination of historical ignorance and a perspective largely defined by American arrogance and hypocrisy.

For example, Chomsky notes that any country such as Iran thought to be “interfering” with the American invasion and occupation of Iraq is regarded as engaging in “criminal” behaviour, whereas America has engaged in exactly the same behaviour in the past by inserting itself through proxies into various conflicts around the world...

Chomsky also maintains that much of the antagonism towards Iran is because “Iran is out of control. It’s supposed to be a U.S. client state, as it was under the Shah, and it’s refusing to play that role.”

Update: Sy Hersh talks about covert operations against Iran and how the situation would be affected by a new administration in Washington.

Unintentional Humour

PMO Bandaid

Maybe The Hill’s “sources” are gripped with giddy excitement by the impending “shakeup” in the PMO, but like most I suspect, it’s a complete snooze to me. Still, funny ad placement.

So Much for Vice President Clark

Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president. — Gen. Wesley Clark

It seems obvious that what Clark said was entirely correct. And yet, there was Shieffer, the Texas-lovin’ buddy-of-Bush, completely incredulous at the notion that getting shot out of a plane didn’t somehow magically qualify a man to be president. “Really?” he sputtered in stunned amazement before moving on to his next question. Look, in the 2004 campaign Kerry made his military record a major part of his campaign, and conservatives pointed out that his naval service 30 years ago didn’t necessarily mean he had a strong national security record today, so what’s the difference with what Clark is saying?

Furthermore, as unsavory as certain people might regard it, why isn’t the speculation of some on the left about the details of McCain’s military record legitimate? As John Cole (hardly a member of the “nutroots” or an “anti-American socialist dirtbag”) wondered some time ago: “I’ve never been sure why he is a hero. He graduated 4th or 5th from the bottom of his class. He wrecked three of his own aircraft (if I remember correctly) and he was captured in Viet Nam. Unless I missed the part where he jumped on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow servicemen, I don’t know where the hero part comes in.”

One could also add to that the observation that spending five years in a cage is bound to mess up your head and should even perhaps disqualify McCain from the highest office.

Predictably, the Wingnutosphere is exploding with indignant outrage! Take your pick: Hot Air, TownHall Blog, Confederate Yankee, Daimnation!, Cold Fury, GayPatriot, and so on. You can bet all the same folks were just as repulsed when John Kerry was being swiftboated in 2004. Right? No, of course not. Even now, they haughtily reject any such comparisons.

NYC Street Food

An interesting look behind the scenes with pushcart food vendors on the streets of New York. Considering some of the disputes between property owners and street vendors, it’s hard not to be reminded of the “Large Object Theory of History” from one of my favourite children’s books.

McCain: Fabulously Wealthy

Filthy Rich

Not that anyone should really care, although it is quite amusing to note how wealth only seems to become an “issue” whenever the candidate is a liberal. For some curious reason it’s assumed, at least by political pundits, that being wealthy (e.g., living in a big house, getting expensive haircuts, looking “French” and so on) renders liberals unable to “speak credibly” to blue-collar workers or other such “average” citizens. Just ask Maureen Dowd! The same however almost never seems to be the case when it’s a fabulously wealthy right-wing “conservative” persuading the very same “ordinary” rubes to vote against their own economic self-interest. Funny that.

Update: Thanks for Joseph for the link to this article by Joe Conason that describes the double-standard being employed by “right-wing media organizations and commentators” that have given the McCains “a free pass” concerning their finances, in contrast to their “unrelenting demands for absolutely complete disclosure” both in the case of the Clintons and the Kerrys.

Un-American Obama has “Canadian Values”

Blame Canada

That appears to be the gist of this absolutely hilarious editorial from the Washington Times contending that Obama’s “proposals are more reflective of Canadian values than American national ideals.” Oh nooooooo!!! According to the editors of the right-wing, Moonie-owned paper, adoption of the dreaded Canadian values “will result in stifling initiative and rendering America less meritocratic.” Canadian economic policies it maintains are a demonstrated failure as indicated by the yearly exodus of “the most talented, dynamic and enterprising individuals” fleeing south of the border “in order to escape the stagnation and limitations imposed on them by their government.”

And on it goes with similarly ridiculous distortions, hackneyed stereotypes and fact-free assertions that can be easily demolished, as many have already done in the comments section to the editorial, especially with respect to the healthcare system.

Unfortunately though, our mendacious BT friends are ever busy spreading their Canada-hating lies far and wide, even in foreign newspapers. One writes: “The taxes are insane and the majority of the money goes to the collapsed health care system and the propoganda [sic] machine, the public CBC.” Yeah, right. Never mind that public broadcasting represents about 0.2% of federal spending, that’s where this putz thinks all his money goes. The same person also claims that “something like 90% of the people here that cannot find a family physician”… Gosh, it’s fun just making up shit, isn’t it? Something like just about everybody… Hmmm, better slap a percentage on that.

British Empire in Colour (Ep.3 - Part 3)

Discrimination against Canada’s indigenous population is featured including the appalling conditions in northern settlements. In Rhodesia, the last painful pangs of the Empire are felt, as white and black nationalisms clash.

BBC Horizon: Parallel Universes (Part 3)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Late Show: Black Adder

Black Adder • The Archbishop

From BBC: The King has murdered three successive Archbishops of Canterbury so Blackadder is understandably terrified when he is the next appointment. Determined not to be the next prelate to be brutally slain in a freak accident, he brilliantly persuades a rich nobleman to donate all his lands to the King and not the Church. However, the King accidentally orders Blackadder’s murder anyway. Blackadder narrowly escapes and is stripped of the title of Archbishop when all three popes realize that he is not suitable priest material.

Note: YouKu video replaced now — seemed to be causing technical difficulties with Firefox.

BBC Penguins

Filmmaker and writer Terry Jones discovers a colony of penguins, which are unlike any other penguins in the world... More here.

Le Show: June 29 • 2008

EURO 2008: Spain 1 – Germany 0

Spain EURO 2008

Spain beat Germany 1-0 to win soccer’s European Championship, ending a 44-year drought for a major international title. Fernando Torres scored after 33 minutes at Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna, giving Spain its second European Championship. More on the game here and about the Spanish “red fever” here. Funny story here about the different levels of support for each team in TO.

Green Shift: A Dud in The Great White North

Baffin Island

So, Northern premiers say they're not buying the Liberal proposal. What a surprise!

Well, there goes one seat. (Correction: Two seats.)

Update: Does this help... or hurt?

Stéphane Dion = Kevin Rudd?

Paul Wells floats the idea, apparently being bandied around by “senior Canadian Liberals,” that a comparison between the Australian Labor leader and Stéphane Dion may not be too far-fetched. To emphasize his point, Wells runs an advertisement from the last election campaign showing Rudd touting his concern for the environment, promising to ratify Kyoto, &etc.

Accordingly, I couldn’t resist showing this parody advert from The Chasers boys that skewers Rudd, portraying him as a calculating, opinion poll-driven panderer who’s “a passionate supporter of happy families, beautiful water, sunny days and… anything else? Ah yes, children — I strongly support children.”

Update: The Toronto Star this morning has more on the comparison between Rudd and Dion. “The similarities between Howard and Harper are striking but most importantly, of course, the Conservatives kept making a big deal out of the fact that they were disciples of Howard and were learning from them, really, what right-wing tactics work electorally,” said one Liberal insider. “So, we thought we better figure out the other side of that.”

Target Iran - Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh

I posted part of this interview back in May, but here’s the whole program from C-SPAN’s Book TV series with former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, author of Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change and Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine.

Interestingly enough, National Newswatch has Hersh’s latest article in The New Yorker called “Preparing the Battlefield” as it’s lead story this morning (kind of an usual source for them) and he was also featured on this CNN’s Late Edition program today.

Update: More here on the rising tensions in the Middle East with threats and counter-threats of air strikes by Israel and Iran. As the Guardian notes, this “comes at a time when a resolution has been put forward in Congress calling for a naval blockade of Iran led by US warships. The proposal calls for the United States to lead an international effort to cut off the country by sea, something that would almost certainly by seen as an act of war by Iran. The resolution has got huge support from Israeli politicians and the country’s highly effective lobbying industry in Washington, led perhaps inevitably by Aipac, which has made the issue its legislative priority.” According to a former top CIA analyst Larry Johnson, “The war drums are beating. There is no doubt about that.”

Landover Baptist Vacation Bible Gun Camp!

What is there to do?

Apocalyptic wilderness survival training, Bible reading, Scripture memory contests, marksmanship competitions, Old testament wild deer and boar sacrifices, gun care and cleaning, manly fellowship, Bible skits, and evening super surprise game competitions where children use tranquilizer guns to hunt unsaved homeless people who are dropped into the mountains by helicopter.

Find out more today!

Moral Orel: The Lord’s Greatest Gift

A multitude of thanks to Mark Francis for turning me on to this absolutely brilliant, wickedly hilarious show.

In this episode, after learning in church that God’s greatest gift is life, Orel recruits his friend Doughy to help protect that gift. They steal a copy of the Necronomicon from the library, then head for the cemetery to dig up a few corpses and bring them back to life. The two mistakenly believe that the dead smell because of their clothing, so they undress them. The naked zombies wreak havoc on the town and devour the brains of the living. Of course, this is Moralton, so even the living dead say grace before eating other people.

The citizens grow increasingly agitated, not so much because people are being mutilated, but because the zombies are naked. As Orel’s father explains to him, people should be ashamed of their bodies, just as the 11th Commandment states (it’s one of the “Lost Commandments” apparently).

Sunday Morning Toon: Popeye!

I seem to recall that someone complained last week there wasn’t a cartoon on Sunday. So, without further ado, here’s “Popeye’s Mirthday” from 1953. For some reason there are only three of his nephews in this one; there are actually four: Pipeye, Peepeye, Pupeye, and Poopeye.

Frankly, My Dear… What’s the Point?

N-word Hearts

I know I’ve asked this before, but is there some abstruse “point” being made by Kate McMillan in her weekly posting of overtly racist cartoons from the 30s? The current frolic on offer is “Uncle Tom and Little Eva” — a cartoon that bears the dubious distinction of being even more egregiously offensive than many others of this period in that it fairly revels gleefully and quite unashamedly in the subject of slavery (e.g., the auction block is depicted as stage on which the Negro slaves “perform” for the benefit of the white slave owners and runaways are chased over ice flows by comical bloodhounds).

Are we to presume that these shameful artifacts of the Jim Crow era are being presented for some form of critical discernment by the readers of SDA, or is there perhaps another ulterior purpose guiding the exercise of repeatedly trotting out degrading racial stereotypes from the past?

British Empire in Colour (Ep.3 - Part 2)

During the period following WWII, “Populate or perish” became the catchcry of the Australian Government as it embarked on an intensive international promotional campaign to encourage mass migration to Australia. The campaign was directed almost exclusively at whites of “European origin” only however and initially targeted Britons with schemes such as “Bring out a Briton” that subsidized their travel costs and even provided free housing on arrival. But the so called “land of tomorrow” wasn’t always receptive to immigrants, even the ones from Britain (referred to derisively as “poms”) with some Australians feeling that “the only good pom, is a dead pom.”

Of course, that mild sort of xenophobia was nothing compared to the cruel forms of discrimination exercised against the country’s indigenous population. Under its policy of “assimilation” the hope of the government at the time (and for the next 40 years) was that the displaced “full blood” aborigines would simply die out over time from starvation and other causes, and that “mixed decent” natives would eventually be absorbed into white society, by force if necessary through practices similar to those employed in Canada through the now disgraced residential school system.

BBC Horizon: Parallel Universes (Part 2)

“The fundamental problem of cosmology is that the laws of physics, as we know them, break down at the instant of the Big Bang.” — Michio Kaku

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Late Show: Dr. Who (Comic Relief Spoof)

Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death

As part of 1999’s Comic Relief telethon, the BBC screened four “new episodes” of Doctor Who. The spoof stars Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, Julia Sawalha, who played Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous as his assistant Emma, and Jonathan Pryce as the Master. The script was written by Steven Moffatt, one of the writers on the new series. Other parodies associated with his can be found here with Lenny Henry (very funny bit featuring a Cyberman version of Margaret Thatcher) and here with French and Saunders .

Bill Clinton: Bitter & Twisted

Bitter and Twisted

Interesting that the conservative-leaning Telegraph in the U.K. would break the big story today that “Bill Clinton says Barack Obama must ‘kiss my ass’ for his support”... The paper goes on to breathlessly reveal that Clinton “is so bitter about Barack Obama’s victory over his wife Hillary that he has told friends the Democratic nominee will have to beg for his wholehearted support...”

That’s all very juicy stuff, to say the least, but isn’t it also more than a little interesting that we’re hearing this just after all the puerile hoopla of the great public show of symbolic “unity” choreographed in New Hampshire yesterday?

Bill Clinton is a sharp politician, so it’s something of mystery what could possibly be gained trying to get Obama to concede that his campaign engaged in, and benefited from, smear tactics against Hillary. If he wants some sort of concession in this regard, it’s hard to see that ever happening. Moreover, doesn’t his alleged intransigence and embittered whining diminish whatever value he may have had as an asset to Obama’s campaign in the future? It’s all very puzzling.

Prepare to be Obsolete

Quick, alert the hysterical crackpots at “Teh Blogging Tories” — Western civilization could soon be imperiled by a horrifying new threat from the Middle East...

An invasion of Mooslim robots!!!

Pal Technology Ltd. based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, has launched a prototype humanoid service robot codenamed Reem B. The new robot is able to map and self localize itself, both elements that set it apart from its predecessor, Reem A. In addition to performing face recognition, object recognition, voice recognition and walking (up to 1.5 km/hr) the new robot can also carry a payload of up to one third its weight, converse with humans, walk dynamically, recognize and grasp objects, accept voice commands, and even remind humans of appointments. Potential uses of the machine in the future are said to include providing assistance to the elderly and disabled.

The Gulf States seem to be developing into a hotbed of robot technology these days for some reason. Recently, neighboring Qatar announced that it’s planning to use specially developed robots instead of young boys as jockeys in camel racing, in response to international criticism of the use of child jockeys in the popular sport. Developed by an un-named Swiss company, the new camel racing robot has already been successfully tested according to Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani, the chairman of the committee in charge of the project, who added that this could lead to a factory for robot production eventually being built in the region.

Update: A more entertaining robot named “Titan” was unveiled last year in Dubai. With design nods to H.R. Giger it seems, the robot doesn’t appear to be terribly functional, aside from amusing people at trade shows, but “Titan” is capable of dancing (sort of), cracking wise and belting out an array of tunes including “You can leave your hat on” by Tom Jones.

Unreported World: Mugabe’s Reign of Terror

This program from Channel 4’s Unreported Word series is from August of last year. In it, correspondent Evan Williams goes undercover (ostensibly as tourists) for three weeks in Zimbabwe to reveal startling claims that the Mugabe Government was using the supply of AIDS drugs and western food aid to rig the presidential elections that were finalized yesterday in the sham run-off in which Robert Mugabe was the only standing candidate.

Warning: Aside from containing a lot of very disturbing images of violence, this film is profoundly disheartening. If you’re looking for quick buzz-kill to your day, here it is.

Postscript: Here’s a more current report about the widespread thuggery carried out against supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party prior to the so-called election yesterday in Zimbabwe.

Real News: Mixed Messages on Afghanistan

Graeme Smith, a reporter with The Globe & Mail in Afghanistan, talks about the apparent disconnect between grim assessments by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates about the lack of progress in the U.S.-led war and Afghanistan’s deep-rooted problems of violence, extremism, corruption and narcotics… and the contradictory efforts of the American State Department that is currently mounting press tours, “bringing international correspondents from around the world; flying them into eastern Afghanistan and telling them that things are going much better in the east than they are in the south and that perhaps the countries in that are operating in the south like Canada should be emulating what the Americans are doing in the east when I don’t think there’s any argument for it being a success at the moment.”

Smith also questions the now received wisdom that blames Pakistan for the current spike in violence in Afghanistan. “Even if you built a giant concrete wall between Afghanistan and Pakistan, there would still be a massive insurgency inside Afghanistan,” according to Smith. While blaming Pakistan is legitimate, Smith says, the fact remains that the insurgents the Canadians are fighting are native Afghans and the problem needs to be dealt with inside the country. Smith compares the Taliban’s latest tactics on the ground with that of a whipsaw: “Not a very strong piece of steel, but still capable of cutting down trees by sheer speed and flexibility.”

Update: I should have noted that the grim assessment by Defense Secretary Gates referred to above found that after nearly seven years of war in Afghanistan, the Taliban-led insurgency is flourishing and predictions are that insurgents are likely to accelerate their attacks and expand into new regions in northern and western regions of the country.

The Pentagon’s assessment came as U.S. casualties in Afghanistan rose to 23 in June, the second-deadliest month for American forces since the U.S. invaded weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Attacks using improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, rose 35 percent last year, reaching 2,616 attacks, according to the report, which provided no other measures of violence or data from previous years.

Talking to the Taliban

Somehow I missed this from earlier in the month, but seeing as parliament has checked out for the summer, perhaps there’s a bit more time now to concentrate on some of the things that have slipped through the cracks in the fray of daily politics.

Here’s Scott Taylor (publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine) from his appearance on Canada AM earlier this month talking about whether the Canadian forces should negotiating with the Taliban and how the Harper government’s position seems to be out of step with the consensus of opinion amongst NATO military officers and various experts on the region. Recently, the Senate’s national security committee said progress has been made in the country, but the mission remains a formidable challenge and more aid and NATO troops are needed.

“Unless ordinary Afghans start seeing tangible benefits from the international aid effort on a widespread basis — which might lead them to urge the Taliban to either negotiate or even retreat — it will be difficult to see a positive outcome in Afghanistan,” the senators said in the report. Canadian soldiers and government officials in Kandahar should talk to the Taliban if they believe communication would encourage disarmament or improve the security of critical development projects, the six-member panel said.

Winning the hearts and minds of the populace in an intensely conservative and fundamentalist Islamic region such as southern Afghanistan is not easy, the report said. “In a country of intense poverty, it is not difficult to buy loyalty, and the Taliban have plenty of money raised from the drug trade and outside sources. Taliban fighters are well paid in comparison to just about everyone else in Afghanistan.” And Afghans have other grievances that strengthen the appeal of the Taliban, it noted.

“Hatred of foreign troops is… exacerbated by the historical fact that foreign troops in Afghanistan, such as the Soviets and British, have brutalized the Afghan population,” the report said. “NATO has a tough row to hoe in stimulating support for the Karzai government or any reasonable alternative.”

More highlights at The Torch and the Senate Committee Report itself here.