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.

H&C: Blue-Collar Voters Racist & Sexist

Interesting exchange from last night’s Hannity & Colmes with Fox News commenter and embittered former Clinton fixer Dick Morris (emphasis added).

Morris: “In terms of [Obama’s] real ability to get Hillary’s voters, he’ll get the women because they are pro-choice, feminist, Democratic Party people... But the votes he’s not gonna get and will be in play will be the white, downscale, male, largely blue collar voters who basically don’t like women and don’t like blacks and they had to decide which one they hated more in making their vote.”

Colmes: “Are you on a little dangerous territory there when you’re accusing people that you don’t know of being racist, not liking blacks, being misogynistic. You don’t even know these people and you’re accusing them of this.”

Morris: “I polled them and a huge portion of the votes that Hillary got at the end of the game, when she was saying, ‘I speak for white, hard-working American people,’ were people who were, basically, voting against Obama because of race. Her appeal was overtly racist and their response was overtly racist.”

Colmes: “But Obama talks about bitter people clinging to their guns and you come on and say, ‘You know, there are all these people who don’t like blacks, don’t like women.’ Are you saying the same thing in a different way than he’s saying? And he was raked over the coals for what he said.”

Morris: “Well, he’s running for president. I’m not.”

Indeed. But after all the outrage over Obama’s “bittergate,” it was more than a little ironic that when Dick Morris insulted blue collar voters with considerably harsher assertions, Sean Hannity sat quietly by and didn’t seem to notice... or care.

Countdown: McStrategies

Chris Hayes of The Nation discusses the McCain campaign’s latest attack strategies and attempts to stay relevant.

British Empire in Colour (Ep.3 - Part 1)

The British Empire in Colour examines the history and experience of the British Empire, from the perspectives of both the rulers and the ruled, using original colour archive film — much of which had never previously been seen — together with personal letters and diary extracts in order to capture the many complexities and contradictions of life in the British Empire.

The third part of the series “Legacy” begins with the coronation of Elizabeth II, an event that signaled a new era, as the old imperial Empire transformed into the new multi-racial Commonwealth of nations. As emigrants flee the hardship of post-war Britain, tempted by the promise of Australian and Canadian riches, West Indian immigrants flood into Britain.

BBC Horizon: Parallel Universes (Part 1)

Some scientists now believe there may really be a parallel universe — in fact, there may be an infinite number of parallel universes, and we just happen to live in one of them. These other universes contain space, time and strange forms of exotic matter. Some of them may even contain you, in a slightly different form. Astonishingly, these parallel universes may exist less than one millimetre away from us and our gravity may just be a weak signal leaking out of another universe into ours.

Fractured Fairy Tales: The Elves and the Shoemaker

Friday, June 27, 2008

Late Show: The Stranger

1946 film noir/drama starring Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, and Loretta Young. Welles also directed the film. It’s believed that this is the first film released after World War II that showed footage of concentration camps. The Stranger was the only film made by Welles to have been a bona fide box office success on the first release.

Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) of the War Crimes Commission is seeking Franz Kindler (Orson Welles), mastermind of the Holocaust, who has effectively erased his identity. Wilson releases Kindler’s former comrade Meinike and follows him to Harper, CT, where he is killed before he can identify Kindler. Now Wilson’s only clue is Kindler’s fascination with antique clocks; but though Kindler seems secure in his new identity, he feels his past closing in…

The National: At Issue Panel – Season End

In case you missed it last night, Peter Mansbridge and the At Issue panel wrap up the highs and lows of the 2008 political season. This is second half — for the complete program you can go here.

Coincidentally enough, considering some of the livelier discussions here over the last week or so about “the West” and what it means to the Liberals, but Andrew Coyne’s “most overlooked political event” is the shift of power and people to “the West”; a phenomenon that he contends is changing the political landscape of Canada.

Green Shift: Dion Taking it to the Streets

After watching Dion taking a stab as the weather guy on CityTV, my first response was “Don’t quit your day job.” For some reason however, that just didn’t sound quite right...

How the West Was Lost: The Saga Begins

Lead Balloon

Try not to laugh at the opening of an article in The Globe & Mail this morning outlining Dion’s plans to sell the “Green Shift” to “the West” with a curious mix of long-term promises and threats of being shamed and/or bullied into action by world opinion otherwise:

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion says 40 per cent of Canada’s carbon emissions come from Alberta and Saskatchewan and the two western provinces will have to do the most to change their habits under his new green plan. But he said it will be good for them — and he’s taking that message to the Calgary Stampede next weekend.

Now there’s a pitch that’s really going to resonate in Alberta and Saskatchewan! Not. As well, I don’t imagine suggesting that oil-rich provinces of “the West” will be largely responsible for Canada being a “free rider of climate change” if the Liberal’s plan isn’t implemented is going to play especially well either. Oh, the editorials are going to be just vicious.

Update: Oh, this was a terribly brilliant idea. A reception at the Calgary Zoo. The Zoo? WTF were they thinking? Good grief. Like the “Cons” need any help… Team Dion has to throw lazy softballs over the plate at them? Oy. The Zoo... for chrissake.

Update2: Well, that didn’t take long, did it? Bristling… that’s such a great word.

Martyrdom Cancelled (for now)

No Martyrdom For You!

Oh no! Mohamed Elmasry’s hate speech complaint against Maclean’s was dismissed earlier today. Whatever will the wingnuts do with themselves now that their favourite bête noire has so cruelly deprived them of the glorious martyrdom they so dearly hungered after?

Not to worry, there’s no rest for the wicked it seems. Hope springs eternal and all that rot.

The New “EcoBoomer”

According to its promoter, the “EcoBoomer” is an all-electric, zero emissions, environmentally friendly four wheeler. Ah yes, the perfect “eco-friendly” vehicle for lazy people who find riding a bike altogether too challenging.

Full disclosure: I have one of these in the next room and can’t wait to try it out in the next little while now that my hip is on the mend. No more tuckering out on steep hills!

Veracifier: John McDifferent?

Your “liberal media” at work! See how CNN manages to get through a list of policies where Bush and McCain agree without mentioning Iraq or the War on Terror. Amazing.

A “Conservative” PSA: Boys Beware!

Perhaps if “Hunter” (who, it’s said by some, “provides the common sense views of a conservative woman with a family”) gets her way — you know, once all right-thinking parents have united to defeat the morally depraved, godless communist hordes, &etc. — our kids will be seeing more films like this again in our public schools. Then our great nation will be well on the way back to the shining path of spiritual and moral righteousness, no?

Whither the Elves?

Santa’s Polluting Factory

According to a somewhat startling report in The Independent today, “for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.” Of course this has nothing whatsoever to do with anthropogenic global warming. Nope, nothing to see here, move along… Perhaps Kate has a picture of a badly situated temperature gauge or some fabulous graph illustrating how small a fraction of a million is, or… look, over there — a shiny rock!

The Living Constitution?

Well Regulated Militia

Pictured above: A “well regulated militia” takes to the streets…

I still can’t quite get my head around yesterday’s atrocious SCOTUS decision on the second amendment. If you’re interested in delving into the matter in more detail, this is the best analysis of the decision that I’ve come across so far. Meanwhile, The Corner weighs in with a highly unedifying poll (to be fair Andrew Sullivan phoned it in with the same thing) presumably making the “living constitution” argument... or something.

Buckler Exits Stage Right

Prickly Buckler

Another casualty of the Harper government’s shake-up in the PMO it seems. Sandra Buckler, the PM’s “contentious” (read “bitchy and controlling”) director of communications is stepping down for “family reasons” (gotta love that old chestnut, it just never gets tired). The Globe & Mail has more.

So, does this signal a shift to a “kinder, gentler” Stephen Harper, one that’s more accessible to the media? Rehabilitating his image with the press corps might not be a bad idea as the party gears up to an almost inevitable election in the fall.

Update: A predictably fond farewell from the folks at Canadian Cynic. “As Director of There-Will-Be-No-Communications, she herded the Conservative kittens and kept them from losing their mittens in front of the bad, bad people that we call the press. Sandra was the architect of the micro-managing, message massaging of megalomuffin Steve.” Heh.

Update2: “Congratulations Sandra Buckler (and Ian Brodie), for just beating the coming into force of the lobbying act! Now you can totally go back to doing what you know best ... Did Canada’s foremost expert on lobbying law™ tip you off?” Ouch!

Update3: Shorter Uncommon Truths — Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! You know, if you go through the list of descriptions that are supposed to be so egregiously skewed and/or malicious, they’re all quite accurate statements of fact. Buckler wasn’t popular with the press corps; she did bully journalists on occasion; she was stingy with information; and so on. Boy, the truth hurts, eh?

KCRW: To the Point - The Taliban in Afghanistan

And speaking of Afghanistan...

Update: The Harper government flip flops into action.

“The Games That Are Being Played”

Q: Could the President order a suspect buried alive?

Now there’s a question you don’t hear every day! That is unless you’re dropping in on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing entitled, From the Department of Justice to Guantanamo Bay: Administration Lawyers and Administration Interrogation Rules, Part III.

Here Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) tries in vain to get straight answers from John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote a now-repudiated memo allowing the harsh interrogations.

BBC Panorama: Daylight Robbery (Part 6)

Meet the Natives (Ep.3 — Part 5)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Late Show: Beverly Hillbillies

The first episode of the classic TV show from 1962. It’s kind of “topical” in a way, in light of all the talk about oil and domestic drilling in the U.S. — it kind of adds a whole new dimension to the show, or at least this episode anyway.

Colbert Challenge: Do it Live! My Friends

Highly NSFW, as you might have already guessed, but it’s after-hours for most folks.

Great ending on this one.

EURO 2008: Spain 3 - Russia 0

Highlights from yesterday’s match, with some pretty sweet goals (especially the second one by Güiza).

I’m sure this video is going to get zapped as soon as the UEFA folks spot it, but we’ll give it a spin while it’s still up.

Radio — Politics of Culture: Fareed Zakaria

In his new book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria argues that the “rise of the rest” is the great story of our time.

Zimbabwean Tensions Ahead of Sham Vote

From Al Jazeera:

Zimbabwe is just hours away from an election, where the winner is already known, and it’s an election that's been branded a sham. There is only one candidate - President Robert Mugabe will have his 28-year reign extended and he says he is sticking to the vote, because that is the law of his country. Addressing his supporters he said he was open to discussion, but no-one from outside Zimbabwe should dare interfere.

Update: Not related directly to the election, but I couldn’t help but be amazed by some of the news reports in the past few days about the shambolic state of affairs in Zimbabwe at present. The country’s inflation rate has now surged past the 1, 000% mark according to the Central Statistics Office, a rise of 129% from the previous month. As a result, a loaf of bread now costs between Z$80,000 - Z$110,000 (79 US cents - $1.08) up from about Z$7,500 last year, when the price was controlled by the government. A carton of orange juice costs about Z$500,000 and a kilo of beef up to Z$1m. Apparently, a deli sandwich can go for as much as Z$1 billion.

Business quotations aren’t valid for more than two days and sometimes not even more than a day. Prices can literally double overnight. Back in January, the government introduced a Z$50,000 “bearer cheque” worth 49 US cents, to become the highest value currency note. It’s not enough to buy a copy of the daily Herald newspaper at Z$80,000.

SCOTUS Strikes Down DC Gun Ban

The Supreme Court has struck down the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old ban on handguns, ruling 5-4 that Americans have an individual right to own guns for self-defense and hunting — the Court’s first major pronouncement on gun rights in US history.

Lyle Denniston adds at SCOTUS Blog:

Justice Scalia’s opinion stressed that the Court was not casting doubt on long-standing bans on carrying a concealed gun or on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, on laws barring guns from schools or government buildings, and laws putting conditions on gun sales.

Barack Obama’s campaign denounced as “inartful” a statement to the Chicago Tribune last year in which an unnamed aide characterized Obama’s position as believing that the DC ban was constitutional.

Chrétien: “A Total Vindication”

Via TheGlobe & Mail:

The Federal Court has struck down Justice John Gomery's 2005 finding that former prime minister Jean Chrétien and his top aide bore some responsibility for the federal sponsorship scandal that rocked the Liberal government.

Justice Max Teitelbaum ruled Thursday that Justice Gomery’s inappropriate comments to the media throughout the hearings into the scandal betrayed bias against Mr. Chrétien and his chief of staff, Jean Pelletier.

“The comments made by the commissioner, viewed cumulatively, not only indicate that he prejudged issues but also that the commissioner was not impartial toward the applicant [Mr. Chrétien].”

Moreover, Justice Teitelbaum said Justice Gomery’s zeal to remain in the media spotlight trivialized the proceedings and tainted the perception of fairness.

Damn activist liberal judges! (And yes, Teitelbaum was a Liberal appointment.)

Correction: Justice M.M. Teitelbaum was appointed by the Tories in 1985.
Thanks to Kirok and Jason for pointing that out in the comments!

Colbert Challenge: Star Trek McCain

One of the better entries, for sure.

Taft Steps Down, Nobody Cares

Well, this was entirely predictable.

Good riddance. Although an obviously sincere, painfully earnest fellow, Taft was possibly the world’s most mind-numbing dull person — a man so phenomenally boring that he actually made Ed Stelmach, another stupendously bland, entirely vacuous, and thoroughly uninspiring politician, look somewhat animated by comparison.

Not of course that a change of leadership (or a re-branding of the party, for that matter) will probably make a whit’s worth of a difference to the future prospects of the provincial Liberals, given the deadly combination of complacent apathy and stubborn obduracy that seems to characterize much of the electorate in Alberta.

Pakistan’s Dangerous Turn

Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation discusses Pakistan & the US’ failed policies when dealing with insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He argues that the Pakistani military does not as yet have a coherent counter insurgency strategy, one that combines military action and negotiation with supervised economic aid for poorer, more extreme regions of Pakistan. He also urged that the United States needs to make a long-term commitment to Afghanistan of more soldiers, and should be frank about this commitment with Afghanis and Pakistanis. This, he said, would ensure that people do not feel that the United States will abandon the region, as it did following the Soviet-Afghan war in 1989. The complete hour long presentation can be found here.

Countdown: McCain’s Fanciful Energy Plan

I liked this remark from a commenter at OGM:

The real irony is that McCain and Gingrich, with their implicit faith in ‘markets’, think that the market wouldn’t reward a company with “engine that can be mass produced that gets 100 miles or more to the gallon of fuel” with a hell of a lot more than $300 million or $1 billion. I picture both these morons dramatically yelling “One…BILLION…dollars,” while holding pinky fingers at the corners of their mouths, ala Dr. Evil.

Update: Dan at Culture choc raises some good points about “Peak Oil” and in particular the impact of high oil prices on the agricultural sector and the failure of the “free market” to develop and deploy non-oil-based alternatives to the current energy (read: petroleum) intensive paradigm relative to our food supply.

TCWOE: Trojan Horse

We’ve learned from history’s mistakes — so would anyone let in a full size Trojan horse in modern times? The Chasers put the question to the test…

Targets include: Royal Randwick Racecourse; Channel 9 (a rival TV network); Sydney University Dept. of History; Sydney Opera House; Turkish Consulate; and Army HQ Land Command.

Pin the Flag on Obama

Perhaps reinforcing some of the sentiments that Nader expressed the other day, here’s Slate’s John Dickerson analyzing Obama’s first general-election campaign ad. Dickerson counts the ways the ad tries to show Obama’s love of country. It makes for even more interesting viewing with Nader’s comments as a subtext to the ostensibly patriotic theme.

Ralph Nader: “Reprehensible and Delusional”

That’s what Obama communications director Robert Gibbs called Nader after he accused the presidential hopeful of trying to “talk white” and of appealing to “white guilt” the other day during in an interview with a Denver newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News. While Nader had, I believe, some legitimate criticisms, most of the examples he provided fold like a cheap suit when subjected to the scrutiny of a quick fact-check.

For example, Nader omitted to mention a few pesky details such as: Barack Obama wants crackdown on predatory lending; Obama is No Fan of Payday Loans; EPA Accepts Obama Proposal to Eliminate Lead Paint from Schools, Childcare Facilities; oh, and the fact that Obama wrote at such length in his first book about working on an asbestos-removal campaign, he’s actually been accused of taking too much credit for the effort.

And what about Nader’s own campaign site? References to payday loans: zero. References to predatory lending: zero. References to asbestos: zero.

All that notwithstanding, perhaps I’m not alone in thinking that there’s a certain degree of legitimacy to overarching gist of what Nader was saying about Obama not being significantly different from other prominent Democrats and his not wanting to appear “politically threatening”... moreover, coming across “as someone who’s not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it’s corporate or whether it’s simply oligarchic.” Unfortunately, in the rush to dismiss Nader’s claims and discredit him as fringe lunatic seeking attention, those points seem to have been overlooked by the media.

Bone Idle Wanker of the Day

Hunter-Climbing Out of the Dark

Gosh, there was some pretty stuff competition today from The Girl in Blue, but for sheer dumbassitude, the winner is… the perpetually benighted HUNTER! (Again.)

According to the hysterical Hunter, parents must rally to the battlements because they’re “under attack” by socialist lefties! And her proof of this tiresome assertion, you ask? First in the docket of her opprobrium is the controversial court ruling by Quebec Superior Court Justice Suzanne Tessier. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that Hunter doesn’t provide any of the salient details of the case that make it much less “implausible” than it may seem at first glance. You can read more about it here and decide for yourself whether you think it was a reasonable decision under the circumstances.

Now, being a curious sort of person, I wanted to find out more about this “socialist lefty” judge who overruled the authority of a divorced father involved in a “high conflict situation” with his ex-spouse. Funny thing… it turns out that she’s a Conservative appointee. How about that? Yep, she was elevated to the bench last year by none other than the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Go figure.

BBC Panorama: Daylight Robbery (Part 5)

Meet the Natives (Ep.3 — Part 4)

Success at last! The boys get an audience with HRH the Duke of Edinburgh…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Late Show: Get Smart

The Worst Best Man • Season 4-Episode 6 (1968)

Every time Max chooses a best man at CONTROL, the agent is murdered so then Max chooses Hymie.

Running From Mugabe

A BBC This World documentary from June of last year about the thousands of Zimbabwean refugees who enter South Africa illegally every week, fleeing the political and economic crisis in their country. Some are fleeing for their lives, victims of the Mugabe government’s violent political crackdown, but even in South Africa they cannot escape the terror of the regime.

Many live in fear of Zimbabwe’s feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) — the country’s secret police who are widely suspected by dissidents of conducting surveillance operations outside Zimbabwe’s border. Rumours of death squads and kidnappings are rife.

Politics of Culture: Shearer & Huffington

KCRW’s resident satirist and host of Le Show, Harry Shearer, talks with Arianna Huffington about her new book, Right Is Wrong.

SDA’s AGW “Logic” and Selective Memory

CO Global

Apparently, Kate McMillan has a message for “media pundits and editorial boards” that she alleges are unleashing a “Deluge of Propaganda” about the Liberals’ proposed “Green Shift” on an unwitting public. Providing a graph designed to illustrate what a teensie weensie amount of CO2 is present in the atmosphere (about 380 ppm), it’s presumed she’s contending that the whole issue of climate change is being vastly overblown by the dreaded MSM because the red/black line partially intersecting an enormous blue square representing the atmosphere is so comparatively insignificant, and moreover, the proportion of that said to result from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, is even smaller. Well, this is just fucking brilliant, isn’t it?

Following this perverse bit of “logic” perhaps we should similarly ignore all toxins in the environment that are measured in parts per million because they’re such a ridiculously small amount when compared to total mass. Heck, why worry your silly heads about carbon monoxide emissions, for example, given that they’re naturally occurring in the atmosphere to a small extent as a result of volcanic activity and only register in the range of 100-200 ppm even in densely populated, auto-intensive urban areas? No big deal, right? Good grief.

And as for that “Deluge of Propaganda”… My, how quickly the wingnuts forget. Here’s a cache from National Newswatch from several days ago. Stories include the following:

• “Green Shift” Gives us the shaft
• Dion shifting money from Western pockets
• The Liberals tax shift (negative NP editorial)
• Dion’s plan is too good to be true
• Liberals give business the shift
• Shift happens (Sun editorial mocking the policy’s name)
• A simple plan in theory only
• The great carbon swindle
• PM: Dion’s carbon tax plan would ‘screw everybody’

Damn “liberal media”!

Architectural Moment of Zen: Shape-Shifting Skyscraper

Italian architect Dr. David Fischer envisions the world’s first “building in motion” — an amorphous, shape-shifting skyscraper, with each floor capable of rotating independently.

Fischer says the buildings also double as power generators: wind turbines on every floor will provide power. “Wind has a very negative affect on skyscrapers we all know. So I say ‘why do we want to fight the wind?’ Why don’t we use the wind, to our own benefit?”


Justice: 2, Lord Black: 0

Conrad Vader

Oh dear, it seems that Conrad Black has lost his appeal to have his convictions on fraud and obstruction of justice overturned. You can read the whole judgment here (PDF file).

As Long as They Spell the Name Right

Free Publicity

That’s one of the humorous addenda to the famous axiom that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” (Another one is “except for your own obituary.”) The expression that all publicity is good isn’t always the case, of course — just ask the folks at Menu Foods — but generally speaking, it holds true, barring extraordinary circumstances.

So how exactly is it “ridiculous for people to assume the attention was good for business” as Jennifer Wright, the founder of Green Shift Inc. contends in The Ottawa Citizen today? As noted by Garth Turner on his blog: “It [GSI] has received non-stop national publicity. Millions of people who never knew it existed, do now. This traffic, headlines, notoriety and attention cost the company nothing. To achieve this level of brand recognition would have taken a marketing budget bigger than, I suspect, gross sales.”

Clearly, this attention might certainly have been unequivocally “good for business” had the matter been handled differently by the folks at GSI. According to Alexa, the company’s internet traffic has “shifted” in a positive direction by 3.3 million places in the last week. Untold numbers of people are now familiar with the company’s brand, as well as its various products and services. Had GSI simply posted a disclaimer on their site — as the Liberals did on theirs — stating they were in no way affiliated with the LPC’s “Green Shift” policy surely there would have been no possible confusion whatsoever. That might have been a considerably more productive strategy as opposed to say, calling the LPC “this stupid party”...

As indicated by LPC spokesman Joseph Mayer, “We’ve clearly stated on our website that we’re not affiliated, and we’re not a company that’s trying to steal business from them or anything. It’s not even a situation where our version of the green shift is somehow in conflict with what they’re doing. I think there’s a commonality of interests.”

Update: Jeff Davidson raises some good points here and concludes — “One more time, I hope Jennifer Wright realizes that the support she has received from the legions of right-wing nutjobs who suddenly support environmental organizations like hers is fleeting. Once the story has died, and it’s barely breathing now, they will soon forget about her and her company. They certainly won’t buy her products and services. They don’t believe in the cause.”

Poll: Should There be a TV Debate?

According to a new Angus Reid poll, an overwhelming majority of Canadians want to see Stéphane Dion and Prime Minister Stephen Harper square off in a televised debate on the Liberals' proposal for a carbon tax. What do you think? And should the leaders of the Bloc and NDP be included in that debate?

Update: There were some initial problems with the poll — it kept closing. That’s been fixed now.

Update2: Unfortunately, with all the initial problems with the poll this morning, I neglected to block repeat votes. Accordingly, it was Freeped earlier this evening. For what it’s worth, the last time I checked, the actual number of people voting “No” was 3. So little Tommy Terrorist voted 54 times. I won’t be letting that happen again!

Green Shift: Good News, Bad News for Libs

Good News, Bad News

Well, at least that’s one “crazy” talking point that can be taken off the table.

Via The Edmonton Journal:

[C.D. Howe Institute president Bill Robson] described Liberal opposition leader Stephane Dion’s carbon tax scheme, to prompt cuts in consumption by raising costs of all fossil fuel uses, as an essential dose of strong economic medicine.

“The inspiration really is environmental,” Robson said.

“If you seriously want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the consumer has to feel pain,” the economist said.

“They’ll suffer,” he added.

The Liberals’ prediction that their carbon tax, offset by rebates through other federal programs, would end up costing typical households $240 a year understates its likely effects by a wide margin, Robson said.

The program’s projected total annual cost of $15.3 billion works out to as much as $640 per family, he estimated.

An improved “green shift” of the tax system would allow for unforeseeable changes in the natural environment, Robson added. The new system’s effective price penalty for carbon emissions should work like an insurance premium by reflecting their effects as they develop, he suggested.

The tax level could directly reflect climate change blamed on rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere by linking the levy to temperature trends, Robson said.

“It should be flexible over time as we learn more about the problems we’re trying to address.”
That includes allowing for mistakes in climate change forecasts that have hardened into “quite dogmatic” popular beliefs, he added.

“The world as I read the thermometers has been getting colder over the past couple of years. This is an area that’s enormously difficult to navigate,” Robson said.

Dion is liable to pay a high political price for candidly disclosing a complex proposal, Robson added.

“The Liberals deserve a fate better than they’re likely to experience for just having put this out there,” he said. “I fear they
ll suffer.

“I fear part of the lesson will be don’t be as forthcoming with plans.”

BBC Panorama: Daylight Robbery (Part 4)

H&C: Christians Attacking Other Christians

“It terrifies me, the thought that (Obama) might be our commander in chief, might be in the Oval Office, might be the leader of the free world because, I said it a minute ago, the man is dangerous, especially with regard to this issue of morality.” — James Dobson

Amazing. Of course, Obama’s response to Dobson wasn’t reported by H&C, nor was the fact that a group of religious leaders, including one longtime supporter of President Bush, have launched a website to counter Dobson’s claims, called The only guest to comment on Dobson’s remarks was Fox’s newest “expert” wingnut Christian Minister and Chuck Norris approved former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who now supports John McCain.

Countdown: No Country Club for Obama

Via Political Punch:

Interesting that Mr. Rove would use a country club metaphor to describe the first major party African-American presidential candidate, whom I’m sure wouldn't be admitted into many country clubs that members of the Capitol Hill Club frequent.

But the picture Rove paints is interesting. Who, pray tell, is Rove at this country club? The guy telling funny stories near the band? The charming president of the club’s philanthropic arm? The brainy guy with all the sports scores? Or the guy who vandalizes your car and blames it on the kitchen staff?

It’s hard to see how this bizarre analogy from Karl Rove helps McCain in any way, but it sure is fascinating to watch the methodical, relentless way in which the GOP and their operatives distort absolutely everything about their opponents. Although, to be fair, they can’t take all of the credit for this “condescending fairy tale” — some thanks in that regard have to go to the Clinton campaign that used a similar line of attack in the last months of the primary race.

Meet the Natives (Ep.3 — Part 3)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Late Show: Dr. Who

The Five Doctors (1983)

Feature length 20th anniversary special that brings together all of the incarnations of the Doctor, plucking them out of time and placing them in the Death Zone on Gallifrey where they meet old friends and enemies and play out the deadly Game of Rassilon, for the ultimate prize. But to lose is to win, and he who wins shall lose...

Green Shift: Manufacturing Outrage for Fun & Profit

Manufactured Outrage Fatory

Kady O’Malley asks a good question and one that’s surely been puzzling more than few people:
“WHY would random people start flooding a company with phone calls just because of a name collision?”

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Kady figures, “unless, that is, there was a covert campaign to besiege the company with calls in order to freak out the owner, and escalate the situation to the next level.” Gee, ya figure?

Based on all accounts it seems like the unfortunate folks at Green Shift Inc. have been the target of mischievous keyboard commandos that have not only pestered the company by phone, but have inundated them with floods of e-mails. Hmmm. Now who would do something like that? Thinking, thinking... Oh my, that’s a tough one.

Unwanted Politics Update: GSI is still mewling and whining, now in The National Post (“…clients and supporters — which include the rock band The Tragically Hip — are likely to be more cautious about endorsing her company’s programs...” Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo!) and they’ve finally gotten around to mentioning that they’re in no way affiliated with the LPC’s carbon tax policy. Unfortunately, the button on their main page labeled “Unwanted Politics” leads to a page oozing with sanctimonious tripe and illiterate drivel like this: “We sincerely apologize to all of the businesses, institutions and individuals who are a part of the real Green Shift and sincerely hope that you will not suffer from anyone accidently [sic] thinking that you have ties to a political agenda.” Blah, blah, blah... What a bunch of eco-wankers.

Le Show Archives: June 15 • 2008

I stand corrected courtesy of SQ… It’s just ONE of the best shows on radio.

Really, it is. If you haven’t listened, give it a try. I’m sure you’ll quickly become a fan.

Note: Some Canadian content in this show with inclusion of the Residential Schools Apology in the “Apologies of the Week” segment (go to 10.55 into the show) and Pierre Poilievre’s apology for his ignorant, racist remarks on a radio program.

Antony Gormley: Another Place

British artist Antony Gormley made 100 cast-iron sculptures from a mould of himself, then planted them firmly in the shoreline at Crosby Beach, Merseyside, gazing out across the sea. Interesting.

Gormley, by the way, was just awarded the next commission for the “Fourth Plinth” in Trafalgar Square with a conceptual performance work called “One and Another” that’s designed to provide a “haven for a certain degree of anarchy.”

I quite enjoyed his suggestion for a statue of the new London Mayor himself. “The idea of Boris Johnson not saying anything but simply standing there, with his hair blowing in the wind, looking at the city which he has come to be Mayor of might be a very nice thing,” Gormley said. Heh. Indeed it would.

Cool Cars: H2O Vehicle

Made in Japan by Genepax and coming to a showroom near you... never.


Strange doings at the Tel-Aviv airport this morning.

“Police spokesman Shlomi Sagi confirmed that a policeman guarding the airport committed suicide just as Mr. Sarkozy was about to board his plane. Officials said he shot himself in the head.”

Shades of The Manchurian Candidate…

Green Shift: What Confusion?

Green Shift Bug

As noted in The National Post this morning “…in order to succeed in making a case for infringement, Ms. Wright will have to demonstrate that the Liberals’ use of the term “Green Shift” leads people to mistake or misunderstand the relationship between the organization, Green Shift Inc., and the Liberals’ Green Shift platform.”

According to Matt McGuire, Jennifer Wright the owner of GSI, purports that “clients that have subsequently stopped using the services of GreenShift as a result of the perceived affiliation with the Liberals.”

Now really… who could conceivably be dumb enough to confuse this company with the Liberals carbon tax policy? Are we to seriously believe that existing clients, companies that already have a business relationship with GSI and are therefore familiar with them, suddenly dumped Green Shift Inc. as a consultant or stopped buying their biodegradable coffee cups and what not because of this alleged confusion with the Liberals’ carbon tax policy?

Come on... seriously? To suggest that there’s legitimate marketplace confusion in this instance really strains credulity. Then again, maybe the people buying Green Shift Inc.’s products and services are, in fact, as the company’s claims would seem to indicate, dumb as a box of rocks. It could be possible...

Although it has to be said that it seems like a rather odd marketing strategy to suggest that your existing customer base and target demographic is comprised of the gullible, the naïve and the catastrophically stupid. But hey, what do I know…?

Update: Quel surprise that this dismal wanker would be on the warpath for a lawsuit. “The name “Green Shift” is a trademark,” Janke states. Well, that’s debatable as has been noted here previously. It’s not a registered trademark, but Green Shift Inc. does have fairly long-standing claims on the use of the expression in connection with various products and services. Janke is dead wrong however when he states that GSI “owns the trademark” given it hasn’t been registered as yet.

Moreover, where does Janke get off stating that “The Green Shift people are suffering real damage from Stephane Dion’s second known attempt at environmental plagiarism”? Do we know for a fact that GSI is actually “suffering” the alleged “real damage” as a result of enormous amounts of free publicity in the major newspapers across the country that almost uniformly casts the “nice, friendly little environmental organization” in the role of David battling Goliath? Seems a bit far-fetched to me.

As for “environmental plagiarism”… would that be like when the Conservatives “lifted” the name “ecoTrust” from a non-profit conservation organization in order to put a respectable face on their plan to funnel pork to the provinces under the guise of combating climate change? When will Stephen Harper learn that just because he likes another person’s ideas, his exaggerated sense of his own moral righteousness doesn’t give him the right to pass off those ideas as his?

Mysterious Ways

Mysterious Ways

The Corner’s Kathryn Jean Lopez is absolutely disgusted by the above unpublished cartoon by Lee Judge of the Kansas City Star. I guess Judge should have confined himself to spitting on the recently deceased and actively hoping for the eventual death of a whole generation of people… Apparently, that’s just okee-doke with the wingnuts. Go figure.

Hugo Chávez: The Trillion Dollar Revolutionary

BBC This World’s John Sweeney (who you might recall from here) went to Venezuela at the end of last year to investigate just how good the controversial President is at running his own country.

President Hugo Chávez calls the United States “Dracula” and George W. Bush “Mr Danger”, “a drunk” and “a donkey”. He can get away with being rude to the most powerful man on earth and challenging the economic might of the United States because his country sits on trillions of dollars worth of oil.

He may well be considered the luckiest left-wing leader, ever. Five years ago he was the victim of a right-wing coup which could have resulted in his death, but the people rose up in his defense and a stronger, tougher Chavez emerged.

Just as a postscript to the film, it seems that Sweeney can add República Bolivariana de Venezuela to the list of countries in which he’s been declared persona non-grata. That may have had something to do with the rather testy encounter with Chávez at a nationally televised press conference when Sweeney rather bluntly asked why he was sending millions of pounds to help fund the public transport system in London while the transport system in Caracas is a shambles. That didn’t sit well with El Presidente who angrily snapped that he wasn’t going answer such a stupid question. Although he did, but not before delivering a rambling, twenty minute long diatribe.

BBC Panorama: Daylight Robbery (Part 3)

Joyeuse Fête Nationale!

“Gender Blending” & Mayonnaise

Hmmm. I didn’t know Heinz made mayonnaise.

Gitmo: Re-writing the Evidence

This is simply amazing. It seems that the Bush administration now wants to rewrite official evidence against Guantanamo Bay detainees so they can shore up its cases before they come under scrutiny by civilian judges for the first time. While the government has stood behind the evidence for years, relying on it to justify holding hundreds of prisoners indefinitely without charge, they now want to submit new records, which would allow them to add intelligence and expand their reasoning for holding the detainees.

According to David Remes, who represents 18 detainees currently held at Guantanamo, this is a sign that the original documents were defective adding that much of the evidence came from questionable sources to begin with. It will be up to federal judges to decide whether the Justice Department can rewrite those documents. “It’s a totally fishy maneuver that suggests that the government wants, at the 11th hour, to get its ducks in a row,” according to Jonathan Hafetz, another attorney representing several detainees.

Countdown: Remembering George Carlin

Olbermann pays tribute to George Carlin and replays his last interview with him from October 2007.

Meet the Natives (Ep.3 — Part 2)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Late Show: The Jack Benny Program

Jack at the Supermarket — Season 11 • Episode 14 (1961)

Rochester has won a gin rummy game with Jack, so he’s golfing while Jack does the housework.
Jack plays gin rummy with Don, who ends up doing the housework. Dennis arrives to sing his new song, Let there be love. Jack goes to the supermarket.

Le Show!

Hooray! It’s now possible to embed KCRW programs.

Enjoy the best show on radio!

D’oh! (Updated)

Green Shift… D’oh!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Update: Matt Goes Splat

In the finest “Malkinesque” fashion, it turns out that the flapdoodle over copyright infringement is all just a lot of unfounded bluster. Are you surprised?

A search of the CIPO website indicates that the trademark application by Green Shift Inc. (“GSI”) that was made on January 24, 2005 hasn’t been approved as yet. In fact, it hasn’t even moved beyond the examination phase (although the representative agent has changed several times). As noted by Catherine in the comments to this thread, who checked this out, “from all the correspondence and extensions noted, there appears to have been problems with registering this name well before anything to do with the Liberal Party.”

Indeed. Considering the exhaustive list of classifications, including both goods and services, that GSI is seeking approval for, it’s not in the least bit surprising that the application is taking so long to approve. Just a very small sample of the “wares” covered includes coffee; toilet paper; tissue paper; paper; kraft paper; recycled paper; writing paper; garbage bags; deodorizers; clothing; housewares; and urinal blocks. As for the “services” covered in the application, this includes all manner of consulting services in the fields of: environmental conservation; air quality issues; green roofs; indoor gardens; wildlife preservation; habitat management; business marketing services; business marketing services; education and awareness in the field of animal rights; manufacturing of environmental solutions to wasteful packaging; lawn and garden care; providing information in the fields of environmentalism and energy conservation; retail sale of waste reduction products; retail sale of energy efficient products; retail sale of biodegradable products; retail sale of recycled products; and so on.

Well, so much for that. Another trumped up, completely phony right-wing “controversy”… Oy.

Update: Or Maybe Not…

Hmmm. It seems that Green Shift Inc. — a “nice, friendly, environmental organization” — has in fact issued a cease and desist letter earlier this afternoon to the Liberal Party and is “considering whether to sue for damages.” Presumably, the company is concerned that the inadvertent association with the “crazy” Liberal carbon tax plan might imperil a contract they have with the Parliament Hill cafeterias, providing them with products such as recycled coffee cups.

Well, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on the Internet, but it seems to me that using the ridiculously broad list of conceivable goods and services listed in the company’s trademark application as a guide to what GSI feels the term “Green Shift” might conceivably be applicable to, that the “unique distinction” criterion is entirely absent here. Keep in mind that a trademark, properly called, “indicates source” or serves as a “badge of origin.” Now, would one be inclined to exclusively associate “Green Shift” on a urinal block (to use one example from their list of “wares”) with the same company that provides “consultation in the field of waste reduction and environmental assessments; consultation in the field of water and energy conservation” (again, just one example from their list of “services”)?

Definitely Worth Writing Down Update: Ted Hsu fires up Google and discovers that… can you guess? “Green Shift” is a rather generic term that’s been variously applied to: a transportation project associated with the ecoPerth initiative that’s sponsored in part by Transport Canada; the GreenShift Corporation which is an eco-technology company based in New York; an environmental task force in Manchester, U.K.; and so on.

We Get Mail...

I hope loyal supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada are proud of this fellow traveler... This is the kind of individual who gives real conservatives a bad name. It’s unfortunate that the right-wing seems to be crawling with this sort of miserable, hateful creature.

The “Red” Star’s Report Card

Report Card

On the whole The Star’s year-end “report card” seems like a pretty fair assessment given that it’s supposed to be a hotbed of raving socialists and the unofficial mouthpiece of the Liberal Party, at least according to some. Of course there’s no mention of it whatsoever on the BT aggregator… I guess that might contradict their whole crackpot “liberal media” conspiracy theory.

Harper’s “Secrecy-First” Defence Plan

Document Dump

You have to hand it to Stephen Harper for correctly assuming that, in their haste to vacate Parliament Hill on Friday, the press would barely notice the document dump surruptiously made late last Thursday night on the Defence Department’s website outlining details of the half trillion dollar/20 year so-called “Canada First” defence plan. This and especially this makes for some VERY interesting reading. Too bad that it won’t be discussed in parliament until November maybe… if ever. Enjoy all that Harper government “transparency” and “accountability” folks.

I’m sure the “Blogging Tories” will be extremely consternated about planned expenditures of approx. $30 billion a year into the distant future without the least bit of prior examination or scrutiny by our elected officials. No? Well, maybe they’ll be concerned by the fact that by some accounts it actually represents a progressive decrease in spending as a percentage of GDP — except of course for the next two years during which time Harper will be striving for his desperately wanted majority government. Hmmm. Funny that.

NATO: Headed for Failure in Afghanistan

A word in your ear

Speaking on CTV’s Question Period this weekend former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley said that unless NATO makes a more “serious” troop commitment in Afghanistan, its mission in the war-torn country could fail. To illustrate the point he drew a comparison to NATO’s past involvement in war-torn Bosnia in the 90s. “When you just look at the commitment, it’s about 50,000 troops in Afghanistan. NATO sent 50,000 troops to Bosnia, which is a country of about 1.8 million. Afghanistan’s (population) is over 30 million.” According to this ratio, a similar commitment would involve fifteen times the number of troops NATO presently has deployed in Afghanistan, or in other words, something in excess of 700,000.

While that figure would be clearly excessive, not to mention totally unrealistic, it may be fair to suggest that four times the current number of troops (200,000) would be a reasonable number. It should be noted that, prior to the war in Iraq, U.S. General Shinseki famously said that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required to fully secure that country post-invasion.

But again, this is far beyond anything NATO would ever be prepared to devote to the undertaking in Afghanistan. Which begs the question why Manley didn’t point out this fundamental lack of a more “serious” troop commitment when his vaunted “blue ribbon” panel reported back to the Harper government earlier this year? The commission’s requirement that NATO allies must agree to send 1,000 more troops to the Kandahar region in order for Canada to continue on until 2011 seems almost laughably pitiful in contrast to what Manley is now suggesting would actually be required for NATO to properly take charge of the situation and succeed in Afghanistan.

BBC Panorama: Daylight Robbery (Part 2)

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency once did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective. A billion seconds ago it was 1959; a billion minutes ago Jesus was alive; a billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age; a billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.

George Carlin: Life is Worth Losing

Well that’s a bummer.

Update: A really classy response from Kate at SDA. Are you surprised?

Meet the Natives (Ep.3 — Part 1)

This sort of fox hunting takes Oscar Wilde’s famous aphorism (“the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible”) to a whole new level.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Late Show: In Search of Ancient Astronauts

Narrated by Rod Serling, this 1973 film was the first of two pilot productions for the long-running “In Search Of...” television series. It’s actually an edited version of the 1970 German documentary Erinnerungen an die Zukunft (Chariots of the Gods), based on the bestselling book of the same name by Erich von Däniken.

The film examines the theory that aliens have landed on Earth in ancient times and were responsible for many of mankind’s oldest mysteries. Such notions of ancient astronauts and “paleocontact” were all the rage when I was a kid, and taken at face value, the theories do seem quite compelling. Unfortunately however, the evidence never seems to stand up to closer scrutiny. As Carl Sagan said, such extraordinary assertions as von Däniken’s demand extraordinary proof without which it would be inappropriate to believe the claims. Still, it’s hard to resist imagining that such a thing may possibly have happened…

A Second Chance for Stock?

The Internet Never Forgets

Heh. Fun to speculate, but I don’t think so.

Screw the West (or most of it, anyway)

Grit Prospects

Through fully nine, count ‘em, nine paragraphs, in which veteran Regina Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk asks readers to forget this, that, and the other thing, he seems willfully oblivious to electoral reality in “the West” — not only as it has been in living memory, as it stands at present, but also as it most likely will remain for the foreseeable future; that is to say, an unassailable fortress of “Conservative” power. Therefore, bemoaning the fact that Stéphane Dion may conceivably have written off a large portion “the West” with his proposed “Green Shift” carbon tax plan provokes little more than a shrug or perhaps a mordant chuckle at such a “loss” of wholly non-existent potential.

Here in the more temperate, western most part of “the West” it’s doubtful that Dion’s “Green Shift” will affect traditional Liberal strongholds in metro Vancouver and, by putting forward a strong environmental position, it might even give them the edge needed to pull ahead in tight three-way ridings where vote-splitting with the NDP has allowed the CPC to win by running up the middle. If so, that would offset the handful of seats lost elsewhere on the inhospitable prairies. As for the interior of B.C., all of Alberta and much of Saskatchewan and Manitoba… Well, the Conservatives could run a bag of poo in most ridings in those places and still get it elected (and I dare say, that in some cases, they’d be better represented were that indeed the case).

Just as a postscript, there’s already been one positive benefit to the “Green Shift” and that is, rather predictably, that it’s served to make the crazies… even crazier!

Shorter Lorne at SDA: “Git yer guns! Them thar Libural varmints ain’t stealin’ er oil n’ gas ree-sources with their confounded NEP Redux!” Yee-ha.

Update: And speaking of getting “screwed” by those Eastern bastards... (h/t: CC).

BBC Panorama: Daylight Robbery (Part 1)

First part of a BBC Panorama investigative report called Daylight Robbery — What Happened to the $23 Billion? in which reporter Jane Corbin investigates the whistleblower cases which threaten to reveal the secrets of billions of dollars worth of waste and corruption during the past five years in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Kurdistan.

To give just one example, in the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, the company which Dick Cheney was CEO of before he became vice-president. Usually, only Halliburton got to bid — and won. The objecting official was subsequently demoted, despite years of service.

When the US and its allies went to war they gave corporate America contracts for caterers, security guards, translators, interrogators etc., not to mention the supposed rebuilding of Iraq. It’s now been revealed that five years later there is $23 billion either stolen, missing or not properly accounted for. But because of gagging orders on the whistleblowers the American public is not being told the truth.

According to one report, 363 tons of crisp, newly minted $100 bills — $12 billion in cold cash — were airlifted to Baghdad in the days immediately after the May 2003 invasion. The video footage surfaced on television as Paul Bremer, the American pro-consol in charge of Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, testified before Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. If Waxman thought Bremer could account for all that boodle, he was destined for disappointment. Frank Willis, described as senior official of the Coalition Provisional Authority, acknowledged that “Iraq was awash in cash.” An attorney for a group called Iraq Whistleblowers claims, “The environment created by the coalition positively encouraged corruption.”

Now as the alleged corruption involved in these contracts comes to the surface, Jane Corbin speaks to those involved and asks, what happened to the missing $23 billion. It makes for some fairly alarming viewing. As Waxman has said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, it’s egregious.”