Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Stephen Harper: a billion bucks quickly wasted.

June 28, 2010

Go, Canada!  Splashing out an inexplicable billion dollars on a massive security fence and 20,000 heavily armed cops to cower behind it while a scruffy handful of anarchists wreck downtown Toronto!  Me, I’m thinking it would have been cheaper to build a twenty dollar fence and just have local cops who would have been on duty anyway cower behind it in their regular attire.

On the other hand, there is an up side of the ridiculous level of “preparedness” a billion dollars supposedly bought:  there’s no way for a thinking voter to avoid the suspicion that the riot was purposefully ignored (or intentionally provoked) in order to justify the breathtaking price tag of fulfilling Harper’s authoritarian aspirations for a weekend.  Given the New Government of Canada’s unprecedented fondness for carefully staged PR opportunities, that’s the theory I’m going with until further notice.

Because sensationalist photos of burning cop cars and smashed windows are likely to dominate most mainstream coverage (as intended, one can’t help but suppose), I want to make a point of remembering the type of direct action the vast majority of dissidents were there to engage in, photo courtesy of the Star.

More on the search for classier blogs…

June 9, 2010

Here are a few good finds:

You are not so smart illuminates widespread misconceptions about the world by summing up psychological research on the subject of each post.  Essential reading for maintaining an honest amount of skepticism.

Arthur Silber and Chris Floyd have rhetorical skills occasionally reminiscent of Shaw or Twain, and on top of that I agree with nearly everything they write.

Greg Palast is an independent investigative journalist.  Perhaps I should say the independent investigative journalist, since I am not aware of any other freelancers who go further in their investigations than “whatever they can find on the internet” (although I’d be delighted to hear about them if they’re out there.)

That’s it for now.

BP blocks press, press calls on public

June 3, 2010

Huffington Post has a slide show of 265 images of the BP spill.  Recommended viewing for those who would seek to underplay the scale of the disaster, but still lacking the gut-wrenching images of suffering wildlife that characterized BP’s other big American fuck-up, the Exxon Valdez spill.  BP will not allow photographers to travel freely in the area, lamely asserting it’s a “safety issue” when it is quite obviously a PR issue.  How can it be a “safety issue” to specifically exclude press from scheduled flights?  It’s either safe or not safe, whether you have a camera or not.  Considering the fact that their contractors have no meaningful safety gear at all, it seems they consider it “safe”.

The San Fransisco Chronicle has called upon the public, including contractors working on the clean-up to please document the disaster during the press black-out, and have written iphone and Android apps to facilitate the easy upload of pictures.

I certainly hope local residents take up the challenge.  The civil damages BP will be forced to pay will be partly based on the perceived scale of the ecological impact.  To allow them to downplay the impact on wildlife is to cheat local communities out of future compensation.

It must be said at this point I can not fall asleep any more without fantasizing about Tony Hayward, who thinks he’s the victim, being pilloried in some public square and repeatedly kicked in the crotch, or Sarah Palin, who blames environmentalists for the spill, being  made to bob for apples in a vat of crude oil to get a sense of what it’s like to be a pelican these days in the gulf of Mexico.  It brings me a sense of peace.

Update: Greenpeace is hosting a logo rebranding contest and got me all inspired.

BP's new logo

Happy quit facebook day!

May 31, 2010

Hat tip to Dale at Faith in Honest Doubt for reminding me what a clueless dickhead Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is when it comes to understanding internet privacy concerns.

In his own words:

Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity

No, Mark.  Having two identities for yourself is an example of “having a job”.  Would it be great if nobody had to have a job?  Hell, yeah, sure it would.  But that’s not the world you or I live in.  You and I, Mark, live in a world where a Catholic school educator can be fired from her job for ticking “no” on a Facebook poll asking whether or not she believes in God.  Those of us who are not 20-something dot com billionaires spend our time working (or looking for work).  In this world, the more intelligent and interesting you are the more likely it is that keeping your job entails a truckload of make believe.

You go ahead and invite your grandma over for a slide show of your latest XXX leather party.  Give your business associates a running commentary on your gay wedding plans and let the bank handling your debts know where the best mushroom picking is this year.  Who’s going to fire you?  For my part, I’m going to keep deciding for myself who gets to see what.  Just for shits and giggles, I’m going to call it consideration of the differing sensibilities of my friends, business associates and family rather than a “lack of integrity”, but you can call it whatever you like.

Today I changed my privacy settings to ensure that my personal information is no longer spewing all over the shop like blood from a severed kung fu flick limb thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s thoughtless idealism.  Having a good look at exactly what was being shared without my consent was an eye-opener, to say the least.  For Facebook users, today’s top priority should be to opt out of sharing personal information with applications your friends sign up for.  Sharing my personal information with random third parties attached to my friends turned out to be the default setting, believe it or not.  In light of that bombshell, I went a step further and also deleted all but one of my third party applications (MyBand) out of consideration for the privacy of my friends.

Those who find it tricky to get their head around the “simplified” privacy settings can always just quit facebook like the 25,000 users who claim they’re going to do it today.

What should we do about those darn creationists?

May 19, 2010

The inimitable godless blogger P.Z. Meyers has had a go at theistic evolutionist Karl Giberson for an article where he claims science has not only failed to dislodge creationism, but failed abysmally.  Giberson argues non-creationists need to tell creationists it’s “OK to believe in God”, and then gently persuade them that you can believe in evolution as well.  For his part, Meyers insists that it would be better to root out magical thinking entirely from the whole of human civilization.

I think both arguments are deeply flawed, for the simple reason that cdesign proponentsists don’t give a fiddler’s fart what either of them think.  Whether Meyers and Giberson patronize them with a soothing “there, there” or rail against the folly of their convictions, they’re still going to believe a bunch of nonsense for as long as they wish to belong to whatever community they’ve contracted it from.

Dawkins picked up on this phenomenon in an unbearable interview with Wendy Wright, partly transcribed in the Greatest Show on Earth:

Wendy: What I go back to is the evolutionists are still lacking the science to back it up.  Instead, what happens is, science that doesn’t bolster the case for evolution gets censored out.  Such as, there is no evidence of evolution going from one species going to another species.  If evolution had occurred, then … surely there’d be at least ONE evidence.

Richard: There’s massive amounts of evidence.  I’m sorry, but you people keep repeating that like a kind of mantra because you just listen to each other.

He’s exactly right.  The only reason a creationist would be looking at anything written by the likes of Meyers or Giberson would be to quote mine sentence fragments that might mislead the reader into believing they don’t really believe in evolution, or to find material for later use in a character assassination campaign.  I sympathize with them for their charming fantasy that something they could say or do (if only enough of us climbed aboard the bandwagon) might have an impact on the thinking of people like Wendy Wright.  However, I think it would be better for us not to wring our hands about how we can best infiltrate the religious mind and rearrange the furniture.

It’s a red herring.  Personal belief in creationism is not the problem.  In the complex, aromatic bouquet of ideologies the religious right brings to the table, the toxic flower is not personal belief in god or creationism, it is the collective rejection of the separation of church and state. I would propose a third option:  instead of wasting our breath debating religionists or debating each other about how best to debate religionists, why don’t we devote our energy to affirming the principle of secular government?

General human wingnuttery is not a real problem.  Or at least, if it is, it is a problem that will never go away, like psoriasis.  The problem is that a certain wing-nuts are organized and lobbying effectively for the fusion of religion and government.  Perhaps normal people feel no need to organize and lobby collectively to prevent such a development because we are, after all, the vast majority (at least north of the border).  Nevertheless, I think we need to make it absolutely crystal clear that blurring  the line between religion and politics in Canada to appease the Conservatives’ religious base will not be tolerated.

In 2003 Steven Harper wrote an article for the Christian Coalition (motto: a vibrant majority, proudly Christian).  In it, he plainly stated that elusive “hidden agenda” so many leftists love to speculate about:

Rebalancing the conservative agenda will require careful political judgment. First, the issues must be chosen carefully. For example, the social conservative issues we choose should not be denominational, but should unite social conservatives of different denominations and even different faiths. It also helps when social conservative concerns overlap those of people with a more libertarian orientation.

Second, we must realize that real gains are inevitably incremental. This, in my experience, is harder for social conservatives than for economic conservatives. The explicitly moral orientation of social conservatives makes it difficult for many to accept the incremental approach. Yet, in democratic politics, any other approach will certainly fail. We should never accept the standard of just being “better than the Liberals” – people who advocate that standard seldom achieve it – but conservatives should be satisfied if the agenda is moving in the right direction, even if slowly.

Third, rebalancing means there will be changes to the composition of the conservative coalition. We may not have all the same people we have had in the past. The new liberal corporatist agenda will appeal to some in the business community. We may lose some old “conservatives,” Red Tories like the David Orchards or the Joe Clarks.

This is not all bad. A more coherent coalition can take strong positions it wouldn’t otherwise be able to take – as the Alliance alone was able to do during the Iraq war. More importantly, a new approach can draw in new people. Many traditional Liberal voters, especially those from key ethnic and immigrant communities, will be attracted to a party with strong traditional views of values and family.

Does it look like Steve’s proposing a prolonged and “careful” culture war to you?  It does to me.  Sign me up.

John Derbyshire: coming out of his cave for a snack

May 10, 2010

On the National Review Online, a very cute bit of delusional, self-aggrandizing nonsense appears in John Derbyshire’s blog.  “The Derb” introduces this piece as if it were a random email circulating around Wall Street rather than a torrent of his very own personal bile.  After a few meandering opening remarks, we get to the heart of the matter:

“Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours.”

Yeah, you read that right. Wall Street is going to quit trading and steal all 150 million ordinary American jobs if it turns out they might have to follow some rules.

Apparently, Derb – sorry, I mean the “anonymous” writer of this “email” – is particularly keen on leading a bloodthirsty army of non-unionized workaholics into public schools where, in a fit of pique, they will become third grade teachers and work 17 hours a day for $85,000 a year.

I expect it might come as quite a shock when they take home their first paychecks only to find that  they’re only making half that, regardless of how many overtime hours they put in (just like all teachers, everywhere).

So, to recap:  if Obama regulates Wall Street, this elite team of sociopathic triple-A personalities will stride into the workplace of Joe Public and offer to do his job for double the average wage, simultaneously boycotting any existing collective negotiating body with a snowball’s chance in hell of convincing anybody anywhere to pay them one grubby shilling more than the going rate.

The “email” the Derb “found” sustains a frenzied level of ideological auto-fellatio throughout, eventually suggesting that the above-mentioned migration of Wall Street traders would be enough to completely crush the entire middle class, establishing a new economic order with former Wall Street traders who now do landscaping at the top (still) and the people who used to do landscaping before they were crushed at the bottom (still).

For a final salvo,

“We aren’t dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive. The question is, now that Obama & his administration are making Joe Mainstreet our food supply…will he? and will they?”

Yes, you heard that right.  They’re not just going to steal our jobs, they’re going to eat us.

Night of the Living John Derbyshire

Look out!  John Derbyshire smells brains, and you can bet your lazy hippie ass they aren’t his!

Hide the children! Lock the doors!

April 30, 2010

Juxtaposition of the day:

From here:

Parliament, power grids, and nuclear facilities were the intended targets in an attack that Fahim Ahmad hoped Canada would never recover from, the Crown said as it laid out its case against three men arrested almost four years ago…

The Crown intends to call up to 11 witnesses, most of whom will be police officers, and play for the jury about 70 wiretap conversations.

In one of those, Ahmad is heard saying the kind of attack he was planning has “never been done before,” Jaffe said.

“They’re probably expecting what happened in London or something,” Ahmad said, referring to co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks in July 2005 in London’s subway system that killed 52 people and injured nearly 800.

“Our thing is much, much greater on the scale. You do it once and you make sure they never recover again.”

Aaaaand from here:

The portrait of an “utterly disorganized” camp, surfaced as defence lawyer Michael Moon cross-examined police agent Mubin Shaikh, who infiltrated the alleged homegrown terror cell in late 2005.

Court was told that when members of the group attended a December 2005 camp in Washago, Ont., some were terrified a fictional pack of wolves was stalking them, two men cut themselves chopping wood and one nearly lit himself ablaze while pouring fuel onto the campfire.

“These guys were lucky to get out of Washago alive,” Moon suggested to Shaikh, who is testifying at the trial of Fahim Ahmad, Steven Chand and Asad Ansari, members of the so-called Toronto 18, which was busted up by police on June 2, 2006.

Mmmmm-hmmmmm…

And of course, back in 2oo6

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called U.S. President George W. Bush to thank him for the U.S. co-operation in thwarting the alleged plot, projecting the message that Canada is not a “haven” for Islamic extremists.

Bravo, Steve. Well played, good sir, well played indeed.

George Galloway: Windbag or Terrorist?

April 21, 2010

My favourite English MP has fallen victim to the Harper government’s habit of suppressing public discourse that does not promote their agenda.  According to Alykhan Velshi, Director of Communications for Conservative MP Jason Kenney (Calgary SE), providing material support for Palestinians who are still struggling under the Israeli embargo imposed in 2007 after their election of Hamas, makes you  a “terrorist”.  “Terrorists” are of course inadmissible to Canada, even (perhaps especially) when they are sitting British MPs who are consistent, unrepentant, passionate and media-savvy peace activists.

Sounds reasonable enough – after all, Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular are terrorists.  Every god-fearing neo-con knows that.  Bringing material comfort to struggling Palestinians is therefore an act of terrorism.  This is Velshi’s logic, and since the PM’s office gave the thumbs up to this appalling decision in writing we can safely assume it is our Prime Minister’s logic as well.

Velshi is a disciple of the American free market propaganda mill the American Enterprise Institute and the pro-Israeli Foundation for Defense of Democracies and, as is clear from emails to immigration officials, harbours a rather hysterical personal loathing of Galloway, not for his material support of Hamas, but for his political views.

Velshi personally kicks off the banning process by claiming to have received a “media call” questioning why “we’re letting in [Galloway] even though he’s called for money to go to a banned terrorist entity in Canada (Hamas)”.  He follows up by claiming he can back up this assertion by sending a link to a news article.  (He doesn’t).

Credit for the original “media call” has been taken by the paranoid, militant lunatics of the Jewish Defense League – a group which is referred to in a Department of Homeland Security resource as a “terrorist organization” for numerous ideologically inspired acts of violence and assassination plots since its inception.  The JDL claims to have sent a letter to Kenney’s office requesting that Galloway be banned.

The email exchange between Kenney’s office and Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been graciously leaked and is available for viewing at rabble.ca.  Put very simply, events appear to have unfolded as follows:

1. A Jewish special interest group of questionable integrity learns that a prominent critic of Israel’s conduct in Palestine is booked to speak in Canada and requests that a Conservative MP intervene to ensure Galloway be refused admission.

2. The Communications Director for Jason Kenney writes to the public servants in charge of immigration requesting that Galloway be banned.

3. The public servants appease the MP’s office by digging up a provision that can be used to justify the ban for reasons other Galloway’s criticism of Israel – here the accusation of “terrorism” comes into play.

4. The immigration officials proceed with the ban while Kenney’s representative panics about the possibility Galloway might be allowed in by a careless border guard, and flails about trying to identify which crossing he will use.

5. The Canadian Immigration office in the UK is advised of the ban and writes a very alarmed and thorough email warning of the irregularity of the banning and the likelihood of widespread press coverage and damaged relations between Canada and the UK.

6. An officer of the Prime Minister’s Office is brought into the loop and affirms they do not have a problem with the ban or its consequences.

And let us not forget the icing on the cake, so characteristic of the Conservative Party:

7: Jason Kenney denies that any of the above ever occurred, despite the widespread publication of evidence to the contrary.

So, in sum, it appears that suppressing criticism of Israel within Canada is more important to Harper and his cronies than our diplomatic relations with the UK or our international credibility as a country that affirms the right to freedom of speech and association.

Galloway’s challenge of the decision will be heard in the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto on April 26th.  According to rabble.ca, “the hearing is open to the public and is due to begin at 9:30 AM.  There will be a rally preceding the hearing, starting at 8:30 a.m., and solidarity rallies at federal court buildings in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton and elsewhere.” Click here for more information.

I’ll leave you with some classic Galloway windbaggery:

And if you’re in Calgary SE and believe Canada’s immigration officials are not paid to do the bidding of marginalized, extremist, violent Jewish special interest groups, please stop voting for this guy:

Jesus is my gunsight.

January 23, 2010

How about this:

A US military contractor has said it will stop engraving Biblical references on rifles used by the US army.

The markings, in the form of coded references, have been appearing on products made by the US firm Trijicon, based in Michigan, for decades.

But on Thursday, US military chief Gen David Petraeus, said the practice of scripture references was “disturbing” and “a serious concern”.

The firm also sells the gunsights to Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

The inscriptions – which include “2COR4:6” and “JN8:12”, relating to verses in the books of II Corinthians and John – appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number.

The first question: since when does a single sentence a paragraph make?

Anyway, the article does not elucidate what these verses refer to, so I will:

2COR4:6 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a]made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

JN8:12 12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This kind of thing makes it quite hard to differentiate between your average suicide bomber and your average American soldier.

The Shackles of Civility

October 16, 2008

I’m in a bind.

I joined a book club, mostly out of boredom – there’s nothing else to do here.  At first, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy talking about books, but I do!  The other book club members throw words like “deracinated” into casual conversation!  I felt like a swan indoctrinated in duckness discovering my lost tribe for the fist time.  I love words.  Big words, small words, foreign words, swear words – practically any assortment of words strung together fills me with an intoxicating joie de vivre.  Other people who read know a lot of words, and they know how to string them together.

It’s a sizable group, and the club is brilliantly organised.  So well, in fact, that we have a dyed-in-the-wool bestselling author coming to our next meeting to talk about her book, which I finished on the weekend.

Here’s the problem:  the book was rubbish. However, since I’m going to meet the author, I can’t bear to say anything bad about it.   What if word gets back to the writer that I didn’t like her book and it makes her feel sad?  What if she catches my eye at the book club meeting and deduces from my swiftly averted glance that I have been spreading toxic reviews of her work all over town?  I am weighed down by my heavy secret and my guilty conscience. 

I know from experience it is very difficult to write an entire book.  You think you’re doing fine, sticking with the plot you laid out on the index cards, then suddenly the shit hits the fan.  Characters start dying off unexpectedly.  Before you know what hit you, your heroine is huddled in a catatonic trance while a torch-bearing mob attempts to kick in the door to her haunted flat.  Her baby is playing with something disturbing and unidentifiable he found up the chimney and you, the writer, don’t even know what it is.  And you’re only forty pages in!  So you just leave it and start another book.

In appreciation of the difficulty involved in stringing that many words together and coming up with something coherent, I don’t want to hurt the writer’s feelings by not liking her book, even here, anonymously, without even naming it.  How can I conceal my disdain at the next book club meeting?  Should I just stay home and read Haruki Murakami?  Or should I go and ask loads of questions about book-finishing strategies for writers instead of talking about the book itself?