June 2007 Archives

June 30, 2007

The grumpy men distinguished colleagues I blog with at POGGE began to show some resistance to tagging memes some time ago, and have done their best to shame me into silence about my admittedly less than above-the-fold prime-time-worthy private life.

But what is a gril to do? First friend Melanie at Bump hits me with the "eight random things about me" tag last week, and then jj at Unrepentant Old Hippie guilts me further with the same tag, and worse -- she steals most of the eight people I was planning to tag for my post's closing Aufhebung. I mean: does life get worse?

So, like, fueled by those few remaining hits of estrogen remaining to me in my decrepitude, here I go, playing the modified and deeply repressed Canadian version of Truth or Dare as best I can.

Oh, right. First I have to copy in the rules:

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Belated blues blogging

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Sorry 'bout that. Will Buddy Guy leading a stage full of luminaries make up for it?

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June 26, 2007

Och, it’s still all about him.

Tony Blair and ménage will move out of 10 Downing Street today after a legacy year that has felt decades long. (Not to worry, though: they have a place to crash while the reno on their 3.6-million-pound home in London is being completed – Chequers, the country estate meant as a retreat for British prime ministers. Don’t expect to see Gordon Brown coorying doon there any time soon.)

I wish that Tony Blair couldn’t still get a rise out of me. I wish that Tony Blair now just bored me rigid, and that was how I meant to start off an insultingly brief farewell post today. Be a stranger, Tony. Nobody but George will miss your spiffy ties. There might have been a time when your departure would have been news, but you kept missing that train, Tony, daily, for years, and most of us got fed up waiting and left the station. Nobody’s waving good-bye, Tony.

But the triangulating bastard won’t go. He can’t admit that his so-called Third Way has proved to be an utterly bankrupt way of governing to anyone who expects democracy to be more than image deep. He isn’t sorry for selling his soul (and the lives of British soldiers) to bumbling war criminals in Washington, and when he detects that his own people have never supported his self-aggrandizing adventures with the globalizing brigands and climbers elites, he scolds and postures and whines. He is such a flake, such a bore, such a bother.

So guess what he’s planning for an encore? He is about to become the special representative of the so-called Quartet (the UN, the EU, the U.S., and Russia) to the Middle East. And guess how he got that job:

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June 25, 2007

Climate Change Will Lead to Increased Conflict

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At least, according to Sir Jock Stirrup, the head of the British Armed Forces:

The head of the British armed forces said today that Western armed forces must be ready to deal with the consequences of global warming.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, addressed the Chatham House talking-shop in London. He said that military planners needed to factor in the results of global warming to their calculations, as climate change could cause weak governments to disintegrate, or give rise to mass hardship and a sense of grievance against the world powers.

Wait. The head of the British Armed forces is named Sir Jock Stirrup?

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June 22, 2007

Friday night blues blogging

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From the Cream 2005 reunion. Outside Woman Blues.

And Crossroads.

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June 17, 2007

Is anyone else beginning to feel seriously creeped out by that expression?

I’m a student of language. I’m entirely familiar with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century rhetorical, ah, pleasantries, and they don’t normally bother me in context.

I somehow doubt, however, that George W. Bush, Tony Snow, Alberto Gonzales, and assorted smirking minions in the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice (the ones who haven’t yet resigned and started seeking immunity deals) are thinking in quite the same context that I am when they recite that phrase over and over again as a defensive mantra that is beginning to sound like open taunting of anyone who still believes that the U.S. of A. is a republic and a democracy.

The context of Enlightenment rhetoric was the reasonable, the standard we still set for our citizen juries because democracy depends so heavily on our trust in one another, our belief that most of us, citizens and elected and appointed officials all, can and will pay attention to facts and principles and laws and play fair in our public dealings with one another.

Without that context and that commitment to truth and democratic principle, “at the pleasure of the president” could mean anything at all. It could mean that George W. Bush could appoint his favourite horse as the next AG should Gonzales be impeached any time soon. Don’t laugh: there’s a precedent.

Me, every time I watch and listen to the smirkers in Washington who wield that line more and more freely these days, clearly believing that it means that no law applies to them, I feel my skin starting to crawl. There is a definite sick subtext emerging from this administration’s defiance of congressional oversight and democratic principle. The press secretary sneers or the president giggles, and I feel – forgive me, but I feel fingered.

And I’m not even an American. Not that that is going to save me or any of us from a regime that is passing very swiftly from imperialist all the way to seriously depraved.

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June 15, 2007

Friday night blues blogging

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Here are two clips that bear absolutely no relation to each other whatsoever. Sue me.

Ry Cooder. Jesus on the Mainline.

Bonnie Raitt. Love Me Like A Man.

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June 14, 2007

Paradise Lost?

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Many of us are avid listeners of Internet Radio. As well as the big players (CBC, BBC, NPR etc.) this new media has spawned a multitude of small, independent listener-supported webcasters.
I'm listening to one of the best of these as I write this: RadioParadise. Run by Bill & Rebecca Goldsmith from their home in the small Sierra Nevada town of Paradise, California RP offers an eclectic mix of rock, pop, jazz and alternative music. But maybe not for much longer: the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), the folks who killed Napster, are at it again:

On March 2, 2007 the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), which oversees sound recording royalties paid by Internet radio services, increased Internet radio's royalty burden between 300 and 1200 percent and thereby jeopardized the industry’s future.

At the request of the Recording Industry Association of America, the CRB ignored the fact that Internet radio royalties were already double what satellite radio pays, and multiplied the royalties even further. The 2005 royalty rate was 7/100 of a penny per song streamed; the 2010 rate will be 19/100 of a penny per song streamed. And for small webcasters that were able to calculate royalties as a percentage of revenue in 2005 – that option was quashed by the CRB, so small webcasters’ royalties will grow exponentially!

Before this ruling was handed down, the vast majority of webcasters were barely making ends meet as Internet radio advertising revenue is just beginning to develop. Without a doubt most Internet radio services will go bankrupt and cease webcasting if this royalty rate is not reversed by the Congress, and webcasters’ demise will mean a great loss of creative and diverse radio. Surviving webcasters will need sweetheart licenses that major record labels will be only too happy to offer, so long as the webcaster permits the major label to control the programming and playlist. Is that the Internet radio you care to hear?

Go give them a listen before their sweet vibe is silenced forever by the greedheads at the RIAA!
(Low-bandwidth streams available for dial-up users lost in, say, the wilds of Manitoba!)

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June 10, 2007

Arms and the money

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Some British members of our international ruling gang of thieves and thugs elites appear to have been caught running what amounts to a money-laundering scheme to channel vast sums of cash to members of the endlessly fascinating House of Saud, in exchange for lucrative purchases from British arms manufacturers.

Perish the thought, I hear you cry. You’re really surprised by that news. I can just tell.

The BAE Systems scandal has now grown so complex and tasty that I can’t do better than to refer you to the Guardian’s developing file on the full cast of scoundrels, in and outside of government. I’m only part-way through those files myself, but I can already sign on to George Monbiot’s conclusions about what we know so far:

In fairness to our craven attorney general [Lord Goldsmith], all this goes back a long way. The Defence Export Services Organisation (Deso), which allegedly oversaw these payments, has channelled money to corrupt officials in foreign governments since it was founded by the government 40 years ago. As documents unearthed by the Guardian show, this was and is its main purpose. Since the Al-Yamamah deal was signed in 1985, Britain has been supporting, financially and militarily, one of the world's most despotic regimes.

This makes a mockery of successive governments' claims to be supporting democracy around the world, and ensures our security is now entangled with that of the Saudi princes. Al-Qaida's primary complaint is directed against the Saudi monarchy and the western support it receives. Like the war in Iraq, like Blair's support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon and his uneven treatment of Israel and Palestine, this deal helps ensure Britain is a primary target for terrorism: not because our government acted on principle, but because it acted without it. Blair has invoked all the strategic threats from which he claims to defend us.

Close down Deso. Reopen the investigation. Sack the attorney general and the senior civil servants at the Ministry of Defence. Open a public inquiry to determine what Blair knew. Wage war on tax havens and secret offshore accounts. Hold BAE to account. Then lecture the rest of the world on good governance.

Shorter current state of things: it appears that the prime minister and the attorney general of the UK stepped in to stop an investigation opened by the Serious Fraud Office (in accordance with OECD regulations) because, well, y’know, the Saudis needed their payoff, and actually admitting to that in public would have been both embarrassing and costly:

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June 9, 2007

I should preface this by pointing out that I'm not even in the same city as my own music collection.

I visited YouTube this morning for the first time since the accident and brought up my favorite Neville Bros. clip. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

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June 8, 2007

The Wisdom of America

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I and many other critics of the current U.S. regime have been accused of "hatred of America" by lizard-brained right-wingers who cannot help but equate criticism of George Bush and the Republican Party with "anti-Americanism". It is amongst their more stupid tropes, but one which they still wield with righteous indignation to fend off occasional attacks of reality.

Of course, the exact opposite is true. I love America. I love the promise of that nation, and the hope that it brought to a world still unconvinced that this whole "democracy" fad would take hold. I love the generosity of spirit that embodies American ideals.

And I find it fascinating that in what was at the time a backwater nation on a wild continent, a group of men of staggering intellect came together to enshrine in the founding document of their new nation the nascent principles of freedom that first took root with magna carta and found rhetorical voice during the Enlightenment.

Which is why I so loathe the corporatocracy that America has become. The bloated militarism, the rampant inequality, the mindless religiosity, and the erosion of freedom disguised as the protection of liberty has resulted in a twisted vision of the America that these men of the Enlightenment strove to build. To illustrate just how forward-thinking these men were, I recently found a series of quotes that shows that they saw the seeds of failure in the great national project they had just launched, and clearly identified the means of America's undoing.

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We can't possibly love Gore Vidal enough. He speaks, and the mind clears. He writes, and the memory of what our culture might have been begins to return.

He may be known as a sceptic and a satirist whose pen is most often dipped in acid, and yet his prose, fiction or non-fiction, has always positively bounced with delight in life. He has a lot of fun with the eternal persistence of sleaze and corruption among the politically powerful, yes, and yet he can write tributes to other great spirits that turn the course of popular perception, as he did in this 1973 survey of the novels of Italo Calvino, which instantly put Calvino on countless reading lists throughout North America, sight unseen.

And besides, he's cute. He was beautiful as a young man, and at eighty-one he is still cute as hell. Yes, I'm a girl, and yes, I wrote that. Gorgeous is gorgeous, and that man is still gorgeous.

All of which leaves me wondering: why on earth was that lovely man subjected to a "dinner salon" thrown by the most banal and vulgar social climbers currently corrupting and debasing humane culture in Toronto?

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June 7, 2007

Purple Library Guy's post re: Linda McQuaig reminded me that I wanted to post about Dean Baker's spot-on expose The Conservative Nanny State way back when it first came out about this time last year. If you want to know how and why the rich get richer while the rest of us get screwed, go read this book! Sadly, one can readily substitute 'Canada' where ever Baker uses 'United States'.
Appropriate musical accompaniment from the one and only Billy Bragg at the 2006 Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival:

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June 5, 2007

Mad about Linda McQuaig

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That lady tells it like it is. I found this on ZNet, although I expect it's various other places as well. She's so straight to the point, it's hard to add much to what she has to say:

Probably the most overlooked story of the past two decades is the fact that there was a class war and the rich won.

By getting governments to cut taxes and slash social benefits, our financial élite has greatly enriched itself and worsened the fate of the poor. Inequality has reached a level not seen in this country for about a century, as Osgoode Hall tax professor Neil Brooks has noted.

. . .

It's hard to square the ugly reality of people living on our streets with any sort of good feeling about where our society is headed. Hence, the need to remove this ugliness from view.

. . .

Toronto's launch of its Streets to Homes program in February 2005 was coupled with punitive new rules that banned the homeless from sleeping in public squares, and halted programs that provided them with food and sleeping bags. The city has also become more aggressive in prosecuting panhandlers and loiterers.

So perhaps the class war has simply moved into a new phase. Having cut back the minimal supports we once provided to the most marginal members of society, we're now concentrating on moving them physically out of sight, and criminalizing the plight we've reduced them to.

Nothing spoils a good feast more than a crowd of unwashed beggars loitering within view.

This has plenty of resonance for my hometown of Vancouver, where the approaching Olympics are giving extra impetus to the drive to shove the poor to places where the tourists won't have to notice them.

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June 4, 2007

Orange juice is brilliant

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The Boss would snort at me for doing this, but people have asked, so I write here just a short update about The Boss.

The Boss is racing ahead ... well, no, ok, he is limping slowly forward ... but he is on the mend. He is getting better day by day, although curiously enough, he seems to have little to no interest in news of fresh disasters from the outside world. The nerve, eh?

What he does think are quite fine things right now: the taste of real coffee, real eggs, homemade blackberry jam, and above all, orange juice. Orange juice, he will have you know, is brilliant.

And just being able to stand up and walk about, even in some pain, is a wonderful thing that we none of us should take for granted. Life is good.

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In memory of Steve Gilliard.

(I originally posted this back in July and had decided to repost it some months ago because a number of things have changed since then but never did. Sometimes procrastination is a good thing.)

We have a lot of new visitors here at POGGE. We also have the Unaccountability Act, the Hot Air Act and the No New Daycare Act. We have the New Government of Canada.

As if that was not enough, down in the Excited States of Amnesia, Preznit Dumbass has blown off his daddy's Wise Guys and flipped the bird to 70% of the American public by announcing his New Way Backward in Iraq. Or as Jon Stewart said "... You could basically put it this way: [Bush] cooked up a giant, giant pot of shit, and looked at it and said, 'Y'know what this needs? A pinch of salt.'"

So, if you find you keep misplacing your happy place, here is:

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Steve Gilliard

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I'm late to the party - such as it is. I didn't even know of Steve's death until late last night. But the loss of someone who meant so much to some of us cannot go without comment on behalf of the POGGE crew..

With Steve Gilliard's death, the blogosphere has lost a passionate and insightful voice in support of justice, truth, freedom, honesty and integrity. As great a loss as that may be, Steve may have left the building but he has not gone. He touched every progressive writer on the 'net directly or indirectly over the last few years. His fingerprints are on every rant we have written and he will live on in the hundreds and thousands of us who remain and those who will follow. We at POGGE are proud to be part of that group.

The loss is something more for some of us. I have written before on the influence Steve had on both pogge and me. I would not have taken up blogging and become part of the POGGE community or rediscovered my love of writing without Steve's inspiration. I guess it's fair to say that everything I have written in the last few years or ever will in the future will have a Gilliard fingerprint somewhere in the margin.

But, from what I know of Steve, I don't think he would be too happy with the bunch of us moping around mourning his death rather than celebrating his life. My guess is that, if he had his choice in how he would like to take his leave from us, it would be more down the lines of a traditional New Orleans funeral with a jazz band leading a parade through the streets of New York to a park where there was a tanker truck full of beer and the biggest damn barbecue anyone has ever seen. After the conclusion of those festivities, there would be a procession to the Bronx where thousands of people would surround and simultaneously moon Yankee Stadium while shouting "Fuck the fucking Yankees".

That's a sendoff Steve might even come back for. And, if he did, he would probably say, "Nice party but,if you really want to honour my memory, get back to your keyboards and start writing passionate, insightful pieces about justice, truth, freedom, honesty and integrity."

So, miss the man but carry on the tradition.

Blog on, Big Guy, blog on.

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June 1, 2007

Well, c'mon. Friday night blues blogging at pogge's place has to hit a high standard.

Since I can't do that, not with blues guitar, anyway, I figured I'd turn to one of the few fields in which I feel I have some expertise and, in fact, some recent accomplishment -- the cutting of hair.

I am now on Day Eleven of the transformation of what used to be my really quite impressively long lefty-hippy-chick ash-blonde masses of hair into what I think of as a classic bob. The bob has had two great heydays in the past, the 1920s, when it first appeared, and the 1960s, when it was revived for a time -- think Twiggy. Forty years apart -- interesting cycle, yes?

And it has been such a season of hair-watching for those who follow American politics. If you're a woman with very long ash-blonde hair that needs cutting and you've spent much of many days since New Year's watching Washington women either testifying before congressional committees or reporting on them, you might well be feeling that it is time to take it off, take it all off. I mean, Monica Goodling was absolutely the last straw. Who wouldn't want to cut her hair after that performance?

So I did. Well, I started. Eleven days ago, I started. It's tougher than it looks, y'know? While your hair is still long, the major cuts are easy, but the closer you get to the perfect bob, the trickier it gets. Mirrors are not to be trusted -- mirrors are counterintuitive, and they will always misdirect your scissors. And while you don't want to be thinning or layering much for the classic bob, you do learn how thick that underlayer is (unless you're a Republican: Republicans don't believe in underlying things), and you have to prosecute it as closely as you can, day by day towards the finish, if you want a really nice clean sweep across the neck.

So maybe the daily perfectings have left me with a bob just a touch shorter than I was aiming for. One side looks a little longer than the other, so you correct for that. Then you start to think that you've overcorrected, so you clip the other side. Well: you can imagine.

But I'm getting there. Every woman will know: I've never met the hairdresser who will do what I want. So there comes a time when you just have to take things into your own hands.

I don't look anything like the perfect darling icon of the bob, Louise Brooks, and I am for sure no Twiggy. I love them both, though, for thumbing their noses at the gilded cultures that preceded them. Here is a surprisingly good description of how the Brooks bob is done ... for all those girls out there who've decided that they've had enough of the culture of corruption and want to take the layers off, take them all off.

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The effects of George Bush and Dick Cheney's disaster in Iraq continue to ripple outwards. Now we have word that the Turks, who have been massing their army along northern Iraq in response to attacks by Kurdish rebels, think a nice little invasion would allow them to put an end to the guerrillas once and for all.

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's top general said Thursday his army — which has been massing troops on the border with Iraq — was prepared to attack separatist Kurdish guerrillas in a cross-border offensive.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said the military was ready and awaiting government orders for an incursion, putting pressure on the government to support an offensive that risks straining ties with the United States and Europe and raising tensions with Iraqi Kurds.

"As soldiers, we are ready," Buyukanit said at an international security conference in Istanbul.

Although the United States has branded the guerrillas a terrorist organization, Washington fears that Turkish military action could destabilize northern Iraq — the most stable part of the war-torn country. Washington is also concerned that supporting Turkey in an incursion could alienate the pro-American Iraqi Kurds.

Many Turks believe a major incursion would help finish off the rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey since 1984. Turkey's human rights record has been stained by allegations of excessive use of force in the fight against the guerrillas in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.

Turkey last carried out a major incursion into Iraq a decade ago, before the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But separatist Kurdish guerrillas, taking advantage of a power vacuum in northern Iraq, have escalated attacks on Turkish targets. The military says up to 3,800 rebels are now based in Iraq, and up to 2,300 operate inside Turkey.

Turkish intelligence reports say that Iraqi Kurdish groups, which previously supported the Turkish military in fighting the guerrillas, were preparing defenses against a possible Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. Turkey fears that Iraqi Kurds want to establish an independent Kurdish state, which could revive the aspirations of separatist Kurds in Turkey.

Well, why not? It's not like there's any evidence that a military adventure in Iraq would not go exactly according to plan. The Turks might even be greeted as liberators.

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The Canadian President

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Stephen Harper continues his evolution (or his intelligent design in his lingo) toward full-blown Republican status with this loathesome attack on Stephane Dion, who dared to criticize the laughable mismanagement of Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor.

OTTAWA — The Canadian House of Commons resembled an American election campaign on Thursday as questions were raised about the military service of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. "This was a very sad day in the House of Commons," NDP Leader Jack Layton told reporters after question period. "It simply denigrates our democracy and the prime minister should be ashamed."

The whole uproar occurred during question period when Liberal Leader Stephane Dion repeatedly demanded that Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor resign over the latest controversy involving the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared to have had enough of Dion's line of questioning about the competence of O'Connor, who had served previously as a general in Canada's military.

"The minister of National Defence is a veteran of the Canadian Forces," Harper said. "He has served this country courageously in uniform for 32 years and when the leader of the opposition is able to stand in uniform and serve his country then I'll care about his opinion."

Harper's stunning comment was greeted by cheers from his MPs while the Liberals jeered the prime minister.

Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff rose to ask the next question and pointed out that Harper had spent his entire adult life in academia or politics.

"Mr. Speaker, I can't remember the prime minister's service record," he said.

That prompted the prime minister to go on the attack against Ignatieff, a writer and academic who spent most of the previous 30 years living outside of Canada before returning to seek the Liberal leadership.

"It's true I've never served in the armed forces," the PM admitted. "I consider that an experience in my life that I've missed. But I can say, Mr. Speaker, that I've always worked and lived and paid my taxes in my country."

Ignatieff then rose to rebut Harper as Tory MPs shouted him down by heckling "Harvard. Harvard."

It's a really a right wing twofer for Harper. He gets to criticize people who have not served in the military (hypocritical prick that he is) and he gets to sneer at an academic. It's all good!

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