October 2007 Archives

October 31, 2007

Works for me

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Updated. Please see below.

Kansas church liable in gay Marine funeral protest

A jury on Wednesday ordered a Kansas church to pay $2.9 million in compensatory damages to relatives of a gay U.S. Marine after church members cheered his death at his funeral.

The jury in federal court determined that the Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka, and three of its principals had invaded the privacy of the dead man's family and inflicted emotional distress when they protested at his funeral last year.

According to the article, the Westboro Baptists have demonstrated at some 300 military funerals which leaves a lot of potential litigants out there. I trust Fred Phelps is checking his bank balance and feeling his neck. Couldn't happen to a nicer bigot.

Hat-tip to k'in at Bread and Roses.


And a further tip of the hat to Bread and Roses member ReWind.It for this addition to our story.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.
The church and three of its leaders — the Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, 46 — were found liable for invasion of privacy and intent to inflict emotional distress.

Even the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted.

Apparently Phelps had already checked his bank balance.

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October 29, 2007

Paging Peter MacKay

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According to this CBC report there are fresh allegations that prisoners turned over to Afghan authorities by Canadian soldiers are being abused. Conservative house leader Peter Van Loan, who's really beginning to get on my nerves, dismisses it as Taliban propaganda but apparently someone forgot to tell La Presse, where the story originated, and the Afghan Human Rights Commission.

A spokesman for the Afghan Human Rights Commission is quoted as saying that about a third of prisoners are still being tortured by Afghanistan's secret service before they are taken to prison.

"The Canadians give us a sealed envelope with the names of the prisoners. The problem is that list never corresponds to the one compiled by the secret service," said commission spokesman Shamuldin Tanwir.

The newspaper also quoted a senior official at the Sarpoza prison in Kandahar and said he did not want to be identified: "Yes. The detainees are tortured by the secret services before they're brought to us."

One detainee told La Presse that when he was captured, Canadian soldiers told him not to worry. He said they gave him a document guaranteeing there was no more torture of prisoners in Afghanistan.

"The people from the secret services ripped it up and tossed it in my face," the prisoner is quoted as saying.

"They beat me for 20 days."

I dare say that this issue is one of the reasons Gordon O'Connor is no longer the minister in charge of the DND. I would suggest to his replacement, Peter MacKay, that he better give us more than Van Loan's spin. This makes a complete mockery out of the Conservatives' feel-good message about the mission.

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October 26, 2007

Friday night blues blogging

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Spend enough time browsing through YouTube's offerings and you'll begin to think there's a band called BB King and Other Well Known Guitar Players. Here he's joined by Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Jimmy Vaughan on Rock Me Baby.

This is King, Clapton and Guy joined by Albert Collins and Jeff Beck. Sweet Little Angel.

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Legislation would require veils be lifted to vote

Canadians would be allowed to hide their face before voting in a federal election for health reasons, but not because of their religion, under new legislation introduced Friday by the minority Conservative government.

If adopted, the legislation would force a woman wearing a veil because of her religion to show her face before voting, but it would exclude a person wearing bandages to cover facial wounds from an injury or surgery, said Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Lawrence Cannon.

He argued that the legislation was a necessary response to fix a loophole in the Canada Elections Act which caused controversy during federal byelections last month in Quebec.

“We’ve seen cases where people have not identified themselves, and willingly tried to deviate from electoral integrity,” said Cannon, who is Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political lieutenant in Quebec. “I’ve been told, for instance, in one poll in St-Hyacinthe (east of Montreal), some people came in there with masks on, they came in with veils, other people came in with other ridiculous attire.”

Yeah, I heard about that too, Minister Cannon. They weren't Muslims, they were people acting like idiots who were egged on by your leader, our illustrious prime minister, who isn't above encouraging a little racism if he sees political advantage in it*.

This was a ridiculous episode to begin with but now it's gotten even more so.

*Edited to add: Though as I recall none of the federal parties exactly distinguished themselves on this the last time around. Made me want to fire the whole lot of them and start over.

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October 19, 2007

The tune is Driftin' Blues. Here's the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

And here's Eric Clapton.

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I guess I'll get over it

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Patrick Fitzgerald is engaged.

This is just one of those things. He was The Boy, and now he isn’t any more, and if you need that explained, there probably isn’t much I can say to help.

(My co-bloggers, who are all Serious Political Thinkers, are going to disown me completely for this post, but they’re all men, so how could they know?)

I see that everyone is already deep into the chocolate at strategerie’s place. Somehow, chocolate doesn’t work for me. At profoundly disturbing historical conjunctures such as this, what works for me best is piano that smiles, and this one does.

Erroll Garner, “Just One of Those Things”

‘Bye, Fitz. *sniff*

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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October 17, 2007

The Throne Speech

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It's out, and it's an interesting one, though I wouldn't say there are any surprises. The meta-story around it is that Harper has been talking tough, saying that if opposition parties don't like it, they should topple his minority government. The NDP and Bloc Quebecois have already said they will vote against it so it comes down to the Liberals, who will probably wind up voting for it, then see, on individual pieces of legislatin, if they're willing to go along. Harper can, of course, make those individual pieces "confidence motions", in which case if the Liberals vote against, the government may fall. Think of it as Harper pointing a gun at his own head and shouting "I have a hostage", though, of course, he may really want an election. The Tories are riding high in Quebec, where they are now the second party after the Bloc Quebecois, and the Liberals are in disarray in la Belle Provence, with a big chunk of their senior leadership resigning. However polling still shows that a new election would most likely result in another Conservative minority government - Harper has never polled over 39%, and is generally in the low 30's. 40% is usually considered necessary to form a majority. It's not impossible that Harper could get it, if he runs a brilliant campaign, the Liberals shoot themselves in the foot again, and the press comes out strongly for the Conservatives, as they did in the last election.

Harper has, in general, being kissing up to Quebec. He game them a vote at UNESCO, he formally acknowledge they are a "nation" within Canada, something no other federal government has ever been willing to do and has given them a big chunk of money to right the so-called (and in my opinion, largely nonexistent) "fiscal imbalance". (If there were real concern about a fiscal imbalance it would mean giving money to Ontario and Alberta, not Quebec, but whatever. The Tories have proved to be even more willing than the old Liberal governments were to do whatever it takes to get the Quebec vote.) On the other hand the Afghanistan war is very unpopular in Quebec (all foreign wars, always, are unpopular in Quebec.) That hasn't stopped the Conservatives from making significant gains, but it may cap the level of their gains.

Preamble aside, let's dig into

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October 15, 2007

I blame bad toilet training

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We all know that our Steve (Harper, that is) has some control issues. He is finally going to let Parliament reconvene this week -- Steve V at Far and Wide reminds us that the recess has been 116 days long:

If an election is averted, I sure hope Harper and company can last until the 7 week Christmas break. Pace yourself "new" government, burnout is real.

Our Steve (Harper, that is) has been getting so much done without Parliament, though. There's that ongoing SPP thing, and then there's Steve's "panel" on Afghanistan -- I mean, you have to wonder why he bothers with Parliament at all. I'll bet he does.

Next up, it appears, is the Press Gallery. Remember the free press? The fourth estate? Special mention in the Charter (and everyone else's democratic Bills and Declarations)? Essential to democracy that they work free of political control?

OTTAWA–The Prime Minister's Office, which has long had a rocky relationship with the national media, has been working on a secret project to build a new, government-controlled briefing room at the cost of $2 million, documents obtained by the Star show.

Long kept under wraps, the plan – codenamed the Shoe Store Project – is in the works by the Privy Council Office and the PMO to establish a new government-controlled media briefing centre near Langevin Block.

The yellow-brown building that now houses Stephen Harper and his senior staff would supplant the current National Press Theatre, just a block away.

The National Press Theatre, used by prime ministers and cabinet ministers since Lester B. Pearson opened it in 1965, is a venue with simultaneous translation where on-the-record news conferences are moderated by press gallery executive members – not Harper's political staff.


A hand-drawn sketch of the PM's renovated shoe store/press theatre indicates a space for "maybe permanently installed cameras with feeds to media."

That could put the news cameras in the hands of government-employed camera operators, not independent photojournalists employed by the television networks. It suggests the Prime Minister's communications people would send broadcast feeds to the TV networks for their use in reports, or as most politicians prefer, live-to-air broadcast.

The Harper government has had several run-ins with the national press gallery. When Harper came to power, he changed the rules governing press conferences, insisting his staff decide which journalists pose questions. It is an American practice, which Paul Martin attempted to use on the 2006 election campaign trail.

But when the Conservative government made clear it would be the new norm, the national media objected. Harper told interviewers it gave him more control, which is precisely why the press gallery for years has run press conferences, to depoliticize exchanges between the media and government. The moderator is held accountable by his or her peers for playing favourites.

The media's concern has been that the PM's staff might sideline reporters deemed unsympathetic.

Ooh! This is just so Washington, isn't it? So Beltway. Think of all the propaganda laundering we're going to get from arrangements like these.

So if my count of those "countervailing institutions" Condi Rice was lecturing the Russians about on Saturday is correct, Steve is now two down and one to go if he wants to catch up to the Bush administration, never mind the Russians. Parliament vapourized: check. Free press humiliated: check. Hi, there, Supreme Court. Anyone feeling the waters lapping around the ermine-edged ankles yet?

Meanwhile, many details in the Shoe Store Project documents are blacked-out or withheld for reasons related to "international affairs and defence," "security," and cabinet confidentiality.

Update: Snerk 1. Snerk 2. And I could go on.

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October 12, 2007

Friday night funk blogging

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Change of pace time again. Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. Groove Me.

And Ivan Neville & the New Orleans All Stars. Fire On The Bayou.

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October 5, 2007

Friday night blues blogging

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It's an instrumental evening for no reason in particular. I stumbled across this slow blues by accident and have no idea who these guys are.

But I know who these guys are: Downchild Blues Band. Soaring.

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October 1, 2007

What do the superrich want with all that?

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A while ago I talked about CEOs and hedge fund managers and such, who these days routinely take home tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per year. And they keep on, year after year, ruthlessly grinding the poor, subverting political alternatives or even mild reforms that might tax some of their earnings, polluting, even killing (not with their own lily white hands, of course), just so they can get a bit more—so they can take home 30 million this year instead of 20 million, or 300 million instead of 200 million.

I realize this is cliche, but I can't stop wondering—what's the point? Why exactly are they so desperate for more money? I mean, I can't really imagine how any more than about $10 million could possibly improve my quality of life any further.

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