April 2008 Archives

April 30, 2008

When life imitates The Onion

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I'm pretty sure that if, last week, I'd put up a post entitled "Governing party votes no confidence in itself" some of you would have been checking to see if you'd landed at The Onion without realizing it. As of yesterday, that title isn't a joke. Since the Conservatives have expressed a lack of confidence in the institution that oversees our elections, they must feel their own election was flawed. I guess from now on we can refer to them as Canada's Illegitimate Government™. Works for me. (I might even have suggested Canada's Bastard Government™ but I was already calling them that under my breath.)

Now if someone had gotten busy sooner and put forward a motion expressing confidence in Revenue Canada so the Cons could vote against that too, we could have forgotten all about that silly income tax business.

(Edited for clarity. This humour stuff is hard work!)

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April 28, 2008

Transportation blues

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Some young Progressive Bloggers in Toronto struggling home from a hard night out clubbing, at some ungodly hour after midnight this past Friday-Saturday:*

You may have heard that there was a transit strike in Toronto this weekend. It went on for -- oh, forty, forty-two hours? It was hell, I tell you. We were brave, though. We didn't call out the troops this time -- well, Mel isn't the mayor any more, and the current mayor, who is supposed to be a social democrat and mature and all, doesn't do that sort of thing. He just splutters because a tough union dared to do what unions do, and how could they do that to a nice guy like him?

Ok, so it is not fair for me to trivialize a number of things. In a city this size, a lot, really a lot of vulnerable people are hurt immediately by a transit strike. The TTC normally closes down at 2.30 a.m., and a lot of the people who are relying on transit to get home after midnight are going home from minimum-wage jobs, just as a lot of people who would be getting up very early on a Saturday morning to go to work need to get to their minimum-wage jobs on time or else they'll be fired. Single mothers on welfare with kids in strollers are trapped without transit. And I could go on, as a number of Progressive Bloggers immediately did, first thing Saturday morning -- for a handy review, see Dr Dawg's initial reaction to the posts he saw scrolling past at PB before we knew very much about what was going on.


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It seems the lesson our government took to heart from the Arar inquiry is to work as hard as possible to keep similar cases out of sight.

It all started in the spring of 2003 when Mr. Abdelrazik flew to Sudan to visit his ill mother. He travelled on his Canadian passport and had no difficulty getting on flights leaving Canada, despite CSIS's long-standing interest in him. His wife and their children joined him for several months that summer. In an interview, she tells of flying back to Montreal, sick and with an infant son, only to be detained at Montreal's airport, interrogated for hours and denied access to a toilet or even allowed to sit down.

Mr. Abdelrazik is still in Sudan. While Canadian government officials tell him to his face that they are trying to get him home to his wife and children, they work behind the scenes to leave him stranded in Khartoum and to keep the situation quiet (until now).

Abdelrazik is a Canadian citizen. He's been arrested and imprisoned in Sudan twice but, in the end, he's been released because Sudan has nothing to charge him with. The Sudanese government has cleared him of any wrongdoing and all Canada has against him is claims by CSIS that he's a terrorist. Of course we don't know the basis for those claims beyond guilt by association because CSIS, true to form, has redacted anything that might be relevant in the documents that the Globe and Mail got hold of to form the basis of this story. As with the case of Maher Arar, it appears they want to keep him from returning to Canada precisely because they have no proof of wrongdoing sufficient to warrant charging him.

May we have another inquiry, please? Perhaps this time they can investigate just how many cases like this there are.

Hat-tip to jrootham at babble.

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April 25, 2008

Friday night blues blogging

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You can warm up with Sue Foley playing an instrumental called The Snake.

Now check out Sugar Blue as he conducts a clinic on blues harp. Hoochie Coochie Man. (There's no extra charge for the short lesson in German at the beginning.)



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...why Americans will find themselves saying "President John McCain" next January, this is why.

And remember this handy rule: when someone complains about the liberal media they are one of two things: pathologically dishonest or truly, profoundly, stupid.

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April 23, 2008

Update: There's video: see below.

Here is a model of what can happen when well-disciplined activism meets up with good blogging.

I was so impressed by this DKos diary that I thought I'd just pass it on: Elsinora, "John Ashcroft Yelled at Me Tonight. No Joke."

Even before I got to Elsinora's narration of her well-prepared confrontation with Ashcroft, I was surprised and impressed to read about the political temper on her campus, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. That cheered me. I take her point about some of the unnecessary rudeness and admire her for remaining civil, but I was still happy to learn that the students are awake and angry, and also brave enough to let members and former members of a dangerously paranoid regime know that they have had enough. Brava! (And Bravo to the guys.)

Notice this choice evasion of Ashcroft's when Elsinora asks him about the Senate reservations on the Geneva Conventions:

ASHCROFT: (angrily) I don't have them memorized, no. I don't have time to go around memorizing random legal facts. I just don't want these people in the audience to go away saying, "He was wrong, she had the proof right in her hand!" Because that's not true. It's a lie. If you don't have the reservations, you don't have anything. Now, if you want to bring them another time, we can talk, but...

Heh. He says that not long after he has hectored and dismissed a student for not remembering the precise date of the ABC report on the principals' meetings on torture.

Via emptywheel

The videos: They aren't our usual embeds, but they're interesting. Elsinora gets her question about the sentence imposed on the Japanese officer who waterboarded Americans in here. That video sets the scene on campus best. There are two others that give us more of Ashcroft's speech but very little of Elsinora (brief moment in part II), here and here.

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Getting things done for who?

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A tip of the hat to The Jurist for catching this bit of blarney from the prime minister who's supposed to be standing up for us.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday that re-opening NAFTA would actually help the Canadian economy, because Canada is the biggest supplier of oil and gas to the United States.
...
But he added that his preference "is not to renegotiate what we discussed in the past, and to talk about the future."

So if he thinks it would be good for Canada to renegotiate but doesn't want to do it, who is he looking out for?

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April 22, 2008

Bias

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I suppose that if targeting a particular group when that group has actually done something wrong qualifies as being biased, then Pierre the Attack Puppy has a point: Elections Canada has shown bias against the Conservative Party. Just like the Conservatives have shown bias against car thieves.

Edited for clarity on advice of counsel commentor.

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Not really problematic

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There's a Globe and Mail article that supplies some details on the in-and-out scheme that also describes how concerned some Conservatives are about what Elections Canada may discover in the material that was seized during last week's raid. (Are we calling it a raid, now?) According to one "goverment official:"

We've done some stuff that's not really problematic, but it's not something I'd necessarily want Elections Canada or reporters getting their hands on

Considering what these people have been up to and don't seem to regard as problematic, one can only wonder what he might be referring to. Among the similarities between the Conservatives and the GOP that are becoming increasingly evident is this: no matter how bad you think it is, it always turns out to be worse.

H/T to Greg.

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April 21, 2008

When the anti-terrorism legislation that was drafted in the wake of 9/11 was passed, there were sunset clauses attached to those measures that were felt to be the biggest threats to civil liberties. When those measures came up for review last year, it appeared that the Liberal leadership had seen the light. As Thomas Walkom reminds us, deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff led the charge on our behalf. And who better than Ignatieff to take the bull by the horns on a matter involving civil liberties and utter these ringing words on the floor of the commons?

Where our liberties are at stake, the government must prove the case of public necessity beyond a shadow of a doubt.

And again:

The government needs to do more than just repair these defective clauses... The entire architecture of Canada's anti-terrorism laws requires substantial amendment.


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April 20, 2008

Updated (twice). Please see below (and belower).

When your attempts at spin control are being reported in the media as "secret meetings with select reporters", I think it's safe to say you haven't created the effect you were looking for and it may be time to rethink your media strategy.

This afternoon Garth Turner reported on his blog (h/t to apply-liberally) that the Conservatives were inviting journalists they deemed to be friendly to a closed press conference so they could put the best possible face on the story that will dominate this week's news cycle: the publication of the 700 page search warrant that served as the impetus for that visit to Conservative Party headquarters by the RCMP and Elections Canada this past week.

About a half hour ago, the following went up at CTV.

Tories on defensive over Elections Canada raid

Conservatives held secret meetings with select reporters Sunday to reveal details about why Elections Canada officers raided their Ottawa headquarters -- and to give their side of the story before court documents are released this week.
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They scheduled briefings at an Ottawa hotel, but when word of the meetings leaked out to other media organizations, the party moved the briefings to another hotel next to their party headquarters.

Canada's New Government™, ladies and gentlemen. Playing hide and go seek with the media all over Ottawa.

Update:

Impolitical has links and details of additional press coverage. She also has what I think is actually understatement.

News of such selective briefings reinforces the perception of the Harper Conservatives as contemptuous of the press and controlling.

The way they've handled this makes them look more than just controlling. When they're seen to be working this hard to control the story it makes them look guilty as hell. Apparently the warrant doesn't name any politician or senior party official as being under suspicion. That isn't the impression this circus creates.

And again:

I should have known that wherever journalists lurk in hallways waiting for Conservatives who are trying to avoid them, Kady O'Malley would be in the thick of it.

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Ok, so we don’t have lift-off quite yet. But the guy has blown a gasket. Most likely Rove thought that he was just being Rovian and that his bullying would work again in the real world just the way it used to work when he had White House cover.

But it didn’t.

Brief background: Over the winter of 2006-07, as American bloggers, especially Josh Marshall’s TPM, became alert to the prosecutor purge and began connecting lots of dots (for which work Marshall and TPM won a Peabody Award this year), a corollary question arose. If some prosecutors were being fired for political reasons (failing to prosecute loyal Bushie enemies or persisting in prosecuting loyal Bushie friends), then what about the other prosecutors who weren’t being fired? There are ninety-three U.S. Attorneys, and suddenly, every one of them who hadn’t been fired (with the possible exception of Patrick Fitzgerald) looked suspect. What might some of them have been doing to curry favour with the loyal Bushies?

Long before 60 Minutes took the case of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman mainstream, bloggers were paying attention to his and similar cases of apparently politically motivated prosecution. Some congresscritturs had begun pushing back too, but in the typically feeble way of this Congress, and these have been excruciatingly slow stories.

Suddenly, though, Siegelman is out of jail. The rest of the paid press are paying attention, including Dan Abrams of MSNBC. And Rove is, ah, socially dysfunctional enough to try to shake Abrams’ tree – dysfunctional because he has done that in public.


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April 19, 2008

As Impolitical notes, in the wake of this week's raid on visit to Conservative Party headquarters by the RCMP acting on behalf of Elections Canada, David Frum has popped up in the National Post to try and change the subject. This follows an appearance on the same op-ed page by Gerry Nicholls of National Citizens Coalition fame the day before.

Frum, of Axis of Homicidal Idiots fame, wants to make this all about free speech and cast Elections Canada as a power mad bureaucracy intent on censoring those poor Conservatives who are always the victims — even when they win the election. He even goes so far as to conflate EC with that current bane of the wankers heroes of the free speech movement, human rights commissions. To his credit, he does stop short of suggesting that Elections Canada is concealing weapons of mass destruction. But his position somehow overlooks the fact that the laws EC is attempting to enforce weren't created by the bureaucracy in question. They were created by parliament which, last I checked and as imperfect as it is, was elected by the people to do the people's business. And I do believe the mechanics of running an election would qualify as the people's business.

Money isn't speech, it's a volume control. The reason we have laws governing election campaign financing is so that one side can't simply crank up the volume and drown everyone else out. Wouldn't politics be easier if one party could simply pander to the rich and powerful — like, for instance, the oil industry — and then use their money to blanket the media with ads to a point where the competition can't get a word in edgewise? That's what Nicholls and Frum are arguing in favour of. That's what Harper argued in favour of when he was with the NCC and it's what he'd like to see happen now.

This isn't about free speech, it's about complying with the law of the land. And despite Harper's claim of having a "rock solid" legal position, the fact that Nicholls and Frum have been so quick to jump up and shout "Look! Over here!" makes me wonder.

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April 18, 2008

Friday night blues blogging

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This first clip is credited on YouTube to Jorma Kaukonen but I do believe that's Jack Casady on bass which would make this Hot Tuna, the spin off from Jefferson Airplane that Kaukonen and Casady formed and that involved other musicians at various times. (And at other times, not.) This is Hesitation Blues.

It would appear Kaukonen is still pickin'. This is Prohibition Blues.

And as a bonus track, here's a solo performance of Police Dog Blues that looks to be from the 70s.



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QOTD

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From a post by Josh Marshall which considers and rejects ABC's defence of the horrible job its moderators did on that Clinton-Obama debate the other day. The defence is that all the phony scandals that ABC wanted to talk about go to the issue of "electability" and the eventual candidate will have to answer all those charges in the long run anyway.

Organized campaigns of falsehoods, distortions and smears used to be something most people thought of as a bad thing, if not something that's ever been too far removed from American politics. Now, however, members of the prestige press appear to see it not as a matter of guilty slumming but rather a positive journalistic obligation to engage in their own organized campaign of falsehood, distortion and smear on the reasoning that it anticipates the eventual one to be mounted by Republicans. In other words, we've gotten past the debatable rationale that journalists have no choice but to cover smears and distortions once they're floated into the mainstream debate to thinking that journalists need to seek out and air smears and distortions on the grounds of electability, as though the mid-summer GOP Swiftboating was another de facto part of the election process like primaries, conventions and debates.

Yup. The American press corps has so internalized the fact that its real job is to amplify all the crap that the right wing noise machine will throw at the Democratic candidate that it now believes it's performing a public service by starting early.

And make no mistake, Harper and company would love to have the Canadian press corps that well trained.

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April 17, 2008

Same old song and dance

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In response to the complaint lodged against Bell Canada's degradation of the service it provides to its wholesale internet customers, the company is pushing back.

Bell Canada says it is downgrading the Internet services of bandwidth hogs in the public interest, and is asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to toss out a landmark complaint by competitors alleging the telecom giant is regulating the web in its own interests.

I love that invocation of the public interest. The small ISPs and their customers are part of the public too so essentially Ma Bell's position is that she's providing us with defective service — and not incidentally violating our privacy with "deep packet inspection" — for our own good. I guess it's true that no one will ever love us like our mother does.


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April 15, 2008

QOTD

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Paul Krugman, New York Times:

One of the defining features of the last 8 years or so has been the way ideas go from crazy stuff that only DFHs believe to stuff everyone knows, without ever going through a stage in which the holders of conventional wisdom acknowledge that they were wrong. Oh, and the people who were right are still considered DFHs; you see, they were right too soon.

It looks as if peak oil may be going that way:

Russian oil production has peaked and may never return to current levels, one of the country’s top energy executives has warned, fuelling concerns that the world’s biggest oil producers cannot keep up with rampant Asian demand.

The people who were right are still wrong because they were right too soon. Gosh: where have I heard that before?

Michael Ignatieff, 5 August 2007:

We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.

(Yes, there's a qualifying paragraph that follows, but it is so drenched in self-defensive imperialist snobbery that I won't torment us all with that further analysis today.)

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April 14, 2008

Steve to Alison: "So?"

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Smarty-pants DFH blogger.

So she’s figured out how it all comes together, my diplomatic fake with NATO, my political fake with Canadians, when I knew all the time where those thousand troops were coming from. So? So anyone else who read the papers last fall (well, some of the papers) could have figured it out too, and so Alison did. So?

So now she’s figured out my latest fake, my decision only last week to cut the Military Police Complaints Commission off at the pass. So that was done so late and so clumsily that everyone else in the media should have been tipped off. So what? Most of them weren’t, which you can tell right away from the gloopy rhetoric of CBC’s report on my latest moves.

So Alison has put Canadian concerns about the humane and decent treatment of Afghan detainees together with what the CBC calls the "new, more side-by-side relationship between American and Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan" (translation: together with closer ties to the torture regime of a man who just confessed openly that he has no problems with torture because he has legal memos that have “enabled” him to do that, and who has been running since 2001 a torture base at Bagram, as Alison notes). So?

So Alison doesn’t want to live in Cheneyworld, and doesn’t want to see the Canadian forces or indeed the Canadian people defiled that way either. So? So what, Alison? I’ve already got us a good distance of the way there.

skdadl’s confession: No, Steve hasn’t actually written such a memo to Alison. So?

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The media did nothing. That's the curious incident. The so-called leader of the free world, the chief executive of our neighbour, ally and biggest trading partner, acknowledges that senior members of his administration met on a regular basis to oversee the torture of prisoners and he knew and approved, and I can't recall seeing anything about the story on any major Canadian news outlet I've visited since the story broke on Friday.

But they all seem to have the time and space to report on the latest bump in Barack Obama's campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Curious indeed.

Update:

Thanks to skdadl in comments, here's a link to the full transcript of the interview reported on in the story linked above.

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April 13, 2008

Back to business as usual

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About a month ago it was reported that Peter Tinsley, the chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, had decided to have public hearings concerning the handling of Afghan detainees by Canadian troops. He made that decision because he felt the DND had stonewalled his investigation and holding public hearings would give him subpoena power.

On Friday — and I'm guessing the timing wasn't accidental — lawyers representing the federal government "quietly" filed an application in Federal Court to halt the Commission's investigation claiming that this issue falls outside of the commission's jurisdiction. Did it take the DND this long to realize that?

A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the government has already provided reams of documents and information -1,300 pages in all - and has delivered 38 witnesses to the commission.

That's awfully strange behaviour when the entire matter is outside the commission's jurisdiction, don't you think?


I seem to recall hearing some platitudes recently about accountability and transparency. It's a pity no one bothered to get any guarantees of same before giving the Prime Minister what he wanted because he seems to be picking up right where he left off: doing everything possible to keep us in the dark.

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April 12, 2008

When last I wrote about Jim Flaherty, it was to point out that he was, indeed, getting things done for Canadians. He was just concentrating on the Canadians he knows well and getting things done for them by awarding them sole source contracts for tens of thousands of dollars. But as Finance Minister, he can play with much larger amounts of money. And does:

Opposition MPs criticized the government Friday for what they see as "rigging" a federal disabilities fund to channel money to a large project whose board includes Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's wife and a staff member.

The defence offered by government MPs during question period was that the one-month period for applications for money from the three-year, $45-million "enabling accessibility" fund does not expire until the end of April.

Organizations representing disabled individuals said that not only does the large grant component of the fund appear custom-made for a proposed "abilities centre" in Flaherty's riding, but the smaller grant component of the fund has such arduous criteria that many non-profit organizations don't stand a chance of meeting them in such a short time.



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The Clean Energy Scam

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There is a long and detailed story by the same title at Time Magazine Online that takes most of the air out of claims of the supposed benefits of bio-fuels specifically ethanol. The article deserves a full read not only for what it says but what it doesn't say.

There was just one flaw in the calculation: the studies all credited fuel crops for sequestering carbon, but no one checked whether the crops would ultimately replace vegetation and soils that sucked up even more carbon. It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots. The deforestation of Indonesia has shown that's not the case. It turns out that the carbon lost when wilderness is razed overwhelms the gains from cleaner-burning fuels. A study by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman concluded that it will take more than 400 years of biodiesel use to "pay back" the carbon emitted by directly clearing peat lands to grow palm oil; clearing grasslands to grow corn for ethanol has a payback period of 93 years. The result is that biofuels increase demand for crops, which boosts prices, which drives agricultural expansion, which eats forests. Searchinger's study concluded that overall, corn ethanol has a payback period of about 167 years because of the deforestation it triggers.


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April 11, 2008

Friday night blues blogging

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This is Dawn Tyler Watson on vocals and Paul Deslauriers on acoustic guitar. Wiggly Fingers. If somebody figures out how to classify this, let me know. Meanwhile I'm calling it blues.

Same duo. Different venue. Cold Shot.



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It's Friday Afternoon

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It's Friday afternoon which is the universal excuse for getting away with just about anything.

Earlier today, I was reading yet another thread somewhere where Merkins were talking (as usual) about moving to Canada if their preferred candidate didn't win the presidential election. And (as usual) were whining about how they would move to Canada except the weather is too cold. (Note to Merkins: Canadians find this profoundly insulting - just saying.) So rather than get pissed off and start ranting about whiny assed cry babies, I thought I would post this handy temperature conversion chart for the benefit of any Merkins passing by.


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April 10, 2008

Phone phishing

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Just in case you're not already familiar with the term "phishing", this is from the Wikipedia article:

In computing, phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. eBay, PayPal and online banks are common targets. Phishing is typically carried out by email or instant messaging,[1] and often directs users to enter details at a website, although phone contact has also been used.

Note that last part: phone contact has also been used.

I've seen lots of email attempts to lure me to websites that aren't what they appear to be but today is the first time I've encountered an attempt to suck me in by phone. It was a robocall, it identified me by name and it presented itself as being from Bell Canada which happens to be my phone company. It said it had important information to give me concerning my account and asked me to first enter my Bell Canada account number. It then informed me that it would be happy to wait while I looked it up on my bill. It was at that point that I hung up.

Just to be sure I phoned the Bell Canada customer service number, navigated my way through their automated system until I finally got to a human being and asked the nice man if Ma Bell ever places automated calls like that to her customers. No, she doesn't. I was informed that the only automated message I would ever receive would be a simple request to call back in to Customer Service.

Works for me. I've always felt that robocalls are the work of the devil. Now they're dangerous too. Should you ever really want to talk to me, don't have a machine phone me.

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QOTD

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Alison, at Creekside and the Beavers:

Why, thank you for noticing, Maxi.

In response to this bit of revealing idiocy from Maxime Bernier on the three North American foreign ministers' mini-SPP meeting (and as Alison says, it comes in both official languages):

"So we discussed what is important for our countries. And as you know, we want to ensure that North America is a secure and economically dynamic region. This is important for us, but this is also important for our citizens."

I don't know about Minister Espinosa, but Condi Rice is a war criminal and Maxime Bernier is a bumbling fool. Why should anyone who can still draw breath tolerate their talk of what "is important for us"? This is getting embarrassin'.

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April 8, 2008

Mixed message

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In this CTV report on a request for proposal Ottawa has issued to Boeing for 16 military helicopters, we're told that this is for long term needs.

Public Works Minister Michael Fortier says the helicopters are meant to re-equip the Canadian Forces over the longer term -- not to fill Canada's immediate need for helicopters in Afghanistan.

Which makes sense because if we're only at the RFP stage, we're not likely to take delivery before 2011 which is when the Canadian involvement in the Afghanistan mission is now supposed to end.

Except that in the very next paragraph:

But Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the helicopter purchase is all about getting them into the war-ravaged country as quickly as possible.

There's an obvious line here about left hands and right hands. There's another obvious line about clowns but I used that one recently.

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Please, dear God, no

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Apparently John Manley is now critical of the fact that Stephen Harper has cherry-picked a few items from the Manley panel's report on Afghanistan and is ignoring other recommendations. So Scott Tribe has a recommendation for Manley:

...what he needs to do is go on the media circuit like he was doing after his report was released and emphasize to Canadians what the Cons. are not doing.

In other words, we need even more Manley in our media. Apparently Scott secretly wishes to see me have a nervous breakdown and has decided to do something about it.

Manley's priority was to ensure a continued Canadian presence in Afghanistan. Now that it's done, he's free to posture in front of the media in such a way as to ensure that he won't have to take responsibility for what happens. He helped enabled it but he can't be held to account if the government doesn't do exactly what he suggested.

I've seen this act somewhere before.

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April 6, 2008

QOTD

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From Jim Henley after he notes today's carnage in Iraq, which includes two dead and 17 wounded Americans inside the Green Zone, and the pure spin that passes for a reaction from American officials.

We are by golly going to do awesome things and those other guys are gosh darnit terrible people. What our military and civilian flacks mustn’t do is dwell on the brute fact that after five years of war and nine months of surgeisworking, there isn’t a square yard of Iraq where someone can’t and won’t kill Americans if given a chance, or one where an Iraqi can presume he will not suffer a gruesome death at any moment. Such is the calm and security it would be immoral for us to decline to preserve for a grateful dependency.

I don't write much about Iraq these days because I'm not sure what to say. Until Bush is out of office, it's not going to change except to get worse.

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The Jurist noted yesterday that once again Canada is doing the dirty work on behalf of the companies that put food on our tables.

Canada will lobby against mandatory labelling to inform consumers of the amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and added sugars in processed foods when it hosts the latest round of negotiations on international food labelling standards, draft documents state.

Personally I'd think it was great if this was purely the result of having a Conservative government because it would suggest that getting Harper out of office would see a reversal of policies like these. Unfortunately Canada was already representing the interests of agribusiness in the international arena while the Liberals were in charge. We even went so far as to bar entry to the country by experts who are critical of genetically modified seeds.

To get a good idea of those whose interests our country has taken to protecting in these matters, may I suggest you read this Vanity Fair piece on Monsanto. It's long but it's well worth your while and it will explain why I get such a sneer in my tone every time I write about this particular company. And if you're a farmer who hasn't yet had the pleasure of dealing with Monsanto, it'll probably scare the crap out of you.

If our government is willing to back Monsanto, why would it surprise anyone that they have no interest in ensuring that we'll have labels on our food that tell us anything useful?

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April 5, 2008

Alison at Creekside has an interesting post on efforts that are underway to rebrand and repackage — yet again — the deeper integration of North America and points to this Vancouver Sun piece in which Barbara Yaffe voices the concerns of the integrationists.

Canada-U.S. efforts to resolve post-9/11 border problems plaguing North America's economy have fallen victim to conspiracy theories.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership, launched in 2005, is so misunderstood by the public and so discredited by opposition groups it should be relaunched and rebranded.


I can't imagine why there would be any confusion or suspicion here. Just because the Security and Prosperity Partnership was signed without any kind of public debate or legislative initiative is no reason for anyone to be concerned. I certainly wouldn't attach any importance at all to the fact that the meetings are held behind closed doors and at each successive meeting greater efforts are made to keep the participants as far as possible from all other forms of sentient life. And even if I was concerned about the public image of this initiative, I think I'd just ignore the way that, as much as possible, change is being done through regulation rather than legislation precisely because the former avoids debate in the legislatures and the media.

The only thing that could possibly provide more fodder for suspicion and conspiracy theories would be if we could see our foreign policy being directed by some unelected individual who was already on record as being completely in favour of integration. Someone like, for instance, John Manley.

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April 4, 2008

Friday night blues blogging

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Once they all stop talking and decide what key they're going with, Paul Thorn's going to kick off a rendition of Gangster of Love with Delbert McClinton sitting in on harp and vocals. And yes, that's Elvin Bishop in the back on guitar.

Speaking of Elvin Bishop, here's Don't Let The Bossman Get You Down.

As for Delbert McClinton, the video I'd planned on using when I got around to this episode has disappeared, but here's the tune he's best known for. I guess it's not really blues but I always thought it was cheerful as all hell.



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The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada now has a dedicated page on its website to present its reasons for opposing MP Ken Epp's private member's bill whose short name is the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act." The debate continues to rage in the blogosphere and in the media as to whether this is really a back door attempt to establish a legal precedent concerning fetal rights that can then be used to mount an attack on a woman's right to abort an unwanted pregnancy.

There are lots of people who will swear on a stack of Bibles, as it were, that this bill has nothing to do with abortion. Funny thing though: all of those people are well-known for opposing abortion. All of the highly vocal supporters of this legislation who have previously stated public positions on abortion and choice — at least that I'm aware of — are all in the same group. And it ain't the group that supports a woman's reproductive freedom.

I don't believe in coincidences like that.

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April 3, 2008

Close enough

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Told you so.

France's promise to send a battalion of troops to eastern Afghanistan represents a "significant and historic re-engagement" in NATO, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday, adding that conditions had been met to extend Canada's role in the region.

France is sending an additional 700 troops to eastern Afghanistan which frees up an unspecified number of American troops — at least I haven't seen a number — to join Canadian forces in Kandahar. That and what Harper describes as "considerable progress" in acquiring the equipment John Manley itemized in his report is considered to be success and the mission is officially extended. As I said, what comes out of the meeting has been deemed to be close enough as we always knew it would be. We got gamed as we all knew would happen right from the time Harper named his panel. It's been like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

Does this at least mean that John Manley will sit down and shut up for a while?

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Propaganda Statistics

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It's generally agreed, both in neoliberal economic theory and conventional wisdom, that information is essential. In market theory the math says flat out that the whole house of cards falls down if information isn't perfect. Market theorists tend to assume (for no obvious reason) that information is close enough to perfect, but they do, in public at least, advise “transparency”. So do nearly all commentators on economies and politics; ask any pundit of any stripe whether “transparency” is a Good Thing and you'll get a resounding “Aye”.

In real life information isn't perfect, on a number of levels for a number of reasons. That's especially true at the consumer level. But when it comes to broader stuff, figuring out what's going on in the economy at large, we've come to accept the figures put out by governments. Most people don't see them anyway, they're usually fairly massaged by the time they hit the newspapers, and one might think that at least among plutocrats they'd want to know where they stood. Sure, they might not really mean everything people take them to mean, and we might argue about the real value of measures like GDP, but I normally assume that the measure is at least being conducted accurately.

Apparently not.


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April 1, 2008

Dainty language 'r' us

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I think we can declare ourselves officially safe for work here at the POGGE Institute. As skdadl noted earlier, the erudite and always polite Canadian Cynic declared a day of clean verbiage on teh Internets, and I am proud to say POGGE has risen to the challenge not just on that day, but in the long run. Why just look at our Cuss-o-meter rating:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

Jeez, what a bunch of fucking Sunday school teachers we are around here.

Cuss-o-meter found courtesy of LG&M.

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US doctors see the light

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Just as the the Canadian Medical Association is embracing the idea of private medical care as a "cure for wait times" (which doesn't work, by the way), a new survey shows that a majortiy of their colleagues south of the 49th are sold on the virtues of universal health care.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half of U.S. doctors now favor switching to a national health care plan and fewer than a third oppose the idea, according to a survey published on Monday.

The survey suggests that opinions have changed substantially since the last survey in 2002 and as the country debates serious changes to the health care system.

Of more than 2,000 doctors surveyed, 59 percent said they support legislation to establish a national health insurance program, while 32 percent said they opposed it, researchers reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The 2002 survey found that 49 percent of physicians supported national health insurance and 40 percent opposed it.

"Many claim to speak for physicians and represent their views. We asked doctors directly and found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most doctors support national health insurance," said Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine, who led the study.

"As doctors, we find that our patients suffer because of increasing deductibles, co-payments, and restrictions on patient care," said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, who worked on the study with Carroll. "More and more, physicians are turning to national health insurance as a solution to this problem."

We, of course, are in the midst of adopting failed solutions to our health care challenges. A multi-decade plan to undermine the public faith in medicare has been taking place before our eyes, abetted by a complicit corporate media that ate up every "health care is failing" storyline. Wouldn't it be ironic if someday we found ourselves looking to our American cousins and wondering why we can't have a fine publicly-funded health care system like theirs?

Edited for spelling.

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