Saturday, January 28, 2006

Putting Haiti on the frontburner

Set your VCRs/PVRs to Newsworld tomorrow night at 8pm. CBC will play the world premiere of "Haiti: Democracy Undone":
After four postponements, voters in Haiti are once again scheduled to go to the polls. The February 7 vote follows a coup almost two years ago.
In early 2004, when the government of Haiti faced a serious threat from armed rebels who had crossed the border from the Dominican Republic, the US government made it clear they supported the elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "The policy of this Administration is not regime change,” Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, said in testimony before a Congressional committee. A fews weeks later Aristide was overthrown.
Haiti: Democracy Undone presents new evidence that in fact the US played a role in the coup that overthrew Aristide; that it had one foreign policy on Haiti but secretly carried out a very different policy.
The story of the Feb 2004 ouster of Aristide is finally making main-stream news. As I wrote last year (here & here), I feel tremendously 'in the dark' about what's really going on down there. My only regular updates on the situation have been from Democracy Now and Amy Goodman's interviews with Aristide and the imprisoned Father Gerard Jean-Juste. Just this past week, Amy Goodman sat down with Canadian journalist Anthony Fenton to discuss the role of the American, Canadian & French governments in removing Aristide (and trying to re-engineer Haiti under the guise of 'peacekeeping').

And now: The New York Times has an enormous feature article on Haiti, "Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos":
The Bush administration has said that while Mr. Aristide was deeply flawed, its policy was always to work with him as Haiti's democratically elected leader.
But the administration's actions in Haiti did not always match its words. Interviews and a review of government documents show that a democracy-building group close to the White House, and financed by American taxpayers, undercut the official United States policy and the ambassador assigned to carry it out.
As a result, the United States spoke with two sometimes contradictory voices in a country where its words carry enormous weight. That mixed message, the former American ambassador said, made efforts to foster political peace "immeasurably more difficult." Without a political agreement, a weak government was destabilized further, leaving it vulnerable to the rebels.
Mr. Curran accused the democracy-building group, the International Republican Institute, of trying to undermine the reconciliation process after disputed 2000 Senate elections threw Haiti into a violent political crisis. The group's leader in Haiti, Stanley Lucas, an avowed Aristide opponent from the Haitian elite, counseled the opposition to stand firm, and not work with Mr. Aristide, as a way to cripple his government and drive him from power, said Mr. Curran, whose account is supported in crucial parts by other diplomats and opposition figures. Many of these people spoke publicly about the events for the first time.
Please read the whole sorry thing. And then watch "Haiti: Democracy Undone" Sunday night.

Read on, MacDuff!

Go Olberdude!

Keith Olbermann rules the school. Here he (ahem) annotates the White House's 'Press Release' on the terms Domestic vs. International. e.g.:
"International" is the kind of law that lets us take terror suspects to old Soviet-era goulags and beat the crap out of them...while "Domestic" is the kind of wine they bottle in California.
I'd provide more snippets but it's all frigging brilliant & funny. Just watch :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, January 27, 2006

John Nichols "gets" Canada :)

Yay! Finally...a reasonable U.S. reaction to our election results. John Nichols blogs from The Nation online: "Don't Cry for Canada"
...the claim that Canada has lurched far to the right is anything but accurate.
Of course, that has not stopped conservative spin doctors in Washington, and their echo chamber in the U.S. media, from announcing that last Monday's election results from Canada represent a seismic shift to the right for the North American continent. [...] U.S. conservatives, who can point to little in the way of positive political news from around the world these days, are entitled to their fantasies. But no thinking American should buy into them.

As is the case with most right-wing "analysis" coming out of Washington these days, the truth is a lot more complex than the right-wing spin doctors would have Americans believe. In fact, the Canadian results ought to be read as a warning signal for U.S. Republicans. Here's why:
* The Canadian election was held early because the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Paul Martin had been rocked by a major corruption scandal, which involved the misuse of public funds to promote the government's position on issues involving the relationship between the province of Quebec and rest of the country. All of Canada's major opposition parties ran anti-corruption campaigns, and the first promise of the Conservatives was not a rightward shift in public policies, but rather the restoration of honest and accountable government. In the United States, where corruption scandals have shaken the Republican leadership in Congress -- forcing indicted House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to surrender his position of power -- Canada's vote-the-bums-out response to government wrongdoing ought to be heartening to progressives who would like to see a similar response in November to the corrupt practices of this country's governing party. The results from Canada indicate the power of a reform message. According to a poll conducted for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 54 percent of Canadians who voted Conservative did so because they thought it was time for a change, while only 41 percent said they favored Conservative policies.
Read the rest. And then keep reading The Nation :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Nothing's dirtier than a big ball of oil

In case you missed this bombshell from the real President of the United State, Al Gore:
"The election in Canada was partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta," Gore said Wednesday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
"And the financial interests behind the tar sands project poured a lot of money and support behind an ultra-conservative leader in order to win the election . . . and to protect their interests."
I have no idea what Gore knows that we don't know already (in terms of hard proof) but I thought his explanation for the pre-election kid-glove media (viz. Harper) was right-on:
Gore believes the issue of the oilsands and the sway he contends the industry holds with Harper didn't garner news coverage during the election because "media concentration has taken a toll on democratic principles around the world, and Canada is no exception."
Thanks to The Green Canuck for the link.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Awesometude :)

C''s been at least a month since the last one:

Rocketboom video asks: "Why is Bush so awesome?"

Love the English-to-Czech translation of awesome (hint: ends with "hole").

Tip to WaPo's Dan Froomkin, who happens to be a brand-new Papa! Congratulations, Dan! Glad to have you back :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

God's angry PM

I have no idea how long Harper's minority will last. It's not much consolation but at least the Libs/NDP shrunk the size of his projected sandbox. And we already know that Stevie doesn't play nice.

We can only hope he doesn't have the chance to do much damage. I'm sure his pal Doris is already measuring for drapes in Foreign Affairs.

Small mercy: NDP gains in Hamilton. Hamilton-Centre, -East/Stoney Creek, -Mountain. Everyone but YOU Ancaster- Dundas- Flamborough- Westdale! David Promise-Keeper Sweet?! WTF?

As for Burlington: you're dead to me. Why can't you be more like your little sister, Oakville?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to move on to my next stage of grief. I pretty-much hoovered all of the Xmas chocolate in the apartment, waiting for the election returns. Stage 3: Angry eating (mostly cereal).

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Calm blue ocean....

calm blue ocean...calm blue ocean....Ack! No blue! No blue!

Pardon the incoherence...I'm border-line diarrhea about tonight and can't think straight.

I don't know how my cat can sleep so soundly. Hmmm...maybe I can eat my way out of these nerves. Might as well give it a shot.

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

California tourists against Canadian gays?!

Yes, a pair of unwitting yet photogenic California tourists have been co-opted for the anti-gay campaign, here in Canada. An astute poster discovered that "Vote Marriage, Canada!" used one of those royalty-free Getty Images on their main website. The Getty caption indicates that the couple had their picture snapped on the slopes of Big Bear, California. Yes, that's California, U.S.A! Was the Canadian Tire couple unavailable? Oh, right...they're not exactly emblematic of happy-pappy heterosexual marriage (BTW & P.S.: I know who the "top" is in that relationship...and what you're really up to with that pressure washer!)

[Incidentally, the picture has also been co-opted by the BC Lottery Corporation. Tip to Bouquets of Grey & the good people on for that find.]

Egale studied the endorsements on the Vote Marriage site and found the following:
There were 100 incumbents endorsed – 84 Conservative, 11 Liberal, 4 Bloc and 1 Independent. There were 109 non-incumbents endorsed – 104 Conservative, 4 Christian Heritage Party and 1 independent. No new Liberal candidates were endorsed.
To the anti-gay bigots on "Vote Marriage": what do you have to say for yourselves? Egale is waiting...

To the attractive Getty Image couple: on behalf of Canadians, I apologize for the cynical use of your likeness and for otherwise pimping you out. I hope your ski trip was nice.

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Big Blue Enema

Forgive me: when things get desperate, I always go for the poo analogies.

And things are getting desperate. Everytime I catch a bit of Newsworld, they're already talking about Harper as though he's PM. And he hasn't even had his "go" on the Mansbridge Townhall ("Your Turn")!

The call-in-shows are the worst. All those well meaning souls vowing to "throw the bums out" and "we need a change". Very New Year's Resolution-y. Like the great Red Detox or Fast. One problem with that folks: while you're purging yourselves of 'arrogant' or 'corrupt' Liberal people ("toxins") you're also losing essential programs and hard-fought--albeit NDP coaxed--money for First Nations people, students, seniors and foreign-aid ("nutrients").

No, things weren't great but the Liberal minority government was a good thing. Look at our country: and tell me that a Harper PM really tells you where Canada's "at" right now. I'm no party-loyalist. I vote NDP when it's safe and occasionally resort to c*ck-blocking the conservatives when "I have to." Until we get proportional-representation or single-transferable voting then I feel I have to take this approach. As it happens, I just moved to one of the safest NDP ridings in the province (Hamilton-Centre). Harper won't get sweet F.A. here.

People want to "send a message" and indicate their displeasure with the Liberals. But for fucking Gomery? Really?! That's it? I'm at least 1000X more pissed about security certificates, possible complicity in rendition (Maher Arar anyone?!) and the erosion of our social programs. Still, on these files Harper would be worse not better.

So...everyone's unhappy. I'm unhappy. You're unhappy. Overall, though...we can live with a LIb/NDP coalition. We can't live with a HarperConCo. Come next year, we will find ourselves thinner, yes, but also vastly depleted of some very important things. Which brings me back to the poo. Whatever damage you feel our government's done to this country, don't take that Big Blue Enema.

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Dark One's travel log

WTF is Cheney doing in the Middle East?
In his meetings with the Egyptian and Saudi leaders, Cheney will discuss "key issues of mutual concern relating to President Bush's freedom agenda and the war on terror," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Freedom agenda. Yeah...that needed to be disclosed under strict conditions of anonymity...

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

La Mitch-Chell! Chile's President-in-waiting

Happy Update: Bachelet wins! [updated 12:46 am Jan 16; AP photo courtesy of]

Today's run-off presidential election in Chile is definitely one to watch (Homer Simpson: Mmmmm....chili run-off...).

Seriously. Socialist Michelle Bachelet ("La Mitch-Chell!" to her supporters) is due to take the presidency in the very country that once imprisoned & tortured her. From The Observer:
Bachelet's election will be all the more extraordinary given her fate at the hands of Pinochet. Following his 1973 military coup, she was arrested and taken prisoner. Soldiers tortured and beat her at Villa Grimaldi, an infamous centre in Santiago. 'They put tape and dark glasses over our eyes,' she said in an interview. 'They tortured me. They hit me, but they did not put me on the electric table.'
Bachelet, then a 23-year-old medical student, treated the wounded prisoners, including her mother. Both her father and boyfriend were tortured to death. She survived and, with her mother, went into exile, first to Australia, then East Germany, where she helped to organise the then clandestine Socialist party inside Chile. On her return in 1979, she worked as a paediatrician, specialising in treating children traumatised by the violence of military rule.
Bachelet is expected to beat billionaire right-wing candidate Sebastian Piñera. You may hear a lot of "firsts" associated with Mitch-Chell. To wit:
  • She is a woman but--unlike Isabel Peron in Argentina--not inheriting the presidency from a husband
  • She is a single-mother of three
  • She is an atheist in a predominantly Catholic country (and continent)
There are several profiles of Bachelet in this weekend's papers. The Globe & Mail, The Observer, and WaPo to name just three. Read about this woman: something tells me you'll be hearing a lot more about her in the days ahead.

Bachelet's personal history is important: she is a witness to a very nasty part of history. Kissinger and Co. continue to insist--against all declassified evidence to the contrary--that they were not involved in facilitating Pinochet's bloody rise to power. I'm going to bet that Bachelet knows better. I was going to write a hu-u-u-u-uge post about Pinochet and US/Kissinger/CIA complicity in the overthrow of Allende but I think I'll just direct you to the following articles and radio-pieces (which do a much more competent job than I could!):
  1. "The Pinochet files: A series of declassified US documents have revealed the extent of America's role in the Chilean coup," by Jonathan Franklin (The Guardian, Wednesday September 10, 2003)
  2. Listen to Amy Goodman's interview with Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. Kornbluh is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a public-interest documentation center in Washington.
  3. "Remembering Allende," by Marc Cooper (The Nation Magazine, September 29, 2003)
  4. "A Plot Thickens: Three Decades After Chile's Right-Wing Coup, Historians Have Yet to Dot All the i's. But One Thinks He May Have Crossed a K," By Lynne Duke (Washington Post, Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page D01). Photo courtesy of The Washington Post article. WaPo caption:"Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with Henry Kissinger in 1976. Questions linger about the U.S. role in the Pinochet-led coup. (Upi)"

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Cuckoo clock cabinet

McNamara? Really?! I totally missed this piece of news: looks like Sir Fog-of-War was at the White House last week, 'advising' Bush on Iraq. Chew on that for a while, eh? If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna have to go screw my head back on...

Thanks to HuffPo for the tip. I should also point out that McNamara was joined by several other ghosts-of-State & Defense past, including:
  • James A. Baker III, the secretary of state for George Herbert Walker Bush during the first Gulf war
  • Madeleine K. Albright, President Bill Clinton's secretary of state
  • Harold Brown, defense secretary for President Jimmy Carter
  • Former senator William S. Cohen (R-Maine), who ran the Pentagon under Clinton
  • Lawrence S. Eagleburger, a secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush
  • James R. Schlesinger, secretary of defense under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford
  • Alexander M. Haig Jr., secretary of state for President Reagan
Of course, this new Iraq brain-trust was assembled on a day when ~130 people were killed in attacks.

Bush, not exactly famous for welcoming dissenting viewpoints, worked hard to avoid talking about the decision to invade Iraq:
Albright was among the most aggressive in challenging Bush in the private meeting, complaining about the president's characterization of the conflict as unavoidable.
"I feel very strongly it is wrong to say something publicly critical of the president and then don't say it to his face," she said. "I said this was a war of choice, not necessity. But getting it right is a necessity and not a choice."
[...] Cohen, like the others, described the president as pleasantly engaging and at times feisty.
Let me just check my WaPo- to- English dictionary...feisty ...feisty ...aHa! Petulant. Childish. Stubborn. Lashing out when caught in a lie or misjudgement. Of course what I imagine Bush said to his detractors (but I can't repeat) is on par with what Paulie said to Christopher in that Sopranos episode in the woods (Ep#37-Pine Barrens):

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

3 cheers for the Cynic!

I don't know where he finds the patience to refute such shite but hats off to Canadian Cynic! His post about the 'open-minded' rhetoric re: intelligent design was beautiful.

I'm a very new post-doc scientist with little energy for the whole false-debate over evolution. Also, I just don't have the chops to argue such things without 'devolving' into angry-stomping or throwing feces ( a monkey?).

I'm glad CC is out there taking this stuff on :) Sometime before Xmas, I heard UMass geologist Don Wise on the radio discussing his new tongue-in-cheek "incompetent design" theory. Hilarious and wise. I'm gonna put it in my virtual slap-down Rolodex.

Read on, MacDuff!

Howard's End meets Harper's front

How did Harper 'surge' like that? Him?! Seriously? I know I've been out of it lately (moving, starting new job & still no TV) but dude! What happened?! I don't understand how Harper took the lead. I don't buy the RCMP/income-trust thingie. I know that everyone says that it "fits a pattern" or "confirms suspicions about Liberal corruption" but, honestly, I could care two-shites about it myself. Ok, ok, I's early. The lead is "soft" and Leger says that 30% could still change their minds. The Tory gains in the so-called '905' region really bug me. Do they really think that troops in the streets is going to solve the gun problem in T.O.?

The Globe has a feature on how Stevie got his groove back. Looks like he took some cues from Australia's John Howard. I know what you're thinking (Him?!) but apparently that's where the whole tax-breaks-for-apprentices-tools came from. Lifted verbatim from Howard's 2004 campaign. Funny that they didn't mention that other campaign device of Howard's: "Asian immigration" (nudge-nudge...they're terrorists! vote for me!). Aussie commentator John Quiggen had this to say at the time:
Whenever, it has appeared possible to ride a wave of prejudice in Australia, Howard has sought to do so...the crucial element in his success was the combination of racial/religious prejudice and law and order (the asylum seekers as queue-jumpers). This enabled what would otherwise have been recognised as overt racism and plain lies (most obviously in the 'children overboard' incident) to be coded as appeals to decency.
The "children overboard" scheme was a disgusting bit of Rove-like campaigning. It's a long story but it boils down to this: a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off of the coast of Australia. Howard's gang planted stories in the media about the refugees throwing children overboard. It was eventually proven that no children were thrown off of boats. The topper:
The office of former defence minister Peter Reith, told government photographers not to take or circulate "humanising" pictures of asylum seekers during last year's election campaign..."
I'm not saying Harper would resort to such extreme GWB or John Howard tactics. After all, he has no occupation-of-Iraq to defend (er...just the unequivocal support of same in 2003). Still...why would Harper take campaign notes from a desperate candidate like Howard?

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ignatieff the Hot House Flower

Touchy-touchy! Ignatieff appears to be wilting under pressure for the Etobicoke/Lakeshore seat. Thanks to for the tip. Here's the beauty-part:
[Ignatieff] says he depends on yoga to "keep myself from falling to bits." But it may be having less than an optimum effect on his ability to endure the irritation of a reporter's questions.
He can be snippy.
"Oh no, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, I'm 58 years old. I've got 16 books behind me.... You have this idea I've been in some ivory tower my whole life.... I'm intensely proud that I made my living as a freelance writer in one of the toughest markets in the world," he said last month, of his years as a British-based freelance writer, in the first of several interviews with the Toronto Star.
And he can be exceedingly impatient.
"The idea that I was in an ivory tower is absurd," he said on Monday. "I spent the '90s being shot at in Bosnia, far beyond the ivory tower.
Was he actually under fire?
"Of course, you can't be in Bosnia without being shot at. It's in (his book) Blood and Belonging."
Is it just me or can you totally imagine Ignatieff throwing his scarf over his shoulder, in that last part? DR-AAAAH-MA! Somebody fix him some chamomile. Or get him a better yoga mat :)

Read on, MacDuff!

"Bigger and better rats"

Did anyone catch the Mike Harris roundup in yesterday's TorStar? God, I'd almost forgotten how odious he was (and probably still is). Jim Coyle connects Toronto's grim present with the ghosts of Harris past:
As the Star's Jim Rankin reported recently, Toronto's brewing social problems were expressed with customary lucidity by Stephen Lewis in a 1992 report on racism in Ontario. ``It is black youth that is unemployed in excessive numbers, it is black students who are being inappropriately streamed in schools, it is black kids who are disproportionately dropping out, it is housing communities with large concentrations of black residents where the sense of vulnerability and disadvantage is most acute.''
Mike Harris was not buying. In his opposition days, blacks were just one of the minorities he derided. ``We're getting too many, not just black, I mean we're getting too many from other countries, too, that are coming here for a free ride,'' he said.
Harris epitomizes the breed of right-winger that has nothing but contempt for public works; I would go a bit further and suggest that he has nothing but contempt for the public. Read on:
In 1995, Harris campaigned as if middle-class property owners were his only concern. He saw little value in the work of the public sector, few votes in the notion of the public good. He came to power unleashing what no less a commentator than longtime Progressive Conservative insider Hugh Segal has called ``the tyranny of the simple idea.''
In fact, his government's first acts were to undo supports, and make circumstances more difficult, for the very communities that Lewis and others had identified as being most vulnerable. He repealed employment-equity legislation. He cut social assistance by 21 per cent. He abandoned social housing, eliminated social programs.
In the uproar that ensued, he declared (like another notable right-wing leader) that folks were either with him or against them. Those who took to the streets in protest were dismissed as ``Iraqis, Iranians or communists.'' With utter certainty, he led followers into what would become a quagmire of inequity, alienation and division.

Coyle goes on to quote Bob Rae's 1996 book 'From Protest to Power':
"As the quality of services declines, public confidence is further eroded. Human nature being what it is ... the rat race turns us all into bigger and better rats.''
And it isn't just us lefties either. Hugh Segal--a former Mulroneyite--couldn't manage to hold his nose and enjoy the tax-free ride: was Segal who saw the future in his 1997 book Beyond Greed: A Traditional Conservative Confronts Neo-conservative Excess.
He was horrified by ``a selfish barb-wire politics, one that seeks to destroy the conservative ideal that places order at the centre of a universe where individual freedom and social responsibility co-exist in real balance.
``That balance is about compassion, hope, sharing, the true purposes of civilized life — it is about tolerance and equality of opportunity. Eradicating that balance and replacing it with the law of the jungle is what neo-conservatism is all about.''

Read on, MacDuff!

Hammertown Kittens

Happy New Year from downtown Hamilton!

I've missed a lot of doin's since my last post in December. I'm going to go catch up on Progressivebloggers and see what happened. Long story short: moving sucks and moving around Xmas sucks hardcore. Chef does not recommend!

The cat made it in one piece. Thank you, Gravol! The poor thing was pretty out of it for about 48h: alternatively hiding in our closet and sniffing everything in the new apartment. She's pretty much back to normal now and eating like a champ. Ditto for me :)

Just started my new job today. Mac is great so far. Very friendly. I just don't know what I'm doing yet, so I feel pretty useless. I was supposed to pick up a key, a badge, and my official letter-of-offer today and came home with nothing but a bare lanyard.

Hope you're all doing alright and getting back into your routines. *hugs*

Read on, MacDuff!