Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Friday, August 29, 2003

How bad is the recent news from Iraq?

Civil war bad. And to the region, perhaps Archduke Ferdinand bad.

The assassination of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim in Najaf on August 28 is the opening volley in the coming Iraqi Civil War. The United States will reap the whirlwind.
Please, let William Beeman and I be wrong about this.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

"Policy reversal"

CNN is reporting a "seismic" policy shift from the American Administration. Last week, the Pentagon was recommending an international force in Iraq controlled by Americans. Now, the Pentagon is suggesting an American-led international force.

Gee, thanks for that marginal wording change, Rummy. But I think maybe you should clean up your own mess, unless you're willing to give up your toys.
Hee, hee... can you hear the desperation?

Richard Perle: "Rest assured we will discover the whole story of these arms and I am sure that we will soon physically find some."

It's funny, sure, but a little sad, too... not even people inside the administration believe this any more. Poor old Perle's going to be wandering the street come 2005, still screaming lunacies at passerby. A little sad, yes, but safer for the rest of the world.
We're number two! Or is that second-last?

The Fraser Institute today released a report claiming that Alberta has the second-most flexible labour force in the United States and Canada (who, to the Fraser Institute, should probably be just one country). By flexible, the study's author seems to mean "able to get screwed from any position."

The report measured several criteria: minimum wage (low good), rates of unionization (low good), rates of public sector employment (low good - are you detecting a pattern here?), and so on. I'm sure economic success stories like Burma scored better than Alberta on this scale, but you can't beat everyone.

You know, I would have thought a flexible labour force should be, I don't know... well-educated, perhaps? Healthy? Has a sufficient safety net to afford career transitions as they come?

It's entirely possible that the Fraser Institute is persuing a particular agenda here. If only I was smart enough to penetrate their subtle ideology.

The scary part is that I heard this on the radio this morning, reported as straight news. I mean, come on, I understand that some of what the Fraser Institute produces is fun to insert in a newscast (the questionable but clear "tax freedom day" comes to mind), but this report is too transparent to be taken seriously by anyone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Someone thinks this is hilarious:

A story on Yahoo news treats the art projects by Lucky Pierre as a bit of a lark. However, anyone who can't see the thoughtfulness provoked by projects like this one, among the others, is being intentionally obtuse.

Forgive me... I've been a huge fan of the Fluxus art movement ever since I saw an exhibit at the Whitney in 1993. I'm glad to see it seems to be reviving itself. And I'm not surprised that it's happening now, as people recognise the dissonance between the way the world is supposed to work, and the way it's actually working. For me, Fluxus is all about exposing the space between those two.

Does that sound sufficiently arty?

Monday, August 25, 2003

You gotta fight!! For your right! To wedding Parrrrrr-ty!

When Parliament votes on gay marriage, likely in the next couple of months, a positive vote will probably be the end of gay marriage as an issue. If the vote goes against, I think the Canadian government is in for an expensive legal battle, leading to the exact same result: recognition of gay marriage. Now, I've made no secret of being in favour of gay marriage, and being against expensive legal battles, so to my way of thinking, a yes vote in Parliament means everybody wins.

The people behind this site think the issue is more urgent than that, and they may be right. But either way, it's worth the effort to contact your MP and reinforce the message to vote yes. And that page will tell you exactly who that MP is, how they are leaning, and how to reach him or her.

What I find most interesting is that a quick examination of their scorecard finds not a single CA MP in favour of same-sex marriage. Some of you may be thinking, "well, duh," but a party that claims to be so representative of constituents should be proving that with at least one or two MPs voting yes because they accept that Canadian opinion is split, because they accept that the opinions within their constituencies lean in favour. That's the message I'll be communicating to my MP. Find a message and an MP of your own, and send your congratulations or complaints the appropriate direction.
Franken wins lawsuit

Yeah, the story's three days old. Sue me.

Guess I can lose the title add-on.
More random web wanderings

I am pretty impressed with this person's eye for the interesting links. I am kick-ass impressed with his site design.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Kelowna fire update

Detailed information on the state of the fire and the city can be found here. Relief donations can be made here. My friends are fine.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Save our schools!

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would like us to stop eating fish. More specifically, they have told people travelling to downtown St. John's, Newfoundland, not to eat fish. Hey, good luck there. As one local put it, "They ought to be ate." Er, the fish, not the PETA people.

In the interest of equal time, here's another opinion.
Not so random web wanderings:

These people are my current heroes, with their "Flood the Zone Friday" project. I so need to talk with some NDP-types about this little effort, and some local adaptation possibilities.
Chrétien "prefers autocracy"?

Well, yeah, probably. But the example used by Claire Hoy to illustrate that is specious.

Chrétien says minority "rights" are not subject to majority rule. "That's why there are constitutions. That's why there are charters of rights. It's to protect minorities. And if every time there is a problem with a minority, we ask the majority to decide, then we are no longer protecting the minority. That's where the problem of a referendum [on same sex marriage] troubles me."

He added that francophone minorities might not have won their rights had they depended upon a majority vote. "We had to fight, we francophones, to preserve our language. And if it had always been a decision of the majority of the population, perhaps there would no longer be French in Canada."

Neat. But a complete canard.

The fact of French-language rights was never in dispute in the Charter [emphasis mine]. The nine English-speaking premiers who, along with Pierre Trudeau -- but without Rene L�vesque -- never once questioned the right of the French language to exist equally in the constitution with the English language. For Chr�tien to use that as an example of the "dangers" of majority rule is an insult not only to those former premiers who endorsed a dual language constitution, but to English-speaking Canadians as a whole.
Wait a minute. Who's offering up the canards, here? Do you think for a moment that the Prime Minister was claiming that French language rights in Canada were at risk in 1981? That's absurd. I believe what he was arguing was that French language rights in Canada have been abused when subjected to majority opinion throughout the history of Canada. Those of you from elsewhere, or who are new to the country (I hope, not those of you who grew up here, but who am I kidding?) might want to have a glance at the history surrounding the Manitoba School question. Long story short, the Manitoba government decided to discontinue French-language Catholic education in 1890 (among other measures) to Anglicize the French population of Manitoba. See if any of this sounds familiar in the context of the gay marriage argument now:

1889, June: The Equal Rights Association - "Equality to all. Privileges to none" - was established in Toronto. Its prime targets were the bilingual schools of Ontario and the Catholic Separate School � privileges � of the same province. It fueled a context in which anti-Quebec, anti-French and anti-Catholic feelings ran high.


1889, August 12: In a sermon given by Rev. George Bryce and delivered at Knox Presbyterian Church, as reported by the Manitoba Free Press, the cleric stated: "When men deliberately state as they have done that they aim at building up a French Canadian nationality, what is that but a blow to our hopes as one Canadian people?"


1891-1897: Period of intense activity by the Protestant Protective Association (PPA). This anti-Catholic secretive organization was of American origin and recruited as many as 100,000 members in its various chapters throughout Canada. The PPA attacked Catholics and French Canadians for failing to assimilate with the majority, and thus frustrating the dream of a homogeneous country. According to historian James T. Watt, they sought to create a nation "based on a common language and cultural background and a general pride in the so-called Anglo-Saxon race".
This work is all copyright Claude B�langer, by the way, but I'm hoping these few entries will fall under "fair use".

My point is this: the Prime Minister is right. Not every minority right will get majority approval. Not every rule that we accept in Canada has to. That's not the function of a liberal democracy. Our Charter of Rights is a document created by our governments on our behalf, not because those Premiers at the time fully understood every implication of every section, but because they felt that a certain collection of rules were the bare minimum that no government should be able to easily overturn, no matter the implications of those rules. People might object to prisoners having their right to vote acknowledged, but the implications of not doing so are dangerous to democracy, as a Floridian can tell you. So for Hoy to suggest that it is somehow anti-democratic for the Supreme Court to interpret the Charter of Rights, or for Jean Chr�tien to not want every decision of the Court to be subject to review by referendum, that there is what'cha call... what's that word now? Oh, yeah. A canard. And I suspect Claire Hoy knows it.
Kelowna fire

This is seriously bad for a lot of people. Somehow, the fires in the Crowsnest Pass managed to stay away from human habitation by and large, despite burning in and around the towns for most of a month, but in the interior of BC, thousands of people have had to leave their homes, some of which have already been destroyed.

Dave, if you're reading this, I don't have your e-mail address at work. Letting me know that you and Signe are safe and away would make me feel much better.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Ralph Klein is right

Something you don't hear from me every day, I know.

A club for alcoholics � that has to get a liquor licence in order to allow its members to smoke � is getting support from Premier Ralph Klein.

The Keep It Simple club, for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics � many of whom smoke � offers its members a bar-like setting, without the temptations.

But under new city smoking regulations, the only way for the club to allow smoking is to get a liquor licence, since bars are exempt. However, they can't get a liquor licence because they have no intention of serving alcohol.


[Premier] Klein says the City of Edmonton should have a "stupid rules committee"...
Edmonton is hardly alone... perhaps Calgary's council can join in, and bring the Calgary by-law that has bar patio customers having to go into the non-ventilated bar to light up.

I can't find it online, but a few months ago, Harper's editor Lewis Lapham (alluded to in my last post) took time away from his anti-war, anti-Bush editorials to rally against increasingly odd and repressive anti-smoking bylaws. He argued that the issue has almost nothing to do with health, and everything to do with a wave of moral puritanism and judgementalism toward (predominantly) the poor, who smoke at much higher rates than others. This Edmonton club is the best example of the absurdity of that wave. When drug and alcohol addicts no longer feel welcome in this sanctuary, they'll find themselves drifting back to the addictive behaviors, and I personally suspect that the dangers of even one more alcoholic on the road far outweigh the danger of all the second-hand smoke the entire room could produce.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Random web wanderings by others

I was hit earlier today through a Google search: "Janeane blonde Garofalo crossfire" I followed the search back, followed the top link, and found this hateful little discussion.

I couldn't be bothered to critique the whole thing ("Celebrity pundits bad! Celebrity California Gubernatorial candidates good!"), but I do want to answer a question there that seemed honestly posted. To boil it down (full question here), why does the celebrity left have such a hate-on for GWB?

The answer is simple, and it's not left/right. George Bush Sr. didn't invade Iraq without provocation, he attacked Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. And he did it after getting most of the world's governments on his side. Not everyone cared for that war, and I certainly didn't, but at least it was justifiable and well-thought-out, two things that can't be said for Junior's war. Ronald Reagan might have been a deliberate cold warrior, but he never felt the way to defeat communism was to hold secret capital trials of foreign nationals in Guantonimo Bay. And neither of them ignored constitutional guarantees of security and privacy to investigate Americans' video rental and library use patterns. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that every President, Republican, Democrat, or Whig, has shown more respect for the Constitution of the United States than the current President. But I'm no historian... perhaps Grover Cleveland was worse than I think.

In the meantime, the media has rarely been so docile as it has lately proven to be. Janeane Garofalo has to speak up, because it is difficult or impossible to find the 2003 version of Edward R. Murrow. And frankly, the media environment we live in is more interested in Janeane, just as the media is more interested in Arnold than in Gubernatorial candidates we know by surname, or candidates who we only know by policies and political experience. If you want to find a well-thought-out non-celebrity criticism of GWB, I recommend Lewis Lapham, but there are plenty of others. Why isn't Lapham asked to appear on Crossfire? Because Crossfire isn't about politics, it's about verbal wrasslin'. It's entertainment, not civics, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Random Web Wanderings III

BlogsCanada (again - I'm addicted!) brought me to HappyGirl's Online Dating Guide to the Galaxy for Dummies. Way way too much title, but the storytelling is fun.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Fair and balanced for a few more days.

I've got to lose the title. Search engines are starting to use it, and it's way unweildly on small screens. Unweildlier. Um. *cough* Huh.


I won't be Fair or Balanced by the end of the week. I mean, who was I fooling, anyway?

But if you're looking for your fix of sites that are Fair and/or Balanced, here's a partial list. They Blog, You Decide.
What country are you?

I'm Poland! But I'll spare you the details. Find out for yourself.

Via Echoland, a new discovery through BlogsCanada.
Ezra's logic grows shakier

Here's an interesting column by my personal favourite right-wing whipping boy, Ezra Levant. Oh, how I wish the Calgary Sun archived these, but you'll have to check this link before the 25 August if you want to see the column, or head to the public library after that.

Let me boil it down, however - Ezra believes the current forest fires in Alberta and B.C. illustrate why the Kyoto Protocol is a waste of time. After all, forest fires around the world are huge contributors of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, so surely reducing human contributions is pointless.

What a fascinating perspective. Fascinating because Ezra is illustrating the hole in his logic even as he makes the argument.

Jasper and Banff are both experiencing smaller but still serious fires this summer. They started when controlled burns became far less so, because of the extremely dry weather - Jasper is experiencing the second-driest year in the hundred they've been recording this information. Hmmm.... I wonder what could be causing this unusual lack of moisture?

Yes, there are always forest fires - they are a normal and healthy part of the ecosystem. And we will always have extremes in weather - some year has to be the hottest, or the wettest, or whatever. But is it at all possible (not certain, but possible) that the weather that's creating the perfect conditions for crazy forest fires this year is a result of global warming? That global warming is at least a contributing factor? Is it not possible that human activity is indirectly responsible, therefore, for all of the greenhouse gas (as well as the smoke and ash that conveniently worries Ezra so much more in this column) the fires are producing?

Many elements of the science of global warming are agreed upon, and a few are disputed. But calling the forest fires an illustration of why Kyoto is a bad idea, as opposed to, say, a prudent idea just in case --- well, that's Ezra-style logic at work.

Garofalo watch

Janeane will be co-hosting Crossfire all this week. Damn, I'm starting to fear she's going to replace acting and comedy with punditry. Not that I mind her punditry, but I'm still impatiently waiting for The Truth About Cats and Dogs II.

Update: She's a fine pundit. But I could have done without the blonde hair. Shallow, yes, I know, but it's not like I'm getting all eTalk daily over every celebrity I see. Just her. And perhaps Hannigan.

I've mentioned it before, but it's worth mentioning again, because the database has been built: BlogsCanada is live, with a database of almost 6500 blogs. Have fun - there are several neat features, including a chance to rate each new blogs you discover. I'm looking forward to exploring more.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Brooks and BSE

Despite the reopening of the US (and now Mexican, as well) border to some Canadian beef, Alberta is still feeling the effects of the case of BSE diagnosed in May. Today, CBC radio is spending some time in Brooks, Alberta, to see how deep those effects are.

I have long connection with Brooks. I spent years with a woman who grew up there. I ran for election there. And I love Newfoundland enough to love sitting in any one of their pubs on a Friday night. Brooks is far from the only community in Alberta to be feeling the BSE pinch, but Lakeside Packers is a huge employer in Brooks, and the community goes as that employer goes.

Neither the Federal nor the Provincial governments have reacted quickly enough to the BSE trouble, nor have they done enough to date. Photo ops of elected officials chowing down on steaks is not enough to get the people in the beef industry through to the other side of this issue unharmed. Where's the trade mission to Japan? Where's the increased standard testing? Where's the recognition that Canada has been unbelievably punative to BSE-positive countries to this point?

Canada's hands aren't clean in this... Canada needs to pony up the funds as part of the acknowledgement of that, as we count ourselves lucky that it wasn't far worse.
2 letigious 2 quit

Al Franken is being sued over the title of his newest book, Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. FOX News believes they're the only ones who deserve to be described as "Fair and Balanced" (Hee - I never get tired of the irony of that!), and the network has a pack of lawyers (a "pride" of lawyers? Maybe a "shame" of lawyers. Hee again - Sorry, Trina) willing to argue it.

Tom is recommending that the blogging world change their title bars to read "Fair and Balanced", as he and Atrios have done. I'm in there, just as soon as I can find the right HTML command in the template.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Fighting terrorism, the practical way

Forget about invading countries with tenuous ties (or none at all) to those who would do you harm. For true terrorism prevention, the FBI is on the case. They deserve our appreciation and congratulations for actually making you and I demonstrably safer. Why don't I feel the same way when their country starts bombing stuff?
But forget all those other stories:

Here's Rev. Darrow Woods, a United Church minister, proving once again what I've been saying all along - Christians are not monolitically opposed to gay marriage:

The Bible is a collection of writings from many times and places, all at least nineteen centuries old. It's like an album of snapshots, sometimes blurry, giving us glimpses into religious and social life in ancient cultures. Searching the Bible for clear teaching about same-sex marriage will get us about as far as if we read Moby Dick for tips on how to pilot an aircraft carrier.
A whole lot to write about today

But work is demanding a great deal of attention today, as well. Watch this space, and with luck, I'll be filling it with something about:

--- Alberta's two crisis (is that the plural of crisis? Damn you, English!)

--- How to fight terrorism

--- How not to fight terrorism

--- How to cast the net way too wide.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Physics as politics

Physicists who study quantum mechanics are unsure if the unobserved object exists. I say we try that principle out on the mockery of democratic process that is the California Gubernatorial election. Please?

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Late, but for the record

I'm not completely pleased about no longer blogging in an entirely timely fashion. Nonetheless, I feel the need to include the following highlights from Friday.

This is excellent news.

This is even better news.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Random web wanderings

Ever since the Vatican suggested that the Prime Minister was not being a good Catholic in his preparation to legislate legal gay marriages, there's been some interesting debate about the seperation of Church from State. What I haven't heard debated from a Christian perspective is the seperation of State from Church. Now I have, and eloquently, too.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Total Recall leads Last Action Hero to become Running Man. Har! Now can we shut the fuck up about it?

I was going to make this a comment in response to Mike's comment on the previous post. But I think it's worth a whole post.

Mike wrote:

...Maybe the solution is introducing the ability for the public to petition for a non confidence by-election if they feel their MLA, or MP for that matter doesn't represent them correctly. This has been a long standing, and successful practice in the Swiss parliament.
I have no desire to blog about the three-ring circus that is the California recall election, called because petitions were filled with the signatures of a whole bunch of people who didn't like the original result in the first place. Suffice it to say that's not an aid to democracy. But I'll add that there are lots of opportunities to avail oneself of one's democratic rights in Canada, and people are neither as involved nor as considered as I'd like with the opportunities they have.

Want a recall process that might be reasonable? Make the signatories sign that they were voters in favour the candidate they now wish to recall. Or at least check them against the voting list to make sure they voted at all - reinforce the bumper-sticker logic: no vote means no right to complain. Make the signatories foot the bill for the reenumeration and by-election, and see how committed they are to the recall.

Ultimately, years of voting the party lines, doing little, and being a barely adequate legislator will never get you recalled. But vote your conscience on some hot-button issue, and watch the clipboards fly. No thanks.
Minority rules!

My brother Dave and I have a longstanding argument about the best system of government. Dave is a firm believer in benevolent dictatorships, whereas I like power to be relatively diffuse. It's the standard Anakin/Amadala dichotomy.

Well, despite the Tories getting the most seats, I have faith that the results of Nova Scotia's election will bring about positive change. Just look at the sort of talk, the sort of dealing, already going on:

The three leaders had conciliatory words Wednesday and talked of building a consensus on controversial issues such as auto-insurance premiums and paying for health care for senior citizens.
I cannot be convinced that talking and negotiation between different perspectives doesn't create better law than "in" vs. "out" trying to score points during question period, and making most of the law away from the legislature floor.
eBay eVil

Okay, perhaps not evil, per se, but way too willing to fold like a cheap tent in a strong wind.

Dawson City artist John Steins says he has been ordered off the site for mocking the U.S. President. He was selling a series of hand-painted drawings depicting Bush, as well as senior White House advisers.
The work is a little more doctrinaire than I like my art to be, but the conversations with eBay are interesting for the lack of information eBay provides to Steins. It can all be found on Steins' site, and if the art's your cuppa, by all means support a Canadian artist.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

If I'd found this last October, I never would have blogged

I noticed I'm getting some hits from a site I'd never seen before. BlogsCanada.ca is a new effort to create a directory of Canadian blogs.

As I suggest in the title, if I had been able to find a single left-wing blog from Alberta, I likely would have said "well, that need is addressed." I'm excited now, as the index begins to fill, to see if I'm alone after all or not. However, it's way too late for me to quit, even if I do find myself outclassed by someone local who knows what she or he is talking about and can write with some skill.

Let me describe the chances of finding someone better at this than I am as "inevitable". I appreciate your loyalty nonetheless.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Time for some cleanup

While you can still see them on my archive pages, it's time to drop the Iraq civilian death chart links. I'm finishing at 6086-7797, which seems plenty devastating enough to establish the point.

If anyone spots another internet toy of that sort --- perhaps something cheerier this time --- the e-mail link is to your left.