Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Do the Afghans really want us there?

No doubt my loyal reader(s) have heard of the Environics poll about how the Afghans just love having us there, and really really want us to stay. Of course, we all know that polls are often inaccurate, depending on the methodology. Curiously, some are calling this one into question (gasp!):

This new poll is not the first of its kind to be done in Afghanistan, but the results are striking because they contradict dozens of comprehensive studies conducted by other agencies. For example a remarkable 73 per cent of respondents in the D3 Systems study said that women's rights were improving in Afghanistan. This contradicts the NGO Womenkind Worldwide which found that attacks against women have actually been on the rise since 2001 and that there had been no improvement in the lives of Afghan women as a whole.

Likewise, a whopping 76 per cent of people said that they have "a lot" or "some" confidence in the Afghan National Army and 60 per cent have faith in the Afghan National Police (ANP). This contradicts countless documents from groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who have consistently found that a majority of Afghans cite the Army and ANP as a chief source of violence. In fact, poll results from December 2006 found 78 per cent of Afghan people believed that the ANP was corrupt and one in four Afghans had to pay bribes to local police for protection. So therefore, the numbers from D3 Systems either represent an astounding turnaround in public opinion or there was some type of flaw in the research.

These strange results aren't surprising given the history of the D3 Systems polling firm. The group, whose former clients include NATO and the RAND Corporation (a virtual who's who of the military industrial complex) is notorious for providing the results that are needed to advance a political agenda.

Tellingly, D3 Systems is the only polling form in the world that was able to consistently show that a majority of Iraqis felt their lives had improved since the invasion of 2003. In 2004 and 2005, D3 conducted polls for media outlets based in the US and found more than 50 per cent of Iraqis were exited about their future. As late as 2006 D3 found a miraculous 64 per cent of Iraqis who felt that their lives were improving.
From here. No big surprise; unfortunately it's also no big surprise that these discrepancies aren't being discussed in the mainstream media (even the CBC, sadly). In fact, I don't recall hearing D3 even being mentioned in the newscasts I heard, just Environics.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This is freaking insane

Just when you think the US can't get any stranger:

March 19, 2007: A Georgia mother has acquired over $70,000 in legal costs in her ongoing struggle to regain custody of her son, after the child was taken away from her based on her religious beliefs.

Rachel Bevilacqua is a high-ranking member of the Church of the SubGenius, known far and wide as a "parody religion" that engages in satire, performance art, and comedy in a manner widely seen as a spoof of dangerous religious cults. In December of 2005, she became involved in a legal dispute regarding custody of her ten-year-old son, though she and the father of the boy had never been married. Rachel had raised her son with her husband, Steve Bevilacqua, and exercised custody from birth, with the father of the child retaining visitation rights. As with many separated couples, this agreement had been followed by each parent, until the father took steps to request sole custody of the child in December of 2005.

Domestic custody battles take place daily in the court system, but this case took a turn into strange territory on February 3, 2006, when Rachel Bevilacqua's chosen religion was introduced in the court room. Her son's father introduced photos of her performing at the annual SubGenius "X-Day" festival, including participation in an unquestionably adult-oriented parody of Mel Gibson's blockbuster movie The Passion of the Christ. In the SubGenius parody, Jesus Christ is dressed in clown makeup and carrying a cross fashioned in the shape of a dollar sign, while dozens of members of the Church of the SubGenius beat him with sexual toys and objects. This performance was enough to outrage Judge James Punch (Orleans, NY), who subsequently removed custody of Bevilacqua's son and ordered sole custody to be granted to the father.

Source. Land of the free, eh? Not bloody likely.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fun site of the day

The Bob Jones University Department of Biology:

The biology major aims to provide training which properly captures the breadth of biology while maintaining the necessary depth of preparation needed by graduates who will pursue further specialized training in graduate or professional schools. While most secular biologists are committed to evolution as the basic principle of biology, Bob Jones University trains Christian biologists who see the living world indelibly marked with the fingerprints of a God of limitless wisdom and power.

Uh-huh. I like the bit about the "necessary depth of preparation" for grad school; I guess that's where they teach you the art of compartmentalization.

Friday, October 19, 2007

More signs of America's degeneracy

The profs are now more progressive than the students:

Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for ''a million Mogadishus,'' is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.

Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, ''Shut it down!'' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.

You've got to wonder what's gone wrong with that place.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wanna get out of debt? Easy- just get a better job!

So in this week's Echo there was an article about credit card debt. For the most part, it wasn't a bad article, though not news to many people. But near the end, you get this little gem:
As for Ryan, a hard look at his bank statements prompted the consolidation of some debt as well as the hunt for a higher paying job. “That is a key conclusion as well,” reasons Maxwell. “Not all of us have the option of searching out higher paying work, but it’s always an alternative.
My emphasis. Isn't there something a wee bit contradictory about this sentence? In any case, I think the first part of the sentence is the true part. Sure, things aren't too bad for a lot of people right now, but I know a fair number of people who are just scraping by and haven't been able to find better work. For a long time I haven't, though as previously reported there's a decent chance of that changing soon. And come the next recession, it'll just get worse- especially as interest rates tend to be high at times like that. I just wonder why the author of the article failed to pick up on this small detail.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Election post-mortem

Well, the voters have spoken, and as usual they're talking shit. Despite the fact that Catherine is the best candidate we've had in years, and her vote count was substantially increased from previous elections, it just wasn't enough to stop the masses from voting for Elizabeth Witmer. Even more frustrating, the electoral reform referendum was soundly defeated. Yet another reason to move back to Manitoba- at least there, people know how to vote.

Friday, October 5, 2007

You voted NDP? No cookie for you!

This, pretty much, was what the Tory candidate in a Nova Scotia byelection said in his concession speech, according to the Ceeb:

Even after Kent's win, Eddy reiterated a key theme of his campaign: voters will pay a price for choosing an opposition member.

Yeah, doesn't that just inspire you to vote Conservative? What an arsehole.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Law students anger cops by telling kids how to interact with them

Yes, you read that right:
With more and more unsolved murder cases being hampered by the street-level code of silence that can intimidate entire communities, police seem to have a hard enough time when it comes to gathering crucial information. That's why they were so perturbed when they learned a group of law students have been handing out a pamphlet in the troubled Jane and Finch area called "Survival Tactics: Dealing With Police."
Oh no, it wouldn't do for kids in an area where police tend to hassle kids a lot to actually know what their rights are, now, would it? Of course, the part they focused on was this:
One section reads; "It's no secret, however, that police often cross the line in both obvious (Rodney King) and hidden ways (racial profiling.)"
No, it's no secret, but I imagine the police would like it to be.