My emphasis. No kidding; this doesn't exactly make me want to use VOIP. Not that I was likely to before; I called one of the providers' toll-free number once and was astounded by the poor sound quality. "Ah", I thought, "so that's what VOIP sounds like".
A federal investigation into a 911 call that sent ambulances to a home in Ontario while the family of a dying baby waited in vain three provinces away in Calgary has placed the blame on the Internet telephone company Comwave.
A series of documents, which Comwave fought for the past three months to keep confidential, have been obtained by The Globe and Mail. They say that federal regulators believe the company's call-takers didn't follow proper emergency procedures.
The botched response to the 911 call led to an ambulance being dispatched to the family's former address in Mississauga.
Letters exchanged between Comwave and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission since the incident in April show that the regulator believes the company should be held accountable. However, Comwave disputed those claims yesterday, denying that it broke any federal rules.
Comwave sought to have the documents kept private, saying in a letter to the CRTC that it would "cause material and financial loss" if the information was made public.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
An out-of-work truck driver accused of opening fire at a Unitarian church, killing two people, left behind a note suggesting that he targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal policies, including its acceptance of gays, authorities said Monday.
A four-page letter found in Jim D. Adkisson's small SUV indicated he intentionally targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because, the police chief said, "he hated the liberal movement" and was upset with "liberals in general as well as gays."
Adkisson, a 58-year-old truck driver on the verge of losing his food stamps, had 76 rounds with him when he entered the church and pulled a shotgun from a guitar case during a children's performance of the musical "Annie."
My emphasis. There's an irony here, in that cuts to welfare programs are most definitely not a "liberal" policy, at least in the sense that the accused would understand the term. It reminds me of a comment made by Chomsky on the Oklahoma City bombing:
At the beginning, they were looking for some Middle East connection, and they would've bombed anybody in sight if they'd found it, you could tell that right off. Didn't work, so you're stuck with the angry white men. And the source of that is quite real; they have every reason to be angry. They have a lot to be angry about... but I don't think people know what to be angry about. What has been created by this half century of massive corporate propaganda is what's called "anti-politics". So that anything that goes wrong, you blame the government. Well okay, there's plenty to blame the government about, but the government is the one institution that people can change... the one institution that you can affect without institutional change. That's exactly why all the anger and fear has been directed at the government. The government has a defect- it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect- they're pure tyrranies. So therefore you want to keep corporations invisible, and focus all anger on the government. So if you don't like something, you know, your wages are going down, you blame the government. Not blame the guys in the Fortune 500, because you don't read the Fortune 500. You just read what they tell you in the newspapers... all you know is that the bad government's doing something, so let's get mad at the government.Chomsky said this in 1995 (in a speech that was released as a CD entitled Class War: The Attack on Working People), and a lot has changed since then, but not everything has (despite what some people will tell you about how "9/11 changed everything"):
While the anger and the fear is real, and it's based on something, and you've got to sympathize with it, because it is real - when your wages have dropped 25%, roughly, in say, 15 years, and your wife has to work, and your kids can't eat, and you have no future, and everything's rotten, you have a lot to be angry about, but people are not focused on what's doing it.And from the sound of it, Mr. Adkisson had a lot to be angry about too. It's a shame the people who he's alleged to have taken his anger out on had nothing to do with his problems. A slightly different twist - this guy's perceived enemies were gays and liberals, neither of whom has too much role in government in the US these days - but the same general phenomenon, a real and justified anger acted out in a vicious manner on the wrong target. Indeed, the targets in this attack had far less responsibility for his troubles than the Clinton administration had for Timothy McVeigh's. Yet instead of shooting up the welfare office that had cut him off, he went to a church known for accepting people that he'd been taught to hate. I guess that's what happens when you watch Fox News too much.
Of course, even the US media isn't entirely monolithic. Besides the idea that you should blame your troubles on gays, women, ethnic or religious minorities, liberals, atheists, or anyone who Anne Coulter and Bill O'Reilly don't like, there's another current - the one that says you should blame yourself. Maybe this is why this woman responded to foreclosure the way she did:
TAUNTON, Mass. (AP) - A 53-year-old wife and mother fatally shot herself soon after faxing a letter to her mortgage company saying that by the time they foreclosed on her house that day, she would be dead.As far as my own life is going, well it's a lot better than that. In fact, so far I don't feel like shooting myself or anyone else. The Fringe Festival is over, and I saw a total of five shows, not huge compared to many people but far more than I'd gone to in any previous iteration of the festival. And on Sunday I checked out My Winnipeg at the Globe. Fascinating, filled with a confusing mix of fact and fiction (some of the anecdotes about Winnipeg's history are false, but some, such as If Day, are true). It's not a particularly flattering portrayal of the city, but anyone who grew up here is bound to identify with parts of it. It was the first Maddin film I'd seen; now I want to look up Tales from the Gimli Hospital, which apparently annoyed a lot of folks from Gimli when it came out. I guess it's easier to get a pass when you're from the place you're portraying.
Police in Taunton said Carlene Balderrama used her husband's high-powered rifle to kill herself Tuesday afternoon, after faxing the letter at 2:30 p.m.
The mortgage company called police, who found Balderrama's body at 3:30 p.m. in her brown-shingled raised ranch house. The auction was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and interested buyers arrived at the property in Taunton, about 35 miles south of Boston, while Balderrama's body was still inside, according to police chief Raymond O'Berg.
So now it's time for something funny - Garfield minus Garfield. Removing the eponymous character allows one to focus more on Jon, which is not only amusing but downright good for the self-esteem:
Thanks to bugsybrown for the link. And much to his credit, it seems that Jim Davis likes it too:
One of Walsh's occasional readers is Davis, who heard about the site a few months ago. The cartoonist calls the work "an inspired thing to do" and wishes to thank Walsh for enabling him to see another side of "Garfield."I have to admit that this is a far better reaction than I'd expected from Davis. I guess even cartoonists can have a sense of humour.
Friday, July 25, 2008
The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.Nice. I wonder why that might be? Well, a former EPA official, Jason Burnett, thinks he knows:
The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.
This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.
From here. Not a huge surprise that this sort of thing happens, of course, but it's great that this got out. Here's hoping the story goes viral.
More details are emerging about the maneuvers that blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gases were a threat to public health and welfare and should be regulated.
White House officials initially blessed the agency’s efforts to create a basis for restricting emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas produced by human activities, but reversed course after passage of an energy bill last December, a former agency official has told a Congressional committee. He said the White House was won over by the argument, pushed by oil companies and others, that such regulation should not be part of the Bush legacy,
The official, Jason K. Burnett, once a Bush appointee and now an Obama supporter, told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that the argument for putting off any carbon dioxide limits was made by “individuals working for particular oil companies, Exxon Mobil,” as well as oil industry trade associations.
From here. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is experiencing serious inflation; depending on who you believe it is anywhere from 3.4 to 10.5%. I'm more inclined to believe the latter, myself. The thing is, if this starts really hurting the citizens of these countries, they might unpeg their currencies, in which case things could get very exciting indeed:
Pegged exchanged rates prevent those countries from raising interest rates to keep inflation under control. Instead, to maintain the exchange rate, they have to match U.S. monetary policy. Interest rates in the United States are highly stimulative, however, designed for an American economy struggling to avoid a recession - not a Gulf country whose coffers overflow with oil money.
So emerging market demand continues unabated, even encouraged, further exacerbating the inflation problem that governments around the world are scrambling to contain. Qatar's inflation is running at about 14 per cent. Egypt is at 19 per cent.
The average for the region just two years ago was a mere 2 per cent.
So what happens then? Well, I suspect that America's ability to buy oil would be severely compromised. It's not hard to guess what that would mean. It would get pretty awkward for us as well, given our dependence on the US market. Just how it would play out is anyone's guess (plenty of speculation happening here if that's your thing.
"If several dollar-pegged currencies were revalued, we could expect to see some panic selling in the U.S. dollar, further destabilizing the global economy," she said.
Such speculation has prompted politicians in the United States and the Gulf to frequently deny this would occur.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
You don’t own the environmental issue; the NDP has owned that for decades. You don’t own the tax issue; the Conservative Party has owned that for decades. You don’t even own the idea of stealing other parties’ ideas; the Liberal Party has owned that for decades.The thing is, I do think there's a legitimate place for the Green Party in the Canadian political landscape. There are plenty of people who are politically around where the Liberals or the old PCs would be, except that they recognize that some environmental issues absolutely must be dealt with to avoid an enormous disaster (how enormous is debatable, but it certainly won't be a good scene if global warming advances too far, for instance). So if a sizeable number of those people find a political home there, that's fine. Myself, I'm sticking with the NDP.
Inflation in Venezuela will rise by 65 percent to 70 percent this year, almost double last year's increase in the cost of living, the Planning Minister, Miguel Rodriguez, said today. The rate for 1989 so far, 52.7 percent, may slow down in the second half of the year as the Government's austerity program takes effect, Mr. Rodriguez added. Venezuela, which had one of Latin America's lowest inflation rates for many years, saw its cost of living rise by 35.5 percent last year after increasing 40.3 percent in 1987.Thanks to Robert at My Blahg for the link. So really, the Chavez administration is actually doing a better job of managing inflation than the old regime. Not that the right wingers are going to acknowledge this, of course.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
If Vincent Bugliosi were prosecuting George W. Bush for the murder of the more than 4,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq, he would seek the death penalty.”If I were the prosecutor, there is no question I would seek the death penalty,” Bugliosi told Corporate Crime Reporter in a wide-ranging interview.
Bugliosi is the author of the just published book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Vanguard Press, 2008).
“I’m urging here that an American jury try George Bush for first degree murder. I want to see him on trial for murder before an American jury. And if they convict him, it will be up to the jury to decide what his punishment is. One of the options would be the imposition of the death penalty. If I were prosecuting him, absolutely I would seek the death penalty. As Governor of Texas, George Bush signed death warrants - 152 out of 152 - most of them for people who only committed one murder.”
Bugliosi said he is sending a copy of his book to all fifty state Attorneys General, offering his assistance in prosecuting Bush for homicide.
“I’m herein enclosing a copy of my book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” Bugliosi writes in the letter to the Attorneys General. “I hope you will find the time to read it and that you will agree with its essential conclusion - that George W. Bush is guilty of murder for the deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers who have died fighting his war in Iraq.”
Via CommonDreams. Now I'm not in favour of the death penalty, even for Bush, but if anyone should get a nice necktie party it's him. Certainly his crimes dwarf those of Bugliosi's most famous case.
Speaking of death, I'm sad to report that the stick insect has died. She moulted on Monday, and for some reason wasn't able to complete it. I suspect that it resulted from insufficient space; the jar I had her in is big but perhaps not quite big enough, so she wasn't able to free her legs from the cast-off skin. I hoped that it might just be a slow process, but it was not to be. Damn, I'm disappointed.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
As world attention is fixed on Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, there has been hardly any outcry from the international community about the dire human rights situation in another African country—Equatorial Guinea—where Teodoro Obiang has ruthlessly ruled for nearly thirty years. Obiang has been called the worst dictator in Africa, but since vast oil and natural gas reserves were discovered in the mid-1990s, he has become a close US ally.From Democracy Now, via sgm at babble. Most noteworthy, he was on America's shitlist for years until they realized they needed the oil:
Jesus wept. Well, probably not, actually; there's so much of this shit that if Jesus wept every time something like this happened, he'd quickly drown all his followers, which would be a bit counterproductive for someone who wants to be worshipped. But no doubt he would at least be able to summon a world-weary sigh.
KEN SILVERSTEIN: Well, Equatorial Guinea is a small West African state. There’s an island off the mainland, and then there’s a small square of land on the continent itself. It’s a country that for years and years and years was just completely ignored. I mean, there was—the dictator before Obiang was in some ways even more ruthless, but no one really paid attention to what was going on there, and the United States closed its embassy in 1996, I believe, in part because of death threats against our then-Ambassador John Bennett, who I believe succeeded Frank.And then, lo and behold, not long after that, American oil companies discovered vast reserves in Equatorial Guinea, and suddenly, ever since then, beginning with Clinton and then very, very quickly under Bush, there has been a backtracking, because $5 billion—at least $5 billion in American oil investments have poured into the country. And so, now Equatorial Guinea has become the third largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, major US investments, very close friend of the United States government, and so now there’s a little bit more importance given to Equatorial Guinea.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
But when you read stuff like this, you realize how crazy that country may turn out to be:
L ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
So far, this is pretty run of the mill stuff, really. They have a long history of doing that sort of thing, quite possibly to their allies as well as their enemies.
Earlier this year, a militant Ahwazi group claimed to have assassinated a Revolutionary Guard colonel, and the Iranian government acknowledged that an explosion in a cultural center in Shiraz, in the southern part of the country, which killed at least twelve people and injured more than two hundred, had been a terrorist act and not, as it earlier insisted, an accident. It could not be learned whether there has been American involvement in any specific incident in Iran, but, according to Gardiner, the Iranians have begun publicly blaming the U.S., Great Britain, and, more recently, the C.I.A. for some incidents. The agency was involved in a coup in Iran in 1953, and its support for the unpopular regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi—who was overthrown in 1979—was condemned for years by the ruling mullahs in Tehran, to great effect. “This is the ultimate for the Iranians—to blame the C.I.A.,” Gardiner said. “This is new, and it’s an escalation—a ratcheting up of tensions. It rallies support for the regime and shows the people that there is a continuing threat from the ‘Great Satan.’ ” In Gardiner’s view, the violence, rather than weakening Iran’s religious government, may generate support for it.
Again, assassinations are far from unusual in the modern world (or the ancient one, for that matter). But they don't seem satisfied with that:
A Gallup poll taken last November, before the N.I.E. was made public, found that seventy-three per cent of those surveyed thought that the United States should use economic action and diplomacy to stop Iran’s nuclear program, while only eighteen per cent favored direct military action. Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to endorse a military strike. Weariness with the war in Iraq has undoubtedly affected the public’s tolerance for an attack on Iran. This mood could change quickly, however. The potential for escalation became clear in early January, when five Iranian patrol boats, believed to be under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, made a series of aggressive moves toward three Navy warships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Initial reports of the incident made public by the Pentagon press office said that the Iranians had transmitted threats, over ship-to-ship radio, to “explode” the American ships. At a White House news conference, the President, on the day he left for an eight-day trip to the Middle East, called the incident “provocative” and “dangerous,” and there was, very briefly, a sense of crisis and of outrage at Iran. “TWO MINUTES FROM WAR” was the headline in one British newspaper.
The crisis was quickly defused by Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region. No warning shots were fired, the Admiral told the Pentagon press corps on January 7th, via teleconference from his headquarters, in Bahrain. “Yes, it’s more serious than we have seen, but, to put it in context, we do interact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their Navy regularly,” Cosgriff said. “I didn’t get the sense from the reports I was receiving that there was a sense of being afraid of these five boats.”
Admiral Cosgriff’s caution was well founded: within a week, the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the ominous radio transmission, and press reports suggested that it had instead come from a prankster long known for sending fake messages in the region. Nonetheless, Cosgriff’s demeanor angered Cheney, according to the former senior intelligence official. But a lesson was learned in the incident: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.
My emphasis. So, are they really going to go through with this? A lot of people, both on the left and the right, think this is the way it's going. Needless to say, most of us don't like what we see, either.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
A University of Central Florida student, upset religious groups hold church services on public campuses, is holding hostage the Eucharist, an object so sacred to Catholics they call it the Body of Christ.Church officials say UCF Student Senator Webster Cook was disruptive and disrespectful when he attended Mass held on campus Sunday June 29. It was during that Mass where Cook admits he obtained the Eucharist.The Eucharist is a small bread wafer blessed by a priest. According to Catholics, the wafer becomes the Body of Christ once blessed and is to be consumed immediately after a minister passes it out to churchgoers.Cook claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith."When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him," Cook said. "I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they'd leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth."Source. Since then, he's received death threats despite having returned the cracker. Thanks to Snuckles at babble for the tip.
Monday, July 7, 2008
With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, it appears there has been a serious snafu in ol' Scarborough. A gardener who spent 10 years cultivating a “native plant garden” of more than 150 species says Toronto bylaw officers went well beyond their authority by chopping it down without warning last week. Deborah Dale returned home from work last Tuesday evening to find the plants removed from in front of her Scarborough home.Via Frustrated Mess at babble. This is all too common; suburban fuckheads who want their lawns to resemble a golf course go nuts when one someone in the neighbourhood doesn't follow the same cookie-cutter pattern, and municipalities are all too keen to oblige them. In fact, Cat Lady and Dog Lady were recently ordered to clean up their back yard in Waterloo- even though their front yard is quite ordinary looking, and the most likely suspect as the source of the complaint doesn't even directly adjoin their yard. The dumb fuck is known for making complaints to the city (he got them to order other people on the street to get renovation materials out of their driveway, for instance, even though the stuff was only there for a short time). He is also trying to sell his house for way more than anyone else in the neighbourhood thinks he can reasonably expect; maybe he thinks that the reason his house isn't selling is the "trashy" appearance of the neighbourhood. And no, the neighbourhood is not trashy looking by any reasonable standards.
The Post's Matthew Coutts reports:City officials confirmed yesterday they were responsible for removing the garden, which was on both Ms. Dale’s Crittenden Square property and on the city-owned boulevard, saying they had received complaints that the garden had become unruly and offensive.
“I called the police because my garden had been vandalized. It’s not the first time I’ve had plants stolen, but to have the entire garden been taken away ... After 10 years it’s not funny in the least,” said Ms. Dale, a former president of the North American Native Plant Society.
Friday, July 4, 2008
I honestly ask myself what all the fuss and posturing about?Strong words, to be sure, but I can't find fault with much of what he says here. But if there's a take-home message, it's this:
Well they threw off British rule; that’s pretty impressive.
They helped destroy the Kaiser and Hitler; that’s pretty impressive despite the fact they like to take all the credit and showed up to both wars several wars years late.
They created a constitution that put the protection of people’s rights to the forefront of government responsibilities; which by any account is an outstanding achievement.
America built the most powerful industrial machine the world had ever seen, they made it to the moon and advanced all manner of technical innovation big and small; once again all things worth celebrating.
We must remember however that these events are the high points of the American experience and quite probably hollow victories when compared to today’s reality. Such patriotic holidays as Independence Day are now tools of the establishment who know that people will get lost in pointless pride when frustration and anger are more appropriate for today's circumstances!
No one hates America for its freedom; IF they hate America it's because America rations freedom to those deemed worthy, which these days is not even its own population.Truer words couldn't have been spoken. The sad thing is, at one time the US really did seem like a beacon of freedom and democracy. That isn't to say they didn't ration their freedom before (they kept slaves until 145 years ago, after all) but they introduced an ideal to the modern world that hasn't completely died out, and hopefully never will, despite the efforts of their current leaders.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Fingerprint the lot of them: the idea had the satisfying smack of firm government. Now the Italian government was doing something tough; something long overdue.
The Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, a leader of the rabble-rousing Northern League – close allies of Silvio Berlusconi on the government benches – has explained his next step in his assault on the "emergenza di sicurezza", the "security emergency": fingerprinting all Gypsies.
It was the only way, he told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, for Italy to guarantee "to those who have the right to remain here, the possibility of living in decent conditions." For this purpose the Roma – those with Italian nationality and those without, EU citizens and those from outside the Community – will all have their fingerprints taken. And the rule will even apply to Gypsy children – for reasons that to many of Mr Maroni's supporters must have sounded obvious: "to avoid phenomena," as he put it, "such as begging". The new measures, he said, were indispensable "in order to expel those who do not have the right to stay in Italy".
From the Independent. The Globe also covered the story here; while less comprehensive, this story is instructive for the comments left by some readers, which have to be seen to be believed. It's interesting that the comments weren't removed; somehow I doubt that similar comments about other Holocaust victims would have been tolerated.