Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The coup in Honduras

The overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya has flown under the radar, thanks to the death of Michael Jackson. Despite the fact that Obama says he opposes the coup, there are more than a few folks who think this might be the work of the Yanks. With the miracle of Babelfish, it seems clear that this blogger believes the timing is not coincidental; she believes that the death of Jackson provides a convenient smokescreen, and in this babble thread it is pointed out that the coup was the work of a graduate of the infamous School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Plenty more commentary here.

Monday, June 29, 2009


A potentially serious threat to the world's food supply:

OTTAWA — Scientists in Canada and around the world are racing to find a way to stop a destructive fungus that threatens to wipe out 80 per cent of the world's wheat crop, causing widespread famine and pushing the cost of such staples as bread and pasta through the roof.

Canadian officials say that the airborne fungus, known as Ug99, has so far proved unstoppable, making its way out of eastern Africa and into the Middle East and Central Asia. It is now threatening areas that account for more than one-third of the world's wheat production and scientists in North America say it's only a matter of time before the pest hits the breadbasket regions of North America, Russia and China.

"I think it's important people start recognizing what a big threat this is. This could mean world famine. This is quite the deal," said Rob Graf, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's research centre in Lethbridge, Alta.

From the Regina Leader-Post. Ever read John Christopher's The Death of Grass? Things could get very ugly indeed if this can't be contained.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tapes Reveal Nixon’s View of Abortion

As you might expect, not the most enlightened views:

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases, such as interracial pregnancies.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding: “Or a rape.”
New York Times

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Harper-Ignatieff deal to study EI averts summer vote

Again, not surprising:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff reached a deal on Tuesday to examine employment insurance reform, averting the possibility of a summer election following days of speculation over the fate of the minority Conservative government.

Earlier this week, Ignatieff had threatened to withhold confidence in a budget estimates vote on Friday unless Harper provided answers on a series of issues, including the Tories' unspecified plans for more EI proposals in the fall.

But after a series of face-to-face meetings in recent days, the political rivals agreed to create a working group on employment insurance that will have three members selected by the Liberals and three by the Conservatives.

Source. While I'm happy not to have to work on yet another election campaign this summer, I have to wonder what Iggy is actually going to get out of this. When Jack Layton cut a deal with Paul Martin to avert an election in 2005, Canadians got billions of dollars worth of investment in things that matter to everyday folks (housing, transit, education, etc). I have to wonder what's going to come of this "working group". Oh well, I'm sure we'll see soon enough.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Harper willing to talk with Ignatieff to avoid election

Not a big surprise:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he is willing to meet Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to discuss his demands to avoid triggering a summer election, including further changes to the country's employment insurance system.

But Harper insisted Ignatieff was not taking a "realistic approach," saying major changes to EI "cannot be done on the back of an envelope in a few days."

He instead called for "dialogue" with Ignatieff over the summer on potential EI changes to be introduced in the fall.

“Mr. Ignatieff said he doesn’t want an election,” Harper told reporters Monday afternoon at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa.

“I don’t want an election. I don’t think anybody wants an election.”

He's right about that, of course; few people in this country want another election right now. So it's a reasonably safe bet that Harper and/or Ignatieff will compromise on this position. Hopefully this will result from Harper backing down, rather than Ignatieff.

When you think about it, Jack Layton wasn't far wrong when he said this:

"We have a new coalition now on Parliament Hill -- it's a coalition between Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff," Layton said shortly after Ignatieff announced his conditional support for the Tory budget.

He's not the first person to say this, of course; I seem to recall a columnist saying the same thing a couple of years before, because of the number of times the Liberals supported the Tories on confidence votes. That's not to say I want an election right now either, but I do hope Ignatieff doesn't sell his support too cheaply. (Yes, I know that strictly speaking it's not a coalition, since the Liberals didn't get any cabinet seats, but the effect is pretty similar).

Friday, June 12, 2009

When Hosts Go Extinct, What Happens To Their Parasites?

Well, in many cases, of course, they go extinct themselves. But there is another possibility:

"There is a distinct possibility that declines in host species could drive parasite species to switch onto alternative hosts, which in turn could escalate the rate of emerging pathogens and parasites both for humans and our domesticated animals and plants," Dunn says. "Put simply, when a host becomes rare, its parasites and mutualists have two choices: jump ship to another host or go extinct. Either situation is a problem."

Dunn noted that the regions where new human diseases, such as bird flu, are emerging coincide with the regions where the most mammal and bird species are endangered. "We have long talked about the negative consequences of the endangerment of the species we love," he says, "but getting left with their parasites is a consequence no one bargained for."

Source. A sobering thought, no?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Terrorism strikes in America, again...

... domestic terrorism, that is. This article (hat tip to Blaque) reminds us of the fact that Mr. Von Brunn isn't the only one recently, and points out that this is exactly what the Department of Homeland Security warned about:
A month before a suspected white supremacist walked into the Holocaust Memorial Museum in downtown Washington and opened fire, the Department of Homeland Security warned that domestic right-wing extremism was the most pressing domestic terrorist threat that the country faced.

Conservatives were outraged that the DHS analysts had singled out antiabortion and antitax radicals for scrutiny. But the report was part of a series that DHS compiles on domestic dangers from all sides of the political spectrum, an area that's taken a back seat to overseas threats.

A series of recent incidents shows the prescience of those reports and illustrates the worrying reality that terrorism often comes from inside the homeland. Worse still, the reports caution that such attacks are likely to happen again. In the past two weeks, the country has seen the bombing of a Starbucks coffee shop in New York City, the arrest of four men for allegedly plotting to blow up synagogues and shoot down planes, the shooting of two soldiers at an Army recruitment center in Arkansas, the assassination of a doctor inside a Kansas church, and the shooting at the Holocaust Museum. Although these are not all cases of right-wing extremism, each is an example of domestic terrorism. "We still face threats from al Qaeda," FBI chief Robert Mueller warned Congress in May during a briefing on threats facing the nation. "But we must also focus on less well-known terrorist groups, as well as homegrown terrorists."
Incidentally, the suspect in this case is the author of an ebook entitled Kill The Best Gentiles, something that he claims comes from the Talmud. (This claim is discussed here, for those interested). His website has been taken down, but for the morbidly curious, the Google cache of his "masterpiece" still exists -- for the time being. Let's just say it isn't well written even by the standards of far right nutcases; at least something like The Turner Diaries works on the level of a "boy's own adventure" story (not that you'd want your kids reading it). And as a friend of mine pointed out, the fact that he's still alive at 88 would seem to remove him from the category of "best Gentiles", by his own reasoning.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why the Liberals pulled out of the coalition

As we all know, after Harper prorogued Parliament last fall to avoid a non-confidence vote, the Liberals backed out as soon as the prorogue ended. Well, it seems that as a result of Lisa Raitt's recent difficulties, some very interesting things have come to light. Close to the bottom of the article, we find this:

Later in her conversation with Ms. MacDonnell, Ms. Raitt tells the man driving them around Victoria that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff had backed down from defeating the Conservative government on a budget a few days earlier because he got a message from Canadian bankers.

“They did it at the Canadian Council of (Chief) Executives, there was three presidents of major banks who stood up in the room — and this is not from cabinet so I can talk about it — stood up and said, ‘Ignatieff, don’t you even think about bringing us to an election,’” said Ms. Raitt.

“'We don’t need this. We have no interest in this. And we will never fund your party again.’ That was very powerful. So he heard it from very powerful people in the industry. He was definitely muzzled.”

Liberal finance critic John McCallum, who was present for the closed-door Jan. 20 meeting with about 100 executives, says they were against the coalition and an election, but there was “not even a hint of a veiled threat,” and bankers would never make such a threat in a meeting with so many people present.

So let's get this straight. A Minister of the Crown casually discussed a blackmail threat against the Leader of the Official Opposition. And the body making the threat was a bunch of CEOs, many of whom Raitt is almost certainly acquainted with in the course of her career. Not to mention, Raitt's party is the chief beneficiary of the blackmail. Surely this qualifies as extortion, doesn't it?

346. (1) Every one commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done.

Criminal Code of Canada. Just sayin'.

Victory in Nova Scotia!

A big one, too:

Voters in Nova Scotia made history Tuesday, electing the first NDP government east of Ontario as they delivered a decisive majority win to a party that offered a modest platform and a commitment to balance the province's books.

NDP Leader Darrell Dexter, a former journalist and lawyer, calmly and effectively persuaded voters to ignore dire warnings from the ruling Conservatives, who demonized the Opposition party as a shifty band of irresponsible, free-spending radicals.

The NDP's win ends 10 years of Tory rule and, most likely, the short political career of Premier Rodney MacDonald, a former professional fiddler and gym teacher whose awkward style in public seemed to leave voters cold after three, gaffe-prone years in power.

New Democrat icon Alexa McDonough, widely credited as the base upon which New Demcrats built support in the province while party leader from 1981 to 1995, deflected any credit to Mr. Dexter.

"The credit absolutely has to go to Darrell Dexter and the team," she said, though she did acknowledge the buildup to tonight.
From the Chronicle-Herald.

Monday, June 1, 2009

O'Reilly's campaign against murdered doctor

Man, that O'Reilly character is a charmer:
When his show airs tomorrow, Bill O'Reilly will most certainly decry the death of Kansas doctor George Tiller, who was killed Sunday while attending church services with his wife. Tiller, O'Reilly will say, was a man who was guilty of barbaric acts, but a civilized society does not resort to lawless murder, even against its worst members. And O'Reilly, we can assume, will genuinely mean this.

But there's no other person who bears as much responsibility for the characterization of Tiller as a savage on the loose, killing babies willy-nilly thanks to the collusion of would-be sophisticated cultural elites, a bought-and-paid-for governor and scofflaw secular journalists. Tiller's name first appeared on "The Factor" on Feb. 25, 2005. Since then, O'Reilly and his guest hosts have brought up the doctor on 28 more episodes, including as recently as April 27 of this year. Almost invariably, Tiller is described as "Tiller the Baby Killer."

Tiller, O'Reilly likes to say, "destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000." He's guilty of "Nazi stuff," said O'Reilly on June 8, 2005; a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida, he suggested on March 15, 2006. "This is the kind of stuff happened in Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union," said O'Reilly on Nov. 9, 2006.

From Salon. Perhaps Mr. O'Reilly should consider the fate of the management of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines before he shoots his mouth off in the future.