"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More stories from the War on Christmas

 (graphic and entire concept shamelessly stolen from the brilliant Driftglass post that inspired this whole thing)

Close up: Willard, a mall security guard sips from a large hip flask, the camera pulls back to reveal he is sitting in Santa's chair at the Santa's village display in the mall. It is dark and the mall is closed. The guard is drunk. In the background we hear Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas."
Willard stands slowly and starts to waltz. He trips over a wrapped gift and springs into a martial arts stance. He spin-kicks the head off of an animatronic elf and then karate chops a huge wooden candy cane in half.
In a montage of quick cuts set to the music, Willard runs amok smashing presents, pulling down decorations, humping a statue of Rudolph, finally swinging a Christmas tree like a baseball bat to destroy the whole display as the music swells.
Finally as Bing Crosby sings "and may all your Christmases be white" we see Willard collapse and try to snort the artificial snow off of the damaged side of one of the Santa's Village huts. His nose starts to bleed and he begins to sob.

Voice over by Willard: "Santa's village. Shit. I'm still in Santa's Village.
Every time, I think I'm gonna wake up back in the snow. When I was home after the first shift, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be nothing, just a lingering taste of candycane and a hint of pine scent in the air. I hardly said a word to my wife until I said yes to her office Christmas party. When I was here, I wanted to be back in the tree lot. When I was in the tree lot, all I could think about was getting back in here where it was warm.
I've been here a week now, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this mall, flirting with the girls in the elf suits, swilling eggnog, I get weaker. And every minute the elves tinker in Nick's workshop, St. Nick gets stronger.
Everybody always gets what they want for Christmas. I wanted a mission, and because I was on the nice list, they gave me one. Left it under the tree wrapped up in shiny paper with a big red bow"

Go and read the hilarious denoument at Driftglass


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The height of political sophistimacation

 "Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."
-John Stuart Mill

This epigram from Mill has been bouncing around my brain for a few days now, sparked in part by an evening of sparring on Twitter with a bunch of dedicated gun nuts who were crowing about the end of the gun registry, and in part by this post over at the Galloping Beaver condemning some of Margaret Wente's recent columns in the Mop&Pail.

 Both bring me to the same conclusion: that conservatives have abandoned any pretense of trying to put together sound, practical public policy based science, professional expertise and common sense and have instead decided to just do whatever they think will piss off "liberals" or "socialists" or "hippies" or whatever nonsensical catch-all label they've adopted this week for their imaginary enemies from Rush Limbaugh, Charles Adler or FOX TV's evil ventriloquist dummies .
We see it every year when they hold Earth Hour. You know the environmental awareness event where everybody shuts off all the unnecessary gadgets and goes without electric lights and stuff for part of an evening as a sort of feel-good event with little actual practical impact on environmental problems that is intended to raise awareness. You might take part, you might ignore it, but to the hard-core conservative base, it is taken as a challenge to turn on every light in the house and idle the truck in the driveway for an hour, just to be contrary and hopefully bait a 'liberal.'

My evening on Twitter with the gun nuts was like trying to push shit up hill. Every time you demonstrated that their argument was nonsensical, they would change tack. You showed via statistics that most gun murders were committed by people without previous serious criminal records, they argued that the government was afraid of an uprising by armed patriotic law-abiding citizens. You explained that no matter many times they had seen Red Dawn and how many guns they cached, the police and military would still have them outgunned, they suddenly wanted to talk about the right to hunt to put food on the table. You point out that they admitted they didn't hunt and they wanted to claim that cars are more dangerous than guns and on and on.
I'd go back and list some of the Twitter conversations if I had an infinite amount of time and patience but the tone of most of the posts from the pro-gun tweeters was "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah stupid liberals!" They were mostly delighted to have won a victory over the forces of law, order and common sense mainly because they figured they had shown us evil, prejudiced, corrupt, intolerant authoritarian liberals at thing or two.
When I tried to pin down one guy on why the hell he needed a collection of semi-automatic (which sometimes means convertible to full auto) military style weapons, he admitted that he didn't hunt and he wasn't a sports shooter - he more or less said that he wanted to have them because people like me didn't think he should have them. In other words, he wanted them because he thought of it as some kind of trangressive behaviour that would annoy "liberals" and "socialists," which sounds to me like a very dangerous and expensive way to annoy your neighbours just for laughs. If that's all he wants them for, why not just get a yappy dog that barks all night instead of something that, if handled carelessly or used with malicious intent, could leave people dead? 
But no, this gun nut and many others would rather spite "the enemy" than let the police keep a valuable tool.
Speaking of valuable tools, let us move from the aptly named base to the elites: Margaret Wente's column, while it points out that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, then goes on to tell us that poor aren't really poor because they all have colour TVs and none of them are dying of smallpox anymore.

The story is the same in Canada. In Ontario, for example, 65 per cent of the bottom fifth of families by income have air conditioning. Seventy per cent have DVD players, 65 per cent have cable TV, 56 per cent have home computers and 98.9 per cent have colour TVs. (Thirty years ago, even the most affluent families had few, if any, of these things.)
Wow, it sounds like the poor in Ontario really have it easy! Until you think about just how much stupid and wrong is packed into this one paragraph. Many public housing developments or rental apartments come with air conditioning whether you can afford it or not. Getting your TV via cable has been the norm in Canada for about 40 years, especially in cities - have you tried using the old rabbit ears to pick up the new digital signals? Good luck with that.
Wente is correct that not even the most affluent families had DVD players or home computers in 1981, because DVD players hadn't been invented yet and home computers were still in their infancy (The original Apple Mac didn't come out for another few years, though a few of  us already had big 16K or even 32K desktop BASIC machines from Radio Shack. I don't think even the Commodore 64 was on the market at that point.)
As for her claim about colour television being a rarity in 1981, let me say two thing. First, Ha! and second, I'm not sure you can even buy a B&W set anymore, hell it's tough to find a TV that uses a tube anymore. 
What this column, and so many, many more of Wente's have in common is that they are built around her efforts to be contrarian, to challenge what she sees as "conventional wisdom" and "political correctness" - to be a rugged individualist and an independent thinker. Which is all well and good if one is:

  •  a) someone who is an outsider, not a member of The Establishment and former managing editors of the Globe and Mail and the Report on Business are pretty much the definition of The Establishment; and 
  • b) not completely full of shit. Independent thinking still requires thinking, not merely contradicting what a lot of other people are saying and then trying to justify your contrarian position by making shit up. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.

This column, like much of Wente writing is little more than a defence of privilege and justification for being a selfish prick, which is pretty much the entire raison-d'etre for most people self-identifying as conservatives these days. They are selfish pricks who needed to come up with a justification for being selfish pricks, so they constructed a rickety morally-bankrupt psuedo-philosophy to try to defend their awful behaviour.
It was much the same when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Lots and lots of comfortable white people came up with all kinds of bullshit reasons that segregation was necessary and even beneficial rather than simply admit that they were racist shitheads. Over time, these bullshit reasons were seen for the bullshit that they were and the racist shitheads recognized as what they were.
So when someone claims they are a Randite libertarian conservative or a lassiez-faire market capitalist -- which loosely translated mean "I'm all right, Jack" -- what it usually means is they are a selfish prick who just doesn't want to admit they are a selfish prick.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Just in time for the Christmas shopping season

Shopping season being upon us, we here at the Woodshed are making our list and checking it twice. Kids are often difficult to buy for, as toy trends come and go and today's cool, must-have gadget is tomorrow's obsolete paperweight. Bearing that in mind, we bring you this indispensible  list of the five best toys of all time and a list of runners-up. As a father of two and a big kid at heart I can attest to the accuracy of these lists. I have played with all the toys listed at one time or another and all of them have been a huge hit with both my kids and virtually every kid I know.
Found via Twitter (see, it is too useful for something other than filling time waiting for the bus)


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

When $90 million isn't really $90 million

Before you go opening your piehole about how "those Indians get a free ride" and are just "spending all our tax money on booze, big screen TVs and new snowmobiles"  or some such bullshit, let me suggest you go and read the facts on Attawapiskatt.


Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men...

...Unless they happen to be Iranian or North Korean or Syrian or Mexican or Jordanian or Nicaraguan or Cuban or Russian or French or Chinese or Australian or Kenyan or Swiss or anyone else who may not have applauded loudly enough when the United States of America raised an eyebrow. At least that is the policy I would expect if a certain presidential candidate get a chance to keep a promise he made today.
If, like me, you though Stephen Harper's appointment of John "Shouty McLoudmouth" Baird as minister of foreign affairs was a bizarre choice for a position that requires delicate diplomacy and a nuanced approach to dealing with difficult situations, boy oh boy, are you gonna love this.
Republican flavour-of-the-week and frontrunner Newt Gingrich has promised that, if elected president, he will appoint former never-confirmed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Yosamite Sam impersonator John Bolton as U.S. Secretary of State.

One can only assume this would mean that Turkey/Sharia conspiracy theorist Pamela "Atlas Juggs" Geller would be named Undersecretary-in-charge-of-bombing-anyone-who-so-much-as-expresses-a-dislike-of -bagels-or-Jackie-Mason-nevermind-looks-sideways-at-Israel-god-forbid.

Thankfully Newt, like Herman Cain, Sarah Palin and Christine "Not a Witch" O'Donnell before him, isn't really running for president. He's running for his own TV show on FOX and multimillion-dollar book contract.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Another casualty in the war on the poor

I'm sure the message many of the one percent will draw from this is that handguns are too inexpensive.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

This looks promising

It is kind of Thunderbirds meets the Prisoner via Monty Python, the Batman TV series and a really low budget Japanese sci-fi series.
This is just the trailer, the series started last week and can be found here.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

the Constitution doesn't mention GPS tracking

My suggestion if you find one of these on your vehicle would be to either drive to a truckstop and stick it on a tractor-trailer with out-of-state plates, or box it up and mail it to the White House (I would suggest using the local police station or FBI office as a return address to avoid having the Secret Service kick in your door)

Friday, November 25, 2011

the return of Friday music!

A couple of tunes for what appears to have become the second largest national holiday in the U.S. and rapidly in Canada, too. Why celebrate Easter, Diwali or Labour Day when you can embrace rampant consumerism and materialism, and maybe get trampled to death to save $50 on a new flatscreen, purse or gadget?


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We spent a billion dollars for this?

Note that most of these people were arrested in pre-dawn raids BEFORE the G20 demonstrations began, thanks to the use of infiltrators and police spies and agents provocateurs. And it cost taxpayers about a billion dollars, not including the fake lake and Tony Clement's gazebo.

obviously these 17 people posed an serious existential threat to country and civilization and it was worth every cent of that billion dollars to lock them up for the last year and to arrest over 1,000 people, only about 100 of which still face charges.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

the other kind of beat poets

Former Poet Laureate of the United States and UC Berkley professor Robert Hass didn't want to believe that the police were needlessly beating students at Occupy Berkley, so he went down to the demonstration to see what was happening and lo and behold, he and his wife got their fair share of abuse.

My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines. NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on.
I suspect that people will only take this for so long before there is considerable pushback against the police. The more sons and daughters of the middle class that get teargassed, peppersprayed and beaten, the fewer fans the police will have among the populace, and the more they will be viewed as the enemy rather than the protectors of the populace.
When that tipping point is reached, there is going to be real and lasting damage to the fabric of society.

Somebody please explain to me how UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike is one of the "good guys" and not a criminal. He's the one you see at the start of this video pepperspraying a group of seated, non-threatening, clearly non-violent protestors.

What makes him any better than the small time gangbanger, Hells' Angel thug or mob enforcer? This kind of action will not always be met with chants. When the general populace start to see the police as the enemy instead of those who serve and protect, it is a bell you can't unring.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fetch the smelling salts, someone said "Fuck" on the internet

As I write this, the number one story under Canada on Google news is the report by the privacy commissioner about the government collecting too much information about us, especially at airports. The number two story is about a carpenter from Winnipeg saying "fuck you" someone (who was definitely asking to be told) on the Internet.
Normally this would not be a story, but the carpenter in question is NDP Member of Parliament Pat Martin, who first expressed his anger over the government swiftly closing debate on the budget bill.
"This is a fucking disgrace... closure again. And on the Budget! There's not a democracy in the world that would tolerate this jackboot shit,”
followed by
For gods sake. In these uncertain economic times, don't you think our parliament should be debating our federal budget? Some due diligence?
These drew a series of tweets in response. Many of them, including my own, agreeing that, yes it is a fucking disgrace that the Harper government considers Parliament an inconvenience at best and that its passing of major pieces of legislation with little or no debate has the whiff of autocratic fascism. It also drew the predictable pearl-clutching trollery of the usual crowd of ignorant twerps who are more worried about the use of naughty words than they are about the government abusing its power.the one that broke the camel's back being from some hardcore Catholic fundamentalist anti-gay anti-choice dingbat who goes by the moniker of Lettingsmokeout

That was the first of several tweets by Lettingsmokeout condemning "socialism" (apparently the Pope doesn't care for socialism and since he is god's official spokesman, he couldn't possibly be wrong)  which led Martin to respond with an annoyed "Fuck you" -- to which I would only add "and the altar boys you and the pope rode in on."

Such people don't deserve to be given the time of day. Before you accuse me of anti-Catholic bigotry let me say I've nothing against Catholics that I don't have against adherents of any other major religion. Most are fine people, its the few that get carried away that spoil it all. Religion is like whisky -  it's a comfort, but those who start letting it run their life get annoying fast.

Having gotten what he wanted, the mook in question makes sure the jackals at SUN-TV are notified and seeing a shiny object, the pile-on begins with much hand-wringing and pearl-clutching about decorum in politics and those awful, awful socialists.

Well, fuck that noise.

Pat Martin is entirely correct to be as mad as hell and the language he used was entirely appropriate to the situation and the medium.

In the 46 days that Parliament has been sitting it has closed debate at least five time, ending debate on the omnibus crime bill and the gutting of the Canadian Wheat Board among other issues. This is the most times that closure has been used in such a short span and by the end of the session will likely be the most it has ever been used. That is what happens when you have a majority government that cares more about its narrow ideological agenda than about democracy.

No one was talking or writing about the number of times the government has shut down debate and pushed through legislation without allowing the opposition to examine and debate the bills., it has happened so often it isn't considered a story anymore.

But thanks to Pat Martin and a few well chosen words, that story is now at least being mentioned in passing, even if only as the reason the Winnipeg-Centre MP got angry.

Guys like Pat Martin are exactly what politics in this country need. We can no longer afford to have the opposition "go along to get along" - we can't afford to play nice while the other side is engaged in scorched-earth take-no-prisoners endless campaigning. We need an opposition that will dig in its heels and scream bloody murder every single time the Harper government tries to pull a fast one, every time it puts corporate profits ahead of public  good, every time it puts cementing its own power ahead of good public policy and fair play.


Friday, November 11, 2011

What they fought and died for

While I dislike the thought of politicizing Remembrance Day any more than it already has become politicized, neither can I stomach the idea of the leaving it to the flag-draped yahoos who are so busy venerating the holy troops that they forget what exactly those people who made the supreme sacrifice and those who survived were fighting for and against in World War Two.

Not everyone who signed up volunteered, and not everyone who volunteered went for some high moral reason. Some of them signed up because they needed a job, because they were ashamed not to join up, because all their friends were going. Many were conscripted. That doesn't matter. What they thought they were fighting for, whether it was "king and country" or as I once heard it put "keeping India British," isn't as important as what they fought for in terms of practical effect. Nobody joined the army to stop the Holocaust, they didn't even know it was going on at the time, but the practical effect of fighting the Nazis was to put a stop to their efforts to kill all the Jews.

They were fighting for your right to disagree with others, even to disagree with wearing poppies on Nov. 11. They were fighting for your right to speak out against authority - even if it means squatting in the park or public square. They were fighting for your right to be free from being asked for your papers any time a cop didn't like your looks. They were fighting for the rule of law, for equality of strong and weak, rich and poor. They were fighting against racial and religious discrimination.

They were fighting against fascism.

Fascism isn't just Nazis or the style of government under Mussolini. It rather emphatically is not what existed in Russia under Stalin or China under Mao, though it shares their bloodthirsty totalitarianism. Fascism didn't begin or end with the Second World War. There were plenty in England, Canada and the United States that were open fascists and many more that thought it was swell that Mr. Mussolini was able to make the trains run on time or that Mr. Hitler had done great things for Germany.

Fascism took a serious beating from 1939 to 1945, but it wasn't stamped out. Spain stayed fascist. Indonesia was pretty much a fascist state under Sukarno and Suharto and it has raised its ugly violent head numerous times and places in Latin America.

Fascism is not dead, it just smells bad. So bad that people who espouse it don't use that name anymore, don't even realize for the most part that what they are espousing is fascism. But calling it "chocolate freedom liberty dessert" doesn't make it smell any less like the shit it has always been.

I won't point any fingers at any groups or individuals here. You can figure out who they are for yourself. There are a few handy checklists or definitions at the usual place, but I'll provide you with two I think are the most complete. As you might expect, there is a great deal of overlap, and oddly enough, both come up with 14 identifying characteristics.

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forgo civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
Umberto Eco put together a similar list in his excellent 1995 essay Eternal Fascism,  saying that fascist movements share these traits (I'm paraphrasing his longer essay)
  1.The cult of Tradition. The idea that all knowledge exists and must simply be interpreted. The combining of often contradictory cultural notions to find the same enduring truths ("America's government comes from the Bible!")
2. A rejection of modernism. While fascism may embrace technology, it rejects the ideas of the Enlightenment and generally thinks the Age of Reason was the beginning of civilization's moral decline.
3.The cult of action for  action's sake. Doing is good, thinking is bad. Thinking is for the effete intellectuals "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Fascism is profoundly anti-intellectual.
4.Disagreement is treason. Science uses disagreement to further knowledge, but if people disagree how can we be sure who is right? Being right is very very important. Disagreement and making distinctions is immoral modernism.
5.Hatred of diversity. Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.
6.Feeds on frustration, especially economic frustration that individuals are not doing as well as their perceived social inferiors i.e. "Where's  my  Cadillac/smart phone/big screen TV? All those welfare bums have one!"
7.Appeals to those who feel deprived of a clear societal identity by telling them they are special by virtue of being born in the same country. (I am Canadian! I am an Englishman! I'm an American) American exceptionalism, the master race notion of the Nazis all fit in here. "Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside."
8.Fascism is both the victim of and the key to victory over an overwhelming enemy, i.e. We are the downtrodden salt of the earth and they control everything, but we will still beat them by virtue of our inherent superiority because they are weak and effete (yeah, I know its completely self contradictory, a lot of fascist 'thinking' is, see #1)
9.Permanent war of one kind or another."There is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare."
10.Total contempt for the weak, for example cheering for allowing people without health insurance to die.
11. Every one of us is a hero and ready to make the supreme sacrifice. The motto of the Spanish falangists was "Long Live Death" - this urge to show how you are a hero by dying a glorious heroic death tends to be problematic so it often gets rechannelled into other forms, such as #12
12. "Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons -- doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise." Or sometimes you just buy a really big truck and watch a lot of football.
13.Fascism is based on a selective populism. The party reflects the will of The People as interpreted by the leader. The fascist leader will say 'The government you elected doesn't understand you, it is rotten. Only I and the party really understand the Will of the People, the Silent Majority.' The fascist will insist they are "not a politician" and will inevitably campaign against "the government" as if "the government" suddenly fell from the sky or was imposed by outsiders. "There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People." (I'm looking at YOU blogosphere!)
14.Fascism uses Newspeak. In everything from framing issues  strictly Manichean terms ("You are either with us or with the terrorists") to the widespread use of euphemistic shorthand and so called dog whistle  (notice anything some people don't like is the result of 'political correctness') Fascism uses a small vocabulary to limit distinctions and control chains of reasoning through semantic limits.  ( you can't call Dick Cheney a babykiller on TV, you can't even call Newt Gingrich a liar or Pat Buchanan a fascist, you can't even call Glenn Beck a jackass)
 I would further add a few items to both lists. These are not necessarily items that are not included or implied in the above lists, they are more a manifestation of combinations of the ideas outlined in the other lists. 
 1. Fascism is driven by an urge to control. Somebody has to be in charge. The boss must show they are dominant. You must obey authority. 
2. Fascism requires an enemy. If there is no handy enemy, one must be created. This enforces unity, puts everything on a "war footing" and plays to the Manichean mindset and enforced simplicity that goes hand in hand with anti-intellectualism. People are a lot easier to control when they are scared of something. 
3. Fascism constantly looks to the usually imaginary past as golden era that must be reclaimed. Fascists are all about seeing the country "reborn" and seeing us get back to the "good old day" before smarty pants effete intellectuals and decadent bohemians ruined the country. "We want our country back." 
4.Fascism is violent. Either in the imagery they employ, the eliminationist language or in the actual physical act, fascists love the notion of taking direct action rather than thinking. "Lock them all up and throw away the key!" "All the politicians do is talk talk talk, why don't they DO something!" See the movie "Joe" or read any blogging tory for all the examples you could want. 
5.Fascism worships strength and simplicity. Whenever someone starts talking about the need to demonstrate "strong leadership" and "common sense" whether its through bombing someone or imposing a flat tax, you are getting a whiff of fascism. Ditto for all the fascination with anyone in a uniform that gets to do 'heroic' stuff like soldiers and police. They want action heroes. They want the guy who hangs drug dealers, not the guy who comes up with a way to successfully treat addiction or reform drug dealers. 
6. Fascism is aristocratic. For all its populist talk, fascists worship power and that means worshipping people who are perceived to have power and use it to take decisive action, whether it is the grand exalted leader, the titan of industry, the general or the university football coach. The rank and file think that the powerful person is a hero and they aspire to be like them. Their heroes are not Nobel winning scientists, great artists or philosophers or humanitarians. 
 So the next time you hear someone sounding off about how we are "losing our country because of multiculturalism and we have DO something about it" or how "the muslims"  or  "the gays" or the "liberals" are wrecking everything or how such and such is a strong leader because at least he takes action instead of endlessly debating what to do, you can be sure you are smelling fascism. And it isn't limited to the right wing either.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

How long?

This week at Berkely.

How much more will the wealthy's bought and paid for politicians rob from the poor to give to the rich?
How much more will people allow their economic and social mobility to be restricted?
How much longer are audiences going to tune in while those in the political media bubble continue to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted?
How many more homeless are going to freeze to death?
How many more people are going to lose their homes?
How much more will education and social welfare spending be cut to pay for 'law and order'?
How many more tear gassings?
How many more taserings?
How many more pepper sprayings?
How many more kettlings?
How much more unprovoked brutality are people going to put up with before nonviolent demonstrations and civil disobedience turn into a rain of paving stones and molotov cocktails when the riot police arrive? How long before people start sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches?


Monday, November 07, 2011

Things go better with Koch!

The Koch brothers (not exactly as pictured above) would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, or at least the world's billionaires anyway. Unfortunately, the song they want to teach them appears to be the Horst Wessel Song. Class warfare - it's the real thing!

So here is a little tune from us to them:

Bonus link: Alison over at Creekside has more on the Koch brothers oil pipeline machinations.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Nail injured in clash with hammer

As a journalist I understand the need to use value neutral terminology in describing events much of the time, but sometimes my colleagues and I  go a bit overboard. I spent a few moments yelling at my radio over one such incident last night.
In their coverage of the events surrounding the call for a general strike in Oakland, California, last night, the CBC mentioned that strike had been called by the Occupy Oakland group after demonstrators there clashed with police last week.
I don't mean to single out the CBC as a quick look around shows many other media outlets used the same terminology.  "Clashed" is a word used in newswriting when you know there was a fight, but you aren't sure who started it. "Clashed" suggests each side gave as good as they got. What happened in Oakland on Wednesday night may or may not have been "clashes" between police and protestors, but the event that lead to Wednesday's call for a general strike was not a "clash," it was an unprovoked, carefully coordinated attack by police on peaceful protestors who were guilty of little more than loitering in a public space and littering.

Riot police stormed the Occupy Oakland camp around 5 am on Oct. firing baton rounds and tear gas and arresting 85 of about 170 protesters who had been camping in the downtown park for about two weeks.There was no suggestion that the protestors were violent or even unruly. Many were asleep when the hundreds of riot cops moved in and detroyed the encampment. That isn't a "clash," that's a "raid" or "an attack" or a "police riot."

The police even threw a flash-bang grenade at people trying to help a man who was nearly killed after his head "clashed" with a baton-round fired by riot cops.

Scott Olson, the man shot in the head with the baton-round, (essentially a either a hockey puck fired from a grenade launcher or a cloth bag full of birdshot fired from a shot gun) remains in hospital with a fractured skull. He survived two tours of duty with the marines in Iraq before coming home to be shot while fighting for freedom.

I think its pretty clear who the police in this case are serving and protecting, and it ain't the 99%


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Rick Perry is not as think as you stoned he is!

Here are the "high"lights of soon-to-be-former-presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent speech in New Hampshire. If you want to sit through the entire addled trainwreck you can watch it here.

He doesn't look sleepy and he isn't slurring his speech enough for it to be booze and he isn't jumpy and hyper enough for it to be cocaine and his teeth are too nice for it to be meth. He's a bit too animated for it to be weed (though it really reminded me of this), so I'm guessing some kind of hallucinogen, but he's not trying to hug anyone so it probably isn't X and he doesn't have the manic grin or unblinking laser eyes of someone on LSD, so it must be something a bit more obscure - I'm guessing ibogaine.

After all, he wouldn't be the first candidate to get derailed by ibogaine.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

there is a reason that many newspaper websites don't allow comments

And that reason is this: People who comment at newspaper websites are stupid, as are many people who complain to newspapers, as are many people who work for newspapers.

 Pour yourself a drink, I feel a screed a-comin'

Not offense to the fine people that employ me, and my opinions are my own and not intended to represent or reflect theirs or anybody else's.

Simply put, the newspaper story linked to above is a monument to stupidity on all fronts. In a nutshell, two teachers at a public school decided not to have their junior kindergarten students take part in the school's Halloween events and some Sun-TV viewing parent has decided somehow or other that this is political correctness run amok and destroying Canada.

Stupid like this happens all the time.

But in this case the parent has obviously run to the local newspaper and the editor there hasn't been wise or assertive enough to get rid of them and has instead given them a platform for their incoherent objection to the teacher's possibly ill-considered but totally harmless decision. The reporter assigned to the story wasn't smart or assertive enough to either refuse such a stupid assignment or simply come back and tell the editor "there's no story there boss, just some idiot who needs to stop watching Michael Coren and reading the Toronto Sun.." It's either that or the editor and reporter, tired of being harrassed by this dumbell decided to shine a light under this woman's rock in the hopes that she would scurry away rather than embarass her family.

This kind of stupid "let's you and him fight" process of stirring up a false controversy to provide front-page fodder has a long and mostly ignoble history dating back to the yellow journalism of the Hearst papers ginning up the Spanish American War and continuing to the work of Glenn Beck and hate radio. Given the track record of the paper in question, I suspect it is less a case of ginning up a story or stirring the pot for fun and profict and more a case of not being able to tell the Mom "thanks for your call, but we aren't interested. Go peddle crazy someplace else." And not getting a comment - or more likely a "no comment" - from school's principal or the teachers involved is unforgiveable.If they declined to speak and referred the reporter to the board spokesperson, fine, but say so in the story.

And last, but hardly least in the parade of stupid, we have the usual assembly of commenters who take time out of their busy schedule of eating paint chips and masterbating to Rush Limbagh to pen little screeds about how the liberals and immigrants from Whoknowswhereistan are ruining perfectly nice white Christian holidays like Halloween.

The teacher's decision was taken partly, I suspect, to keep the four- and five-year-olds from having the crap scared out of them by the older kids' more gruesome costumes, partly to spare themselves from the risk of Mormon or born-again Christian parents accusing them of teaching Satanism to toddlers and partly to keep from having a bunch of overexcited, overstimulated, candy-jonesing four- and five-year-olds on their hands for the day. Instead, they are doing a nature-themed black-and-orange day for the little ones.

It isn't a decision I would have made. I often scare small children, sometimes even on purpose. I'm absolutely in favour of baiting fundementalist whack jobs ("Think of it as lesson on Comparative Religion, Deacon and Mrs. Smith, I'm sure little Caleb and Faith won't try to have a human sacrifice at home and will save their ritual cannibalism for communion on Sunday") and I would have thought that filling the little bugger full of sugar and then sending them home would have been fitting revenge on their parents for any of a myriad number of sins real or imagined committed against the teachers. But then again, I'm not tough enough to be teaching junior kindergarten.

And you can be sure revenge in some form will be taken against the blameless kid involved. Their file will have "this kid's mom is a nut who will call the media anytime the mood strikes her" stamped all over it and teachers will from now on treat the poor child like a beaker of nitroglycerine, meaning that anything off the beaten track in terms of educational experiences or source material will be strictly verboten.

The concerned mom, worried that her little treasure won't get to have the bejezzus scared out of him or her or get to show off the $10 princess trollop jr.or mega-macho action-man costume from Value Village to her classmates, thus denying mommy the chance to compete with other mommies, even raises the spectre of the War on Christmas.
 “We’re losing Canada — in Canada,” (name removed in hopes of avoiding annoying lawyery emails) said Friday, stressing schools celebrated Halloween as a slightly ghoulish but fun unofficial holiday when she was a child, but are increasingly turning away from this. “They’re taking away my choice as a parent. This is my culture. I’m from Canada.”...(snip)...
“I don’t want it to be a black-and-orange day,” (name removed in hopes of avoiding annoying lawyery emails) countered, saying she’s now anxious about whether celebrating other traditions may be nixed, including Christmas.
“How much more of Canadian culture are we going to lose?”
She carries on as if the teachers are serving beaver curry and have cut up the flag to make a turban for the her daughter to wear to the human sacrifice and Constitution bonfire. Granted, I've been out of the country for a few years, but when did trick-or-treat day join hockey, the RCMP, maple syrup and complaining about the damn French/Les maudit Anglais as the cornerstone of our national identity?

She's Canadian, we get it. That and $5 will get her a double-double and an apple fritter at Tim's - so what? I can only assume from her insistence on asserting her Canadianess that she thinks denying her little one a chance to participate in the Halloween festivities is somehow the work of nefarious non-Canadian forces.

That is certainly the message the trolls who came out from under their bridges in the comments at the site seized on.I'm not sure what foreign culture they think is being catered to since no one outside of North America pays any attention to Halloween and the only cultural group in North America that objects to it are the Mormons and Christian Taliban who think its a celebration of witchcraft that will turn their kids into cross-dressing Satanic gay readers of Harry Potter novels or some such nonsense.

I don't recall ever seeing troops of Turks, Italians, Brazillians or Chinese out demonstrating against Halloween. I haven't seen any anti-Halloween rallies organized by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews or Rastafarians. Who exactly do these dimwitted commenters think is destroying their culture?

The so-called politically correct crowd don't have anything against Halloween. It has long been the holiday of choice for those pursing lifestyle choices that don't meet with conservative approval. A chance to dress up and act out? A pagan festival when everyone is a weirdo? Giving away stuff to kids? Going all out to freak out the squares? Getting free stuff from property owners? How much more of a rainbow-freak-flag counterculture approved event can you get?
These xenophobic idiots see some kind of nefarious conspiracy to steal their cultural identity every time they hear someone say 'happy holidays' - I just wish they would get it over with, send Bill O'Reilly or Pat Robertson their life savings, go Galt once and for all and leave the rest of us alone.

So, to sum up; Stupid teachers, stupid mom, stupid or lazy newspaper people and stupid, stupid, stupid with bigot-sauce commentors.

Happy Halloween!


happy Halloween

 go easy on the treats, folks!


Friday, October 28, 2011

This will not stand!

"You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it"
-Stephen Harper

Not content with running roughshod over the wishes of the majority of Canadians and eliminating the long-gun registry, ignoring the majority of wheat farmers and cutting the throat of the Canadian Wheat Board, the Harper conservatives are now starting to tinker with national symbols.

Dam the beaver — use the polar bear as official emblem, Tory saysOTTAWA—A Conservative senator says it’s time Canada was symbolized by something more majestic than a buck-toothed rodent.
Senator Nicole Eaton wants the polar bear to replace the beaver as an official emblem of Canada.
She says the polar bear is Canada’s “most majestic and splendid mammal,” and a powerful symbol in the lives of native peoples in the North.
She believes the furry, white carnivore’s “strength, courage, resourcefulness and dignity” is an appropriate symbol for modern-day Canada.
By contrast, she derides the lowly beaver as a “19th century has-been,” a “dentally defective rat,” a “toothy tyrant” and a nuisance that wreaks havoc on its environment.
I suppose next they will want to change the flag to a circle of 10 white maple leaves on a blue field in the top left corner over a field of red and white stripes, or maybe just bring back the Red Ensign, since they seem to want to burn down anything that has happened since Diefenbaker was prime minister.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Keeping occupied

Cartoon shamelessly stolen from Alison at Creekside, who got it from LeDevoir.

It appears the Occupy Wall Street movement is starting to crumble a bit around the edges. Some of the reasons are the external ones you might expect - like the Oakland police launching tear gas into an unarmed, nonviolent crowd or the steady drip of arrests and trouble sparked by police agent provocateurs and the constant efforts in the press to insists the protesters don't know what they want or understand what they are protesting about (which is, not to put too fine a point on it, utter bullshit).
Then there are the more practical reasons. The weather is turning colder and the resources that make the protest possible are running low. Simply put, most people cannot afford to spend week after week camping out in Zucotti Park or wherever else is being occupied.
Unlike the Teabaggers -- who just rolled up on their mobility scooters or arrived on Koch-sponsored bus tours, got shouty about keeping the gummint out of their medicare and waved badly spelled signs for an hour or two and then went home to watch FOX News, clean their guns and wait for their next social security cheque--the Wall Street occupiers are mostly people of working age who would rather be working. Some of so-called professional protestors or full-time activists, some are  college students, some are returned vets, some are just regular people with nothing left to lose, but most of them would much rather be working a paying job than freezing their butts off and getting threatened with a macing in the park.
No, the main threat to the occupy movement at this point seems to be the movement itself. You can only live in the parks and public squares for so long without bathrooms. The democratic nature of the movement can only be hijacked so many times by malcontents, purity trolls, single-issue hostage-takers and anarchists before the organization starts to pull itself apart. And don't lets get started on the drummers. As in any bottom-up movement, the center cannot hold indefinitely and as in any liberal movement where everyone's opinion is given equal time and consideration from the moderate to the most radical, cohesion has limited lifespan before groups start to splinter.
I think the movement is making their point, but would be better off to push hard while they still have momentum in the short term for some kind of concession in Washington that would let them declare victory and go home before attrition and cold weather whittle down their numbers or the powers that be decide that the short term PR problems a violent sweep by riot cops would bring is a lesser evil than the PR nightmare of Occupy Wall Street carrying on through Christmas.
One possible move the occupiers around the country should consider is a collective march on Washington or Wall Street in the style of the Bonus Army. You think the 1% are worried now, wait and see the panic when a million or so people from around the country converge on a single power center in numbers that would overwhelm any possible police response


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

both need braaaaaaains

There is a rare seasonly-themed event this week that I would love to attend, You don't often see seasonally themed events for political wonks, but this one promises to be a classic
Daniel Drezner, a professor at the  Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University is speaking about his latest book at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo tonight. His latest book being Theories of International Politcs and Zombies.
I haven't read it (yet) but thanks to my extensive study of political science and repeated views of The Walking Dead, I have learned to tell the two apart. The trick is that one is a staggering, putrid, rotten, mindless creature that destroys anything it can touch and has a seemingly insatiable appetite for human flesh, the other is a zombie.
Leave your jokes about the UN, the G20, the Commonwealth, the conservative base, the GOP leadership race and the undead in the comments.


Monday, October 24, 2011

In other news, the sun set in the west today and is widely expected to rise in the east tomorrow...

I'm shocked, just shocked that Christie Blatchford said something stupid, mean-spirited and offensive about not-police people who work hard to help people in need.That hasn't happened since her last column.


I smell Nobel prize!

Dear Nobel prize panel,
Never mind handing out prizes for curing cancer or ending war, a solution has been found for the greatest modern plague known to the western world: idiot trolls on internet comment threads. 
While this blog has largely been free of such dumbassery, such people have long since ruined the comment threads at any major media outlet from the Globe&Mail to Youtube (possibly the stupidest, most ill-informed and downright hateful commenters anywhere outside of the right-wing echo chamber blogs coughsmalldeadanimalscough)
All hail the wonder that is OUTKUBE!

your truly,

P.S. Sorry for not writing to you in Swedish or Norwegian, but since you usually give the literature prize to someone writing in English, I figure you must all be fluent.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Viva the usual suspects!

92 years old and he is still fighting for the 99%. His machine "surrounds hate and forces it to surrender." FSM bless Pete Seeger and his fellow travellers!


the birth of the tea party movement

Before Archie Bunker made bigotry just another endearing trait of old white guys, like flatulence or Republicanism, there was Joe.

While Archie Bunker was eventually redeemed and learned to think past his prejudices and was, in reality, a very clever move by Norman Lear to subvert conservative bigotry, "Joe" was a little uh, darker. The sad part is, today's Tea Party Conservative thinks of Joe as a hero and seem to view the movie as a documentary. And FSM knows, today's so-called centerists like David Brooks and the Sunday morning talks show types love to punch the dirty hippies.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stay klassy Flyers fans

Ah the city  of  brotherly love. We knew Philly sports fans hated Santa Claus, but who would have imagined that they would boo an anti-cancer campaign?


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Hipster music fail

So I'm watching Saturday Night Live for the first time in ages and Ben Stiller, whom I generally enjoy, is doing an admirable job as host and I'm enjoying the Zoolander  gags and Weekend Update is pretty good and then the musical guest comes on. A band called Foster the People.  And I'm thinking, meh, a bunch of skinny white dudes in sorta asymetrical haircuts that look like they have very carefully cultivated the suburban casual milqtoast nerd-chic look. Guitar, bass, a couple of  eighties-sounding keyboards, in fact they have a very retro-new wave kinda sound,  very dense wash of echo-y repetitive riffs with incomprehensible lyrics sung in a slightly over-theatrical way. Not my cup of tea, but hey, I'm an old fart now and maybe this is what the kids are into when they aren't playing Xbox and wondering if we really have always been at war with Afghanistan. The band has a certain angsty, Human League, Radiohead kinda charm in a pretentious way. Then I notice the horn section is mic'ed and that they appear to be miming a keyboard line, hmmmmmm. Then I hear it, that high pitched honking whine of a soprano or maybe alto sax. The camera pans back and there he is, the biggest selling instrumental artist of the modern era, which is to say of all time - Kenneth Bruce Gorelick.
No, he has not been added as an ironical sampled aside to give the band ironical hipster cred, he is there, on stage blowing a smooth jazz solo that immediately makes me wonder if I have enough scented candles in the house? why do I suddenly want a mayonaise and wonderbread sandwich and a glass of luke-warm near-beer? Is my favorite colour taupe or beige? which floor of this office tower the accounting department is on and hey, how did I get in this elevator any way?
What the hell is this? Was Chuck Mangione all booked up? This stuff makes Ray Coniff and look edgy and hardcore.
That whirring sound I can hear is probably John Coltrane spinning in his grave.
Foster the People - the stench of boring suckitude is upon you!
Repent, and do an album of Sly and the Family Stone covers with Bootsy Collins before it is too late for you to be saved!


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Election Predictions

The polls close in a about 40 minutes. I'm betting on a slim Liberal majority or minority and a surge for the NDP.

My two bets in the office pool:

Libs 56
PC 30
NDP 21

OR if Tim Hudak's hateful campaign of wrong-head libertarianism, xenophobia and homophobia, backed up by as much help as the Harper cabinet could throw his way resonates with the remaining Rob Ford fans in the 905 belt

Libs 50
PC 37
NDP 20

Either way, I think we can expect another four years of Premier Dad, which, while he isn't my first choice either locally or provincially, won't be that bad. At least not when one considers the Mini-Mike Harris alternative we thought we were facing at the start of the campaign.

Credit where credit is due dept.-- the National Toast has a good graphic on which industries give how much to which parties.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

saving summer in a jar

We took my visiting in-laws to the farmers market last week and bought a bushel of sweet red peppers. My mother-in-law couldn't figure what the heck I was going to do with them all or how we could eat a whole bushel before they spoiled. Fortunately, I had a clever plan.

wash them

roast them

give the peppers as much heat as the grill will muster and turn often until they get black on the outside, then take a sharp knife and scrape off the blacken outer skin (some people pop them into a paper bag straight off the fire to make this easier) scrap off the pips and cut the peppers into strips. Try not to eat too many. They will be candy sweet at this point, so that is harder than it sounds. About a quarter of ours magically vanished before the final step.

sterilize the jars and lids, pack the peppers in with a couple of cloves of garlic and enough olive oil to top up the jar. Put the filled jars in boiling water for about five or ten minutes, then remove and tighten the lids. As they cool, they will seal

Viola, summer in a jar.