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Clouds so swift, Putin comin' on

But I ain't goin' nowhere ...

"Right now, Senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia. [long pause] That's a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I'm not going to make." — General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chair Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 22, 2016.

Really people, you need to get a fucking grip!

Yes, rumour has it that LiveJournal's servers have (finally) been moved to Russia. (Click here for a relatively dispassionate over-view.) I suspect it's even true. But I am downright embarrassed by the number of you otherwise intelligent people who seem to have bought, hook line and proverbial sinker, the American establishment's Putin is the next Hitler meme.

I mean, dear god, this is all just (a very small) part of the demonization of a traditional enemy by a faction in the United States that has just lost power to another faction. Why exactly the former (until recently fronted by Hillary Clinton) had as the centrepiece of its foreign policy an intention to risk war with the world's second most powerful nuclear state baffles, but that's what her no-fly policy in Libya amounted to.

Don't believe me? Maybe you'll believe the fucking Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

This isn't, I hasten to add, either an endorsement of the fascistic US President-elect, or of Russia's autocratic (at best) strongman, but rather a reminder that both official sides of the American establishemt are lying to you, and have been lying to you about anything that matters, pretty much full-time for a long time.

Are Russian intelligence services going to spy on your LiveJournal posts? No doubt, especially if you post in Russian. And, no doubt, they've been doing it for a while. If you believe the Russians "hacked the US election" (as I know at least some of you do), then you can't possibly logically think they paid attention to US laws and left LJ posts sacrosanct because the servers were outside Russia's borders?

I mean, can you?

Well, maybe you can. #Election2016 turned an awful lot of liberals into melon-heads (no offence intended towards actual melons), at least when it comes to US and international politics, especially when it comes to matters of war and peace.

Anyway, to make a long story short: although I'm happy to have DreamWidth as a back-up — and have used it as my primary posting platform for some years now; and in fact just paid for another year's membership — I'm not leaving LJ any time soon.

As my daddy told back in the infancy of teh interwebs, "Never put in an email [or anywhere else online] anything you wouldn't be willing to see on the front page of The New York Times.

Move to DreamWidth if you want (and I'll happily grant you access there/here, if you still want me around after this rant), but if you think your privacy is significantly more secure there than it is on LJ, you are — to be polite about it — living in a fucking DreamWorld.

That's it. Here, have a video from one of the best song-writers and musicians of our age.

ed_rex: (dhalgren)

Should any of you be interested, I think Trump is likely to win this election. I'm not cheering for him, mind you, but neither am I cheering for the war-criminal Hillary ("we came, we saw, he died!") Clinton. As a foreigner, I see no good outcome in the short term, and probably not in the long, unless Black Lives Matter and the renewed anti-pipeline native movement(s) can somehow coalesce in a broader, genuinely revolutionary movement with whatever remains of Bernie Sanders' supporters.

In the short run, whoever wins the Presidency, the Pentagon will ensure lots of foreign wars and lots of foreign casualties; and most likely, President Trump will prove just as friendly to the 1%, the class to which he belongs, as President Clinton.

All that said, I watched the debate with a sort of morbid fascination. Was surprised that Trump was so well-coached and impressed by his cool body language; when he wasn't interrupting, he appeared to be listening to his opponent. Clinton surprised me by being mostly fairly personable, much less stiff than I expected. But the eye-rolling and impatient smiles at Trump's more outrageous lies and innuendo probably did her no good.

No clear winner to my eyes, though; it's going to be a long couple of months. So I'll leave you with a picture.

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On the uneasy satisfaction of prescience

This afternoon, I drove my sweetie to the airport. She's off to Europe for a couple of weeks, scratching her nomad's need to move. As we drove in, she noticed the Canadian flag flying above The MacDonald-Cartier International Airport's welcome sign was at half-mast. "Look at that!" she said, "I wonder who died."

It took me a moment, then I realized. "It's 9/11!"

And of course, that's who died, the special victims, our victims, to be mourned forever, because 15 years on, we are a nation at war. Sort of.

And I remembered that I had written what I thought was a pretty powerful piece of analysis not so long after the fact, and went looking for it when I returned home. Only to realize that, somehow, it was a piece of work no longer attached to my website. Somehow, gone, lord only knows when or how.

Thank god for Archive.org! There were my words (not to mention an even more primitive design than the one "gracing" my site now), preserved for posterity, and for me. Remind me to send them a donation.

In any event, what follows is (but for a half-dozen typos I could not resist correcting) exactly what I posted on October 8, 2001.

It is, if I do say so myself, almost frightening in its prescience. To quote H.G. Wells, writing (if memory serves) on the eve of the Second World War, "I told you so, you damned fools." Click here for my full, depressingly accurate look ahead from October 8, 2011.

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My mother came down from Sudbury

"No spring chicken" teaches lessons in accessibility

Image: Photo of Geoffrey Dow with Benita Hart, his mother

My mother is a cripple (her word, not mine). She's 83 years old, has two bionic knees and one of those is ... loose. Falling apart, she says, and the surgeons in Sudbury (all of whom work out of the same practice, so no shopping around for a second opinion unless you're willing to shop for one in Toronto or Ottawa) say she's too old for a replacement.

Despite that mechanical failure and a spine giving way to osteoporosis, and despite some problems with short-term memory (not, so far as I can tell, early-stage Alzheimer's or some other kind of dementia; but disconcerting nevertheless), her doctor tells her she's mostly in very good health and has every chance of seeing her 95th birthday.

She is, further, having the time of her life as a born-again celebrity of sorts (if only in Northern Ontario) and has made of her late uncle Jules' saying, "life is good", her own touchstone.

Image: Banner from CBC Sudbury's feature page for Benita Hart and 'Growing Old Ungracefully'.

Last week, a friend was driving down to Ottawa and wondered if she would care to accompany him. Travelling isn't as easy for her as it used to be, but she said yes, and so arrived in Ottawa last Thursday. And I saw her on Sunday.

* * *

A lot of people find my relationship with my mother a little strange. We actually like each quite a lot, as people as well as as mother and son, yet we probably don't see each other as often as once a year, we seldom email and, unless she's having computer issues (I have her running Linux Mint, so I'm her go-to guy for support when something's not working), we probably only talk on the phone every three or four months.

But those conversations usually last between two and four hours, and include healthy exchanges of politics and philosophy along with a a lot of laughter (and a little gossip), so I'm not bothered. And neither is she. After all, we both have lives.

Anyway.

She had asked about staying with me and Raven, but I had to remind her that inhabit the top two floors of a three-story town house. Though she's taken up distance walking through the good offices of a physiotherapist and a walker, her knees aren't up to a flight of stairs every time she wants to use the bathroom.

So, as I said, she stayed with a friend. And meanwhile, I had a friend of mine come into town on Thursday, whom I hadn't seen in 22 years. Since Sonia was only passing through town, I invited her to dinner and she stayed the night on our couch after we caught up and reminisced as old friends long out of touch will do. (It wasn't only the passing of time that was shocking about our reunion; it was also how many memories we did not share in common. Or, as Sonia put it, how lousy my memory was. Somehow, over the years, I had come to think of her as some sort of weird, near-celibate girl who was forever single; she had to reminded me that I'd met at least two of her boy-friends. But onwards. This entry is about Mom, and the lesson she taught me about accessibility issues.

You weren't expect a lesson, were you Gentle Reader?

I had work on Friday and Saturday, so it was only on Sunday afternoon, after my soccer game, that I actually saw me old mum in the flesh.

Image: Photo of Geoffrey Dow with Benita Hart, his mother, and her walker.

Cognizant of how difficult it can be for cripples the handicapped to get in and out of small cars, I'd foregone my usual compact in favour of renting a minivan, and it was in that vehicle that my mum, Raven and I set out for dinner, on the way detouring past our home, the inside of which my mother will never set foot.

We wanted to go to Saffron, a Persian eatery which — to our surprise if not quite shock — seems to no longer exist. We ended up at the Golden India restaurant, a Bangladeshi-style Indian restaurant on McArthur. Raven and I have been a couple of times before and found it far and away the best Indian food we've had in Ottawa. The dishes are subtly flavourful, even when "extremely" hot. (I ordered the brilliant Bangalore Pal and didn't regret a drop of the sweat I lost over it.)

But the good food and conversation were marred by a post-prandial occurrence.

Though the bathrooms were on the main floor, it turned out they were not, quite, accessible. The toilet, my mum said, was extremely low. There were no grab-bars. She very nearly had to call for help, just to get up off the shitter.

The things the able-bodied don't think about! (And despite my problems with arthritis, able-bodied is still how I think of myself!)

The restaurant's hostess apologized when my mother complained, but it was pretty pro forma. "No one else has ever complained," she said.

"Most people probably just don't come back," was my mother's response. And no doubt, she's right. Unlike my mother, most people don't want to make a fuss. Hell, my mother doesn't "want" to make a fuss either, but she (quite rightly) thinks that fusses sometimes need to be made.

Anyway, the incident left me contemplating the place we'd tried to take her the last time she was in town, the sometimes sublime Chahaya Malaysia. A low-key, mom-and-pop style restaurant serving brilliant food, it is a also one of those places whose bathrooms are in the basement. Tough shit for the handicapped. And a good thing it was closed the time we tried to introduce my mum to its brilliant food.

But the moral of the story is, even when we think we're aware of issues having to do with social justice, it's really damned easy to miss the things that don't affect us personally in some way. If you've ever wondered why the toilets in old folks' homes are so high, or the seats have risers, now you know: when the knees are going, standing up is no easy thing.

Thanks, mum. I hope you had a good drive back on Monday. Presumably, if something went wrong, one of my brothers would have called by now to let me know.

Cuba: Day 3

Jan. 1st, 2016 01:26 pm
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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 3: Che sera, sera

The Note that wasn't

Image: Photo of Parc Vidal in Santa Clara, Cuba

My diary for Day 3 is a bit of a cheat. I over-wrote the original and was forced to reconstruct it from memory and visual aids (ie, photos).

But I remember the day pretty well. We had our first introductions to the realities of Cuban bureaucracies and the limitations on freedom that Cubans have to deal with. We also spent time at the Che Guevara mausoleum and rode home in a horse-drawn taxi — no calèche, but a humble cart.

Click here for Day 3: Che sera, sera.

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 2: The chickens cats streets of Santa Clara

p>December 15, SANTA CLARA, Cuba — Our first full day in Santa Clara included a fuck-ton of walking, the worst spaghetti in the world, Che's cat, a yellow T-Rex, urban chickens and the most laid-back cops I've ever seen. Also horses and really dirty air.

And if all that isn't enough, I'll leave you with a gratuitous shot of Che's Cat, a mere sample of the pic-spam you'll also be missing if you don't click through!

The Streets of Santa Clara!

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First (and second) thoughts on the election of Trudeau II

Image: Detail from screenshot of Prime Minister elect Justin Trudeau speaking on October 20 2015. Video by Canadian Press via National Post.

October 21, 2015, OTTAWA — The election of 2015 (or #Elexn42 as it was known on Twitter) has come and gone.

Personally, the results were an emotional roller-coaster. I was working when the results — a clean sweep for the Liberals, 32 out of 32 seats — came in from Atlantic Canada, so I was intellectually prepared for what was to come.

But emotionally? Not so much.

By the time the night was done, and the extent of the Liberal victory and the NDP's crushing defeat was laid bare on my father's ancient television screen, I was torn between rage and despair.

I couldn't even take any pleasure in knowing that Steven Harper's hate-filled and hate-fuelled regime had gone down to defeat. "Ding-dong! the witch is dead!" one of my fellow election watchers crowed, but I felt no joy, only a dread that Canadians had traded a nakedly brutal thug in thrall to the One Percent to a soft-spoken and smiling lisper who would make us enjoy the ongoing dismantling of liberty and democracy.

24 hours later? My sober first thoughts live behind the link: My schadenfreude, where it at?

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As the Canucks among you will know, Canada is in the midst of a federal election, one in which the ruling Facists Conservatives have taken off the gloves and are using blatant lies (did you know that marijuana is "infinitely worse" than tobacco? Well, now you do! If a Prime Minister asserts it, it must be true, right?) and out-right racism (anti-Muslim xenophobia dressed up in women's rights lipstick) to divide and conquer. With two weeks to go until election day, the fear-mongering and hate-stirring seems to have moved the necessary 10% or so of voters so that Harper's thugs can taste victory. In a first-past-the-post system, 35% of the vote might be enough to secure a majority in Parliament.

  Image: Photo of my right thigh, rear, about one week after tearing my hamstring.

All of which is to say, rage and despair are the primary emotions I'm feeling when I look at the world around me; and that's just in Canada.

Worse (or better?), I still haven't managed to finish that fucking long-promised review of last year's be-damned Doctor Who Christmas Special. That despite having watched the stupid thing at least four times by this point, maybe more. And it's already three episodes into the new series and I have yet to watch a single one of them. And I realized the other day that I'm not missing the show at all.

Sigh ...

On the up-side, I have fully-recovered from the torn hamstring I suffered last spring (that's the ugly pic above and to the right) and in fact finished my latest "season" with the bloody well-organized Ottawa Footy-Sevens yesterday, with a double-header. I'll guestimate that I spend close to an hour-and-a-half of the tours hours on the field — which, I hasten to add, isn't why we lost both games.

But fun was had, and (as I've said before) the fact that I even can more or less hold my own with people who probably average 20 or 25 years younger than I am still thrills me all to all.

That said, soccer does not come without its costs. And in my case, the hamstring aside, the primary payees have been my feet. Specifically, my big toes. In the past few years I've lost four or five tonails, and two more will soon follow.

For reasons I don't fully understand, I feel compelled to show them to you.

But for reasons I do understand (the pictures are gross!; and so are my feet, as I discovered yesterday when I looked at the photos Raven took before I set out for my games), I'm placing them behind a cut so that you will see them only if you actually want to.

Click here, if you dare! )

You're welcome!

And now I must be off to the day-job. exeunt

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Abort the moon!

Image: Screenshot of spiders - or is that giant bacteria? - on the moon? Screenshot from 'Kill the Moon'.

If Steven Moffat isn't trying to abort the program he has had under his control since 2010, at the very least it's clear that he doesn't care what happens to it once it grows up and moves out of his house.

"Kill the Moon" could be watched as a personal drama about the Doctor and Clara Oswald; it might be viewed as a girls' own adventure, with trouble-maker Courtney Woods finally given her chance to shine; or seen as a feminist fable, with three women — maiden, teacher, crone — deciding the fate of all humankind. Could. Might.

Other interpretations will no doubt be constructed; there are among Doctor Who's fandom those as creative as they are forgiving.

 

Transcripts R Us!

For those interested in the program's thematic debate, I confess I went to the trouble of transcribing the key minutes.

I don't know whether to apologize or to brag, but it is here if you want it.

I am not part of that wing. I don't want to "fix" the program with fanfic nor weave intricately-constructed academic analyses to fill in plot-holes and justify self-contradictions of character and story. All I want are stories that don't insult my intelligence.

Is that really so much to ask?

Apparently so. "Kill the Moon" offers as the basis of its plot a "physics" whose idiocy would have appalled Newton — or even Douglas Adams. To add insult to insult, "Kill the Moon" is an unsubtle morality tale pushing a political agenda that adds a kiloton of fuel to the idea that Steven Moffat is not exactly, shall we say, a feminist-friendly thinker.

In other words, Won't somebody think of the embryo?!? Angry words and spoilers — they all live behind the cut.

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The following is from the Livejournal blogger Sabotabby, one of the best political minds I know. Their thesis is not a happy one, but because of that, is even more worth reading and thinking about that it otherwise would be. Originally posted by Sabotabby at Frog, meet boiling water

While you're at it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, that Abdul-Jabbar) has written a powerful piece on how Ferguson is less about race and racism than it is about class war. Possibly a little more hopeful than the below, but equally frightening.

People shocked by Ferguson—and a lot of good, intelligent people are—and by the militarization of thuggish local police appear, to my jaded eyes, to lack a certain historical perspective.

There was a blip in North American history, lasting less, I think, than a century, where this sort of atrocity outraged the general population for any length of time. The Lawrence Textile Strike and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire were horrible but up until the Reagan-Thatcher era, that violence begat basic protections for workers. The war in Vietnam, the first televised war, meant that the US had to tread a bit more carefully internationally. But essentially the armed wing of the state has been beating on marginalized and, in particular, racialized populations, regardless—and this is important, would-be pacifists—of whether they resist or not or resort to violence or not, as long as it's been in existence, to a chorus of shrugs and sighs from those too privileged to be directly affected.

Ferguson dominates the media cycle at the moment, not because it is radically different in content from similar crackdowns in the past, but because it is the first of a thing. The first time many people have seen the active deployment of police outfitted with military gear. (Unless you've been at a protest in the past twenty years. Or you're not white.) The first time it's not just televised, but livestreamed, tweeted, reblogged. The first time people have been able to hold out long enough without being crushed to get it into the news cycle. Among the first times the citizen media has been able to loudly counter the mainstream narrative. But beyond the technological angle, it's not shocking or surprising or any sort of historical aberration; if anything, the aberration is the aforementioned few decades where speaking truth to power actually had an effect.

The next time this happens, the militarized police response, the almost inevitable murder of demonstrators, will be routine. That's how it works. That's why it's happening now, unfolding in the way it is; to pave the way for the new normal. So that next time we can just sigh and remember that getting outraged didn't work last time so why bother now? That's just how things are.

The other day on the radio, I was listening to an interview with Ken Jarecke, the photographer who, in 1991, took a picture of an incinerated Iraqi soldier just before the Gulf War ceasefire (this is the photo, if you need to see it; here is an interview—with the man's face blurred out—about the photo's significance). The photo was suppressed in the North American press; at the time, the trend in news reporting was to sanitize the war, to make it look like there were really no casualties at all on either side. I was 12 in 1991; I knew what war was, that obviously people were dying, but the essential truth of it, the genuine outrage and the horrific human cost, didn't hit me until several years later, when I came across that photo. Nowadays, such images are commonplace, and Jarecke was speaking about how photos of dead bodies from war zones had completely lost their power to shock. I think he's mostly right; the photos of dead kids in Syria and Gaza splashed all over my Facebook feed have never changed a single person's mind on the issues at hand. In 1991, the AP felt the need to suppress that photo for no reason I can see other than that it might make people question the war, might make them not go along so readily with the next one, might—and this would have been the worst thing—recognize the humanity of the enemy. It had power, back then. Now, we understand that the Other is human, suffers horribly as the result of our actions, and we don't give a fuck.

We are able to briefly give a fuck about Ferguson because it still has the power to shock—this time, and not completely; open racism is socially acceptable again in the US, and so the KKK can raise money to smear the reputation of the murdered child in question. When it happens again—and make no mistake, Ferguson is the future of policing—we will all understand the collective truth that this is the way it always happens, the way it's always been done.

ed_rex: (dhalgren)

The return of The Droz Report:

No prayers for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings

Photo by The Phantom Photographer; image manipulation by Geoffrey Dow.
Boston Marathon bombing aftermath

April 16, 2013, OTTAWA — Whenever my Facebook newsfeed starts filling up with prayers and expressions of shock and sadness about tragedy halfway around the world, I find myself wanting nothing more than to scream at all those well-wishers to shut the fuck up with their ritual grief, whether caused by a tsunami, a famine, a school shooting, a bombing in Boston ...

You got me. I'm already sick to death of hearing how you feel about the bombs that went off in Boston yesterday afternoon. Yes, it was an awful thing, but if you don't live there, or know people who were directly involved, I would prefer you keep your ostensible pain to yourself.

Offering up your prayers or good wishes might make you feel a little better, but it doesn't do any tangible good. And it's not like these things occur in a vacuum. Most of the major problems facing women and men in this world are caused by men and women. Even the damage caused by hurricanes usually has a human cause in there somewhere. And since that's almost always the case, platitudes aren't the answer, nor are prayers going to help.

Thinking might help. Political activism might help. Even donating to the Red Cross might help.

It's not the sincerity of the well-wishers that bothers me, but the lack of seriousness.

If you want my take on yesterday's terror attack, without a platitude in sight, click here. Comments, arguments and calls for my head are welcome here, or there.

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Not content with silencing its scientists, Harper Government imposes new 'code of conduct' on Federal Librarians that includes 'duty of loyalty' and a snitch-line

 

Our Dear Leader Looks Upon His Minions
Our Dear Leader gazes from atop the Archives Canada Preservation Building in Gatineau, Québec. Photo-illustration by Geoffrey Dow. Original photo of Archives Canada Preservation Building by Bruno Schlumberger/Postmedia News

 

By Margaret Munro
Canada.com/Post Media
 
15 March 2013 — Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada.
Given the dangers, the code says the department’s staff must clear such “personal” activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”
 
The code, which stresses federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government,” also spells out how offenders can be reported.
 
“It includes both a muzzle and a snitch line,” says James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which represents more than 68,000 teachers, librarians, researchers and academics across the country. (More.)
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Some thoughts on the importance of historical context


Kathleen Wynne (left) with Sandra Pupatello.

And something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

— Bob Dylan, "Ballad of a Thin Man"

Early Sunday morning on Facebook, I posted a knee-jerk response to the selection of Kathleen Wynne as the Liberal Party of Ontario's new leader — and thus, the province's new Premier. Wynne won on the third ballot, edging out Sandra Pupatello. The women had been the front-runners right from the start. (Entirely coincidentally, but most serendipitously, Wynne's victory came only two days before the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision declaring that women have a fundamental right to control their own bodies.)

I wrote:

Those of you who think that nothing changes, please take note. In some very important ways, the world *is* getting better and it's important we remember that. A divorced, gay, woman is now Premier of Ontario.

Woman. Gay. Divorced. 30 years ago (or less!) any *one* of those facts would have automatically disqualified her.

That's a sea change, ladies and gentleman. A fucking sea change.

There is more to it than that, of course, and finding myself living in a country in which six of its 14 First Ministers are women does not mean we have reached Utopia.

But it is significant.

So significant that it deserves not just an emphasized paragraph all of its own, but consideration at some length. The perfumes of change.

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First in a projected (if irregular) series of thoughts on the new e-conomy and the coming Triumph of what is sometimes (quite wrongly) called Western Civilization. The below was original posted at Edifice Rex Online on December 14, 2012. And yes, the book was just as good when it finished (satisfyingly, with a proper climax to this story, and yet with a clear sign that there is more to come, as with any good entry in a series).

How to defeat piracy and keep your readers happy

I'm more than halfway through the new novel by the excellent story-teller Kristine Kathryn Rusch. As I fully-expected, Blowback is proving to be a hell of a page-turner — or rather, a hell of a screen-changer.

"Screen-changer"? Okay, I'm sure there's a better term out there. What I mean is, I bought Blowback as an electronic book, not paper book.

I pretty much fell in love with e-books from the moment I bought an reader just over a year ago, but it's been a problem getting books for it. Too often, new books are either not available in electronic versions in Canada or else they are available but encumbered by Digital Rights Management systems that don't play nice with my Linux-based operating system.

So it felt almost revolutionary to be able to simply buy, and then read Rusch's new novel without either stealing it or jumping through a myriad of electronic hoops in order to do so.

Defeating Piracy: Kristyne Kathryn Rusch is doing it right.

But what about you folks? Better to curse and criminalize torrenters, or make it easy for them to pay for the material when they're of a mind to and/or can afford it?

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Short and to-the-point analysis of media bias, liberal and conservative versions — both meant to defame a former child-soldier and victim of long-term torture.

Originally posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at The vocabulary of dehumanization
.

Interesting that the Star calls Omar Khadr a war criminal and the SUN calls him a terrorist. Both terms are inaccurate ("child soldier" would be much more appropriate; "torture victim" is also relevant); both are intended to dehumanize this young man to the papers' respective readership and to invoke a sense of fear at the very existence of this psychologically broken individual.

But both papers are very canny about what will arouse that fear-and-dehumanization response amongst their readers. The SUN knows that the worst thing one can be is a terrorist*; the enlightened readers of the Star know that this is just silly fear-mongering. The worst thing that one can be to the common liberal is a war criminal. Just the thought conjures up images of concentration camps and rallies in Nuremberg, obfuscating entirely the act itself: the alleged throwing of a grenade by a 15-year-old brainwashed child at armed men who had voluntarily signed up to get paid to subjugate other countries.

At any rate, I'm rather hoping that Mr. Hallam himself doesn't get too much flak over this, because he sounds like a stand-up fellow and someone I'd get along with. Anyone who takes such a positive interest in the education of young people is fine by me!

* Unless one's terrorism is directed against women exercising their reproductive choices and health care providers who assist them in doing so. That kind of terrorism will get you a medal from the Queen.
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On the inter-connectedness of some things

The MacKenzie-Papineau Monument in Ottawa
The MacKenzie-Papineau Monument in Ottawa. Photo by The Phantom Photographer.

The past couple of weeks have offered some stark reminders of how small the world can seem.

I attended a ceremony at the Spanish embassy on the 20th, and a funeral in the south end of Ottawa on the 22nd. Both events involved family.

I could not help but be reminded of just deep are my own roots into the past. For instance, I am but a single "degree of separation" from the 19th century; my father's father, who lived until 1996, was born in 1899 and fought in the Russian Revolution.

Almost two weeks ago now, my father's last remaining aunt, his mother's sister, passed away (though her funeral was not held until this past Saturday).

I didn't know her well; she had been more of an occasional, if benevolent, presence than a person to me, but the elegies I heard made me wish I had known her much better.

Mother of five, whose husband ran out shortly after the last baby was born, Auntie Pearl raised her children on her own. By all reports, she did so with a generosity and love that spread far beyond her blood-ties; I think close to a hundred people turned out to say goodbye, many of them friends, not family.

Coincidentally and on a much happier note, on my mother's side of the family, my great uncle Jules was in town last week, the last living Canadian veteran of the Spanish Civil War.

Uncle Jules was here at the request of the government of Spain which, finally, was to follow through on a promise made 15 years ago to those who had volunteered to fight against Franco's fascists in the dark days before the Second World War.

Entirely by accident, during a ceremony at the Spanish Embassy, I learned that the man who designed Ottawa's memorial to the "Mac-Paps" lives in Sudbury and knows my mother, as does his wife, who is the editor of Sudbury Living, a magazine for which my mother has been writing recently.

The world can sometimes seem very close indeed. And history too is often not nearly so far away as it seems.

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Can we say cronyism, ladies and gentlemen? Can we say corruption? Can we say rewarding one's friends?

A mere four and a half months into their majority government, the Harper Government hoists its true colours — the real Joly Roger.

The federal government is paying a high-powered management consultant firm almost $90,000 a day for advice on how to save money.

It's probably not criminal, since governments write the laws, but it is blatant theft from the citizens to the very thieves whose genius for self-dealing has been destroying the working and middle classes of this country for decades.

Who wants to bet that the final report won't include the following points among its top five recommendations?

  1. Fire several thousand civil servants and replace most of them with contract workers (which will turn out to cost more, once the contracting firms' profits are (re)calculated)?

  2. Cutting back on and/or eliminating several departments which serve the public good — perhaps environment, or science or education?

  3. Funding more prisons, but as for-profit, non-union institutions?

If you can stomach it, the full article is at http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/09/20/harper-cuts-consultant.html?cmp=rss

ed_rex: (Default)

The brothers Ford reveal the naked neocon truth

July 29 2011, OTTAWA —It sounds like a skit from a Marx Brothers movie. On the one hand, the Mayor of Canada's largest city is said to have given the finger to a six year-old girl and her mother while at the wheel of his van and while talking on his cellphone; and on the other, the Mayor's brother (and also a City Councilor) falsely claims there are more libraries than Tim Horton's coffee shops in his part of the city and tells Canada's leading novelist to butt out of municipal politics unless she gets elected to city council.

Yes it's farce, but it's also deadly serious politics, that reveals volumes about neo-conservative attitudes and the triumphalist agenda the radical right-wing. Read the full story here.

ed_rex: (The Droz Report)

I am still processing the results of Monday's election and expect to have gathered my thoughts about the results shortly. Meanwhile, I want to talk about the Canadian federal election system itself — that is, how we cast our votes and how our cast votes are counted.

That system is antiquated, labour-intensive, apparently inefficient and uses technologies that, with the exception of a computer-generated print-out of the voters' list, would be completely familiar to a time-traveller from the 19th century.

I spent some 15 hours in an uncomfortable chair on Monday striking names off the voters' list with a cheap ball-point pen, then helped to count the votes. I came away from the experience with a sore back, tired eyes and a lot of appreciation for an apparently primitive system that still managed to count not far off 15 million ballots in a matter of a few hours. This old and cumbersome system is in no need of fixing.

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