Wayback: remember when Harper’s government wanted to process dead animals too?

Someone tweeted a link to this story a few days ago. The story happened in May, but it’s chilling in light of current events.

The Conservative government is pitching the change as a way to cut red tape and provide greater flexibility to slaughterhouse operators.

But the New Democrats are raising a red flag saying the move invites possible “contamination” of the food supply.

“Under the present regulations . . . it has to come in alive, be slaughtered on site,” said NDP MP Malcolm Allen (Welland), the party’s agriculture critic.

“Now you can bring in dead stock. It’s okay to bring in that animal into a slaughterhouse, have it cut, wrapped . . . for human consumption.

“The real fear is how did it die, (and) under what circumstances did it die.”

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NDP leadership election marred by DDoS

So, something pretty big happened in Canadian politics yesterday.

For you Yankees, the short-form of Canadian politics is: we have multiple political parties, not just two. We have the right-wing Conservatives, who are like (in so many ways) your Republicans; we have the centrist Liberals, who are like your Democrats; and we have the NDP, who are a left-wing party unlike anything you’ve seen in America for forty years. We also have the Greens, and several far-left, far-right and far-loon parties, depending on where you are. Each of them elects a party leader, and if that party gets the most seats in the House of Commons, their party leader is made Prime Minister. The party leader of the next biggest party is the Leader of the Loyal Opposition.

Canada lost a great statesman in the long-time leader of the NDP, Jack Layton, when he succumbed to cancer. The NDP just held the election for the new leader, doing it for the very first time entirely online through Spanish company Scytl, who evidently have a sterling record for security in electronic elections.

It turns out, though, that distributing the load for the four tiers of the ballot… well, less so.
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Jack Layton, 61, falls to cancer

Jack Layton abdicated leadership of the NDP less than a month ago to tend to the cancer that he once fought back. Today, that cancer has finally claimed him.

“We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones,” the statement read.

Details about funeral arrangements will be forthcoming, it said. The family released a letter from Layton to Canadians just after noon.

Layton’s death comes less than a month after he announced to the country that he was fighting a new form of cancer and was taking time off for treatment. Layton had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2009 and underwent treatment for it. He continued working throughout that time and also battled a broken hip earlier this year. Layton used a cane for much of his time on the campaign trail this spring as he led the NDP to a historic victory on May 2.

The man brought the New Democratic Party from also-rans into the position of Official Opposition to the Harper government in one single historic election. And he did it just months before succumbing to his fate. I am gratified that Mr. Layton got to see such a great personal achievement come to fruition before he died, and am saddened that the political discourse will be the poorer for his passing.

Update: Mea culpa. He succumbed to a new form of cancer unrelated to his previous bout with prostate cancer. I can’t find any further details as to the specifics immediately, but the situation is no less tragic.

Update 2: Jack Layton wrote a final address knowing that his time was running out. Blockquoted in full below the fold.

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Greenpeace Australia ensures more land will be used for crops

Greenpeace Australia recently took action against a genetically modified wheat trial in Australia by scaling a fence, donning showpiece costumes that look like hazmat suits, and using a gas-powered weed-eater to destroy the entire crop. They also put up a Flickr slideshow showing their handiwork. The hazardous materials tape is a really nice touch for what amounts to vandalism, especially since their involvement was due to “concerns over health, cross-contamination and the secrecy surrounding the experiments.”

What’s REALLY interesting about this incident is the actual intended purpose of the crops. And no, these trials have nothing to do with Roundup, and they have little if nothing to do with Monsanto’s less savory practices except tangentially.

The trials in question appeared to be of the simple kind – the wheat has been altered in a way that should affect its glycemic index, how rapidly the sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream, and that CSIRO is interested in seeing if it has the desired effect when eaten by human beings. These kinds of studies have been done before, such as on calcium-biofortified carrots as described in this post.

In support of their action, Greenpeace copy/pasted their Golden Rice letter and had eight scientists sign it, then delivered this letter to the top Australian scientific body CSIRO. They did so a scant few days before three “concerned mothers” took action against these genetically modified crops. The crops had actually already at that point undergone a three-month trial being fed to animals, and in six months (presumably after this crop had grown), the scientists were planning on having a short 28-day human trial to determine whether or not the sugars were more bioattainable by humans. As the blockquote states, these are simple trials. The whole point of this genetically modified wheat is to provide more nutrition for humans, which one would think is a noble goal especially from an environmental standpoint — less crops feeding more people means more food for less damage to the planet in the form of pesticides.

Greenpeace is in the habit of using reductio ad absurdum and touting “common sense” over actual understanding of the science behind whatever they’re demonizing. Let’s see what happens when we use the same tactic against them, shall we? Presumably, Greenpeace’s actual problem with genetically modified crops of this nature has precious little to do with Monsanto’s disturbing and predatory practices, and more to do with keeping people underfed, since genetically modified crops could very well save infinity billion humans. Fewer humans means less damage to the environment, you see. Therefore, Greenpeace is about doing damage to the human race. In that they’ve declared themselves above the law in this and other recent and violent crimes, they’re now a terrorist organization, of the old school comic book variety.

Greenpeace == Cobra Command, ladies and gentlemen. Only they’ve got a better PR department.

Some very good sites that link me

I’m a total jerk, and don’t check my incoming links nearly often enough. It appears a number of very good sites have me on their blogrolls or have otherwise linked to me, and I haven’t yet reciprocated. This is a small token effort to even those scales, considering these blogs deserve all the attention I can throw their way. And while you’re looking for good blogs, don’t forget the list of blogs on my left-hand sidebar — each of them is excellent in their own right.

A fellow Canuck blogger, @loripop326, writes at Oh Shit, She’s Awake. She’s the only one I knew from Twitter prior to learning I was on her blogroll — mad props, as she’s an excellent writer with an addictive cadence particular to her writings. A sample:

Embrace yourself, just as you are.
I know that seems like something very obvious, but it’s really not.

Most of us hide parts of ourselves away. The parts that we think are too weird for others to see. The parts that maybe we’ve been told are fucked-up or that someone has made us feel ashamed of. Those pieces of ourselves are the ones that we think should never be known.

So we hide them away, hoping that no one ever discovers them.

We bury them in layers of ‘shouldn’t’ and ‘couldn’t’ and ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ until even we forget they are there. But they are there. Those are the parts of ourselves that are actually real. The innermost bits that we hide are what makes us who we are.

Paul Baird, the man from the UK who recently wrestled a grizzly bear to a draw err, forced Sye Ten Bruggencate to admit that there’s “nothing wrong” with circular reasoning, blogs at Patient and Persistant. He regularly takes on religious folks in online and live debate, and blogs also on skeptical and human rights issues, like this one about female genital mutilation, which overlaps all these fields.

Not all traditions are benign, but it seems to be the case that a tradition that has religious overtones is more difficult to overturn regardless of the damage done.

That said, from a relative morality perspective I do not condemn the practice as immoral within the local paradigm – the practitioners are not acting knowing that their actions are wrong. However, viewed from a modern Western liberal democracy the practice is immoral.

This is a newspaper article with an embedded video (warning – contains distressing scenes), and another about women and girls making a stand against the practice.

The underlying point is that no practice, regardless of it’s sincerity or perceived morality or tradition or religious basis, can stand unchallenged in the modern world.

Our friend SBH (while he hasn’t been around in the comments for a while, I have a relatively long memory for things like that), blogs at Rational Rant, and I honestly can’t come up with a superlative adequate to describe his eloquence. Take, for instance, his thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden:

Like a blind giant the United States started flailing about. An early blow took out one of Osama’s most hated opponents, Saddam Hussein, no doubt to his delight, but the destruction of his hosts in Afghanistan forced him to relocate abruptly. His network in ruins, he was reduced to crouching in the rubble of his dreams and issuing occasional rambling diatribes that the media dutifully carried, and operatives of the world’s intelligence services pored over for clues to his whereabouts. Fortunately friends in neighboring Pakistan took him in, and looked after him—until United States operatives under Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, stormed his hideout and executed him. It was an inglorious end to a futile and wasted life. Nobody is likely to miss him much—certainly not the Indonesians, Egyptians, Kenyans, and others whose family-members he had murdered to fuel his sadistic fantasies. The team that executed him dragged back his corpse as a ghastly souvenir. I suppose it will be returned to his family for burial or something equally civilized. Personally I hope they have his skull hollowed out for use as a visitor’s ashtray at the White House.

And back to the UK, where a Liberal Democrat councillor by the name of Chris Black runs a blog called Moonlight over Essex, and saw fit to link me in his Around the World blogroll. He’s kind enough to keep tabs on the colonies, and has blogged recently about Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the Quebecois NDP candidate swept into office despite never having been in her constituency, and largely being regarded as a “paper candidate” for having been thrown on the ballot when the NDP rep running originally decided to try for a different riding. He incisively tackles political issues from the vantage point of public office himself, including this post where he tackles the Lib Dems’ problem of identity:

On economic policy it was all a lot simpler for us in the ’80s when you had Thatcherism on one side and outright socialism on the other, it was easy for us to offer a middle path. Not so easy now – though I think we are doing a good job inside government holding back the extreme right of the Conservative Party who seem to hate the NHS, BBC , etc. But that’s not being seen by the public.

Also a lot of the “Liberal” battles over the last 40 of 50 years have been won. So what is our raison d’etre now? What do we say in 30 seconds on the doorstep?

If I was going out campaigning today I’d say : We support free enterprise – but the wealth should be shared, the lowest paid shouldn’t pay income tax and big corporations and super-rich shouldn’t get away with paying little. And we believe that that organisations like the NHS, the BBC and the armed forces should be properly funded and supported.

Never before has centrism sounded so good.

Go, read. There’s blog fodder I need attending to, as I have a novel beta to read in my spare time. Expect a few posts on autopilot for a bit while I get my book on.

If you’d like to be added to my blogroll, please let me know. I’ll consider adding any skeptical, atheist, political or Canadian blog you suggest.

Election projections for your riding; who to vote for to simply beat Cons

Canada’s election at the moment looks like a choice between another Conservative minority, or a Conservative majority government, unless everyone were to suddenly vote Liberal strategically. In Canada, one can gain a majority government (e.g., enough seats to mean your party basically wins every parliamentary motion) with a mere 35% of the popular vote with our current political breakdown. That means that with a minority government, it’s well possible that at least 65% of the country disagrees with the party in power. In the case of Conservatives vs. Everyone Else, that is assuredly true. The Conservative Party of Canada, since being created in a coalition between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform TeaParty a few years ago, makes up the entirety of the right half of the political spectrum. The Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens all make up the left, with the only outlier that could possibly be called right-wing being the Bloc, whose prime motivating reason for existence is secession of Quebec from the rest of the country.

So we have a political climate today wherein the Right has unified into a coalition for the purpose of leading our country off a cliff (or more accurately, siphoning money from the pockets of the average Canadian and directly into the pockets of big businesses, as though Reaganomics ever worked for anyone!), and the only way to kick them out is to form some sort of coalition on the left. Well, the only way short of strategic voting, which really hurts when you don’t particularly like one of the alternatives.

If you’re willing to suck it up and swallow your pride in order to vote strategically for the sole purpose of tossing the bums out, and just need to know which party to vote for in your riding, here’s an excellent tool, wherein you can find out what the current projections are for your specific riding and therefore decide whether to vote strategically for the Libs, NDP or Bloc, depending.

Sorry, my loyal Green readers… they’re simply not competitive anyplace at the moment, even in Vancouver where they’re running double-digit candidates. However, if you want to vote for the competitive challenger in your riding, you can ask someone in a less competitive riding to vote for your first choice via PairVote.ca — that way your party doesn’t technically lose your vote, and you still get to make a difference in the more competitive race.

Or you could, you know, vote Conservative if you really want to. Or if you’re unmotivated, you can just let the Conservative in your riding win. You know, if you happen to think that the problem with Health Care is that we have TOO MUCH of it. Or that the economy would benefit most from CEOs pays increasing while normal folks’ wages stagnate. Or if you think they’re all just going to pull the same bullshit nonsense that the Conservatives actually have as party planks, and the other parties actively oppose. Whatever. It’s up to you, of course. I merely reserve the right to hate you for not doing whatever you can to stop the avowed party of privilege.

Vote, please. Your vote could very well mean the difference between us ending up with the same nonsense we’re already living in a Conservative minority, or much worse in a Conservative majority.

It’s incredibly easy to make an informed vote May 2nd.

In case you’re unaware, we’re having an election up here in the Great White North. Pretty well everyone I’ve talked to around these parts, however, doesn’t seem to care enough to actually vote. Or, alternately, they feel that they aren’t informed enough to make a proper decision. The funny thing is, with the internet, it’s never been easier — elections are no longer about whose commercials to trust, or worse, whose name you see most often on roadside signs.

If you’re like me, and you like being able to download a document and search for key words and phrases (e.g., science, climate change, agriculture, or taxes), the major political parties have all released platform documents for this election cycle, roughly ordered from right (small-C conservative) to left (small-L liberal):

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)
Bloc Quebecois
Liberal Party
New Democratic Party (NDP)
Green Party

Or, you could take a visual “word cloud” tour of the platforms to see what words are mentioned the most in each. That’s an extraordinarily quick way to tour the parties’ priorities.

Something you might notice is that all these PDFs are English. That’s my preferred language, and the language I blog in, though the party websites have French versions of each if you care to seek them out.

If you’re not interested in slogging through several 200-page PDF files to search for specific topics (though, honestly, Ctrl-F in your PDF reader does NOT take that long to do!), you can always take a political quiz developed in and a mainstay of Europe’s electoral process, hosted at the CBC. It’s a very brief but surprisingly thorough overview of the parties’ platforms and, for a complete political novice, as long as you answer honestly, you’ll get an accurate assessment of the party that will most closely represent your political beliefs. It’s a damn sight better than not voting, or blindly voting for whomever someone suggests you vote for out of their own loyalties.

Believe me, you can skip whatever show you’re watching now — it’ll be in reruns soon enough. Or do it during a commercial while you’re watching the hockey game. You’re sure to be pelted with political advertisements anyway — might as well figure out which ones you like based on what they’re actually about, not what they say about each other!

You should already have your voter registration cards, if you’ve registered during a previous election cycle. If you haven’t, you can register at the polls, just bring appropriate ID. From Elections Canada:

Early Voting Opportunities for Electors

OTTAWA, Thursday, April 14, 2011

  • The federal election takes place on May 2, 2011, and Elections Canada offers electors many different ways and times to vote. With the potential for flooding in some parts of the country this spring, electors in certain communities may wish to plan ahead and vote early.
  • If you believe that election day will not be a convenient time for you to vote, you can vote early:
    • at advance polls on April 22 (Friday), April 23 (Saturday) or April 25 (Monday)
    • by mail or in person at any local Elections Canada office by special ballot anytime before election day (you need to be registered before 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26); to find the location of your local Elections Canada office, check our Web site or call 1-800-463-6868
  • To vote, you must be on the list of electors for the 41st general election. Any eligible elector not yet on the list can provide authorized identification and register prior to voting at advance polls, by special ballot or on election day.
  • More information is available at www.elections.ca in the “How do I vote – what are my options?” section or by calling 1-800-463-6868.

“We recognize that some Canadians may be unsure of whether voting on election day will be possible for them. It may be easier for some electors to plan ahead and cast their ballot early. Elections Canada wants to ensure that all electors are aware of their options when it comes to deciding when and how they will vote,” says Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Marc Mayrand.

Vote. Shape your world.

Elections Canada is an independent body set up by Parliament.

Information:
Elections Canada Media Relations
1-877-877-9515
or at www.elections.ca

I know it might seem like a chore. But maintaining a functional democracy is a privilege, one that some other countries don’t enjoy. If you’d prefer living in a dictatorship, where you don’t have to worry about politics, then by all means move to Sudan or Libya. There you’ll just have to watch out for government men coming after you.

And of course, since I’m a blogger and I’m biased, I’d be remiss if I avoided opining. I won’t tell you who I’m voting for, but I can tell you for sure who and what I’m voting against. And I can tell you why I’ll never vote for the traditional recipient of “protest votes”.

CRTC: a pawn in Harper’s larger game?

In reading news about the CRTC of late, I can’t help but notice a few converging threads. I legitimately feel that I am above conspiracy theory, and I like to say that without evidence, our understanding of reality is potentially unreliable. Therefore, I write this post tentatively, knowing I may be drawing incorrect conclusions.

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Click for original.

Pictured: the CRTC.

But if they are correct, they are damning conclusions indeed.

The Tory government appears to have a greater strategy of discrediting and generally casting as an anacronism the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Council for at least the last year. Harper’s government — not to be confused with The Harper Government, which you can protest such use by signing this petition — overturned the CRTC’s decision last year to disallow Globalive from entering our wireless market due to regulations requiring telecom companies to be locally owned. On this point, I agree with Michael Geist, that content, not ownership, preserves Canadian culture. The overturning of this decision, while well-founded, undercut the CRTC’s ability to make a second ruling — as they so often have done, given the fullness of time and understanding of the public and experts’ opinion in such matters — with the overturning coming so shortly after the original decision. The problem with this is the impression left of the CRTC as an impotent body that cannot make regulations that under any circumstances contradict what the ruling party happens to believe.

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RCimT: Stuff to be mad about

As I implied yesterday, there’s far too much going on in this world right now that deserves my ire. I have to mete it out carefully or I won’t have enough to go around, because the meds for my Stretch Armstrong leg are seriously putting a damper on my ability to draw from my bile reservoir. For you though, my faithful readers, I’ll do my best. (I love you both!)

Egypt did a grand thing in ousting Mubarak. The military made many overtures of solidarity with the protesters over the last month, and they installed a “transitional leader” in Vice President Omar Suleiman. Suleiman however has absolutely no intention of transitioning Egypt to a democracy. The military is now singing a totally different tune than during the initial protests — claiming that they will start to move against strikers if they don’t get back to work soon. So Egypt traded one tin-pot dictator for another. Hooray.

Meanwhile, a CBS reporter was violently molested while covering the Egypt protests, and because she happened to be a woman, people are throwing their careers away to snipe at her for daring to try to do something in a dangerous place. Because, you know, being raped and beaten in public and having to be rescued by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers just isn’t enough damage. Lara Logan knew exactly what kind of danger she was in by daring to do her job while in possession of a vagina, thank you very fucking much.

I’m sad to have to report that being right about the “God question” (e.g., being an atheist) does not mean you’re right about other stuff, like gender politics. How a thread can go on so long where so many men think it appropriate to discuss amongst themselves “how to get women into science” while wholly and completely dismissing the women in the conversation, is beyond me. People in positions of privilege discussing how to get the unprivileged into the conversation should, obviously, not dismiss the same unprivileged. DUH. There are a few shining beacons of truth and level-headedness in the Pharyngula thread about the original talk, but they are a cool drink in a vast expansive desert of retardery.

Meanwhile, the Republicans who were swept into power recently with promises of rebuilding the American economy with jobs-a-plenty are enacting several laws on their real priority: shrinking government to only small enough to legislate every vagina in the country. While the House has failed at their attempt to redefine rape, they succeeded in passing an amended version of HR3 to ensure no federal funds are ever spent on abortions. They have also defunded Planned Parenthood, the last line of defense against teenage pregnancy, for daring to refer to abortion doctors the 2% of their visitors that need them — never mind that this means more teenagers will get pregnant and need abortions to begin with. And South Dakota is busy legalizing the murder of abortion doctors. These idiots are decidedly not “pro-life”. They’re “pro-fetus”. Once the fetus grows to the point where they might be born (whether they survive, or not; whether they kill the mother, or not), they obviously couldn’t give a shit about them. I’m sure there’s gotta be a Bible passage somewhere that justifies allowing both mother and baby to die just so a medically indicated procedure doesn’t happen that’s supposedly contrary to some vague interpretation of some arbitrarily chosen translation of some arbitrarily chosen “holy book” out of the thousands that one could choose from.

And there’s always more bullshit when you get religion involved, it seems. Why is it every one of the things I see today that is detrimental to the betterment of humankind as a whole, is inspired by religion? Seriously. It’s getting to be too big a trend to ignore. A new investigation shows that children are still in peril and clergy are still stonewalling investigators even ten years after the scandals in some Roman Catholic dioceses were uncovered and supposedly stopped. If they weren’t in the positions of power they find themselves, children wouldn’t be imperiled by this overriding demand, handed down from the top, to protect Catholicism from its own chief practitioners.

Or how about the religiously inspired Wedge-strategy-approved tactic of sowing disinformation about evolution by legislative fiat? Never mind that there’s no scientific controversy about the theory of evolution — only a controversy in that the theory of evolution apparently runs afoul of some very small-minded provincial interpretations of certain religionists’ ideation of their deity and how special humankind is in the grand scheme of things. No, scientists are well aware that all the evidence available shows evolution is a fact, and that the theory of evolution is merely an attempt at describing the mechanism behind that fact. Any controversy at the moment is in exactly how much influence natural selection, epigenetics, genetic drift, etc., have on the “big picture” of evolution. If this law were aimed at teaching THOSE controversies, I’d be fine with it and others of its ilk, but you’ll invariably find it espoused by people who unironically claim in court that the Earth is six thousand years old.

Canada’s got its own shitty little legal squabbles going on, too. For instance, the Tory-held senate rejection of this bill:

Bill C-389 would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect the rights of transgender or transsexual citizens. It would prohibit discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” or “gender expression” in the workplace or elsewhere, and would amend the Criminal Code so that crimes committed against people because they are transgender or transsexual would be treated as hate crime.

Their grounds? That people might try to go peeping-tom in opposite sex bathrooms and defend themselves by claiming they’re really transgendered.

And the CRTC’s raising people’s suspicions lately about the partisan nature of some of their decisions — like that pesky law they’re suggesting we eliminate that prevents broadcasters from presenting lies as truth in news media.

“It’s totally bizarre. Nobody in the industry has called for it,” Mr. Murdoch said. “Where is the motivation for change that would lower the standards of truth and fairness in broadcast journalism?”

NDP MP Charlie Angus noted that the proposed change precedes the start of Sun TV, a network that has been shepherded in large part by Kory Teneycke, the former director of communication to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“We all know our Prime Minister well enough to say we don’t have to be in the realm of conspiracy theory here,” Mr. Angus said at a news conference on Monday. “We can draw our conclusions and they are pretty clear.”

It’s no conspiracy. It’s no coincidence. That law is preventing Sun TV from being everything that Fox News is to America: a trojan horse in the news media, intended to pull people’s understanding of reality, and the Overton Window, ever-further to the right. Truth be damned, we need our propaganda, sayeth Harper and his cronies.

That’s it. I’m spent for the moment. I’m sure I’ll find more to rage about soon though.

Zombie death windpocalypse

So… we survived the apocalypse. Ben and Stephanie avoided a snowpocalypse in Minneapolis in their vacation to the Maritimes, but couldn’t avoid a low pressure system that brought winds up to 100km/h on Monday. It was pretty doomy though. Signs exploded, trees fell, roofs took flight, the dead rose and feasted upon the living… pretty doomy. Ayup. We survived it, with booze and delicious cake. And blunt instruments to fend off the undead hordes.

This morning, we surveyed the damage. The view off my deck:

But wait, there’s more!
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