Deconstructing my thoughts.



Corporate Canada accepts climate change.

4 comments

Too often we despair at our problems and shortcomings and envy those that seem to have it so much easier. Today is definitely one of those days when I have to stop myself from crying out "Why does everybody else get it? We're doomed!". Business leaders in Canada (sorry, not the US, if only we could see the light...) have done a complete one-eighty and embraced the reality of climate change:
The leaders of a group of major Canadian corporations have called for urgent action on climate change, a major reversal of the business community's position on the Kyoto protocol. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the heads of Alcan, Bombardier, Shell Canada, Falconbridge, Home Depot Canada and Desjardins Group, among others, said Canada needs a 50-year strategy to deal with the fallout from climate change.

This is what has always baffled me about corporations. The people running them are...PEOPLE, so why are they not concerned about the future of the planet, the well-being of their children and grandchildren? They are also presumably very educated people with access to the same scientific information about climate change. In Canada, they reached this conclusion:
The executives said they accept the consensus view of a UN panel that climate change elevates the risk to human health and to the environment.

While in the US the corporate lobby calls for more studies and creates confussion by claiming that there's so much uncertainty about climate change.

Interestingly enough, this position by Corporate Canada is a big change from their defiance and resistance two years ago to the government's plan to implement the Kyoto accord. In 2002 business groups in Canada echoed what their American friends were saying about climate change and Kyoto:
Not enough study has been done, the business coalition argued, and the entire international agreement is too confusing.


So what changed? Could it be that they realise climate change could actually hurt their bottom line? Could it be they're more concerned about sustainable, long-term growth rather than simply meeting quarterly earnings targets? It could be that there have always been people within these corporations that have pushed for more action and cooperation with environmentally friendly(er) policies. It could be that they've finally gained a greater voice.

It's hard to tell what caused this seemingly large shift. But I suspect that it's a rare glimpse into the fundamental, deep rooted differences between Canadians and Americans. These differences are of constant interest to me, and are an on-going debate in Canada's struggle to define its identity.

I am a US and Canadian citizen, and not by technicality either. I have strong ties to both countries. I was born and raised in Alberta. My mother and her side of the family are all American. I spent many summers as a kid in the US visiting my large extended family. When I graduated from college I moved to California for a job. Here in California I have lived and worked for 6 years, met my future wife and earned a graduate degree from a UC school. For those of us who know both these countries intimately, there's no question that there are very fundamental cultural differences. But now I'm getting into the topic of perhaps another post.

Canadians can rest easy knowing that although they may be miss-understood and often ignored by Americans, and sometimes lumped in with Americans by the rest of the world, they are truly a disparate people.


Joe Scarborough's slippery slope

1 comments

Joe Scarborough was on Real Time with Bill Maher last weekend and questioned whether torture can really be called torture when we're dealing with really bad people. Playing on the emotions surrounding 9/11, Joe employs a tool used by the Cheney/Rumsfeld camp in confounding the issue. Here's the pertinent excerpt from the transcript.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, talking about torture, it's important, I think, to define what torture is. Like, for instance, is holding Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the guy that planned 9/11, with something called “water-boarding” – holding him underwater, bringing him up—
MAHER: Okay—
ROBINSON: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: --and – is that torture?
ROBINSON: Yes, yes, yes.
WATERS: Yes, yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Is that torture? That's torture?
MAHER: Okay, but – but why—
SCARBOROUGH: They're all torture?
MAHER: Wait a second. Why are all the—
SCARBOROUGH: You're not going to answer me?
MAHER: First of all, it is torture. Of course it is. And they do a lot worse, because, obviously, they've killed a lot of people. There are people who have died from this.

I don't think a reasonable person can deny that repeatedly drowning someone, causing them to inhale water, causing them to choke, or depriving them of air, would all be considered torture. So how can it be that Joe Scarborough questions whether others would call this torture? The answer for some would simply be that Joe Scarborough is not a reasonable person. But that simple answer is actually quite telling of why some people, normally considered reasonable, can conclude that the type of treatment described by Joe Scarborough would in fact be an acceptable way to treat people held by the U.S. Government.

You can get just about anyone to admit that a person who has committed the most depraved acts, who has murder people in cold blood, in the most vicious ways, deserves to meet the same fate as their victims. This is in fact the gut reaction of most people, and the basis for popular support of capital punishment. Even in countries that do not have capital punishment, this opinion prevails. It is this visceral, emotional reaction to the crime that brings about the mindset that we are not only justified, but that we ought to, descend, just a bit, down that slippery slope.

The emotional clouding of the issue is clear in the way Joe Scarborough phrases the question about the treatment of detainees. He invokes the heinous nature of the enemy in the same sentence as the description of their treatment. By juxtaposing 9/11 with the euphemistic "water-boarding", suddenly this treatment of someone like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad doesn't seem all that bad. Our moral compass gets skewed pretty quickly when we throw around cutesy terms like "water-boarding" and keep the horrors of 9/11 close in our mind.

What this accomplishes is it obfuscates and masks how far down the slippery slope we've actually travelled. The definitions are shifted and re-framed against the backdrop of the crumbling twin towers. It's no longer a question of inadvertently sliding farther down a slope than we ever intended to go. It would be one thing for the administration or the pentagon to come out and admit that they encouraged the use of certain interrogation tactics that got out of hand. But it's something entirely different to purposefully redefine the terminology such that we cannot even say for sure where we've ended up (see newspeak). Terms like "water-boarding", "stress positions" and "deprivation" are not helpful in knowing what in the hell is actually going on, and what the policy of our government actually is. If the newspeak versions of age-old torture tell us anything, they tell us that our government is trying to conceal something from us.

But the photographs from Abu Ghraib tell us all too clearly where we've ended up. The litany of reports on detainee abuse gives a pretty clear indication of what has been, at minimum, tacitly approved treatment of detainees. But the most disturbing part is that the Cheney/Rumsfeld push to allow this kind of treatment of people to continue belies their entire purported goal of transforming the middle-east from its tyranny, oppression and injustice. The "winning hearts and minds" appears to be nothing more than the marketting pitch, while the reality is simply raw, visceral retribution and pay-back. Which, of course, has no end in sight.

When you redefine torture based on the morality (or lack thereof) of the enemy, then by definition you lose the ability to morally distinguish yourself from that enemy. Indeed, the worst thing that could happen to us in Iraq, or Afghanistan, would be for the locals to compare us to what they had before and say: "same shit, different pile".


Speak for yourself.

4 comments

After a conversation with some other bloggers at Daily Kos regarding Joe Scarborough's comments on supporting the Iraq war, I was prompted to write the following letter to Scarborough Country:

Joe,
You often say on your show that you support the war in Iraq. Last night (11/03/05) was the first time in more than a month that you've spent more than a couple minutes talking about the war in Iraq. In your segment you complained about the negative reporting on the war in Iraq and claimed that there's a media bias against the war. You claimed to know of many "grunts" that support the war and presumably believe that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. Who are these soldiers? Where are they serving? What is their job in Iraq? What is their story? Why don't you put them on your show and let them share their opinions with the American people? You are part of the media. You should tell the story that you're criticizing others of not telling. I love Gen. McCaffrey, but he's on MSNBC all the time. Bring on these soldiers that you're talking about and let's hear it from them. Ask them to tell us why the invasion/occupation of Iraq is worth their lives.

I was amazed to hear you say you'll continue to support the war as long as these "grunts" that you talk to support the war. Do you really think we should take a poll of the troops to determine what our policy should be? I can't think of a more idiotic reasoning for supporting the war. But if that's really how you reach conclusions on issues like war then maybe you should check out this poll conducted by your affiliates. My guess is that even their ad-hoc, unscientific polling is more reflective of how troops feel about the war than your anecdotes. Since you're brighter than the childlike explanation of why you support the war, I look forward to hearing your actual rationale for supporting this war.
Regards,


Scarborough's brilliant defense of the Iraq policy

0 comments

Last night on Scarborough Country Joe took a few minutes out of his show's regular barrage of over-blown and over-hyped violent crimes to address his perception of media bias regarding coverage of the war in Iraq. Joe Scarborough quickly countered Gen. (ret) Barry McCaffrey's (my favorite MSNBC guest, a stand-up, no-nonsense breath of fresh air in the stale predictability of these highly spun shows) assessment that the war in Iraq is a huge problem and has been badly executed with his brilliantly well-reasoned and articulated rationale for supporting the war:

"I am going to continue supporting the war until the grunts on the ground don't support the war. And, right now, all I am saying is that the guys that I am talking over there still believe in what they are doing. "

Are you kidding me? I cannot think of a more simplistic and brain-dead way of formulating a position on the war in Iraq. Of course many troops believe in what they're doing. By definition, someone who volunteers to serve their country in the armed forces feels that it is an honorable and worthy thing to do. They signed up to defend America, to serve their country, and they go and do what their civilian controlled military tells them to do. They follow orders, that's their job, and clearly (luckily) they're very good at it. How these individuals feel about their duty is irrelevant to the discussion of this country's foreign policy. People in uniform feel proud to do what their country asks them to do, and they should. The question is: Are the sacrifices these people are willing to make worth it? Answering "yes" or "no" regarding Iraq requires that you examine a multitude of complex issues, none of which involve an ad-hoc poll of how a few grunts feel about their duty!

Joe Scarborough wrapped up his segment with the following comments:

"the troops that I am talking to over there, again, so many of them are dismayed because of the way this story is being reported at home and in Europe. And they say that that really is one of their biggest challenges day in and day out. And something has got to be done about it. "

What exactly would Joe like to have done about it? In any case, he is doing something about. Show's like Scarborough Country keep spouting off the same Bush administration platitudes and claims of media bias in an effort to counter and evade the discussion of how we got into, and how we get out, of the mess in Iraq. Once again the issue is dumbed down and another opportunity to have a serious discussion of the issues is squandered.


Alito already has democrat's approval

0 comments

One of the favorite arguments being thrown around by conservatives as to why the democrats have no reason to be critical of the Alito nomination is because they already approved him for his appellate judgeship.

"But it's a little hard to describe circumstances as "extraordinary" - or to condemn a nominee as somehow extreme or bizarre - when you yourselves [democrats] voted unanimously to confirm him to the nation's second-highest courts."
- David Frum, 11/01/05

"The guy [Alito] was unanimously approved for the federal appellate bench by a Democratic Senate, for heaven‘s sakes. The ABA gave him its highest rating when he went up there. "
- Pat Buchanan 10/31/05

So I guess fifteen years of judicial rulings and opinions should be ignored when evaluating whether a sitting judge has been faithful to the constitution. I guess the record of his actual on-the-job performance as a judge, which did not exist the first time his nomination was approved, should not be considered when determining if a judge should be elevated to the nations highest and most important judicial appointment. The conservatives want it both ways. They point to Alito's qualifications and vast judicial experience as a reason the democrats cannot oppose him, and then they want the democrats to ignore his vast paper trail of rulings and treat Alito as if he were the same man he was fifteen years ago. His confirmation fifteen years ago, to his first judicial appointment, has almost no bearing on evaluating his fitness to be on the Supreme Court.


SC weekly round-up (10/28)

1 comments

Last week the brewing White House scandal finally reached such a high fever pitch that even Scarborough Country could not ignore the story. Normally insulated for international and national current events - at least those that don't involve the search for a corpse or a killer - Scarborough Country finally took notice of the story that everyone was talking about. For the first time in over a month a topic other than the murder or disappearance a few individuals became the number one topic of discussion, but not by much.

Imminent indictments, rumors that senior White House staff were facing charges of outing a covert CIA agent, perjury and obstruction of justice, and the possibility that the architect of president Bush's election successes was in jeopardy, Karl Rove himself, barely edged out the time dedicated to two missing women (missing for weeks, if not months), and one murdered wife. Last week Scarborough Country dedicated about 27% of the show to Holloway, Wilson and Vitale (the murdered/missing persons) and almost 30% of the show to the scandal that was rocking Washington. But there was a lot more big news last week, and Joe Scarborough, in the midst of staying on top of these three obviously important cases, somehow found a way to fit it all into his show's busy line-up.

After nearly a month of staying completely silent on the controversy surrounding the war in Iraq, Joe Scarborough finally chimed in. With the death toll of American soldiers surpassing the two thousand mark, Joe had some thoughtful and insightful words at this tragic juncture:

"And, by the way, I noticed in the news break that we have now crossed and I have been seeing it all day—we have now crossed the 2,000 plateau, of 2,000 killed in Iraq. Well, you know what? If it‘s a noble cause, those are terrible, terrible sacrifices, but, at the same time, it bears repeating that we lost 2,000 men, 2,000 heroes in the first hours of D-Day back in 1944. You don‘t hear that."

Thanks for noticing Joe. I'm sure all those middle american families that are paying the price feel much better after you put it into perspective for them. All this time I just figured you were too busy talking about the really big, important tragedies like Holloway, but really all along you just hadn't noticed the 2,000 other tragedies that were taking place. A couple of other points that might be worth making:
  1. 2,000 plateau? Something tells me we have not hit any plateau. That number will keep on rising.
  2. "If it‘s a noble cause". That's a big "IF". There's no doubt spreading freedom and democracy to the world is a noble cause, but if you can pair the words unrealistic, miss-guided, improbable, costly, foolhardy, arogant, and frought with incompetance and failure, to the word noble, is it worth it? There are plenty of noble world causes that America could spend hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives pursuing, but it doesn't mean we should. Doesn't that last sentance summarize what is supposed to be the conservative philosophy on foreign policy? Joe Scarborough is supposed to be a conservative! And that doesn't even touch on the main point that the war was not ever sold to the American people as some grand noble cause. It was sold to us on the pretense that we only took military action because Iraq was an imminent threat that had to be disarmed, not democratized! Something tells me that middle America never would have signed up to spend billions of dollars and thousands of American lives for this "noble" cause.
Ok, that was a bit more than two points. So Joe Scarborough breaks his silence and zero-reporting on the Iraq war to spew off thirty seconds of trite Bush administration propaganda. No wonder he manages to fill 30-60% of his show with talking heads psychoanalyzing some teenage "Goth Killer" over and over again. When you put thirty seconds for the month into a story like the Iraq war, what else are you going to talk about? I guess you call up your psychoanalytical, ex-prosecutor, ex-detective talking heads to pour over every little crime scene detail and media outlet footage of some random crime, because that's what middle america really needs to know about. Superb job Joe!

Moving back to the CIA leak coverage again, I just have to point out Joe Scarborough's astute analysis of the issue. In an effort to demystify the details of the plamegate story and break the story down to its simplest why-do-you-care reason for his self-purported middle american audience, Joe Scarborough says this:

"why do you care if you are outside of the Washington Beltway? You care for this reason, because, if you are a Republican, if James Carville had leaked the identity of an undercover CIA operative, Republicans would be screaming at the top of their lungs. "

WTF does that mean? I should care because if a democrat did it, it would be wrong? Oh I get it now, thanks Joe! I guess since we're all admitting to being blinded by partisanship, and incapable of seeing right from wrong unless it's framed in some childishly simple partisan way, then republicans should just file the plamegate story under "who gives a crap", because it wasn't the democrats breaking the law. Talk about insulting the intelligence of your audience; what a dip shit way to explain the story. How about you should care because your politicians lied to you about some pretty important stuff? How about you should care that your government would out a covert CIA agent just to push their agenda? An agenda that involved the invasion of another country, the spending of hundreds of billions of blah, blah, blah,... I've already said this part. Joe Scarborough completely misses the point.

On another news topic from last week, Rosa Parks passed away, and Joe Scarborough took a few minutes out of his week to mention her passing and pay tribute. In a bizarre juxtaposition, Scarborough Country dedicated more than five times more time talking about a neo-nazi girls band. Rather than discussing the legacy of Rosa Parks, Scarborough Country gave a good six minutes of free publicity to a cutesy girls pop band sporting tee shirts of Hitler smiley faces. Meanwhile Rosa Parks, who passed away the night before the Hitler simley face segment, got less than a minute of Joe's time. You have got to wonder who comes up with this stuff and decides what is worthy of making it on to the broadcast for the night.

Anyway, the regular pie chart and table for last weeks stats are shown below. Remember, click on the pie chart to see it bigger. I hope the image is clear, I've been having problems exporting the excel charts to JPEG.





Topic - week starting 10/24/05MTWThFTotal min.
Supreme Court0
00
19
019
Iraq War01
0001
Katrina/FEMA0
4
6
0
11
21
CIA Leak/Plamegate
14
6
22
14
4
60
Avian Bird flu
00
00
00
missing person (Holloway, Wilson, Vitale)15
20
4
6
10
55
Hurricane Wilma
7
0
2
0
0
9
Oil profits/gas prices
00
0
0
13
13
Miscellaneous (racist pop-star girls, Rosa Parks) 1
6
0
2
1
10
"CEOs gone wild"
4
5
4
0
13
13
Total minutes414238
4139
201


SC Weekly round-up (ending Oct. 21)

9 comments

I'm a bit behind on posting my stats for Scarborough Country news coverage, so here's the summary for last week.

If I thought the week of Oct 10th was fixated on violent crimes/missing persons (at 49% of the show's useful time dedicated to such stories, see round-up for the week 10/10/05), then I guess I have to use the words obsessed and wholly preoccupied to describe the coverage for the week of Oct.17th. Since I’ve been tracking Scarborough Country’s topics (only four weeks now), last week hit a new high for total time dedicated to a handful of violent crimes. Just above sixty two percent (62.2%) of the show was dedicated to a handful of violent crimes/missing persons (Natalee Holloway, Pamela Vitale, Christie Wilson, Taylor Behl, and Scott Peterson). For a second week in a row the show scored perfect shut outs against topics like the Iraq war, CIA leak/plamegate, and the Supreme Court. Joe did find time (and money) for his show to travel to his alma mater (University of Alabama) and do a show largely dedicated to his warm feelings about the place and general nostalgia. Good job Joe, I guess you're a realist as to how many people are actually watching your show on a Friday night. I can't think of a better way to spend a national cable news program's time than discussing the origins of a college football team's mascot.

Joe Scarborough touts common sense, opening each show with the phrase: “Welcome to Scarborough Country; no passport required, only common-sense allowed.” I have to ask, where’s the common sense in pouring over the minutia and incessantly injecting nothing but speculation, guess work and opinion about a few crimes that are in the process of making their way through the criminal justice system? Talk about trial by media, most of Joe’s coverage is presented with an implicit and sometimes explicit assumption about the suspect’s guilt. The show continually displays a seemingly maniacal photo of the adolescent accused of the crime in the Vitale case, coupled with headlines like: “Goth kid killer”. Sometimes the headline includes a question mark, such as "Goth Killer?", as if that is their token attempted to maintain a presumption of innocense, which is a complete joke.

As I’ve stated before, almost all measures of violent crime are down. A show with such a singular focus on a few individual criminal cases should be relegated to court TV, but instead these topics not only dominate this program but also are frequently featured in as much, if not more, detail on MSNBC’s other programs (not to mention other cable news networks). But I only take notes for the topics of “Scarborough Country”, and the results for the week beginning Oct. 17th are show in the pie chart and table below. Click on the pie chart image to enlarge.

Topic - week starting 10/17/05MTWThFTotal min.
Supreme Court0
00
0
00
Iraq War000000
Katrina/FEMA4
0
0
0
5
9
CIA Leak/Plamegate
00
0000
Avian Bird flu
04
00
04
missing person (Holloway, Behl, Wilson, Peterson, "Shocking baby Horror")2730
2523
20
125
Hurricane Wilma
1
2
12
11
6
32
Crimson Tide Football
00
0
0
11
11
Miscellaneous (Neo-nazi riot, global warming, CA car rescue, racy TV shows) 3
4
1
6
0
14
NFL Viking's wild party
6
0
0
0
0
6
Total minutes414038
4042
201


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