Bush's chickens come home to roost:poll

Latest poll reported in Washington Post Oct 30 shows Bush administration is plummeting in public opinion. A combination of events are dereailing Bush's second term. Bush's chickens are coming home to roost. The indictment of Cheney's Chief of staff is just the tip of the iceberg. Combined with the Iraq debacle and the inept handling of Hurricane Katrina, the ethical issue is now posing major problems for Bush and his cronies.

A majority of Americans say the indictment of senior White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby signals broader ethical problems in the Bush administration, and nearly half say the overall level of honesty and ethics in the federal government has fallen since President Bush took office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

The poll, conducted Friday night and yesterday, found that 55 percent of the public believes the Libby case indicates wider problems "with ethical wrongdoing" in the White House, while 41 percent believes it was an "isolated incident." And by a 3 to 1 ratio, 46 percent to 15 percent, Americans say the level of honesty and ethics in the government has declined rather than risen under Bush.

In the aftermath of the latest crisis to confront the White House, Bush's overall job approval rating has fallen to 39 percent, the lowest of his presidency in Post-ABC polls. Barely a third of Americans -- 34 percent -- think Bush is doing a good job ensuring high ethics in government, which is slightly lower than President Bill Clinton's standing on this issue when he left office.

Taken together, the findings represent a serious blow to a White House already reeling from the politically damaging effects of the slow government response to Hurricane Katrina, the continuing bloodshed in Iraq, the ongoing criticism of its since-repudiated claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and the bungled nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.


You heard it here first/Miers withdraws as I predicted

See my October 25 post, Bush prepares exit strategy. Lo and behold, today it has unfolded exactly as predicted.

Bush's Supreme Court nominee withdraws name Thursday, October 27, 2005
Associated Press

Washington — Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of stiff opposition and mounting criticism about her qualifications.

U.S. President George W. Bush said he reluctantly accepted her decision to withdraw, after weeks of insisting that he did not want her to step down.

He blamed the Senate for her withdrawal, citing calls there for the release of internal White House documents that the administration has insisted were protected by executive privilege.

“It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House – disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel,” Mr. Bush said. “Harriet Miers's decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers – and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.”

Ms. Miers' surprise withdrawal stunned Washington on a day when the capital was awaiting news on another front – the possible indictment of senior White House aides in the CIA leak case.

Ms. Miers notified Bush of her decision at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a senior White House official who said the President will move quickly to find a new nominee.

In her letter dated Thursday, Ms. Miers said she was concerned that the confirmation process “would create a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country.”

She noted that members of the Senate had indicated their intention to seek documents about her service in the White House in order to judge whether to support her nomination to the Supreme Court.

“I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy,” she wrote.

“While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue.”


BitTorrent ruling puts downloaders at risk, says expert

HONG KONG: BitTorrent ruling puts downloaders at risk, says expert
University of Hong Kong professor says conviction of movie uploader could lead to criminal liability for downloaders as well; downloaders say they will continue using BitTorrent

South China Morning Post
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

By Ravina Shamdasani and Stuart Biggs

The world's first criminal conviction of a BitTorrent user may have opened the doors to making even downloaders of files through the technology criminally liable, an expert in computer science and law has warned.

The warning came as Chan Nai-ming, who used the alias "Big Crook", was convicted by Tuen Mun magistrate Colin Mackintosh yesterday of three charges of attempting to distribute three Hollywood films -- Daredevil, Miss Congeniality and Red Planet -- using BitTorrent file-sharing technology.

Sentencing was adjourned to November 7 and Chan released on bail, but the magistrate did not rule out imprisonment - the offence carries a maximum four-year jail term -- despite the defence lawyer's calls for a non-custodial sentence such as a community service order.

Mr Mackintosh rejected defence lawyer Paul Francis' argument that Chan only "made available" copies of the films and could not be accused of distribution.

"The defendant loaded the files into his computer, he created the .torrent files, created the images of the inlay cards and imprinted them with his logo, the statuette; he published the existence of the .torrent files, and the names of the films in question, on the newsgroup," the magistrate said. "He said in effect, 'Come here to get this film if you want it'. His acts were an essential part of the downloading process and ... amounted to distribution."

But Kevin Pun Kwok-hung, associate professor of computer science and law at the University of Hong Kong, pointed out that BT technology works with the downloaders also automatically becoming uploaders, and questioned the wisdom of launching criminal prosecutions against users of such technology instead of leaving it to businesses to take civil action. "If you say by placing something on the internet, you are committing a crime, you are saying all BT downloaders are criminals because their computers are downloading and uploading," he said.

"The key issue is whether placing something on the internet amounts to distribution, but I personally don't find the legal argument convincing -- it amounts to authorisation but not distribution."

Connie Carnabuci, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and head of its Asia intellectual property and information technology practice, said the ruling did not extend criminal liability to individual downloaders, but focused on "the attempt to distribute copies of copyrighted material".

"I think it's a fantastic ruling, especially for the copyright owners in Hong Kong," she said. "That an individual could go to prison may provide a policy platform for the police to educate people that this kind of activity is theft."

Net conviction fails to faze freeloaders
By Vivienne Chow

BitTorrent users vowed to continue downloading from the internet, saying yesterday's conviction of user Chan Nai-ming by Tuen Mun Court only meant the uploading the initial "seed" file for internet transfers had been criminalised.

"The case will stop people putting up a seed on BT websites, but not those who download the files," said a 20-year-old BT user. "Plus, only one person was convicted, not a huge number of people arrested."

A 24-year-old user who downloads anime with BT, said: "For sure I will continue, as I am not a frequent user and I just download files but do not upload or share any seed files. I don't believe the copyright owners have the technique or resources to sue us."

BitTorrent works by allowing a download from multiple sources, each supplying a small part of the whole. When anyone downloads a BitTorrent file, it becomes a source for other downloaders.

The creative industry welcomed the court's verdict on the world's first prosecution of a BitTorrent user, but said the decision, on its own, would not stop people downloading copyrighted content files via the internet.

Woody Tsung Wan-chi, chief executive of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Motion Picture Industry Association, said: "This is a small victory because it addressed only part of the problem, which is uploading a 'seed'. The most effective measure would be to review the law."

He said that after Chan's arrest in January, the number of locally posted seeds dropped by 95 per cent.

Sam Ho Wai-hung, the Motion Picture Association -- International's director of operations for China, said that if the case was seen by the world as a precedent, fewer seeds would be uploaded.

"If the world is taking action at the same time, the number of illegal file-sharing activities will decline a lot," he said.

Ricky Fung, chief executive officer of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (Hong Kong), said the case helped clarify the law and had boosted the organisation's confidence about filing civil cases against unauthorised downloaders.

The comics industry said internet service providers should help prevent illegal file-sharing.

York Mok, chairman of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association, said ISPs would continue co-operating with court orders instructing them to disclose customer information.

Date Posted: 10/25/2005


Bush prepares exit strategy on Miers nomination

Bush is refusing to release papers containing Harriet Miers' advice to him in her white House adviser role. He refused on Monday to turn over documents requested by Republicans and Democrats related to Harriet E. Miers's work in the White House, setting up a potential confrontation with the Senate Judiciary Committee over her confirmation to the Supreme Court.He is thereby laying the groundwork for the withdrawal of Miers' nomination because yielding the papers would breach executive privilege. The Senate Committee will persist in asking for the papers. The only way out of the impasse will be to withdraw the Miers nomination as a matter of "principle" rather than because of her obvious lack of competence for the position.

"It's a red line I'm not willing to cross," Mr. Bush told reporters after a cabinet meeting, referring to the presidential right of executive privilege. "People can learn about Harriet Miers through hearings. But we are not going to destroy this business about people being able to walk into the Oval Office and say: 'Mr. President, here's my advice to you. Here's what I think is important.' "

In his remarks, Mr. Bush said turning over Ms. Miers's White House documents would undermine the ability of presidents to receive confidential, unfettered advice from White House officials who might be constrained by the knowledge that such advice could be made public.

Giving in to the requests, he said, "would make it impossible for me and other presidents to be able to make sound decisions."

U.S. word on trade 'good as gold,' Rice says

What planet is Condoleezza Rice living on? She says the U.S. word on trade is as "good as gold". If that's the case why aren't they repaying those softwood lumber duties the NAFTA panels ruled they were collecting unjustifiably. Wake up Condi, accept reality. Otherwise the Martin Liberals should hold a referendum on withdrawing from NAFTA and take back the energy card.


Poll reveals Iraqis support suicide attacks against British troops

According to the British Sunday Telegraph, a secret Ministry of Defence poll revealed that Iraqis support attacks on British troops. Apparently millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified.

The poll indicated that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.

The Sunday Telegraph disclosed last month that a plan for an early withdrawal of British troops had been shelved because of the failing security situation, sparking claims that Iraq was rapidly becoming "Britain's own Vietnam".

The survey was conducted by an Iraqi university research team that, for security reasons, was not told the data it compiled would be used by coalition forces. It reveals:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

The opinion poll, carried out in August, also debunks claims by both the US and British governments that the general well-being of the average Iraqi is improving in post-Saddam Iraq.


Samy was not alone

Chris Pirillo has an interesting post on Lockergnome:

Ever stir up a hornet's nest? It's not very pretty. Lucky for me, I was with friends when the whole thing started on Sunday morning - even though I didn't know it at the time. I posted something titled Google: Kill Blogspot Already!!! I figured this would get everybody's attention - and it did:

In the past few days, I've been inundated with an enormous amount of subscribed search spam for designated keywords. To the tune of hundreds, if not THOUSANDS, of bunk entries. Who knew "lockergnome" and "pirillo" would be THAT popular?! Still, I can't help but think that others are having the same headaches - and 99% of the crap coming in is directly from a single domain: blogspot.com.
I followed that post up with a quick (and very dirty) Screencast of the Blogspot Splog Epidemic. Few people saw it, however, and chose instead to respond and link to the original comments that I, and other digerati, decided to post out of desperation (almost simultaneously):

Get Your Blogspot S--t Together Google
F the spam bloggers
When it rains, it pours
Scripting News
splog splogs blog spam google blogger blogspot blogosphere captcha

After the blogosphere was abuzz with interest (and several dozen linkbacks later), I received official word from a Google representative. I typcially don't spend so much time talking about spam, blogs, blog spam, or Google - but this was a major exception to the "rule." The links were flying, and most users were in agreement with our side of the issue. Soon, I caught wind of a post by one of the originators of the Blogspot service (and, might I remind everybody, a speaker at Gnomedex 2). I chose to respond to his note in a public fashion, via Splogspot in the Splogosphere:

This thread has been a long-time coming, and Google had every ability to stop the problem before last night. "Apparently?" No, the correct word in this situation is "blatantly." "Apparently" would have been the appropriate word to use if the first Blogspot spam started to show up last night.
Today, Google officially posted something about this weekend's surge on their own Blogger-hosted blog. Instead of ending the conversation there, I offered ten solid suggestions for where they can go from here. Doubtful that any one of them will be adopted, but at least I complain with solutions in hand:

1. Employ a blog spammer. Beat them s--tless once they've been hired (hazing spammers isn't illegal), but then employ them to help you figure out what all those a--hats are doing. After they've told you the secrets, beat them s--tless again.
So, what'd YOU do yesterday?!

U.S. Congress gives gun industry protection against lawsuits

Richard North Patterson's novel Balance of Power describes the power and machinations of the gun industry as represented by the NRA. In his novel the forces of good, represented by President Kerry Kilcannon, prevail ultimately over the lies, deceit and chicanery of the gun industry.

Today the U.S. Congress in real life passed a bill that will protect the gun industry from lawsuits brought by victims of crime involving firearms.It represents a triumph of the gun lobby over reason.Another reason not to live in the USA!


Taking out the trash in New Orleans

New Orleans garbage will fill at least 3.5 million truckloads

We'd hate to be the ones tasked with separating out the recycling: Cleaning up New Orleans will involve hauling 22 million tons of garbage and waste that have been moldering in the heat and damp since late August's Hurricane Katrina, including rotting food, ruined furniture, carpeting, metals, chemicals, and more. It's the largest, most complicated cleanup in U.S. history, involving enough refuse to fill the Empire State Building 40 times over -- and that doesn't even include an estimated 300,000 flood-ruined cars, over 1 million major appliances, or the many homes that will likely need to be demolished. Cleanup time estimates vary wildly, with the Army Corps of Engineers suggesting seven months and state environmental officials contemplating up to two years. Automotive advocacy groups and insurers are warning buyers to beware of used cars coming out of the region; they may be bacteria-laden biohazards that have had their titles scrubbed.

For details , see



It's not just Alberta's oil

It's not just Alberta's oil (Post)/a good letter from the National Post

Re: Martin Dismisses Criticism From Klein That Oil Is Alberta's To Sell, Oct. 12.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is only partly correct in claiming provincial proprietary interest in natural resources, including oil and gas. The provinces do have jurisdiction over the sale and regulation of privately held natural resources within each province. This is based on the legislative power to regulate transactions and the proprietary interest of the Crown in right of the province. But this does not make oil the province's to sell on international markets without regard for the larger national interest, nor does it justify intemperate, divisive, remarks of the kind made by Mr. Klein.

In fact, constitutional responsibilities for international and interprovincial trade and movement of goods, including natural resources such as oil and gas, fall within Ottawa's jurisdiction. In this respect, provincial authority is subject to legislation by the federal Parliament.

One highly valuable purpose of these constitutional arrangements is the protection of Canadians against interprovincial "divide and rule" tactics used by those hungry for our resources, who might pit, say, B.C.'s interest in softwood lumber against Alberta's in oil -- or, for that matter, the provinces' proprietary interests against the larger national interest and the interest of all the provinces collectively. At the end of the day, we are one nation.

It is important that neither the Prime Minister nor the Premier should pit Canadian against Canadian on this or on similar files. To do so would do the work of those would "divide and rule" in their own interests, and we would also lose the power of standing as one.

Brian D. Marlatt, White Rock, B.C.

NDP proposals make sense

The NDP is calling on the Liberals to reform system.The NDP's Ed Broadbent is calling on the Liberals to clean up government and he's even offering to show them how to do it.

The seven-point NDP package proposes:

-MPs should not be permitted to change parties without resigning and running in a byelection.

-Election dates should be fixed and held every four years.

-Reforming the electoral process by combining proportional representation with the current first-past-the-post system.

-There should be spending limits and transparency conditions on leadership contests within political parties.

-Tougher laws to end unregulated lobbying and political cronyism.

-A fair process for government appointments to end unfair and unethical patronage practices.

-Better access-to-information legislation to make government more transparent.

These proposals make a lot of sense to me. Any chance that Paul Martin will act on them? Not a chance. Martin talks the talk but is not very good at walking the walk.


Ink and Paper or 1s and 0s?

Frank Aherns has an interesting article in the WaPo discussing how Nervous, Newspapers Look to Technology for Alternate Ways to Put the News in Your Hands.Washington Post

What do you think? Here's an excerpt:

Would you be reading this story if it were displayed on a 2-by-2-inch screen on your BlackBerry?

How about if it were electronically printed on a video scroll that spooled a few inches out of the side of your cell phone? Could you tell what was in the tiny picture?

Would you read this story if it were electronically printed on a paper-thin video screen the size of a tabloid newspaper, or maybe something bigger, like The Washington Post, and resembling a vinyl placemat, like the image you see under these words? What if this new electronic paper could be folded under your arm like your dad's sports section or rolled up inside your yoga mat?

As newspapers fight declining circulation and face rising newsprint costs -- and their corporate owners demand wider profit margins -- editors, publishers, reporters and technologists have worked over the past few years to devise new, paperless ways to deliver the news.

But the change stretches beyond the physical delivery system. Reread the preceding paragraph. The tone is formal and authoritative. It is aloof and addresses no one in particular, as in a textbook or a lecture. It is newspapery.

The two paragraphs above it are chatty and inquisitive, provocative rather than definitive. They call attention to themselves and speak directly to you. Their tone is usually not considered appropriate in a newspaper, and certainly not atop a news story. Their tone is more at home on the Internet, with blogs and discussion groups and webzines

Harriet Miers has become laughing matter

Harriet Miers has become the butt of jokes as her personal and professional writings have become public. A choice example of why everyone is laughing is this one from the Washington Post.

One example, from a May 1996 letter asking George and Laura Bush to appear at a ceremony honoring her, displayed both an obsequious tone and a tortuous prose style. "I am respectful of both of your great many time commitments and I realize you receive many, many requests," she wrote. "Of course, I would be very pleased if either of you is able to participate. However, I will be pleased with your judgment about whether participating in this event fits your schedule whatever your decision. . . . I feel honored even to be able to extend this invitation to such extraordinary people."

This was among the Bush gubernatorial correspondence released this week by the Texas State Library, and posted on Web sites, including the Smoking Gun. Miers was Bush's personal lawyer and lottery commission chairman when he was Texas governor and later became his White House counsel. Her letters have provided recent fodder for sarcasm for writers such as Gerard Baker in the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard. "Miers has delivered some thundering dictums in her various legal and paralegal roles," Baker wrote in a column first published in the Times of London. He cited a 1997 handwritten card that mentioned Bush's daughters: "Hopefully Jenna and Barbara recognize that their parents are 'cool' -- as do the rest of us. . . . All I hear is how great you and Laura are doing. . . . Keep up all the great work. Texas is blessed!"

From the White House vantage point, such commentary is hardly a laughing matter. In part because she does not have a long record of serious constitutional writings -- in contrast to recently confirmed chief justice John G. Roberts Jr. -- Miers may be at particular risk of being turned into a judicial equivalent of Vice President Dan Quayle. Until his stumbling national debut, Quayle had been regarded as a bright senator from Indiana, but he never fully recovered from the initial blast of mockery.


Tsunami relief effort 'chaotic' /Red Cross

The Red Cross has criticised aid agencies for failing to co-ordinate their response to the tsunami disaster. Rivalries between hundreds of groups led to a duplication and in some places a delay in aid reaching those affected, the Red Cross said in a report. It also said that tens of thousands of people who died would have survived if they were given quicker warnings. The annual Red Cross survey also said the response to the well-predicted famine in Niger was insufficient.

This is worth bearing in mind as the requests for aid for victims of the Southeast Asia Earthquake multiply.

Some 250,000 people died in disasters in 2004, 225,000 in the tsunami.

Disasters including floods, famine and hurricanes affected about 146 million people worldwide, according to the annual World Disasters Report by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The majority of those, about 110 million, were affected by severe flooding in India, Bangladesh and China.

The devastating death toll in the Asian tsunami skewed the official casualty figures, pushing the 2004 total way past the recent average of 67,000.


The international director of the British Red Cross told the BBC that 300 to 500 charities had arrived in Sri Lanka following the disaster, some of which had little or no experience.

"It is simply very complex and chaotic when a disaster like this strikes," Matthias Schmale said.

Correspondents say the scale of aid raised was partly to blame for a lack of co-ordination between agencies.

Mr Schmale said the UK agencies involved were established groups, like Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross.

"In remote places... and in some cases, new charities were set up which simply showed up on the scene and tried to help," he said.

Poor warnings

The report also said that scientists monitoring the Indian Ocean detected the giant earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, but had no way to alert people.

"Early warning is the most obvious way in which accurate, timely information alone can save lives," the organisation's Secretary General, Markku Niskala, wrote in the introduction to the report.
The report contrasted the lack of co-ordinated information about the impending tsunami disaster with the efficient warning systems in place when four strong hurricanes swept through the Caribbean during 2004.

A string of countries in the region issued evacuation orders and advised citizens on how to ride out hurricanes, minimising death tolls.

The report also focused on Niger, where warnings over poor harvests were not heeded by the international community.

"There were enough early warning signs to say that the situation could be quite severe in 2005," said Hisham Kigali, head of disaster response for the Red Cross.

"What as a humanitarian community we didn't do well enough is give out enough repeated messages saying that, particularly to donors."

Story from BBC NEWS:


How the Republicans Let It Slip Away

David Ignatius, in an excellent column in the Washington Post, describes how the Republicans have let it slip away:

Watching the Republicans floundering over the past week, I can't help thinking of a school of beached whales. The leviathans of the GOP have boldly swum themselves onto this patch of dry sand, and it won't be easy for them to get back to open ocean.

The Republicans come to their present troubles from different directions: President Bush thought he was making a safe, pragmatic choice in nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, but this soulless maneuver enraged the party's right wing and set it on a fratricidal binge. Tom DeLay thought he was ramrodding a permanent Republican government, but he managed to get himself indicted and, well before that calamity, had angered House Republicans who concluded that "The Hammer's" leadership style was marching them off a cliff. Looming over all these little problems is the crucible of Iraq.

What's interesting is that most of these wounds are self-inflicted. They draw a picture of a party that, for all its seeming dominance, isn't prepared to be the nation's governing party. The hard right, which is the soul of the modern GOP, would rather be ideologically pure than successful. Governing requires making compromises and getting your hands dirty, but the conservative purists disdain those qualities. They swim for that beach with a fiercely misguided determination, and they demand that the other whales accompany them.

The bickering over the Miers nomination epitomizes the right's refusal to assume the role of a majoritarian governing party. The awkward fact for conservatives is that the American public doesn't agree with them on abortion rights. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll in late August found 54 percent describing themselves as pro-choice and only 38 percent as pro-life, roughly the same percentages as a decade ago.

That's the political reality that Bush has been trying to finesse with his nominations of John Roberts and Miers. That's why he said in the 2000 primary campaign that he wouldn't impose any litmus test (when other Republicans were demanding one) and would instead focus on a nominee's character and judicial philosophy. The realist in Bush understands that he can't easily force a nominee who is openly antiabortion on a country where a solid majority disagrees.

Bush has been successful when he has connected with the American center. Political scientist Gary C. Jacobson notes that after Sept. 11, 2001, Bush "enjoyed the longest stretch of approval ratings above 60 percent of any president in 40 years." In that post-Sept. 11 period, when Bush was fulfilling his campaign promise to be "a uniter, not a divider," his approval rating among Democrats soared to an astounding 81 percent.

Bush and the Republicans had a chance after 2004 to become the country's natural governing party. They controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. The Democrats were in utter disarray, leaderless and idea-less. When Bush took the podium in January to deliver his soaring second inaugural address, the future seemed to belong to the Republicans.

Bush squandered this opportunity by falling into the trap that has snared the modern GOP -- of playing to the base rather than to the nation. The Republicans behave as if the country agrees with them on issues, when that demonstrably isn't so. The country doesn't agree about Social Security, doesn't agree about the ethical issues that were dramatized by the torment of Terri Schiavo, doesn't agree about abortion. Yet, in a spirit of blind partisanship, House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced last year that bills would reach the floor only if "the majority of the majority" supported them. That notion of governing from the hard right was a recipe for failure.

What you sense now, as conservative and moderate Republicans alike take potshots at their president, is that the GOP is entering the post-Bush era. A war of succession has begun, cloaked in a war of principles. The cruelest aspect of Bush's predicament is that the conservatives are treating him with the same disdain they showed his father. What a denouement to the West Wing Oedipal drama: A son who did everything he could to avoid his father's humiliation by the conservative wing of the party is now under attack by the right himself.

Principles are a fine thing, but a narrow, partisan definition of principle has led the Republicans to a dead end. Their inability to transcend their base and speak to the country as a whole is now painfully obvious. Like the Democrats in their years of decline, they are screaming at each other -- not realizing how far they have drifted from the mid-channel markers that have always led to open waters and defined success in American politics.


Has Stephane Dion lost his marbles?

CLIFFORD KRAUSS has an excellent article in the New York Times about the development of the oil sands in Alberta. He points out that, because the oil sands region is so remote, the environmental damage caused by the development receives little attention from the Canadian news media or public comment from Prime Minister Paul Martin's government. But industry leaders acknowledge that they face an enormous challenge because refining oil sands is several times more energy intensive than conventional oil production. In addition, the process is a major source of heat-trapping gases and far more destructive to the landscape than traditional drilling.
But Canada's Environment Minister, Stephane Dion,said in an interview "There is no environmental minister on earth who can stop the oil from coming out of the sand, because the money is too big,But we have to be very strict on environmental impact." If our Environment Minister has already given up the battle, then what hope is there to prevent the destruction of our environment just to feed the developed world's insatiable appetite for fossil fuels?

The NYT reports:

But environmentalists have a list of warnings, starting with the energy costs of extracting the oil.

"What bugs me about oil sands is that it is a resource that is being inefficiently used," said Marlo Raynolds, executive director of the Pembina Institute, an environmental research group based in Calgary. "We're using natural gas, which is the cleanest fossil fuel, to wash sand and make a dirtier fuel. It's like using caviar to make fake crabmeat."

The environmentalists also warn that the growing oil sands industry threatens to tear up a huge stretch of Canada's boreal forest, which is a nursery for hundreds of bird species and where bogs filter water and store carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. They say the enormous volume of water the industry needs threatens fish in the Athabasca River, the principal water source. They predict that increases in emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide will increase levels of acid rain and destroy lake fish across northern Canada.

They also say that Canada, already behind in its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, will not be able to reach its Kyoto targets if production of oil sands keeps rising at the current rate.

Few Canadians seem to be complaining. This year, every Albertan - even children - is receiving a $400 check in the mail from the provincial government, whose budget surplus has exploded from oil revenue. While Fort McMurray is among the fastest-growing cities in Canada, real estate prices are climbing across the province.

The few protesters tend to be local Indians, although many of the local bands are getting into the oil sands business or supplying projects with services.

"There are no moose, no rabbits, no squirrels anymore," complained Howard Lacorde, 59, a Cree trapper whose trapline has been interrupted by a new oil sands project developed by Canadian Natural Resources. "The land is dead," he added, shaking in anger, as he walked through a construction site that was once his trapline.

Suncor, the EnCana Corporation and Shell Canada Ltd. are talking about setting up a cooperative effort to capture, transport and sell carbon dioxide that otherwise would be released into the air from oil sands production. Total S.A. is considering building a nuclear power plant here to extract the oil sands without having to use increasingly expensive natural gas and reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases, which many scientists associate with global warming.

The companies say they are committed to restoring the lands they drill and mine to a state as close to natural as possible, and they note that advanced technologies are decreasing the amounts of gas released per barrel of oil they produce.

So far they have reclaimed 13,000 acres of forest and wetlands, about 15 percent of the land disturbed. But the provincial government has approved oil-sand work on more than 230,000 additional acres over the next 60 years, and applications for new projects are proliferating.

Suncor, the earliest major operator and still one of the biggest, has made a public commitment to environmental responsibility. It has planted 3.1 million trees, taking cuttings from shrubs and native vegetation. The company says it is recycling 90 percent of the water it uses, and it boasts that one species of toad considered at risk is thriving in its reclaimed ponds.

On a new production site using steam injection to liquefy rather than mine the raw material of oil sands and raise it to the surface, Suncor will reuse water from the mining operation instead of using fresh river water.

"With concerted effort and the technology in play, we will be taking on the environmental challenge aggressively," Mr. Lambert of Suncor said. But he conceded that "the economic growth we are experiencing means a rising greenhouse gas production profile."

The only thing likely to slow production is a sustained decline in oil prices, something few energy specialists predict.


Liberals falter in the polls

After recent polls showing the Liberals verging on numbers that could generate majority status, they've received a cold shower in two more recent polls that show them faltering, back in minority territory. It seems that Canadians are refocusing on politics after the long summer. They're mad about rising gas prices and the costs of heating their homes this winter. The Dingwall escapade has not done the Liberals any good.Indeed, John McCallum's feeble attempts to rationalize a big severance payout to Dingwall have revived memories of the testimony before the Gomery Commission last spring. If Judge Gomery delivers a pithy first report, it may yet puncture the Liberal balloon which seemed to be floating high this summer.

Here are the poll results as reported by Canadian Press:

Despite failing to gain any ground in crucial Ontario ridings, Stephen Harper's Conservatives saw their national popular support inch to within six percentage points of the Liberals in late September, according to the Pollara Research survey, made available to The Canadian Press.

"The issues of spending, the various machinations of the Liberals over the past couple of weeks have not been positive (for Prime Minister Paul Martin)," said Pollara president Michael Marzolini.

The polling company's surveys during the summer had indicated the Liberals led the Tories by a 10- to 12-percentage-point gap.

However, Martin's government has been hammered recently by controversy over former Royal Canadian Mint president David Dingwall, who quit amid allegations of overspending and improper lobbying.

Voter anger over skyrocketing prices for gasoline and home heating fuel may also have been a factor in the new poll results, Marzolini suggested.

"We've got a lot more attention being paid to politics after Labour Day than we did during the summer," he said.

"And (Harper) is being given more fuel by Liberal problems."

A six percentage point gap indicates that, if voters went to the polls today, Canadians would elect another minority government.

"So it appears that the last few weeks have placed the country back into a minority government expectation," said Marzolini.

The Pollara survey, conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, asked 2,363 participants: "If a federal election were held today, which party would you most likely vote for?"

Among decided voters, 36 per cent said they would vote Liberal while 30 per cent liked the Conservatives. Another 19 per cent said they would support the NDP, while 11 per cent favoured the Bloc Quebecois. Sixteen per cent were undecided.

Martin dismissed suggestions that his party was slipping, insisting Friday that the Liberals have consistently maintained the lead in a number of surveys.

"The polls are the polls," Martin said in Montreal.

"In fact, what they demonstrate is that we continue to enjoy the confidence of Canadians."

"And I would expect that if we govern well, we will continue to have their confidence right across the country."

In Ontario, the Liberals remained well ahead of the pack, at 42 per cent decided support. The Conservatives were at 32 per cent.

"The numbers in Ontario have not changed (from previous polls)," said Marzolini.

"There's still a 10-point gap between Martin and Harper in both Toronto and also outside of Toronto in the rural areas."

However, the Liberals continued to trail badly in Quebec, where Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Quebecois maintained a commanding lead nearing 50 per cent, with the Grits well below 30 per cent.

"The real question here is British Columbia," said Marzolini, predicting that, if a federal election were held today, B.C. could for the first time determine who becomes prime minister.

"It really is going to be a huge battleground."

The survey suggested a near three-way split in decided support in B.C., with 35 per cent for the Liberals, 33 for the Conservatives and 27 for the NDP.

The poll results are considered accurate to with two percentage points 19 times out of 20.

A Decima poll in mid-September showed the Liberals leading the Tories by seven points (36 per cent to 29) and by 10 points in Ontario (43 per cent to 33). At that time, the NDP was at 17 per cent nationally.

New study indicates Canadians and Americans have similar personalities

It is accepted wisdom that Candians are much less aggressive and obnoxious than most Americans. I have frequently encountered statements to this effect during my extensive international travels. A recent personality survey indicates that Canadians are not much different from Americans personality-wise.The conventional view is that Americans are brash, arrogant and aggressive. Canadians, on the other hand, are polite, modest and somewhat introverted.

Of course the national sterotypes are not confined to Canadians and Americans. This is illustrated by a story about the difference between heaven and hell.Heaven, the joke goes, is a place where the police are English, the mechanics German and cooks French. Hell is where the police are German, the mechanics French and the cooks English

A recent study of national personalities suggests that these sterotypes don't hold water. I remain unconvinced and will report back after looking into the study methodology. Meanwhile here's the spin on the story as reported by Canadian Press.

"These stereotypes are as Canadians see themselves and Americans as they see themselves," said Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, a principal investigator of the study on national personalities around the world.

"Canadians think they're extremely agreeable; the Americans think they're very disagreeable," he said. "Canadians believe that they're very calm and not irritable, very even-tempered, whereas Americans think they're more anxious and hostile.

"The fact is Canadians and Americans have almost identical average personality traits."

In a measure of five main areas of personality, covering a total of 30 traits, Canadians and their U.S. cousins fell roughly in the middle. Not only that, but they weren't all that different from other cultures around the globe, researchers found.

The study, published in the latest issue of Science, collected data through personality questionnaires given to thousands of people living in 49 countries.

Over and over, stereotypes about different nationalities emerged, but all were left wanting.

"These are very interesting sociological phenomena," McCrae said. "They get made into myths and they turn up in literature and in songs and in jokes and kind of have a life of their own."

Take the Brits, for example, whose national character is typically viewed as reserved and stalwart.

"The English showed the worst agreement in the entire set between the stereotype and the measured personality," said McCrae. "The stereotype of the English is that they're very reserved, whereas as in fact English are extroverts.

"And English think that they're relatively conventional and closed, but compared to most people in the world, they're pretty open to experience."

Germany was one example in which at least part of the stereotype matched reality, he said. "Germans think that they're conscientious and industrious and they measured out as conscientious and industrious."

Argentines believe they're a nation of disagreeable folk, and that reputation is pervasive throughout Latin America. But Argentines scored as average on the agreeableness scale.

McCrae noted that one Canadian researcher, upon seeing the results, said: " `Well, the Canadians are not going to like this story, because they really want to believe that they are much nicer than Americans.'

"I think that shows that at least one of the functions that stereotypes serve is to assert a national identity. We want to distinguish ourselves from Americans, so we'll invent some kind of difference and exaggerate it, and in this case it has to do with things like agreeableness," he said of the so-called Canadian identity.

Paul Trapnell, a professor of psychology at the University of Winnipeg, agreed that claiming particular national character traits can support certain motives: differentiating a population from other cultures and building its self-esteem.

"So we'll try to see ourselves as different from Americans and the differences we'll latch onto are the differences that also serve our desire to think good about ourselves," said Trapnell, one of three Canadian researchers who contributed data to the study.

What he found interesting was how homogenous the notion of the "typical Canuck" was across the country.

"The views that persons in Vancouver have about Canadians are very similar to the views that Nova Scotians have about Canadians," Trapnell said. "So we do possess a somewhat loosely organized but shared perception of what our national character is like, even though that shared perception doesn't turn out to be a real one."

What another country does on the world stage or on home soil may also contribute to national stereotypes, suggested psychologist Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia, who also took part in the study.

"Canadians confuse typical Americans with their country's foreign policy, which seems belligerent," Paulhus said by e-mail. "Or Canadians extrapolate the higher rate of crime in the U.S. to infer typical character."

Whatever the reasons, typecasting an entire people can be dangerous, the authors say, leading to prejudice, discrimination and persecution.

"Clearly it tells us that we need to be very cautious about making generalizations about groups of people, any kind of groups of people," McCrae said. "Because often those generalizations are unfounded.

"Instead, what we have to do is remind ourselves that we're dealing with individuals, and regardless of what their nationality or their age or their gender, we should look at their personality as it is in themselves."


Bush losing support

The Globe and Mail reports that evangelicals, Republican women, Southerners and other critical groups in President Bush's political coalition are worried about the direction the nation is headed and disappointed with his performance,according to an AP-Ipsos poll.That unease could be a troubling sign for a White House already struggling to keep the Republican Party base from slipping over Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, Gulf Coast spending projects, immigration and other issues.

Sentiment about the nation's direction has sunk to new depths at a time people are anxious about Iraq, the economy, gas prices and the management of billions of dollars being spent for recovery from the nation's worst natural disaster.

Only 28 per cent say the country is headed in the right direction while two-thirds, 66 per cent, say it is on the wrong track, the poll found.

Among those most likely to have lost confidence about the nation's direction over the past year are white evangelicals, down 30 percentage points since November, Republican women, down 28 points, Southerners, down 26 points, and suburban men, down 20 points.

Mr. Bush's supporters are uneasy about issues such as federal deficits, immigration and his latest nomination for the Supreme Court. Social conservatives are concerned about his choice of Miers, a relatively unknown lawyer who has most recently served as White House counsel.

The president's job approval is mired at the lowest level of his presidency — 39 per cent. While four of five Republicans say they approve of Mr. Bush's job performance —enthusiasm in that support has dipped over the last year.

In December 2004, soon after his re-election, almost two-thirds of Republicans strongly approved of the job done by Bush. The AP-Ipsos survey found that just half in his own party feel that way now.

The intensity of support for Mr. Bush's job performance has also dropped sharply among white evangelicals, Southerners, people from rural areas and suburban men.

Mr. Bush has tried to reassure conservatives about his Supreme Court nominee. He's also trying to counter critics of the war by tying U.S. efforts in Iraq to the larger war against terrorism. And he's made frequent trips to the areas devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita to offset criticism of the government's initial response to Katrina.

Of all the problems facing the country, the war in Iraq is the one that troubles some Mr. Bush supporters the most.


Why are Bush conservatives up in arms over Harriet Mier's nomination?

At first glance the nomination of Harriet Mier to fill vacant seat on the Supreme Court would seem to fulfill conservative's dream of tilting court further to the right. Her faith-based attachment to Bush and his agenda would seem to signal that Bush's views would be articulated on the court since Ms. Mier seems to share Bush's conservatism. Yet a growing chorus of conservatives are expressing worry about Harriet E. Miers's conservatism and legal credentials.

The Washington Post revealed that the conservative uprising against President Bush escalated yesterday as Republican activists angry over his nomination of White House counsel Harriet Mier to the Supreme Court confronted the president's envoys during a pair of tense closed-door meetings. What exactly has got the right-wing so upset? According to the Post:

A day after Bush publicly beseeched skeptical supporters to trust his judgment on Miers, a succession of prominent conservative leaders told his representatives that they did not. Over the course of several hours of sometimes testy exchanges, the dissenters complained that Miers was an unknown quantity with a thin résumé and that her selection -- Bush called her "the best person I could find" -- was a betrayal of years of struggle to move the court to the right.

The tenor of the two meetings suggested that Bush has yet to rally his own party behind Miers and underscores that he risks the biggest rupture with the Republican base of his presidency. While conservatives at times have assailed some Bush policy decisions, rarely have they been so openly distrustful of the president himself.

Leaders of such groups as Paul M. Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation and the Eagle Forum yesterday declared they could not support Miers at this point, while columnist George Will decried the choice as a diversity pick without any evidence that Miers has the expertise and intellectual firepower necessary for the high court.

The persistent criticism has put the White House on the defensive ever since Bush announced Monday his decision to nominate Miers to succeed the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor. While Miers has a long career as a commercial lawyer, Texas political figure and personal attorney to Bush before joining him at the White House, she has never been a judge or dealt extensively with the sorts of constitutional issues that occupy the Supreme Court.


Do Snow Birds going to Florida need to arm themselves?

Shoot First, ask Questions Later?

Florida's new Shoot First law exemplifies the power of the National Rifle Association which knows no shame in its pursuit of the right to bear arms anytime, anywhere for any purpose.For a good discussion of the gun control issue in the U.S., read Richard North Patterson's Balance of Power

Florida's "stand your ground" law, which took effect Saturday, means that people no longer must attempt to retreat or defuse a threatening situation before using violence in order to later claim they were acting in self-defence. People already had that right in their homes, but the law now allows them to meet "force with force" in any place they have a legal right to be.

The right does not apply if the person is confronted by a law-enforcement officer.

Proponents of the measure, pushed by the National Rifle Association, say it will make Florida a safer place, not more dangerous.

Governor Jeb Bush has repeatedly pointed to a 34-year low in state crime statistics to demonstrate that Florida is not a haven for violence.

"It's pure, unadulterated politics," Mr. Bush said last week of the Brady Campaign's tactics. "Shame on them."

The Florida tourism industry, however, is taking the campaign seriously, with Visit Florida — the state's official tourism-marketing arm — issuing a statement calling Florida "a very safe and secure destination that excels in caring for its visitors."

"We believe that Americans and international visitors are smart enough to understand that the Brady Campaign is one group's political agenda and not a real safety issue," the statement said.

Florida greets more than one million visitors on any given day, with nearly 80 million tourists visiting the state in 2004, Visit Florida said.

The Brady Campaign leaflets, which the group intends to hand out for about a month at the Miami and Orlando airports, call the measure the "Shoot First" law and urge people to "take sensible precautions" while visiting the state.

"There is no other state in the nation — and no other civilized nation on Earth — that has a law like this," Brady Campaign spokesman Peter Hamm said. "It could cause the most aggressive people in society to overreact."

The group also has taken out ads in major Detroit, Chicago, Boston and London newspapers about the new Florida law.

Several people who got the leaflets at the Miami airport on Monday appeared taken aback by the new law.

"It's a little scary," said Melissa Vosberg, on her way home to the Chicago area after a cruise in the Bahamas. "It's 'shoot first, ask about it later."'


President Bush Sells Louisiana Back to the French

President Bush and a giddy Jacques Chirac shake hands on the deal.

BATON ROUGE, LA. - The White House announced today that President Bush has successfully sold the state of Louisiana back to the French at more than double its original selling price of $11,250,000.

"This is a bold step forward for America," said Bush. "And America will be stronger and better as a result. I stand here today in unity with French Prime Minister Jack Sharaq, who was so kind to accept my offer of Louisiana in exchange for 25 million dollars cash."

The state, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild.

"Jack understands full well that this one's a 'fixer upper,'" said Bush. "He and the French people are quite prepared to pump out all that water, and make Louisiana a decent place to live again. And they'! ve got a lot of work to do. But Jack's assured me, if it's not right, they're going to fix it."

The move has been met with incredulity from the beleaguered residents of Louisiana.

"Shuba-pie!" said New Orleans resident Willis Babineaux. "Frafer-perly yum kom drabby sham!"

However, President Bush's decision has been widely lauded by Republicans.

"This is an unexpected but brilliant move by the President," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. "Instead of spending billions and billions, and billions of dollars rebuilding the state of Louisiana, we've just made 25 million dollars in pure profit."

"This is indeed a smart move," commented Fox News analyst Brit Hume. "Not only have we stopped the flooding in our own budget, we've made money on the deal. Plus, when the god-awful French are done fixing it up, we can easily invade and take it back again."

The money gained from 'T'he Louisiana Refund' is expected to be immediately pumped into the rebuilding of Iraq.


Jeff, how can you stand the BS?

I just spent three days at an academic conference with interactive workshops and paper sessions plus plenaries. I've never heard more bullshit spouted in my life.
I have one toe in the academic world but I'm not sure I will venture further. All of the jaw flapping to no end could put you off your feed.


Bush can sure pick the nutcases

William Bennett,a secretary of education in the Reagan administration and drug czar in the first Bush administration, who has become an author and radio host, said in a broadcast this week that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Understandably he has come under fire from both Democrats and Republicans for his idiotic remarks.

Bush Jr has tried to distance himself from the controversy by stating that Bennett's comments "were not appropriate." Duh, you got that right George. But why did you pick this wingnut for your Cabinet. It cetainly says something about your judgement or lack theof.