Sunday, 29 July 2007

On The Upcoming Coup That's Not Actually Upcoming

A list of practical considerations why Bush and Cheney will not mount a coup before the next presidential election.

So that's alright then. We just have to get through the next two years. Can you keep your finger's crossed that long?

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

We should ask questions

Click the title to be referred to the originating page

If you cannot understand your cell phone bill, you are not alone. Follow the links to a page that will (hopefully) help you.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Starry Starry Night

Heathrow: The world's least favourite airport

I searched the article in vain for data to back up the headline. Nothing: no survey, no comparisons. Just a few self appointed experts complaining about overcrowding, which the opening of Terminal 5 next year will help.

Please do not misunderstand my point of view. I dislike Heathrow intensely. It's just the least worst of the options. Gatwick is south of London - much further to fight around the always congested M25 - and Air Canada does not fly to Stansted, which is closer to where I have been going recently.

And there is nothing in the article about Terminal 3, which is the one Air Canada uses. Which is, quite simply, dreadful. By the time I have got to the Piccadilly Line from the plane I feel like I have walked further than I have flown. (That by the way is pardonable exaggeration for effect). On the way out of Britain you are forced through a huge duty free store and then made to wait in a mall with no area to sit which is calm and peaceful. No doubt this is designed to make you consider paying for one of the airline's executive lounges. Like all malls it has a food court, with very limited choices, and horribly overfull bars. No natural light and no windows. And, by the way, Duty Free does not mean profit free. While it may seem to Brits that prices are lower than their high street stores, they are definitely not anything like the regular price less the taxes. And they are also not geared to international travel. For example you can only buy British standard DVDs - not ones you could take home and play (unless you are a technogeek who can get around the differences between incompatible tv systems).

One interesting little fact is that you can buy duty free on the way in to the country. You cannot do that in Canada. But be warned, for most things (for example a bottle of Blue Sapphire Gin) you would be better off buying it at your departure airport in Canada.

But undoubtedly the worst feature is the long line up to get through the totally inadequate security area. In fact, BAA themselves recognize the weakness of this arrangement as there is a special bypass route for those making connections - or (no doubt) having the right connections. That is why they tell you to get there so early. You will spend most of that time in a long, long line up, trying to get into the departure area.

The sub editor could be right. But the lack of data to back up the assertion does not add much to the Independent's credibility

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Canada's crime rate lowest in 25 years: StatsCan

Contrary to a common misconception about big cities, [University of Ottawa criminologist Ron] Melchers said, large urban areas such as Toronto are among the safest communities in the country.

"No one will believe that if you say that in a conversation with neighbours, but urban areas are generally very, very safe," he said.

No because most of the media prefers the right wing's argument that we should lock more people up rather than helping them. Nearly every right wing policy stance is based on prejudice, and any statistical evidence to the contrary will always be ignored. For example, lots of studies show that the safe injection site in Vancouver does what it was intended to do - reduces the death and sickness rates among drug users and increases the probability that they will seek treatment for their addiction. Yet the Vancouver Police and Stephen Harper know it should be shut down and not tried anywhere else.

The Province of BC and the Government of Canada have both been running huge surpluses for years. Yet there is no more money for children with learning disabilities. Over half the prison population is learning disabled. Yet we can only spend more money on more prisons, and more police officers, not effective ways to produce more successful citizens. Much better, says the right, to punish "bad people" then deal with the problems that prevent them from succeeding.

Right wing governments prefer that you be scared. That way you are easier to control. You are more likely to do as you are told and not question authority. For them, this is very much a bad news story. Expect it to be widely rubbished in the conventional media - especially the tabloids.

Ailing Ground Zero workers sue for access to health fund

If you have seen "Sicko" you know about these people. They are not City employees - or at least they were not on the payroll on 9/11, and the days afterwards. They were trained paramedics, volunteer firefighters, concerned citizens. They were people who wanted to help. They wanted to get the people out alive after the towers fell. Or at least try and recover some bodies when they realized that all hope was gone. They worked for days - weeks - in atrocious conditions.

As Michael Moore reported the City refused to help them after they got sick from working in all that dust. A fund was set up by "caring nation". A billion dollars were set aside. Only one claim has ever been paid but millions have been spent on lawsuits fighting claims. Moore stage managed some aid for a few of them from the Cubans.

Lawyers who filed the class-action lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of 10,000 workers said the company overseeing a $1 billion US insurance fund has so far only paid out $45,000 to a worker who fell off a ladder.

According to the suit filed in New York state's Supreme Court in Manhattan, the World Trade Center Captive Insurance Co. has "consistently refused to pay any of the Ground Zero workers who have become ill on the work site."

The suit alleges the company, charged by Congress with doling out money for treatment of people exposed to toxic dust at the site, has spent almost $74 million US on overhead and legal bills while fighting the workers' injury claims, violating a congressional mandate to pay those claims.

and the response?

A spokesman for WTC Captive Insurance Co. said the lawsuit ... is "completely without merit."

As Moore says in the movie "What have we become?"

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Edmonton Police Hummer

photo by "one42chrisp" on flickr: used with permission

Maybe it's something to do with being in the centre of the oil patch. It seems to me that the EPS is being particularly insensitive with its choice of recruiting vehicle. Of course, the cops have always used the idea of the excitement of the job and its macho equipment to bring in young men.

On the whole though I do not think those are the sort of people we want or need as police officers. There have been far too many stories lately about the new rookies going overboard - from the shooting dead of guy in a police station detained because he had an open can of beer in public, to the pepper spraying of a baby - and a first nations baby at that!

Most police forces now actively discourage hot pursuits. They are dangerous enough in themsleves, but the clincher for many forces was the number of questionable shootings that followed hot pursuits. The adrenaline rush of the high speed chase meant the officer was so "pumped up" that he literally cannot see or think straight. (source: "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" Malcolm Gladwell 2005)

The people who think that it is "neat" to drive a huge vehicle designed for armed combat in rough terrain through city streets are not my first choice for community policing, thank you very much. The most progressive and effective police mobility move made in recent years was putting them back on bikes - and I don't mean those big fat hogs either.

And, by the way, did you notice that they parked it in a space reserved for people with disabilities?

1.5m wrongly told they risk heart disease

Misdiagnosis has led to massive over-prescribing of drugs

The Guardian (UK)

The traditional way of calculating the risk from heart disease involves a score based on smoking, blood pressure and "good" and "bad" cholesterol, along with age and sex. The BMJ study compared this measure against a new, more sophisticated test, which also takes into account social deprivation, genetic factors and weight. It found that the former over-predicted the number of people at high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases by 35%.

It concludes that 3.2 million adults under the age of 75 are at risk of developing cardiovascular illnesses compared with the 4.7 million previously estimated.

Statins are widely prescribed at £2bn a year to try to reduce some of the 100,000 annual deaths from heart illnesses.

Statins are not even the most efective way of treating high cholesterol. First and foremost should be dietary advice and increased levels of physical activity. We make our own cholesterol, so avoiding foods like eggs or liver has no measurable effect. Much more important is eliminating transfats, and greatly reducing saturated fats - but note that you do need some fat in your diet - just as you do need some cholesterol. Look for unsaturated fat: hydrogenated fat is a definite no no: oils from vegetables, seeds or fish are usually good - omega 3 is something to look for. Get the weight down, and eat soluble fibre (oats are a good source)

Just lowering overall cholesterol is not the best way to treat the problem - what is needed is to get the right ratio of LDL and HDL.

In Britain, where prescription drugs are covered by the NHS it is not an issue for patients but the system. Here where drugs are not covered by the provincial medical services plan, and many do not have private health insurance (as employers avoid hiring full time, permanent employees if they can, to lower the cost of "benefits") statins can be unaffordable.

Fortunately there is a cheap, readily available alternative niacin - vitamin B3. About $7 over the counter for a couple of weeks supply. Talk to your doctor, and make sure you get regular blood work done as both B3 and statins carry the risk of liver damage. It is sensible to work up gradually to the most effective dose, and take with food. The only side effect is a sudden, brief hot flush, but this fades as you get used to the escalating doses.


Another news story from the BBC suggests that "People who significantly cut their cholesterol levels with statins may raise the risk of cancer"

Bush Rationale on Libby Stirs Legal Debate


“By saying that the sentence was excessive, I wonder if he understood the ramifications of saying that,” said Ellen S. Podgor, who teaches criminal law at Stetson University in St. Petersburg, Fla. “This is opening up a can of worms about federal sentencing.”


Similarly, in a case decided two weeks ago by the United States Supreme Court and widely discussed by legal specialists in light of the Libby case, the Justice Department persuaded the court to affirm the 33-month sentence of a defendant whose case closely resembled that against Mr. Libby. The defendant, Victor A. Rita, was, like Mr. Libby, convicted of perjury, making false statements to federal agents and obstruction of justice.Mr. Rita has performed extensive government service, just as Mr. Libby has. Mr. Rita served in the armed forces for more than 25 years, receiving 35 commendations, awards and medals. Like Mr. Libby, Mr. Rita had no criminal history for purposes of the federal sentencing guidelines.

I doubt any of this went through the discussion at the White House - and certainly W is not smart enough to be able to work out these nuances for himself.

I would also expect the court to take a a very dim view of defenders who try this one on. As the article points out, the exercise of the Presidential prerogative has no value as a legal precedent. They can use it for a bit of grandstanding, but federal sentences are tough and will get tougher. After all the bench is now packed with hard, right wing Republicans.

"Perhaps the only unalloyed major second-term victory for Bush has been the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices who have begun to move the court to the right."
Washington Post

The US jails more people for longer than all but the most backward third world failed states. And with no effect on crime that is not better explained by demographics

And see this clever little animation on the Guardian web page - see it through to the very end

Wednesday, 4 July 2007


I saw this movie this evening. It is everything that we have come to expect from Michael Moore. It has all the stagecraft, and the showmanship. It makes absolutely no bones about its viewpoint, and has absolutely no pretension of "balance" and why should it. It is an old fashioned polemic - and it is not only well done, it is very necessary. And while it is about health care, it is also about what America has become. How since the right took control, and shifted power away from the citizens to benefit the corporations, the soul of America got lost. How the government of France is afraid of its citizens - and will do their laundry if necessary - while Americans are now afraid of their government. How loading kids with debt, and making people fearful of losing their jobs, because they will lose the insurance coverage, the US now has a docile workforce, but higher rates of infant mortality than most third world countries. How Americans now have a shorter life expectancy than those countries which chose "socialized medicine" - which is about all of them, as it happens.

And Canadians need to see this film, not to feel smug, but to be warned. Because these same corporations operate here and intend to see that we go the same way.

I Accuse You, Mr. Bush…

Published on Wednesday, July 4, 2007 by MSNBC
I Accuse You, Mr. Bush…
by Keith Olbermann

“I didn’t vote for him,” an American once said, “But he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”That-on this eve of the 4th of July-is the essence of this democracy, in 17 words. And that is what President Bush threw away yesterday in commuting the sentence of Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

A carefully thought out but visceral denigration of Bush and Cheney.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007


I have just seen an advertisement for Celebrex on CBC.

I am sure that you can go look up all kinds of information about it and above all talk to your doctor if you think it will help. I have used cox inhibitors myself when ordinary pain killers did not help me. BUT I do want to share some information with you.

My 84 year old mother died of a heart attack. I am convinced that since you will die anyway, dying of a heart attack is about the best way I know of to go. She died quickly and probably painlessly, doing what she loved.

She had no medical history of any heart problems. She was active, not overweight and had never had problems with high blood pressure or diabetes. About three years ago she had a knee replacement, and used prescription Celebrex prior to that. We were very surprised at the results of her post mortem given her medical history.

I do not suggest that you immediately stop taking this drug, nor do I support those who see these kinds of events as a way to enrich themselves at the drug company's expense. I think my mother had a good death. I believe that Celebrex was responsible.

Children at Play

From the page: "Baghdad, Iraq: A four-year-old child cries as older boys stage a mock execution. Children's games have been heavily influenced by the ongoing violence in Iraq - one of the more popular games being a clash between militia and police."
This profoundly disturbing image shows what has happened to George W Bush's mission to pacify Iraq. He has created a new generation who delight in terror.
Photograph: Hadi Mizban/AP

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The only way the iPhone will live up to its hype

Krups Espresso Machine F920

I have owned this machine for a little over two years so it is out of warranty.

In the last three months, plastic parts on this machine have been failing. The first was the main control switch. While I waited over two months for a replacement, I was able to operate the machine with a butter knife. However, the frothing nozzle cover - which is also plastic, broke in normal service. It was not dropped or misused. It simply cracked under normal domestic operation. Since it came with another frothing device - with a long tube to put into a milk container - I put that on and used it for two days. I noticed water leaking from the connection so I tried to tighten it. The nozzle came off in my hand. A short length of threaded plastic tube, used to attach the device to the machine, had sheared off at its base.

It seems to me that either it is an inferior type of plastic, or that these parts should have been made of metal.

I am not going to wait for another two months for parts to arrive from Switzerland. Nor am I going to spend any more money on a piece of equipment that appears to have a very limited design life.

I have thrown the machine away and am going shopping for a new one. It will not be a Krups, nor will I consider products with this brand name in future.

You might like to visit their web site and see what they claim for their machines