August 30, 2006

Have a Happy Holocaust!

Important distinction: those who are pitching a pre-emptive strike on Iran have been pretty careful to say "air strike", as if the army wouldn't need resources to do it. The concept is, of course, utter insanity, but that's no reason not to consider it, eh?

With many Supporters of Bush (or SOBs) trying to sell a pre-emptive strike on Iran, I thought this might be a good time to reprint this little tale from Mark Twain:

The War Prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement.

The country was up in arms: the war was on! In every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering. On every hand, and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun. Daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue, gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by. Nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at the briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while.

In the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half-dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war, and cast doubts upon it's righteousness, straightaway got such a stern and angry warning, that for their personal safety's sake, they quickly shrank out of sight, and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came - next day the battalions would leave for the front. The church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams. Visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbours and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth into the field of honour, there to win for the flag: or failing, to die the noblest of noble deaths.

The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building! And with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation: God the All-Terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword! Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading, and moving and beautiful language. The burden of it's supplication was that ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honour and glory –

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal: Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside - which the startled minister did - and took his place. During some moments, he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said: I come from the Throne - bearing a message from Almighty God!

The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention.

He has heard your prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it, if such be your desire, after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import - that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of - except he pause and think. God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two: one uttered, the other not. Both has reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this - keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! Lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbour at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbour's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

You have heard your servant's prayer - the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it - that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words - Grant us the victory, O Lord our God! That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you prayed for victory, you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory - must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words.

Listen!

Oh Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle - be Thou near them!
With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
Oh Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells.
Help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead.
Help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain.
Help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire.
Help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief.
Help us to turn them out, roofless, with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst.
Sports of the sun flames of Summer and the icy winds of Winter.
Broken in spirit;
Worn with travail;
Imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave, and denied it.
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord:
Blast their hopes;
Blight their lives;
Protract their bitter pilgrimage;
Make heavy their steps;
Water their way with tears;
Stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him who is the source of love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset, and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.
Amen.

Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most
High awaits!

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

***

Enjoy!

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posted by Thursday at 4:19 pm 0 comments

August 29, 2006

Other: Civilized Discourse

Read this at Gladwell.com, and the four posts before it, to discover how to disagree with someone on-line.

The comments are hit-and-miss at best, but the back and forth between the two principals are something most internet debaters could learn from.

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posted by Thursday at 7:47 pm 0 comments

Other: The Begining of the End

Well, I've put the cheque in it's envelope and warned off against any type of visitation, be it from family, friends, or cheerleader nymphomaniacs.

The 3-Day Novel contest starts at midnight this Friday.*

This will be my sixth time playing the game, and I still have no clue what I'm going to write. I've got bits of possible historical fiction and what could be a murder mystery bouncing through my skull, but otherwise I'm coming up blank. Oh, and a fantasy novel.

It won't be easy, but then, it never is.


*Note to cheerleading nymphomaniacs: just kidding. I'm in Lake Cowichan, British Columbia, Canada. Come on by.

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posted by Thursday at 7:24 pm 0 comments

August 26, 2006

Religion: For All Your Nighttime "Crusades"!

Wow. Just... wow.

Now you too dress your children in polyester armour to keep them properly flammable for bedtime!

Yes, it's "Armour of God" pyjamas! Because Christianity doesn't work like it should when you're unconscious (but that's your own fault, not God's), you can add this extra layer of Ephesians Approved (tm) Crusader Gear!

Sure, he gets a Helmet of Salvation, while your daughter is stuck with some kind of wimple, but at least they both get to sleep with their swords!

Even better, soon you will be able to get dolls dressed in the same clothing: available in American (white) and AfricanAmerican (black).

Yes, you read that right: "white" is now "American"! Praise!

I'm holding out for the Arabic-American version.

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posted by Thursday at 11:46 am 0 comments

August 25, 2006

Other: Too ... Much ... Stuff!

One thing I've noticed in moving and helping others move is that it's the perfect time to cull your posessions. Not so much when you're packing, but when you're unpacking. When you are packing, you see, the attitude of "how could I leave this behind?" or "I might use this" is dominant. Once you've moved, though, and day three (four, five...) of opening boxes with wild eyes and held breath wondering where all the space had gone, well THEN you're ready to throw shit out. Or give it away. Or break in the new back yard with a bonfire.

You'll be in a proper state of mind to open boxes and say "Why the hell...?"

With this in mind, I'm clearing out some of my bookmarks:


Religion

I had always considered 5% to be fairly constant as far as atheists go as a North American population. That's why this USA Today map gave me a bit of a shock.

With Plan B finally getting approval, I just have to wonder about the sort of things those opposed to it get up to... Between the paedohpelia, rape, incest, and teen sex cults that they present, you've just got to ask what's on their mind? But where are the adolescent sex-cults in Canada and Europe? You'd almost think they were confusing Plan B with Zyklon B or something. Nah, they wouldn't use Holocaust imagery, would they?


Politics

There's a new federal grant program in the United States for students "majoring in engineering, mathematics, science, or certain foreign languages." Except, apparently, evolutionary biology. Gosh, how'd THAT happen? How about checking a few of those folks opposed to the teaching of evolution for the HAR1 gene sequence? I just want to be sure.

This story will tell you more about how real politics works than any Political Theory class.

And how does China end up with unions in Wal Mart when no one else in the world has managed it? The totalitarian regime has finally met it's match, eh?


Sex

Just a bit more on Plan B - wouldn't you think that it's more of an emergency when someone under 18 risks pregnancy than someone 18 or over?

Sex education got a helping hand over in Ohio: at least, the end of wishful thinking did. Of the 409 female students at one school in the 2004-2005 year, 64 of them were pregnant. The school was using an abstinence-only curriculum. This year, another 35 were pregnant, so perhaps the notoriety helped, but even so they are switching to a program that includes discussing birth control.

But then, the entire region looks like it could use help: about 17% of the babies born in the Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center were to mothers between 11 and 19 years old.

Of course, maybe those students got their information from a federally-funded, faith-based pregnancy centre.

I have had a long and abiding lust for red hair (my first love, Marilu Henner!), and now I think I know why.


Science

Speaking of unique genes, it looks like one variety of cancer can actually be considered a form of independent life! Well, a parasite, at least. (Note: if you had a problem watching Alien, you probably shouldn't read this.)

I recently encountered someone mentioning The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science as a credible source. Chris Mooney disagrees. About all you need to know about the book is that it comes from Regnery Press, the folks that published David Horowitz, Michelle Malkin, the Swift Boat folks, and so on. Does William F. Buckley Jr. ever look around at who's now on "his side" and wonder what the hell happened? George Will has.

Motorcycles

If I had (several) million dollars... Vespa is looking for Moto Guzzi dealers for Canada. I'm sure I've mentioned my next bike, right?

Other

Wondering how safe your imports/branch stores/overseas sweatshops are? Just check this handy-dandy map of political and economic risk!

Scared of anthrax? Try compound 1080 on for size:
Odorless, tasteless, water soluble, and without antidote, 1080 blocks cellular metabolism, leading to a quick yet painful death.

For those of us who just don't know our way around the kitchen, here's a hint: the egg you're boiling is done when it says it's done.

That's enough for the weekend.

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posted by Thursday at 11:07 pm 0 comments

Other: The Cola

In honour of Coca-Cola's new drink and the mispronounciation it provides (not to mention the truly excessive website), I offer this poem:

The Can

Coca-Cola! in a can
What the hell you thinkin', man?
What a stupid ad campaign
Could anything be this inane?

In what fluorescent board room hence
(With no sign of intelligence)
Was the bizarre decision made
To punctuate using long "a"?

There are rules here, don't you see?
You can't add symbols randomly!
English is a complex tounge
I understand when it goes wrong.

But it does not make any sense
To try and sell your ignorance!
Misspelling words for coolness' sake
Just brings to mind another "Blake".

Getting things wrong just to look hip
To those of us who know, means zip.
I tried it once, a little drink,
And poured the rest straight down the sink.

Coca-Cola! in a can
What the hell you thinkin', man?
Just take this off the shelves, good Lord!
And go back to the drawing board.

-Thursday

A blatant rip-off of William Blake's The Tyger, of course. If you have a problem with my rhyming, take it up with the fellow who put "hand or eye" and "symmetry" in a couplet.

But then, I don't talk to angels, so what do I know?

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posted by Thursday at 9:58 am 0 comments

August 23, 2006

Politics: Political Zen

One of the secrets of zen is to never expect. If you do not anticipate what is coming, then it cannot surprise you and you can then act without hesitation.

A shout out to President George:

"Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times."

-Press conference, August 21, 2006

Many folks have picked up on Bookworm Bush (heh) sometimes being "happy" about circumstances in Iraq; in this they miss the more interesting point, that he's been "rarely surprised."

"Rarely"?

So, which part didn't surprise you, George?

The part where IEDs aren't flowers?

As for the reaction of the Arab "street," the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are "sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans." Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

-Vice President Dick Cheney addressing the Vetrans of Foreign Wars, August, 2002



That "weeks rather than months" is now years?


And it is not knowable if force will be used, but if it is to be used, it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

-Secratary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressing U.S. troops in Italy, February 2, 2003


That there were no chemical or biological weapons found?

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe Saddam Hussein will use chemical weapons against U.S. troops?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don’t know. I assume he may try. Of course as soon as he does it will be clear to the world we were absolutely right, that he does, in fact, have chemical weapons.

-Meet the Press, March 16, 2003


That there have been far more deaths after you and you codpiece declared "Mission Accomplished"...

Bush, addressing the nation not from the White House but from the dramatic setting of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, announced: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

-CNN, May 2, 2003


...than before it?

At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently since 2003

-LA Times, June 25th, 2006

Well over 2500 US Forces deaths
Over 100 other coalition troops from various countries
Over 100 journalist deaths
All since May 2003

-Iraqi Coalition Casualties


That the "link" between Saddam Huessein and al Qaeda was tenuous at best?

Speaking in Poland, Rumsfeld said U.S. officials shared information linking Iraq and al Qaeda with NATO defense ministers meeting in Warsaw.
"The deputy director of central intelligence briefed on that subject. I have no desire to go beyond saying the answer is yes," Rumsfeld told reporters.

-CNN, September 26, 2002


That it's turning out to be just a hint more expensive than first projected?

“The oil revenues of Iraq could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

– Paul Wolfowitz, [Congressional Testimony, 3/27/03]

Running total so far: over $300,000,000,000. And counting.


The massively negative backlash from what should have been allies?

"Here, you see 15 munitions bunkers in yellow and red outlines. The four that are in red squares represent active chemical munitions bunkers."

-Colin Powell to the UN Security Council, February, 2003

The cafeteria menus in the three House office buildings changed the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries," in a culinary rebuke of France stemming from anger over the country's refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq. Ditto for "french toast," which will be known as "freedom toast."

-CNN, March 12, 2003

"I have serious doubts about the extent to which we need a coalition [...] a broad coalition is not dedicated to winning the war on terror."

-Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle, PBS interview, October, 2001


Or just that it's not as easy-peasy as originally thought?

And a year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush.

-Richard Perle again, this time addressing the American Enterprise Institute, September, 2003

(Of course, it doesn't help that one of your chief advisors knows jack-shit about terrorists...)

But these fellows are not working for themselves; they're working for governments like Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

But the important change [in the U.S.] came with the discovery that anthrax, a lethal biological weapon, can be delivered anonymously to Americans. It was done on a small scale, by posting letters with anthrax in them. But surely the lesson of that is that we can be attacked anonymously with biological weapons.

[Q:If we go into Iraq and we take down Hussein?]
A:Then I think it's over for the terrorists.

-Richard Perle, same PBS interview, October, 2001.


Or maybe it's that you were so hot to believe anything about Iraq that you even trusted these guys:

Amhad "Okay, so I lied!" Chalabi
Ihsan Saeed "Let me ask my coach" al-Haideri


All told, bub, you should have been surprised one hell of a lot more than "rarely". Unless, of course, everything's gone according to plan...

American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil.

-Ahmed Chalibi, Washington Post, September 15, 2002

But hey, who am I kidding? Things in Iraq are actually going... er... miraculously?

What's happened there is nothing short of a miracle.

-Senator James Inhofe, August 22, 2006.

Good to know.

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posted by Thursday at 7:32 pm 0 comments

August 21, 2006

Politics: Win Some, Lose More

Well, you knew this was going to happen, didn't you? A Team Blue (Conservative Party of Canada) member wasn't considered "conservative" enough for one particular group, so they backed a challenge to his seat.

Now, part of the idea behind the Team Blue platform of not guaranteeing MPs the party nomination between elections was so if a group of concerned citizens got riled up enough, then they could be tossed from office without worrying about that annoying "election" thing. I am not, in case you couldn't guess, a big fan of recalls.

So Mr. Turner found himself challenged by the fellow who lost the party nomination last time, D'Arcy Keene. Mr. Keene was backed by a Charles McVety, who has vowed to unseat any Conservative member who supported same-sex marriage. Because, after all, that's what being a Conservative means, right?

Apparently not, as despite the Canadian Family Action Coalition's best efforts, Mr. Keene couldn't come up with enough support to win the leadership of the riding.

My favorite part of McVety's bio:

"He holds several degrees and has authored a book, Victory Guaranteed."

Oops.

While I'm not a Team Blue fan, nor one of Garth Turner, I've long held that the Right in Canada are generally saner than their couterparts down south. Nice to have that confirmed.


And there was a few recent reminders WHY I'm not a Team Blue fan: Harper avoiding the huge AIDS conference in Toronto by playing "Arctic Cowboy", while whining that trying to stop people from dying was "too political" (gee, I guess he's not like President George after all); and the second was the lack of announcement regarding the exemption of Vancouver's safe injection site (Insite).

Insite can only operate if it has an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, plus it has been granted $1.5 million over three years in federal funding to operate, and the provinical government gave $1.2 million to develop the site. The PMs office hasn't said whether they will continue to fund the program, despite its mandate being scheduled to expire on September 13th.

The excuse?

"Unfortunately, the issue has been so politicized this week that this is probably not the time for us to make additional announcements."

Of course not, dear. Lord knows, politicians who are responsible for their government's actions shouldn't have to deal with political issues, should they? Old Plastic Man said recently in an interview with Reader's Digest (Motto: The World's Most Flavourless Magazine) that he was "offended" by comparisons to President George. And you know, he's right! He doesn't want to be George Bush.

He'd much rather be Karl Rove.

The third thing has been around a bit longer, and it's called "the enviroment". Heard of it? Well, Canada actually has a pretty piss-poor record as far as protecting it is concerned, and when the Conservatives not only bailed on the Kyoto Accord but also cancelled the incentives to improve the efficiency of Canadians' homes.

Agree or disagree with the Kyoto accord if you want, but even the staunchest opponents have to acknowledge that the EnerGuide program was working exactly as planned. Harper says he wants to replace Kyoto with a "made in Canada solution" (hello? Where the hell do you think we were during negotiations?), then he cancels a made in Canada solution.

You know you may be lying when...

***

I know I've been pimping this site a bunch lately, but it's worth it:
At the AIDS conference
Harper avoiding the AIDS conference

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posted by Thursday at 7:57 pm 0 comments

August 19, 2006

Other: "First Thing We Do...

...Let's kill all the lawyers."

- from Henry VI, Part II
-act IV, scene II

Or in this case, make sure they are just FABulously dressed!

I don't know how many people remember the lawyer who was fired from his legal firm for being "too gay", but here's the new association he and a partner have just started up:

Hardcore Superstar Legal Management Corporation


My favorite paragraph:

"Making national news headlines in an episode best described as Franz Kafka meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Universe hit the eject button on Joseph’s legal career when he resigned from Fasken Martineau DuMoulin amid scandal following complaints about his rainbow gay wardrobe by a boo-fest tax partner down the hall."

Gotta love it.

Thanks to Mr. Kelly over at On the Fence for finding this.

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posted by Thursday at 9:28 pm 0 comments

August 18, 2006

Science: The Occasional Embarrassment

All right: if I can brag about Canadians on the motorcycle racing circuit, then I suppose I've got to take the hit when Canucks do some spectacularly stupid things, too.

To wit, this article written by four members of the Ryerson staff and appearing in the, uh, International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare:

"Deconsturcting the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism"

You read that right! The FASCISTS have taken over science! Save yourselves!

What follows is a whole lot of complaining about how the scientific world is just, like, so totally unfair! It's a teenage screed dressed up in intellectual jargon. I'm going to reprint a bit of it here (the abstract, a bit of the introduction, and a bit of the conclusion), but if you want to read the whole thing, follow the quoted bit above. Just have some ear plugs handy to block out the perpetual whine.

This being said, I realize what the authors are trying to say, that the publication of works in influential trade magazines and journals is controlled, perhaps (as their argument goes) by fascists; and so alternative theories and contreversial studies end up published in the International Journal of Evidence-Based Heathcare or the Fortean Times. This leads to those unpopular theories being shunted aside or ignored, when they should be discussed in the open by all academics.

"Dad won't give us the keys to the car," they're saying, "so we're pouting." We hate living here! You're fascists, and we wish you were DEAD! Now we're going to our room and listening to Maralyn Manson as LOUD AS WE WANT!

*SLAM*

The Journal is a publication of the folks at the Joanna Briggs Institute, who are mostly focused on nursing and midwifery. These are both noble and necessary pursuits, and if I said a word against either of them, I'd catch my mom's shoe on the side of my head.

But.

Nursing does tend to be a field that allows for a "softer" view of medicine; it's where we find strong support for silliness like therapeutic touch or homeopathy. These, needless to say, simply don't stand up very well to any sort of rigorous testing and review, so calls from supporters to change the rules of testing are frequent.

Without further ado, the abstract:

Background
Drawing on the work of the late French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, the objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge. As such, we assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena.

Can you tell one of the authors had a PhD in English? The primary complaint is stated boldly here, as is the background's purpose. Unfortunately, the hypothesis itself is wrong: there are badly researched papers being handed to magazines and journals all the time, and when they aren't published it's because of their incompetence or even just their poor writing rather than an international cabal of lab-coated Machiavellis keeping The Truth hidden away. Ask any publisher if they would publish a well though-out, well researched theory that would change the world of science, and see how many say "World changing science? Gosh, I dunno. Let me think about it..."

As for being "dangerously normative", it's the application of standards. In much the same way food inspectors are hated by bad resturants, so academic journals are hated by bad scientists.

Oh, and I love "microfascism"! I suppose nanofascism (the unspeakable way people control the cars they drive) and picofascism (the body's utter dominance over when its heart beats) are coming next.

Objective
The philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari proves to be useful in showing how health sciences are colonised (territorialised) by an all-encompassing scientific research paradigm – that of post-positivism – but also and foremost in showing the process by which a dominant ideology comes to exclude alternative forms of knowledge, therefore acting as a fascist structure.

Especiall when those "alternative forms of knowledge" seem to be summed up in the phrase "I dunno. It just feels right." Gee, such a shame to exclude that from publication in serious journals of hard medicine.

Small primer on how science works: Seeing what is around us, making observations, confirming those observations, then (and only then) creating a testable hypothesis around those observations. And if the tested hypothesis fails, then it is discarded in the face of reality, whatever the desires of the tester may be.

If the ability to reason is considered fascistic, then I suppose we're all fascists. Bummer.

Conclusion
The Cochrane Group, among others, has created a hierarchy that has been endorsed by many academic institutions, and that serves to (re)produce the exclusion of certain forms of research. Because ‘regimes of truth’ such as the evidence-based movement currently enjoy a privileged status, scholars have not only a scientific duty, but also an ethical obligation to deconstruct these regimes of power.

The Cochrane Group, for those who don't know, created a database of scientific research so clinicians would have access to information quickly and easily. The crime, as seen by these authors, was to insist that any research that was included in the database had to be done with randomized controlled trials. This stops what they see as "progress" in health care by not allowing "many forms of knowing/knowledge". This creates the heirarchy they rail against, biasing it all in one direction: clinically testable procedures.

For shame!

Now, if by "deconstruct", the authors mean examining the traditional acceptance of truth, I'm cool with that. The repeated examination of assumptions is not only good for science, it's good for humans, it's good for societies of every size, and it's good for businesses. What they perhaps fail to realize is that science constantly and continuously challenges itself. This is why things like the age of the earth has been revised so frequently; why Newtonian physics has been partially replaced by relativity, which has been partially replaced by quantum physics.

If, on the other hand, they mean "deconstruct" as in to destroy, well... Does that mean I can call you "scientific anarchists"? Please? It's a simple thing to eliminate or marginalize a field of science or method of research: come up with something better. It's that easy.

A touch of the introduction:

Introduction

We can already hear the objections. The term fascism represents an emotionally charged concept in both the political and religious arenas; it is the ugliest expression of life in the 20th century. Although it is associated with specific political systems, this fascism of the masses, as was practised by Hitler and Mussolini, has today been replaced by a system of microfascisms – polymorphous intolerances that are revealed in more subtle ways.

Um, so it surprises you that people may get upset when you directly compare publishers to Hitler and Mussolini?

Consequently, although the majority of the current manifestations of fascism are less brutal, they are nevertheless more pernicious.

Gee, thanks.

Therefore, we will use this term as defined by Deleuze and Guattari, and now used by a number of contemporary authors. Within the healthcare disciplines, a powerful evidencebased discourse has produced a plethora of correlates, such as specialised journals and best practice guidelines. Obediently following this trend, many health sciences scholars have leapt onto the bandwagon, mimicking their medical colleagues by saturating health sciences discourses with concepts informed by this evidence-based movement.

Ah, the "evidence-based movement". That would be the folks who are most enthusiastic about needing proof for theories before trying them out on the patients who rely on them. As for the "best practice guidelines" you're complaining about, bear in mind that they are guidelines, especially where something like oh, say, midwifery is concerned. The individual taking responsibility for their patients still has to deal with the people in front of them, and every case is unique, but having a guideline is not a bad thing. It gathers together evidence of what has worked for others plus what is proven in clinical trials to aid the practicioner. Plus, those guidelines occasionally change, like the "chest thump" being removed from the practice of cardoipulmonary resuscitation (or CPR - learn it) when it was found to be less effective than compressions.

And finally, from the conclusion:

Conclusion

We must resist the totalitarian program – a program that collapses words and things, a program that thwarts all invention, a program that robs us of justice, of our meaningful place in the world, and of the future that is ours to forge together. Paradoxically, perhaps, an honest plurality of voices will open up a space of freedom for the radical singularity of individual and disparate knowledge(s). The endeavour is always a risk, but such a risk is part of the human condition, and it is that without which there could be no human action and no science worthy of the name.

There's that english doctorate again. And yes, there are paragraphs based on George Orwell's 1984 (no, I'm not kidding). This is an interesting argument, that by not co-operating and pooling our knowledge but instead having everyone go their own way we'll somehow make better progress in health and science.

Let's ignore the fact that that's exactly what science has done, and continues to do, eh? Thing is, we've accepted what works best, and that includes methods of research, in compiling things like textbooks and reference manuals and data bases. What works is what gets passed on as knowledge: what doesn't has been discarded. Refining what works, building upon fact and improving designs is part of the very foundation of science, as is convincing others that your own contrarian view is the right one: if your idea is strong enough, and has the facts to back it up, and works better than the previous idea, you will win.

Hence our knowledge progresses: not through wishful thinking, not by hiding research where no one can see it, and certainly not by demanding the rules change without showing why they should.

For which I, for one, am thankful.

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posted by Thursday at 1:54 pm 2 comments

August 17, 2006

Other: Around the Round Awards

And the winners are...

A glamorous night of text is in the offing! So come, wear your best fonts and come on down to the Skeptics' Circle show!

Oh, and may I suggest only a few items at a time?staring at the 'puter ten hours at a stretch can't be good for you...

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posted by Thursday at 12:52 pm 0 comments

August 15, 2006

Other: Important News

Pimping once again.

Recent headlines:

Jet Fuel to be Banned from All Canadian Planes
Mock Disaster Blamed on Mock Muslims
Conspiracy Theorists Claim Israel Controlled by Jews

Doesn't get much better than this.

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posted by Thursday at 11:51 am 3 comments

August 14, 2006

Politics: How To Tell If YOUR World Leader is Someone Else's Bitch

Anyone who's been through high school has seen it or been it: the really cool, daring, even dangerous senior that even the teachers are a little nervous of. He's got a tattoo, he cruses, drinks, and even smokes pot. He has a motorcycle, there's rumours of violence...

Well, I'm not talking about him.

Notice the geeky kid with the glasses? She's the shy, bookish type whose parents never worried about because she's never invited anywhere; and even if she were, she'd be back by 9:00 sharp. Notice something funny about her? Whenever "that hooligan" walks by, you can see her glasses mist over, her jaw open. It looks like she forgets how to breathe until he's out of sight.

She's so desperate for him you can hear her whine.

So she starts doing things.

She changes her clothes. Not much, just a little, just enough to maybe kinda sorta make her look , y'know, tougher.

She starts defending him: privately at first, and maybe just in theoretical ways. But when he doesn't even notice, what do you think she'll do?

She starts doing whatever he does. She starts breaking windows. She takes up smoking. She tries getting her friends to lie for him, and splits with any friends who won't.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, this is your life.

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posted by Thursday at 10:14 am 0 comments

August 12, 2006

Other: Maybe/Maybe Not

Give me a hand here.

I can't decide if what look like some very funny moments in this film with a VERY tired scenario ("Two cops from opposite sides of the" etc.) can overcome the unfortunate stereotypes shown. I mean, the villan not only wears a hockey mask, but he uses a stick, too!

Anyhow:

Bon Cop / Bad Cop

I'll probably try it in theatres.

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posted by Thursday at 9:23 pm 0 comments

Politics: Essential Viewing

"They hate our freedoms"

-George W. Bush, September 20, 2001


The 1950s America is often viewed as an ideal time, so nice that even satirists are hard-pressed to find criticism.

And yet, at the time, someone really did hate the America of the 1950s. The social corruptions throughout the culture of the time, the personal freedoms, the support for individual rights over those of the society was going to prove that culture's downfall. Chief among these was the shameless sexuality and intolerably lax morality of the time (yes, the 1950s). By this person's view, people had to be led, by a strong central government that enforced controls over the population's personal lives and morality as well as over the direction that the society was travelling in, or else the enemies of the Nation and of the One True Faith would corrupt and destroy all that was good in the world. Individualism had to be quelled, possibly eliminated if decency was to prevail.

Now, for centre square and the game, was this world view held by:

A) Soviet leader Joseph Stalin;
or
B) The man responsible for a fundamentalist Islamic rebirth, Sayyid Qutb;
or
C) The man responsible for the Neo-conservative movement in the U.S., Leo Strauss?

For one set of possible answers, if you happen to have an hour at a time, Throw Away Your TV has the documentary "The Power of Nightmares" up and running. It takes time, but is very much worth watching, especially for anyone who wasn't an adult or paying attention to politics since the '50s, and that's most poeple, now.

Find an hour here or there and check them out.

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posted by Thursday at 5:32 pm 0 comments

August 11, 2006

Politics: Civil War Is Over (If You Noticed)

There's been a lot of talk about the potential for civil war in Iraq, and whether it's already underway, what outside forces will be involved and so on.

Funny thing is, a civil war already happened, and it was in the middle of the Iraq Invasion. On one side was John Negroponte, Richard Armatige, Richard Perle, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld , John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and others. This group is (was) mostly made up of former Reagan staffers, and has a strong military element to it. They are the neo-cons, folks who have a world view shaped by a combination of the Cold War, John Wayne, and Risk(tm).

Remember "Manifest Destiny" from your school history books? A little catch-up:

Historian William E. Weeks has noted that three key themes were usually touched upon by advocates of Manifest Destiny:

  1. the virtue of the American people and their institutions;
  2. the mission to spread these institutions, thereby redeeming and remaking the world in the image of the U.S.; and
  3. the destiny under God to accomplish this work.

Sound familliar? The idea is that since "our nation" (whichever one that happens to be, in this case the United States of the 1800s) is so great, it's our duty to ensure everyone else in the world has the opportunity to be part of that greatness. Specifically, by falling under our control. It's difficult to find a nation that hasn't had some streak of this, either through military means or political ones ("The world would be so much better if people just did what we do!").

In any case, these folks are the ones who wanted a strong base in the middle east. They want a military presence in the region that is under their direct control. The game, for them, isn't just oil or other resources - it's power. If they didn't lose the civil war, oil would have been flowing out of Iraq at a rate that is far closer to full capacity than what they are running at now. What they wanted was to weaken Saudi Arabia's control of the region by increasing production and thus dropping the cost of oil.

So why didn't that happen? Let me introduce the folks who won:

Here we have Dick Cheney, James Baker III, Garfield Miller, who are more intimately tied in with the big oil companies. In fact, they're the ones who wrote "Options for Iraqi Oil", the 323-page pamphlet that the U.S. government denied existed for two years. What did they stand to win if Saddam Hussein were successfully removed from power? Stability.

No, really! Stability.

Well, not political stability, of course, though that would have been handy. If they wanted political stability, there wouldn't have been a war. No, what they wanted was economic stability. Ever since the 1970s, when the nations of OPEC started to nationalize their oil production, stability has been the most important feature for the companies involved with those nations.

*waves at Hugo Chavez*

Short history break:

Between 1970 and 1973 the price doubled, then the Six Days war happened, tripling prices again to around $12/barrel. At that price, countries outside OPEC started looking for their own reserves, and costs stabilized or even dropped (down to about $15/barrel in 1988). But political seeds had been set with the Carter Doctrine: the U.S. would intervene with military force if its supply of oil was threatened. While the idea was to send a message to the Soviet Union (before they found their own oil), but it ended up being the political justification for going into Kuwait. Kuwait was selling far more oil that the limit set for it by OPEC, and Iraq invaded. That didn't work out so well for Iraq, and an embargo limiting what the nation could purchase by selling its oil was enacted and enforced by the United Nations.

While politically stable, the amount oil that was released by Hussein fluctuated wildly. Oil is a fungible commodity, so it could come from anywhere, and Iraq was still selling right up to the day of the invasion. For those unfamiliar with the term "fungible", that means that the current supply of oil is essentially pooled together before price is determined. The cost of transporting oil is low enough that it will be shipped to whomever is willing to pay for it. The more oil available, the lower the cost will be. The only crisis' that oil companies want are the ones they manufacture.

What has taken them by surprise, however, is just how far the price has jumped: at this point, every bump or potential bump in the oil supply now jumps the cost disporportionately to the actual diffculties encountered. This has led to a much wider variety of potential oil locations now being worth exploring, which could draw oil production out of companies hands. Whatever happens in the near future, the companies are building themselves one hell of a war chest right now.

So at least one civil war has already happened, within the Republican party, and the military lost. Now I wonder if the Democrats are going to have one themselves...?

*A bit more of who's what from last year.*

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posted by Thursday at 12:14 pm 0 comments

August 09, 2006

Politics: Lieberman - Stevens '08!

The dream ticket for the Republicans, don't you think? They both have no idea how the internet works, but they're both perfectly happy to prattle on about it!

Ted "Tubeman" Stephens:

"...[The internet] is a series of tubes."

Joe "Techno-Paranoid" Lieberman

For the past 24 hours the Friends for Joe Lieberman's website and email has been totally disrupted and disabled, we believe that this is the result of a coordinated attack by our political opponents."

It's the perfect combination! One doesn't understand how email works, and the other is kinda fuzzy on what heavy traffic can do to a website host, despite the fact that their site has crashed before...

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posted by Thursday at 9:34 am 0 comments

August 08, 2006

Motorcycles: Things I Just Don't Get

There has long been a gap or two in sports coverage in North America that I simply don't understand.

The lack of popularity of hockey in the United States, for one. That's changing now, with the massive increase in the number of rinks over the past 10 years directly attributable to NHL expansion. For example, there were two ice rinks in Texas when the Stars came to Dallas, and now there are over a dozen professional hockey teams in that state. It'll be a while, but hockey will become more popular down south.

The other, more puzzling question is why motorcycle racing is actually difficult to find anywhere in North America outside of specialty channels. It's true, there has been frequent internal conflict and politics in motorbike racing, and a confusion of what bikes qualify for which races under what rules. (Part of this is because the technology in race bikes get upgraded every year, making it hard for race organizers to keep up, and believe you me that technology ends up on the street! Imagine buying a car that's 4 or 5 km/h slower and maybe 5kg heavier than a Formula 1 racer for $12,000 to get some idea of what I mean...) But in the real world, those conflicts are boardroom troubles, not things that casual fans care much about, or even know about.

In any case, the strange lack of air time was brought home to me after watching Troy Baliss and Noriyugi Haga fight a brilliant match in the second race at Brands Hatch today. It was on Speed Channel and nowhere else, despite being a fast, tough, and yes dangerous sport. Part of the reason may be because of a dearth of North Americans tiding at the top of the field in World Super Bike competition, but it's not like that's the only circuit out there.

I'm going to mention a few veteran Canadian racers, because I'm Canadian, damnit, and these guys were a few of the best riders in the world and I haven't heard a thing about them in the main stream media up here, even when Canadians Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Scott Goodyear and the late Greg Moore were all racing cars (and doing well, I might add). So here's my small attempt to correct a major oversight in sports.

Pascal Picotte

When Harley-Davidson went back to the race track in 1994 with their VR1000, this is who they eventually chose as their pilot. He brought the technologically-plagued program their only podium finishes in 1999 before they quit racing in 2001. He's raced for Yamaha, Ducati, Kawasaki and Suzuki as well, and has been racing in the American Motorcycle Association championships since 1992. He came back to Canada in 2003, winning the superbike and 600cc championships in 2003 and 2004, and now owns and helps run Picotte Performance while still racing.

His biggest downside is his habit of breaking himself: in this year's Parts Canada Superbike Championship season opener at Shannonville in May, for instance, he managed a fourth place finish despite breaking four vertebrae, a toe, and having injuries to both knees sustained in a pre-season crash in April. July's race saw him finish 3rd, so he seems to be healing nicely.

He's raced karts, stock cars and snowmobiles, too, and has three tracks on his property in his birthplace of Granby, Quebec.

Steve Crevier

The man from Maple Ridge has five Canadian Superbike championships and one AMA 600 Supersport championship and almost 20 AMA podium finishes to his name; he's got the most wins in Canadian roadracing history, was last year's Canadian 600cc champion. For three years (1991 - 93), he was racing in three different AMA streetbike catagories. This year, he doesn't even have a ride in Canada. Go fig.

He is racing a Buell XB-RR in some events of the AMA Formula Xtreme series for Picotte Performance/Deeley Harley-Davidson (finishing 9th in his latest race), but otherwise with Honda pulling it's factory team in favour of the Red Rider privateer support program, he's a pedestrian this year.

Miguel Duhamel

Unquestionably the best street racer ever to come from Canada. Born in LaSalle in 1968, he entered his first motorcycle race in 1976 and the only times he's looked back is to see other riders. You can tell this family loves riding: his brother Mario is also a professional racer, and his father Yvon won the first AMA national superbike race at Laguna Seca in 1974. He's universally respected and (almost) universally liked in the racing world, something that's very rare in any competitive sport.

The 1991 AMA 600 and Daytona 200 champion and 1993 AMA 600 repeat champion was the first rider to race the Harley-Davidson VR1000 in 1994: he even managed to qualify in the front row in Ohio that year, leading the race until the shift lever fell off.

He went back to Honda in 1995, winning the superbike and supersport championships. He's been with Honda ever since, and has amassed an amazing record over his career:

Supersport (600cc)
Five championships
One third place overall
One fifth place overall

Superbike
One championship
Three second place overall
Three third place overall
Three fifth overall

Daytona 200
Five Superbike wins
One Superbike second overall
One Supersport (600cc) win

Formula Xtreme
Two championships

The guy is now 38 years old, but if you think he'd be slowing down, last year was when he won his fifth Daytona 200, his second Formula Xtreme, and got fifth in Superbike. As of this year, he holds the records for the most Supersport race wins (41), the longest winning streak (10 races in a row, 6 in a row in Superbike), the last rider to win the Supersport and Superbike championships in the same year (1995), and is second in career Superbike wins with 32. This year so far he's racing only in the Superbike series, where he has 11 top-five finishes in the first 14 races, sitting him in third place overall. This, on a bike that is still in development, the new CBR1000RR.

This year, he's following well behind the impressive Matt Mladin and a shockingly good Ben Spies, both of whom are riding the rock-solid Suzuki GSX-R1000s. This year, those two are out of reach, but I'd place no bets against him for 2007...


So those are the old guys. Who else is there? Well, I wouldn't be surprised if 27-year old Jordan Szoke got a call from a U.S. team real soon - he's been racing professionally in Canada for 11 years now (you do the math), and has two championships to his credit. Matt McBride is another rider that is well worth watching, but he hasn't been riding very long, so we'll see where he unds up in three years.

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posted by Thursday at 12:03 pm 0 comments

August 07, 2006

Politics: Why Don't I Believe Politicians?

Pop quiz time!

What do:

The New York Times Co.
Bloomberg L.P.
The Public Broadcasting Service
Wal-Mart
Home Depot
Gannett Co. (Parent company of USA Today International)


Why, they're all small businesses who have received government contracts, of course!

Wait... The White House gave a contract to PBS? A little counter to their usual policy, isn't it? It must be all that liberal bias in reality that Stephen Colbert was talking about...

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posted by Thursday at 8:44 pm 0 comments

Science: Gut Instinct vs. Actual Science

Science has brought such badness, that I don't trust it any more!

-Someone who hasn't really thought things through.

It came from nature, so it must be good for you!

-Someone who obviously isn't a gardener.


The idea was this:
Electricity was already being used as a pancea, so the folks who missed the boat there were looking for a new drug they could ride an advertising wave on. Likewise, hot springs were used as health retreats, and had been for centuries. Radiation was a new discovery, and everyone was terribly excited about it.

Combine these together, and you have some bright-bean having the idea to bring a geiger counter to a health resort. The water from hot springs is naturally (slightly) more radioactive than you standard tap water, so what he discovered was that all other water was deficient.

Makes sense, right?

Hot springs are healthy + the spring water is radioactive - tap water is not + people leave the city to get healthy in the country = radiation is good for you!

As a result of this conclusion, an entire industry sprang up focusing on getting as much radioactive materials into consumer's homes as possible, and making a quick buck while doing it. There were radium-impregnated pads to wear over your thyroid glands, blankets with radium woven in, even (my personal favorite) ceramic jugs with a disc of radium sitting inside. These you were supposed to fill with water and let stand for 24 hours before drinking six glasses a day. A playboy/spokesman of one water jug company did this for a few years, then his jaw fell off.

The backlash was considerable.

You can still find find some of the water jugs at auctions and second hand stores on occasion, but if you ever do, may I suggest having them checked by your local geeks before bringing it home?

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posted by Thursday at 7:47 pm 0 comments

August 06, 2006

Religion: And Gooba Gooba Gooba You, too!

So a post of mine got accepted into the Carnival of the Godless, and on my way there I stopped by at Atheist Revolution, where vjack was puzzling about the etiquette of ending letters with "yours in Christ". Needless to say, he's rather underwhelmed receiving business mail signed this way.

It reminded me of dropping off one of the guests from the knitting retreat the Significant Other and I catered. It was forbidden that I should discuss politics or religion, so it was only on the drive out that I discovered that she was a devout Christian Republican married to a state senator who is fighting my province on the lumber tarrifs. We would have had so much to discuss, too! Anyways, I kept it polite and when we parted at the train station she said,

"Jesus bless you."

This phrase has no real meaning for me: when I say I'm an atheist, I mean it. Mohammed, Jesus, Yahweh, Buddha, Zeus, Lao Tzu, Baron Samedi and the Flying Spaghetti Monster all hold the exact same moral weight in my life. I didn't have anything to say back to her, having already wished her well on the trip, so I replied rather lamely "You, too."


Now, which of the two parting lines would you consider more appropriate:

1) "Have a safe flight home!"
or
2) "Glory be! Blessings from Gaia Earth Mother upon you!"

Me, I'll stick with the first. For much the same reason, I tend to say "Gesundheit" ("sound health") instead of "Bless you" when someone sneezes. Maybe I'm being silly about not doling out blessings left and right, but I'd just rather say something that has some kind of meaning.

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posted by Thursday at 3:38 pm 2 comments

August 04, 2006

Other: At the End of the Tunnel

The Skeptics' Circle is back, and this time it's in the bold light of day. Specifically, over at Daylight Atheism, who also has an interesting series about whether atheists should proselytize...

Enjoy!

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posted by Thursday at 12:24 pm 0 comments

August 02, 2006

Other: Life Lessons

Two things I learned at work today:

1) Just because you haven't had to take a painkiller for a couple of days does NOT mean your ribs have healed, and

2) For a bright, white smile, look up when painting a stucco ceiling.

I think I'll spend my suddenly found day off gargling.

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posted by Thursday at 3:10 pm 0 comments