Monday, May 31, 2010

The new show "V" seems a bit strange

Video from the Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla

Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal was on board the aid ship 'Mavi Marmara,' which was trying to break an aid blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza when it was stormed by Israeli soldiers.

From Al Jazeera's blurb on the video

Commandos lowered themselves from helicopters and onto the Mavi Marmara - the lead ship in a flotilla of six vessels which are carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinian territory.

Elshayyal on board the Mavi Marmara sent this report before communications were cut

The Israeli Defense Force has released more video from the flotilla allegedly showing IDF naval personnel being attacked after they had boarded the flotilla.

From the written IDF account posted with the video:

Early this morning, IDF Naval Forces boarded six ships attempting to break the maritime closure of the Gaza Strip. This happened after numerous warnings from Israel and the Israeli Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod where they would be able to unload their aid supplies which would then be transferred over land after undergoing security inspections.

During the boarding of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire.

According to initial reports, these events resulted in over ten deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured, in addition, more than four naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and some from various other weapons. Two of the soldiers are moderately wounded and the remainder sustained light injuries. All of the injured, Israelis and foreigners are currently being evacuated by helicopter to hospitals in Israel.

Here's raw footage from aboard the ship. The first shows Israel soldiers boarding the ship and also repelling onto the vessel via a helicopter. The second clip was apparently filmed by Press TV

Prime Minister Layton?

An interesting column today from the Globe and Mail's Norman Spector. Although I don't trust Spector or his motivation for penning this piece, considering that he is pretty far on the right, still, Layton's popularity is undeniable, as he has consistenly been ranked high and as Canada's most popular political leader. Certainly if the Liberals were to win a minority government and needed the support of the NDP to pass legislation, or if a coalition were formed between the two, than surely a stipulation of such a coalition accord would have to included electoral reform and specifically proportional representation: as the NDP, Liberals and the Green Party continually get screwed in our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system, and even Conservatives in urban areas for that matter. With proportional representation, both the NDP and the Greens would be capturing more seats and therefore appear as a much more viable option to the electorate. Regardless:

Prime Minister Layton?

In one respect, the results of an Angus Reid poll to be released on Monday are not surprising — the Conservatives are at 35 per cent, the Liberals at 27 and the NDP are at 19 per cent; in Quebec, the Bloc leads with 37 per cent.

However, the poll also asked Canadians how they would vote if the Liberals and NDP went to the polls offering Canadians a coalition government, and here things get interesting.

According to the results published in Monday’s edition of La Presse, the Conservatives led by Stephen Harper would defeat a coalition led by Michael Ignatieff 40-34 per cent.

With Bob Rae as Liberal leader, the coalition and Conservatives would be tied.

However, if the coalition were to propose Jack Layton as prime minister, according to the Reid poll, it could defeat the Conservatives by 43-37 per cent.

The reason: Jack Layton is well-liked by Quebecers but they don’t vote for the NDP because they see no chance of the party forming government; with the prospect of Mr. Layton in the prime minister’s office, 44 per cent of Quebecers would vote NDP — 10 per cent more than the Bloc.

The pollster says that the question was only theoretical, and was only asked because of the results of the British election and because of Jean Chrétien’s statement on CBC last week that if a coalition is doable they parties should do it. And it’s hard to believe that these numbers would last through a campaign, though it’s worth noting that the poll has Mr. Layton as the most popular of the federal leaders (30 per cent to Harper’s 29). But it sure would make for an interesting election, and, in the nearer term, it will be interesting to see how the Liberals deal with the results of the survey.

Joe Pantalone’s Plan for Civic Values

Joe Pantalone’s Plan For Civic Values – City Government That’s Accountable, Flexible & Accessible

As people who live, work, and play in Toronto, we’re passionate about our “city of neighbourhoods.” City government is where those neighbourhoods come together – it helps us take part in our Toronto. But it should take us all seriously. And it shouldn’t take all our time.

As Mayor, Joe would implement his Plan for Civic Value to make city government more accountable, flexible, and accessible – to get people out of lineups and back in their neighbourhoods.

Accountable – 21st Century Democracy

Internet Voting

Joe will make Toronto’s first online election possible. More ballots cast means a government more representative of the people it serves.

Diversity Our Strength – A Vote For Every Torontonian

If you make Toronto your permanent home, you should have a permanent voice in how it’s run. Joe would push for voting rights for everyone with Permanent Resident status. It’s sensible, it’s responsible, and it’s possible.

Flexible – Working For You

More Convenient Hours

Not all business – like getting permission to build a bigger fence, or making sure a landlord deals with building repairs in a timely way – can be conducted online. But that shouldn’t mean you lose a day at work or school. That’s why, as mayor, Joe will move appropriate committee meetings to the evening. Because City Hall should work for you.

More Voices

Joe will create a Mayor’s Council, to invite the insight and experience of leaders in business, the arts, labour, and community engagement.

Accessible – From Queen & Bay to Work & Play

City Hall may be downtown, but Toronto is wherever you are.

Just a Call or a Click

As Deputy Mayor, Joe helped create Toronto’s groundbreaking 311 system, a 24-hour telephone hotline and internet platform to guide people through city services and find solutions. As Mayor, Joe would prioritize expansion of 311 services – so even more help is always one call or click away. No voicemail. No runaround. No problem.


Joe would bring City Hall to you, through regular townhalls at rotating locations across the city. Bring your issues right to the Mayor, or connect with city service problem solvers on staff.

Online Permits

Many city transactions, such as permit requests, will be made available online. You should be planning your community event, not planning how to get forms filled out.

Interactive Meetings

Council Committees will be webcast in real time, so you can be up-to-date on decisions that affect your community. And if you can’t show up to make a deputation in person, you’ll be provided with ways to interact with committee members online.

Toronto works. With Mayor Joe Pantalone, we can make it work even better.

Israeli commandos attack aid ships, 19 killed

The Associated Press:

Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing at as many as 19 passengers in a predawn raid that sets off worldwide condemnation and a diplomatic crisis.

Israel said the forces encountered unexpected resistance as they boarded the vessels. Dozens of passengers and at least five Israeli soldiers were wounded in the confrontation in international waters.

According to Agence France-Presse, Israel’s Channel 10 television is reporting that 19 passengers were killed and 36 wounded in the confrontation, although the Israeli army gave a toll of 10.

Israel's tough response triggered widespread condemnation across Europe; many of the passengers were from European countries. The raid also strained already tense relations with Israel's longtime Muslim ally Turkey, the unofficial sponsor of the mission, and drew more attention to the plight of Gaza's 1.5 million people.

Turkey announced it was withdrawing its ambassador to Israel, cancelling three joint military drills and calling on the U.N. Security Council to convene in an emergency session about Israel. The Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Greece were summoned for meetings, and the French foreign minister called for an investigation.

The violent takeover also threatened to deal yet another blow to Israel's international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.

It occurred a day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the Middle East peace process.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned "the disproportionate use of force" against the flotilla.

"All light must be shed on the circumstances of this tragedy, which underlines the urgency of resuming peace talks," he said in a statement.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak expressed regret for the deaths but blamed the violence on organizers of the flotilla, calling the effort a "political provocation" by anti-Israel forces.

Israeli security forces were on alert across the country, and the government advised Israelis to avoid travel to Turkey.

There were conflicting accounts of what happened early Monday.

An Al-Jazeera reporter on one of the Turkish ships said the Israelis fired at the vessel before boarding it. The Israelis, who had declared they would not let the ships reach Gaza, said they only opened fire after being attacked by activists with sticks, knives and live fire from weapons seized from the Israeli commandos.

"On board the ship we found weapons prepared in advance and used against our forces," declared Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.

"The organizers' intent was violent, their method was violent and the results were unfortunately violent. Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli "aggression," declared three days of mourning across the West Bank and called on the U.N. Security Council and Arab League to hold emergency sessions on the incident.

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the rival Hamas government in Gaza, condemned the "brutal" Israeli attack and called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said soldiers were forced by violent activists to respond with live fire.

The activists were headed to Gaza on a mission meant to draw attention to a 3-year-old Israeli blockade of the coastal territory. Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group, violently seized the territory. Critics say the blockade has unfairly hurt Gaza's 1.5 million people.

"It's disgusting that they have come on board and attacked civilians. We are civilians," said Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza movement, which organized the flotilla. She spoke from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and said she had lost contact with the flotilla.

Before the ships set sail from waters off the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on Sunday, Israel had urged the flotilla not to try to breach the blockade and offered to transfer the cargo to Gaza from an Israeli port, following a security inspection.

Israeli naval commandos stormed the ships in a pre-dawn raid while they were in international waters after ordering them to stop about 130 kilometres from Gaza's coast, according to activists.

A Turkish website showed video of pandemonium on board one of the ships, with activists in orange life jackets running around as some tried to help an activist apparently unconscious on the deck. The site also showed video of an Israeli helicopter flying overhead and Israeli warships nearby.

Turkey's NTV showed activists beating one Israeli soldier with sticks as he rappelled from a helicopter onto one of the boats.

The Al-Jazeera satellite channel reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli navy forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain.

"These savages are killing people here, please help," a Turkish television reporter said.

The broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, "Everybody shut up!"

The Israeli military said troops only opened fire after encountering unexpected resistance from the activists. Activists attacked troops with knives and iron rods, and opened fire with two pistols seized from the forces.

A total of five soldiers were wounded, two seriously, including at least one hit by live fire, the army said. Two of the dead activists had fired at soldiers with pistols, the army said.

"They planned this attack," said Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch. "Our soldiers were injured from these knives and sharp metal objects ... as well as from live fire."

The ships were being towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, and wounded were evacuated by helicopter to Israeli hospitals, officials said. One of the ships had reached port by midday.

There were no details on the identities of the casualties, or on the conditions of some of the more prominent people on board, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland and European legislators.

A Holocaust survivor who planned to join the flotilla changed her plans at the last minute. Hedy Epstein said on Monday from the Free Gaza Movement's office in Larnaca, Cyprus that she opted not to join others who made their way to the flotilla ships from the island on Saturday.

The 85-year-old said she had hoped to join other activists aboard another ship, the Rachel Corrie, that was to attempt to reach Gaza later.

Satellite phones on board the ships were turned off, and communication with a small group of reporters embedded with the Israeli military was blocked.

The Free Gaza Movement is an international group of pro-Palestinian activists that claims the blockade, imposed three years ago after the militant Islamic Hamas group overran Gaza, is unjust and a violation of international law.

Organizers included people affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group that often sends international activists into battle zones, and the IHH, a Turkish aid group that Israel accuses of having terrorist links.

Hasan Naiboglu, the Turkish maritime affairs undersecretary, told the Anatolia news agency that Israel had jammed communications with the ships. He accused Israel of violating international law by carrying out the raid in international waters.

Israel's Ynet news website said Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak called Turkish officials, including the defence and foreign ministers, to discuss the raid.

The United Nations expressed "shock" and condemned the killings. "We are in contact with the Israeli authorities to express our deep concern and to seek a full explanation," said a statement from the highest-ranking U.N. official in the region, Robert Serry.

The flotilla of three cargo ships and three passenger ships carrying 10,000 tons of aid and 700 activists was carrying items that Israel bars from reaching Gaza, like cement and other building materials.

This is the ninth time that the Free Gaza movement has tried to ship in humanitarian aid to Gaza since August 2008.

Israel has allowed ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since a three-week military offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers in January 2009.

The latest flotilla was the largest to date.

Worse than racist

The "free market" didn't solve this problem (photo courtesy of

By Devona Walker, from Devona Walker is's senior financial/political reporter and blogger. She can be reached at Walker is spot on here:

Rand Paul got caught up in controversy because he said he disagrees with provisions of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- specifically he disagrees with the federal government forcing any private citizen to do business with nonwhites. Now, he’s all surprised that his political hopes, once considered the bright spot in the GOP, are now definitely less so.

But me, I’m wondering WTF America? What did you expect from the Tea Party and any of their candidates? What do you expect of Libertarians? Anytime you elect someone who is right of the far right in this country, what you are going to end up with will be entirely wrong. And why now? Why are you only interested or even aware of his views now, when Rand Paul has been Rand Paul and spewing his ideologically purist libertarian nonsense, which is by definition completely unconcerned or undeterred by real social ills and reality for that matter, for his entire career.

First off, I don’t think Rand Paul is a racist, not consciously at least. He simply represents a mindset that is completely ignorant and disinterested in all issues concerning race and racism. He's disinterested in how that affects people in this country who happen to not look like him. He is primarily concerned with preserving the liberties of those who happen to look like him. That's essentially the nature of true libertarians. That's why his father has been relegated to the margins in politics. That's why we don't have national libertarian candidates. While their views may be based on principles, they are not based on reality.

"The trouble with Dr. Paul is that despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream," the (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier Journal wrote in an op-ed piece months ago about Paul. "For instance, he holds an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group."

In Paul’s mind, being a racist is a personal liberty. The fact that bigoted people deny liberties and freedoms to minorities due to their racism, sexism or homophobia is not really important. The only liberty to consider there is that one individual's right to be a jerk. Government cannot legislate against it. The "free market" in his mind will correct it in the end. So, the minorities who are refused jobs, housing, insurance, we would simply be collateral damage in the libertarian world view. Our freedom to pursue happiness is not as important as a racist's freedom to express his own hatred for us by denying us freedoms.

Paul also wants to do away with Social Security as well as all entitlement programs. He is against the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Philosophically speaking, this falls in line with traditional liberterian thought. Libertarians, often portrayed as Republican-light, are actually far more extreme and troublesome than Republicans. The contradiction, of course, is that their extreme views are based on principle -- the very simple principal that we are all individuals and the government's sole purpose and only responsibility to us is to protect our borders. In return, libertarians think we should be paying less for taxes. And we would ultimately live more free lives because of it. The only problem is this premise is entirely unreasonable. If we learned nothing from the last two years, it’s that the free market will not police itself, it needs government oversight. We also learned how destructive a few individuals can be if not properly policed by government.

Government is dysfunctional -- that I will give Paul and his fellow libertarians. The only problem is that there are many Americans who are even more dysfunctional and without government, minorities in this country would have no liberties whatsoever. The only problem is that we are expected to pay the cost for their "liberties."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

This guy is insane

There's more footage at the Animal Planet website.

Toronto City Hall's green roof opens

CBC News video

From CBC News:

A green roof promoting environmental sustainability opened on Toronto's City Hall Saturday.

Approximately 3,250 square metres of concrete on the podium roof has been transformed to accommodate vegetation in an attempt to reduce the building's environmental impact, said a city news release.

"There's various plants that will grow and change colour over the season,'" said city spokeswoman Cindy Bromley. "It's designed to have pathways and benches, shade places and sunny places. We've already [seen] signs of wildlife — squirrels are coming to the garden, birds, bumblebees and butterflies."

The project is Phase 1 of the revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square, which aims to restore the heritage qualities of the area and make it an environmentally sustainable public meeting place.

"I'm tremendously pleased that we have been able to reopen and reinvent the podium for public use," said Mayor David Miller. "The landscaped gardens, a courtyard framing the council chamber, a podium terrace and new walkways and furnishings are a spectacular testament to Torontonians' passion for green spaces and their commitment to environmental sustainability."

Plans for the square, which opened in 1965, include a two-storey restaurant, a permanent stage, skating pavilion, and a new fountain.

Several trees will be planted around the square to provide shade and a border around the upgraded area.

Plans also call for new lighting and landscaping and elevated walkways linking the various features.

The $42-million project, first proposed in 2005, is expected to be completed by 2012.

The green roof is one of the venues that can be visited as part of Toronto's Doors Open weekend on May 29 and 30. Doors Open is an event allowing free public access to 150 buildings of architectural and cultural importance.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Roger Waters interviewed by Nicky Horne

Roger Waters with Nicky Horne, from Planet Rock.

New Rule: Politicians must be informed of their rights

New Rule: Before running for office, politicians must be informed of their rights: that "Everything you say can and will be used against you in a Google search." Now, of course, we all embellish our resumes a little. In college, I described my job of pot dealer as "regional sales associate for a large multi-national firm." But we just had the fifth anniversary of YouTube and the twelfth of Google, and between them, they're killing off a great institution: lying. You just can't lie anymore -- facts are too easy to check, everything is on video, and your wife put a GPS in your glove compartment. Our privacy is gone, our Internet conversations are forever. I even have reason to believe I'm being recorded right now...

Jesus once said that there was nothing hidden that would not some day be revealed, but if he was alive today, and walked on water, it would be instantly on YouTube between a skateboard accident and a turtle biting a baby's ass. And the first comment would be "fag." Twenty-four hours of new video is posted on YouTube every 60 seconds. Mostly of a girl named Kelly, showing off things she bought at Forever 21, but still...

Even when you're just at Wal-Mart in your pajamas buying condoms, someone is taking a picture of it and putting it on a website called "People at Wal-Mart Buying Condoms in Their Pajamas." And Fergie -- whenever you're doing something shady in a hotel room, of course someone is filming it. Also be aware that, without makeup, you don't look anything like you do in the Black Eyed Peas.

Politically, it's even more ridiculous to think you can lie: Richard Blumenthal, running for the Senate in Connecticut, saying he was in Vietnam when he wasn't? This isn't camp, where you can tell a lie and no one will know back home. The army keeps records.

Or John McCain saying, " I never considered myself a maverick." Which of course prompted an avalanche of video, e-mails, letters and probably telegrams of McCain bragging that he was a maverick. There's video of everything, so to think you can get away with making a speech and just pulling shit out of your ass, you'd have to be an egomaniac, a sociopath, or a world-class moron. Which brings me to Sarah Palin.

Last week she said she knows what the Gulf states are going through now because, "I have lived and worked through that Exxon Valdez oil spill." She was a 25-year-old newlywed sportscaster, living in another part of the state that didn't see any oil. She "lived and worked" through Exxon Valdez the same way Christie Brinkley lived and worked through the Iranian hostage crisis. But she got away with it because she lied in the one place where it's still perfectly acceptable to lie -- inside the Fox News, Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh Republican bubble. It's where facts don't matter, because no one ever hears from that other, inconvenient side called reality. 24 days into the oil spill, former journalist Brit Hume said, "Where's the oil? You don't see it on the beach" -- like it's a liberal conspiracy.

Within that bubble, people think they can get away with anything -- hiking the Appalachian trail? Getting your gay hooker from But they can't -- no one can. If you don't believe me, text Tiger Woods and ask him. Don't have his number? Google it.

Speaking of hound dogs, our old friend John Edwards is looking for a plea deal this month. Because he said he didn't have sex with that woman, and then they found video of him going down on her when she was six-months pregnant. Senator, there's got to be a simpler way to hide your face from the camera. Don't you have a hat?

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

From the Associated Press:

Los Angeles (AP) -- Dennis Hopper, the high-flying Hollywood wild man whose memorable and erratic career included an early turn in "Rebel Without a Cause," an improbable smash with "Easy Rider" and a classic character role in "Blue Velvet," has died. He was 74.

Hopper died Saturday at his home in the Los Angeles beach community of Venice, surrounded by family and friends, family friend Alex Hitz said. Hopper's manager announced in October 2009 that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The success of "Easy Rider," and the spectacular failure of his next film, "The Last Movie," fit the pattern for the talented but sometimes uncontrollable actor-director, who also had parts in such favorites as "Apocalypse Now" and "Hoosiers." He was a two-time Academy Award nominee, and in March 2010, was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

After a promising start that included roles in two James Dean films, Hopper's acting career had languished as he developed a reputation for throwing tantrums and abusing alcohol and drugs. On the set of "True Grit," Hopper so angered John Wayne that the star reportedly chased Hopper with a loaded gun.

He married five times and led a dramatic life right to the end. In January 2010, Hopper filed to end his 14-year marriage to Victoria Hopper, who stated in court filings that the actor was seeking to cut her out of her inheritance, a claim Hopper denied.

"Much of Hollywood," wrote critic-historian David Thomson, "found Hopper a pain in the neck."

All was forgiven, at least for a moment, when he collaborated with another struggling actor, Peter Fonda, on a script about two pot-smoking, drug-dealing hippies on a motorcycle trip through the Southwest and South to take in the New Orleans Mardi Gras.

On the way, Hopper and Fonda befriend a drunken young lawyer (Jack Nicholson, whom Hopper had resisted casting, in a breakout role), but arouse the enmity of Southern rednecks and are murdered before they can return home.

"'Easy Rider' was never a motorcycle movie to me," Hopper said in 2009. "A lot of it was about politically what was going on in the country."

Fonda produced "Easy Rider" and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40 million worldwide, a substantial sum for its time. The film caught on despite tension between Hopper and Fonda and between Hopper and the original choice for Nicholson's part, Rip Torn, who quit after a bitter argument with the director.

The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute's ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave official blessing in 1998 when "Easy Rider" was included in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Its success prompted studio heads to schedule a new kind of movie: low cost, with inventive photography and themes about a young, restive baby boom generation. With Hopper hailed as a brilliant filmmaker, Universal Pictures lavished $850,000 on his next project, "The Last Movie."

The title was prescient. Hopper took a large cast and crew to a village in Peru to film the tale of a Peruvian tribe corrupted by a movie company. Trouble on the set developed almost immediately, as Peruvian authorities pestered the company, drug-induced orgies were reported and Hopper seemed out of control.

When he finally completed filming, he retired to his home in Taos, N.M., to piece together the film, a process that took almost a year, in part because he was using psychedelic drugs for editing inspiration.

When it was released, "The Last Movie" was such a crashing failure that it made Hopper unwanted in Hollywood for a decade. At the same time, his drug and alcohol use was increasing to the point where he was said to be consuming as much as a gallon of rum a day.

Shunned by the Hollywood studios, he found work in European films that were rarely seen in the United States. But, again, he made a remarkable comeback, starting with a memorable performance as a drugged-out journalist in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War epic, "Apocalypse Now," a spectacularly long and troubled film to shoot. Hopper was drugged-out off camera, too, and his rambling chatter was worked into the final cut.

He went on to appear in several films in the early 1980s, including the well regarded "Rumblefish" and "The Osterman Weekend," as well as the campy "My Science Project" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2."

But alcohol and drugs continued to interfere with his work. Treatment at a detox clinic helped him stop drinking but he still used cocaine, and at one point he became so hallucinatory that he was committed to the psychiatric ward of a Los Angeles hospital.

Upon his release, Hopper joined Alcoholics Anonymous, quit drugs and launched yet another comeback. It began in 1986 when he played an alcoholic ex-basketball star in "Hoosiers," which brought him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

His role as a wild druggie in "Blue Velvet," also in 1986, won him more acclaim, and years later the character wound up No. 36 on the AFI's list of top 50 movie villains.

He returned to directing, with "Colors," "The Hot Spot" and "Chasers."

From that point on, Hopper maintained a frantic work pace, appearing in many forgettable movies and a few memorable ones, including the 1994 hit "Speed," in which he played the maniacal plotter of a freeway disaster. In the 2000s, he was featured in the television series "Crash" and such films as "Elegy" and "Hell Ride."

"Work is fun to me," he told a reporter in 1991. "All those years of being an actor and a director and not being able to get a job - two weeks is too long to not know what my next job will be."

For years he lived in Los Angeles' bohemian beach community of Venice, in a house designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.

In later years he picked up some income by becoming a pitchman for Ameriprise Financial, aiming ads at baby boomers looking ahead to retirement. His politics, like much of his life, were unpredictable. The old rebel contributed money to the Republican Party in recent years, but also voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.

Dennis Lee Hopper was born in 1936, in Dodge City, Kan., and spent much of his youth on the nearby farm of his grandparents. He saw his first movie at 5 and became enthralled.

After moving to San Diego with his family, he played Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theater.

Scouted by the studios, Hopper was under contract to Columbia until he insulted the boss, Harry Cohn. From there he went to Warner Bros., where he made "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" while in his late teens.

Later, he moved to New York to study at the Actors Studio, where Dean had learned his craft.

Hopper's first wife was Brooke Hayward, the daughter of actress Margaret Sullavan and agent Leland Hayward, and author of the best-selling memoir "Haywire." They had a daughter, Marin, before Hopper's drug-induced violence led to divorce after eight years.

His second marriage, to singer-actress Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, lasted only eight days.

A union with actress Daria Halprin also ended in divorce after they had a daughter, Ruthana. Hopper and his fourth wife, dancer Katherine LaNasa, had a son, Henry, before divorcing.

He married his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy, who was 32 years his junior, in 1996, and they had a daughter, Galen Grier.

Friday, May 28, 2010

BP and US Government 'Command Center' Guarded by Company From Afghan Embassy Hazing Scandal

By Jeremy Scahill, from The Nation:

I just got off the phone with my friends Naomi Klein, author of "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," and her husband Avi Lewis, host of al Jazeera English's popular program Fault Lines. They are traveling around the devastated US Gulf reporting on the horrific disaster caused by BP's massive oil spill. They described to me a run in that they just had with the private security company Wackenhut, which apparently has been hired to do the perimeter security for the "Deepwater Horizon Unified Command." The "Unified Command" is run jointly by BP and several US government agencies including the US Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security.

Wackenhut, of course, is the notorious private security company that operates in the US and around the globe. It recently became part of the huge British mercenary network G4S. Most recently, Wackenhut gained global infamy for the conduct of guards from its subsidiary Armor Group after it was revealed by whistleblowers that the company created a "Lord of the Flies environment" at the embassy "in which guards and supervisors are 'peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks... [drunken] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity." According to the Project on Government Oversight, "Multiple guards say this deviant hazing has created a climate of fear and coercion, with those who declined to participate often ridiculed, humiliated, demoted, or even fired. The result is an environment that is dangerous and volatile. Some guards have reported barricading themselves in their rooms for fear that those carrying out the hazing will harm them physically."

In other words, Wackenhut is the perfect choice to "guard" the joint BP-US government-US military operation in the Gulf.

Lewis told me that for two weeks his crew has attempted to interview officials from the Unified Command's Joint Information Center. "We had been shut down or dodged for 2 weeks of official requests," he said. Finally, Lewis and Klein, who is on assignment for The Guardian, decided to go to the information center in person "to try to nail something down."

When they pulled up to the front gate, they were greeted by a private security guard working for Wackenhut, the massive security company. "We said we were media and he said, 'No no no. You're going to have to turn around and go back," recalls Lewis. Klein added, "The Wackenhut guard said we couldn't come in without permission, but wouldn't tell us who we needed permission from. When we didn't leave, he radioed for back up and a Wackenhut truck arrived to escort us off the grounds." Here's a photo of the Wackenhut guard stopping them

Klein, who spent extensive time in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina documenting the widespread disaster profiteering and privatization that endures to this day said the fact that Wackenhut is guarding a joint operation of the US government and BP is not surprising given what is happening in the Gulf right now. "The whole Gulf Coast is a corporate oil state," she told me. "It's like BP broke it, so now they own the entire Gulf Coast." She added: "We might accept the premise that BP is best positionioned to know how to fix the blow up at 5,000 feet, but that also seems to mean they think they should control media access and the entire clean up of a massive national emergency. BP is in charge of everything. We were on the water in open seas the day before the Wackenhut incident and a boat pulls up next to us and asked if we worked for BP and we said, "No," and they said, 'You can't be here.'" It is completely sci-fi. It's a corporate state."

Hébert: Liberals should embrace PR

The cause of electoral reform and proportional representation received another high profile supporter within the media today, as the Toronto Star's national columnist and CBC political pundit Chantal Hébert argued in her column today that the Liberal Party should embrace and champion electoral reform and specifically proportional representation. Hébert makes a very strong and convincing case for the Liberals to do so as well, considering their decline in the polls over the last few decades and misrepresentation in specific Canadian regions despite considerable electoral support. Hébert also very wisely points out the strength and numbers of federalist voters within Quebec who in reality are over represented in the House of Commons by Bloc Quebecois MPs. Anyways, it's great news to have another influential and respected member of Canada's media elite to get onboard with very an extremely practical and long overdue initiative. Thank you Chantal:

From Canada’s perspective, the overdue rehabilitation of the concept of coalition building in a minority Parliament was just one of the beneficial collateral results of the recent British election.

Another could be to put electoral reform squarely on the federal agenda.

As part of the deal between Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, the UK will be looking at alternatives to the first-past-the-post system.

But there should be no need for Canada to wait for the UK to work its way through a discussion on its electoral system to have one of its own.

Since Ontario and British Columbia foundered in their attempts to move to more proportional voting systems, the issue has fallen off the parliamentary radar.

The failed provincial bids have just about killed the notion that a Medicare-style domino effect would, in time, provide a compelling provincial model for a federal reform

If this debate is going to regain momentum, it will have to come from a change in the dynamics at the federal level.

Until now the NDP has been the only party to champion the cause of electoral reform in Parliament and, so far, the results of its efforts have been underwhelming.

By contrast, conventional federal Liberal wisdom has been that the first-past-the-post system worked well for the party and its position has been to stick with it.

In the 1997 election, it helped Jean Chrétien eke a governing majority out of as shallow a pool of popular support as 38 per cent. But looking back on three decades of steady erosion of the Liberals’ national foundation, the party has traded short-term electoral gain for long-term pain.

While the distortions of the system did benefit the Liberals in Ontario, especially over the period when the right was divided, they have also exacerbated their absence from other important regions.

Western Canada is a case in point: In the last election the Liberals won 19 per cent of the vote in Manitoba but only 7 per cent of the seats and the support of one in five British Columbian voters translated into only five Liberal seats out of a provincial total of 36.

Over time, those distortions have resulted in a vicious circle.

The Liberals have yet to stage a leadership campaign that features a top-tier contender from Western Canada and since the advent of the Bloc Québécois, the party’s pool of francophone talent has also shrunk dramatically.

On that latter score, the same is true of the other federalist parties.

For almost two decades and even as a majority of its voters have supported federalist parties, Quebec has been massively represented by sovereignists in the House of Commons.

A recurring criticism of a more proportional election system is that it would make majority governments harder to secure.

But given the well-entrenched regional fault lines in federal party support across Canada, the best a party could hope for under the current system would be to achieve a technical majority – i.e. one that reflects regional divisions rather than a national consensus.

At the same time, some of the most pressing issues on the federal plate – matters such as climate change, energy and equalization, to name just three – will require a serious amount of intra-regional compromises.

That give-and-take is much more likely to be fostered under the common roof of a national caucus than across the federal-provincial table.

If the Liberals are serious about restoring their status as a national institution, it is time for them to abandon their faith in short-term electoral short cuts and rethink their approach to a more proportional voting system.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wall Street's War

Congress looked serious about finance reform – until America's biggest banks unleashed an army of 2,000 paid lobbyists. A massive but yet another great read and journalistic work from Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi.

X51A Waverider travels 6 times speed of sound

Is this worthwhile or another pointless waste of taxpayer money? I don't think you'll hear the "smaller government" crowd complain about this. Only social services feel their wrath. From the Associated Press:

Washington — An experimental aircraft has set a record for hypersonic flight, flying more than 3 minutes at Mach 6 – six times the speed of sound.

The X-51A Waverider was released from a B-52 Stratofortress off the southern California coast Wednesday morning, the Air Force reported on its website. Its scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 6, and it flew autonomously for 200 seconds before losing acceleration. At that point the test was terminated.

The Air Force said the previous record for a hypersonic scramjet burn was 12 seconds.

"We are ecstatic to have accomplished many of the X-51A test points during its first hypersonic mission," said Charlie Brink, an X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

"We equate this leap in engine technology as equivalent to the post-World War II jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines," Brink said.

The Waverider was built for the Air Force by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Boeing Co.

Joe Vogel, Boeing's director of hypersonics, said, "This is a new world record and sets the foundation for several hypersonic applications, including access to space, reconnaissance, strike, global reach and commercial transportation."

Four X-51A cruisers have been built for the Air Force, and the remaining three will be tested this fall.

"No test is perfect," Brink said, "and I'm sure we will find anomalies that we will need to address before the next flight."

Elton's fans drown out religious homophobes

Religion, religion, religion. Enough with the bigotry. Regardless, hat's off to the Moroccan royal palace, government and all the fans for their support and for respecting John's private life (if only we in North America could have the same attitude). And kudos to the Moroccan judicial system which ignores the anti-gay laws and doesn't apply draconian fines and prison sentences. From the Associated Press:

Elton John Concert In Morocco Outrages Islamists

Rabat, Morocco — A concert by Elton John has tested the limits of Morocco's drive for modernity, probing this Muslim nation's complex and ambiguous attitudes toward homosexuality like rarely before.

Islamists in the North African kingdom were outraged by the gay pop star's visit, while the royal palace, government and his many fans backed his appearance Wednesday night.

No riots or violence was reported, said Rabat's governor, Hassan Amrani. Authorities had beefed up security with thousands of police and plainclothes officers.

In a sign of John's popularity, several thousand of his fans appeared to know his lyrics by heart even though most people in this French and Arabic speaking country know little or no English.

"He is a very big name in the music world, he's a great artist. And his private life is nobody's business," said Leila Hassan, a 43-year-old housewife.

The tension over the concert is part of a tussle between conservatives and modernizers in a nation that criminalizes homosexuality but has long been famous for a swinging party scene. Morocco has attracted gay celebrities such as designer Yves Saint Laurent and writer Paul Bowles, and recently saw the launch of its first gay magazine.

Across the Islamic world, strictly hidden but sometimes tacitly tolerated traditions of homosexuality are surfacing fitfully – and John's concert is the latest litmus test.

The public dispute between organizers for the Mawazine Festival that invited John and the Justice and Development Party, or PJD, Morocco's largest authorized Islamist group, illustrates the growing rift between Western-leaning Moroccan authorities and the more conservative Muslim movements that are on the rise in the kingdom.

"This singer is famous for his homosexual behavior and for advocating it," said Mustapha Ramid, a leader and spokesman for the PJD, the biggest opposition party with 40 lawmakers in parliament.

"We're a rather open party, but promoting homosexuality is completely unacceptable," Ramid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Ramid said homosexuality is against Muslim values, and he feared the British singer would "encourage the phenomenon" and be a bad influence for Moroccan youth.

Like nearly all Arab and Muslim countries, Morocco is officially hostile to homosexuality. Homosexual practices are a crime punishable by fines and prison sentences of six months to three years. In practice, however, such penalties are almost never applied, and Morocco has a long history of leniency toward homosexuality or other practices forbidden by Islam, like drinking alcohol.

Though most observers consider homosexuality common in the Arab world, most Arab countries frequently crack down on gays. Simply mentioning the topic is often taboo, and Morocco is viewed as an exception simply by allowing the public debate.

Moroccan officials dismissed the calls to ban John from performing.

"We deal with artists and intellectuals for what they do, without taking into account their private life," said El Hassan Neffali, an organizer of the Mawazine Festival. "Somebody's private life is one thing, and their art or creative activities are another."

The festival is under the patronage of King Mohammed VI – a powerful gesture in a country that remains an absolute monarchy and where the king, whose family claims descent from Islam's Prophet Muhammad, is also "Amir al-Mumineen," or commander of the believers.

Moroccan officials acknowledged that they backed the festival, along with dozens of others through the spring and summer, as a means to promote cultural diversity and openness in society. The cultural drive, along with new schools, housing projects and a vast program to reform the official teaching of Islam, is viewed as part of the king's broader plan to modernize society while offering an alternative to the Islamist groups that have become the country's biggest political force.

Abdellah Taia, a Moroccan writer and its most prominent gay advocate, said that while Moroccan gays continue to suffer from abuse, the country is evolving faster than any other in the Arab world. He noted that even the official Le Matin newspaper, considered the mouthpiece for the royal palace, came out strongly in support of John's visit.

"Have we (Moroccans) become so intolerant that we refuse and fight differences, which are to humanity what seasons are to life?" Le Matin said in backing the concert.

Taia – who lives in France – said, however, "I just wish they'd extend the support they give Elton John to ordinary Moroccan gays."

A sign of Morocco's evolution, Taia said, is the creation of a new local word to describe homosexuality in Arabic: "Mithly," replacing the pejorative usual phrase of "an act against nature."

The first gay magazine in the Arab world, called Mithly, appeared last month in Morocco, although it is sold under the counter because it didn't get a distribution license. The gay rights group that publishes it – one of the first in any Arab country – is based in Spain.

Its first edition announced John's Moroccan concert as a major symbol.

Amrani, the governor, said about 50,000 people attended the free concert in an upscale neighborhood of Rabat, the capital. Others estimated the crowd size at 15,000. Many fans were thrilled to John coming to Morocco.

"He reminds me of my youth. I used to go to his concerts when I was a student in France," said Souda Bennani, 48, a pharmacist who knew many of the lyrics by heart.

Other entertainers performing at the May 21-29 festival include Sting, Mika and Carlos Santana, along with Arab music stars. In an apparent move to defuse possible tensions, John is the only festival artist who wasn't scheduled to meet with the local media.

In Egypt, tentative plans to schedule John were canceled this month. Mounir el-Wasimi, the head of the Egyptian musicians' union, warned against the singer's possible visit in a statement that said he was "a symbol of homosexuals in the world."

Obama's BP press conference

I'm not surprised at all

So much for all of the "law and order" rhetoric. From the National Post:

Industry minister admits to breaking copyright law to build iPod collection

Ottawa - Industry Minister Tony Clement has an admission to make: He built his impressive music library on his iPod in part by breaking Canada's copyright law.

Mr. Clement, stickhandling the copyright file for the Conservative government along with Heritage Minister James Moore, is poised to introduce new copyright legislation within days. But until the law is updated to permit Canadians to transfer music onto MP3 players from CDs they have purchased, Mr. Clement stands on the wrong side of Canada's copyright law.

"Well you see, you know I think I have to admit it probably runs afoul of the current law because the current law does not allow you to shift formats. So the fact of the matter is I have compact discs that I've transferred, I have compact discs from my children or my wife that I've transferred onto my iPod. None of that is allowable under the current regime," Mr. Clement, a music buff who also legally purchases songs from iTunes to build a digital database that now stands at 10,452 songs.

"It shows that the current regime is not realistic and is not modern to encompass how people obtain their entertainment in today's world," said Mr. Clement, calling the current law "antiquated."

"That's what happens in a family. You do tend to share music that way and I think most people would find that to be perfectly acceptable behaviour. But our current law is so antiquated, it doesn't contemplate that situation."

The question, though, is whether the Conservative government will take a flexible approach that is favourable to consumers in a slew of other areas or take a broad hard line approach that will please the United States and Canada's entertainment industries.

The legislation is expected to make expressly legal a few basic things that consumers do everyday. This includes lifting the restriction on ripping music from a legally purchased CD to transfer to an MP3 player and permitting "time shifting" of television programs through widely used personal video recorders -- if there are no digital locks to get around.

But with the possibility of an overarching emphasis on digital locks or technological protection measures to limit the transferring or sharing of content, a person could still run afoul of the law for simple things like breaking the code of a DVD shipped from a friend overseas so he can watch the video on his machine.

A documentary filmmaker, artist, student or reporter who gets around a digital lock to use a video or audio clip for a montage could also get in trouble, because digital locks trump all fair dealing provisions in copyright legislation. Fair use allows people to make use of copyrighted works without requiring permission in certain circumstances.

"It's the issue that digital locks supersede everything else. You can provide any other kind of copyright protection guarantees for us to back up, and for research or study, but if there's a digital lock on it, then you get treated the same as an international bootlegger counterfeiter. That's just simply not a reasonable policy to foster innovation or to foster respect for copyright," said Charlie Angus, digital affairs critic for the NDP.

"What they're giving is all the power to the corporate distributor and none of the power to the consumer and none of that money is going to the creator. That's the problem with the Conservative approach to copyright," added Mr. Angus, a recording artist.

Mr. Clement declined to speculate about the prominence of digital locks in the bill, saying it's still being drafted.

Mr. Moore, meanwhile, admitted to reporters last year he, too, ran afoul of the copyright law as an early adopter of the PVR. A spokesman on Wednesday said Mr. Moore was not immediately available to clarify whether any of the songs on his iPod put him offside of the law.

BP preventing fishermen from wearing respirators

Coast Guard Grounds Ships Involved in Spill Cleanup After 7 Fall Ill; BP Reportedly Preventing Fishermen from Wearing Respirators

At least seven fishermen involved in the cleanup of the BP oil spill were hospitalized on Wednesday after reporting nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. The fishermen were likely exposed to both the leaked oil and chemical dispersants. As a precautionary measure, the Coast Guard has ordered all 125 commercial ships helping with the cleanup to return to land. For weeks, cleanup crews hired by BP have been reporting health issues, but their complaints have largely been ignored. We speak to Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and Albert Huang, an environmental justice attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Democracy Now! Headlines for May 27, 2010

BP Begins "Top Kill" Attempt to Plug Oil Leak

BP has commenced its "top kill" attempt to choke off the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico by pumping heavy drilling mud and cement into the breached mile-deep well. If the operation succeeds, BP would then inject cement to seal the well shut. The procedure has previously worked above ground but has never been attempted at such deep sea levels. BP says it hopes to know by later today whether the top kill is succeeding. It’s estimated a 70 percent chance of success, while acknowledging the operation could result in even more breaches of the well, worsening the spill.

Expert: Continued Leak Would Mark "Disaster Unseen by Humanity"

Scientists are issuing dire warnings about the scenario of the top kill’s failure.
Professor Tad Patzek of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas-Austin told The Hill newspaper that an unchecked leak "would be an environmental disaster of a caliber heretofore unseen by humanity." President Obama meanwhile has announced he’ll return to the Gulf Coast on Friday, his second visit to the region since the spill began. In other oil spill news, the Coast Guard has ordered all 125 commercial ships helping with the cleanup effort to return to land after several people fell ill.

Admin Suspends Arctic Drilling, New Oil Leases

The Obama administration meanwhile is suspending both new exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean as well as lease sales off Alaska and Virginia. In a report to be released today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he won’t consider new drilling permits until next year. The six-month moratorium is a major setback for the oil giant Shell, which had been set to begin drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas in July. Native and environmental groups have warned the drilling could chase away sea life and contaminate the ocean.

Dems Reduce Jobless Benefits Package

On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders have agreed to reduce a nearly $200 billion package of jobless benefits and other economic aid. On Wednesday, Democrats announced they would cut the package to $145 billion to address concerns from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about increasing the federal debt. Unemployment benefits would now be extended through November instead of the end of the year. A vote is expected on the measure today.

Admin, Dems Prep Education Aid as 100,000 Teachers Face Layoffs

The Obama administration and Democratic leaders, meanwhile, are rallying support for a $23 billion aid measure for the nation’s public schools. Over 100,000 teachers face the loss of their jobs if the bill fails in Congress.

Police Chiefs: Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law Increases Crime

Police chiefs from some of the nation’s largest cities have gathered in Washington to voice opposition to Arizona’s recent anti-immigrant law. The measure requires police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant. On Wednesday, police chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia and six other cities warned Attorney General Eric Holder that crime will increase if other states pass similar laws. Tucson Chief of Police Roberto Villaseñor said the law undermines police work. The police chiefs’ meeting with Holder has helped fuel speculation the Obama administration is preparing a federal lawsuit to challenge the Arizona law. Lawmakers in fifteen states are currently considering passing anti-immigrant laws similar to Arizona’s.

5 Protesters Arrested at Chevron Annual Meeting

Five protesters were arrested in Houston on Wednesday at the annual shareholders meeting of the oil giant Chevron. The True Cost of Chevron Network says it organized the protest to call attention to Chevron’s human rights and environmental record. One of the five arrested, author Antonia Juhasz, was detained after questioning Chevron CEO John Watson during an open comment period for proxy holders. Outside the meeting, Maria Lya Ramos of the Rainforest Action Network’s Change Chevron Campaign stood with Ecuadorian activist Maria Jimenez, who was able to briefly address the shareholders inside. In a possible violation of SEC rules, the activists say Chevron allowed entry to just seven of the twenty-seven members of their group who hold legal shareholder proxies. Most of those denied entry were activists who had traveled from Ecuador, Nigeria, Burma and several other countries to speak out against Chevron’s operations in their countries.

Aid Flotilla Approaching Gaza; Israel Vows to Block Ships

A showdown is looming in the Mediterranean Sea as a flotilla of nine humanitarian aid ships approaches the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade. Israel is vowing to repel the Free Gaza Movement’s "Freedom Flotilla" after stopping at least three other sailings since January 2009. The ships are expected to reach the Gaza coastline by Friday. Israeli spokesperson Yigal Palmor vowed Israel would stop the ships. The flotilla is the largest to attempt to reach the Gaza Strip since Israel imposed the blockade on the coastal territory three years ago.

Berenson Release Expected Today

In Peru, the jailed American activist Lori Berenson is expected to be released from prison today after being granted parole earlier this week. Berenson has been jailed for over fourteen years after hooded Peruvian military judges convicted her of collaborating with the rebel group MRTA. She has long maintained her innocence. (Related coverage: After Over 14 Years in Peruvian Prison, Jailed US Activist Lori Berenson Ordered Freed on Parole)

Peruvian Indigenous Leader Arrested Following Return from Asylum

And in other news from Peru, indigenous leader Alberto Pizango has been arrested after returning from an eleven-month political asylum in Nicaragua. Pizango has been wanted in Peru on sedition charges after leading protests opposing laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in the Amazon rainforest.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pantalone: team player and captain

From the Toronto Star:

Pantalone endorses Mike Layton for council

Son of Jack Layton running in Pantalone’s old ward

Mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone is endorsing Mike Layton to be city councillor in the downtown ward that Pantalone has represented for years.

Just like other residents of Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina, Pantalone said he wants a councillor who will look after the ward.

And Mike Layton, son of NDP Leader and former city councillor Jack Layton, fits the bill, Pantalone said in an announcement Wednesday at Il Gatto Nero, a College St. eatery in the heart of Little Italy.

People are disillusioned with city hall, which needs to communicate better with residents, said Pantalone, 58, who has been elected for 29 years.

“We have to figure out a way of reconnecting with people,” he said. “It starts with a councillor like Mike Layton will be, knocking on doors talking to people.”

Layton, 32, said people want to see the downtown neighbourhood made more liveable by tending to issues like traffic.

“It’s cars speeding through school zones, on streets where kids play,” he said. “And these are things we have solutions for. We can go in and do things at city hall to actually make it better.”

The traditional solution has been to install speed bumps to slow traffic, but some people hate speed bumps, he said.

Other ways to moderate speeds include installing bike lanes and letting people park on both sides of the street, he added.

More adventurous approaches could include installing planter boxes on the street and building bioswales, landscaped areas that can absorb stormwater runoff.

“You can make a little bioswale, actually have a stormwater feature where it cleans the water, filters it back into the ground, provides some green space but also slows down traffic,” Layton said.

“Bike lanes are a good way of slowing down traffic. Putting parking on both sides is a good way of reducing traffic speeds.”

Layton said he wouldn’t try to impose an answer but rather would talk with residents to develop something people can support.

“I’m not saying any particular one of those is a solution on every street. But those are the types of ideas you can bring and you start to build a consensus between the neighbours, so it’s not pitting speed bump against no speed bump.”

Pantalone said what he brings to the mayor’s race is the ability to get along with other councillors and be a team player.

The left-of-centre career politician with NDP roots said he can work with people from all political stripes, noting that under Mayor Mel Lastman he chaired council committees, served as tree advocate and headed Exhibition Place.

That’s important on a council where the mayor needs wide support from the 44 ego-driven councillors to get things done.

“Municipally, you have 44 districts. In effect, you have 44 princes and princesses. And the mayor is only one vote,” he said.

Pantalone said he expects to endorse other candidates for city council, although not in all 44 wards, and his picks will likely include candidates with Liberal and Conservative backgrounds.

Because there is no party discipline at city hall, the mayor must cajole people to muster the votes to pass his agenda.

“Frankly, it’s a team effort,” Pantalone said. “You need a team captain, but unless you’ve got the rest of the team, you’re not going to win many games, you’re not going to win many issues, you’re not going to serve Torontonians well.”

Archeologists unearth 57 ancient tombs in Egypt

This undated photo released by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities on Sunday, May 23, 2010, shows a painted wooden sarcophagus discovered in Lahoun, near Fayoum, south of Cairo, in Egypt.

From the Associated Press:

Cairo — Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday.

The oldest tombs date back to around 2750 B.C. during the period of Egypt's first and second dynasties, the council said in a statement. Twelve of the tombs belong the 18th dynasty which ruled Egypt during the second millennium B.C.

The discovery throws new light on Egypt's ancient religions, the council said.

Egypt's archaeology chief, Zahi Hawass, said the mummies dating to the 18th dynasty are covered in linen decorated with religious texts from the Book of the Dead and scenes featuring ancient Egyptian deities.

Abdel Rahman El-Aydi, head of the archaeological mission that made the discovery, said some of the tombs are decorated with religious texts that ancient Egyptians believed would help the deceased to cross through the underworld.

El-Aydi said one of the oldest tombs is almost completely intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.

In 31 tombs dating to around 2030-1840 B.C, archeologists discovered scenes of different ancient Egyptian deities, such as the falcon-headed Horus, Hathor, Khnum and Amun, decorating some of the tombs.

The council said the findings were unearthed at Lahoun, in Fayoum, some 70 miles (100 kilometres) south of Cairo.

Last year, some 53 stone tombs dating back to various ancient periods were found in the area.

Toronto: 16th most livable city in the world

From the Toronto Star:

Toronto is among four Canadian cities that made the top 25 in the world for quality of living.

Vancouver shared the fourth spot with Auckland, New Zealand. Ottawa ranked 14th, Toronto placed 16th while Montreal came in at number 21.

The Mercer Quality of Living survey looked at 221 cities and compared how they ranked on factors such as crime, health, education, transportation, recreation, housing and environment. The list is often used by multinational companies to determine appropriate compensation and incentives for executives asked to relocate.

Councillor Kyle Rae was dumbfounded that Ottawa beat out Toronto.

“Is it a bureaucrat that’s writing this thing?” said Rae, chair of council’s economic development committee. “Everyone knows Ottawa is a small town that has unparalleled sameness.”

Last month, Mayor David Miller took a shot at Ottawa, where he attended high school, after the capital was ranked the most liveable city in Canada by a national business magazine.

Told about the magazine survey, which ranked cities on factors such as house prices and unemployment, Miller asked a reporter: “Do you want to live in Ottawa?”

Rae picked up the cudgel in response to the latest ranking, saying he knows people who’ve been transferred to Ottawa and want to return to Toronto.

“I was born in Ottawa,” Rae said. “This is the place to be.”

While Toronto is a good place to live, its future prosperity is in danger because of lagging public transit, said Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, who is running for mayor on a platform that calls for full funding of the as-yet-unbuilt Transit City light rail network.

“Cities can grow and prosper or they can wither and die,” he warned. “They don’t stand still.”

In a blow to Toronto’s aspirations of being an environmental leader, the city ranked only 39th on Mercer’s new list of “eco-cities” worldwide, while Calgary — capital of the Oil Patch — ranked No. 1 and Ottawa No. 3. The eco-ranking is based on factors such as water availability and drinkability, waste removal, quality of sewage systems, air pollution and traffic congestion, as well as a city’s commitment to using renewable energy and minimizing pollution

Not so surprisingly, Baghdad remains at the bottom of the quality of life list, at No. 221.

Click here for more details.

Roger Waters presents The Wall 2010 & 2011

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Janeane Garofalo holds her own

An older clip from Greta Van Susteren's Fox News program last year, in which Boston AM radio host Ken Pittman attempts to ambush Janeane Garofalo in a gotcha journalism moment, however Garofalo not only holds her own but calls out the Tea Baggers on their hypocricy over their concerns of fiscal conservatism and government spending, ie where were they for the last eight years of the Bush Administration.

Learn to speak Tea Bag

In stand-up act, Bill Maher stands for something

From the Charlotte Observer:

As host of HBO's "Real Time," ABC's "Politically Incorrect" (from 1994 to 2002) and writer/producer of 2008's controversial documentary "Religulous," liberal comedian Bill Maher, 54, doesn't shy away from ruffling feathers and asking questions, often putting friends and foes in the hot seat with a smile. Maher takes a break from television Sunday to bring his stand-up act to Knight Theater. We spoke to him from his office this month, where he touched on recent events, his impressions of the South, and forming witty comebacks on the fly.

Q. The first scene in "Religulous" was filmed at a truck stop church, I believe off of Interstate 85 north of here. Did that experience color your opinion of the area?

Actually, I had a great experience there. If you watch that scene, you'll see there's a lot of love in that room. I thanked them for being Christlike instead of just Christian. There is one mean-looking, big old trucker who gets up and balls up his fists - and I thought he was going to attack me, but he just walks out. The guys who stayed were really sweet. I've always got along well in the Southern part of the country. People are just friendly... unless you get into political areas. I just did a stand-up special in Raleigh. I picked that on purpose.

Q. Do you find when you do stand-up it's definitely your crowd?

Absolutely. That's one of the most fun things about playing in the South. You're getting people who are probably not in the majority, politically thinking, but they still are there. All across the country there are liberal-thinking people. They're just hidden away. When I come to town, it's sort of a rallying cry for them to come out of the woodwork.

Q. Do people thank you for doing "Religulous"?

They do. That movie does have a life that goes on and on. It gave people permission who had been thinking it on their own. I'm not the only one (questioning religion). Somebody else has sort of validated it. There's ever more people coming out of the closet, if you will, joining the ranks of the nonbelievers.

Q. There's so much going on politically and socially right now. It seems like you constantly have new material to work with.

That's one reason it's great to do stand-up. The last thing I would ever do is book a stand-up date on the road and do my old act... My gosh, we have the oil spill and the situation in Arizona - the 2010 Say Goodbye to Your Gardener act. (There's) a state full of old people with no one to help them get around... This car bombing in Times Square. To me it asks the question: Why are we in Afghanistan? Obama, for all his hipness, is following the same policy as Bush did - which was we're fighting them over there so we aren't fighting them over here. I hate to tell ya, Mr. President - they're already here.

Q. You've spent your career basically defending your opinions. How are you able to always come back with a witty retort?

I'm not. I have a hard time sleeping on Friday night because that's the night we tape our show... it gets into the wee hours, then the show comes back into my head: I should've said that or I shouldn't have said that.

Q. Is there anyone you can really depend on from the opposite side that keeps you on your toes?

Definitely. A lot of people who are a lot smarter than me. I don't think I'm dumb, but there are people with IQ elements that I can't go near. I'm a comedian, and I think I'm a thinker. I'm not pretending to be like some of these authors we have on, brilliant minds who can lock themselves away for 12 hours a day and write. I could never do that.