Thursday, March 31, 2005

Softwood Lumber disputes....kuuul...

For as long as I have been alive (some four and a half decades I guess) there has been a dispute on Canadian lumber being sent to the US. There is HUGE US lumbering lobby which has always hated the competition, and have, for the last century or so, demanded AND RECEIVED huge duties to be paid by anybody with the guts to send lumber Stateside. Yup, you heard that right...the duties are collected at the border, and sent directly to US lumber interests. Not to General Revenue as you might suppose! Note please that this does not lower the price of a house....actually, it keeps the price up nice and anybody who has purchased a couple of two by fours in the last couple of years can testify to.

Now the reason why I find this whole thing so kuul is the simple fact...THERE ARE NO CANADIAN LUMBER INDUSTRIES!!! Yeah, seems MacMillan Bloedel is wholely owned by Werehouser Corp. Beaver Lumber got bought up by Builder's Warehouse, and in fact, only 8 percent of lumber sold in Canada is cut and sold by Canadian companies. And none of the lumber being shipped to the states comes from a Canadian company. So all these duties supposedly paid by the Canadians is actually being paid by the American subsidiary. Essentially, they pay a stiff duty at the border, and get it back from Uncle Sam the following week. This keeps the prices up, and their fat profits rolling in! No damned wonder there has been no movement on the softwood lumber dispute in the last half century!

So get this...the Canadian government has decided that what works for the Goose also works for the Gander! So it is slapping big duties onto cigarettes (hah! no surprise there!, big tobacco is always a fair target) oysters (like we don't catch our own....well, subsidies to our fishing industry is pretty normal too) and live pigs. Well, they don't want our cows, which keeps their prices up, so we stop bringing in porkers, which should keep the price up here in Canada.

Sounds like a win win situation, the only person losing is anyone who wants to build a house, or salt down a pig!

Cut and past follows of part of this article....
(CP) - Canada has turned up the pressure on its largest trading partner, slapping rarely used sanctions on the United States to force an end to an internationally condemned trade law.

The stakes are high: if Ottawa fails in this fight against the U.S. law known as the Byrd amendment, Canadian softwood lumber producers stand to lose more than $4 billion in duties paid so far in the longrunning trade dispute.

Even worse, the Byrd amendment would then hand all those Canadian payments over to their American lumber competitors.

To pressure Washington, Ottawa announced Thursday it will slap a 15 per cent surtax on cigarettes, oysters, live swine and some fish imports from the U.S., effective May 1.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Canadian Politics and Fascism..

Well, Sunday morning, and hung into a discussion last night. Politics. Yuk! Why do people think politics is somehow a matter of opinion? Political science is clearly can't just go and play with the definitions to support some half baked idea you have. And if you live your life by half baked ideas, you have bigger problems than I can fix over a half dozen beers!
Last night the discussion devolved, as it usually does, into a statment very like this one....."Bill, your conservative views are just fascist". At least I didn't respond with the usual line (cause I know better...grin!) that "Your liberal views are Marxist". Both statements are so wrong, yet I have seen people that I generally admire make just such statments. Admittedly, taking a conservative view might put you on a slippery slope to fascism, and admittedly, Marx might be considered the ultimate liberal...but not by me, and there isn't enough beer in the bar fridge to make these connections work!
So, I did a little googling to find some definitions. I discovered that "fascism" is a catch phrase which most people really don't understand. Even military members such as I was for so many years don't really understand exactly what a fascist government is all about. ("isn't that when the military is the ruling party?" is one of the usual questions I get.) One of my uncles died fighting fascism...but probably didn't understand it either. As a political system, it is no more evil than most, but seems to be easily corrupted, and even more easily created. The name of course comes from "Fascia", a bundle of sticks tied tightly around a central core which is an axe. The imagery is stunning....the sticks can all be broken separately, but together, they are strong, and they support and surround the "axe"...the axe being the central power. Doctor Lawrence Britt studied the Nazi and italiam Fascist regimes and came up with 14 defining characteristics. Admittedly, he picked defining characteristics which show that it is a bad system...he conveniently leaves out things like "safety in the streets", "crushing of organized crime", "national security", and "separation of church and state". And then of course, there is the way that a fascist governement can drag a population into the 21st century by the scruff of the neck (so to speak) against the opposition of interests who have a vested interest in the status quo. A casual perusal of Ataturk and his "devil take the hindmost" way he dragged Turkey from its medieval past into moderninity needs to be examined, as well as Peter the Great's ride roughshod over his Boyars is also instructive of this point.

Anyway, I'll just do a cut and paste from Mr. Britt's site.....I am sure he won't mind as long as I credit can read it all right here>>>
It seems instructive to examine Canadian politics in the light of these points. (Or for my beloved American you suppose any of the US policies seem to be well on the slippery slope? Personally, I don't think so, but I am sure there might be some warning signs.)

Fourteen Defining
Characteristics Of Fascism
By Dr. Lawrence Britt
Source Free

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

From Liberty Forum

Saturday, March 19, 2005


It is good once in a while to examine the may be crumbling...grin! In this case, Robert Conquest's article on Democracy. His point is quite simple...that "Democracy" tends to get used by a lot of different people to mean different things...and that perhaps one of these special interest groups may be misleading the rest of us. I have a very fine bull shit detector, and far from this article being bull shit, it is actually one of the sharper knives in the drawer. As a former peace keeper, THIS is what I mean when I tell people to THINK! Here is the link to the whole article...pleasant reading....

And below is a snippet of his writing, just to give you a taste.

The countries without at least a particle of that background or evolution cannot be expected to become instant democracies; and if they do not live up to it, they will unavoidably be, with their Western sponsors, denounced as failures. Democracy in any Western sense is not easily constructed or imposed. The experience of Haiti should be enough comment.

What we can hope for and work for is the emergence, in former rogue or ideomaniac states, of a beginning, a minimum. The new orders must be non-militant, non-expansionist, non-fanatical. And that goes with, or tends to go with, some level of internal tolerance, of plural order, with some real prospect of settling into habit or tradition.

Democracy cannot work without a fair level of political and social stability. This implies a certain amount of political apathy. Anything resembling fanaticism, a domination of the normal internal debate by "activists" is plainly to be deplored. And democracy must accept anomalies. As John Paul Jones, the American naval hero, sensibly put it in 1775, "True as may be the political principles for which we are now contending, . . . the ships themselves must be ruled under a system of absolute despotism." The navy, indeed, is an extreme case; no democratization in any real degree makes sense, any more than it does in, say, a university, at the other end of the spectrum.

Democratization of undemocratizable institutions is sometimes doubtless the expression of a genuine utopian ideal, as when the Jacobins by these means destroyed the French navy. But more often it is (in the minds of the leading activists, at least) a conscious attempt to ruin the institutions in question, as when the Bolsheviks used the idea to destroy the old Russian army. When this, among other things, enabled them to take power themselves, they were the first to insist on a discipline even more vigorous.

In its most important aspect, civic order is that which has created a strong state while still maintaining the principle of consensus that existed in primitive society. Such an aim involves the articulation of a complex political and social order. The strains cannot be eliminated but can be continually adjusted. Political civilization is thus not primarily a matter of the goodwill of leadership or of ideal constitutions. It is, above all, a matter of time in custom.

All the major troubles we have had in the last half century have been caused by people who have let politics become a mania. The politician should be a servant and should play a limited role. For what our political culture has stood for (as against the principles of total theorists and abstractionists) is the view of society as a developing and broadening of established liberties and responsibilities, and the belief, founded on experience, that in political and social matters, long-term predictions, however exciting and visionary, seldom work out.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Tip of the Iceburg

Read in the Boston Globe that now that same sex marriages are becoming legal, companies are expecting their employees to do the right thing....get married before demanding benefits. This is only the tip of the iceburg....a friend of mine had his wife walk out on him for another woman, and for 12 years took him for every thing he had. Last year the Ontario judge ruled that since she had lived in a "Consentual Sexual Relationship" with her girlfriend for more than 6 months she was subject to the rules of "common law". In other words, she was married to the other one, there would be NO impediments to divorce, and all support payments were to cease forthwith. This has become precedent now! Though I don't see the courts suddenly straining under the weight of gay divorces...but now a break up can lead to property divisions familiar to the 80% of us hetero's who have discovered that marriage isn't all rose petals in the bath and candles in the bedroom!
You know, this might be the start of a whole new world. Equality under the law, even for ex-spouses and employees adept at squeezing the tits of the system. Now there's a concept! A tiny light of encouragement...good to see.

Unmarried gay couples lose health benefits
By Kimberly Blanton, Globe Staff | December 8, 2004

Many of the state's largest employers are dropping health benefits for unmarried gay couples, seven months after Massachusetts became the only state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Massachusetts companies, some of which pioneered so-called domestic-partner benefits for unmarried, same-sex partners, said they are now withdrawing them for reasons of fairness: If gays and lesbians can now marry, they should no longer receive special treatment in the form of health benefits that were not made available to unmarried, opposite-sex couples.

more on this story here....

Sunday, March 06, 2005

John Gilmore and the electrifying, mystifying, air plane ticket

I don't quite know how to take this guy. However, in balance, I think I rather like him. He represents a rebellious streak in the US citizen which IMHO made the United States a great nation.
The story is simple....he bought an airline ticket cash, with no ID. No amount of patting down or checking out or anything else will allow him to fly on that airplane without "Das Papers". Fine...except believe it or not, the law which prevents him from flying is in itself, secret, and cannot be examined! Its not the requirement to have an internal passport that frosts his noodles, but rather, the cavalier way his beloved government has brought in this legislation.
In Canada, of course, the government cannot keep you ignorant of the law on purpose, and I always figured that was the case south of the border in the land of the....well...mostly free. They are trying to do it with the "prohibited/restricted/allowed weapons laws, but us "evil weapons dealers" arn't letting them get away with it. This could become a regular rant on this site, but for now, please, go to the Post Gazzette, and read this article....

here is a sampling.....

Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy
He's unable to travel because he refuses to present a government-approved ID
Sunday, February 27, 2005

By Dennis Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SAN FRANCISCO -- John Gilmore's splendid isolation began July 4, 2002, when, with defiance aforethought, he strolled to the Southwest Airlines counter at Oakland Airport and presented his ticket.The gate agent asked for his ID.

Gilmore asked her why.

It is the law, she said.

Gilmore asked to see the law.

Nobody could produce a copy. To date, nobody has. The regulation that mandates ID at airports is "Sensitive Security Information." The law, as it turns out, is unavailable for inspection.

What started out as a weekend trip to Washington became a crawl through the courts in search of an answer to Gilmore's question: Why?

In post 9/11 America, asking "Why?" when someone from an airline asks for identification can start some interesting arguments. Gilmore, who learned to argue on the debate team in his hometown of Bradford, McKean County, has started an argument that, should it reach its intended target, the U.S. Supreme Court, would turn the rules of national security on end, reach deep into the tug-of-war between private rights and public safety, and play havoc with the Department of Homeland Security.

At the heart of Gilmore's stubbornness is the worry about the thin line between safety and tyranny.

"Are they just basically saying we just can't travel without identity papers? If that's true, then I'd rather see us go through a real debate that says we want to introduce required identity papers in our society rather than trying to legislate it through the back door through regulations that say there's not any other way to get around," Gilmore said. "Basically what they want is a show of obedience."

Phishy, Phishy, Where are You..dum de da dum de dum

Senate Democrat Introduces Phishing Bill

By Brian Krebs Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2005; 5:43 PM

A senior Senate Democrat on Tuesday introduced legislation to impose tough penalties against persons convicted of launching "phishing" scams -- a form of online fraud in which criminals use deception to trick computer users into giving up their personal and financial information.

The Anti-Phishing Act of 2005, sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), would allow prosecutors to impose fines of up to $250,000 and jail terms of up to five years against anyone convicted of creating fake corporate Web sites and fraudulent e-mail messages designed to fleece consumers. The legislation would prevent online parodies and political speech from being prosecuted as phishing.

View the whole article here.....

The Right of a Free Press shall be Infringed....Apple Computers.

I cut and pasted this entire article from the Mercury News. I hope that Dawn Chmielewski will not mind. It is an amazing which has far reaching ramifications.

Apple 1, bloggers 0


By Dawn C. Chmielewski

Mercury News

In a case with implications for the freedom to blog, a San Jose judge tentatively ruled Thursday that Apple Computer can force three online publishers to surrender the names of confidential sources who disclosed information about the company's upcoming products.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg refused to extend to the Web sites a protection that shields journalists from revealing the names of unidentified sources or turning over unpublished material.

Kleinberg offered no explanation for the preliminary ruling. He will hear arguments today from Apple's attorneys and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital rights group representing two of the three Web sites Apple subpoenaed -- Apple Insider and PowerPage.

The case raises issues about whether those who write for online publications are entitled to the same constitutional protections as their counterparts in more traditional print and broadcast news organizations.

Apple sought subpoenas in December against two online news sites that focus exclusively on its products: PowerPage (www.power and Apple Insider ( The company filed a separate suit against Think Secret ( on Jan. 4.

Apple's argument

Apple maintains that disclosures about an unreleased product, code-named ``Asteroid,'' constituted a trade secret violation. The company asked the court to force the Web sites to identify the source of the leaks.

In its court filings, Apple argued that neither the free speech protections of the United States Constitution nor the California Shield Law, which protects journalists from revealing their sources, applies to the Web sites. The company said such protections apply only to ``legitimate members of the press.''

Subpoena fight

The court earlier authorized Apple to serve subpoenas on the Web sites, seeking all documents related to Asteroid and information about anyone with knowledge of the postings about the product.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation fought the subpoenas, arguing the online publishers, like their print and broadcast counterparts, frequently rely on confidential sources to report on issues in the public interest.

``Compelled disclosure of journalists' sources would have a devastating effect on the free flow of information,'' said Kurt Opsahl, an EFF attorney. ``It's the lifeblood of a functioning democracy. Therefore the courts have to understand the vital connection between the confidentiality of sources and the freedom of the press.''

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the case.

Adding support

Thomas Goldstein, a former dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism who worked as a reporter for the New York Times, filed a brief in support of the Web sites.

``Just because Apple does not want these publications to report on its activities does not mean that they are not news publications,'' Goldstein wrote.

Contact Dawn C. Chmielewski at or (800) 643-1902