Caveat Mailer

I hate to be a party-pooper, but the wickedly clever scheme devised by Canadian Cynic & Co. to deal with those annoying 10-percenters from the Conservatives has one teeny little flaw in it.

Pursuant to Part II, Subsection 35(4)(a), of the Canada Post Corporation Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-10), the exemption providing for free mail to or from a member of the House of Commons specifically does not apply to parcels.

The thought of thousands of angry householders mailing back cement bricks, old textbooks, last year’s phonebooks, rocks from the garden, or that broken blender they just haven’t gotten around to disposing of, was delightful — and there’s nothing to stop you from doing it — but it will have to be sent on your own dime.

Sorry boys. Back to the drawing board…

No Quid Pro Quo for Georgia

During the Gulf War in 1991, President George H.W. Bush repeatedly called for Iraqis to rise up against their leader. As a result, when fighting ceased, many Shia naturally believed that the US would back their rebellion against Saddam’s Baathist regime. But it was not to be. Unfortunately for them, Washington had made a calculated decision against backing any uprising that might lead to Iraq’s breakup and ordered American troops not to intervene.

Without US support, the massive southern rebellion was brutally suppressed by forces loyal to Saddam Hussein under the command of his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (the notorious “Chemical Ali”). US soldiers watched helplessly from their positions as Iraqi troops and helicopters devastated nearby cities, while thousands of wounded civilians fled on foot to American bases nearby telling of the atrocities that were taking place. In 2005, the new Iraqi government estimated at least 100,000 Shia, and possibly 180,000, died in the 1991 repression.

Now, one might have thought that example would have served as something of a cautionary tale about depending overly much on the high fallutn’ rhetoric of American presidents about “freedom” and “democracy” other such noble causes. The lesson, however, seems to have been lost on President Saakashvili of Georgia and many of the people of the former Soviet republic. According to an article in The Times yesterday, some Georgians in towns ravaged by invading Russian forces are feeling a sense of betrayal at the United States and NATO.

“Why won’t America and NATO help us? If they won’t help us now, why did we help them in Iraq?” asks Djimali Avago, a Georgian farmer. Another civilian echoes the same sentiment: “The Russians will be here tomorrow. They want to show us and the world how powerful they are. Tomorrow it will be Ukraine and nobody in the West is doing anything to stop them. Why were our soldiers in Kosovo and Iraq if we don’t get any help from the West now?”

Well, the reasons why the US won’t (or can’t) intervene are as numerous as they are obvious, but the more interesting question is why these people should feel this way in the first place. To answer that, we turn to another left-wing publication The Wall Street Journal where we learn that “many officials in the U.S. government who have worked on the Russia relationship in recent years said, President Bush lionized Mr. Saakashvili as a model for democracy in the region to a point that the Georgian leader may have held unrealistic expectations about the amount of support he might receive from the US and the West.”

“The Bush administration didn’t in any way encourage Saakashvili’s move against the Russians, but it didn’t do enough to rein him in,” said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former director of European affairs at the National Security Council. “It encouraged the creation of a Georgian president who was too big for his britches.”

Photography as a Weapon

Documentary filmmaker (“The Fog of War”) Errol Morris has a fascinating article in this morning’s New York Times about the propaganda uses of photography in the digital age.

Starting with the now infamous doctored photograph of four Iranian missiles streaking heavenward as his launching point, Morris considers whether photographs provide evidence supplementing text or an idea or the illustration of an underlying reality, or possibly both. Do we have to know that evidence is reliable and can be trusted? And does it really matter? The answer to that one might surprise you.

According to Hany Farid, a Dartmouth professor and an expert on digital photography, notwithstanding pictures being demonstrably false, people seem inclined to only remember the misinformation, even when they have been told flatly that the information is wrong.

They did these great studies, especially with older people. They give them information about health, Medicare, Medicaid, that kind of stuff. And they say, “this information that you heard? It’s wrong.” And what ends up happening is, that information gets ingrained into their brains, and even if they are subsequently told it’s wrong, they end up believing it.

Chew on that nugget long and hard when you think about some of the advertising coming out of the PMO lately…

And here’s another key observation. Errol rightly notes that quite aside from any sophisticated digital chicanery, there are much easier ways of tricking someone with a photograph: “All you need to do is change the caption,” he writes. This breathtakingly simple device can transform the whole meaning of a picture and influence the way in which we see it (see illustration above).

Morris also ventures down the rabbit hole a bit with Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs who is credited with originating the term “fauxtography” and was the first blogger to break news of the Iranian missile picture fakery.

Although lengthy and somewhat unfocused (no pun in intended), for news junkies and anyone with more than a passing interest in the subject, it’s well worth reading the whole thing.

Screw You, Hippies!

Arts funding cuts nothing but pre-election “political” pandering to “our kind of people.”

From some of the reporting, the crass political motivation of the Harper government in last week’s axing of the TradeRoutes and PromArt programs was fairly transparent. If there was any doubt about this however, Harper courtier Stephen Taylor seems happy to remove it:

When Guy Giorno took over the chief of staff’s office to the Prime Minister, he rounded up the Ministerial chiefs, the directors of communications and senior PMO staff and told them the same thing: this is essentially an election year and everything that we do from now on will be proactive, direct and obviously political. Giorno’s “be political” theme will set the tone of this government as it moves into the fall…

According to Taylor, not only has killing these two programs resulted in “political staffers” finding some extra cash (makes the federal coffers sound like the rec room sofa), but an added “side benefit” is the opportunity it affords to:

…show ordinary hard-working 9-5 Canadians that their tax dollars are sending others overseas while they put together their savings (after filing their income tax) over the months to put the kids in a minivan and drive down to Disneyworld for a week.

In Taylor’s mundane fantasy world, you see, people in the arts community aren’t “ordinary” or “hard-working” and presumably don’t pay taxes; they may even hate families and proper lawn care. This, of course, reinforces the petit bourgeois theme clumsily hammered away at last year by Ryan Sparrow and other spokestools when they said “The people who follow NASCAR are our kind of people. They’re hard-working families, they’re taxpayers who play by the rules. And those are the people that we’re targeting,”

Yes, we were insulted by the implications then, and we’re insulted again. But hey, guess what? That’s all part of the Conservative party’s cunning plan.

Canadian artists are not on PMO director of strategic planning Patrick Muttart’s radar as these folks have never likely voted Conservative and never will. This move to cut taxpayer money from these groups for foreign travel will cause outrage among that community and will in turn, the Conservatives are predicting, will show other Canadians that the government is defending their interests instead.

So there you go all you “folks” in the arts community — this government has no interest whatsoever in defending your interests. Presumably, the same principle would apply across the board: if you’re not in the Conservative party’s target demographic, as far as the PMO is concerned, you can just go pound salt.

Update: Well, isn’t this cute?

ID Really Is Being Expelled!

Shame on Big Science for trying to squash Intelligent Design — something comedian Edward Current confirmed with only about an hour of research!

“Look at it this way. The Internet was invented by science. Those pages I showed you are on the Internet. If science invented the pages showing there really is this controversy in science, well, then there must be a controversy. Godless scientists, bend over and take that logic where it hurts!”

As Current says about “serious and important websites” with names like TruthInScience.com and TrueAuthority.com (or any of the sites spawned by ID apologist and shameless link farmer Denyse O’Leary, for that matter), do you really think that if creationism wasn’t the truth, that God would have blessed all those people with the $10 it costs to register a domain name?

Shocking Update: According to a recent Angus Reid poll, only 37 percent of Albertans accept the theory of evolution, with a higher number of people in the province believing that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years. Make of that what you will.