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     Silly me.  I thought Alberta was timidly embracing the idea that the province was going to be run for the benefit of someone other than the corporations and the rich.  This latest poll (via the CBC) suggests that many of the people of Alberta want to get back to the good times of kowtowing to the business class and letting the rest of us dine on the meagre scrapes that ‘trickle down’ from the lavish head-table feast. 

   “In focus groups CBC conducted after the survey found that most people — from all political stripes — said the NDP wasn’t to blame for Alberta’s tough economic times, but that the party wasn’t doing enough to dig the province out.

Yet, there was praise for Premier Rachel Notley.

“There’s not too many politicians that could have navigated what she’s had to,” said 44-year-old Kelly Kernick, who participated in CBC News’s focus group of middle-of-the-road voters.

Right-leaning Tristan Arsenault, 22, echoed others in the focus groups, saying the recent recession hit people hard and many still aren’t feeling the recovery.”

Undoing the damage of 40 plus years of one party rule isn’t exactly a small endeavour.  Cleaning out the cronyism, and rot takes time.  Yet it seems that after a brief 5 year stint we Albertans are done with this idea of government being run for the benefit of the people and are rushing back to the party that best enshrines the idea of the neo-liberal corporate state.

The election is still far away, and there is the chance that our dear UCP party will have more than a few bozo eruptions that boldly illustrate their incompetence and inability to govern.

I’m not ready to be plunged back into yet another dark conservative political regression.

Hey Alberta, can we not vote in the regressive conservatives?  That’d be great, thanks.

Greetings, and a Good-Day to all of you.  It’s story time.

These posts are scheduled, so I’m actually writing this one Sunday ago, but I need to get this down for the Sunday Disservice while it still fresh in mind.

My choir rented one of our downtown churches to perform in for our classical concert (check out the Friday Musical Interlude for the pieces).  We performed quite well, the Mass went very well and Rhineberger’s Stabat Mater really brought down the house.  Our story however begins post concert, after the reception, after most of the people and clean up crew had left the building.

I was helping with the final security check of the chapel and sanctuary, making sure doors were locked and the corresponding lights turned off and what not.  Then toward the front of the church I notice something like this hanging in the corner.

Now being the fire safety conscious type I see danger in leaving a flame unattended overnight.   So I take the candle down and blow it out.  I return the candle to the holder only to see my choir director smiling at me with a somewhat surreptitious grin on her face.

She was like, “Arb, I’m pretty sure you were supposed to leave that candle burning…” and of course her grin gets bigger.   And me I’m like, “Whaaat?  Unattended candles are a fire-hazard…”.

Being an atheist and having avoided the church scene for the majority of my life has left me startling ignorance of all the wacky rituals that go down within the hallowed churchy halls that I just finished singing in (great acoustics though).  Anyhow, the Deacon comes in and is like well what happened here?

Let me tell you upfront and right now that ‘the eternal flame of Jesus’ and ‘unattended fire hazard’ are indistinguishable to the atheist eye.  So yes, I had just extinguished the eternal flame of the Savior in his own church no less.

*Awkward silence* – Well at least I knew why my conductor was grinning so broadly.  So, then “I’m sorry” became the header of my next twenty sentences, as we went into the storage room to get some matches to relight the eternal flame of Jesus.  It was funny, we just kept on going with the final sweep of the church, nothing was said, as we locked up and then said our good-byes.

So, I’m not sure how to chalk this one up?  Do atheistic actions taken in ignorance count toward the cause?  I mean, its not every day that one can claim to have extinguished the eternal flame of jesus and live to tell the tale.  :)  (On a humanistic note, I do feel bad as the Deacon is a choir acquaintance, and was instrumental in the set-up and hosting of our concert and messing up her rituals isn’t cool).

Perhaps the moral of the story is that Eternal Flames of Jesus need a label so fire safety conscious atheists don’t go around extinguishing him.  :)

The music around the infomercial bits is superb. Ignore the non music bits.. :)

Why do we act surprised when areas of the world erupt into bloody vicious conflict.  We are shocked at the intensity and absolute disregard for human life.  Yet how do the ‘bad guys’ get access to all these calamitous weapons?  

We sell them.  We sell a whole bunch of weapons in nearly every corner of the world to pretty much anyone who has the cash.  That’s how.  This has been a feature, as Mr.Hartung states, of every presidency from Nixon on in.  It is the status-quo and has bi-partisan support, for decades.

Another prestigious brick in the monument attesting to the trivial worth of human life.  We in the civilized West speak of human rights while ensuring through our arms sales they they will never become universal rights.

Fuck.

If it makes you feel better, slap the ‘business is business’ rhetorical dodge all over this appalling fact.  This is what happens when we divorce the public from the political decision making process.  This is what happens when we lose the basic trait of empathy toward others.  The feelings are the same when someone on the other side of the globe loses a loved one.  Gunshot wounds maim people and cripple family units for life whether it is here in North America or in San Salvador, Syria, or Yemen.

Yet geography makes a (fateful) difference.  We disassociate from the losses people experience ‘over there’.  We remain ignorant of our contribution in the slaughter of innocent people across the globe.  It is a moral chasm that follows us. arms dealers to the world, ignorant or not, of to what we are really committed to as a nation.  The lofty rhetoric we hear on the news from the political class is divorced from the realpolitik in which we actually operate and base our foreign policy on.

My real fear is this – what if people are informed of the real nature of this aspect of the world, and their response is apathy.  I would not know what to do after that.

Anyways, my moralizing aside read the entire article at Tom’s Dispatch, but this is the part I was commenting on:

 

 

“Though Saudi Arabia may be the largest recipient of U.S. arms on the planet, it’s anything but Washington’s only customer. According to the Pentagon’s annual tally of major agreements under the Foreign Military Sales program, the most significant channel for U.S. arms exports, Washington entered into formal agreements to sell weaponry to 130 nations in 2016 (the most recent year for which full data is available). According to a recent report from the Cato Institute, between 2002 and 2016 the United States delivered weaponry to 167 countries — more than 85% of the nations on the planet. The Cato report also notes that, between 1981 and 2010, Washington supplied some form of weaponry to 59% of all nations engaged in high-level conflicts.

In short, Donald Trump has headed down a well-traveled arms superhighway. Every president since Richard Nixon has taken that same road and, in 2010, the Obama administration managed to rack up a record $102 billion in foreign arms offers. In a recent report I wrote for the Security Assistance Monitor at the Center for International Policy, I documented more than $82 billion in arms offers by the Trump administration in 2017 alone, which actually represented a slight increase from the $76 billion in offers made during President Obama’s final year. It was, however, far lower than that 2010 figure, $60 billion of which came from Saudi deals for F-15 combat aircraft, Apache attack helicopters, transport aircraft, and armored vehicles, as well as guns and ammunition.

There have nonetheless been some differences in the approaches of the two administrations in the area of human rights. Under pressure from human rights groups, the Obama administration did, in the end, suspend sales of aircraft to Bahrain and Nigeria, both of whose militaries were significant human rights violators, and also a $1 billion-plus deal for precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia. That Saudi suspension represented the first concrete action by the Obama administration to express displeasure with Riyadh’s indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen. Conducted largely with U.S. and British supplied aircraft, bombs, and missiles, it has included strikesagainst hospitals, marketplaces, water treatment facilities, and even a funeral. In keeping with his focus on jobs to the exclusion of humanitarian concerns, Trump reversed all three of the Obama suspensions shortly after taking office.

Fueling Terrorism and Instability

In fact, selling weapons to dictatorships and repressive regimes often fuels instability, war, and terrorism, as the American war on terror has vividly demonstrated for the last nearly 17 years. U.S.-supplied arms also have a nasty habit of ending up in the hands of America’s adversaries. At the height of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, for instance, that country’s armed forces lost track of hundreds of thousands of rifles, many of which made their way into the hands of forces resisting the U.S. occupation.

In a similar fashion, when Islamic State militants swept into Iraq in 2014, the Iraqi security forces abandoned billions of dollars worth of American equipment, from small arms to military trucks and armored vehicles. ISIS promptly put them to use against U.S. advisers and the Iraqi security forces as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. The Taliban, too, has gotten its hands on substantial quantities of U.S. weaponry, either on the battlefield or by buying them at cut-rate, black market prices from corrupt members of the Afghan security forces.

In northern Syria, two U.S.-armed groups are now fighting each other. Turkish forces are facing off against Syrian Kurdish militias that have been among the most effective anti-ISIS fighters and there is even an ongoing risk that U.S. and Turkish forces, NATO allies, may find themselves in direct combat with each other. Far from giving Washington influence over key allies or improving their combat effectiveness, U.S. arms and training often simply spur further conflict and chaos to the detriment of the security of the United States, not to speak of the peace of the world.”

Everyone loves some good science on black holes. :)

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