Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The New Yorker online is doing a user generated content cartoon thingy called The Cartoon Kit.
A real cartoonist creates a template situation (last months' was a desert Island) and several characters and objects that you can click and drag over to the template - and a place to write in your caption.
Here's mine from today.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
@stoweboyd reports from Twitter that the Washington D.C. area snowstorm has dropped 15" by 7:45 AM.
And it doesn't look like that storm is going anywhere, according to my read of the weather data from the University of Wisconsin ssec visualization portal:
Friday, December 18, 2009
I built a community of individuals on Twitter that are interested in the same things I am. (Cosmology, Web 2.0, Cycling, Enlightened Community Building, Baseball, Media, Art, Comedy, Environment...). I did it slowly, day by day over several months. I like my Time-line; it's become a news, entertainment and study hub.
Email notifications from Twitter inform me when people choose to follow me. I vet who I want to follow by checking their time-line, and the link to their web site if they have one. I either follow or not. In order that I have a time-line outside of twitter, I store all those notifications in my email storage. Sometimes you can't tell whether or not you want to follow, so you follow to see what happens. If they're boring, stupid, negative, annoyingly insecure over time, I 'unfollow' them.
Marketers use Twitter Search to find keywords in your tweets in order to market stuff at you in twitter, and the greater economy. There are services out there that say they can get you 30,000 follows in a week. These aren't directed at insecure facebook type friend-accumulating drones, but towards small start-up companies, usually one person, who think they can aggregate customers for sellers through Twitter.
It's all very annoying.
Also out there in Twitter-land are political movements who are networking in the best traditions of the Mastermind Karl Rove, the architect of the neo-conservative movement that elected Reagan, Bush l, and Bush ll. The same people who brought you the Iraq War, the Financial Collapse, data-mining of your electronic communications and the destruction of New Orleans are now networking with Twitter's "FollowFridays" to change Congress in 2010, and stop Obama's progressive agenda.
FollowFridays was started by the Twitter community. On Fridays people compile lists of interesting new 'follows' and bundle them together in a Tweet to a friend, and to a 'Twitter List' called #FF (List: FollowFriday).
The neo-con look to be using #FF effectively to re-organize after the Republican split leading up to the 2008 election and later. Small c conservatives and the left of the democratic party have to get organized in this same way in order the prevent these Straussian relativists from gaining enough power to neutralize Obama in the midterm elections.
A couple of days ago I received a twitter notification email from Daniel Audet a Radio host on a online radio program called TruckStar Radio.
It's like Rush Limbaugh. Relativism is the rule: thought association metrics are employed, ironical associations that don't make any sense become rules of thumb in a 'think set', (akin to worship) that are used to unite a subculture and create a community of intolerance to the outside of the group. Us and Them politics (kinda like wars that are started to distract whole cultures from social problems).
Today I watched an organized group of ultra-rightists namely the Tea Party movement networking using Twitters FriendFriday, 'TruckStar Radio' and an evangelical radio web cast represented in Twitter by @CovenantTab.
First an inflammatory Tweet is posted with a tag to a list. These are 7 of the lists I found in and around the TeaParty organizing: #prolife, #abortion, #tcot, #healthcare, #hcr #TeaParty.
Here's an example of a TeaParty Tweet:
At the list page I found the context is, President Obama is either a socialist or a communist, and the economic collapse we're in the midst of is caused by the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
I looked up the quote in the tweet and it's actually listed in all those quote compendiums and at About.com. Can't find the context though - book, article, essay or interview - just seems to be out there (perhaps someone who knows their Mailer could leave a comment).
I'm following Mr. Audet because I thought TruckStar Radio would play Gram Parsons - so when he ReTweets @BryanLongworth's inflammatory Tweet above, I figure I'll make a joke referencing the cliche that all writers are constantly in pain, as it goes with the craft:
A few minutes later in my time-line I see my name in a #FF Tweet bundle. Here is a screen shot of it; I had to go and find it again in Twitter Search.
(The two lower tweets are the history of the conversation in a drop-down window.)
Right off I'm thinking my pro-socialist retort may be getting me on a list of targets. That 'Thanks' at the end, I start to think, looks more like a threat (Social-networking-induced-self importance-psychosis - there'll be a pill for it soon).
By clicking on the other addresses though, it turns out it's just a list of everyone whos retweeted the original. This data base is being sent to all the #lists at the end of the post. Below, CovenantTab has just received four bundles of twitter addresses.
Don't know if the grassroots movement that elected Obama are organizing using Twitter, but they had better.
With out a strong grass root movement Obama won't be able to get a single thing through a Congress that is rife with corruption, K-street lobbyists, and pork barrel politics. If Senators and Representatives don't have political lobbies by the people pushing them, they'll vote to benefit themselves and/or the corrupt centre of the party. This is the reality of the military industrial dominated economy President Eisenhower warned about in his Military Industrial Complex Speech in 1960.
It's up to us, the battle lines are being drawn right now, in Twitter.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It didn't snow much, but the flakes gently falling last night reminded me of winters before the warming. The farmers Almanac says it's going to be a cold one this year. Average temperatures seem lower than we've been used to in Toronto over the last ten years.
(Early this morning Ian Harper the CEO of BradField Productions, left a kind comment at the bottom of this piece correcting several omissions. BradField Productions is the Producer of author Kate Pullingers' 'Inanimate Alice' an "Interactive Narrative" multi-media novel. The Interactive Narrative is a new form of story telling that creates a revolutionary new experience for the reader.
I think this is an important new form, the tip of the iceberg of what story telling will become in many kinds of media in the near future.
In my take below - by missing the producers behind the stories - I missed the story, the importance of new forms that are disrupting old ways humans communicate and grow culture.
I also missed pointing you to Kate Pullingers' web site, where the novel is in progress. Parts 1 through 4 are done and available here; parts 5 through 10 are in production. Kate Pullinger also has a facebook page.
So - as I badly missed my own point here - I intend to write another piece, specifically on this new story form being spearheaded by Ian Harper and BradField Productions, "The Interactive Narrative", coming soon.
December 17, 2009)
Tonight I watched "Empire of the Word - The Future of Reading", broadcast on TVOntario, the Provincial Public Broadcaster known 'round here as TVO. You can watch the entire series hosted by the great linguist Alberto Manguel, online at TVO.org. This is a link to Episode One.
Episode Four is the forth and final chapter of the series. Tonights was a journey into the very near future, e-books, the Google Books Project, iPod, the Kindle; a view just over the horizon, the future of reading.
One of the most interesting elements in tonights show was a project I hadn't heard of before but that has been in production since 2005 called the Electronic Literature Collection.
This years winner of The Governor General’s Award for Fiction, Kate Pullinger (for The Mistress of Nothing) is the author of one of the electronic interactive narratives. A 'flash story book' for children or young adults called "Inanimate Alice". It was featured in tonights "Empire of the Word", and it sent me diving for my keyboard.
The 'over leaf' says,
"This narrative, produced in Flash, follows a young girl whose life is mediated by technology during a day of family unrest when her father is lost..."The story is interactive and has a sound track only a young person could love. In several places the story doesn't have the >> icon that means 'turn the page', instead your asked to solve a puzzle - when done - it's on to the next page. Music and pop-up windows establishes place, time of day and the feel of driving in the desolate bush country of oil rich northern China.
At the link below, "eliterature.org" is creating a collection of 'Electronic Literature'. In the upper left and right-hand corners on the page are black icons, story titles to go backwards or forwards, to more e-literature.
Here's some screen shots that will peak your interest. Episode one for the Electronic Literature Collection is at, Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China by Kate Pullinger and electronic artist, Chris Joseph. Bradfield Productions has the series so far at 'Inanimate Alice'.
(Right click ---> open in new tab, for a full screen view.)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
After some articles are 'put to bed' at FilterBlogs they get a "Posthumous Long tail Aperitif" (PHLA); links to related articles published after my original post.
PHLA for May 17, 2010: Tonight, I watched the PBS presentation of "Independent Lens" in which they broadcast the documentary, "THE HORSE BOY".
The description under the trailer in Youtube reads in part,"ZeitgeistFilms How far would you travel to heal someone you love? An intensely personal yet epic spiritual journey, The Horse Boy follows one Texas couple and their autistic son as they trek on horseback through Outer Mongolia in a desperate attempt to treat his condition with shamanic healing. When two-year-old Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson, a writer and former horse trainer, and his wife Kristin Neff, a psychology professor, sought the best possible medical care for their son—but traditional therapies had little effect. Then they discovered that Rowan has a profound affinity for animals—particularly horses—and the family set off on a quest for a possible cure."
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I wrote this piece on December 7, 2009, the day rescuers found James. I decided to with-hold it until the next day because it's quite hard hitting, and I thought it would be disrespectful to publish while James Delorey's life hung in the balance. Sadly the news the next morning was of his passing rather than his recovery - as such I decided to hold the piece until after the funeral, plus one day.
A funeral for James Delorey was held on Monday December 14th at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Whitney Pier. Chance the heroic dog, was in attendance. Chris Shannon of the Cape Breton Post was there.
James Delorey is survived by his bother Jessie, his mother Veronica Fraser, and his father Jason Delorey. My sincere condolences to the family, their friends and all James's class-mates and teachers.
Monday, December 7, 2009:
(My take on what autism is may be different from the opinions of some doctors and some parents of autistic children.
I believe autistic children are far smarter than we realize and are coping with our neurotic, hypocritical culture as best they can; which is not well. The dominant culture unconsciously "pulls back" those who go too far out in front. The brilliance of these children causes them to create thinking structures that are different, and at odds with the general perception of things - these delicate constructs are destroyed by the dominant culture's 'normal' ways of thinking. In some cases these exceptional children cope by turning 'off' the irreconcilable data streams. Some choose to leave aside what seems to them to be unimportant skills - like talking - until later.
My take on the intelligence and consciousness of dogs may also differ from many - as you will see...)
I woke this morning to the CBC radio news report that the Delorey family dog had returned home. Like everyone, I hoped it meant the boy was still alive, and that the dog would lead searchers back to the boy who had been missing since Saturday the 5th of December. I was elated when it was announced at a news conference at 4:00 PM that the boy had been found.
As I researched the story all that day I was appalled by the lack of understanding of dogs and autism by those reporting the story and the seeming lack of 'bush smarts' evidenced by actions of the juggernaut of rescue experts.
The phrase "..the boy followed his dog into the woods..." is repeated in many pieces published about this story - it's imagery from the Brothers Grimm fairy-tale, Hansel and Gretel. It is repeated without comment from a Canadian Press piece in which the idea first appeares. It implies that the seven year old James Delorey - who has been diagnosed autistic - must therefore be a moron, and that he blindly follows his 'mixed breed' dog wherever he wanders.
Like a boy and his dog have never before gone exploring in the woods.
Nancy King, writing for the The Cape Breton Post, leaves the offensive idea to the bottom of her take. CBC Nova Scotia also deemphasized the imagery. All the other papers I've read don't have budgets for actual reporting, they simply republished the Canadian Press piece or have so-called writers
James Delorey's is not a moron, he's a boy who watches Sesame Street - a childrens' show that helped educate several very smart generations - and who's favourite music is U2 - a band that uses complex counter point and overtones in it's compositions - qualities that many 'normal' kids in this low-quality-mp3-generation can't hear.
This boy is as normal as any other seven year old except the fact he has chosen not to speak, and with all the human stupidity around this story, the kids' decision seems smarter and smarter at every turn.
Reporting for the The Cape Breton Post, Nancy King writes,
"After Delorey was found, it took about 90 minutes to transport him 400 metres through heavy brush to where a LifeFlight helicopter was able to touch down. It’s believed he was unconscious when he was found."
The boy was found 1.3 kilometres from his home, just off a trail leading directly to his back yard. The "safety" bureaucracy decided to bring stretcher loads of equipment and a dozen experts into dense bush. Next the 'experts' decided to transport the boy through dense bush to a helicopter landing spot 400 metres away. It took them four hours to get the boy through that bush - over very dangerous ground to carry someone on a stretcher.
From the CBC Nova Scotia piece titled, " Rescuers Fly Cape Breton Boy to Hospital":
"Nearly four hours after being discovered, the boy was airlifted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. With the paramedics doing their job and getting the 400 metres to where the chopper landed, it took an extreme amount of time and a lot of effort on their part to extract him from the area he was located," said Const. Kenny Routledge."
If they'd carried him out along the trail the boy had walked in on, they could have gotten him to a warm house in thirty minutes. He'd have been warming with his family while the bureaucrats met to decide whether to ask his parents if they wanted him transported to the local hospital 11 km away or by helicopter to Halifax, 310 km away.
Anyone who grew up in a rural area knows this stupid bunch of city slicker rescuers probably added more than three hours to the boy's time in the cold with their politically correct nincompoop bumbling.
Michael MacDonald for Canadian Press wrote:
"His dog, a mixed-breed named Chance, had emerged from the marshy forest north of Sydney about two hours earlier, spurring searchers to redouble their efforts to find the little boy." What that REALLY means is '..spurring searchers to follow the dogs tracks back to the boy'. But of coarse it can't be so simple; they had to call in a professional tracker to follow the dogs path, prints of a dog they had on hand.
As well it didn't occur to organizers that they simply had find one 'dog person' in the whole buffoonery of know-it-alls - or perhaps the boys mother or father - and have the animal lead them to the spot where the the good dog had left his best friend to go find help.
Nancy King writes, "In all, nine search-and-rescue teams from across the province contributed to the rescue effort, as well as hundreds of volunteers."
Common sense is common in South Bar Nova Scotia I'll bet, but it looks as though the safety infrastructure couldn't harness it, instead they lead like Kings, and covered their mistakes by calling in the next level of bureaucratic buck passers.
Tera Camus, Sherri Borden Colley and Laura Fraser Staff Reporters for The ChronicleHerald.ca wrote:
"The community has rallied in support of James and his dog, turning out in the hundreds to search. More than 26,000 people joined the Facebook group "Bring 7 year old James Delorey home safe!!", leaving messages of hope for his family and volunteers."
In the comment section of the CBC Nova Scotia story, "KevinBrown2009" wrote in response to another readers take:
(Posted 2009/12/08 at 1:57 AM ET)
"Thinking maybe the dog knew it was time to get help."
"ABSOLUTELY! Dogs KNOW when things are not right and the are VERY protective of children. I saw a News report tonight that said the dog always followed the boy around even though the boy was not particularly fond of the dog. Obviously the dog has STRONG protective instincts (as most do). It kept the boy warm until it realized that the boy was in trouble. At that time I have no doubt the dog decided to go get help which lead to the rescue of the boy. Dogs truly are mans best friend!"
James Delorey is recovering at the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre in Halifax Nova Scotia.
FilterBlogs UPDATE: 10:15 AM DEC. 8, 2009
James Delorey passed away "..due to injuries he suffered during his time in the woods." CBC Radio reported in it's 10:00 AM ET Tuesday December 8, 2009 national news broadcast quoting a statement released at a news conference at the IWK Health Centre.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
CBC Nova Scotia did a nice follow-up piece on how the community was coping with the roller coaster of emotions that the town and the whole country experienced. James' school mates wrote letters of condolences to the Delorey family, part of a way of coping with the tragedy.
School consoler Tina Kennedy-Lohnes said,
"They're gone up and they're gone way down with this whole event and it's really bothered them. And having a vehicle to write about it and actually do something is therapeutic and it just gives them hope they have actually done something."
Later in the same story:
"We felt sad about James so we wrote a letter saying that we are sorry that one of your schoolmates passed away," explained student Nathan Harris. "We were praying that he will live and I was happy when they found him, but then I was sad when he died."
I agree with what Nathan said, and my writing reflects that - but I felt I had some important things to say about the way this story was reported and more importantly about the way rescue officials conducted the operation.
After some articles are put to bed at FilterBlogs they get a Posthumous Longtail Aperitif (PLA); links to related articles published after my original post
PLA - I've updated this 'How To': Friday, April 23, 2010 Facebook's "Instant Personalization" aggregates User Data to Producers and Marketers. Facebook has changed they're privacy settings again, again to keep up with the links Twitter and other social networks are creating that are getting hits in search.
"Marketing companies are data mining with these applications to create maps of you, your family, your friends families and their friends families friends - a data base of their incomes, likes, dislikes, political and sexual, dispositions - all aimed at selling you stuff (or as I like to say, giving you garbage in exchange for the great legacy of your fore-bearers)."This article is a follow-up to a rant I published, "Facebook's Privacy Settings Very Un'friend'ly" which was about how facebook makes it really hard to figure out what going on around there.
This piece - takes you along on my journey of discovery - with screen shots - on how to set every settable parameter that effects your privacy on facebook.
Wired Magazine has a good post by Ryan Singel about how facebooks new privacy tutorial pop-up page is designed to keep your information flowing freely around the internet.
TechCrunch also has a good post by Jason Kincaid.
Knowledge is power; here is some.
(all screen shots enlarge - for a better view, right click ---> open in new tab.)
In the article I wrote two days ago about facebooks privacy settings I said that,
"with all the talk about the new privacy settings page - forced on facebook in part by the Canadian Privacy Commissioners dictate of July 2009 - I went back to facebook in order to block that application..."
Well, I blocked Tom Wait's Magic Trunk's access to my data. But it was not in the "Applications Settings" page where I looked a couple of days ago - instead it was 'hiding' in the right hand sidebar element labelled "Requests". I clicked "see all" and facebook opened a new page, the pending requests page. The page doesn't actually have a title, which is common in facebook, its address in the address bar ends: "../reqs.php".
Some months earlier I accepted a friends request to try the application, but strangely the pending request was still in the list. So today I clicked it, and then went to my "Application Settings" page, and there it was - so I blocked it - as you can see in the screen shot below.
The information the application had already accessed (and to which I had agreed to); is already out there on the internet, there's no way to put it 'back in the bottle'.
This is the facebook "Application Settings" page.
As you can see, I've blocked the Tom Waits application (after the horse has left the barn).
I am a journalist and have been acting that way from the first time I posted an entry to a blog six years ago, as such I use my real name. Lately I've actually been trying to give Google more of my information, to see where this 'recommended for you' thing is going. As well, I would rather know what Google knows about me rather than wonder about it. I want to be completely transparent because if I find myself in court one day, I'll have a record of the same information about my internet use as anyone else on earth could possibly have. That evens the playing field if a prosecutor (persecutor) tried to spin my data against me - I could counter spin it, back to the truth.
The fact of the matter is, if you've been using the same computer *alone* for a period of time, the google link-cloud has a 'fingerprint' of your search behaviour - even if you switch computers or use a mirror site (and thus show a different IP address) - Google Search will recognize that it's you very quickly. You can't hide (except in a crowd of users).
Facebook, and all other social networking applications work better the more people use them and, they become a better experience for the user the more data that users add.
What I'm going to show you next about the privacy settings in facebook therefore, facebook doesn't want you to know. Seemingly your clear knowledge of how facebook works is bad for the application, and bad for business.
I think not.
This next page is my "Profile Page"with all settings in extreme privacy mode. All the settings I could - with the "Customize"option beside each category on the "Privacy Settings" page - set to "Only Me". This took me about 50 clicks, and about 10 minutes work once I figured it out.
Below is a preview facebook showed me, with everything set to "Only Me". The way it "looks to most people on facebook". The 'required' settings left only 5 categories viewable by "Only My Friends".
(Notice this nice ads in the side bar that annoy me to no end.)
Next is the "Privacy Settings Contact Information" page. This is the page where I did all the clicking in the "Customize" options window - to change the settings from "Everyone" to, "Only Me". The screen shot shows the "Customize" pop-up window open, I've just adjusted the "Hometown" category to "Only Me" - working my way down the list on the left.
The last page you should know about is a settings page called "Application and Websites" that allows you to determine "what information your friends can share about you through application and websites". In the screen shot all are set to wide open. Everyone who I've labelled a 'friend' can access all my info when playing those games or taking those quizzes.
Marketing companies are data mining with these applications to create maps of you, your family, your friends families and their friends families friends - a data base of their incomes, likes, dislikes, political and sexual, dispositions - all aimed at selling you stuff (or as I like to say, giving you garbage in exchange for the great legacy of your fore-bearers).
Which reminds me, I got to go back to facebook and un-check some elements!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The absolutely magnificent grandeur of the Alberta Tar Sands Project demands you take a step back in order to take it all in, way back, and way up Rusty, way up.
Here are some aerial photographs of the Alberta Tar Sands Project that I was able to find on the web, created by three different photographers: Essick, Helbig & Burtynsky
(All images can be enlarged by clicking them.)
Peter Essick, working for National Geographic, created these and many more - which appear at the National Geographic site.
And to compare...
Louis HelbigBeautiful Destruction - Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs
Kristin Reimer and Louis Helbig flew their 1946 Luscombe Bush Plane east to west across Canada. One of their destinations was Fort McMurray and the Alberta Tar Sands which Louis wanted to photograph from the sky. They've put up a public gallery.
Louis Helbig has several gallery exhibits up coming. Right now Snapdragon Gallery in Ottawa Ontario, Canada has hung the walls: A solo exhibition, 'Beautiful Destruction – Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs', December 10, 2009 - January 6, 2010. 791 Bank Street (at Third Ave).
Edward Burtynsky"Edward Burtynsky: Oil"
Lastly, St. Catharines, Ontario born Artist Edward Burtynsky's ten year project titled, "Edward Burtynsky: Oil" just finished showing at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washihton DC.
The Galleries biographical essay reads,
"This exhibition, premiering in the capital city of the United States in Fall 2009, represents a look at one of the most important subjects of our time by one of the most respected and recognized contemporary photographers in the world."Unfortunately the exhibition being taken down as I write. Luckily though the Galleries web exhibition is still up and I was able to catch some examples to show here.
Consumption realtime montage
Nicholas Metivier Gallery Toronto. "Edward Burtynsky: Oil" (October 8 to 31, 2009) in Toronto at 451 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 1K4 - phone: 416-205-9000 -
(I'm sure they can help you)
("Edward Burtynsky: Oil" was made possible with the generous support of Scotiabank Group. The exhibition was organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 500 Seventeenth Street NW Washington, DC 20006 (202) 639-1700. HASTED HUNT KRAEUTLER Gallery New York is the exclusive representative for Edward Burtynsky in the United States. Thanks for the screen shots.)
"Soon someone is going to engineer a Twitter application that looks alot like the better parts of facebook. Facebook could be a part of that, but instead it looks like they're playing it like it's Us vs. Them, when in fact they're two different things."
An Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) application called "What Do Quizzes Really Know About You?" that EFF created through facebooks open-source developers software portal, which coincidently did not ask me to allow access, showed me that - via the one application I had previously given permissions to - the whole world knew more about me than I had intended.
So now with all the talk about the new privacy settings page - forced on facebook in part by the Canadian Privacy Commissioners dictate of July 2009 - I went back to facebook in order to block that applications access.
Here's a screen-shot of my facebook Privacy Settings - applications and websites page.
As you can see it tells me I haven't blocked any. But to find out what applications I have allowed access - and then to block them - was another matter. I just spent an hour trying to find that place, without success. When I dig through the maze and actually get it done I'll let you know - and show you how to do it in your settings.
If this is the way facebook thinks it can keep the data flowing, and thus continue the monetization of the site - namely through subterfuge, miss-information and misdirection, they are sorely mistaken. If I feel I'm being taken for a ride, I'll leave.
Twitter is a much more flexable application for social networking, the only thing it doesn't have that facebook has is that neat way you can paste an address into the text bar and up pops up a screen-shot in thumbnail. I like that. But Twitter applications like Seesmic have pop up windows too. Soon someone is going to engineer a Twitter application that looks alot like the better parts of facebook. Facebook could be a part of that, but instead it looks like they're playing it like it's Us vs. Them, when in fact they're two different things.
Good luck at working this through facebook, I hope this helps.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Just watched Star Trek Voyager episodes "Demon" (May 6, 1998) and "Course: Oblivion" (March 3, 1999). The two episodes were written separately and Course Oblivion was broadcast a year later. It's not until more than half way through that you realize your watching "Demon" Part ll. Another brilliant bit of writing from Jeri Taylor (- and those other guys who wrote DS9).
For those unfamiliar with the story line of the series the Star Ship Voyager has been hurtled into the "Delta Quadrant" by a vastly superior life form known only as "The Caretaker". The journey home is the series nine-year story arch.
Four years into their journey, some seventy years from home, Captain Janeway is forced to set Voyager down on a 'demon class' planet for fuel. A silvery liquid lays in pools everywhere on the surface of the 5000 Kelvin planet - it contains elements that can fuel Voyager's engines. The 'silver liquid' also has a strange quality, the ability to mimic anything it comes in contact with - including the crew.
Two members of the crew doing a preliminary exploration of the planet are copied by the fluid and are mistaken for 'real' by the crew of Voyager. Soon though the originals are found, with slow leaks in their spacesuits, and near death. The ship is now sinking into the 'mimetic fluid' under the ship forcing Captain Janeway to use any means necessary to escape. Her efforts hurt to doppelgangers now in sickbay, thus Janeway discovers she can negotiate with the mimetic fluid outside - through the dopplegagers inside. A new life form has been born and it wishes to continue, just as humans do. Negotiations ensue and a deal with the 'planet' is struck: fuel in exchange for DNA samples of the entire crew.
Que the music and role the credits, the magnificent Voyager lifts off, the doppelganger crew left on the surface waving goodbye.
Continuing the story, the second of the two episodes titled "Coarse: Oblivion" takes place ten months and eleven days later story time, broadcast ten months later.
Everything is going swimmingly and thanks to the new 'enhanced warp drive' Voyager is now a little over two years from earth - then things begin to go terribly wrong. Soon the officers discover that they, the crew and the ship are all made of the bio-mimetic fluid - from the Demon planet they encountered almost a year earlier - and it is beginning to lose cohesion; the ship and the crew are beginning to disintegrate.
And this is the point of this essay.
Captain Janeway decides - in a conscious denial of the available facts - that in order to maintain the purpose of Voyager - the zietgiest - the reason for continuing, that the mission cannot change. In a consultation with her 'Number One' Commander Chakotay, Janeway says,
"The way I choose to look at it is this: if everything about us was duplicated, that includes our memory engrams, the emotional centres of our brains; so if you feel something, if you remember something, if you believe something...."
And Later to the crew:
"Duplicate or not I'm still the person I was yesterday; and so are all of you, and that means we're going to do everything we can to complete our mission, which is to reach earth."
I don't know that the writers (Bryan Fuller and Nick Sagan), had this in mind when they wrote 'Coarse Oblivion, but I think the choice Janeway is faced with reflects the conumdrum America finds itself in today regarding the oil economy.
The present coarse is no coarse at all, but it seems at one point, it's the only one we've got. When Janeway finally does turn around, recognizing her folly, a nearby oasis turns into great disappointment - they are turned away by a belligerent alien space force. The scene spot-lights Voyagers weakness at a crucial time in a cruel universe.
Trapped in a neurotic psychosis for too long Voyager now has no way out. In a gallant run back to the Demon planet using their enhanced warp drive, Voyager disintegrates at high warp, disassembling in a liquid implosion.
(Boy now that I write it out, maybe Bryan Fuller and Nick Sagan did have that in mind when they were writing the episode.)
Image courtesy: ex-astris-scientia.org
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Watched The Night of the Iguana (1964) from a play by Tennessee Williams, Directed by John Huston, Starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Grayson Hall, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon.
As soon as the Olive Branch poem was finished, this poem popped into my head, it's quite neat, so I wrote it down:
The coin of life,
One side's death,
One side's birth.
We try to understand it,
For all we're worth.
Michael Holloway 12/09/2009
By Tennessee Williams
How calmly does the olive branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair
Some time while light obscures the tree
The zenith of its life will be
Gone past forever
And from thence
A second history will commence
A chronicle no longer gold
A bargaining with mist and mold
And finally the broken stem
The plummeting to earth, and then
And intercourse not well designed
For beings of a golden kind
Whose native green must arch above
The earth's obscene corrupting love
And still the ripe fruit and the branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair
Oh courage! Could you not as well
Select a second place to dwell
Not only in that golden tree
But in the frightened heart of me
Text of the poem courtesy:
Linda Sue Grimes
Classic Poetry Aide
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
BoingBoing had this for me in my gmail box this morning, the headline separated from the picture by a link to Boston.com, so to show it correctly in Facebook I put them together here; here.
Vancouver Olympic torch looks like ginormous, dank doobie!!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
After some articles are put to bed here, they get a Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif - links to related articles published after my post:
Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif, July 30, 2010, from the Utne Reader
"What Darwin Didn't Mean
We’re so proud of our dog-eat-dog world that we fail to notice that it’s not"
..originally published in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Issue #16, Spring 2010:
"Cachet of the Cutthroat
Social Darwinism isn't only morally wrong; it doesn't even perform the function it claims to perform: fostering real competition.
by J. Wes Ulm"
Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif, March 15, 2010:
"Ideas" from CBC Radio One, broadcast from February 15th (part 1) & 16th (part 2) 2010, "KING SOLOMON’S RING". Podcast is available at the links.
"Konrad Lorenz spent a lifetime watching animals, figuring out how they live together, how they communicate, and - most important - how their worlds touch ours. Philip Coulter traveled to Austria to follow the trail of Konrad Lorenz today."
Last night I listened to CBC Radio's "Ideas" program which presented the conclusion of a 'radio essay' entitled "The Evolution of Charles Darwin". The entire show is available in podcast now. (New Link Works! - Fall 2010, CBC re-newed ALL their links with-out re-directs! Grrr..., said the Blogger.)
This last hour was most interesting to me because it dealt with The theory of Evolution going forward, it's intertwining with biology, genetics and social psychology.
The main thread was an idea called 'Punctuated Equilibrium', which is a beautiful refinement of Darwin's Evolution. The concept was foreshadowed by Ernst W. Mayr the father of the philosophy of Naturalism, who in trying to precisely define what species are - and how they evolve - arrived at Peripatric Speciation (1954). In the era before computer assisted genetic mapping his ideas were based on observation of birds using the tecniques of the day; anatomical homology (the study of form and function) and observations of embryonic development. According to Wikipedia, Mayr's ideas are the theoretical underpinnings for Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould's 'Punctuated Equilibrium'.
Punctuated Equilibrium was published in 1972. Gould was studying anthropods, those thingys that you were introduced to as fossils in eighth grade science class - relatives of those soft bodied, dark brown, multi legged bugs with the armadillo like horizontal striations along their backs, that you find under rocks.
Punctuated Equilibrium according to Wikipedia, is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most sexually reproducing species will experience little evolutionary change for most of their geological history (in an extended state called stasis). When evolution occurs, it is localized in rare, rapid events of branching speciation (called cladogenesis).
Drawing of a Phylogenetic tree with branching speciation.
The success from year to year of plants with different seed-shell-thickness and in turn the success of birds with different kinds of beaks, is evidence of the honing of the potential with-in species. Those potentials in the genome are called frequencies of variation and a species ability to switch-on odd specifications that appear with a particular frequency in the genome, determine whether that species will survive a particular set of changes.
So in a period of global warming, plants that produce hard shells may prosper - thusly birds with bigger beaks flourish and birds with smaller beaks do not. In these extraordinary periods, birds that specialized in cracking soft seed shells die out all together; but that does not mean the DNA sequencing that reflects the specialization - towards smaller beaks - disappears, it just becomes less frequent in the surviving species. Small beak genealogy remains in this case as the 'dead sequences' genetic biologists are finding, gene sequences that don't seem to do anything.
In my opinion, these seemingly 'useless' sequences are the legacy of adaptation that allow species to adapt through extraordinary epochs and return over time, if necessary, to survival tools adopted earlier in radically different circumstances.
As well, our social adaptability seems to be able to be communicated across generations. In the 1970's an experiment was preformed with worms:
- One group of worms were taught to run a maze to get to food. Another group were simply feed. The two groups were separately ground up for meal.
- Two new groups of worms were tested for they're ability to negotiate the same maze; they scored equally.
- Then one group was feed the meal of worms that were trained to negotiate the maze and the other was feed a meal of ground worms that was not trained.
- Both groups were then tested in the original maze.
The group that was feed the generation of worms that learned the maze did statistically better at learning the same maze than the group that was feed the meal of worms that did not learn the maze.
I couldn't find a reference to this experiment on the web - but but my source is a good one, my father, who kept up with this sort of thing through the American Association for the Advancement of Science's journal "Science".
But what the experiment reveals is that there are electro-chemical metrics formed through socialization that can be passed on to the next generation. We're talking here about only the core, or as I like to call them, hard-wired instincts: fight or flight, the smell/taste of poisons, the sound of 'incoming' or falling objects, the sound of a crying baby, the sense that the 'other' is about to be agressive.
The potential for adaptability in humans is many levelled and extraordinary.
I see characteristics in humans that also appear in squirrels and other mammals, all the time. I choose the squirrel here, because there's a lot of them eating compost in my back yard.
I've written on the human-like behaviours of Raccoon families in earlier posts here.
Squirrels are close relatives to humans based on the embryonic development classification system (see image) and, really interestingly, when hemoglobins in the blood are compared, only 27 out of 146 amino acids differ between squirrels and humans (gorillas differ from us by 1, lamprey eel by 125 [see table]).
Watching the squirrels in my back yard there are squirrels who spend all their time searching for food and those who spend as much time socializing as they do collecting nuts. While it's impossible to know which strategy is more successful for squirrels, without sitting with them for some years (al a Jane Goodall), one would suppose the balanced individuals' gene sequence would be more successful than the loner, 'geeky' behaviour. But in this year where all the squirrels are putting on huge layers of fat (presumably in advance of a deep snow pack - how do they know??), perhaps the geeky individual who's focused on building the biggest store will be better positioned to procreate come spring and thus, in this particular cycle, the one to pass on his peculiar gene sequence frequency.
The Canadian Farmers Almanac predicts a colder than normal winter here in Toronto Canada (how do they know??), and the squirrels here agree, they say it's gonna freeze four feet down and not melt till May.
Now, hyperbole and mixed squirrel metaphor soup. My social networking weather report for the (hopefully) catastrophic fall/winter 2009-2010:
This coming winter of economic uncertainty is one where 'geeky' behaviour may have a better chance at surviving the deep freeze - and thus be better positioned to attract. But of coarse the 'geeky' behaving females of the species will prosper as well, meaning that success may send them looking for princes once again come May.
Ah, the winners and losers mythos; not even localized, brief, quasi-punctuated equilibrium can kill it off.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
"This move will make content worth more, that means the impetus towards the implementation of Digital Rights Management and trade agreements like ACTA will carry more force than ever. I believe this action by these two dinosaurs is more about freedom of speech than a war for market share. It puts the brakes on the unparallelled volume of free expression in society. As we head further into the economic crisis, I see the progress of new levers against civil rights, a strategy that benefits the really big players at the expense of the small.
This move by two of the most backward business models I can think of - Microsoft's DRM and Fox News's debasement of the craft of journalism - might have an ominous agenda behind it."
Steve Ballmer CEO of Microsoft is going to pay Rupert Murdock's News Corporation to not allow Google Search to list it's content.
From the Business Insider, Silicone Valley Insider:
"..FT reports that Google’s UK director Matt Brittin told a conference last week that Google did not need news content to survive.“Economically it’s not a big part of how we generate revenue,” he said.
For another, we can't imagine links to worthwhile stories originating from News Corp not finding their way onto sites that will happily remain indexed in Google's search engine free of charge."
Like, through Blogs? Many times in the last 5 years I have pointed to attributions and references through links; if lawyers for 'Micro-News' come after Google to deaden my links - the veracity of my content is destroyed and my credibility is killed. Unfortunatly I don't have a case in court either, the only value that this site has is it's contribution to the public good. :-(
From By Matthew Garrahan, Richard Waters and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson writing in the Financial Times, which broke this story,
"However, the Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.
News Corp and Microsoft, which owns the rival Bing search engine, declined to comment.
One website publisher approached by Microsoft said that the plan “puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them”.
Microsoft’s interest is being interpreted as a direct assault on Google because it puts pressure on the search engine to start paying for content."
Every one is concentrating on search engine wars...
Graph courtesy Alexa
..but I'm taking something different from all this. I predicted in my first post on Web 2.o, in December 2006, that there were several vectors in play that would devalue content going forward.
"Content is not worth much in this new sphere - but I think this was bound to happen anyway. In the old sphere of Broadcast Television which turns 60 years old in America this year, the amount of content amassed by producers is mind-boggling. Supply and demand economics function in the world of media too. Already this content is being recycled into history productions; every new-year we see The Year in Review shows that re-use content from the day before at one point; popular culture 'retros' the recent past with an almost a scientific precision. As the content silo gets higher, old content becomes new again - so supply will increasingly outweigh demand. Content will get cheaper and cheaper until it is worth about as much as it costs to make - which is declining."
This move will make content worth more, that means the impetus towards the implementation of Digital Rights Management and trade agreements like ACTA will carry more force than ever. I believe this action by these two dinosaurs is more about freedom of speech than a war for market share. It puts the brakes on the unparallelled volume of free expression in society. As we head further into the economic crisis, I see the progress of new levers against civil rights, a strategy that benefits the really big players at the expense of the small.
This move by two of the most backward business models I can think of - Microsoft's DRM and Fox News's debasement of the craft of journalism - might have an ominous agenda behind it.
I can image this will cause a great divide between writers who support open source movement and liberal copyright laws - and writers who feel the revolution is a threat to their livelihood. Mr. Murdock is trying to create an apocalypse in journalism. When he broke the unions of Fleet Street back in the 1980's I assumed his raison detre was money. When he used his non-union millions to start buying every outlet on the planet, I assumed his agenda was power. After what he has done at Fox News I now know I underestimated his end game. The way Murdock has been running journalism into the ground - by taking every paradoxical element to the nth - suggests to me he's in bed with the Straussians, the brain trust around the G.W. Bush Administration, who see (an advantage in?) a global apocalypse - with radical depopulation, an unending war on terror, the end of the middle class and especially, an end of Liberal Democracy.
You know, Fascism.
So, this leaves me asking, who in the hell is this Steve Ballmer guy and why hasn't the good Mr. Gates fired him already?
Monday, November 23, 2009
"I've been noticing that there are old analogue technologies (pen and paper, the cassette player/recorder, Popsicle sticks and glue), that offer unique qualities that the relevant technologies available on the web don't provide - they have a flexibility that can add to ones creative functionality. The utilization of these analogue devices act as a signature of human presence - they are a part of a physical dynamic - they thus guarantee individuality in the web. This I think also produces an ethereal human quality in the mix that cannot be formula-ized. It creates a fingerprint (in a good way) of people input - human data.
I think it adds a fifth dimension to the Platform Commons cornerstones - a human dimension - a Spirit Commons. A Ying Cornerstone to the Automata Cornerstone Yang."
Applications emerging in Web 2.0 are creating content that is beginning to form the Cornerstones of the Next platform. I'm calling these Cornerstones "Platform Commons".
Several layers of these 'Commons' already exist, but we are unaware of them as we work the internet with our new-fangled applications.
For example, humans 'typing' over the past 10 years have created an Information Commons; the sum of human knowledge, science, art, culture. The first data came from the centres of higher learning, professors and undergrads who uploaded and organized data to use in teaching and research. Then Tim Berners-Lee thought it would be a good idea to link the whole world, to better work in his job, at CERN, so he suggested www protocols, and the internet was born.
Now the data stream and the human need/ability to organize stuff came piling in; email, daily online media, government websites, porn, the bloggosphere. Together these things connected, constitute a Platform Commons - upon which Web 2.0 flowered.
I've gleaned this map from reading a little at O'Reilly Radar. Tim O'Reilly coined the term Web 2.0. Web 2.0 is a set of understandings that have propelled the growth of the internet to where we are today. In Tim O'Reilly's words,
"Chief among our insights was that "the network as platform" means far more than just offering old applications via the network ("software as a service"); it means building applications that literally get better the more people use them, harnessing network effects not only to acquire users, but also to learn from them and build on their contributions."
Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle have now out lined an intuitive vision of the next phase in the growth of the internet. The vision summery is "WebSquared: Web 2.0 Five Years On".
My 'flower on Web 2.0' idea is my way of putting it; this flower is in the process of exponential growth, it's becoming a field of flowers ney, a world of flowers. A Hippie I am not, but I'll accept my own metaphor, I kinda like it. It speaks to what Tim O'Reilly said in January 2009, "Do stuff that matters."
My idea, after some but careful reading is that this WebSquared period will build the platform that will support the next thing that the web is becoming, something still 10 or so years ahead and unfathomable now.
I build maps like this to help me formulate and express ideas, from it I have gleaned a few new metrics about where we are, and where we might be going...
Now, social networking is building a new Platform Commons. Together with the hand-held internet or 'always-on' technology, (Blackberry was first-big; I-Phone later but neater) with sensors: up-down, position, inertia, a camera 'eye' and 'ears' - and an identity - through real time networking of all available data in the Google search colossus - a new Platform Commons is forming and it has unique characteristics.
I call it an Automata Commons. It's a new kind of flower on the platform. The Platform Atomata Commons seems like a scary one to me, it's all machine. It automatically inputs data that the user is unaware of, it uses these sensors to input data It chooses is relevant, based on software that's learning what it thinks You think is relevant... .
A counter point to this automata type data is in the offing thankfully. I've been noticing that there are old analogue technologies (pen and paper, the cassette player/recorder, popsicle sticks and glue), that offer unique qualities that the relevant technologies available on the web don't provide - they have a flexibility that can add to ones creative functionality. The utilization of these analogue devices act as a signature of human presence - they are a part of a physical dynamic - they thus guarantee individuality in the web. This I think also produces an ethereal human quality in the mix that cannot be formula-ized. It creates a fingerprint (in a good way) of people input - human data.
I think it adds a fifth dimension to the Platform Commons cornerstones - a human dimension - a Spirit Commons. A Ying Cornerstone to the Automata Cornerstone Yang
I think we might all really need this idea right now; things seem to be spiraling in complexity a little too fast. It getting crazy. Friends of mine who I Know have brains are hiding inside Facebook playing games, I haven't seen them out here for months. Occasionally I get a message from the robot holding a friend of mine: "Colin has just gotten a free bag of fertilizer at the county fair."
Twitter, on the other hand, is a brilliant application and I think it will be an important part of something greater. I hope the bank that gave Twitter.com the tooling-up money they needed - when it started to explode to Facebook proportions - don't expect to get that money back soon. I think monetizing Twitter right now is going to be difficult for two reasons;
- First, it needs to be left to it's own emergence - the Twitter community still hasn't decided what it's going to be.
- Secondly until the real Twitter emerges, pin pointing targets and long tailing them will be difficult.
Add to that the current economic conditions. Advertisers can not tolerate many practice tries - the ads will either work or advertising revenues will plummet. Twitter is concise because of it's brevity; choosing who to follow and who is spam is easy. Ads will have to be relevant and pointed at the right people or they'll have little effect.
I think the culture of Twitter users understands these fundamentals better than the brain-trust at Twitter does. Last year Twitter tried to insert ads that looked like Tweets, the community reacted with a vengeance. They stopped.
This may be a time when users of social media begin to pull back their use a bit; get back to the things they know - a little terra firma - like talking on the cell or emailing your mom - or good 'old' blogging? 8-).
Sunday, November 22, 2009
My father became involved with applying the new magnificence and speed of the silicon chip back in 1977 - I was 14. I remember gazing into the distance one afternoon back then and realizing, "I get it". I understood his passion for the thing; I had gleaned a 'Rumsfeldian slice' of the potential of microprocessing. A few years later I took a computer course in high school - the first of it's kind - where we wrote a sequence of 'goto' commands on a Apple ll PC. When you selected a 'y' or 'n' the program we'd written would select the appropriate tine in a fork and 'goto' the correct line in the program, then the computer would flash up the 'right' answer in ugly green letters.
Image courtesy engadget.com.
I was not impressed and picked up a guitar instead. I thought the internet was an unfriendly niche for geeks that had different minds than mine. I always kept up with the progress of the thing though, the PC, the internet; but I felt I had no way 'in'. In 2000 I became aware of the Google search engine and I thought, "brilliant, this is it!", but still, I had no way 'in'. In 2003 a fiend showed me blogger.com and I was off to the races - I had a quarter century of catching up to do.
The evolution of social networking technology, especially Twitter have gotten me considering an idea that's been simmering in the back of my mind ever since that Rumsfeldian epiphany back in 1977. I've tried to express the coming sudden intuitive leap of understanding I'm looking for in pieces I've written here related to Tim O'Reilly's 'Web 2.0' idea. I've compared it to the industrial revolution: the steam engine was the silicone chip of its day - the vista operating system may be compared to the Ford Edsel some day 8-). (Hey! That's Groucho! (-that's not a period - it's a cigar!)).
The Ford Edsel, the Microsoft Vista of it's day. Looked really sharp but never ran properly, cost it's owners buckets of money to keep on the road.
We've come a long way and much more quickly than the industrial revolution moved forward a century ago; and although we have gotten to the 'gas turbine engine' in micro processing speed, the F-22 of applications still eludes us.
That intuition I have - that thing that is so-close-you-could-touch-it, the F-22 of applications - has a name I needed to help me think about it. My possible neologism:
Today a method came to me to recognize it - distinguish it in the gale of new applications we are inventing, and the swirl of new ways we are applying them.
It's simply a series of questions I ask when I comes across an ingenious new application; or someone's ingenious new way of using one, or several applications in combination (which happens about 20 times a day on Twitter):
- What is the uber-app?
- Can we see it now?
- Can we simply gather the elements of it together - and by placing them in the proper order - create it?
If not, how can we find it?
- What do we think it will it look like?
- What will it do?
- What do we want it to do?
- What do we need it to do - right now?
- What are our dreams of it?
Now, back on my Twitterboard to try it out... .
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Richard Colvin's Testimony Reveals Canada Involved in Renditions to CIA Torture Dungeons in Afghanistan
After some articles are put to bed at FilterBlogs they get a 'Posthumous Longtail Aperitif'; links to related articles published after my original post:
Posthumous Longtail Aperitif for April 6, 2010: From CBC News, "Tories alerted to Afghan secret police legal 'risk' ", by Gil Shochat.
In this exclusive story the CBC revels leaked documents from the highest levels of the Canadian Government which show that in hearings before Parliament in November 2009 - even as the governing Conservative members were mercilessly assailing Richard Colvin's professionalism and competence - the government knew all along the testimony he was giving was completely accurate.
"The question I'm left asking is - based on the extraordinary volume of transfers - did our slow and secretive transfer protocols allow foreign players in theatre to use us to end-run their domestic laws. Were we/are we we part of an extraordinary rendition highway of Afghans in-country for the Americans we were working along side of in Kandahar?"
Richard Colvin is a career Canadian diplomat who excelled at the tough postings he accepted, In 2006 he was a streaking his way up the promotion ladder at Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) - a bright light on his way to the top. Richard Colvin followed the rule of law to the tee in his job as a diplomat, up to and including his appearance before the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan hearings on Wednesday November 18, 2009.
The Harper Government is surprising veterans of the diplomatic corps in the way their pillorying him now. Michael Semple, a research fellow at Harvard University's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (Michael Ignatieff resigned as Director of the center to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party) was the former deputy head of the European Union's mission in Afghanistan. Semple said in an interview on CBC Radio's "As it Happens" that he's "puzzled" by the treatment Colvin's facing now, Richard Colvin is "a public servant taking risks in the service of his country, doing the right thing, taking a stand against torture, inside the system - not leaking to the press.. ...should be lauded in Canada." (link to podcast)
Image courtesy of Canada.com Richard Colvin is on the right with the briefcase ;-)
First, Richard Colvin's resume at DFAIT in his words,
"..I joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 1994. I’ve had five overseas assignments in Sri Lanka, Russia, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and now in Washington, D.C. Afghanistan was therefore my second Islamic posting and third insurgency.
I spent 17 months in Afghanistan, first as a senior DFAIT representative of the provincial reconstruction team, or PRT, in Kandahar and then for over a year at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul as the head of a political section and chargé d’affaires—that is, the acting ambassador.
In these capacities, I was responsible for a large number of issues, including getting additional Afghan police and soldiers to Kandahar to relieve Canadian Forces, development issues, counter-narcotics, coordination with our NATO allies, the UN and the Afghan government and security and intelligence files. Detainees was only one of about 15 major issues that I worked on. My primary focus was on improving the effectiveness of our efforts so that we had a better chance of achieving our goals.
I volunteered to go to Afghanistan. Canada’s objectives are noble: to help bring peace, prosperity and hope to Afghans after 30 years of war and the repressions of the Taliban. I’d like to start with two general comments. First, Afghanistan was an extraordinarily difficult environment. Canada had not fought a war since the Korean War 50 years earlier and had not fought a counter-insurgency since the Boer War, 100 years ago."
Richard Colvin is now First Secretary, Embassy of Canada to the United States of America in Washington DC.
He begins his testimony on the transfer of detainees to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (DNS) by comparing Canada's procedures with that of other nations in theatre,
"First, we took and transferred far more detainees. As of May 2007, Canada had transferred to the Afghan authorities six times as many detainees as the British, who were conducting military operations just as aggressive as ours and had twice as many troops in theatre, and we had transferred 20 times as many detainees as the Dutch."
Then he describes how our system of transfer made oversight impossible,
"Second, we did not monitor our own detainees after their transfer.
"..our detainee system relied upon two human rights groups to monitor the wellbeing of detainees after transfer: the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, or AIHRC, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"..unlike the Dutch and British, Canada was extremely slow to inform the Red Cross when we had transferred a detainee to the Afghans. The Canadian Forces leadership created a very peculiar six-step process. Canadian military police in Kandahar had to inform the Canadian Forces command element at Kandahar airfield, who in turn informed Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, or CEFCOM, in Ottawa. CEFCOM would eventually inform the Canadian Embassy in Geneva, who then informed Red Cross headquarters in Geneva, which was finally able to notify the Red Cross mission in Kandahar. This process took days, weeks or, in some cases, up to two months."
So, for up to 2 months some detainee were off the radar of human rights groups. Furthermore record keeping by Canadian Forces and the Afghan Intelligence Service (DNS) were so bad it was impossible to find these people once information finally got back to the Kabul offices of the Red Cross or AIHRC.
Richard Colvin testifies,
"A fourth difference between us and the British and Dutch was unusually poor record-keeping. This had serious consequences. When the Red Cross was finally informed that we had transferred a detainee, not only had a lot of time passed, but the information that Canadian Forces had taken was so limited that the Red Cross was often even unable to locate our detainees."
So, in summation, detainees we transfered to the DNS disappeared for up to two months and then in most cases - due to bad record keeping - forever. The knowledge that the DNS was regularly torturing people under it's command demanded action from Mr. Colvins point of view - it was his job, what he was tasked by his superiors to do - to uphold Canadian law, make sure prisoners transfered by Canadian troops were not being tortured. Thus he did everything he could to find these people, but he got no-where in this; he says,
"And on April 24th and 25th, 2007, as the detainee issue was becoming a political crisis in Ottawa, the embassy sent two reports that offered Ottawa a solution. To protect our detainees from being tortured, we should adopt the British and Dutch approach, that is, take responsibility for our own detainees, monitor them ourselves and establish a robust, aggressive and well-resourced monitoring mechanism that would guard our detainees from further risk of abuse.
Senior officials in DFAIT and the Canadian Forces did not welcome our reports or advice. At first, we were mostly ignored. However, by April 2007, we were receiving written messages from the senior Canadian government coordinator for Afghanistan to the effect that we should be quiet and do what we were told and there was a phone message from the DFAIT assistant deputy minister suggesting that in future we should not put things on paper but, instead, use the telephone.
Starting in May 2007, a new ambassador arrived. Immediately thereafter the paper trail on detainees was reduced. Written reporting from the field was restricted to a very limited circle of officials, which shrank further over time, and reports on detainees began sometimes to be censored with crucial information removed.
By summer 2007, internal censorship had spread to new areas. For example, we could no longer write that the security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating even though everyone knew that it was. In terms of established DFAIT practice, all of these steps were extremely irregular."
The fact that we transfered 20 times as many prisoners to the DNS than the British suggests to me that this is the tip of a much larger story. The degree of protestation by the Harper Government speaks to a much larger covert operation than Richchard Colvin was allowed to see.
The question I'm left asking is did our slow and secretive transfer process allow other players in theatre to use our system to end-run their own laws; are we part of an extraordinary rendition of Afghans in-country for the Americans or the British?
The DNS and their affiliate torture dungeons are run by and for U.S. intelligence through 'Black Operations' (covert military operations funded by Congress and privy only to the heads of Congressional Committees on a need to know basis), revealed in part through the publicly announced torture policies announced by Bush, Chaney and Rumsfeld in a haze of post 9/11 official lawlessness in 2002. On the ground that infrastructure of torture was run by Asa de la Khalif.
I'll let the testimony speak on this:
Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh, (MP for Vancouver South): "I have just one more question. Did you ever have a chance to visit Asa de la Khalif and did you know anything about what he was involved in?"
Mr. Richard Colvin: "Yes, yes I had lots of information on Mr. Khalif."
Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh: "Can you tell us?"
Mr. Richard Colvin: "I believe so. In this forum I’m protected from libel.
He was known to us very early on. Majunosix is an unusually bad actor on human rights issues. He was known to have had a dungeon in Gaznee, his previous province where he used to detain people for the money and some of them disappeared. He was known to be running a narcotics operation. He had a criminal gang. He had people killed who got in his way and then in Kandahar we found out that he had indeed set up a similar dungeon under his guest house. He acknowledged this when asked. He had sort of justifications for it, but he was known to personally torture people in that dungeon.
So on a range of issues, governance, security, human rights he was a serious problem and there were efforts made to have him replaced, but some of those efforts were not successful."
This guy is using torture techniques - according to the transcript and - like those out-lined by former Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the 'Torture Memos'. He was trained by U.S. intelligence officers - in camps now dismantled and reconstituted elsewhere - in U.S. style 'state of the art' torture, specifically; load music, stress positions, sleep deprivation and temperature extremes. (Other methods were employed by Asa de la Khalif according to the testimony, those listed above constitute a protocol which points to a connection with U.S. intelligence.)
Further although I have no proof of a connection between these men, is the case of Jonathan K Idema (Image from Wikipedia) a former U.S. soldier (re: CIA) and two others, Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett who insisted under questioning by Afghan security forces, that they had contacts with the U.S. Defense Department, were caught running a torture dungeon in Kabul in 2004. Edward Caraballo said he was a 'journalist' who was filming the torture for a 'documentary about intelligence gathering'. Translation from Company speak ---> He was making a how-to film for black operations to educate psychopaths how to do it. The idea being to bring horror and a sense of chaos to the war zone; an 'Al Quida of Iraq' for Afghanistan - to perpetrate a myth about our enemies in the global war on terror (which doesn't exist).
Once this operations became public, operatives are left to take all the blame - so the investigation doesn't go further up the chain of command. (Except when there is a personal grudge that can be satisfied in the process; like what happened around the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. U.S. Army Brigadier General, Janis Karpinski was sacrificed to the public investigation - as a black operations unit was operating in her bailly wick without her knowledge - as of coarse they always do.)
At one point, I came across a web-site where a black ops soldier was threatening to reveal secret info and take down his higher ups - not a great patriot, even from his point of view. It never seems fair when You get hung out to dry for the greater cause I guess. (I can't find the site now, but I'm sure it was being blogged by Jonathan Idema's wife - based on the content and the timing - it was during the trial in Kabul.)
The infrastructure for torture is in-country; the only remaining problem is how to legally get prisoners you want tortured into these jails - while at the same time covering your rear, staying with-in the rule of law. For the commander in theatre this is career-ending-territory, that person must have no knowledge, that can become public, of specific instances where detainees were transfered to torture.
The Canadian system, while probably not designed for the purpose of thwarting the rule of law, looks like the perfect metric for these abuses. I won't impugn former General Rick Hillier's motives in this, I think this revolves around Stephen Harpers 'total information management' neurosis inside the Prime Ministers Office. (I guess thats a paradox of Total Information Awareness.) ;-)
Richard Colvin is being hung out to dry for the greater cause today by the Canadian Government. That that greater cause is worth fighting and dieing for is becoming more and more dubious. Afghanistan is now up to 38 years of continuous war with no end in sight. We have to take the long view here. When ISAF withdraws from this horror show it will quickly become worse still. Yet this is no reason for delay - the sooner we bring our troops out of this already lost war the better able we will be able to assist later, after the coming civil war - re-dux.
Notes and Links:
Senior Diplomat Richard Colvin's testimony before the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday November 18, 2009. His submission is the first 20 minutes of this 2 hour mwv file. (Update September 3, 2010: The audio is now missing but transcripts are available in a nice layout here.) The remainder of the podcast is enlightened rounds of questions from the committee - and an array of personal attacks by the conservatives designed to destroy Mr. Colvin's credibility. Mr. Colvin is an articulate speaker, and defends himself well, You should go listen.
Parker Donham's "Contrarian" website is doing great work on the story, documenting every word and providing all the links. The Contrarian website has also published a transcript of the meeting which has been of great value in putting together this story.
Government of Canada Information Portal: Meeting No. 15 AFGH - Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov 18, 2009 aspx podcast (opens with wmv player or media player classic or GOM player).
In a related story, Craig Murray, the current Rector of the University of Dundee, Scotland and former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan exposes a CIA torture facility outside Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan and according to Murray the torture set-up there regularly ships detainees back and forth to the operation in Afghanistan). From the Real News Network's Youtube Channel (part 1, a 10 minute Video).
"Michael Semple is a leading expert on the Taliban, the Pashtun tribes and Afghan politics. He has worked in Afghanistan since 1989, most recently as Deputy to the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan, and has inter-acted with leading figures in the succession of Afghan regimes, and the different armed movements which have campaigned against them. He is recognized internationally as a key proponent of political approaches to dealing with the conflict in Afghanistan, including “talking to the Taliban”. His experience as development worker, political officer and conflict negotiator give him an unparalleled network into most elements of Afghan and Pakistani society. Michael’s understanding of Afghan political history and current Afghan political strategies, combined with an international community insiders perspective and access to politicians on all sides of the debate give him a unique ability to advise on the development of a realistic political strategy for a more stable and prosperous Afghan future."
- From: Carr Center for Human Rights Policy - Harvard Kennedy School.
As it Happens Podcast URL with Michael Semple interview: [http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/asithappens_20091119_23329.mp3]