Phoques en peril.

An amazing and explosively hilarious skit about the Conservative government’s cuts/reorganization of cultural funding from the perspective of French people in Quebec. Some of it depends on knowing the intricacies of Joual (Quebecois French) but if you follow the subtitles I think it probably plays pretty well anyway.

screenshot of youtube video of cuture en peril

Click the image above to see the video at YouTube.

(Thanks Tim)

PETA v. Jonathan Swift: Modest proposals and the closed-minded dimwits who take them seriously.

peta logoPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Peta released a new PR campaign yesterday directed at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (emphasis mine):

Burlington, Vt. – This morning, PETA dispatched a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of ice cream icon Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., urging them to replace the cow’s milk in their products with human breast milk. PETA’s request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow’s milk in the food he serves. PETA points out to Cohen and Greenfield that such a move on their part would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health at the same time.

The fact that human adults consume huge quantities of dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn’t make sense,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “Everyone knows that ‘the breast is best,’ so Ben & Jerry’s could do consumers and cows a big favor by making the switch to breast milk.”

As usual PETA is messing with us to get across a rhetorical point, and as usual all the dumbasses in the world think it’s serious (it was apparrently very poorly recieved on Montreal AM talk radio, which doesn’t surprise me too much).

As a start, this is a refreshing change from their more gruesome campaigns that compare horrible human on human violence from the news (serial killers, maniacs who go on killing sprees, the holocaust) to the human on animal violence that goes on every day in the factory farming system. On another level though it does an amazing job of being a real live satire of itself, and in the process clarifying what it is that PETA is aiming for with these press releases: inflammatory demands that are obviously ridiculous but intended to make people reconsider the “normal” things they do that are actually weird and violent towards animals.

By asking people to consider drinking human milk as part of their regular diet PETA forces us to think about the whole idea of drinking milk after infancy, which is undeniably unnatural and strange even if you enjoy and depend on it. Why won’t you drink human milk? It was designed by nature just for you, unlike cows milk. The only reasonable answer is that it would be uncomfortable and disruptive on the lives of the lactating human females, which just points to the ridiculousness of doing it to cows who can’t even protest their treatment.

hillary clinton eating a babyHillary Clinton eating a baby (source)

To add to the lark, both the tone and the content of the press release seem to directly reference Jonathan Swift’s classic work of satire “A Modest Proposal“, in which he encourages the poor of Ireland to sell their excess babies as meat to the rich to solve two problems at once. Both works draw on a similar cannibalism theme and present an outrageous solution designed to make the reader consider the various relationships at play in a new light.

Obviously you’d have to be stupid to think that Swift was being serious when publishing an argument promoting eating babies, but you’re head is pretty far up your ass if you think PETA actually wants human milk to become a normal product for consumption.

(Thanks for the link, Chris)

Quebec government ignores open source, gives business to U.S. instead.

quebec flag with vista logo in itGreat article on about the provincial government’s moronic purchasing practices around software. When they make a purchasing decision, they are required to accept bids from varoius parties and have to weigh them before deciding, but there is a loophole stating that in the absence of any other options they are allowed to just make the purchase from the sole contractor.

Now, this might make sense when there actually is no competition, but they’ve been invoking the loophole as an excuse to buy Windows Vista without even considering other options. Not only could they instead be buying Apple computers (which are completely comparable and have great service available) but it completely disregards the fact that they could buy NOTHING and just install Linux. They complain about lack of service and support for Linux, but there are tons of reliable companies offering support for Linux in all its forms, and you only need to pay for the support when you need it, rather than paying for every copy of the software on the assumption that you might need support (i.e. Windows, where most users will never get support from Microsoft but rather from the IT employees that the government is already paying!).

This is of course made worse by the fact that buying Microsoft products not only enslaves Quebec’s tech infrastructure to a U.S. corporation, it deprives local and international organizations that support and develop Linux from having a chance. If Quebec is serious about independence and solidarity they need to seriously rethink their attitudes about how the knowledge society/economy is going to play out.

Ignoring everything but the entrenched corporate players makes them seem blind and intellectually lazy. Think about it Quebec, you’d love it!

(Thanks to Lloyd Budd for the link)

“In [[homework]]” – or – I love Wikipedia

homework image from wikipediaWas randomly targeted with an IRC direct message by someone who didn’t have a firm grasp of English and wanted to know what ‘due date’ meant. After puzzling out that they actually just didn’t understand ‘due date’, I explained the concept to their satisfaction.

This of course made me ask where the person should have checked instead of bugging random IRC people who happen to be english, so I checked Wikipedia. Lo and behold, there was a page about it, but only defining ‘due date’ in terms of pregnancy (which I hadn’t even considered). Luckily it’s Wikipedia so I just added a more robust definition: Due Date @ Wikipedia.

Best part: Getting to make a wiki link to the page about ‘homework’, which apparently needs more citations ;)

Google Groups Spam Uprising – Securing your list

Global Voices uses a lot of email lists to communicate, in fact as time goes on we realized that if anything Global Voices IS just a bunch of mailing lists. Yeah the product is a giant journalism website, but without the mailing lists there would be no posts. Just for fun here’s a graphic illustrating the detail with which we organize our mailing list communications:

gv mailing list graphic - small

(graphic by Solana Larsen, click to see bigger version)

Most of those lists run on the Google Groups service, which like everything Big Gee does is simple, elegant and feature rich, epecially in how it presents archives on the web in case you don’t keep them in your mailbox. It lets us keep using the fairly-archaic but very effective email list structure while also giving us the same opportunities as say a web-based forum or Drupal community.

Google Groups SPAM and how to stop it
In the last few days a lot of our extra groups have started getting spammed by sham user accounts that join your group and post about puffy nipples and see-through tops, something that never happened before. It seems that Google uses a captcha (“type in the letters to prove your a human”) to stop such spam accounts that used to work, but now the spammers have managed to solve it using robots and thus create all the accounts they want. (here’s an article about it with an annoying ad before you can read it)

So far it seems that only open-membership groups are effected, so if your group is invite only or you moderate your posts you shouldn’t have too many real problems. That said, at Global Voices we’re discovering that some of our open groups used to feel closed, and need to be secured now that the spam has started.

If you run a google group, log into the admin interface by going to and choosing your list, then go to GROUP SETTINGS > ACCESS (access is a tab at the top) and check the following settings:

  • Who can join? : If your group is small/exclusive enough then you might want to set this to “People can request an invitation to join”, that way you get an email before they join and you can check their posting history to see if they look like spammers. Each Google Groups user has a profile, and the spambots show their colors with the obviousness of their previous postings to other random groups.
  • Who can post messages? : If you are only using your list to send messages out and don’t actually have disucussions, set this to “Managers only”. It should definitely be set at least to Members only.
  • Message moderation: Choosing the “Messages from new members are moderated” option should help stop spammers. Unless you approve every new user account (time consuming and frustrating for users) the spambots will be able to create accounts, but in my experience so far they always post right away with some sex spam, so if you moderate just the new messages from each member you’ll avoid anyone else seeing the spam.
  • Save Settings: Dont’ forget to save!

I’ll try to update this post if my advice turns out not to work. Any other advice about securing GGroups from this stuff without completely locking them down is very welcome!

If you offered me 1 cent to bend over and pick something up, I’d slap you – or – Put an end to Pennies.

a pennyWhile visiting other countries this summer I was amazed at how useful other currencies can be. While sometimes you need a 100 of a given currency to buy some bread, most countries just don’t bother printing/minting units of cash that can’t buy you, say, a piece of candy or one nut. If you can’t buy anything with ‘one’, then the lowest denomination should be 5. For some reason, Canada (and the U.S.) just ignore this, and force us to deal with worthless pennies in the name of keeping transactions accurate to 0.00. I mean, do you really want pennies? Is your life improved by them? Would you feel less rich if you didn’t get pennies back whenever you buy things?

It turns out the Canadian NDP party agrees with me, and has actually proposed legislation to ban the 130 million dollar penny creation and distribution infrastructure. What a good idea, imagine what we could do with 130 million dollars of NOT PENNIES!

Heard about it from this Yahoo News article about a cafe in halifax that has declared itself penny free, rounding transactions up and down as appropriate:

Each purchase is rounded to the nearest five cents – so a coffee that comes to $1.32 would have the customer pay $1.30, while a muffin that costs $1.73 would see the customer shell out the extra two cents.

Perfect. To those who worry that prices will go up to accomodate the new system all I can say is that a price increase of (even) 5 cents on anything you buy is so small that the energy you spent thinking about it is probably worth more.

With the Royal Canadian Mint pumping out about 760 million a year, Aubrey said pennies are a money pit.
“The reason there are so many is because the penny is not used,” Aubrey said.
“Consumers put them in buckets in their houses.”

And because I, like Yahoo News, am not too proud to end with a cheezy one-liner:

“I suggest we hold a birthday party and a funeral simultaneously and not issue any 2009 pennies,” Martin said.
“Making cents just doesn’t make sense anymore,” he said.

(via. mira, CC photo by Dystopos)