Friday, August 31, 2007

Mike Huckabee

Apparently his chances for winning the GOP primary have been improving. That said, most Canadians were probably introduced to Huckabee by this clip (at the 8:39 mark):

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New Co-Writer

That is if you count walking on the keyboard as "writing" then yes. Her name is Hemingway and she has six toes on each of her front paws.

This is actually a rare photo for her, she's still only 9 or 10 weeks old and therefore kitten-hyper.


How I know that Larry Craig is lying

They've now released the audio of Larry Craig being interrogated after his arrest. There is one part of his explanation to the arresting officer though that seems to prove that he's completely making up his defense as he goes along. He claimed he wasn't waving his hand at the officer, but rather that he was picking up toilet paper on the floor. He was picking up toilet paper from the floor of a public bathroom?!

Everyone knows that the cardinal rule of using a public bathroom is to avoid unnecessarily touching anything. Flush the toilet with your shoe, pray that the sink has a motion sensor so you don't have to turn on the taps by hand, you know, all of that stuff. I cannot imagine picking up toilet paper off the floor. It's gone, let it go.

If that's the best excuse he has...


Debating Afghanistan in Canada and The Netherlands

There's an interesting column by Chantal Hébert in todays Star where she contrasts the Canadian and the Dutch debate over Afghanistan. The interesting bit seems to be that the Dutch parliament was able to create a much stronger consensus over a greater number of political parties than what has transpired in Canada under Harper:
"In February 2006, 125 of the 150 members of the Dutch Parliament – where 10 parties hold seats – endorsed the deployment, a consensual outcome that stands in stark contrast with the narrow, divisive Canadian vote on the same matter last year."
If you wanted to make the case that Harper has politicized Afghanistan and has tried to use the deployment as a sort of wedge issue, this would certainly seem to point towards that conclusion.

Also in the article, the Dutch are in the dangerous southern part of Afghanistan just like Canada, yet they have only ten casualties. Are we doing something wrong?

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The Stephen Harper Retirement Plan

Hey, are you a Tory ex-premier who's been drubbed out of office by the electorate of your province. Don't worry, Canada's Newest. Guvmint. EVAR. has a deal for you! Our man Steve Harper will make you the ambassador of whatever country you want. Just look at Pat Binns who's now off to Ireland! He will have an exciting time representing Harper's, err... Canada's interests in Ireland which include, ummm, ignoring Bono?

Seriously, yes I know that the predictable Conservative response would be to point out that the Liberals do it, blah blah blah. Whatever, I'm not a Liberal party apologist, the point to me is that Harper got up and said all this stuff about clean, accountable government. It just means that once again with patronage pretty much every party is the same.

Devin has more.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fall Fashions: Iran is the new Iraq!

It's funny how fashion comes and goes, and so it is with state enemies. Iran was hot in the 1980s, but since then Iraq has been hot. Now, Iraq is in disarray, so this fall we find Iran being the new must-have inside the beltway.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Video Tribute to Larry Craig

Enjoy these clips:

Oh wait, he says he's not gay? Okay never mind, here's a woman instead:

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A Practical Problem with Sharon Smith's Appointment

Now many people have complained about how appointing mayor and amateur photography model Sharon Smith as government representative for Skeena-Bulkley Valley is terribly unconstitutional. I won't dwell on that, I have a far more practical concern. Given that Harper seems to concentrate all decision making in his office leaving his cabinet - let alone his MPs - out in the dark, one wonders how an unelected quasi-MP could possibly influence Harper.

Congratulations residents of Skeena Bulkley Valley, you now have someone to be unconstitutionally ignored from inside the government - not just a constitutionally elected member probably being ignored from the opposition benches (who will though at least have vote to bring down Harper's stalled government).

*But seriously, this shit stinks, Harper.

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Actually Supporting the Troops

One of my pet peeves is meaningless wankery in the name of "supporting the troops." Here is a much better way to support them. Make sure that reservists get to keep their jobs when they come back from a tour. If you support the troops, sign the petition. Our troops deserve more than a ribbon, they deserve a paycheque.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good, but not Twin Cinema Good

That's my take on the new New Pornographers album. I like it, but it's quieter, more reflective. The New Pornographers can do this sound just find, but it moves them away from the energy of their earlier output towards the introspective Shins/Belle & Sebastian sound. That's not a slag, I love both those bands, it's just that sound is being done by so many people these days. Anyway, here's a sample:


A Reason to Oppose the Death Penalty

...or rather a picture, being that they are said to be worth a thousand words:


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Perhaps Larry Craig can help Moleman?

Now the gay-cruising Republican senator Larry Craig is saying he wants to withdraw his plea. Larry Craig isn't gay for anyone, or so he says. But maybe he should stop fighting his sexual orientation, after all, Moleman seemed pretty disappointed here:

You hear that, Senator Craig? No one! Not even Ted Haggard.

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More Proof That Democracy is Passe

Ayad Allawi is floating the idea of having the US back in him in seizing control of Iraq in a coup. This is totally going to muck up any attempt that Bill Kristol might make to sell a war in Iran. I can see it now, "We need to spread more favourable dictatorships to the whole world."

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Spreading democracy? Psssh, that's so 2003!

Remember all that talk about remaking the Middle East as a democratic paradise? Forget that, authoritarianism is the new rage! The new hot trend spreading on the right is ignoring democracy.


In Canada the Conservatives have appointed an unelected party hack as the extra-special government representative for a riding that already has a member from another party. They may have done this in several ridings. Why have an election when you can just appoint these sorts of people?

In the US a credibly mainstream right-wing think tank has published a piece calling on Bush to become President-for-Life. Because it worked for the Caesars in Rome. Seriously.

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Someone Stop These Horrible Free Markets!

That seems to be the comment of a business owner horrified that a strong economy may force him to pay a living wage.

Sorry for that hiccup, I'm sure small business owners will shortly return to their regularly-scheduled valourizing of themselves as the friends of their employees for condescending to employ them at all in the first place.

Gonzales Gone

All Politics is Local

One thing that I didn't really get to blog about before taking off for vacation was the announcement that a former Green Party official, Kate Holloway will run for the Liberals in Trinity-Spadina this fall. I don't know much about either Kate Holloway or the incumbent, Rosario Marchese since I'm new to the riding, but it should be interesting to have two progressive choices in an election. (Something I'd have all the time with MMP, but that's another story.)

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What about the rest of our history?

Harper has made the rather banal statement that Conservatives are "unashamed" of Canada's military heritage. Scott and Dylan have pointed out that the implication of this statement is that the rest of us Canadians are somehow ashamed.

What about the rest of Canada's history? I wonder what the Conservatives are ashamed of if they crack open a Canadian history book. I'm guessing probably the Charter as well as anything else done when Pierre Trudeau was PM.

Harper doesn't like the Trudeau vision of Canada very much. Or rather, I suspect that he prefers the view advanced by people like Jack Granatstein that Canada ought to return a more "drum and trumpet" view of its history. Certainly, if Harper wants to set up the Conservatives as the default government of the country, rebranding this country as a militaristic one and setting up the military as sacrosanct to our national identity would serve to help him.

I have no problem with remembering our soldiers, or with war memorials, school trips to Vimy Ridge, and all the rest. Hell, I wear a poppy every November too. The problem though is the creation of a sort of national myth. By saying that Conservatives are "unashamed" one of the other implications that Harper is making is that there is nothing shameful at all in our military history.

We ought to learn about the staggering incompetence of Douglas Haig or the way in which the Allies botched the Dieppe raid. Can we have an honest discussion about the (in)effectiveness of firebombing Dresden? If we bring up these matters are we ashamed of Canada's military heritage?

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Message for Harper and Clement from 1980s Ron Paul

Now that Canada's Newest. Government. EVAR. is launching (relaunching?) some kind of war on drugs in this country, here's something from Ron Paul (ht):

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The Banality of Heroism

One of the stupidest things that I witnessed on vacation was the news story about renaming part of the 401 as "The Highway of Heroes" in honour of the fallen Canadian soldiers who make their last trip down the road.

Red Tory has suitably demolished this stupidity, but I want my two cents in here as well being that I live relatively close to the 401 (or at least closer than RT).

First of all, like renaming 6th Avenue in New York as "Avenue of the Americas" locals simply won't take to it. 401 is too easy to say and to write, if I were to write out directions for someone I'm not going to spell out the longer version. Moreover 401 has had a long name since the 1960s, MacDonald-Cartier Freeway anyone? No one in Toronto uses that one either.

There are meaningful gestures and even things you can do to materially help our soldiers, and then there is the wankery of renaming highway. Why not bake a maple flavoured cake with an icing flag on it and feed it to a beaver that's wearing a yellow ribbon being guarded by a mountie in red serge in front of an inukshuk made from back bacon while you're at it?

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Invading Iraq to Stop Terror Attacks

Is it okay when Iran does it?

After Turkey had pretty much threatened to do the same thing, one wonders what reason the American military could give for declaring such actions unjust.

I'm sure that everyone involved in the invasion and occupation is eager to protect the Kurdish areas as they represent the one real glimmer of success in Iraq for now. If the Kurdish paramilitaries tolerate the more radical Kurdish separatist groups using Iraq as a base to attack Turkey and Iran, surely they will both respond.

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I'm Baaaaack

The vacation's over, I actually made this year without looking at the internets once! Regular blogging should resume today or tomorrow.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Dead Tired

I finished up the final phase of moving today and I'm suitably exhausted. Tomorrow my vacation from both life and blogging will commence. I might throw up some fun YouTube stuff before then, but no guarantees.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Sith and I

Though it doesn't really come as a surprise, this is a bit of dubious distinction for the Star Wars franchise. Lucas really should have stayed up in the hills of Marin county at Skywalker Ranch for the past decade.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Quote of the Day

Matthew Yglesias calls out Christopher Hitchens for talking about the "war" he was "waging" or some such nonsense:
"Now say it with me: which war, exactly, was Hitchens waging? He's not waging a war at all, he's sitting at a desk writing magazine articles and Slate columns and drinking just like the rest of us. He isn't waging war, he's advocating that other people wage war. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but he's saying that part of the reason he's advocating that other people wage war is that he enjoys imagining himself as a warrior."
Not as bad as claiming that working on an election campaign may be equated with military service, but Hitch does have a horrible tendency to pretend he is a warrior (see pic). Dennis Perrin posted a story about Hitchens' tough-guy poses last year as well:
"Hitchens often played the butch card when I was around him, acting as if he might go off on any enemy, real or imagined, at a dime's drop. The funny thing was that Hitch was (and still appears to be) physically out of shape, wheezing when walking too fast down the street, his soft gut poking out of his cigarette-burned shirt. Unless he knew some kind of secret fighting system, or simply packed heat, this hardcore pose was patently ridiculous. But that came with the price of admission, and I went along, smiling and nodding my head."
Perrin continues on about Hitchens demanding some kind of martial arts demonstration, it's really worth reading. It's funny because I imagine that there's great deal that mainstream liberal Yglesias and much-more-radical Perrin would disagree about, but in their own ways they both have fingered Hitchens as a poseur.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

It's Friday

Rock on:


Mortgage Meltdown: Who Pays?

Eric Nilsson has some observations:
"Many people are desperate for jobs and, so, take risky jobs at dangerous work sites because that is the only way these people see to get ahead in life. When an accident happens and one of these workers loses an arm, no reasonable person would merely point to the fact that the worker voluntarily took the job as support for the claim that the worker deserved to lose an arm.

I don't know what percent of holders of risky mortgages today should be given a break if the housing market collapses. But I do know that lumping all holders of risky mortgages together on the basis of some simplistic ethical perspective isn't right."

After all, as Eric mentions elsewhere, subprime mortgages were thought to be great by the "maestro" Alan Greenspan.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guantanamo: Eternal Prisoners

Whenever some new, invasive measure is introduced in the name of public safety or national security invariably, someone will say something about how the innocent have nothing to fear. So it was Gitmo - this would be a place where those thought to be Very Bad Men (are there any women in Gitmo?) would be sent to face a kangaroo court justice. Of course if you were innocent, you'd be cleared and sent on your way. No harm, no foul.



In a CBC News item today it comes out that several Uighur detainees have been turned down for asylum by the Canadian government. I find it significant that they are Uighurs as the current Conservative government seems to have a soft spot for anyone running afoul of the Chinese government (not a bad thing, mind you) - as the Uighurs often do.

In another case, Mr. Ahmed Belbacha is being forced to return to Algeria after having been cleared of any wrongdoing at Gitmo. Algeria has its own problems with Islamic militant groups and therefore may arrest and torture Belbacha anyway. The mere fact that he was picked up an sent to Gitmo seems to be the only evidence they need.

How many people are going to face this kind of fate? How many were just truck drivers or tourists or whatever who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is not a crime to travel to Pakistan or anywhere else that gets labeled as a terrorist hot spot. And yet it appears that once you are put in Gitmo, you are, in the minds of too many, forever a terrorist.

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MMP: An Uphill Battle

Make no mistake, I'm not conceding anything here, but if you bring it up among those who don't follow politics closely enough to, say, blog about it regularly, they have no idea about it. At least that was my highly unscientific observation when bringing it up in casual conversation. (Sadly, no one I know raises an eyebrow anymore when I do such things.)

Mix this with a no-MMP force that seems to be very well connected to the media (Dwight Duncan does not support MMP, everyone pay attention!) and I think that us pro-MMP types need to expect that this may be very difficult. Don't give up though, some inspiration:

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good News

There will be a new Weakerthans album on September 25th.

There will be a new New Pornographers album on August 21st.

There will be a new Stars album uh, now.

Now back to your regularly scheduled bad news... sigh.

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"Terrorist" means whatever they say it means

In labeling a branch of the Iranian military as a "specially designated global terrorist organization," the Bush administration seems to have decided to stretch the word "terrorist" to the point of meaninglessness. George Orwell said in the 1940s:
The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable."
Surely the same could be said for the word "terrorism" today. In this instance it seems to signal those that do not-nice things in other countries. If the Revolutionary Guard gets this definition, then surely it applies to the CIA, Mossad and host of other government and military agencies. Why not stop there, see if you can incorporate the words "terrorist" and "terrorism" into your day-to-day vocabulary. Here are some examples:
  • That idiot on his cellphone cut me off! What a terrorist!
  • Someone's dog shat on my lawn, this is an act of terrorism!
  • Out of pineapple yogurt? This grocery store is a terrorist cell!
  • Those guys down the street are playing loud music outdoors again, it's an act of terrorism!
So you see, the possibilities are endless! I'll leave with this, a video for the song Gift Shop, it has the line "and if it's a lie, terrorists made me say it" which seems to capture the amazing vagueness of the word terrorism and the way that vagueness makes for perfect scapegoats and bogeymen every time.

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Why Shuffle the Cabinet?

Well here's one bit from the Star:
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday ended Gordon O'Connor's troubled tenure as defence minister, replacing him with Peter MacKay, a more sure-footed communicator as the future of Canada's role in Kandahar returns to the Commons for debate in the coming months."
So this is all about communications? It's nice to know at least that Harper is expecting his cabinet to be nothing more than salespeople for his ideas. With the possibility of an election sooner rather than later, I can't help but feel that this communications-based shuffle is all about winning the next election. And I'm quite sure that the taxpayers footed the bill for all those cars driving up to Rideau Hall, all the office moving, all the new plaques on doors, all the government web site updates for what is essential partisan pre-election posturing.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Top of the World

My friend Jam is trekking around Tibet. He has some photos and they are awesome.

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Cabinet Shuffle and Priority No. 5

I suppose we'll find out who is doing what this afternoon. I can't really get worked up over this sort of thing. Harper's biggest move so far was to replace Rona Ambrose (cluelessness) with John Baird (cluelessness and ANGER!) at Environment. Anyway, Harper is his own minister of everything so I doubt he's looking for anything but better spokespeople.

Supposedly, this shuffle will set up a fall session focusing on law and order as well as foreign policy. Apparently the Conservatives have been ignoring health care concerns ever since the election and correspondingly, they have simply gone away. I remember a while ago people tried to call him on this, and yet nothing else of substance seems to have been done. Either this means that the health care concerns of a couple years ago were manufactured or that Harper is simply allowing the system to deteriorate to the point where he can impose radical measures (i.e.: large-scale privatization, for-profit clinics and hospitals) on Canadians.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Cherniak on MMP

There's a great deal in this post to go over, but here are some of Jason's concerns with MMP and my italicized commentary:
1) Any party that gets at least 3% of the vote would elect an MPP. That means that a party like the Christian Heritage Party would have no goal other than to earn 3% of the total vote. If they were to succeed, they would have an MPP elected. They don't get that much right now, but with the knowledge that only 3% across the province earns a seat, I suspect that there would be more incentive to actually vote for them. Shock! Horror! People might vote for socially conservative political parties! I thought that democracy wasn't just a privilege we extended to those with whom we agreed.

2) With 5-10% of the vote, the Green Party would win its first seat in Canada. They would probably get somewhere between 6 and 13 elected politicians. However, since those politicians are unlikely to be elected in a riding, they would have no local responsibilities. They would only be accountable to the people who put together the Green Party list and there would be little incentive for them to worry about personal popularity. As long as the idea of the "Green Party" is popular with 5 - 10% of the population, they would probably continue to get elected as long as they want. Well, accountable to the Green Party list makers as well as the voters of Ontario. If they are idiots they will not last. By this logic MPPs are accountable only to the riding associations that nominate them. Yes they, could run as independents but you really need a great deal of name-recognition to do that. Maybe only one person can pull it off in a given election cycle. Everyone who wants to win needs the party's blessing and the riding association's blessing.

3) Parties that currently earn less MPPs than popular vote would be more represented. If the NDP were to win 15% of the vote and 7 ridings as they did in 2003, they would get their 7 local MPPs along with another 10-15 MPPs with no local responsibilities. That would give the NDP a caucus of around 17 - 25 MPPs where 7 MPPs have to worry about a local riding while 10 - 15 only need to worry about getting their names on the next list. There would be a hierarchy of sorts where I suspect that the local MPPs would ultimately get pushed to the side as the proportional MPPs suck up to those who create the list. Given that the leader of the NDP already has a riding, I fail to see how he would be pushed aside. Actually this whole hierarchy scenario seems highly speculative. Since MMP is practiced elsewhere, perhaps Jason can give us a concrete example of this transpiring.

4) If you look at the 2003 election results, you will see that the official opposition got almost exactly the same percentage of seats as they did votes. However, if there had been much of a swing further away from the Tories, we could have ended up with a legislature of almost all Liberals even though the Tories might have had 25 - 30% of the vote overall. The one advantage of MMP, in my opinion, is the guarantee that there will always be a real opposition in the legislature. However, this has never been a problem in Ontario so I don't see that theoretical concern as a reason to support MMP. If you actually get the same percentage of seats as you did votes, then MPP wouldn't really change that. The opposition has been reduced to oblivion or near oblivion in other provinces before. It could happen here.

5) The party that wins in the ridings would probably get none of the proportional seats because they would already have more seats than they "deserve". As a result, if the Liberals were to win an election under MMP, they would probably get a majority of the riding seats and few or no proportional seats. This would mean that the government would only have MPPs who do constituency work, while at least half of the opposition politicians would be able to spend all their time working at a provincial level. To me, this is one of the most profound and obvious flaws of MMP. How can you have a functioning democracy where the Ministers are busy doing local riding work but the opposition has extra free time to work at the provincial level? It would create incentive for ministers to stop doing local work, but they would also need to worry about doing the local work to get reelected. Essentially, it would be a no-win situation where the opposition always has the advantage, no matter who is in government. Oh good heavens, I can't imagine how a minister can be expected to do his or her job if they have to flip burgers and cut the ribbon on a daycare once in a while. Don't ministers get nice big office budgets and lots of advice from senior civil servants anyway? This paragraph makes it sound as though poor cabinet ministers will be working the phones in some crummy restaurant-turned-constituency office while the opposition's nefarious list MPPs sit in some kind of command centre where they may gather information from their myriad of computers and hijack TVO to send out propaganda. One imagines that list MPPs may actually go out and deal with particular issues in the province, if not in one riding, then perhaps in one area or industry - Greens fighting the proposed Durham incinerator perhaps. List MPPs are still contingent beings confined to being in one place at one time.
Jason then goes on to propose that the real problem he has with this system is that it wasn't the one that he liked in 1998. There are merits to the preferential ballot, but that does not negate the merits of MMP - nor is it an excuse to not vote for MMP.

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The Free Market is Magic!

Apparently that was the thinking going into Iraq on the part of those in the US that were tasked with planning its post-invasion economy:
"Brinkley said early economic planners had made the understandable mistake of assuming that a free market would rapidly emerge to replace what he described as Saddam's "kleptocracy", and create full employment."
One can only imagine that these same people think they can put a watch in a bag, smash it with a hammer, and pull a much better watch out of the bag. This is more of the Underpants Gnomes-type thinking that has characterized this invasion:
Step 1: Invade country, overthrow old order.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Stable, united, prosperous, market-economy, pro-US, pro-Israel, cheap oil-selling Iraq.
For all of their pro-market posturing, I'm wondering if the Bushies have any understanding of how markets are supposed to work.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stephen Taylor: Nuclear Power is Magic!

In an attempt to slag the Ontario NDP and Liberal parties, Taylor expresses his frustration that they have not rushed to embrace nuclear (nukular, for you Bushophiles) power. He asks,
'Is nuclear not a "green" form of energy?'
Of course "green" means whatever an author wants it to mean, so perhaps it is for Taylor. You can call a car "green" but it's not as green as walking. I'm not sure what Taylor thinks is going to happen with all those incredibly radioactive fuel rods for the next several centuries. Can we keep them at his house?

Don't worry though, this is the best part:
"From an engineering perspective, we want select[sic] methods of energy production that maximizes output, minimizes cost and minimizes waste."
HAHAHAHAHAHA! That's funny, Stephen, ever heard of the Darlington nuclear plant? It ended up costing over $14 billion dollars. At the time it was often said that the only megaproject that had cost more was the Channel Tunnel. How about the cost of refurbishing the Pickering nuclear reactors? A billion here, a billion there and soon, as they say, you're talking about real money.

Of course maybe this is just a problem with CANDU reactors and Ontario ought to let free market competition determine whether France's Areva (among others) has a more reliable, cheaper product. But wait, Taylor's own party seems to want to insist on a sort of CANDU monopoly in Ontario. At least that's what I gather from Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn's take on any new nuclear construction in Ontario. That sounds like a great way to minimize cost and waste. Given enough time, between this and all the no-bid military contracts, the Conservatives are going to make adscam seem like a bargain.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Super Bass-O-Matic 76

I got an audio birthday card with an excerpt of this sketch:

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Giuliani Pisses Off Firefighters - Again

It looks like Rudy is overplaying his 9/11 hand once again. This may well backfire worse than the whole swift-boat thing did for John Kerry. The fact that he's probably become a multi-millionaire out of 9/11 doesn't look great either. I'm starting to wonder whether Rudy may be the next candidate to crash and burn. He's on top these days, but he may have peaked too soon.

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Doing Better than Musharraf

Juan Cole's group blog has an interesting bit by Manan Ahmed on Pakistan. Conventional wisdom has it that the two choices for that country are Musharraf or some kind of Talibanesque regime (but with nukes!) Money quote:
"Instead of reducing this sprawling, diverse, multi-denominational and multi-cultural nation to nothing more than a caricature of its madrasas and tribal chieftans, US policy must explicitly support immediate and full democracy in Pakistan. As we continue to insist on a flat, binary world of those with us or against us; as we continue to distrust those masses populating the streets of Pakistan; as we continue to believe that the only outcome to an election in Pakistan will be power for the extremists, we ignore the birth of a real and pure movement for democracy – and we ignore it at our peril."
If there's one lesson that the West really, really, really ought to have learned since the invasion of Iraq is that seeing the world as good-vs-evil isn't "moral clarity" as much is it is dangerous oversimplification. Whatever policy we take on Pakistan (and I'm still skeptical about all of the available options) we ought to do it with our eyes open.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

MMP vs. Fleetwood Mac

This is either desperation or Cherniak's attempt at humour, you decide:
"2) So far, the supporters of MMP only seem to be able to argue that us NO MMP people are "lying". If that's the best they've got..."
If that's the only thing Jason thinks that fans of MMP have, then he hasn't been paying attention. Anyway, this is for you, MMP opponents:

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Has the National Post Entered a Death Spiral?

Red Tory has the goods on shrinking readership, paper-size, and markets. I can't say I'm surprised at this development, the National Post really doesn't have much to offer unless you already buy into its fairly narrow neoconservative view of foreign policy fused with so-con moral panic.

Also, the last time I checked, they stopped putting in editorial cartoons. How are we to swallow all the horror and bullshit if you don't offer up a smile or a laugh as a chaser? Conrad is a convicted criminal now, but at least he had the semblance of a vision for his flagship paper, I think the Aspers on the other hand have pretty much demonstrated their inability to comprehend the newspaper world.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Used in war no less:

HT: Juan Cole

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Some Personal Firsts and More on MMP

In my new neighbourhood, I'm represented politically by a woman for the first time ever at the federal or provincial level. Also, both my MP and MPP are NDP members here - firsts at both levels for me.

What does this have to do with MMP? Well, for years I lived in a riding where the only parties with any hope of electoral success were the Liberals or the Conservatives. Even if I had ardently believed in the platform of the NDP, it would have mattered nothing if I had voted for them as they always ran a distant 3rd or 4th.

In Trinity-Spadina the situation is only different in the roles that each party plays, here the hypothetical Conservative supporter is left not being able to support the party of his or her choice.

Of course there are probably many more ridings in which the Liberal-Conservative duopoly exists. One wonders if those in the Liberal Party who oppose MMP (but to their credit, not all Liberals do oppose it) are worried about losing the soft-NDP voters who vote Liberal to stop the Tories.

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You Down with MMP?

Those opposed to MMP got a nice fat bit of media attention this morning from the launch of their campaign.

The principle talking-points this morning seemed to center on a couple of ideas. One was that MMP would mean that the "backroom" types of political parties would control the list of candidates. Anyone who knows anything about contemporary Canadian politics knows that a candidate favoured in the backroom can find a nice safe seat in which to run. Riding associations themselves are highly susceptible to being taken over by all manner of special interest groups and/or lackeys for a particular candidate.

I fail to see how MMP would make this worse.

Just as I fail to see how minority governments (the second concern of the no-MMP crowd) would make things worse. Given that Canadian governments are increasingly the creatures of the first minister's unelected advisors, maybe having to justify this policy or that decision to a coalition partner might actually be healthy. Most backbenchers are all too eager to toe the party line in hopes of getting some real responsibility in the government.

Jim has more.

Scott has more.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Pervez?

Or is Pervez Musharraf actually a problem? I had previously commented that Musharraf had been ineffective in dealing with North Waziristan. It does appear though that he's waging some sort of counter-insurgency there - perhaps it's just not going all that well. Will North Waziristan remain a small wedge of the world impenetrable to anything but its own tribal codes and hierarchies? I'm sure the West could invade it and occupy it but like Afghanistan I'm sure that the West would have much more difficulty changing it. Is it conceivably a semi-permanent hideout for al Qaeda's top brass?

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I'm in the midst of moving, so blogging may be erratic. Also, there may be a variety of posts where I just comment on new neighbourhood minutia (Is Thursday a better garbage day than Tuesday?).

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lou Reed

Why? Because I can. Enjoy:


Friday, August 03, 2007

Incoherent Rant on Academia

There is something about most universities that freaks out conservatives. I'm sure there are legitimate criticisms but the first step is to ensure that they are internally coherent. Take this critique as quoted by Daimnation:
"...American historians were not always so oblivious to the nation's art and mass entertainment. If you were an aspiring historian in college or graduate school in the 1950s and early 1960s, the course offerings and reading lists in American history were crammed with allusions to novelists, painters, playwrights, and composers."
Okay so the problem is that American historians are clueless and tone deaf when it comes to "art and mass entertainment" these days, how did it get so bad? Well it goes on:
"What counted now was the culture of daily life — how people behaved in saloons and department stores, what kinds of clothes and cosmetics they bought, whether they were active or passive when they listened to the radio"
So the historians neglected to pay attention to mass entertainment because they were too busy focusing on... mass entertainment? What exactly are the academics supposed to do differently?


It's Friday, so try to smile...

Here, I'll even help:

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Shorter Tom Flanagan...

How many more bridges?

I think that's a fair question after the tragedy in Minneapolis yesterday. The great bulk of highway construction in North America happened some 40 or 50 years ago and I think it's fair to start wondering about the lifespans of the great bulk of these aging structures. Are we putting enough money into inspecting and maintaining our roads? Politicians of every stripe love the appeal of cutting a ribbon for anything new (a bridge, a highway, a terminal at an airport), but I wonder how the various jurisdictions in North America are doing when it comes to boring old inspection and maintenance.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Few More "Bad Apples" Ruining Otherwise Noble Companies

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have been caught in a price-fixing scheme. As one might expect, these companies are saying that this was just the work of a “limited number of individuals” in the words of the BA CEO or "some individuals" in the words of Virgin Atlantic. Yeah right. Did no one in either company notice that their fuel surcharges were increasing in lock-step? In a competitive business like air travel I would be astonished if the marketing departments of both airlines didn't know EXACTLY what their competitors' prices were. And yet this apparently went on for nearly two years without anyone saying anything in either company to deal with these terrible individuals acting as apparent rogue elements in each company. Once again, I have to call bullshit today.

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Cognitive Dissonance on Private Health Care

That's what we get from the Canadian Medical Association's new statement on for-profit medicine in Canada. What's so dissonant? Well they claim
Recent polling conducted for the CMA shows that a growing proportion of Canadians may be ready for that debate, with 62% of respondents considering medicare plus [what a nice name for privatization] a "good plan."
Elsewhere in the report though they say:
"the CMA is trying to kick-start a debate that many Canadians, including politicians, would prefer to avoid."
If Canadians think that medicare plus is such a great plan, why aren't they interested in this debate? Why are even the Conservatives not really interested in attempting such a plan? If so many people think it's so swell, what's holding them back? Methinks that the CMA is bullshitting us.

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This ain't a scene... IS an arms race. No, really. The US is going to give a ton of military goodies to the gulf states, Israel, and Egypt.

There are several things here that strike me as glaringly wrong. First of all, this does smell like so much corporate welfare for the arms industry. The last I checked the Israelis still had about the most advanced military in the region, I'm not sure what else they need. I mean they even have nukes... oops, am I not supposed to say that? Let's stop pussyfooting around, the Israelis have nukes, it's the worst kept secret in the world.

As for selling arms to the Egyptians and the gulf states, in the case of Egypt I always wonder how far the Islamic Brotherhood is from being able to run the rather dictatorial Mubarak regime out of town. Remember how the Shah got F-14s, fat lot of good that got him when the public became fed up with him. In the case of the gulf states you have the same risk of coup d'etat, and it's not like any of these countries are hard up for cash.

Furthermore, after doling out all these weapons, what is Iran going to think? Forget about whether Ahmadinejad is nuts or not because he doesn't control the military. What would any leader in Iran think? What would any hypothetical leader slightly more militaristic than Gandhi think? I suspect the answer would be something about it being time to buy more weapons. It's the only rational response.

And so it goes...

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