Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Read the whole thing.

Robert Farley on Israel, Rome, and Bailouts (yes, there's a line connecting them all.)
Both the settlements problem and the bailout problem remind me of something I wrote a while ago in reference to the Roman Republic. Simply because something must happen does not mean that it will happen. The Roman Republic faced a series of internal crises that were evident to all and that desperately required political solution; moreover, the contours of such solution were evident to most of the relevant political players, and in the abstract were achievable....

The Republic could not save itself because its very structure prevented it from doing the things that were necessary to reform. Almost no one wanted this outcome, but no one could stop it from happening. It's not that people are stupid (although many are) or dishonest (although many are); its that the institutions make certain outcomes difficult to achieve.
As it turns out, I just started reading Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly, which makes a similar argument but focuses on the individuals within institutions: the people who were caught captive by the institutions that they nominally headed: the Renaissance Popes who barely tried to restrain their corruption, and thus courted the Reformation, the English partition from the 13 Colonies and the successors to those Colonies getting mired in Vietnam.

It's why I read history: as a reminder that humans actually never change that much. We get better at some things, worse at others, but in the end the classical realists of political thought are right. You can get all you need to know about politics by reading Thucydides.

How the hell didn't this make it in?

I've got to watch CGI Jabba the Hutt, but when it came time to re-vamp the Star Wars movies Lucas left this part out? What a friggin' tool.

Okay, I guess I'm the only one who thought that was funny

Conversation in class, re: proof-reading

A: This can't be right, it says the infant mortality of X is 130%.

B: Clearly, you're limited by a pretty hard ceiling of only every single one of your children dying.

Me: Well, you could always import kids from somewhere else and kill them, too.

(horrified stares, mouths agape)

Me: I, uh, shouldn't talk. With words.

Odd

Colour me curious. If Bob Rae had not semi-successfully elbowed Michael Ignatieff out of the way to appear as Dion's trusty deputy, would we really be hearing a lot about a Canadian politician's support for the Iraq War circa 2002-2003?

Or, on a different hypothesis, is Bob Rae trying to refresh people's memories for the inevitable leadership race should Dion lose?

Or, is this only being allowed because the alleged issue is Harper's plagiarism of said support for said war, not said support?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Conflicting memes

So John Gray writes in the Guardian:
Ever since the end of the Cold War, successive American administrations have lectured other countries on the necessity of sound finance. Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina and several African states endured severe cuts in spending and deep recessions as the price of aid from the International Monetary Fund, which enforced the American orthodoxy. China in particular was hectored relentlessly on the weakness of its banking system. But China's success has been based on its consistent contempt for Western advice and it is not Chinese banks that are currently going bust. How symbolic yesterday that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees.
And this is seen as a sign of China's triumph and America's decline.

Well, okay. But while China's national government can, with a non-trivial commitment of GDP and educated workers launch a series of successful manned missions 40 years after the US, American billionaires are funding their own successful orbital launches for funsies. (Not quite, but you get my drift.)

So is America hobbled, stumbling in to the oblivion that all empires face against a rising power? Or is China still so backwards that it takes substantial and sustained national efforts to exceed the successes of individual American entrepreneurs? Both? Neither?

I think it's a reasonable point that America looks kind of wobbly at the moment, but if our self-selected anecdotes were statistics they'd have a margin of error of plus or minus 100%.

Notice

So it turns out that they don't just give Masters degrees away. They actually make you work like a dog for them sometimes, and at the moment you can call me Cujo. Among my duties at the moment is writing for yet another blog (that makes 4, if you're counting here, Cogitamus, Gristmill, and my new one.)

So if posting here is of even lower quality and quantity than usual, well, priorities.

Eyes open?

Not too long ago, Jim Laxer was busy telling us all how scurrilous the NDP was for running strong against the NDP. The argument on behalf of the NDP, briefly, was that the Liberals basically hated our guts anyway and it wasn't the job of a lefty party to prostrate ourselves whenever the Conservatives were doing well.

Laxer might just be learning.

Behold my works, ye mighty, and despair

Bailout fails. Republicans balk, as well as 90-odd Dems.

The Dow is down about 500 points. Question: the next stop is a) interwar deutschmark territory, or b) Lord of the Flies?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finally, a thoughtful President

Man I like this picture. Barack Obama, preparing for his debate last Friday:



I do wonder what he was thinking.

What Ta-Nehisi said, II

But then today it hit me: In the context of this campaign, and with all due respect to a former president, why do I give a fuck about Bill Clinton?
I think some Democrats thought that Bill Clinton could be our Reagan if they tried hard enough: the totemic politician to whom we all would pay homage and devote the next 20 years trying to forward his dreams. Problem is, Bill ain't that grand. His record of accomplishments is substantial, but the party has moved somewhere different. In many ways, the proper analogy is to Dubya's father: competent in some ways, terribly flawed in others, but in any case irrelevant to the direction his party has decided to move.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Reaction

Apparently, the insta-polls all give it to Obama. Therefore, Obama wins! Huzzah!

What Ta-Nehisi said

Here:
The Palin pick was the most crassest, most bigoted decision that I've seen in national electoral politics, in my--admittedly short--lifetime. There can be no doubt that they picked Palin strictly as a stick to drum up the victimhood narrative--small town, hunters, big families and most importantly, women. Had Barack Obama picked Hillary Clinton, there simply is no way they would have picked Sarah Palin. To the McCain camp, Palin isn't important as a politician, or even as a person....

In election season, there is a price for being turned into a symbol. When actual journalists, with a rep to protect, show up, they are going to do their job. Which brings me to the sexism of John McCain. He knew full well what Sarah Palin was going to face if he nominated her. He knew that reporters would go through her past, that they'd quizz her on the present, that she would need to be ready, and he shunted concern aside, and tossed her to the wolves. Think on that for a mement. For one last run at the White House, he risked a future star of the party he claims to call home. How do you do that? I don't meant to rob Palin of agency, certainly she is also a victim of her own calculations and ambitions. But where I am from the elders protect you, and pull you back when you've gone too far, when your head has gotten too big.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pretty smart, Alaksa

Alaskans think Joe Biden is better prepared to be President (should the unthinkable happen), by 6 points. Delaware, unsurprisingly, agrees.

Busy busy busy

And while I haven't had a lot of time to blog about the US or Canadian elections, can I just say that John McCain may, if he continues down this path and works really hard at it, may just hand Barack Obama Utah's electoral votes.

Survey USA did a snap poll and found only 10% of Americans thought a delay in the debates was a good idea. Meaning Barack Obama, by doing nothing, just got put in the 90% crowd.

And then, in a truly grievous mistake, he pissed off The Dave.



Is it possible for a GOP candidate to get less than 40% of the popular vote? We're gonna find out....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Like it even needs to be said

You really should watch last night's Daily Show. Stewart and XXX covered the bailout proceedings beautifully, but also got the mood for Bush's most magnificent fuckup yet perfectly. Paraphrasing from memory: "It was like finding a vein on a failure junkie, Jon, but they did it."

Also, "We knew he would never be the best President, but now, if he tries hard enough, he just might be..."

"The worst?"

"The last."

All of this has happened before

Why, a white southern man finds himself in the totally not-racist position of arguing that poor people should be sterilized.
Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied.

"We're on a train headed to the future and there's a bridge out," LaBruzzo said of what he suspects are dangerous demographic trends. "And nobody wants to talk about it."

LaBruzzo said he worries that people receiving government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government. He said he is gathering statistics now.
I think my favourite part is this:
He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men.
Right, because a) people are just sitting around waiting to be sterilized but nobody's asked them if they wanna, and b) gender discrimination is not the first thing that came to my mind when white southern Republicans talk about sterilizing blacks (oops, I mean the poor!)

Monster. But, because he's GOP, he's a pro-family monster.

Free Sarah!



When will the misogyny end?

Friday, September 19, 2008

That's gotta smart

There's not much to be grateful for when it comes to the Ernie Eves government but his ridiculous election campaign did give us the glorious phrase, "reptilian kitten-eater". It was a phrase that certain journalists repeated to me last year, after John Tory tried to back away from his toxic school funding plan. For those not schooled in the finer points of Ontario politics, the short form definition of a reptilian-kitten-eater moment is when a campaign ceases to have any coherent argument for itself short of the crass pursuit of power. Ernie Eves squandered the advantage of being an incumbent by acting like a petulant child. You could also say that the Palin pick is John McCain's reptilian-kitten-eater moment (I sure did.)

Stephane Dion just had his reptilian kitten-eater moment. It's really quite a shame to watch it happen.

And a pony

If we're going to consider imaginary amendments to the US Constitution that radically change the politics of the nation, I'd argue strongly for the abolition of the Senate instead of abolishing the electoral college. First off, without the Senate seats the electoral college is far less problematic, and the Senate is a pretty despicable institution in its own right. Every progressive policy dies in the Senate three times before it becomes law. Were it not for the Senate, the US could have had Civil Rights laws in the 20s and universal health care in the 40s.

Didn't we win the Cold War?

...and didn't the command-economy-types lose?

So as I write this the Dow is up 400 points on the news that the US Treasury is going to probably end up assuming ownership of all the bad paper behind this latest mess in global capitalism. The first thing I want to do is reiterate a comment I left at Chet's place -- the US Government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to do absolutely nothing: nothing, that is, except reinforce the status quo. Oh sure, there's some nice words about making sure the middle class gets something out of this too, but the motive force is coming from the Wall Street Bailout. And of course, there's the dilemma of a) whether it will actuall help matters (pace McCain, the fundamentals of the US economy aren't particularly strong) and b) whether there's any other realistic option.

What it does mean, I think, is that the very first things Barack Obama should do when inaugurated is 1) propose legislation to the US Congress creating single-payer healthcare in America, and 2) initiate a massive program to get America off coal, oil and natural gas. Expensive, you say? Big goverment, you say? Bite me. If the US taxpayer can be put on the hook for billions to no purpose at all, while the arsonists reponsible for this mess escape without so much as a night in prison, then we can afford pretty much any amout of big-government project you can name. (And, btw, Iraq is still slated to cost $3 trillion plus...)

The justification here, it seems, is that Wall Street needs to be "recapitalized", which in plain English means the treasury is going to give banks hundreds of billions of dollars for chunks of big shitpile. Fuck me, if you want to give somebody billions of dollars for nothing I could probably set up a solvent, competent banking system too. The difference is I haven't just spend the last decade running businesses in to the ground, which apparently disqualifies me from running a Fortune 500 company, or a Republican Presidential campaign.

When I say this is money being thrown down a hole, somebody is sure to object that this is, in fact, a necessary rescue. The equivalent of calling in the fire department. No, it's not. This is the equivalent of spending years building shitty matchstick homes. Made of paper, plywood and frayed wiring. On the side of a volcano. And then calling the fire department to rescue the poor, innocent people who could never possibly have predicted they were heading towards disaster.

Here's my alternate bailout proposal: instead of the trillion dollars that it's now estimated the US is going to spend getting out of this mess, how about we let Wall Street burn and spend that money rebuilding the actual economy? On today of all days, don't tell me the US can't afford high-speed rail or solar power. The government can charter what ever GSEs it needs to get through the immediate crisis, and in the meantime if Wall Street collapses entirely they'll deserve every bit of it and the supply of donations to the Republican party will dry up appreciably. I call it win-win.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fuck you Tony.

Just watched the Daily Show, where Tony Blair decided to lecture Jon Stewart on how the world changed on September 11th, 2001. The Daily Show studios are not too far from the still-gaping hole of ground zero, and the pompous ass decided that Stewart really just didn't understand how important 9/11 was, and why it meant we had to invade Iraq.

Stewart's response was more polite than mine was. Also, less likely to lead to headlines, "Former UK PM bludgeoned to death on basic cable."

That worked out so well for Rome, after all

This is terrifyingly perceptive:
Because win or lose, make no mistake about it, brand McCain has been destroyed. And therein we see the long arm of George Bush and the hand of Karl Rove. It may well be that a scorched earth campaign was his only shot, but consider how every attack and every lie, while they serve to smear Obama, also serve to undermine he credibility, honor and self-image of John McCain. I can hear George cackling as Karl explained how cool it would be: We might just pull out a win for the folks who own the country, but at the same time we totally fuck over McCain by getting him to destroy the only thing he really had going for him....

It can be useful to look at what happened to he succession of power once ancient Rome made the transition from republic to empire under Julius Caesar. I think of it as the Tiberius Gambit. Each emperor did his best to ensure that the one who followed him could never rival his achievements. And it was a short step indeed for Tiberius to inflict he egregious Caligula on the empire, secure in the knowledge that he would make the populace yearn for the comparatively golden days of his own rule. So Augustus gave us Tiberius, Tiberius gave us Caligula and the accidental Claudius gave us Nero. Nero almost destroyed the Roman economy by his personal greed and burned part of Rome intending, perhaps, to remove the blight of a quarter congested with the urban poor. When it got way out of hand and he began to feel universal public opprobrium, he blamed it on a fringe group of alien terrorists, the early Christians.

So Bush would give us McCain and McCain would give us Palin and Palin will ignite the fire and fiddle while the planet burns.
Ah, the wrecking crew at work.

Universal Music revenue up for 2008

Hm. It turns out that the recorded music industry can survive, even with the existence of the Internet. But clearly the boys at Universal Music don't know what they're talking about: the Conservatives should be re-elected so they can bring in a shitty copyright law! Or if not them, the Liberals, who can introduce their almost-as-shitty copyright law.

Wheee.

They mean what they say, cont.

The McCain camp digs in.

It would be funny if, you know, he didn't actually want to be President.

Remember the Maine!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

They mean what they say

See, some people think this is McCain making a gaffe or slipping up or just being plain confused. I'm not so sure. It's long been a talking point among the asshole right that Spain "cut and run" after the Madrid bombings. Zapatero in particular is hated by wingnuts (those who know who he is) for pulling Spain's troops out of Iraq. So when McCain calls Zapatero a leader who wants to harm America, I think we need to (until the McCain campaign retracts this) take it at face value.

Am I the only one who remembers Rosie Dimanno's shameful editorial after the London bombings, sliming the people of Spain?

Kind of a big deal

Check out this chart from Ekos, via Paul Wells. You'll note that, for all the screeching Liberals circa 2004-5 did about the NDP stealing their votes, in this case the NDP is almost entirely innocent: the Liberals have lost many more votes to the Tories, and almost as many votes to the Greens, as they have to the NDP. Kind of makes you wonder why the Liberals have helped out the Greens as much as they have.

(Some have objected to this contention, for reasons that elude me: the Liberals, since shortly before Dion was elected, have trumpeted their friendship with the Green party, and helped raise the party's national standing.)

Some basic questions here: How progressive is the Liberal Party? We saw in 2006 that the (non-Conservative) party most comfortable with the prospect of a Stephen Harper majority is... the Liberals. Now we see defecting Liberals as the single biggest source of vote-crossers for the Conservative party.

To answer my own question: the Liberal Party is getting more and more progressive by the day, apparently. As it becomes less blue and more red, the party can't help but be more progressive. Whether it can win an election at the same time remains to be seen.

Where's the government?

Ezra notes that the entire management of the financial crisis has been essentially removed from elected politicians. And before you say, "Good!", consider the extent of the expenditures so far. Literally hundreds of billions of dollars have been committed to keeping Wall Street from going down a black hole. The government is spending money in some ways faster than it does on the Iraq War, but Congress is not appropriating any of it. This won't matter if the game collapses -- the US government will be considered responsible for repaying that debt (and more, probably) or lose it's bulletproof credit rating.

Imagine if the Secretary of Defense, without the direction of either the President or the Congress, declared war on another country.

Link-clearing

--I read this Discover article a few years ago, and it popped up on Digg recently: basically, the argument is that human anatomy evolved to make marathon runners. Kind of neat.

--CATO arguing against copyright maximalism. Key graf, which should sound familiar:
One early darknet has been termed the “sneakernet”: walking by foot to your friend carrying video cassettes or floppy discs. Nor is the sneakernet purely a technology of the past. The capacity of portable storage devices is increasing exponentially, much faster than Internet bandwidth, according to a principle known as “Kryder’s Law.” [7] The information in our pockets yesterday was measured in megabytes, today in gigabytes, tomorrow in terabytes and in a few years probably in petabytes (an incredible amount of data). Within 10-15 years a cheap pocket-size media player will probably be able to store all recorded music that has ever been released — ready for direct copying to another person’s device.


--Profile of Alec Baldwin that, for reasons I can't explain, I find very compelling.

--Can the US make any combat aircraft that aren't crippled by high costs and technical problems? The decline in absolute numbers of aircraft is usually waved away by noting, correctly, that modern aircraft are vastly more capable than previous generation, especially when armed with precision guided munitions. But, at the end of the day the US is still usually going to war with countries where the main mission is not shooting other aircraft out of the sky, but basically "bomb trucking", where there's a huge value in being able to put more aircraft in the sky (one aircraft can only be in one place at one time, after all.) There could be a lot of use for a cheap, more expendable aircraft whose main purpose was simply to deliver PGMs. Drones like the Predator could probably fill that role in the future, letting the USAF do what it prefers anyway.

--And, like I warned last year, there's been a slight (less than 10%) rebound in arctic ice minimum this fall. So of course the morons are out claiming there's no problem, ice is growing again. We've seen rebounds before, but the long-term trend is clearly down.

Hm.

Watching Elizabeth May speak at her platform roll-out, she's become a much better orator than the last time I say her speak publicly.

A question for Liberals: this woman is speaking more clearly and forcefully on her version of the Green Shift than your own leader. Are you sure raising the Green's profile was such a good idea?

A $50/tonne carbon tax = me likee very much.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monster

This is a bit old, but Dubya's continuing obsession with being properly thanked for unleashing armageddon on the Iraqis continues to be the most straightforwardly sociopathic thing I've ever seen.

(Earlier examples of Bush's narcissism here.)

Me Want

E-ink devices keep getting better and better looking.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are two century-old financial institutions supposed to disappear?

I'm watching Hank Paulson on CNBC right now... I don't know. I've got nothing really well informed to say about today's event in New York, except that I still don't think this is over.

Also, how many billions of taxpayer dollars has the US government committed to rescuing automakers who can't make cars people want, or financiers who can't maintain solvent institutions? Now, how many billions have they committed to workers who are out of their jobs because of these various incompetencies at the top?

Canadian banks are saying they have limited exposure to the direct events of the day, but reality is that nobody but nobody has "limited exposure" to the possibility of the US economy coming off the rails. Especially not Canada, for God's sake.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Things I recommend

Buying the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation the week before you return to school to complete your masters degree. That, like, totally improves your productivity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm trying to be happy, really I am

Tyler Hamilton reports that Ontario is speaking with Better Place, the Israeli organization that is trying to not just bring us electric cars, but totally change the business model for automobiles. I like it a lot, I really do, and if Better Place works out I'll be the first in line. But this got me:
The key to attracting Better Place to Ontario, said Marans, would be for Queen's Park to provide generous consumer incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. The province would also need a local or foreign manufacturer to get behind the project with a commitment to build electric cars in Ontario.
Uh, Province? Your claim to be supportive would be a lot more credible if the McGuinty government had not spent the last 3 years throwing every possible roadblock in front of actually-existing electric car entrepreneurs like ZENN motors.

Still, if this turns out to be true I'll take it, provided it doesn't mean the Province slants the table in favour of larger, stupider cars when a car like ZENN's exists.

Better Place is an extremely interesting group, btw. You can read a pretty good profile in Wired here. I've always wondered why smaller jurisdictions didn't spend more time looking at electric cars: Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, and Israel all have plenty of reason to try to reduce oil imports, and it's not like you can drive that far in Israel before you meet either the Mediterranean or the Arab League.

Acceptable

Elizabeth May is likely now to be allowed in to the debates. Frankly, I expect she won't do well, though the publicity will do her party some good. But check it out, this way we get to make the call ourselves.

Note to Mrs. May: try to minimize the comparisons of your debate opponents to Nazis.

Broken

Spent a solid chunk of time yesterday watching cars go by me in the middle of downtown Toronto -- probably the area of Canada best served by mass transit, and also the place with such heavy traffic that you'd avoid it at all costs if you didn't absolutely have to travel through it. In almost a half hour of watching, I saw a total of one car that had more than just the driver in it.

I'm actually at the point now where I'm laughing at people in Toronto who complain about gas prices. It's totally non-credible: if you were actually hurting, you'd stop doing stupid things. Driving to and from the downtown core in the middle of rush hour, in a car with only yourself, is a stupid thing.

I really despair at our ability to think our way out of this one. There's a total unwillingness to concede that the root of our problem is the automobile, and the ecosystem of services that it requires. (Parking, gas, etc.) For a truly distressing look at just one part of this, I just finished reading The High Price of Free Parking by David Shoup, which compellingly argues that free parking is the single biggest subsidy for North American drivers ever, estimating that it costs, in dollar terms, somewhere between $125-400 billion every year. The higher number was close to what America was spending on military expenditures before the Bush buildup.

Free parking subsidizes the cost of driving to the tune of something like $4 a gallon, if you want to think of it in fuel costs. Each car requires, on average, three or four parking spaces (one at home, one at work, and one or two at any given time for other destinations.) But because of course the car can only occupy one of these spaces at any time, the vast majority of space devoted to keeping cars is wasted year-round.

Free parking creates all sorts of perverse incentives, and people react to paying for parking even more perversely: notice the recent dust-up over the TTC eliminating free parking for metropass holders. The TTC will continue to provide subsidized parking to drivers (who, even after they start paying for this valuable service, will still only be paying half the cost) but it will now cost drivers to park. The response has been non-stop caterwauling, and obnoxious claims that if the TTC is going to take the draconian step of asking customers to pay for a service, they'll just drive their cars all the way downtown... where they'll pay vastly more than the TTC is currently proposing. And of course, downtown Toronto parking is also dramatically underpriced, leading to overuse of cars and the traffic congestion that ensues.

Shoup, in his book, estimates that a single downtown parking space costs no less than $20,000 to build, with substantial annual maintenance costs. In some locales, land costs can inflate that sum a great deal -- some estimates are that Tokyo parking spaces are worth more than $400,000. And yet when you ask people to pay -- and to pay the market price! -- for their parking, they scream like stuck pigs. I was doing some reporting last year on the very-successful Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market last year, and what was the most common complaint by merchants in Kensington, who literally work surrounded by walkable city and mass transit lines? Parking was too expensive.

A great deal of our public policy problems could be solved if we made the goal of decreasing the rate of car ownership in Canada. But we will never do that, because we cannot imagine a world where Ontario doesn't make cars, and Alberta doesn't make oil for cars, and where huge acreages aren't flattened and sterilized to make suburbs people drive to and from every day.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A question

RealNetworks wants to release a product that will create exact copies of DVDs that people can store on their computer. The copies will be DRMed to the point of uselessness, or certainly to the point where they will be less valuable than the original.

But we seem to be slowly moving towards the original, moderate position that copyfighters have always argued: there needs to be a personal exemption to copyright law, and working towards copyright maximalism is nonsensical in the digital age.

So the question: why have we wasted the last 10 years in a futile war against teenagers and their computers, again?

Terrifying

David Letterman is about as pessimistic as I am about climate change. But what's terrifying is the crowd's reaction. They think this is just Dave doing a bit... I don't think that's it at all. I think Letterman is actually angry, actually scared, and actually trying to get through to people, and all he's getting is laughter.

That's the problem we face: rather than actually confront the nature of what we're doing, we're far more comfortable laughing when a trusted nightly figure tells us that our civilization is the walking dead.

Truly bizarre.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Unacceptable

I want to make two things very clear: I will not be voting Green federally, nor do I think their party is a credible governing alternative (yet) on the Federal scene.

But, and far more importantly than my personal political opinions, is the fact that the Green Party is clearly a credible political alternative, and ought to be allowed in the televised debates. Any party leader who threatened to leave the debates if she was allowed in (Gilles, Jack, Steve, all of you cowards) ought to be ashamed.

The consortium ought to be (but won't be) ashamed most of all, because the threat to have a leader walk out of a debate is an empty one. You think the Conservatives want to leave the symbol of this election an empty podium? Please.

Various products and services reviewed, cont.

Things I like about the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:

1a) The central role of Sarah Connor in the narrative. Terminator 3 was disappointing (among so many reasons) because, after Linda Hamilton's central roles in the first two films, 3 made the story all about the men. But Sarah Connor is the most interesting character! Unknown and unknowing waitress is plucked from nowhere to become the mother (read: teacher, preacher, and personal trainer) to the most important military leader since George Marshall.

1b) Lena Headey in the role of Sarah Connor. Last seen eviscerating Spartan collaborators in 300, Headey manages to keep the best parts of Connor's character without trying to recreate Hamilton's performance.

2) Given the post-9/11 context, and the fact that it's airing on Fox, I kind of expected the writers to re-write the story so that Skynet was actually built by Osama Bin Laden in a cave, with Nancy Pelosi holding the soldering iron. Instead, the central role of the Military Industrial Complex is retained. That's right kiddies, your little obsession over terrorists is a waste of time: Big War will kill us all.

3) The show wisely pretends that Terminator 3 never happened, and instead creates an alternate timeline -- something you can do when time travel is central to your story.

I say give it a viewing. The second season premieres tonight at 8PM on FOX/CKVR in the GTA.

Your afternoon reminder

What do you talk about when you have nothing to say?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Line of the day

Given the GOP hatefest on "community organizers" last night, this is nice to hear:
"Mrs. Palin needs to be reminded that Jesus Christ was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor."

A good night for the good guys

I think the comment of the day -- regarding Sarah Palin's speech last night -- goes to Nate at 538:
In the past several hours, Dems I’ve spoken with and who’ve flooded my inbox are energized. A woman friend and Democrat who had not worked for Obama’s campaign: “I am volunteering tomorrow.” An Obama organizer who was operating on fumes five months ago: “They are not getting away with this. 10 hours of call time tomorrow.” A shorter read of the mood: “Let’s get it on.”

The mockery went too far. They played the “Obama doesn’t love America, just himself” card, over and over and over. For people already inclined to believe that (i.e., the hardcore Republican base), the speech was a smashing success. Maybe they will work a little harder, volunteer a few more hours, dig a little deeper into their pockets. But so will partisan Dems, who are far more plugged into watching the election coverage....

Fire up both bases equally, it’s not even close. Obama wins going away. In 2008, there are so many more Democrats, numerically.
And I don't see this playing out any differently. McCain's convention bounce starts now, but the people he'll win are largely the people he already started to consolidate last week when he named Palin as his Veep. Ergo, his bounce will be shallower than Obamas, meaning Obama keeps his lead in to mid-September, even assuming McCain/Palin does well over the next few weeks.

But, let's remember that there's a whole mess of scandals coming down the river, including now-conclusive proof that Palin personally pressured the former safety commissioner of Alaska. The press will be in love with her for a day or two, but there's a drip, drip, drip here that's not going away.

Excellent speech

Barack Obama does a good short speech about unions and solidarity.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Slightly fresher lake, cont.



The Northeast and Northwest passages are both open for the first time in history, making the Arctic ice cap an island for the first time in observed human history.
Prof Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in the US said the images suggested the Arctic may have entered a "death spiral" caused by global warming.

Shipping companies are already planning to exploit the first simultaneous opening of the routes since the beginning of the last Ice Age 125,000 years ago. The Beluga Group in Germany says it will send the first ship through the north-east passage, around Russia, next year, cutting 4,000 miles off the voyage from Germany to Japan.
To reiterate: there is no scenario in which the Greenland ice sheet survives when we get ice-free summers in the Arctic. Giving Greenland a nice, long, summer bath isn't a great idea.

Oh, and it gets better:
OTTAWA (Reuters) - A huge 19 square mile (55 square km) ice shelf in Canada's northern Arctic broke away last month and the remaining shelves have shrunk at a "massive and disturbing" rate, the latest sign of accelerating climate change in the remote region, scientists said on Tuesday.

They said the Markham Ice Shelf, one of just five remaining ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic, split away from Ellesmere Island in early August. They also said two large chunks totaling 47 square miles had broken off the nearby Serson Ice Shelf, reducing it in size by 60 percent.

... Mueller said the total amount of ice lost from the shelves along Ellesmere Island this summer totaled 83 square miles -- more than three times the area of Manhattan island.

The figure is more than 10 times the amount of ice shelf cover that scientists estimated on July 30 would vanish from around the island this summer.
Why? Because we've totally failed to do anything remotely close to what's necessary.
The pledge from G8 countries to cut global emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, in an effort to cut global warming to 2ยบC, could lead to ‘dangerously misguided’ climate change adaptation policies, according to new research from The University of Manchester.

Stabilising greenhouse gas emissions at a level that will avoid dangerous climate change is no longer viable without an immediate reframing of current climate policy, according to scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Manchester.
So, uh, good night and good luck everyone.

Weird and weirder

...and not about Sarah Palin!

Japan has the latest in sleazy business opportunities: professional seducers.

And before you say to yourself, "Hey, isn't a 'professional seducer' a whore?", well, think again pal. Let's let these ladies' employer speak for them:
Kyoko’s work, Tomiya emphasises, is not prostitution, as no money is handed over. She earns a basic salary of £2,000-2,500 a month, plus bonuses when a case is successful, which they usually are. She can earn up to £5,000 a month, has her own apartment and a boyfriend who thinks she’s a secretary. She’s never been threatened by clients. In any case, “I know the bodyguard is nearby.” As to whether she feels sorry for her victims or guilty at deceiving them, “It’s my job. I keep my feelings separate.”
So, clearly not prostitutes: a john knows what he's getting in to, while these ladies manage to make prostitution look like an honest day's work.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The craziest goddamn thing I've ever heard

So, um, about those rumours. In case you didn't hear yesterday, the McCain campaign sought to silence rumours that Bristol Palin, 17, had given birth 4 months ago by announcing that Bristol Palin is 5 months pregnant. Additionally, press reports have confirmed that Gov. Palin once belonged to the Alaska Independence Party (which is even nuttier than the name sounds), and that Gov. Palin has hired legal counsel to try and muck up the ethical investigation she's currently under in her home state. TPM has the rundown.

Er, wow. The McCain campaign is busily claiming that they totally vetted Palin, which gives us two options: either McCain is lying (she wasn't vetted) and he's crazy, or he's just plain crazy. Imagine learning just what we already know about Gov. Palin, and thinking that she would be the best possible VP?

The last 24-48 hours have been, as the title to this post implies, the craziest goddamn thing I've ever seen. It's the kind of thing that, as you watch it unfold, makes the mind rebel. I shouldn't be watching this happen. It's like watching a shark eat an antelope or some crazy thing.

If Palin makes it to Friday, I think she's locked in: the damage to removing her would be worse than the damage of keeping her on. In any case, removing her from the ticket would outrage the fundie base. I think people are going to look back and see the last week as when John McCain lost the election: the DNC went off flawlessly, and he's had nothing but trouble since.