Thursday, March 31, 2005

Two Down, Two to Go

I realize there's been a lack of substance to the blog lately. As I've said before, I'm in the middle of the essay crunch at the moment. That should be over by next Wednesday, so I'm hoping to have some more time to write then.

I just handed in the essay that is probably my favourite of the year, a look at the causes of the Russo-Japanese war and some theoretical explanations. When I have some more time, I'd like to go over the Lessons that I posted here, and some of their relevance for today. As you might guess, a specific country will be named.

1) Its name starts with an I.
2) Its name ends with a Q.
3) Its name rhymes with the family name of the French President.

No cheating!

Least Surprising Headline Ever

"Mugabe's Party Favored as Zimbabweans Go to Polls"

Just in case you had any concerns.

Skyscraper Envy

In other news, the Emir's wife has no complaints about her sex life. None whatsoever. Certainly, none relating to the Emir's endowment. Any accusations to the contrary are the fabrications of Zionists and Communists.

I am the Alpha and the Omega

I control all time and space. Just over twelve hours ago, I speculated that the Pope might kick the bucket today, thus resulting in spontaneous combustion of cable news anchors as the Pope and Terry Schiavo died on the same day.

There are unconfirmed reports that the Pope has been administered his Last Rites.

I must remember to use this power for good, and not for evil. However, I think we should lower the bar - if the Pope kicks it before 10am tomorrow (roughly when Mrs. Schiavo died) my status as God-King will be confirmed, and I will await tribute.

I think I played SimEarth and Civlization too much as a boy.

Doing My Part For National Disunity

This comes from Malina, who's french so it's okay:

There are two Quebecois hunters who have been lost in the woods for weeks and they're at death's door. As they stumble on, hoping for some form of salvation or something similar, they suddenly spot, through the brush, a peculiar looking tree off in the distance.

As they get closer they can see that the tree is draped with rasher upon rasher of bacon. There's smoked bacon, crispy bacon, life giving juicy nearly-raw bacon, all sorts.

"Hey, Jacques" says the first hunter "Dat's a bacon tree!!! We're saved!!!" "You're right, mon ami!" says Henri. So Jacques goes on ahead and runs up to the tree salivating at the prospect of food. But as he gets to within five feet of the tree, there's the sound of machine gun fire, and he is shot down in a hail of bullets.

His friend quickly drops down on the forest floor and calls across to the wounded Jacques. "Jacques!! Jacques!! Que ce qui se passe?"

With his dying breath Jacques calls out... "Ugh, run, mon ami, run!!

Dat's not a Bacon Tree!"

You're going to love this...

"Dat's......... a.... Ham bush!!

He's Got My Family!

The pseudo-anonymous* blogger "Flocons de Mais" has threatened to kill my puppy** if I don't add him to the blogroll, and recommend that you go read him. Don't let him kill fluffy!***

*He's only anonymous if you don't already know who he is.
**I don't have a puppy.
***If I did have a puppy, it wouldn't be named fluffy. As a proper name, Fluffy would be capitalized.

Oh CBC, Not You Too

In my continuing series of posts designed to guarantee I never find employment in my father's shop, I need to yell at CBC again.

Like the rest of the major media outlets, CBC has bought the line that Schiavo's feeding tube was removed "by her husband's request".

No, no it wasn't. What this was, was 7 separate courts (within them, 23 different judges!) all agreeing that it was Theresa Schiavo's will that she not be kept alive in a hopeless state. Therefore the court, acting on Theresa's behalf, ordered the tube removed. That the husband supported this is clear, but it wasn't his will or his doing we're talking about. This is what Mrs. Schiavo wanted, not her husband or her family.

It would be nice if the media had kept that in mind, but I guess these issues are so complicated that an undergrad writing on a free blog is the only one who can truly expound upon them. Morons.

Hmm... They're Not Invincible, After All

According to this USA Today article (via Daily Kos) the US Army has lost 80 Abrams tanks since the onset of the war in Iraq. These losses have been entirely due to roadside bombs and the well-known IED's.

That's not quite astonishing, but I'll guarantee you that some foreign militaries are paying attention to the Iraqi insurgency far more than you'd expect.

Terry Schiavo est mort

Please Jeebus, let this be the end of it. On the other hand, there's still fourteen hours left in the day for the Pope to die, too. Let's watch the CNN anchors' heads explode!

In Defense of CANCON

So CBC has a piece on this morning about the growing importance of Canadian Indie music, and how little attention these new groups are getting from "official" sources such as the Junos or major radio chains. Fair enough - commerical radio never pays attention to the indies. But what motivated me to write is when the reporter started slagging the CANCON rules. His argument was that these indies aren't benefiting from this policy, ergo is doesn't matter. He quoted one musician (I forget from which band) who said that he thought CANCON rules prevented Canadian musicians from feeling confident in themselves.

This, frankly, is bullshit. Indies are never going to get the same treatment as commerical pop. CANCON isn't meant to protect them. What CANCON had done is strengthen and diversify the Canadian pop sector. We can debate the necessity or benefit of that, but CANCON's been an unqualified success in it's purposes.

If Canada didn't have CANCON rules, it would either a) have no representation in the global music industry (from which I would except the independents) or b) would need to invent an equivalent. Of course, it's not cultural protectionism that the indies object to, as later in the piece they mention that most of the hot new indy bands sustain themselves on.... federal grants. So it's just the protectionism that works for them, right?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

No! Not Pac-Man!

This is just evil. Not as evil as this, but close.

Springtime in Ottawa

The weather has been really lovely lately. This has produced two results, one desirable and one not.

First, the attractive young women* at Carleton have stopped wearing winter clothing, making me thankful I go to University.

Secondly, the accumulated dog feces of the Ottawa winter seems to have thawed and become odiferous again. Five months of dogshit adds up, and it's all smelling at once. Seriously. You can't escape the smell. It's everywhere.

*Note: There are, in fact, no attractive young women at Carleton. After all, my girlfriend isn't here, so how could there be?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Go Go Grenade Bot!

I want one.

Blogger Is Kaput

So I've been trying to post intermittently, but the blasted Blogger is all screwed up. Don't know how long it'll last, and combined with the essays I've got due, you may not want to check around here to often.

Toshiba Introduces New Battery

God I'm a nerd (and screw you, Adam!) Toshiba introduces a new type of lithium battery, and I nearly wet myself.
TOKYO (AFP) - Leading Japanese electronics maker Toshiba said it has developed a light and thin prototype battery that recharges 80 percent of capacity in just a minute... It also has a long life, losing only one percent of capacity after 1,000 cycles of discharging and recharging and can operate at temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit), it said... "Initial applications will be in the automotive and industrial sectors," it said, adding that the technology may also be used as an alternative power source for hybrid gasoline-electric cars.
No word in this article about the actual energy density, but this is encouraging. I want my electric car!

Gee, What'll They Trump Up Next?

The Jesse Helms wing of the Republican Party will have to find another way to try and delegitimize the UN - Kofi Annan has been more or less cleared of any wrongdoing in the Oil-for-food program. The inquiry is basically beyond reproach, as Paul Volcker, legendary Fed Chief, was heading the investigation.

So what'll the Republicans try next? My bet is trying to blame the UN for what's going on in the Sudan, somehow. Go Evil Team!

Once Again, I Do Not Understand Paul Martin

Okay, so here's the scenario: Despite his minority, Paul Martin could, with only a little difficulty, pass some strong Kyoto legislation even without the support of the Conservatives. The BQ and the NDP have more than enough votes to pass any pro-Kyoto bill.

So why is Paul Martin doing everything in his power to piss off the opposition parties? First on the Missile Defense issue, and now again Martin is acting like he's still got a majority. My advice: Stop trying to sneak the Kyoto stuff through Parliament. Get a straight vote on the Kyoto stuff, which you'll win, dumbass, and move on.

Interesting China News

The Nationalists are heading back to the mainland, 55 years after the end of the war.

Somebody's Going To Hell

Terry Schiavo's Blog.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Go Read Billmon

Standing order #1. Go Read. Now.

Can Speakeasys be far behind?

Sony ordered to stop selling Playstations due to patent infringement.

Boy, Sony has had more IP-related lawsuits... First Betamax, now this. Here's hoping they beat the rap.

Climate Change Myths


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Atrios is Profound

"The way to be preceived as strong isn't to let George W. Bush tell you where to point your dick."

Best. Description. Ever.

"Foreign visitors to Russia were struck by the contrast between the grinding poverty and appaling ignorance exhibited on all sides and the overweening sense of superiority of the Russians from prince to peasant. For the national arrogance was by no means a prerogative of the official or privileged classes. Million upon million of ignorant peasants, inured to pain and death, indifferent to hardship, illiterate and untravelled and superstitiously wedded to an abuse-ridden Church, were loyal to a remote Tsar and accepted however imperfectly his vision of Russia's manifest destiny."
-David Walder, The Short Victorious War, p. 47
Gee. Wonder why they lost the war?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Berlin: Reunited and It Feels So Bad

BERLIN - Fifteen years after the Berlin Wall fell, 24 percent of west Germans surveyed said they wanted it back, according to a poll published Saturday.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Lessons of the Russo-Japanese War, Presented Without Comment. For Now.

1. A state should have a significant stake in war.
2. Know how to end a war before it begins.
3. Know what a nation needs to achieve by war.
4. A nation must know itself as well as the enemy.
5. Define the operating environment.
6. Free and open debate within the government on the conflict.
7. Ensure overwhelming moral acceptance of the nation.
-Joel E. Hamby, Striking the Balance: Strategy and Force in the Russo-Japanese War Armed Forces & Society, v.30 #3, p. 326

Pakistan Update

Well, I said I didn't know, didn't I? Turns out that Pakistan already had F-16s, this latest deal just bolsters their numbers. Less concerning than I thought.

Don't Know What To Make of This

US to sell F-16 Jets to Pakistan.

Honestly. Don't know. But I'd look for India to start shopping around for something new. Probably buy more Su-30s, maybe start leaning on the EU for newer weaponry. Given the close ties between Islamabad and Beijing, I hope the Americans are being careful. I'd be surprised if the Chinese don't end up having at least some F-16 parts in their jets.

IP Stupidity Continues

Ottawa brings in new copyright law. It's not quite as bad as similar US laws, but it will probably be used to much the same extent. Basically, Rogers and Bell are going to get a bunch of legal letters demanding they burn any users who are file-sharing. Oh well.

Anyone know if there's a file-sharing program that encrypts it's transfers? Nothing special, just enough to keep the lawyers at bay.

Lite Blogging Warning

With easter and essays due in the next few weeks, I'm going to try to keep blogging to a lower level. This will probably mean more linking to other posts, and shorter posts of my own. This will be the first time I'm blogging through essays and exams, so here's hoping I don't fail this term.

As the first of many posts simply linking to other people, go read "Tom Friedman as Captain Renault" by Armando at Daily Kos.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I Continue to Love the People's Daily

"Foreign countries back China's Anti-Secession Law"
The international community has continued to express support for the adoption of the Anti-Secession Law by China's legislature, which is intended to prevent Taiwan's secession from China.
And the three diplomatic superpowers China rounds up to support it? Armenia, Yemen, and Tonga.

I'm gonna go out, buy some anti-depressants, then flush them down the toilet. Don't need em! I've got the People's Daily!

China and Cars

Wired's got a new article on the Chinese move towards alternative-fuel cars, here.

Nothing's Ever Finished With China

BERLIN Germany and France appeared Thursday to be more committed than ever to ending the European Union's arms embargo against China. In Beijing, officials were quick to applaud the development.
The discussions between Britain and the United States have become so tense that Congress has threatened to tighten the transfer of military technology to Britain, its most loyal ally in Europe, and other European countries if the embargo is lifted, said the officials, who requested anonymity.
Brilliant. Not satisfied with alienating the Continent, the US is now threatening Tony Blair's government for not being pliable enough? I love these people. Who needs wars when the US is shooting itself in the foot all by itself?

Hero To Get Meaningless Reward

Say hello to Senator Dallaire, everyone.

One thing though: Why isn't Martin naming what's-his-name from Alberta, the guy who won an election? It's totally meaningless anyway, so why not throw Alberta a bone?

Things Continue to Deteriorate in Asia

In the past few weeks, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun has dredged up the past again and demanded yet another apology from Japan over the occupation of Korea from 1910-1945. This escalated once more when Roh told South Koreans to prepare for sacrifices in a "diplomatic war" with Tokyo.

The current dispute was sparked by a Japan's Takeshima prefecture symbolically claiming ownership over rocks the Koreans claim. Tokyo has recognized Korea's claim, but doesn't have the authority to prevent the stupidity of Takeshima prefecture, so here we are. Roh, in my opinion, is being an idiot. I don't know what his poll numbers are like, but frankly I think he's playing the history card for little to no reason. Japan has apologized repeatedly to Korea and the rest of Asia for what it did, and it paid Korea a sizeable sum in the 60s (I believe) on the condition that no further demands were made by Korea. Roh is ignoring all of that, and is probably being egged on by China a bit.

Enough of this, and Japan is likely to start playing hardball and begin ignoring these kinds of tantrums on the part of Seoul and Beijing. The Americans would probably welcome that but it would have ominous implications for Asia in general.

Orange in Kyrgyzstan

Ah, democracy in the Former Soviet Union:
BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's opposition seemed to have seized control of the Central Asian country on Thursday after days of violent protest, but there was no word on the whereabouts of President Askar Akayev, the man it wants to oust.
Somewhere, someday, I will have a dateline that starts with "Bishkek". Then, I'm gonna get the hell out of there.

I honestly don't have enough knowledge of Kyrgyzstan to say whether this is a good thing or not. But it does seem to fit a trend in the FSU. Cautious optimism, anyone?

Why! Won't! You! Die! Already!

Sweet Christ, not three days after I added them to the Blogroll, I find this crap at Polspy:
I have been rethinking my place in Canada’s democratic system, and I have to admit that some days I find the ‘one person, one vote’ concept rather offensive. It’s not a nice thing when you realize that your vote has the same value as Paul Bernardo’s vote, or the vote of a welfare bum who has never done and honest day’s work in his life.
Ahh yes, now I remember those stirring words by Thomas Jefferson. "We hold these truths to be self evident, that only some people count, and fuck the rest of you."
So this leads me to a radical thought: Why not weight a person’s vote on how much they contribute back to the country in terms of the amount of taxes they pay? Here’s how it works: everyone gets a base value attached to their vote (the basic deduction), but everything you pay over and above that adds weight to it.

This system favours those who are actually contributing to the country, while still giving a voice to those who don’t, although their voice will be minimized (rightfully so, in my opinion). This will lead to those screaming that rich people will ‘buy’ the government. Maybe, but let’s face it — they are already. The Irving family’s friendly treatment of the governing Liberals proves out that point.
Everyone still gets a say in the government, but those who are shouldering more of the loud get more of a say. Sounds fair to me. What do others think?
Well I'm glad you asked. I think Canada already had a system where the rich and powerful determined the political process, and it was called the Family Compact. It was, for those unfamiliar, what sparked the Rebellion of 1837, which added urgency to the reforms which led to the unification of Upper and Lower Canada in 1841, and from there Confederation. To put it another way, almost 170 years of modern Canadian political history has been a reaction against the dictatorship of the Family Compact, but we still have to fight this douchebaggery today. Why do bad ideas never die?

I love how Sean calls this idea "radical". See, I would normally associate radicalism with people who want to change the status quo, not entrench it. Sean admits that the rich and powerful already have a larger say in government than the poor, but rather than seek to address that problem like a committed democrat might, he wants to entrench that power and return us to aristocratic rule. Brilliant. Maybe next we can make Preston Manning a divine monarch. Hell, why not just go the Japanese route and make him divine? In short, why bother with democracy at all? I know Conservatives have never liked the fact that Canada doesn't respect their obvious genius, but this isn't going to change any minds.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

All this time...

We've been in the presence of the nerd king. And we never even knew!

Let us all bow down to the nerdiness that is Adam.

I Heart the UCS

The Union of Concerned Scientists has responded to a bullshit ad from the carmakers by releasing one of it's own. Nice.

If We Can Go To The Moon, Why Can't We Go To The Moon Again?

I read this story, and it's a perfect image of why the US space policy has been adrift for decades. Using occasional bursts of public and private spending to justify your activities, when all you're doing is letting an almost forty year old (forty years!) legacy rot from underneath.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

This is Pathetic

At what point do we get to talk about the costs of Global Warming? Now?
Swiss technicians are to use a special insulating foam to wrap up a glacier that has been shrinking under the summer sun, an official from a resort whose clients ski down the ice-field said....A study published last year by Zurich University estimated that the country's glaciers have lost around a fifth of their surface area over the past 15 years. The study, carried out using satellite data, also found that the rate of ice-loss was accelerating.
I realize all we're talking about is protecting a ski slope, but that's a hell of a lot of ice to lose in 15 years.

I Should Stop Blaming Bill Hicks For Everything

Why is it that when I read this
"More than half of British people have no idea why Easter is celebrated, a survey revealed. Just 48 percent of some 1,000 adults questioned for the Reader's Digest Magazine poll correctly answered the resurrection of Christ.
I think of this?
"I've been traveling a lot lately. I was over in Australia during Easter. It was interesting to note they celebrate Easter the same way we do commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus by telling our children a giant bunny rabbit . . . left chocolate eggs in the night. Gee, I wonder why we're so messed up as a race. You know, I've read the Bible. Can't find the words "bunny" or "chocolate" in the whole book. I think it's interesting how people act on their beliefs. A lot of Christians, for instance, wear crosses around their necks. Nice sentiment, but do you think when Jesus comes back, he's really going to want to look at a cross? Ow! Maybe that's why he hasn't shown up vet. (As Jesus looking; down from Heaven) "I m not going, Dad. No, they're still wearing crosses - they've totally missed the point. when they start wearing fishes, I might go back again.... No, I m not going.... O.K., I'll tell you what - I'll go back as a bunny."

Let the Class War Begin!

Suburban Guerilla has a great post on the dearth of working-class voices in the media.

Now This Is Interesting

For the last decade or so, one of the major suppliers of arms to China has been Israel. This is ironic, because much of Israel's technology is then transferred by China to Arab regimes who are, of course, hostile to Israel. Until today, apparently:
"Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz convened the heads of some 50 of the leading defense industry firms in the country Monday, and warned that they must get written permission from the ministry for any trip they or their representatives make to China, or for starting any business negotiations with the Chinese even if they are selling civilian equipment that happens to be manufactured in an Israeli defense plant. The CEOs were told ahead of time that it was about the crisis in relations with the U.S. in the wake of military sales to China. Some ministry department chiefs also attended the meeting.
All this really means is that European arms sales will continue as they have under the embargo anyway, and Russian arms sales are likely to increase somewhat. Still, it's a sign of how much pressure the US is putting on various allies to isolate China.

I'm beginning to think that war is more and more likely in the Pacific. I don't know when, and I'm pretty sure neither side is going to "want" a war. Still, the anti-secession law, combined with the US's stance on the arms trade, makes me think that both sides are going to keep ramping up tensions until something snaps. It's sad, because I don't think Beijing wants war, and I don't think the US does either. But both sides are stuck in a mindset left over from the Cold War, really. Of course, these things have a way of turning around, so I wouldn't start digging the bomb shelter yet.

Hee hee

Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute visited China recently. Compare and contrast:
The AFP's coverage:
"I have a feeling we are on the edge of big changes. It is still difficult to see how this will develop but we are clearly pushing the envelope in so many ways and all at the same time," Lester Brown, the US-based director of the Earth Policy Institute, told AFP. "It could be runaway oil prices, climate change, there are so many things that can happen, food stocks could fall, grain prices could rise, water scarcities increase."
Now, how the People's Daily covered it:
"Lester Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute, a well-known international institution dedicated to the cause of environment protection, said during his speech at Peking University that he is confident on China's capability of ensuring its food security in light of the new global food security challenge."
God Bless the Chinese Press. They just made my day.


There I was, all worried that the Conservatives might have succesfully painted the old whore Party as a moderate one. Now, I know that I find the CPC's stance on gay marriage repellent, but it's nice to see that so do a number of Conservatives. Good for them.

Polspy's a bunch of conservative bloggers, but they're not totally daft so I think I'll add them to the blogroll. Also, Steve Gilliard is getting added to the Yanks. It was an oversight on my part to leave him off earlier. He's an excellent source of military history blogging. Also, he hates Mac users. So go him!

India To Build Carrier

According to Reuters, India is planning to add to it's two bought carriers (one from the UK, one from Russia) by building it's own. Unless I'm mistaken, this would give India one of the better-armed blue-water navies in Asia. Japan doesn't have carriers to my knowledge, China certainly doesn't.

Just something worth keeping in mind.

China Erects Monument To American Pilots?

Oh, you mean those pilots.
China has erected a memorial to the Flying Tigers, a band of U.S. fighter pilots who defended China against Japan during World War II, the government said Tuesday.
The Tigers were a volunteer band of U.S. military men sent in secret to Asia by President Franklin D. Roosevelt before the United States entered World War II. They joined an air force organized for China by Claire Lee Chennault, a retired U.S. Army colonel.
The Tigers have become a potent symbol of Chinese-U.S. unity, and communist authorities readily overlook the fact that they fought for the leftists' bitter enemies — the Nationalists who ruled China in the 1930s and '40s.
This really is a simplistic comment. Really, the Communists see the branching point in Chinese history coming in 1949, so anything before then (especially during WWII) was part of the United Fronts.

It is worth mentioning, however, that the Flying Tigers, like most of the Nationalist forces, were basically useless for fighting against Japan. For an excellent retelling of the American experience in China, read Barbara Tuchman's Stilwell and the American Experience in China. If you've ever wondered how a staunch, upper-class Republican could wish for the Communists to win in China, this book will show you how. Essentially, Chiang and the Nationalists refused to fight Japan effectively, driving the American General Stilwell almost insane. After a number of bruising fights with Chiang, he was finally dismissed and replaced with someone more pliable. Still, in his time Stilwell managed to build a sizable American-trained force of Chinese, who were able (when Chiang wasn't interfering) to kick the Japanese back out of Burma in (I think) 1943. Tuchman's is an excellent book, and it contains a decent capsule history of China up to the 1949 Communist victory.

China Arms Embargo Is Still On - NYT

So the Europeans had their minds changed. Was it the US or the anti-secession law? I don't know. My bet would be the anti-secession law was the straw the broke the camels gauloises' back.


Some cold water on the mental image some have of Canada:
"Visible minorities to make up 1/5 of Canada" in 2017.
So, to be clear, the other 80% of the country will still be white. This about tracks with my experience - once you get out of the big cities, this is an incredibly cracker-filled country. I'm all for diversity. Really, really, really. But the country isn't all Toronto.

Question for the Audience

I was at school yesterday, and on the computer there the sidebar with the blogroll and everything didn't show up. Has anyone else had this problem, or is it simply the crappy boxes at school?


Go read August. You'll understand once you read it. Go. Now.

Monday, March 21, 2005

...and the Depression Returns

"Israel Plans 3,500 New West Bank Homes"
Obviously, this is not conducive to continuing peace. At what point do we get to accuse the Israeli government of double-dealing here?

Rarefied Minds

As one proceeds higher and higher in the ranks of a military as powerful as the Americans', we can see that the critical faculties become less and less useful. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell was competent but mainly a mouthpiece for the first Bush administration.

So where's the dividing line between uniformed officer and hack? Apparently, somewhere between Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Army Vice Chief of Staff. While Gen. Richard Cody is publicly worried about the state of the US's military, going so far as to say "what keeps me awake at night is what will this all-volunteer force look like in 2007?" Meanwhile, the Bush hack Chairman of the JCS, Gen. Richard Myers, says there's nothing to worry about.

One man owes his position to his work within the military. Myers, on the other hand, owes his position to Bush and Rumsfeld. Who do you think we can trust?

Moral Clarity

108 killed in US custody.

But remember - best to "err on the side of life", as the President's mouthpiece says.


Okay, so it seems we can't blog about anything but Terry Schiavo today, so let me link to this post by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon.

Though the families of many vegetative patients - male and female - have faced life-or-death decisions over the years, the plights of injured young women are more likely to engage the public and attract right-to-life advocates, says Steven Miles, a professor for the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. "People say, "She needs to be rescued, she needs to be cared for,"' Miles said in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times.

Miles said life-support measures on men are seen as an "assault" but with women, the technology becomes "a form of nurturing and care giving." Men also are more commonly viewed as clear-thinking adults who made wise statements about their end-of-life wishes. With women, however, any previous statements they made about end-of-life wishes are more commonly blown off as "emotional utterances" that don't have weight, Miles said.

Accept Christ As Your Own Personal Weapon

How To Be A Republican


I've tried not to obsess about the Terry Schiavo case down in Florida, because it's all so ridiculous. I mean, this lady could have a massive, miraculous, unprecedented recovery and she's still be so mentally disabled that she'd need constant supervision. In reality, she will never recover. She's not even "alive" in a meaningful sense - her frontal cortext no longer exists, having been replaced by spinal fluid. I don't remember who said it first, but saying that Ms. Schiavo could recover is tantamount to saying that an amputee's limb could grow back. That hasn't kept the US Congress from looking like a bunch of morons.

The legal precedent is worth noting. The US Congress has taken a case from the state level, declared all previous trials null and void, and put the case in the federal judicial system. This means the Supreme Court is likely to be called to rule on it now, after Rehnquist et al refused to hear the case last week. There's good reason to think that, no matter what happens, the Supreme Court will rule that the latest laws are unconstitutional and that her feeding tube should be removed.

That will probably give the right their win-win: Either they scream themsevles hoarse about judicial activism, or they get to imprison a lady's soul in a prison of meat for another decade. A good day's work.

Meanwhile, Canada remains the bastion of sanity:
"In Canada, the legal situation would, should be perfectly clear: He would be recognized at the legal decision-maker and his decision would have been upheld," Sumner said.

Me to SUV Owners:

[Nelson] Haw Haw! [/Nelson]

However, let me pick a bone with CNN's editors. If you write a paragraph like this:
Adjusted for inflation, the current gas price is not a record. That occurred in March 1981, when the Iranian revolution set off skyrocketing prices on the spot-oil market.
Would it kill you to inform your readers that the inflation-adjusted highs would be $3 a gallon? Here, let's see if I can do it.
Adjusted for inflation, the current gas price is not a record. That occurred in March 1981, when the Iranian revolution set off skyrocketing prices on the spot-oil market and led to a gasoline price of $3 a gallon in 2005 dollars.
Jeez, you think they could've spared thirteen words. How much does an intern at CNN get paid? Can they hire me?

Odd Things For School...

Include having to write a short assignment reviewing an article whose author has the same last name as you. Every time I reread something I've written, I get confused and think I should be using the royal We or something.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

You, Sir, Are An Unmitigated Bastard

Vicki alerted me to this gem. Scott McLellan, spokesman for the White House, said in reference to the Terry Schiavo debacle:
"We ought to err on the side of life in a case like this."
Gee. What other cases might we want to err on the side of life? Say, unprovoked wars? Capital punishment? Low-cost medicine for the poor? Family planning? No? Not so much? Well, then I've got one last one for you, Scotty.

Why not err on the side of life when a hospital wants to end nonbeneficial treatment? Because then-Governor Bush signed a law allowing hospitals in Texas to cut off treatment. So... could the President tell us what's the difference between Texas and Florida? Moreover, why is Jeb Bush a more moral man than President Bush?

Email Link Added

Alright, let's try this out...

You'll just have to remove the //at// and //dot// and replace them with @ and ., respectively. This should keep the spambots away, hopefully. Otherwise, Thunderbird's spam-blocker is gonna get a workout.

Any submissions are welcome.

Can We Calm Down Yet?

So when Hong Kong's chief executive stepped down and his deputy (Sir Donald Tsang) was promoted, some smelled a plot by Beijing to force Tsang on HK for another five years without any elections.

Well, we can all relax a bit. HK's justice secretary (I imagine appointed by Beijing) has "decided, following consultations with Beijing, that Tung's deputy Donald Tsang should serve until a July election is held and the winning candidate will then serve Tung's remaining two-year term, instead of the mandated five years."

So to be clear, instead of no elections, the HKers are getting two elections. One in July, then another in two years. The next question will be who gets to vote, and how much their votes will count versus Beijing's. Still, I'm optimistic.

My Powers Combine, To Form UltraNerd!

So, my love of science fiction and my love of free-ish culture come together at last, as lets us all watch the first episode of the new Battlestar Galactica commercial-free over the web. I love the Internets.

I Demand A Recount!

Nerd Quiz Results are:

I am nerdier than 37% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Okay, so I don't know half of the periodic table. So what? Psht. Nerd wannabe? That's right! Other nerds wannabe ME, I'm so nerdy! Suck it!

More on the anti-secession Law

Max writes in Comments:
I heard today that a critical portion of the text transferred control from the Party Council to the military. And... what if Taiwan declared independance during the 2008 games?!!? That'd be whack.
It would indeed, be whack. (I'm trying to do my best Nibblonian voice there.)

The English translation of the law is here, at The only place that mentions the military is in Article 8, which I'll paste in it's entirety:
In the event that the "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, orthat possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The State Council and the Central Military Commission shall decide on and execute the non-peaceful means and other necessary measures as provided for in the preceding paragraph and shall promptly report to the Standing Committee of the National People'sCongress.
To my eyes, all this means is that the military shall be consulted if hostilities erupt. Which kind of makes sense, unless you're the Bush administration. However, even this might be stretching the meaning of "military". But this requires a bit of explanation on the structure of the Chinese government.

When the Manchus took over China, they found it was much simpler to simply take over the reins of government than to try and eliminate the old structures. So the Manchus simply have every old bureaucrat a Manchu minder. This ensured both continuity and obedience. Similarly, when the Japanese demanded effective control of China in 1915, their demand was to have Japanese "advisors" in every major office. The Communists, no fools they, obliterated much of the old state structure when they took power. However, they did find if useful to create two parallel structures: A "state" set of offices and a "party" set of offices. Make no mistake, the party was where the power was and is.

The "Central Military Commission" mentioned in the law is one of the most important organs of power in China. So important is it, that if you're the head of the CMC and are reasonably well respected, you don't need any other office to run China. Deng Xiaopeng was "only" the head of the CMC during Tiananmen, whereas Zhao Ziyang was the Prime Minister. Zhao was a moderate, Deng wanted the students crushed. We know who won that fight. The CMC is therefore not just a "military" institution like the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US, but is also a highly political institution as well. There are in fact two CMCs, a party one and a "state" one within the Chinese Ministry of Defense. However, the Party CMC is quite obviously the more powerful of the two - until the 1990s I believe, the Chinese Ministry of Defense did not have so much as a broom close to it's name - it now has a whole building to itself, but this has only come recently. The Party CMC is where the action is and continues to be.

At the same Congress as the anti-secession law was passed, Jiang Zemin gave up his last symbolic role in government as head of the State CMC. He had already passed the Presidency and the Party CMC to current President Hu Jintao, so this was a simple formality. However, the Party (and specifically the politicians, not the military) remains firmly in control.

As for the possibility that Taiwan might secede during the Olympics, that would be ballsy but I don't think it changes things. The protesters at Tiananmen thought they'd be protected by the fact that Gorbachev was visiting during their protests. They were right, until Gorbachev left. Taiwan would still be next to the mainland after the last medal ceremonies were over. Then, we'd see some fireworks.

Nice Moves, Kid

The EU may have found an elegant way to calm things down in the Taiwan straits.
China: Lift the arms embargo! Me love you long time!*
EU: Maybe...
US: No! Absolutely not! They'll destroy the freedom loving Taiwanese!
UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw: Okay. Tell you what Beijing: You get rid of the pesky anti-secession law, and we'll lift the arms embargo.
Boy, if that works, it will be the height of elegance on the part of Tony Blair's government.

*Dearest Vicki. I'm so very, very sorry. But it had to be said.

Cognitive Dissonance

How do we square these two things: First,
John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago ha[s] flatly proclaimed that China cannot rise peacefully, and predict “the United States and China are likely to engage in an intense security competition with considerable potential for war.” Optimists point out that China has engaged in good neighbour policies since the ’90s... sceptics reply that China is merely waiting for its economy to lay the basis for future hegemony.
Second, this:
The results of China's 15th Urban Child Lead Poisoning Survey were announced yesterday for the first time. Among 17141 children under the age of six, the average rate of lead poisoning was 10.45 percent
A country with high rates of lead poisoning (one in ten children!) is going to have serious health and mental problems down the road. Moreover, it points to China's persistent poverty.

No one wants to see a peaceful, prosperous China more than I. But they're not there yet. Worrying needlessly about impending war with "generalissimo nazi communists" is just going to make things worse. Do read this Joseph Nye piece - he's the guy who coined the phrase "Soft power". It's pretty good, and is close to my views than some alarmists.

More Battery Nerdishness (Enough Already!)

I've mentioned the Rocky Mountain Institute from time to time. Via How To Save the World, this collection of progressives on the old moving picture. Including Amory Lovins, co-founder and director of the Rocky Mountain Institute. In the video, he's hawking his latest book, the perhaps optimistic Winning the Oil Endgame.

One of the points he mentions twice in the video (in the first and last segments) is that Carbon-fibre fabrication technology has come so far down in cost that using it instead of steel is now essentially free - that is, the higher materials cost is offset by the smaller amount of materials used. This was news to me, and apparently it was news to the RMI people when they found it. Despite being half the weight, a carbon fibre car would be much safer than its steel counterpart, and get far better mileage. As an example, Lovins says a carbon-fibre Prius would get close to 100 miles per gallon, instead of the 45 or so that current models get.

If you've been paying attention, you know I favor plug-in hybrids and battery-electric cars. Lightweighting the body is obviously something which can cross over to any advanced car design, but I'd like to point again to the Stanford EV Project, which features a carbon-fibre body and a 150kwh battery pack made up of lithium-ion cell phone batteries. Via The Ergosphere, we find the EPRI estimates that a compact car would need 250 watt-hours per mile of range. This means, even if we assume the lighter body doesn't improve mileage, that a 150kwh battery pack on the Stanford can get us a range of 600 miles, or 1000 kilometres. Unfortunately, this battery pack would cost upwards of $100,000, not including the car. Ouch. Again according to Engineer-Poet at the Ergosphere, a battery-pack would need to come down to $2000-3000 to compete with internal combustion. This means that the price of batteries needs to come down a factor of 35-50. The only thing that this is better than is current fuel cells, which need to come down a factor of 100.

But look at some of the technologies we've seen come up just in the few months I've had this blog. Lithium-sulphur Batteries, new anode materials from Altair Nanomaterials, and now cheap carbon-fibre bodies. Lightweighting reduces the power requirements by half, those two battery technologies each advertise capacity increases by a factor of five (Sion Power) and 3 (Altair Nanomaterials). Taken together, these three things combined should reduce the battery cost by a factor of 30. Maybe more.

(Note: not an engineer. I could be waaaaay off. In particular, the Sion and Altair technologies may not be compatible.)

In the near term, I think it's obvious that a lightweight battery pack powering a plug-in hybrid is the way to go. However, mass-production of batteries on the scale required for the automobile industry could conceivably bring prices down to the point where batteries are the only way to go.

Mildly Good News

I haven't written about the middle east in a while, mainly because I haven't been paying attention. That said, this is good news. The truce between Israel and the Palestinians is more-or-less holding, and the Israelis have started to give back parts of Gaza and the West Bank.


We still have the problem of the West Bank. That is, many higher Israeli officials have been quoted to the effect that "The West Bank is never going back." Some have even said that giving back Gaza is meant as a way to forestall any return of the West Bank or sharing of Jerusalem. So we've got a long way to go, even if this is a good start.

Shockingly, The Bush Administration Is Dishonest

via Atrios, we find the Bush Machine lying still:
In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence... that North Korea knew of the second transaction.
Oh lord I'm shocked! Absolutely, completely oh fuck it I can't even feign surprise anymore. Though it's nice to see that Pakistan is still being all nice and cuddly. Selling nuclear materials to Libya. Bet Bush is glad he made Pakistan a major non-NATO ally, clearing it for advanced weapons sales, right?

Freedom's on the march, though. Don't you forget it, neither.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Things One Finds

While looking for something completely different, for school:
Babylon 5's Blueprint for the Archetypal Heroes of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair and Captain John Sheridan with Ambassador Delenn, James F. Iaccino (Journal of Popular Culture, vol 34 #4 p.109-120)
So, as a devoted fan of B5, I had to check it out. It's actually a very interesting analysis of B5 as a Jungian myth. However, I couldn't stop laughing while reading it. I mean, it's Babylon 5. As much as I love the show, it's not the kind of thing I expect to encounter in academia.

The Death of Environmentalism

That's the title of this essay in Grist magazine. It's generally very good, though I have some quibbles with it. On the whole, though, excellent. The main thesis is that the environmentalist movement has suffered numerous setbacks because of a narrow-minded focus on what is and is not an "environmental" issue. So, for example, tougher mileage standards were abandoned by environmentalists in the early 1990s in favor of defending ANWR. Meanwhile, of course, the defense of ANWR proved short-lived, whereas strong mileage standards could have eliminated the need for drilling in ANWR in the first place.

Shellenberger and Nordhaus contend this is because ANWR was seen as an "environmental" issue whereas mileage standards were seen as less of one. Where I think they're right on is the narrow conception we all have about environmentalism. Everything is environmentalism these days. Health care, dieting, transportation, urban planning, voting, absolutely everything. We're only going to win if we can make a strong, positive vision for the future. Also, if it works I'd be willing to scare the crap out of people.

On that note, more horrifying global warming news. Basically, no matter what we do at this point we're halfway to major sea level changes. What we do with the remaining time is critically important. Shellenberger and Nordhaus say that we need to think politics and not technical solutions, and I agree. However, one thing worth mentioning is the number of technical advances coming in the next few years that will make our task much much easier.


So Harper wins 84% support after the two most divisive issues in the convention are defeated. No abortion, and no change to the delegate system.

What a letdown. I was hoping for some spittle-flecked, high-dudgeoned screaming about not killing babies. Well, okay, I got that, but I wanted it to wait until the next election. Distressingly, the party is actually positioning itself quite well for the next election. Luckily, they've still kept with the anti-equality theme, opposing gay marriage. So here's hoping this issue continues to be a loser for them.

So, the libs and Cons are down, whose next? The NDP, probably. I only hope they find some way to let the public notice they still exist.

Miscellaneous Tech Support

I've created a new email account in hopes of adding a contact link to the blog. However, two problems remain.
  • One, I can't get thunderbird to connect to the new account. I suspect it's because Thunderbird doesn't yet have the password, but for the life of me I can't find a password field. Nor does Tb ask for a password. It just says "Failed to connect." Any fellow Thunderbird users out there willing to help?
  • Second, and a bit more of a deal-breaker, is I have no intention of putting a hot link to the email account on this page, as I've managed to go without serious spam issues thus far in my life. Suggestions on how to avoid the spambots?
Thanks in advance.

UPDATE: Thunderbird is fixed. Still need a spam prophylactic.

I'm Feeling Pretty Good About That Bet...

So a while back I predicted that, despite Morgan Stanley's opinions, we wouldn't see oil below $40/barrel for the next year.

Well, the IMF is on my side.

Is it too late to put money on that?

You people have issues

It's not enough to ban the teaching of evolution in the classroom. No, for the nutball religious right, believing in the Big Bang is now tantamount to Satanism, apparently (NY Times, yadda yadda).
Several Imax theaters, including some in science museums, are refusing to show movies that mention the subject - or the Big Bang or the geology of the earth - fearing protests from people who object to films that contradict biblical descriptions of the origin of Earth and its creatures.
Carol Murray, director of marketing for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, said the museum decided not to offer the movie after showing it to a sample audience, a practice often followed by managers of Imax theaters. Ms. Murray said 137 people participated in the survey, and while some thought it was well done, "some people said it was blasphemous."
Whoah. Let's all take a moment to savor the crazy.

Done? Good. Let's keep this in mind this weekend, as the Canadian Conservative Party hold it's policy convention. Between the anti-choicers, the homophobes, and the batshit crazy, these people need to be watched.

A Big Juicy Kiss Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution, whose link tripled my hits yesterday.

I wonder if all linkslutting is so profitable.

Okay, the blogroll works

Some minor tinkering, and it's done!

In the hopes of transposing geography to the web, the selection of Canadian bloggers is slightly larger, and on top. We come from the land of mandated cultural protection, after all. These are, I'm sad to say, only a fraction of the blogs I read regularly. They are among the best, however, so I hope you enjoy.

Boy, I almost feel like a real blog now.

Attempt to Add Blogroll...

Has it worked?

The Insanity Builds

Some of the more lucid of you might remember back to ye olden days of 2002, when the Bush Administration propounded it's new-and-improved National Security Strategy of the United States. This was the document which codified the policy of preemption. That is, the United States would attack any power which grew to have the potential to threaten American rule. As Gwynne Dyer has summarized it, "this is called Hubris, and it is generally followed by Nemesis." It might sound ridiculous that a nation might commit to ruling the world until the end of time, but there you have it.

Well, hang on to your hats boys and girls, because the new National Defense Strategy of the United States is a doozy.
“Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak focusing on international fora, judicial processes and terrorism,” it says.
Wow. Look at that for a second. There is the Defense Department of the United States, equating the International Criminal Court and the United Nations with terrorism. That's right everybody. Canada, signatory to the Ottawa Treaty and the Rome Treaty (land mines and the ICC) is now considered by the United States to be a nation on par with Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. After all, aren't we pursuing a "strategy of the weak"?

But now, let's look at these two documents in combination. The NSS of 2002 says the US will attack anyone who has the potential power to check their power. This new NDS says that any country that pursues a "strategy of the weak" is trying to check US power. How is this not a formula for global, permanent war?

I hope no one is getting too comfortable.
(Link via Billmon)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Headlines That Don't Belong In The Western World, II

Okay, remember what I said about "Thank God we live in Canada"?

Not so much.

"Man Sentenced For Crimes He May Commit"

I'm sure it will all work out, though. Tom Cruise will save the telepath, and Max von Sydow will kill himself.

Oh Please No More

Harper ended his speech with "God bless Canada."

Can we amend the constitution to prevent the American's overt religiosity in politics?

(This isn't the first time American rhetoric has made its way north. Can we please see an end to it?)

You Know, Gullible Actually Is In The Dictionary

Speaking at the Conservative Convention, Sephen Harper says the Conservative Party is the only true party of change.

Think about that for a second.



Some days, its too weird.

How Bad Does It Suck...

To be Stephen Harper?

Mahigan at True North knows:
On top of the factionalization, there are well deserved grumblings about Harper's leadership after he led the party to a major defeat in the last election. Yes Pollyanna, I said major defeat. The scandal plagued Liberal government was a object of derision in most of the country. Paul Martin, ever since he took over the party was stumbling and lurching around like someone on a six month binge while wearing a sign saying "Beat Me Like a Rented Mule". Instead of what should have been an easy victory, the best Stephen Harper could do was to lose 5% off the combined Alliance/PC vote from the previous election. That's not a minor electoral setback. That's a 32 ounce can of Whup Ass.

Stop Already

At Peak Oil Optimist, we find another piece of China alarmism.
For China, "hostilities" begin with the "renegade province" of Taiwan. China has long sought reunification of the erstwhile Formosa. Now, the Chinese government recently passed a law authorizing an attack on that island country should the duly elected representatives of the people there decide against communism.
Wow. First off, the law does not "authorize an attack". It provides for that possibility (and I'll be the first to say that's not great) but it also requires the government to pursue all means short of war first. The way this is being portrayed in the US media you'd think the NPC had declared war, but that's not what's going on. This is a far less ominous or provocative act that, for example, the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 which comitted the US to regime change in Iraq.

Moreover, this has nothing to do with "deciding against Communism" or not. This has to do with national unity. If Taiwan tries to adopt the symbols of independence (when they already have the substance), then Beijing comes a knocking. Even in a hypothetical Beijing occupation of Taipei, the Party and this new law are both explicit that "one country, two systems" would remain - essentially giving Taiwan the same status as Hong Kong. As I've written before, things in Hong Kong aren't going swimmingly for Beijing, which makes me think that Taiwan is going to be reunified with China, but only after the mainland becomes a more democratic state. Rob contiues:
This is the most ominous of a series of broader moves that includes the development of a blue-water navy. China's economic development, in the eyes of those in power in Beijing, goes hand in hand with military might, and the generalissimos there plan on using it.
Excuse me? Generalissimos? This is just egregiously wrong. The CPC is a dictatorship all right, but in no way whatsoever is it a military one. Everybody knows Mao's phrase "political power grows from the barrel of a gun" but nobody gets told the second part to that sentence: "...the party should always control the gun, and never the gun the party." Meaning, for someone with even a basic knowledge of Chinese history, that the military has always been under political control. Since 1979, this has meant control by the reformers who have placed military expansion somehwere near the bottom of their priorities. Obviously, this has begun to change since the late 1990s, but in no way is the military in command.

More generally, we've really got to question what the desired endgame is here. Can anybody prevent the reunification of China, speaking long term? No. If the mainland makes the necessary reforms, then Taiwan will likely choose reunification anyway. If China becomes militarily preponderant, we can't stop them anyway. So do we want to get dragged in to a war with China over an island they have a legitimate claim to anyway? I don't relish the thought of the world losing a democracy, but I really don't think that's the likely outcome. In the meantime, comparing China to the Nazis is unbelievably foolish, even if it weren't wrong.

The Big Exception, of course, is that I could certainly be wrong. However, if China were really committed to a war for Taiwan, I think we'd see more than just purchases of Su-30s and Sovremenny destroyers. First off, we'd see purchases of a lot more fighters. In any war, China would probably face not only the Taiwanese Air Force (which is extremely daunting on its own) but also the Japanese SDF and whatever capacity the US Navy and Air Force have in-theater. China does not now, nor will it in the near future, have that kind of capability. Secondly, the Chinese would almost certainly commit to upgrading their nuclear armaments. Currently, the Chinese ICBMs are all single-warhead. If China were to upgrade to MIRVs, then I'd say it was time to worry. Luckily, that kind of change is not easily concealed, nor is it something that can be done quickly.

Finally, just to reiterate, all of this ignores what's going on inside China. Beijing can't keep the lid on forever, and I think we're going to see positive changes in the future.

Turns Out, You Can Get Oil For Blood

Or at least, they can die trying.
...[W]hen President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.
The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq's oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq's oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas.
To beat on the same drum again and again, it's worth saying that even if they'd gotten their wish, there isn't much the neocons could have done to lower oil prices. First off, most oil in the world is now produced by non-OPEC states. Adding one more to the pot probably wouldn't have changed the fundamental dynamic too much.

Secondly, and more importantly, we can see now that, only two years after the war, world oil production is pretty much maxed out. Bringing Iraq up to full production would have brought prices down slightly, but it would hardly have "destroyed" OPEC. Or, even if it did, it wouldn't have mattered.

Neocon fantasies: 0.
Reality: Counting is really irrelevant at this point, isn't it?

(Link via Suburban G


for the double posting. Can't get blogger to fix it.

Gah. New slogan: "Blogger: Worth every penny."

I'm A Telecommunications Masochist

I'm reading the CRTC's latest report on telecommunications in Canada. For no particular reason. However, there are some interesting facts.
  • 64% of Canadian residences which subscribed to Internet access use DSL or Cable in 2003, up from 17% in 1999. This is a much larger share than I would have predicted.
  • Something like 85% of the population has access to broadband, but a much smaller share (46%) actually subscribe.
  • Three companies (Rogers, Bell, Telus) control 93% of the wireless industry in Canada.
  • Canada's subscription rates for Broadband are 2nd in the OECD countries, narrowly ahead of Iceland and miles ahead of the United States (Canada: 15 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. US: Just under 10.) South Korea is killing us all, with 23 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.
The reason I'm reading this in the first place is that I've been thinking that we should get rid of television. Not the actual content, you understand, but rather the radio-broadcast version of television. 87% of Canadian get their television from Cable or Satellite, meaning only 13% of Canadians get their TV from old broadcast-antenna anymore.

Meanwhle, TV networks sit on incredibly valuable real estate in the radio spectrum. This has in fact gotten worse in the recent past as the CRTC has allowed the major networks to double their channels for the transition to HDTV. Essentially, Global (for example) will occupy it's old analog channel as well as an HDTV channel higher up in the spectrum until the transition is complete. But guess what? Because we can't have big government tell the little guy what to do, there's no deadline for the transition. This is moronic. If you're going to make an industry change, then make them change. Germany switched it's broadcasts from analog to digital (though not HDTV) in one year. One. Japan, of course, has had HDTV for a long time. The problem in Canada is that the big broadcasters have far too much power.

So here's a proposal. We eliminate legacy television broadcasting. This doesn't eliminate the broadcasters, who still have market access with cable and satellite. What it does is free up a large swath of spectrum in the extremely valuable VHF and UHF frequencies. The government makes a deal with the satellite providers - Bell and Starchoice. The Satellite providers offer free, unencrypted access to the basic broadcasters - CBC, Global, CTV, etc to anyone who gets cut off. If we want to get really crazy, we might be able to cut a deal with satellite radio providers and eliminate AM radio while we're at it. In exchange, the companies get their "foot in the door" of the 13% of the population that currently doesn't get cable or satellite.

Why bother? Well, one of the primary limitations on the deployment of wireless Internet technologies has been the frequencies they've been banished to. Wifi is great, but it could be even better at lower frequencies where the power requirements are lower and the equipment can be less complex. But the success of WiFi does teach us one thing - unlicensed areas of the spectrum can be extremely valuable. The reason we can all afford Wifi routers is because we don't have to pay a licensing fee to broadcast on them. So I propose we eliminate legacy TV (and AM radio while we're at it) and create new unlicensed parts of the spectrum in the MF, VHF, and UHF bands for wireless ISP's to use.

Eventually, of course, wireless IP could probably replace almost all the services that we currently use regulated spectrum for - telephones, television, radio, everything. No doubt this will be resisted (Rogers and Bell would go nuclear, I'm sure) but given the possibilities for Canadians, I think we should push for this. Now if only I could find a party that would elect a schmuck like me.

New Paul Krugman Column

Here. (This time, no registration required.) This one's good - about Paul Wolfowitz and the growing rejection of the "Washington Consensus" around the world, but especially in Latin America. Key graph:
Not long ago, the growing alienation of Latin America from the United States would have been considered a major foreign policy setback. So much has gone wrong lately that we've defined disaster down, but it's still not a good thing. [emphasis mine]
That pretty much sums up Bush's first four years nicely, doesn't it? We've defined disaster down.

John Ralston Saul

...delivered a convocation speech at Ottawa U. It's online, and it's pretty good. Go read.
What I am talking about is the huge difference between having a conscious life versus an unconscious life. You can fill in the days, do the jobs, make the money, pay the mortgage, bring up a decent family in a relatively unconscious way and pass on through and probably no one will notice. Socrates laid it out once and for all with his phrase, "the unexamined life is not worth living". That was true before Socrates and it's been true for the last 2,500 years.

Now, some of the professors on the stage might point out that Socrates didn't end up too well. But he was 80 at the time when he decided to drink the hemlock, and it was a conscious choice.

The interesting thing is that 2,500 years later, we're still talking about Socrates. But we don't talk about the people who voted to condemn him to death. We don't really know who they were. We've forgotten most of their names because they carry the dishonour of not having acted as responsible citizens. We tend to erase the names of these sorts of people in the memory of our civilizations. But Socrates is always there, with us, as a central example. Perhaps you would prefer not to have a complicated, tough life. Perhaps you would rather take the easier road. It's your choice. The only thing I can tell you is that those moments of acting with the self-confidence or responsible citizen and those moments of taking the risks of responsible citizen are the moments when you will really be alive, the moments when you will know that you are making your contribution. That is the real loyalty – to your family, to your friends, to your society, to yourselves.

Sheer Brilliance

I love Canada more and more:
WINNIPEG - A teacher in a central Manitoba town has sparked controversy by forcing students accused of bullying to wear hockey helmets bearing the slogans "loser" and "I'm stupid: I bully."
Okay, if CBC is going to use the qualifier "accused" in the first paragraph, they might not want to write this in the second:
The students, who didn't deny they harassed another boy, were also subjected to jibes from other children during a role-playing exercise at Langruth Elementary School.
Of course, the whiny fucking parents come out in force:
"I'm not saying my kid's a saint and if there's discipline in school, discipline the kid. But don't humiliate the kid in front of the rest of the students," said Anthony Strong, whose son was among those punished.
I agree. Humiliate them in front of the entire town. Bring folks in from far and wide. Sell tickets!
Jackie Sutherland said her 10-year-old son, who was also disciplined, sometimes pokes fun at other children but isn't a bully. "This particular role-play, I believe, was a little too extreme ... They were forced into being ridiculed by the whole school," she said.
Oh yes, because it's terrible for a child to be held up to ridicule, like, say, when they're being bullied you idiot. I keep thinking of the Family Guy seen of the prison convict who, after stabbing himself with a knife, says "Oh my god! This is what I've been doing to people? I belong in here!"

As far as I'm concerned, let the little bastards be humiliated. It's a distant second to the lash, but that lousy Supreme Court keeps thwarting me...

This Fucker Just Made The List

Why? For this:
"I have a new life, I feel great," Robbins said after the verdict. "I have my life back together. I'll be fine."
Why is that so horrible? This is the first paragraph to the story:
A Brookfield man was acquitted Wednesday of sexually assaulting a Naperville teenager in an incident videotaped at a party in a Burr Ridge home in 2002. Christopher Robbins, 20, was one of four males charged with sex crimes against a girl, then 16, on Dec. 7, 2002, after police discovered the videotape.
This man raped a girl on tape, and his defense amounted to "She went to the party and got drunk. What did she expect?" He was acquitted. He has the gall to say "I feel great. I'll be fine." Funny, I don't give a fuck. I'd like to know how she's doing, assclown.

Ahem. You'd think that we would have moved beyond the "raping drunk women while they're passed out" stage of human evolution by now. I'd apologize for the bile in this post, but I thought I should share. Besides, bile is an appropriate response to this garbage, I think.

Not Horrible

In an interview with Chris Matthews, Governor (god that's difficult) Schwarzenegger does more than consume oxgyen:
MATTHEWS: Suppose the Supreme Court of this state says it is OK to have gay marriage, the same marriage kind of certificate as a heterosexual couple. Would you move to try to change the constitution?

No, absolutely not. I will stay with that.
Imagine that. Respecting the separation of powers, and upholding his state's constitution. Never thought I'd say this, but can he be our conservative leader?

Headlines That Don't Belong In The Western World

"Britain bans protests ahead of international environment summit"


I'm sorry, I could've sworn that said Great Britain, the birthplace of Locke, the home of the Magna Carta, the cradle of liberal human rights is banning protests. Gee, the article makes it clear that's exactly what's going on:
The British government Tuesday announced a four-day ban on demonstrations around the city of Derby in central England to limit expected protests at an international environment summit this week, officials said.
Boy. Thank god we live in Canada.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Answer Man To The Rescue!

Max asked in comments:
... I just read your post about China - Taiwan, and, I'd like to pose an open question about linguistics: How different is the text of the law in its native language - mandarin or cantonese? (forgive my ignorance I don't know which the CPC uses) Conceptions of land, freedom, and so on often differ from culture to culture and the language we use to describe those concepts often gets blurred in translation. Anyone reading this have any thoughts?
to which I responded:
The mainland uses Mandarin, at least in official documents.
This is in fact false. Kind of. The words "Cantonese" and "Mandarin" refer to spoken dialects, whereas the written language is more-or-less universal with China - though some local variation is inevitable. As a rough analog, think of the countries in Europe which use the Roman alphabet. Very different spoken languages (though many of them differ less than Chinese dialects) but all use the same system of writing. Obviously, it's a rough analog. For spoken language, however, the mainland does indeed use Mandarin. I continued:
As for translation fidelity, I wouldn't hazard a definite answer, but the sound of the english translation makes me think the CPC is being very deliberate in their choice of wording.

I'll see if I can email a prof of mine and get his opinion.
I spoke to my professor today, and he says there's no real discrepancy between the texts of the anti-secession law in Chinese and English. Further, he says that in a sense the Chinese language has really been "westernized" since the Communists took over, so old confucian meanings to words like "Zhongguo" (their word for China, the Middle Kingdom) have really lost the old quasi-racist meanings. The language as its used is much "drier" only in the sense that it's got a lot less of the cultural baggage. This according to my professor, at least. I imagine some other China specialists would take his head off for that. Of course, nationalism could always rekindle the Confucian idea of China as the "only" civilization. Us white folk would not be included, in case you're wondering.

However, Max raised another point that I'd like to write a bit about. Going back to his earlier point:
Conceptions of land, freedom, and so on often differ from culture to culture
This is absolutely correct, especially in the case of China. We have to understand how closely interwoven concepts of Communism, Nationalism, and Patriotism are in China. For the moment, it is difficult to imagine the CPC allowing much in the way of reforms, because there is fundamentally a mental difference for them - the phrase "loyal opposition" simply does not compute for them. (Just to be clear, "them" in that sentence applies only to the Party, not the Chinese in general.) The same professor told a story last term about visiting a successful Chinese businessman in Singapore. This wealthy, successful businessman would be a Republican in the US, almost without question. But even this man had a portrait of Mao Zedong on the wall of his office.

Why? Because Mao isn't just a national leader - he's kind of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and probably a few other heroic leaders put together. Not only did he reunite China after nearly fifty years of warlordism, but he "freed" China from nearly a century of foreign incursions. Obviously, this is a legacy the CPC is careful to cultivate. All this combines to give the CPC a lot of legitimacy, even today after the catastrophes that were the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, and the near-renunciation of real Communism as an ideology.

The flip side to this is that the Taiwan issue is something the Party cannot abandon - the legitimacy of the Party is so closely intertwined with national unification that letting Taiwan go is like kicking out the last crutch holding up the party.

Why I Love Vicki

Me: I'm celebrating St. Patricks Day by drinking beer. Well, kind of. It's Blue Light.
Vicki: Eew!

One, Two, Three! Three Majors! Bwa ha ha!

Actually, two majors and a minor. I just discovered today that I passed my french language test and was able to transfer a statistics credit from second year. To the uninformed, this means:
a) I have fooled Carleton's Political Science department in to believing I am
fluent in French.
b) I don't have to take a second statistics course to get my Political Science major.
c) THANK YOU MERCIFUL CHRIST I don't have to take a second statistics course.
d) I'm free to take my double major in Poli Sci and Mass Communications and add a history minor. This is what I've been working towards for the last two years, so it's nice to have this solidify.

I know this is fascinating to each and every one of you, but I feel like celebrating. Gee, how could I possible celebrate on St. Patrick's Day... hmmm...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Bring An Orwell Home With You Today!

So, my employer has recently redoubled it's efforts to root out employee theft. Not theft from employees, you understand - my employer does that every hour I work there. No no, my employer in obviously concerned about theft by employees.

So there's a big poster in the back room that says we could face 10 years in prison if we're caught stealing from the company. And just to make sure we get the message, the company promises to use all the means at its disposal to convict us. Including, and I absolutely love this phrase, "all the tools of truth" to prove that they've been stolen from.

"Tools of truth."

Never mind the feeling that my employer seems to presume I'm a criminal. I'm beginning to feel like I'm living in Brezhnev-era Communism, where everyone but me is engaged in the most rampant corruption imaginable, but I'm the one signing my confessions at a show trial.

Russia, she be Crazy!

Just finished my Russian Politics exam, and so I've got some things on my mind.

First off, I'd just like to say that, regardless of my desires to tinker with the system somewhat, I'm really very happy to live in a country which inherited the Westminster parliamentary system. Looking at the alternative Presidential systems around the world is not, shall we say, encouraging. I'd like to believe that a certain amount of the difference between our sanity up north and the lack thereof down south is partly attributable to our differing political systems. If nothing else, question period prevents us from taking our leaders too seriously.

However, I'm growing more and more disenchanted with any alleged value or virtue to a federal state. The experience of Russian federalism has been a massive, abject, total, depressing failure. US federalism is really a joke these days, with an overwhelming amount of power concentrated in either Congress or the Presidency. Russian Federalism is even more of a joke, with Putin now having the personal (i.e., not the legislature) power to dissolve regional legislatures, dismiss governors, and appoint his own handpicked governors.

Many people have pointed to Putin's actions and said they're anti-democratic. They're right, but not entirely. What Putin's really doing is making Russia a unitary state. There's nothing intrinsically wrong about that - most states are unitary, and I believe most democracies are. The problem, to my eyes, in Russia is that incredible power is being concentrated not in the Federal government in general, but in the executive specifically. If Russia had a parliamentary system, I think people would be a lot less worried. But that's what you get when the legitimacy of your constitution is directly related to the caliber of your tank shells.

Evil Team 2, Our Side 0.

Paul Wolfowitz nominated to head the World Bank. And you thought African Debt was bad before? Wait till they get a load of "Shock and awe".

Also, drilling in ANWR approved. Whoopee! So now, in 10 years at the soonest, US oil production will be marginally higher than it might otherwise have been. Oil consumption will have crashed because oil is going to cost close to $200 a barrel, but these are details.

Urge to kill....rising...

Copyright Week Continues...

Mark Morford - whose column I get emailed to me because he's funny and an excellent writer to boot - writes today of a fair songstress whose virtues are locked away beyond the reach of mortals, to be kept there until her wicked step-parents release her.

Okay, actually it's Fiona Apple, whose CD has been shelved by Sony because it's not commercial enough. We can certainly debate the merits of getting excited about Fiona Apple's music. But here's the point: Fiona Apple is the creator. She should be allowed to release that material, under any common-sense reading of copyright. And yet, were she to start hosting a site to download her own music, Sony could sue her for millions.

Having heard said music, by the way, I would definitely recommend it to some of you. To my (admittedly untrained) ears, it has a kind of Tom Waitsishness to it. If you would like to find it, use the magical Google fairy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Reading Free Culture. The story of is, well, read the title.
After Vivendi purchased, Vivendi turned around and filed a malpractice lawsuit against the lawyers who had advised it that they had a good faith claim that the service they wanted to offer would be considered legal under copyright law... The clear purpose of this lawsuit...was to send an unequivocal message to lawyers advising clients in this space: It is not just your clients who might suffer if the content industry directs its guns against them. It is also you... This strategy is not just limited to the lawyers. In April 2003, Universal and EMI brought a lawsuit against Hummer Winblad, the venture capital firm (VC) that had funded Napster at a certain stage of its development... The claim here, as well, was that the VC should have recognized the right of the content industry to control how the industry should develop. They should be held personally liable for funding a company whose business turned out to be beyond the law. Here again, the aim of the lawsuit is transparent: Any VC now recognizes that if you fund a company whose business is not approved of by the dinosaurs, you are at risk not just in the marketplace, but in the courtroom as well.
Great Monkey Jesus. They really won't stop at anything, will they. It should be said that was not infringing in any reasonable sense. It wasn't Napster or Kazaa. It was trying to provide a service to paying customers - people who had already paid for their music, by the way. And this is what happened.

Free Culture
should be on all your reading lists. You can download it here (in pdf or torrent.)

Bring Back the Statute of Anne!

After writing my last post, I went to Lessig's website, where you can download his latest book, Free Culture. I'm enjoying it immensely, and I just came across something I remembered from first year: The earliest copyright in the western legal tradition is the Statute of Anne, passed by the English parliament in 1710. The Statute gave creators a 14-year copyright, with the possibility of a one-time 7 year renewal. Total maximum copyright time: 21 years.

In case you're curious, the current maximum US copyright time: 70 years after the creator's death. So the only stuff in the public domain today is from people who died in 1935.

Ah, the stuff we learn in Communications...

What? Copyright Isn't A Holy Commandment?

Lawrence Lessig (who I've written briefly about here) set up a group a while back called Creative Commons, to give artists a new alternative to copyright. Creative Commons has a number of different licensing schemes to encourage artists to share while protecting their work. This article has more. Go read.

Nukes For Me, But Not For Thee

According to the New York Times, Bush now believes that certain countries should be forbidden from having any nuclear technology, regardless of peaceful intentions. The NYT calls it a "reinterpretation" of the nonproliferation treaty. In fact, it's a total abandonment of the treaty's key parts.

It's hard to state exactly how arrogant and stupid this is. For 30 years, the Non-proliferation treaty has divided the world in to two camps: the 5 official nuclear powers and everyone else. Eveyone else is supposed to have the right to peaceful nuclear power, but no nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the big 5 were supposed to make "good-faith" efforts to reduce their own arsenals, with total disarmament the stated ultimate goal.

Obviously, the Bush administration has continued US policy regarding disarmament - essentially, no possibility of disarmament by the US. However, I think this new wrinkle is going to prove much more unpopular, especially in the middle east. For Bush to come out and say that a nation like Israel can have nuclear weapons but that Iran can't even build a peaceful nuclear program is going to make things even more tense. On top of the specific regional issues, you have the immediate and obvious arrogance of a US government that thinks it can dictate to an unwilling world. This is just another brick in the wall, so to speak, that Bush and his people are building between the US and the world.

Space Nerdery Reborn

Boy, you gotta love the Bush Administration. When they need someone to man the UN Ambassadorship, arguably America's most important diplomatic posting, they choose John "I want to destroy the UN" Bolton.

Meanwhile, when it comes time to pick the head of a totally inconsequential government agency - NASA - they get loads of good press for choosing a man who is an unabashed fan of human exploration of space. So... does that mean that a guy who was opposed to space exploration was in the running to be chief of NASA??!!! I guess they figured they already blew up one shuttle, so NASA doesn't need the Bolton treatment again soon.

Apparently, the Bush administration has now set the bar so low, it's not even expected that a presidential nominee even be mildly interested in their prospective job. Then again, when you look at the President... still, part of me wonders where this will lead...
Candidate: Vote for me!
Voter: Why?
Candidate: Meh. Beats watchin' reruns. Plus, I want the nuclear missile codes.

How Expensive Does Gas Need To Get?

Gasoline prices are, nominally, likely to keep increasing. But in real terms, the price of Gasoline would need to go up past $3/gallon (US) for prices to match the heights of the oil shock days. Assuming a direct correlation between oil and gasoline prices, that means something like $75-$80 per barrel. So we're not there yet.

Why does this matter? Because at least one analyst suggests the price of oil would now have to rise to $150 per barrel for serious rationing to set in. I think the math on that estimate is roughly along these lines: in real terms, the price of oil during the oil shocks was $80, and we now use half the oil we used back then per $1 of GDP. But I think that kind of math ignores the fact that certain sectors of oil usage are as bad and inefficient today as they were back in the bad old days - auto fuel efficiency, for example. I think we'll see people selling their SUVs long before oil hits $150. If they can find any buyers, that is.

And in more Oil Peak news, yet another Wall Street analyst has come out with an estimate of when we'll hit the wall. This time, the estimate is broken down by major company. Short story - 2008 is gonna suck hard. According to John S. Herold Inc, that's when Exxon, ConocoPhillips, BP, and RoyalDutch/Shell will all hit their peaks. Read the whole story here at Salon - you'll need to skip through their ads to do it.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Lady, I'm Sure

Mussolini's granddaughter is on a hunger strike to protest the Italian government's mistreatment of her party. Said mistreatment seems to include telling the world that she's forging signatures on petitions.

Damn guvmint! If only someone would fix these things... show those politicians who's boss!